Tuesday, October 30, 2007

10-30-07: It’s So Cold!

One thing that always kills me about New England is when the seasons change. It’s not a smooth process. When Fall is supposed to roll around, it cools down for a bit, then sometimes Indian Summer rears its head and the heat returns for a week or two. Then, it’s a little cooler (high 50’s), then it’s in the high 30’s the next morning. This week isn’t really too bad, but the sudden changes are crazy. It’s part of the experience, though.

Well, Tottenham Hotspur has a new manager. Martin Jol was “sacked” the other day in a UEFA Cup game against Getafe (pronounced “Heh-towf-ay”), and Juande Ramos, the manager from Sevilla FC, is the new manager for Spurs. I’m excited (well, as excited as a new fan to a team can be), because it might be the start of the good. Spurs are currently 18th out of 20, so they need to get going to move up in the league. They’re historically a 2nd tier team in the Premiership, which they were hoping to improve upon this year. Right now, 2nd tier is looking pretty damn good. The strange part is that with one win they could theoretically go from 18th to 14th. That’d be nice. They’ve had some injury problems that should hopefully clear up, and they need better defenders. I listen to a podcast called “Cock on Ball” by these two English guys named Scott and Dave. It’s on about once a week and is drop-dead hysterical at times. They’re huge fans of the club.

The Patriots really thrashed the Redskins the other day. I haven’t seen any highlights (I don’t get most of the games down here), but with a score like 52-7, I’m guessing there were a few touchdowns. The strange part was the reaction from a few of the Redskin players, saying the Patriots had no class by running up the score. This isn’t a division 1-A college team beating up on a 1-AA team. It’s professional football. If you don’t want a team scoring 52 points to make you look bad, maybe you should figure out how good a team you really are. With a salary cap, the field is more level than most sports. All the complaints do is hide how bad a game Washington played. That’s all. Next week against Indianapolis should be fun.

Monday, October 29, 2007

10-29-07: World Series Champions

It doesn’t really feel quite the same as last time, but I’ll take it. My only real wish is that Joanna could have been watching with me, but oh well. It’s still a great moment to see your team come through. However, I try not to use terms like “we did it” or refer to the team as “us.” I only do that to refer to other fans. It’s just weird to think you had an effect on the outcome of a game or a season. The fan base helps, but the team still has to win.

There are three things about this team that I like better than the 2004 team, but that doesn’t take away from the 2004 team’s performance. Breaking the curse was huge. It was the doorway into a new era of Red Sox fans. That’s a lot for a group of self-proclaimed idiots to accomplish.

The first is the youth. Players like Dustin Pedroia, Jon Lester, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Clay Buccholz, each had significant roles at one point or the other this year. That’s special. The veterans are still the anchor of the team, which is why I like Mike Lowell. He’s a great player and a great person. But having talented, young players is really nice. It gives you a sense of additional hope.

The second is the pitching. This year was something really special, both so far as starting and relief pitching. Despite injuries to guys like Brendan Donnelly, the staff came through. Look at how big a story Hideki Okajima became. He was just a whisper during Spring Training. Now, in his first year coming from Japan, he’s an All-Star and a solid anchor in the World Series Champions’ bullpen. Just amazing. Then you have magical performances by guys like Buccholz with his no-hitter, Lester with his comeback from cancer, and Curt Schilling with his near no-hitter in Oakland.

The final thing is the confidence and trust. Terry Francona deserves all the credit for what the team accomplished. What if he listened to the critics and benched Pedroia after his poor April? He’s a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year! What if he had sat Drew during more after his poor stretch? Look at his post-season! Sure, guys like Gagne didn’t quite work out, but who could’ve seen that coming? It’s nice to see a little flash of old-fashioned trust in your team. To think the Red Sox came back to win it all after tanking at the end of last season is surreal. It’s just a great feeling.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

10-28-07: NFL in London

I watched a bit of today's NFL game in London. Although the teams playing weren't quite even (Miami is just awful), it seemed to be a pretty big success. The weather wasn't good, but that's England.

One thing in particular that got me thinking, on a trip up to Worcester last night to a Worcester Sharks game with my Fraternity, was how well the NFL will do in their effort to globalize the sport of American football. I understand their desire for growth, but how realistic are they being?

If you live in England, you likely don't follow American football. You know what it is, but it's a foreign sport played primarily in one country on a different continent. You wouldn't really know any of the players. They're American. They went to American colleges, and some of them (e.g. a guy on the Dolphins) doesn't even know they speak English in London. Why would you really want to pay attention to them? The NFL is simply too American, in both culture and content, to be a global success. Soccer, the prime example of the global sport, has several top leagues that have international players from various continents.

