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30 June 2002

More Adam

Adam Duritz's online journal is really pretty neat. I don't know any other bigtime rock stars who have any similar connection with their fans. Then again, the Counting Crows have always had a big connection with their fans. But still, this sort of conversation strikes me as unusual, in a really pleasant way:

I gotta admit, you make me smile.

Thank god we accidentally make music you love because you all agree on my favorite songs being your least favorite. "Mrs. Potter's Lullaby", "Perfect Blue Buildings", "Ghost Train", "Four Days", and "Children in Bloom". Don't think I'm upset either. I'm really not. We're all friends here. We've got to be able to talk about this sort of thing. Most musicians never get to talk about this sort of thing with their fans and most fans never get to have a discussion like this with the musicians they love. So this is cool. Think about it. We have this mutual connection between us but we love different parts of it.

It seems like there is a tendency for you not to like the darker songs. "Ghost Train", Perfect Blue Buildings", and "I'm Not Sleeping" certainly fit that bill, but the others don't.

What do you guys think of this? I'm interested to know. Don't turn this into a "let's make Adam feel better" thing either because I'm fine. Tell me more about the ones you don't like and why and I'll try to tell you what I like about them. Maybe you can go back and listen to them again. Maybe you'll feel what I feel. Hopefully I won't feel what you feel cause that would really screw me up but hopefully you won't mind if this is a little one-sided.

[Posted at 19:54 CST on 06/30/02] [Link]

State Department

Sometimes, the U.S. State Department reaches new heights of silly. Granted, they have an institutional duty to obfuscate meaning in an effort to get along with everyone, but this one is a real gem:

"I would not call it a defeat," a senior State Department official said. "But clearly it was not a total acceptance of the State Department's view."
For the first time in recent memory, a President overrules the careerists at State on a foreign policy matter of some import, and their response is to spin it as less than "total acceptance" of their view?!

That's really pretty funny.

[Posted at 18:50 CST on 06/30/02] [Link]

Irony

If we were in a city with some real baseball writers -- say, Boston, New York, even Chicago -- the sort of whining that takes place in this column would never take place, because the overpriced players doing it would just be crucified in the press.

I do have some sympathy for the notion, of course, that Drayton McLane is a shortsighted, cheap owner whose spendthrift ways will never bring a championship to Houston.

It's highly ironic that Billy Wagner is bitching and moaning, though, since he is the third highest player on the team, at $8 million this year. For someone who's not even an everyday player, that's exorbitant for a team with payroll limitations -- especially when the rest of the bullpen hasn't been good enough even to get him in many save situations this year.

And the Chron writer just can't resist letting us know that the second highest paid (and underachieving) player on the team, Craig Biggio, is having "a difficult season, especially in coping with the death of a close friend, Monsignor James Jamail." I would think with 8.75 million bucks at his disposal, he could hire a staff of personal grief counselors! Whatever it takes to raise those sagging averages. Hell, maybe even Drayton could donate from the great $6 beer ripoff fund!

And finally, the highest-paid (and underachieving) player on the team, Jeff Bagwell, is "struggling with a sore shoulder that sources indicate is worse than he's willing to admit publicly..." Except that it just keeps showing up in print, almost every day. If you're hurt, go on the DL. Otherwise, quit whining to reporters "privately," shut up, and play.

The countdown to football season continues.

(Update) Here's another reference to Bagwell's shoulder, in the same edition of the Chron but from a different writer: "Bagwell should be commended for playing with an aching shoulder he won't discuss." Actually, no -- if Bagwell can't perform with his injury, someone on the team (Williams or Hunsicker) needs to sit his ass down and get someone in the lineup who CAN perform. If Bagwell insists he can play, then the off-the-record comments to reporters (who "discuss" the problem for him) should stop, and he should play. But the daily (and sometimes multiple daily) references to the injury in the paper begin to take on the appearance of excuse-making, especially the way every writer insists that Bagwell didn't tell them he's hurting. (Questions: who did, and to what end?)

[Posted at 00:43 CST on 06/30/02] [Link]

Copycat

The Chron is a sad little newspaper.

A little over a week ago, the Houston Press ran this feature on Houston home construction and mold.

Lo and behold, the Chron has now run a similar piece, although the angle is more along the lines of Houston home insurance and mold.

Wouldn't it be easier for the Chron just to hire some Press writers for their local stuff? Or should I say, some more Press writers (since the Chron food critic is a former Press writer).

[Posted at 00:10 CST on 06/30/02] [Link]

29 June 2002

An Astros Comeback?

Kudos to the Astros.

After rookie Kirk Saarloos demonstrated, once again, that he is entirely unprepared for competition at the Major League level, the bullpen came in and did a great job, and the batters did enough damage to come back and get a good win.

The Rangers are a terrible baseball team, of course, but the Astros have been losing (badly) to terrible teams all year. Lately, they've shown a little life instead of just rolling over.

I've largely written them off for the season, but it is true that they are in a bad division, and anything can happen with this much time left.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 06/29/02] [Link]

Seger Head

A couple of days ago, I was actually listening to commercial radio (a rarity), and heard what I thought was a Bob Seger tune, albeit one I didn't know. I wondered if he had released something recently, and finally got around to poking around on the web a bit. I didn't find anything resembling what I heard -- and I'm not even positive it was Seger on the radio. I didn't really hear enough of the song on the radio to make much of an identification.

Anyway, it has been pleasant this morning revisiting Bob Seger. When I was in high school/college, I used to be a huge Seger fan. I never really liked the faster, harder rocking, more popular stuff of his (Hollywood Nights, Old Time and Roll, etc), but the slower stuff (Fire Lake, Against The Wind, Main Street, etc) was really good.

Still is, in fact. I'd just forgotten.

[Posted at 13:09 CST on 06/29/02] [Link]

28 June 2002

Okies

Brothers Judd links to commentary from Travelling Shoes on that fine New Criterion piece on Steinbeck that Orrin and I both latched on to. Having grown up in the fine (GREEN) state of Oklahoma (though born in Texas, I must point out), I can certainly vouch for this characterization by Miller:

And that, in a nutshell, is the central philosophy of Okie-ism: dogged, stubborn, bloody-minded determination. You cain't stomp us out; we're the weeds in Weedpatch.
Go read!

[Posted at 16:09 CST on 06/28/02] [Link]

Flatlanders

You Houstonians into the whole Texas Music scene owe it to yourself to drop by Cactus Records later today. They are having The Flatlanders for an in-store performance (which usually includes free beer courtesy of St. Arnolds), starting at 6pm.

The Flatlanders are, of course, the group composed of the legendary Jimmy Dale Gilmore, Butch Hancock, and Joe Ely. I like most of their solo work better than the collaborative stuff, but these guys are worth seeing in whatever configuration.

Plus, you have to love a band whose debut album is entitled More A Legend Than A Band.

(Update) Turns out the Flatlanders broke with Cactus tradition and only did an AUTOGRAPH session instead of an in-store performance. To hell with that. I sat across the street at Maxwell's Pub and enjoyed several glasses of wine.

[Posted at 15:27 CST on 06/28/02] [Link]

27 June 2002

Version Boredom

I just finished updating the three sites that I maintain or administer with Movable Type.

The upgrade was, as usual, remarkably painless and well conceived. The Trotts really do a nice job with the design and support of MT, and I encourage anyone who's using it to consider making a donation to them for their hard work.

But that's not my point. The point had to do with a column Reynolds wrote recently on Version Fatigue, the frustration and malaise experienced by many people when "new and improved" versions of software come out, and many old tasks must be relearned with new releases.

That's never really bothered me. I actually like new releases of stuff. When the Trotts upgrade MT, for example, I just know it's gonna be full of good additions. Now, the last major upgrade changed the layout somewhat, and I didn't really like that at first, but the new features made it all worthwhile (and logically, the layout is now better). This last "minor" upgrade is also quite an improvement. They've added two features that ostensibly could qualify this as a major upgrade: mySQL support, and blogback support.

I've never worked with mySQL before, but fortunately my web host's implementation of it is largely idiot proof, and it was relatively easy to port the databases from various sites over to mySQL (thanks, again, to the Trotts' careful planning and documentation). The reliability and speed improvements are going to be nice, and I think as I begin to fiddle with PHP and mySQL more on my own that I will be pleased with the port. But it did require investing some time in learning how to do it -- a type of "version fatigue" if you will.

But ultimately, the time invested is/was worth it because I like the tinkering and the learning. And that may be another characteristic that separates the Pro Bloggers (journalists and other writers looking to promote themselves on the web) from us Hobby Bloggers. I actually *like* getting my hands dirty with html code. I think it's kind of cool to know how things hang together in Apache. I *wish* I had the time to learn about 1% of what my friend Atlee knows about web engineering and server and database management, just for the sheer joy of knowing it. In that sense, I don't suffer from "version fatigue" but version boredom! Bring on the new, and better, and more efficient! And challenge me to learn the stuff! It's fun. And yeah, I kind of enjoy the writing and reading and posting of things I find notable as well. There's a neat synergy at work.

Now, I certainly can understand people who are happy to get things working and leave it at that. Not everyone thinks it's fun to play around with their tools, or to learn things unrelated to their specialties. In fact, I've seen this lately as I've been educating myself about wi-fi security. I mentioned in an earlier journal entry that I spent the weekend locking down my wi-fi setup at home. I also spent a lot of my time over the weekend educating myself how wi-fi works in order to be able to get the security where it should be.

And what's bad is, most wi-fi access points are a security NIGHTMARE out of the box. The most popular brand, Linksys, is very easy to configure right out of the box. Most users with a relatively normal broadband connection will only need to spend about 5 minutes to get the thing working with a major-brand wi-fi card, if that long. Unfortunately, most people leave it at that, and create major security risks for themselves, because the Linksys APs (and most popular APs, including NetGear and D-Link) come out of the box with Broadcast ID enabled, wireless encryption protocol disabled, a default SSID, and a default password to log in to the box itself! Basically, what that means is, with my laptop and wi-fi card, I could drive around, log into your system, break into your network, and lock you OUT of your own broadband connection! Not good.

And because most people are happy enough that something works out of the box (again, sort of "electronics fatigue" I would say), they don't even really think about these matters. You're probably thinking, "surely Whited is exaggerating." Nope. While I was doing my security research, I discovered the hobby of "wardriving" and "netstumbling" -- basically using sniffer software with a mobile laptop to drive around and check for unsecured wi-fi networks. I've spent a couple of hours actually out and about doing some "research." And what I found is astounding: about 75% of all wi-fi APs that I've picked up (over 100 driving around Montrose and then downtown on two separate evenings) are totally unsecured, still operating with their default settings! And throwing out the businesses in downtown Houston that had enabled WEP and changed their SSIDS (but were STILL operating in broadcast mode -- not good!), that number goes up to greater than 90%! Some of the people who HAD chosen to change their SSIDs but not their broadcast mode even changed the SSID to their names! Nothing like having an unsecured wi-fi network AND giving it your own damn name! Anyway, I could easily have "stolen" their bandwidth, or much worse, had I been malicious. But I'm not -- just curious. A couple of interesting things I did learn, though: 1) I should invest in Linksys, as they account for the vast majority of residential APs I picked up in Houston, and 2) Apple APs all had WEP enabled, leading me to believe they come that way out of the box, which is good (but not good enough).

I realize it takes some time and effort to figure out at least a little about the technology one uses. Flashing a wi-fi router's firmware sounds like a daunting task (it isn't, but it sounds that way), as do enabling wireless encryption protocol and turning off shared authentication and blahblahblah-technical jargon. Companies probably should at least put a little more emphasis on such matters, though, because it's not nearly as daunting a task as replacing all of those files some malicious hacker wiped on your machine, or clearing up your credit after that same hacker stole your identity with documents you were essentially broadcasting to the world because you were too fatigued to lock down your system.

As the technological tools we use grow more advanced, we will probably see more of these sorts of problems. Microsoft is beginning to see it as an issue to exploit, of course, and their Palladium initiative is likely to appeal to the lazy fools who, with all seriousness, actually use Microsoft and Security in close proximity in their sentences! But ultimately, the responsibility of maintaining privacy and security is going to rest with the end user. And it's probably going to be tiring for many.

But me? I can't wait until I have time to redesign this site to make use of that blogback feature, and some of the other stuff in v.2+ of MT. Call it Version Boredom. :)

[Posted at 23:16 CST on 06/27/02] [Link]

26 June 2002

Houston Medical

I'm really enjoying the ABC reality-drama summer series, Houston Medical. Enjoying is probably an understatement -- I'm hooked on the show.

Part of the appeal is that it showcases the Medical Center here in town, which is truly an amazing complex, and one of the really positive things about Houston. And some of the night skyline footage shot from helicopter, even though a minor part of the show, has been spectacular. This is a show that reflects well on Houston.

