Sunday, August 29, 2004

Bring Me My Shack 

Nope, this is not me at all. I'm not old and I don't live in the woods:


HASH(0x8b55718)
schizoid


Which Personality Disorder Do You Have?
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I'm still more stable than the Irish nutcase who ran out onto the Olympic Marathon course and tackled the race leader. I hope he gets to be on the receiving end of a lot of Greek "hospitality" in his jail cell.

Didn't Save My Day 

I had a nice time in Santa Barbara. Every time I go back, I frequently say to myself, "I must have had a good reason to move away, but I can't remember what it was." I had a chance to see old friends and the dozens of new buildings on the UCSB campus.

The only blemish was a minor fender-bender, where my friend got his car hit from behind. In a bit of humor that must have been a divine prank, the 17-year old kid who hit use had this license plate frame on the car:


Here I Come
To Save the Day..



Future Chiropractor Visit: $100
Cost to Replace Damaged Bumper: $500
Having a Story to Blog About: priceless


Friday, August 27, 2004

Nasty Week 

Energy, karma, whatever the hell you want to call it, seems to ebb and flow. Some days go by like a breeze, others never seem to get out of first gear. This week was from the latter category.

That is of course a big reason why I haven't posted anything this week. Yesterday was a 14-hour day at work, and the other days at work were busy too. Not only long days at work, but also issues in the lab that made it worse. Yuck.

Misery sure loves company. Here's some of the crap that landed on the world just this week:


1.) No disrespect to Italy, but it's a shame Iraq didn't get the bronze metal in the Olympic soccer competition. The Iraqi team leaves the Olympics with pride and the best team story since the 1980 US Olympic Hockey team. Sometimes the miracle can be just showing and competing well when the world is shocked you're even there to play.


2.) Speaking of Iraq, you can always could on slimeball terrorists to keep lowering the bar of humanity. Today, word came that there was another execution: this time an Italian journalist. To add insult to atrocity, the news broke just before the Iraq-Italy match.


3.) I'm surprised the story about the Russian planes crashing hasn't received more attention in the US. Two planes crashing in the same country at the exact same time, nothing accidental about it. Unless I missed an incident, this would be the first airline terrorism in the world since 9/11. The Russians have every right to go after whoever did it.


4.) Another Olympics day, another judging controversy. First the Mens' All-Around gymnastics mess. Than the vaulting score that elicited a 15-minute chorus of boos that was only stopped when gymnast Alexi Nemov motioned the crown to quiet down. Now even the Americans are jumping in, saying that one of their rhythmic gymnasts got screwed. Plus poor Paul Hamm, the all-around gymnastics champion, is being pressured to give up his gold to make up for the judges' mistake. The only people happy with the gymnastics judging this Olympic are the 2002 Olympics Ice Skating judges, who must be happy to have only had one major screw-up.


5.) The US Olympics Mens' Basketball team is officially dethroned. Unlike every slob with free time and a phone line to a radio sports-talk show, I won't rip this year's team. If you want to blame anyone, blame the players not in Athens, blame USA Basketball for assembling the team only weeks before the games, blame the coaches for not picking any outside shooters, and most of all blame the 1992 Dream Team for instilling a hunger in the rest of the world to catch up with the American ballers.

Next time around, I'd like to see the best players, with the picks occurring at least a year ahead of time. Then they need to go out on a tour, play all those other countries, and get used to the quirks of the international game. The biggest obstacle to this might not be the players, who contrary to popular wisdom will get fired up to win the gold. It might well be the NBA, who would not want to see its moneymakers suffer injuries in international play. The upcoming bronze medal game versus Lithuania should be a classic.



At least it's Friday, and the weekend beckons. I get to try and forget a weeks worth of troubles with a day trip to Santa Barbara. Life could be a lot worse.

Sunday, August 22, 2004

Piss on Uday Tour: Quarterfinals 


Iraq's Mohammed Emad, on the ground, scores the winning goal against Australia's in a men's quarterfinal soccer match at the Pankritio stadium during the 2004 Olympic Games in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete on Saturday, Aug. 21, 2004. (AP Photo/ Yiorgos Papanikolaou, caption from Yahoo!Posted by Hello



Someone forgot to tell the Iraqi Mens' Soccer team that their story was too corny and unbelievable to be true. This time, Iraq beat Australia 1-0 in the Olympic quarterfinals. The irony there is thicker than a eucalyptus grove, the Aussies were the ones who flew the Iraqi Olympians out of Baghdad.

Can they actually win the gold? Two matches for that, and the team needs one more win for a spot on the medal podium. Next up is Paraguay, and after that a script rewrite to make it more believable.

