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July 2003 Archives

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July 31

A dose of reality to remind us we know less than we think we do. This is from the June 11, 2001 issue of U.S. News and World Report by Kit R. Roane entitled "It's Hardly Terror Inc." The trial in question was for the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania.

But evidence in the trial revealed that bin Laden isn't nearly as powerful as once perceived. Among the key revelations: that his organization, al Qaeda, is neither as well funded nor as well organized as many experts previously thought. In fact, low pay and low morale were complaints of some former members who became prosecution witnesses.

"What the evidence shows is that bin Laden has an international network of contacts, but that it's more analogous to the Elvis Presley Fan Club than a corporation like General Motors," says Larry Johnson, a former State Department counterterrorism official...Also, former al Qaeda member Ali Mohamed, who cooperated with the government as part of a plea agreement, testified that al Qaeda maintains close ties with Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed militia, and with Iran's security forces.

July 30

According to Sci Fi Wire and Variety, Johnny Depp is the front-runner in Tim Burton's remake of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Excellent choice. Why stop there? Why not have Johnny Depp remake all of Gene Wilder's great roles? Imagine Young Frankenstein with Lisa Kudrow as Inga and Sarah Jessica Parker as Elizabeth. How about Silver Streak with Kate Hudson and Chris Tucker?

Be careful what you say in Fredericksburg. It's not like this would happen in a Barnes & Noble, would it Kristin?

July 29

Whitlock wants you to know I finally got my pedestals at work - the rolling drawers. Today, I unpacked the last of my boxes. Also, our bathrooms have five-button combination locks on them that actually worked today. Previously, the doors were just left ajar. I took the codes that were sent via e-mail and kept trying the mens room codes to no avail. However, the ladies room codes worked. Figure that.

With the death of Bob Hope, we recall that he had an oral agreement to purchase the Senators in 1968. If he were the owner he could have made the team a national set of lovable losers like the Mets or the Cubs. Of course, Bob would love sitting next to the President every April for the first pitch. When free agency came along, perhaps he'd rival Gene Autry in acquiring stars. Then this year, the Senators, with a uniform resembling Hope's hometown Indians, would wear a patch with Hope's caricature and the number 100.

However, my reading of history indicates this alternate universe is unlikely. Bob Short trumped Hope with his force of personality. Only two things could have stopped him. One was a sudden attack of conscience among the owners that perhaps Short might be a bad risk since he'd already moved the Lakers. The other would have been Humphrey defeating Nixon in 1968. If that happened, Short, a major Democratic fundraiser, would have held some political appointment. The Republicans can also imagine that with Nixon out of the way, the Reagan Revolution might have started four years earlier with a strong run in 1972, resulting in election in 1976.

July 28

From Sally Jenkins today:

It's in this respect that the best qualities of Lance Armstrong are available to you and me. Lance serves no purpose if people think that he survived cancer or wins races solely through some specialness, some rare gift. The most useful purpose he can serve is to tell people it's an absolutely universal human experience to be tired and ill. So "hero" is simply not a word that he's very interested in.

"You can't live up to it," he says. "If 10 people or a million people want to say that you are a hero, you just say thank you, and keep going about your day, and understand that trying to be a hero is probably the worst thing you can do."

One day, like it or not, Lance's muscles and ventricles won't respond to the bidding from his brain, and he will lose. He will fail, or fall off his bike. So be it, he says. "I'll just lie there, and then get up and go to the beach, and say, 'I'm okay. Bring me some sunscreen and margaritas.' "

Also from the Post, this about Federal tax breaks for stadiums:

Some economists take aim at this federal subsidy, saying it generally serves no national purpose. For although it might make sense for a local government to subsidize a stadium -- either as a cultural attraction or in the belief that it will spur redevelopment -- they see no federal benefit in helping sports teams pit one city against another.

Optimists Field at Ridge Road Regional Park
Optimists Field at Ridge Road Regional Park. Click for a panoramic shot.
July 27

I finally got to watch the Germantown Black Rox. Owner Buddy Gibson sang the national anthem himself. When the portable P.A. stopped working, he gestured to everyone else who joined in. In the Washington, D.C. area, anyone who yells,"O!" during the "Star-Spangled Banner" must be responded to with "Suck!"

