Sunday, November 30, 2003

My new chair

As I approach 30 years of age, I believe it's time to enjoy the finer things in life. Ideally, I'd have an overstuffed recliner to relax in, but I have to work my way up. So I got a smaller, less expensive chair and footstool from Ikea last Sunday. Here's me, looking comfortable after I assembled the chair Wednesday night.

Love Actually

Liz and I saw Love Actually at the Loews Kips Bay theater last night. It was a touching, funny, sad, ultimately heartwarming romance that reminded me what it feels like to be in love for the first time, the second time, to have your heart broken, and to find happiness. It was sappy and too sweet in a few places, and completely implausible in others, but we both loved the movie. The casting was perfect, and we had fun afterward trying to name British actors who weren't in it (there aren't too many; to paraphrase an old friend: when this one was cast, everyone got a part). I particularly liked Kiera Knightley, and I was slightly disappointed that she didn't have a larger role. That's unavoidable in a movie with so many characters and stories to tell. But just about everything about the movie went right, even the plot threads that were weaker than others. I wouldn't say that it's my favorite romantic comedy ever; that's still the timeless When Harry Met Sally. But this one is a great movie that with its holiday setting is just right for this time of year. Take someone that you love to see it, you won't be disappointed.

More reasons to play fantasy football

1. I live in Manhattan, so I'm limited to watching the Giants, Jets, or other teams in their respective divisions every Sunday. Usually, these games are not that exciting, like today's 24-7 Bills over Giants game. At the same time, Indianapolis and New England played a thrilling 38-34 Patriots win, in a back-and-forth game that was far more enthralling than the one I got to see. I don't have a satellite dish, so I can't get the NFL Sunday Ticket package to watch anything other than what the networks are showing. Even if I wanted to see the Steelers every week, I'd have to go to a sports bar and pay for food and drinks to do it. Which leads me to ...

2. The Steelers are awful this year. Mark Madden is upset that the fantasy stats geeks root against them? He's lucky anyone bothers to show up for games. I couldn't even bother to work myself into a mild lather as I watched the scores of the Steelers-Bengals game flash by earlier today. When they can't run or pass the ball effectively or stop the other team when it matters, I don't blame the fantasy fans so much. Fantasy football gives me a way to stay interested in the NFL season when my team is out of it by week 9.

Mark Madden's dim view of fantasy football

In yesterday's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Mark Madden makes it clear he detests fantasy football for what he think's it's done to the real thing. He cites the oft-used example of Donovan McNabb being overrated because he's an excellent fantasy player but his real-world stats don't measure up. He thinks that Trent Green is a better quarterback than McNabb but the fantasy "geeks" don't think so. He's even more upset about the way the network caters to the fantasy football player by running individual player stats updates during the game along with out-of-town scores. And he doesn't like people rooting against the Steelers because they have a fantasy player on the other team.

First of all, fantasy football is harmless. A few million "geeks" like myself are just having fun and finding a new way to enjoy a game we already love. And since there are so many of us, fantasy football is here to stay. The networks want to keep viewers, so they're going to show what people want to see: individual statistics. As for players being overrated or underrated, I don't recall too many sports journalists citing fantasy football stats when discussing Rush Limbaugh's comments on McNabb earlier this season. And I hope that NFL GMs don't look too long or hard at fantasy football stats when drafting players or signing free agents. To paraphrase a much-used line, an NFL manager who uses fantasy football stats as real-world evidence often ends up playing fantasy football full-time.

McNabb is a great player who does not have the supporting cast in Philadelphia that Trent Green (also a great player) has in Kansas City. Trent Green doesn't have to score an occasional running touchdown because he can rely on Priest Holmes to do it for him. Philadelphia, last I checked, had several decent running backs, but none on the level of Holmes. McNabb has to do much more to support his team than Trent Green does. I think many NFL GMs would be happy to have either QB.

