June 30, 2006

Taxi!

This weekend will be taxi time for me. Let's see, tomorrow I'm taking J*stin to a fundraiser for his cross-country camp, drop off at 10. Then I pick up C*dy from church camp at 1230 (probably more like 1), then I will (simultaneously) drop off Ashl*y at a birthday party at 2 while also picking up J*stin from his fundraiser about 15 minutes away. Sunday is worse because I have to help drive Ashl*y down to her church camp (about 2.5 hours away).

J*stin had his 17th birthday today, so all of the older kids are done with birthdays and are now 12, 14 and 17. Little D*niel's 3rd birthday is next on July 16, and we've already got a train table ready for the boy. That'll be the very last birthday, but then comes the anniversary of when M*chelle and I met. Wow, that's a big one, maybe bigger than the wedding anniversary.

J*stin wanted to see M:I III for his birthday, and we were lucky to find any theaters still showing it. It was mindless fun, but I would have much rather watched "Superman Returns" (which I hear is more like the first "Superman" movie with Reeve directed by Donner, a true classic, as opposed to the embarrassing III or IV) or "An Inconvenient Truth", a movie I will almost certainly have to see since I am teaching a class that covers a lot of that same material later this summer.

In other news, I picked up a couple of 3-year-old iMacs from work for cheap since the University was just going to throw them away. These are the ones with a hemispherical base and floating monitor attached by a big metal pivot. Pretty cool, but not enough of an upgrade to switch out the G3/400's we are currently using (which also have RAM capacity upgraded to 750ish MB and extra 80 GB internal hard drives installed). These iMacs only have a 40GB drive. It's a G4/800 processor, but with only 512 kb backside (L2) cache and minimal RAM installed (upgradeable to 650ish max).

I'm not willing to sink $150-$200 (which would double their prices) into these computers just to bring them up to the same specs as our current computers with only a faster processor, so they're going to the kids, and we adults will benefit from the next round of castoffs, I guess. Me, I'm probably good with this one for the next couple of years, even though it has system 10.2.8 installed, which is supposedly much inferior to 10.3 or the current 10.4. That's another nice thing about the new iMacs ... they came with 10.4.3 already on there.

Anyway, I set up a computer for C*dy in his room and put all the games on there. I'm going to try to get him hooked on Heroes III or Diablo II and see if it takes. I'll probably regret it, but he wants to try those games anyway since he sees how much I play them. He also loves Starcraft, which I never got into. I'm thinking about installing some software to ensure the computer gets turned off when I want it, but the only real option looks to be a $30 shareware deal called MacMinder. Seems to work ok, but it shouldn't cost $30 just to turn off a Mac at 930pm every night. Systems prefs won't let me do it, though.

The other new comp might go to J*stin. He lost his Mac to Ashl*y when her old iMac, M*chelle's old CL-playing iMac from Canada, died a horrible sparky death. He also lost it because he was playing games at all hours on it when he had lost his game-playing privileges due to failing grades. Hence the need for some kind of parental control software on there. I may have to cough up for MacMinder after all if we're going to give him a Mac, even if it isn't now.

On the other hand, a better option for the other Mac will be to make it the third office Mac (don't know how we'll squeeze it in here), hook it up to the Internet (which we can monitor since we're always around this room ... password protect when we're not home) and let all the kids have at it. It would also be hooked up via the router to the printer (which is capable of IP printing). That way also, D*niel can play on the Thom*s the T*nk Eng*ne website without taking over one of our computers. The kids also have some internet-only games they like to play, plus sometimes they like to browse.

So J*stin may have to wait on his unless he gets lucky and someone tries to get rid of another castoff Mac for a song. Looking back over this post, I come to the conclusion that I seriously need an editor, especially with all the damn ()'s. Oh well, you get what you pay for.

Posted by Observer at 09:41 PM | Comments (10)

June 29, 2006

Comments Back

For what it's worth, comments are working again. I guess I need to change the name of the comment script more often to foil spam attackers. Even when comments are denied, it uses up processing time, and today it crossed a threshold that made our host disable the comment script.

Random sports comment: Rangers could wake up tomorrow morning in 3rd place thanks to a five game losing streak and some of the worst ump decisions since ... well ... name your most recent World Cup match. I was really thinking this team was going to end up 10-15 games over .500, but maybe they're just a .500 team after all. The difference will be between playoffs and nothing, I fear.

Posted by Observer at 09:29 PM | Comments (1)

Brokedown Comments

Not sure why comments are broken, but this has happened before and was temporary, so I hope it will pass soon.

Posted by Observer at 03:23 PM | Comments (0)

June 28, 2006

Whack-A-Mole

The hue and cry among the wingnuts has been so well-coordinated that it even dominated the local paper's letters to the editor this morning. What are they all upset about? They're claiming that the New York Times committed treason by publishing details about how we track the financial transactions of terrorists.

Glenn Greenwald completely demolishes this nonsense. It is worth noting that the Bush administration has been far worse about leaking actual classified information that wasn't already in the public domain that would hurt the war on terror. Also worth noting is the curious absence of any mention in virtually all wingnut rants on this of the Wall Street Journal, which published the exact same information.

Little details like that make it clear this a top-down successful campaign to transmit a false idea to the Moron American. Another Mission Accomplished. Imagine if the guys responsible for this incredibly powerful noise machine were to try to use it for the actual benefit of our country. Makes you wonder why they don't bother to try it, if only for the hell of it.

Posted by Observer at 05:36 PM | Comments (0)

June 27, 2006

Color Me Unsurprised

Is it irresponsible to speculate on why Rush Limbaugh visited the Dominican Republic with a bottle full of Viagra? It's irresponsible not to!

it feels like there’s something missing from the story. I’ve been waiting for someone to point it out; ask the obvious question. What was Rush doing in the Dominican Republic? Why was he returning from a country known for its thriving sex trade, with a bottle of Viagra that didn’t have his name on it?

According to his Wikipedia profile, Rush is a single man at the moment. He’s between girlfriends and divorces at the moment, so as far as I’m concerned he can do what he wants. (And, as the American Street points out, he’s very generous with his affections.) While I’m inclined to wonder how a guy like Rush gets laid at all, my guess is that money, power and celebrity help a lot where personality and other characteristics (basic humanity, compassion, etc.) fall short. And there’s still the question of what Rush’s right wing supporters, and the great moralizers among them, have to say about an unmarried man even having a prescription for Viagra.

