Thursday, October 27, 2005

let there be hope for the court!

And there was much rejoicing! Just wanted to put up some quick thoughts on the news that made my week. I'm obviously no big fan of Miers' nomination, but at least she has enough honor to step down early and not force an ugly and humiliating series of hearings. We have to respect her for that. I didn't like how she tried to play up the Senate's documents requests as if that had a lot to do with it though. But nonetheless one must give credit where credit is due.

My take is that Bush backed himself into a corner on that nomination and is rightfully eating some crow for it now. And I'm loving that. Not that I hate Bush so much--although I admit that after this debacle there's not a lot he can do to regain my trust very soon--but I hope he gets soundly beaten for a while over this. He needs it and he needs to learn to quit playing crony politics. He made a huge mistake by spitting on his campaign promise to put strong conservatives on the Court, and it sure was nice to see that a lot of conservatives weren't having it. Such gives me hope that maybe, just maybe, the current political setup has some shreds of hope left in it yet.

But now we're back to where we were before. The big question remains of Bush, will he keep his end of the bargain or will he pander for support? I hope he chooses the former but my gut tells me he'll take the latter. He's got that irritating habit of playing politics with huge issues, but maybe he'll come around this time. We can hope and pray.

As for my prediction? His last two have caught me by surprise big time, but I'm almost sure it will be someone outside his administration since that was such a big issue this time. Who? I have no clue but I'm pulling for Brown or maybe Estrada.

Malkin: "Now, onto a candidate that conservatives can be proud of, okay?" Second. Plenty more blogosphere stuff over there.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

another season, another bcs dilemma

Read a WaPo article by Michael Wilbon yesterday that discussed how the BCS is once again fouling up college football's national championship race. Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of the BCS (even the gutted, watered-down version we have today), but it's by no means the best system out there. Wilbon brought up some good points to illustrate that.

There are currently six undefeated major-conference teams, and as many as four could finish the season that way (USC and UCLA will play each other, and if neither loses first then Alabama and Georgia will face off for the SEC championship). So, this late in the season, we once again have the strong potential that an undefeated team could be left out in the cold come Rose Bowl night. This seems to have become an annual problem.

But before we get too far, keep in mind who those teams are. Texas is currently atop the BCS standings simply because, to the amazement of everyone (or me, at least), they haven't choked yet like they do every year. But there are still plenty of games left for that to happen. Same with Virginia Tech. Maybe they're for real this year, but how many times have they made it into November only to crash and drop a game or few at the end? So those are hardly sure bets to go the distance.

But here's the issue: if four teams finish the season unbeaten, there's a decent chance--not a great one but a significant chance nonetheless--that two-time defending champ and consensus #1 USC would have to watch Texas and VA Tech play for the title. That could only be one of the greatest atrocities in college football history. Yet Wilbon seems to think it could happen. Texas is already ahead of the Trojans though a weak Big 12 schedule down the stretch will work against them, and VA Tech's strong closing schedule could help them jump up from their current third spot. And both SEC schools have a tough road ahead too so they're not out of it yet either.

Wilbon seems very down on the BCS and makes it clear several times that he thinks relying on only the human polls would be a better bet. I disagree. Human polls have always placed too much emphasis on tradition and reputation--why is Notre Dame perennially overrated?*--and thus the big-name schools always have an unfair advantage, especially among the many voters who really don't pay enough attention to football to be voting. The BCS system doesn't always do a good job ranking teams either but I'm convinced it's almost always better than the writers and coaches just because it adds some unbiased computer input to the system. And at least with the BCS it could be a bad break and not bias that could cost a team a BCS or championship game berth. In the computer polls every team is judged accordingly to the same set of formulas, so that alone puts the BCS rankings a step ahead of the human polls.

Wilbon and I agree on two things though: (1) both systems suck, and (2) the fairest and best answer is a postseason playoff. He suggests eight teams; I'd like to see at least 12 so there would be more excitement. But with the recent BCS troubles and the constant complaining and shafting the human polls resulted in before that, isn't it time college football adopted something that guarantees every elite team will get a shot to prove their worth on the field?

