Wednesday, September 27, 2006


Make no mistake. I disdain spoon-fed politics in a deep and abiding way. I generally don't watch any of the talking head shows because I think they are bullshit. The Colbert Report is more my speed. I read lots of news, I do a fair amount of my own research. I have my own opinions. This also means I cannot tolerate Fox News. My God. Be partisan. That's fine. Please don't treat me like I am the stupid.

In light of that plea, I hereby nominate Chris Wallace for my Pseudo-Journalist Who Evidently Thinks I am Stupid of the Year Award. I do this for his interview with Bill Clinton on Sunday. You can see the complete interview as part one, part two, and part three. Now, Clinton agreed to talk about "anything" so I don't agree with those people who say that Clinton got "sandbagged." However, I do think that Chris Wallace needs to search in his soul for even saying that Fox News is as hard on Republicans as it is on Democrats. This is what I mean about Wallace evidently thinking I am stupid. He absolutely tried to catch Clinton out with a very, very detailed question. I can say from having watched our current President's speeches that I am very confident that the question, which takes well over a minute with several subparts, would have absolutely flummoxed the current President. Clinton, on the other hand, smashed the question. Whether you think he did enough against bin Laden or not, it is undeniable fact that Clinton whipped Wallace with his own question. It was a very good, powerful performance.

By the way, while I generally think that this administration has politicized 9/11 and been a discredit to the concept of a "war administration," I think that this commentary by Keith Olbermann is overwrought and overlong. He is correct that Chris Wallace is a schmuck, but he just goes on and on. Jeez Keith, ten and a half minutes? I think you could have made your point in three without losing any major points. Of course, Olbermann's piece was prominently labeled "Special Commentary." No pretending it was fair and balanced.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


I don't even know if this was real, but it really is excellent.

Sunday, September 24, 2006


Today was a decent newspaper day. Plus, the Bears won, and L made both chili (for dinner tonight) and Curry Cauliflower soup (for dinner later this week). All in all, not a bad day.

Bolivia, if you did not know, is a landlocked country. It has been since they lost a war with Chile. That was in the 1880s. The Times ran a story about the Bolivian navy, and the fact that Bolivia has not yet accepted the loss of the region. Now their navy patrols rivers, and Lake Titicaca. I said it, "Titicaca." There, I said it again. Anyway, after the word "Titicaca," the funniest thing in the article is: "Watching recruits, mainly Aymara-speaking Indians, emerge shivering after a swim in the lake’s 46-degree water as part of a punishing high-altitude diving course, he explained, 'We now guarantee that almost all of our sailors learn how to swim.'" And that seems to sum up the Bolivian navy.

The Bolivian story makes me think of Miklós Horthy, who was the dictator of Hungary between the wars, ending with the loss of Hungary to the Russians in 1944. During that period, as now, Hungary was a landlocked nation. Nevertheless, Horthy was an Admiral and part of his legitimacy stemmed from his military rank. What's even funnier is that Horthy's legal position was actually regent for the Kingdom of Hungary. In other words, he was acting on behalf of the monarchy in a country without a monarch, while also being an admiral in a landlocked nation. Bravo, Horthy, bravo!

The Times ran a story about the city of Atlanta coming to grips with the 100th anniversary of a race riot that left at least two dozen dead. The riot was not really a "race riot," but rather a rampaging massacre by whites on blacks. What is really fascinating is that the event is not taught as part of Atlanta's history, and within a week of the riot newspapers had already dropped the riot into the memory hole. One Atlanta paper reported "that the 'Negroes' had been 'disarmed and dispersed.'" Another stated that "Atlanta is herself again, business is restored, and the riot is forgotten," two days after the riot. People are only really researching the event now. Before all of us whites in the North get all smug reading the article, Detroit '43, Chicago '19, Tulsa '21, East St. Louis '17, and many others have some essplainen to do.

