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January 2002 Archives

Links were checked and verified as active only in the month the Eucalyptus entry was published. Links outside the silverscreentest domain may be inactive from this archive.

January 31

Got a thanks and link today in Ginohn News for a report in USA Today highlighting Haiku Movie Reviews. Check Ginohn out yourself. I've copied more elements from them than they have from me. I find I only have time to interact with some of my friends through blogs these days.

January 30

Another day at home. Listening to the radio, a caller expressed outrage at the $30m a day spent fighting in Afghanistan, intimating that this amount could be better spent on education or fill in your own pet project depending on your inclination. I thought about it, but $30m a day is really not a lot of money. Thirty million dollars a day amounts to $11b per year. According to The National Center for Education Statistics, where my friend Bill Hussar works, $361b was spent on education in school year 1999-2000 at public institutions below the college level. Adding $11b would add just 3%, a drop in the bucket. Now if you believe that any funds now currently being spent on the military would be better spent on education, you're entitled to your opinion. But don't think that the war on terrorism makes a dent in the current situation.

January 29

Sick day. Felt like a combination of a fever and a stomach virus.

January 28

Driving Miranda home, we got stopped again for driving in the HOV lane. The nice county policeman apologized for not seeing the kid in the car seat. I told Miranda she needs to practice waving her arms around so that law enforcements officers can see her.

January 27

Finally took down the tree, what with sickness getting in the way the past few weeks. Yo Murphy runs back kicks and punts for the Rams. He was the most valuable player in NFL Europe or WLAF or whatever they were calling it for the championship game in 1996. That's the day Miranda was born. My sister was watching the game with her in-laws. Bea said,"When I have a child, I will call it Yo Atkinson." I've tried to hold her to this by calling my niece Victoria Yo on occasion.

January 26

While my wife and daughter were at a birthday party, I was in the library writing quiz questions. The present we got for the six-year-old birthday girl was something she already had, so she proceeded to spend a considerable amount of time sulking, like only a six-year-old can. Well, that's not quite true. I've seen people well into their sixties who can sulk with the best of them.

January 25

Bill James' plan to speed up baseball.

1. Limit unsuccessful throws to bases by pitchers to two per inning. Further unsuccessful throws are balls.

2. Strictly enforce the timeout rule for batters. I'm amazed that umpires allow a batter to call time when the pitcher is in his windup. I would prevent the batter from calling time after the pitcher has gone into his set position, even if he's being attacked by a bee.

3. Limit time between innings to a minute and a half. I have no problem with ads behind home plate and other means for sneaking in ads,"This beef with the umpire has been brought to you by Omaha Beef."

4. Move the batters box back four inches from home plate.

5. Make the minimum bat circumference 1.2 inches.

6. Limit mid-inning pitching changes to once per game. Also allow for injuries and if the pitcher has allowed a run. This is the only one I have a serious disagreement with. In time, a smart manager will simplify the bullpen and not make so many changes.

January 24

On this week's Enterprise, Hoshi recounted a penpal from Australia in her youth. Didn't you guys have the Internet? There could be people from anywhere in the world reading this right now. Kids are exchanging e-mails with other kids from across the globe. Assuming that those really are kids and not pedophiles posing as kids.

January 23

Saw an interesting angle on Enron from Holman W. Jenkins Jr in The Wall Street Journal. He blames the incentives of modern capitalism. "If you didn't judge my performance by my company's stock price, then I wouldn't have to cook the books."

January 22

Had an unpleasant pharmaceutical experience with Target yesterday. Last Thursday, I got an antibiotic prescription refilled from them. I didn't notice until Friday night that the medicine expired on January 1, 2002. I called the pharmacy and they explained that it was good until the end of the month. I refused to believe this since there was an unmistakeable "1" in the date. The pharmacy did not have any more in stock, but promised to have some by Monday afternoon. They also told me not to stop taking the medicine and interrupt the effectiveness of the treatment. So, I came in on Monday, demanding my replacement, unexpired prescription. Now they told me they couldn't give another prescription since there were no more refills left and I had used up what they had given me. Remember, they're the ones who told me to keep taking the expired medicine. At this point, I told them I was unsatisified, since I had paid for what I considered an invalid product. So they promised to give me my money back. So I stood in line for half an hour, only to find that I could only get a merchandise exchange since I didn't have a receipt. Well listen you morons at Target, I would have brought the receipt if I had known I wasn't going to get my prescription! At any rate, I'm never going back to Target for prescriptions. I'm telling you not go to them either and watch out for expiration dates wherever you get your prescriptions.

