Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Instant Karma's Gonna Get You

"Justice Souter? The city council's on line 1..."

How Do You Reboot a Country?

Internet service for Pakistan has gone out.

Afghanistan apparently kicked the plug out of the wall.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Lauer 1, Cruise 0

Tom Cruise's descent into walking insanity is as disquieting as it is entertaining. The Movie Star tried to cut Today show host Matt Lauer down to size today by belittling him for not knowing everything there is to know about Ritalin and other mood-altering drugs. Lauer punctured Cruise's all-knowing balloon in this exchange:

TOM CRUISE: Because just knowing people who are on Ritalin isn't enough. //you should be a little bit more responsible in knowing really--

MATT LAUER: I'm not prescribing Ritalin, Tom. And I'm not asking--


MATT LAUER: --anyone else to do it. I'm simply saying-- (OVERTALK)

TOM CRUISE: Well, you are. You're saying--

MATT LAUER: I know some people who seem to have been helped by it.

TOM CRUISE: I-- but you're saying-- but you-- like-- this is a very important issue.

MATT LAUER: I couldn't agree more.

TOM CRUISE: It's very-- and you know what? You're here on the Today Show.


TOM CRUISE: And to talk about it in a way of saying, "Well, isn't it okay," and being reasonable about it when you don't know and I do, I think that you should be a little bit more responsible in knowing what it is.


TOM CRUISE: Because you-- you communicate to people.

MATT LAUER: But you're now telling me that your experiences with the people I know, which are zero, are more important than my experiences.

TOM CRUISE: What do you mean by that?

MATT LAUER: You're telling me what's worked for people I know or hasn't worked for people I know. // i'm telling you i've lived with these people and they're better.

Good one, Matt.

Are mood-altering drugs overprescribed, and conditions like ADHD over-diagnosed? Probably. But Tom Cruise, who believes drugs of this kind have come directly from Nazi experiments, is not a credible source for guidance on the use of, well, just about any kind of medication.

Judging by Cruise's increasingly bizarre outbursts, and the suddenly increased volume of Scientology mail sent to our house in the name of the prior tenants, something big and L. Ron Hubbardy must be imminent.

New "Where On Earth" Quiz!

Run, don't walk, to your nearest internet seach engine to solve the mysteries of the latest quiz. Care to join me on the worldwide list of winners?

Thursday, June 23, 2005

Picture Test

Have I figured out how to post pictures on this blog?

Oh yes, I have! Stay tuned for Nawlins pics.

Fantasy Baseball Team Midyear Report

Okay, okay, to silence your incessant clamour, here's an update on how my beloved Eefus Aficionados are doing this year.

Hmm, let's see here. Oh yeah: first place.

I have benefitted from the fortuity of drafting Albert Pujols, Derek Lee and David Ortiz, as well as the ageless Roger Clemens and surprising Adam Eaton. I've made a few solid roster moves as well, though, grabbing David Eckstein and Mark Grudzielanek, following my semi-proven theory of relying on non-superstar players of great teams to provide solid stats (having four Angels in 2002, including Eckstein, was a significant contributor to my league win that year). I also picked up Dustin Hermanson when it appeared that he would probably be given the closer role when the White Sox's season opening closer faltered in the first weeks of the season. I also grabbed Tyler Walker once the Giants' closing role went into flux when Benitez went down, figuring the Giants would not hand the job to Jeff Fassero (too old, slow and left-handed) or Matt Herges (had already failed spectacularly in that role in the last game of the year last year; he has since been released by the club).

The league I'm in this year uses a head-to-head format based upon 17 statistical categories, so after each week, a team could have a maximum of 17 "wins" or "losses." My best week was a 16-1 wipeout; my worst week was a 4-12 setback. Overall, I've picked up 105 wins, for an average of 9.5 per week.

I think it's time for the Dodgers to give me a shot. I couldn't be worse than the GM they have.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

You Have to Love Those Progressive Euros

Once again, from the world of auto racing:

