Blog on the Run: Reloaded

Tuesday, August 31, 2004 9:46 pm

Law and order

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:46 pm

Now this is getting tough on crime.

Real customer service

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:30 am

My mother recently bought something online, and the e-mail response she got was worth sharing:

Thanks for your order with [company]!Your [products] have been gently taken from our [company] shelves with sterilized contamination-free gloves and placed onto a satin pillow.

A team of 50 employees inspected your [products] and polished them to make sure they were in the best possible condition before mailing.

Our packing specialist from Japan lit a candle and a hush fell over the crowd as he put your [products] into the finest gold-lined box that money can buy.

We all had a wonderful celebration afterwards and the whole party marched down the street to the post office where the entire town of [major American city] waved ‘Bon Voyage!’ to your package, on its way to you, in our private [company] jet on this day, Friday, August 27th.

I hope you had a wonderful time shopping at [company]. We sure did. Your picture is on our wall as “Customer of the Year”. We’re all exhausted but can’t wait for you to come back to [company].COM!!

Thank you once again,

[signature of president]

Who cares whether the product is worth the price? The letter is priceless.

Monday, August 30, 2004 9:14 pm

The Real Live Preacher …

Filed under: Fun,Panthers — Lex @ 9:14 pm

… is a sinner (as are we all). His sin, however, is particularly egregious:

I remember when Michael and I started watching the [Dallas] Cowboys together on Sunday afternoons at his house. We’ve moaned, groaned, and cheered our way through several seasons together. When we built our church in 1999 and started worshipping at 10:30 instead of the traditional 11:00, some people suggested that I pushed for that time just so Michael and I would never miss the first quarter. I will neither confirm nor deny the truth of that rumor.

I admire RLP’s dedication to watching pro football. However, his choice of team is another matter, and it matters not that he lives in Texas. Repent, sinner!

Increase your vocabulary!

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:43 am

From Snowshoe Crab: drinking session = “hepatotoxicity seminar.”

Friday, August 27, 2004 5:48 am

Moral/ethical philosophy

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 5:48 am

Which philosophers’ positions are most closely aligned with your own? The Ethical Philosophy Selector can tell you. My results:

1. Kant (100%)
2. John Stuart Mill (97%)
3. Aquinas (86%)
4. Epicureans (85%)
5. Jeremy Bentham (85%)
6. Spinoza (84%)
7. St. Augustine (82%)
8. Prescriptivism (78%)
9. Ockham (78%)
10. Jean-Paul Sartre (59%)
11. Aristotle (57%)
12. Ayn Rand (45%)
13. Nel Noddings (40%)
14. Nietzsche (37%)
15. Stoics (32%)
16. Cynics (26%)
17. David Hume (26%)
18. Plato (24%)
19. Thomas Hobbes (14%)

Going on the DL

Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 5:46 am

The MRI revealed 1) a torn rotator cuff and 2) some kind of bone growth or protrusion that is aggravating the tear. So I’m going in in a few days to have No. 2 filed down and have No. 1 repaired, a 1-hour, outpatient process.

My orthopedist assures me that I’ll be able to return to work within five days. I should be throwing off a mound again by about Sept. 20, and I’ll be available in a short reliever/closer role if we make the playoffs. Woo-hoo!

Thursday, August 26, 2004 8:39 pm

Dinnertime with Hooper

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 8:39 pm

Me: Hooper, c’mon, we’ve got to go home and get some supper.

Hooper: What we having for supper?

Me: Kielbasa!*

Hooper: I don’t want kielbasa!

Me (after recovering from brief moment of speechlessness): You don’t? Um, OK, well, how ’bout spaghetti?

Hooper: No!

Me: Hamburger?

Hooper: No!

Me: Hot dog?

Hooper: No!

Me: How ’bout mud pies?

Hooper: N– … OK!

Me: OK! Mud pies for dinner, then! Yucky!

Hooper: No, Daddy! Not the mud. Just the pie!

*Laugh if you like, but thanks to my Polish ex-boss in New York, I can eat a lot o’ kielbasa … and Hooper can eat more than I can.

He is woman the Paper Lion, hear him roar

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:37 pm

The World Wide Web is boundless, and it’s gonna have to be accommodate the rush of my friends and colleagues starting blogs. The newest addition: The Paper Lion, by my longtime colleague and friend John Nagy, public-affairs editor at the News & Record.

Y’all know the routine: Go show him some love, mmkay?

Overheard at the office, or, Good advice

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:35 pm

“I don’t know much about the law, but I know this much: You should not come armed to a mediation.”

