Friday, October 31, 2003

Halloween in NYC

The thing I love about Halloween here is that it's so hard to tell if someone is wearing a costume or just dressed that way normally. There are some obvious ones, like the woman dressed as a devil at Starbucks in my building, but then there was the purple-haired woman in black leather I saw outside the office this morning. How do I know if that's not how she usually dresses?

I'm actually tired of Halloween. It's a kids holiday that's been adopted by adults, so now the pressure to come up with a funny, creative costume each year is back. It was so much easier when I was a kid and could pull off Luke Skywalker or Superman several years in a row. My last great costume was 1998, when Liz and I dressed as Lolita and Humbert Humbert. Of course, this costume pair was her idea. To give you some idea of how lame my costumes have been in recent years...

1992 - Secret Service agent: trenchcoat, sunglasses, earpiece borrowed from my dad
1993 and 1994 - Wayne from Wayne's World: black t-shirt, ripped jeans, official "Wayne's World" hat
1999 - Jerry Seinfeld-esque comedian: black jeans, dress shirt, sneakers.
2000 - rock band roadie: flannel shirt, boots, one of my many ballcaps

I'm tired of trying to be clever each year, and the older I get, the less fun it is. We're going to a party tonight and I don't think I'm dressing up at all. That's lame, but maybe we'll say it's my protest against the concept of adults parading around in kids' costumes. I realize the irony of going to the party in the first place; I should just stay home if I'm that bothered by it, but I do like a good party.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Space storm hits; Earth survives

I can't imagine what the headline writers were thinking. Check out the title of the full story on if you think I came up with the joke. Maybe they wrote the headline with extraterrestrial readers in mind. Web surfers near Alpha Centauri who might have been concerned that our planet would be destroyed by the solar flares can relax.

Monday, October 27, 2003

Idiot dieting consumers

One of my favorite topics is the stupidity of the American public, especially as it relates to diet and exercise. Gregg Easterbrook has a great post this morning about Dr. Phil's new line of weight-loss foods. I've always wanted to sit on my ass and eat Milky Way bars and wait for the pounds to melt away. Apparently, if I eat Dr. Phil's Shape Up! bars, I get the same effect. Thanks, Dr. Phil!

Also, Ruben Bolling's Tom the Dancing Bug covered the plight of the obese American in his typical fashion last week.

Diet AND exercise, people. I can't say it enough. Get off your ass and walk around the block, then eat a salad. With the dressing on the side, for God's sake.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Yankees lose! Tha-a-a-a Yankees lose!

I'm not exactly jumping for joy over here, but New York's going to be infinitely more entertaining for the next few months after the Yankees loss to the Marlins in the World Series. George Steinbrenner is about to lose his mind and fire everyone who works at Yankee Stadium. Torre? Gone. Cashman? Gone. The guy who paints the chalk lines on the field? Gone. Billy Martin's ghost? Pick up line two, George wants you to come back. I can't wait. Hell, this might be my big chance to break into the majors. Big Stein might think that if the Red Sox can get to the ALCS with a 28-year-old GM with a business degree, maybe the Yankees can get to the playoffs with a 30-year-old network analyst and former English major who knows nothing about baseball. My only regret about the Yankees losing the series is that there won't be a ticker tape parade near my office next week. The last one in 2000 was all sorts of fun.

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

No more TMQ

Because of his "Kill Bill" rant in his blog, ESPN fired Gregg Easterbrook from his "Tuesday Morning Quarterback" job and removed all his archived columns. I think it's a major overreaction by ESPN to comments that clearly were made in haste and without the benefit of an editor. Possibly they're trying to be oversensitive now, in the wake of Rush Limbaugh's racist comments on their NFL pregame show, but in this case, it's obviously a case of retribution by Michael Eisner for Easterbrook's disparaging comments. Howard Kurtz has some quotes to this effect by Easterbrook's colleagues and friends over at the Washington Post. Even though Easterbrook's blog and his gig aren't related, I can understand to some extent why ESPN took the action it did. My other favorite columnist on Page 2 is Bill Simmons, and he always restrains himself from commenting on his employers or their coverage of sporting events. I wish we could get his insights on ESPN and ABC, but I understand that he's able to keep his gig by keeping his mouth shut. It looks like Easterbrook would have been wise to follow the Sports Guy's lead. But that doesn't excuse ESPN for its knee-jerk reaction, especially in light of his total apology. The man isn't anti-Semitic, and he's paid for his mistake. Let him keep his job, for God's sake.

