As I mentioned, on Monday night we had to put our cat down. She had been sick for over a week, and wasn't getting better. It's never an easy decision to end a pet's life, but it was for the best.
We got Zoe in 1997. She was at the animal shelter in Oregon for some reason - we never did learn why. Krys felt guilty about taking her, actually - she had just arrived and was near the front of the shelter, while we passed on other cats who had been there longer and were therefore closer to death. Zoe, however, was so friendly - she was crying and rubbing against the cage and purring loudly. We suspect that someone with children sent her to the shelter because she swatted at their kid. Zoe was never particularly patient, especially with the children, and we wonder if that was why she was there in the first place.
We brought her home and she became part of our lives. Early on, she was very snuggly and used to lie between us on the bed. We also learned that she was quite pissy occasionally - the vet told us she had some calico in her, and calicos are notoriously high-strung. Zoe loved getting petted, but once she was done, you better stop, because she would swat at you. She was funny that way - one second she would be purring and rubbing against you, and then she would draw blood with her claws. After a few seconds, she would start rubbing against you again. Weird.
After two years, we realized she was lonely, especially when we weren't around. We went on a cruise to Grenada and Venezuela in 1999, and when we returned from the trip, she was at our window crying miserably. We were living in the townhouse on the side of the hill, and we could hear her from our garage, which was at the bottom of the hill. We had hired a cat sitter to come and be with her during the week that we were gone, but she wasn't there all the time, and Zoe was lonely. That's when we decided to get another cat.
Picking a new cat was a delicate process. Zoe was the queen of the castle, and we knew she wouldn't take kindly to another cat. So we wanted a mellow, male cat. We went to a foster home instead of a shelter, because we knew if the cat didn't fit in with Zoe we could take it back and it wouldn't be in danger of dying. The first cat we got was far too mellow - he made himself right at home and really freaked Zoe out. So we took him back and told the people at the home that we needed a really wimpy cat that she could push around but wouldn't mind it. They gave us Smokey.
Smokey was the perfect fit for Zoe. She could harass him, but he didn't mind. Up until she got sick she would harass him, and he would come back for more. In the beginning he was very scared to come out - he spent a month under out futon - but once he did, he fit right in. He would chase Zoe around, she would hiss at him and swat him, and he would slink away. Then he would chase her again. Despite her protests, she would play with him occasionally, and I think she liked having him around.
When we moved into a house in 2000, Zoe had a wonderful time. She was able to go out more (she could go out when we lived in the townhouse, but there wasn't a lot of places for her to go) and she became the queen of the neighborhood. There were a few cats in the area, and Zoe would antagonize the one next door, in particular. It was humorous because she was really a wimp - when the other cat was inside she would strut around on our neighbor's back porch meowing, but the instant the cat came outside she would flee. That was fine with us - we didn't want her getting in fights.
When we moved to Arizona in 2001 we decided to keep her inside. We lived in a big apartment complex, and when we moved out of there and into a house, we were near a very busy street and didn't want her wandering into traffic. By the time we bought our house in 2003 she had been an inside cat for so long we didn't let her out again. We were also a bit worried about the fact that a lot of people on our street seemed to leave their garage doors open, and we didn't want her getting trapped. She adjusted well, although she still ran outside occasionally. When she did, it was quite funny - she stayed right against the house and cried, as if she didn't know what to do outside anymore. We would catch her and bring her back in, and she seemed happier. She and Smokey loved lying in our greenhouse window in the kitchen during the summer, soaking up the sun. During the winter she would sleep with me in the bed (Krys moves around too much, so she stayed on my side). She never really liked the children. She would tolerate them, but didn't like to be touched by them. We worried about it with Norah, because Mia got hurt before she was really interested in her and could move toward her quickly, but Norah was okay around Zoe. She liked to grab at Zoe, and Zoe would often swat her, but only a few times with her claws. Norah had begun to learn to stay away. We told Zoe that she should just get up and leave when Norah came around, and usually she did, but occasionally she just got pissy.
Last year we found out that Zoe (and Smokey, for that matter) had teeny-tiny kidneys. Apparently kidney problems are very common in cats, and they told us that kidney failure would eventually kill her. She was fine until about two weeks ago, when we noticed she wasn't eating very much. She lost weight pretty quickly, and when I took her to the vet last Tuesday he told me she was already pretty far gone. She was severely dehydrated, and kidney failure makes cats nauseous, so she wasn't interested in eating. We gave her fluids at home through subcutaneous injections, and on Saturday we took her to the vet for intravenous fluids, because that's more effective. She was able to eat on Sunday, but she was also still staggering around and did not look very happy. I took her back to the vet on Monday for more IV treatment, because it's usually a two-day process (but they're closed on Sundays), but she didn't get any better. When I called shortly after six on Monday, the doctor said she started having seizures because of all the toxins in her body. They gave her Valium but the seizures didn't stop, and he said there was pretty much no hope for her. I went back to the vet to say goodbye. She was sedated, but her eyes were open, so I hope she realized that it was me stroking her and that soon she would be beyond pain.
So we're pretty sad around here. Smokey isn't quite sure where his "sister" went, and Krys and I are depressed. I'm kind of glad we didn't have to explain it to the kids - we know we're going to have to get into death soon enough, but later is nicer than sooner, I suppose. We're going to see how Smokey adjusts, because we think he really likes having another kitty around. I have a feeling we'll be rescuing one soon enough. Cats are, after all, very cool.