Monday, August 23, 2004 6:26 am

Road trip

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:26 am

No toothbrush. No clean underwear. Just Q-tips, free GPS and a Jag with whiptastic handling: Julia travels like a rock star.

Sunday, August 22, 2004 9:16 pm


Filed under: Housekeeping — Lex @ 9:16 pm

My keyboard seems to be dying, a key or two at a time. Stay tuned …

Friday, August 20, 2004 10:00 pm

The kind of night of which legends are born

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 10:00 pm

I’ve been sorta kinda following the unfortunate tale of Deal Hudson, until Thursday the head of the Republican National Committee’s outreach to Roman Catholics — not because of his tawdry past, but because of the spot where the most salient tawdry event in that past began: Tortilla Flats, a Mexican restaurant at Washington and West 12th streets in New York’s West Village. I’ve seen a number of people on blogs describe the restaurant as “timeless,” but that’s not quite accurate.

I know because I was there at the beginning, sometime in the summer of 1983. The restaurant was opened by a friend of a friend, a woman who had, if I recall correctly, worked in some off-camera capacity at NBC. She invited my roommates and me, among others, to the grand opening.

I remember only a few things about that experience:

  • It was an incredibly hot night. (It was an incredibly hot summer, for that matter.)
  • The food, which the owner characterized as “Mexican truck-stop,” was pretty good.
  • For d├ęcor, each booth had a hubcap on the wall.
  • Most importantly: The restaurant’s liquor license had not yet arrived, so they couldn’t sell us liquor. They could only give it away. And so they did. Over. And over. Again. And again. We did regular shots. And we did body shots. I seem to recall squeezed lime hulls scattered across the bar like ladies’ undergarments in the wee hours of Prom Night, although I suspect the bartender actually threw each away as soon as we were done with it.

As a consequence of the above point, we all got hammered. My roommates and I had to kind of help one another back to the West Fourth Street subway station because we were too broke to take a cab and too full of tequila to walk by ourselves. It was the kind of night on which legends are born, mainly because no one can remember the facts.

I left New York in December 1983 and, so far, haven’t had occasion to return. So I’m just delighted to learn that Tortilla Flats is still in business after all these years. I hope it’s still under the original ownership.


Filed under: Sad — Lex @ 6:09 am

Ann and I got Hobbes in April 1988, when he was a 6-week-old kitten. We got him to keep our other cat, Bathsheba, company because Bashie’s brother, Spooky, had gotten out and run away. Hobbes made himself at home by climbing up on furniture, waiting ’til Bashie walked by underneath and then pouncing on her tail, gnawing on the end of it while trying to disembowel its midsection with his hind claws. Bashie would patiently look at all this business going on at the end of her tail for a few seconds, then whap Orange Kitty in the head.

One weekend soon after we got him, Ann and I drove to her parents’ in Virginia to pick up a TV they were giving her. When we returned, I tossed my bomber jacket — the only expensive thing I had bought myself purely for pleasure in five years in the working world — onto the sofa before carrying the console set in the front door. As we did, I saw Hobbes jump up onto the sofa, stare defiantly at both of us and, secure in the knowledge that we couldn’t set down the TV and move quickly enough to stop him, pee all over that jacket. Then he calmly hopped down, walked to his water bowl and drank. I fumed. “Hey!” Ann said. “He’s reloading!”

Hobbes eventually outgrew that particular type of mischief. In fact, he eventually outgrew mischief entirely. Before that happened, however, a column about him that I wrote was distributed nationwide by the New York Times News Service, making him temporarily famous. He wore his fame lightly. Indeed, he behaved almost as if he had no idea.

By 18 months, Hobbes weighed 18 pounds. As I said in the column, I could’ve drilled three holes in him and taken him bowling. We dubbed him BOFOK: Big Ol’ Fat Orange Kittycat.

When the kids came along, he was great with them, even though Hooper would keep trying to pick him up and there was just too much of Hobbes for Hooper’s little arms to be able to hold it all, so that as Hooper wrestled with one end of Hobbes, the other would just sort of flow out of his arms and back down onto the ground. There’s some sort of physics lesson in there, I think.

Two days ago, Hobbes had stopped eating and drinking and was looking pretty unhappy. I took him to the vet, who said the problem might be simple hyperthyroidism. Blood and urine work told a different story, however: His kidneys had failed. So yesterday morning, Ann and I went to the vet’s and spent a little quiet time with Hobbes, snuggling him and scratching behind his ears and under his chin, listening to him purr until the injection took hold, the purring stopped and he laid his head down on his paw for the last time.