Optimists Field at Ridge Road Regional Park is 338 down the lines, but only 358 to center. Despite that, I didn't see any homers. There are five rows of bleachers directly behind home plate, but most people chose to bring their own lawn chairs. Although there were lights, there was no scoreboard. The portable P.A. provided score updates at the end of each half-inning and announced pitching changes and each batter.

After the 3rd inning, I went to the ATM and missed the 4th and 5th innings, but none of the scoring. I bought a Black Rox t-shirt and cap. They gave away water bottles for free.

I missed none of the scoring in this abbreviated 7-inning affair. The Arlington Senators won 4-3 and the Black Rox finished 7th out of 9 teams in the Clark Griffith League. Normally, the CGL plays two halves with the winners of each half playing off for the championship. If a team wins both halves they automatically win the title. This year, because of the frequent rainouts, the season was played as a single unit with the top four qualifying for a double-elimination playoff.

July 26

Watched the Monk episode "Mr. Monk and the Very, Very Old Man". Miles Hollings, a man approaching his 115 birthday, supposedly the oldest man in the world, is suffocated by someone dressed as a security guard. Captain Stottlemeyer's wife Karen, played by Glenne Headly, asks to investigate his death because she did a documentary on him and his death feels mysterious to her.

Monk concurs and Karen later kicks Leland out of the house. Stottlemeyer goes to stay with Monk, still haunted by the case he can't solve, the hit-and-run of a promising teenager five years ago. In a major red herring, Leland takes forever to watch his wife's documentary, which of course contains significant clues.

In the meantime, a security guard who worked at the rest home where Hollings lived is found dead. Monk stands on a dining room table, afraid of a missing snake. The killer of Hollings, killed the security guard to get his uniform.

Finally, Stottlemeyer watches the video and figured out what happened. Five years ago, a time capsule was buried which contained the biography of Hollings and notes left behind by the mayor and his staff. If Hollings lived another five years, the capsule would be dug up and his biography revised.

Deputy Mayor Gammill had been the hit-and-run driver in Stottlemeyer's unsolved case. He dropped a confession in the time capsule and feared it would be revealed if the capsule were reopened. Whitlock questioned whether any items, other than biography would be opened.

This all took place in another town, not San Francisco itself. What I can't figure out is how Stottlemeyer had jurisdiction over the local police.

July 25

One of the guys painting the hallway in our office was wearing one of these. I'd never seen them before.

Back in 1984, Johnny Carson told a joke about Ronnie coming back from a foreign trip and his aides briefing him on Jesse Jackson's candidacy for the Democratic Presidential Nomination. The punch line was,"No, not Reggie, Jessie!" While clicking through Major League Baseball's gallery for the Legends & Celebrities Event, I tried to identify the people in the picture before reading the caption. I guessed that this was Reggie Jackson. Oh no! They're starting to look like each other!

Who bought theArkansas hat?

Miranda Icon...

You are DORY! It's amazing how you can have such a positive outlook on the world. (Maybe you've just forgotten how to be pessimistic.) Absolutely nothing can make you feel sad...except maybe rejection. Extreme situations can cause you to lose your composure as well, but just remember: time heals all wounds.
What Finding Nemo Character are You?

brought to you by Quizilla

I didn't cheat like Daddy.

July 24

You are MR. RAY! You're the teacher and the bus! How cool is that? You're intelligent and always ready to impart that knowledge, frequently in clever mnemonic melodies. Although one of your students may get captured by a diver, you're a respected authroity figure charged with training the next generation of reef life.
What Finding Nemo Character are You?

brought to you by Quizilla
Disclaimer: You cannot actually take this quiz and get the result of Mr. Ray. I just wanted this outcome. It's all my fault. Don't blame the quiz writer. For the record I tested out as Marlin.

We keep blankets on the sofa for when we get chilly watching TV or napping. They also make good makeshift pillows. Miranda has taken to pouncing on them from an armrest in order to "wrestle" them. I asked her once if she was winning and now when she does it, she stops every five seconds to ask me whether she's winning or the blankets are winning.