American football is also not an Olympic sport, since no other countries are any good at it. It would be a joke. No other countries play it at the youth level, so there aren't many sports icons for youths in other countries to worship. They simply don't understand what it's like. I grew up playing hockey and watching it on TV, wanting to become my favorite players like Cam Neely and Ray Bourque. If you live in Germany, and don't play American football, you can't really say you'll ever become Ray Lewis or Reggie Bush. It's just not realistic.

There's nothing wrong with an American sporting organization to try to globalize, but it only really works if the culture and composition allows it. It just doesn't seem like American football has the substance to make it on the global stage. Despite the sell-out at Wembley for today's game, it doesn't mean the sport has staying power in that market. It's simply a novelty, or as Tony Kornheiser said on PTI the other day, it's a rock concert. Sports like basketball and ice hockey, or even baseball, have international players with professional leagues in other countries already. They have a better shot at successfully globalizing. Football just doesn't fit the mold. It's a great sport, but it's all American, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Friday, October 26, 2007

10-26-07: Fire Safety

It was another good game for the Red Sox last night. Hopefully they can keep it up.

Thank God the fires in southern California are finally dying down. I have to say, what those firefighters did, and what firefighters across the world do on a daily basis, is absolutely remarkable. They never get enough credit for the job they do. The wildfires that wreaked so much havoc are under their control, and it’s simply amazing. My hat’s off to those guys. They’re the real heroes. But… tomorrow we’ll be talking about Britney Spears again. It’s sad.

But the fires got me thinking of something. I realized it at the gym after work. Maybe it’s a strange habit, but I like to keep myself prepared in the event of a fire. Not all the time, just in situations where I know there are a lot of people around. I usually like to know where the nearest exit is, and how to get there, and I keep my personal belongings near me, or in an accessible place. For example, at the gym, I like to put all of my stuff in my bag, then just grab it and go after working out. It’s not a normal routine, by any means, since I don’t do it all the time. It’s just something practical that I like to do.

Another thing that these fires reminded me of is… why do people enjoy living in southern California so much? I know the weather is great, but look at the threats of earthquakes, drought, wildfire, drought, landslides, mudslides, Mexican invasions, you name it. It’s not exactly the safest place to live. But land prices are so damn high. I just don’t get it. All New England really ever worries about is the occasional Nor’ Easter or blizzard. We sometimes get really heavy rain and flooding, but that’s seasonal. A trip last winter to Venice had me asking the same questions. Venice is flooded for a certain amount of time every year. The name for it is Aqua Alta. People actually have to walk on raised platforms to get around parts of the city. The gondola business shuts down. It’s a nightmare. But… people love living there. I guess it just depends on how much suffering you’re willing to do to really enjoy living somewhere. But, sometimes, you just wonder… why?

Thursday, October 25, 2007

10-25-07: The World Series

The Sox got off on a good note last night with a win. I don’t normally dwell on big wins, since they count the same. They could’ve won 1-0, it still counts the same. That being said, it was still a great start by Beckett, and hopefully they can keep it going tonight against a rookie pitcher from the Rockies.

The only bad thing about your favorite team making the World Series are the bandwagon fans who decided to join in on the fun. A lot of hardcore fans, of any team in any sport, hate bandwagon fans. It’s usually a combination of jealousy and frustration. Hardcore fans are jealous of bandwagon fans because they didn’t have the same feelings of dread when their team lost. It can get pretty serious with a lot of people, and I’m no better than most. It was harder for me growing up because I moved to a town that consisted of mostly New York area fans, when the Yankees were great. It wasn’t fun, so when I see bandwagon fans, it just reminds me of the jerks I had to deal with in high school.

The way I see it, though, bandwagon fans don’t have the same feeling of satisfaction. All the suffering does help make things that much better, and that’s something that can’t be fabricated. When you follow a team when they’re terrible, and they get good, even for one year, it’s glorious. You feel like you got them there, even if you had absolutely nothing to do with it. There’s a real satisfaction, and it only comes after some pain.

