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6.29.2004

Afghanistan wants NATO troops 

Hamid Karzai is pleading for NATO to send troops to stabilize the country in advance of the September elections.

I keep hearing people criticizing the decision to go to war in Iraq on the grounds that it drew critical resources away from Afghanistan in the war on terrorism. But you know...Islamic terrorism is a threat to the Western world as a whole, isn't it? Other countries have armies too, don't they? If Spain, Germany et. al. are opposed to sending troops to Iraq, the least they could do is send them somewhere else like Afghanistan.

And speaking of countries other than Iraq where Islamofascists are running amok...the US and the UN are finally considering the possibility that they might perhaps think about talking tough to Sudan about the Janjaweed militias.

PCUSA moderator supports ordination of gay ministers 

The new moderator of the Presbyterian Church USA, Rick Ufford-Chase, supports the inclusion of practicing homosexuals into the ministry.

(HT: Andrew Sullivan.)

6.28.2004

Annual soccer post 

I don't pay much attention to international soccer...but the final four in Euro 2004 are Greece, Holland, the Czech Republic and Portugal? Wack.

I do find British soccer reporting to be quite entertaining, though, as it tends to be quite snooty and opinionated. (Of course, I tend to find British news reporting to be annoying for the same reason.)

Here's how Game 5 of the NBA Finals might have been written up by a British sports reporter:



The once-mighty and proud Los Angeles Lakers collapsed like a house of cards as they lost to the Detroit Pistons 100-87 in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, losing the series 4-1.

The first half was a drab affair typical of much of the series, with the Lakers' Kobe Bryant hoisting up ill-advised shots and making poor ball-handling decisions and the Pistons squandering numerous opportunities to blow the game open by wasting time on offence and missing wide-open shots.

But a series of excellent plays on defence in the third quarter by Tayshaun Prince and Ben Wallace allowed Detroit to ignite their fast-break offence. Detroit were able to pick up the pace in the second half whilst the Lakers played a game devoid of concentration and passion. The Pistons opened up a 28-point lead in the fourth quarter before mercifully putting in their reserves with five minutes left.



Well, you get the idea.

If you can't take the heat... 

James Lileks had an interesting conversation with one of those annoying door-to-door campaigners for John Kerry.

I'm going to have to try that sometime.

6.26.2004

iTunes 

Is it just me, or is iTunes for Windows some of the worst software ever written?

Consider:


6.25.2004

If it's in the game...it's in the game 

Yeti Sports now has five different penguin-whacking games.

Counting 

Think Ultimate frisbee players have problems keeping the score of a match? Apparently at least one tennis umpire has similar problems.

I don't buy Karolina Sprem's excuse that she was "too focused on the match" to notice the scoring error (the tiebreaker score was only 2-1 at the time of the error), and I don't understand why she would willfully ignore the mistake. If you're on the verge of a major upset, why would you allow it to be tainted?

6.23.2004

Yankees still suck 

But on a humane, non-partisan note: the family of struggling Yankees pitcher Jose Contreras has finally managed to escape Cuba.

6.22.2004

Not another 

The South Korean businessman being held hostage in Iraq has been beheaded.

A few thoughts spring to my mind:

1. God's peace be upon Kim's family and friends.

2. The bastards can rot in hell.

3. I wonder if Mr. Kerry still thinks "greater international involvement" and "UN legitimacy" are the magic solutions to our problems in Iraq. While we'll take all the help we can get, the UN and other countries have shown in the past that they are quite willing to abandon their responsibilities if they are attacked by terrorists, and the terrorists have shown that they're willing to kill soldiers and civilians of any nationality.

4. I also wonder why there are so many foreigners working in Iraq while Iraqi unemployment remains high. No foreigner should set foot in Iraq unless he travels in a group and packs his own heat.

(Hat tip: Bird Dog.)

Parting is such sweet sorrow 

Actually, sorrow's not quite the word I'm looking for...oh yes, "joy". That's the word.

The Abercrombie and Fitch retail store in Harvard Square is no more.

6.21.2004

Bitching about radio, again 

I realize that the Counting Crows' "Accidentally In Love" is so riwangulously catchy that it's sick, but why does it have to be on the radio every hour?