January 21

Another "home day," as Miranda would describe it. We baked chocolate cookies, some of it for our neighbor's kids for shoveling on Saturday. At this early stage, it looks like Pittsburgh and St. Louis for the Super Bowl, with the Steelers looking stronger. According to the Super Bowl indicator, this means the Dow will go up this year. Only two wins by the Patriots would send the DJI down.

January 20

I did not see the end of last night's Raiders-Patriots game. The replay sure looked like a fumble by Brady to me. Many media said the rule was interpreted correctly, but the rule should be changed. I shoveled the driveway and walk again after the dusting last evening. By afternoon, the snow had mostly melted.

January 19

Got our expected snow, about two inches worth. Our next-door neighbors, the Abrahams, their three kids helped shovel our sidewalk and driveway. Watched a little bit of Michael Jordan's return to Chicago. The Bulls really are pathetic. The Wizards will exceed last year's win total as I expected, but by a lot more than I expected. We kept our bedroom shades up, hoping to find some wildlife in the woods. The forest glows eerily in the darkness with snow on the ground.

January 18

Now Bud Lite says Washington is the prime candidate to get a team through relocation, probably in 2003. I'll believe it when I see it, like when logos are released and Vladimir Guerrero models the new uniform. Officially, MLB has permitted 29 teams to release their schedules. Guess which one's missing? MLB has left themselves an escape hatch. Given enough pressure Bud Lite will have the Expos do what both the Braves and the Brewers did - relocate during spring training.

January 17

Carolyn Lewis, a former boss of mine, passed away on Monday of pancreatic cancer. Her obituary will be at the Washington Post for another two weeks. Technically, she wasn't my immediate supervisor, but two levels above me. Carolyn was everything you could have wanted from a manager at that level, completely supportive. I'm sure the entities which she served after she retired from our agency wil sorely miss her.

January 16

Word is that MLB will run the Expos for the 2002 season. I've got an even better idea. Why not buy back every team? No need to deal with pesky big market owners who don't want to share their revenue because - there aren't any team owners! And owners won't bid up the price of free agents because there will only be one buyer! It's all legal because baseball is a government-sanctioned monopoly. I've even got a name for this structure. I call it single entity. It's a lot like ... oh yeah ... the MLS structure. Look at them, they contracted two teams and nobody made a big fuss about it.

January 15

So we welcome two Floridians to our coaching ranks in town. After Ray Hudson comes Steve Spurrier. It turns out the illustration below was premature, not wishful thinking. I just wonder if Danny Boy won't get an itchy trigger finger again if this team isn't in the playoffs at the end of the 2003 season.

January 14

The guy in the next urinal over was peeing with one hand on a cell phone. Aren't there laws against talking on a cell phone while peeing? What is so darned important that it couldn't wait until you got out of the bathroom before you talked on the phone?

January 13

Went to see Amélie with John, Gina, Jenny, Kory and a bunch of folks who I don't remember because they didn't go the New Deal Cafe afterwards. At the New Deal we saw Wendell who ate with us.

It's a nice romantic comedy. The weird people are sufficiently eccentric. I wonder how much this fictional Paris of 1997 and the one I hear on Borderline resembles the real one. The reviews describe the star Audrey Tautou as an Audrey Hepburn, but think she's more like Michelle Forbes cutened up. One of the most difficult tasks of a romantic comedy is keeping the couple apart till the end. This film dragged a little as you wanted the slap the main character silly to wake her up.