But the real appeal of the show is that med students and professionals, especially the ones in trauma, are some of the most fascinating people. ER is fine television, but most of the fictional characters on that show aren't half as interesting as the REAL people of Houston Medical, or even some of the medical students I have known.

I used to date a med student in Galveston who loved her trauma rotation so much that she had trouble deciding between surgery and trauma specialties (and who sometimes still reads the ramblings here *wave*). Her ability to soak up knowledge was amazing, but what always impressed me was that she managed to have a life outside of med school despite its demands. I've never known any female who could pound martinis like her -- which seem to be an unofficial requirement for med school! And then there's another friend who's nearly done with med school in Shreveport (and who also sometimes reads the ramblings here *wave*) who occasionally sneaks away during breaks, sometimes at night (!?!), on solo backpacking trips. Those are just a couple of examples, but I think they're representative. I've long thought of med students as almost superhuman.

So watching the professionals of Houston Medical is great. The medicine itself is so-so, but the lives of the people are what make the show. Because even though many of them are superhuman and can juggle a million balls, there's one love in their lives: medicine. Watching them -- and the people in their lives -- try to manage that fact is interesting. It's compelling reality television, unlike the underachieving, angst-ridden slackers one might see on, say, MTV-style reality shows.

I think I also like the show because the old pre-med student in me still sort of wonders what might have been. I started college as an eager pre-med student, and managed to acquire enough hours for a minor in chemistry and nearly a minor in math before realizing that I just didn't have the commitment to shut out everything but medicine and related studies for anywhere from 6-10 years of my life; or maybe the love of medicine, since I used that term above. At some point along the way, I discovered I had more passion for political philosophy and analysis of politics -- and that those disciplines were broad enough that I could roam all over intellectually without "cheating" my main discipline. And that was that -- pre-med was history, and I was (and still am) happy as could be with my new studies.

After watching Houston Medical and talking to my med school friends, I'm convinced I made the right decision for me, because I just couldn't focus on medicine to the exclusion of most everything else. But it sure is fun to have a peek into their lives, and see how they manage it.

And it sure as hell is more compelling than Ken Lay!

[Posted at 19:31 CST on 06/26/02] [Link]

The Neighborhood

Since Houston is a driving -- not a walking -- city, one of the benefits of having a dog is that Callie and I wind up walking around the neighborhood far more than we probably otherwise would, and finding out more about the people nearby than we probably otherwise would.

But even though there's a familiarity with the neighborhood and its people, there's not much depth to the knowledge. For example, about 6-8 lots down from us, there's a meticulously kept brick home that's been for sale for many months. An extremely friendly older man lives there, apparently just with his dog (a tiny, yappy sort). He frequently leaves his door open, with a screen door holding in the dog, and can often be heard talking to his dog. He usually leaves his curtains open as well, and his furnishings would indicate that at some point, there was a lady of considerable taste in his life.

I've run into him a few times while walking Kiwi, and he's always very pleasant. He once beamed when I complimented him on his American flag, which was flying before 11 September. I suspect he was flying the flag well before 11 September, being a member of that older generation who fought wars to proect America instead of cultural wars to denigrate it. That's just my impression of the gentleman, though.

I've never visited with him at any length, because he seemed fairly private despite his easy approachability, so I've never quite figured out why he was selling his beautiful home. Callie and I suspect it has something to do with his health. I seem to recall his being ill and away from home some months ago, but I don't even remember how I know that. Probably his family or friends have convinced him that his home is too much trouble and work, and that he'd be happier in a lower maintenance townhouse or apartment. I always guessed he really didn't want to move all that badly, as his home seemed overpriced (even for such a well maintained property) -- and thus if nobody met his price, he could happily stay in the neighborhood.

It's always kind of reassuring to go by his place when walking Kiwi, and see his flag flying and his door open behind his screen door, and sometimes him sitting inside, always by himself, reading -- and think that, maybe, one of these days, I'll have the chance to visit with him further. He just seems like he probably has some interesting stories to tell, but would never think of imposing on a casual neighbor passing by.

It came as a bit of a sad jolt just now to go by with Kiwi, and to see the wooden door shut behind the screen door today, and the sign below the real estate sign: "Sale Pending"

[Posted at 19:04 CST on 06/26/02] [Link]

The Dean

David Broder, The (Liberal) Dean of DC Journalists, is usually more careful with his language than this:

A Republican House majority that has been notably irresponsible on taxes and often cynical on domestic legislation is likely to survive.
Broder is usually more careful, of course, so that he will seem objective and analytical, even though he clearly tilts (blandly) to the left. He's had quite a career using the approach. And I guess maybe he thinks it's earned him a little leeway, as he's been much more openly partisan during this administration than I recall him being in the past.

[Posted at 14:05 CST on 06/26/02] [Link]

25 June 2002

Central Command of Insipid Liberalism

James Taranto's phrase, Central Command of Insipid Liberalism, is great!

Made me laugh out loud.

[Posted at 19:34 CST on 06/25/02] [Link]

Stealth Yankees

Taking a little break from work, I just discovered that the New York Yankees have replaced the Boston Red Sox atop the NL East.

Of course, Red Sox fans know this anguish well, and Yankees fans expect the Sox to falter (track record, you see). But there has been little fanfare over the Yanks rise. Of course, it only matters at the END of the season -- but somehow, I'm sure fans of both teams sort of have the feeling the Yanks will be there. Again.

It's hard even to look at the NL Central. With the Reds falling back, and St. Louis suffering the tragic loss of Darryl Kile, that division will probably remain the weakest in the NL, and 90 games should win it. Sadly, I think even that's out of the reach of the Astros this year.

[Posted at 12:16 CST on 06/25/02] [Link]

Martha

Duff has some Tips On How To Hate Martha Stewart.

heh heh.

[Posted at 10:54 CST on 06/25/02] [Link]

Lee Brown's America

At a time when Houston's violent crime rate has risen by several times the national average, it's good to know that Mayor Pothole has deployed so much police manpower to guide traffic and pedestrians around the disaster area that is downtown construction at the moment.

Of course, Mayor Pothole's office referred inquiries to the Police Department.

Thank goodness for term limits.

[Posted at 00:38 CST on 06/25/02] [Link]

Yao

The NY Post reports that last minute problems may keep the Rockets from selecting Yao Ming, but locally Rockets sources have denied there are any such problems.

The Knicks would really like to draft Yao with their seventh pick, so this may be a case of wishful thinking.

I'm not all that fired up about the pick, but the guy has to be an upgrade over Kelvin Cato. We shall see in a few days.

[Posted at 00:25 CST on 06/25/02] [Link]

24 June 2002

I remember...

a few days ago, when so many hawks (bloggy and otherwise) were aghast at rumors that President Bush was going to call for a provisional Palestinian state in a forthcoming speech. It was damn near the end of the world! My gawd, even left-wingers were going to be to the right of Bush on this one. It might even make Bush a one-termer!

Except once again, Bush fooled 'em all. He did such a good job and the praise is so heavy, you'd never guess they were so beside themselves a few days ago, would you?

But in a few days, I'm sure the Weekly Standard will have a new complaint that the President is fouling everything up.

In any case, it was an excellent speech.

[Posted at 23:00 CST on 06/24/02] [Link]

Counting Crows

Adam Duritz really seems to be enjoying his online journal.

And unlike so many bloggers, there are no overblown claims of transforming major media or saving the stock market or such.

Just a bigtime rock star sharing some thoughts. Kinda cool.

[Posted at 06:33 CST on 06/24/02] [Link]

23 June 2002

Blar

The high-speed internet has been misbehaving much of the day, hence the lack of activity here. But I've put some interesting stuff up over at Reductio. And on that note, it's time for me to crash after a thoroughly lazy, wholly unproductive weekend.

[Posted at 23:54 CST on 06/23/02] [Link]

22 June 2002

Oh Eleanor

Eleanor Clift is SO pathetically predictable.

I mean, you just knew that one of major media's biggest pro-Clinton hacks couldn't wait for some reason to put down Louis Freeh, who didn't show proper respect to the First Philanderer as Director of the FBI.

But Clift's column is really sad. There's just not much to it.

[Posted at 15:47 CST on 06/22/02] [Link]

Spare The Retarded

It's good to know that Thom Marshall (or Tom Marshall, as the blurb at the bottom says), the Chron's Potted Plant with a Keyboard, has weighed in on an important issue:

My own opinion on the death penalty has changed. Twice.
Elsewhere, serious people have written about the Supreme Court's recent decision to disallow the execution of retarded persons. Eugene Volokh gets to the legal point quickly and succinctly: it's a terrible legal decision.

Nevertheless, it's an interesting decision, as it's probably going to lead to a political debate over the death penalty more broadly. Jonathan Turley's article in the LA Times is a taste of what's likely to come. James Q. Wilson anticipated Turley's and similar arguments nearly a year ago, in a piece reproduced in NRO -- not surprising, since Wilson is usually well ahead of the curve on social issues.

I don't really have a horse in this race -- in many ways, the death penalty is barbaric, and the chance for error does exist. I do hate to see the Constitution tortured so that we get the political outcome desired, however -- why not make the case at the state level and repeal the laws? Ah, yes -- because too many of those backwards rubes in those unenlightened don't want to repeal it, and we wouldn't want federalism or democracy to get in the way of those who know better, would we? Of course not!

But isn't it interesting that, after all these years of arguing IQ is a wholly unreliable measure, in effect a myth -- it's now the pillar upon which liberals are building their national anti-death penalty case?

[Posted at 15:10 CST on 06/22/02] [Link]

Zone Permits

Last year, a federal appeals court ruling effectively ended the City of Houston's practice of regulating tow trucks by zone (i.e. carving the city into zones, and issuing permits on the basis of those zones). Some of us celebrated the ruling not on its technical legal merits, but simply because it opened up competition, and ended the practice of the city doling out favors through the permitting process.

At the time, the City's PR flacks at the Chron (like that Potted Plant of a Journalist, Thom Marshall) were horrified at what this might mean, speculating that SAFETY was a primary issue, and that the rush to the wreck scene would just create dangerous chaos. They never explained, of course, why zone permits issued by the city would cut down on the rush to the wreck scene (since those who had permits would presumably rush, and if not enough permits were issued for that to happen, the consumer would ultimately suffer), nor did they offer anything but anecdotes to support their claims.

Now, a Supreme Court ruling has opened the door for the city to reconstitute its zoned permitting system, and the Chron is just giddy. It's again portrayed as a safety mechanism, and Rachel Graves lumps it in with requirements more logically related to safety (insurance, testing, etc) and price gouging (a completely different issue) -- again, with NO evidence that zone permits have had any impact on safety, or price gouging!

I don't have a major problem with the City of Houston requiring tow truck drivers to meet certain safety standards. But let's not pretend the zone permits are about safety. Those permits are all about doling out patronage, and shouldn't be reinstituted, court ruling or not.

[Posted at 11:22 CST on 06/22/02] [Link]

Wi-Fi

I spent some time tonight locking down my wi-fi network. Fortunately, the latest firmware for the Linksys Wi-Fi Router allows for pretty good security.

These are some useful links dealing with wi-fi security: one, two, three (#3 is only relevant to Linksys people, and clears up Mac Address Filtering. The firmware being discussed is now final, not beta.)

[Posted at 01:19 CST on 06/22/02] [Link]

21 June 2002

Texas Political Hardball

The conservative American Prowler has noticed the Texas GOP's recent political hardball. Rick Perry, who is not nearly so accommodating as his gubernatorial predecessor, recently appointed former maverick Democratic Attorney General (and failed Democratic gubernatorial challenger) Dan Morales to a state crime commission. Morales is apparently still bitter over the primary campaign against Tony Sanchez, and it's hard to blame him entirely: the Democratic establishment in Texas decided Sanchez was a better bet than Morales (who has a bit of an unpredictable streak), and Morales really had no chance at the nomination as a result. At that point, Morales could have buried the hatchet and sucked up to Sanchez in the name of party unity (much as Chris Bell did with Mayor Pothole, in exchange for party support for his Congressional run), or he could have taken his current tack, which means he's probably finished as a Democrat and may well endorse Perry.

It's not good news for Sanchez, whose poll numbers among Hispanics thus far are (surprisingly) not strong enough for him to win this fall.

Even worse news for the Dems is that Ron Kirk is having to spend so much time out of state to raise money. Often, campaign contributions are a lot like betting at the track -- when a lot of money starts to go one way, it tends to mean the other campaign is in a bit of trouble. I keep seeing reference to close poll numbers between Cornyn and Kirk, but the money seems to be favoring Cornyn. We shall see.