But all that’s beside the point. Even if, as PZ Myers points out, Viagra is "not a threat," and not illegal in and of itself, there’s still the question: what was Rush doing with it, whether he went there to get it or took it there with him, in a country described back in 2001 as a place "where the pimps roam free"?

Evidence of the sex trade is everywhere as men in shorts and sandals duck into rent-by-the-hour "love motels" with Dominican women in bright dresses.

"There is always a demand for sex," said one Dominican prostitute as she lounged at one of the town’s waterfront bars. "Men will always pay for it, especially in here … where they can get anything they want at a discount."

Indeed, the Dominican Republic is one of the biggest sex tourism destinations in the world, thanks in part to Internet sites that extol the country as a "single man’s paradise."

What was Rush doing with a Viagra prescription in a country that one christian aid organization described as having the highest number of people working in the world working in the sex trade, including children? What need did Rush have to get an erection in a country which the U.S. government cites as having rampant prostitution— including child prostitution — and as one of the worst offenders in the trafficking of women and children for forced labor as sex-workers?

This isn't the first time that a Republican has gone and had a good time in a country with a big sex slavery industry, as anyone who has followed the illustrious career of Tom DeLay knows.

Posted by Observer at 05:37 PM | Comments (1)

June 26, 2006

Pass the Popcorn

Looks like the pill-popper is back in trouble. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy. Really. Maybe this time he'll get a mandatory minimum , but more likely he'll just lawyer up again and find a way out of it.

Posted by Observer at 08:28 PM | Comments (1)

June 25, 2006

The Bingo Alternative

We paid our $128 in advance, so we sorta had to go to the reunion last night, even though I was really apathetic about it. That was the whole point of pre-paying, so I wouldn't back out. On the way, we passed by a place where you can play bingo (under the state-run lottery umbrella), and M*chelle and I agreed that we would probably have more fun there in the next three hours than at the reunion, and that was pretty much right.

We got to the reunion of my class of about 650 people, and I would guess that there were a total of 200 there at the peak, which means maybe 125 actual classmates plus assorted spouses or significant others. There were maybe a total of 10 people I really wanted to see and was looking forward to seeing, and of those, I saw one. It was good to talk to him, and I'm very glad I got to see him, but I probably could've found him online and met him for lunch sometime if it were worth $128.

Other than that, I caught up with about ten other people who ran the spectrum from "vaguely recognized the name" to "had three or four classes with during high school". The rest of the night we spent watching the bandies and the jocks and the various other groups I wasn't a part of veer off into their various formations. Oh well, my curiousity about what it would be like is satisfied, and I feel content skipping these things from now until maybe the 50th comes around. And if we happen to be driving the proverbial RV through this part of the country when it happens, I'll see if I can drop in.

The best part of tonight was just me and M*chelle being away from the kids and getting a chance to talk (quietly without interruption) for the drive on the way there and back, plus M*chelle had a reason to pick out a new black outfit that she looks great in. I don't think either of those would've happened for just a bingo night. :)

When I was in high school, I would sometimes tell myself about the idiots who were mean-spirited that I would rub their noses in my success and happiness at our high school reunion. I imagined that I would then somehow make them regret the kind of people they were, and I would "win" the high school game. Not often, mind you, but I was a teenager, and teenagers think a whole bunch of deeply stupid things.

Well, current students and future reunion-goers of the world, I have some advice for you: the people who have dead-end jobs and a shitty life who are embarrassed about how the last 20 years has gone won't show up at your reunion. The few you can lord it over probably won't care, and worse, you probably won't be able to muster up any kind of emotion that resembles you giving a damn about their lot versus your lot in life.

So if you are putting off some kind of petty revenge with the plans of getting it 10 or 20 years later, my advice is: don't put it off. Go ahead and get your revenge now while you can enjoy it, but don't get caught.

Posted by Observer at 09:02 AM | Comments (2)

June 23, 2006

Murtha

From Digby comes a link to this excellent column by Gene Lyons, which provides a little background on John Murtha:

Maybe U. S. Rep. John P. Murtha ought to run for president. He may be 74, but the man knows how to handle himself in a fight, a skill too many genteel Democrats appear to have forgotten. Here’s the story: After escaping indictment last week, the new Republican ethical gold standard, White House apparatchik Karl Rove hustled to New Hampshire for a GOP fund-raiser. There he engaged in the kind of cheap smear for which he’s justly infamous.

Of Democrats like Murtha who voted to confront Iraq but have become war critics, Rove said: “Too many Democrats—it strikes me they are ready to give the green light to go to war, but when it gets tough and when it gets difficult, they fall back on that party’s old pattern of cutting and running. They may be with you at the first shots, but they are not going to be there for the last tough battles.” Let’s pass over the fact that when George W. Bush presented the Iraq resolution, he vowed that it wasn’t a declaration of war. Most people knew better. When Tim Russert played the videotape of Rove for Murtha on “Meet the Press,” the crusty old former Marine reacted angrily.

“He’s in New Hampshire,” Murtha said. “He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office with his big, fat backside, saying, ‘Stay the course.’ That’s not a plan. I mean, this guy—I don’t know what his military experience is, but that’s a political statement.”

For the record, Rove’s military experience, like Vice President Dick Cheney’s and that of virtually all the neo-conservative architects of this ill-conceived utopian fantasy, is absolutely zero.

Murtha knows about war. A native of the coal-mining and steel-making region of western Pennsylvania, he volunteered to fight in Korea and Vietnam, where he won two Purple Hearts, a Bronze Star with Combat “V” and the Vietnamese Cross of Gallantry. I’m confident that even at 74, he could kick Rove’s pasty posterior with one leg—assuming he could outrun the little creep.

As history, this cut-and-run business is nonsense. It wasn’t Democrats who made peace in Korea. It was President Dwight Eisenhower. Democrats didn’t dispatch Henry Kissinger to whisper to China in 1972 that the U. S. could live with a communist Vietnam. President Richard Nixon did. He began the long, bloody retreat that ended with the North Vietnamese taking Saigon under President Gerald Ford.

Maybe the oddest thing about the legacy of Vietnam is that the worst thing that could happen, from a rightwing perspective, did happen. The U. S. lost the war. Communists conquered much of Southeast Asia. And the effect on national security ? Well, we got lots of good Vietnamese restaurants out of it. Otherwise, none.