What’s scary, though, is that some hardcore fans, the really hardcore fans, dislike bandwagon fans of their team more than ANY fan of their rival team. I can see why that is so, but I don’t quite feel that way. I don’t really care who supports my team. That’s out of my control, and doesn’t really affect me. I think Red Sox Nation is bullshit, since it only came around when the team was good. I think it’s wonderful that a lot of fans around the country support the same team I do, but it’s not the same. When the Sox mailed it in at the end of last season, people were selling their tickets on eBay for $5. Five dollars. That’s a bandwagon fan, or at the very least it’s not a big fan. But, being the fan that I am, I was more than willing to pay the $5 for the ticket. I just like baseball.

It’s looking to be a good series. Should be interesting.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

10-24-07: The Internet and Social Positive Feedback

A lot of people, especially experts, like to talk about how the internet, or technology in general, has both positive and negative effects in society. As far as things like medicine and business, it has its positives, but people are always weary of its effects on social interaction.

I’m no expert, but I do work in control systems, so I see it as a sort of system with positive feedback in a lot of places. Basically, positive feedback works by driving something to the extreme high or low depending on the input. It’s used in a lot of systems to prevent a mid-range value from appearing in the output, which can meddle with a lot of systems. Think of it like 1’s and 0’s. You don’t see 0.3’s or 0.7’s or anything like that. That would make computing really complex and uncontrollable, so that’s where positive feedback can help.

Anyway, one way that positive feedback comes into play in the internet’s effect on social interactions is how it affects the extremes. Let’s say you’re a really shy person who doesn’t like dealing with people face to face. You use the internet to talk to people you don’t know personally, and thrive in that environment. There’s no reason for you to want to change your habits, since things are working out better. So, you keep doing it and find it more and more attractive, especially as more and more web innovations come around to allow you to do it better. It’s a cycle, and it’s not necessarily bad. Unless something comes around that makes you not want to do it as much, you’ll keep doing it. Another factor is that you are less and less practiced at face-to-face conversation, which makes you afraid to try it, so you revert back to online socializing.

This isn’t a uniform system by any means. It’s just a funny observation I had. Negative feedback is constantly being put into the system (i.e. things happen that make you not want to use the internet more exclusively). Here’s another example of some more positive feedback:

You’re 45 years old, and have been on the trailing edge of the technology craze since you were in your late 20’s when PC’s started coming about. You remember the days when offices only had a few computers, and they were often shared by many people. You don’t feel you’re cut out to “get it” and get the most out of the technology, and it simply isn’t worth your time. So, as technology expands faster and faster, you are less and less likely to use it. Since things become obsolete so quickly, you don’t see a reason to keep up, and fall behind more and more. Didn’t that computer they’re selling for $500 cost $1000 when you bought it a year or two ago? Where did your money go? Should you even bother wasting your money, knowing you’ll learn the technology too slow to keep up?

Just an observation.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

10-23-07: Hanging Man Taken Down

I heard a news story on the way into work this morning on WPLR about a strange and unfortunate incident in Stratford regarding an offensive Halloween decoration. What apparently happened is that members of the black community felt that a certain decoration on a house on East Main Street, not far from my company’s headquarters, was offensive. The decoration was a blow-up hanging man, noose and all. It was one of several decorations in the front of the house. To the right is a picture from the Connecticut Post.

The owner of the house was on the radio this morning telling her story. I have to say, she seemed to have a great attitude about it. She wasn’t happy about having to take it down, but she respected the views of those who found it offensive, who also thought that the dark face of the “decaying corpse” decoration was to signify that it was a black man being hanged. A reverend of a local church (I’m assuming it is local, and I do not know if he was asked to come on the air) said that if it was not taken down, they would picket the house. That’s right: they would picket a private home because of an allegedly offensive decoration. The family did the right thing and took it down, because it’s just too much of a headache to deal with.

This brings up a few issues, most of which were brought up by the guys on the radio. First, the family meant absolutely no offense, and it wasn’t something they made themselves. It was bought from a Halloween store, as is. Wouldn’t it make more sense for the NAACP to go after the store for selling it? They’re making the profit. Second, apparently that particular decoration, which is one of several in the front of the house, is not particularly easy to see from the road. It is a main road in Stratford, where cars normally go by at 40 MPH. Trust me, I’ve driven on the road several times, and I can’t remember ever wanting to look at the houses. But, with Halloween and all the decorations out, it is more likely that people are looking. I’ll give them that. But still, this is not something that was brought out to be advertised as that house’s only decoration, and it’s something that is done at thousands of houses around the country. If you are looking for something to be racist, it will be racist. I could see a black guy eating crackers and shout out injustice, but that’s just ridiculous… right?