Finally, Ginger's comments here and here on the Perry/Morales/Sanchez affair are worthwhile reading, and definitely a change of pace. :) If I were a Dem, I'd probably be writing about the same sort of stuff. I did write that sort of stuff when Bill Clinton (the modern master) used to play political hardball, and even more recently when Mayor Pothole REALLY played political hardball (with the race card). Looking back, Mayor Pothole did what he had to do. He had to energize his base and get them to the polls, and he pulled it off. Not pretty, but effective -- and exasperating to many of us. Afterward, the Freeper bitching about poll fraud was a bit over the top -- I worked a poll station, and saw some minor irregularities, but nothing that affected the integrity of the vote. The GOP was really pissed because they got outmaneuvered: Mayor Pothole employed racial scare tactics and then scoured the city with vans and got his vote out; Orlando Sanchez thought a flood of targeted mailing would be as effective in getting his vote out (it wasn't).

Nasty business. Rough and tumble politics. And no one side has a monopoly on it.

[Posted at 23:26 CST on 06/21/02] [Link]

20 June 2002

Houston's Image Makers

Oh for gawd's sake.

Houston Medical will do more for this city's image than anything these people, or certainly that goof Elyse Lanier, have ever come up with.

Geez -- how lame must Houston look to the rest of the country as a result of these sorts of advertising campaigns?

You non-Houstonians don't have to answer that. It was a rhetorical question.

[Posted at 23:56 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

Inner City Suburbanites

I'm afraid I don't have much sympathy for suburbanites who suddenly decide that it would be fun to live in the heart of Houston, and then discover that the heart of the city can sometimes be a loud and vibrant place quite unlike The Woodlands, Cinco Ranch, and other bland, lifeless, stifling suburban "master planned communities" outside of Houston.

I used to live right across the street from Cecil's Pub on West Gray. When I was thinking about moving there, I suspected that some nights, I would probably hear noise from the bar. I even suspected that some nights, I would hear patrons leaving after the bar closed. I was right. And ya know what? It didn't bother me, because that's what one expects when one moves across the street from a bar.

People who move from the suburbs (like Billy A-Hole) and expect the inner city to be just like the suburbs are annoying.

[Posted at 23:22 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

ABM, RIP

Yesterday, I meant to note this Washington Times article on Missile Defense and the ABM Treaty by one of my old mentors, J.D. Crouch.

Although the current state of the bloggyhawks is to rip on the Bush Administration for going wobbly, I am comforted in knowing that at least DoD won't go wobbly, with people like Crouch and Rodman and Feith and Cambone and Wolfowitz in prominent policy positions.

If only I had such confidence in Colin Powell's shop.

[Posted at 21:40 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

World Cup

I know, I know -- lately the old blog has had plenty to say about sports, and very little to say about books and politics and weird people I see in Montrose. But I've had nothing -- check that NIL -- to say about the one sport that seems to have everyone in the world BUT the United States wee-weeing all over themselves. Yep. Soccer. Futbol. Football. Whatever you want to call it.

And you know what? I still just don't care. I hope the U.S. beats Germany in the morning, much like I root for our Olympic teams in luge competition. I won't be tuning in, but I hope it goes well! But honestly, I don't care. I like American football, I like basketball, I like baseball, I like tennis (thanks to those Williams girls), and I will watch them all. But soccer? Doesn't do it for me. Sorry. Call me unenlightened, but I like sports in which the participants use their hands. Raises my interest level.

Anyway, that's just my obligatory rambling on the World Cup, not to return for four years, and really just meant to introduce this Tony Kornheiser column, which made me laugh out loud:

Look, soccer's cool. World Cup is big fun, because it's the best players in the world, and they do amazing things with the ball. But it's never going to take over America. For 25 years now the soccer people have been saying, "Tomorrow." Just wait until tomorrow, when the next generation of soccer players grows up. But tomorrows have come and gone, and generations have passed. Hey, we've already got futbol. It's called the NFL. They fill 70,000 seats every game, and when you get "tackled" there, pal, believe me, you get tackled. There's no "Injury Time" in the NFL; this ain't no disco. (Talk about delivering a huge hit, though, how about the flying head butt that Mexican guy landed on Cobi Jones? Oooooh. That was strictly Stone Cold.)

Soccer gets a big run every four years, like the Olympics. We glom onto World Cup because we're Big Event people. When we're going good, like we are now, it creates an excitement the whole country can get lost in. But soccer will always feel like a foreign game here, because it is. Americans like sports where they can use their hands -- football, baseball, tearing into barbecued ribs. Did you ever see how Brits throw the tennis balls at Wimbledon? What a bunch of nancy boys. Americans have opposable thumbs for a reason -- to elevate us from kicking a soccer ball. My dog can kick a soccer ball, but she can't catch a 20-yard out. I rest my case.

I hope we crush Germany on Friday. I hope we pound them like wienerschnitzel. I hope we win the World Cup.

You wanna be on The Bandwagon, there's room.

Just don't ask me to steer with my feet.

[Posted at 21:28 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

Plesczynski v. Sullivan

Over at the American Prowler, Wlady Plesczynski weighs in with the following criticism of Andrew Sullivan:

A month ago or so Andrew Sullivan taunted the Weekly Standard for not weighing in on the Catholic Church pederasty scandals. He should have kept him [sic] mouth shut. In its June 17 issue the Standard published a blockbuster by Mary Eberstadt, "The Elephant in the Sacristy," to which Sullivan has responded like a mouse who'd been stepped on by an elephant. After ignoring the piece for more than a week, he finally reacted a few days ago by attacking it as a "hysterical screed" and refusing to engage it. How sad to see Sullivan cower this way, particularly since "hysterical" and "screed" are the last thing one can call Eberstadt's calmly written and straightforwardly argued essay.

The problem for Sullivan is that Eberstadt's is one of those rare events, an article that clears the air and allows things to be called for their real name. Nowadays we hear all sorts of talk about the "culture" of a given institution, whether it's the FBI or Major League Baseball. Eberstadt has focused on the culture of the American church, and the degree to which it has become a homosexual culture. This culture's implicit rejection of chastity and celibacy, which are the expected norms of all Catholic clerics, has ravaged the church's moral standing. For too long the American church has lived too many a lie, and now there is hell to pay.

Sullivan must be living in a dream world. The same day Eberstadt's piece was published Time magazine ran a column by him, which it erroneously headlined: "Who Says the Church Can't Change? An anguished Catholic argues that loving the church means reforming it." Any reader of Eberstadt will probably notice that the church has already changed, perhaps beyond recognition, precisely because it's been "reforming" itself in the very way that Sullivan would approve. He just wants everyone from the Pope on down to give this change enthusiastic official approval. That, of course, can't happen, since it would be mistaken for absolution.

Ouch.

[Posted at 21:18 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

Elusive

Even the Chron is getting in on criticizing the Astros:

The Astros resemble frustrated motorists on the Katy Freeway -- a lot of traffic and nowhere to go. A hit here or there with runners in scoring position easily could have been the spark needed to win any of the first three games of this week's series with the Brewers. But even with the right hitters at the plate, big hits have alluded the Astros and sent them to three embarrassing losses with the threat of a four-game sweep against the team with the worst record in the National League.
Of course, I think the writer meant that big hits have ELUDED the team. Kind of like solid journalism and editing ELUDE our Chron, which prefers cute metaphors (don't get me started on Fran "Drunk Driving" Blinebury) to error-free copy.

[Posted at 01:09 CST on 06/20/02] [Link]

19 June 2002

One City. One Future.

The black vote saved Mayor Pothole from defeat in the last election.

And what do they get, besides a few crumbs in the form of patronage positions and minority contracting?

Not much, as Rachel Graves notes in this article. Predominantly black neighborhoods in Houston continue to suffer from substandard pipes and sewer, ditches instead of storm drains, and in some areas, the apperance of a public dump, or worse -- like Jensen Street, which "now reeks of urine and rotting trash."

Liberal politicians have promised these folks way more than they have delivered (or maybe the government has delivered exactly as economists might expect), and I can't help but think that one day, that monolithic black vote (90%+) that keeps Democrats competitive in most races will seriously consider the alternatives. If that happens, Democrats will be in big trouble -- and we could have the makings of a real realignment.

[Posted at 22:21 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

Train Wreck

Sometimes professional athletes will have what is called a "career year," where everything falls into place and the athlete puts up numbers well beyond what is expected.

So what do you call the opposite of a career year?

Maybe we could ask the 2002 Astros.

I was just having a visit with my boss over lunch a couple of days ago, and we were discussing the fact that every Astro, with the exception of Julio Lugo, is having a season well below expectations going in. Even Berkman, who started so strong, is not having the kind of season he had last year, despite the nice home run numbers he put up early in the season. It extends to the coaching staff. Jimy Williams, who I thought (and still think) was a fine hire, has made some odd decisions along the way as well. And let's not ignore the owner, whose unwillingness to spend money (except for aging underachievers but fan favs like Biggio, Bagwell, and Reynolds) has not helped. It's like every part of the team is in a grand funk.

I was going to write much more about it, but then I found that John Lauck, who's become a daily read during this terrible season, had already covered the topic on his Astroday blog:

As has been noted in the press and on television, most of the Astros are below their year-by-year averages in all the major offensive categories, a development that could not have been anticipated except perhaps for Bagwell and Biggio. Yet, part of Bagwell's decline has to be traceable to that bad right shoulder. I think, when the season is over, we're going to find out, either directly or through inference, that it has been hurting him severely. The other declines have been harder to fathom, especially in their collective sense and their cumulative effects. It is sad to say and, in a way, almost helplessly funny to admit in print, but the truth is, none of these guys can hit. But they all may be working under circumstances too complex for any of them to control. If you remember the movie or have read the book called The Perfect Storm, you'll have a glimmer of what I'm getting at. Take two superb athletes who are, neverthless, entering their mid-thirties; saddle one of them with a debilitating injury. Now take away from the team these guys play for a superb-hitting right-fielder and a 3B who contributed 92 RBI last season. Move to RF a hitter who had the best year he's ever going to have two seasons ago, and move to LF a strong but slow young man who seems unable anymore to catch up to fastballs he whacked out of the park twenty times in 2000. Plug in after that anyone you like at 3B, anyone at all. None are likely to do what the 3B of 2002 did. When you add all of these extraordinary factors together, you have something that is as devastating and as statistically-perfect as the storm that wiped out the Andrea Gail and her crew was meterologically-perfect. (That is, in both cases, conditions could not have been worse.) You have, in other words, The Perfect Slump. It is team-wide; it is chronic; it will last the year. One could argue, of course, simply that the fear that has dogged Gerry Hunsicker since 2000--that he may have overestimated some of the talent on the contemporary Astros--has a basis in reality that is only now becoming clear beyond dispute, but it is also possible, even probable (although this will not be a thought comforting to many) that we are not likely to see a team with this much measurable talent slump as badly as this one ever again.
With the Astros about to be swept tonight and St. Louis starting to play as well as expected, this season is over. There's no hope of the Astros playing at the .660 or so clip needed to win 90 games over the rest of the season, or the .700 or so clip needed to catch St. Louis if they win closer to 100 games.

The question is, what do you do if you're Gerry Hunsicker? Rebuild around the young pitchers and move some of the high-priced talent (knowing that Biggio and Bagwell can veto trades)? Move some of the mid-level talent that teams in contention might want (Blum? Zaun or Ausmus? Merced? Nelson Cruz?) for prospects? Or stay the course, make some moves in the offseason, and hope the underachievers rebound next season?

I don't have a good answer right now, and prefer to look over the roster and salaries a little more carefully before posting anything.

But really, it's all just a prelude to Texans, Cowboys, and Sooner football, albeit an ugly one. And likely to get uglier -- at some point, this team is probably going to quit, at which point it will resemble the 2000 version of the club.

[Posted at 21:33 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

More Buck

Orrin Judd (who rightly notes that Jack Buck was also a fine football announcer) points us towards this excellent column on the legendary Cardinals broadcaster.

As might be expected, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has plenty of coverage.

[Posted at 20:07 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

Connelly and Marshall

Richard Connelly's news hostage column this week provides the definitive "fact-check" of Thom Marshall's ass.

Marshall, of course, is that useless potted plant of journalist -- the type that makes the Chron proud -- whose "work" we've noted before. He has a really bad habit of not doing any research or coverage, but simply extracting from press releases, and usually press releases that somehow reflect the views of the city's murky leadership.

He's an excerpt from Connelly's demolition of the Potted Plant:

Marshall apparently wasn't at the ceremony; his column has only Broach's descriptions of how "folks who had gathered around -- many of them homeless -- applauded 'and we all blessed the car.' " The quotes from the recipient all seemed to come from a thank-you letter Marshall somehow got his hands on.

It was all very heartwarming. But shortly after the paper hit the streets, the Chron began receiving angry, not to mention astonished, phone calls and e-mails.

Some of them referred the Chron to an article printed a week earlier in the Houston Press. In "Beyond the Womb" (May 30), the Press noted that Broach had been convicted of fraud and had first gained fame as the "womb for rent" woman who put up a billboard on the Southwest Freeway in 1993 advertising her availability as a surrogate mother for a fee.

Dan Parsons of the Better Business Bureau told the Press that he was stunned to see Broach's name associated with the charity.

