Thursday, January 31, 2008

Desktop Meme

Via Toast, who has too much crap on his desktop.

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Friday, January 25, 2008

Is Tom Cruise crazy?

I imagine most people have seen this Tom Cruise Scientology video, or at least parts of it. People are tripping over themselves to talk about how nutty he is. And he's pretty nutty, to be sure. But put his nuttiness aside for a minute. His demeanor in the video isn't really that crazy. He looks intense, at times, and full of conviction. What makes most people see it as creepy and wacky is that he's feeling this way about Scientology, which is unscientific mumbo jumbo.

Now contrast this with this Reader's Digest interview with Denzel Washington. Now the interview is general, not specific to religion, but religion does permeate it. He's very spiritual, he reads the Bible all the time, puts God first etc... Now is Denzel any less nutty than Tom? Can you not picture him in a church video talking about his relationship with God with the same intensity Cruise does with Scientology?

The main difference I see is that Tom's cult doesn't have quite as many followers as Denzel's cult. Are Thetans and audits any nuttier than angels or transubstantiation?

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My son doesn't believe in them.

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The madness of the primaries

The primaries make no sense. According to the rules, a candidate needs a majority of the available delegates to secure the nomination. But the press covers these races as if delegates don't matter at all. I was listening to NPR this week, and they were discussing the Republican race. They clearly considered McCain the leader and talked of Romney as if it would be an upset if he won. But Romney has far more pledged delegates, and is virtually tied with McCain in the next big state, Florida. Likewise, the media portrayed Nevada as a big win for Clinton, even though she and Obama received the same number of delegates. These are the same major media outlets that had just about buried her after Iowa, where she tied Obama for delegates.

So there seem to be two commodities at play here - the delegates, and much more importantly, it seems, that nebulous thing, momentum. Momentum certainly shouldn't be discounted. I think Giuliani is about to discover that a big lead before the primaries can evaporate pretty quickly if you lose it. But in a race like this, I think it's still too early to be talking of momentum as if that's all that matters.

There are many problems with our primary system - it's undemocratic (what's up with these ridiculous Democratic super delegates?), it doesn't accurately reflect our diverse population, but most importantly, I think, is that the major media outlets all but control the outcome. I believe this is where momentum becomes important. When the media anoints a front-runner or two coming out of New Hampshire, they sway opinions, just by the force and volume of their coverage. Supporters of other candidates get discouraged and either drop out or figure they'd better make their vote count and vote for one of the front-runners. Many pundits have already crowned Clinton and McCain. You'd never know that most of the delegates are still up for grabs if you only follow CNN or MSNBC, or even, sadly, NPR. And I guess the really sad thing is that they aren't in any practical sense. The media has succeeded in making John Edwards a marginal figure. Giuliani, who once led in national polls is running on fumes.

This all leads me to an article on CNN tonight. After all this coverage pushing one candidate over another without regard to delegate count, CNN drops this line - "The South Carolina primary is also the last time Democratic voters will weigh in with any significance before "Super Tuesday" February 5". The Florida primary is on January 29, and all the candidates are on the ballot. So do we suddenly not count because our delegates aren't going to be seated (supposedly)? When did delegates start to matter? I guess when we got in the way of the media's Super Tuesday coverage.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Cowboys Stadium

Cowboys New Stadium

Now that football season is over (what?, no there aren't any games on Sunday lalalalala), we're looking ahead not only to next season, but to the season after that. In 2009, The Cowboys will play in their new stadium in Arlington, TX. I knew they were building a new stadium, but I had no idea what kind of building this would be. If you haven't seen it, you really ought to click through and look at the pictures. I should have known Jerry Jones wouldn't build just any new stadium. It's just one more thing for Cowboys fans to love and one more thing for the haters to pile on.

The new stadium will seat over 80,000 (expandable to 100,000), and season tickets are on offer for the first time in a while. We put down our $200 to get on the list for season tickets in 2009. If we're able to snag some, we're going to split the seats with a friend of ours and sell the tickets for the games we can't get to.

