1/12/2002

New Economy Recovery Update Formerly bankrupt dot-com Internet Advisory Corp is in talks to buy notorious New York nudie bar Scores and take it public. ``We are charting a new course for the company,'' Internet Advisory's Chairman and Chief Executive Richard Goldring said. ''We intend to become the industry leader in adult nightclub entertainment.''

Well, good luck. I know that the "sin" industry is supposed to be recession-proof and all that, but that doesn't mean it'll be any better a stock than Pets.com was, though at least their business plan makes more sense. Still, I wouldn't quit the day job and bet it all on Scores' IPO. Rick's Cabaret stock closed Friday at $2.89, not exactly 1999-level Amazon numbers, y'know?

Bad news for my wife My wife likes to sleep in the car. If she's a passenger and she's not engaged in conversation, off to dreamland she goes. Doesn't matter how short the trip is - she can zonk out returning from the grocery store.

On longer trips, she likes to recline the seat for maximum comfort.
Unfortunately, reclining the car seat puts you at higher risk of injury. Sorry, Tiffany.
Why we live in Texas Today is one of those days - warm, sunny, bright blue sky - that my friend Matt calls a "convertible revocation day". Matt, who has an old Cabriolet convertible, says that if you're not driving with the top down on a day like today, you don't deserve to own a convertible. If you ever wonder why Houstonians put up with the brutal heat and humidity of the summer, it's because of days like today.
Ginger Stampley takes on the city of Bellaire for whining about some new construction to link the service roads on the West Loop. I have a little more sympathy for the Bellaire folks than she does because my neighborhood recently had to deal with TxDOT doing a Major Investment Study to "specifically study the transportation needs from US 59 at Spur 527, just south of the downtown Houston, north along IH 45 to Beltway 8 in north Harris County." This could have meant widening I-45, which runs east of my neighborhood, which in turn would have meant possibly bringing the freeway a lot closer to where I live. All of the proposed expansion would have had to be in our direction because there's a cemetary on the other side which isn't going anywhere.

The various neighborhood associations sounded a call to arms on this one, and as far as I can tell the MIS has been pretty much shelved. Given the way I-45 flooded during Tropical Storm Allison, I'm glad that no more pavement is going to be created for it. It's my hope, and I know others in my neighborhood agree, that the I-45 corridor will be one of the next in line for rail expansion. If they build a rail line near my house that runs up to IAH, I'm never driving to the airport again.

Thus, I have some sympathy for the Bellaire folks. Of course, the new construction won't uproot any current houses. And I won't be surprised if these folks complain when and if rail expansion comes to the West Loop. So it's not too much sympathy.

1/11/2002

More Enron fun Boy, the hits just keep on coming for Enron, don't they? Let's see, we have Ken Lay calling Paul O'Neill and Don Evans to warn them about the impending implosion (bet some Enron employees would have liked the heads-up, too), John Ashcroft and the U.S. Attorney's Office in Houston recusing themselves from the investigation because they're too closely tied to Enron (Ashcroft got $57,000 from Ken Lay and Enron for his 2000 Senate bid), and everyone's favorite accounting firm saying that they, uh, might have destroyed some Enron documents that maybe they shouldn't have.

You know it's gonna be a good scandal when it provides plenty of moments of unintentional comedy. First, there's Team Bush's pathetic attempts to downplay his buddy-buddy relationship with Ken Lay by saying that Lay was friends with Ann Richards, too. Hey, guys? Ann Richards has been out of office since 1994. Dubya beat her in the governor's race that year. Does the word "irrelevant" mean anything to you?

The funniest bit, of course, is this priceless quote from press secretary Ari Fleischer:

"I think that people need to remember that the American people are sick and tired of partisan witch hunts, and endless investigations, particularly in the case here, if people try to make hay out of one party's involvement and contacts or relationships with Enron"

Gee, Ari, now whyever would the American people be so sick of partisan witch hunts? Things were so peaceful and harmonious during the Clinton years.

I'm sure the Houston Chronicle has hated having to write all of these stories about Enron and Bush. Houston's Only Information Source has been a very pro-Enron paper, and of course they've been on the Bush bandwagon ever since the Allen brothers first pitched a tent out here. Even when they criticize their favorite sons, they're always careful to point out that whatever naughty thing the boys have been up to, the Clintons did it before and did it worse. We should all have such staunch friends.