Thanks to everyone who expressed their condolences on my last post. I appreciate it. I know anyone who's had a pet understands that they may "only" be an animal, but they're still family members. I've been very busy the past couple of days, which is why I haven't posted anything. I'll get back to it soon. If you're interested, later on today I should have something about Mia's birthday party this past Sunday. She turns four today, and we're very happy with her progress. I haven't posted it yet, but it should be at the other blog this evening (Arizona time, of course).
In lieu of real content, I link to strange news stories! And some commentary, I suppose.
A Baptist church in New York fires a Sunday School teacher for being a woman! She's worked there 54 years, but fuck you, Grandma! Their justification? The Bible says women should not teach men. I like how whenever "Christians" want to be all narrow-minded and ban something or disallow something, they quote the Bible - but never Jesus. In this case, it's Paul. Why? Because Jesus was a lot nicer than these pricks, and if they started using him, they'd have to be nice to women. Eeeewwww!
An Indian restaurant in Bombay (isn't it Mumbai now?) is named "Hitler's Cross"! The owner did it to attract attention, he says. India has only 5500 Jews, and Holocaust knowledge is limited. My question is, Why call it this if Hitler is only a "historical figure" in India and not seen as a monster? He wasn't terribly important to India. And it's not a German restaurant. This guy sounds like a tool.
Al Sharpton wants black youths to resist "gangster culture." This is a bit more serious. I happen to agree with Sharpton, but maybe Roger or T., as black men who live in Sharpton's neck of the woods, can comment on this better than I can. Doesn't Sharpton cry racism any time a black man is accused of anything? How can he say "gangsterism" is keeping black men from achieving when his self-serving cries of racism might also be doing so? Or am I way off-base? I don't keep up with Sharpton as much as I would if I lived in New York.
Oh, and Pluto is no longer a planet. Our fine newspaper actually suggested a few weeks ago that astronomers were considering dropping Pluto because it had been discovered in Flagstaff in 1930 and not by some old stuffy astronomer in Europe. They were serious.
So there's some news for you as our world spins in the silent void. Aren't you glad you live on such a strange (for now) planet?
As usual, the newspaper makes me angry. Why oh why do I read it?
Actually, the story in yesterday's Arizona Republic about the lack of male teachers and principals. This just makes me sad. The story is about how almost 90% of elementary school teachers are women, while 60% of the principals are. The principal thing doesn't bother me that much - it's not even 60%, more like 58.something% - but the teacher thing does. It's not surprising, but it is kind of sad. The paper looks at three separate factors that might be keeping men out of grade schools:
1. The nurturing factor - men don't deal well with nurturing little snot-nosed punks. 2. The pay factor - teachers get paid poorly, and men can find better money elsewhere. 3. The fear factor - men are afraid that they will be accused of inappropriate behavior.
The first one, I think, is a bit of a joke. Yes, the stereotype has been that men aren't comfortable with nurturing children, but I think that has changed in the past twenty or thirty years or so. Whether you think that's a good thing or not is your own personal opinion, but it seems like men have become much better at the sort of parenting that women do ever since women started going to work en masse, which occurred in the 1960s and '70s. Sure, there are plenty of troglodytic men out there who still think they should choose a mate by clonking some babe over the head and dragging her home, but they wouldn't go into teaching in the first place. So I don't buy the nurturing factor.
The second one is pretty valid, I think. Part of it, as the article points out, is that men are often stuck in the idea of being the "breadwinner" in the family, and teaching doesn't give them that opportunity. Why it matters who the breadwinner is has puzzled me for a long time, but it comes back to a stereotypical idea about who goes to work and who raises the kids. Women raise the kids, damn it, and men go to work! I, obviously, think this is silly, and would be perfectly happy to never have a job again - I love raising the kids, even though they drive me buggy occasionally. When it came down to decide who would stay home with Mia, however, the pay was a factor. I was making $30,000 a year at my teaching job, while Krys was making almost double that as a mortgage underwriter. We couldn't live on just my salary, so I got to quit. We are able to survive on Krys' salary, but if we had credit card debt, we would both have to work. Teachers can make good money in some parts of the country - my mom whines about the teachers in her area, who go on strike to raise their salaries to $75,000 a year, but the area where she lives is a lot more expensive. Sure, that's a chunk of money, but for the most part, teachers don't make a lot of money. But it's not a lot of money for women, either. The pay is linked to the stereotype that men need to make a lot of money to be successful. It's not horrible, but it's not enough for "real men."
I also read a letter by someone who criticized Matt Leinart's new contract. The letter simply said (and I'm paraphrasing), "$35,000 for a teacher, $8.5 million for a quarterback." The priorities are screwed up. But that's a stupid comparison, because Bill Bidwill, the owner of the Cardinals, is a private businessman - he can give Matt Leinart whatever the hell he wants. If the people support the NFL and give them gobs and gobs of money, then the players will get a lot. A better comparison would be with Congressmen, who give themselves raises while keeping the minimum wage low and, of course, teachers' salaries. Teachers' salaries come, ultimately, from taxes, and the public shouldn't whine about how poorly they get paid unless they themselves want to give them a raise. Which isn't happening.