The communists soon fell to fighting among themselves, with Vietnam invading Cambodia, China attacking Vietnam, and the Chinese and Soviet Russians entangled in a blood feud. Next, Russia invaded Afghanistan. Domestic fallout from that bloody fiasco helped cause the collapse of the U. S. S. R. and the demise of communism almost everywhere—also because nobody but a few crackpot professors in the West believed in it anymore.

Exactly why so many like Rove, Bush and Cheney, who avoided Vietnam, subsequently metamorphosed into countryclub Napoleons is mysterious. Personal psychodrama appears to be involved.

It’s past time to get real, Murtha says. Invading Iraq was an unnecessary folly.

“We didn’t have a threat to our national security. That’s been proven,” Murtha told Russert. “Second, we [sent ] inadequate forces to get it under control in a transition to peace.... [T ] he third thing was no exit strategy.

“ It’s no longer a military war,” Murtha said. “We have won the military war against [the ] enemy. We toppled Saddam Hussein. The military’s done everything that they can do. And so it’s time for us to redeploy.... Only Iraqis can settle this.”

Murtha didn’t say so, but there’s no chance of an Iraqi democracy friendly to the U. S. That’s a delusion. Bush’s photo-op visit merely underscored the point. Three years after “Mission accomplished,” and the mighty conqueror flies into the fortified “Green Zone” unannounced and can’t trust Iraq’s prime minister enough to give him, oh, an hour’s notice ? That’s not how Alexander the Great did it.

Meanwhile, Murtha says, the U. S. is spending $ 8 billion a month while American soldiers are being killed and maimed, physically and psychologically, mainly to provide political cover for Bush. Intimidated by Rove ? Not hardly. “You can’t sit there in the air-conditioned office,” Murtha said, “and tell these troops—they’re carrying 70 pounds on their back inside these armored vessels and hit with improvised explosive devices every day, seeing their friends blown up, their buddies blown up—and he says, ‘stay the course.’ Yeah, it’s easy to say that from Washington, D. C.”

Yeah, Murtha makes the chickenhawks cluck angrily. The bottom line at this point is that Bush and Republicans are committed to seeing this Iraq thing through the 2008 presidential elections, and even their own people are telling them it won't get much better (and maybe worse) before then, when the decision to pull out will be three years more obvious.

So basically, our troops are over there as political props to keep Republicans from "losing face" and losing elections. This is the party that is strong on national defense?

Posted by Observer at 11:15 PM | Comments (0)

June 22, 2006

Secrets the Pros Won't Tell You...

...About Winning Hold 'Em Poker is the title of the one of the bunch of poker books I've read lately, this one by Lou Krieger and Sheree Bykofsky, two very accomplished professional players who aren't as glamorous as your Phil Hellmuths or Daniel Negreanus of the world. Unfortunately for me, this book was more about how to win at Limit Hold 'Em instead of No-Limit, but there was some good stuff in there.

Probably the best part for me was the reinforcement of discipline when deciding what to play from what position. I read this book before my latest (very successful) game, and I laid down a bunch of hands like A-9 unsuited and K-10 suited from early position. There wasn't a single hand that I didn't regret doing so when it went to a showdown (which at this loose table full of calling stations, was about 75% of hands).

The new stuff I saw here that isn't in many other books (or covered much better in this book) was how to approach playing poker for a living and how to play online, neither of which I'm interested in but it was good reading. Aside from that, I would say most of the poker ground covered here was done better in Phil Gordon's Little Green book. I would rather have read that again than read Krieger's book, but my brother still has it and hasn't given it back to me yet.

That's a hint, bro.

Posted by Observer at 09:25 PM | Comments (2)

June 21, 2006

Reunion

My 20th year high school reunion is this weekend, and I'm going with M*chelle to one or two of the three events scheduled. We've got child care arranged, I'm pretty sure. The thing is, I'm not incredibly anxious to go. It's more one of those things I feel I ought to go to.

I wasn't really all that close with many people from my grade. There will be 8 or 10 people there whom I'd really like to see, I imagine, but for the most part, my good friends were either a year ahead of me or a year behind me.

We're trying to decide whether to go to the family picnic, which will be smack in the middle of the (very very hot) day on Saturday in an outdoor park. We may pass on that and just go to the big party with the buffet on Saturday night.

Posted by Observer at 10:48 PM | Comments (6)

June 20, 2006

Better Luck Next Time

The Mavs lost the series. I don't know that I would necessarily call this a choke, though that's the word most would use. Three of the last four games were last second coin-flips, and that's just the way it goes. If the Mavs choked, it was because games were close that shouldn't have been. There's no guarantee they'll be back to the finals, because even if they are a little better next year, there will be two or three teams just about as good, if not better.

You've got to respect Avery Johnson for what he did with the team this year. If anyone is going to take the next step with this team, it is him. I'd sign the guy to a 10-year contract tomorrow if he were willing, and with Cuban willing to wheel and deal and spend loads of cash to keep the team competitive, we should be in the mix most years.

It's like baseball. The playoffs are a crapshoot, you just want to hope you can get in and be competitive with the few other teams that are there. This time, there were about five or six teams that could've conceivably won it all (Mavs, Spurs, Suns, Pistons, Heat and arguably the Lakers and Kings), and it didn't bounce our way. It was fun while it lasted.

Yes, the refs sucked. That's part of the game, one of the random bounces. What a thankless job for those guys, but I'm sure they're well-paid. They must have some kind of battle-hardened personality to handle all that pressure and criticism.

Posted by Observer at 11:11 PM | Comments (2)

Shake Your Maracas

M*chelle found a place to post videos, so we'll start with this one of little D*niel dancing to "The Wiggles" about 15 months ago at the old (still not sold) house.


Video Hosting - Upload Video - Video Sharing

This next one is from a few months ago when we took D*niel to go see Th*mas the Tank Eng*ne nearby. This video shows D*niel having a blast while riding the train pulled by Th*mas.


Video Hosting - Upload Video - Video Sharing

We'll get some more, including some of Baby Ben or the other kids.

Posted by Observer at 08:43 PM | Comments (1)

June 19, 2006

"I'm Very Tired"

I'll take "Things Not to Say Around Your Wife When You Have a 1-Month-Old Infant" for $400, Alex.