The orthodoxy of my religion holds out the hope of salvation to only one species. Still, I draw a small bit of comfort from the thought of God Almighty on His throne, Hobbes purring loudly and heavily in His lap and Bathsheba (who died in her sleep in 1998) nestled daintily atop the back of His throne, leaning ever so slightly against the back of His neck. Because after all, this is Heaven we’re talking about.

Goodbye, Hobbes, and thank you for everything. We love you. We’ll miss you.

In the house

Filed under: Salute! — Lex @ 6:03 am

I’m becoming the Velvet Underground of bloggers: Almost no one reads me, but everyone who does starts his/her own blog. The latest addition: My friend and colleague M.G. Binker’s Beyond Deadline.

Also, my friend and colleague Mark “Thoughtsignals” Tosczak and his friend Evan Zimmerman (whom I have not met) have created NC Blogs, an aggregator of North Carolina-related blogs. Not only does it list a ton of them, it also utilizes trackback pinging to let new posts on your blog also show up on its front page, once you’ve registered. (I don’t understand the mechanism, but they’ve got directions on the site.) Very cool.

Y’all go show both of ’em some love, OK?

Thursday, August 19, 2004 6:13 am

When you set out to tip the cow, you must be very sure you tip the cow

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 6:13 am

One of the funniest things I’ve ever read, via Apostropher. (NSFW: language)

Tuesday, August 17, 2004 12:13 pm

License to thrill

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 12:13 pm

Eugene Volokh of the law blog Volokh Conspiracy has a license to look at pornography. Really. (Yes, safe for work.)

Monday, August 16, 2004 9:47 pm

Breaking news

Filed under: News & Record — Lex @ 9:47 pm

[shameless plug for employer]

I’ve got an official News & Record blog. It’s called The Lex Files, and it’s here.

That is all.

[/shameless plug for employer]

Correction of the week

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:39 pm

From The Wall Street Journal via Dow Jones via my colleague Marta Hummel: “SOME JESTERS in a British competition described in a page-one article last Monday ride on unicycles. The article incorrectly said they ride on unicorns.”

The Forbes index

Filed under: Geek-related issues — Lex @ 8:37 pm

As you might or might not know if you don’t live in Greensboro, Forbes magazine ranks American cities according to how good a place they are for singles to live. Everyone knows this here in Greensboro, however, because we’ve ranked dead last or something close to it in the past few surveys and the Powers That Be have been obsessing over how to fix this particular problem. Me, I wonder briefly whether it’s even possible to create such a ranking on anything close to an objective basis — emphasis on briefly — before returning my thoughts to my job, my wife, my kids, the Panthers and other subjects far more important.

Turns out, though, that that’s not such a bad question to be asking, considering Forbes’ answer:

Cost Of Living Alone: Our proprietary Cost Of Living Alone index is determined by the average cost of a metro area’s apartment rent, a Pizza Hut pizza, a movie ticket and a six-pack of Heineken. The majority of the raw data was provided by Arlington, Va.-based ACCRA.

Anthony DeBarros at USA Today, who alerted me to this item via a listserv we both frequent, asks: Why Heineken?

And I would add: Why only a six-pack?

On a slightly more serious note, those average costs are only meaningful when measured as a percentage of median income for singles. But I’m a geek like that.

Yet another helpful use for lizard spit

Filed under: Woohoo! — Lex @ 6:14 am

Amylin Pharmaceuticals recently concluded the first of three clinical trials of a drug derived from the venomous saliva of the Gila monster that reduces high blood sugar and also can help patients lose weight — a promising new treatment for diabetes.

Friday, August 13, 2004 9:02 pm

High-school romance, in all its glory four types of sociological networks, with ramifications for the spread of disease

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 9:02 pm

Weirdly interesting post at Crooked Timber looks at the social/sexual networks at a single high school and what they might mean for better understanding the spread of infectious disease (of all types, not just STDs). If you are interested in the spread of disease, go there. If not, then the most important part of the article is right at the beginning: “Quick, in high school were you ever told not to date your old girlfriend’s current boyfriend’s old girlfriend? Or your old boyfriend’s current girlfriend’s old boyfriend? Probably not. But I bet you never did, either.” Because apparently, this is some kind of unspoken but powerful taboo.

Who knew? Certainly not me.