Bernie Ecclestone might want to work on his apologies.
It seemed the Formula One president and CEO had seen the error of his words about women racing with men when he called Danica Patrick over the weekend, presumably to apologize.
But then he repeated his comments.
Ecclestone made news last week with his comments made in response to Patrick's fourth-place finish at the Indianpolis 500.
Asked about Patrick's success, Ecclestone acknowledged her strong finish, but then made an assessment about women racing with men that caused a stir, saying, "You know I've got one of those wonderful ideas ... women should be dressed in white like all the other domestic appliances."
On Saturday, Patrick received a phone call from Ecclestone, in which he complimented her on her performance at the Indy 500, the Indy Star reported.
But Ecclestone caught Patrick off guard when he repeated to her his statement about women and "domestic appliances."
"He told me those things, and I was like, I don't know, I just didn't make sense of it," Patrick told the Indy Star on Tuesday in her first public remarks since the quote drew national attention. "I can't believe that he would say that ... directly to me."
Patrick said Ecclestone did not mention having already said the "domestic appliances" line to the media and the 23-year-old is still unsure how to react to the remark.
"I was a bit confused ... Unless he was talking about someone else or the majority [of women] or what, I'm not really sure," she told the paper. "Or, maybe that's his real feelings, and if that's the case, then it doesn't really matter because I'm racing in the Indy Racing League."
Ecclestone has garned attention before for comments on women in racing.
The 74-year-old told Autosport racing magazine in Feb. 2000 that women would never excel in Forumla One. He added that if a woman did make it, "she would have to be a woman who was blowing away the boys. ... What I would really like to see happen is to find the right girl, perhaps a black girl with super looks, preferably Jewish or Muslim, who speaks Spanish."

Thanks for playing, Bernie.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Not All Publicity Is Good Publicity

While in New Orleans, I knew I would not be able to enjoy Speed Channel’s expanded coverage of the Formula One US Grand Prix, held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, so I made sure to record all of it. I scrupulously avoided newspapers, Sportscenter, even internet sites such as my Porsche group where the race might be discussed, so that I could watch the qualifying and race completely untainted.

Having now seen what transpired, I’m a little surprised I didn’t accidentally trip over the story before last night. That I didn’t indicates how far under the radar Formula One continues to be in the US, and what happened will only send it farther into the “cult/fanatical following” wing of sports in America.

The short story: Michelin, which supplies tires to seven of the ten two-car teams, suffered failures to two of its tires during practices, one of which sent Ralf Schumacher’s Toyota into the wall on the Speedway’s main straight (the F1 track’s turn 13) in an eerie repeat of the crash that took Schumacher out of six races last year with a broken back. Michelin came to believe that the stress of running one of Indy’s banked corners was too much for its tires to handle, and declared the tires unsafe. There are tons of circumstances, nuances and politics involved, but the end result is that when the governing body refused to reconfigure the track in the hours before the race began, none of the Michelin-equipped teams raced, leaving three teams (Ferrari, along with perennial backmarkers Jordan and Minardi) to run the race.

Racing web forums are ablaze with debate about who is to blame: Michelin, the FIA, the teams, the track, etc. My personal feeling is that Michelin bears by far the majority of the blame. They provided their teams with an inferior product. The compounded the error by stating in writing that they could not certify that the tires were safe. However, Michelin also apparently told the teams that they could not drive more than 10 laps on the tires, which suggests not that the tires were completely unsafe, but were simply not competitive. The FIA, which is so rigid that it will penalize teams for such seemingly miniscule rules infractions as using brake ducts that are half an inch too large, was not at all inclined to follow Michelin’s demand that a chicane be added to turn 13. The politics are far too involved to explain here, but there is a tremendous amount of posturing going on that has nothing to do with driver safety. Unfortunately, Michelin's carelessness and arrogance, coupled with the FIA's intransigence, prevented Formula One fans from seeing a proper race. Several foreign television services even cut off their broadcasts long before the end of the race, an extraordinary dismissal of what is constantly touted as the world's most popular sport (other than soccer, of course).

All of this is something of a huge joke to American fans, who are accustomed to watching stock cars, which weigh 2.5 times more and go just as fast on skinnier tires, pound around tracks such as Indy, with its 9 degrees of bank, or Talladega with its 33 degree banking, for as much as 600 miles. With Michelin's poor preparation for this race, and its weak-kneed, dissembling response, it’s hard to resist French surrender jokes here.

Formula One will continue to grab the attention of us incurable fanatics. I can’t blame any casual sports fan, however, who just shakes his head in wonder at the arrogance of the European powers that be that cannot get their act together to put on a legitimate race, then turns the page and never thinks about it again.

Follow the Airplane

Here's a neat little tool: http://www.aeroseek.com/webtrax/

Put in the airline and flight number of a flight and this program will tell you where it is, at that instant. I have not seen a better way to get current arrival information on incoming flights, particularly if you have the ability to surf the 'net wirelessly.

The Friendly Skies Once Again

United Airlines has begun to creep back into my good graces. The Airbus 320 they use is cramped. The food-for-purchase is insulting. I still don’t trust their baggage handling, so I was fortunate to be able to travel with only a carry-on suitcase this weekend. What’s to like, then?

Cockpit communications.