Finally, the Times had a short travel article on one of my favorite cities-Dresden, Germany. Along with Prague, I thought Dresden was one of the most photogenic cities I could imagine. The Zwinger, the Semper Opera House, the Frauenkirche, and the katholische Hofkirche, make up the Balcony of Europe on the banks of the Elbe River. Dresden also has a fascinating history. Saxony was, for a time, one of the major kingdoms of Germany. Austria and Prussia dominate what we learn about Germany in history, but Saxony was a major player, with the Saxons providing some of the kings of Poland. This is why this overwhelmingly Lutheran area has a Catholic Court Church (the Hofkirche). To maintain the (Catholic) Polish crown, it was necessary to be . . . Catholic. It was hard to convince the Pope or the Poles you were Catholic without a Hofkirche. Anyway, L and I went to Dresden on our honeymoon (along with Freiburg, Aachen, and Göttingen). I took the photo below, and recommend that you go to Dresden immediately.

Friday, September 22, 2006


Sometimes in the news you read a snippet that tells you how things are. I have come across a number of them lately. For instance, the Independent, a newspaper in the United Kingdom reported the not-too-surprising story that the United States had threatened to bomb Pakistan in the wake of September 11, 2001. I suspect that every country in the world with more than five Muslims in it was threatened after 9/11. The story also (oddly) covers a number of comments by the Iranian president. Anyway, here the "that's how it is" moment: "In a press conference yesterday, meanwhile, Mr Ahmadinjad tempered his repeated outbursts this week against the US and also Britain with the suggestion that . . . " Even a British paper throws Britain in as an afterthought in America's wake. A special relationship is one thing, but Blair took it to another level.

Maddona got herself into the newspapers again too. There has been a lot of criticism of her being "artistically" crucified and singing some crap-assed songs. She explained that the purpose of having herself (fake) crucified was a "plea to the audience to encourage mankind to help one another and to see the world as a unified whole." Interesting. Hey, look at the wealthy white lady with the fake British accent. She's pretending she's crucified on a mirrored cross. I suddenly see my neighbor as me, and desire to help said neighbor. Sheesh. Interestingly, that wasn't the thing in the articles that let the world know how it is in Maddona's head. That was this: "I believe in my heart that if Jesus were alive today he would be doing the same thing." Indeed. Who can doubt that Jesus would charge people money to see him, then re-enact the pivot point of history that his brutal death was. No doubt. I bet for an encore he would sing his hit tune "Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?"

The New York Times had a very confusing article today. You see, illegal aliens must be kept out of the United States because they are stealing jobs from Americans. The only reason that Americans are not working is that illegal aliens are taking all of the jobs, using their wiles and craftiness. Oddly enough though, in California and other agricultural states fruit went rotten on the vines for the lack of pickers. In California they has 70,000 jobs that went unfilled. One grower explained how it is when he said: "I would have raised my wages, but there weren’t any people to pay."

Finally, the Paper of Record has an article on a new effort to get rid of the Electoral College. In this plan, states would form "compacts" with each other to pass laws to direct their electoral collegians to vote the state's votes in line with national election results. Thus, while we would still have an Electoral College, but their votes would be bound to the national election results. This to "fix" a problem that has come up TWICE since 1789. I am pretty sure there have been more fist fights in Congress than instances in which a President was elected after losing the national vote. In any case, this proposal shows how it is with people who are "smarter" than the rest of us. We have a very clear means to get rid of the Electoral College if we want to. It is the same mechanism that switched elections for the Senate to popular voting. It is the constitutional amendment. Instead of making little "deals" between half-assed state politicians, people who thing the Electoral College is an anachronism ought to support an amendment. Otherwise, they are just ignoring the opportunity for "democracy" they claim their proposal supports.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


I posted some new pics on the foto blog.

Blogger periodically lists their "Blogs of Note." Oddly enough, lots of them suck and are boring. They are often also new, and undeveloped. It seems pretty random. However, this blog was on there and has been excellent so far. Check it out.

Sunday, September 17, 2006


I knew it would be a decent day when our New York Times was actually delivered to us. The Bears trouncing the Lions was good, and L and I went to City Newstand this afternoon. As always, I tried to get things I was unfamiliar with. We'll see if I have any finds. Anyway, today's paper was pretty interesting. In no particular order . . .

