Friday, April 29, 2005

Rush Limbaugh beatch slapped by Clay Aiken fans

Yes, it is true. The mighty Clay Army brought the Dittohead general to his oxycontin soothed knees.

What a strange world! I'm quite sure this is the second sign of the apocalypse, after Satan being elected Pope.

They never told us Barney was fixed

Zoo Reverses Vasectomy on Bush Dog - AP Headline

(I am sure Taranto will pick up on this one. I wanted to beat him to it.)

Survivor Palau: Episode 11

Disclaimer: This week's recap is even lamer than most. The show ran an hour later than normal and crowded my bedtime, and a pulled muscle in my back made hunching over a keyboard somewhat painful. Still, here we go.

Night 27 finds the Survivors baffled by Probst's brow-beating them out of a vote. "What the hell was that?" asks Ian. Steph, who was essentially saved by Probst, is at the same time confused and ticked off. Tom proceeds to blow smoke up her tail, saying that they had all changed their minds anyway. Steph pledges to figure out what is going on, but I don't think she will have much luck, because no one else knows what's going on. Gregg is scared, because Steph is destabilizing his little world. Word to Gregg: a woman like Steph would destabilize any world you occupy.

Day 28 finds Steph trying still noodling. I note that this is a lotta Steph real quick; are the editors playing the old "higlight tonight's loser" game?

For his part, Tom pleads for mercy. The guy who killed a freaking shark with his bare hands pleads for his life, although nobody seems moved at all. In fact, the irony is not lost on the others either.

The women dance around a tentative alliance, subject to Caryn's approval, and Tom is identified as a likely target for elimination. I might pause here to remark upon Steph's right thigh. Best. Looking. Gam. Ever. Mia Hamm would covet those thighs. Hell, Derek Jeter would like legs like that. Word to Steph's boyfriend in New Jersey: You da man.

Day 28 and treemail arrives. Tom predicts food and money. And he's right. Time for the de riguer Survivor food auction, possibly the dullest reward game on the show. Each survivor is given $500US to spend on whatever is up for bids. Probst helpfully tells us this is the same currency used on Palau. Does Greenspan know about this?

First item is covered by a tent, up for blind bids. Jenn wins at $120 and buys an ice cream sundae. It's so good, she is literally shaking.

Item 2, again blind. Steph and Caryn team up to spend $260 and then Probst goes all Monty Hall on them. They can keep what they bought or trade for the box that Jay is bringing down the aisle. (Readers under 40 will have no idea what that means) They make the switch, giving up crackers and cheese for a cheeseburger, fries, and a soft drink. I guess the producer couldn't even get Mr. Pibb to buck up for that promo.

Item 3 goes to Ian for $300, with Gregg paying $20 for a bite. Ian gets the same bait and switch treatment, but sticks with his original purchase. He ends up with spaghetti and garlic bread, avoiding the live sand crabs on Jay's tray. Close call. Ian is so happy he hugs Probst, who promptly declares, "Wow you smell, Ian! You reek."

Item 4 is revealed. a cold beer, bought promptly by Ian for $40 to wash down his spaghetti.

Item 5 is letters from home. Tom, who has not bought a food item yet, wins with a $220 bid.

That marks the end of the auction, and Caryn, Steph, and Kim all have enough cash to match Tom's bid and buy their letter, too. As they leave, Probst remarks, "This is one of the few days you like me." And Tom turns and says, "You're right." And I think he means it.

Back at the beach, Steph sits down and reads her letters, while Ian takes a bath so as not to offend King Probst again. Gregg is enlisted to help him scrub, to many "not that there's anything wrong with that" type snarky comments from the rest of the tribe.

Day 29 finds Tom trying to win Caryn over and short-circuit Steph's all girl alliance, then it's on to immunity challenge. And it's the bean bag toss game, except with coconuts landing on tiles. First Survivor to have all five of their tiles broken wins.

Off they go, sometimes hitting their own tile, sometimes an opponent's. And they couldn't edit any excitement into this, because this is really boring television. Again. Eventually, Ian wins immunity when Tom accidently breaks his tile. At least that is what it sounded like. I was in the bathroom flossing and plucking nose hairs, which was more entertaining.

Back at the beach after the challenge, a thunderstorm is on, so nobody can get away to talk strategy. Eventually, Katie corners Caryn for the girls alliance. In my mind it's clear - the four girls should ally and run to the end together. They have the numbers and would be almost unstoppable. But dumbass Caryn doesn't know what to do.

So she runs to Tom and gossips, trying to play both sides of the aisle, and destroying the girls alliance. And this is a lawyer? If this is her best game face, I'd rather have reknowned screw-up Marcia Clark on my side than this woman. Anyhoo, the strategy talk is purposely edited to confuse, so who can tell what will happen. For his part, Gregg goes Machiavelian: "Stay with the plan." Of course, everyone has a different plan, with each hoping to win, so this is a pretty meaningless strategy.

Tribal Council, and the tribe marches in, followed by the jury. Coby is dressed in some sort of black gown, and Janu has been transformed from a wrinkling skeleton to a - well, to a glamorous Las Vegas showgirl. Leaving might have been her best move yet, even if Probst had to talk her into it.

Probst quizzes, and Steph postulates that the stress she has been feeling for 29 days is finally being visited upon this tribe.

The voting begins, as always edited to reveal notihing. Probst tallies 'em up. And Steph is gone.

Next week: Well here we are. Now what?

Survivor sans Jersey Girl

As Kurt mourns what he will do now that his Thursday nights will no longer be filled with the sight of Stephanie running around in her cream colored bikini/bra top, I'll leave you with some Bruce lyrics:

I got no time for the corner boys
Down in the street making all that noise
Or the girls out on the avenue
`cause tonight I wanna be with you
Tonight I'm gonna take that ride
Across the river to the Jersey side
Take my baby to the carnival
And I'll take her on all the rides
`cause down the shore everything's all right
You and your baby on a Saturday night
You know all my dreams come true
When I'm walking down the street with you
Sha la la la la la laSha la la la la la la la la
Sha la la la la la laSha la la la
I'm in love with a Jersey girl

Thursday, April 28, 2005

With best men like this ...