Posted by Observer at 11:46 PM | Comments (3)

Up $410

I had a very good night at poker last night. I went over to play with my brother's poker group (10 players), and we started playing maybe around 7pm, with the intention of stopping for a break with about five minutes left in the Mavs game to watch the bitter end of that. For the first hour, I couldn't buy two cards, and there were at least three guys at the table who were calling everything.

So, ok, the books tell me those are going to be the guys who pay me off (and later they were), but I was getting impatient. Finally I got a decent hand in late position, A-J offsuit. My brother is playing almost as tight as I am, and unfortunately for me, he's on my left, and he's still in along with one other guy. There's not much betting, maybe 10-15 each with almost nothing bet after the flop. The board has AKTx with no flush possible. I had stayed in figuring my aces might be good plus I had an inside straight draw if a Q came off.

Nobody had bet on the turn, and it got checked around to my brother, who put in 25. I figured he was trying to buy the pot, and I thought I might be good, plus my tight image would scare him off, so I went all-in for my last 65 or so (I had bought in for 100, which was more or less the standard for the night). Well, the bastard turned over A-A after considering the possibility that I had QJ. A blank came on the river and suddenly, 90 minutes into the session, I was in the hole for 100.

I came ready to play, though, and I knew with this loose table that I should be able to make money if I was patient, so I bought in for another (my last) 100. I won four mid-size (30ish) pots, twice by showing down top pair and twice by scaring people off with big bets (had to take advantage of the fact that people stopped calling me). So after another couple of hours, I was hovering around even for the night.

After a break to watch the last part of the game, I had A-2 on the button, and I was able to limp in, figuring I would only stay if I got an A-2 or a 3-4-5 on the flop. Well, the flop came A-A-K with two hearts (I had no hearts). Ok, so I'll pay 10 to see another card but I still figured the odds that someone else had the other ace were really high with about five players still in.

The turn came 2 of hearts, so I had a full house, but there was also a flush out there on the board for anyone with two hearts (always wonderful news if you have a full house). So I bet 20 to make the pot a little more interesting and see who was willing to stay. The last card was a blank, and it was checked around to me. I bet 50, and I got two callers. One of them had a measly King, and the other had the nut flush (with the Q of hearts), so now I was up about 200.

I started playing a little more loosely after that, and it was easy to pile up more money in dribs and drabs because everyone seemed to be afraid that I was only playing the nuts. The hand I'm most proud of, I had an A of hearts and a 4 of diamonds. The flop came K-Q-3 of hearts. I decided to play the hand as though I had flopped the nut flush (even if someone called me, I figured I had a decent chance of catching it). So I led out with a pot-building bet of 10 and got three calls.

The turn was a blank, and I bet 20. That scared everyone off but one guy who was playing very poorly and loosely (it was his first time playing, and he was the brother of one of the regulars). The river was also a blank, and I immediately bet 50 on a complete bluff. This was probably the wrong guy to bluff because he had been calling everything, but at the same time, he was awake enough to realize I had been playing very few hands. Plus Tony across the table was helping me out by announcing to everyone concerned that I had the nuts. So the guy across from me folded, threw away K-Q! Woo! Needless to say, I was proud to show that hand, and it sure unnerved Tony, and that helped later against him in another hand because he was no longer sure he could read me.

My worst hand I got dealt a K-8 in the big blind and got to play cheap. The flop came K-T-9 unsuited, and I thought I had two pair. I chased it all the way to the river, thinking I had two pair. I was very fortunate that it was cheap to do so and even more fortunate that another nine didn't come off, because THEN I would've been chasing a fake full house! That would've cost me a lot because a couple of guys had non-folding hands.

In a big hand near the end, I finally for the first time all night got a big pocket pair, K-K. The flop comes K-J-T unsuited, and I'm pretty excited. Only a few players were with me in the pot, including the Irish guy Tony who last time started reading me way too accurately, forcing me to mix up my play (and I fooled him a few times this time).

On the river, it is heads-up between me and Tony, and the board had K-J-T-8-2 with no flush possible. The only thing I was afraid of was A-Q, but Tony had been betting pretty big and acting (and talking) like he had a real hand. I couldn't imagine what, but I thought maybe he had a set of Jacks or something. I had 400 sitting in my pile, and I threw 50 out there.

My intention was to fold if he came over the top of me all-in because I'm just too big of a chicken to risk 400 when I don't have the nuts, especially against Tony, who is very very good. But I guess Tony got cold feet, too, because he just called and showed his three eights. So I won that pot and ended up the night's big winner, so I have to pay for a barbecue lunch on Thursday for everyone who shows up at some restaurant (I'm assured I won't be out more than about 30 bucks, but we'll see if I even have the time to go).

So even though I was down at the beginning by 100, I finished up 270 (for a total of up 410 over four poker sessions now). I had to pitch in five bucks for pizza and about 40 estimated for buying everyone lunch, so really I was only up 225 minus the cost of driving nearly an hour each way to the game, but when talking about poker winnings, we know better than to subtract the costs, right?

I know very well that it could've gone the other way. My brother was playing well, too, and he took a few very bad beats (including losing about 100 when he had pocket kings up against pocket queens, just to name one) and ended up down almost as much as I was up on the night. But the thing is, I have a much better perspective on playing now thanks to some experience, and I've read enough to know that if I'm playing well, I should be able to weather the storms of bad luck that are inevitable.

Having a lot of confidence at the table really helps your image, I think, and it helped me take a few pots away from people that I didn't deserve. It also enabled me to make calls with substandard hands that eventually won me pots because I'm no longer so paranoid that I'm putting everyone else on the nuts when there's only about 30 out there in the pot. I cannot say enough how much reading a lot of poker books has helped my game. They've paid for themselves many times over (another hidden cost of playing poker that I cheerily ignore).

Posted by Observer at 09:24 AM | Comments (3)

June 18, 2006

Father's Day Plans

Big storms rolled through last night for the first time in over a month. I'm sure the new trees will love it. I didn't sleep well, though, which is too bad because I have another poker game to attend tonight with my brother and his friends.