The third factor - fear - is "overblown" and "more perception than reality," according to a couple of the male teachers in the story. Maybe. I have spoken about this before, but I don't think you can discount it. I didn't consciously think about it while I was teaching, but it was always in the back of my mind, and I know it wasn't for the women. It's something that adds anxiety to the job, and nobody needs anxiety! Sure, it's probably "overblown," but it's something that all male teachers have to be careful about, and that little bit of stress, added to all the other stress that you have as a teacher, is just another brick or so that you don't need. It might not drive male teachers away, but I would bet a lot of people who consider it think it's far worse than it is, and stay away. Two examples that I don't think I have mentioned before: once at a "yard sale" our school had on a weekend, I sat in a chair between two of my female students. We were on separate chairs and nobody was touching each other. We were just talking. At some point I got up and my boss actually told me I probably shouldn't sit there. We were in public, my wife was five feet away, and I wasn't allowed to sit there. It's just the perception, not anything that actually happened. Another example: at my other school, a rumor went around that one of the girls was pregnant. She was a very good student but had been skipping some days, which never happened. I actually mentioned it to a female teacher, who brought it up to the student, because there is no way I would even consider bringing it up to the girl, even if it was just out of concern. The female teacher actually got in a bit of trouble for it, but I would have been canned, I'm sure.
I wish there were more male teachers, and I'm not really sure how to recruit more of them. Teaching is a great job, and it's important for a lot of kids to have positive male role models. As with every teaching job, more money would help, even just a little. The biggest problem, I think, is the continuing stigma against men as teachers. Even though some of my best teachers were men, even twenty years ago, I think that a lot of people still think of teachers, especially elementary school teachers, as women. It's kind of strange that we still can't get beyond some stereotypes. Until society moves forward (like that's going to happen!), I have a feeling there will be a serious gender gap in teaching. And that's a shame.
We obviously could not get enough of the Oregon coast while we lived there, so in September 1998 we headed back out there with my parents, who were visiting at the time. So you know what you're going to see - rugged wilderness!
This is the bridge in Newport. It's a nice little town, typical of the other towns on the coast, except for this bridge, which is neat-o.
This is the Yaquina Head lighthouse. It's a little bit north of Newport. Climb to the top if you visit - the mirrors are cool.
You may ask yourself, "Why was Greg taking a picture of open water?" Ah! but if you look more closely, you will see: That's right, a whale was hanging out just off-shore, and it spouted more than a few times. It's tough to get a good picture when you're so far away, but it was pretty cool to see.
Look out! It's the Devil's Punchbowl! Yes, that is its official name. Remember, my parents were with us, so we had to stop at every single unusual thing along the way. This is just a sinkhole into which the ocean rushes. It's nifty, but it's just a hole. (And it's not the only Devil's Punchbowl, either!)
I haven't spoken of my love for Lost too often (occasionally, but not too often) because othersitesdelveintoitsomuchbetter, while I am content to sit back and enjoy the ride. I don't have six hours a day to devote to watching each episode on TiVo and pause it to spot the Dharma Initiative logo on the shark that menaces Sawyer in the water (of course, when I buy Season Two on DVD I will have to look for it) or to surf the Internet and engage in discussion with other Lostaways about the significance of Watership Down. I just don't have the time, nor, to be honest, the inclination.
However, I love the show, and I love reading about behind-the-scenes entertainment stuff (see here and here), so I thought I'd get these two books before Season 3 started and catch up on my Lost mythology. Both books are very interesting if you're a fan, and I'd recommend them. The first one is better, though.
Getting Lost is a series of essays about various aspects of the show. Card, one of my favorite writers, has a very interesting introduction about why Lost is such a great show. He goes into the history of television and what Lost might mean for the future of TV, and it's very well done. The essays in the book look at theories about the show (is it a video game?) and who the leader of the group might be (not who you think). Most are done with tongue firmly in cheek, which makes them much more entertaining. These are people who obviously love the show but know not to take it too seriously. Therefore Adam Troy-Castro gives us the eerie similarities between the Lost island and another one from a certain 1960s situation comedy. Even with the spirit of jocularity, the writers do treat Lost as a text, and this is a good book about deconstructing that text. Bill Spangler examines the books on the island, including The Third Policeman, which Desmond was reading down in the hatch. The Third Policeman was published in 1937 and sounds like a really neat book. Of course, it has sold a bunch of copies in the past year. We also get longer essays about Atlantis and Lost's Locke connection to the real John Locke, as well as a brief examination of the plane crash by a pilot who tells us the whole thing is ridiculous. The highlight of the book is G. O. Likeskill's essay about trying to connect all the members of the cast in a Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon way. He writes it as a journal, and it's very funny to read as he slowly goes crazy with all the connections. His Holy Grail is Yunjin Kim, who plays Sun. Before Lost she had only appeared in South Korean television and movies, so he has a hard time connecting her. His quest is very humorous. Interestingly enough, for such a large cast, none of the cast members had ever worked together before Lost.
