Thursday, May 31, 2007

It must be summertime

Just in case you weren't sure summer has arrived, check out tonight's TV listings. Topping the list of "Tonight's Best": A pirate reality show and a National Geographic special on the flashlight. I'm not making any of this up.

I am a fan of the flashlight, so perhaps I will tune in for that. Or not.

Hey, it beats watching the Rangers get killed in the Pacific Time zone.

The sun has returned to Texas

Here I am on the forty-something floor of the Bank of America Plaza (which is about the 7th name of the tallest building in Dallas, the one outlined in green argon at night). I look out the window, and see, for a change, sun. It probably won't last, as big, grey clouds are blowing up to the west, but it's a welcome change from one of the wettest Mays ever here in Big D. Perhaps my recent blogging malaise can be traced to the weather. Or the pollen count. Or Mars' retrograde thru Aquarius (what?).

Hail the sunshine, baby!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Daily YouTube: CNN does its bit for Hezbollah

This is sorta old news - it's from last summer's confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah. You may remember quite a bit about Israel's strikes against "civilian" targets (this from the Hezbollah side) and charges that Hezbollah was stashing its equipment, supplies, and leadership amongst the populace (this from Israel and a whole bunch of video and other documentation).

Here's some yutz from CNN being led by the nose by a Hezbollah PR guy on a tour of civillian neighborhoods hit by those dastardly Israelis

Olmert is currently fighting for his political life, largely because of the fallout from last summer's failed offensive. Neither Israel nor the US seems to get it - these cockroaches fight dirty, and trying to win the PR battle with them is a losing proposition. They are not encumbered by things like morality or concern for their fellow humans, be they strangers, neighbors, or family members. And they'll always find saps like this CNN reporter to help them spread their lies.

Another Suu Kyi "release" date approaches

Nobel laureate and Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who has spent most of the past 20 years under detention of one sort or another, is due to be released from her current stretch of house arrest on May 27. Sorta like Uncle Joey in Back to the Future, it will probably be a waste of time to bake a "Flown the Coop" cake for her, as previous ends-of-terms have been marked by new extensions-of-terms by the fascist thugs masquerading as the Burmese government.

All over Rangoon, dozens of Suu Kyi supporters have held prayer vigils in support of Suu Kyi. And in a country as beaten down and repressed as Burma, dozens of activists doing anything together is a BIG deal.

In addition, the UN and world leaders past and present are urging the generals to release Suu Kyi this time around.

They won't, of course. International "pressure" has never had one iota of impact on the dealings of the Burmese junta. And no wonder, since said "pressure" consists of strongly worded letters and the occasional UN pipsqueak, er, I mean "envoy", rattling the castle gates with a scary note of protest from New York. Shockingly, the military government, which makes millions (billions?) in illegal drug, arms, and timber deals each year, is not impressed with the world community.

Now, if someone discovered oil in the Irrawaddy basin, that would be a different story...

A taste of the Rangers' future


The Rangers are playing, and, after one game, losing, a series against the ridiculous Devil Rays at Disney's BaseballLand (or somesuch) this week. Check out the Tampa papers this week and you'll see no one cares.

The Devil Rays have been awful for years, have never lived up to pre-season expectations, and play in a poorly-located, substandard stadium which has been compared (unfavorably) to everything from an oil-storage facility to a urinal. As a result, they routinely draw 10,000 or fewer in attendance.

While the Ballpark is certainly not substandard, the remainder of the description above (everything between "awful for years" and "poorly-located") definitely applies to our hometown heroes. In the midst of yet another failed campaign peppered with unfulfilled promise and crushed dreams, are we far from the days of comments like, "The Rangers still play here?"

Israel vs. Hezbollah (and Hamas), Round 2

We're all Israel, all the time here at CIT this evening.

Colin Rubenstein, writing in Australia's The Age, predicts a renewal of hostilities between Israel and their playmates Hezbollah (in Lebanon) and Hamas (in Gaza) very soon.

I don't for one second dispute Israel's right to defend itself, especially since the "governments" of these areas don't seem to want to do anything to chill out the terrorists launching rockets from their nations' territory against Israel.

However, the Israelis cannot stop at half measures this time. Either the gloves come all the way off, and this gets prosecuted to resolution, or don't even bother. One would hope that the fallout of last summer's failed bit will have retaught that lesson.

Not quite Mickey Mouse

He looks like Mickey, the high pitch of his voice sorta sounds like Mickey, but this sure as heck isn't Mickey.