Going to go to church later this morning, then if there's time to the yummy all-you-can-eat Mongolian Grill. Not as good as Chang's in Seattle, but definitely the best I've found down here. Then some family time (they're visiting us, not the other way around, because it is too hard for us to travel right now), then poker until the wee hours. If I don't sneak a nap in there at some point, I'm going to be dead by the time the big money starts flying around the table, which is usually a few hours into the session.

Baby Ben passed the month mark a few days ago. He's having more nights with only one awake/feeding time now, which is great for Michelle when it happens. During the day, especially mornings, he's pretty unsettled. About the only thing that calms him down and puts him to sleep is walking him around the house. He won't settle for just being held or rocked. He wants to be walked. It's like he's on a quest or something and needs to keep moving. When I walk him, he falls asleep in my arms consistently within about 5 minutes, and then if I stop and lay him down somewhere, he'll be up in another 5 most of the time.

Yesterday, I resorted to walking him while he was in his bouncy chair, figuring that maybe if I just put the bouncy chair down it won't be so jarring and he'll stay asleep. Unfortunately, the experiment was not properly conducted because I didn't control for the fact that it was bottle time and so I was doomed to fail anyway.

I took D*niel and the kids to the library and bookstore yesterday, picked out a few books for our restless 12-year-old (C*dy), who has been bored bored bored since his big brother J*stin left for camp last weekend. I think the boy needs to be bored this summer so maybe he'll start looking forward to school more like I did. Anyway, J*stin is back, proclaiming himself now a "child of God" and talking about the amazing camp experience.

Good for him. Better than C*dy's last away camp when we found out he and a friend got roughed up by some older kids, something that we and the other parents ensured won't happen again. Of course, this morning we'll see if the "child of God" can rouse himself from bed to attend church. Smart money says no.

J*stin and his group of friends there signed pillow cases for each other kind of like you would sign the back of a yearbook. I know how J*stin writes (unless he really really tries, it is usually a mistake-filled scrawl that I can barely read), and so I hope he kept his message short and simple. I've been pestering that boy for five years now since he got down here how important it is to write neatly and well, but unless there's a threat of punishment or a failing grade, he'll just coast. I hope he didn't get too embarrassed by this, because I saw how neatly and well his friends wrote, but then again, maybe a little embarrassment is what he needs to fix this.

I'm already homeschooling him this summer in math and science (he needs it because this year for the first time, he's been in "normal" classes from the very beginning in everything, with no adjustments or accomodations for his Asperger's). English is coming next, and he could probably use some motivation. He's come a long way in five years, done some serious catching up, but he had some academic setbacks in high school this year because he was so focussed on running and goofing off/sleeping when at home.

Now this summer, I can get some academic work out of him, but he's stopped with his running practice and won't really explain to us why. I don't know if it is because practice is too far away and too early and he's just too lazy to hoof it over to the park to run, or maybe there's some personal problem on the team and he's being teased or something like that. Either way, he's basically quit running despite talking a big game a few months ago about how much he would run this summer.

He still tries to tell us every day that he intends to run. Before he left for camp, he told us he would come back and run 30 miles in a week to get back in shape. We'll see. All of this slacking off is bad in a way, but as M*chelle has pointed out, it's also a bit of a relief because he's kind of starting to act like a normal teenager. That's good news because he needs to develop out of adolescence (which he definitely regresses into when he's around C*dy) but bad news because now we have to deal with a teenager for God knows how many years to come until he grows out of *that*.

Posted by Observer at 07:49 AM | Comments (5)

June 17, 2006

Bloodied, But Unbowed

It's pretty crazy that the U. S. hasn't scored a goal yet in the first two matches but still has a half-decent shot of advancing into the round of 16. If they can beat Ghana and Italy can beat the Czechs, then U. S. will be through.

Today's match was a little silly. The ref was calling way too many fouls at first, and the U. S. had the better of the play for the majority of the game. A set piece went perfect for Italy, or they would never have scored. On the other end, the goal for the U. S. was actually an own goal when an Italian defender tried to clear a free kick from the side of the penalty box, miskicked it badly and watched it dribble in next to the far post.

Things were looking bleak for the U. S. at about the 25 minute mark, having just conceded the first goal despite playing better, but then Italy lost a guy to a (sort of deserved) red card for elbowing Brian McBride's nose into a bloody pulp. I think the ref must have been trying to make up for it because about ten minutes later, he issued a red card to our own very good MF (Mastroeni) for a tackle that was at the absolute worst a yellow-card (and most often nothing but maybe a warning).

So instead of a man up going into the second half, we were even at 10-10, then Eddie Pope got a yellow card which I didn't see, and that was his second, so he was sent off. The announcers were complaining about the poor ref for the rest of the game, so I assume it was another bad call. Near the end of the game, everyone was tired, and I don't know why the U. S. coach didn't use his last sub to get some fresh legs out there. Both teams had chances, but Italy had more. Keller made some decent saves, but he wasn't asked to do anything extraordinary (if he had saved that set piece goal of Italy's, that would've been remarkable).

So the U. S. managed to tie it 1-1 despite being down 10-9 men for the entirety of the second half. Maybe they can do well against Ghana, who lost their top two players for the upcoming match due to cards. I would presume the U. S. will be a little deeper than Ghana, but a win is by no means a given since Ghana just smoked the Czechs, 2-0, after the Czechs humiliated us.

This was definitely a better game than the first one. It's nice that they still have something to play for, and I guess in the long run, you have to be happy with a draw against Italy in World Cup play, no matter who you are.

Posted by Observer at 03:53 PM | Comments (1)

June 15, 2006

Baseball Drama

Bob's Blog is the place to go for good insights into the NBA finals series, and he also tends to include some interesting sports stuff you don't find in the paper easily. Like the story from last night's White Sox-Rangers game, the story behind the box score.

In an otherwise meaningless 8-0 Rangers win, the Ranger starter Padilla plunked the White Sox catcher twice. After the second time, like an inning later, White Sox manager Guillen sent in some rookie who just got called up. The rookie pitched Hank Blalock inside a couple of times but missed plunking him. Blalock eventually grounded out, I guess because the rookie just couldn't justify to himself continuing the throw inside after the first couple missed.

Well, Guillen pulled him immediately, lit into him in the dugout on TV and then shipped him to the minors, all because he wouldn't retaliate. That's a tough one. The White Sox had good reason to be mad and good reason to retaliate, but when you're a young pitcher on the mound and the ump has already warned both sides so you know you'll get an ejection, a fine and possibly a suspension if you hit someone, it takes some balls to throw at 'em anyway. Not to mention more than once.