January 12

Next year the NFL will go to four division in each conference. All four teams in the same division will play an identical schedule of the three other teams in the division twice, all the teams in a division in the other conference, and all the teams in a division in the same conference. The only difference will be two additional conference games with teams that finished in the same position last year. There will be four division winners and two wild-card teams in the playoffs. I submit that divisions which are paired constitute a sub-conference or super-division that ought to be a separate bracket fo the conference. Take this example:

Division   Champion             Runner-Up
NFC West   St. Louis       13-3 San Francisco 12-2
NFC North  Chicago         12-2 Green Bay     11-5
NFC East   Philadelphia    11-5 Washington    10-6
NFC South  Tampa Bay       10-6 New Orleans    9-7
Assume that no other teams are in the running for the play-offs. Under the current scheme, San Francisco and Green Bay qualify as wild cards. The Packers visit Philadelphia and the 49ers go to Tampa in the first round. However, what if the West played the North and the East played the South? Assume also that the rest of the West and the North are really bad this year. Green Bay then qualifies for the playoffs by playing a bad schedule. It might make more sense for the West-North group to have only one wild card, and the same for East-South. In my plan, St. Louis and Philadelphia draw byes. The Rams play the winner of San Francisco-Chicago, the Eagles the winner of Washington-Tampa Bay. My premise for this scheme is that the two divisions that play each other have a similar schedule and therefore should constitute separate brackets of the conference.

January 11

Kim Stanley Robinson characterizes capitalism as a Ponzi scheme in his Locus. Realize that the following opinion comes from a professional regulator. Any economist can tell you Robinson's characterization assumes a zero-sum game, which doesn't necessarily exist. However, both democracy and capitalism require nurturing. You can't just dump the U.S. Constitution on a fledgling democracy and say,"Here, it worked for us, it'll work for you." Although generally majorities rule a democracy, the protections of the Constitution exist for minorities of whatever flavor. In the same way, unfettered capitalism likely results only in corruption. The courts need to enforce contracts. The regulatory agencies need to be clean and dependable. Of course, monopolies also need to be restrained. So the free marketeers can't just take the attitude that a rising tide will raise all the boats. Sometimes there's a lock or a dam blocking the water.

January 10

DC United got lucky. A few hours after the Miami Fusion folded, the red and black picked up their coach Ray Hudson. He'll be very colorful and attract a lot of attention to the team from those not normally interested in soccer.

Michael Moorcock wrote in a letter to Locus that Tolkien didn't influence his work much. He says,"I suspect time will show that The Lord of the Rings has about as much effect on the history of literature as Gone with the Wind." Although I don't feel quite as strongly, I generally agree. My degree of difference is that The Lord of the Rings had a much more significant effect on academia than Gone with the Wind." While Tolkien built a world and languages, Mitchell crystallized a mythology for the South, but did not invent it from whole cloth.

But back to Moorcock's premise. Other than Star Wars or Wizards, I can't think of any subsequent work that built on The Lord of the Rings, rather than repeated it or rehashed it. The Forever War built on Starship Troopers. Even Conan was the counterpoint used by Delany in his Neveryon series of anti-fantasies. Middle-Earth is an inherently conservative utopia. If you agree with him, if you worship him, you can't possibly create something better, since it is inherently perfect to you. If you disagree, then Middle-Earth is irrelevant.

Perhaps the reason Tolkien only has imitators is because he comes from a peculiarly upper-class dislike for the industrial age and longing for more agrarian times. Subsequent writers have been from lower classes and taken either a libertarian or socialist angle.

January 9

The baseball writers elected Ozzie Smith to the Hall of Fame yesterday, but gave Alan Trammell only 15.7% of their votes. If Jeter goes into the Hall then, Trammell should go also. Maybe I should call Jeter the Millennium Trammell to remind people of the similarity. Every shortstop who has won more Gold Gloves than Trammell, falls far short of him in the hitting department.

After I reached work, a freak ice storm hit Montgomery County. The public schools suddenly delayed opening for elementary and middle schools, then closed them. All I faced was the unmelted ice left on my upsloping driveway.

Steve Spurrier in a Washington visorJanuary 8

Dan Snyder is still pursuing Spurrier. Here's an illustration from the Sports Logos Board with Stevie in a Washington visor. I suspect Spurrier will go to another team just to watch a short, rich, young man squirm.