United allows its passengers to listen in on the communications between the pilots and ground controllers, from gate to gate. I haven’t done that in probably twenty years, and, as an airplane geek, I loved it. As we taxied onto the runway in LA, I heard a gent with an Australian accent advise the tower that he had the runway in sight and that he was concluding his approach. As we rolled down the runway, sure enough, a Quantas 747 landed on the parallel runway right next to us. When we neared New Orleans, thunderstorms forced us to circle while the storms swept over the airport. For half an hour, our pilot, the pilot of another United Airliner, and the pilot of an American plane carrying Andy and Todd chatted genially with each other and the ground as they discussed, considered and plotted new areas to loop.

There is an incredible network of controllers out there, guiding aircraft all over the country. The pilots are never alone for long, and it was a blast to be allowed to eavesdrop on that insular community for a few hours. It reminded me that if I were to rerun my life, I might well have pursued becoming a pilot. It also rekindled my love of flying.

Anything that reacquaints you with the child that still lives inside you must be a good thing.

An Epic Weekend

And it had nothing to do with all the auto racing I recorded. New Orleans with my friends was the place to be.

A great time was had by all. We experienced just about everything Bourbon Street had to offer, enjoyed good Cajun cooking in the French Quarter, saw cemeteries and elegant homes, gambled a little, even watched some golf, and stayed in a terrific hotel for a song. I will not take my children to Bourbon Street, but the rest of the city offers great architecture, tasty food, a lively musical scene, and tons of history to explore.

And to top it off, I came up with this really funny thing with coffee creamer that just cracked everybody up…

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Feeling Old?

Pac-Man turns 25.

I was always better at Ms. Pac-Man. "Better" is relative, though. Clearing four screens was a big night at the pizza parlor for me, with Mom's quarters. And Atari's version of Pac-Man was, to put it mildly, a huge disappointment.

Now, of course, I have a device scarcely larger than the original Atari joystick that contains arcade-faithful reproductions of not just Ms. Pac-Man, but Galaga, Pole Position and a bunch of other old Golfland USA favorites. The kids look at us like we're crazy and go back to their interactive, full motion video games and puzzles on the computer, but we like our plain old 16 color games. Rack up the quarters!

Do You Like Helicopters?

You can get a nice view of our pretty June afternoon weather (wouldn't you like to be getting out of school right about now?) in this video ... which happens to describe a high speed chase of a motorcycle through rush hour traffic that ended in our local mall.

I have become attuned to the presence of hovering helicopters the way desert dwellers recognize circling buzzards: something bad is happening there. I was alerted to another chase last week when several helicopters thundered past the office, including a police chopper that swooped and dove low (well below the level of my 22nd story office) in ways I've only seen in movies. That and the line of eight police cars behind what was obviously the target vehicle that darted through stopped traffic. That chase came to an ignominious end just over the hill in Hollywood. But the weather was nice, huh?

Last night, I was in the middle of my drive home when I saw a bunch of helicopters perched just above my intended route as I approached Glendale. Selecting one of the several news radio stations (the one with traffic on the ones, or on the sixes, or something), I quickly learned that the chase had only moments before gone right past me on the freeway parallel to the frontage road I use. Such excitement! To top it off, the guy got away after ditching the bike in the Galleria parking structure, but was arrested this morning.

Come visit LA! Especially if you love helicopters.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Fun and Games

How steady is your mouse hand?

Another Big Odd Sports Weekend

For my fellow unconventional sports fans, this coming weekend will be another blockbuster. First, golf’s U.S. Open (admittedly, in the Age of Tiger, not too far out of the mainstream) will take place at the classic Pinehurst No. 2. The winner at the last U.S. Open played there was Payne Stewart, who died in a bizarre aviation accident four months later. Expect many gauzy-imaged tributes. Also, the Formula One circus comes to Indianapolis for its only stop on U.S. soil, and the world’s premiere sports car race, the 24 Hours of Le Mans, runs through several villages in France over the course of the weekend. Good times sitting in front of the tube! (With the wireless-modem-equipped laptop in hand showing live lap time updates, of course.)

And for those of you who only read the front page of the sports section, if Detroit manages to win a game this week, Game 5 of the final series of the NBA’s interminable playoffs will be on Sunday as well.

Friday, June 10, 2005

Things You Learn By Checking the Referral Logs

Every week I get a report about traffic to this site. Hi, Andy! Thanks for checking in!

Just as interesting as knowing that your friends and family drop by every now and then (only to click away in frustration because there's nothing new to read, again), are the random searches that sweep this site up for one reason or another. Most of the referral sites are merely search engines that register a visit time of zero seconds. Every once in a while, though, someone actually clicks through to read a post. For instance, someone from Greece apparently paid a lengthy visit to read something I wrote about Kimi Raikkonen (there's your key to increasing blog readership, fellow bloggers: write about Formula One or the World Cup). To my new Greek pal: thanks for coming! Drop a note next time to say hi.