I've sent a nasty e-mail to the editors at and a message of support to Easterbrook himself. I hope that he can find another home for TMQ; it's been a highlight of my football season for two years now. Where else will I find out about the hottest cheerleaders in the league? Stop me before I e-mail again!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

Tour de Bronx

I spent most of Sunday on the free Tour de Bronx bike ride. I left my apartment at 8:30 AM to meet up with some other cyclists riding from Central Park to the start. When we got there, it was chilly and cloudy but dry. Around 10 a cold rain fell and threatened to call off the ride, or at least started to convince me to go home and get back into bed. But I ate a massive cheeseburger and fries for dinner on Saturday, and I wasn't about to go back without working that off. When the rain eased at 10:30 the organizers started the ride, and a sodden crowd of riders went forth. Except for being wet for about half the ride, I enjoyed myself. It was tougher than the last time I rode it, in 2001. About half the route followed the TA Century route through the Bronx, so I was familiar with the streets. There were more hills on this route than there were the last time, including the Riverdale hills that are a part of the TA Century as well. The annoying aspect of the ride was the constant police presence. I don't mind having the police around; at one point I saw a woman who'd had a nasty fall, and another rider flagged down a passing cop about two minutes later. But the police formed a cordon or "safety cell" around the ride, so there were frequent stops where they held the riders while closing the streets ahead of the group. It was only a 40-mile ride, which I could have covered in about four hours, but with the holdups it took me about 4 1/2 hours instead. Still, the sun came out in the afternoon, and there were some tasty snacks at the rest stops. I didn't mind all the hills, even the long climb to Poe Park at the end, but my legs will be hurting tomorrow.

Friday, October 17, 2003

The Sports Guy on last night's Yankees-Red Sox game

As I was watching last night's game, at some point in the eighth inning I said to Liz, "The Sports Guy must be losing his mind right about now." Sure enough, he was: Paradise lost, again. I'm not a fan of either team in last night's game, but I definitely know how he feels. This part of his column describes how I feel about the Pittsburgh Steelers, and sometimes the Pirates and Penguins:

"Hey, this is my team. I came to grips with that a long time ago. They're part of my life. Sometimes they lift me to a higher place. Sometimes they punch me in the stomach and leave me for dead. There's no rhyme or reason. And there are thousands and thousands of diehards just like me, all trapped in that same bad marriage, united by our experiences and memories."

Every year, when the Steelers lose in the playoffs, or don't even get there, I swear it's the last year I'm going to root for them. Liz gets mad at me when I change the channel when they're losing. But I always change the channel back, and I always come back to them every autumn. They're my team, and I can't stay mad at them for long. I'm still bitter about the Pirates losing game 7 of the 1992 NLCS to the Braves (they've never recovered from that one), but every spring, I follow the team hoping that this year they'll find some magic and get to the playoffs. The Penguins won a few championships when I wasn't a big hockey fan, but I still keep the faith that they'll get another one soon. When they've played marathon playoff games and lost, it hurts in that numb way that only a loss by your team can. So I know exactly what it feels like for Bill Simmons to watch his team lose again to a hated rival in the biggest game of the season. There's always next year, but the pain of losses like this lingers for a long time.

And he's right: FOX's baseball ratings are about to go straight into the toilet. A Cubs-Red Sox series would have been a ratings Goliath, but Yankees-Marlins only excites people here in New York, a handful of die-hard fans in Florida, and no one else. I think it will go to the Yankees in six games, which means that we'll have another ticker tape parade up Broadway in about ten days. But I won't be watching the games to see how it happens.