After I muddled through that particular relationship stumper, I reflected upon my high-school experience and concluded that 1) No, the subject never came up in conversation, for whatever reason and 2) No, I never actually dated my old girlfriend’s current boyfriend’s old girlfriend … that I know of. But my high school had 1,700 students in it, so who really knows? Maybe I was, indeed, an heir to the tradition of Oedipus and Tom Jones.

But if I was, it was so long ago that were I to be confronted with the evidence today, I suspect I would react more as did the latter than the former.

“The paper trail worked flawlessly”

Filed under: Black-box voting — Lex @ 8:55 pm

From, a report on what happened when voting-machine maker Sequoia tested a new touch-screen machine with voter-verifiable paper ballot for California officials last week:

… the machine worked fine when the company tested votes using an English-language ballot. But when the testers switched to a Spanish-language ballot, the paper trail showed no votes cast for two propositions.”We did it again and the same thing happened,” said Darren Chesin, a consultant to the state Senate elections and reapportionment committee. “The problem was not with the paper trail. The paper trail worked flawlessly, but it caught a mistake in the programming of the touch-screen machine itself. For some reason it would not record or display the votes on the Spanish ballot for these two ballot measures. The only reason we even caught it was because we were looking at the paper trail to verify it.”

The article goes on to quote a company official as saying that ballot-design error, not programming error, was to blame, and that such an error “would never happen in an election environment because of all the proofing that election officials do.”

State Senate aides watching the demonstration and Chesin “could not confirm this, however, since the company did not show them evidence of the digital votes stored on the machine’s internal memory.”

No voting system is foolproof. There’s no way to be 100% sure of preventing malfunctions, bad programming or even fraud. All you can do is create an audit system that makes it close to 100% sure that any discrepancy will be noticed. That’s the voter-verified paper ballot, the so-called “paper trail,” in a nutshell.

Good news, bad news

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 8:50 pm

Me: I’ve got to have an MRI Monday for my shoulder.

Friend: Hmm. Sucks to be you, then.

Me: Why?

Friend: It means you almost certainly do have a rotator-cuff injury and they’re just trying to figure out the best way to go in after it.

Me: Mm-hmm.

Friend: But there’s a good side.

Me: And that is … ?

Friend: Metal reacts in an MRI pretty much like it does in a microwave, so if there’s a government implant anywhere in your body, then during the MRI you’ll probably explode.

The beatings alterations in brain chemistry will continue until morale performance improves

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 8:48 pm

Apparently if you keep monkeys’ brain cells from getting any dopamine, the monkeys work harder and better than they otherwise would.

Doctor! Dopamine for media critics! Stat!

Junk science

Filed under: Hooper — Lex @ 8:46 pm

Hooper’s biorhythm chart, from yesterday: “Intellectual: You can finish demanding tasks without any great concentration efforts. You have many good ideas,” one of which was pouring a half-full carton of milk all over himself in his car seat to see what would happen.

Thursday, August 12, 2004 9:41 pm

V.’s take on first grade …

Filed under: Victoria — Lex @ 9:41 pm

… after a week thereof: “Daddy, our classroom has a door that goes right into the media center! Is that cool or what?”

Yankee or Dixie?

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:40 pm

97% Dixie, y’all

Because you say I never give you any good news …

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:03 pm

here’s some. Caution: It involves a funeral.

Freak of nature

Filed under: Weird — Lex @ 6:26 am

Well, this is going to give me nightmares. Women and children flee from it in terror. Men curse its name and spit at it as it passes in the street. It is … the okra-tofu pie!

Wednesday, August 11, 2004 9:32 pm

Among friends

Filed under: Fun — Lex @ 9:32 pm

Friend1: Y’all hear about Mike Wallace?

Friend2: Saw something about it in the paper this morning. What, he got arrested?

F1: Yeah. For disorderly conduct.

F2: I’m not surprised. Damn liberal journalists.

Me: Hey, now!

F1: Now, I might be wrong here, but I’ve got to ask: Just how disorderly can an 86-year-old man get?

F2: Well, I don’t know. You get ’em likkered up good and anything could happen. Like Helen Thomas piledriving an airport security officer.

F1: Or that 102-year-old woman the paper wrote about the other day who has an ounce of bourbon at lunch and dinner every day but says if she’s looking forward to it too much, she skips it. What if she looks forward to it a lot and decides she’s not only not gonna skip it, she’s gonna have bourbon for dessert, huh?

F2: Could get ugly.

F1: She’d be all out in the street with the neck broken off a bottle of Jim Beam, like, “You want some of this?”

F2: Rioting centenarians. Like we don’t have enough problems around here.

Me: You guys are weird.

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