Saturday, August 21, 2004

Politically Incorrect: Olympics Edition 

Half of watching Olympic coverage is seeing sporting events you would never watch any other time. On cable right now, Womens' Super-heavyweight division Weightlifiting is on. Yikes! Talk about women you wouldn't want to meet in a dark alley. I nearly jumped off the couch when one of the lifters let out a pre-lift scream.

On another note, I don't care what competitive walkers have to say. I still think the event is goofy. I don't doubt the athleticism of the competitors, but the concept of high speed walking just doesn't make any sense. Running, swimming, jumping, events are all based on useful skills. In order to escape the saber-tooth tiger chasing you, it might be necessary to swim, jump, or run away as fast as possible. Walking fast doesn't do any good, if you need to get away from something you'll switch to a sprint or jog depending on the distance you need to cover.


During the next Winter Olympics I'll likely rant about the uselessness of curling.

Guess I Took the Red Pill 

Since it was a long week at work, and I'm in another lazy mood, here is a cheap Olympics tie-in:

Morpheus
Morpheus


?? Which Of The Greek Gods Are You ??
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People who know me would probably agree with this, but on a Friday night I would sometimes rather be Eros. Oh well. I'm off to get some baklava.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

A Baseball Story 

Last Saturday, I hopped into my car and drove the three hours from the Bay Area back to my hometown of Fresno. On this particular occasion, I took in a ball game.

Now I'm not a huge fan of baseball by any stretch of the imagination. I'd much rather take in a football game, or basketball and hockey for that matter. I don't follow the major leagues until around September, and if the none of the teams I care about are in the playoffs, I'll skip October baseball altogether.

Having said that, even I can appreciate that baseball is a good sport to watch in person, not to mention the history of the game dwarfs the other major sports in the US. Mom, baseball, summer and apple pie.....

Baseball often gets used as a metaphor for life (probably too much so), whether in Field of Dreams or in an old-timer's recollection of his childhood and the times he grew up in. In the case of Fresno, the story starts out as no different. For decades, Fresno had a Single A team, a speck in the baseball world but well loved. The Li'l Giants, as they were known, were the pride of town.

Like every other city, Fresno grew up and gre older. By the mid Eighties, the old ballpark the Fresno Giants played in was falling apart. Unfortunately, the money wasn't scraped together to fix the place, and the Fresno Giants left for San Jose, of all places. Another team came, stayed a year or two, then left Fresno with out professional baseball.

Naturally, many fans and businessmen wanted to see the games return. The issue quickly became much larger than sports, however. Fresno had grown considerably in the past decades, and most people figured it was time for the city to step up, get a Triple A team, just one level below Major League. Efforts were started to plan a new downtown stadium, seen as a way to revitalize an area that had been largely passed over by the development that raced ahead in the suburban northern end of town.

Then a certain something happened, something that often takes over in certain people, or in this case cities. Getting a ball team and a new stadium make buying a new car look like a joke: lots of money is at stake and the negotiations can be intense. Under this atmosphere, there grew a developing sense of "We can't support this, Fresno isn't ready for a Triple-A team, and nobody in the city should invest or risk capital because it will most likely fail anyway." Many people spoke up and said a new stadium was frivolous, that downtown wasn't worth the energy since most people had taken to avoiding it. As a resident at the time it was very discouraging. It was one thing to knock the stadium because it cost too much. It was quite another to throw their hands in the air, say Fresno doesn't deserve nice things and try to block it. Easier to be the naysayer than the risk taker.

Finally, after more ups and down than a Six Flags theme park, and in the time it took me to go from elementary school to nearly graduating college, Fresno got its new team. Happy days all around, except for one catch....


The stadium still wasn't finalized.


The new Fresno Grizzlies played the first few years of existance in Fresno State's college ballpark, and dressed in trailers. Being the hard-nosed businessmen they are, the owners tried to squeeze every last concession out of the City in its stadium deal. In spite of themselves, both sides finally got the stadium built in 2002, about 15 years after the old Fresno Giants left town. And on Saturday, I finally got to go with my mom and see a game in the stadium most people thought would never get built.




Grizzlies Stadium: looking across the field. Fresno's signature Security Bank building is in the center. Posted by Hello


For all the hoopla and trouble, it's actually a pretty nice stadium. It was designed by the same people who built Camden Yards, Pac Bell Park, and other recent "throwback" looking ballparks. Plus the archetect was smart enough to face the stands away from the blistering Fresno sun.



A view across Center Field, toward the outdoor Fulton Mall. Posted by Hello


Since, I only go back a few days a year now, I don't follow things there as closely. I guess though, I do see Fresno as similiar to family: you don't choose your family or where you come from, you get angry at its behavior, but you still like to check in once in a while and hope things are going well, even after they disapoint you.

