Friday, February 27, 2004


I am sinking to a new low in bottom feeding. I am about to discuss an opinion piece in the Christian Science Monitor that analyzes the work of journalists. I am, essentially, reviewing a review. Now THAT is a complete lack of added value.

The piece discusses the use of google search results by journalists as a cultural shorthand for popularity, trends, etc. For instance, one cited article decided that naked women were more appealing than naked men because there were 600,000 hits for "naked men" and over 1,000,000 for "naked women." Similarly, the viola was called the most teased instrument in the Baltimore Sun because the search term "viola jokes" got 19,700 hits.

I guess a few things really strike me about this. First, I have heard many, many professionals in the last few years bemoan the lack of research skills in people recently paroled from school. Stories like this make me think google has played a role in this.

Second, the number of results returned for a search is a questionable measure of popularity. For instance, I like naked women, but no web page I am on will appear for such a search. Where is my consumer preference measured? Not in the relative number of hits returned, since I consider myself more of a connoisseur, and refine my searches well beyond "naked women." See, it's a miserable metric.

Third, how would you like to be the editor on a trends story based largely on google results. Granted, trends are hard to measure, particularly if they are generational. Still, it can't make you harken back to the days of J-school to read that.


The Christian Science Monitor also carried a very interesting piece about the role mysticism plays in the various wars in Africa. The story focused on Uganda and the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA). Apparently the LRA uses a mix of the Ten Commandments, traditional witchcraft, child abduction, and cannibalism to run its war against the government in Uganda.

One cited example was that of the purification ritual, in which , a purification must be performed to prevent the spirit of the dead soldier from taking revenge on his killer - and on the entire militia when a militia member kills an enemy. If the ritual is botched, the soldier must be killed to ensure that the entire militia is not hurt by his actions. Similarly, cannibalism for the purpose of gaining positive attributes from the dead is also practiced.

Thus far the government in Kampala has not taken a group up on its offer to cast spells on the LRA in an effort to end the war…


For those of you who have expressed concern—which is how interpret the wild cackling and other mockery I have received to date—it appears that the rebellion-supporting knee has been reconstructed without the use of carpetbaggers or other assorted Reconstruction tools. Instead, as has been true of Dixie, only time can take the wounds of disloyal rebellion away, and it appears that the knee is fully prepared for readmission into the Union.


Jeff Kent apparently asked The Nation's Finest News Source (the Houston Chronicle) today how anyone knows whether Babe Ruth, Roger Maris, Lou Gehrig, etc. were on steroids. Well, Jeff "Moron" Kent, how about the fact that they were not built like football defensive ends? Oh wait, back then football defensive ends were not built like today's football defensive ends. Look at Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Jeff Kent, et al. in pictures next to even the players ten years before them, like Andre Dawson, Mike Schmidt, Ryne Sandberg, et al. It is laughable. Of course, Kent is also the low-life who lied about how he was injured two years ago with the Giants, so we already know he's dishonest. We just can't be sure when he's lying anymore.

With Roger "Chicken Little" Clemens and Jeff Kent teamed up, the Astros would be easy to hate even without their being in the our division.


Just to make sure that the tone of this blog doesn't seem too high, below is a list of some of my favorite time wasters, with the sender where appropriate:

Liquid Generation (all Flash, all the time). I really like Whose Boobs? It's fun and educational. From K in LA.

Punchbaby (movie clips).

The Onion (a classic).

Things My Girlfriend and I Have Argued About (dry, British, hilarious).

Golf (great game in Shockwave)

Classic '80's games from F in DC.

Chicago Uncommon (cool pictures of and around the Chi).

Chicago L (all kinds of info, including history on mass transit in the Chi).

Houston Chronicle crossword (you can do it on-line, or download a little plug-in and do it on your desk top).

Belle de Jour (London prostitute with her own blog. Sometimes can make you queasy, but sometimes she is entertaining).

European National Railways (this page is remarkable. That, or I am a HUGE dork. Or, as Grandpa Simpson says, "Little of column A, little of column B.")