Unlocking the Meaning of Lost is a more standard book in that the authors examine some of the themes of the show and some of its antecedents. It's an interesting book without the irreverence of the first, but the chapters on the texts that influence Lost and the fandom of the show are very good. Porter and Lavery mention some obvious influences (Lord of the Flies, Alias, Cast Away, Robinson Crusoe) and some not so much (The Adventures of Brisco County, Jr., Alice in Wonderland, The Stand, The Turn of the Screw, A Wrinkle in Time). The fan chapter at the end of the book is the strongest in it, as the authors delve into the way Lost became an Internet phenomenon before it even aired, with special attention paid to how fans in the spring of 2004 may have saved the show before it began. The chapter also gets into the many theories about the show, and although it seems like the authors take it much more seriously than the essayists in the first book, they do a very good job covering all the many ideas circling cyberspace about the show. It's an interesting chapter to read because it shows how Lost's creators, most notably J. J. Abrams but also Damon Lindelof and the cast, help cultivate the obsessive cult of fans and even conspire with them. Apparently there is even "fake" information on the Internet (I know, shocking), planted by the show's creators to throw people off the scent. Both books do a fine job of showing how this has outgrown a simple television show, but this chapter does it particularly well.
Both books have glossaries, which are very helpful for people like me who don't obsess over the show on-line. There are many things that I have missed about the show, and it will be fun to sit down in the future and watch the DVDs. Lost is a show that demands multiple viewings, and I haven't really had the time to do so. The weakness of the books is, of course, that they were published before the second season ended, so there's a good deal missing from them, especially about The Others (and why that statue has four toes - what's up with that????). That's always the problem with books about ongoing series, and why I usually avoid them until the show is done. But with a show like Lost, there's so much going on that it's good to have a guide. If you're a fan of the show, either one of these books is a good read. The first book is better for esoteric thoughts about the show, while the second is stronger in the nuts-and-bolts way the show is constructed. They're quick reads, too, because they are both so interesting.
Man, I can't wait for the third season. What a good show.
I've always said I don't mind paying taxes as long as they go toward tangible things and aren't wasted. That's what bugs me about taxation in this country - it seems to go into some giant sinkhole where I'm paying for really good health insurance for elected officials and, you know, gold-plated toilet seats. But today I realized there is another reason to dislike taxes.
I had to get my passport renewed because of our trip in November. I really hope it takes less than three months for the wheels of passport renewal to grind out one for me! So I mailed it - with a check for 67 dollars.
Let's think about that for a while. It cost me $67 to renew my passport. If only 500,000 people do that in a year - which might be very high or very low, I have no idea, but figure in a country with a population of 300 million it's probably low - the State Department makes 33.5 million dollars. And that's just from passport renewal! What the hell else are they making money on?
I know it takes a lot of money to run our corrupt government, but are you telling me that all the things we pay for that the government provides isn't enough and they have to tax us even more? Jesus. If we're paying for this stuff, our taxes should be lower or non-existent. If we pay more in taxes, all this shit should be free.
When I'm dictator, Entertainment and Sports Programming Networks will have to shape up!
First, a reason to pay your bills online: a few minutes ago I was paying our electric bill (over 300 dollars - thank you, Arizona summer!). So I put the receipt in the envelope and sealed it. Then I looked over at the check, you know, with the actual payment, still lying on the kitchen counter. A quick re-opening before my saliva bonded completely with the gum and some Scotch tape solved the problem, but it does make a strong case for doing this online. I'm too old-fashioned for that, however.
Meanwhile, dictatoring never gets any easier, especially when I have to keep a long list of people who better hope I never become one. Gordon smartly knows how to suck up, and he will be remembered by the future regime, but others just don't get it. A certain sports network better get its act in gear, because they're on the list!
This morning I was watching Cold Pizza, as I have mentioned before is my morning viewing, and they were talking to a reporter from Arizona's own East Valley Tribune about the signing of Matt Leinart, who was the last first-round draft pick without a contract before finally getting a deal done last night. They asked him about the effect Leinart's hold-out will have on his status and development. Fine and dandy. However, the graphic on the screen read "Affect the hold out will have on Leinart," to paraphrase a bit. The thing I am not paraphrasing is the first word: Affect.Affect.Affect!!!!
Jesus H., if the editors at ESPN can't get easy shit like that right, then they all better look out when I rule the world. The camps will not be kind to people without a basic grasp of English!¹
¹ Yes, I know I may be a bit harsh here. But this is ridiculous. There are rules in English, you know, and although all language is fluid and changes, to blatantly flout those rules through ignorance is egregious. I shan't have it!
In September 1998 Krys and I did a short circuit of some of Portland's fountains. Portland has a bunch of fountains. We used to do this a lot - just wander around the city seeing what was up. You'll notice we never do this in Phoenix. Anyway, it was a beautiful day, and although I didn't take a lot of pictures of fountains, I got some interesting shots.
This is the fountain near my old place of business. We're looking north toward Harrison Street. This is in the center of Lovejoy Park.
Yes, it's the world's smallest park. Mill Ends Park is at the intersection of SW Taylor and Naito Parkway. It's in the Guinness Book of Records!
This is a strangely erotic fountain outside the Standard Insurance Building 900 SW Fifth Avenue. It's called "The Quest" and was designed by Count Alexander von Svoboda. Lots more about the fountain here.
Finally, we have Portlandia, which sits at 1120 SW Fifth. It's the second largest hammered copper statue in the world. The Statue of Liberty is the largest. I just think it's a little freaky, reaching down like that. Someday it will come alive, like that episode of The Simpsons, and then we're all in trouble! Portlanders, by the way, often describe things in their city as "the second biggest" or "the third longest." It's very strange. We decided it's because they have a bit of an inferiority complex, sitting between San Francisco and Seattle like that. We never knew why - as I've shown you, it's a beautiful city.
