Wednesday, January 31, 2007


No really. Paul Wolfowitz is pictured below with holes in his socks. I have holes in MY socks! Apparently Mr. Wolfowitz is no better at reviewing his schedule before getting dressed than I am.

(AP Photo/Nadir Alp/Anatolia)

L and I are working on baby names. It ain't so easy. We don't know the gender, so we need a few of each. I thought I would throw out a few of the names currently kicking around. Maybe people can add some insight. These are not even really finalists. Just things we are considering.

For boys, we have been thinking of Thomas and Timothy. Thomas is about the 40th most popular boys name in the United States right now, and has good saints, and saints, and saints behind it. Unfortunately, Thomas means "twin" which is not appropriate for our child (so say the ultrasounds). Timothy is about the 84th most popular boys name in the United States. Timothy is tough with the saints. While one rolled with St. Paul, all of the others I was looking at are martyrs from the fourth century. Not good stuff. On the positive side, Timothy means something like "honoring God."

For girls, with which we have struggled mightily, we have been thinking of Charlotte and Ida. Charlotte is the 135th most popular girls name in the United States. There does not appear to be a saint named Charlotte, and the meaning seems to be derived from the name "Charles" of which it appears to be a feminine pet name (in French). Thus, while it sounds nice, and has a good nickname ("Lottie") it has some impediments. Ida has fallen out of the top 1000 most popular names in the United States. This is a good thing. Apparently St. Ida is also St. Ita, who was an Irish saint. Not a bad saint, but not super either.


Monday, January 29, 2007


I'm no expert on Islam. At all. I know some basics, like the Five Pillars of Islam, the Shahadah, and some history. That isn't really very much. Still, I think there may be some misunderstanding going on.

Apparently Jermaine Jackson has decided that Michael Jackson should convert to Islam. This is a good idea, per Jermaine, because
Michael, I feel, needs to become a Muslim because I think it's a great protection for him from all the things that he's been attacked with, which are false. There's a strength and protection there. I was the reason why he had gone there because I wanted him to get out of America and just go somewhere it's peaceful and quiet and people pray five times a day which is beautiful.

Ah yes. I am sure that this Michael, this Michael, or this Michael is every Muslim's dream convert. Actually, as far as that goes, do you think Michael understands that this is not typical dress for men in the Islamic world? In fact, this is more like what Michael is wearing in the picture, and, Michael, those aren't men. Moreover, Michael might want to get a load of this article, which indicates that Saudi Arabia executed three Yemenis for child molestation. Apparently their homosexuality didn't help their case, but I suspect that distinction won't give a lot of comfort to Jacko.

Friday, January 26, 2007


I just finished the second book of Tariq Ali's Islamic Quintet. The first book was called Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, and was set in Spain immediately after the Reconquista, and is written from a Muslim perspective. It is revisionist history, calling into question the history we learn in school that once the Muslims were driven out of Spain the civilization of the peninsula could be developed. It is a very interesting story, and pretty well-crafted.

The second book is the Book of Saladin: A Novel. It is the story of Salah al-Din (aka Saladin) and the ejection of the Crusaders from Jerusalem in 1187. Again, it is revisionist history, but the perspective is interesting. Rather than the history many of us learned, in which the Crusades were (generally) morally sound, and where the Crusaders fought a good, noble fight, in this book the "Franj" are savages who slaughter women and children.

One of the criticisms I have seen of these books is that they are anti-Western. And so they are. There is no doubt that the Muslim perspective on the West in these books is one of a superior culture looking down on a crude culture. If reading a book from that perspective is beyond you, avoid these books (and return to your job in the President's cabinet). Otherwise, the books are interesting, and provide a different perspective.

By the way, I have started the third book, The Stone Woman, which is set in the Ottoman Empire in the period of about 1870 to 1910 (or so). I just started it this morning, so I don't know if it is as good as the other two.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Tank Johnson likes guns. We know that because he has been twice arrested for "weapons violations." The second time was during this season, and apparently that was a violation of his "probation," which the law enforcement community seems quite fixated on. In any case, this means that he will have a "trial" and may be found "guilty" and go to "jail." All of which is scheduled for AFTER the Super Bowl. Which is very important, since Tank Johnson is a starter on the Super Bowl-bound Bears.