There are plenty of fantasy football nuts out there who give the game a bad name, just as there are plenty of role-playing nuts who give that practice a bad image, or religious fanatics who make their beliefs look bad. Vocal minorities can ruin anything for the majority, and fantasy sports are no different. I've had to edit myself when talking about my fantasy team with people who don't play, because it is boring to hear about a bunch of guys arguing over backup running backs and kickers. But there's nothing inherently wrong with taking a real game we love and finding a way we can pretend we're really involved in it. None of us in our league harbors any belief that we'll ever actually work for an NFL team, so fantasy football is an opportunity for us to participate.

I do agree with Madden's implication that people who root against their team just for fantasy purposes are idiots, or certainly not good fans of the home team in the first place. I've never rooted against the Steelers, and I never will, no matter what the fantasy implications. Also, Madden doesn't mind exploiting fantasy geeks by taking their money for seminars, and I don't think that's a bad thing either. I see no problem with parting fools and their money. I enjoy fantasy football, but I'm not about to spend any money on supporting my habit. If I lose games to guys who pay for guides and seminars, more power to them. I've got better things on which to spend my time and money.

I noticed the omission of fantasy baseball from his article. I've never heard Madden say a bad thing about the roto-geeks who spend the entire baseball season poring over stats and trading players, just like in fantasy football. I wonder what he thinks of the baseball side of things. Maybe he doesn't mind that game as much, since baseball has always been about individual statistics as much as team play. But the stats focus in football is a recent development that cleary bothers him. Too bad. Fantasy football is here to stay, and it's not hurting anyone but the people who play it. I'm proud to be a fantasy geek.

Friday, November 28, 2003

A good Thanksgiving

We had some friends over, we cooked, we ate well, we watched football. All in all, a great way to spend a Thursday.

The highlight of the meal for me was the challah stuffing I made, based on a recipe I found on The Internet. The trick was in soaking the bread first before mixing in the sauteed onions and mushrooms; after baking it came out in one giant piece that could be served in chunks, like a cake. That's some good stuffing. The turkey turned out well, too, but turkey's not that hard to get right. Our friends brought over mac & cheese that was superb. Dessert was homemade pumpkin and pecan pies, also brought by our guests. My only disappointment is that I didn't pass out in my new Ikea armchair after dinner. There's plenty of time for that over the rest of the weekend, and over the lifespan of the chair, of course.

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Some thoughts on tonight's episode of Star Trek: Enterprise

On tonight's episode, Archer and T'Pol travel back in time to Detroit in 2004 to stop a Xindi plot to eradicate humanity with a bioweapon. I love time travel stories, but this one pushed the boundaries of what I'm willing to believe. (In case you couldn't tell, I'm going to go all geeky in this entry; if this bothers you, please come back another time). Obviously, if you haven't watched this week's episode yet, spoiler abound, so you should probably skip this entry, too.

First of all, the mysterious Daniels appears and tells Archer that he and T'Pol must go immediately back in time to stop the Xindi plot. When T'Pol is skeptical, Archer says that Daniels couldn't do it himself because it would take too much time to obtain permission for him to go. Isn't he from the future? Can't he tell what happened in 2004 and go back at any time of his choosing to find the Xindi?

Archer and T'Pol arrive in 2004 Detroit with the universe's most powerful, versatile PDA. It can detect car alarms, unlock cars, crack ATMs to retrieve cash, track humans and Xindi, and probably make coffee too. I'd have few problems here, either, if I had a magic PDA with all the answers.

Archer and T'Pol steal a truck and drive all over Detroit late at night. While I can accept that Archer is smart enough to figure out how to operate an automatic shift car, how does he know what stoplights and traffic signs mean? I suppose the magic PDA tells him.

The show ends with a phase pistol battle on the rooftops and streets of one of the industrial neighborhoods of Detroit. Yes, it takes place late at night, and in what looks like a deserted area, but wouldn't someone hear the noise and commotion? Don't any of the other factories have security guards who watch for strange occurrences late at night?

What really bothered me about this episode was that it ignored Star Trek's previously detailed extensive timeline, which states that Khan Noonien Singh leads his superhuman followers in the Eugenics Wars in the late 1990s. It didn't look like much had happened in Detroit. Maybe I missed a memo and the Star Trek framers have adjusted the "history of the future" to account for these changes. Or maybe civilization really had collapsed a few years earlier but no one in Detroit noticed.

