Sunday, July 30, 2006


. . . was not very interesting. I am not sure that there is even one thing I want to talk about. Israel and Hezbollah are fighting. The Congolese are voting. There is a mega-church pastor who is not politically a Bushite. You've heard it all before.

Meanwhile the Yankees traded for Bobby Abreau. $15 million this year for .277 hitting and 8 home runs. Of course his on base percentage is .427, but $15 million is a deal only the Yankees would make.

Saturday, July 29, 2006


RE: Your blog ....

I've never heard of ellipses before.... but now I know I love them.... use them all day long.... never really have a complete thought... periods make things so final.... I like to keep things going....

I feel so much better about the bridge.... thank you for the explanation.... it really scared me.... how come you never put me in your blog... [L] put me in her blog the other day! Oh... I do like exclamation points!

Oh no... Dusty just got booted... wish I could see them.... wish I wasn't in a little gray box!

What would you do if you received an e-mail like the above? Would you cave and post an entry about the person, or would you ignore them and hope they forgot you in a flurry of ellipses? Me, I caved.

The e-mail writer, L's sister M, was one of the most recent people to threaten me with a knife. I was down in Boogey with L's family. It was dinner time, which is chaotic out of all proportion at the family home. Everyone runs around like crazy, but there are just not that many people. I have always just gone to my designated seat and waited for the chaos to subside. However, this one time that was (apparently) not good enough.

M was on drinks duty. She was polling the table for drink orders. I was not paying sufficient attention. Suddenly M yelped my name, pointed a butcher knife at me, and asked very threateningly, "what kind of drink do you want?" I was scared and felt threatened. I had iced tea, which I hate. It was a survival mechanism. To this day she claims that the knife was for cutting lemons, but frankly I know a Jason knife when I see it.

And now M has been in my blog.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006



Three articles from our English-speaking cousins around the world caught my eye today. By the way, I am not including in this definition of "cousin" those places where English is widely spoken as a second, or third, or fourth language, but rather, those countries in which English is used in the courts, government, and other "official" uses. If I included every country with English-speaking people in it as "cousins" we'd be inbreeding like a family reunion in the state of you like to mock most for alleged inbreeding.

The Australians have apparently decided to translate the bible into Oz slang. You know, in case the Aussies lose the ability to read English. Apparently the second volume was released at a "sausage sizzle," which sounds like something that might have happened at the Gay Games, but is apparently Australian for a BBQ. A few select quotes from the article:
Mary was "a pretty special sheila."

Jesus was "God's toddler"

The Three Wise Men were "eggheads from out east."

It scares me a little that the hundreds-of-years-old King James translation is easier to understand than a contemporary Australian version.

The Christian Science Monitor had an article today about the Crinan Canal. The canal basically cuts through the sort of peninsula that you would not notice on a map. One wonders why it was dug. Whatever the original rationale, the canal is apparently now populated by eccentrics and other people itching to interact. Unlike the Panama Canal, the Suez Canal, or the Kiel Canal, boats move so slowly through this canal that boaters and locals apparently chat as the boats move through the canal. It sounds like one of the best eight hours you can spend on a boat.

Finally, the BBC reports on a part of Italy that has been overwhelmed by Scots. Interestingly it appears that the Scots have adopted Italian food in Italy, rather than transplanting Scots food. Probably a very wise decision.

Sunday, July 23, 2006


Do you know who Ben Stein is? He is a Yale trained attorney, who worked in the Nixon and Ford White Houses. He is also an actor (Bueller, Bueller), TV gameshow host, and sometime political commentator. Today he commented in the New York Times. The guy is a very interesting character, and clearly very smart. Unfortunately, he whiffed in today's comment.

See, Ben is remembering a time during his childhood when Americans shared and cooperated. He talks about his suburban neighborhood not having fences, and the (stay at home) mothers all taking care of each other's kids. He has a specific story about a neighbor installing a pool and making a schedule for other people to use the pool. Very nice. Stein contrasts this to his neighborhood in Beverly Hills. In that neighborhood, Stein does not know his neighbors, and there are tall fences everywhere. What Stein does not mention is that if his parents knew the neighbors, it was because they made the effort to meet those people. If Stein does not know them, it is because he has not made that effort. Ditto the fences and the pool. If you want a different world, Ben, start making one.