It's pretty clear Marshall, and his editors, don't read the Press. We're not offended. But it's also clear they don't read their own archives. A sampling of Chron headlines about Broach: " 'Womb-Rent' Figure Found Guilty of Fraud," "Surrogate Is No Stranger to State, Federal Authorities," "Womb Lessor Called Sweet and Friendly: Residents Say Woman Cheats with Kindness."

Of course, beyond Marshall's column, there was also the March 2001 article on Broach's charity removing gang tattoos. That one also didn't mention her past.

Marshall's column engendered high-level discussions at the Chron on how best to deal with the fuckup. Reporter Lisa Teachey was dispatched to gather information on Broach and the Valentine Foundation, but no story appeared. For days -- days when perhaps some readers knew nothing more about Broach than what Marshall had said -- nothing further appeared.

His whole column is worth reading, as always.

The Chron is so pitiful.

[Posted at 15:16 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

Luis Castillo

What a fine streak Marlins second basemen Luis Castillo is on -- 32 straight games with a hit.

And he's costing about $5 million less this season than Houston's second baseman.

[Posted at 01:44 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

Cuomo

Now that Mr. Mario Cuomo has presented his plan for Middle East peace, I'm sure all of the combatants and diplomats and foreign policy wonks can move on to more productive uses of their time.

Or was this meant to be a parody?

Actually, Cuomo has become a parody.

[Posted at 01:27 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

Jack Buck, RIP

Jack Buck passed away earlier.

Jack Buck was one of the truly great baseball announcers, a real legend in a time when the term has been devalued.

When I lived in southwest Missouri, you could count on finding Jack Buck on Cardinals radio somewhere. He was almost always on at my favorite Chinese takeout place, because the patrons wanted to hear him.

I was never a huge Cards fan, and thus didn't listen as closely to Buck as many. But I listened enough to think his passing is a sad day for baseball.

[Posted at 01:18 CST on 06/19/02] [Link]

18 June 2002

Houston Medical

Memorial Hermann Hospital, in the Texas Medical Center
Memorial Hermann Hospital

Before my late-night workout tonight, I watched Houston Medical.

I thought it was pretty cool. We kind of take Memorial Hermann and the Texas Medical Center for granted in this city, but it's a pretty special place. It's nice to see those guys get some attention -- and nice to see something positive about Houston, instead of stupid New York Times Magazine articles of All Anderson/Enron All The Time.

Dr. Red Duke rocks, but I never expected to see him in a prime-time tv series!

[Posted at 23:57 CST on 06/18/02] [Link]

Astros Blogs

John Lauck's Astroday commentary is some of the best stuff I've seen on the Astros. He's brutally honest in spots, but it's solid, objective, critical analysis. The Chron doesn't have a single writer who cranks out comparable stuff.

I like this line:

The Astros couldn't field (Richard Hidalgo and Daryle Ward both had catchable balls clang off their iron gloves in RF and LF);...
Sad, but true. That defense is terrible.

The affiliated Astros Daily is an excellent site as well, for those who just can't get enough.

[Posted at 16:03 CST on 06/18/02] [Link]

17 June 2002

Ugly

Watching tonight's Astros game, the only thing uglier than their defense was the sight of Milwaukee's Geoff Jenkins either dislocating or breaking his ankle as he scampered awkwardly to third base.

It wasn't as ugly as Joe Theisman's leg snapping on MNF many years ago against the Cowboys, but it was pretty ugly. And it's sad, because it followed a tremendous defensive play he made earlier in the game.

I hope it's not broken. Poor guy.

[Posted at 21:49 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

Biggio

My friend Cathy, ever the Craig Biggio fan, notes that He Of The Dirty Helmet reached base six times in yesterday's game. But even so, as of tonight his average is only .251 (40 points off his career average), and his on-base percentage .345 (35 points off his career average).

Those numbers are depressing considering the Astros are paying him 8.75 million this season. He Of The Dirty Helmet has the 20th highest salary in the National League this year (highest in the Bigs for Second Basemen), according to USA Today. He's not playing like a top 20 player. His stats this year barely put him in the Top 20 among Major League second basemen -- and probably in the bottom half of that group.

Drayton McLane paid too much for Biggio (and Shane Reynolds, for that matter) given his age and numbers. There's a sentimental case to be made for doing so, of course. Biggio is a fan favorite, and probably could have gotten similar money from some other organization. And I'm sure Drayton didn't want to be compared to John McMullen, who let Nolan Ryan get away only to see Nolan continue to pitch like... well, Nolan. But for a team with a middle-level budget, it's hard to field a winner when your highly paid players underperform or are injured. That's one of the team's problems this year -- and Biggio and Bagwell are surely a big part of that.

On a positive note, they are in a division in which 90 wins might be good enough. On a less positive note, they will have to go 65-30 over their next 95 games to get to 90 (not including tonight's game). Oh well.

[Posted at 21:36 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

Rice

Rice was knocked out of the College World Series today.

It was a tough couple of games for the Owls, who had high expecations going in. They were a top-10 team all year -- and handled UH (another top 10 team) in their Silver Glove series -- but I thought Rice was ranked a little high by the end of the season. They played a solid non-conference schedule, but piled up a ton of wins in a mediocre conference. I suspect that didn't prepare them as well as a tougher conference would have. It probably gave Texas an edge being battle tested in the Big 12, for example.

Still, a fine season for Wayne Graham's guys. I'm already looking forward to the next baseball season. It's cool living in a city that has two college baseball powers. Especially given the stench produced by the Astros this year.

[Posted at 21:07 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

Black Hole At Treasury

Paul O'Neill, the least impressive Secretary of the Treasury in a long time, claims that the recent sustained decline in U.S. markets is inexplicable.

Funny, but I thought Larry Kudlow explained it very well in a column several days ago. And part of his answer includes the uninspiring Treasury Secretary. I guess he was too busy debating Bono to read the opinion section that day.

[Posted at 20:55 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

Miller

Larry Miller had a funny piece in the Weekly Standard Online today. It's worth reading just to get to the Ayn Rand reference at the very end.

[Posted at 20:49 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

Is It Football Season Yet?

Looking good in the silver and blue
Roy Williams, Cowboys Rookie

I am SO pumped that Roy Williams, the former Oklahoma Sooner and arguably the best player in college football last year, was drafted by the Cowboys. He's going to make a fine addition to a defense that was solid last year, but had no playmakers. With the addition of him, Glover and Hardy to a defense that already had Woodson, the Cowboys look to be excellent on defense. I can't wait for that Cowboys-Texans scrimmage on the UH campus in August for a closeup look at things.

Even though they've lost Williams and Rocky Calmus, the Sooners look to be good in the fall as well. The Sporting News ranks them #1 in their preseason poll. That seems a little high to me. They're a top 10 team on the strength of their defense and talent level, but they have to get their problems on offense figured out before they should be ranked in the top 5. They do have a new offensive coordinator in Chuck Long, and they did import Northwestern's offensive coordinator to tweak the spread offense significantly, so we'll see. A quarterback would also be nice -- and the bet here is that it won't be Nate Hybl or Jason White taking snaps by the end of the season, but Brent Rawls.


[Posted at 20:37 CST on 06/17/02] [Link]

16 June 2002

Drunk Drivers

Damn.

I'm glad Jonni's okay.

[Posted at 17:23 CST on 06/16/02] [Link]

Pitiful Astros

The Astros are SO pitiful this year.

They just went to the 9th inning at home, with a two-run lead and ace Billy Wagner (of the recent LARGE contract extension) on to close out the game.

Instead, Wagner didn't get it done, the defense looked like the Keystone cops, and the game is now tied. It could be worse -- the bases were loaded with two outs before Wagner finally got out of the inning.

The Astros may go on to win the game, but good teams don't put themselves in this shape.

This is not a good team.

(Update) Biggio drove in the winning run in the bottom of the 9th for the Astros, which hasn't happened very often this year, so the blown save didn't cost them.

[Posted at 16:56 CST on 06/16/02] [Link]

SOTD

We're pleased to be named the Site of the Day over at the People's Republic of Seabrook.

Thanks!

[Posted at 16:04 CST on 06/16/02] [Link]

15 June 2002

The Mets

The New York Mets are SO LAME.

They finally get their big change to "get even" with Roger Clemens, and they blow it. They needed to plunk the guy -- nothing hard or nasty, and certainly nothing at the head or pitching arm. The leg or ass would have been fine. That's baseball. Instead, they miss him entirely.

Part of Roger's game is intimidating the other team. I would say the Mets are still intimidated. That's just weak, Mets. Very weak.

[Posted at 13:51 CST on 06/15/02] [Link]

Inconsistent

Sometimes I love the New York Times.

They find fault with the Federal Election Commission for daring to interpret pieces of the Incumbent Protection Act (a power established by statute), but no fault with Congress and the President for passing an unconstitutional act (the Constitution being the ultimate document with regard to regulation of political power in this nation).

Who needs consistency when advocating pet political projects, right?

[Posted at 13:21 CST on 06/15/02] [Link]

Vote Dan!

This dude's campaign website made me laugh out loud (via the Dallas Observer).

[Posted at 12:34 CST on 06/15/02] [Link]

The Whiny B's

Here are a few recent quotes (courtesy of Callie, who brought them to my attention) to illustrate why I engage in the heresy of calling Biggio and Bagwell the Whiny Bs:

"If you play this game, you're going to struggle at times," Biggio said. "What makes it worse is we're going through a tough time. But you know it's going to turn around. If you give in now, forget about it. That would make it a long season, and I don't want to do that."

"I'm having a tough time right now," Bagwell said. "But I have full confidence that I'll be okay. It's just tough when the rest of the team is struggling. That makes it very difficult for me."

And here is the line that NO Houston sportswriter will pen for some reason:

There is no middle class to bridge the gap. With 30.7 percent of the $64.3-million payroll going to Bagwell and Biggio, there is no room for that type of a player.
Throw in Shane Reynolds's 6.5 million this season, and my quick-and-dirty calculation says the Astros are spending 40% of their payroll on players who are either underperforming, injured, or both. Until recently, Richard Hidalgo would be on that list, but he has been playing pretty well since Jimy Williams benched him several games ago.

The link Callie sent me was actually to a piece on the local television station's website, and that shocked me. As I've noted, it's heresy in this town to print anything negative about the local underachieving heroes. But then I noticed the Dallas Morning News byline on the piece. Of course, a real sports page. And, like the local station that ran it, a Belo affiliate. Because no local sports reporter would do such analysis (except maybe Palillo on the sports talk station).

Those three players remind me a lot of the aging superstars of the Dallas Cowboys in recent years. Jerry Jones overpaid for them at the end of their careers (Deion, Novacek, Haley, Aikman), and last season was the result. At least the Astros haven't sunk to that level. The young pitchers and underpaid talent like Lance Berkman provide some hope for a rebound.

[Posted at 00:34 CST on 06/15/02] [Link]

Fab Sat

Just to prove that occasionally I can say something nice about the Chron, this piece on the Fabulous Satellite Lounge is decent.

Unfortunately, the writer missed a nice opportunity with this paragraph:

When Malone opened the Satellite in June 1992 his plan was to cater to the spill-over audience from Rockefeller's. His club would feature a house band and low cover charges, and would serve as a groovy watering hole before clubgoers moved on to see acts next door or down the road at the Bon Ton Room (now Mary Jane's).
Wouldn't this have been a great place to make some mention of the bar's name, and its relative position as a satellite or annex of the bigger, better, more prestigious Rockefeller's next door?

The writer also misses an opportunity to discuss the resurgence of Washington as a live music spot in recent months.

John Nova Lomax's Houston Press piece on the Fab Sat is a little juicier, in that he delves into some of the behind-the-scenes bickering between Fab Sat and the Continental Club.

[Posted at 00:16 CST on 06/15/02] [Link]

14 June 2002

Thom's Consistent

Is Thom Marshall the PR flack for whatever the City of Houston decrees to be good and just in the world?

Because just a few days ago, there was that terrible piece on the Valentine Foundation that he didn't bother to research.

In this column, Thom's just happy as heck that the city has decided to raise zoo rates because, gee whiz, it's still a real bargain, and that's just swell!

You have got to be kidding me. I know there are editors who periodically review this idiot's work, because I got an email from one of them the other day. But it seems they don't review it very carefully. Can anyone explain to me why this column should appear in a major metropolitan daily? Anyone?! For gawd's sake, it reads like a zoo press release.

Incidentally, being the compassionate conservative that I am, I am NOT in favor of making the zoo less accessible to the public -- if we are going to have a "public" zoo, then it damn well out to be public. And that means affordable. The bastards in city hall rake in enough revenue to provide a few public amenities that improve the quality of life in the city. If we want the zoo to start paying for itself, then I say let's fully privatize the SOB. But don't price some parts of the public out of going to the "public" zoo!

