Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Monday, August 25, 2008 7:34 pm

The Empire Strikes West

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:34 pm
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Death Star over San Francisco

(h/t Chip, who breaks a long drought in style with this one)

Sunday, August 24, 2008 6:49 pm

Panthers 47, Redskins 3

Filed under: Panthers — Lex @ 6:49 pm
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I only watched long enough to see the score get to 41-0. And that was enough: Wow.

That’s my first reaction. My second reaction had to do not with the Panthers, but with the Redskins: Both of their lines have major, major problems, and to the Redskin D-line add the problem of depth. That does not bode well for their season. The figure 6-8 comes to mind, and that record will leave you out of the playoffs by four games in the NFC East.

The Panthers’ O-line, on the other hand, looks very good, a dramatic improvement from last year. And between Jonathan Stewart, who has impressed as a rookie, and DeAngelo Williams, who showed flashes late last year and has only come on since, the Panthers might just run the ball all day, all season. This would not be a bad thing; for one thing, it’ll help keep Jake Delhomme healthy.

On the other side of the ball, everyone keeps saying Julius Peppers is back. He’s certainly looking better than last year, which is, for the moment, making me look stupid for having said they should release him. Let’s hope this roll continues into the regular season. Deep into the regular season. And then into the playoffs. He’s in a contract year, so he’s got everything to play for. The rest of the D-line looked good as well.

Elsewhere on the offense, Steve Smith’s most dramatic moment came on the first play from scrimmage, where he landed hard on this shoulder and left the game. This team won’t be entirely one-dimensional without him, and with that backfield, third-and-long won’t be the occasion of desperation it was last year, but for this team to play into January, Smith has to stay functional. He’s already had a concussion this season, and a separated shoulder would be misery. Muhammad is out, although he should return for the season opener. D.J. Hackett, who will have to carry the load while Smith sits out his two-game suspension, hasn’t shown much in practice (he sat out last night). And TE Dante Rosario is looking like an upgrade on Jeff King, who, with 47 catches last season to rank second on the team, wasn’t that bad to begin with.

The linebacking corps looked solid, and in Ken Lucas and Chris Gamble, the team has one of the league’s best corner tandems. Chris Harris continues to come on at safety (but also sat last night). And the special teams looked very good as well — four field goals, one from 52 yards; repeated kickoffs into the end zone (short kickoffs were a problem last year) and excellent coverage on those that got run back.

Injuries, or lack thereof, will be key. Knock wood, the Panthers haven’t lost anyone key for the season, which is a departure from recent preseasons. One big key to their Super Bowl season in ’03 was that the O-line played the same people in the same positions almost every game (and had Stephen Davis in the backfield).

Snoop says he’s “excited” about the Panthers’ chances this year. I won’t go quite that far, but then I never do. I will say that the team had glaring weaknesses at the end of last year, and with one exception — the jury is still out on backup QB, so let’s hope we don’t have to find out about that — the team appears to have addressed them all.

The final preseason game is meaningless for the starters; it’s mainly for the coaching staff to decide whom to keep for special teams, whom to keep for the practice squad and whom to cut outright. The opener at SD will be a strong test, particularly without Smith. That game should show us what we’ve got.

Saturday, August 23, 2008 7:36 pm

Escaping with most brain cells still intact

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 7:36 pm
Tags:

Hooper and I saw The Wiggles earlier today. A couple of my worst fears went unrealized. For one thing, although the show was held in the 20,000+-seat Greensboro Coliseum, the configuration was half-house and I’m guessing the crowd was 4,000, tops. For another, the set was over in a neat 75 minutes. Sops for the adults were sadly lacking. The closest they came was prior to “Play Your Guitar with Murray,” when the aforenamed Wiggle “warmed up” by playing a brief intro to “Stairway to Heaven.” One of the other Wiggles punctuated that with, “Did somebody say ‘Freebird’?”

My favorite part was before the show, however:

Hooper’s friend B: They don’t look like they do on TV.

Hooper: They don’t?