The Subway Page (not only maps from around the world, but also links to fascinating pages about never completed systems (Cincinnati, for instance), and troubled systems (Buffalo, for instance). Fantastic time waster).

Chicago Tunnel Company Railroad (page with information about the 2 foot gauge railroad system running under the Loop here in the Chi. Amazing, and not as well known as you would think).

Forgotten New York (great, huge page of history and historical anomalies in New York City today).

Old St Louis (handy historical reference for Boogie).

Chicago Landmarks page (landmarks here in the Chi).

Periodic historic atlas of Europe 1-2000 (great maps).

As you can see, I am VERY adept at wasting time.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004


For reasons that shall remain unnamed, I was discussing the Illinois Constitution with a coworker. He had never read it, and I had not read it since the Constitution test in high school. Thanks to google, I had a copy in seconds. Recently, while skimming it, I came across a few choice things. First, unlike the United States Constitution, Illinois leads off with the interesting stuff. The Bill of Rights is first, with all of the detailed administrative stuff about government in the middle. Much more readable. Interestingly, for a Constitution adopted in 1970, the religious freedom section (Article I, Section 3) is pretty stern, stating that,

The free exercise and enjoyment of religious profession
and worship, without discrimination, shall forever be
guaranteed, and no person shall be denied any civil or
political right, privilege or capacity, on account of his
religious opinions; but the liberty of conscience hereby
secured shall not be construed to dispense with oaths or
affirmations, excuse acts of licentiousness, or justify
practices inconsistent with the peace or safety of the State.
No person shall be required to attend or support any ministry
or place of worship against his consent, nor shall any
preference be given by law to any religious denomination or
mode of worship.

We wouldn't want to go excusing acts of licentiousness now, would we?

In addition, I came across Article XII of the Illinois Constitution. Just so you don't think I'm monkeying with the truth, it is below in its entirety. See if you can pick my commentary out of the text:


The State militia consists of all able-bodied persons
residing in the State except those exempted by law.

Hmmm. Am I in a militia? I reside in the state, and notwithstanding my little ice incident in Champaign, I feel pretty able bodied…

The military shall be in strict subordination to the
civil power.

Yeah, until they irritate us. Ooops. Sorry, channeling Latin American dictators again.

The General Assembly shall provide by law for the
organization, equipment and discipline of the militia in
conformity with the laws governing the armed forces of the
United States.

They need to get off their dead asses here. I don't have a uniform, a gun, or ANYTHING. I favor Michael Jackson type uniforms, but Sergeant Pepper uniforms would be OK too.

(a) The Governor is commander-in-chief of the organized
militia, except when they are in the service of the United
States. He may call them out to enforce the laws, suppress
insurrection or repel invasion.
(b) The Governor shall commission militia officers who
shall hold their commissions for such time as may be provided
by law.

Except in cases of treason, felony or breach of peace,
persons going to, returning from or on militia duty are
privileged from arrest.

Well, it seems like I'm always on militia duty, so this could really come in handy.

By the way, there are some other interesting things. For instance, Article XIII, Section 4 makes the default no sovereign immunity, which reverses the general American trend of requiring a specific waiver of sovereign immunity. Sovereign immunity is a leftover from England when the monarch ruled in person. The monarch (or sovereign) had to consent to be sued in his own courts (hence, "immune" from suit). It is an inappropriate doctrine in a republic (where the people are the sovereigns), and I am glad that Illinois has generally waived it.


Because we all need to be able to waste time, check out the link forwarded me by my buddy F.

Friday, February 13, 2004


So, I talked a bunch of trash about winter and it not being a real winter. Last weekend I was Champaign for an alumni event and staying at an awful hotel near the expressway. It had snowed with some frozen rain down there, and they do NOT have the snow removal facilities that we have. Thus, their expectations for snow removal are much, much, much lower than ours.

