Saturday, December 28, 2002

Blogger down or something -- this is a test

Friday, December 27, 2002

Championship. This weekend is the Blogger 2k3 championship pitting the scrappy Florida Blogistas against the San Juan Pirates. These two teams met once during the regular season, with the Blogistas winning that one primarily due to Marcus Pollard's 9 point game (for a TE! Randy Moss only had 4 points that week). But if recent weeks are any indication, Ben's team should take the game -- in the past four weeks he's scored 73, 75, 85 and 88 points whereas the Blogistas have scored 72, 70, 67, and 90. That's right, last week, Mark's team would've beat Ben by 2 points due to the phenomenal game turned in by Kerry Collins -- but those other scores indicate a win for the Pirates.

Each coach has a number of tough choices to make:

Mark - should he let Kerry Collins ride? Even though he's facing the Eagles secondary? Other choice are Brad Johnson with the bad back and Drew Brees going against the Seahawks.
-Tight End - Mark has Ken Dilger starting, yet TB seems to be platooning pretty him regularly with Ricky Dudley. I'd start Pollard and hope for a repeat performance.
-Defense - currently Mark has four possible defenses and he seems to be going with Indy -- not bad when you look at how Shaun King performed last week -- except King will not get any playing time. I might be inclined to go with the Ravens hoping that Maddox will give me a turnover TD.

Ben - has to decide between Derrius Thompson and Peerless Price -- yeah, there are other WR -- Gardner, but I think it comes down to these two. Who knows which Drew Bledsoe will show up? He's blown 2 of his last three, so who knows? On the plus side for Price is wanting a big sendoff for free agency. On the minus side is the weather.
- Defense - Oakland against the explosive Chiefs or the 'skins against the Cowboys? Ben is picking the 'skins at this point. In Oakland's favor is the fact that Priest isn't playing. On the other hand, the Raiders might have to use Lester Hayes or Willie Brown at corner. The Chiefs scored 48 against Miami and 49 against the Rams -- so this might be a good pick.
- Corey Dillon or Tiki Barber? Ben's going with Dillon -- I agree, just because I think that he's more likely to get TD(s) against Buffalo than Barber is against Philly.

Having said all this, I think Moss will destroy the Lions -- four TDs -- and when Sam Adams, of all people, scores a touchdown to lead the Raiders in a shutout of the Chiefs, Ben will regret fielding the 'skins D.

Update -- okay, I was half right about the Raiders Defense -- they pitched a shutout -- I don't know if Sam Adams even played. I do note that Ben still went with the 'skins D. Also, I see I should've gone with Charlie G -- I fielded Jerry Porter who gained less than 15 yards receiving -- zip. In the early game, Shockey came through for me -- not Akers. Also, the Philly D gave the Burghers about a dozen points, so with 3 of my players active today I figure I'm down by one already. That leaves my five against the results of seven.
Third Day of Christmas. Bob and Doug have a great version of "The 12 Days of Christmas" [Flash Version] which includes this little quiz at the beginning:
Bob: Here's a quiz. Quiz for Doug.
Doug: Okay, I have my thinking touque on.
Bob: Yeah, right. What are the twelve days of Christmas? Cause, figure it out, right. Christmas is when?
Doug: Uh, the 25th.
Bob: Right, and what's the 24th, Christmas Eve, right? So, that's two. And then, what's after that?
Doug: Um... Uh, Wrestling Day.
Bob: No. Get out.
Doug: Boxing Day, yeah, yeah.
Bob: That's three. Then what's after that? Nothing.
Doug: New Year's.
Bob: Four. And what's...
Doug: New Year's Eve.
Bob: Five. Where do you get twelve?
Doug: Uh... There's two Saturdays and Sundays in there, that's four. That's nine. And, three other days, which I believe are the mystery days.
Of course, as I've noted previously, the 12 days of Christmas are the season in the Church calendar which follows Advent and runs from December 25 through January 5, which is the day before the Epiphany, which is on January 6. In Latin America the 6th is known as el Día de los Tres Reyes or Three Kings Day and is a time for gift giving (in my attempted brevity, I'm skipping over the nine days of Posada - the processions which recreate Mary and Joseph's nine-day journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem and their attempts to find lodging -- yet, this should not be overlooked -- it's a wonderful tradition which I hope takes root in a multicultural USA).

Anyway, it seems to me if you want to get away from the "commercialism" of Christmas, a good way to do it would be to return to the Church calendar with Advent being a time of fasting and Christmas being a 12 day period of feasting and celebration, with gift giving done on el Día de los Tres Reyes. Plus, this is a good response to those hosers who note that Jesus wasn't born on December 25.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

Currently Reading: [Corrected Version] I'm just finishing an audiobook of Black Sunday, which I probably read when it came out back around 1975 -- I know I saw the movie with Bruce Dern playing the role of the Wacko Vietnam Vet. Yet this book written so long ago gives all of us a good warning of the militant fanaticism of Islamic terrorism that has been at war with civilization since the 1960s. While some things are out of date, the ideas behind it are frighteningly fresh.
"Citizens of America," she said, "today the Palestinian freedom fighters have struck a great blow in the heart of your country. This horror was visited upon you by the merchants of death in your own land, who supply the butchers of Israel. Your leaders have been deaf to the cries of the homeless. Your leaders have ignored the ravages by the Jews in Palestine and have committed their own crimes in Southeast Asia. Guns, warplanes, and hundreds of millions of dollars have flowed from your country to the hands of warmongers while millions of your own people starve. The people will not be denied.

"Hear this, people of America. We want to be your brothers. It is you who must overthrow the filth that rules you. Henceforth, for every Arab that dies by an Israeli hand, an American will die by Arab hands. Every Moslem holy place, every Christian holy place destroyed by Jewish gangsters will be avenged with the destruction of a property in America. We hope this cruelty will go no further. The choice is yours. We hope never to begin another year with bloodshed and suffering. Salaam aleikum."
The second book I'm also finishing up is also frightening -- this one however looks at a scourge below the radar. The book is by Dr. Meg Meeker, a doctor practicing in pediatric and adolescent medicine. In Epidemic: How Teen Sex Is Killing Our Kids Dr. Meeker lays out the "epidemic" facing this country's teenagers. Please note that I do not place the word epidemic in scare quotes -- this is how the Centers for Disease Control characterized the problem during the Clinton years. See, for example, this press release dated December 5, 2000. Dr. Meeker's not only gives the statistics and sources for her contention, but gives the anecdotal testimony of real cases she has seen, which makes this a compelling book. It seems that Dr. Meeker trusted the condom and birth control medication in the past, but the inability of these two legs to keep the stool upright has caused her to be a convert to the simple truth of abstinence.
Update Friday's NY Times has a story linking changes to various webpages within the government to the politics of the Right:
As for the disease control centers' fact sheet on condoms, the old version focused on the advantages of using them, while the new version puts more emphasis on the risk that such use may not prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and on the advantages of abstinence. . .
Yet, according to a
letter to Secretary Thompson from House Democrats said that by alteration and deletion, the disease control agency "is now censoring the scientific information about condoms it makes available to the public" in order to suit abstinence-only advocates.
Based on what I'm reading in the Meeker book I think it is the House Democrats who are censoring scientific information about condoms and STDs
[End Update]

The third book, which I'm just starting, is The Punch by John Feinstein, an in-depth look at the fight between the Los Angeles Lakers and the Houston Rockets in December 1977 and the blow by Kermit Washington to Rudy Tomjanovich which nearly cost Rudy T. his life.

I remember the Punch vividly -- I was a big Laker fan back then -- and the videotape played pretty regularly on the TV back then. At that time, I lived in the D.C. area, where Kermit Washington was from and I can tell you that he was thought of very fondly here. In fact, it was almost unusual how fondly he was thought of when you compare him to others from this area who went on to become bigger stars, like Austin Carr, who was from the same time period. Part of that is because Washington went on to play for tiny American University and went from being a non-starter in his senior year of high-school to a college All-American. A larger part of it was that Washington was a decent person who shouldn't be thought of in terms of the punch he delivered.

Yes, the blow was horrifying and, as Feinstein notes, nearly killed Rudy T:
Once it became apparent to Tomjanovich that he wasn't going to get to Washington, he and Vandervoort proceeded to the locker room. Dr. Shields had already gone ahead and placed a call to the pager of Dr. Paul Toffel, a thirty-four-year-old who specialized in head trauma. Toffel was at a pre-Christmas fund-raiser for the University of Southern California Medical Center at a hotel not far from the arena. When he called Shields back, Shields told him there had been a fight during the game at the Forum. "I've got a guy here who appears to have a severely broken nose and other facial injuries," he said. Toffel told him he would meet the player in the emergency room at Centinela Hospital as soon as he could get there.