Instead, it's "Farfur", a character on a Palestinian kids' TV show. And, while he's talking about love, harmony, and peace, it's the fundamentalist Islamic kind. You know, where everything is wonderful because Allah loves mankind (sotto voce: Because all the unbelievers are dead) and mankind loves Allah (whispered from the back of the room: If they know what's good for them).

The only thing more disturbing than Jihad Mickey is the Palestinian TV network's defense of his program.

BTW, I don't think Little Green Footballs is either fair or unbiased, but neither is CNN. My disclaimer is I am going on faith that the provided translations are accurate. Assuming LGF and their sources are on the up-and-up, this story does sort of tell itself.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The GREAT Emmitt Smith

Here on ESmith's 38th birthday, a link to Frank Luksa's column the day after Smith's greatest game. You remember it. It was January 2, 1994 and Smith ran for 168 yards with a seperated shoulder.

The great ones want it so baadly that NOTHING will stop them.

Not that we have anything to compare to around here these days.

Daily YouTube: Benny Hill offensiveness

Think this would fly today?

Gas is going up, and we're still driving

From our "Not Exactly News" dept: Even though gas prices are approaching the $3/gallon level here in the D/FW Metroplex of Love, and are higher elsewhere, Americans haven't changed their driving habits.

Um, yeah. That's not a surprise. The growth of the exurbs, the scattering of employment centers, and the dearth of public transport in most US cities makes demand for gasoline most inelastic (as we would have said in ECON202 back in the day).

My job is never going to lend itself to public transportation, even if we had something more than little DART. My clients are all over the place, so I"m going to be in the car regardless. Even if that were not the case, I'm 20 miles from the nearest light rail station, and bus transport is not done here in Frisco.

I"m at Exxon/Mobil's mercy. Not pleasant.

All we can hope for is the rising prices make R&D into alternative economically feasible. In the short term, the oil companies and upstanding individuals like Hugo Chavez, Vladimir Putin, and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have us over the proverbial barrel.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Daily YouTube: F1 vs. road cars

Here's a couple of rather cool videos. Both are basically the same thing, a relatively current econo-box (a Fiat and a Peugot) vs. a super-hot road car (a Ferrari and a Porsche) vs. a modern F1 car driven by a top driver (the immortal #27 Ferrari with Schumi at the wheel and a McLaren piloted by Hakkinen) on a lap around an F1 course. The roller-skates get a huge headstart, the street rockets start next, followed by the F1 cars WAAAYYYY behind (Schumi's reading the paper, for God's sake).

Needless to say, the F1 cars rocket past the others in both cases.



Thursday, May 10, 2007

Daily YouTube: Race a train, will you?

BAD idea:

The Best of Times

While I'm no fan of Belo, I do like the work of some of the boys and girls over there. Today, Todd Davis launches what I hope will be a continuing series of "good old days" posts, rehashing the Stars' run to Stanley Cup glory in 1999, and the Mavs' trip to the Finals last summer.

Go check it out, and check back daily for a trip in the Wayback Machine to the days when being a Dallas sports fan was not an act of masochism.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Daily YouTube: Jordan

In case you had forgotten...



This one goes double. Good times:

It ain’t easy being a Dallas sports fan

OK, I’m finally over my Maverick-induced depression. A little time, a little Prozac, and a lot of cheap wine, and I’m finally ready to address the plight of the Dallas sports fan.

First off, this generalization: Man, we take a LOT of crap.

What did we do to deserve this?

Let’s start with the lowly Rangers. A bad team with no history when they arrived in town in the early 70s (for those of you who didn’t know or had forgotten, the Rangers started life as the Washington Senators and were actually the second go-around for a franchise with that name; the first Senators are now the Twins), the Rangers have given us precious few baseball memories in their 35+ years in Arlington.

Oh, sure, we had those playoff appearances in the late 90s, but the mighty Yankees smashed the life out of the team before the fans even had a chance to get excited.