1/10/2002

Fringe Benefits Dept. I'm not sure what to make of this article in InfoBeat in which Mira Sorvino claims that actors and actresses have really done the nasty while filming movie love scenes. She is in a position to hear this sort of thing, but with so little information I just can't say.

What prevents me from dismissing this outright is the fact that Sorvino claims that an actress told her that she had done it herself. In cases where there's been a rumor or claim of onscreen nookie in the past, it's inevitably the man who says it happened. The woman either denies it or remains silent. It's hard to take that kind of claim seriously.

Frankly, until both parties involved say they did it, and at least one witness confirms it, I'm not buying it. And I don't expect to hear such a claim any time soon.
In whose best interest? Well, well. Seems Bud Selig may have violated baseball's rules by accepting a loan from Minnesota Twins owner/tightwad Carl Pohlad. The fact that Pohlad stands to make $250 million from the proposed contraction of a team that is both profitable and likely to challenge for the division title this year as they did last year is a mere coincidence.

This is precisely the problem with having an owner be the commissioner. Never mind the fact that he has no credibility with the players (or the public in the post-contraction shenanigans), it's an inherent conflict of interest. Ask yourself this question: Would Bart Giamatti have gone forward with that stoopid contraction scheme? Peter Ueberroth? Fay Vincent? Hell, even Bowie Kuhn was smarter than that, and he's got more integrity in his big toe than the entire Selig family does to boot.

The commissioner of baseball serves at the pleasure of the owners, as Fay Vincent discovered. That's how Selig, who was initially installed as an interim commish, got there in the first place - the owners were tired of paying someone who didn't jump through their hoops, so they gave the office to one of their own. He's a puppet and a farce and the worst thing to happen to baseball in a long time.

Rep. John Conyers was right to call for Selig's resignation. He's backed off a bit, but still thinks Selig should step aside until things can be clarified. Rep. Conyers, you were right the first time. Keep at it.

I should note that Ray Ratto sees it differently. I think we both agree on what kind of commissioner baseball needs, though:

Selig's resignation may be an intriguing notion to some, but he is still an employee rather than an emperor. If he is someday to be replaced, it should be not by another guy with a daughter who can run the store while Dad's away, but by someone who is paid by both the owners and players, who has a sufficiently long and lucrative contract and a sizable enough buyout to give him (or her) freedom of action to lead baseball with a clear, understandable, fully beneficial vision.

In other words, a kind of commissioner baseball has never had.
RPI, schmarpi Dan Wetzel give the Ratings Power Index (RPI) the dissecting it deserves. Remember, kids, it's all about the big boys hogging the money.

This brings up Off the Kuff's Immutable Law of NCAA Tournament Pools: Some team you've never heard of with 25 wins is a good bet to upset an overseeded 19-win BCS conference team that finished with a near-.500 conference record. In my mind, in many of these cases it's not an upset when a 12 seed with a sparkling record knocks off an overrated 5 seed. After three straight Sweet Sixteens, can anyone really call Gonzaga a Cinderella team? Now that they've spent some time in the Top 25, we'll see if they get a commensurate seeding. Don't hold your breath - the power of RPI is hard to resist.

1/09/2002

They've obviously never watched NYC pedestrians Jonathan Chait tackles the conventional wisdom in college football that players from Southern schools are faster than players from Northern schools.
Resolutions redux Now that I've started on my pledge to write more, I suppose I can't ignore my other annual New Year's resolution, which is to lose weight by eating better and exercising more. I could bore you by talking about how I hope to change my eating habits, but I'd rather bore you by talking about how I plan to exercise.

I've been playing pickup basketball at the gym across the street from where I work on a semi-regular basis (which will be more regular now, I promise!) for awhile now. If you can get past the fact that I'm a short, dumpy, slow-footed white guy who can't jump, you quickly come to the conclusion that I still suck. Fortunately, the guys there (mostly my coworkers) let me play anyway. I've at least developed a somewhat-credible outside game. And I've managed to avoid getting any teeth knocked out. So overall I'd classify this as a success.

Seriously, it's a pretty good workout. We play hard and have fun, which is important because I hate working out. It's a chore and it's boring, so anything that makes it less so makes it harder for me to find excuses not to go. I'm aiming for at least twice a week from here on out.

I see that I'm not the only blogger with a weight loss goal. Good luck!
Yes, but does he have hairy feet? Andrew Sullivan recently wrote a piece that compares President Bush to Frodo from Lord of the Rings. This prompted a reader to write in and claim that Bush is really Sam Gamgee:

Bush is most clearly NOT Frodo...Frodo has the legacy of the ring thrust on him, but he lacks a great deal of strength and moral dimension...The credit for the successful completion of the quest goes to Sam, whose virtues are simple but essential: faithfulness, determination, endurance, love and hope...Bush is not Frodo. Bush is Sam.