Easterbrook's apology

In Monday's entry in Easterblogg, Gregg Easterbrook attacked the new movie Kill Bill for a number of reasons you can read if you scroll down on the link above. At the end of the piece, he suggested that the Miramax and Disney executives who approved the movie should have reconsidered doing so because they are Jewish and should have had a better sensitivity to violence in all forms. That didn't offend me, but his next statement about the worship of money by these Jewish moguls did bother me. However, it must not have offended me too much, because I didn't fire off an angry e-mail to Easterbrook or resolve never to read his blog or his TMQ column again. I thought instead that this statement must have been a poor choice of words and gave him the benefit of the doubt. Today, that generosity has been rewarded: he agrees with his critics that what he wrote was poorly worded, and he's issued an apology.

I love reading Easterbrook's writing. He's interesting, funny in a dry way, exceedingly intelligent, and I even enjoy his forays into political and economic topics that I don't usually follow. I'm glad that he came back to this item and confirmed what I already assumed: he's not anti-Semitic, just a writer who doesn't always edit himself carefully enough. And I can go back to reading his posts without feeling any guilt (except when I'm avoiding work).

Wednesday, October 15, 2003


This made my day. For best results, read the lyrics while listening to the songs. The artists have altered the Lennon/McCartney originals in ways that I think will amuse you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

Anna Kournikova - professional TV awards presenter has this story about Anna Kournikova considering retirement from tennis and moving into a career in acting and TV awards shows. I didn't realize that it was possible for someone to list "TV awards presenter" on their resume as a profession. I think that's the domain of people who end up being "famous for being famous," who are still well-known by the public long after whatever they did to become famous is forgotten. Considering how Kournikova's tennis career and professional life to this point has been something of a sideshow, maybe cashing in on her fame by becoming a celebrity gadabout is her best option. Ten years from now, we'll just think of her as a hot Russian bimbo without remembering her as the onetime joke of the womens' tennis circuit.

Monday, October 13, 2003

new pictures available

I've just posted some pictures from this weekend's Georgetown Theatre Alumni events. The truly embarrassing photos are still on my hard drive, but the family-friendly ones are available from the photo link on the left.

Liz and I had a great time visiting with old friends and making new ones this weekend. The main event was at the Yale Club near Grand Central Station, and it was much more than I expected. We had drinks in the Tap Room and dinner in one of the ballrooms, where there were portraits of Bill Clinton, George Bush the elder, and Gerald Ford on the walls (I took a few shots of the Clinton portrait). We dined, drank, and danced the night away, and then adjourned to the W Hotel on Lexington Avenue for more general carousing. Sunday was a little difficult, as Liz and I are no longer as used to hangovers as we once were. I made it to brunch with some friends, but she opted to stay in and recuperate. On Monday it's back to our normal boring lives.

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

More fun with Neal Stephenson

Some links for fans:

Neal Stephenson's web site, with links to many other places.

Quicksilver annotation web site

Interview with Mr. Stephenson, with links to commentary on Quicksilver and links to reviews.

In the Beginning was
the Command Line
, available for you to download and read at your leisure. I'm sure Mr. Stephenson and his publisher would appreciate it if you bought the paperback edition of the same text, but why do that when you can print it and make your own book? Design your own cover! Get creative! By the way, on his web site (linked above), Stephenson admits that the book is out-of-date and could use a revision. He's been working on the Mac OS for years, on which he'd have no trouble using emacs to write and edit text. James, I'm sorry I didn't mention that emacs is an open-source text editor that runs on a variety of platforms, including but not limited to Linux, Unix, BSD, the Mac OS, and even Windows. I'm a vi user, if I'm forced to choose one or the other, so I'm not expected to be an emacs expert.

