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February 2001 Archives

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February 28

Tonight, the first episode of Silver Screen Test aired. A few months ago, I showed Spike our daughter some tapes of the program Local Quizine, a general trivia contest I hosted some years back. She noted that I looked different (I didn't have a mustache then) and sounded different. She even asked to watch the tapes a few more times. Tonight she got bored after ten minutes. These days she badgers me to quiz her on U.S. geography in our idle time such as eating, bathing, and blow-drying hair. She asked me to quiz her again during Silver Screen Test and I told her I was already asking questions on the television program. Spike said she didn't want to hear movie questions from me on the TV, she wanted geography questions from me now. She did perk up whenever I mentioned a U.S. city or state in a question. Congratulations to Spike Bowden for being the first winner on Silver Screen Test.

February 27

In the XFL, the San Francisco Demons of Pacific Bell Park originally were slated to play at Spartan Stadium on the campus of San Jose State University as the San Jose Demons. Vince McMahon didn't need to change the nickname and the Las Vegas Outlaws are the only XFL nickname not readily transportable. I pondered odd couplings of existing cities and nicknames, using only Major League Baseball, NFL, NBA, NHL, and MLS and came with the following list:

10. Minnesota Heat. Yah, for two weeks in August.

9. Kansas City Mariners. The only way the Royals could have signed A-Rod. Hey, at least we can identify Japanese fishing vessels.

8. Columbus Phillies. Despite the obvious association with the City of Brotherly Love, once can mishear this combination and think it refers to the more transferable female horses. Despite the disparagements of traditionalists who dislike nicknames like Raptors, Wild, and Metrostars, they came up with this stupid nickname more than a hundred years ago. When the Oilers settled in Nashville, they could have discarded the name Titans and called themselves the Tennessee Tennies.

7. San Diego Redskins. In this politically correct era, Redskins doesn't sound good with any city, even Washington. Maybe here, the name can refer to sunburn.

6. Nashville Yankees. You'll probably find exiled New Yorkers in Tennessee as well. You find them everywhere. By the way, the Bombers have a farm team in the Florida State League called the Tampa Yankees.

5. Ottawa Texans. Since the Houston Texans NFL team is an inevitability I counted them. Canada's national capital used to house the CFL Ottawa Rough-Riders (please remember the hyphen) which sound sort of like Texans.

4. Atlanta Canucks. Just tell everyone it's a more politically correct term for "cracker".

3. Los Angeles Lakers. That's not the Pacific Ocean, dude, just a really big lake.

2. Utah Jazz. Sports urban legends say that ownership was too cheap to redesign new uniforms nd logos for the move from New Orleans. Who can forget that segment during hour 16 of Ken Burns' Jazz about the Salt Lake City blues scene? Many have suggested the exchange of the Utah and the good Los Angeles teams' nicknames.

1. San Antonio Canadiens. This is the only combination I could come up with worse than the two existing chimeras at #2 and #3. New owner George Gillett of Colorado could come close if he moved the Habs to his home state in Pueblo.

February 26

As baseball tries to implode itself again, sports reporters start taking sides. On The Sports Reporters, a daily radio show on SportsTalk 980 in Washington (not to be confused with the weekly television show on ESPN), Michael Wilbon and Andy Pollin took the position that a good nuclear destruction would be good for both sides. Steve Czaban took the owners' side on the basis that,"It's time for the owners won for a change." This makes about as much sense as saying,"The Cubs will win the pennant this year, because its time the Cubs won for a change." The Cubs will win the pennant when they have good talent and good luck, not because it's time for a change. The owners will win a labor conflict when they have strength on their side. In Lords of the Realm, John Helyar documents time and time again that the owners have rarely bargained from strength and never had competent strategy on their side.

The owners need revenue sharing badly, but they don't require the players permission to do that. If I were commissioner, I would impose revenue sharing by fiat. If they tried to stop me, I would relocate teams or put expansion teams in the big markets, to suck away their revenue. At that point, they owners would fire me, but I'll know I was right.

The reporters claimed that any semblance of fiscal responsibility on the part of the owners would be construed as collusion. Everyone forgets that collusion in 1985-1988 was as subtle as WWF Raw is War. Peter Ueberroth stood in front of the owners like John Houseman in The Paper Chase, openly escoriating miscreants before their fellow owners. They needed this kind of discipline because the owners never trusted each other. If the owners trusted each other enough to pull off stealth collusion, the owners could more easily draw themselves up a real revenue sharing plan.