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

There is a difference

With the primaries heating up and the prospects of something new for the first time in 8 long years looming, I'm seeing comments here and there about how it really doesn't matter. That electing Hillary or even Obama will just be more of the last 15 years, which weren't so great. I know that the congressional Democrats are cowards, and I know that the likely Democratic nominee will be nearly as beholden to big-money interests as the Republican nominee. But we heard a lot of the same talk back in 2000. Nader was pushing his "there is no difference" message. Gore of 2000 didn't have anywhere near the cachet Gore of 2008 has, and he was perceived as an extension of Clintonian politics. In light of this, I think it's worth reminding ourselves what the differences really are. There are several big things we can reasonably assume would have been different under a Gore administration, and not just in the fantasy SNL sense.

  • No invasion of Iraq.
  • No tax cuts for the wealthy
  • No cuts in family planning funding for providers who do abortion counseling
  • No gutting of FEMA
  • No illegal wiretapping
  • An active agenda promoting carbon reduction
  • No illegal detention and torture
  • No suppression of science from federal agencies

    That's what I can think of off the top of my head. There are certainly things we wouldn't happy with. But I'd give a lot to have this stuff.

  • Posted by 6 comments

    Tuesday, January 15, 2008

    Shit I'm tired of

    In a TV show or movie, when someone is standing or walking in the street and is suddenly hit by a car, or even better, a bus which comes seemingly out of nowhere. Most recently I've seen this on the new Terminator series...twice in two episodes. And just off the top of my head I remember pretty much the same thing from Final Destination, Lost, Daybreak, and The Black Donnelys. I guess the reason writers like this kind of thing is that it's so sudden and unexpected for the viewer. The flaw, however, is that the person who is hit by the bus should be able to see all that stuff that is off camera for the viewer.

    This also extends to the person driving a car, with the camera looking at them from the passenger seat, when they're suddenly blindsided by a car slamming into the driver's side door which also seems to be quite popular these days.

    Posted by 8 comments

    Monday, January 14, 2008

    Dallas postmortem

    Anytime you travel to see a sporting event, you run the risk of your team losing. We've been pretty lucky. We drove to Dallas in 1992 and saw the Cowboys beat the Redskins on their way to the Super Bowl. We saw them again in 1992 in Atlanta when they clinched the division and Deion threw a bench on the sidelines. And, although it was only a day trip, I count the 1993 FSU-Florida game in Gainesville, because that's a hard place to go and leave a loser. The forces of good won all of these games. But our luck ran out yesterday. Let's break the trip down.

    The last drive
    The Game - Disappointing is too tame. It was crushing, all the more so because it was there for the taking. The Giants played well, but were certainly beatable. I'll sound like a bitter fan here, but the story of the game was Cowboy mistakes. The Giants made few to none, and the Cowboys made several costly ones. 11 penalties to the Giants' 3, including the drive-extending offsides on the first possession, followed shortly by 3 Cowboys missing an easy tackle on Toomer, who scored the first touchdown. Dropped passes, crucial penalties and poor execution in general plagued the Cowboys the whole game.

    But even after all that, the defense made a couple of good stops and we had the ball with nearly 2 minutes and 50 yards to go. One thing this team has been really good at is responding under pressure. But they looked terrible on the last drive. No spikes, an awful draw to Barber with under a minute left and 1 timeout. And then the timeout was wasted when the sideline official blew the call and kept the clock running after Witten got out of bounds.

    I'm not reading any post-game analysis, because who wants to relive that nightmare? But I would hope that all the talking heads have shut up about Romo and his December slump now (although I'm sure they haven't). Romo played well, made a couple of bad plays but also a few good ones and didn't turn the ball over (the last desperation play doesn't count), pretty much what Eli did on the other side (and you know he's getting sloppy BJ's from everyone now). I really think it showed that we didn't have a credible deep threat. Owens was healthy enough to play, but he was clearly not playing at his level from most of the year.

    Soon enough, I'll turn to next year and realize we're still contenders and ought to be for a few years more. That's a nice change from the last 10 years, when any joy in the success we did have was tempered by the knowledge that it was mostly a fluke. But for now I'll have to content myself with the thought that the Giants will go to Lambeau and be exposed for the gutty but overachieving team that they are.

    Happier times
    Texas Stadium - For a stadium built in the middle of nowhere, the parking is really shitty. No park-n-rides or stadium shuttles anywhere. All the parking is miles from the stadium and costs a fortune. And all the lots are designed so that there are massive, unmanned bottlenecks when people try to leave. Extremely poorly done. I really hope that they think about these things as they're building the new stadium. Jackonville's parking is far better, even more so considering that the stadium is built downtown. I can park a mile from the stadium for $5. Yesterday we parked at least 3 miles out and had to pay $25.