Other than that, what have we got? Nolan Ryan’s 6th and 7th no-hitters, Ryan’s 5,000th K, Kenny Rogers’ perfecto, and…

Oh, yeah. What am I thinking? We’ve also got that homer off Jose Canseco’s melon in Boston. We’ve got Frankie Francisco’s chair-toss in Oakland. We’ve got Billy Martin rants, Eddie Chiles getting mad, and Bobby V’s restaurant. We’ve got Canseco’s (him again?) pitching appearance, FAILED trades (Eaton and Otsuka for Chris Young and Adrian Gonzales? Wanna do that one over? Or, for that matter, Sundberg for Yost?), idiot free-agent moves (did someone say Pudge Rodriguez was going to break down in 2003?), and BAD BAD BAD signings (Gay-Rod, Mike Henneman, Chan friggin’ Ho friggin’ Park).

We’ve got all that, and more. What am I complaining about?

This year, our hopes are pinned on Kevin Millwood (currently on DL), Eric Gagne (just off the DL and a reclamation project of the highest order), Brandon McCarthy, Mike Young (who seems to have forgotten how to swing a bat), Mark Texeira (TRADE HIM NOW), and assorted other spares. Not to mention passed-over-many-times-in-Oakland Ron Washington, the new, chatty skip.

It’s going to be the longest of long summers. This team, to quote someone who knows a lot more about baseball than me, SUCKS.

The second most lowly team in town is the now-irrelevant Dallas Stars. It’s amazing to me that this franchise, KINGS of the town after winning the Stanley Cup in ’99 and returning to defend (unsuccessfully, but returning nonetheless) in 2000, have dropped so far off the radar. Well, that’s what three straight first-round playoff exits will do for you.

The Stars have kept a nucleus of popular, but under-achieving, players around for YEARS. Mike Modano is cute and skates well (or used to), but his intestinal fortitude is questionable. Dude is the American, ice-skating version of Dirk Nowitzki (more about that in a moment). What’s not to like about Lehtinen, Zubov, Sydor, Morrow, Ott, Robidas, and the rest? They’re all swell guys. But there isn’t a CHAMPION among them. A guy with the killer instinct of Brett Hull, Guy Carbonneau, Mike Keane, Pat Verbeek, or any of the other over-achievers from the Cup team is sorely needed at the Frisco StarsCenter.

And, please, don’t get me started on Marty “The Head Case” Turco. With his strange, cross-eyed stare, Marty is lucky he’s made millions (and will make millions more in the years to come) playing great regular-season hockey. It’s a sad state of affairs when you look back on Ed Belfour as your sanest goalie in the past 10 years.

I’m afraid the best we can hope for in the next few years out of this bunch is for Dave Tippett to regrow his truly awe-inspiring mustache. And Ralphie-n-Razor’s never-tiresome bits.

We’re only halfway home, folks. The real soul-crushing is still ahead of us.

Let’s examine our heroes, the Dallas Cowboys, shall we?

The owners of the longest playoff victory drought in town (yep, you read that right; even the ridiculous Rangers have won a playoff game more recently than the Cowboys, who last won a Wild Card game in Washington in 1996), the Cowboys are well on their way to turning into the Oakland Raiders. A once-dominant team owned by an egomaniac who was in the past a mad genius but has become increasingly erratic and eccentric, the Cowboys, like Al Davis’ Raiders, are quickly fading into NFL obscurity. As coaches come and go, QBs rotate through, each touted as the Savior, and the team grows more faceless and non-descript each year.

Forget about Aikman, Irvin, Smith, Nate Newton, Charles Haley, or Kenny Norton. All the guys with any kind of personality are long gone. Who’s the most interesting dude on this team? Easy – TO Owens, but he’s interesting in a bad way. Who else?

Romo? His girlfriend is a LOT more interesting than he is. And I’m not sold on his ability to be The Man yet, either.

Terry Glenn? The last freckled black man I wanted to listen to was Dennis Johnson, and he’s dead.

Wade Phillips? Wait. Let me cancel my Lunesta prescription.

How am I supposed to get excited about this team? Are they going to be better than last year, when they barely squeaked into the playoffs, only to lose the Wild Card game, again? Well, the Pear Shaped Football Genius is gone, so the condescension and derision (focused on the fans, not the players) ought to be toned down. However, I have no idea why this team would be any better. The draft was underwhelming, free agency was an exercise in paying way too much for very little.

Yippee.

And those little Mavericks. I had retired the “little” last year, but the performance we just witnessed can only be described as “little”. Maybe “gutless”. Or “choke of historic proportions”. Any of those, I guess.

What, in the name of God, went wrong? How does a team handle all comers 67 times in the regular season, only to lose four out of six to the #8 seed? How is this even possible?

How can Dirk Nowitzki get serious MVP consideration, then, in the space of less than two weeks, disappear completely?