*I must admit that they seem to be living up to it (for once) this year. They gave Southern Cal a good fight and despite the loss to Michigan St. they've otherwise been dominant this year. But their recent history has them being upset at least a couple of times every year and yet they always hang around up there in the rankings.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

those aren't criminals, just people doing illegal stuff

Read this clip (fourth entry down) on Fox News about illegal immigrants gathering at a U-Haul dealer looking to get hired for the day. Supposedly this is becoming a problem in more and more cities across the country; I keep hearing more about it and the trouble it brings to the unfortunate neighboring establishment. Seems to me like an obvious clue for police to check for ID on these fools, but I guess the civil liberties chicken littles would get up in arms about that. Oh, and the sanctuary city crap.

But a quote in there is too funny/stupid (you decide which) to pass up. Check this out:
Tom Wilson, co-executive director of the Canal Alliance, an agency that provides assistance to local laborers, says he has received about a dozen complaints about the U-Haul company's sign.

"The tack they're taking is a particularly troubling one," Wilson said. "They're painting illegal day workers as criminals, making generalizations about a group of people."
Okay, let's repeat that last sentence with some emphasis added. "They're painting illegal day workers as criminals, making generalizations about a group of people." So they're making the generalization that people doing something illegal are indeed criminals? Gosh, no! This Mr. Wilson clearly isn't the brighest bulb in the room. Perhaps he should do himself a favor and check a dictionary next time before he spits out more garbage like that.

But since he's probably doesn't do anything too well except parrot BS to the rest of us, let's do it for him this time. As per

il-le-gal: adj. Prohibited by law.
crime: n. An act committed or omitted in violation of a law forbidding or commanding it and for which punishment is imposed upon conviction.
crim-i-nal: n. One that has committed or been legally convicted of a crime.

Now, in light of those common definitions, perhaps someone can explain to me how this leftard can say illegal workers aren't criminals. Anyone? Didn't think so. But hey, at least blowhards like Tom Wilson reveal their true intelligence when they speak. Maybe less people will listen to them and their cause will suffer. We can hope.

As a final note, "about a dozen" complaints is no big deal at all the way I see it. Certainly nothing to go changing a sign over. They probably see at least that many whiners come through their doors daily. So the offendees need to just suck it up and realize the world doesn't cater to their views. Most of us learned that at an early age; time to catch up, losers.

u2 concert

Finally made it to a U2 concert last night. So mark that one off the list of things to do in life. Great show, as one would expect from U2. The light string stuff was cool and the walkway into the floor crowd is something every other band needs to catch on to. Some of the songs I didn't recognize, but for the most part I knew them--always helps at an arena concert where the distortion obscures the music a bit. The best would have to be either Sunday Bloody Sunday or Bullet the Blue Sky (which were played back to back), with City of Blinding Light and Where the Streets Have No Name probably in that tier too.

However, I had expected much more from a U2 show so I actually left somewhat disappointed. I suspect the seating had a lot to do with it; we were much farther from the band than I had imagined and the sound quality in our section was poor. Worst of all, the people around us were by far the lamest concert crowd I've ever had the displeasure of being around. They treated it like some sort of sports event, leaving their seats often for beer, restroom breaks, or any number of other reasons during the show. Amazing...that's the first time I've ever seen that. And most of them just stood there like statues during much of the show too. Those fools paid lots of money to do the same thing they could have done listening to the radio. At least we had some drunks behind us to keep the energy level up a little, but come on. It's a rock concert, people! So from now on, at U2 shows and perhaps those of similar bands, the floor is the place to be. That's where the action and the real fans are. If I go to another I'll likely plunk down huge piles of dough beforehand to make sure I get the right tickets.

Also, the hours leading up to the music confirmed that scalpers are the lowest form of human life currently disgracing our planet. I don't know that I've ever despised anyone as much as those thieves who kept going through the ticket line (unless they pushed in at the front, which they often tried but rarely succeeded in doing) and soaking up seats that would have otherwise gone to actual U2 fans. There weren't a lot of tickets being released and the timing and ticket types were random, so one could only hope to be at the right place in line when the desired ticket became available. Thus scalpers in the line hurt the chances of the rest of us to get the tickets we wanted. Plenty of us were holding out for only floor tickets; I might have snapped if I saw scalpers get their hands on some of those. We didn't get floors but we at least had a pair of tickets beforehand so we were still able to get in. Plenty of fans waited hours in line and didn't even get to see the show. I did hear one guy mention that he'd never seen so few floor tickets released on the day of a U2 show.