    Texas Stadium was finished in 1971 and you can see the age, but also the innovation. There's no club like in more modern stadia, but there are skyboxes everywhere. You can see how it was state-of-the art 35 years ago. But it's certainly showing its age now. Rust and wear everywhere, and horribly designed bathrooms. The men's room had a line that probably had 100 people in it. All you need for the men is a 20' long trough. Why build a place with 6 urinals per bathroom? While Texas Stadium is a a mecca for Cowboys fans everywhere, it's definitely time for an upgrade.

    The hometown fans - I hate to be critical of my fellow fans, but fuck, these hometown fans need to learn how to be a good home crowd. Mainly the noise level. When the other team has the ball, especially in a big game like this, you have to make noise - constant, deafening noise (we did our part). The acoustics are certainly ok. But while it was always far noisier on Giants' possessions, it never approached the frenzy it should have except for a few 3rd downs and goal-line plays. It was far, far noisier at the FSU-Alabama game we went to this year, and the stadium here isn't really designed to hold it in. For all that the Cowboy haters love to accuse us non-Texan Cowboys fans of being bandwagoners, I think the non-native fans are probably better than the home fans in our level of passion.

    Overall - I don't regret going, and I'm sure we'll do it again, but I'm not going to lie and say it was all good. It was fun getting away. We love to travel and we love to fly, so that was fun. But the loss turned what would have been a spectacular trip into an ok trip. As I said before, that's the risk you take.
    Our island from the plane
    Hey, that's our island from the air! We live near the airport and have planes fly by the house all the time. But we've never been able to see our neighborhood from the air for various reasons. Not to mention it's a lot harder to identify landmarks from the air than you might think.

    Posted by 13 comments

    Friday, January 11, 2008

    It's NOT hard to beat a team three times in one season.

    Anytime a team is playing a division rival that they swept during the season in the playoffs, as the Cowboys are this week, we always hear the tired argument that it's so hard to beat a team three times in one season as the hope for the team that's lost the first two. However, it's just not true. The team trying to sweep is 11-6, and 9-3 when they're at home. The worst part of this argument is that it's normally made by people on TV who have access to enough information to realize that it's not true.

    Posted by 13 comments

    Electoral compass

    I ran across this at Chosha's blog. There are a lot of these things floating around, but this one was quick and easy, and the questions covered a nice range of subjects. In addition to plotting you on the familiar social/economic graph, you can compare your answers to each question with each candidate's answers as derived from their stated positions, and link to the quotes and other evidence used to support it.

    I was a little surprised that by their reckoning, Clinton is farther to the economic left than either Edwards or Obama. I was not surprised that I ended up as a socialist libertine.

    Posted by 12 comments

    Thursday, January 10, 2008

    Sweet Jags of Mine

    The sports talk show I listen to in the morning put together a cover of "Sweet Caroline" called "Sweet Jags of Mine". The production values are a little ummm... rough, but it's fun. Dan Hicken, who also wrote the lyrics, sings with full-throated abandon and his enthusiasm makes up for the fact that he really can't sing. The Tony in the background is Tony Boselli. The song is about the upcoming Jags-Pats game so it has a short shelf life. Other "hits" include "Grady" (about DL Grady Jackson), to the tune of "Lady", "Tebow", to the tune of "Hey Jude", "Reggi-lution" to the tune of "Revolution" (about WR Reggie Williams), and "Jack and By-ron", to "Jack and Diane" of course. Oh and "Honolulu" to the tune of "Kokomo", I think, lobbying for Fred Taylor to go to the Pro Bowl. He's got a knack for these.

    I'm not a Jaguars fan, as anyone who reads this blog knows, but I am this weekend. It's the duty of all red-blooded NFL fans to oppose the evil empire up in Foxboro.

    Make sure you turn the volume down before playing.

    Posted by 12 comments

    Saturday, January 05, 2008

    We're going to the playoffs!

    Yes, next Sunday, January 13, Michelline and I will be at Texas Stadium to watch the Cowboys trying to make their way to the NFC championship game. It was a spur of the moment thing. We found that Stubhub had a lot of tickets available for a reasonable price (and we didn't get screwed by the seller this time, the package is already shipping via FedEx). That along with a couple of $300 airline vouchers we picked up in February after volunteering to be bumped meant this would be a relatively inexpensive trip.