July 23

Got my lateral file cabinet. They're right that it equals two vertical files. Actually it's a little bit more than that for me because I have so many fat folders. In the shorter vertical cabinets, wasted space from fat folders are more likely so I was able to transfer those files with room to spare.

Whitlock called me on the way home. Cedar Valley was suffering a power outage. Since the microwave wouldn't be working I went ahead to McDonald's. Afterwards, I drove by Ridge Road Regional Park to see if the Black Rox might be playing the opener of a doubleheader, but no one was there. Went home and found the power back on. I napped before giving the Black Rox another shot and again the field was quiet. If I'd checked my e-mail I would have known tonight's game was postponed before 4:00 today.

Miranda asked if she was a good "tadar". I asked her what that meant? She said,"You know - ta da!" and posing appropriately. I know parents are supposed to automatically say yes if their kids ask if they're good at something. However, it took me a minute because the concept flabbergasted me.

Would have been a great night to do paperwork with three ballgames on simultaneously. Unfortunately, while our power is back on, Comcast's is still out.

July 22

Put up the pictures in my office. I'm down to four boxes from the twenty I started with.

I understand getting worked up about baseball players who misrepresent their age downwards when they're young like Danny Almonte and the string of Dominicans outed after September 11 passport checks. Rob Neyer has even suggested they could be charged with fraud. If a player shows a given level of performance at age 21, then you suddenly realize they're 22, your potential superstar has now been downgraded to a steady regular.

But on the other side, Fernando Valenzuela and Julio Franco come to mind, why should their age become an issue? If they're even older than they claim, their performances are more amazing, not more suspect. Nobody keeps these guys on a major league roster because of their potential. I can't express my amazement any more strongly than Julio Franco was part of a great crop of shortstops 20 years ago that included the likes of Yount, Ripken, Trammell, Ozzie and he's the only one still playing! In 20 years will we still find Rafael Furcal DHing when A-Rod, Nomar and Derek have long since retired?

July 21

Watched the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Circus". A couple with obvious Russian accents are having dinner in an outdoor restaurant. A totally masked assailant shoots the man, does an incredible parallel bar performance, then runs away.

The victim was the ringmaster in the circus and the obvious suspect was his ex-wife Natasia, played by Lolita Davidovich. However, she has the seemingly airtight alibi of a broken foot. A trapeze artist, she injured it in a fall weeks earlier at a public performance. An x-ray verifies the injury, but Natasia set the bone herself, not relying on doctors. The audience suspects that perhaps she used herbal painkillers or sheer force of will to dull the pain while performing the acrobatic maneuvers the night of the murder. The elephant trainer suggests he knows something which means she must kill him soon.

Meanwhile, we learn that Sharona has a fear of elephants. Monk coldly tells her to just "suck it up". From then on she just tells him to "suck it up" anytime the idiosyncracies of his obsessive-compulsive behavior crop up. With all the best intentions, he arranges an appointment with the elephant trainer for Sharona to have a pachyderm one-on-one. Part of the act is for the big girl to gently put the trainer's head under her foot. Natasia uses this opportunity to radio the stomp command to a walkie-talkie hidden behind the elephant's ear. Now Sharona is even more traumatized as she watches the trainer's head go splat before her eyes.

We discover that Natasia faked the earlier injury. After the murder, knowing the commands, she had the elephant crush her foot. Unfortunately, the trainer saw all this and had to be disposed of. Natasia is caught because her fingerprints are on the batteries in the walkie-talkie. Sharona gets over her fear of elephants when one of them gets in the way, preventing Natasia from running her over while making a getaway in a jeep.

Perhaps this is a Monk trend, like the earlierAndrew McCarthy episode. Set-up a famous star as the likely murderer with the audience figuring out how they could have done it with such an airtight alibi.

July 20

Watched The Jungle Book 2 because Miranda's been demanding it from the many promotions on the Disney Channel. It's not an unmitigated disaster. Parents won't go insane from repeated playings of this movie. On the other hand, it is a pale rip-off of the original.