Hooper’s friend B: No, they’re all winkly.

Friday, August 22, 2008 10:04 pm

No more paying taxes. Sweet.

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 10:04 pm
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” “People should not be forced to say or do things they believe are morally wrong,” Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt said.

Mouse out of the house?

Filed under: Odds 'n' ends — Lex @ 8:31 pm
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Could Disney be losing copyright to early versions of Mickey Mouse? It could be.

Return of the Fusion

Filed under: Fusion,Hooper — Lex @ 7:29 pm
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Remember the Fusion, Hooper’s soccer team when he was a 4-year-old? It’s back.

Hooper decided after his first season that he didn’t really like soccer very much, so since then it has been his big sister’s thing. But this summer, he decided he wanted to play again, so we signed him up and lo and behold, he got put on the same team he was on three years ago. Only two of the five who were on the team with him back then are still there, but one of them is his best friend from that team. Their first practice was yesterday, and he did well and said afterward that it was a lot of fun. I met both coaches, and they seem like really good guys.

Their first game, as is Victoria’s, is 9/7 9/6.

“We have a hostage situation …”

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:18 pm
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Best. Lolcat. Evah. (Scroll down a bit.)

Tuesday, August 19, 2008 9:28 pm

An appreciation for the finer things in life

Filed under: Fun,Hooper — Lex @ 9:28 pm
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Hooper: Daddy, do they still use a ball to break things?

Daddy: I don’t understand your question, buddy.

Hooper: You know. The metal ball that hangs from the crane?

Daddy: Oh, yeah! Yeah, they still use those sometimes. But sometimes they do something different. They use dynamite. They can set the dynamite in a special way so that when the building blows up, instead of pieces going all over the place, they all fall into one neat pile.

Hooper: Sweet.

Monday, August 18, 2008 7:53 pm

Well, THAT sucked, too.

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 7:53 pm
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We’ve got the house almost back to normal now. What about the house, you ask, was abnormal? Why, I’m ever so glad you asked.

Weeks ago — I can’t even remember when now and I don’t want to go digging around in the files to find the receipt — the air-conditioning guy came out to the house to give our two units their annual servicing. Somehow, in so doing, he managed to break the line that carries condensation — that’d be water — from the unit in the attic down to the outside. That water instead flowed down the inside of one of our walls for about five days, until one night I happened to look up near the stairwell ceiling and noticed a pancake-sized blister in the wall paint.

Fearing the worst, I went downstairs and looked in the closet underneath the stairs to see if I could find any sign of water. I didn’t find anything damp, but I did find a fair bit of mold that I knew hadn’t been there before. Certain members of my household are allergic to mold. Like all but one of us.

It was another two days before the A/C people could get someone else back out to the house, which annoyed me no end. But I’ll give them props for this: They didn’t for one second try to claim it wasn’t their fault. And the manager swore up and down they’d get it all made right.

He just didn’t say how long it would take.

Part of the problem was that until the mold remediation people started ripping wall down, they had no idea just how bad the problem was. We lost the entire stairwell wall, one full wall and parts of two others in the laundry room, which adjoins the stairwell, part of the laundry-room ceiling and the bottom three steps on the stairwell.

Oh, and the floor and first level of subflooring in the laundry room. Our washer and dryer ended up in the living room for quite a while.

The mold remediation kept us from being able to get upstairs for several days. We had a beach vacation coming up, so we packed for the beach the night before the mold guys got there, figuring
we might not get another chance. We were wise to do so.

No work got done while we were at the beach, obviously, and no work got done for the first week after we got back (although we could go upstairs again). Once the restoration work began, it took seven full working days. They finished this past Monday. We spent most of yesterday and today cleaning up the fine film of dust that drywall work always leaves elsewhere in the house no matter how carefully you hang your plastic sheets. Fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2008 8:00 pm

A new business blog

My mother and stepdad, who have a management consulting business called AlexanderHancock Associates, have started a blog for managers and other professionals. It’s here. Go check it out.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008 9:58 pm

Simple answers to simple questions: Social Security

How do we ease Social Security’s problems? Cracking down on employers who don’t pay Social Security and Medicare taxes to the government would help.