"Do me a favor and tell them to get started right away on X rays," he told Shields. "That way I can see what we're dealing with as soon as I arrive."

At that moment Tomjanovich was sitting on a training table, with no intention of going to a hospital. He had a game to finish. "If my nose is broken, hook me up with a mask," he told Vandervoort. Firmly, Vandervoort told him there would be no mask and no more basketball on this night.

"There's an ambulance outside," he said. "Ambulance?" Tomjanovich said. "What the hell is that about?"

A few minutes later he was in the ambulance. Then he was in the hospital and they were making X rays. He wondered what he must look like, because the looks he was getting from the people in the emergency room were not that different from what he had seen on the court from Jerry West. "And these were people who were used to seeing stuff," he said.

Dr. Toffel arrived a few minutes later, still in his tuxedo. When he was given the X rays, his eyes went wide. "Oh my God," Toffel said to the emergency room doctor who had given him the X rays. "This isn't a sinus injury. The posterior portion of his face is way out of alignment." (Translation: the top part of his skull was actually about an inch off line from the lower portion.)

"Who is this guy?" Toffel asked. "Rudy Tomjanovich. Plays for the Rockets." Toffel knew the name, knew Tomjanovich was a very good player.

Tomjanovich was wondering when he was going to get to call his wife back home in Houston when Toffel, now wearing scrubs over his tuxedo, walked in carrying X rays. He introduced himself, put a glove on one hand, and told Tomjanovich that he was going to see if he could move his upper jaw.

"It moved very easily," Toffel said later. "Which confirmed what the X rays had shown. I knew then this was a very serious situation."

Tomjanovich was still trying to figure out the quickest way to get out of the hospital. He asked Toffel if whatever he was going to do was going to take long and, more important, if he couldn't play any more basketball that night, how soon would he be back? The Rockets had a game in Phoenix the next night. Could he play there?

Toffel looked Tomjanovich in the eye. "No, Rudy, you can't play tomorrow," he said. "You aren't going to play basketball for a while. You aren't going to play any more this season."

Tomjanovich, whose eyes were already swelling shut, looked at Toffel as closely as he possibly could. Even though they were slits, his eyes told him that Toffel was completely serious. Any pain he was feeling disappeared, replaced by rage. "Not play this season?" he repeated. "Okay, look Doc, I know you gotta do what you gotta do, but give me an hour. I promise I'll come right back. I need to go back and find the guy who did this to me."

In Tomjanovich's mind at that moment, he was about to walk out of the emergency room, hail a cab, and go back to the Forum. Not play for the rest of the season? Now he really wanted to get Kermit Washington, regardless of the consequences. "I can't ever remember being angrier than I was at that moment," he said.

Toffel's face didn't change expression. His voice was very soft. "Rudy, let me ask you a question," he said. "Do you have any kind of funny taste in your mouth?"

Tomjanovich's eyes opened slightly. "Yeah, I do," he said. "It doesn't taste like blood either. It's very bitter. What is it?"

"Spinal fluid," Toffel said. "You're leaking spinal fluid from your brain. We're going to get you up to ICU in a few minutes and we're going to hope your brain capsule seals very soon. Do you know what the ICU is, Rudy?"

Tomjanovich nodded. He knew what ICU stood for: intensive care unit. The rage was gone. It had been replaced by fear.
[This excerpt is taken from the first chapter, which is available online here.]

Like I said, I'm in the early stages of reading this one. However, since I've included a snapshot of the Punch, there's another photograph that also should receive wide circulation -- in fact, I hope that Feinstein can include it in the paperback. This was from USA Today. I can't deep link it -- go here to see it.
The Feast of Stephen is today, December 26.
Yesterday we celebrated the temporal birth of our Eternal King; today we celebrate the triumphant passion of His soldier. For yesterday our King, clothed in the garb of our flesh and coming from the palace of the virginal womb, deigned to visit the world; today the soldier, leaving the tent of the body, has gone to heaven in triumph. The one, while preserving the majesty of the everlasting God, putting on the servile girdle of flesh, entered into the field of this world ready for the fray. The other, laying aside the perishable garment of the body, ascended to the palace of heaven to reign eternally. The One descended, veiled in flesh; the other ascended, crowned with blood.
The latter ascended while the Jews were stoning him because the former descended while the angels were rejoicing. 'Glory to God in the highest,' sang the exulting angels yesterday; today rejoicing, they received Stephen into their company. Yesterday the Lord came forth from the womb of the Virgin; today the soldier of Christ has passed from the prison of the flesh.
Yesterday Christ was wrapped in swathing bands for our sake; today Stephen is clothed by Him in the robe of immortality. Yesterday the narrow confines of the crib held the Infant Christ; today the immensity of heaven has received the triumphant Stephen. The Lord descended alone that He might raise up many; our King has humbled Himself that He might exalt His soldiers. It is necessary for us, nevertheless, brethren, to acknowledge with what arms Stephen was girded and able to overcome . . . that thus he merited so happily to triumph.
Stephen, therefore, that he might merit to obtain the crown his name signifies, had as his weapon charity, and by means of that he was completely victorious. Because of love for God, he did not flee . . . because of his love of neighbor he interceded for those stoning him. Because of love he convinced the erring of their errors, that they might be corrected; because of love, he prayed for those stoning him that they might not be punished. Supported by the strength of charity, he overcame Saul, who was so cruelly raging against him; and him whom he had as a persecutor on earth, he deserved to have as a companion in heaven.
St. Fulgentius, Third Sermon on St. Stephen.

And, of course, from the carol "Good King Wenceslas"
Good King Wenceslas looked out,
On the Feast of Stephen . . .

* * *

Therefore, Christian men, be sure,
Wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing.
BTW, Wencelas is a Latinized version of Vaclav.

Tuesday, December 24, 2002

Merry Christmas! This jolly fat man is feeling pretty cranky right now -- all my elves abandoned me and I'm left with all the Santa duties . . .

Ah well, my oldest daughter had a nice Christmas post on her blog earlier today (even though I was hurrying her along)-- that's what I need to concentrate on.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Cover Watch. Time has the "Person of the Year" which is always it's big issue. Who is it? A mild surprise -- see below. If I were picking up one magazine, it'd be Newsweek with its cover story of the Matrix -- I loved that movie and I confess that I had to start reading the cover story -- the movie sounds good.

Time magazine declares the Persons of the Year are the whistleblowers -- in the FBI, Enron, and Worldcom. This leaves me with mixed feelings -- I like the recognition of the whistleblower -- it's important -- but who really is a whistleblower? And why are these particular women lauded, when prior whistleblowers like Jean Lewis, Notra Trulock, and, yes, even Linda Tripp pilloried?

Friday, December 20, 2002

Into the Void. Stepping into the void left by Trent Lott [actually, Cynthia McKinney] is Senator Patty Murray:
We've got to ask, why is this man (Osama bin Laden) so popular around the world? Why are people so supportive of him in many countries … that are riddled with poverty? He's been out in these countries for decades, building schools, building roads, building infrastructure, building day care facilities, building health care facilities, and the people are extremely grateful. We haven't done that.

Really? Well then what did the $275,000,000 spent on the Peace Corps go for? Or the budget request of $8,477,724,000 (yes, 8.4 billion) by that niggardly George W. Bush for USAID?

Senator Murray sits on both the Budget and the Appropriations Committees.
Christmas Movies. Last weekend, my kids and I all watched the greatest Christmas movie ever -- It's a Wonderful Life. I always revel in pointing out that's what mommy's job was -- shutting down S&L's (when she was with FSLIC). Yet, I haven't seen the second greatest Christmas movie ever -- Die Hard. I'm not sure when or if I'll be able to watch this -- of course the language complicates viewing...

Yeah, Die Hard -- it's full of Christmas references, some blatant -- Sgt. Al Powell singing "Let it snow" to the subtle (what was the name of Alan Rickman's character? Hans Gruber -- a play on Franz Gruber?). Like It's a Wonderful Life, it too ends with reconciliation and recognition of the importance of the husband/wife.

So what other Christmas movies are there? My Father's Favorite is A Christmas Story -- my son is asking for a pop gun and we all tell him "You'll shoot your eye out." My sister likes Miracle on 34th Street, the original.

Others are White Christmas, the Santa Clause, various versions of Scrooge/Christmas Carol, and The Bishop's Wife. Any more suggestions?