Another issue is that it belittles the real racial issues in the community. This is a small issue that likely stems from recent scandals involving nooses being left by bigots in schools and offices. But, I really doubt it meant anything in this situation. It’s Halloween, for Christ’s sake. If it were just some house with a hanging man decoration in the middle of July, that’d be something different. This whole situation is just a series of people taking things out of context and making a big deal out of nothing. They use political correctness and cries of racism just to get people to pay attention, and it’s sad.

I have nothing against the NAACP or their mission. I believe they have every right to fight against bigotry in America. That’s a just and difficult cause. But this is a joke, and it makes them look bad. I know it wasn’t the national NAACP behind this, but from what I gather, they weren’t exactly disagreeing with the reverend. Going after a family for a store-bought decoration and threatening to picket their house is just ridiculous, and they should be ashamed. And of all people, a Christian preacher is at the front. What sort of message does that send? Tolerance? Love for all mankind? Nope. It says “Anything that is remotely offensive cannot stand. If you don’t comply, you will be attacked and protested and we will make your life hell.” You could say “Well, they didn’t know those facts at the time. Hindsight is 20/20.” True, but they didn’t listen to the owner’s story, which isn’t right. They had their mind set before hearing it, and THEY (the church and NAACP) brought it to the attention of the public, no one else. None of the neighbors said anything about it. Oh, by the way, the decoration had been up for over two weeks, so it couldn’t exactly be glaringly obvious to the everyday passerby.

This sort of thing violates the civil liberties and freedoms of other fine citizens. Isn’t that what the NAACP and black leaders are trying to PREVENT? The sad part is, if I were to say this to them, I would get any one of the following responses, none of which have anything to do with what I said:

“Do you have any ancestors who were lynched?”

“Do you know what its like to see a noose and feel hatred?”

“You don’t have the right to disagree because you are privileged.”

It’s sheer intolerance, and it’s never going to get them anywhere. It’s sad, but true. You can’t constantly protest everything, because sooner or later, EVERYHING will be offensive, and people will just see you as an over-anxious organization out to hurt other people to ensure their own mission. I’d expect better out of a preacher. This isn’t the first time in recent history this has happened. Just look at Al Sharpton and the Duke Lacrosse Team. Has he apologized yet? I doubt it. He’s far too proud to do that. Besides, it would hurt his ratings! Forgiveness doesn’t sell.

Monday, October 22, 2007

10-22-07: The Pennant

It’s a good day for Red Sox fans nationwide (I’ll never get Red Sox Nation, nor will I reference it). With a resounding comeback, again, the Red Sox are in the World Series, again. It’s pretty remarkable, but there are a few things about the series, especially Game 7, that I found quite interesting.

The two biggest names in Game 7 were Youkilis and Pedroia, who combined for 7 RBI in the top two spots in the lineup. Pedroia’s double in the bottom of the 8th blew the game open, and it was only fitting that Youkilis hit a home-run next to drive him home. Earlier in the game, Ellsbury doubled before a Pedroia home-run. Are you sensing a theme? It’s called home-grown talent. It’s remarkable how, despite all the big names teams like the Red Sox and the Yankees and other powerhouses have, sometimes it’s nothing but rookies and old farmhands who get it done. Last night was a perfect example. Of the 10 runs batted in by the Red Sox, 7 were by players brought up in Boston’s farm system. Sure, Ramirez, Lowell, and Drew each drove in runs, but to cap it all off with a spectacular performance by the rookies and Youkilis, it made it that much sweeter.

I feel bad for Indians fans, though. It’s different this time than in 2004 when the Sox came back from 3-0 against the goddamn Yankees. That was nice. It felt good to see the same fans who gave me such grief in high school squirm for a bit. It was nice to watch the YES Network to see them suffer. I’m just being honest. But last night, I legitimately felt sorry for Indians fans. They’re good people who had a great team to cheer for this year. They’re far from spoiled, and could use some luck. They’re going through the same sort of suffering Boston fans have gone through in the past, and I hope things work out for their team in the future. But, if it involves beating the Red Sox, I won’t feel too bad if they lose again. If the wait is under 86 years, which will be true until 2034, they don’t really have much to complain about. It’s been 10 years since the won the Pennant, so that can wait a bit longer too.

The Rockies are a good team, so it should be a nice World Series. Game 1 is on Wednesday night. I can’t wait. Oh yeah, here’s a Kenny Lofton joke I just came up with:

“Did you hear what happened to Kenny Lofton on his drive home after losing the ALCS?

Apparently he was pulled over for blowing through a stop sign. The cop, an Indians fan, just sighed and said ‘Christ, did you have to wait this long?!’”