How can second-year player Devin Harris be the only guy on this team not scared to go to the rack?

How can big, goofy (but sorta loveable) Don Nelson have his old team’s number so thoroughly? What did he ever do to curry favor with the basketball gods? Or has he been possessed by the ghost of Red Auerbach?

How is it possible that a team coached by Avery Johnson has one guy, one friggin’ guy, who’s still talking when it’s put-up-or-shut-up time? That guy, by the way, is Jerry Stackhouse. The rest of these very little Mavericks ran home to their mommies when it got tough. How did Avery, one of the mentally toughest players ever in the NBA, not vomit his guts out right there on the sideline?

The total give-up we witnessed in that series makes you appreciate guys like Bird, Magic, and Jordan all the more. Guys who had tons of ability, sure, but who also were CHAMPIONS, who refused to lose, who wanted the ball when it came to nut-cuttin’ time, money players, cold-blooded crunch time guys.

There aren’t many of those guys out there. I can’t think of more than a handful going right now. Tiger, of course, leads the list. After that, I guess there’s Tom Brady, Peyton Manning (MAYBE, now that he’s got the monkey off his back – we’ll see), Curt Schilling, Roger Federer, Steve Nash, Tim Duncan, and not many more, if any. Beckham in his day, perhaps. I’m reaching now.

It’s obvious the Mavericks have none of these money guys. Stackhouse has the mental make-up, but no longer has the skills. Dirk has the skills, but not the stuff between his ears or in his chest. Devin Harris may yet be one of those guys, but he’s not there yet.

Many here are saying if the Mavs had played anyone but Golden State in the first round, they would have won. That may be, but Golden State exposed this team’s mental weakness. Even if the Mavs had wiped the floor with the Clippers instead, crunch time was going to come against Utah, PHX/SA, or the East champ. It had to happen. And we now know the Mavs would not have had the stones to stand up. This team folded so badly and so quickly that I really question if they were going to beat anyone, Clippers included, this post season. I can make the argument they would not.

When you take this failure and add it to the failure in Miami last year, the finished picture is not pretty. Oh sure, the Mavs rolled through the regular season like a steamroller. Who cares? That only makes it hurt worse, makes the shock more shocking. We sure thought they were good. Were they really?

The answer to that last question is unequivocally YES. They were good. When the pressure is not on, this team rocks. The skill guys have got skill. Avery Johnson is magic on bench. But add some pressure, and the wheels go flying in all directions.

So, what do you do if you’re Mark (Please Shave That Goatee) Cuban? Blow it up? Stand pat?

I think we’re too close to blow it all up. I think you’ve got a cast with few equals assembled here. Dirk has talent coming out his ears, as do Howard, Harris, and Diop. Stackhouse is a tough guy who I want on my team. Dampier is a functional big man and teams well with Diop. Terry… well, that’s the question, or at least one of them.

Isn’t it interesting that the two best point guards going right now, Nash and Kidd, were both Mavericks once upon a time? I have no idea what to make of that, but the irony is hard to escape.

It’s just as clear that you can’t bring this bunch back intact. Many of the supporting cast turned out to be huge disappointments. Weren’t Devean George, Greg Buckner, and Austin Croshere brought here to provide experience, esp playoff experience? Then how come none of them played more than a few minutes in the Golden State series? If they can’t get on the floor when your team is getting humiliated by an 8 seed, it’s time for them to go.

Similarly, Jason Terry has disappeared too many times. When he’s on, he can be a huge difference maker. But, seriously, how hard is it to find a jump-shooting two guard with questionable heart? This team so desperately needs another guy who doesn’t wet his pants at the thought of driving to the rim, another Manu Ginobilli, a guy who can help Harris break a defense, who can drive and dish, or take it all the way himself. Where do we get one of those?

You’re as set as you can expect in the middle. You’re not going to improve on your rotation of Dampier and Diop.

Down low, you need someone who can play down low. Dirk may never excel at the low post, but he can certainly improve. Howard may do well there. But a real, big-butt power forward is a need as well.

And you need a bench that can play some when the pressure is on. I still don’t get this. The bench contributed during the regular season, and many thought the Mavs were the deepest team in the Association. Depth that was nowhere to be seen against GS.

