One weekday last summer, I biked home for lunch. To save time, I locked my bike to a street sign outside my building rather than schlep it inside for the short lunch break.
After eating a nice sandwich and enjoying half an episode of 90210, I came outside to find that my bike seat had been stolen.
I don't have a particularly valuable bike (or seat), but it serves me right for not being as safe as possible.
For the last month, a bike much nicer than mine has been locked in the same place as mine was. Every day, I pass by thinking perhaps this is the day it will be without a seat. Or gone entirely.
Yet there it was this morning.
Am I allowed to be bitter about this?
February 28, 2006
One weekday last summer, I biked home for lunch. To save time, I locked my bike to a street sign outside my building rather than schlep it inside for the short lunch break.
February 27, 2006
1. Make basketball a winter Olympic sport, rather than a summer Olympic sport
This would force NBA players to opt-out of the Olympics, which has been my dream ever since the first Dream Team. But also, it makes sense. After all, basketball is a winter sport almost everywhere in the world.
2. Non-battleground states should pass a law forcing their presidential electors to vote for the candidate who got the most popular votes.
You wouldn't have to get all states to do this. If states that have a combined 270 electoral votes agree, that's all you'd need. And there's an incentive for the states to do this, since campaign money doesn't flow to states that aren't in play. California, New York and Texas would give us electoral 120 votes. If these states signed on, they'd have enough: Utah, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Illinois, D.C., Mississippi, Georgia, Alabama, Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey and Massachusetts.
Until this week, I had never seen any reality TV show. Not Real World, not Survivor (even when it was based in Palau), not Big Brother, not The Apprentice, not Who Wants To Marry A Millionaire, not The Bachelor, not Date My Mom, not Fear Factor.
You get the point.
But I broke my streak this weekend when I watched Knight School, an ESPN reality sports show in which basketball coaching legend Bobby Knight holds tryouts for a bench position on his team at Texas Tech.
This is a great show.
Unlike the other so-called "reality" shows, this one is actually real. That is, Texas Tech would be holding tryouts for its walk-on position (a non-scholarship roster spot) whether or not ESPN was televising it. This is not a made-up "reality." (The very fact that the phrase "made-up reality" makes sense is the precise reason why I hate reality TV.)
Knight is as condescending to his players and assistants as we might expect. But boy can he coach.
In November, I told you that I didn't care whether Zach Braff was still dating Mandy Moore.
Well, I'm a little curious now. See, they've created a registry at Tiffany and Co.
And yet Zach himself denied the engagement. "I am not engaged," Zach said on his blog last week.
February 24, 2006
This week, Hall of Fame baseball manager Tommy Lasorda attacked players who are opting not to play in the upcoming World Baseball Classic. Lasorda called these players "unpatriotic Benedict Arnolds who refuse to answer the call of their country."
Joining the military and going to Iraq -- that's answering the call of your country. Same with voting and paying taxes.
In the list of things we must do for our country, playing in the World Baseball Classic (or the Olympics for that matter) falls between setting off illegal fireworks on the 4th of July and standing in line at the DMV.
Finally, I have some answers to my line of questioning on Danish pastries. And all it took was a few deadly riots around the world.
In protest of Denmark, the nation that enraged the Islamic world when it allowed the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to depict the prophet Muhammad with a bomb under his turban, Iran's confectioners have renamed Danishes.
They are now called "Roses of the Prophet Mohammed."
As Lewis Black pointed out, it's ironic that people are violently offended by seeing Muhammad's image in editorial cartoons, but they allow him to be represented by baked goods.
Anyway, just as I learned a bit of culinary history when we went through the "Freedom Fries" craze a couple years ago, I was able to get a few of my questions answered about Danishes due to news coverage of this story.
According to legend, a French baker first invented the Danish in the 1600s when he forgot to add butter to his flour and tried to hide his mistake by folding lumps of it into the dough. It became popular in Italy and then Austria. When it finally caught on in Denmark, it was due to an influx of Austrian bakers. Thus it is known in Denmark as wienerbrød ("Viennese bread.")
February 23, 2006
Today, the Nevada Supreme Court will convene to consider whether to reinstate a Las Vegas ordinance that prohibits erotic dancers from fondling customers.
At issue is an ordinance that makes it a misdemeanor for an erotic dancer to "fondle or caress any patron." Dancers say the term is constitutionally vague and thus impossible to comply with. In oral arguments today, erotic dancers will ask the court to uphold a lower-court ruling that the ordinance is invalid.
I assume Court TV is all over this case, especially if there will be in-court demonstrations accepted as evidence.
Meanwhile, did you know that the Las Vegas Strip is not located in Las Vegas? It's located just outside the boundary lines and is under the jurisdiction of an unincorporated part of Clark County called Paradise, Nevada. They did this because of water disputes in the 1940s between the City of Las Vegas and early homeowners south of San Francisco Street, now Sahara Avenue.