From the Virginian Pilot comes this oh so strange story:
HAMPTON -- A honeymooning couple was to return Wednesday night to find their home had been set on fire while they were away, and that police arrested the best man at their wedding and charged him with setting the blaze.
That's right, the best man stood at the reception hall waiving good-bye to the newlyweds and then proceeded to torch their home. And, like seemingly every story these days, this one needs to have a racial component.
He would not say what the motive was, but said it was not racially driven. Del. Thomas Gear, R-Hampton, the bride's father, had feared the blaze could have been a hate crime.

The house belonged to the former Shannon Gear, 32, who is white, and her new husband, Anthony Williams, who is black. Overton also is black, Rickett said.
That's a pretty impressive trifecta there, folks: interratial love, arson, a hate crime investigation, and a Republican politician, all in one neat little package. Who'd a thunk that was possible?

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

This article describes "Take our Daughters and Sons to Work Day" at the University of California, San Francisco:
(T)he 9- and 10-year-old daughters are being invited to participate in 17 hands-on activities such as working with microscopes, slicing brains, doing skull comparisons, seeing what goes on in the operating room, playing surgeon, dentist or nurse for a day, and visiting the intensive care unit nursery, where they can set up blood pressure cuffs and operate the monitors.

They can learn about earthquake and disaster preparedness, how to use a fire extinguisher, how to operate several types of equipment - even fire a laser.
Wow, that's quite an agenda. Sounds like those little girls will have a blast. But what about the boys? Surely they will get to fire a laser, too, right? Wrong.
(The boys will) Learn about "gender equity in fun, creative ways using media, role playing and group games" - after which, the boys can get a bit of time in with a microscope or learn how the heart works.
That's rich. While the girls are running around discharging fire extinguishers and slicing brains, the boys will be lectured on "gender equity" by some angry feminist. And who sponsors this event?

The Center for Gender Equity, of course, and they cheerfully admit their event isn't intended as a career day:
"It's about dealing with effects of sexism on both boys and girls and how it can damage them," she said.

Hence, while the boys undergo gender sensitivity training, the girls focus on their capabilities -- be it handling a scalpel or microscope.


So now the boys have their own gender sensitivity program, where "they learn about violence prevention and how to be allies to the girls and women in their lives," Levine said.
Now it occurred to me that it might be unfair of me to call Amy Levine an "angry feminist." So here's her picture. You can decide for yourself what gender sensitivity training might be like with this woman:

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Survivor Fixed

Jeff Harrell, who writes far more entertaining Survivor summaries than I, had this to say about the fix being in on last week's show:
Now let’s be honest here. “Survivor” isn’t really a game. It’s a TV show. It’s not supposed to be perfectly fair. Tonight, the host of the show sat there and, calmly and deliberately, talked a contestant into dropping out of the game so the obvious favorite could stay in. There will be no argument about this. This is how it happened. You want to call it rigged? Go right ahead. Nobody will stop you. But let me just say this about that: If, after all she’d been through, Stephenie had been voted out of the game by a bunch of people who had absolutely nothing against her but the fear that she’d kick their asses, twenty million Americans would have been pissed out of their minds … myself right out there in front.

You want to say the game is rigged? Go right ahead. The way I see it, a grave injustice was averted tonight. And I, for myself, am glad of it.
Jeff's blog, The Shape of Days, is usually a pretty good read as well.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

More Musings of a Survivor Skeptic

Now without Coby how will the woman maintain their Brazilian bikini waxed legs? And who is trimming Tom's chest hair and trimming Ethan's stylish and artistic facial hair?

Oh but then at the end of the episode we see a finely coiffed, freshly shaved Coby is still sauntering around as part of the "jury," mystery solved.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Dispatch from the Religion of Peace

The Virginian Pilot picks up this AP dispatch on the civilion helicopter shot down in Iraq. Their were no survivors, although one pilot survived the crash.
In the video, militants come across the injured man in the flight suit. “Stand up! Stand up!” an insurgent orders the man, who reaches out and says “Give me a hand.”

Then, apparently referring to a fractured leg, he says “It’s broken.”

The militants — unseen except in brief glances — tell him to stand up. “Weapons? Weapons?” the gunmen ask him in Arabic as he stands uneasily.

They tell him, “Go!” And he starts to hobble away with his back to the camera. Then there are voices and he turns to the side, holding up a hand. Then the shooting begins, bullets hitting his body as he falls backward into the grass. The insurgents can be heard shouting, “Allahu akbar,” or, “God is great,” as he goes down. More bursts of gunfire then hit the body.
Islam, at least as it practiced by these so-called insurgents, should not be called a religion. It is a death cult.

Capt. Richard J. Gannon II

Rick Gannon's Silver Star Posted by Hello

This is a picture of his actual medal awarded to his wife this month. Picture courtesy of Karen.

Survivor Palau: Episode 10

Day 25 at Koror and Janu laments that it was Coby and not her sent home. Beyond even that, she feels betrayed that she wasn't set free. This creeps out the other tribe members, and a catfight ensues. Not a good catfight, with hairpulling and shirt-tearing mind you, but a strange adult catfight, complete with accusations of juvenile behavior. Pretty boring stuff in the end. Gregg bemoans Janu as a "buzzkill," but turns around and threatens Steph. I cringe in horror at the thought of this show continuing without my Steph.

Time for reward challenge, and Probst appears for the first time to outline the game: two teams of four compete to build a metal scaffold, which Probst calls a "tower," in the water. Winning team partakes in a bacchanal with the locals.

And this is one boring challenge to watch. Lots of swimming, lots of grimacing, and ultimately Janu, Tom, Caryn, and Gregg win reward. Ian, Jenn, Katie, and Steph return to camp broken hearted. I do observe, however, that Steph is a heck of a swimmer, taking that little corner-of-the-mouth breath between strokes and tight little flutter kick that you see in people that swim competitively. My Dad was a big time swimmer, and he taught me, so I know these things.