Speaking of people you may know, Stanley Fish was in the New York Times. Click on the link. Nice pic, Stan. You the man. Pimp dawg. Anyway, the article drags a little, but I like his point about academic freedom. He explains that "academic freedom" is not "freedom of speech." Instead

Academic freedom means that if I think that there may be an intellectual payoff to be had by turning an academic lens on material others consider trivial — golf tees, gourmet coffee, lingerie ads, convenience stores, street names, whatever — I should get a chance to try. If I manage to demonstrate to my peers and students that studying this material yields insights into matters of general intellectual interest, there is a new topic under the academic sun and a new subject for classroom discussion.

I wish I would have known this articulation when I was in undergrad. It could have come in handy.

The business section has an article about the New Yankee stadium due to open in 2008. It is sort of an interesting retrospective in Steinbrenner's time with the Yankees. However, the funny thing is that the writers are concerned about the ability of the new stadium to generate income sufficient for the Yankees to maintain their winning payroll. Are you kidding? The Yankees have not won the Series since 2000. They've won four World Series since 1980. While better than the Cubs (or anyone else), this is not the sort of dominance that the Yankees' payroll dominance would seem to dictate. Therefore, instead of worrying about the Yankees' ability to buy A-Rod, Sheffield, and all the rest, perhaps the business page folks could have talked to the sports folks and helped explain concepts like scouting, drafting, and player development to the Yankees. They worked for the White Sox, Red Sox, Marlins, Angels, and Diamondbacks.

As a special bonus, this weekend I had the opportunity to check out the Weekend Wall Street Journal. Interestingly, friend G sent me the same article I am about to blog about, but cannot link to. Anyway, this guy went on a tour of the Czech Republic, visiting small, family owned breweries that are building winery-type tourist facilities, including spas, for visitors. With the possible exception of the Belgians, the Czechs make the finest beer in the world, so this sounds like a totally excellent trip. Oh, and the Czechs are the masters of the defenestration.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


I usually don't post on very political topics. There are plenty of blogs out there, left and right, that beat these issues to death. However, the Attorney General said something that is really interesting to me. In specific, Gonzalez is quoted as saying that "the president 'has the inherent authority under the Constitution to engage in electronic surveillance without a warrant.'"

The source of "inherent" authority for the president under the Constitution must be found in Article II of the Constitution, or in the amendments. Within Article II, only Sections 2 and 3 set forth presidential powers. They are:

(1) be commander in chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the militia of the several states, when called into the actual service of the United States;
(2) require the opinion, in writing, of the principal officer in each of the executive departments, upon any subject relating to the duties of their respective offices;
(3) have power to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States, except in cases of impeachment;
(4) have power, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, to make treaties, provided two thirds of the Senators present concur;
(5) nominate, and by and with the advice and consent of the Senate, shall appoint ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls, judges of the Supreme Court, and all other officers of the United States, whose appointments are not herein otherwise provided for, and which shall be established by law;
(6) have power to fill up all vacancies that may happen during the recess of the Senate, by granting commissions which shall expire at the end of their next session; and
(7) take care that the laws be faithfully executed, and shall commission all the officers of the United States.

Frankly, I do not see "conduct needful wiretapping of international communications without warrant" on the list. In fact, only the Commander in Chief position even vaguely smacks of this authority, and neither the Army nor the Navy is conducting this wiretapping, so that looks like a loser. Besides, although Congress does not have the courage to exercise its rightful position, the Constitution is explicit in granting Congress broad foreign policy duties, including regulation of trade with foreign nations, declaring war, and making rules concerning captures on land and water. Congress is also responsible for several aspects of the military, including raising and supporting armies and navies.

If the president has "inherent authority" for wiretapping under any of the seven powers listed above, he has the "inherent authority" to do whatever he wants.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006


The Chicago Tribune had a story today about McDonald's cancelling the spiced up chicken sandwich they have. Apparently people weren't buying it. Ho hum. Whatever. However, the article did have this tidbit about past failures in McDonald's product development:

In 1962, the company briefly offered a sandwich with grilled pineapple and cheese for consumers going meatless during Lent. It failed to catch on and the next year was replaced by the Filet-O-Fish, which is now one of the company's standards.

Oh, sweet Jesus. Grilled pineapple with cheese from McDonald's? THAT must have been a Lenten sacrifice!

Monday, July 10, 2006


Last night on Sunday Night Baseball the sound feed from Houston went out. Joe Morgan and Jon Miller were suddenly mute. Blessedly mute. It was kind of nice. ESPN decided to put the ESPN Deportes feed through, and evidently asked Juan Marichal and Ernesto Jerez to announce in English. Marichal is very hard to understand in English. The flow of the patter was much worse in English than I am sure it is in Spanish. The insights were good, but haltingly delivered. These gentlemen had evidently been asked to switch languages mid-broadcast, and to switch away from their native language. They were having difficulty with the transition.