6.19.2004

All I want for Christmas 

Does anybody have $500,000 to blow? Then you can buy me the guitar pictured on this album cover:


6.18.2004

Raising the bar in the email wars 

Yahoo now offers 2 GB of mail for $20/year and 100 MB of mail free. Yahoo's paid email service includes only text ads, while its free email service includes those annoying graphical ads.

This is, of course, in response to Google's free (but still not widely available) Gmail service, which offers 1 GB of ad-supported email free. Gmail's ads are targeted (just like the ads at the top of this page) and pretty non-intrusive; they appear as a sidebar in your browser and aren't attached to your outgoing mail.

Yahoo also includes POP3 support; third-party developers have whipped together software that will do the same for Gmail.

Neither is better than having one's own domain, of course.

Listmania: Most tortured sports cities, continued 

Buffalo is #3.

I guarantee that #2 will be Philadelphia and #1 will be Cleveland.

6.17.2004

Department of the obvious 

The 9/11 commission has concluded that the US was "unprepared in every respect" to stop the hijackings.

Well, duh. It's not like they overpowered the National Guard on their way to destroying the World Trade Center.

6.16.2004

Not with a bang, but a whimper 

Going down by 28 points in an elimination game? Have the Lakers no pride?

6.15.2004

Supreme Court weasels out on Pledge of Allegiance case 

Even though the dad in the case did not have the legal right to challenge the Pledge on his daughter's behalf and clearly has other issues to deal with, I still think the court should have ruled on the constitutionality of the Pledge.

I think it should be ruled unconstitutional. I'd consider my religious freedom to have been trampled on if I were forced to recite the words "one nation, under Vishnu" in school.

Speaking for myself, I don't think the government has had much at all to do with my own religious and spiritual development. That is as it should be. America did not suddenly become a more righteous nation in 1954 when the words "under God" were put into the Pledge, and it will not suddenly sink down the moral plughole just because those words are taken out.

6.14.2004

Prescient 

Let it be noted that before leaving this world, Ralph Wiley predicted quite accurately what would happen in the NBA finals.

I actually emailed RW a couple of anti-trash-talk lines, and lo and behold, he actually replied with some concise comments on them. I was hoping he'd get around to publishing another anti-trash-talk collection, but alas that will not come to pass.

Alumni roundup 

Alumni magazines are usually about as much fun as watching linoleum warp, but this month's Technology Review features an article on Boston founder and guitarist Tom "it only takes me seven years to cut an album" Scholz.

6.13.2004

Bono's commencement speech at Penn 

Part 1 is here.

Part 2 is here.

6.12.2004

But for that ending to work, you would have to ignore all the Simpson DNA evidence. And that would be downright nutty. 

Bill Simmons has an excellent essay on the OJ trial of 1994-1995.




We talked about it ad nauesam when I was away at math camp for the summer. We talked about it from a slightly more scholastic point of view in my senior-level government class in high school. The whole thing was surreal:




The Pistons will lose Game 4 

Why? Because Kid Rock will be singing the national anthem. Couldn't they have gotten Stevie Wonder instead? Heck, I'll even take Eminem or Bob Seger or Madonna.

Fortunately, they'll be bringing in Aretha Franklin for Game 5.

A first step towards healing? 

Serbian leaders are facing up to crimes they have committed in the past:


LJUBLJANA, Slovenia, June 11 — Nearly nine years after the event, Bosnia's Serbian leadership has admitted responsibility for the massacre of at least 7,000 Muslim men and boys in the town of Srebrenica.

A 42-page report, commissioned by Bosnia's Serb Republic and made public Friday, admits for the first time that police and army units under the government's control "participated" in the massacre, which took place in July 1995.

The killings, viewed as the worst atrocity committed in Europe since World War II, were part of a final push by Bosnia's Serb leadership to create an "ethnically pure" Serbian state. The massacre provoked international revulsion and ultimately helped prompt United States and European leaders to intervene and bring an end to the three-year-long conflict.

Until recently, Bosnia's Serbian leadership has refused to acknowledge the extent of the killings. In 2002, another inquiry by the same government sought to minimize the number of people killed.

The latest report, commissioned in January under strong international pressure, concludes that from July 10 to July 19, 1995, "several thousand" Bosnian Muslims "were liquidated in a manner which represents a heavy violation of international human rights." It also states that "the executioner undertook all measures to hide the crime by removing bodies."

The report includes the locations of 32 mass graves, 28 of which were "secondary," containing bodies that had been removed from other sites in order to hide them from international investigators.