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Two Towers. As you may have noticed, I'm pleased to have opened the Blithering Idiot to my daughter, Joy, age 13. I think I have to disagree with her slightly on this movie. (I too will try to avoid spoilers here.) Like Charlie Parks, I was probably most disappointed by the total failure to mention the Ent wives -- such a sublimely romantic part of the books could've been mentioned at least in passing. (Parks also highlighted: "One scene shows Legolas swinging onto the back of Gimli's horse (!) that is beautifully executed." This received the loudest applause from the sold-out crowd.)
Two Towers
Where I think Joy and I disagree is on the need to read the book before seeing the movie. I think I was a little confused because I kept trying to remember whether thus-and-such was in the book. I think the movie is faithful to the book, but it's more like a paraphrase than a translation -- there is much that is missing and a few things (one pretty significant) that aren't in the book.

I may have liked the first movie more, but then I didn't like the first movie as much until I saw it for the second time, when I could enjoy it as a movie and forget about the book (so the same complaint).

Also, I didn't think there was more of Frodo -- if anything, I thought Aragorn seemed to be more featured.

Seven Samurai
There was a lot of action and, yes, violence in the movie. There was a battle fought in the rain (homage to Akira Kurosawa's The Seven Samurai? Perhaps, perhaps not -- the Two Towers rain was more gentle). I think something that disturbed me in watching the movie was seeing a scene of extreme violence and hearing laughter around me -- even if it was Uruk-Hai being squashed like bugs by a ladder, it still bothered me. Violence may be necessary at times, but it isn't enjoyable or fun -- and I didn't think Jackson made it funny.

Maybe I'm being too picky.

I enjoyed the scenes of the restoration of Theoden, although prior to this I actually dozed off at one point. (Those chairs were so comforable and the discussions were predictible and it felt good to close my eyes...)

PapaBlog noted how apropos the messages about defending civilization and not shirking a war thrust on you are. At first I thought "the antiwar people are going to hate this." But soon I realized they will just see Dubya as Saruman, despoiler of ancient forests for the sake of a vast war machine (the vast army of Uruk-Hai warriors) -- if they haven't made this assertion yet, it won't be long.

Update: Ben also missed the Entwives -- that makes three of us. Maybe this is an Augustinian thing?
Mr. Blue Sky. I was never a fan of ELO -- but I love the new VW commercial brought to you by these folks. Mr. Blue Sky was a pretty good homage to the Beatles; the commercial is a great tribute to "A Hard Day's Night."

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Lord of the Rings!!! Ok this is not William Sulik, this is his daughter. He asked me to write about the new Lord of the Rings movie: The Two Towers. The movie was great though different from the book. Don't worry I'm not going to give anything away! I think they changed it a little to put more of Frodo in, they added an extra part that wasn't in the book. They also didn't get as far in the story as the book did. If you have not read the book and are going to see the movie, I would advise you to read the book first! That will help you to understand the movie, which was confusing to the person we were with who had not read the book. But I really did enjoy the movie, we were at a very good theatre and had very good seats (we got there an hour early to get them though) OK, well I've said enough about this movie, but if you are trying to decide whether to see it or not, I definitely think you should go to the next showing that isn't sold out!
Ghostwriter? The other day Ben drafted a speech Trent Lott could've given and included this:
I grew up here in Pascagoula. My father was a shipyard worker here...(fifth paragraph)
According to the WaPo, in an interview with ABC yesterday, Lott said:
"I am the son of a shipyard worker from Pascagoula, Mississippi."
Maybe Trent's staff reads Ben?

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Power Rankings The Bengals are still unanimous.
No. Team Avg. Hi Lo
1 Eagles 1.29 1 2
2 Bucs 1.86 1 3
3 Packers 3.57 3 5
4 Raiders 4 2 5
5 Dolphins 4.29 4 5
6 Falcons 8.71 6 11
7 Saints 8.71 6 15
8 Titans 8.71 6 14
9 Colts 9.29 7 12
10 49ers 9.43 7 12
11 Broncos 11 7 14
12 Steelers 11.71 9 16
13 Patriots 11.86 9 16
14 Chiefs 13.86 10 17
15 Chargers 14.14 12 19
16 Jets 14.71 7 18
17 Giants 16.29 15 19
18 Bills 17.71 16 20
19 Browns 20 18 23
20 Ravens 20 18 22
21 Rams 22.14 20 27
22 Jaguars 22.57 21 25
23 Seahawks__ 23.43 20__ 28
24 Redskins 24 21 26
25 Vikings 24.14 28 30
26 Cowboys 25.29 23 29
27 Panthers 26.71 25 29
28 Cardinals 27.86 25 31
29 Bears 28.14 27 29
30 Texans 29.14 25 31
31 Lions 30.71__ 30 31
32__ Bengals 32 32 32

Sources: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, War Room, CBS, Sagarin (USA Today), Sports Central,
and the AP.

The reason I like Sports Central, a fan site, is because of insights like this one:
This is 1984 all over again. That year, Dan Marino shattered nearly every single-season passing record, Eric Dickerson set a new mark for rushing yards in a season, and Art Monk demolished the old receptions record. This year, Gannon may pass Marino's mark for passing yards, Holmes is having the best statistical season ever by a running back, and Harrison has already broken the existing record for receptions in a season.
Go? Look, I just think Lott should step down as SML -- I don't think he should resign. If we're going to be throwing stones, in addition to Lott leaving we need to say buh-bye to Robert KKK Byrd and Teddy "when I returned Mary Jo and the caah were gone" (Killer) Kennedy. And that's just for starters. McCain and his Hillary-Reno-Chelsea joke? -- gone. Well, you get the idea.
Power Rankings. As of noon today, a couple of these hadn't been updated -- check back tonight or tomorrow. Sneak preview, Eagles, Bucs, Pack. Dolphins a solid number 4. Bengals at 32.

Sources: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, War Room, CBS, Sagarin (USA Today), Sports Central,
and the AP.
Football I'm officially out of the playoffs -- here's what Sporting News had to say about Drew Bledsoe
Bledsoe is second in the league in passing yards, so he should have had a field day against the Chargers, No. 31 in the NFL in passing yards allowed. Instead, Bledsoe waited until the fantasy playoffs to have his worst game of the year. He was 11-for-33 for 107 yards and no scores. Fantasy Spin: It probably doesn't matter whether Bledsoe's matchup against Green Bay in Week 16 is a good one or not. Most of his owners probably got knocked out of the playoffs because of today's lame performance, so they don't have to worry about next week's lineup.
There's still the loser bowl playoffs -- I guess the best I can hope for now is fifth place. I'll probably drop Bledsoe out of spite (like he'll notice).

My Raiders, despite a ragtag secondary, kept pace with Miami last week -- I think the core of the secondary should be healthy and back in time for the playoffs -- if we can hold on. This week's game against the Bronco's is the key; if we win, we'll take the Division. All of our losses are attributable to the secondary -- our four-game slide occurred when Charles Woodson and Phillip Buchanon both went out with injuries. Woodson should be back this week and Buchanon (broken wrist) might make it back for the playoffs.

Power Rankings later today.

Last -- Dick Heller looks at the so-called "Immaculate Reception." What he fails to note is that on the last play of the game the Raiders completed a long pass to Fred Biletnikoff. Also, there's no mention of the clip by Steelers tight end John McMakin on Raider linebacker Phil Villipiano. Still, it may have been one of the greatest, most physical games in pro football history. The aftermath -- an exhausted depleted Steeler team faced Miami in the championship game, which they lost. I contend that had either the Steelers or the Raiders played Miami on December 23, 1972, Miami would've lost that one. More coverage here.
Judging. Dalia Lithwick has a thoughtful essay about the personal aspects of judging in this morning's NY Times. I've never been a big Lithwick fan, but in this she eschews her normal breezy style to reflect on judging and "personal truths."

Where she misses is classifying Justice Thomas' point an "emotional outburst." In her Slate commentary last week on the oral arguments she already noted the giddiness of the proceedings, with the Chief Justice away recovering from surgery. In fact she used the analogy of students in a classroom with a substitute teacher. Accordingly, Justice Thomas' comments seem to be nothing more than a return to sobriety -- the principal walking in on the class. (Similarly, I disagree with her observation: "what Justice Thomas did is unforgivable; by hijacking the argument into the murk of personal experience, he did violence to the disinterested, lucid distance necessary for justice to be achieved.")