And they were still better than Joe Morgan.

Sunday, July 09, 2006


I do. If it was today's New York Times. Otherwise I really don't. Anyway, without further ado, first irritants first.

In my judgment Randy Cohen went 0 for 2 in today's Ethicist column. In the first set up a couple (man and woman) was held up at gun point and ordered to their automobile. As one of the thugs got in the rear driver's-side seat the man ran away with the keys, found an emergency call box, and called the authorities. He left the woman there. Cohen says of the man's jetting "I believe he made the wrong decision. Its happy outcome was the unpredictable result not of his being prudent but of the carjackers being jittery."

Let me start by saying that the outcome as it relates to her is completely irrelevant in judging his behavior. In the event she was unharmed, but that is not the point. The analysis should not start with whether the girlfriend was momentarily better or worse off the moment the man jetted. The analysis has to be whether the alternative to jetting was likely to produce a better net result. If the thugs had guns and the couple did not, the couple stood to be completely and utterly at the mercy of criminals. That is a very, very negative net result. There is zero indication that without jetting this outcome would have been avoided. Thus, jetting may have put the girlfriend in a worse position in that moment, but did not raise the likelihood of a worse net result. In other words, if the thugs had the drop on the couple and the thugs were planning to hurt the couple, not jetting would have lead to the exact same result as the worst-possible outcome from jetting. Hence, jetting was ethical.

Cohen then addresses a woman's concern with regard to a bicycle she has applied a self-help remedy to. The short version is that the bike was locked up for a year on a post and she reasonably ensured that nobody was unlocking it perodically without her knowledge. She then snipped the lock and took the bike. Cohen says that she acted ethically because in similar situations the police will often put a notice on the bike of the intention to take the bike, and after a sufficient period of time, take the bike. He equates the two acts. However, if she's worried about the "ethics" of the act, as opposed to the reality, why didn't *she* post notice of her intent? Isn't that a necessary part of the analysis for the city? Don't we all deserve notice before our property is seized? How did he miss this? That guy pisses me off.

Second, there was an article about modern RVs. I won't go into vivid detail, but in 400 square feet (apparently the legal maximum size) they now pack in up to four flat-screen TVs, a fireplace, a garage for four wheelers etc., and up to two bathrooms. All that and eight miles to the gallon. Wow.

Third, the Business Section had an article about the Golden Baseball League. The league is an independent baseball league based in the west. The founders were in business school at Stanford and apparently decided that an independent baseball league would be the way to get rich. Their economic model starts with the league owning all of the teams. That keeps salaries down. Of course, that management structure has not made MLS rich. Similarly, I see no indication that the Northern League, Can-Am League, or Atlantic League have made anyone wealthy. Meanwhile these guys are planning to expand to 80 teams. More power to them.

Fourth, the book review (of all sections) talked about a part of Katrina that I had not heard about. As part of a review the author says

While the government dithered, others filled the breach. Some of Brinkley's best writing describes the heroics of groups like the "Cajun Navy," composed of rural whites who strapped their boats to their pickups and traveled in caravans to New Orleans. Sweeping through black neighborhoods by day, sleeping in their trucks at night, the Cajuns saved close to 4,000 lives.

I had never heard this. I googled it to get more information. There does not seem to be much out there. A few passing references. Did the Cajuns really save 4,000 people? How can this not have been reported? This is a fantastic American story. If it happened, it should have been the counterpoint to the barbarity we saw at the Superdome.

Yesterday I bought a movie called Shaolin v. Ninja. The plot is kind of hard to follow, mostly because the dubbing is so random that the same voice appears to be used for more than one character per scene. Of course, we all know that in a movie called Shaolin v. Ninja, the "plot" is merely the device to (semi)logically get you from one martial arts fight to the next. I am lead to believe that to this extent Martial Arts movies and certain "adult" movies are similarly constructed. Or so I am told.

In any case, the fight scenes in this movie were great because they highlighted two of the great martial arts styles fighting head-to-head. Shaolin looks like the Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-type fighting, while ninjas are, well, ninjas. The movie did teach me something I did not expect. Namely, if given a chioce between fighting like a Shaolin monk and having a ninja sword, take the monk-style. Those swords appear to be vastly overrated.