States often are unwilling to allow people who are scheduled to have "trials" to leave the state. This is important because of some lawyer crap called "personal jurisdiction." Otherwise something called "extradition" might become necessary. States seek to avoid this. For this reason, people scheduled to have "trials" generally have to get the permission of a judge to leave the state.

And so Tank Johnson went before Cook County Judge John Moran to ask permission to leave Illinois for the Super Bowl. This page should make it clear why Moran really probably only had one option: let Johnson go. He did, and it looks like da will of da people is being done. It's the first time I was ever glad that we elect our judges in Illinois.

P.S. Click on the trials links. They are all different and took quite a bit of google work to find.

Sunday, January 21, 2007


OK, I stayed up too late last night, so I got up late, missed Mass, and only got to read two sections of the paper before the Monsters' game. Thus, this will be an abbreviated report. By the way, I am very happy about the Bears, but I am concerned about them. They are an imperfect team, and Tom Brady is a machine. I am concerned that this coould be revenge for 1985. Of course, it is only halftime in the AFC game, so maybe there will be a miracle and I will say "screw the Colts."

On the front page, the Paper of Record reported on the effort to repopulate New Orleans. New Orleans had about 440,000 people before Katrina. Now it has about 199,000, they think. People are arguing about whether the smaller population is more appropriate for New Orleans's economy, and lamenting the fact that the people who are not returning are the poor and unemployed. They are also ignoring the fact that there has been a significant influx of Hispanics into New Orleans since Katrina. New Orleans will change, but the mouth of the Mississippi will always be the home of a major city.

Buried further in the front page was a story about Spanish Harlem. Turns out that Spanish Harlem is becoming the Upper Upper East Side. Even above 96th Street there are white boys paying $2800 a month for apartments. They have a bunch of stuff about the changing face of the neighborhood, and the influx of Mexicans and whites. What was different about this story than most of its ilk was this quote: “Is it a right to live here or a privilege? Is it a right to have an apartment facing Park Avenue? We cannot expect that we have a right to live where we want to live.” That is true. Neighborhoods change in healthy cities.

Finally, the Sports section had an interesting article about Barry Bonds. Apparently even in San Francisco his popularity has begun to wane. People are still pro-Barry because he still produces, but there does seem to be an undercurrent of dislike. If San Franciscans turn on Bonds, nobody will have any use for the guy.

ADDENDUM: So, the Colts pulled the miracle. And so, I say, Screw the Colts. Also, there will be no predictions here. I am unabashedly rooting for the Bears. I want them to win, and I don't really care about the analysis etc. This is about fandom.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


OK, I know that I am responsible for your musical development. I understand that. It is why I try to keep my ear to the ground. Be forewarned though. I mostly only like hip-hop, with some other stuff (see, e.g. Lily Allen). Anyway, what are kids listening to now? I don't know. Probably some crap. What's the last thing I heard that I was digging on?

The guy/concept is "Girl Talk" and the album is Night Ripper. He is a white boy from Steel City, and his mash-ups are something to behold. The album is $10 plus shipping from the record company. On it is up to $49. Seriously. Score these tunes and be hip. Download the free copy of Bounce That for a sample.

Of course, I tried to hip you before, and Lily Allen *is* pretty hip. Still, I was in a Starbuck's last Sunday (don't ask, it had to do with my pregnant wife and the Church) and they had Lily Allen piped in over the loud speaker. Suddenly Lily Allen is much less hip than she was.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


I had a fortune cookie today, and the fortune was as true as anything I have ever read. It said: "Handsome is that handsome dose."

Indeed. Indeed.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


Well, the Bears stumbled into the NFC Championship Game. And now they are in a no-win situation. See, next week the New Orleans Saints come to town. If the Bears lose, the season ends in tears. If the Bears win, they beat the team that gave New Orleans a reason to smile. New Orleans. You remember them right? The Superdome, the dead, the destroyed city. A no-win situation.