The subject is an intriguing one -- Lithwick's Dowdian contempt for Clarence Thomas defeats her attempt to look at the subject however. My own favorite essay is by Justice Frankfurter written about a flag-salute that can only be described today as Nazi-like in the case West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, 319 U.S. 624 (1943). His dissent:
One who belongs to the most vilified and persecuted minority in history is not likely to be insensible to the freedoms guaranteed by our Constitution. Were my purely personal attitude relevant, I should wholeheartedly associate myself with the general libertarian views in the Court's opinion, representing, as they do, the thought and [p*647] action of a lifetime. But, as judges, we are neither Jew nor Gentile, neither Catholic nor agnostic. We owe equal attachment to the Constitution, and are equally bound by our judicial obligations whether we derive our citizenship from the earliest or the latest immigrants to these shores. As a member of this Court, I am not justified in writing my private notions of policy into the Constitution, no matter how deeply I may cherish them or how mischievous I may deem their disregard. The duty of a judge who must decide which of two claims before the Court shall prevail, that of a State to enact and enforce laws within its general competence or that of an individual to refuse obedience because of the demands of his conscience, is not that of the ordinary person. It can never be emphasized too much that one's own opinion about the wisdom or evil of a law should be excluded altogether when one is doing one's duty on the bench. The only opinion of our own even looking in that direction that is material is our opinion whether legislators could, in reason, have enacted such a law. In the light of all the circumstances, including the history of this question in this Court, it would require more daring than I possess to deny that reasonable legislators could have taken the action which is before us for review. Most unwillingly, therefore, I must differ from my brethren with regard to legislation like this. I cannot bring my mind to believe that the "liberty" secured by the Due Process Clause gives this Court authority to deny to the State of West Virginia the attainment of that which we all recognize as a legitimate legislative end, namely, the promotion of good citizenship, by employment of the means here chosen.

Not so long ago, we were admonished that

the only check upon our own exercise of power is our own sense of self-restraint. For the removal of unwise laws from the statute books, appeal lies not to the courts, but to the ballot and to the processes of democratic government. [p*648]

United States v. Butler, 297 U.S. 1 , 79 (dissent). We have been told that generalities do not decide concrete cases. But the intensity with which a general principle is held may determine a particular issue, and whether we put first things first may decide a specific controversy.

The admonition that judicial self-restraint alone limits arbitrary exercise of our authority is relevant every time we are asked to nullify legislation. The Constitution does not give us greater veto power when dealing with one phase of "liberty" than with another, or when dealing with grade school regulations than with college regulations that offend conscience, as was the case in Hamilton v. Regents, 293 U.S. 245. In neither situation is our function comparable to that of a legislature, or are we free to act as though we were a super-legislature. Judicial self-restraint is equally necessary whenever an exercise of political or legislative power is challenged. There is no warrant in the constitutional basis of this Court's authority for attributing different roles to it depending upon the nature of the challenge to the legislation. Our power does not vary according to the particular provision of the Bill of Rights which is invoked. The right not to have property taken without just compensation has, so far as the scope of judicial power is concerned, the same constitutional dignity as the right to be protected against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the latter has no less claim than freedom of the press or freedom of speech or religious freedom. In no instance is this Court the primary protector of the particular liberty that is invoked. This Court has recognized what hardly could be denied, that all the provisions of the first ten Amendments are "specific" prohibitions, United States v. Carolene Products Co., 304 U.S. 144 , 152 , n. 4. But each specific Amendment, insofar as embraced within the Fourteenth Amendment, must be equally respected, and the function of this [p*649] Court does not differ in passing on the constitutionality of legislation challenged under different Amendments.

When Mr. Justice Holmes, speaking for this Court, wrote that

it must be remembered that legislatures are ultimate guardians of the liberties and welfare of the people in quite as great a degree as the courts,

Missouri, K. & T. Ry. Co. v. May, 194 U.S. 267, 270, he went to the very essence of our constitutional system and the democratic conception of our society. He did not mean that for only some phases of civil government this Court was not to supplant legislatures and sit in judgment upon the right or wrong of a challenged measure. He was stating the comprehensive judicial duty and role of this Court in our constitutional scheme whenever legislation is sought to be nullified on any ground, namely, that responsibility for legislation lies with legislatures, answerable as they are directly to the people, and this Court's only and very narrow function is to determine whether, within the broad grant of authority vested in legislatures, they have exercised a judgment for which reasonable justification can be offered.

The framers of the federal Constitution might have chosen to assign an active share in the process of legislation to this Court. They had before them the well known example of New York's Council of Revision, which had been functioning since 1777. After stating that "laws inconsistent with the spirit of this constitution, or with the public good, may be hastily and unadvisedly passed," the state constitution made the judges of New York part of the legislative process by providing that "all bills which have passed the senate and assembly shall, before they become laws," be presented to a Council, of which the judges constituted a majority, "for their revisal and consideration." Art. III, New York Constitution of 1777. Judges exercised this legislative function in New York [p*650] for nearly fifty years. See Art. I, § 12, New York Constitution of 1821. But the framers of the Constitution denied such legislative powers to the federal judiciary. They chose instead to insulate the judiciary from the legislative function. They did not grant to this Court supervision over legislation.

The reason why, from the beginning, even the narrow judicial authority to nullify legislation has been viewed with a jealous eye is that it serves to prevent the full play of the democratic process. The fact that it may be an undemocratic aspect of our scheme of government does not call for its rejection or its disuse. But it is the best of reasons, as this Court has frequently recognized, for the greatest caution in its use.

The precise scope of the question before us defines the limits of the constitutional power that is in issue. The State of West Virginia requires all pupils to share in the salute to the flag as part of school training in citizenship. The present action is one to enjoin the enforcement of this requirement by those in school attendance. We have not before us any attempt by the State to punish disobedient children or visit penal consequences on their parents. All that is in question is the right of the State to compel participation in this exercise by those who choose to attend the public schools.

We are not reviewing merely the action of a local school board. The flag salute requirement in this case comes before us with the full authority of the State of West Virginia. We are, in fact, passing judgment on "the power of the State as a whole." Rippey v. Texas, 193 U.S. 504, 509; Skiriotes v. Florida, 313 U.S. 69, 79. Practically, we are passing upon the political power of each of the forty-eight states. Moreover, since the First Amendment has been read into the Fourteenth, our problem is precisely the same as it would be if we had before us an Act of Congress for the District of Columbia. To suggest that we are here concerned [p*651] with the heedless action of some village tyrants is to distort the augustness of the constitutional issue and the reach of the consequences of our decision.

Under our constitutional system, the legislature is charged solely with civil concerns of society. If the avowed or intrinsic legislative purpose is either to promote or to discourage some religious community or creed, it is clearly within the constitutional restrictions imposed on legislatures, and cannot stand. But it by no means follows that legislative power is wanting whenever a general nondiscriminatory civil regulation, in fact, touches conscientious scruples or religious beliefs of an individual or a group. Regard for such scruples or beliefs undoubtedly presents one of the most reasonable claims for the exertion of legislative accommodation. It is, of course, beyond our power to rewrite the State's requirement by providing exemptions for those who do not wish to participate in the flag salute or by making some other accommodations to meet their scruples. That wisdom might suggest the making of such accommodations, and that school administration would not find it too difficult to make them, and yet maintain the ceremony for those not refusing to conform, is outside our province to suggest. Tact, respect, and generosity toward variant views will always commend themselves to those charged with the duties of legislation so as to achieve a maximum of good will and to require a minimum of unwilling submission to a general law. But the real question is, who is to make such accommodations, the courts or the legislature?

This is no dry, technical matter. It cuts deep into one's conception of the democratic process -- it concerns no less the practical differences between the means for making these accommodations that are open to courts and to legislatures. A court can only strike down. It can only say "This or that law is void." It cannot modify or qualify, it cannot make exceptions to a general requirement. [p*652] And it strikes down not merely for a day. At least the finding of unconstitutionality ought not to have ephemeral significance unless the Constitution is to be reduced to the fugitive importance of mere legislation. When we are dealing with the Constitution of the United States, and, more particularly, with the great safeguards of the Bill of Rights, we are dealing with principles of liberty and justice "so rooted in the traditions and conscience of our people as to be ranked as fundamental" -- something without which "a fair and enlightened system of justice would be impossible." Palko v. Connecticut, 302 U.S. 319 , 325 ; Hurtado v. California, 110 U.S. 516 , 530 , 531 . If the function of this Court is to be essentially no different from that of a legislature, if the considerations governing constitutional construction are to be substantially those that underlie legislation, then indeed judges should not have life tenure, and they should be made directly responsible to the electorate. There have been many, but unsuccessful, proposals in the last sixty years to amend the Constitution to that end. See Sen.Doc. No. 91, 75th Cong., 1st Sess., pp. 248-251.

Conscientious scruples, all would admit, cannot stand against every legislative compulsion to do positive acts in conflict with such scruples. We have been told that such compulsions override religious scruples only as to major concerns of the state. But the determination of what is major and what is minor itself raises questions of policy. For the way in which men equally guided by reason appraise importance goes to the very heart of policy. Judges should be very diffident in setting their judgment against that of a state in determining what is, and what is not, a major concern, what means are appropriate to proper ends, and what is the total social cost in striking the balance of imponderables.