January 7

It was still snowing in Germantown when I left for work this morning. Strangely, the snow was still on the ground when I came home. There were small tracks in my driveway snow from either a cat or a fox. The local kids were disappointed since the schools opened on time.

January 6

A massive downpour drenched Williamsburg. As we walked down the steps outside the condo, rain poured down from off the eaves as we took our bags out to our car. With some observation I realized that the Fairfield at Kingsgate resort in Williamsburg has no gutters! The facility is not designed with Colonial authenticity. Heck, even the Gothic cathedrals had gargoyles at the corners. When we returned the keys, I mentioned the lack of gutters to the guy behind the front desk. He was on the phone and just shook his head with a dumb smile. So while Fairfield at Kingsgate has many amenities, there are no gutters. You will get wet.

Rain poured hard the entire trip home. Fog hung over the road, limiting visibility and speed. By the time we reached Upper Montgomery County, the rain turned to snow. Tomorrow I will enjoy not brushing snow off my car because it's in the garage.

January 5

Victoria and Miranda managed to have the slumber party last night and still get to sleep at a reasonable hour.

I got up to exercise at the fitness center at 7:30. With the facility to myself, I walked twenty minutes on the treadmill and did seven weight exercises. ESPN reported that Steve Spurrier resigned at Florida for the purpose of going to the NFL. Maybe now Snyder will pursue him.

Whitlock, Miranda and I went out to Carolina Furniture. Mary and I had our conventional argument. She likes country French, living in an England or France that never existed. I lean more toward tasteful contemporary styles. Leave it to her to marry a straight man who actually cares about furniture. Maybe we'll compromise at slightly ornate styles. Although she'd like a canopy bed, they always reminded me spookily of movies where people died of consumption. Maybe I'm thinking of the bed where George Washington died at Mount Vernon. I'll take a poster bed where the finials are carved animals. Right now, I'd like a triceratops, wooly mammoth, koala, and ray.

Dinner was at a place specializing in prime rib, but offering the spectrum of American fare. I had a beef and penne dish.

Mary and Miranda went to the pool. They had it all to themselves for more than an hour. Miranda is a natural water baby.

January 4

Left today for a weekend trip to Williamsburg. My parents hold a timeshare at a various resorts. They prefer to go to the Fairfield at Kingsgate. My parents and my sister's family share a four-room suite while my family stay in the adjoining two-room suite.

At Fredericksburg, we stopped to buy gas where prices had dropped below a dollar a gallon. Gas price web sites said prices plunged below 90 cents in December, but climbed since then.

Around six inches blanketed Southern Virginia yesterday. Just north of Richmond, the trees and grass held snow, but the roads remained clear. The entire group ate dinner at a nearby Chinese restaurant with a Mongolian barbeque and all-you-can-eat buffet. Snow removal units hadn't cleared the parking lots very well. A cobblestone section of the entrance to the resort complex sported a treacherous patch of ice. In Washington, we consider this amount significant, but not paralyzing. It paralyzes Southern Virginia and makes Washingtonians almost smug. The kids kept mostly quiet during dinner by watching video of Chinese dancing girls.

AFterwards, we shopped at Ukrops, an upscale supermarket based in Richmond. The selection was fantastic. The prices were too high for regular weekly shopping but I wished we such a store in the Washington area to shop at maybe once a month.

January 3

Word is Danny Snyder wants to hire Bobby Beathard as general manager as a prelude to eventually firing Marty Schottenheimer. I think the game has passed Beathard by. If Snyder wants a big name to coach his team, how about looking a little further north in Prince George's County at Ralph Friedgen? Even if Danny Boy covets Spurrier, I think the Fridge will surprise him. Ralph's assisted at the pro level with Bobby Ross. Ross lost only when Ralph wasn't with him.

My parents called from Williamsburg tonight. They said the roads were clear from the snowstorm and we should be able to drive down safely.

January 2

Florida seriously stomped Maryland tonight. No one outside of Maryland fans believed the Terps held much of a chance. But the Terp faithful continued to hold hope, even to the bitter end.

January 1

Surprisingly, Notre Dame, on their second try, hired Ty Willingham as their head coach. I hope he succeeds. We slept through the New Year's festivities for a third straight year.

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