Sheesh. Can we ease off on the hero-worship a bit? I'll stipulate that Bush has done a fine job under pressure. I don't need you to convince me that he eats his vegetables, washes behind his ears, loves puppies, and still finds time to call his mother every day. Nice boys don't always make good presidents, as Jimmy Carter demonstrated.

For a different take on the qualities that have made Bush do so well in the War on Terror, read this piece by Jacob Weisberg. If you want a more pessimistic outlook on the progress of the war, try this Robert Wright article.

1/08/2002

All events happen in real time Man, if you're not watching 24, you're missing some excellent TV. After watching tonight's episode, all I can say is wow. Find a friend with the tapes and dig in.
One of my readers (yes! I have readers! woo hoo!) wrote in to recommend Damian Penny's Daimnation blog for a good alternate viewpoint. I like his style and will add a link for him when the template server is up again. Thanks much for the tip.

I've also decided to give InstaPundit another try, which paid an instant dividend here - scroll down a bit and you'll see what I mean.

Getting back to Damian Penny, he criticizes Roger Ebert for a recent "Movie Answer Man" response. Penny says:

A writer to Roger Ebert's Movie Answer Man reports that a school district in Fargo, ND, cancelled a school trip to see the "Harry Potter" movie out of fears its portrayal of witchcraft would violate the separation of church and state. That's bad enough, but Ebert's response - that "I can understand the principle involved" - is even worse. I hope to God he was being sarcastic. I've feared for Ebert's critical faculties ever since he thrashed the hilarious Zoolander for being offensive to Malaysians.

Now here's the q-and-a that bothers Penny:

Q. A school district in North Dakota did not allow students to attend the premiere of ''Harry Potter'' in Fargo. They feel the portrayal of witchcraft would be in violation of the separation of church and state. I am very disappointed about the action being taken and I really feel for the kids.

A. Since this was to be an official class trip, I can understand the principle involved, and hope the school district applies the same standards to public prayers at football games, etc.

I can understand the principle too, but it has nothing to do with church and state. It has everything to do with not wanting to piss off the type of parents who think exposure to Harry Potter will turn their kids into a bunch of chicken-sacrificing Ozzy-Osbourne-listening devil worshippers. There's a better way of dealing with this, and it takes into account those who object (which, after all, they have a right to do) without punishing those who want to see the movie. It's called a "parental consent form". Get your parent to sign the form and you can see the movie. Otherwise, you don't. What's so hard about that?

Maybe I'm just from another time and another place, but I recall going to see a Truffaut film with my French class while in middle school. The movie was called L'argent du Poche, which means "Small Change". I remember exactly two things about this movie:

  • I learned the French expressions for the F word and the S word. Later, when I took French in college and was required to buy a Harrap's dictionary, I learned that the French have different words for them depending on whether they're used as nouns or verbs. You gotta love a language like that.

  • Being a French movie, it was required by French law to feature a nekkid woman. I would have enjoyed that a lot more if my mother had not been a chaperone for the trip.


Anyway, I have also received recommendations for (and had the time to check out) QuasiPundit, The Cynicologist, and Through the Looking Glass. I hope they're as edifying to you as they are to me.

New Buffy and 24 tonight. Life is good.


Tampa Teen Terrorist Update Will Vehrs makes a good point about what could have been done about Charles Bishop, the Tampa teenager who flew a small plane into a building.


The Internet Hall of Fame votes are in. If the netheads had their way, Ozzie Smith and Gary Carter would be in, while the likes of Steve Garvey and Dave Concepcion would be dropped from further consideration. In case you're curious, I voted for Smith, Carter, Rich Gossage (a travesty that he's not been enshrined), Bert Blyleven, Tommy John, and Alan Trammell.

In real life, only Ozzie Smith got in this year. Gary Carter missed by 11 votes. Here's how Rob Neyer would have voted, and here's The Sports Guy's view.

1/07/2002

Looks like the Yankees and Mets won't get started on building new stadia this year. New mayor Michael Bloomberg says there isn't enough money this year, which isn't too surprising. What is surprising (to me, anyway) is that Rudy Giuliani thought this was doable without new taxes. $800 million is a lotta money to conjure up, Rudy, even if you're not rebuilding large parts of the city. Giuliani's optimism and never-say-die attitude after 9/11 will be a lasting part of his legacy, but I think he overreached here. Good on new Mayor Bloomberg for putting on the brakes.

