Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Generally subways built near water are below sea level. I have no link for that. I just am pretty sure it stands to reason. The subways in Chicago go below the Chicago River. I am pretty sure they are lower than Lake Michigan. After all, presumably the city is built a little above sea level, and the subways are . . . you know . . . below that.

Amsterdam, like New Orleans, is actually below sea level. Were the dykes (that'll increase my search-engine driven traffic) and other flood control methods to fail, much of the city would be inundated by the IJ River and ultimately the North Sea. That's why this story is fascinating. The Dutch are building a subway in Amsterdam. The city is apparently basically built in pylons driven into the sand with homes built on top of the pylons. Thus, it is crucial as they dig the subway that they not rip through the pylons, since this would cause the structure to collapse. Therefore, they are using mirrors and lasers to measure movement to half a milimeter as they drill. Seems like a lot of trouble for 2.4 miles of subway.

Oh, and how were other subways built? Much more simply. See here for pictures showing that lots of New York involved just removing the street, building the subway, and paving over the top. Chicago did the same thing.

Monday, July 30, 2007


Eddy Curry was robbed in his Burr Ridge home last week. Burr Ridge is a suburb of Chicago. Curry is (allegedly) an NBA player. Interestingly, Antoine Walker was robbed in Chicago a few weeks ago. He is an NBA player. In both cases armed men entered the home, tied up the athelete and others present and took money and jewels. Now the police think that perhaps the robberies are connected. Do you think? Someone got the bright idea that robbing NBA stars might be easy money and has targeted two of them so far? Do you think? Jeez.

Meanwhile, apparently one of Michael Vick's co-defendants pled guilty. Uh-oh. Mike is in trouble. The charges are for conspiring to do a bunch of things that are illegal. Now one of the alleged conspirators is about to say what he knows. That does not bode well for young number 7. It might be time for the Falcons to look for a quarterback. Also, both Falcon fans should probably take this opportunity to jump off the Vick bandwagon and immediately seek a MARTA bus to throw him under.

Finally, Referee Tim Donaghy's gambling issues and his NBA affiliation have been well-discussed throughout the media. What is more interesting is the stories I have seen from the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer, and New York Daily News (via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution) about his high school. Donaghy attended Cardinal O'Hara High School outside Philadelphia. There are three other NBA referees who went to the same school. Still, it is just not clear to me why people are asking his high school teachers, classmates, etc. about Donaghy. What high school did Michael Vick go to? Or most of the people in the news. I don't understand how his high school ended up in the spot light too.

Thank God that Barry Bonds did not tie or break Hank Aaron's home run record on the weekend that Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken were inducted into the Hall of Fame. That would have been the worst distraction ever from two guys who played the right way. Although, Cal did seem to hurt the O's near the end of The Streak by playing when he should not have . . . Anyway, the Times had an interesting article about producing the plaques at Cooperstown. It turns out that the faces are sculpted using photos and old video (as available). The inductee does not pose, since they are generally seeking a look from the person's playing career (at least five years in the past). This is all in contrast to the NFL Hall of Fame, where the inductees get full busts and are intimately involved with producing the bust. Interesting stuff.

The Chicago Tribune magazine had a very good article about one of the founding myths of Chicago. In specific, the story is that in 1885 there was a huge storm that caused polluted water to sweep out of the Chicago River into the city's drinking water supply, sparking an outbreak of disease that killed one in eight Chicagoans. Thus, the city fathers caused the Sanitary & Shipping Canal to be built, which allowed the flow of the river to be reversed, and dumped Chicago's waste on St. Louis. The problem is that the disease outbreak in 1885 was feared, but never happened. The article very nicely tracks the creation of the urban legend that would become the story, right up to the creation from whole cloth of the death toll of 90,000. Fascinating. By the way, the flow of the Chicago River was reversed, mostly to draw waste away from the lake, but not because there was an outbreak of disease in 1885. Check out the Deep Tunnel project page for just how crazy Chicago is about sewage.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007


This morning at 3:20 in the morning an SUV exploded outside of a night club in Chicago. With just that headline the first thing that springs to mind is the attempt to blow up two car bombs outside of a night club in London. That's why the following line in the Tribune article was really surprising: "Henry said there were no immediate indications that the explosion was suspicious."

What? I mean, I can imagine that "explosion" has a range of intensities, and that there could be a normal malfunction that could cause something that could reasonably be called an "explosion." However, can those ever not be suspicious?

Monday, July 16, 2007


I think we have covered this before. "Disinterested" means "unbiased by personal interest or advantage; not influenced by selfish motives: a disinterested decision by the referee." "Uninterested" means "having or showing no feeling of interest; indifferent."

In fairness to those of you I am yelling at here, dictionary.com has the following usage note:

Disinterested and uninterested share a confused and confusing history. Disinterested was originally used to mean “not interested, indifferent”; uninterested in its earliest use meant “impartial.” By various developmental twists, disinterested is now used in both senses. Uninterested is used mainly in the sense “not interested, indifferent.” It is occasionally used to mean “not having a personal or property interest.”Many object to the use of disinterested to mean “not interested, indifferent.” They insist that disinterested can mean only “impartial”: A disinterested observer is the best judge of behavior. However, both senses are well established in all varieties of English, and the sense intended is almost always clear from the context.