So, all in all a good show and probably even worth the exhorbitant price of admission ($110 apiece), but I know what to do to make the next one the once-in-a-lifetime experience I was hoping for.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

for all you miers supporters

And I know some of you who read this blog every now and then are a risk to support her. Before you do check out what Paul Diegnan has to say. I haven't read most of them yet but the guy has dedicated several posts to her nomination and the myraid of problems with it. From what I've read he knows his stuff to. Nice to see a blogger take on the "heady" stuff and discuss the constitutionality angle of it.

In one post he makes a good point about how Bush's nomination of someone from within his own administration blurs the line between the branches of government and thus is on shaky ground with regard to separation of powers. While he makes a good case I'm not sure I agree with it. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of other reasons to choose from for opposing Miers. I don't at all support her nomination but I'm not sure I'd oppose it simply because she was working under Bush at the time of her nomination.

Wouldn't we expect a president to nominate someone he has great trust and confidence in? And wouldn't we also expect a president to surround himself with said people? On the latter we'd be rightfully concerned if he didn't. So it follows that several of his closest confidants who would agree with him on most matters are going to be associated with his administration in some way or another. The key here, I think, is the fact that she was actually employed in and had an official role in the executive branch. This is much different than someone who once worked with the president--Roberts is an example of a guy who worked for previous administrations but was not serving as such in an official capacity when he was nominated. But, of course, the same cannot be said for Miers. Therein lies a problem.

The more I think about it the more I think it's probably a good idea just to avoid this as a matter of precedent. Much like Washington's stepping down after two terms, it could be good practice for any president to avoid nominating those he's currently associated with. I guess before I make up my mind here I'd want to know a bit more of the history of nominations, such as when a similar scenario has arisen and what the results were for both the confirmation process and the judge's decisions on the Court. Something to research a little when I think about it and have the time I guess...

There are so many blog reviews that are worth reading. For a good start and plenty of links check out Malkin and reverse_vampyr.

UPDATE: A commenter at reverse_vampyr makes a very good comparison between Miers and Mike Brown, the former FEMA chief. Neither had any prior experience to qualify them for the job, neither had ever been in a position of such magnitude, both were cronies of Dubya before their selection, and on and on. And look how well Brown turned out. I don't expect Bush to ever really recover from the huge popularity slam Mike Brown and Co. dealt him. But, alas, he doesn't learn very well. The problem here is that the trouble will linger long after Bush has stopped torturing us with his endless cronyism and unfathomable stupidity. (Thankfully not too much longer since she's 60; if there's a silver lining here it's that she's old enough to have a shortened tenure.) O to have a conservative president...

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

sports and life

As usual I'm up too late. But allow me to throw out one more bit to think on. It occurred to me recently that everything--everything--in life can somehow be related through a sports analogy. Seriously. I've thought a bit about this and it's true. There's no situation that can't be equated to a hypothetical sports scenario. I would like to pursue this a lot more and hopefully I will some evening soon, but for now sleep is barely more important.

we have met the enemy and it is us

Awesome. Just found out today that I, as well as everyone else who works where I do, will have to go through diversity training. I used to laugh at the wacked companies that took the PC craze to such extremes but I guess I have to quit laughing now. Perhaps our work environment has somehow become too insensitive or unfriendly for one person at the entire place. Well, that'd be enough.

In a weird way I'm actually looking forward to this. I expect it to be funny, for one. I figure some of it will be on the edge of ridiculous to the point I can't help but laugh (just before I realize they're actually serious). It should also be interesting to see what some people think of as a pleasant work environment and the kinds of petty things people can find to be angry about. Best of all, though, I absolutely can't wait for the lunch table discussion that will be raging that day. Lunch is generally a highlight of my workday anyway and that could be one of the best yet. After that I don't think I'll be able to laugh without hurting for days.