I like retractable-roof stadia as much as the next guy - the Stadium Soon To Be Formerly Known As Enron Field is a fine place to catch a game - but it goes without saying that replacing Yankee Stadium is wrong. And if the long-term plan is to demolish the Stadium, well, I wouldn't want to be the contractor that has to wield the wrecking ball. The bad-karma mojo from that will still be haunting your grandchildren fifty years from now.
There oughta be a word Mark Evanier asks why there isn't a handy one- or two-word term that means "Moralizing based not on morals but on political advantage." His suggestion is "bennetting", in honor of public scold Bill Bennett and former Clinton lawyer Bob Bennett. I'll second that.
He Hate Me, also known as Rod Smart, made his NFL debut last night in what was basically a scrimmage between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay. Somehow, it's fitting that his first NFL carry was nullified by a penalty. Fortunately, he got another chance and wound up with two attempts for six yards. Smart has been on the active roster since November after a stint in the Candian Football League. The Eagles and the Bucs go at it again this Saturday, this time for real and in Philadelphia. Don't expect to see Smart unless things go horribly wrong for one team or the other.
A victory for evolution The Supreme Court declined to hear a case in which a Minnesota teacher was reassigned by his school for attempting to bring creationism into his classroom. With all of the talk about how our science eduation is lacking, it's nice to see a school take a stand for actually teaching science in the classroom. If you need futher convincing about evolution, go visit the Talk.Origins archive.
Don't click on this link if you are of delicate constitution or recently grieving a deceased pet. I'm warning you. And skip to another entry if you don't want to know anything more.

For the rest of you, this was an article about a televised news report in St. Louis that claimed that euthanized dogs and cats from the local animal shelter were being sent to rendering plants where they wound up in a variety of places, including possibly pet food. This sparked a huge outcry, which in turn caused the shelters to stop sending remains to the rendering plants.

Before you chalk that up as a win for decency and humanity, read this:

In the short term, with freezer space limited, the county has been forced to send its dead dogs and cats to a landfill. The city of St. Louis has taken the same route, arranging for a refrigerated trash truck for pickups.

This makeshift solution has prompted still more concerns. If the landfills are not properly lined, the decaying corpses could leach into ground water. If they're not promptly covered, scavengers can pick off the dead dogs and cats.

Rendering has long been considered one of the most environmentally friendly ways to dispose of animal carcasses, because it recycles them into useful fat and protein. By far the bulk of rendered material comes from slaughterhouses. But some plants also mix in road kill, the trimmings from supermarket delis, dead farm animals and euthanized pets from shelters.

That's a pretty high price to pay for a feel-good solution, isn't it? Can we please check our emotions here and get back to the practical solution?

1/06/2002

The echo chamber It's been said many times, but one of the best things about the Web is the proliferation of viewpoints. I stumble across well-written opinion pieces all the time, from people I've never heard of, most of whom are doing it for the sheer joy and ego of seeing their words in print. Contrast this to the Op-Ed pages of your local paper. The Houston Chronicle has its good points and bad points, with a bland editorial page being one of its demerits. It's not uncommon for me to find nothing of value there.

While it's nice that there's such a cornucopia out there, I worry that I'm just reading stuff that I already agree with, or at least mostly agree with. I'm moderate left, I like but don't worship free markets, and I tend to civil libertarianism. Take a look at the links on the left side of this page, and you'll find more of the same. I don't agree with all of these folks on everything, but for the most part none of them have ever made me snort in disgust and question their critical thinking skills.

All that does wonders for validating my worldview, but then there's that nagging little voice that asks where the dissent is. How can I really feel good about my worldview if I don't challenge it?

That brings me to my problem: I'm having a hard time finding writers who don't share my worldview that I can stand to read on a regular basis. The folks at Libertarian Samizdata have convinced me that zealous libertarians are a bunch of loons. I used to read InstaPundit, but frankly I can't see why so many bloggers revere him. Personally, I think he's read too many of his press clippings. I want to like Andrew Sullivan, but I still can't forgive him for implying that since I was born in New York and voted for Gore that I'm likely to side with the Taliban in the war on terror. Ginger Stampley tells me I should give him another try. We'll see.

If anyone reading this has any useful suggestions, please drop me a line.