The lucky winners arrive at a Palauan village, and Tom goes all international diplomat, just like he did last week with the fishing lessons. They are then treated to a ceremony that involves - and I am not making this up - hula-type dancers in coconut-shell bras and men in loincloths. Which Gregg inexplicably declares is "a taste of what life on Palau is really like." I guess if life on Palau is like a bad rerun of Hawaii 5-0, he's right. Book 'em Probst.

Food is served in a large hut. If the roof had been blue, that hut would be an al fresco version of circa 1980 I-HOP. In any event, the winners chow down, with one of the prime courses being corn-on-the-cob. How Palauans grow corn, a crop associated with vast expanses of flat sandy soil, on a rocky, rainforested archipelago is unremarked upon, but I think they might have imported it from Iowa. Janu proceeds to go Henry VIII, eating so much she throws up. I guess the food is too rich for her delicate Las Vegas sensitivities.

Returning to camp with leftovers, the rest partake in the feast as well. And Janu and Caryn, who were both at the feast, incredibly eat some more, thereby depriving their hungry comrades of food.

Treemail arrives, promising an immunity challenge involving caging the Survivors in a claustrophic situation, which they believe means "underwater."

And they are right. The group will confine themselves in the lagoon under a metal grate. As the tide rises and slowly eliminates their room to breathe, the last one remaining wins immunity. In a new twist, the first one out is punished as a castaway for one night, alone on an island with a few supplies.

The challenge is on. And nothing happens. It's like watching grass grow. Or, actually, like watching the tide rise. And at the six minute mark, Janu bails. She wants out of this game something awful.

After 55 minutes, there is little room left, and it becomes apparent that this challenge will be won by the Survivor with the biggest nose. Caryn drops out, followed by Katie, Jenn, and Steph. Gregg buckles, then Ian, and Tom wins, having made a snorkel out of his hand and gone into a zen-like trance. I suppose that skill may be required of NYC fireman after September 11.

As an aside, right now it is raining outside, and my biggest concern is 'did I pull the Jeep in too far for the rain to wash the pollen off the windshield.' Because I am sick of looking through a smear of hollandaise sauce as I drive. But back to the task at hand, Janu is whisked away in a boat to spend a night all alone. The rest go "home" to Koror camp, as Steph mutters "damn."

Janu sets about making fire without much success. By dark she is still trying and finally succeeds; her spirits rally.

Day 27 at Koror, and the tribe tries to figure out who to expel. Steph, Janu, Steph, Janu. The consensus seem so be to get rid of Stephenie. Gregg hints at Cousin Don's fix, opining that Steph's survival at 11 consecutive tribal councils is a "story we need to end." But are Tom and Ian playing Gregg and Jenn? Who knows? And honestly, who really cares?

Janu returns from exile renewed. And she looks a lot better. Still, Steph tests the water and concludes she is done for. And if we believe the editors version of the chatter, she is right.

Tribal council and Coby sashays in all clean-shaven as the first member of the jury. Probst queries Janu, who looks happy for the first time in the game. The rest of the Q&A concerns eliminating potential threats, and Steph physically wilts under the onslaught of Tom, Ian, et al explaining that they want to remove their biggest competition. Steph is clearly on the chopping block.

Janu expresses a desire to go home. Probst bores in.

And then it all comes to a head. And as a man recovering from a volcanic boil on his left thigh, I recognize what it means for things to "come to a head." Steph cries, and Janu quits under the pressure of Steph's tears and Probst's wilting cross examination. She just packs it in and goes home. Primarily because Probst told her to.

Coby puts is head in his hands in disbelief, and Janu surrenders without a vote, and Janu joins Coby on the jury.

Next week: Stephenie goes alpha.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Trying to get to the Blogger "dashboard" to make a post, I was granted with a window filled with this:

java.lang.RuntimeException: can't load class from database at at at at at at at at at

And on and on and on in that vein. Let me say this about Blogger: It's worth every penny I spend on it.
A couple days ago this post included the following dilemma from the far left:
the activism of transgender students and their supporters raises complicated questions about the way we think about gender. Is it what we're born with or is it merely one of many roles we learn?
Well along comes Dennis Prager with an interview of Anna Montrose, a 22-year old student at McGill University in Montreal. It seems that 4 years ago Ms. Montrose was a normal, heterosexual teenager. Now, she isn't so sure, having written this:
It's hard to go through four years of a Humanities B.A. reading Foucault and Butler and watching 'The L Word' and keep your rigid heterosexuality intact. I don't know when it happened exactly, but it seems I no longer have the easy certainty of pinning my sexual desire to one gender and never the other.
This woman learned to be bisexual. And it's not only her sexuality that was muddled at McGill. She really has lost all perspective of what it means to love someone, because she has reduced relationships to sexual pairings. Check out her perspective on marriage:
Montrose: "Well, hope would imply that that would be ideal. But I'm not going to say that getting married would be ideal. But I'm also not against marriage; I mean you get insurance benefits by getting married so I can definitely see a case where I would get married."
Prager: "For insurance benefits?"
Montrose: "Yeah."
Prager: "That's why you would marry?"
Montrose: "And tax benefits as well. It's very convenient."
I don't know what tuition is at McGill University, but it is clearly a waste of money.

Queen of Mean

Kay Hymowitz, writing for City Journal, offers a delightful dismantling of Maureen Dowd, managing editor at the New York Times snark desk:
“I’m often asked how I can be so ‘mean’ - a question that Tom Friedman, who writes plenty of tough columns, doesn’t get,” she complains. Well, here’s Friedman being tough on Bush: “By exploiting the emotions around 9/11, Mr. Bush took a far-right agenda on taxes, the environment and social issues—for which he had no electoral mandate—and drove it into a 9/12 world. In doing so, Mr. Bush made himself the most divisive and polarizing president in modern history.” Now here’s Dowd: “The Boy Emperor picked up the morning paper and, stunned, dropped his Juicy Juice box with the little straw attached.” Why is Dowd, and not Friedman, accused of being mean? Question asked - and answered.
Definitely worth a read.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The Financial Times has an interesting article describing the latest college campus "victim group": so-called trans-gendered students. The piece focuses on the controversey at all-women Smith College, where it seems some of the girls want to be boys:
"If they want to be boys, they should go to a co-ed school," says one alumnus from the 1990s, who did not wish to be named for fear of being labelled intolerant."
If that isn't through the looking glass. A woman afraid to be named because the pro-tolerance crowd might not tolerate her.