A better idea might be to cut Mayor Pothole's travel budget. Not to mention all sorts of patronage positions within his administration.

There's one for Thom Marshall to think about.

[Posted at 23:53 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Reynolds

The Chron is such a mediocre paper, I sometimes wonder if I should even mention it. Whether it's the city desk, or the editorial page, or the sports page -- it's average on its best days, and well below that on most.

Today's example comes courtesy of the sports page. Now it's true enough that Shane Reynolds, who has been lost for the season with injuries, has been a trooper over the years for the Astros, and is a prime example of a guy whose work ethic has long covered the fact that he has below average velocity for a major league pitcher. And it's always a shame to lose a veteran for the rest of the season because of injury, especially when the pitching staff is so loaded with young guys.

But there's also a story that isn't really told by Joseph Duarte, the author of this column, and that is this: like fellow veterans Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell so far this season, Shane Reynolds was underachieving considering his price tag ($6.5 million this season). His ERA was near 5, he's given up more hits than innings pitched, and in his last 3 starts he lasted 5, 4, and 3 2/3 innings respectively. The Astros are probably lucky that he won't attain incentives that would have guaranteed him $8 million for next season, because those aren't exactly $8 million statistics.

Will the veteran presence be missed? Yes. But it's time to press forward with these young arms the Astros have put together. They aren't doing the team any good pitching at New Orleans or getting mop-up work out of the bullpen on occasion. If Miller, Oswalt, Hernandez, and now Saarloos are the future, then pitch 'em. Reynolds doesn't have their raw talent or potential, and probably wasn't going to be rejoining the team next year in any case.

Duarte could have told THAT part of the story while still being sympathetic to an injured veteran who has been a real workhorse for the Astros for a long time. But then he would probably be writing for a real newspaper.

[Posted at 23:40 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

START II, RIP

Another bad treaty bites the dust.

And I'm willing to wager (a Shiner Bock again, my currency of choice) that there will be no Day After scenario tomorrow as a result.

Any takers?

[Posted at 19:57 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Billy A-Hole Revisited

Billy A-Hole Murphy
Billy A-Hole

The cool thing about having a personal blog/journal for so long is that occasionally I get to revisit old entries like the one dealing with Billy A-Hole. Shortly after I posted that entry, Billy A-Hole won: the Icehouse he was bitching and moaning about incessantly was forced to close its doors.

But I'm sure Billy A-Hole is still bitter and grumpy. And the owner of the place he managed to shut down? Pam Robinson's doing just fine, turning Washington Avenue into a pretty cool place for those of us who like live Americana music and despise the pretentious downtown club scene. As for Billy A-Hole?

"He won," she says. "I paid a lot of money in legal fees, fixing the place up to try to blend in with the neighborhood, but he was having no part of it. It was really sad, because many of my customers lived in the same town houses he did. They loved the fact that they could have a few drinks and walk across the street and be home. They loved it, but he hated it. He won. Oh, well."

Murphy may have gotten Pam Robinson out of his backyard, but he sure hasn't cramped her style. "But in the long run, I win," she says. "Because I'm having a good time, and he's not, and you can quote me on that. Murphy -- bah, humbug! You're not having any fun, and I am!"

I love it.

[Posted at 18:10 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Wi-Fi

Callie and I have long used a Linksys cable router/4-port switch to share internet and network resources.

With the addition of a laptop to the geek family, I decided to add wireless. I picked up an Orinoco Silver wi-fi card earlier in the week (highly recommended for its range) and yesterday picked up the linksys wireless access point/4-port switch (so I can do fun things like add a linux box to the wired network and such). It took about 5 minutes to get the wi-fi access working, and another 10 minutes or so to turn off dhcp on the old router, uplink it to the wi-fi router's uplink port, and get everything talking. And voila -- a partially wired, partially wireless network that is sharing internet and resources perfectly.

If any of you are considering a wi-fi setup, I highly recommend the Linksys and the Orinoco Silver (not available on Amazon) combination (stay away from the linksys wi-fi card, as most reviews suggest it has had some range issues in the past). And the cool thing about the Linksys is that it has dual antennas, either or both of which can be removed and replaced with a stronger one, making it easy to set up a wireless node with fairly decent coverage (if you're into that sort of thing).

[Posted at 13:50 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Houston Gang Activity

This sort of Graffiti is EVERYWHERE in Houston

Here's a scary article on one of Houston's more sophisticated gangs.

So why isn't it more of a priority in this city to spray over the gang-related graffiti that has become so commonplace under Mayor Pothole's watch?

The Lanier Administration seemed to find the resources to keep it under control. And we have some idea from Giuliani's efforts in NYC that seemingly little things like graffiti control can make a difference.

It's not as exciting, of course, as travelling the world to "promote" Houston, as our Mayor likes to do.

[Posted at 01:06 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Wave To Del Monte, Houston

Okay, I'll admit that this is the first I've seen of this story -- I just haven't been paying attention apparently.

I don't get a good sense of everything that went down from this article. Something seems missing (ah, our Chron!). Does anyone know what's really going on here?

Because wooing big corporations to your city is done all the time, and I'm curious if this is another one that Mayor Pothole and the Ada! bloc on council managed to screw up, or if there were legitimate concerns (even screwballs can serve the public good on occasion).

[Posted at 00:59 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

Apolitical Snobbery

Rich Lowry comments on that NY Times Mag hit piece on Houston from the weekend:

I by no means want to endorse liberal snobbery toward Houston, but I have to say the city hasn't yet grown on me. I can see where it has its charms--when friends took me to an excellent Tex-Mex place a lizard jumped out of our chips and salsa (and we were eating inside). The people seem great--I like the relaxed, beer-drinking attitude. But I'm not a fan of all the parking lots and 12-story parking garages, and all the "feeder" roads, getting on and off the freeways. But I'm returning in the fall to give a talk at a right-to-life event, so maybe it will grow on me more then...
It wasn't liberal snobbery so much as bicoastal snobbery towards Houston that so many of us pointed out. Conservatives AND liberals from the east coast and west coast can both be a-holes in that regard. But I'm sure the libertarians on both coasts can at least praise the absence of zoning. :)

[Posted at 00:49 CST on 06/14/02] [Link]

13 June 2002

Yao Ming

I heard Rudy Tomjanovich interviewed on the sports talk station on my way home from work earlier this evening.

Rudy T and Rockets management have just returned from China, where they met with various officials and Yao Ming, as they try to figure out whether or not to take the Chinese player with the first pick in the NBA draft.

Rudy T seems enthusiastic about Ming's abilities, and I would guess from his comments on the radio that the Rockets are definitely going to draft Ming, unless the Chinese government throws up roadblocks at some point.

I have a bad feeling they are about to get the Chinese version of Shawn Bradley. I guess we'll see. It's going to be a shame if the Rockets screw up two first-round picks, including the first overall.

[Posted at 22:52 CST on 06/13/02] [Link]

12 June 2002

24 Count

I was planning on staying in tonight and getting some extra work done.

And then the 24 Count guys sent out an email reminder that they were playing Sherlocks-West Gray tonight.

So of course I had to go catch 'em. Or at least part of the show (because I'm old, and the workday starts early tomorrow).

They're sounding better than ever.

You Houstonians who like live music should really get out and catch one of Houston's best hometown bands one of these days. They're a talented bunch.

[Posted at 23:57 CST on 06/12/02] [Link]

Biggio

I know it's heresy in this town to say or write anything negative about The Whiny Bs (Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell), but I just can't help myself. I thought it was bush a few nights ago when Biggio, who is notorious for standing right on the plate and leaning into pitches (with plenty of accessory padding), started yelling at the Cubs pitcher who brushed him back from the safety of the Astros dugout.

Apparently Cubs manager Don Baylor, who was an old-school player and is an old-school manager, thought it was bush also:

"It goes back to when you're a little kid," Baylor said. "There (Wood) is. If you want him, go get him. A brushback is an effective pitch, if that's what it was. He got the effect that he wanted. Sometimes you upset guys and take them out of their game.

"There are some players where you say: `Whatever you do, don't knock him down. He'll get up and make you pay for it later.' Certain guys. But you have to find out who those guys are first. If he didn't like it ... there (Wood) is, he's standing out there...."

Nothing like questioning the manhood of the Little Second Basemen With The Dirty Helmet, while casually dismissing him. Of course, it's easier to dismiss someone with a .235 batting average and a .329 on-base percentage.

[Posted at 14:17 CST on 06/12/02] [Link]

Chron Correction

On Monday afternoon, I actually heard back from one of the Chron editors that he was looking into Thom Marshall's article on the Valentine Foundation.

Gawd bless 'em, there is a correction in today's Chron:

A column in Friday's Chronicle by Thom Marshall urged readers to donate money to the Valentine Foundation. However, Dan Parsons, president of Houston's Better Business Bureau, said potential contributors should consider the background of Whitney Broach, president of the Valentine Foundation, before making contributions to her foundation. Broach was convicted by a federal court jury in New Orleans in 1994 on charges of mail fraud and money laundering. Broach, who operated the American Medical Weight Loss Clinics in the New Orleans area, was charged with filing fictitious claims with health insurance companies for treatments never performed at the clinics. The Chronicle regrets creating the impression of a full endorsement of the Valentine Foundation. "I was not aware, but should have been, that questions had been raised about the Valentine Foundation," Marshall said. "I apologize to readers of the Chronicle and my column."
I imagine many loyal Houston Press readers bombarded the Chron on this one, myself included. Kudos to Richard Connelly over at the Press for digging up the news in the first place.

[Posted at 10:45 CST on 06/12/02] [Link]

11 June 2002

Beazley

The entire column is worth reading, but Jay Nordlinger's much-needed corrective of the Jonathan Beazley coverage especially:

Readers may remember the case of John Luttig and Napoleon Beazley. Luttig was a Texas man, the father of noted federal judge J. Michael Luttig; Beazley was the senior Luttig’s murderer. Judge Luttig wrote a shockingly powerful “victim-impact statement” about his father’s death. Beazley became a minor cause célèbre of the Left, journalistic and otherwise, because he was young, black, the “opponent” of a prominent conservative, and given capital punishment in Texas. That state has now finally thrown the switch.

The reporting on this story remains a little screwy. For example, the Associated Press article on Beazley’s execution said that he had killed Luttig “while trying to steal his Mercedes.” (Interesting that the make of the car should be mentioned, don’t you think? What if the vehicle had been a modest Plymouth?)

The AP story was misleading. Last August, this website ran a memorable piece on the Luttig case by R. Ted Cruz. As he explained, some journalists made it sound as though an honor student had accidentally shot a man in some horrible prank gone awry. But this is what happened:

As the federal court of appeals recounted, Beazley told his friends he wanted to kill somebody, he followed the Luttigs in their car for several miles, he observed to his friends that he was “going to have to shoot [the] driver,” he followed them into their garage, and he threw 63-year-old John Luttig to the ground, shot him once in the side of the head, ran around the car to fire at Bobbie Luttig, and then returned to fire another bullet at close range into John Luttig’s head.

Mrs. Luttig, “who watched her husband die, survived only because she feigned death and rolled under the car, while Beazley drove over her."

Only one correction: he was executed by lethal injection, not electrocution (as Nordlinger suggests).

[Posted at 21:41 CST on 06/11/02] [Link]

Perot

This should keep Ross Perot busy enough to stave off any contemplation of a return to politics.

Thank goodness.

[Posted at 21:35 CST on 06/11/02] [Link]

Bird Brains, PT IV

I thought that the NY Times was finally done with the issue of the rare woodpecker that turned out to be distant gunshots.

I was wrong.

Today's edition has an editorial on the matter. Apparently it's that important.

And the New York Times Magazine sees fit to run articles making fun of Houston?!

[Posted at 21:08 CST on 06/11/02] [Link]

Haney On The RINO Plank

James Reuben Haney (whose blog I discovered via comments in Brothers Judd) has some good, firsthand info from the Texas State GOP Convention. It's especially noteworthy that conservative zealots were defeated in their efforts to "purify" the GOP:

As for the work of the convention, some conservative activists are upset about RINO Republicans. They want to require a loyalty oath to the platform for anyone running in a Republican primary. Luckily, that idea was defeated. They also want to close the Republican primary. I like open primaries myself. They helped the Texas GOP to grow.

I can't help feeling that Texas conservatives are starting to act the way Texas liberals acted in the 1930s to the 1970s. Texas liberals thought, "Since Texas is a one-party state, if we control the Democratic primaries, we control Texas." Well, what happened when the liberals succeeded in capturing the Democratic primaries? Texas started electing Republicans to statewide office. A few history books I've read, written from a liberal perspective, treat that like it's some kind of irony.

I don't think that conservatives are as out-of-step with Texas as liberals were then, but I also don't think that we should be giving the Democrats an opening by telling 85 percent Republicans that they're not welcome in our party. (I might be one of those Republicans that don't meet with their approval.)