Speaking of the Monsters, the Times had an article on Brian Urlacher. They started from the premise that the Bears have had extraordinary middle linebackers, with three in the Hall of Fame. Then they talked to Dick Butkus about Urlacher. Butkus said all the right stuff, but he dropped this gem,
The first thing people talk about is speed, but hitting hard can bring out a guy’s yellow streak. I did it not so much to intimidate, but to create turnovers. Maybe if the guy is worried about you, he won’t be as worried about protecting the ball. It’s so hard to compare different eras, and we all have our own style. Mine worked for me. His works for him.
In other words, Butkus doesn't think Urlacher hits hard enough? Wow. By the way, Dick's Newspaper Grill strikes me as a wonderful, wonderful product. But I don't want one.

Speaking of great products, apparently the best deal going is to be a rich person in Switzerland. The Swiss cantons are constitutionally able to negotiate individual tax deals with non-Swiss citizens. So, the founder of Ikea lives in Switzerland, as do Michael Schumacher, some French dude named "Johnny Hallyday"(who was separated at birth from Bonaduce), as well as a bunch of others. Interestingly, they may only be non-Swiss. That is generating some (predictable) irritation among the Swiss, who think that even the very wealthy need to pay taxes.

Speaking of the rich living among us, apparently Edgardo Alfonzo's $6.5 million mansion in Queens is for sale. It seems that Little Neck, Queens is not known for its mansions. The place may be a real steal. The price is already cut from $8 million, and the house has:
In the basement, in Met colors of blue and orange, there is a batting cage, which is just off the home theater and down the hall from the pink marble spa and the full-service exercise room. There are five large bedrooms and six bathrooms, one in sparkling white and gold onyx. And outside there are a swimming pool, a hot tub and several expansive limestone terraces.

In another example of someone not getting it, the Germans are using their time in the European Union's presidency to push all of Europe to standardize laws against denying the holocaust. The Germans want it to be a three year prison sentence for people who deny the holocaust, and identical in all 27 member states. That is repugnant to me as an American, and I think will probably be a non-starter for the Brits. After all, living with the First Amendment, we see that people with stupid, fringey opinions like this are marginalized by open debate. They seem to gain strength when they are not engaged.

Meanwhile, in the United States, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs proved that he is an asshole. He did this by indicating that he was "dismayed" that lawyers at many top American law firms have represented detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He also indicated that their corporate clients should pull their business from these firms. You know it is an asshole point when Alberto Gonzalez is able to understand how our system of justice works. Gonzalez said, “Good lawyers representing the detainees is the best way to ensure that justice is done in these cases.” Exactly Mr. Attorney General. Exactly. By the way, Stimson is a George Mason law graduate. They must be so proud.

I realize that many people are not required to go through a pre-marriage counseling event like pre-Cana for Catholics. L and I thought pre-Cana was sort of silly, but we had been together for ten years by then. Anyway, the Times published a short(ish) list of questions to ask before you get married that is really pre-Cana in fifteen questions:
1) Have we discussed whether or not to have children, and if the answer is yes, who is going to be the primary care giver?
2) Do we have a clear idea of each other’s financial obligations and goals, and do our ideas about spending and saving mesh?
3) Have we discussed our expectations for how the household will be maintained, and are we in agreement on who will manage the chores?
4) Have we fully disclosed our health histories, both physical and mental?
5) Is my partner affectionate to the degree that I expect?
6) Can we comfortably and openly discuss our sexual needs, preferences and fears?
7) Will there be a television in the bedroom?
8) Do we truly listen to each other and fairly consider one another’s ideas and complaints?
9) Have we reached a clear understanding of each other’s spiritual beliefs and needs, and have we discussed when and how our children will be exposed to religious/moral education?
10) Do we like and respect each other’s friends?
11) Do we value and respect each other’s parents, and is either of us concerned about whether the parents will interfere with the relationship?
12) What does my family do that annoys you?
13) Are there some things that you and I are NOT prepared to give up in the marriage?
14) If one of us were to be offered a career opportunity in a location far from the other’s family, are we prepared to move?
15) Does each of us feel fully confident in the other’s commitment to the marriage and believe that the bond can survive whatever challenges we may face?