This has been another edition of Simple Answers to Simple Questions.

(h/t: Mom)

Well, um, yeah; your point being?

Filed under: Fun,Hooper,Victoria — Lex @ 9:57 pm
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(as the curtain opens, we join a battle of wills between father and son that has been going on for 30 minutes already)

Daddy: Spell “list.”

Hooper: No! No, no, no, no, no, no, no! Daddy, I just want to go ride my two-wheeler in the cul-de-sac!

Daddy: We’re going to sit right here at this table until you have spelled your spelling words. Spell “list.”

Hooper: No!

Daddy: Spell “list.”

Hooper: You are. Such. A. Downloader.

Daddy: A what?

Hooper: A downloader! You know, somebody who does too much!

(the father prevails after about another 15 minutes, but we’ll spare you that)

* * *

On a lighter note, Victoria got the new Jonas Brothers CD tonight. All is right with her world.

And because Mommy took Victoria to see the Jonas Brothers last month, Daddy gets to take Hooper to see The Wiggles. This is not quite one of those gnaw-off-your-own-arm-to-escape deals, but, geez, it ain’t good. And they’re performing in the Greensboro Coliseum, which, last I checked, is a 23,000-seat arena, give or take. Assuming somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of attendees to be parents/guardians/babysitters, we’re still talking about more than 10,000 screaming kids in one room.  I’m just gonna go ahead and get my doctor to prescribe me something for a migraine now so I can beat the rush.

A Twitter feed … of braaaaaaiiiiiiinns

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:10 pm
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I Twitter, although almost exclusively for work and not as often as I should. I also follow a few friends and co-workers who Twitter, and courtesy of John Newsom, here’s what a Twitter feed might look like during a zombie attack. Because, and I think Ginmar would agree (although she’s even more partial to werewolves), you can never blog, or Twitter, too much about zombies.

E-mails to which I’m extremely unlikely to respond

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:09 pm
Tags:

“Dear Mortgage Broker …”

Monday, August 11, 2008 7:55 pm

Isolated incident?

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:55 pm
Tags: ,

This? I’d be very surprised.

Friday, August 8, 2008 8:39 pm

No wonder he didn’t run on a family-values platform

Filed under: Aiee! Teh stoopid! It burns! — Lex @ 8:39 pm
Tags: ,

Yeah, John Edwards had an affair. While his wife was dying of breast cancer. To call him a toad would be to defame honest, upright (and prone) amphibians everywhere.

A quote in honor of the opening of the 29th Olympiad in Beijing

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 7:14 am
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“Sporting and chivalrous competition awakens the best human qualities. It does not sever, but on the contrary, unites the opponents in mutual understanding and reciprocal respect. It also helps to strengthen the bonds of peace between the nations. May the Olympic Flame therefore never be extinguished.”

– Adolf Hitler. No, really (p. 6 of document; p. 7 of *pdf).

(h/t: Mark Schaver)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008 9:23 pm

I believe the lawyers call this “arguing in the alternative” …

Filed under: Fun,Hooper,Victoria — Lex @ 9:23 pm
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Victoria: Hooper, get your stuff out of my room!

Hooper: Stay out of your business!

Victoria: What’s in my room is my business!

Hooper: Well, stay out of my business, then!

What happens when literary characters get on Facebook

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:05 pm
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The Hamlet Facebook News Feed

Lex is reinstalling the gut he just busted.

(h/t: Ed)

A new threat to traditional marriage

Filed under: Fun,Geek-related issues — Lex @ 7:48 pm
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A guy figured out how to synthesize gemstone-quality diamonds … in his garage. Now his son is running a company that’s going to market them. How good are they? Let’s go to the videotape (well, text):

Seeking an unbiased assessment of the quality of these laboratory diamonds, I asked Bryant Linares to let me borrow an Apollo stone. The next day, I place the .38 carat, princess-cut stone in front of Virgil Ghita in Ghita’s narrow jewelry store in downtown Boston. With a pair of tweezers, he brings the diamond up to his right eye and studies it with a jeweler’s loupe, slowly turning the gem in the mote-filled afternoon sun. “Nice stone, excellent color. I don’t see any imperfections,” he says. “Where did you get it?”