I knew all of this. Then I got out of my car with a nutritious meal of taco salad and nachos belle grande from Taco Hell. I had to park across the lot from my room because all of the spots in front of my room were disabled parking. I started to walk across the lot, and realized it was solid ice. I started to take baby steps to ensure that I would not have an accident (falling on the ice, not peeing my pants). I carried my dinner, my briefcase, and my mp3 player. I also had some pop from the Taco Hell. My hands were quite full.

And then it happened, it really happened . . . My left foot appeared to flare into active rebellion and made a break for it away from my body. This triggered the authoritarian reaction from the rest of my body, which was to immediately rush toward the foot to seize control of it and bring it back. This annoyed the left knee, which reacted by somehow bending in, then back, then snapping forward in about .002 seconds. The knee's unexpected support of the foot's rebellion caught the body off guard, and the body was launched forward, as the foot's final escape petered out at the length of the leg. Meanwhile, the pop seized the opportunity to be liberated and returned with an explosive splash to the earth from which it came. The taco salad and nachos had a longer journey, as they flew over my head, propelled by the centrifugal force of the handles on the bag into the ground. The resulting explosion looked suspiciously like Taco Hell after a nasty night of drinking ends in regret.

So. The foot's rebellion was quelled, pop was everywhere, my dinner had exploded into vomit-like pieces, my face and upper torso were covered with snow, and my knee was on fire. I limped into my room tired, hurt, angry, hungry, and thinking how funny dinner looked all over the parking lot. My knee is still stiff, but it seems like I'll be OK.

Stoopid winter.

Monday, February 02, 2004


So, I finished Weaver on Strategy by Earl Weaver with Terry Pluto. I now know what it is like to talk to Earl Weaver, former Orioles manager, for about six hours. The prose is a little stilted, with quotes like, "a radar gun can be a big help. It enables you to know exactly how hard a pitcher is throwing. Knowledge like that eliminates the sneaky fastball." Ugh. However, there are a number of useful pieces of coaching wisdom if you make it through the conversational style. First, Weaver was always a stats guy, which is now in vogue. However, he was doing it in the 1970's. He also is a big believer in Big Baseball, so there is almost no bunting, hitting-and-running etc. in his game. Of course, he never addresses the crutch of the designated hitter in this analysis. Still, interesting to read a real nuts and bolts dissection of how stupid most bunts are.

Throughout the book, Weaver lists his ten laws of baseball. One, two, and eight are about getting the team ready for the season, three through six are all different ways of saying to go for the big inning. Seven and nine are defense, and ten is to preserve the integrity of the team. The laws are:

(1) No one's going to give a damn in July if you lost a game in March (Spring training).
(2) If you don't make any promises to your players, you won't have to break them (advice that goes beyond baseball…)
(3) The easiest way around the bases is with one swing of the bat.
(4) Your most precious possessions on offense are your twenty-seven outs.
(5) If you play for one run, that's all you'll get.
(6) Don't play for one run unless you know that run will win a ballgame.
(7) It's easier to find four good starters than five.
(8) The best place for a rookie pitcher is long relief.
(9) The key step for an infielder is the first one—left or right—but before the ball is hit.
(10) The job of arguing with the umpire belongs to the manager, because it won't hurt the team if he gets thrown out of the game.

All things considered, if young players actually learned (3) (in conjunction with 4 so they knew not to strike out all the time), (4) through (6), and (9), they would be doing OK. They would try to get on base on offense, and always get a good jump on the ball on defense.


The President sent a $2.4 trillion ($2,400,000,000,000.00) budget to Congress and Reuters has a headline saying that "Deficits Force Widespread Cuts in Bush Budget," and I'm thinking, "$2.4 trillion is WITH widespread cuts?" Can you imagine going to Amsterdam or Vegas with this guy? Drunken sailors are trying to get him to put the wallet away.


Come on, people. It was staged. It breaks my heart to know that Penny grew from the projects in Chicago, living with JJ, Thelma, Michael, Florida, James, and Willona to be a successful pop singer, and did something stupid like this. Just a damned shame.