International officials in the province say 11 of the sites have never been disclosed before.

In one of the clearest statements of contrition by Serbian officials since the end of the war, the report's conclusion states that the fact should be faced "that some members of the Serb people have committed a crime in Srebrenica in July 1995." This in turn, it said, might help to bring perpetrators of other war crimes in Bosnia to justice.



6.11.2004

Jim Tracy is a moron 

LA at Boston, bottom of the ninth, game tied 1-1. Boston has men on second and third with David Ortiz at bat, no one out. LA manager Jim Tracy does not put Eric Gagne, the best reliever in the NL, in the game, and Ortiz gets the game-winning hit.

Who's the bozo that made up the rule that you only bring your closer in with a lead?

What hath network censorship wrought? 

Jimmy Kimmel gets pulled off the air for an evening for making fun of Detroit's proclivity for massive riots whenever the city wins a major sports championship.

I'm not sure if anyone remembers, but the worst sports riot in recent history that I remember was when the Montreal Canadiens won the 1993 Stanley Cup.

The stock market crash of 2004 

From $100 to $10 in 11 days.




Before:




After:



Garfield 

I fail to see the need for this movie.

Believe it or not, the early (1978-1985 or so) Garfield comic strips used to be quite funny. Plenty of them were laced with subtle social commentary.

Who's in it for the oil now? 

Among other things discussed at the G8 summit was debt relief for Iraq:



Mr. Bush held his news conference after a day largely given over to discussions on how to help the world's poorest nations, especially those in Africa. He and his counterparts from Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Russia and Japan — the Canadian prime minister, Paul Martin, left early — had lunch with the leaders of six African countries.

The Group of 8 leaders endorsed a plan to encourage international cooperation in research to develop a vaccine for AIDS. They pledged to do more to combat famines, and to support the establishment of larger peacekeeping forces for use in Africa. They also committed themselves to extending the life of the main international program for reducing the debts of the poorest countries. But they failed to agree on a plan promoted by Britain to cancel all the debt of those poor countries.

The leaders also remained deadlocked over how much of Iraq's debt to forgive. French officials said Mr. Chirac had made clear his position that given its oil reserves, Iraq should be able to pay off much of its debt, a stance opposed by the United States, which is pressing for all or most Iraqi debt to be forgiven.


6.10.2004

Holy cow 

Kobe Bryant has one point in the first half of Game 3, and that on a technical free throw? Is that not the finest defensive half in NBA history?

UPDATE: Make that the finest defensive game in NBA history.

Imported 

In an self-officiated Ultimate Frisbee match, if an offensive player makes a dubious call to keep a possession alive and his team ends up turning the disc over, opponents will often say "the disc never lies!"

ESPN.com has captured this anecdote from Game 2 of this year's NBA finals:



In the second half of Game 2, after 'Sheed had fouled [Karl] Malone and Malone had missed the first free throw, Wallace could be heard yelling at an official, "The ball never lies. The ball never lies."


Worst-kept secret ever 

I don't quite understand why there's so much buzz about Paul McCartney's claims about "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds". I thought it was perfectly obvious that either (1) the song was written with LSD in mind, or (2) John Lennon wrote the song while on an acid trip.

Lennon's claim that the song title came from a picture his son drew still seems like the truth. I think his mate Pete Shotton said that "though John was certainly taking inordinate amounts of acid at the time, the pun was indeed sheer coincidence."

"Got To Get You Into My Life", on the other hand, sounds a lot more interesting if it really was about pot and not about a woman.

Now if someone can tell me what "Come Together" is all about, I'll be impressed.

6.09.2004

Britney Spears snubs Bono's kids 

From interference.com:



Britney Snubs Bono's Kids


Pop princess Britney Spears snubbed rock legend Bono after a gig in Ireland last week, by refusing to meet his kids. The U2 frontman took his four children to Britney's sell-out concert in Dublin and they were desperate to meet the star backstage. But an insider tells British newspaper the Daily Mirror, "Britney was having none of it. She just point-blank refused to meet them and they were very disappointed. She made some excuse about being too tired. It's ridiculous if she thinks she's too important to meet the offspring of a legend like Bono." However the singer was less evasive to some special guests - according to sources she welcomed former lover Colin Farrell and his pals backstage with open arms. The insider adds, "Some of Farrell's neighbors were there with their children and Britney had them ushered straight inside."

http://imdb.com/news/wenn/#1



Sheesh. I'm sure Bono must have experienced a large amount of excruciating pain just by sitting through the concert with his kids.