The State Chairwoman and every single County Chairperson has spoken out against these proposals. At the Rules Committee meetings, the County Chairs each testified, "Please, PLEASE don't do do this to us. Please don't destroy our ability to recruit candidates with these rules changes." But the conservative activists won't quit.

Now, RINOs like James Jeffords are one thing; there has not been a conservative principle in him for years, and most Republicans understand that and don't miss him. But as James points out, the Texas GOP will find itself in trouble if it decides to chase off people who don't meet a strict conservative religious and economic litmus test (on the former, they would probably chase me off).

Charles Kuffner (another newly discovered blogger) comments also.

[Posted at 20:52 CST on 06/11/02] [Link]

Layne

I think Layne epitomizes the term "good friend."

As far as the book on the Nader campaign -- I would damn sure read it. Come on Welch, your fans are waiting!

[Posted at 12:36 CST on 06/11/02] [Link]

10 June 2002

Dog People

Some people are cat people.

Others of us are dog people.

This poor guy was obviously a dog person. It sounds like all these two had was each other (cliche, I know, but it DOES sound that way), which is kind of sad. What a terrible way to go.

[Posted at 23:21 CST on 06/10/02] [Link]

Stats

Statistics can be deceiving.

I heard today on the sports talk radio station that the Astros lead the league in fielding.

It's common knowledge that they are one of the worst defensive teams in the league, especially on the left side (rotating journeymen infielders, and D-Ward in the outfield most nights). But even gold glovers like Ausmus and Bagwell are suffering through injuries that have hampered their defense, and Biggio just isn't the player he once was these days (not that his SALARY reflects the decline in his skills, unfortunately). Then in center there's Berkman, who does not resemble Willie Mays with his glove. And an average outfielder in right with Hidalgo.

It really should say everything about the defense when Julio Lugo has been perhaps the most consistent defensive player this year.

THAT says much more than a (misleading) fielding percentage statistic.

BTW, that Cowboys-Texans scrimmage is less than two months away. :) And the preseason TSN polls ranks OU #1. With UH out of the college baseball playoffs, I think it's time for a baseball season abortion. :)

[Posted at 22:18 CST on 06/10/02] [Link]

NY Times Bird Brain

These are NOT distant gunshots
Gorman's still milking columns out of this

For months, New York Times columnist James Gorman has been making much about nothing with regard to the possible discovery of a woodpecker long thought extinct. He's written several stories to the effect that researchers sort of might have could have heard the bird, although evidence was inconclusive.

Today, he resurrects this gripping story with the following:

A team searching swampy Louisiana bottomland in January for the regal, perhaps extinct bird heard what they thought was a distinctive double-rap on a dead tree. But researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, who did a computer analysis of digital recordings of the sounds, said yesterday that the listeners actually heard distant gunshots.
EXCUSE ME?! DISTANT GUNSHOTS?! And this merits at least three columns (since I started keeping track) in one of the world's great newspapers?

Or should I say, formerly great?

[Posted at 21:50 CST on 06/10/02] [Link]

09 June 2002

Coogs

I was optimistic after UH took game one from UT at Austin that they might be able to get another one and a trip to the College World Series, but UT was just too damn good this year. I liked UH's pitching matched up against most teams in the playoffs this year -- except UT's. They have the best, deepest pitching staff I've seen in college baseball the last few years. It was just too much, as they took the last two games to go on to the College World Series to face Rice. That should be a good game.

Kudos to the Coogs, though, for an unexpectedly good season. At the start of the season, the team was unheralded and unranked. They played well beyond what anyone predicted, and established themselves as a legitimate top-10 team. Any other year, they probably would have hosted their own Super Regional, and we might have seen three Texas teams in the College World Series. But it didn't work out that way this year, unfortunately.

Still, Rayner's building quite a program here. It's pretty cool to have two college baseball powers here in town. Especially considering the stench coming from Orange Juice Field right now. Gawd, the Astros stink.

[Posted at 16:52 CST on 06/09/02] [Link]

Houston

Elyse Lanier is an idiot. So?
Elyse Lanier, not at ALL representative of Houston (IMO)

Like a lot of locals, I'm not a Houston native, but a transplant.

And like a lot of locals -- transplanted and otherwise -- I make fun of this city's quirks, from Marvin Zindler to Mattress Mac to that depressing daily newspaper.

But I also like this city. Quite a bit, actually. And it annoys me when the bicoastal snobs turn up their noses and snort at any mention of Houston, as if it were some sort of backwards outpost. No, it's not San Francisco or New York or Seattle or any of those trendy places. It doesn't have any one distinguishing characteristic that makes one say, "Ah, THAT is why I love Houston." But it does have diversity, a low cost of living for a big city, great weather all but three months of the year (can you grill a steak outside in December in Seattle? Didn't think so), access to the world via a major international airport, nearby beach (yeah, it's the Gulf, but it beats what much of the country has), etc. And it also has a refreshingly laid-back attitude about itself.

So I'm glad to see a couple of our local bloggers defending our city after this piece (by a former Houston Press hack) in today's New York Times Magazine.

Go check out the thrashing Ginger Stampley and Laurence Simon administer.

(06-11-2002) Charles Kuffner slams the piece also.

[Posted at 14:27 CST on 06/09/02] [Link]

Drexler

After Clyde Drexler's debacle as UH head coach, where he had a nasty habit of not wanting to show up for practice, and considering the man's legendary behind-the-scenes politicking as a player, it's hard to imagine any organization would seriously consider him as head coach at this point in his career. But Jonathan Feigen writes that he's in the running for the Denver job.

The Chron's basketball beat writer has written several columns on Drexler's pursuit of the post, and Drexler keeps giving interviews that suggest he is a serious candidate. Hard to imagine, but Denver isn't regarded as a well-managed NBA team. They might just do it. Probably a big mistake if they do, unless their real goal is lottery draft position.

[Posted at 09:31 CST on 06/09/02] [Link]

RoadRunner

Ongoing problems here with the cable internet service.

I'm suffering from sporadic packet loss on early hops along the houston.rr.com portion of some tracerts. It's highly sporadic -- some tracerts show lovely times and no packet loss. Some tracerts show up to 100% packet loss. Overall speed isn't affected really -- I'm easily pushing 2 Mbps most of the time. But it's noticeable when the equipment does have problems.

I'm certain that some of relay equipment is failing somewhere along the way, probably between the first and second tracert hop. But because the problem is sporadic, the Roadrunner people seem at a loss. The tech who visited today didn't seem to know what a tracert was, but he was convinced the cable to my cable modem needed to be replaced. NO. Of course, the tracert showed no packet loss while he was here, and he left. Five minutes later, there were problems. That's because the CABLE WAS NOT THE PROBLEM. But try convincing a bad tech that actually you might have some idea what you're talking about.

This may be one that's hard to diagnose unless I get the right tech out. I spent about 20 minutes on the phone earlier with the RR engineering people, who seem to agree that there's a problem at one of the hops. They also pretty much suggested I keep having techs come out until one of them actually knows to go check out those relays.

Eventually it will get resolved. They may just have to waste a lot of time and money sending techs out. But it's no big deal to me.

[Posted at 00:16 CST on 06/09/02] [Link]

08 June 2002

Environmentalism As Self-Sacrificial Religion

I commented on a Den Beste essay a few days ago, using Houston's 55 MPH speed reduction as a local example of his broader argument.

Now that the TNRCC has decided to repeal the (retarded) 55 MPH speed limit, the letters are starting to flow into the Chron, and they help make my point. Here's an excerpt of a letter from one Devin Timmerman (Tomball) in Saturday's paper:

Our roads would be safer and commutes more tolerable (perhaps, even enjoyable) if we would think less about the time and other distractions and concentrate on the road.

Even if the science doesn't confirm that 55 mph leads to cleaner air, we may find it leads to a more spiritual view.

Someone needs to tell Mr. Timmerman that he's not supposed to admit it's not about the science. The RadicalTreeHuggingNuts won't like that.

More palatable to them will be Miss Janet Trimble (The Woodlands -- ironically, a sprawling "planned" development that continues to displace some of the last old-growth forest in this area!), whose "viewpoint" appeared in a recent Chron. It seems Miss Trimble once was a very bad steward of the earth, but the friendly environmentalists around her have helped her to see the light (and now she wants to blind the rest of us with it). Excerpt:

According to scientists, even if we eliminated all dangerous emissions beginning today, the Earth's climate would continue to change for the next decade. Do we throw our hands up in defeat? I've been willing to slow down, even if doing so makes only a small difference. And when my 1994 Jeep will go no more, I'm hoping to go electric. . . .

My efforts require a little more time from my already busy life and don't seem like much, but it's a start. I've decided I can be part of the problem or part of the solution. I choose to be part of the solution. My neighbor Cinda always says, "Do what you're comfortable with." I wonder. Seems to me that, as with strength training, where there's no pain, there's no gain. I challenge all who read this to get a little uncomfortable, to make a difference.

There you go -- it's all about the sacrifice! If it doesn't hurt, it can't be virtuous! But you can make a difference if you just "get a little uncomfortable." Does this really sound much different than various highly restrictive religions?

The part I like the best is her surprise (nay, SHOCK!) that the earth's climate will continue to change NO MATTER WHAT THE HELL WE DO WITH OUR LIFESTYLES. Now, I think she actually meant to write that it will change for the worse (and she's as bad a writer as she is a thinker), but maybe not. I just think it's hilarious that Miss Trimble is so ignorant of the science of climatology that she is shocked by the notion that climate change is natural and ongoing, yet would impose her sacrificial, minimalist lifestyle on the rest of us based on her (lack of) understanding of the natural world. Well, she would impose it as soon as her gas-powered Jeep wears out; "more sacrifice for thee and less for me" seems to be at work with poor muddled Miss Trimble.

Isn't that really what much of it is about? Wasn't that Den Beste's point?

[Posted at 23:45 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

Our Chron

On Thursday of this week, the Houston Press published a piece ("Beyond the Womb") by one of my favorite writers in Houston, Richard Connelly, on the Valentine Foundation, a non-profit group in Houston that appears to be somewhat dubious. There's not enough information to form a complete judgment of the Valentine Foundation one way or the other, but certainly the local Better Business Bureau has some doubts about it. The web version of this story posted on Wednesday.

On Friday, the Chron's local news columnist, Thom Marshall, posted this fawning piece ("Cars put homeless on a road to jobs") on the Valentine Foundation. It was a cheerleading piece, pure and simple, with no reference to the problems with the Better Business Bureau or the past history of the foundation's director.

It was really a pretty startling omission. I saw it Friday morning, and sent the link over to Connelly at the Press, as well as sending Thom Marshall a short, polite email asking him if he was aware of the Connelly piece, and if his column was an effort to discredit the piece. Local blogger Ginger Stampley also found the omission strange, and posted to her blog early Friday morning about it.

As of today, still no word from Marshall. I decided this morning since he apparently wanted to ignore me, that I would email the metro/state, news, and managing editors of the paper and ask them about the omission. I've still not heard a peep back from anyone at the Chron, although since it's the weekend I didn't really expect to hear from any editors.

But I'm still a little surprised at Marshall. I would bet money (strike that -- I would bet beer) the local writers at the Chron read the Houston Press (for story ideas! One Dallas Observer columnist admitted once to me that HE used to steal story ideas from that publication when he was at the Dallas Morning News, so it's fairly common). That would almost make Marshall's column an effort to discredit Connelly's piece, indirectly. It would be dishonest, of course, but that's the sort of "Rah-Rah Houston" coverage the Chron is famous for.

If he wasn't aware of Connelly's piece, he should have been. Humans make mistakes, and journalists are human (most of them, anyway). But the columnist should have at least done a quick search of Chron and Houston Press archives, and maybe even the Houston Business Journal (which I have not done), and then checked out any leads generated (i.e. Connelly's Better Business Bureau finding).

At best, Marshall's effort seems like lazy journalism. At worst, dishonest.

And that's our Chron.

[Posted at 20:54 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

War Blog

Reynolds wonders who coined the phrase "WarBlog."

The earlier reference I'm aware of came from Matt Welch, way back in September (9/18 in his blog, although I think he referred to his blog as a warblog when he started it on 9/16). Welch just sort of quietly started using the phrase and hasn't thumped his chest much about it since then, unusual modesty compared to some in blog land. Another reason Welch rocks.

Looking back, I see that I first found Matt Welch's warblog (and asked "Are we all warbloggers now?") back on 11 October. So the term made it into the blog consciousness pretty quickly.

[Posted at 19:30 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

Movable Type

Someone has finally written this, so I don't have to: It's MOVABLE Type, not MOVEABLE Type.

The site linked above has some cool skins and templates, for those in need.

[Posted at 18:54 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

Houston Dives

Houston has been losing some of its great dive bars in recent years.

First there was the Blue Iguana, which has been remade into some sort of retail shop.

And then the Aquarium Lounge, whose owner died on the venerable institution's last day of business.