In the D.C. mayoral race, it is Orange against Brown. Oh sure, there are other candidates. But simplifying it to Orange against Brown lets me imagine the campaign as a Cleveland Browns civil war.
Here's what the race looks like so far:
We start with Vincent Orange, a city councilman. For some reason, I always think his name is Orange Fenty. That's because there's another candidate named Adrian Fenty and somehow I've combined them in my head to form a politician who sounds like my favorite soda, Orange Fanta.
Next we have lobbyist Michael Brown, who has done a heck-of-a-job being the son of former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown. The most controversial candidate is Linda Cropp, the City Council chair who hates the Washington Nationals almost as much as Josh does. Lastly, we have former Verizon CEO Marie Johns. Unless she credits me for eliminating those bullshit roaming surcharges from 1999, she probably doesn't have my vote.
February 22, 2006
It's not comfortable to sleep in button-down shirts with collars. Everyone knows that. That's why they invented pajamas to wear to bed.
Great. Problem solved.
But then why do men's pajamas commonly feature both buttons and collars?
Recently, Marnie & I went to hear the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center. The performance was Mozart's Symphony No. 36 and the first act of Richard Wagner's opera "Die Walküre."
We sat behind the stage (the light green area in the bottom right of the image), which offered an interesting perspective. The orchestra sound was surprisingly good, although it was difficult to hear the solo vocalists. But they were free tickets, so I can't complain.
February 21, 2006
I told you awhile ago that Bed Bath & Beyond opened a store about six blocks from my house. Marnie & I did a walk-through the other day.
Seeing 50,000 square feet of retail in downtown Gallery Place is pretty impressive, I must say. And it's proof that Wegmans could set up shop in D.C. rather than dance around the periphery.
February 20, 2006
February 18, 2006
- Fly to Reykjavik, Iceland.
- Spend three or four days seeing glaciers, geysers, waterfalls and soaking in the Blue Lagoon & other natural spas.
- Fly to Copenhagen, Denmark
- Spend a week seeing the sights.
- Take a ferry to Sweden.
- See more sights.
February 16, 2006
It's a typical scene in college sports:
A top 25 team is playing on the road against an unranked team. At the end of the game, the underdog has a strong lead.
As a celebration of the impending victory, the home fans typically direct a chant at the visiting team that goes something like this:
"Over-rated, clap, clap, clap-clap-clap" (repeat ad nauseam)
But while the fans intend it to be a "taunt," it actually has the opposite effect. If the team they just beat is indeed overrated and does not deserve its top 25 ranking, then beating that team wasn't all that impressive, was it?
February 15, 2006
Resigned to defeat before the Super Bowl even started, the Seattle Seahawks took the field to "Bittersweet Symphony" by The Verve -- hardly motivational football music.
At the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics, the Turin officials didn't give countries the opportunity to make such stupid decisions. Instead, they played a random mix of American pop songs from the 1970s and 1980s.
Iran made its entrance to "Funkytown." (They did that, Jon Stewart joked, because "Death-to-Americaville" is not a song yet.) Mongolia came in to "Video Killed the Radio Star."
But those were merely funny and random.
Denmark, the nation that enraged the Islamic world when it allowed the Jyllands-Posten newspaper to depict the prophet Muhammad with a bomb under his turban, made its Olympics appearance to "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood."
Unfortunately for me, I missed the whole thing by falling asleep on the couch.
"Ultimately I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry," Dick Cheney told Brit Hume today.
He added, "Then came an ox and drank the water, that quenched the fire, that burned the stick, that beat the dog, that bit the cat, that ate the goat, that my father bought for two zuzim."
February 14, 2006
My dad has always made a big deal about Valentines Day. Beginning when I went to college, he would send me Valentines Day cards each year.
But lately, he has taken a new approach. Today, I received a text message from him that said simply, "happy v-day."
My sister got the same text message, of course. She said it made her wonder about whether "conversation hearts" have been updated to keep up with emerging trends. For instance, do they have ones that say, "Text me"?
Bill Simmons writes: "I haven't watched more than like 45 minutes of the Winter Olympics. How can anyone expect us to watch tape-delayed sporting events in 2006? Am I supposed to avoid the Internet and ESPN all day, then show up at 8 p.m. every night and say, 'Come on, NBC, take me for a ride?' Would you watch the NBA Finals or the Super Bowl on a 10-hour tape delay if you knew the result ahead of time?"
But the main problem is not the tape delay. Rather, NBC seems incapable of showing more than four minutes of any event at a time before cutting in to tell us about yet another event that happened 10 hours earlier. NBC is like a domineering host with the remote control who flips around rather than settle in on something the rest of the room wants to watch.