But he didn't succeed. Tonight's loss to the White Sox apparently went off without a hitch, but I'd sure like to know more about why that catcher got plunked twice. Maybe that'll show up in an ex-Ranger tell-all book someday ten years down the line.

Posted by Observer at 11:04 PM | Comments (0)

June 14, 2006

Sausage Making

This is a great example of why conference committees are evil. The House and Senate *both* unanimously put language into a bill saying permanent military bases in Iraq are against US policy. The conference committee, at the request of the White House, quietly stripped the language from the bill, which was then passed.

Why in the hell are we building permanent bases in Iraq? I mean, if we're that paranoid about losing our source of energy, why can't we just take over Canada and carpet the whole place with windmills or something? It would probably be cheaper and also with fewer deaths.

Posted by Observer at 02:50 PM | Comments (0)

"O-pin-i-ons"

Everything you need to know about the media you can get by just watching the "Daily Show". Eric Alterman reminded me of this great quote by Rob Corddry about objectivity:

"I don't have 'o-pin-i-ons.' I'm a reporter, Jon, and my job is to spend half the time repeating what one side says, and half the time repeating the other. Little thing called 'objectivity'--might wanna look it up someday."

The arrogance, combined with ignorance and laziness, sums up why the media is so deeply disappointing these days.

Posted by Observer at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)

June 13, 2006

Busy...

Link of the day from Bob Sturm is this funny clip of the Emperor taking a phone call from Vader shortly after the events of Episode IV. Very busy, little sleep, tired...

Posted by Observer at 11:47 PM | Comments (8)

June 12, 2006

Beat

I reorganized the books in my sidebar today, splitting up the reviews by category. I was thinking yesterday about books I liked better than Matros' and realized after browsing the sidebar that there are a lot of poker books I've read but not reviewed yet. Easier to just stick them all in a category than go through the whole list to see what I've talked about.

Plus, all that painstaking reorganization was a lot more fun and interesting than watching the US team get humiliated by the Czech Republic (who didn't even have Milan Baros) 3-0. I can't believe I wasted DVR space on that travesty.

Posted by Observer at 04:38 PM | Comments (4)

June 11, 2006

Matros

I just finished one of a series of poker books I bought on an Amazon frenzy last month. This one is Matt Matros' "The Making of a Poker Player." Matros chronicles his rise from a college players and "Rounders" wannabee to a more advanced game and a poker career, with a postscript about hitting the big time at the final table of a WPT event shortly after the first edition of his book was published.

This book was more interesting for Matros' writings about his own thoughts and reactions than for the poker. In my estimation, Matros didn't do a very good job describing many of the poker hands he's been in. It wasn't very easy to follow, much of the time. He did a good job describing life on the cusp of the money in a big tournament, and he has some interesting stories to tell about his experiences with online friends he met through a poker newsgroup.

This book is more the story of Matros' poker biography than it is a tutorial on how to be a better player. There are tips throughout, and you can indirectly get some good advice on how to play, but there's not a whole lot of consistency. What works in one chapter didn't work in the next story. Part of that is the progression of Matros' career from easier to harder (or different styles of) games. He also talks a little about Limit play and Omaha (which was extremely hard to follow, partly because Omaha is such a complex game).

Near the end, Matros gives advice on poker books he would recommend and makes a big deal about leaving some "well known titles" off the list. Well, Matt, you didn't make my top five either. Not a bad poker biography as these things go, but nothing that really stands out for me as memorable.

Posted by Observer at 11:10 PM | Comments (0)

June 09, 2006

Homework

Here is some depressing weekend reading for you: How the 2004 election was stolen. This has gone around and around on various places, and to me, it looks like it has pretty good credibility. I don't think there was a massive secret conspiracy to steal the election.

I do think that there were plans to sway the election in Ohio, not hidden and not necessarily illegal. There were just too many things that happened that were biased against typical Democratic voters (like numbers of polling machines, voter list mistakes, etc). As for the actual Diebold counting, I'm also convinced that there was something fishy there just from a statistical standpoint compared to the exit polls, and that doesn't take a massive conspiracy to accomplish, just one knowledgeable person at the company willing to screw around with things.

If and when Republicans ever lose another major close election, you had damn well better believe they're going to come to Jesus on the issue of hand-counted paper ballots that can be recounted and rechecked. I just hope Democratic leaders are willing to be magnanimous in victory and offer it to them. That's assuming it'll ever happen again.

Posted by Observer at 10:44 PM | Comments (1)

June 08, 2006

Hydra

What a great day! We we killed al-Zarqawi. Now the people who hate America in Iraq and around the Arab world won't have any more reason to hate us! How can they possibly be mad about Abu Ghraib, Haditha and the tens of thousands of civilian dead plus mass chaos in Iraq now that the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq has finally been killed? Surely no one will be angry enough to step right into his place and carry on. I expect a full and total surrender of all America-haters within 48 hours.

You're doin' a heckuva job, Bushie!

Posted by Observer at 08:33 AM | Comments (0)

June 07, 2006

Patriot Act

I tore through Glenn Greenwald's short new book, "How Would a Patriot Act?" the other day, and as expected, it was a good read. The astounding thing about Greenwald is that, unlike most bloggers (myself included), Greenwald is really good at original writing about current events. He doesn't just recycle and quote other stuff. He takes on the difficult task of writing something new (and usually really good) every day, with quality and quantity outstripping some of the best traditional newspaper columnists in the nation.

This guy definitely should be a major op-ed writer. If he's as well-spoken as he is a good writer, he should be a pundit for our side, too. Anyway, the gist of his book is essentially a breakdown of just how far the executive branch has overreached its power during the current administration. Greenwald backs up his thesis by comparing our "war" to the wars of previous administrations (which didn't require such revolutionary changes in government powers) and also to the writings of the founding fathers.

Greenwald certainly knows his way around the Federalist papers, and he has a way of explaining some of the most obscure language in plain English. Writing that sentence just made me realize where I've seen this quality of legal writing ... Supreme Court decisions. I kid you not, this guy is the real deal and worth reading, especially for those who fancy themselves libertarians.