“It was grown in a lab about 20 miles from here,” I reply.

He lowers the loupe and looks at me for a moment. Then he studies the stone again, pursing his brow. He sighs. “There’s no way to tell that it’s lab-created.”

In the comments to the article, there’s a reference to a science-fiction novel by Neal Stephenson, The Diamond Age, that supposedly (I have not read it) anticipates a similar development and goes into some of the practical and social ramifications.

So: Still the hardest substance, but no longer so hard to get. Wonder who a girl’s new best friend will be.

(h/t: Jude at First Draft)

Monday, August 4, 2008 8:13 pm

Hypertrolling

Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 8:13 pm
Tags:

Via Nancy, here’s one scary story from the NYT about Internet trolls. But I’m not talking about people who just disrupt online activities. These people are much worse — they steal and post SocSec numbers online, they impersonate other people and engage in activities that make their subjects look bad, and they feel nothing but contempt for their victims, who may or may not have deserved anything approaching such treatment. This goes way beyond free speech, a fact that the article delicately broaches down near the bottom:

Does free speech tend to move toward the truth or away from it? When does it evolve into a better collective understanding? When does it collapse into the Babel of trolling, the pointless and eristic game of talking the other guy into crying “uncle”? Is the effort to control what’s said always a form of censorship, or might certain rules be compatible with our notions of free speech?

One promising answer comes from the computer scientist Jon Postel, now known as “god of the Internet” for the influence he exercised over the emerging network. In 1981, he formulated what’s known as Postel’s Law: “Be conservative in what you do; be liberal in what you accept from others.” Originally intended to foster “interoperability,” the ability of multiple computer systems to understand one another, Postel’s Law is now recognized as having wider applications. To build a robust global network with no central authority, engineers were encouraged to write code that could “speak” as clearly as possible yet “listen” to the widest possible range of other speakers, including those who do not conform perfectly to the rules of the road. The human equivalent of this robustness is a combination of eloquence and tolerance — the spirit of good conversation. Trolls embody the opposite principle. They are liberal in what they do and conservative in what they construe as acceptable behavior from others. You, the troll says, are not worthy of my understanding; I, therefore, will do everything I can to confound you.

Except it’s not just confounding. It’s malice, identity theft and a whole host of other rude and/or illegal behaviors. The contempt they feel bespeaks both (pardon my momentary digression into pop psychology) a world of internal hurt and a dehumanization of their subjects. Empathy? That’s for dweebs.

But what to do about it? Some of what they do, such as identity theft and some forms of online harassment, already is illegal in many, if not most, states. But some behavior, rude, painful and upsetting as it might be, probably is constitutionally protected. There probably are technical ways to prevent or interdict much of what they do, but most people aren’t as tech-savvy as these folks, not least because they haven’t the time to become so — unlike a lot of these guys, they’re too busy getting by in the offline world (a fact that these guys appear to deride as a poor choice rather than, say, economic necessity).

I wish I had an answer, but none comes immediately to mind.

UPDATE: Quasi-relatedly (h/t: Phred)

Live from Beijing

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 7:36 am
Tags: , ,

My friend and former colleague Beau Dure, a major soccer enthusiast and a very occasional commenter here, is, as I write, en route to Beijing to cover Olympic soccer for USA Today. In an e-mail to some friends and relatives, he lists a number of ways in which you can keep up with what he’s doing:

1. Read my stories online at soccer.usatoday.com

2. Check my work blog, which I may or may not update regularly at dure.usatoday.com

3. Check my Twitter feed, which I will update regularly, at twitter.com/bdure_usat

4. Check our blog for the Olympics, to which I’ll contribute on occasion, at goingforgold.usatoday.com

5. E-mail me [I'm omitting his personal e-mail address -- Lex]

6. Message me on Facebook

7. See the games I’m covering, live on TV in the early a.m. Eastern time. Here’s the TV schedule for the group stage (I will NOT be going to the third women’s game in Shenyang). Start at 7:45 a.m. ET Wednesday for the women’s game against Norway on MSNBC and the NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, which your cable system may or may not be adding.