Instead, NBC should show the events in full on its various channels (NBC, USA Network, MSNBC, Universal, MSNBC) and let the viewers do the flipping. Then if we want to watch bobsled, we can do that without interruptions of how skiing and figure skating are going.
Recently, Banana Republic ran into a problem when it wanted to make its clothes smaller. The smallest size, of course, is zero.
But the store managed to introduce a new size smaller than zero without using negative numbers. The solution: double zero.
Perhaps this is the same line of thinking that gave us DD as the bra size above D. What's so special about the letter D that the size range starts acting so funny when it gets to D? It goes A, B, C, D, DD, EE.
February 13, 2006
Several times while walking through the parking lot on the way to Penn State's Beaver Stadium last fall, Nittany Lions fans saw my Wisconsin paraphernalia and said, "Go back to Canada!"
I didn't really understand it. After all, Pennsylvania itself touches the Canadian border (by way of Lake Erie).
This past weekend, Wisconsin's basketball team traveled to Penn State and faced the same thing. Coming back from a commercial, ESPN2 showed some fans in the crowd with a giant sign that said, "Wisconsin is part of Canada."
Is it possible that this Canada thing is a big theme among Penn State fans that I've been unaware of this whole time?
February 12, 2006
When people think a big storm is coming, they race to the grocery store to stock up on toilet paper and water. Not just a few people -- a lot of people do this.
I don't understand this phenomenon.
Are most families living day-to-day on their toilet paper supply?
Although not as much as some of my readers, I'm interested in sideline reporters. During NBC's coverage of the Olympic opening ceremony, host Katie Couric was conspicuously absent. But the telecast did feature Melissa Stark, whom I hadn't seen since she left ABC's Monday Night Football several years ago to stay home with her newborn baby.
I'm glad she's resurfaced. Evidently, she's been with NBC for awhile. (Perhaps I'd have noticed earlier if NBC aired sporting events other than the Olympics.)
Anyway, NBC will televise NFL games on Sunday nights starting in the fall. I hope that means we'll see Stark back on the sidelines.
February 10, 2006
Tonight is Arrested Development's last night on FOX. It will air opposite the opening ceremony of the Olympics, which The Ham calls "a mass roll-call vote over a bonfire" -- or, if you prefer, a muster roll.
There is some debate as to whether these posts truly are linguistics lessons or simply etymology lessons. I contend, correctly of course, that etymology is a part of linguistics.
In any case, today we will be discussing the phrase "to pass muster."
Muster, it turns out, is a noun meaning "a gathering for inspection, review or roll call." And "muster roll" is a military term, not a type of nigiri sushi. Thus, the phrase "to pass muster" means to meet a required standard.
February 09, 2006
ABC will let Al Michaels out of his contract so that he can follow John Madden to NBC.
In return, NBC had to give up the rights to the 1927 TV cartoon Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and the broadcast rights to Ryder Cup golf until 2014. And each Sunday during the football season, NBC will promote the next night's Monday Night Football game on ESPN. Also, NBC will allow ABC and its cable network ESPN to air extended Olympics highlights through the 2012 games.
Oswald the Lucky Rabbit, I learned today, is a 1927 cartoon created by Walt Disney that was the predecessor to Mickey Mouse. Somehow, the Disney empire had lost the rights to Oswald and needed to part with Al Michaels to get it back.
The Flying Scotsman, the bar next to my office, is being evicted right now. City marshals are in the process of throwing everything out on the sidewalk.
Everything that isn't bolted down, including bar stools and the like, will soon be lying on the sidewalk for 72 hours. (I don't understand why 72 hours, but that's what the marshal said.)
Last month, Comedy Central ordered six episodes of a half-hour TV series starring Sarah Silverman. It will run this summer and be called The Sarah Silverman Program.
I hope it's good enough to last more than six episodes, of course. But two years ago, Silverman was part of a six-episode TV show called Pilot Season, which also starred Andy Dick and David Cross. I never saw it, but maybe TRIO will re-air it sometime.
I liked Jesus is Magic, her feature film. As for The Sarah Silverman Program, she did the right thing by going with the word "program" instead of "show." It sounds classier.
February 08, 2006
Biking by the U.S. Capitol today, I noticed a protest taking place. I was zooming along pretty fast, so I didn't happen to see what they were protesting. But I noticed a few people dressed up as Nazi soldiers, complete with the swastika emblem.
At the time I wondered whether they were implying the federal government is similar to the Nazis or if they were protesting the government's lack of Nazi-like actions.
I have since learned that the protest was organized by Minuteman Project, the anti-immigration group.
But that doesn't help answer my question. Was I looking at the protest or the counter-protest? And is it possible that people in both factions were wearing Nazi gear, but for different reasons?