As Gary Sheffield and Frank Thomas whine about their contracts, most of the other players cringe. Curt Schilling had it right in a recent ESPN column. He said that the players should get Don Fehr to announce that the players are willing to accept the status quo. It would be a wonderful public relations move and put the owners on the defensive.

February 25

Went to see unnamed persons at an undisclosed locatin. On the way at a place called Scaggsville Road (yes, there really is such a place), our right front tire went flat. Fortunately, we stopped right in front of a house with a lot of cars in the driveway. We don't have a cell phone yet. I figured that a place that seemed to be having a party would be less wary of a strange female coming to the door for help. They were as nice as could be. They weren't having a party, but a regular Saturday family gathering. AAA said help would take an hour to arrive. Instead, some men from the house came out and put on our doughnut spare. These were the sweetest people in the world.

We arrived late for our dinner reservation at a place called Baldwin's Station in Sykesville, Maryland. The restaurant owners renovated the Sykesville rail terminal, originally built in the 1880s. Although passenger trains no longer stop there, the freight line still rumbles through. An extension to the restaurant consists of a heated tent with clear plastic walls. The trains came by, seemingly just inches outside the shower curtain that separated them from dinner patrons. We ate inside what may have been the women's waiting area. He believes that in that time, blacks didn't ride the train at all except as porters. However, there may have been separate gentlemen and ladies waiting areas.

I ate a nice marinated salmon. Mary had scallops, with several Italian trappings - penne, dried tomato and pine nuts. They topped it with parmesan cheese, which she can't stand. She sent it backed and asked for one without the parmesan, which they delivered relatively quickly. SHe enjoyed her meal as well.

The restaurant had their seafood supplier wandering from to table to table answering questions about their seafood. He helpfully provided information about some unusual fish on the menu as well as assuring us about the freshness of the catch. However, much of the group discussion at dinner centered around the architecture. I though an architecture docent would be more helpful than a seafood one.

And the car isn't stil running on that doughnut spare. I bought a new tire this morning.

February 24

My English Premier League team, Sunderland, plays in the stadium with the best name in the world - The Stadium of Light. Miners of the area carried with them a Davy Lamp when they worked the coal. Unfortunately, we probably won't christen our arenas and stadiums with something similar in North America. The increased revenue from corporate naming rights is just too seductive. But wouldn't it be great if a New York team played in the Stadium of Liberty or a Washington team in the Hall of Justice? You can probably think of a better one yourself.

Meanwhile, I hear Boston is considering selling naming rights to their subway stations. Here in the Washington area, commuters have long wanted a new span for I-95 over the Potomac. The current Woodrow Wilson Bridge rides too low over the water, requiring a drawbridge that halts traffic whenever a ship wants to come through. Construction is underway on a wider span, but it still requires a drawbridge. I think the highway authorities should raise money for a proper suspension bridge by selling naming rights. Imagine the revenue that could be raised and the advertising value on traffic reports for the AOL Bridge.

February 23

Lately, we've been reading The Rhyme Bible to Spike as her bedtime story. It breaks up both the Old and the New Testament into 35 separate little rhyming stories. The poem from Mark 4 describing when Jesus calms the Sea of Galilee from his boat is entitled "The Storm." As the rhyme describes the waves I invariably start to sing it to the tune of "The Ballad of Gilligan's Island". Spike tells me to stop. We've promised to explain this compulsion to her when we have more time.

February 22

I finally got the schedule for the airing of the first episode of Silver Screen Test. Here are the air dates:
Wednesday, February 28, 6:30 pm
Saturday, March 3, 12:30 pm
Monday, March 5, 4:30 pm
Friday, March 9, 8:30 pm
Tuesday, March 13, 12:30 pm
Wednesday, March 14, 6:30 pm
Tuesday, March 20, 10:00 pm
Thursday, March 22, 10:00 am
The programs will appear on the Open Channel in Montgomery County, Maryland, Selector Channel 49, Cable Ready Channel 23, and Upgrade Channel 19.

We got snow today. The drive taking Spike home took just a little bit longer up Tori Amos Pike. I only slipped once when a moron cut into my lane. Thank goodness for small favors.

February 21

The first rule on writing about baseball for the Internet: When in doubt, pick on Peter Gammons. Let's take this sentence from Baseball America and

"Disregard anything when someone tries to argue range factor."