And that's what was in the New York Times.

Monday, January 08, 2007


Archbishop Stanisław Wielgus was set to be installed as the Cardinal of Warsaw. Then revelations came out that he collaborated with the secret police during the Communist era. Now the Vatican says that it did not know of Wieglus' past.

All I know is that JPII would never have been caught unaware of the past of a man set to be a Cardinal in Poland. He might have forgiven the man. He might have made an argument for national reconciliation. He might have stuck the man in a dead-end job somewhere in rural Poland. But he would *never* have been caught unaware.

Sunday, January 07, 2007


So, it's about time to get back to our normal routines. Today was the Feast of the Epiphany, bringing an official end to the Christmas season. Time for the lights to come down and the tree to get fly dumped in the neighbors . . . er recycled.

First, the Times had a pretty detailed account of the controversy and conflict between the United States authorities and the Iraqi authorities with regard to Saddam's execution. The long and the short of it? The current Iraqi government had decided to kill Saddam. The United States officials were intent on crossing the legal t's and dotting the legal i's, while the Iraqis understood that killing Saddam was a political act, more than a legal act. And so, the United States has maintained legal cover, while the Arab world understands that revenge was had on Saddam.

Next, a story from Delhi shows us again that access to justice is too often dependent on wealth. It seems that dozens of young people have been reported missing from slums in Delhi. Roughly half of the reports did not cause an investigation to be initiated. The police said things like "your daughter is beautiful. She probably eloped." Instead, at least 17 chopped-up bodies were found in a sewer a few minutes walk from the slum. Many of the victims were reported missing, but the police did not look for them. Now they found them, and it is unclear how many more victims will be found. It would be nice to pretend that this is a problem we don't have in America, but that is not true.

On a somewhat lighter note, apparently a video has been made to help people from New Orleans who have settled in Houston. Some of the tips? Get rid of your 504 area code cell and get one with a 713 or 832 number. Also, "'You should leave the rap or jazz intros out of your voice messaging system so that employers know that you are serious about finding a job.'" Wait, let me get this straight. My voice mail with "Big Pimpin'" as the intro is unprofessional? I had no idea. By the way, the area code thing is interesting, since it is not clear to me that those will mean anything in ten years.

Fourth, never get involved in a love triangle on the internet with a coworker where everyone except you is lying about who they are, and the woman is at least two states away. How do I know this? This insane story. Man A is a 48 year old manufacturing worker in outside Buffalo. He created an on-line persona in which he was an Iraq War veteran in his 20s. Woman is a forty-something year old West Virginian who adopted her daughter's identity on-line and said she was an 18 year old looking to meet men. Man B was a 20 something co-worker of Man A's who was found on-line by Woman after Man A mentioned Man B on-line. Man A shot and killed Man B, apparently because of his role in the "relationship." Man A is what is known as a LOSER. Poor Man B, who was doing nothing wrong and got caught up with a couple of fortysomething clowns on-line.

Fifth, in light of our impending addition, I know what a "Bugaboo" is. Scary, right? Anyway, the Times reported that Bugaboo has created day trips for parents to take with their kids and their strollers. The Chicago trip is very, very yuppie-centric, but so is the Bugaboo, so I guess that is fair.

Sixth, it turns out that Venezuela is a big trailer park. I had no idea. Venezuelans from the lower classes apparently favor "flamboyant" names. Examples in the article include: Taj-Mahal Sánchez, Elvis Presley Gomez Morillo, Darwin Lenin Jimenez, Hitler Eufemio Mayora, Yusmairobis, Nefertitis, Yaxilany, Riubalkis, and Debraska. Debraska? I was stunned by Darwin Lenin. I was stunned by Hitler. Debraska? That is pure genius. It's like watching an episode of My Name is Earl.

So, that's what was in today's paper. Now you know.