Haley Joel Osment voices Mowgli and John Goodman does Baloo. The voice of John Rhys-Davies was easily recognizeable as Mowgli's adoptive human father. The character even looks a little bit like him. Tony Jay, Paracelsus from Beauty and the Beast, voices Shere Khan.

Winnie the Pooh with a bloody axe
Okay...maybe I can picture Pooh as an axe murderer.
Disney utility player Jim Cummings does both Kaa and Colonel Hathi. Of course, since 1960s Winnie-the-Pooh voice Sterling Holloway did Kaa back in 1967, Cummings, the current Pooh, would be the obvious choice for the python today. I just can't take seriously a threat with Winnie-the-Pooh's voice. (On second thought, see picture at left.) Kaa did have the only worthy in-joke. He gets pelted with fruit that adhere to him in such a way that he acquires the ears and nose of Mickey Mouse.

The last celebrity voice was Phil Collins as a fifth vulture named Lucky. I would have like the vultures to perhaps repeat a Monty Python sketch. Likewise, it would have been great to get Paul or Ringo to actually do one of the voices, seeing as they didn't do their own voices for their television series or Yellow Submarine.

Mowgli misses Baloo a lot and calls him "Old Papa Bear," a name from the book, but not from the movie. Why should he feel so attached to the bear, with whom he only had a brief friendship in the movie, when he was actually raised by wolves? The wolves don't even make an appearance here. Bagheera, while still noble, turns into C-3PO, a comic foil.

Finally, Shere Khan is dispatched by falling into a lava pit near the ruins previously belonging to King Louis. However, when we visited the ruins earlier in this film, there was no sign of such a place. When Mowgli is running from the Tiger, the lava conveniently appears.

I wouldn't recommend this film unless your child desperately begs to see it.

RFK Stadium
RFK Stadium in the afternoon sun.
Washington Freedom mascot Glory
Glory looking for her key.
July 19

Saw the DC United-Washington Freedom doubleheader with world-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster. The men lost to San Jose 2-1. The defense was pretty pathetic although Ali Curtis looked great in his goal. The women beat New York 2-0. Abby Wambach scored both goals. The second one could have been a Brian McBride special, heading the ball in with a horizontal dive.

DC hasn't quite retired John Harkes' number, but he's in their roll of honor. The concession lines were pathetically slow. Malek better have this fixed if he gets the Expos. With five goals, Martin conceded that he may be slowly turning into a soccer fan.

July 18

Hosted the Knossos meeting. The book was my pick, Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany. Nobody finished it this time around because of it length, but a number of folks had read all of it sometime in the past. Only world-famous media fan Martin Morse Wooster didn't like the book. I try to explain to him that Dhalgren is not about the plot, the destination. It's about the trip, the characters you meet along the way. I know that anytime he brings up this book I can always bring up Declare.

Paul and Bill Hussar didn't finish the book, but liked what they read. Bill brought Christina who played with Miranda till 12:30 when everybody left. That was a pretty late breakup time for Knossos these days. Most of us are too old to stay up anymore.

July 17

Finished The Bull from the Sea by Mary Renault. We find Theseus, our frat boy who's a real Greek, now ruling Athens. He's a warrior who really hates the political side of things. Theseus falls in love with Hippolyta and we find a relationship like Buffy and Riley - two warriors and kindred spirits. Otherwise, it's just a steady decline for the hero. Read it for the love story.

July 16

Finished re-reading Kiss It Goodbye by Shelby Whitfield, the story of the Senators from 1969 to the first year in Texas. In the first year of Short's ownership, they opened in Texas, before they ever opened in Washington, barnstorming through Dallas before the Presidential Opener. So he bought the team with every intention of moving it and selling it. After all, Short was the guy who moved the Lakers out of Minneapolis and he was even a native Minnesotan. After reading this book, the argument of blaming the fans in Washington for the team moving makes as much sense as blaming a crime victim instead of the criminal.

After this book came out, team radio broadcasts started to have disclaimers that at least one of the broadcasters was an employee of the team. Now you know from the beginning that you're not getting an objective view.