Have a fantastic trip, sweetheart! Love you!

Friday, October 19, 2007

10-19-07: Snippets

Have you ever been driving down the street and saw some one, either walking, on a bike, or in another car, that you thought “Wouldn’t it be interesting to be in their shoes for a day?” I know it sounds odd, but it occasionally happens to me. Not too often, only when I see some one that I think is interesting. It usually has to do with the look on their face, or what they’re doing.

What I like to do is to keep on moving, but think what they might do next. It’s a strange hobby, but one I enjoy doing every once in a while to lighten things up. I like to give the person a bogus name and think what they do for work or for pleasure. Usually the story takes a strange twist, which makes it even more exciting.

Here’s a real-life example from last week. I saw a guy on a bike on the way home from work, about a ½ mile from the office. He looked to be in his mid to late 40’s. No helmet, and no fear of getting hit by a car as he crossed in front of traffic. Some one almost hit him, and he became visibly upset, shouting “Fuck you!” to the driver of the vehicle, as he kept on pedaling. He seemed like an interesting guy to me, so, as I sat in traffic and eventually drove by him a couple minutes later, I thought of his story.

His name is Jake. He’s an unemployed, black man currently living in Bridgeport. He’s lived a proud life, but today wasn’t one of his better days. There wasn’t really anything particularly wrong with the day, but he just felt lousy. It’s been a month since he was laid off, and he’s running low on rent money. He needs to find a job, but those pricks at the warehouse won’t give him a good reference, and they won’t return his calls. It’s been a frustrating week. Jake has no wife or children, just his friend Ralph, who is also unemployed, but has found some work with his band “The Magic Men,” out of Shelton. Jake has never been a big music guy. Sure, he likes listening to the radio from time to time, but has never really followed any one in particular. He’s always been a hard worker, and has never owned a car because he likes living near work, and sees no reason to have a car when you can feel the road so much better on a bike.

Jake grew up in Bridgeport, and remembers when it was a great city. He hates what it’s become, but is glad to see some things are improving. He misses the parks, though. The new developments are commercial buildings. They could be in any city. But, it’s starting to clean the city up, so he can’t really complain. Maybe they’ll offset some of the high taxes the residents have to pay. Bullshit taxes. What do they go to? Jake gets mad about them sometimes, but realizes that they’re not his fight. All he needs is his bike.

It’s starting to get cooler out, but that’s fine with Jake. He doesn’t like pedaling in the snow, but it beats the heat. He’s always wondered why he always wishes it was cooler out when it was hot, and warmer out in the cold. But, that’s life. Jake doesn’t know why people complain so much, especially the lucky ones. Shouldn’t he have more right to complain? He’s been working his ass off for 25 years, and now what? He’s out of work, and isn’t sure when the next paycheck will come. He’s a proud man, and hates going to the unemployment line. They’re all leaches, he thinks, but he knows there have to be a few guys like him. Today he has to go there, which is probably why he feels lousy.

Jake walks out of his apartment at around 4:15PM to make his way over to the unemployment office before it closes. He’s been making phone calls all day, and hopefully some one will call him back about a job. He decides to take the long way, since he knows he can still get there on time, and he’ll have more fun. He makes his way towards his bike, his companion, and hops on. There are no cars on East Pasadena, which is nice. He hates being cut off by the lucky people. They don’t know what real work is. Push your foot down and let the engine do the work. Lazy. He makes the right on Hooker Road, and heads towards busy Broadbridge Ave.

The traffic on Broadbridge is average for a Thursday afternoon. The people in their cars are on their way home from work, and look happy. Jake keeps on pedaling towards the intersection with Huntington Turnpike, and stops at the corner to wait. Seeing that no one is coming, or at least no one is paying attention, Jake makes his move. The rush of a bit of danger gets him excited. He makes it across just fine, but when he cuts quick to cross Broadbridge, some one in a white hatchback almost hits him, and they lay on the horn. Jake is startled, and angry. It’s been a tough week. He loses his temper for a second. What right do they have? He’s just a guy getting to where he needs to go, just like them. People should be more understanding. He turns on his bike and yells back “Fuck you!” to the driver, and keeps moving. Not the sort of fun he was planning.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

10-18-07: Gambling America

I heard another great piece on On Point with Tom Ashbrook yesterday. This time the topic was gambling in America. It covered state lotteries, casinos, and the overall attitude of gambling in society. I found it fascinating.