In South Africa there is apparently a shooting war taking place over the right to provide taxi services. In the Cape Town area there are two groups that run minibuses that transport both commuters, and intracity travelers. In order to control certain routes, as well as to try to steal routes from each other, people in, or acting on behalf of, the groups have taken to shooting the drivers and passengers of the other services. Amazingly, the South African government is unable to end this conflict. Keep in mind that the taxis represent a legal enterprise. This is not a situation with illicit activity like bootlegging or drug running. This is a shooting war in a competitive, legal industry. Here's a modest proposal: taxis without licenses may not transport people or goods. Criminals may not have licenses. Violence will lead to revocations. People who ride in illegal taxis are subject to a $50 fine. Now the police don't have to deal with the gun-wielding drivers, but the market for their services will be undercut.

In the New York/Region section, which I always enjoy there is a story about Willets Point in Queens. Apaprently Willets Point has one resident in the voting precinct, and lacks either working sewers or storm drains. What it is full of is secondary heavy industry. The estimate is that there are 225 auto parts and/or repair shops, as well as scrap yards, and iron works in the area. The businesses are apparently largely immigrant owned, and employ about 1,200 people. New York is apparently thinking about trying to use eminant domain to seize the area and build a mixed use, residential/retail area. I have never been to Willets Point, but it sounds like the kind of area it is necessary for cities to have to maintain diverse populations. 225 small businesses employing 1,200 people are not always easy to replace.

Moving across the country, the Times also ran a story on graffiti in San Francisco. Apparently San Francisco is declaring war on graffiti. They are also seeking out a person sticking stickers with "BNE" on them all over the place. The part about fighting graffiti is stupid. If you are a city and don't want graffiti, you (a) remove graffiti from private property for free, (b) track the little bastards down and arrest them. Done and done. What is more interesting to me is that the BNE deal is now worldwide. Apprently it has appeared in New York, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Prague at least. It reminds me of the whole Obey deal with Andre the Giant stickers. They were all over Chicago. They were all over everywhere. The 1995 version was particularly common in the East Loop. Nobody knew what they were for. Ultimately, although this web page claims they were an experiment in Phenomenology ("the first aim . . . is to reawaken a sense of wonder about one's environment . . . the medium is the message"), it is also noteworthy that both the posters and things like Obey watches are for sale at the same page. Presumably the medium is also an advertisement, and "buy this stuff" is the ultimate message. We'll see if BNE turns out to be the same crap.

For all of you aspiring slackers (is it possible to be an "aspiring" slacker?) the Times ran an advice piece about turning down promotions. First, they say that "you have to be diplomatic. It’s O.K. to say, ‘No thanks,’ but you need to couch it in a way that convinces your boss the decision is the right one for both you and the company." Funny thing. If I try to give you a promotion and you say you don't want it, I am already thinking that the company may have dodged a bullet. Later the advice is to make your rejection of the position firm saying, "in anthropological terms, you don’t want to give off prey behavior. Don’t hem and haw — your goal is to say, ‘No’ to the new assignment while keeping the image of yourself as a strong and capable person in the boss’s mind." Well, that's an interesting time to get concerned about your career. Look, if your "promotion" means you have to move your family to another city or state, that's fine. Have a discussion at work about the fact that you do not want to do this. Otherwise, it is hard to see how you have not just torpedoed your career. Slacker.

The travel section contained a cover story about Ethiopia. They hinted at some things about the Ethiopian Orthodox Church. Apparently Ethiopia was a combination of pagan and Jewish before the Christian era. Christianity reached Ethiopia in about 330 A.D. First, apparently there are churches in Ethiopia that are literally carved into limestone. These look absolutely amazing. There are other sacred sites, including a field of obelisks, and much to the surprise of Indiana Jones, the Ark of the Covenant. There is an Ethiopian myth that the Ark of the Covenant was stolen from Jerusalem and brought to Ethiopia in about 1,000 B.C. Seems like the Jews would have noticed this. Anyway, apparently the Ethiopians have several unusual aspects of their Christianity. For instance, the Ethiopian Bible has 81 books (the Catholic bible has 77 books, the Protestant bible 66). Menstruating women are not allowed into church. Ethiopians pray pointing toward Jerusalem. Now I want to go to Ethiopia. And Staten Island. And St. Peterburg, Russia. And a lot of other places.