Following up on last week's article about the White House leak scandal, the Washington Post today published this story about Valerie Wilson (aka Valerie Plame). The news outlets I read last week characterized her as more of a desk jockey than James Bond-like spy; however, this article portrays her as just the sort of secret agent you'd expect to find in the movies. I especially like the part about when the agents-in-training at "The Farm" went to see "Spies Like Us" during a break. I loved that movie! Anyway, after reading the article, I'm still confused as to why the administration would want to expose one of its own operatives and compromise untold secure operations. I'm sure that if there is any long-term blowback, the Bush White House will just blame the Clintons, saying that the blown ops were Clinton projects.

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

Neal Stephenson at Barnes & Noble

Tonight was the author's appearance at the Union Square bookstore. He gave a brief introduction and took questions for about 45 minutes. Nearly all the questions were about his writing process or broad elements of his books, and most elicited interesting responses from Stephenson. There were a few geeky text-based questions, including one about how to pronounce "Qwghlm" to which Stephenson clearly had a well-rehearsed answer. After the Q&A he took his time signing books for the attendees. I opted for the "no inscription" option, so I just have a scrawl on the title page of my new copy of "Quicksilver." I did have the chance to tell him that reading "Cryptonomicon" was the highlight of my summer of 2000, and that I'm looking forward to his new book being the highlight of the upcoming winter. It's going to take me a while to read it. I have several other books I'd like to read at the same time, so I'm not sure yet where I'll fit in 900 pages of historical fiction. I've read the first chapter, and so far, it's great stuff. I have to decide if I want to haul this thing back and forth to the office every day. If I do, I have to dedicate some time at lunch to reading it to make the workout worthwhile.

Friday, October 03, 2003

The Sports Guy's NFL picks for week 5

The Sports Guy always cracks me up, but his picks column this week made me laugh out loud. Look for the Sports Illustrated cover ideas and his updated review of ESPN's "Playmakers."

Thursday, October 02, 2003

Slackware 9.1

Once again, I've changed Linux distros on my test PC at the office. This time, it's back to Slackware and release 9.1 which came out a few days ago. As usual with Slackware, it took me three tries before I got the OS installed properly. The first time, I screwed up the partitions and it didn't boot at all. On the second try I installed LILO to the / partition, forgetting that my previous install of Mandrake 9.x had written GRUB to the master boot record. It took me a few minutes to figure out why the word "GRUB" showed up on the screen at bootup and nothing else. Finally, on the third try, I put LILO on the MBR and everything worked. I like Slackware because it makes me do things the hard way; while I appreciate Red Hat and Mandrake's ease of installation, sometimes I like a distro that forces me to work with text files and learn how the guts of the OS operate. Now I need to find time to play around with the new install and see what it can do that previous Slackware releases couldn't. I've heard rumors that there is an automatic software update tool in the product this time around. My biggest complaint about Slackware 9.0 was that I couldn't easily patch packages or upgrade to newer versions of utilities. I must seek out this mysterious upgrade tool and understand it.

Plugging a leak in the White House

I have to admit that I'm a little confused about this White House leak scandal that's brewing down in DC. Ann Gearhart, in this article in today's Washington Post, helps to figure out why some Bush administration officials thought that the best way to get back at an enemy was to blow his wife's cover. The leak itself doesn't make much sense to me. If the administration was upset at Joseph Wilson's comments about the supposed Iraqi pursuit of nuclear material, how does it benefit the White House to expose his wife as a CIA operative who allegedly worked on the WMD search? Does it discredit her as a secret agent, implying that she didn't do a good enough job of looking for clues? Apparently that wasn't the intent since, according to inside sources, she recommended her husband for the fact-finding trip to Niger where he couldn't find any evidence that Saddam Hussein sought African uranium for his nuclear arsenal. But it still doesn't make any sense to me to try to hurt him by leaking her name. Clearly, whatever the administration's intent was, it's backfired now. Not only have they ruined the career of an agent and done untold damage to CIA operations, they've got egg all over their faces as a result. Well done.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Frogs Marching

This story in the Washington Post made me laugh. It must be the mental image of someone being forced by other, ostensibly larger, stronger people, to move along to a place they don't want to go. I had forgotten that the expression even turned up in the first Harry Potter novel. Apparently it could wind up in the OED as well now.