February 07, 2006
The New York Times and "Jeopardy!" struck a deal this week in which the game show will dedicate one of its regular catagories to the newspaper. For example, instead of "Food That Begins With The Letter Q," the show will have a catagory on the New York Times called "All The News That's Fit to Print" (the paper's slogan).
In return for the product placement, the newspaper will give "Jeopardy!" free add space.
I've said before that techniques like this are smart. And it's not like game shows are the last bastion of morality. Still, this story makes me kind of sad.
Ben Roethlisberger told David Letterman last night that he didn't think he ever got into the endzone during that controversial 2nd-quarter play in the Superbowl.
But Roethlisberger did score, regardless of what he thinks. (Remember, he doesn't have to land in the endzone, he just has to get any part of the ball over the plain of the endzone. And he doesn't have to hold it there. The ball just has to cross that plain at any time. And the white stripe on the field is part of the endzone.)
But more importantly, the officiating wasn't any different than any other NFL game. People have complained about the offensive pass interference that negated a Seattle touchdown. Anyone can see that the Seattle receiver didn't push off by very much. In fact, he barely touched the Steelers defender. But rules are rules, and you are not allowed to initiate any separation. (The real complaint is with the rules, not the officials on the field.)
Meanwhile, Seahawks Coach Mike Holmgren has made some questionable decisions. First, he didn't walk across the field after the game to shake the Pittsburgh coach's hand, as is the custom. I suppose it's hard to do, given the mess of people on the field after the game. But somehow all 39 other Superbowl losing coaches managed to do it. If he wanted it to happen, it would have happened.
Later, Holmgren made this statement once he got back to Seattle: "We knew it was going to be tough going up against the Pittsburgh Steelers. I didn't know we were going to have to play the guys in the striped shirts as well."
Evidently he thinks it is the fault of the officials that the Seahawks lost. And he's wrong.
It's not cheap, but this solar-powered device fits in a shirt pocket and can fully charge an iPod or any brand of cell phone in a couple hours. It even works with a Blackberry.
Finally, a way to check e-mail and listen to music while traveling "off the grid."
February 06, 2006
Thank you to Enchanted Pants for organizing the Arlington Invitational Classic and Sixth-Annual Superbowl Extravaganza. There's nowhere I'd have rather been, including Ford Field itself.
Unless I had a ticket at the 50-yard-line.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Leo and Jason, who each did music for commercials that debuted during last night's Superbowl. Still, I wonder whether either watched the game itself. Here's a quarter-by-quarter look at all of the ads.
February 03, 2006
The Super Bowl has a reputation of being a boring game. Yet, we've had some good ones recently. (In 2000, the Titans lost to the Rams 23-16 but ended the game one yard away from tying the game; in 2002, the Patriots beat the Rams on a last-second field goal; in 2004, the Patriots beat the Panthers 32-29; and in 2005, the Patriots beat the Eagles 24-21)
Anyway, one way to ensure interest throughout the five-hour game is to set up betting squares with a 10 x 10 grid. I won't bore you with the details of how it works, but it holds interest in the game until the very end, which ought to be the point of any five-hour viewing experience.
But my friends don't like playing it. Some complain it is a game of random chance -- rather than based on any skillful football knowledge. Others complain that the $1 entry fee is too high. What's going on here?
February 02, 2006
Every year after the State of the Union address, the president's critics downplay the initiatives in his speech by calling it simply a "laundry list" of ideas.
I know what a shopping list is. But what's a laundry list?
The dictionary says it is "an item-by-item enumeration." Presumably, people who send their laundry out to be cleaned make a list of their clothes so they can keep track of what comes back. But given the small number of people who send out their laundry, laundry lists this days are more likely to be found in political commentary than in everyday talk about garment cleaning.
And anyway, why not just call it a "list" (when used in a political context)?
On Sunday, a half-ton bull named Pajarito jumped into the stands during a bullfight in Mexico City. The bull injured a few spectators before the matador jumped into the stands and stabbed the animal to death. Click the picture above to watch the video.
Interestingly (to me), I was at this very stadium a couple months ago to see a fight. It was much less eventful, obviously.
February 01, 2006
Despite Ethan's warning that eating English Muffins will start a household fire, Marnie & I have begun eating whole wheat muffins.
(Marnie is taking a nutrition class, you see.)
I had no idea that whole wheat muffins were so good. I feel sort of like the idiot dad in this commercial. Still, I doubt I'll convert to whole wheat bagels, which Marnie also prefers.
I watched a couple minutes of the X-Games last night. I flipped away after listening to the following analysis, which I copied down verbatim: "He likes to come huge. He's throwing in the switch tricks."
Anyway, I've always been interested in the terms "half-pipe" and "super-pipe," since it's hard for me to imagine the original need for a pipe so big that a cross section of it can take up a few city blocks.
Of course, no one doubts that these X-Game athletes have plenty of experience with pipes of all sizes.