We later learn about Hana Meadwell, a first-year transgender activist (that's right folks, (s)he's probably not more than 19 years of age), who fears Smith College is not liberal enough: "The negative side wonders why a man would want to go to a women's college or why he'd want to stay. They're uninformed."

Their you have it. If you people on the "negative side" think Smith should protect its all-women tradition, you are "uninformed." End of argument. Teenager wins, no further discussion needed.

In spite of Hana's contention that Smith doesn't "want to deal with the trans issue right now," the college has constructed "gender-neutral" bathrooms on campus. That sounds like "dealing" to me, particularly with the cost of construction these days.

If the ADA put pressure on floor plan efficiency by increasing the size of bathrooms (and believe me, it did), what will constructing a complete third class of bathrooms for transgendered people do? And rest assured, those bathrooms will have to accomodate disabled-transgendered individuals as well.

And don't think I'm Chicken Little on this nonsense - it's right in the article:
the activism of transgender students and their supporters raises complicated questions about the way we think about gender. Is it what we're born with or is it merely one of many roles we learn? Either transgender recognition is merely political correctness at its most extreme, or it represents the next crucial battle for civil rights.
Oh, lord, here we go. If gay marriage is controversial and divisive, what will transgendered marriage look like?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The New York Times checks in on the new pope. Here's a list of adjectives the old gray lady uses to describe Joseph Ratzinger, who has been pope less than, oh, four hours now: "doctrinal watchdog," "intellectual clone," "uncompromising," "ultraconservative," "uncompromising" (that's twice for that one), "aloof."

Not content to merely call the new pope "uncompromising" twice, the Times offers this helpful example: "As cardinal, he had shut the door on any discussion on several issues, including the ordination of women, celibacy of priests and homosexuality, defending his positions by invoking theological truth."

The piece isn't all bad, though, informing us that the new Pope Benedict XVI is "thoughtful" (right before adding the "aloof" tag), and he is an accomplished pianist (not that has anything to do with theology or Catholicism).

Monday, April 18, 2005

Little Green Footballs has posted a story about a jihadist failed attempt to attack Marines in Iraq
The base commander at Camp Gannon, a former Iraqi customs and immigration post at the edge of one of its most dangerous cities, credits Butler with preventing massive deaths here.

“Butler — that day, that Marine — that’s the critical error the insurgents made,” Capt. Frank Diorio says. “They thought they could keep the Marines’ heads down. But he gets back up.”
Is that base named after Cousin Don's friend and fraternity brother? I would venture to guess it is.

Merry-go-rounds go twirling out of favor

This article documents the disappearance of merry-go-rounds from public parks:
“The most common reason that parks, pretty much everywhere, have fewer and fewer merry-go-rounds is usually the liability issue,” Spencer said. “But a lot of people like merry-go-rounds, so it is kind of unfortunate.”
We called them "whirlygigs" where I grew up. When they installed one at the pool where I worked, the lifeguards quickly dubbed it "the death bug," because so many kids were getting hurt.

Fill in your brackets, baby!

Saturday, April 16, 2005

It's been a tad windy hereabouts. My car looks like a salt cube, and I'm glad I didn't clean the windows last weekend 'cause they are gonna need it next weekend. Gusts of 65 mph (Hatteras) and 46 mph (Norfolk) have been reported.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Survivor Palau: Episode 9

It's 8 PM and we have a dilemma: the Yankees are trailing the Red Sox 4-1 in the third. If it were September that would be a no-brainer, but this is April, so screw the boys of early spring, let's go to Palau.

Night 21 and Steph is alone with the crabs. The crabs and the cameramen, soundmen, gaffers, etc. Anyway, she manages to stoke the fire and fret about her situation admirably.

Day 22 dawns to find Steph chopping coconuts and worrying about starving to death while eating the coconut. As if the crew would watch her die and walk away.

Day 22 at Koror is in sharp contrast, as Coby brushes his teeth while Ian complains about Coby's attitude and Janu's lethargy. Coby, to whom I now regret giving props last week, is impossible. Entrepreneur that he is, though, he manages to open a hair-care salon for Caryn and proceeds to dish as he rinses.

Back to Steph, who, failing to find fish, is now trying to knock coconuts out of trees with a stick. Failing that as well, she climbs the tree and wrenches a coconut out by hand; this is one tough cookie. And, might I add, one hot mama.

Tree mail arrives at Ulong Steph's place instructing her to hightail it over to Koror. At this point I realize for the first time that Steph is wearing diamond stud earrings. I suppose I was blinded by the underwire bra and the short shorts until now. Still, I wonder why she didn't hand those earrings to a crew member to hang on to until the end.

There is something endearing aboout this woman, or at least she is edited that way. Tough as nails at every turn, she tears up at the prospect of having friends. I suspect this is more an editing trick intended to lock us into her story than it is a reflection of Steph's superhuman capabilities. Still, I'm pulling for her, and as she paddles alone across the South Pacific, I can't help but think that the pampered and idle women of Koror are in for a shock when good ol' Steph arrives.

Steph, who has been up for hours getting mail, collecting her stuff, and paddling her canoe, strolls into Koror and rousts the entire camp out of a tropical stupor. Seriously. They are all just lying around. Group hugs ensue, and Steph is now a member of Koror.

The girls waste no time getting catty, and I have no tolerance for transcribing girl talk, so I shant.

Coby, for his part, joins in the girl talk, opining "Katie shot up Stephenie's butt" and generally carrying on worse than the women. Coby is plucking my last nerve, and I wonder if this is another editing ploy.