July 15

Flag of Fiji
You're Fiji!
As calm, relaxed, and removed from life as they come, you're just so chilled out, it hurts people to see you.  Everyone aspires to be where you are, but most of them just can't put their stress away.  Little do they know that even you sometimes have inner turmoil and struggles!  For the most part, though, it's sun and fun for you, and that's the way you like it.  It's just sort of hard to get things done with all that partying.
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

July 14

Couldn't get into my new office. The boxes and file cabinets were blocking the way. They also had to put the hutch over the desk, rather on the credenza. Nobody has any of their personal stuff yet. We're also missing the rolling drawers they call pedestals. I can get a lateral file cabinet so I'm putting the vertical files in the hall for the time being.

July 13

Went to my parents house to pick up copies of Dhalgren, The Tides of Lust and Kiss It Goodbye. I'll be talking about the other books later. The Tides of Lust is a Samuel R. Delany novel that is really every variety of pornography you can imagine, and types you can't imagine, interspersed with pompous writing to convince you its really not pornography. This afternoon we visited my mother-in-law's sister Rosie who's in town.

July 12

While I did the grocery shopping, Whitlock and Miranda went to buy a flower girl dress. It's white and they ordered it for delivery later on.

Watched the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Goes to the Ballgame". A well-known CEO and his young wife are killed in an isolated industrial area. While everyone suspects shareholders and business associates, Monk soon realizes that the wife was really the target.

She was having an affair with a fictional baseball player chasing the single season home run record. Obviously, the current recordholder is a prime suspect, but a security camera captures the assailant. He turns out to be the guy who caught the ball of the recordholder. If the new guy breaks the record, then his ball is worthless.

First of all, he should sold the ball before the start of the next season. Even if he held on to it, it might not be worth millions, but at least $100,000, which would be enough to tide the guy over while he was unemployed.

Also caught on rerun the Enterprise episode "Dawn". It was an Enemy Mine plot with bits of Darmok, The Enemy and Gravity. Trip gets stranded with alien and they eventually have to work together to get rescued. Tucker has to get himself beat-up a couple of times before he learns not to trust his companion. They also engage in the most boring fight scene in television history. There was a small nitpick in that a body with breathable atmosphere would take longer to heat up than the planet on the show did. Otherwise, it was not an awful episode.

July 11

Went over to the new building to make sure my special plastic key would work. You need one to operate the elevator and to get into the office areas. The office is a lot smaller than the floor plans indicated. It's really the same size as my current office. They did add shelves below the window to make up for the reduction in wall space. I finished packing up early and could have stayed till 5:30 to do work. However, the movers started coming in at 4:00, which was pretty much a hint for everyone to leave.

July 10

The girl in the Italian sausage costume declined to press charges and now all Simon got was a disorderly conduct charge. The coverage has generally been pretty light-hearted. It's as if the press were all those jocks holding up the hallway walls, waiting for the geeks to walk by to trip them. Then they'd laugh and say,"It's just a joke. Can't you take a joke?"

July 9

Randall Simon is an idiot. What do expect from a mascot geek? This is disgusting. Just because someone is wearing a funny suit, it's okay to whack a baseball bat at them? Will wife beaters dress their spouses in mascot costumes so they can use the wiener defense?

July 8

Dusty Baker is an idiot. In ideal world, we just say that and move on. Unfortunately, if a white manager said the same thing he'd get fired. I suggest reporters just bring up the race and weather issue whenever it seems appropriate. Like next week at the All-Star Game. Let's say it's an unseasonably cold night and late in the game he pinch hits Andruw Jones for Scott Rolen and it doesn't work. A reporter could ask,"Dusty, why didn't you leave the white player in there since he could handle the cold weather better?"