What one can say with assurance is that the history out of which grew constitutional provisions for religious equality [p*653] and the writings of the great exponents of religious freedom -- Jefferson, Madison, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin -- are totally wanting in justification for a claim by dissidents of exceptional immunity from civic measures of general applicability, measures not, in fact, disguised assaults upon such dissident views. The great leaders of the American Revolution were determined to remove political support from every religious establishment. They put on an equality the different religious sects -- Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Catholics, Baptists, Methodists, Quakers, Huguenots -- which, as dissenters, had been under the heel of the various orthodoxies that prevailed in different colonies. So far as the state was concerned, there was to be neither orthodoxy nor heterodoxy. And so Jefferson and those who followed him wrote guaranties of religious freedom into our constitutions. Religious minorities, as well as religious majorities, were to be equal in the eyes of the political state. But Jefferson and the others also knew that minorities may disrupt society. It never would have occurred to them to write into the Constitution the subordination of the general civil authority of the state to sectarian scruples.

The constitutional protection of religious freedom terminated disabilities, it did not create new privileges. It gave religious equality, not civil immunity. Its essence is freedom from conformity to religious dogma, not freedom from conformity to law because of religious dogma. Religious loyalties may be exercised without hindrance from the state, not the state may not exercise that which, except by leave of religious loyalties, is within the domain of temporal power. Otherwise, each individual could set up his own censor against obedience to laws conscientiously deemed for the public good by those whose business it is to make laws.

The prohibition against any religious establishment by the government placed denominations on an equal footing [p*654] -- it assured freedom from support by the government to any mode of worship and the freedom of individuals to support any mode of worship. Any person may therefore believe or disbelieve what he pleases. He may practice what he will in his own house of worship or publicly within the limits of public order. But the lawmaking authority is not circumscribed by the variety of religious beliefs -- otherwise, the constitutional guaranty would be not a protection of the free exercise of religion, but a denial of the exercise of legislation.

Monday, December 16, 2002

More Cross Burning. I work with an attorney who, while a young girl in the 1970s, had a cross burned on her front lawn. She said she didn't understand what was happening at the time, but as you can imagine, her parents were pretty frightened.

As a side note to the story -- her father later ended up representing the man who burned the cross. The man begged forgiveness which was granted. Since this is not my story, I'm being somewhat vague, so as to not violate someone's privacy.
Sister Kathy. The other day we celebrated my number one sister's birthday and it got me thinking about the day we lost her with the garbage. That was back when I was about 5 and she must have been 3. We lived in Tsoying, on the outskirst of Kaohsiung, China. We were actually pretty fortunate in that we had indoor plumbing and our sewage did not flow into the binjo ditch. Moreover, we had trash pick up -- a man came by with his water buffalo and picked up the trash. Well, one day he took my little sister -- at that time, my only sister -- for a ride. Panic ensued, but in the end, she was fine.

I'm not sure why I write about this -- maybe it's just the juxtaposition between lives -- my childhood with these things (we boiled all our drinking water, for example) and my kids.

Sheesh, I am getting old.

Tomorrow, I'll tell you about the adventure on the roof of the Ambassador Hotel or describe the wonderful aroma of the Love River (where do you think all those binjo ditches flowed to?).
Hotchpot. Congratulations to Mark Byron and his Florida Blogistas for their overwhelming victory over my Idiots in the first round of yesterday's Blogger Bowl 2K3 playoffs. My team, the aptly named Idiots, was representing the small township of Asylum, Pennsylvania, we are sorry to have let the town down but we appreciated all the fans who met us at the airstrip last night. We appreciated those who left their pitchforks at home.

To those Republicans down about things after the Louisiana race and Trent Lott -- things look brighter in Hawai'i: Linda Lingle may restore a second party in that state (plus actually doing good things for the state). Here's local columnist David Shapiro on how.

A good note about how the Clintonistas still running federal agencies (they are in total control of mine, for example -- no nominations over 2 years after the election) are blocking freedom and progress.

Here's an interesting note about a suppressed Disney flick -- the Small One -- a story about the donkey that brought the Holy Family to Bethlehem.

And I'll end with football -- the Redskins looked great for the first play and a half... and what was the deal with that punt block -- that guy was in there fast enough to pick the ball out of mid-air -- how in the world did he miss getting any part of the ball and still manage to rough the kicker?
Covers. It appears that blogger ate my note on the Time and Newsweek covers last night. Basically, I like the Newsweek cover with it's old picture of Trent as opposed to the Time cover of modern Trent set against the old Dixiecrat backdrop. The scarry thing about the old Trent picture is that he looks like a cross between Lee Harvey Oswald and Kevin Costner as Kenny O'Donnell in 13 Days.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

Pink Candle. So why is there a pink candle in the Advent wreath -- did they run out of dye? Advent is a time of penitence and fasting -- like Lent. Christmas, like Easter, is the payoff from this time of fasting -- a time of feasting and celebration. The color the Church uses to denote a season of penance or repentance is purple.

So why the pink candle? Actually, not only should the candle be pink this Sunday, but all the vestments that are normally a color (purple, green, red) should be pink or rose colored. This is because even during -- or perhaps especially during -- a time of penance and fasting, we needed to be reminded it is God's grace that delivers us. This Sunday (and there is a counterpart in Lent that escapes me for the moment) is that Sunday of grace -- symbolized by the pink or rose vestments and candle. This is Gaudete Sunday -- gaudete being Latin for "rejoice" (I believe).

If you light candles on a Advent wreath -- and I do hope you do -- remember that is by Grace we are Saved and rejoice!

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Lott's Dreaming of a White Christmas. Just like the one he used to know. *sigh* I predict this alone will cost the GOP at least one percentage point in the presidential election in 2004, and it will continue to have a ripple effect for years to come.

"Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. . ." - Clarence, It's a Wonderful Life.

Friday, December 13, 2002

(We don't need no) Colour Code. Today, at the end of 2003, I wonder as I wander why we are dwelling on the 1948 Democratic Party Platform and a 50-year old statute that has successfully prevented cross-burning. Yes, I wander -- I meander. For that, I hope you forgive me, but allow me to wander...
Not Here

First, Trent Lott should show that he has some honor and step down as the leader of the Senate. What he did was not to endorse a person but to endorse a way of life that some, including that person, were seeking to hold on to. Moreover it was a vile, evil system.

Just last month I was in a building that was the main train depot for Raleigh, NC -- as many renovated buildings do, it had the blueprints for the building on the wall as kind of a nostalgic decoration. But if you looked at it closely, you saw a white waiting room and a colored waiting room, half it's size. Moreover when you looked at those rooms -- when you stood in them and felt the environment and looked at the original walls and ceilings, it was evident that the colored room was designed to be minimally functional -- worse than a jail. There is a BBQ in Alexandria, VA I took my daughter too. It has a sit-down restaurant and, behind the kitchen, there is a take out window. It's an old place -- this was originally designed as a whites restaurant and a blacks take-out. My father tells me when he played football in college, his nationally ranked team had to forfeit a game because they had a black player on the team and the Texas school wouldn't let them in the town if they brought that player. (This was four years after that 1948 election.) I could go on an on with innumerable examples -- these are three simple ones that come to mind.

To borrow from Abraham Lincoln, who said in his second inaugural address:
Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said "the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."
I want nothing more for this affliction visited on our country by our pragmatic forefathers to end. But it can not end until we get beyond foolish statements (and wishes) like that by Trent Lott.

A subpoint on this subject -- yesterday afternoon, I'd finished my audiobook -- stuck in traffic, I turned on Sean Hannity, in part because of what Mark Byron wrote yesterday. I found the show nauseating and quickly switched. Basically, the thrust I was hearing was a whiny "it's time to move on." And this was no self-parody, nor was it done with any irony. It sounded just like I was back in the late 90's listening to the Clinton defenders. Those folks were sick then and they're sick now in their current incarnation as Lott defenders. (BTW, I don't mean to lump Dr. Byron in the latter. And Mark, with all due respect, I think the people of America can distinguish between a gaffe and a statement of support for intollerant way of life.)

Sorry, I really didn't intend to do anything on Lott -- it's actually the second subject of this meander that I'm more interested in.