It’s hard to be hopeful about any of the local teams. The Mavs still seem closest to being a power, but this embarrassment makes you question everything. The Cowboys' only good moves in the past 10 years are the new stadium and getting Parcells out of here. The Rangers are going nowhere, and look bad doing so. And with the Stars, Modano’s fiancĂ© is a lot more interesting to watch than the game on the ice.

Well, there’s always UT football. And card tricks.

Hezbollah’s South American presence

Today’s WaPo has a rather sobering article on Hezbollah’s extensive presence in South America, most notably in the “Tri-Border” region of Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. This area, with little to no border control, tons of corruption funded by drug and smuggling money, and home to more Arab immigrants than you might expect, turns out to be fertile ground for Islamic extremism.

This ought to get your attention for two reasons:

1. Whenever I hear the words “terrorists” and “drugs” in the same sentence, I take notice. There is so much cash in illegal drugs that you had better believe the AQ and Hezbollah boys and all their little buddies are clamoring to get into the biz as deeply as they can. And don’t think for one second that Osama and Co’s claims to be devout Muslims (ssshhhhyyyyaaaaa, in my best Wayne Campbell impression) will make them think twice about dealing in those most unholy of substances. I’m quite sure they rationalize it by reminding themselves where most of the crap is sold and who it’s going to kill. I bet they get a big old kick out of that.

2. How hard is it to cross into the US from the south unchallenged by legal authority? Are you serious?

Fortunately, there is an easy solution to this problem, and it’s one that will have ENORMOUS benefits for the US which go WAY beyond just taking a whole lotta starch out of the terrorists. What is it, you ask?

Legalize drugs. Control them, sell them out of government stores, tax the living sh** out of them. But make them legally available.

Don’t laugh and don’t tell me I’m nuts.

I can stop on my way home tonight and legally buy a bottle of 151-proof rum, or 180-proof grain alcohol. Are you seriously going to tell me either of those items is less dangerous and less harmful than clean, uncut narcotics? Is a 12-pack of Coors Light or a carton of Winstons less harmful to my brain, body, and (potentially) my future than a half ounce of weed? A bottle of Belvedere is going to kill me slower than pure cocaine?

It’s all bad. But, for whatever reason, we’re able to make our own decisions about the booze and smokes (and, for that matter, the coffee and trans fat), but not about the dope. I don’t get it.

If the Western world legalized drugs, we’d put 2/3 of the world’s crooks out of business overnight.

No, I’m not high. I really believe it. But it’s not the point of this post.

The point of this post is: We’ve got a problem, a very scary problem, brewing to our south. And that’s just the latest spot. These dudes are good at finding remote, loosely-governed, difficult-terrain spots and putting down some low-tech infrastructure in a big hurry. Southwest Asia, South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, you name it. If the ground is inhospitable, the law enforcement is not, and there’s an international airport within a three-day donkey ride, it’s going to be Jihadistan very soon, if it isn’t already.

How we’ve made it nearly six years without another terrorist All-Star Show is beyond me. Have we been lucky? Good? Good and lucky? I don’t know. It can’t last forever, can it? These jerks are going to ruin another American day somewhere, sometime. Aren’t they?

Then what happens? Do we all cower in our homes? Are all “undesirables” rounded up and shipped off to parts unknown? I’m a Jew; does that make me one of “them”? Or one of “us”?

Holy crap, I could use a bong hit.

Just in case I haven’t been clear

So there’s no mistake, here is my two-part plan for curing the major social, political, and economic issues of our time:

1. Develop viable alternatives to petroleum and fossil fuels in general and implement them worldwide.
2. Legalize drugs worldwide.

Discuss amongst yourselves. Get back to me with your thoughts.

Your pal,

PHE
Founder and CEO
ProblemSolvers LLC

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Mavs - Warriors: Don't mess around with the players!

Some exceptionally good advice from Tim MacMahon on today's DMN Mavs Blog. Remember what happened to a few unruly Detroit fans who didn't take Tim's good advice on that out-of-control evening. We don't want a repeat of that fiasco here.

Mavs - Warriors: Not by much


The little Mavs have staved off the hangman's noose for at least another two day, staging a ferocious rally to take Game 5, 119-112.

That's nice. Sure beats the alternative, which we came all too close to seeing.

I don't want to get too negative here, so I'll hold off until the aftermath of Game 6 on Thursday. If we get to Game 7, I'll be firmly back on the bandwagon.

Daily YouTube: KLIF 1190 on 11/22/1963

The Mighty 1190 radio broadcast as it all happened on that day in Dallas...