It appears that the reward challenge was Steph's paddle over to Koror, as a couple local Palauns arrive to teach the tribe how to fish. Their English is remarkably good, and my wife speculates that these "natives" are a product of central casting.

Long story short (and I mean l o o o n g - this is the most boring segment of Survivor ever) the Palauns teach the tribe to catch bait and then catch fish with the bait. The backstory is that Coby again gets whiny and pouts.

After the Palauns teach Tom, Ian, and Gregg to fish from the outrigger, the crew returns to camp with a feast of fish and bottles of rum. Now this gets my attention. And Tom's as well; he gets ploughed like the good Irish fireman that he is. Not just tipsy. We're talking staggering, slurring, falling down wasted.

Day 24 finds Koror honing their fishing skills and Tom a little sheepish about the previous night's bacchanal. The Palauns go on their way to great fanfare from the tribe and considerable bullsh*t from Tom, who feigns honor for the knowledge of the locals.

Coby continues to dish, calling Steph over to bring her on board the gossip train. Steph immediately gives up everything he tells her to Jen and Steph. As everyone tries to figure out what to do with Steph, Tom reassures her that she still has friends. Steph has some figuring out to do.

Time for immunity challenge, which is now individual. The challenge is the old warhorse perch standing game, last one standing on a 12" circle 6 feet above the water wins.

Up they climb, time passes, Probst lounges in a beach chair, and the contestants look pained. After an hour of this nonsense, Probst breaks out the donuts, and Coby and Janu pack it in for the food.

Into the evening they go, taunted incessently by Coby, who has become even more obnoxious. Does he not realize that his puzzle solving skills, once a tribal asset, are now an individual threat? Why would anyone want to keep this guy around?

At 2 1/2 hours, Probst brings on chocolate chip cookies and milk, which are too much for Gregg, Jen, Kim, and Ian. Jen and Kim are in the water before Probst can finish saying "cookies."

Only Tom, Steph, and Caryn remain at their posts.

Tom, who last night was the drunk Irishman, tonight proclaims himself to be the stubborn Irishman. Finally, at 3 hours it is dark, Steph can barely keep her shorts up (pleez, pleez I say to myself, but to no avail) and Probst produces a pizza. That's just too much for Caryn and Steph, so Tom wins immunity.

Tribal Council and Probst probes. Coby thinks he is running this show, Janu thinks she is gone, Steph thinks the same, but she looks too smug for me. She knows something.

Vote, vote, vote, tally tally tally. And the winner is - Coby, and his flame is extinguished. Let me rephrase that, because I don't think Coby's flame will ever be extinguished. Rather, his torch is snuffed, and he swishes into the jungle, inexplicably thanking the group for the complement. Does he think they were afraid of his Survivor skills? 'Cause it looked to me that they were simply sick of his attitude.

Next week: Janu goes ballistic, the natives get restless, and someone is left alone.

9PM: Yankees and Sox are knotted at 5 in the 6th. I'll have to check SportCenter and see what happened while I was watching the Bozos of Palau.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Here we go again

From the New York Times (link requires registration):
Stephen L. Johnson, President Bush's nominee to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, won nearly unanimous approval from a Senate committee today, although one member said he might block confirmation by the full Senate.

The vote of the panel, the Environment and Public Works Committee, was 17 to 1. The lone dissenter was Senator Thomas R. Carper, Democrat of Delaware, who complained that the agency had not responded to his requests for detailed analyses of antipollution proposals differing from the administration's.
17 to 1, and the one guy threatens block anything until someone delivers him an analysis he wants. What next, will Senator Carper (who??) hold his breath until he turns blue? And why should the EPA be required to analyze every strategy that any Senator thinks up? Who did a cost-benefit analysis of the impact of that requirement?

Finally, is there no end to Democratic Senators ready to block Senate business? I guess with Senator Dodd tied up tying up the Foreign Relations Committee and Chuck Schumer in the middle of a Nuclear War on judges, I guess the mantle of responsibility for holding up all things Bush has fallen on the imposing shoulders of the junior senator from the 45th smallest state in Union.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Dispatch From the Religion of Peace

That title usually signals a snarky post on my part, highlighting some terrible atrocity committed in the name of Islam. Well, not today.

Here is a very nice post by an Iraqi named Alaa:
Congratulations to all our Christian brothers and peoples around the world on Easter Holiday. I have recently discovered a saying attributed to the prophet Mohammed (PBU) that may surprise some of you quite understandably, in view of the present day practices of our contemporary “Khawarij” heretics. “What is religion but love”, the prophet is reported to have said. What a revelation! This is a statement of a prophet, i.e. a tenet and precept of the faith. It follows that any act of hatred and violence inspired by vengeance or spite is against religious faith. Even an act of War must not be inspired by hatred but by quite opposite sentiments; hence “Love thy enemy”, the famous concept of Christianity, can be understood in this context.
It's worth remembering that their are people like this out there, we are helping them, and they appreciate it. Blogger Ali (from Baghdad), on the second anniversary of the fall of Saddam's statue:
Two years now and "they" still wonder
And "they" still ask Was it worth it?
Was it right?
Two years and it seems to me Like it was yesterday
Two years and "they" keep trying
To silence the voice inside us
Yet it only grows louder


Two years since I started dreaming
Dreams that have a chance
And are becoming true
Two years since I regained my heart
And then I found her...
And she found me...
And the world looked beautiful!
And "they" think they can separate us?!
Think again, or keep wishing.


Two years and some are still
Trapped in the past
And some cannot withstand the moment
And want to arrive without struggle to a better future
While others just enjoy what is already better now
And work to meet the future, bettered with them.
Two years and they ask Should I be grateful?
Am I?
Do I even need to answer that!?
YES, and to the last breath!
The whole poem is here.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Red Light Cameras

Don's other cousin from my family has consistently argued that camera issued citations for red light runners is an unqualified success:
"It's been a very good program for the city."
"We've been able to reduce the number of collisions and the number of violations."
Some new studies, however, are casting doubt on the efficacy of these programs. This study, from last December, by the NC Urban Transit Institute, concludes, "The results do not support the view that red light cameras reduce crashes. Instead, we find that RLCs are associated with higher levels of many types and severity categories of crashes."