The movie also made me think about other fantastic combinations. You know, peanut butter and chocolate. How about King Kong versus Godzilla? Then, of course, there is the entire Abbott & Costello body of work with Frankenstein, Dracula, Wolfman, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. And, of course, the ultimate. Alien versus Predator.

Friday, July 07, 2006


There are three things I think this fine Friday in the Chi.

First, I think that everyone has heard that Ken Lay, of Enron fame, died of a heart attack this week. That is tough on his family and those who cared for him. On a personal level, it is tragic for those people. That being said, this article, which has quotes like "'Given all the pain and anxiety and stress that Ken had to endure, it would be hard for any person to hold up,' O'Melveny & Myers partner Daniel M. Petrocelli told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday" are on the wrong track. Ken Lay was convicted of defrauding people out of $43 million. The net amount of anxiety and stress he "endured" likely pales in comparison to the anxiety and stress felt by the people bilked out of $43 million. An article about the stress of being a white collar defendant is fine, but don't make Ken Lay a martyr.

Second, I think that the underlying, unspoken agenda of many (but not all) anti-immigration types is captured in this op-ed piece from the Christian Science Monitor. For jiminy cricket, the author harks fondly back to when Eisenhower instituted "Operation Wetback" to round up and deport Mexicans working in the United States illegally. Are they kidding? Operation Wetback? The article also fondly recalls massive Federal sweeps of farms and factories, and renting busses to drive arrested aliens deep into Mexico to make it harder for them to get back into the United States. Golly Beav, how about we round up all the foreigners and deport them!

Third, I think that this lady was probably pissed to realize she had forgotten whatever she forgot in her car, and I think that she probably never imagined that someone would have a camera and a blog...

Tuesday, July 04, 2006


I was unaware of the show on E! called The Girls Next Door. For some reason, E! was running a marathon of this show this four-day weekend. See, the show is a reality show with Hugh Hefner (Chicagoan, Illinois grad) and his three girlfriends. Hef has espoused a "libertarian" perspective on sexual relations, and even claimed it as the guiding principle for his magazine.

You can imagine my dismay at watching this show with Hef's girlfriends. They are Holly Madison, Bridget Marquardt, and Kendra Wilkenson. Holly is Hef's number one girl (she supposedly is the one who shares his bed every night). She got jealous of Hef's old squeeze, Barbi Benton. She talks like she is the den mom of the mansion. She is essentially a middle-aged suburban mom hanging with Hef. Bridget gets along very well with Holly. Hef has lost his way. Come back to the Chi Hef. LA has lead you astray.

Monday, July 03, 2006


Speaking of independence, there have been several recent articles in the New York Times about the completion of a train line from Beijing to Lhasa, Tibet. Sunday's article discussed some of the engineering and cost issues associated with the line, as well as some of the political concerns. The line officially cost $4.1 billion to construct, although it almost certainly cost way more. Apparently the gross domestic product of Tibet in 2005 was $3.12 billion. The line has a number of bridges constructed over permafrost, with a system of underground pipes to ensure that there is a constant block of ice for the pylons to rest on. Some of the passes it goes through are at 16,000 feet. Apparently altitude sickness is a real problem. People seem to be concerned that the train represents a new means for the Chinese government to import Han Chinese into Tibet and dilute the Tibetan culture and race. People are also concerned that tourism will erode the Tibetan culture. They are probably both right to an extent. On the other hand, the Chinese are not going away, and Tibet is unlikely to regain its independence any time soon. An influx of tourists might give the Chinese a reason to leave temples, monks, etc. alone. Therefore, on balance, it appears to me that the train line might help Tibet more than it hurts. Let's hope so.

In other news, apparently the Anglicans are really going at it. The Nigerian Church (Anglican Communion) has elected a bishop to act as a missionary to the United States so that Nigerian Angicans, as well as disgruntled conservative American groups who are not comfortable with the more liberal Episcopal Church. Meanwhile, the more traditional liberal Episcopalians are shaken by this division, as well as a plan coming from England that would leave the Episcopalian church "Anglican" but not "fully Anglican" because of its liberal policies. Whew. I had no idea that it was so interesting being an Episcopalian.

The times also had an article about AOL and its customer service problems. Apparently AOL fights people tooth and nail when they try to cancel. Sometimes they just don't do it. They just keep sending you bills and providing service. They pay people based on their number of retentions when people call to cancel. I sort of felt bad as I read it. Then I realized that these are people who still use AOL in 2006! Are you kidding me? You get what you get, I guess.

It was not a great week in the paper.