07 December 2004

This cool link to videos shot from a camera mounted to a golden eagle comes to us from Gizmodo. Six brief videos await at Animal Planet.

27 September 2004

So John Kerry's Secret Service code name is Minuteman, presumably a reference to his Massachusetts roots. John Edwards was dubbed Speedway, a nod to North Carolina's NASCAR heritage. George Bush goes by Trailblazer, and Dick Cheney was unfortunately tagged Backseat. Couldn't they have done better by the former White House chief of staff, member of Congress, corporate CEO, and current vice president?

I'm curious what the Secret Service would name me. Lumberjack? Woodsman? Flannelman? A brief web search for a Secret Service code name generator turned up nothing, so please drop me a line if you find one.

21 June 2004

This evening I crossed a dangerous line. I ran in the rain.

Those who've known me for a while probably fell off their chairs when they read that I ran, much less in the rain. See, I really don't like jogging. I can (and have) run all day playing basketball, baseball, software, you name it. But I find jogging for the sake of jogging unbearably boring. And, at the risk of offending many friends, in my experience hard-core runners are among the most one-dimensional people I know. Every conversation seems to revolve around shoes, times, blisters, clubs, the lack of dating, and other mind-numbing topics.

There. I feel better. Not physically, mind you -- I'm not a runner -- but perhaps lashing out at those who are in far better shape than I will salve the pain coursing through my legs and lungs.

What I wouldn't give for a Quarter Pounder with Cheese...

18 May 2004

Randy Johnson threw a perfect game tonight, as the Diamondbacks beat the Braves 2-0. It's so hard for me to care, even about an event of such significance to the baseball world. It's been difficult for me to care about Major League Baseball since the last strike in 1994, when the participants caused the cancellation of the World Series.

Since then I've conducted my own boycott of MLB, having not paid for a game since the strike. This small act of defiance (disgust, more accurately) would undoubtedly be more difficult were it not for the free tickets I receive through friends and business associates.

Thankfully the MLB pinheads haven't ruined the game of baseball for me, just their rendering of it. I still love the sport, and enjoy playing it (not very well, mind you) much more than watching it. The experience of minor league baseball is immensely enjoyable, with the smaller, more intimate parks, lower prices for everything, and hungry, humble ballplayers.

But the Big Leagues are forever tainted; even the captivating home run race between Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa didn't lure me back. Bud Selig should take his place in the hall of fame of ineffectual leaders, with his plaque adorned with the photo of him at the 2002 All-Star game in Milwaukee -- his home stadium -- shrugging his shoulders before agreeing to a tie. A tie! And then compounding that astonishingly bad decision with another one: to let the outcome of the All-Star game determine home-field advantage in the World Series.

I could go on and on about Selig and MLB, but it frustrates me to think about it, much less write down my thoughts. So I'll cherish the childhood memories of Rick Burleson, Yaz, Dewey, Freddy Lynn, and the rest of the Sox, and try not to dismiss a truly praise-worthy accomplishment, like Randy Johnson throwing a perfect game.

17 April 2004

This evening I caught Tim Russert interviewing Cokie Roberts on his CNBC show. They discussed her new book, Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.

Roberts is an engaging storyteller, with an interesting ancestry. Her mother was a U.S. congresswoman from Louisiana, and an ancestor, William Claiborne, was a U.S. congressman from Tennessee in the 1790s. In fact, he was elected to the House of Representatives at age 23, even though the Constitution mandated a minimum age of 25.

Growing up in Virginia, Claiborne was close to Washington, Jefferson, Madison, et al; indeed, these gentlemen convinced him to move to Tennessee, as their presence in Virginia essentially precluded him from election in that state. So he moved next door to Tennessee, and, since he was the only candidate, was allowed to serve in Congress at such a young age.

Claiborne played a pivotal role in the famous presidential election of 1800. Back then the candidate with the most votes became the president, with the second-place candidate settling for vice president. Even though Thomas Jefferson’s main opponent was John Adams, Jefferson and Aaron Burr, his running mate, received the same number of electoral votes. So the election was tossed to the House of Representatives, where, on the 36th ballot, Jefferson emerged victorious.

One of the deciding votes was cast by young Claiborne, who was later rewarded by Jefferson with the governorship of the Louisiana Territory, and later the state of Louisiana.

I'll leave you with the book review from Publishers Weekly:

    ABC News political commentator and NPR news analyst Roberts didn't intend this as a general history of women's lives in early America -- she just wanted to collect some great "stories of the women who influenced the Founding Fathers." For while we know the names of at least some of these women (Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Eliza Pinckney), we know little about their roles in the Revolutionary War, the writing of the Constitution, or the politics of our early republic. In rough chronological order, Roberts introduces a variety of women, mostly wives, sisters or mothers of key men, exploring how they used their wit, wealth or connections to influence the men who made policy. As high-profile players married into each other's families, as wives died in childbirth and husbands remarried, it seems as if early America -- or at least its upper crust -- was indeed a very small world. Roberts's style is delightfully intimate and confiding: on the debate over Mrs. Benedict Arnold's infamy, she proclaims, "Peggy was in it from the beginning." Roberts also has an ear for juicy quotes; she recounts Aaron Burr's mother, Esther, bemoaning that when talking to a man with "mean thoughts of women," her tongue "hangs pretty loose," so she "talked him quite silent." In addition to telling wonderful stories, Roberts also presents a very readable, serviceable account of politics -- male and female -- in early America. If only our standard history textbooks were written with such flair!

12 April 2004

Last post I promised to share my favorite TV dramas, so here we go:

The Wire. Soon to commence its third season, HBO's The Wire is perhaps the most complex show I've seen, with a large, talented (and largely talented) cast, and the respect to play storylines out over multiple episodes. The writers realize viewers are with them for the long haul, and are thus not compelled to wrap a bow around each week.

Dominic West is the leading man, portraying Detective Jimmy McNulty (fans of Rock Star will remember West's line to Mark Wahlberg: "So, you want the gig then?"). Baltimore is the backdrop, with season one centering around the west side drug scene, and season two the docks. Climb on board for season three now, and bring a friend. You'll probably want to dig through the web site for character profiles and storylines from the first two seasons.

The second series is another cop show, The Shield. I came late to this game, following it beginning last year. Since then I've caught the last two seasons on reruns, fortunately, as this show, too, benefits from intricate storylines and history-minded writers. Many are thrown by the lead character, Detective Vic Mackey, the portrayal of whom won Michael Chiklis an Emmy. Mackey is a dirty cop. Plain and simple. He protects drug dealers -- for a cut of the action, of course. He and his crew steal money, too, but only from the "bad guys." For all of his twisted morality and brutal beatings, Mackey still cuts a compassionate character.

Set your PVR to snag these shows tonight and thank me later.

08 April 2004

Following the advice of my middle sister usually works out for me, and this week was no exception. She left a few messages directing me to watch Significant Others on Bravo. Holy crap it's a funny show. There's still time to see the original six episodes.

Speaking of funny TV, my other favorite comedy is Arrested Development on Fox. Ron Howard is the executive producer and, thankfully, the narrator.

As good as these shows are, for my money the funniest 30 minutes on TV belongs to Jon Stewart and the Daily Show.

Next up, the best dramas.