    This will only be our fourth non-exhibition Cowboys game and our first ever visit to a playoff game. Not to mention our second game at Texas Stadium. The first game was the season opener in 1992 against Washington. The atmosphere was incredible. The Redskins were defending champs, but the Cowboys were coming off an 11-5 season and everyone knew they were on the way up. The big thing I remember is Kelvin Martin's TD on a punt return and Issiac Holt blocking a punt for a safety. And it was really loud. I'm very interested to see what the atmosphere is like for a playoff game.

    I know that the Cowboys can win the game, whether they're playing the Redskins, Giants or Buccaneers, but I am a little concerned after their lackluster finish. Barely escaped in Detroit, laid an egg at home against the Eagles, and, although the game was meaningless, the first team played horribly against the Redskins in the first half last week. But the good thing is that we're going by ourselves. The only Dallas loss I witnessed in person came last year in Jacksonville in the Jags season opener. I figure that was because John was with us. Now we're getting back to our 1992 roots, and the luck should be with us.

    Posted by 9 comments

    Year end meme, Chris edition

    1. What did you do in 2007 that you'd never done before? Hmmm, not much. I did things in a pool that I've never done before, in a pool. Let's leave it at that.

    2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? Didn't make them last year, and won't this year. I do want to get back down to a 34 from my current 36, but I'm not calling it a resolution.

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth? No

    4. Did anyone close to you die? No.

    5. What places did you visit? Orlando, Indianapolis, London, Several places in South Carolina, Atlanta, Miami, Cozumel and Grand Cayman.

    6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007? Less debt.

    7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? Apparently none.

    8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year? I was a fantastic husband, father, and employee.

    9. What was your biggest failure? I can't think of any failures. There were things I didn't get done, but I'll get around to those.

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury? Just regular stuff.

    11. What was the best thing you bought? Michelline said the pool, but we actually started buying that in 2006, and I'm already slightly regretting it anyway. I would have to say either my HDDVR or our anniversary cruise.

    12. Whose behavior merited celebration? Tony Romo. Man it's been a long 10 years waiting for a franchise QB.

    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? Appalled and depressed is too strong, but since she won't read this, I'll have to say I continue to be disappointed in Tori's lack of effort in well, anything. She's a good kid with a good heart, but she won't apply herself to anything or take responsibility for anything. Michelline and I don't know what to do.

    14. Where did most of your money go? In cash, to the mortgages. In debt, to the swimming pool.

    15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? The Christmas season, starting with Thanksgiving. Not only did we have the two big holidays, we also had a 3-day trip to Orlando for Christmas shopping, a trip to Disney where we met the Furious clan, and a 5-night cruise.

    16. What song will always remind you of 2007? I don't know if I'll really associate it with 2007 in particular, but I first heard the Spring Awakening soundtrack this year. It's really good.

    17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) Happier or sadder? About the same, I guess.
    b) thinner or fatter? Maybe a bit fatter.
    c) richer or poorer? Richer in income, poorer in debt.

    18. What do you wish you'd done more of? More work around the house.

    19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Eat.

    20. How did you spend Christmas last year? Pretty much the same as this year, at home with Michelline's parents and sister. Then we went to my parents' house in the evening for dessert.
    21. Did you fall in love in 2007? Nope, only happened once.

    22. How many one-night stands? Too few...

    23. What was your favorite TV program? Battlestar Galactica

    24. What did you do for your birthday in 2007? I think I went to dinner with my parents, but I'm not sure.

    25. What was the best book you read? Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

    26. What was your greatest musical discovery? I mentioned Spring Awakening already, and I'd add Pink Martini, whom I heard on an NPR interview. I've got 3 of their albums now.

    27. What did you want and get? HDDVR

    28. What did you want and not get? Not much

    29. What was your favorite film of this year? The Simpsons Movie

    30. Did you make some new friends this year? Yes.

    31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? Immeasurably? Not much. There are a few things that I would like to have done, but nothing that would have been so much more satisfying.

    32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? Jeans and t-shirts. Same as it has been for several years.

    33. What kept you sane? I'm always sane. Unless I'm always insane. Who knows?

    34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? After seeing Knocked Up, I got a little movie star crush on Katherine Heigel. Damn, she's hot.