Not a lot of pictures today! Next week we're back at the beach, so get ready for surf and ruggedness!
It's been a while since I did some totally random history, and today I dragged out my copy of Christian Society and the Crusades 1198-1229, edited by Edward Peters, and opened to a random page. I happened to land on Chapter 24 of "The Capture of Damietta" by Oliver of Paderborn, which occurred during the Fifth Crusade of 1217-1222. The Fifth Crusade was an ill-fated expedition that got sidetracked to Egypt by various factions of Christians already living in the Holy Land, who were more concerned with their own political intrigue than regaining Jerusalem, which had been taken by Saladin in 1187 (which is seen in Ridley Scott's movie Kingdom of Heaven from last year). While the Christians were bogged down in the Nile delta in 1219, Oliver heard news from Jerusalem.
In the year of grace 1219, Jerusalem, the queen of cities, which seemed impregnably fortified, was destroyed within and without by Coradin, son of Saphadin. Its walls and towers were reduced to heaps of stones except for the temple of the Lord and the tower of David. The Saracens took counsel about destroying the glorious sepulchre, and they threatened this through letters which they sent across to the citizens of Damietta for their own consolation; but no one presumed to set his hand to this act of boldness because of reverence for the place. For as they had written in the Koran, the book of their law, they believe that Jesus Christ Our Lord was conceived and born of the Virgin Mary and they protest that He lived without sin as a prophet and more than a prophet; they firmly assert that He gave sight to the blind, cleansed lepers, and raised the dead; they do not deny the word and the spirit of God, and that He ascended alive into heaven. But they do deny His Passion and Death, and also that the divine nature is united to the human nature in Christ. They likewise deny the Trinity of Persons. Therefore they ought to called heretics rather than Saracens, but the use of the false name prevails. Therefore, at the time of truce, when their wise men went up to Jerusalem, they asked that copies of the Gospel be shown to them. These they kissed and venerated because of the purity of the law which Christ taught, and especially because of the Gospel of Luke: "The Angel Gabriel was sent," which the learned among them often repeat and recall to mind. But their law, which Mohammed, under the direction of the devil, gave to the Saracens and which was written in Arabic by the ministry of Sergius, a monk, an apostate, and a heretic, began from the sword, is upheld by the sword, and will be ended in the sword. Mohammed was unlearned, as he himself gives evidence in his Koran, and what the forenamed heretic dictated, he promulgated and ordered to be observed through threats. For he was dissolute and warlike, and therefore he laid down a law concerning uncleanness and vanity, which those who live carnally on the side of pleasure carefully observe. And as truth and purity fortify our law, so worldly and human fear and carnal pleasure guard their error most firmly.
I do like how Oliver mentions that Islam should be "observed through threats," not mentioning that that's how Christianity at that time was promulgated. And he calls Muslims "warlike" while the Christians are besieging a city. Nice. This passage simply shows that whatever the Americans are up to in the Levant these days, it probably isn't going to work. People in that neck of the woods have hated each other for millennia. George Bush doesn't even know what a millennium is, but he's going to solve the problems in the Middle East. Yeah.
Coradin destroyed the walls because he feared the Christians would retake the city. If that makes little sense, remember that for the Muslims, Jerusalem was not particularly important. They had a small garrison there but weren't all that concerned about holding it. The sultan of Egypt offered it to the Crusaders before the siege of Damietta began, but they rejected the offer because they believed Frederick II, the Holy Roman Emperor, was coming with troops and they could have both Jerusalem and Damietta. Frederick, who always did his own thing, never came, and after taking Damietta, the Crusaders were forced to give it up less than two years later, and the Fifth Crusade ended ignobly. Ironically, in 1227 Frederick negotiated the transfer of power in Jerusalem to the Christians only if he would be named King of Jerusalem. The Christians held it until 1244, when they lost it again. I always thought a nice extreme solution to the Middle Eastern problem would be to bomb Jerusalem into dust. Then nobody would have anything to fight over!
With football season almost upon us, it's time for me to flex my sports-ranting muscles in preparation for my highly-anticipated recaps of each football week. You know you love them! With that in mind, I am going to muse on things I have heard recently, including why I'm starting to dislike the mainstream sports media as much as the mainstream news media.
I watch Cold Pizza on ESPN2 in the morning, when the kids aren't watching Baby Einstein videos. Cold Pizza is a decent show - nothing great, but it's fun enough. They have a segment where Woody Paige and Skip Bayless debate sports topics, and often, they are so wacky that I think they aren't really expressing their opinions, just saying the wackiest things so people like me can get upset. However, today they were discussing the new NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell. They both said his first order of business should be getting a team into Los Angeles, because the NFL needs a team in Los Angeles.
This is the party line among pretty much any sports talking head. My question, which no one has ever answered correctly, is why does the NFL need a team in Los Angeles? The Rams left town in 1995 (or maybe 1994). The Raiders left about the same time. It's been over a decade since the NFL had a team in Los Angeles, and in that time football has become the single most dominant sport in the United States and the NFL the most powerful organization in sports. So why the hell do they need a team in a city that rejected two of them? Because the media wants to talk about a team in the country's second-biggest television market, and the networks want to televise a team in the country's second-biggest television market. Even if no one, you know, actually goes to the games.