First of all, it's lousy English. It should be,"Disregard anything about range factor." But I will make the assumption that the statement opposes range factor.

Secondly, the sentence makes no constructive criticism or alternative. Gammons expects you to believe him, just because he says so. Sorry, Peter. That only works for religious leaders and totalitarian dictators.

Granted there are problems with range factor. For those you who don't know, it's a measure of fielding ability: (A+PO)/G. Some fielders don't play entire games because they are lifted for pinch hitters, or because they come in as defensive substitutes. Range factor underestimates their value. The obvious alternative is to get actual innings in the field and calculate successful chances per nine innings.

My guess is Gammons probably relies more on anecdotal observations than statistics. Players who look good fielding, must be good fielders. This is as convincing an argument as selecting great hitters based on how good their swing looks instead of how many home runs they hit. But I've managed to wrangle six paragraphs on straw man Peter Gammons so I'll stop right here until I run out of ideas again.

February 20

Comcast finally added Toon Disney to the channel lineup in our neighborhood. This means I can watch Gummi Bears with my breakfast, just like I used to watch it while brushing my teeth ten years ago. Originating in 1985, this animated series features a family of six bears, hidden away in a fantasy kingdom dominated by humans. To most, the bears are only myths, except to the handful of people who know of their existence. Created in an anti-violence era, the Gummi Bears handle most physical conflicts by drinking the magic gummiberry juice, enabling them to bounce away from danger. For adults, the attraction of the Gummi Bears is their quirky humor. My favorite episodes premiered their second season. In the first program, one of the bears carelessly leaves a soapy mess in their dwelling, but promises to clean it up himself. However, when the job takes too long, he tricks the wizard of the group into casting a speed spell. Though the clean-up finishes quickly, he soon suffers the side effects, not too different from a human on amphetamines. In my mind, this program was a more effective anti-drug statement than any "Just Say No" campaign. In the other episode, a bounty hunter character does a dead-on parody of Clint Eastwood. Somehow the bears never caught on. I occasionally find another cult lover, and have even created a few converts of my own to the fan club.

February 19

Adam Fine, director of the NAQT Mid-Atlantic tournament the previous weekend, suggested that the history of the University of Maryland quiz competition should be written. Of course, I was there at the beginning.

Twenty-one years ago this week, we won our first regional championship. We arrived Friday afternoon at the University of Pittsburgh. Three of my teammates and our coach strolled the streets of Pittsburgh while Robert Whaples and I stayed in our rooms. That afternoon, the U.S. hockey team defeated the Soviet Union in the famous Lake Placid "Miracle on Ice". We also stayed because members of the Pittsburgh College Bowl team were coming back to pick up our buzzer system and install it the appropriate room. When the hockey game aired that evening, the results were known to those who bothered to listen to the radio. While Whaples and one of the Pitt members went next door to get the buzzer system in the other room, the remaining Pitt player mentioned to me that the U.S. won. After they left, Robert and I continued to watch the game. I told him that the U.S. won. Momentarily upset, Robert asked,"What does CCCP mean? Commie Commie Commie Pinko?"

The game went on and our teammates returned. When the Soviets took the lead, Whaples suggested a bet that the U.S. would win to our teammate Robert Saltzberg. Salztberg never took the bet. Townsend Reese was our resident hyperbolist. He said that we would win that weekend, overcome great odds like the U.S. hockey team. And that's my memory of that famous hockey game.

February 18

Right now Bernie Sanders' $300 tax cut plan sounds good. I'm a slightly left-of-center libertarian that would prefer the surplus to pay down the debt. But a tax cut is preferable to the temptation of Congress and the President to spend the windfall.

I have to admit I like the floating camera just behind the quarterback in the XFL. Otherwise, I really don't want to get that physically close to the players in an unedited context. I'll take the prepackaged NFL Films product any day. But I'd say the pundits writing the XFL's eulogy are overly premature. The Arena League found its audience in a package very different from the NFL. I still think the XFL will find better success than the Arena League just because of its broadcast television partner NBC and because its game is played outdoors on a hundred-yard field.

February 17

Martin Wooster gave me the February 13 profile on Peter Angelos from The Washington Post. Rush Limbaugh tells you the Post resides in the pocket of Bill Clinton, but that's Peter Angelos' lint on your morning paper in DC. All the positive comments they got were from his employees, his sons and Bud Selig. It's either an obvious whitewash or just transparent enough to make your own conclusions.