    35. What political issue stirred you the most? There's so much with this administration and the Democrats spinelessness. What moves me the most is the violation of due process and basic human rights.

    36. Who did you miss? Nobody, really.

    37. Who was the best new person you met? Weird question. Who was my favorite person that I didn't know before? I met some neat kids on Libby's tee-ball team.

    38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007. Nothing I didn't already know.

    Posted by 3 comments

    Wednesday, January 02, 2008

    Year-End Meme

    Via Toast, who promises that my 2008 will suck if I don't do it.

    1. What did you do in 2007 that you'd never done before? Moved to a small town.

    2. Did you keep your New Year's resolutions, and will you make more for next year? I don't do New Year's resolutions. If something is important enough for me to do, then why am I going to wait around until the new year to do it?

    3. Did anyone close to you give birth? I'm not sure if this means someone who is close to me as in a fried or family, or just someone who is nearby while giving birth. But since neither happened, I'm covered with a no.

    4. Did anyone close to you die? Nope.

    5. What places did you visit? We went to Universal Studios in July. I'm not sure if we went anywhere else this year.

    6. What would you like to have in 2008 that you lacked in 2007? A free house.

    7. What dates from 2007 will remain etched upon your memory, and why? If any dates from 2007 were etched in my memory, they weren't etched very well, since nothing comes to mind.

    8. What was your biggest achievement(s) of the year? I won the Daytona 500*.

    9. What was your biggest failure? Me? Fail? Come on, you're talking about the winner of the Daytona 500 here*.

    10. Did you suffer illness or injury? I've got this pain in my neck that won't seem to go away.

    11. What was the best thing you bought? Nothing stands out. I bought my TV at the very end of 2006, so I'll just count that, since all my enjoyment of it came in 2007.

    12. Whose behavior merited celebration? I don't make a habit of celebrating the behavior of others.

    13. Whose behavior made you appalled and depressed? I don't really get depressed, but I have to go with the New York Mets.

    14. Where did most of your money go? Rent.

    15. What did you get really, really, really excited about? That's a lot of reallies, I don't think I got that excited by anything.

    16. What song will always remind you of 2007? I have no idea.

    17. Compared to this time last year, are you:
    a) Happier or sadder?
    About the same, I guess.
    b) thinner or fatter? I think about the same, maybe slightly thinner.
    c) richer or poorer? Richer, but just a little.

    18. What do you wish you'd done more of? Read, I'd always like to read more.

    19. What do you wish you'd done less of? Work.

    20. How did you spend Christmas last year? This sounds like it means 2006, but since this is the 2007 meme, that would be stupid, so I'll assume it means 2007 and say I spent Christmas at home with my family.

    21. Did you fall in love in 2007? No.

    22. How many one-night stands? I lose track.

    23. What was your favorite TV program? Lost, with The Wire right behind. Actually, I waver between these two depending on which I watched last.

    24. What did you do for your birthday in 2007? I don't remember. Probably went out to dinner or something.

    25. What was the best book you read? Probably Of Fire And Night, Book 5 in The Saga of the Seven Suns, by Kevin J. Anderson

    26. What was your greatest musical discovery? I'm not much of a musical explorer.

    27. What did you want and get? Something, I'm sure, but nothing comes to mind.

    28. What did you want and not get? A Wii.

    29. What was your favorite film of this year? I like I am Legend a lot, but that was the last movie I saw, so it probably stands out more than others.

    30. Did you make some new friends this year? There are new people at work that I like, but I don't know if that really counts.

    31. What one thing would have made your year immeasurably more satisfying? More money.

    32. How would you describe your personal fashion concept in 2007? I'm not too hung up on fashion. I buy all my clothes at Wal-Mart.

    33. What kept you sane? I hate questions like this. It implies that I would go insane, but for something holding me back from it.

    34. Which celebrity/public figure did you fancy the most? I don't think I really "fancied" anyone.

    35. What political issue stirred you the most? The Democrats bending over and taking it up the ass from Bush and the Republicans, despite the voters giving them a majority in Congress. Way to miss the point, assholes.

    36. Who did you miss? Can't think of anyone.

    37. Who was the best new person you met? New person? I didn't meet any babies this year.

    38. Tell us a valuable life lesson you learned in 2007. I got nothing.

    * OK, not really, but it's not like you know who really won it anyway.

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