A short bit on this whole sensitivity thing. If we want to be offended or upset we can dig hard enough to find some miniscule and otherwise meaningless corner of our world to cry about. When did being stung by something somebody said suddenly become so unbearable that we must remove all interesting or entertaining elements of discussion from our daily lives just to avoid the rare toe crunching? I mean, haven't people throughout history had to put up with stuff they didn't like? Maybe even words? But now we suddenly can't take it anymore. Never mind that people have learned to ignore this petty crap and deal with much more important things ever since God put us here. In today's enlightened age that just ain't cool.

Well, Jesse to the rescue. I have the idea to fix it all. Why don't we all just shut the heck up for the rest of our lives and never say a damn thing? Then everyone should be perfectly happy because they'll have nothing to be upset about, right? No deceptions, no jokes, no complaints, no whatever. Yeah, the world would be such a great place, eh? You're welcome.

Get over it people. It's called life. Bring on the training, baby!

and for your viewing pleasure...

...not. Had intended to put some pictures up here but Blogger refuses to upload them. I guess it doesn't want to work tonight--happens more often than I'd like. Maybe another time.

Monday, October 10, 2005

vacation wrap-up

Back from the west. Still in recovery mode from my red-eye flight back, but at least able to put a list of thoughts up here. Not much more though, so a quick good and bad round-up of whatever I think of will have to suffice. These are in no particular order, just whatever comes to mind first.

The good...
-- All of my flights were free of screaming kids! That's easily the most amazing thing that's ever happened to me. Unfortunately I've now used up all of my alloted good flights for this life and every flight from now on will be full of screamers.
-- The parks were great. Words are useless here; go look at a picture book. Or maybe I'll post a photo or two here someday.
-- The hiking was awesome too--the best hiking of my life without question. The views are unmatched; some reminded me of looking down from an airplane.
-- The weather was good. Could have been better on some days but no rainouts/snowouts/windouts the whole trip. Can't ask for much more than that.
-- We didn't drown in any flash floods. It's always good to finish a trip alive and in some of the canyons we would have been climbing for life if a thunderstorm came in. And it was actually getting kinda cloudy when we were in the Narrows at Zion.
-- I fulfilled one of my pre-trip requirements by doing something stupid and illegal. The Tower Bridge at Bryce Canyon was up a bit from the trail, maybe 50 feet or so up a scree field (a steep pile of washed-out rocks that offers little or no footing and is next to impossible to climb, not to mention somewhat dangerous to be on since it's so unstable). But like heck I was leaving without a picture of me up there so up I went. That half-hour excursion took almost all of my energy and probably contributed about 40,000 years worth of erosion to the rocks due to my starting small avalanches with every step. Those are a couple reasons there are threats of fines posted for people who hike off the trails. You're welcome, NPS.
-- Actually I had come close before that--on the Angel's Landing trail at Zion I climbed up a rather steep off-trail set of rocks with at least a few hundred feet of air on a couple sides. I had intended to stand up at the top but it was too windy and I'm barely smarter than that. But I probably make it out to be more dangerous than it really was and I'm not sure if it was illegal or not. But it sure didn't have the erosion impact that climbing the scree field did.
-- I actually got enough sleep each night. Wish I could do that here at home.
-- I lost a mere $10 or so in Vegas--much better than the $60-80 I had marked off as donations to the casinos. I didn't do any high-stakes stuff but hung around the video poker machines. I even managed to walk upon a machine with $13 in it and the employee I asked insisted it was rightfully mine since someone had abandoned the machine. That was my biggest catch of the weekend.
-- We had near-perfect weather for the Wheeler Peak summit hike at Great Basin. Good thing because that was probably the most grueling of the hikes, with at 2,900-ft elevation climb to over 13,000 ft. And the last 500 ft or so was back and forth up a steep incline that brought out my fear of heights a bit. But that also provided some extra motivation to hurry up and get to the top.
-- The Lehman Caves were great. Smaller than others but the detail and intricacy of the formations was amazing. Tim claimed Great Basin could have been made a national park solely on the basis of the Caves with no regard to any of the other impressive stuff around it. And having been in a few caves he probably speaks with some authority.
-- Tim was a good travel partner and knew his stuff on hiking and such. Probably kept me from a few injuries, fines, or other unpleasant things. Managed to choose some good trails to hike too.
-- Overall our hotel in Vegas, Circus Circus, was a nice place. Good room with a good view, good food for low buffet prices, big casino with lots of machines. The location was a bit far from the upscale resort types but that'd be a bit much to ask from one of the cheapo places on the Strip.
-- The Stratosphere Tower was great. The observation deck was cool and the rides were stupid awesome. The first ride on the Big Shot (up-and-down tower with open-air seats on the sides so your legs can swing free at 1,000 ft or so above the Strip) is some kind of rush, something between max thrill and deathly fear. (Hey kids, did you know that's the same kind of S&S Sports tower as the one that fell over at Cedar Point some years back? And it gets windy up there atop the Strat. Good thing I never made that connection while riding.)
-- These Strat rides deserve a separate entry each. They're that good. The Insanity (spin in circles while hanging out over the edge) was cool and offered easily the best straight-down views, but I wish it could have been faster. It spun with about the speed of a good county fair ride, but had they spun it harder the seats would have swung out more and us riders would have been looking straight ahead at the ground below. Now THAT would have been the ride to end all rides.
-- The X-Scream (basically a coaster car that goes back and forth on a short track pivoted on one end) was the scariest. I managed to get a front seat, i.e., one with a nice view of the hundreds of feet of open air below, both times I rode and that made all the difference. The ride might not even be too great if one had to stare at the back of a seat instead of the ground below. It starts by lowering the far end so the car rolls out over the edge, but the catch is it brakes very hard at the end (throwing one forward in one's seat, just for that added element of terror I guess) instead of gradually and the front car even slides off the end of the track a bit. Yeah, that's intense. Overall it wasn't as thrilling as the Big Shot but the fear was all there and that's why it's the best flat ride on the planet so far.
-- Cirque de Soleil ruled. Almost two hours worth of high-flying circus acrobatics and cool music to boot. Even at $75 it was worth the price of admission. I should have bought a shirt...
-- I watched Jesse H. score big with a royal flush on a video poker machine. I'm sure that's the first and last time I'll see that in Vegas.
-- Not so related to the trip, but I missed the Bible study here. It's nice to be in a Bible study that actually matters enough that I notice when I don't attend. I wasn't at church any during the trip either but I didn't miss that as much. Just too busy with other stuff I guess? Or maybe I skip too many Sundays every now and then so it's not as unusual.
-- The bad stuff in Vegas wasn't as bad as I had expected. The card-handing people on sidewalks are easy to ignore and there weren't too many drunks when we were there (though they can be entertaining too). Yeah, there's plenty of bad stuff going on I'm sure, but it's not as out in the open as I had expected.