Second, this week the Supremes heard oral arguments in Virginia v. Black, Docket No. 01-1107, the attack on the Virginia cross-burning statute. MoDowd wannabe, Dahlia Lithwick, came in first with a summary of the orals (although she flubbed the number of justices on the Virginia Supreme Court, a mistake since corrected), noting that the contemplative Justice Clarence Thomas focused the issue:
Out of nowhere booms the great, surprising "Luke-I-am-your-father" voice of He Who Never Speaks. Justice Clarence Thomas suddenly asks a question and everyone's head pops up and starts looking madly around, like the Muppets on Veterinarian Hospital. "Aren't you understating the effects ... of 100 years of lynching?" he booms. "This was a reign of terror, and the cross was a sign of that. ... It is unlike any symbol in our society. It was intended to cause fear, terrorize."
And this is precisely why the statute should stand, as well as the convictions. Or, as Justice Antonin Scalia observed (via Lithwick): "Scalia demands to know why brandishing a burning cross is protected speech while "brandishing a weapon and saying 'you're next,' " isn't.

I confess, I'm not fond of hate speech laws and speech codes and so on (in fact, I loathe them), but there is a distinction between protected speech and a threat, and I believe the Virginia statute correctly draws the line. For a more complete defense of the statute, I would recommend Virginia Justice Leroy Roundtree Hassell, Sr. dissent, which may be found here. Justice Hassell wrote, in part,
Initially, I observe that Code § 18.2-423, by its express terms, does not proscribe every act of burning a cross. Rather, Code § 18.2-423 only proscribes the act of burning a cross when such act is performed "with the intent of intimidating any person or group of persons" and the act is
committed "on the property of another, a highway or other public place." In the context of our criminal statutes, specifically Code § 18.2-61, we have defined intimidation as acts which put the victim "in fear of bodily harm. Such fear must arise from the willful conduct of the accused, rather than from some mere temperamental timidity of the victim; however, the fear of the victim need not be so great as to result in terror, panic, or hysteria." [cite omitted]
In brief, like Scalia noted, it's like brandishing a pistol and saying you're next. [See also, the opinion of the Virginia Court of Appeals affirming the sentence.]

[On a side note, Justice Hassel, who is black, has been elected to serve as the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court by his peers on the Court, his term starting in February 2003. Those of you familiar with Regent University might be interested in this press release. This is one of those ways that the South is changing that I am so proud of -- to hell with the idea that the Dixiecrat platform was the right way to go.]

BTW, in a brief in support of the defendants in this case, brought by the Council of Conservative Citizens, to whom Trent Lott gave a keynote address in 1992, we learn that
"the burning cross, the traditional symbol of the Ku Klux Klan, [i]s an expression of unyielding opposition" by "Euro-American militants" "to what they plausibly believe to be a minority-liberal agenda that threatens to diminish and to eventually eliminate traditional Euro-American influence in this country."

Last, credit for the title on this post goes to Steve Taylor and his song about BJU.

Update. See this note for a good explanation as to why the Sup.Ct. will uphold the Virginia statute -- I hope Kyle is right.

Thursday, December 12, 2002

Football III The Cumulative Average NFL Power Rankings. But first, we have a consensus -- the Bengals are the unanimous number 32 ranked team. Congratulations.
No. Team Avg. Hi Lo
1 Raiders 1.88 1 3
2 Eagles 2.13 1 4
3 Bucs 2.13 1 4
4 Packers 5.38 4 8
5 Falcons 6.25 3 9
6 Saints 6.5 3 11
7 Dolphins 7.25 4 13
8 49ers 7.38 4 14
9 Patriots 9.63 6 15
10 Chargers 11.5 7 18
11 Jets 11.75 5 15
12 Titans 12 10 17
13 Colts 12.13 10 15
14 Chiefs 13.38 9 17
15 Broncos 13.63 8 18
16 Steelers 14 10 17
17 Giants 17.5 15 20
18 Browns 17.88 15 21
19 Bills 18 16 19
20 Ravens 20.25 19 23
21 Rams 22.5 19 27
22 Cowboys 22.75 21 26
23 Jaguars 23.13 21 25
24 Redskins 23.5 22 26
25 Seahawks___ 25.63____ 24__ 26__
26 Vikings 26 19 30
27 Panthers 26.25 23 27
28 Texans 27.63 25 31
29 Cardinals 28.13 26 31
30 Bears 29 28 30
31 Lions 30.63 29 31
32 Bengals 32 32 32

Sources: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, War Room, CBS, Sagarin (USA Today), Sports Central,
and the AP.
Football II -- Yay! I'm the Blogger Bowl 2K3 regular season champion -- but as countless teams of yore are well aware, regular season doesn't mean anything once the playoffs start. My team's first game is against Mark Byron's Florida Blogistas. Mark and I have had a couple of close games this year and I figure this one will be equally close. The Blogistas lost probably the most key player of the year, Donovan McNabb, earlier and Randy Moss hasn't performed up to expectations (but he's still ahead of most). On my roster I've been carrying Shaun Alexander who has been similarly disappointing. I'm most pleased with my waiver pick-up of Chad Johnson (Cin.) a few weeks ago. My workhorse, of course, has been LaDainian Tomlinson.

In setting the roster this week, I've had to decide between Jerry Porter, who's been somewhat off the past couple of weeks, and Rod Smith, who seems to have become the number two receiver for the Broncos. Similarly, I don't expect Charlie Garner to have a big day against Miami, but can't see James Stewart having one against TB. I agree with Mark's starting picks except, perhaps kicker Steve Christie going against Buffalo -- I figure he should have at least 4 PAs and maybe one FG. I think Morton Anderson (against Denver) should have 2-4 FGs and 2-4 PAs. But these things are always so iffy -- both Mark and I left big points on the bench last week (QBs Brad Johnson and Jeff Garcia). It's for fun.

Update. Another reason why it's wise for Mark to start Brad Johnson -- something I didn't know: "15: Touchdowns thrown in the last six weeks by Brad Johnson, three more than any other quarterback." Kind of surprising, eh?
Football I. Like Earl Warren, I'll ease back into things by starting with the Sports page and save the front page. First up, I see the NFL has given the Vikings a big "Tuck You" (sorry, couldn't resist) regarding the officiating by Walt "Snow Job" Coleman: nine mistakes, eight being in the fourth quarter. Still a loss for the Vikes.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Excuse the Interruption. All of us -- the entire family of six -- was hit by an especially bad bug starting late Friday night. My wife and I were scrubbing carpets, floors, walls and doing boatloads of laundry, that is until Mrs. Idiot got it on Monday. (I kept up laundry duty -- by Monday we'd pretty much trained the kids to use a bucket -- sorry for the gross details). I was the last to get it -- and seem to be getting over it. I'm on-line so I can check my work e-mail and let you know I'll be back soon.

I'll try to post the football rankings tonight.

Friday, December 06, 2002

Prey Okay, for what it's worth, here is the readers digest version of Michael Crichton's Prey. First of all, while I had some fun with this, it does contain all kind of spoilers, so you really shouldn't read this unless you read the book. Second, this is in fun -- because I did like the book -- it was something that held my attention. Go out and buy the book and have fun with it -- let it engross you and entertain you. Then come back here and read this gentle parody.

It's midnight now. The house is dark. I am not sure how this will turn. The kids are all desperately sick, throwing up. I should be attending to them, but I’m too engrossed in Michael Crichton’s new novel, Prey, to attend to them. Let me tell you the story so you don’t wind up in a similar situation…

Day One 11:17 a.m.

I’m Jack Forman, I used to make distributed parallel processing or agent-based programs, but that got too confusing to my VC (Venture Capitalists, to those of you not familiar with the lingo), so my boss called it the Forman Grill to capitalize on my name and the success of another product. I was honest, too honest perhaps, and when I discovered my boss had off-shore accounts to skim off the fat from the Grill, I signed a NDA (look, I can’t keep stopping the story to explain these things to you - look it up) and took a big lump sum to leave the company. No, I wasn’t fired. No, no, no, no. Ask my head-hunter who keeps talking about shelf life. I wanted to leave so I could go shopping for diapers and table settings.

Shopping - now, I could tell you a thing or two about shelf life. Did you know that nanoparticles of garlic salt has a shelf-life of 50 years? Strawberry jam, however, only has a shelf-life of 6 to 9 months. Worst of all are linen table mats if you use strawberry jam - they get so stained that even boiling water can’t take it out. And I’m sure that bacteria grow on those stains . . .

This is why I’m out shopping at Crate and Barrel for new placemats. Don’t these yellow ones look pretty?

Oops, that’s my cell phone. Oh, it’s my strikingly pretty wife, Julia, who at 36 is the mother of my three off-spring and is the Vice President of Xymos, a world leader in molecular manufacturing. I think I’ll keep her.

“Hi Jack, look I can’t come to Eric’s soccer game today, I’m too busy administering the kiss of life to all my co-workers. Oh, and don’t buy the yellow placemats.”

Hmmm, I wonder if she’s having an affair. And how did she know about the placemats??!!!?