Despite the plausibility factor, I did enjoy tonight's show. The writers have a lot of different story threads working at the moment, and they're keeping my interest. I hope they can sustain the show's fine form the rest of the season.

I had a sudden flashback to a late 1980s Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade where Scott Bakula, then the star of "Quantum Leap," sang on one of the parade floats. I hope he doesn't turn up in the parade tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

No one cool hangs out in MY neighborhood

Today's idle browsing took me to Gawker, where I found the weekend wrapup of celebrity sightings. Not one of them is any further north or east than 80th and Amsterdam, and that was Bob Vila, of all people. Random celebrity sightings are the one thing I miss now that I don't live in Greenwich Village anymore. We used to see all sorts of people on the streets: Julianne Moore, Uma and Ethan, Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman, Mark Feuerstein (of "Good Morning Miami," long before that show was on), and Janeane Garofalo. I guess the Upper East Side really is another universe entirely separate from the rest of Manhattan. That topic sounds like it could have some greater depth. I must ruminate on it and see what I can come up with.

TMQ finds a permanent home

Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column has found a permanent home on Update your bookmarks accordingly.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

Another survey

I got another survey from a friend today. I answered one of these last December, and I thought the results would once again serve as a halfway-decent entry.

1. WHAT IS YOUR FULL NAME? Philip Edward Catelinet
3. WHAT ARE YOU LISTENING TO RIGHT NOW? Tchaikovsky Symphony No. 2
5. WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU ATE? chili con carne
7. HOW IS THE WEATHER RIGHT NOW? about 50 degrees, clear
11. HOW ARE YOU TODAY? cool and calm
13. FAVORITE ALCOHOLIC DRINK? Maker's Mark bourbon, on the rocks or with ginger ale.
14. FAVORITE SPORTS? football, hockey
15. HAIR COLOR? brown
16. EYE COLOR? hazel
20. FAVORITE FOOD? NY-style pizza
21. LAST MOVIE YOU WATCHED? The Two Towers, extended edition, on DVD. Last one in a theater: Elf
22. FAVORITE DAY OF THE YEAR? New Year's Day. Lots of football and nowhere to be.
24. ARE YOU TOO SHY TO ASK SOMEONE OUT? I hope so. I've been married over 5 years.
26. SUMMER OR WINTER? winter
31. WHO IS MOST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Avirat, complaining that I never call or write and asking when I'm coming to visit him. (I'll be in Johnstown at Christmas!)
32. WHO IS LEAST LIKELY TO RESPOND? Duncan (who is he?)
33. LIVING ARRANGEMENTS? large Manhattan apartment with my wife and 3 cats
34. What BOOKS ARE YOU READING? Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson
35. WHAT'S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD? nothing, this is a laptop.
36. FAVORITE BOARD GAME? Trivial Pursuit
37. WHAT DID YOU DO LAST NIGHT? stayed home and watched The Two Towers on DVD
38. FAVORITE SMELLS? burning leaves in autumn, salty sea air, something good I'm cooking in my kitchen
40. WHAT INSPIRES YOU? Lance Armstrong's accomplishments in the Tour de France
41. BUTTERED, PLAIN, OR SALTED POPCORN? just a little salt. The movie theater butter will kill you.
42. FAVORITE CAR? Lamborghini Countach
43. FAVORITE FLOWER? no man should have a favorite flower
46. RED OR WHITE WINE? red, preferably merlot.
47. WHAT DID YOU DO FOR YOUR LAST BIRTHDAY? I don't remember; having a birthday 5 days before Christmas means you never do anything special
49. LIFETIME GOALS? find my purpose in life
MORNING? it's too early to be up (even if it's 11 AM on a weekend)

Friday, November 21, 2003

Thoughts (in no particular order) while watching The Two Towers: Extended Edition DVD

If I have the choice of an elf princess or a shield-maiden of Rohan who knows her way with a sword, I think I'm taking the shield-maiden. Aragorn must have some kind of ear fetish to choose Arwen.

Elrond is a jerk. He's a lot more kind in the book.