A Virginia study, also from December, reached the same conclusion: "Despite a distinct sympathy in favor of camera enforcement, the researchers found a "definite" increase in rear-end accidents and only a "possible" decrease in angle accidents. Most importantly, the net effect was that more injuries happened after cameras are installed. Camera proponents explain this away by asserting angle accidents are more serious, but this claim has not been scientifically studied according to this report. The rear end collisions caused by the cameras still produce injuries -- the original promise of camera proponents was that they would reduce accidents and injuries, not rearrange them."

I am sure my brother has his own studies to point to, but clearly things are not as cut-and-dried as they seem.
Cousin Don argues that the fix is in on "Survivor." He may be right, and certainly some players have made that allegation. I would argue that with upwards of 100 former contestants and who knows how many crew members, that it would be unlikely to maintain any large, active conspiracy to fix the game. It's just too difficult to keep that many people quiet, particularly with the ravenous media on a 24-hour cycle.

A more likely scenario would be for the producers to design challenges and rewards that favor some over others, thus influencing the game in a more indirect fashion. I imagine, too, that there is considerable creative editing going on in order to make some look less competent, attractive, and/or appealing, and others more so during the course of the game.

In a related matter, here is an interesting discussion of game theory as it relates to Survivor. (At least it's interesting to this layman with a non-mathematical background)
But Survivor and Chess have very little in common. Unless you're playing some new version of Chess where there are sixteen players, none of them actually have their pieces on the table, all players move whenever they feel like it, at regular intervals players are forced to checkmate someone but at any given time there's at least one player you aren't allowed to checkmate, and players are allowed to make agreements behind each other's backs. Okay, no matter how you cut it, Chess is nothing like Survivor - people should quit making naïve comparisons to it.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Survivor Fixed

Alright, I watched Suvivor on Thursday.

And the show is fixed-- fixed, fixed, fixed, like an Al Capone sponsored WWE match.

The best looking Babe, Stephanie, is left to fend for herself after a gay guy in a Calvin Klein Jockstrap and some other dude beat her team in some stupid underwater retrieval and word puzzle contest that Stephanie and Jim-Bob-Joe-Jack were winning handily until all of the sudden Jimmy-Dean-Bob boy can't hold his breath any more.

Plus in the end during the fire making contest Jim-Southern Drawl Beam stops working on his fire and just stares at Stephanie. Now Stephanie could cause a man to stare, but you've been stuck with her for a long time now, Hick Boy. If you were gonna get some Steph, you would've already gotten it.

My prediction -- watch as they now whittle down the other tribe until it's Steph, the gay guy, and one other person.

Are we sure there's not a black lesbian tran-sexual parapalegic on the island with fake double D breasts, cause he/she's gonna win...


Oh crap, wrong dumb reality show.

The Curse of Boomer

I have a sneaking suspicion George "The Overlord" Steibrenner is secretly paying David Wells under the table to play for the Red Sox.

The only question is what is the boy genius, Harvard Grad, General Manager of the Red Sox, Theo Epstein thinking?

He finally recognizes that Byung-Hyun Kim sucks and ships him to the Rockies. In fact, Harvard is considering asking for Theo's diploma back because he admitted he made a mistake. And there are no mistakes in Harvahd Yahd.

But Theo doesn't realize it is a bad idea to hire a guy like David Wells who is rumored to masturbate nightly in pinstripes?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Survivor Palau: Episode 8

Let's take a minute to set the stage for this one. Team Koror is sitting fat and happy with eight of nine original members, having won every immunity challenge and most of the rewards. Ulong can't properly be called a "tribe," having been reduced to a "couple," namely the winsome Steph and the somewhat obscure Bobby Jon. With only two members, they can't vote at tribal council, so either the tribes will merge and immunity will become an individual reward, or Mark Burnett will change the rules. Either way, this promises to be an eventful episode.

Night 18 finds Steph and Bobby Jon congratulating each other on running Ibrehem out of town. Bobby Jon justifies his vote as the "best for the tribe" but we all know he just wants to keep looking at Steph in her bra. At least that would be my reasoning.

Day 19 finds the Koror living amongst their own filth. The shark head is rotting on a pole, wine bottles are scattered haphazardly about, and the rats are feasting on discarded coconuts. This is what happens when a group of spoiled Americans win everything, and I can't help but think British producer Mark Burnett is sending us a message here.

Coby complains about the mess, and dishes on the girls, proclaiming himself a "feminist" while threatening to throw them in the fire for letting a man do the hard work. Sometimes a person comes along and lives up to all the stereotypes, and tonight Coby is that guy.

Time for reward challenge, and Koror marches in to find Probst standing behind a crude – um, well, what is it? A desk? A workstation? A lectern? A bar maybe?

Steph and Bobby Jon march in, and Probst declares "You're only two, but you're still a tribe." I spray my gin and tonic across my lap at that statement. Ulong hasn't acted as a "tribe" (i.e. a group of people pulling for a common good) since pierced and tattooed Angie left weeks ago.

The challenge is to eat fertilized duck eggs with partially formed ducks inside, so that structure Probst occupies is evidently a crude lunch counter. A lunch counter for people eating duck fetuses, or whatever you call these things. Reward is 55 gallons of fresh water and toiletries.

After four rounds of Tom, Ian, Steph and BJ eating wads of feathers and beaks, they're tied and we are treated to an "eat-off," first one to eat 5 duck fetuses wins. Tom v BJ and Tom wins for Koror yet again. Boy does Steph look pissed off, almost like she is sucking on an egg. And I guess that after this challenge, in a way, she is. Bobby Jon, after losing, finishes eating the little ducks. I pray I am never that hungry, although if you believe Terri Schiavo's doctors, Bobby Jon should really be serene and ecstatic rather than famished.