Cold Pizza is also doing a daily segment on the top Heisman Trophy candidates. If there's anything that's a bigger crock of shit in sports than football awards, I don't know what it is, and the Heisman is the biggest crock of shit in that. In baseball, it's relatively easy to pick a MVP, because you can tell if a guy hits well and plays the field decently (unless he's David Ortiz) and if no one blows away the field, pick a dominant pitcher. In basketball, the guys play offense and defense and there are only two guys on a team you could pick. Football is the best team sport out there, and to pick a quarterback or running back for MVP every single year is ridiculous. Everyone talks about how great Edgerrin James is. Let's see how he does this year behind the Arizona offensive line. Everyone talks about how great Peyton Manning or Tom Brady is and how lousy David Carr is. Put Peyton Manning behind Houston's offensive line and he would get killed, because he's less mobile than even David Carr is. But no offensive linemen ever even get mentioned in the MVP discussions. It's the same with the Heisman. Only when no quarterback or running back has a dominant year can a wide receiver or defensive player even get mentioned.
So the media, who votes for the Heisman, is talking about potential Heisman winners. They do this every year - pump up guys, then keep flogging their names throughout the season, and finally, they vote for one of those guys. Anyone who isn't mentioned relentlessly throughout the year has a miniscule chance of even getting into the top five, even if that guy has better stats than the actual winner. Today's featured player was Brady Quinn, the quarterback of Notre Dame. Now, I loathe Notre Dame, and more than that, I loathe the media's obsession with Notre Dame, but Brady Quinn is a decent enough quarterback, so what the hell - let's make him a Heisman candidate. After interviewing Quinn, they brought on Pat Forde, their college football "expert," who said, and I'm not making this up, that Quinn might win it because "Notre Dame is due" to win a Heisman - they haven't had a winner since 1987.
What the fuck? They're "due"? This is the same kind of shit I heard about Notre Dame last year - it's good for college football when Notre Dame is good. To be fair, it's the same thing I heard about Penn State - it's good for college football when they're good. There are 117 Division 1-A teams - it doesn't matter if Notre Dame or Penn State or Michigan or Texas or USC or Oklahoma or any of the other traditional powerhouses are good or not. If Penn State is down, any number of other teams will be good, and that's fine and dandy. It's only a good thing for those powerhouses to be good because the media wants to talk about their history of greatness and the members of the media have fond memories of the great teams from those schools growing up. Of course I want Penn State to be good - they're my alma mater. When they suck, I hate it. But I didn't see college football going in the tank two and three years ago when Penn State sucked.
But I'm off-topic. Brady Quinn might win the Heisman because the media wants to give it to a Notre Dame guy? Check out the winners of the Heisman. Oklahoma State hasn't had a winner since Barry Sanders in 1988. They're due! Houston hasn't had a winner since Andre Ware in 1989. They're due! But those are minor schools, you say. Well, Auburn hasn't had a winner since Bo Jackson in 1985, Georgia hasn't had one since Herschel Walker in 1982, Pittsburgh hasn't had one since Tony Dorsett in 1976, Penn State hasn't had one since John Cappelletti in 1973, UCLA hasn't had one since Gary Beban in 1967 ... you get the point. What a stupid thing to say, especially if you're a college football "expert" and not, I don't know, a Notre Dame booster.
Of course, the preseason polls came out this and last week. The less said about preseason polls the better, and I'm not going to go into them except to say I really wish there would be no polls until after the fourth or fifth week of the season. Polls are idiotic, anyway, but they're more idiotic weeks before the season starts. But that's enough of that.
Later on in today's show, they interviewed O. J. McDuffie, a former NFL (and Penn State) receiver. Now, I love those ex-Nittany Lions, but O. J. blew it big time. He was listing the five best NFL quarterbacks. Now, I know it's only his opinion, but again, he's supposed to be an "expert." He had Tom Brady #1. I have no problem with that. He had Peyton Manning #2. Again, no problem. He had Matt Hasselbeck of the Seahawks #3. Hmmm. Okay, he went to the Super Bowl last year. I probably wouldn't put him at three, but in the top five is fine. He had Carson Palmer at #4. Maybe. He had Daunte Culpepper at #5. Daunte freakin' Culpepper, who hasn't shown he can do anything but lob it up for Randy Moss to catch. I know I'm being a homer, but Donovan McNabb was not on his list. You might say that McNabb was injured last year and has to prove himself again, but Culpepper was injured for more of the year last year and has yet to prove he can do anything but, as I mentioned, lob passes up for Randy Moss. And Carson Palmer was injured worse than McNabb and might not play until well into the regular season. McNabb has to be in the top five, or you're not an expert. They asked him about the most notable omission ... Brett Favre. WTF? Favre hasn't been close to the top five in the NFL in five or six years. Sheesh. That's just another reason to hate the mainstream media - they can't let go. Favre is living off a reputation from a decade ago, and he hasn't been any good in the new millennium. Yet people keep thinking he's an elite QB. Let it go!