Two bald eagles
The Sally Ride mascots.
Miranda petting goats
Miranda touches an animal that doesn't scare her.
Miranda playing in a fountain
She would have been happier spending the entire day here.
Miranda climbs a rock wall
As impressive as this looks, she's only a couple of feet high.
Miranda looks at trains from inside a plastic bubble
Miranda discovers some loco-motives.
Miranda inside soap bubble
The curves in the bubble make it look like a giant coke bottle.
Harbor Park from the outside.
Harbor Park
Rip Tide, a muppet-like monster of the Norfolk Tides and Chris P. Carrot, a giant carrot from PETA
Rip Tide of the Norfolk Tides and Chris P. Carrot of PETA
Hat Trick, a dog of the Norfolk Admirals, dressed in 1800 naval style
Hat Trick of the Norfolk Admirals
Harry the Happy Dragon from Harris Teeter
Harry the Happy Dragon of Harris Teeter
Sammy the Sea Otter from Navy Federal Credit Union
Is this an otter or a koala with a tail?
Michigan J. Frog from WB33
Michigan J. Frog of WB33
Geico Gecko
The Geico Gecko
O.C. Bee
O.C. Bee of Old Country Buffet
Harbor Park
Harbor Park. Click for a panoramic shot.
July 7

Picked my new office. We're moving this weekend and I've just started packing. I've finally got a window overlooking a parking lot and the Spy Museum.

Watched the Monk episode "Mr. Monk Goes to Mexico". It begins with a college kid dying in a skydiving incident when his chute doesn't open. Monk is sent to Mexico, where the death took place, because the kid's parents were friends of the mayor.

The plot was pretty much a throwaway here. The killer was the local coroner who was a San Francisco doctor that Monk had discredited years ago. He concocts bizarre autopsy findings of rich spring breakers to lure Monk south and kill him. Last year, he said one kid was killed by a lion. It took this year's drowning of a skydiver to get Monk down.

The real point of the story was to show how Monk's sickness makes life difficult for him in this environment. He brings several suitcases of specially prepared food and water, all of which are stolen while they're checking into the hotel. Sharona also proves she can drink a college student under the table.

July 6

Drove home from Williamsburg. Fairfield kicks you out at 10:00 am so we were forced to be on the road early. Seemingly after we crossed every river, Miranda would shout,"Yay! We're in Maryland now!" It probably wore her out because she was fast asleep when we finally got into Maryland.

July 5

Spent most of the day getting ready to go home tomorrow. I finished The King Must Die by Mary Renault, last month's Knossos book. I heard third hand about someone in high school, the son of a local construction magnate. My friend who hung with him described a heavy drinker, driving his father's pickup with a string of pregnant girls in his wake. This could also characterize Theseus, an insufferable twit perfectly suited to the presidency of the United States.

That is, until he volunteers for the annual tribute to Crete. In Renault's world, the myths of Ancient Greece are rationalized into a non-fantastic world. The Minotaur is a human, the child of Pasiphae and a bull dancer. The youth of Athens go not to be devoured in the labyrinth, but to dance in a deadly spectacle with bulls.

So Theseus galvanizes the Athenians into a team called the Cranes. Their cameraderie and mutual support enable them to survive the arena. Anyone who served with a military unit or on a competitive team understand the magic of unit cohesion. Ahead of her time, Renault has Theseus bond a co-ed team without any internal sexual liaisons. He becomes a natural leader, not by nature of his birth, but by his ability to keep his group together and focused. Theseus has an affair with Ariadne that burns with the honest intensity of unbridled hormones.

Inevitably, the explosion of Thera leads to a tsunami that destroys the Cretan hegemony. Theseus returns home with his unit and you feel the nostalgia of a group facing graduation. The further he gets away from Crete, the more he reverts to the unlikeable character he was earlier. The King Must Die is a great re-telling of the Cretan adventures of Theseus, bookended by the exploits of a tiresome bore.

July 4

We took Miranda to the Virginia Zoo, bright and early this morning. The entrance and offices are housed in a huge building with a breezy Churchill Downs style. We got in free with a FONZ card that the woman at the gate never noticed had expired in 2002. We're still paid up, but never received the new cards so we got in legitimately.

Miranda insisted on seeing the bald eagles and getting photographs of them because they're the Sally Ride mascot. As we passed through the African section, the kid began to complain about the heat. We stopped off in a restaurant where she had some ice cream. While sitting in air conditioned comfort, Whitlock and I decided to head straight for the Virginia Children's Museum. But, fortified with ice cream, Miranda wanted to stay at the zoo.