Sunday, July 15, 2007


The New York Times on Sunday had a story about a street gang in south Nashville. What was interesting was that the gang is called Kurdish Pride and is a Kurdish street gang. As is so often the case with immigrant groups, at least some of the immigrant kids feel like they need to protect the neighborhood, and defend the culture. Given the uncertainty Kurds face in Turkey, Iraq, and Iran, it is perhaps not shocking that the kids feel like they are doing good to do *something*. They are wrong, but it is not all that surprising.

Notwithstanding the uncertainty Kurds face, I knew some people in high school who you could really see feeling like they needed to band together. They were called the Assyrian Eagles and the membership was . . . Assyrian. Now, you know your ethnicity is obscure when people hear the name and say things like, "From Damascus?" Then you have to explain that, no, Assyrians are generally Christians, and are Semetic people who speak a language similar to Akkadian. Ay carumba!

So, Kurdish Pride, if you spread to the North Side, beware the Assyrian Eagles! I mean, if they are still around almost 20 years later.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007


The Chinese Communist Party has announced that it has added 2.6 million members in 2006. That brings the total number of members to roughly 72.39 million. That's quite an achievement. I mean, for a one-party state with over a billion people in the country. I mean, they can probably have about as many members as they want.

Oh, the minefields of being a television personality/newsreader/reporter! How can one make it through without the occasional transgression? Two recent examples show just how frought this area is.

First, in Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa recently went public not only with his impending divorce, but also part of the reason for it. Meet Ms. Mirthala Salinas of Telemundo. It is not clear whether Ms. Salinas reported on the mayor while they were romantically involved. She asked to be removed from the political beat about a year ago, and was removed about 11 months ago. Of course, if that request was motivated by "feelings" for the mayor, there is no way of knowing whether her reporting had already been compromised when she made the request. Who knew it was problematic to be romantically involved with someone you are reporting on.


Meanwhile, here in the Chi, one of the "general assignment" reporters for the NBC affiliate, Amy Jacobson has herself in at least the appearance of impropriety. See, she was covering the story of a guy whose wife disappeared the day she was to evict them from their home (they were divorcing). Odd timing, right? Anyway, the woman disappeared April 30. She remains missing. Meanwhile, Ms. Jacobson is apparently on tape at the house with the husband (and others) with her kids using the pool. Who would have known that was going to be perceived poorly? Now it has cost Ms. Jacobson her job at NBC. As noted by Phil Rosenthal of the Tribune, the fact that Jacobson left so quickly kind of smells like there is more going on here, but maybe Jacobson and her people knew to try to rehabilitate her as quickly as possible. And, Anonymous, Anna Davlantes is here, where it notes that she went to my high school (a year ahead of me). Oh, and M here at work just tipped me off to this video of Anna in a wet suit. She does not hold a candle to NBC alumna Robin Meade.

By the way, Telemundo is owned by NBC, as is the Chicago NBC affiliate, which means that NBC just had a rough ethics week.

Monday, July 02, 2007


Remember Salman Rushdie? He is that writer who was under a fatwa for writing a book that more people read because of the fatwa. Slick move that fatwa. Anyway, Rushdie is definitely a guy who punches above his weight in romantical (to coin a word) terms. We know that because Sir Rushdie (as he is now known) was married to this lady. He is this dude.

Well, he was. Rushdie is coming back to the mean, as he and Ms. Lakshmi are set to divorce. Of course, she is Rushdie's fourth wife, so he could be back in the saddle relatively soon, I guess. I mean, there are plenty of women 20 years and 30 points more attractive than him to whom he has not yet been married . . .

Yesterday L, U, and I (as in "me" not someone for whom "I" would be appropriate) went to a family gathering in the ex-urbs. Traffic sucked in the city. I was not sure why. Since the state got rid of the cashboxes, it is usually not that bad anymore. Then I realized that everyone was getting off at the northbound Tristate. I was listening to the Cubs game when they did a news break. They reported THIS. A truck tipped over on the Edens (which the northbound Tristate eventually meets up with later) so that "pig ears, feet and grease covered all three northbound lanes of the Edens." They closed the Edens. For seven hours. To clean up pig guts.

Meanwhile, in Gaza Hamas has taken a show off the air that depicted a Mickey Mouse rip-off that preached Islamism to children. How do you take a beloved character off the air? You could have them be drafted into the army and shipped to Greenland. Alternatively there is "Lt. Colonel Henry Blake's plane shot down over the Sea of Japan. It spun out of control. There were no survivors." Well, in Hamasland the following happened: "In the final skit, the 'Farfur' character was killed by an actor posing as an Israeli official trying to buy Farfur's land. At one point, the mouse called the Israeli a 'terrorist.'" Said the (teenaged) presenter "Farfur was martyred while defending his land." Ah, that's quality television.

Apparently Canadians are taking up the push lawn mower. I sympathize with this. I have a small lawn and thought the push mower would be my ticket to environmental friendly, clean lawnism. I have news for Canada. Get an electric mower. The push mower will break your heart and have you mowing twice a week. An electric costs only a little more money, is pretty quiet, and is less of an environmental disaster than a gas mower. Trust me.

I am ashamed to say that I got this link from Eric Zorn, who is a tool. Anyway, the link marries random quotes from Nietzsche with random Family Circus comics. It is surprisingly, perfectly hilarious.