Reward brings dissent to Koror as the girls want to use the water to shower and the guys think they should preserve it for drinking. In the end, Tom prevails as alpha male and no showers are had. Strangely, nobody thinks to take the soap out to the lagoon to clean up there. Maybe they signed a waiver to confine their pollution to the beach.

Meanwhile, BJ and Steph lament another loss. Bobby Jon: "Ahm mean ah had mah throat open as muches ah cood, stuffin' it in their, but Tom, he shoved his in faster." If Bobby Jon survives the merge, he'd better not talk like that around Coby.

Koror sits in the sun relaxing and complaining about how boring winning is. Some larger strategy is finally revealed and we learn Tom, Ian, Katie, and Stephenie allied on day 2, so there will be some interesting games to be played after the merge if she survives. Later that day we see Steph break down in frustration, so making it back to her compadres at Koror may be a problem.
Sidenote: As I type this it is 11:20 PM and I am on my second trip through this episode. It is also 78 degrees in my living room, and we haven't had the heat on in 4 days. I am so glad to be out of the great white north.
Day 21 finds Steph and BJ not giving up. In fact, BJ spears what appears to be a needlefish, and the happy couple chow down. BJ is also decompensating, blowing what Steph affectionately calls "snot rockets" out of his nose. This is possibly more disgusting than the duck fetuses (fetii?).

Time for immunity challenge and the crews gather on the beach. Probst still looks like that freaking idol.

The challenge consists of collecting puzzle pieces along an underwater obstacle course and lots of other confusing stuff involving solving word puzzles. The race is on and Ulong is slightly ahead after the collecting phase. Not surprisingly though Koror. Wins. Again. Now what?

A rule change! An individual immunity challenge, loser goes home.

Koror celebrates yet again, this time by categorizing each other: "the three oldest people, the gay guy, the tall skinny guy, the dancer." Katie declares themselves "underdogs" for being quirky and looking weird, never mind that the other tribe had a girl with multiple piercings, and three guys from Alabama (not that there's anything wrong with that).

At this point, Coby delivers a monologue, and let me just say that his stock rose 100 points. Bringing a tear to both his eyes and mine, he confesses that he was never part of a team of any sort, that he was always called a "girly guy," and being part of a winning team means so much to him. In my school, there were places for guys like Coby, where us jocks pretty much left them alone - drama, debate, newspaper, that sort of thing. But Coby's admission of having lived a lonely and tormented childhood is genuine and moving, and I want to take this moment away from my usual snarky self and congratulate Mr. Coby on his performance so far. Way to go, dude. You da man.

For their part, Steph and BJ mope about bad luck, and we are treated to BJ's mad fire makin' skilz. Slowly, they realize that the winner will be back at camp all alone. And that's a scary prospect. Who can imagine spending a night alone with a half dozen cameramen?

Tribal council. Probst's de rigueur interview is, for once, interesting. With no vote in the offing, and no jury watching, we get a genuine assessment. We learn how much BJ respects Steph, we learn that fire is difficult to maintain, and we learn that these two, the remnants of the most incompetent tribe ever assembled, have figured out that they can survive on their own after only 21 days. And that means something. Between this and Coby's revelations, I suspect that Survivor is getting all philosophical on us.

The challenge is to make a high fire faster than your opponent. BJ is confident, Steph is worried. And so am I.

The challenge is on. Bobby Jon, knowing what all us guys know, builds the standard fire: high incendiary kindling on the bottom, high fuel wood stacked above with lots of air space.

Stephenie makes an intellectual quantum leap, realizing that the contest is not about the best fire but the tallest fire. So, while BJ builds a standard Boy Scout fire with kindling below and fuel above, Steph stacks her fuel up as high as it will go and piles her kindling on top of that!

With a winning strategy, Steph beats the fire king and moves on, and BJ is gone. Steph goes home to the beach alone. With the camera crew.

Next week: Tom and Coby catfight while Stephenie soldiers on, alone but still stunning.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Here's proof that congressman either think we are idiots, or they really are:
"Extending daylight-saving time makes sense, especially with skyrocketing energy costs," said Rep. Fred Upton (news, bio, voting record), R-Mich., who along with Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., co-sponsored the measure.


"The more daylight we have, the less electricity we use," said Markey
Uh, congressman? Daylight saving time takes one hour away from the morning light and adds it too the evening. It doesn't create "more daylight." Personally, I prefer it getting dark later, but it seems to me that early risers will be getting up in the dark, so they will be using more energy, not less.
Bill Clinton, the omnipresent narcissist, can't help but make honoring the Pope a referendum on ... Bill Clinton!
Clinton told reporters the pope “centralized authority in the papacy again and enforced a very conservative theological doctrine. There will be debates about that. The number of Catholics increased by 250 million on his watch. But the numbers of priests didn't. He's like all of us - he may have a mixed legacy."
Got that? The Pope is just like Bill Clinton. And, one imagines, vice versa in Bill's mind. Asked about flying on Air Force One, Clinton managed to turn that into a story about, get this, his freaking heart attack!
I never thought I'd be on this plane again - I had a good time. They have turkey burgers too, which they didn't have when I was here. If they'd been serving me turkey burgers, I might not have (had) heart surgery.
How did we ever survive eight years with this blowhard? (pun not originally intended, but now that I see it, I ain't changing it)

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Hanoi Jane

Michelle Malkin has all you need to know about omnipresent Jane Fonda and book:
There she is in The New York Times. And Time magazine. And on "Good Morning America," blabbing about her bizarre trio of ex-husbands and their various pathologies. Adultery. Alcoholism. Prostitutes. Group sex. Blecchh. Aging hippies never learn. As college students, they had no appreciation of the value of self-restraint. Decades later as senior citizens (Jane Fonda is a 67-year-old woman prattling on, Howard Stern-style, about threesomes, for heaven's sake), they still have no appreciation of the value of discretion.
The whole thing is here.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Property Rights

Say you own a piece of property. It's zoned for residential development. It's vacant. It has access to city water and sewer systems. It's even located on a major artery, near an interstate highway, and in an area known as "downtown." The city fire department has approved a development. You could build some moderately priced condominiums, make a few bucks, and nobody would object, right? Wrong:
The Virginia Beach Professional Firefighters union hopes to persuade the City Council tonight to reject a proposed housing development that would add up to 846 townhouses and apartments.