The bad (or not as good)...
-- The Virgin River was a not-so-warm 52 F when we hiked the Narrows. Not exactly great for swimming. And we had no choice but to wade through chest-high water at the beginning to keep going. I fell in a couple times (once while trying to pose like I was falling in; worked I guess) on accident and stupidly went under on purpose for no reason at all toward the end of the hike. My teeth were chattering most of the way back to the trailhead after that.
-- The first day of hiking at Bryce was a bit cold and very windy. Still probably the best full hiking day of the trip but I could have done without having to add and remove layers throughout the day.
-- I finally clawed and scratched my way to the Tower Bridge only to see that the other side (hidden from the trail) offered a shorter climb with much more solid footing. D'oh! At least I climbed back down easily.
-- Great Basin is out in the middle of nowhere. That part of Nevada reminded me of bus trips in Egypt through miles of barren, deserted land. Even the nearest hotel is almost 70 miles from the park, and on the t/f trips we'd pass maybe five cars. It's like another country out there or something. The bumper stickers that claim US-50 in Nevada is the loneliest highway in the country are probably accurate.
- I didn't do as much in Vegas as I had hoped. Part of that was due to a wacky sleep schedule that had us staying up until 3 am or later each night. And we seemed to have a lot of down time there too. So I only saw the streetside cool stuff at Treasure Island (pirate battle that was impressive but a little risque) and the Mirage (volcano that could be better). Plenty of such attractions to see next time.
-- The only casino drinks I had sucked. I was actually looking forward to getting free hard stuff just for being in the right place but I didn't even get any of those. (I was busy playing poker each time it was offered and didn't want to drink too much while spending money. Could have been bad on the bank account.) The cheap margaritas we bought were nothing more than lemon-lime slushes. Or so they tasted, and I even watched the guy put alcohol in one of mine. Or so I that I think of it, there's no telling what that stuff was. I guess the rule here is to get good drinks one must play in the good casinos.
-- Circus Circus was too far north on the strip. We did a lot of walking and never even made it to south-end casinos like Luxor and Excalibur. And the hike to the Stratosphere Tower on the north end was even a bit far, but that's Stratosphere's fault for building so freakin' far from any other casino. Fools.
-- The High Roller, Strat's coaster that I hoped would be one of the world's greatest, was perhaps the lamest non-kiddie ride I've ever been on. No speed, G's, or heights (it's too far in on the building so you're never close to the edge while riding) to provide any thrill. Heck, the indoor observation deck with its slanted windows one could lean on was scarier than that pile of twisted metal. Terrible, easily the biggest disappointment in Vegas.
-- Dropped $75 on a Cirque de Soleil ticket. A great show, but...seventy-five dollars. Smack. Could have been worse though.
-- Brian didn't make the trip. At least one of Jesse's and Teri's friends came along to give us an even number of people, but come on. Play poker and freefall from the side of the Strat, or stare at a computer screen? Loser!
-- Twelve freakin' dollars for a half hour of internet time at the Circus Circus business center? Cut me a break. That alone pissed me off enough to perhaps prevent me from staying there again on my next trip out.
-- Trails here in the east and in Arkansas might suck now. It's like riding a world-class coaster and then riding what would have been a good one had you not ridden one that's so much better. So for really good hiking I may have to fly across the states.
-- I never played the Cash for Life machines at Bally's. The payout on those is a grand a week for the rest of one's life. I could handle that. So what if the odds are about infinity to one?
-- Some of the outfits, especially those of the casino waitresses, didn't leave much to the imagination. I expected this though. Wait, shouldn't this be in the good list? Just kidding.