Posted by Observer at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

June 06, 2006

How to Be a Wingnut Hack

Now that Al Gore's movie is starting to do well and get more attention in the traditional media, be on the lookout for wingnut columns on global warming. The construction is pretty easy:

1. Note the movie. Take a cheap shot at Al Gore and/or the movie, preferably without having seen either.

2. Include 1-3 misconceptions about global warming. For example, mention that recent article about a warm Arctic millions of years ago or mention that climate changes naturally which by implication means that if we are causing climate change, we're just part of the ecosystem.

3. Quote a prominent global warming skeptic, preferably Richard Lindzen because he's from MIT and that sounds smart (ever wonder why he and Fred Singer are the *only* scientists ever quoted by the fossil fuel industry?).

4. Quote a mainstream scientist out of context so that it makes it sound like he or she is also doubtful about global warming even though he/she is only accurately summarizing the uncertainty.

5. Relate this to some old homily to frame it in the usual "pox on both houses" box. For example, tell a story about how two know-it-all's can't agree on anything and so the simpleton must have it right by not listening to all those fancy-learnin' people.

6. A parting shot at Al Gore, and you're on your way to getting your column published by the "liberal" media! Great job!

Posted by Observer at 08:43 AM | Comments (1)

June 05, 2006

Weeds!

Since we moved in, I've been fighting a running battle with our front yard, half of which is basically a field. It used to be St. Augustine grass, and there are remnants of that remaining, but it got neglected for long enough that most of it died. Crabgrass and Dallas grass (a nasty brute of a tall weed) have taken over.

The crabgrass isn't too unsightly, and I'm confident that once we fertilize and take proper care of the yard for a year or two, that stuff will get choked out by the St. Augustine. The Dallas grass, though, lays down low so the mower misses it, then tall shoots spring up seemingly overnight and make the yard look ugly, even just a couple of days after we mowed.

And the roots hang on for dear life. What few I've managed to pull up successfully have taken up what seem like a cubic yard of dirt with them. But a neighbor told me to get a spray nozzle, gather up the weed, and shoot the nozzle at the roots to separate the dirt, and I have to say that works like a charm. I must've pulled up 20 of those damned weeds tonight (only about 200 to go).

I also had to go over and mow the other place, which STILL hasn't sold, dangit. I can't believe how close we were within the first few weeks of selling our old house, and now that beast has been on the market nearly four months. We've dropped the price some, and I'm about ready to drop it some more if we go another month. At this point, I don't care if we lose a little money, I just want some financial predictability.

Posted by Observer at 10:18 PM | Comments (0)

June 04, 2006

Trees!

We got our two new Shumard Red Oak trees planted in the front yard today. They are both about 15 feet tall right now and pretty scraggly looking. I can't wait to see how they look next spring. For now, I'm going to treat them like little babies and hope they grow well this summer.

Summer classes start for me tomorrow, and I'm trying a slightly different approach: regular quizzes (about 11 of them) instead of just a few high-stakes tests. The biggest drawback that I can potentially see is dealing with excused absences since there are more exam days (though the exams take less time). I think maybe I'll just average the ones they are present for because I really don't want to give a million make-ups. If this works well, I'll try it for the Fall class.

Posted by Observer at 10:47 PM | Comments (4)

June 03, 2006

Go Mavs

Pro basketball has never really been my thing. Sure, when I was younger, I would watch some Mavs games, but it was frustrating to know that we would never in a million years get past Magic, Kareem and the Lakers. Those were the days of Mark Aguirre, Rolando Blackmon, Brad Davis and various other spare parts. The highlight of that era was "Moody Madness", when Dallas came back from 2-0 down in a five game series to win two on the road in Seattle and then come back here to play in SMU's Moody Coliseum (because Reunion Arena was previously booked).

In front of about 6,000 screaming fans in essentially a glorified high school gym, the Mavs won and advanced, and it was the most talked about thing around here outside of the Cowboys (of course) for a long time. Later in the same playoffs, the Mavs were shown the door by the Lakers (if memory serves).

Since Cuban bought the team in the 90's, they've really seen a resurgence, which was nice after spending a decade or so as a joke (the Mavwrecks era), often with the worst record in the league. Not that I watched any games or anything, but it was nice because I usually listen to the sports talk station in the mornings, and they're a lot more fun when the teams are doing well. But despite finally luring some good players here and drafting some good ones, we (like in the 80's) didn't have the "Big Center" we supposedly needed.

Oh, they could pretend Shawn Bradley was a cornerstone of the franchise or whatever, but everyone knew he was a joke. The real problem was the lack of a good, defensive-minded coach. Teams win without a strong center. They just have to play good defense. But we had a coach who didn't care about defense, just about his golf game. He had good talent, but he didn't push them, and they responded by having entertaining regular season games and then advancing to maybe the 2nd round of the playoffs before getting beaten by a sounder, better coached team (usually Phoenix or San Antonio).

Last year, Cuban got rid of the old coach and hired a young, hard-working, defensive minded coach named Avery Johnson, and he made it clear to the team that he cared about stops more than points, rebounds more than fast breaks. And with an early season blowout of Detroit, you knew something was different. Then they blew out Miami, and they held their own against the teams in the West.

In the playoffs, we knew that despite the improvements in the past year (keep in mind in the past two years, we've lost two of our supposed best three players in Michael Finley and Steve Nash, both going to Western Conference opponents San Antonio and Phoenix respectively), which are mostly because of the change in team philosophy, we still had to beat San Antonio. That series was a good one, and I even watched a little bit of it. Besides game 2, which the Mavs won impressively in San Antonio, all the other games were coin flips that came down to the final minute.

Each team won three, and that means Dallas won in seven. Once Dallas beat San Antonio, Phoenix never really had a chance. A lot of people, even in Phoenix, knew that Dallas would win the series, even after Phoenix won the first game (because Dallas dominated that game until the last five minutes when they had a lot of very bad luck). Oh, I forgot to mention that we swept a humiliated Memphis team in the first round.

And so now the Mavs, for the first time ever, are in the NBA Finals against Miami (with home court advantage, no less). I may have to watch some of these games. I'll risk high blood pressure, but it may be fun. I just remember that watching an NBA game being officiated is about the only thing in the world that makes me crazier than watching a game in which an ump has an inconsistent strike zone.