Well, I’ll go get diapers for the baby.

Day One 11:49 a.m.

Oh, look, it’s Ricky Morse, a handsome surfer guy who used to work for me and now works for Julia. He’s looking pretty buff for a guy who’s just given birth to a whole swarm of children - I can’t remember if he had twins, triplets or what.

“Hi Jack, what kind of diapers do you use?”

“Hi Ricky, I like Pampers because of their anti-static properties.”

“Not me Jack, I prefer Huggies because they contain the nanopoops.”

“Nice lipstick, Ricky.”

“Thanks, Julia gave it to me.”

“See you in Nevada.”

“Not if I see you first.”

I don’t trust Ricky.

Day One 1:14 p.m.

“Hi Dad, you just missed mom and this creepy faceless guy who looked like a surfer.” It was Nicole, my oldest kid. “She said she had to go to work all night in the middle of the desert in Nevada. Oh, and she looked really buff.”

“That’s nice, dear, where’s your brother and sister.”

“Eric’s playing with Amanda---”


“-Mom did something to her and now she’s all black; but if you twist her arms just right, she’s like an etch-a-sketch. Dad, what does Mom do in the desert all night in Nevada?”

“Now dear, you know your mom had a degree in child psychology.”


“So she does some sort of work that is only legal in Nevada and involves a lot of kissing.”


“She’s a molecular manufacturer.”

“Right, Dad. Are you in denial?”

“That’s my sister’s line Nicole. Oh, hey, look at the time, I need to meet my headhunter or take Amanda in for an MRI or something.”

Day One 3:04 p.m.

“Eric, Mom won’t be able to come to your soccer game today.”

“That’s okay. Do you know why my .mp3 player doesn’t work? It worked fine before Mom kissed it.”

“Here, let me look at it - I used to do this kind of thing at MediaTronics - oh, look something’s been gnawing on the microprocessor.”

“Okay - I’ll talk to Mom about doing some vacuuming.”

Day One 5:47 p.m.

“Hey Dad, Mom called to say she’ll be coming home for dinner after all. She said she’d bring home Japanese circuits and something fleshy that dissolves quickly.”

“That’s great Nicole, how’s Amanda?”

“She really cries a lot when we shake her up to do a new drawing.”

“Okay, I’m going to take her in for an MRI. Any other calls?”

“You’re sister called to say you’re in denial and is flying up. Also MediaTronics wants you to work as a consultant in Nevada. They said their having problems with algor--”

“Al Gore? The original terminal man? No, no, that was Rising Sun - Crichton relied on him too much in that book on Japanese Industrial Policy. Besides, he’s as irrelevant as a velociraptor.”

“No, they’re having problems with an algorithm you wrote.”

“Well there’s plenty of diapers for the baby - I’ll go to Nevada after your mom drives the car off a cliff.”

Day One 5:48 p.m.


Day One 5:49 p.m.

“Okay, now I can go to Nevada.”

“Dad, I didn’t get to tell you about the ghost who vacuumed my room.”
“This is supposed to be a brief parody, Eric, we don’t have time for that.”

“You don’t love me.”

“Do you want me to kiss you?”

“Bye Dad.”

Day Two 5:29 a.m.

“Look at that swarm - I’ve never seen anything like it…”

“Hell, that ain’t nothing, that’s just the PR guys. Wait until you see the lawyers show up in the next iteration. Get your stuff in here, it’s time to meet the expendable personnel.”

“I’m David Brooks - I’m even more scared than the rabbit that gets eaten.”

“And I’m Rosie Castro - see my big breasts.”

“Umm, it was nice knowing the both of you.”

“I’m Charley Davenport I burp, fart, and hum a lot. I’m pretty annoying.”

“You’re fat and sloppy. I thought you were Dennis Nedry?”

“That was another book - here I’m a good guy, but I still get eaten.”

“Where’s the field biologist who’s quiet and underappreciated? The one who can build bombs?

“I’m Mae Chang - we worked together before - I’ve been Theresa Asakuma, Dr. Karen Ross --”

“Let’s get a move on people, we’ve got a lot to do before this day’s up…”

“Hi Ricky, you’re looking buff.”

“Let’s go on a tour Jack, we don’t have much time before the rabbit gets eaten.”

Day Two 7:02 a.m.

“Okay Jack, here’s where I disclose the vehicle for getting us all in the desert with them, so pay attention. We have a contract from the Pentagon, which is the worst form of evil on the face of the earth--”

“I thought corporations were. Like the one that funded Dr. Jonas Miller in Twister. I thought we like government funding”

“Yeah, corporations and venture capitalists are evil. Government funding is usually okay, but the Pentagon is always the worst - it trumps everything. That’s why we had Jonas Miller driving his weather trucks painted in Army green, so you’d know they were bad. Really bad. Army Bad. Non-defense research is always good, unless funded by venture capitalists, they expect results-”

“Dr. Venkman--”

“I’m Ricky and quit interrupting me - this is going on too long already. Look, the Pentagon wanted us to develop a bunch of little camera-like receptors - sort of like the rods and cones in the back of your eye -- to go spy on enemy forces and send back pictures. We developed these molecule-sized particles -nanoparticles - that do just that, only they were too light and tended to blow away. So we had to figure out a way to make them more stable. We loaded them up with jet engines, radio, memory, sound machines, and color changing ability. They were still as wobbly as the first George Bush so the Pentagon decided to cancel the contract. The company was going to go under and we just couldn’t get decent help. Then Charley left the back window open and they all got away.”


“Let’s go up here - I have to show you where they got out, so you’ll know about the sprinkler system.”

“Is it red? Red triggers my epilepsy, you know?”

“No, that was the Andromeda Strain - here you have to go up this ladder--”

“I’m afraid of heights”

“Of course. You can take the elevator this time.” We got on the lift and he continued. “The other problem with these things is that they reproduce like Starbucks outlets. They’re solar powered, so they thrive in the desert.”

“Well, why don’t you just go out at night and round them up with a bunch of blow-dryers?”

“We thought of that, but there are two problems. First, we don’t have enough extension cords. Second, they’re so small we can’t ever find them.”

“Why don’t you paint them with glow-in-the-dark-stuff?”

“We don’t have any - but we do have a lot of radioactive stuff we could use.”

Day Two 10:21 a.m.

“Hey, how did that time marker get there - I was still talking?”

Just then, Charley belched heavily behind us. “Oh, geez, here you are. The rabbit’s died--”

“Is someone pregnant?”

“No, it was the nanoparticles – they killed the rabbit. Mae went out without you and dissected it. Now it’s time for you to go to the shed with Charley, Rosie, Mae and David.”

Day Two 10:41 a.m.

Boy, it was hot out – I’d hate to end up stuck in a car with vinyl seats and the windows rolled up on a day like this. At least the wind was blowing – no swarms of nanoparticles to chase us around. “Okay, let’s go find that radioactive stuff.”

“Jack, you’re supposed to use a scientific name – not stuff – otherwise people start thinking about plot and dialogue and forget about the gadgets.”

“I found the stuff” belched Charley, “let me put it in these Windex bottles.”

“Jack I’m really scared” stammered David Brooks “can we go back inside the complex?”

“Yeah Jack, hasn’t the wind died down enough for us to be threatened yet?”

“Not yet – besides Mae hasn’t found the explosives we’ll need later.”

Day Two 3:10: p.m.

It took awhile – several hours in fact, for the wind to die down so we could be threatened by the swarm of nanoparticles. The whole time I had to put up with David’s whining, Rosie’s Shakespeare and Charley’s bodily noises. Finally, we got the word from the complex that the wind had died down and the flock of raptors had returned. I mean particles, yeah, particles – big clouds of particles.

“Okay, here’s my plan” I explained. “We’ll have Charley take the lead and we’ll all move in formation – head straight for the swarm and then burp and blow them out of the way.”

“I can’t do it Jack, I used up all my gas in the past few hours – I can’t – ” but before he could finish David Brooks broke and ran. He looked just like that rabbit. Just as we thought he was going to make it, the particles all lay down on the ground and made a line 1/10,000 of an inch thick. David tripped and fell – he was snatched up and was carried him off to the Wicked Witch by the flying monkeys.

Next was Rosie – they didn’t like her Shakespeare. Charley, Mae and I all ran for the cars. We baked, Charley was in a different car from Mae and I and the critters found their way in – he sprayed ‘em with Windex. The wind came back; we went inside; Julia came back; Mae discovered a phage ate the bacteria that powered the particles. It smelled like poopy diapers. Mae and I drank some – Charley discovered that Julia, Ricky and some of the others were hosts for the pod people. Julia kissed Charley and he died. Mae and I blew up the nest of the particles but the more civilized particles inside had taken over Ricky and Julia and were eating them alive. So much for looking buff.