William P. Bailey Sr., the union president, said approving the high-density project would be too risky until the city adds more firefighters.
Yup, the union thinks your ability to improve your property should be contingent upon increases in their union membership. The article goes on to point out they probably won't succeed in stopping the development, but the idea that this even occurs to them is startling.

Monday, April 04, 2005

First Day of Summer

Yesterday sure felt that way. Mid-60s, Bradford pears blossoming, daylillies coming up and daffodils in bloom. And best of all, the Yankees spanked the Red Sox 9-2. Yup, first day of summer.
Yesterday saw a terrific op-ed piece in the Virginian-Pilot by a local Libertarian, Dr. Donald Tabor (not available online). Tabor correctly argues that every household essentially operates as a business, with income tax an expense passed along to custimers of the business. The result is that progressive taxes, intended to transfer wealth from the rich to the poor, do just the opposite.
Consider two independent service providers, a physician and a gardener. Because the physician has a high income tax, the added tax cost he passes along to his customers is greater than the 22 percent average while the low-wage gardener passes along much less than average.

The result is that the physician gets a bargain when he hires the gardener, while the gardener pays an artificially high price for the tax-laden physician's services.
The solution? Tax consumption, not income. The plan? The Fair Tax

Friday, April 01, 2005

Reactionary Liberals

Here is a pretty convincing argument that, for many Democrats, there position on the recent "right to die" debate was driven not by principle but by reactionary politics:
Their passionate conviction that Terri must die cannot be explained in terms of any recognizable liberal perspective, whether a disbelief in the soul, the desire to dispense with a less-than-complete human life that inconveniences others, a devotion to serving the rights and desires of individuals, or an easy-going attitude toward the traditional bonds and duties of marriage. Therefore, I would argue, their position on the Schiavo case can only be explained as stemming from something extrinsic to the case itself, namely their bigoted animus against conservatives: since conservatives support Terri Schiavo's right to live, liberals must oppose it. As a liberal professor recently said to an acquaintance of mine (and these were his exact words), "Anything Tom DeLay and those conservatives are for, I'm against."
You can't have much of a debate with that thought process.

Survivor Palau: Episode 7

Ulong, day 16, and this is once again one depressed tribe, if three people can accurately be labeled a "tribe"; in my mind, even "family" would be a stretch for this bunch. Ibrehem apparently agrees, opining that it's hard for the three of them to feel like a tribe, while Steph prays for a merge to put them out of their misery.

At Koror, Tom does sit ups and most of tribe watches him, incredulous. Meanwhile, Ian hauls in an enormous giant clam, which is promptly pried apart and eaten. Then, the big strike: Tom manages to whack a shark with the machete, cutting it in freaking half. Resolved: don't mess with a New York City fireman.

Anywayze, they cut the head off and Tom takes the carcass out to rinse it off. And I swear the thing tries to swim away, like a shark with its head cut off. Now that's pretty cool. That night it's a big barbecue, and Tom worries that his cover is blown. Hairdresser Coby, who never had any cover, minces poetic about how "we had all this meat." I wonder just what the hell might be going on off-camera..

[At this point I forget I am watching on TiVo and actually sit through an entire commercial break. What an idiot.]

Day 17, and time for the reward challenge treemail. The challenge is a classic Survivor rerun: the tribes must build a signal for a passing rescue plane, best display wins. Ulong sets to dismantling James's failed toilet, with the hope that the karma of burning it will win this one for them.

At Koror, Gregg, Caryn, and Katie are selected, and they set about building a fire that spells, "Got Food?" Unfortunately, the fire goes out, so Ulong wins. Well, not quite. Koror's fire goes out, but what they are left with is still better, so they win even when they fail!

Reward is red wine and military MREs. Koror feasts yet again, and Ulong is understandably crestfallen. In an act of total cruelty, the reward plane flies over Ulong and drops ... nothing.

Day 17 at Koror finds . . . well not much of anything, although the shark head has become a big game trophy on the lodge. In the past couple days, this group has eaten a giant clam, a four foot shark, and a stack of high-calorie military rations. These may be the only people to actually gain weight over the course of the show.

Coby uses his excess calories to go all catty on Gregg and Jen, while Gregg waxes on that the game is adversely affecting his mad dating skilz. If it weren't for that pesky million bucks, apparently he would be so into Jenn's shorts by now.

Day 18 at Ulong finds the "tribe" scoring their own clam, as well as a little black fish. They look better for the food. Treemail arrives and actually scolds the Ulongers, warning them not to be lazy.

Immunity challenge is a puzzle game floating in the water, which must be solved from below. I'm guessing that Ibrehem will be picked as the landside director for this one, since his swimming is so weak.

And I am wrong. After the debacle last week with the underwater bottles, Ibrehem is sent back into the deep blue with sweet Stephenie, and I long to be in his shoes, if he had any.

Off they go, with Coby succinctly mincing his directions. Bobby Jon is clueless for Ulong. Janu can barely move for Koror, and Ulong catches up when Steph takes the reign. Still, Koror wins again.

Back at camp, Steph tries to pry apart Bobby Jon and Ibrehem, but BJ is evasive. Steph turns and runs to Ibrehem, who is equally evasive. What will they do, what will they do.

At tribal council, Probst looks positively stern; this "tribe" is the first grade class that cannot be controlled. After much hand-wringing of no significance whatsoever, the "tribe" votes and Probst tallies: Ibrehem is out. And can we really blame Bobby Jon for that? I mean who would you rather be on a desert island with? A big passive, somewhat boring Muslim guy or an aggressive, tanned, smoking-hot chick with six pack abs? That's a no brainer.

Next week: still more rats at Koror (this happens every week), Coby goes all Joan of Ark on the "girls," and Steph says something unintelligible.