I also found out that I am on the blogroll of someone I had somehow forgotten had a blog: my sister, Megan. In the time-honored tradition of bloggers everywhere, because she gave me a permalink, she gets a permalink (over there on the left). I actually like that MSN blog thing, because it allows the posting of pictures, which I can't do here.

Well, actually, I could if I paid a monthly fee, but I'm too cheap for that. You'll have to make do with the pictures my words create.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

What To Get the Girl Who Can Get Anything?

Paris Hilton and her beau, Paris, apparently are in need of some moderately priced stemware and Calvin Klein sheets. Fortunately, someone has already sprung for the Frydaddy and heart-shaped cake pan. Whew!

I Guess I Am the Manliest Man

According to a recent study (who commissions these things?), the Porsche 911 is the car most appealing to men.

Interestingly, the average cost of the top 10 cars for men: $81,717.81. The average cost of the top 10 cars for women: $21, 345.06. Hmm.

I guess we can conclude that women can actually buy their preferred cars, while men just put up posters of them.

Friday, June 03, 2005

Before It's Too Late

I have had the unhappy circumstance this week of learning of the sudden, tragic and untimely deaths of two acquaintances. Both men were in their thirties. There was a time not too long ago when it seemed that most my friends (and I) were getting married, then most my friends (and I) were having children. Now, I seem to have entered into that part of life when one common social point of reference is death. Too soon!

Justice Janice Brown (remember that name) of the California Supreme Court recently delivered a moving eulogy of her friend and mentor from the California Third Circuit Court of Appeals, Justice Robert Puglia. We would all do well to live lives worthy of the words Justice Brown penned in remembrance of Justice Puglia:
He taught us that character counts and integrity is personal. He never allowed cruelty or deception or hypocrisy to go unchallenged. He did the right thing even when he would have benefited from doing the expedient thing. Freedom is not free he would often remind us, but, in Justice Puglia’s view, it was worth the price—however dear.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

And They Say Americans Are Uptight

It seems that the Brits (well, 1,671 of them) have taken offense to a TV commercial that has the unmitigated gall to show ... people talking with their mouths full. As the CNN article reports,

Offended viewers said it encouraged bad manners in children by making it appear funny to sing or speak while eating, and 41 of those who complained said their children had aped the ad.

I'm sorry, but that is pretty funny. And requires a lot less explaining to your children than Paris cavorting with a hamburger.

Y'all Ain't Got Air Conditioning In Yer Truck?

Here's how they fix that problem in North Carolina.

That'll Buff Right Out ...

There has been a lively debate among Formula One fans regarding the cause of Kimi Raikkonen's crash at the European Grand Prix. As I noted here, Kimi's McLaren suffered a spectacular crash at the beginning of the last lap of the race. The onboard cameras had caught a tremendous vibration in the right front wheel over the several laps preceding the crash, which the commentators traced to a couple of instances when Raikkonen locked his brakes, causing a flat spot on the tire. The vibration eventually destroyed the brittle carbon-fiber suspension, spinning Raikkonen out of the race.

The question then arises: why didn't the driver switch tires when the vibration because intolerable? The answer is that F1 requires the teams to use the same set of tires from qualifying through the race. If you watch any other racing series on TV, you will see that tires are routinely and frequently changed on race cars. F1, in contrast, instituted the single tire rule this year in a effort to reduce costs in this most costly series, only allowing changes for "damaged" tires; flat-spotting, being the driver's fault, is not considered "damage." This leads to the classic plea: will we have to wait for someone to be killed before this rule is abolished? Frankly, that may be overstating it a bit, since it is possible that McLaren could have made a case that the tire was creating a dangerous condition and replaced it. Kimi would not have won, but he would have picked up valuable championship points.

To me, the most fascinating aspect of this entire affair is observing how effective the tethers that hold the wheel hubs to the car were in preventing injury to the driver or spectators. Participants and fans alike have been injured and killed in recent years due to crash debris flying off the cars. While body panels can be dangerous, their low mass usually limits collateral damage. Wheels and tires, on the other hand, are extremely dangerous when they become detatched from the car at any speed, but particularly at racing speeds in excess of 150 mph. Many open-wheel sanctioning bodies have now instituted rules that require wheels to be tethered to the car by steel cables to prevent them from become deadly projectiles.

As you can see from Kimi's crash, the tethers worked perfectly. While the F1 single tire rule still seems to be an imperfect solution to a problem nobody was concerned about, which unfortunately has led directly to at least one dangerous event, the tethers are a simple solution to a significant problem that we would only hear about if the solution hadn't been put into place.