I climbed the tower and we sprayed poopy water all over everyone and they all screamed: “I’m melting, melting” and dissolved into brown sugar.

Day Seven 11:57 p.m.

Yeah, all that happened in the last seven days. Mae and I were the only survivors. I came home and made the kids drink the poopy water and everyone threw up, except the baby, but she didn’t work as an etch-a-sketch anymore. I lost all my stock options not to mention Julia’s. Oh, I guess I lost Julia as well. But I got these really cool yellow placemats and, thanks to Nanotechnology, they’re stain-resistant.

But next time, we might not be so lucky.

Thursday, December 05, 2002

Quickies. I just finished reading Prey -- I loved it -- couldn't put it down -- will make a great movie -- just don't think about the holes and fluff.

I'm officially a geezer now. My turn signal is broken and stuck on.

I took the day off and enjoyed the snow -- I'd guess we got about 6 inches.

Great column about how the old guys used to take care of a Warren Sapp.

Wednesday, December 04, 2002

Power Rankings. My Raiders lead the pack at number 3. Well, that's the way I read this chart -- and I think it's somewhat more accurate. Basically, the ordinal numbers on the left reflect the position of each team, but the "Cu" (or cumulative average) reflects a team's true standing. If you look at the first four teams here, they range from 2.75 to 3.5 -- or rounding, there is a four-way tie for number three. This is appropriate for this year, I think.
No. Team Cu. Hi Lo
1 Raiders 2.75 1 6
2 Eagles 2.88 1 9
3 Bucs 3.13 1 5
4 Falcons 3.5 1 6
5 Packers 4.75 3 8
6 49ers 7.88 3 11
7 Saints 8 4 10
8 Chargers 8.75 3 17
9 Colts 8.88 6 12
10 Broncos 9.63 4 13
11 Dolphins 10.38 7 16
12 Steelers 10.88 7 13
13 Patriots 12.13 9 15
14 Jets 14 6 17
15 Titans 14.13 11 16
16 Chiefs 15.38 13 17
17 Bills 16.75 14 20
18 Ravens 18.25 17 19
19 Giants 19.5 17 21
20 Browns 19.63 18 21
21 Rams 20.5 18 23
22 Redskins 23.13 20 26
23 Jaguars 23.38 21 27
24 Cowboys 23.5 20 26
25__ Seahawks___ 24.63___ 23___ 25___
26 Vikings 26 20 30
27 Bears 26.75 25 28
28 Panthers 27 24 30
29 Cardinals 29.75 27 32
30 Lions 29.88 28 31
31 Texans 30.25 29 32
32 Bengals 31.5 29 32

Sources: ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, War Room, CBS, Sagarin (USA Today),
and the AP.
I'm still here -- I've just been quiet lately. Yesterday, my wife and I had another funeral. I guess this is the hardest part of turning 40, having the parents of our peers passing away. That sounds self-centered -- I don't mean it to be. I ache for those friends and their families and try to help out.

Yesterday was the mother of a good friend of ours. I was very honored to be asked to be a pall bearer. It's very hard to lose your mother... This is the third mother of three very close ladies of a small group we've participated in to have passed away in the past three years. All by cancer. A co-worker of mine told me his mother died 12 years ago and there's not a day that goes by that he doesn't think of her.

Anyway, I'll put up the NFL power rankings in a little bit and be back in a day or two. It's time for me to take a break from blithering and be still.

Monday, December 02, 2002

Shades. The WaPo writes of the emerging anti-war effort which runs the spectrum from crimson to tomato: "It's a campaign of all different kinds of groups, from the National Council of Churches to the International Socialists organization"

Sunday, December 01, 2002

Happy New Year! Advent begins today -- and a new liturgical year.

Saturday, November 30, 2002

Judge Keith. Here is a link to the obituary for Judge James Keith, whom I mentioned below.

Friday, November 29, 2002

The Puritan Myth. A good article that ran in several newspapers across the country the past few days points out the myth popularized by Mencken that the Puritans lived with "the haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy" is a flat-out lie. Sample quote:
Despite academics' efforts to set the record straight, Puritans continue to be cast wearing drab clothing, when in fact they often wore colorful outfits for their era. They're portrayed as teetotalers, when records show they consumed large quantities of beer, rum, ale and alcoholic cider. They're blamed for burning witches in Salem, even though convicted witches were usually hanged, not burned, and with less frequency and more due process of law than in Europe.
I recommend reading the whole article.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Song. About a month ago, I mentioned a song by Steve Taylor, Over My Dead Body, written in Warsaw in 1984, written about Grzegorz Przemyk a Polish Youth Worker slain by the Communist government. A friend of mine has posted it on-line in .mp3 format. You can download it here (scroll down).

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

What were they thinking? Volokh co-conspirator Stuart Banner, in a brief post that could easily be overlooked, asks:
It wasn't so long ago that people owned other people as slaves, women couldn't vote, and so on. We all have a list of past practices that seem appalling today. A century or two from now, our descendants will likely think the same about us. Some of the things we do will seem shockingly inhmane. Our great-great-grandchildren will scratch their heads and wonder "What were those people thinking?" But which of our practices are the ones they'll criticize?
My guess would be our treatment of children. From the societal support of abortion on demand, which the generations will rightly condemn as "how could they just kill developing humans?" to the sexualization of children (see the Tom Petty quote below), I think in many respects we've failed our children.
Life and death... My wife called and let me know the mother of a close friend of ours passed away last night. This was not unexpected -- in fact, my wife took care of their daughter yesterday so that the couple could be with her at the hospital. Since the daughter was sick, my oldest watched our kids while I was at work (since she's on Thanksgiving break, this was do-able). My wife said that when she called the church to update them, she found out two other members of the congregation had also passed away last night. One of those was a true Virginia gentleman, James Keith, who I first met when I interned at Fairfax Legal Aid in 1980. Judge Keith had just retired from the court and was working part-time as a volunteer for Legal Aid -- he was very respected and he imprinted himself in my mind's eye as the proto-type gentleman jurist. The following is a brief description of his life, from the Virginia State Bar:
James Keith was born and raised in Warrenton. Because of his own father's untimely death in early middle age, the senior Keith attended VMI on scholarship and then went on to Harvard Law School, graduating in 1935 and moving to Fairfax to join his uncle's law firm. Like many Harvard graduates during World War II, the senior Keith was assigned to the U.S. Intelligence Service and then returned to his legal practice after the war. In the 1960s, Mr. Keith became a judge of the Fairfax Circuit Court, where he presided until his retirement in 1979.
Years later, after law school and several moves, my wife and I joined as members of Truro Church in Fairfax and I was delighted to see the Judge there with his bride -- what a charming couple they were. She passed away after a long bout with cancer -- talking with the Judge's son at church a few weeks ago, I knew it wouldn't be long. He said that the dementia was pretty bad, but he was thankful for the lucid moments.

As I said, this man was a gentle man and I was honored by my fleeting time with him.

Life, life.

Another friend of ours is putting out calls for platelets and plasma for a young girl -- I'll be spending some time doing that in the next few week. Platelets can be given every five days, it just takes about three hours at a time to do so.

Thank you all for understanding my continued absences from here.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

Magazines and Masons. I'm not excited about either the Newsweek or the Time magazine cover for this week. I'd give the nod to Time for its LOTR theme, but I just don't like the busy picture. I saw the LOTR2 preview before Harry Potter and the Chamberpot of Secrets (opps, hope that's not a spoiler) and am looking forward to this one. I really liked Chamber and will have to write more about this sometime.

In the meantime, I'll give you a link to an article noting that the Archbishop of Canterbury-designate has questioned the “compatibility” of freemasonry with Christian teaching. I've expressed my opinion elsewhere -- I think it was in comments to Dr. Byron's blog -- that the freemasonry issue doesn't bother me -- I'd put it on a par with gambling. I'm actually more troubled about (+)AofC's involvement with the druid ceremonies.

Last -- our sermon today was based on, you guessed it, What Would Jesus Drive?

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Back. Hi -- I've been out for a little while -- in Hyannis and then Plymouth, Massachusetts. I didn't see any Kennedys while in Hyannis, but I guess it's Palm Beach season now. I drove by Plymouth Rock and was interested to note it's right by the road.

Speaking of Plymouth Rock, I should note that I'll probably be pretty busy through Thanksgiving, but don't forget about me.

Of course as a Virginian, I must point out that the first Thanksgiving in the New World was in Virginia. (Or was it in North Carolina? or Florida? or Texas?-- in any event, if Pat Buchanan had been around back then, we wouldn't be celebrating those Puritan Wetbacks today)