We headed in the direction of the entrance and the farm area. Such sections of zoos frequently allowed you to pet the animals. Miranda petted some the goats.

Just inside the entrance to the zoo is a circular plaza featuring a black rotating globe, lightly filmed with water. Eight fountains ring the plaza. Children like Miranda enjoy playing in the fountains that drain into grates below ground level. She got soaking wet while Whitlock and I took turns shopping in the gift store. In the parking lot we changed her shirt into one we bought in the zoo gift shop.

The Virginia Children's Museum is located in downtown Portsmouth. On the afternoon of Independence Day, the city was pretty quiet. There are many things for kids to do at the Museum. As you can see from the pictures, Miranda climbed a rock wall and got a close-up look at a train set from inside a plastic bubble.

But her favorite part was the bubble room. You could make giant bubbles with a coat hanger wand as well as sheet bubbles. However, everyone loved this hula hoop that was set in a circular depression in the floor. The trench was filled with bubble fluid. As you pulled on a rope, the hula hoop created a huge bubble around you.

After dinner and getting back to the suite, Whitlock and I took the three kids to watch the fireworks. They were launched from inside Colonial Williamsburg. We parked at shopping center about 3/4 mile away.

When we parked, Whitlock got out to talk to some people sitting outside a nearby van, just to make sure they had the same idea as us. Turned out they were SCA members, including a former champion known as Eric the Dane. Whitlock talked to them while I made sure the kids stayed out of traffic.

When the fireworks began, we walked a couple of hundred yards closer for a better look and to avoid the trees. Afterwards, it took only ten minutes to get back, as opposed to the hour last year.

July 3

Did the some outlet shopping at the Prime Outlets Williamsburg. By coincidence, we found my parents and my sister's family shopping in the same Eddie Bauer. Went to dinner again at the Peking Restaurant.

July 2

Staying at the condo, I got a chance to watch HBO, which means I finally saw Attack of the Clones. Lucas is great with the action sequences, such as the arena, the droid factory and Yoda's lightsaber battle. Even Anakin's reaction to the death of Shmi mirrored Luke's reaction to the deaths of Aunt Beru and Uncle Owen.

However, when it comes to romance, he's pretty pathetic. Hayden Christensen is a surfer dude who says words that are supposed to come out of fantastic heroes that invariably have fake English accents. The supposed chemistry between Anakin and Amidala doesn't come about until they get into the fights, but that's what Star Wars has always been about. Lovers best express themselves in the heat of battle. So when Anakin says,"You call this a diplomatic solution?" and Amidala replies,"No, I call it an aggressive negotiation," a little bit of the magic returns.

Most fans believe Lucas should just the write the story and leave the screenwriting and directing to someone else. George is already too far in the process, but I would suggest Joss Whedon for screenwriter and Ang Lee for director.

Throughout the afternoon, as the remnants of Tropical Storm Bill pelted the Hampton Roads area, the Durham Bulls-Norfolk Tides game that I wanted to go to remained in doubt. Their flagship station,ESPN Radio 1310, insisted the game would go on. Because it was mascot night, I thought it would be a good time for all the kids. However, with the threatening rain, it was decided I was the only one with the patience to suffer through it, so I went alone.

I intended to take I-64 all the way in, but the traffic reports and the message boards suggested taking I-464 and the Monitor-Merrimac Tunnel. With a quick look at my map, I realized I could then take I-264 through Chesapeake and Portsmouth into Norfolk. I listened to the aforementioned sports radio station and Tony Mercurio, who was the most unprofessional sportcaster I'd yet heard outside a college station. He engaged in a musical skewering of Sammy Sosa that amounted to,"Sammy's a cheater. You suck." There was no creativity to his attempt at humor.

As an aside to the historically challenged, the Battle of Hampton Roads between the ironclads had been known for a century as the Monitor vs. the Merrimack. The Merrimack was the name of the ship before the shipyards were captured by the Confederacy and the ship was renamed the Virginia. During the battle itself, the crew of that ship would have said they were aboard the C.S.S. Virginia. In the course of the victors writing the history books, the battle became known as the Monitor vs. the Merrimack. In more recent years, for the sake of historical accuracy, the conflict has been renamed as that between the Monitor and the Virginia. I found it ironic that in Virginia, they would revert to the winners' name, but then again, the Monitor-Virginia Tunnel sounds like an Ashcroftian privacy invasion scheme.