The lessons learned...
-- Traveling out west rocks. Outdoors vacations seem to be my thing so I need to do that more often.
-- Stay in Vegas during the week, not on weekends. Hotel prices are too high and crowds are too heavy.
-- Plan trips as much as possible ahead of time. They're less stressful that way and more time is allowed for just chilling out that would otherwise be spent on organizing the next activity.
-- Travel with someone who knows enough and does all the planning!
-- Get a Vegas hotel closer to the middle of the Strip.
-- Play in the high-dollar casinos where the payouts, drinks and surroundings are better.
-- Play the longer odds for bigger money. Playing it safe only guarantees one will lose, just that much slower. Playing big at least allows a chance to get something.
-- Position oneself better to get free drinks.

I'm sure there's more but that should do for now. Perhaps I'll add more later on. Maybe some pictures too. Overall a good trip that I'd do again regardless of how much it ends up costing. Time to plan some more of these things...

Saturday, October 01, 2005

victim of my own stupidity

Well, since I'm up, I'll point out to anyone reading that I have to get up in about two hours to catch my flight and I'm not sleeping yet. For anyone who knows me this is no surprise at all. But hopefully I'll be able to recover on the flight...

...Not. I'll be going on very little rest, and sick at that with what seems to be some sort of cold. How's that for perfect timing? Haven't been sick in years and yet when I'm about to go on vacation... Just to get that extra few minutes of sleep I will be cutting it close and with any unexpected problems I could need a miracle to be on board when the plane leaves. And worst of all, it's an absolute certainty for all of my flights that I'll be trapped next to a screaming kid or five. Never, ever fails, and that's not gonna change in the next 24 hours.

Forget trying to be nice or evangelizing to people or otherwise being pleasant. I'm going to have to do everything I can just to avoid flipping out and killing people. Today could easily be the worst day of my life.

(I would throw in a joke here about what might happen but I'd hate for the homeland security folks to read it and drag me off to jail. You know, gotta keep an eye on us white American males; such a history of terrorism we have. But at least nabbing me might let them go after a real terrorist and keep the leftards at bay. "Look, we arrested a white guy too!")