8. Go to your newsstand or a newspaper rack, plunk down 75 cents and read my stories.

I’m not quite the soccer enthusiast Beau is, but I’ll be checking on him nonetheless.

Sunday, August 3, 2008 5:19 pm

Punching out

Filed under: Panthers,Uncategorized — Lex @ 5:19 pm
Tags: , ,

So Panthers WR Steve Smith has been suspended for two regular-season games (presumably the first two, 9/7 at San Diego and 9/14 home at Chicago) for punching cornerback Ken Lucas.

Good. And bad.

Good in that, although details were a little hard to come by, it seems as if the punching took place not on the field in the heat of the moment but on the sidelines after the helmets had come off. In other words, there was an element of cold premeditation involved. I don’t care how many Pro Bowls you go to, that’s just not acceptable. It hurts the team, and — oh, by the way — in the real world it constitutes criminal assault. I suspect there may also be a fine involved, and perhaps even a personal audience with team owner Jerry Richardson that begins along the lines of, “Steve, do you want to play here or not?”

Bad in that, in a year on which many of the team’s jobs are riding, this team did not need this distraction. The level of punishment Smith received attests to just how bad this distraction — by which I mean Smith’s behavior, not anyone else’s — really was. I find it telling that, according to my colleague Ed Hardin’s account, Lucas was greeted as a hero in the team locker room on Saturday. Given the normal level of, well, animosity that often exists between offense and defense even on the same team, that suggests that even Smith’s colleagues on offense felt he had stepped over the line.

So good for the team for dealing with this swiftly and, I hope, even more severely than is now apparent. Now, the Panthers need to get their heads in the game. They’ve got depth problems on the D-line, a completely reshuffled O-line to break in and a secondary that needed a shakeout even before Lucas got his nose broken. In other words, their plates are full and Indianapolis is up on Saturday. This team has work to do to ensure that this season doesn’t blow up in their faces before it even starts.

Friday, August 1, 2008 8:36 pm

Seven years later, the anthrax-letter case has been solved. Right?

So it would seem, based on this Los Angeles Times report.

I have a couple of thoughts.

First, if the stuff originated at Fort Detrick, as now appears to be the case, how could it possibly have taken so long for investigators to find out? One possible explanation was that the guy ID’d as the perp had both motive and opportunity to cover things up. Another is investigative ineptitude, although how that ineptitude could be finally overcome after seven years is a little unclear to me.

Also, the government would have us believe they’re pretty good at sniffing out international terrorism targeting the U.S., and good for them. But how ’bout some attention to domestic terrorism? Terrorism is terrorism, no matter where it originates. But in this case, they screwed the pooch so badly they ended up paying nearly $6 million dollars to a guy who’d been wrongly named as the possible perp. And remember the 1996 Olympic bombing? And how a guy named Richard Jewell was wrongly identified as the bomber? (His settlements came from news organizations but not the government, IIRC.) Should we be really sure that this time they’ve got the right guy?

Finally, and speaking of news organizations, the anthrax-letters case contributed mightily to public and official sentiment in favor of invading Iraq, and ABC News played a particularly important role in this and took years too long to admit that its reporting had been utterly, completely false. Glenn provides more details.

UPDATE: Nationally known anthrax expert Dr. Meryl Nass, who has a blog on the anthrax vaccine and possible problems related thereunto, has thrown up a host of posts since Friday on the Bruce Ivins case. She’s skeptical about the official story, for reasons she explains pretty clearly. Her posts on the subject begin here, and if you don’t want to look on the main page and then scroll up from there, you can go forward one by one by following the Blog Archive => August links that appear on the left side of her pages.

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