Finally, Keeping Score has a study of batting statistics for various counts. They conclude that the pitch when the count is two balls and one strike is the most significant in an at bat measured by the spread in statistics for 2-2 at bats as opposed to 3-1 at bats. 3-1 hitters get much, much better, with an OPS of 1.089. At 2-2 they get much worse, with an OPS of .637. This is not what I expected. I thought 1-1 is the crucial pitch. 2-1 versus 1-2 seems such an important difference. However, the stats don't back me up. who knew?

Thursday, September 14, 2006


The Damned Journalist on the right column had this posted on Slate. If you are a regular reader of his blog, I suspect that you are itching for his Slate columns like Oatmeal Is Not to Be Fucked With or Milk: It's the Shit. Frankly, most publications would be immeasureably more interesting if they did coverage like this.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Generally I collect links to stories I think are interesting enough to blog about. However, I am a little anal retentive, so when I have a few too many links saved my favorites start to look . . . sloppy. When that happens, I need to clean house, which is also known conventionally as "blogging." Thus, the unifying theme of this post is that it was in my links. As such I have decided to be charitable and subheadline these so you can skip the ones that are not interesting (i.e. all of them).

A. "Analysts" Are Clowns

United Airlines just can't win. When fuel prices shot up they were called unsophisticated clods for not having purchased fuel futures to offset future increases. Now, as prices drop, they are called clods for having purchased such options. I am no fan of the airlines, but it must be nice to be so smart that you knew that oil would be at $64 a barrel today, instead of $100. Because, you know, the rest of us weren't sure.

B. Que Bueno!

This article describes a study that concludes that *gasp* Spanish speakers tend to lose their Spanish within three generations of emigrating to the United States. As such, immigration is not a threat to the dominance of English in the United States. It took my family from the 1840s to the 1930s to completely lose German. That's 90 years, give or take. Roughly three to four generations. During those 90 years they lived in heavily German communities. They had access to German-language media and German-language businesses. And yet, they all learned English. Who would have thought that the immigrants from Latin America would follow the same pattern?!? Shocking!

C. Stuff in the Christian Science Monitor

This is crazy. L and I are WATCHING Mythbusters and I come across this article about . . . Mythbusters. The article is odd, since the existence of the TV show is not "news." However, it does nicely encapsulate the differences between the hosts. It turns out that Jaime is from Columbus, Indiana, and ran away from home to California at 14. Apparently he has also owned a pet store and a boat-charter business in the Caribbean. Finally, he has a degree in Russian literature. Now he owns this special effects company. Adam, on the other hand, taught himself to perform magic, juggle, and ride a unicycle. He also began building toys at age 5. He also tried being an animator, graphic designer, set designer, and actor before he found part of his calling (special effects). Ultimately, these guys and their show are a fantastic argument for a diverse liberal education. Neither of them has a formal scientific background. However, they are able to reason their way through most issues and draw on other experience.

The Monitor also has an article on American Buddhism. Apparently, with roughly 1,500,000 adherents, Buddhism is the fourth largest religion in the United States. The three bigger are Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. I guess I assumed there were more Hindus than that. It might be close. In any case, between 1990 and 2000 the number of Buddhists rose 170% in the United States. That is really tremendous growth. Two thirds of these Buddhists are apparently immigrants, while one third are American converts. Interestingly, a Buddhist they spoke to for the article attributed the growth in part to the fact that Buddhists don't seek to convert others, and in part to meditation, which I have always thought of as akin to deep prayer in some Christian traditions. Anyway, the article actually does a nice job laying out a coherent vision of Buddhism, and touches on something that I think is interesting, i.e. the fact that nothing in Buddhism apparently contradicts the doctrines of the religions of the Book. Of course, I am not a Buddhist, but I think it is interesting that the Dalai Lama (the flowing robes, the grace, bald . . . striking) encourages people to maintain their cultural religion even as they deepen their involvement in Buddhism.

D. Stuff in the National Catholic Reporter

There is a bunch in the new issue of the Reporter that I think is interesting, but it is all "premium content." You'll have to take my word for what the articles say.