In 3000 Miles to Graceland, Kurt Russell reprises his 1979 Elvis TV movie, while Kevin Costner fires a longbow just like in Robin Hood, Prince of Thieves. The death throes of bankable stardom - self-parody. Expect K.C. to echo Waterworld next beside Kurt trying to resurrect the ashes of Captain Ron. Or maybe Kevin just wears a Mariners uniform.

February 16

Knossos came over and we discussed The Mother Tongue by Bill Bryson. Wendell Wagner describes it as a gee-whiz book. I would compare it favorably with Ken Burns - a decent general work with some minor oversights and errors. We discussed peculiar regional usage of words. We decried the abuse of terms like "decimate" no used to mean "destroy". Next month we read Weaveworld by Clive Barker.

February 15

In a recent episode of Gideon's Crossing, Dr. Bruce Cherry, played by Hamish Linklater, gets involved with a New Orleans nurse practictioner named Money Raspberry Dupree. Unfortunately, there are very few Gideon's Crossing web sites and apparently no fan sites, so I can't figure out who the actress is. As much as I love Gideon's Crossing, I wouldn't want to be friends with many of the characters, just like Homicide, another show creator Paul Attanasio worked on. Nurse Money Dupree is the new exception on Gideon's Crossing. I submit that part of the success of Buffy the Vampire Slayer stems from characters you'd like to know personally. In the months of limited outside contact just after Spike (our daughter, not the bleached-haired vampire) was born, Buffy, Xander, Willow and Giles were tantamount to close friends. I'm better now. I have a life. Knossos comes over tomorrow. I'll talk about something besides television.

February 14

Tori Amos grew up nearby in Rockville, Maryland. Whenever I drive on Rockville Pike, Route 355, I like to play Tori Amos if I have her tape in the car. This is comparable to playing Beach Boys along the California coast, or Bruce Springsteen on the New Jersey Turnpike.

February 13

Played a few rounds of the Buffy the Vampire Slayer game. The optimal strategy sounds like Judge Dredd, gather a whole bunch of cards and don't attack your opponent unless fully loaded. If you're a vampire, run away from Buffy very fast unless you can gang up on her. Oz is a bit of the wild card. Once he acquires cards, he turns into a werewolf, loses all his cards, then he just attacks the nearest enemy.

February 12

Took Spike out to what she calls the Dancing House, at Dave Choat and Diane Donaldson's house. Spike went to a birthday party on Saturday where here friend Catherine takes gymnastics lessons.

Saturday's NAQT tournament at Hopkins went very well, as did the simultaneous tournaments in the other parts of the country, as evidenced by the Yahoo! quizbowl board. Since NAQT wrote the questions, the hosting schools didn't have to worry about editing the packets. This suggests tournaments run more smoothly with experienced writers and editors and when the hosts devote their time with tournament logistsics.

February 11

Way back in 1976, the Miss America pageant frequently featured a segment where the hosts performed current pop songs, introduced with the tag line,"They don't write songs like they used to, they write them better." Bert Parks sang,"Let 'Em In," made popular by Wings. Behind him, three male dancers contorted in a fashion more appropriate to "Walk Like an Egyptian." For a generation of television viewers, the trauma of this scene compares to the assassination of President Kennedy or the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger.

February 10

Read questions at the NAQT Mid-Atlantic Sectional tournament at Johns Hopkins. I wore my sweatshirt with "The Scream" by Edvard Munch on it, and the word "Mondays". I read a question where the answer was "The Scream," keeping a straight face and neutral posture the entire time. Everyone had a good laugh after someone finally answered the question. One player admitted he stared at my shirt, observing the artwork's details as I described them in the question. He just couldn't recall its name.

February 9

Got the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Board Game as a gift. It makes assumptions similar to a card game I had rolling around in my mind, mainly that every game simulates one of the first four seasons. The good players try to stop that year's main villain: the Master, the Judge, the Mayor or Adam. The rules also have some ambiguities. I can't figure out how to get Harmony into the game. Of course, that sounds par for the course, a vampire so incompetent she can't make her way onboard. I think she's really supposed to a Season 4 minion for Adam.

Someone confessed to me his obsession with Temptation Island. I prefer MTV's Undressed for pointless titillation.