Lately I see that the Mausoleum has been remade into something entirely different.

And before I became a Montrose resident, the neighborhood lost Dennis Marshman's Boat Yard (which always sounded like a cool place -- scroll towards the bottom for the story). Lately it's been resurrected on Greenbriar (just south of Richmond). Sort of.

When I first dropped by the place yesterday, Marshman (whom I've seen around the Icehouse forever) had yet to show to let his bartender in. But at some point later in the evening, the place got open and even had some live music. John Nova Lomax is right -- the sign outside says the place is called Live Bait, but inside everything points to the name the old Boat Yard name. And it has a musty, boat yard smell inside matched by a divey decor (right down to the Texas flag painted on the ceiling, above the live music stage). It doesn't have the seedy feel of, say, Cecil's, but it's certainly a dive.

Strangely, the place is surviving as a complete charity right now -- BECAUSE IT DOESN'T YET HAVE ITS LIQUOR LICENSE. That means all the booze is technically and legally free. To serve booze at all, they have to give it away.

We left a reasonable enough "contribution" when we were done, although as I looked around the room, I'm not sure that many of the patrons were as kind.

And here's the part that seals the deal that Live Bait/Boat Yard is officially a dive. Remember how I commented recently that I probably wouldn't be seeing much of Drunk Dude, the fellow who knocked over a brick wall in a drunken driving mishap? Well, who but Drunk Dude stumbles into Live Bait/Boat Yard!? On foot, thankfully, instead of driving, but it was Drunk Dude, who stumbled over and nearly passed out on one of the couches before enjoying a drink, moving to another part of the room where he nearly passed out, and then stumbling out. Have I mentioned stumbling? There was quite a bit of that.

How bizarre, I thought, that I'm sitting in a dive that Drunk Dude visits. Ah, Montrose. And Montrose dive bars. Maybe the neighborhood still has a little life left, despite the ongoing gentrification.

[Posted at 18:43 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

Romantic Love

I never did mention Mr. Breese's recent thoughts on romantic love. The post should be of interest to all you Objectivist and post-Objectivist types especially.

I love these creative outbursts that he occasionally shares with us.

[Posted at 10:53 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

He's Just A Singer...

Den Beste writes,

I make as many mistakes as anyone else does; why, exactly, is this noteworthy?
I suspect that question is mostly rhetorical, as I'm sure Steven has a good notion that some of it is motivated by his status as blog-celebrity (like it or not, Steven, you're right up there with the biggies now!). And some of it is motivated by personality, hence the apparent glee with which Den Beste's interlocutor exclaims,
In a way I'm relieved: here is an area in which the omniscient Captain is woefully ignorant.
Why is it SO DAMN PLEASING to discover that a person one reads is woefully ignorant on some issue, assuming it's true (and I don't think it is)? Isn't that much more psychologically revealing than the post on Den Beste's psychology?! To me it is.

Den Beste has ably defended his posts, so I feel no need to comment on them beyond saying they amused me. I enjoy those sorts of posts, where we get to see a more personal side of Steven (but still, his engineer's mentality comes through, as he's always looking for connections, and why things are connected, and how it works). And I think after reading him carefully for a while, I've come to understand Steven's sense of humor, when he is being tongue-in-cheek and sarcastic and employing more subtle rhetorical devices. Sometimes that subtlety is lost on readers who have an agenda of their own, rather than the agenda of trying to understand a writer on his own terms (pardon my Straussian digression). It's the same thing that Orrin Judd has discovered (final paragraph) when he laments that some people have created a caricature of Fukuyama because they think a couple of paragraphs ripped out of context represent the whole of his thought on nature and natural right.

I don't agree with everything Den Beste writes, but even those posts with which I disagree stimulate me to think. I enjoy those posts, but not because I'm hoping to catch Steven in a "woefully ignorant" moment (yeah, right -- whatever). Rather, it's refreshing to have someone on the web producing so much original, provocative stuff -- FOR FREE!

(06-12-2002 Update): Den Beste's "interlocutor" chides me for not identifying him. Fair enough -- Mr. Eric Olsen is now identified. His point are fair. I only really object to his characterization of my "praise" of Francis Fukuyama, which is presumably enough for expulsion from the Group Of Bloggers Who Don't Like Fukuyama (tm). Now, I never applied for membership, and I suspect the group wouldn't have me anyway! But I digress. Suggesting Fukuyama's critics actually read him carefully and attempt to understand him as he understands himself is simply a manifestation of an approach to studying texts, and shouldn't be regarded as "praise" in itself. For the record, I've not yet read his latest, and I didn't like Fukuyama's neo-Hegelianism in The End Of History and The Last Man, although Fukuyama does take the question of human nature and natural right seriously in that text, whatever its flaws. But it's become blogsport to condemn and dismiss Fukuyama, without putting in much effort to understand him. That's troubling.

[Posted at 09:43 CST on 06/08/02] [Link]

07 June 2002

One More To Omaha?

Go Coogs!

From the Chron:

The Longhorns had eight hits but stranded 10 baserunners. Texas hit three balls to the warning track, including catcher Ryan Hubele's 395-foot blast in the fifth with a runner on that came up just short of the 400-foot wall in dead center.
Ummm... Okay. They almost mighta coulda shoulda scored some runs. Almost like Chris Simms almost mighta coulda shoulda NOT thrown that interception when OU Safety Roy Willliam slammed into his ass in the Cotton Bowl last year. Losers.

Tuck Fexas

Sometimes I wonder when UT will change their battle cry from WHINE.

(Update) Robyn points me to hubby's thoughts on UT tonight. Note the upside down longhorn logos. TOO FUNNY!

(Update) Robyn directs me to the UTerus as well. Now that I'm done laughing, I must go to bed. Details on the new Montrose dive bar tomorrow.

[Posted at 22:36 CST on 06/07/02] [Link]

06 June 2002

Jackasses

What a bunch of a-holes.

Who the hell would do this?

And why is security at UH and Rice so lax?

[Posted at 23:34 CST on 06/06/02] [Link]

All In The Family

I love that Venus smile Serena has some SCARY biceps!

The Williams sisters have made it the finals of the French Open. I've long been a Venus Williams fan. She has such power and grace, and is almost always smiling on the court. She's saved the women's game from the constantly grunting Monica Seles and the constantly pouting Martina Hingis.

I'm not as big a fan of her sister Serena -- who may actually have more raw talent -- because she's almost machine-like on the court. When she's on top of her game, her power is something to see, but it never looks like she's having as much fun as Venus.

Anyway, it should be a rocking final.

[Posted at 21:36 CST on 06/06/02] [Link]

Minute Maid Park

So Stupid, It Really Doesn't Need Comment

What is there to say?

Dallas has the Ballpark at Arlington.

Chicago has Wrigley.

Baltimore has Camden Yards.

Oklahoma City has the Bricktown Ballpark. FRIGGIN' Oklahoma City!

And Houston?

Houston now has Minute Maid Park. A great place to drink some juice, even if you happen to be sitting in one of the many seats with an obstructed view of the field. And really, as pitiful as the team is this season (tonight, they looked like a Little League team in blowing a rundown after a pickoff), drinking the juice really is a better alternative than trying to watch them play. Especially if one smuggles in some airplane bottles of vodka.

Please let this baseball season end, and bring on the Texans.

(Update) Okay, Callie points out it could be worse. Mattress Mac could have bought the naming rights, and stuck a Gallery Furniture couch on the back of the train. Hell, he probably would have been SITTING in the couch, yelling "Gallery Furniture Saves You Money." Good gawd, this town is wack sometimes.

[Posted at 00:46 CST on 06/06/02] [Link]

05 June 2002

Pullman

It kept me up until about 2am last night, but I finally finished Philip Pullman's The Amber Spyglass. I struggled to get through sections of the first two books of the trilogy, but the last book made it all worthwhile. The series was certainly worth reading.

However, Pullman comes up a little short in his goal of being to atheism what C.S. Lewis was to Christianity. These are good books, mind you, but unlike the Narnia series, I don't think they are great children's books. And C.S. Lewis was truly one of the great minds of the twentieth century. Will people fifty years from now be saying that Philip Pullman was one of the great minds of the twenty-first? Perhaps -- but it's going to take more than His Dark Materials to get him there.

Finally, I'm not so sure that Pullman's work is that convincing an argument against Christianity (or religion more broadly). Surely Nietzsche's arguments on religion, not to mention Rand's, are more powerful. Pullman really breaks no new ground.

Personally, I'm hopeful one of Jaffo's future novels takes up the topic.

[Posted at 23:02 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

Cheap, Silly Entertainment

I used to enjoy reading the "Crossed Wires" section of the Houston Press personal ads, but at some point the section was discontinued. Basically, the section contained ads from people who had passed each other, and then regretted not speaking, along the lines of "You: Red shirt and cute smile at West Gray Kroger on 5/23; we discussed dog food. Wish I had asked for your number." The ads always amused me because most were so general they could have referred to hundreds of people on any given day.

Anyway, Callie tells me the ads are still in the online version of the rag. I wonder how many of them are for real?

[Posted at 21:58 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

Human Nature

Are we all Fukuyamists now?

Maybe not, but Orrin Judd thinks at least one prominent blogger has more in common with Fukuyama than he admits.

(06-05-2002 Update) Reynolds responds. Kind of interesting -- Reynolds says Judd misses his point, Judd says Reynolds misses Fukuyama's point (about human nature). I wish enough common ground could be reached to debate the question of human nature, for Reynolds seems to equate it with a religious frame of reference -- and one wonders why? If that connection is rejected, would it change his contentions at all? Ah, the enduring questions of political philosophy.

[Posted at 20:07 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

Steph

That is one BADASS webcam shot of my friend Steph up right now.

Still waiting for that promised redesign of her blog, though, just to see what she comes up with. Too bad none of the warbloggers have thought of using Steph for their designs -- hell, if I didn't like tinkering so much (and was inclined to PAY for a personal site redesign), she'd be reworking these pages in a heartbeat.

[Posted at 17:38 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

Guy V. Lewis Snubbed, AGAIN

How nice that women's college hoops coach Kay Yow made it into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame this year, but Guy V. Lewis was snubbed once again.

Hmm... let's see:

Guy V: 592-279 career record, 5 Final Four appearances, 14 NCAA Tourney appearances, 3 NIT appearances (back when it was no shame to make the NIT).

Kay: 625-268 career record (according to NC State website -- this is not what the article reports), 1 Final Four appearance, 7 NCAA Tourney appearances at NC State (no idea what she did at her prior school).

Nothing against Kay Yow really, but her career record doesn't compare favorably.

About the only strike against Guy V. is that some years he had a ton of talent (Phi Slama Jama, anyone?) and didn't win it all. The loss to NC State and Jimmy Valvano probably has hurt Guy V's chances the most.

But look -- lots of coaches are considered great and haven't won it all. How about Marv Levy's run with the Buffalo Bills (four straight Super Bowls, no victories) or Roy Williams career at Kansas (zero national championships). Is anyone really suggesting that Roy Williams, if he never wins a national championship at Kansas, won't be in the Hall of Fame?

Then why not Guy V. Lewis?

(06-06-2002 Update) Not a word on the Chron basketball page about the Guy V. Lewis snub. In fact, the only story they run is AP wire coverage. Nice job, Chron! Way to make national stories of local interest! I guess it's just too hard to pass up horrible jokes and cliches about Minute Maid Park (the latest lame Houston sports moment -- 96 days or so until football season kicks off, THANK GAWD) to write something more thoughtful.

[Posted at 16:54 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

Hard Candy Update

Amazon finally has fixed their audiostream for early purchasers of the Counting Crows Hard Candy cd, which I referred to a few days ago. I've been listening to it most of the day, and like what they've done (although I'm partial to the bootlegs of Richard Manuel/If I Could Give All My Love). American Girls is just an excellent song, and so is Miami.

I also like Adam's latest journal entry (reproduced below because there are no permalinks):

Oh yeah. I like coke. Well, not really coke. It's too sweet, but I am completely addicted to diet coke. So the commercial seemed and still seems perfectly harmless to me. I'm truly sorry if it upset some of you but that's the breaks. Sometimes I think people are too quick to make use of this term "selling out" without really thinking about what that actually means. As long as we make music the same way we always have and as long as business concerns never affect the way we make our art, then I think you are truly rude to accuse us of selling out just because we made a commercial for a product we actually like whose owners like counting crows enough to want us to represent them when they could probably have chosen people far more popular than we are.

This is a business we are in. Make no mistake about that. I don't happen to think that is a dirty word unless you do dirty business. Business is what adults do. Kids lives are all about free time and escaping from work, but adult lives are all about work and accomplishment and part of what I am trying to accomplish is to run the business of Counting Crows the best way I know how to run it without ever tainting the artistic side of what we do. And as long as I satisfy myself that I am doing just that, I know I never have to worry about selling out. It seems like every time we make a record, I have to read these feverish posts worried that this time we have finally given in and sold out to the terrible corporate monster. Are you so jaded? We've lasted ten years without doing it when 90% of the bands we started with are gone. Why would we think we need to start now? The records will always be there for you. We will always care enough to make the kind of records that brought you here and kept you here.