Oh, Fresno lost the game to Tuscon: 9 to 6. That's they way it goes sometimes.


Monday, August 16, 2004

Lazy Me 


Perseid Fireball Over Japan
Credit & Copyright: Katsuhiro Mouri & Shuji Kobayashi (Nagoya City Science Museum / Planetarium) Posted by Hello

Since I'm a lazy bastard, not to mention pooped, I'll put up a nice picture tonight. Since it's been a while since I put up an astronomy pic, here is one from NASA's Astronomy Pic of the Day. Until later, when I get a jolt of energy.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Uday, Eat Some More 

The Iraqi Mens' Olympic Soccer Team proves their last victory was no fluke by beating Costa Rica 2-0, and by doing so qualify for the next round.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Eat This, Uday 

Whether you're pro-war or anti-war, be happy for Iraq today:

Mens' Olympic Soccer: Iraq 4 - Portugal 2.

Not bad, beating a team that recently made the final of the Euro 2004 tournament.


PATRAS, Greece – By the time they capped it with the final, fabulous goal of this improbable Olympic moment – Iraq 4, Portugal 2 – the south stands here were in full, unbridled glory, unleashing a lifetime of pent-up passion with song, dance and waving flags.

Around 2,500 Iraqi soccer fans had hijacked an old Saddam Hussein song and made it their own, the Iraqi people's own, to celebrate perhaps their nation's greatest and certainly its most unifying sporting achievement ever.

And now they were singing it over and over, high and deep into the clear Greek sky for all the world to hear.

Out was the old: "By our souls and blood we are giving life to you, Saddam, Saddam, Saddam."

In was the new: "By our souls and blood we are giving life to you, Iraq, Iraq, Iraq."

The new Iraq, competing in its first Olympic event since the fall of a tyrannical dictator whose son used to torture this very team, but still living under a difficult and dispiriting occupation, defeated a world soccer power here Thursday.

Do you believe in miracles?



Political comment at the end aside, an article I was happy to see. Neat start to the 2004 Olympics.

Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Olympic Tradition 


Athena (L) & Phevos: REUTERS/John Kolesidis Posted by Hello

With the start of the 2004 Summer Olympics only a few days away, it's great to see that the Athens games will continue an Olympic tradition. I'm not speaking of the lighting of the torch, world records being broken, or even new corruption scandals. No, I speak of the tradition of the reviled Olympic mascots:


ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- They're getting more bad press than the Olsen twins, and worse reviews than the latest Spike Lee flick. Olympic mascots Phevos and Athena, siblings named for a pair of Greek deities, are catching an ungodly amount of abuse around Athens.

The pair were derided in various news articles, described as animated condoms and mutants from a nuclear meltdown. Their names were co-opted by anti-Olympic activists, who promptly firebombed two government vehicles in February.


Sheesh, these game have enough bad press with security concerns without people thinking the mascots added Political Violence to the list of medal events. Phevos and Athena are just the latest questionable mascots to emerge from the imagination of Olympic oragnizers, with the most infamous being the 1996 Atlanta Olympics' "gift" to the world, Izzy. The only Olympic mascot I remember that didn't suck was the 1984 LA Olympics' Sam the Eagle. Naturally I am biased, but those were still the best games ever, and the poor commies missed out on all the fun.

I just hope the games go well enough that the mascots remain the biggest problem.

Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Did She Use 1-800-Dentist? 

Gorillas sometimes have better health coverage the most Americans: Koko the Gorilla was able to call a dentist. Well, not exactly, but she was able to use the American Sign Language she has been taught to signal "pain" and point to her mouth.

Not bad. I'm still trying to get full Medical and Dental from my job.

Dyslexic Taxi Driver 

As I was driving to work yesterday, I observed something new for me. A taxi driver flew by me on the right (I guess me doing 10 MPH over the speed limit was too slow for him). The kicker was when he moved left to get back in front of me, he used the right turn signal to do it. Not that he was enforcing the taxi driver stereotype or anything.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Timewasters 

Nothing profound to say tonight, too tired and lazy for that. So instead I pass on something that snatched about an hour and a half from my life I'll never get back:

Cornholio Soundboard

Heh heh m heh heh cool.....I got this from my friend Caltechgirl, who got it from Dean Esmay, who got it from Vodkapundit.


After that there is the Forrest Gump Soundboard, the David Letterman Soundboard, the Ozzy Osbourne Soundboard, five Arnold Soundboards, and of course the Homer Soundboard. Here is the whole soundboard list. The ebaumsword.com main page has more devilish methods to waste time, and the animation section has some gut-busters. The people who put all this up to view for free have way too much free time, while I lost a lot of free time after finding it.