6.08.2004

Foul trouble 

If a NBA player who gets two or three fouls in the first 15 minutes or so of a game, why do coaches sit him for the rest of the half? Come on, what does it matter whether he goes in with 3 minutes left and picks up another foul before the half or whether he starts the second half and picks up another foul in the first couple minutes?

Rasheed Wallace sat the entire second quarter of Game 2 with two fouls. The Lakers went on a 13-5 run at the end of the second quarter. Mehmet Okur was in for most of that quarter, not playing good defense and lacking the confidence to get involved in the offense. The Pistons sorely needed Wallace in the game at that point.

UPDATE: Hoo boy, those last 7 minutes were an offensive debacle for Detroit.

No matter. Two games, and all the Lakers can muster is one overtime win? I like Detroit's chances.

6.07.2004

Ultimate Frisbee players: more athletic, better-looking and smarter than you 

At the 2004 Ultimate Frisbee College National Championships, NC State and Colorado played a game. This is possibly the only the only sporting match in history where both coaches had PhD's in physics.

6.06.2004

First blood 

Richard Hamilton scores only 12, Shaq shoots 13-for-16 and the Pistons win by 12? Astounding.

Beating a dead horse 

Stephen Thomas Erlewine, the toughest critic at the All Music Guide, tears apart William Hung's album "Inspiration" bit by bit here. To my knowledge, it's the only one-star record in the AMG database. Erlewine's scathing review is also a cogent critique of American Idol itself.

A brief retrospective on Reagan 

Here's a long article from the Washington Post.

On the minus side of the ledger, Reagan helped rack up astronomical deficits, oversaw dubious military campaigns in Honduras and Nicaragua, sold arms to Iran to fund the Contras in Nicaragua, and showed almost zero concern for the less affluent members of society.

On the plus side, he essentially won the Cold War. As the Post put it:


Administration critics contended that Reagan had contributed to the crisis with anti-Soviet rhetoric and by conducting a massive U.S. arms buildup that he had promised during his 1980 campaign. On June 18, 1980, Reagan told The Washington Post that it "would be of great benefit to the United States if we started a buildup" because the Soviets were too weak economically to compete in an expanded arms race and would come to the bargaining table instead. He predicted the demise of the Soviet Union, most notably in a speech to British members of Parliament at the Palace of Westminster on June 8, 1982, in which he said the Soviets faced "a great revolutionary crisis" and would wind up on "the ash heap of history." In another historic speech, on June 12, 1987, in front of the Brandenburg Gate near the Berlin Wall, Reagan urged: "Mr. Gorbachev, open this gate! Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!"


Basically, Reagan bid up the Cold War pot and forced the Soviets to fold.

I think Reagan comes out in the black here.

6.05.2004

Rest in peace, Ronald Reagan 


Smarty Jones 1:5? 

Methinks a lot of bettors are wagering money on Smarty Jones just so they can say they bet on a Triple Crown winner if he wins, thus pushing the odds to a ridiculous level. I guess they could keep the stubs as souvenirs as well, though I can't imaging that any of them will be worth any money as collectibles, given the volume of betting on Smarty Jones.

The Belmont Stakes are a longer race than the Preakness and the Kentucky Derby; perhaps this accounts for all of the Triple Crown near-misses? Not that I know anything about horse racing.

UPDATE: Irish tenor Ronan Tynan just sang "New York, New York". I wish I could have been at Belmont just to shout "Yankees suck".

UPDATE: Suckas.

6.04.2004

When the levee breaks, mama you got to move 

Another reason why it sucks to live in California.

Hockey 

Silly me, I turned off Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals after two periods. I missed Tampa Bay's equalizer in the third period and Calgary's overtime game-winner.

I did see Jarome Iginla's second-period goal though. Tampa Bay made an errant pass that coasted towards the boards at center ice. Iginla hustled down, got the puck, skated down the wing into the offensive zone, and flicked a shot off the wrong leg that went off the post and behind Nikolai Khabibulin. Amazing.

As far as I can tell, hockey's in for a long cold winter or summer or lockout. The players have been accustomed to the higher salaries they've been raking in over the last ten years, but the NHL just can't keep paying them that kind of money when TV ratings and attendance are sagging.