First, yet more evidence that the Church is a "big tent." I know that we are all "monotheistic" (i.e. We believe in one God . . .), but I guess a little iconodulism never hurt anyone. Apparently there has been a nationwide surge in sales of statues of St. Joseph. As some of you may know, and others will learn, there is a superstition that burying a statue of St. Joseph in your yard (upside down) will help sell a house. In fact, the Cleveland Area Board of Realtors actually sells St. Joseph statues. You know your realtor has given up when . . . This guy even calls St. Joseph "Your Underground Real Estate Agent." Imagine, you are a saint (in part) because you bought it when the angels told you your young, virgin wife was carrying God's child (as opposed to Samuel-down-the-street's), and now your statue spends most of its time upside down underground. Sweet.

Second, a group in Britain has proposed splitting the legal and religious aspects of "marriage." At first I thought this was a means to address issues like gay marriage and/or civil unions. That is part of it. However, the other consequence is odder (to me). The Church of England is the . . . wait for it . . . state church of England. The monarch of England is the Supreme Governor of the Church of England since the split from the Roman Catholic Church in the 1500s. Because England has a state church, marriages in the state church are automatically recognized by the state. Marriages of non-Anglicans must be registered with the state. Kind of makes sense. Oddly, the group that wants to split the two sees as a benefit "remov[ing] the 'anomalous status' of the Church of England" in automatically recognizing marriages. I will not claim to understand the ins and outs of the various mainstream Protestant denominations, but shouldn't there be SOME benefit to being the state church?

Next, in keeping with the Protestant theme, Georgetown University has apparently thrown a number of evangelical groups off campus. These include InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Chi Alpha, Asian Baptist Student Koinonia and Crossroad Campus Christian Fellowship. When I first saw this, I was a little surprised, but figured that America's oldest and (arguably) most prestigious Jesuit institution had caved to some pressure to be "more Catholic." It was going to be another example of the Church giving itself a black eye. After reading the article, I don't think that is what happened. The article says:

“As any previous covenant agreements ended with the 2005-2006 academic year, your ministries will no longer be allowed to hold any activity or presence . . . on campus,” wrote the Rev. Constance Wheeler, a Protestant chaplain at Georgetown, in a letter to the evangelical groups. Representatives from the Campus Ministry office were not available to answer questions from a reporter.

Erik Smulson, spokesman for the university, said the decision followed a reorganization of the Protestant chaplaincy at Georgetown. “With this restructuring has come a desire in the Protestant chaplaincy to build the ministry from within Georgetown and its Protestant leaders rather than rely on outside groups or fellowships,” Smulson said in a statement.

Looks to me like those wacky Protestants are having a little tiff among themselves. Of course, the article also says that 300 of Georgetown's 6,000 students belong to the expelled groups, so this might not really be much of an issue. Anyway, I was gratified to see that the Jesuits were not being pressured into throwing alternative viewpoints off campus by the Church hierarchy.

Finally, the Reporter had an article on multicultural parishes in Oakland. It is a very good article that I really wish were available for free. They talk about Chautauqua ("Native American" for gathering the peoples) days in Oakland, which I would really love to see. Apparently they integrate a variety of Catholic traditions, including Korean, Vietnamese, Latin American, Black, and others into a Mass. It sounds really fantastic. In fact, Oakland is apparently building a new cathedral, named Cathedral of Christ the Light. It looks crazy ugly. Anyway, it will encompass the former parish of St. Mary-St. Francis de Sales which has been folded into the parish of St. Andrew-St. Joseph. The former parishes that will now be Christ the Light encompass significant populations of Catholic Blacks, Hispanics, Vietnamese, Filipinos, and Whites. If they do it right they will really help ensure that the catholic in Catholic is catholic.


I didn't realize that my three-year blogging anniversary came and went on September 4. Let's hope I do a little better job with my upcoming wedding anniversary.

This is a test. This is only a test.

Update: I can apparently add Youtube videos to my blog now. This is a fantastic new development. It is really easy, and will give me a whole new venue in which to waste time-video. By the way, the video is aptly entitled "Baby Fart" and may represent the pinnacle of parenting.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006


I know that many of you were nearly frantic about my lack of a Sunday New York Times post. As it happened, our delivery person either was too hung over to deliver our paper, or some low-life swiped it. Either is possible. And so it goes.