I read a few different sports blogs, and I'm starting to like them a lot more than the people on television. Fire Joe Morgan is not only devoted to hating Joe Morgan, but hating all baseball people who write stupid things. The guys who write for it are a bit too enamored of weird stats (they have a glossary of terms for when they start flinging stuff like VORP at us), but they actually take the time to study baseball players and try to evaluate them with a bit more objectivity than Joe Morgan, who basically compares everyone unfavorably to his old Cincinnati Reds teammates (listen to him occasionally - it's true!). I haven't found any football blogs as in depth as this one is, but I'm looking. The mainstream media is letting me down because they are simply repeating what everyone else says about the players without wondering whether it's true or not. This is, of course, par for the course for most media members these days, and it's partly why their numbers are plummeting. People want analysis and insight instead of repetition and ranting. To bring it back to the wider world, it's why Jon Stewart is so popular. Yes, he's liberal, but he actually does things with less hatred than the left- and right-wing news stations, and he actually bothers to hold everyone accountable for their statements, even liberals. "Real" news organizations don't do that anymore (if they ever did) because they don't want to lose "access." It's annoying.
Anyway, it's almost football season! YAY! That means ESPN will be calling to offer me a high-paying job as the host of the talk show I Hate Brett Favre, right?
For the long July Fourth weekend in 1998, Krys and I did the most patriotic thing we could think of: visited Victoria, the capital of British Columbia in Canada! Well of course we did - all liberals, after all, hate America!
Victoria is a beautiful city. It's located on Vancouver Island and is south of quite a bit of mainland Washington state (see the map). For some reason the Canadians thought it would be a good idea to put the capital of the province on an island far away from everything else in the province. Oh, those wacky Canadians!
Victoria is also very proud of its Britishness. It cultivates it for the tourists, naturally, but the people are still very proud of it. It means that unlike Vancouver, which is much more cosmopolitan and therefore the presence of Asians doesn't seem that weird, the mix of British and Chinese cultures in Victoria is a bit strange. But it works.
We stayed at a bed-and-breakfast called the Humboldt House in the Oriental Room. Political correctness be damned - it was a cool room! It wasn't very big, but it was very classy:
In the room was a book where you could write about your experiences at the b-and-b and in Victoria. Most of the entries were kind of dull, but one guy wrote, and I kid you not, that when he saw his wife in a new nightgown, he felt "an uneasy stirring in his trousers." That may be one of the funniest things we have ever read, and we still mention it from time to time. Of course, many of the subsequent entries were commenting on this guy. Krys and I did not write anything in the book, but if you visit Victoria and stay in the Oriental Room, the book might still be there!
Here is Krys on the front porch of the Humboldt House. Our room was on the second floor. The back two windows were our room.
One of the landmarks in Victoria is the Empress Hotel, where we had high tea. That was Krys' idea - I'm not much for tea. But the Empress is a beautiful old hotel, and very British.
This is the Parliament building. It's the capital, remember. The inner harbour (note the English spelling!) of Victoria is a very picturesque place.
We took a bus tour around Victoria and cruised through Chinatown. This is the Gate of Harmonious Interest. Oh, those wacky Chinese!
In Chinatown you can find the narrowest street in North America! It's Fan Tan Alley! It's an actual street, too - you can't see it too well in this picture because of the shadows, but it's filled with shops and is very neat.
We also went up to the Butchart Gardens, which are very, well, flowery. It was actually a nice trip. You may question my masculinity, but I like gardens. Here's Krys with a bunch of roses.
Finally, we were hanging out at a restaurant the night before we left and the waitress took our picture. We're a tired but happy couple!
Needless to say, we had a wonderful time. Victoria is a relatively small city, and you can get a lot of places by walking. We only went this one time, but it's a place we would go back to if we had the chance.
Tough week last week - Mia got botox injections, and they were both here all the time with less therapy than usual. I have one more week with both of them before Mia goes back to school, so we'll see if I'm still marginally sane at this time next week. All of this meant fewer postings after Top Ten Week, but I hope this giant linkdump will make up for it! It includes some links that are a few weeks old that I never got around to putting up, so I hope you'll forgive me. The YouTube section is worth the price of admission alone!
Let's get right to it with the Land Down Under!
THE MADNESS OF AUSTRALIA. Those people live on the bottom of the world, you know - who knows what's going on in their heads?
Rick Santorum is having some trouble in the Pennsylvania Senate race, so what does his Republican Party do for him? They give money to a Green Party candidate so he can get on the ballot, presumably to draw votes away from the Democratic challenger, Bob Casey. Now, Casey doesn't sound like much of a winner, either, but he can't be worse than Santorum, and it's fun to see that the GOP is so desperate that they would give money to a rival just to beat Casey. They should just admit that Santorum is, well, crazy.
Oh, the irony! Jonah Goldberg says that comparing someone to Hitler and the Nazis is the worst hallmark of a terrorist, yet his new book is called Liberal Fascism: The Totalitarian Temptation from Mussolini to Hillary Clinton. Good job, Jonah!
Here's a quote by Herman Goering that we can easily believe coming from the mouth of Dick Cheney. Don't worry - I'm not calling Cheney a Nazi. I'm just pointing out what people in positions of power - in any power structure - believe. And they're right, unfortunately.
This was all over the Internet a few weeks ago, but I saw it first at Blah Blah Flowers:Ann Coulter on Hardball, which need to be renamed. Among other things, she "jokes" that Al Gore is a "total fag," says seriously that Clinton is gay, and thinks it might be a good idea to bomb the U.N. headquarters in New York. I don't have that much of a problem with that, because she's pretty much insane anyway. But Chris Matthews, the host, sucks her dick pretty much the whole way through and tells her how happy they would be to have her back. Jon Stewart is harder on liberals than Matthews was on the crazy person. No wonder she says shit like this!