The NHL seriously needs to consider contraction.

Yeah, that's right. Cut Nashville, Florida, Carolina, Phoenix, Atlanta, Columbus and Anaheim. Cut the deadwood from the league. There'll be more money to distribute among fewer players. I don't think 25-goal-scorers should continue to expect to make $2,000,000 per year, but they're going to have to take what they can get.

Recall that the NHL exploded in popularity in 1994. Michael Jordan had just retired, and casual sports fans had to watch the New York Knicks and Miami Heat bludgeon each other to death. Later that summer, Major League Baseball shut down.

Meanwhile, the New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils -- two teams that had talented players and played a solid team game -- played an epic seven-game series in the Eastern Conference Finals. Down 3-2, the Rangers' Mark Messier guaranteed a Game 6 win, and his hat trick sealed the victory. The Rangers then took a lead into the waning minutes of Game 7, but with Martin Brodeur on the bench, the Devils launched a furious assault in the last minute and Valeri Zelepukin scored to tie the game. The Rangers then won the game in double overtime.

The Rangers went on to play the overmatched Vancouver Canucks, but Vancouver somehow managed to stretch the series to seven games before succumbing at the very end.

The NHL was riding high that summer, and not even the lockout that erased half the 1994-1995 season could crush the wave.

So what's the point of this trip down memory lane? Good players on good teams make for exciting hockey. Mediocre players play clutch-and-grab hockey, and the refs really can't stop them because calling penalties on them in a consistent manner would quickly become ridiculous. Goaltending looks spectacular these days, and no doubt today's goalies are better athletes and better-coached than in days past, but they also face lots of scorers who aren't very dangerous.

The NHL has neither the player talent nor the fan base to support itself right now. Cutting six or seven teams and 120-140 players would raise the overall level of talent in the game and get rid of some unproductive franchises.

Oh, but didn't Anaheim make the finals last year, Carolina the year before, and Florida in 1996? My point exactly. With talent diluted around the league, there are lots of teams around the league that are candidates to ride a hot goaltender or skill player to the finals, where they inevitably get beaten by a superior opponent. The NHL needs teams that have lots of talent, not lots of teams that have two or three top-notch players.

6.02.2004

Another assault on the First Amendment 

Officials at the Falmouth Waterfront Park in Richmond, Virginia tried to break up a public baptism. They argued that it might be "offensive" to nearby swimmers or parkgoers.

Cripes. The First Amendment protects speech and religious freedom. It does not guarantee the right not to be offended by anything.

Not only are Enron traders scoundrels, they also have filthy mouths 

Here's CBS News' bit on the Enron traders gloating over the energy crisis they helped precipitate in California.

Good thing George Soros is here to rescue us from these shady arbitrageurs and their Republican lackeys in the government. Oh, wait...

Another one from the log 

For some reason this site is the #2 hit for saratoga springs couple interested in threesome.

Needless to say, you'll find nothing of the sort here. Not after the FBI broke up my teen prostitution ring.

Even more listmania 

Some unknown panel of "experts" came up with a list of the 100 most beautiful women of all time.

All I gotta say is that Miranda Otto was far more attractive when she was killing the lord of the ringwraiths than Liv Tyler or Cate Blanchett ever were.

(Hat tip: Tacitus.)

Partial-birth abortion ban ruled unconstitutional in California 

From the AP:



In a ruling with coast-to-coast impact, a federal judge declared the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act unconstitutional Tuesday, saying it infringes on a woman’s right to choose.

U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton’s ruling came in one of three lawsuits challenging the legislation President Bush signed last year.

She agreed with abortion rights activists that a woman’s right to choose is paramount, and that it is therefore “irrelevant” whether a fetus suffers pain, as abortion foes contend.

“The act poses an undue burden on a woman’s right to choose an abortion,” the judge wrote in her 120-page ruling.



I agree with the ruling, but for reasons completely different from those given by the judge. I think the partial-birth abortion act is unconstitutional because it infringes upon the states' rights to define the legal status of a fetus, not because the Fourth Amendment is a blanket protection of a woman's right to have an abortion. If a fetus is going to be declared a legal non-entity, it is up to the states to make that decision, not the courts.

6.01.2004

Zeitgeist 

I appear to have gotten over 50 hits on this blog today, and the vast majority of them were from searches related to William Hung's performance at the Toronto Blue Jays game.

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