Trust me in that at least. We do it that way anyways because that's what we care about ourselves. That's why we're here in the first place. Because we care enough to want to do this. I'm glad we matter enough to you to upset you at all, but I just wanted to say I don't think you have to worry. I love this record and I love "American Girls" and I hope it's huge and I hope I don't freak out again and if you don't like this song or this record, then there will always be another one in a few years and hopefully that will be one you love again. But there will be another one cause with all the shitty music and all the shitty radio and tv and all the incredible cynicism, WE ARE STILL HERE and there's nothing anyone can do about it.

Adam Duritz, Lecturer for Capitalism. I love it! Especially that line, "Business is what adults do." Made me laugh out loud!

[Posted at 16:08 CST on 06/05/02] [Link]

04 June 2002

Pullman

The recent commotion in blog land over this article about Philip Pullman has compelled me finally to finish The Amber Spyglass (the final installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy) -- hence the lack of blogging tonight. I finished the first two books a couple of months ago, and just never got around to the third. I've got a couple hundred pages to go yet, and the series has been interesting reading (though not, so far, comparable to Lewis). More comments tomorrow.

[Posted at 22:35 CST on 06/04/02] [Link]

03 June 2002

Cuba

I meant to post the link to this article a couple of weeks ago, but the float trip intervened and I forgot all about it.

The headline is fun enough: Sympathizing with Carter, while laughing at Bush

But my favorite part is the line at the bottom, which is a blurb about the author: Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly in Cuba, is Cuba's most powerful political figure after Fidel Castro.

Now, obviously the author chose that byline, and the Chron bought it. But I would suggest that Mr. Castro's brother, General Raul Castro, the head of the army and the first vice president, is a slightly more powerful "political" figure in the totalitarian regime.

And I could spend all night picking apart the editorial itself, but one thing is really amusing. Those Havana hotel bombings in recent years (1997, to be precise) referred to by the author? The Castro regime long blamed the United States for those "terrorist" bombings (!?), but many sources have suggested that the Castro regime itself was behind the attacks, so that it would have a pretext for one of its regular draconian security crackdowns -- which conveniently took place shortly thereafter. How's that for irony?

I'm sure the editors of the Chron didn't remember any of that, though, since they decided to run this propaganda piece that would have been better suited to the local Pacifica station. Ah well.

[Posted at 22:11 CST on 06/03/02] [Link]

The Blog World Hits Puberty?

The blog world seems to be growing up a little bit. Or at least growing.

A few weeks ago, Ginger Stampley alluded to the growing divide between the "semi-pro" bloggers and the "hobby" bloggers. Ginger places herself firmly in the hobby camp, and that's where I would put myself (the day job pays me to write; this is my place to play). And for the most part, I think it's a fairly useful distinction, with so many of the "big" sites either being annexes or personal outlets for people who already write professionally (Sullivan, Reynolds, Welch, Layne, Jarvis come to mind immediately), or showcases those aspiring to write for public prints and the web (many of these folks have been tabbed for FoxNews.com, for example). Of course there are the outliers like Den Beste, who should be paid (well!) by someone to write professionally, but who has nonetheless built a "big" hobby site.

Lately, there's been a flurry of activity as some political bloggers move off of blogspot and blogger and onto real web servers. A fair number of those folks have even followed The Leader, making the leap to Movable Type (good move!) and replacing those old blogger templates with professionally designed sites (good move!) -- which has probably led to the emergence of a new subgroup: the "professional" hobby blogger. The Pro Hobby Bloggers are people who prefer to leave the html tinkering and script installation and htaccess fun stuff to the experts, and have a site that is functional and attractive. And then there are those of us who enjoy learning about the stuff in the background as well as blogging -- the low-rent tinkering hobby bloggers.

It's kind of interesting to watch it all shake out, and I'm not sure where it's heading. I'm happy enough to be in the tinkering/hobby-blogging camp, though, because I'm not entirely sure even where this site is leading (and so it's nice to be able to make changes on the fly). It started as one of those dreadful static sites (powered by Front Page, in 1997 -- woo!) with a few essays and a bio and such, and at some point gained a journal, and then a weblog (which eventually grew into a different project), and then the journal became more of a commentary weblog after 11 September, and now it's sort of back to a personal journal of sorts.

Anyway, this is one of those personal-journal types of entries -- intended for no particular reader (but myself). But if you've managed to stick around and read through all of the ramble, congratulations. And thanks. :)

[Posted at 21:52 CST on 06/03/02] [Link]

02 June 2002

Lakers

What an AMAZING Western Conference Finals.

I'm glad the Lakers won, as I had zero interest in a Nets-Kings matchup in the Finals.

Rick Adelman must be tired of getting OH SO CLOSE so many times.

And Chris Webber must be tired of coming up short in the clutch so many times.

And how about Shaq shooting a (much!) higher percentage of his free throws than the entire Sacramento team tonight?! Who would have ever believed THAT going in?

[Posted at 21:02 CST on 06/02/02] [Link]

Coogs Win Tempe Regional

The Coogs rode strong pitching and hitting again today, to win the NCAA baseball regional at Tempe. They pretty much dominated the field, despite having to play on the road.

Next weekend, they go to Austin for a Super Regional against Texas.

It's irritating that the NCAA has managed to shortchange Texas baseball this year. There are three top ten teams in this state, each with a real chance to make it to the College World Series in Omaha, but because of the way the NCAA schedulers set it up, only two of them are going to have a chance to make it. Houston got a raw deal this year -- with their record and RPI, they deserved to host at least a regional, as they demonstrated by kicking some serious ass at Tempe.

But maybe they can go win a couple at Austin. Sometimes being a disrespected underdog can fire up a team.

(06-02-2002 Update) The NCAA Tourney Committee may not have given UH much respect, but Arizona State's head coach is impressed:

"They're a very confident team right now,'' said Arizona State coach Pat Murphy. "They've played a great schedule and beaten everybody in the country. Look at what they've done. That's an impressive bunch. It's kind of neat to see a team play together like that. I like the way they competed this weekend, but they didn't get challenged much.''

[Posted at 18:25 CST on 06/02/02] [Link]

Coogs

Danny Zell pitched a strong five innings, and Rayner was able to spread his relievers out, as UH coasted to the championship game at the Tempe regional yesterday.

The Coogs are sitting pretty, with the bullpen at full strength and their solid, if not spectacular #3, Gene Flores, set to start today.

It would be best if the Coogs could take the first game, and close things out.

[Posted at 11:12 CST on 06/02/02] [Link]

Larry's Enchiladas

Callie and I made the roadtrip to Larry's Mexican Restaurant in Richmond last night, to give the enchiladas a try.

The sign out front looks just like the sign at Old Felix here in town, and the enchiladas are comparable. Overall, I like them a little better than those at Felix (because the chili gravy suits my taste better, and I really like the way the tortillas were cooked), but venerable Spanish Village still wins, hands down, when it comes to Cheese Enchiladas. And they make the best refried beans in the area.

Still, it was a worthwhile roadtrip, and good for plenty of people watching.

Even if we were supposed to drive 55 MPH all the way. In a damn Cobra, no less.

[Posted at 10:13 CST on 06/02/02] [Link]

Kyoto Nonsense

Den Beste returns with a bang, posting the best damn analysis of the sham that is the Kyoto Treaty that I've seen this year (maybe longer).

Den Beste picks up on an interesting point: the anti-growth, anti-liberty crowd can't win on the straight merits of their case, so they've resorted to all sorts of tangential issues to accomplish the same thing. To stop foresting (despite modern techniques that actually result in healthier forests than ever), they resort to the spotted owl issue. To stop the U.S. economic engine that powers the world, they resort to Kyoto. It's always something.

Here in Houston, it's the 55 MPH speed limit. The Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission recently decided to drop the 70 MPH speed limit in Houston's metro area to 55 MPH, allegedly to bring Houston into compliance with clean air standards. I write "allegedly" because there's really little scientific evidence that such a drop is going to have much of an effect at all. For one thing, it's the heavy industry surrounding Houston (coupled with Houston's geographical/meteorological situation) that is responsible for most of the pollution; for another, it's cars sitting stalled in traffic that emit the most pollution, not cars going 15 MPH faster than the current limit on unclogged freeways.

All the new regulations really do is assert control over motorists, and make it harder to get around Houston, which is a sprawling Metro Area. And THAT LAST is the real target of the environmental crowd. They've never been able to get voters to embrace zoning in Houston (so they can mandate "efficient" high-density living) and they've only forced voters recently to accept (grudgingly) some experiments with light rail for mass transit. But if they make the freeways a real pain in the ass even when there is no traffic on them, they suddenly make their real agenda much more attractive.

Thankfully, Houston voters and motorists seem not to be buying it. Houston blogger and political compatriot Rob Booth, whom I've just discovered, points out this Chron article, in which the TNRCC seems to be leaning towards lifting the ridiculous speed limits. That's good. Jimmy Carter's 55 MPH speed limits did nothing to counter his disastrous anti-market energy policies (coupled with his general belief in the inevitability of American decline) and were wholly misguided. TNRCC's speed limits should die as well (though much more quickly) -- and, as Rob suggests, politicians OUGHT to take some heat for the manner in which this unelected, unaccountable body imposed them in the first place.

(06-03-2002 Update) It's good to know that Marvin Zindler is on the case. It's even better to know that there is so little crime in Houston that cops are free enough to line up on the freeways and set speed traps. Funny, but the crime statistics don't seem to suggest that at all.

(06-08-2002 Update) This letter to the Chron underscores the point that really this has little to do with the science of clean air:

Philosophers and poets have said it ad infinitum: Slow down and pay attention to what you are doing right here, right now.

I'm disappointed that none of the discussions of speed on our highways ever relates to our psychology, which is deeply part of the problem.

Americans win the prize for doing everything fast, excelling at speed but not necessarily quality. Our desire to cram as much stuff into our daily schedules requires that we not stand for impediments -- slow drivers or speed limits.

Skimming recent drivers' responses to the new 55-mph speed limit, I found several who might be contenders for a possible "road-rager of the year" award.

Eastern philosophy calls it mindfulness.

Our roads would be safer and commutes more tolerable (perhaps, even enjoyable) if we would think less about the time and other distractions and concentrate on the road.

Even if the science doesn't confirm that 55 mph leads to cleaner air, we may find it leads to a more spiritual view.

Devin Zimmerman, Tomball

[Posted at 09:49 CST on 06/02/02] [Link]

01 June 2002

Counting Crows Hard Candy

Relief for all you Counting Crows fans who just can't wait for Hard Candy to be released, and can't track down the new songs on Audiogalaxy/Morpheus/Gnutella or bootlegs: Amazon is doing a REALLY SMART THING and offering an immediate audiostream of the new CD until it is released in July, for those who purchase now via Amazon.

THAT is a really good idea.

This is going to be an amazing CD, easily the best since their debut (though THAT will be hard to top). From the bootlegs I've been listening to for a year now, favorite songs: 1) Richard Manuel is Dead -- or whatever the hell they've renamed it, 2) American Girls -- getting airplay on the radio right now, 3) Miami, 4) Black and Blue.

So what are you waiting for? Go Order Hard Candy!

(06-01-2002 Update) A plus over the bootleg versions of "American girls" is that the studio version has the Sheryl Crow backing vocals. Cool.

(06-02-2002 Update) I've not been able to get the Hard Candy stream to work yet, and the same problem seems to be causing consternation on the Counting Crows list. Get it together Amazon!

[Posted at 15:16 CST on 06/01/02] [Link]

Tipper And Paula Are Exhausted

Callie emails me this link, and this comment:

ok, you're the expert on things like this. which one of these women is the bigger idiot? and could paula zahn BE a bigger idiot than she already is?
The answer is, Tipper is the much bigger idiot. Several sizes at the very least. And if she follows the lead of Al post-election, she can certainly grow to be a bigger idiot. As for Paula -- well, though petite and pretty, let's just say that CNN is a good fit for her. They allow her to practice cutting-edge journalism, after all. Now if Greta Van StretchedFace could be persuaded to rejoin her CNN friends....

Anyway, the most disturbing aspect of all of this is that my Significant Other regards me as an expert on these matters. Umm... is that a compliment exactly? Because it wouldn't really seem that way, would it?

Hmm....

[Posted at 15:08 CST on 06/01/02] [Link]

Airport (In)Security

Liberals and National Greatness Conservatives alike (is there any difference) should just love the new airport security measures.

On the other hand, I plan to continue driving to most of my destinations, and don't think I'll be joining my significant other and her family for a trip to Greece later this summer.

[Posted at 11:47 CST on 06/01/02] [Link]

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