I don't care if it's not in the book: I get chills every time the elves arrive at Helm's Deep. Now THAT's an army.

Gimli still gets the best lines.

The added scene with Boromir, Faramir, and their father, Denethor, sheds some much-needed light on Faramir's motivation for taking the ring to Osgiliath. I still don't like the choice, but it makes more sense with the extra footage.

I don't know how it's possible, but the battle at Helm's Deep gets more dramatic each time I watch it. When Aragorn and Theoden ride out together against hopeless odds, and then Gandalf and Eomer appear with two thousand more riders... well, it's just better each time.

Overall, the new scenes provide clarification for choices and events in the original version. I liked everything that was restored, except for Theodred's funeral. The most moving scene in the theatrical version was Theoden's grief at his son's grave. The funeral scene just delays that emotional moment, and I preferred the original edit. But that's my only complaint. Like the extended edition of Fellowship before it, The Two Towers improves by leaps and bounds in this longer version. Peter Jackson HAS to get the Oscar for Return of the King.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Parents: beware!

Would you let your children spend the night with this man?

Seriously, I'd like to know what the children who want to spend time with Michael Jackson are thinking. I'm curious about the parents as well, but the interest of the children bothers me. It's not like Jackson is the most famous pop icon anymore. Maybe I'm just too old to understand them, but where does he find these kids that idolize him and want to spend the night at his house? How did these kids become his fans in the first place? And knowing what we know about him and his eccentricities, why do their parents let them hang out with him?

A new look

I've broken down and switched templates. I don't really like any of the ones has to offer, but I also lack the necessary HTML skills to properly design my own. So I'll go with this one for a while. At least the links format properly now and I can add all sorts of stuff on the right side. Look for more links to friends, cool sites, and anything else I remember to put there as days go by.

Pooping on the radio

Triumph the Insult Comic Dog continues his press tour promoting his new album. Today, he appeared on NPR's Fresh Air. As usual, Triumph was a scream. I don't know how they keep this gig going; it's consistently hilarious. The article in last week's Entertainment Weekly told the full story of Triumph's rise to the pinnacle of showbiz success, and should be required reading for any Triumph fan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

I'm the last one to chime in on this story...

New York asks several celebrities their thoughts on how Paris Hilton can rehabilitate her image after her sex tape became public. I like Lewis Black's response the best, though Lizzie Grubman probably has the most accurate opinion. This girl has nothing to worry about. She's got a burgeoning career as a model/socialite/TV star, and there's no such thing as bad publicity, right?

As for the tape itself, I've seen it, and it's not worth anyone's time. There's much better porn out there than this garbage. If you're going to videotape yourself having sex for future enjoyment, at least turn the lights on so you can see the action. Night-vision goggles are no way to watch dirty movies.

Monday, November 17, 2003

I, uh... need to, um... go home early for an, ur... emergency. Yeah, that's it.

This morning I got my "your purchase has shipped" e-mail from indicating that my copy of The Two Towers: Extended Edition was on its way. The e-mail said I'd get it in 3-7 days. On a routine stop by my office mailbox I found a present: my copy had arrived! Now that's fast service. I'm watching bits of it now, just to check the discs, in case there's a problem and I need to return it. That's a good reason. It looks damn fantastic and the one added scene at the beginning ("Elven Rope") restores a bit of story that I didn't realize I'd missed in the theatrical release. I'll need to pick a night this week with no good TV (tough during sweeps) and watch the entire thing. Maybe a day off from work is a good idea.

Get Fuzzy apologizes to Pittsburgh

Today's Get Fuzzy comic is an apology to the city of Pittsburgh for a strip two weeks ago that some people thought wasn't so funny. Apparently the artist, Darby Conley, has a friend in Pittsburgh and intended the strip as an inside joke. I thought it was funny and not the least bit offensive, but it seems the good people of Pittsburgh are more sensitive than he or I thought. Anyway, today's apology should resolve the matter, unless you're from Sewickley.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

TMQ is back!