The Norfolk Tides had a doubleheader tonight against the Durham Bulls. The game started an hour after the scheduled 6:15 start. In the meantime, the mascots walked the concourse. Unfortunately, the only two sports mascots in attendance was the host RipTide and Hat Trick of the Norfolk Admirals of ECHL. All the others were corporate mascots. The pictures include about half the crowd. There was Chris P. Carrot of PETA, Harry the Happy Dragon of Harris Teeter, Sammy the Sea Otter of the Navy Federal Credit Union, Michigan J. Frog of WB33, the Geico Gecko and O.C. Bee of Old Country Buffet. Harry was the only one who made physical contact with me, giving me a pat on the back while I wrote blogging notes on a table folks normally stood at while eating food. I thought Sammy the Sea Otter was a koala until I saw the tail.

Tha ballpark is a typical post-Camden Yards minor league creation. There are some spectacular aerials photos of the place, situated on a branch of the Elizabeth River. I suppose some ships will sometimes steam by. No one sits in the river waiting for a home run like in McCovey Cove. I bought Miranda a stuffed Rip Tide from the amply-supplied souvenir shop.

As for the game itself, I saw Tsuyoshi Shinjo, who'd recently been sent down from the Mets. Even here in Norfolk, a contingent of at least four Japanese media persons continued to follow his exploits. Russ Johnson, who'd disappeared while with the Devil Rays and suffering from despression, was manning 3rd base for the Tides. Durham starter Doug Waechter suffered some injury I couldn't figure out in the course of pitching. While the trainer examined him, the big screen played the mound scene from Bull Durham. That's where nearly the entire team stands around the rubber discussing everything except baseball. I realized the strange surreality of a fictional Durham Bulls on the scoreboard while the real Durham Bulls played on the field.

The game was called after four innings and a further one hour rain delay. Tied at 1-1, the game will be resumed tomorrow from this point, followed by a seven-inning game. Fortunately, it was only about 9:30 at postponement time so I didn't get back to the suite too late.

While I was gone, Whitlock, my father and the kids walked to the pool. During the downpours, they waited on the porch of a nearby building. Again, they had to suffer the fact that this place has no gutters.

July 1

Greg blew up two inflatable pools toys for the kids to play with. Everybody except went to the pool while I went to Ukrop's. We took Miranda to Giuseppe's Italian Cafe. I had a great alfredo that wasn't at all greasy. We got lucky in a restaurant, that was slightly out-of-the-way, on weeknight, before the tourists descended on it.

The Undertow...
|Socialism in One Country|
|Frivolous Suits and Improper Purposes|
|Weapons of Mass Stupidity|
|OOTP Must-Have Add-Ons|
|Hu's on First|
|Foreign Currency|
|Cause of Recession|
|Support the Troops|
|Rubik's Cube Prank|
|The Anagrammed Bible|
|How Do Klingons Compute?|
|Mobius Scarf|
|Quiz Bowl Tournament Center|
|The Silence of the Lambs Musical|
|The Numbers Game|
|Wm Spear Design|
|Amendment to Sarbanes-Oxley|
|The Professor of Baseball|
|Jesus of the Week|
|Mile High Guys|
|Philippine Basketball Association|
|Monica's Ad|
|MLB 2002 Style Guide|
|Acid Keg|
|Hitler vs. Stalin Comics|
|About Freebies|

|Dave Barry|
|Chris Barylick|
|Mike Burger|
|David Bykowski|
|Emil Tom Chuck|
|Jessie Connolly|
|Mark Coen|
|Jon Couture|
|Victoria Groce|
|Arianna Huffington|
|Hayden Hurst|
|Idle Words|
|Impolite Company|
|Samer Ismail|
|Doug Pappas|
|Tricia Southard|
|Julie Stalhut|
|Eric Steinhauser|
|Summary Opinions|
|TRASH Times|
|Eva Whitley|

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Last revised July 31, 2003
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