Anyway, I saw a news item today that is a little sad. Toni Kukoc, who despite the spelling of his first name is a man (see e.g. Toni Braxton, Toni Morrison, etc.), has decided to retire from the NBA. The Waiter (as he was sometimes called) was a huge star in European basketball. He was a two-time European player of the year, as well as a two time Olympic silver medalist. Of course, in the 1992 Olympics Pippen and Jordan took it as their personal mission to remind Jerry Krause that his beloved Toni Kukoc was not yet an NBA player. I will never forget the two of them double teaming him in that game. Two of the NBA's premier defenders working NBA-Finals hard to pimp a guy as a tactic to get Pippen another, better contract. Welcome to American basketball in the 1990s Toni.

In any case, Toni is the last member of the Bulls second run to leave the NBA. While Jordan's second retirement probably put an end to the era, with Toni's departure we Bulls fans will no longer unexpectedly smile and remember those years when the rare former Bull highlight makes SportsCenter.

Friday, September 08, 2006


At lunch today I am reading a little CNNSI. I started reading John Donovan's post about playoff pitching. It was going OK until he got to the White Sox. As an aside, if I have any readers who don't actually know me (doubtful), I am a born and bred Cub fan. As such, I have no "homer" instincts toward the White Sox at all. They are not relevant to me. Thus, this is not a "homer" issue. It is a baseball issue.

Anyway, John Donovan wrote:

From Aug. 8 to Sept. 7, Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras have made 30 starts. They threw 191 1/3 innings, won 13 and lost 11 with a 4.28 ERA. From Aug. 6 to Sept. 7 in their championship year, also a 30-game stretch, the White Sox's rotation -- swap out Orlando Hernandez for Vazquez and give Brandon McCarthy a start -- was 14-12 with a 3.17 ERA. The starters threw 207 1/3 innings.

More than a run difference, while throwing 16 more innings.

Yeah, this group could be sucking air.

This is a frustrating side of the statistics revolution in baseball. I generally like the much closer analysis of the game that the sabremetricians apply to the game. For instance, I think that on-base percentage is a fantastic statistic. I think slugging percentage is very useful. I have doubts about OPS, but that's OK. Admittedly, Donovan uses no modern statistics in the above. However, the reliance on statistics, as opposed to Joe Morgan's "understanding" because he "played the game" already puts Donovan's statement on the statistics side of the cultural divide.

Anyway, the one use of statistics I cannot abide is exemplified by Donovan's statement. The reason they play baseball games is not (a) to count the runs given up by pitchers per nine innings, or (b) to accumulate innings. They play baseball games solely to count the number of times your team has scored more runs than the other team when the games end. Thus, the critical statistic that Donovan ignores is that from August 8 to September 7 the White Sox starters won 13 games. Last year in roughly the same time frame they won 14 games. Since they lost one fewer this year this is a standings wash. All of the statistical analysis is meant to help us understand why the standings look the way they do. They are not an end unto themselves. Nobody gets a championship ring solely for leading the league in runs above expected production. They get them for winning baseball games.


I don't really like to get up in the morning. I understand that I am perhaps not unique in this respect. Thankfully, the market has created products to assist people like me.

The alarm I have has a couple of important features. First, I have always had a problem with loud, adrupt alarms. They historically have caused me to sight bolt upright in fear, turn the alarm off in a haze, and lay back down to immediately fall back asleep. That is not very useful. Thus, this alarm has a feature that allows it to fade in slowly, getting progressively louder over the course of about thirty seconds. This is a blessing.

Second, the alarm has several functions, including turning on the radio to wake me up, playing a CD, or playing an "alarm" sound. I currently have it set to some pop music station. I used to have it on news/talk AM radio, or NPR, but it turns out that I am able to incorporate news reports into my dreams and stay quite asleep. I have a harder time incorporating pop music into my dreams, especially since I do not like very much pop music. This is a blessing.

This morning my alarm went off, got "snoozed", and went off again. The first time the song was Johnny Cash singing Ring of Fire. That song was bouncing through my "snooze" brain, when the alarm went off again. It was Neil Diamond singing Sweet Caroline. Sweet Weeping Jesus. Please help me. What am I, at Fenway Park? Now I have both of those songs stuck in my head. This is a curse.

Thursday, September 07, 2006


I do. All the time. At least once a day I wonder, what the hell was that person thinking? I don't always mean it as a substitute for "why are you a moron?" Sometimes, like in the first article below, I wonder how you parse the issues out and reach a decision if you are in that person's shoes (the daughter, not the father).