February 8

As Derek Jeter signed a big contrsct extension with the Yankees, I find his per year salary to be commensurate with A-Rod. Rob Neyer produced a brilliant de-mystifying of Jeter at I agree and think that Jeter is not in the same class with Alex Rodriguez or Nomar Garciaparra.

Jason Stark produced the following comparisons for the last four years:

Jeter 813
Garciaparra 791
Rodriguez 707

Jeter 290
Rodriguez 248
Garciaparra 190

Jeter 496
Rodriguez 467
Garciaparra 440

Rodriguez 451
Garciaparra 420
Jeter 329

Jeter leads in runs, but he's gotten on base more. He trails badly in RBIs. Are you willing to give up 91 RBIs in exchange for 56 runs, when compared to Garciaparra or 122 RBIs for 23 runs, in comparison to Rodriguez?

Home runs
Rodriguez 148
Garciaparra 113
Jeter 68

Total Bases
Garciaparra 1356
Rodriguez 1305
Jeter 1197

Jeter falls far behind in the power categories.

He'll probably get in the Hall of Fame based on his World Series rings, but he's this generation's Alan Trammell.

February 7

Our electrician installed our new range today. A contract plumber installed the dishwasher yesterday. From our experience, we recommend going to Lowe's for appliances. Their salespeople generally knew their material, as well as the delivery and installation procedures. Their prices are little bit higher, but you get fewer headaches.

February 6

Today is my wife's birthday. The dishwasher and range we ordered arrived. No, I did not buy a dishwasher and range for her birthday. We went out to dinner. In Montgomery County, Maryland, it's Thanksgiving in February. Participating restaurants contribute 10% of their profits to homeless charities tonight. And of course we had to have our Buffy-Angel fix. Night-night.

February 5

We regularly watch an Australian cop show called Water Rats. The show chronicles the adventures of the Sydney Water Police. Except for the accents and trademark boat chases, the program barely differs from American police dramas. Nine Network in Australia shows the program with commercials in a standard hour slot. A public television station in Fairfax, Virginia shows the program without commercials. So without the advertisements, Water Rats only lasts 45 minutes and feels like the fastest cop show on television.

We're trying to buy a dishwasher and a range. We tried to purchase them at Best Buy. Their salespeople were generally clueless on delivery and installation. We eventually went elsewhere. I don't recommend Best Buy for major appliances.

February 4

Watched some XFL last night. Other than the Washington Native Americans, I don't intently watch a lot of football. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, both college and pro games provide background noise to my weekend chores. The XFL announcers scream too loud and the perpetual motion cameras contribute to nausea. I'll watch in between changing tapes on Saturday nights.

People decry the XFL as minor-league, not as good as the NFL. Well, college football also isn't as good as the NFL, but they attract good audiences anyway.

As a fan primarily of baseball, soccer, and whitewater rowing, I reluctantly accept football as America's national pastime. The XFL should get, at the least, the television ratings numbers of the Arena League. Given that Vince McMahon showcases his product on a broadcast network, rather than on cable, the ratings should be better.

February 3

In the most recent episode of Star Trek: Voyager, a character talked about making up his own constellations and was rehabilitated from violence by an advanced procedure. This was just like Tara from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, who made up constellations that consisted of modern household objects. Also, Spike from Buffy can no longer hurt humans because of a special chip in his head, just like this prisoner from Voyager. Well, if the Trekmasters must steal, at least they crib from quality television. Stealing can't be any worse than most of the crap coming from the writers' word processors.

February 2

The NBA All-Star is scheduled for Sunday, February 11 at the MCI Center in Washington. At the Gallery Place-Chinatown Metrorail station, every display features the same surreal adidas Kobe Bryant ad. It's like he's a totalitarian dictator.

February 1

My English Premier League team Sunderland lost to Manchester United yesterday and slipped into 3rd place among the 20 teams in the top flight. A couple of weeks ago when the Black Cats were in 2nd place, manager Peter Reid said,"I'll settle for anywhere higher than the seventh position we ended up in last season."

Now can you imagine this sort of talk in the United States?

"Yes, Mr. Steinbrenner. I know we're in first place, but this is a rebuilding year and I'd just be happy to get into the playoffs as a wild card. I don't want our fans to be disappointed when we don't win the division...Yes, to both the Post and Daily News."

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Last revised March 1, 2001
© 2001 B. Barrientos