Posted by Observer at 10:33 PM | Comments (0)

June 02, 2006

Bias vs Lying

Most of the criticism that I direct at the media is not so much about bias as it is about lying or misleading. When it comes to lying, you don't need a representative sample. The media is either lying to you (intentionally or not, a lot of times it is just out of sheer laziness or ignorance that they perpetuate false scripts) or they're not.

For example:

Discussing U.S. negotiations with Iran over its purported nuclear program, CNN senior national correspondent John Roberts commented that "Iraq endured 11 years of sanctions, and, you know, we still had to go to war to get rid of what it was that they had." As professional journalists, host Wolf Blitzer and Roberts are undoubtedly aware that no weapons of mass destruction -- nuclear or otherwise -- were found in Iraq. Nevertheless, Blitzer responded: "Good point, John."

The misleading script that the media keeps repeating is that we HAD to go to war, whether it was to get rid of Saddam, get rid of Iraq's supposed WMD, promote Democracy in the Middle East or whatever. The point is, the media is promoting the story that Bush went to war reluctantly, as a last resort, and that he would've been irresponsible NOT to go to war.

That's why war critics aren't taken seriously or seen very often as guests on news shows. Even though they have been pretty much proven right straight down the line on Iraq, the media only treats as "serious" those people who thought we had to invade. Further, the media often conflates critics of the Iraq war with critics of all wars, including the (I think) necessary war against the Taliban in Afghanistant. Such people are just called "war critics", as if they think all wars are always bad, etc. Might as well put 'em in tie-dye.

It's also why claims that "Bush lied" are not really taken seriously by the traditional media. They don't even look into it. They just say, oh, that's just some angry liberal being irresponsible by criticizing our president during wartime. Besides, we all know that the US doesn't go to war unless there's a damn good reason, and Saddam had it coming.

The truth is, he did lie, and he provoked the war on purpose, deciding well ahead of time to "fix the intelligence around the policy" (as the Downing Street Memo indicates) to ensure invasion. And the media simply won't report this, other than in a passive way: "Some say..." is always balanced with "but the Commander in Chief and the White House and these various cabinet secretaries and military commanders say..."

And then when one of the latter group comes out against Bush, they get lumped in with the liberal "Some". The bottom line is that the media is not so much biased as it is useless, at least when it comes to war.

Posted by Observer at 04:24 PM | Comments (0)

June 01, 2006

Hard Questions

Want to prove media bias one way or the other?

You have to select an entire A-section over a period of time, and you have to decide ahead of time how much each is worth: slant, placement, photo, length, headline. You also have to pick which issues you'll look at ahead of time so that you can define the "liberal" vs the "conservative" position before you read the article.

For example, in an article about corruption in the Republican Congress, you have to decide ahead of time if you will say that reporting that at all is an example of liberal bias. Or is that just "news" and shouldn't be considered? What about articles that go out of their way to incorporate Democrats into the scandals (like the Reid article or articles that say Abramoff "gave money to both parties")?

Are articles that talk about global warming biased? What if they give equal time to the anti-warming crowd, despite the fact that they account for 2% of all scientists (and almost all of them are on the payroll of a polluter, directly or indirectly)?

What if they repeat the claim that Al Gore says he invented the internet? What if they say Bush broke the law with wiretapping? What if they report on casualties in the Iraq war and there's not enough "good news"? What if they go three months without mentioning how many people lack health insurance anywhere in the paper? What if they report a poll that is unfavorable to Bush?

What if they initiate an investigation into whether Cheney was drunk when he shot his friend? What if they spend seventy column inches on the Clintons' sex life without mentioning any of Hillary's political stands in an article about presidential contenders?

I submit to you that if you even begin to answer these questions, without even looking at a newspaper, you will realize just how far nuts the media is biased in Bush's favor.

Posted by Observer at 09:46 PM | Comments (2)

Balance

Members of the Republican leadership are getting pretty mad about biased media reporting. Lately, the Republican leader in the Senate has been bashed in an article that went out to papers nationwide and got prominent play. It seems a reporter went out of his way to paint the Republican leader in a bad light, misrepresenting things, omitting key exculpatory facts and generally slanting the story to make the Republicans look bad.

Oops, sorry, that's the script the liberal media is supposed to follow, only they never seem to. Please replace all occurrences of "Republican" in the last paragraph with "Democrat" and say thanks again to the so-called liberal media, which is so desperate to be seen as "balanced" in light of the massive Republican corruption that they're just making shit up now to make people feel more comfortable with their "pox on both houses" script.

The original AP story basically said that Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid accepted some tickets to a boxing event that were free, and so he's therefore ethically challenged and corrupt. What's left out of that story is a whole bunch of stuff, like namely that Reid voted against the people who gave him the tickets, couldn't reimburse for the tickets in any case because they were free and didn't violate any rules or even any ethics guidelines the Senate has in place. So why the story, liberal media?

Josh Marshall has the details:

The last couple days we've been going back and forth with AP writer John Solomon's reporting about Harry Reid and these boxing tickets. He's back tonight with another piece which is written in such a way that it's hard to come to any other conclusion but that the composition of the piece is meant mislead readers. I know that's a tough claim. But I think it's merited. [...]

in writing about it, Solomon buried or omitted key facts about what happened with the unmistakable intention of pumping the incident up into something it just clearly wasn't. Did Reid vote in favor of the agency that gave him the credentials? Did taking them actually violate any ethics rules? And in his follow-up reporting, Paul Kiel has found additional factual errors in Solomon's original report. There's a pattern of selective use of information and misleading omissions that, candidly, I find surprising, maddening and offensive.

Why the effort to pump up this one story? Because Harry Reid's a Democrat and you really want to get the Senate minority leader on an ethics rap. Bill Jefferson and Alan Mollohan aren't good enough. Not high enough on the totem pole. There's just no other way to understand the reporting on this story. And in this case, the method of distortion is very similar to the one Solomon used in his last piece about Reid. It's becoming an identifiable MO.

What happened here is that an editor got pressure from Republican owners to paint Democrats in a bad light, and so he assigned a reporter to go out and create a story out of nothing. This is a perfect example of why, even if reporters in general lean to the left, the overall bias of owners and editors is FAR more important in the media, because they're the ones who choose what stories get play. They're the ones who get to pick the slant.

The facts have a liberal bias, but everything else in the media business these days slants the other way.

Posted by Observer at 01:28 PM | Comments (5)