First, the Sun-Times reports that a woman was taking her father on "one last train trip." He was 80 and had lung and brain cancer. They boarded an Amtrak train in San Francisco, bound for Chicago. Apparently on Sunday, outside of Glenwood Springs, Colorado, her father died. On a train already headed for Chicago. Which is where (generally) they are from. The woman apparently knew what it would cost to ship her deceased father's remains from Colorado to Chicago, and did not have the money to do it. So she didn't report the death. For 23 hours. Until she got to Chicago.

I know what you are thinking. She killed him and this story is her cover for the homocide. Apparently the Chicago Police Department already thought of that. They say that autopsy results show that the man died of natural causes. So what we have is an apparently well meaning daughter, taking her very ill father on an epic train trip (without delays it is 51 hours, 20 minutes). And he passes away. And now there is nothing to be done, and he is dead anyway, and if he is taken off in Colorado, there is no way to get him home anyway. So, it what do you do?

Next, we have a head-slapping moment from India. The Christian Science Monitor reports on India's ongoing efforts to rename cities to remove the colonial taint from their names. Some of the names are obvious, and frankly for that reason, kind of stupid. For instance: Calcutta becomes Kolkata; Pondicherry becomes Puducherry; Bangalore becomes Bengaluru. However, when Madras becomes Chennai, or Bombay becomes Mumbai, you just have to know the cities. You probably would not guess. Apparently there is even talk of changing the name India, either to Hindustan (in a country with 138 million Muslims (more than 50 million more people than live in Egypt), 24 million Christians (twice the size of the population of Belgium), and 19 millions Sikhs) or Bharat. As a process, disposing of colonial names is a tried and true activity in post-colonial countries. However, India has been free of the British for over 50 years. Furthermore, one of the drivers of India's dynamic growth has been outsourcing activities that make use of the ability of the population to speak English. Going out of your way to remove English names from the geography of the country may not be sending the right message. Indians politicians, what are you thinking?

Finally, in Philadelphia they have decided to put the city's second most important monument in the city to its rightful place outside the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Apparently there was some sort of argument that a monument to a fictional character played by Sylvester Stallone outside the main art museum in America's fifth largest city was not appropriate. What are they thinking? The real reasons to not have the Rocky monument there are Rocky III (with Hulk Hogan and Mr. T), Rocky IV (with Dolph Lundgren, Brigitte Nielsen, and the line "I must break you"), Rocky V (with Tommy Morrison), and apparently a Rocky VI to be called Rocky Balboa. Each of those is a reason to take the statue down, and melt it down to make pop cans, or something useful.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


There were two stories today in the Christian Science Monitor today that caused me to reflect on the nature of Europe in 2006. I don't think that Europe will ever be able to have the cohesion of the Six (Belgium, France, (West) Germany, Italy, Luxemburg, and the Netherlands). Still, it seems like they need to have something in common other than all living on a dangly bit hanging off the end of Asia.

In the first article, Michael J. Jordan (but perhaps not THAT Michael Jeffrey Jordan) writes about a growing sense in the European Union that Europe will not build an identity without establishing moral underpinnings for the Union. The idea is that moral relativism and materialism are not quality building blocks for unity. I'm not sure they are moving as quickly in the direction of defining a European morality as they think. For instance, many Poles think that they brought Communism down by clinging to strong Catholic morality. Many of the them think it worked, and expect the man who lead them, John Paul the Great to be made a saint. For these people "moral underpinning" has a clear meaning and is probably pretty similar to following the catechism to the extent possible. Meanwhile, said one more secular Westerner, "in many ways, Eastern Europe is four decades behind in these debates." Ah yes. Condescension. A fantastic building block. That should work out great.

In the second article, it turns out that the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria still apparently sterilize Roma (aka Gypsy) women without consent. This does not appear to be very widespread, but it does seem to happen with some regularity. Sterilization was evidently a Soviet-era policy, as well as a Nazi policy. Well, technically the Nazis "sterilized" by murdering, but in the context of this discussion that really seems like nitpicking. Anyway, that the Gypsies are not integrated into Central/Eastern European society is not a huge secret, or a big surprise. However, the extent of the problem, including these sterilizations, is shocking. Of course, these stories are related because Slovakia is one of the countries pushing the "moral underpinnings" issue in the first article, and because Bulgaria and Romania are both candidates for EU admission. Perhaps there is more to admission than accepting the acquis communautaire and adding a star to the flag. I wonder how long Europe has to figure out what else there is to it.