Gregg Easterbrook's Tuesday Morning Quarterback column is back, on FOOTBALL Read and enjoy. I'm still reading it myself, but the content doesn't seem to have suffered for his time off.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Jon's party on Saturday night

Check the photos link; I posted a few pictures from the party. I forgot to charge my camera battery before I left, so I only got a few shots before the camera died. Yes, there was an appearance by the Solid White Dancers. It has been two years since we last performed, and our choreography was off. Still, the effect on the adoring crowd was the same.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

Back in DC

I've returned to Washington, DC, for another weekend visit with family and friends. James and I came down on one of the Chinatown buses this evening. My only previous bus travel experience was with Peter Pan Lines, and the Chinatown way is a little different. Instead of a bus picking us up at 7th and 34th Sts. at 4:30 PM, we had a 15-passenger van waiting for us. Unfortunately, there were about 20 people waiting for the bus. The first fifteen of us got into the van, along with our bags, and the driver took us the longest way possible between midtown and Chinatown, even for rush hour. The others had to take a cab to Chinatown; luckily for them, the bus company reimbursed them for the cab fare. Meanwhile, in the van, there was barely any room for anyone to breathe, let alone shift our bags or move limbs. We got to the Chinatown stop a little after 5 PM and got on the real bus (thankfully, a full-size tour bus). As soon as the bus pulled away, the driver (who was the same guy who'd piloted the van from 34th St.) turned on the movie, which was a bootleg copy of Pirates of the Caribbean. We couldn't tell at first, but the washed-out colors, the dull audio, and the black dots on the screen for the projectionist eventually clued us in. I'm glad I saw it last summer, because half the good lines were inaudible, the excellent music was drowned out, and the movie cut off with a few minutes remaining, so I had to tell James how it ended. We made two stops on the way: one at a travel plaza in New Jersey where the driver got a huge plate of chicken, biscuits, and gravy, and another quick stop in Baltimore. At the NJ stop, the driver turned off the movie when the bus pulled in, and when we left, it was a few minutes before it started up again. This prompted the following exchange between James and I:

James: When is he going to put the movie back on, now that I've gotten into it?
Me: Give him a break. He's steering the bus with his knees while he eats.

OK, it was funnier when we were there. Around 10:15, we pulled into Chinatown in DC and the fun was over. It wasn't the worst bus ride of my life, but it was definitely more interesting than Peter Pan buses tend to be. And the people on the bus were less objectionable than the Peter Pan crowd tends to be. I'm going back on the PP bus on Monday morning. I'm suprising myself by thinking this, but I'm actually inclined to try the Chinatown bus again sometime. It was less crowded and took only a few minutes longer than the PP bus. On the other hand, this whole bus experience is making me wistful for Amtrak. I miss the train.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

'The Zombie Survival Guide' (

Once again, Gene Weingarten's Tuesday chat features a wealth of useful information. Read this chat transcript to find out how to protect yourself and your loved ones from the zombie menace.

Novell buys SuSE

Most people who read this blog regularly (all five of you) won't know what the heck that means. So I'm going to geek out for a while. This morning, Novell announced that it is buying SuSE, a German company that produces a distribution of the Linux operating system. It's an exciting move for Novell, which has been working for a year on migrating its product line to run on Linux as well as their proprietary NetWare OS. I'd been hearing for a while that SuSE was going to be the preferred Linux distribution for Novell's products, and this purchase confirms that. It gives Novell a powerful operating system to offer its customers, who have been migrating their operations to Windows systems for the past ten years. I've been a loyal Novell and NetWare administrator for most of that time, and I'm looking forward to getting Novell's products on a stable, open source, community-supported platform.

In-depth analysis can be found in many places.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

The Marathon

One of the unexpected perks of our apartment on 1st Avenue is a front-row view of the NYC Marathon. We're right in the middle of the long stretch up 1st Avenue, so starting around 10 AM today the street was lined with cheering fans who didn't let up until late in the afternoon. We watched the lead men run by around 11 AM, then went outside just past noon to watch for our friends running the race. I took some pictures of the race, which you can see by clicking on the photos link over there on the left. My favorite runner, aside from our friends, was the Star Wars stormtrooper in full armor. He had to be hot.