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bank of Juxtaposition 

Sometimes when you're looking things up online, interesting things end up side-by-side in the resulting search. Yesterday, local news broke that the intelligence that sparked the latest terror warning in the Northeast Corridor also included information that San Francisco's Bank of America tower was considered to be "location of interest" by al-Qaida.

It turns out there wasn't much to the story, the information obtained was "very limited," but I still wanted to see if I could find any other news on it. Only local stories, the NY Newsday article that broke the story, but most interesting of all was this: Ground Breaks on Bank of America Tower, in New York City. The new tower will be 52 storeys, the San Francisco skyscraper is 52 storeys. I think it's silly to read too much into things, but I like the message. Terror alerts or not, life goes on, new buildings go up.

Of course, BofA isn't headquartered in SF or NY, but Charlotte. I quit them years ago when they kept charging me every time my checking account got too low. Plus, I don't suspect my small credit union will be mentioned in any alerts.

Monday, August 02, 2004

A Time Conscious Lobster 

Here's a story I saw a while back, but never got around to posting before: Lobster Found Guarding Watch Off England.

LONDON (AP) - Lobsters have long been known as solitary and territorial crustaceans - but timely and fashion conscious? Divers in northeast England were recently surprised to come across a giant lobster standing guard over a barnacle-encrusted watch at the bottom of a harbor.


At least the aquarium that took possession of the lobster is generous:


If the aquarium isn't allowed to keep the watch, it will buy the lobster a waterproof replacement, ``as he's clearly very keen on being on time,'' d'Aronville said.


Great. Even a lobster is more punctual than I am.

Courtesy of the Marine Biology International Yahoo! Group.

Sunday, August 01, 2004

Absolutes in Politics  

A friend passed me this link: Dean Esmay writes to a friend about taking an absolute political position versus compromising with others who see things differently:


...If you are a person of strong conviction, when you look at the Democrats, they will always annoy you. For while they may say they have strong convictions, ultimately these are extremely diffuse: "help the little guy against the powerful." Because at base, their structure has been the same ever since Andrew Jackson first rode to power: cobble together a vast coalition of tiny interests and try to meld together a whole from that. It's usually awkward and makes no goddamned sense. When Will Rogers said, "I'm not a member of an organized political party: I'm a Democrat," he was saying something that had already been true for over a century and is still quite true today. When we joke about John Kerry and "nuance," it's really no different from Clinton's amazing ability to hold two contradictory positions at once, Adlai Stephenson's eggheaded rambling, or Harry S. Truman's ability to simultaneously hold back the Communists in Korea and yet refuse to go to outright war with China in order to make MacArthur happy. (And by the way, firing MacArthur was absolutely the right thing to do.)

The Democrats have also always--always, for 200 years or more--been the "feeling" party, who go on their gut rather than their principles. For while they may hold that they are principled, it's mostly their emotions that matter most to them. If that repels you, you must consider that if you are an American and proud to be one, then you must acknowledge that many Americans work that way too. So if you love America, you must love that aspect of our people as well.

Many a man has loved his wife even when he is utterly bewildered and befuddled because she's on a weepy or angry tear, and many a woman has loved her man even when his stubborn pride has led him into a fistfight she was sure he could have avoided.

If you are a person of strong conviction, when you look at Republicans, they will always disappoint you. They speak of high principle, of unyielding and enduring values, of strict adherence to certain rock-ribbed absolutes. But then they ride to power, and they realize that it's easy to speak in such terms, but now they must actually govern. They then realize that some people who say they share your absolutes don't agree on what those absolutes mean, and in any case there are those pesky people in the opposition who don't agree. Conservative icon Ronald Reagan learned this lesson, and came to the same conclusions many Democratic Presidents did before him: "Half a loaf is better than no loaf at all." Or, better yet: If you are faced with a choice between 80% of what you want and 0%, take the 80%. Just don't get suckered.

The more you insist on absolutes, the more you marginalize yourself in American politics, once again due to the ruthless and inevitable mathematical logic of Game Theory (read a book on it if you haven't already. I don't say that to be condescending, I say it to note that your worldview will be changed if you do so.) Under our current Constitution, there will always be two parties, always, even though they are not mentioned. They are inevitably there, and if you can never find a way to compromise with the other party you will never get much done.



I suggest reading the whole thing, it's pretty interesting for political junkies. It explains why each party pisses me off. The Repubs can be uncompromising hardheads. Meanwhile, the Demos are so splintered in beliefs that I always find something in a Democratic that I wholly disagree with. I guess that's what makes politics interesting: there's always something to get worked up over.