Wicked Boring points us to Fuck for Forest. Yes, you read that right. According to the website, they "use their sexuality and love to direct attention to and collect money for the earth's threatened nature." I checked out the site briefly (it's really not safe for work in any way) and I can't really figure out how they do this. It has quite a bit to do with porn, though. As pointed out in the original link, forest preservation organizations are a bit squeamish about taking their money. Because forest preservation organizations are apparently rolling in cash.
WON'T SOMEONE THINK OF THE CHILDREN? Stories of the little ones.
Last week a San Antonio topless club planned a tubing trip featuring strippers. This flies in the face of new rules about rowdy behavior on the river, and has led to some controversy. The best quote, however, comes from City Councilman Ken Valentine: "I'm really disappointed that this is going to occur on Sunday when people should be in church." I guess if it took place on a Saturday, it would be okay. Hell, Mr, Valentine would probably sign up!
This story is very interesting, and not just because it's from my little corner of the world. A family sells its farmland to developers, and one of its members designs the crops in a pattern like the future subdivision: This comes to us from Blog for Arizona. It's just another thing that is horrible about this place. We keep selling off farmland for more developments, which has a negative impact on the weather and the ecosystem. But nobody cares. As long as they get their cheap houses!
PHOTOGRAPHIC FUN. Because the proof of it is right there!
This video is almost indescribable, but I'll try. It's a Norwegian band doing "Total Eclipse of the Heart." They use kitchen appliances as percussion instruments. Just watch it! When you see the guy's ass, it catapults into sheer genius territory. I found it at Toner Mishap.
I must warn you: there's nudity at this link. Sonia does this kind of often, and the interesting thing about this one is that it's Clémence Poésy, whom American audiences probably know as Fleur Delacour from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. I'm just surprised that Disney would hire an actress who appeared naked in a movie prior to the Harry Potter movie. Strange.
THE POOR UNCATEGORIZABLE STUFF. I tried, I really did. But where can you put the dead eel throwing contest? Where?????
Man, those are a lot of links. I hope I successfully distracted you from all your work that you were supposed to get done on Friday and now didn't get done on Monday. Wasting time at work - that's why the Internet was invented!
It's always nice to see America stand on principles
Cuba has been in the news this week, with Castro going in for surgery and relinquishing the duties of government to his brother. Our government has said they won't lift the embargo on Cuba until they go all democratic on us, even if Castro dies. Good to see us standing on principle - we won't do business with a horrible, oppressive Communist regime! Yay, America!
Of course, it's never really black and white. Buried in the back of Sunday's Arizona Republicwas this story, which is about the one thing that could get us to lift the embargo: Cuba's oil. Yay, America!
As long as I have been able to think about it I have been against the embargo on Cuba. It doesn't hurt Castro at all, it hurts the people we're supposedly trying to help - the regular folk, it panders to a ridiculously tiny number of people in Miami (who can't be that strong a voting bloc, can they?), and we don't seem to have much of a problem dealing economically with an even worse regime, China, so it's hypocritical. However, I did enjoy, in a perverse fashion, our government's dogged determination to keep the embargo in force, even after the Cold War made it obsolete. But now - they have something we want. Principles be damned!
The thing that bugs me the most about this is that I'm sick of everyone pretending that governments have principles. The people know they don't. The politicians know they don't. I would love to hear an expression of Machiavellian or even Bismarckian policies from a politician - actually, all politicians. People would act shocked, but at least they would know that these politicians are hard-edged realists. This embargo is not about Communism at all. It's about pleasing a small vocal minority who would scream bloody murder if we traded with Cuba. At least acknowledge that!
Anyway, look for the embargo to end in the near future. And listen for the justification. It should be fun.
A day late, but it's still Picture Day! Last week we were in Lake Tahoe seeing jumping frogs and skiing at Squaw Valley. Today we continue our sojourn in the mountains.
I like this picture for two reasons. We were driving around the lake and stopping at various picturesque spots, and this is one of the more picturesque. I also like that my sister looks really goofy. I love my sister, but I also always like picking on her. Here I'm sure she just had the sun in her eyes, but still.
We were in Tahoe on my 27th birthday, but on that day, did we do what I wanted? Of course not! My mom had plans! We were off to Virginia City to check out the olde-timey American West stuff. My mom digs that kind of stuff! It was actually a decent day.
This is a picture of Virginia City from the cemetery outside of town. My sister was jazzed by the big "V" on the hill up there. It's a weird Western phenomenon - Portland has one, although it's not easily seen, and Tempe has an "A" for Arizona State University. Lots of towns throughout the West have one, but none back east, probably because there isn't a lot of room and mountains to put them on. It's one of those neat things that remind us that the world hasn't become completely homogenized.
Here we are on Boot Hill. My brother-in-law thinks he's cool because he doesn't wear sunglasses.
The next day we were back by the lake and still taking touristy pictures. Check out my way-cool olde-timey Batman shirt.
Then we all went horseback riding. It was pretty fun. This is one of two times I have ever been on a horse.
Check me out - it's like I was born in the saddle! Note two things: my cool George Constanza-esque ski pass on my jacket, although I had gone skiing two days earlier and not years earlier like George, and my huge sunglasses. What the hell? Those things were the bomb, let me tell you.
That's out trip to Lake Tahoe. I did some gambling, did some skiing, did some riding, and did some relaxing. What more could you ask from a vacation?
Next week: Victoria, British Columbia! Don't miss it!