Monday, September 04, 2006


There was not really anything in Sunday's paper I felt compelled to blog. I was going to just not post anything, but then I awoke to the news that the Crocodile Hunter died last night. Now, I will post to tell you what you missed in your haze of brats on the barbacque and picnics.

As for the Steve Irwin, as the Crocodile Hunter was named in real life, apparently he was filming a documentary and a sting ray stung him through the heart. It sounds like he passed away pretty quickly. The odd thing about this story is that I am surprised he is dead. The guy's career was made wresting crocodiles, grabbing poisonous snakes with his bare hands, and otherwise irritating very dangerous animals. We all watched him and joked with each other that one of those animals was going to be a beat quicker than him, and that would be that. And yet. I am surprised. I guess I just sort of never believed he would get caught wrong-footed by one of these animals. What made me like the Steve Irwin more than anything was this. Check it out.

The Washington Post apparently has a series called Odd Jobs That Keep The Area Humming. Today's was about a regional traffic engineer in Northern Virginia. His name is Nhan Vu and he works at the Virginia Department of Transportation's Smart Traffic Center for Northern Virginia. The article is pretty interesting. The engineering and science that goes behind establishing the appropriate timing for lights at different intersections is amazing to think about, and apparently this guy speaks directly to people bitching about it. I would feel pretty silly if I called I-DOT and said "the light at Wilson and Western is too short, and needs 30 more seconds of green" and an actual traffic engineer started explaining to me the science behind the length. How do you say anything other than "uh, OK" and hang up?

Apparently in a section I missed the Times yesterday had a very interesting article on the subway map. The New York subway map they are describing is very unusual. The El in Chicago, the Tube in London, the Metro in Paris, and a host of other city mass transit systems use a similar schematic map of the system. It is no good as a city map, since it is not drawn to scale. However, it does show the locations and destinations of the mass transit in relation to the system itself. This, they will help you navigate the El, or the Tube, or the Metro, but not the city. New York is different. New York shows the city, as well as Central Park, and the little turns etc. in the lines. It is a much more detailed map, and possibly one that could be used to navigate parts of New York. Of course, look at the map. I have serious doubts that many New Yorkers know more than a few lines of the subway.

Finally, the venerable Pat Stack reported today that Pittsburgh has a new 26-year old mayor. At work we don't even let 26 year olds speak to clients. In Pittsburgh one just became the mayor. This could be really great for Pittsburgh, this could be really terrible.

Friday, September 01, 2006


Boing Boing, which magically appeared in my Google desktop web clips, ran a note on a German-language sex education book for kids. The book is here. There seems to really be no point in translating the text. I mean, if you don't know what is going on in the photos, I can't help you. However, the text is amazing and fantastic and I have no choice but to translate some of the key passages.

On page 3 of the book, you know, where Mutti und Vatti are buck naked (and quite hairy), it says "here mother and father have no clothes on. You can see Mommy's breasts and her slit. The slit is called the vagina . . ." It goes on like that for Daddy. It is important to note that the German "Schlitz" can be charitably translated as "slit." Unfortunately it can also be translated as "gash." Do you think little kids in Germany say "gash?" Will they after they read this book?

On page 4 it explains that "Mother and Father love each other very much. They kiss each other. Father's penis become big. It sticks out. Mother and Father like to put Dad's penis in Mom's vagina. That is fine." Yeah, that is about how it goes. Mommy and Daddy kiss, and the next thing that happens is Daddy gets an erection and goes on autopilot, like a Breederzombie. "Must reproduce. Have erection. Must reproduce."

Apparently in Germany you stay naked during the entire gestation period. It makes sense, given that even Der Spiegel starts an article with "The Germans love to be naked." Still, in a northern climate, forty weeks of nudity seems extreme to me.

Finally, apparently Germans are born smiling. It must be why they maintain a sunny disposition for life. Oh, and can you imagine the little girls who learned from this book, and get the very, very rude surprise of child birth?