I'm not a big gambler, at all. I seldom, if ever, gamble, on anything. I wouldn't say it's necessarily a religious issue, though I do think it is a sin to throw your money away aimlessly. To me it’s simple numbers. Why should I waste my money? The odds are against me. I’m not that good at the games I play. I don’t find it fun to see my hard-earned money go to waste. So why should I waste my time losing money? I don’t even like buying in to a $2 poker game. Guys at school gambled all the time, but I never partook in anything that dealt with real money. I draw the line there. Once in a while I got involved in a stupid wager that was some physical task that the other person had to do (we cleaned our own house every day), but that was just good fun. I think spending my time on something worthwhile is great.

One of the callers on the program lives right near Foxwoods, which is the largest casino in the world, and happens to be located in Ledyard, CT. He spoke against the casino the same way one of my Fraternity Brothers, Brian, who lives in the town of Ledyard, spoke. It is destroying the town. Whatever good the casino says it does for the state or the town (it creates jobs “for locals”), it has done far more that has hurt the town. People don’t go to Ledyard to buy something at the local stores. They drive through to go to Foxwoods, which is located on the Indian reservation next to the town. It’s not helping the town’s economy.

The other issue that Brian brought up was the poor influence of American Indian children in Ledyard’s schools. If they get in trouble, they cannot be disciplined, because they run back to the reservation. Why should they be schooled in town? If they don’t live there, why should they be given the privilege? If they can’t be controlled, it’s simply not fair to the other students, and the town. It is a local issue, and I’m not saying all of the American Indian students are misbehaving. But… if the casino is allowed to operate because it is on Indian land, shouldn’t it be expected that they have their own schools? The bottom line is that the promised benefits to local communities are often never realized.I’m not knocking American Indians. I know a few of them, and I think that whatever problems people have with them are usually specific problems with individual tribes, and even within those, it’s a minority.

The real issue is how gambling has become so accepted, and rampant, in American culture. If you don’t gamble, you’re the minority. Whether it’s scratch tickets, state lottery tickets, online gaming, trips to Foxwoods (I went once and don’t have even a remote desire to go back), or even a poker game at your buddy’s house, gambling is everywhere. It’s even on ESPN. That’s sad. It’s come to a point where people enjoy watching other people gamble on television. Do yourself a favor: go for a walk, or find a buddy and play catch. Life is too short to watch poker on TV.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

10-17-07: The 1915 Armenian Genocide Issue

I should probably do more research on this, but from what I’ve read so far, I simply don’t understand the reasoning for the condemnation of an incident that happened in Turkey back in 1915.

Apparently this is a long-pending issue, which makes sense. The incident did happen 92 years ago, back when Turkey was the Ottoman Empire, but I guess it’s never too late. So basically, what Nancy Pelosi wants to do, despite chiding from fellow Democrat (now Turkish lobbyist) Dick Gephardt, is to condemn an alleged genocide by a defunct government. In doing so, this would offend modern Turkey, who is threatening dire retribution because of this. By the way, Turkey is one of our allies in the Middle East, and is helping us with Iraq.

I just don’t get it. I understand that genocide is genocide, and what the Ottomans did was terrible. But the timing is horrendous! Why are we pissing off an ally? There’s been plenty of genocide since 1915 that the U.S. has condemned, but should Congress be spending its time on this one? I can see the argument that “Just because they are our ally does not make them immune to criticism,” but this is just dumb. To say that modern Turkey is not responsible is all well and good, which is the truth, but that’s not going to sit well with the Turks. They see it as an offensive gesture, and it won’t help the U.S.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

10-16-07: Ghost Walk

On Saturday night, I went on a “ghost walk” around Wilmington with my family, as part of UNCW’s Family Weekend. It was an interesting time, but it involved more walking than originally planned. Two and a half hours of visiting houses and “actives sites” was a bit much. But, it was different.

Our guide was an interesting fellow, equipped with a top hat and a shovel. He didn’t sound like he was from the South, and he used the phrase “sure enough” exactly 137 times, or thereabouts. In all, we walked over a mile, and visited about six sites, mostly houses. The last house we visited was Bellamy Mansion, where a caretaker told us he had slept over the house one night and had an encounter with a spirit.

The night before, I had met a friend of my dad’s cousin Bob, with whom we were staying at his house. Her name was Jane, and she was a very sweet woman from Wilmington. She had come from money, but you couldn’t tell. She was well dressed, but very down to earth, and funny. As it turns out, she grew up in the Bellamy Mansion (her name growing up was Jane Bellamy). None of the ghost stories are true. That was a bit disappointing, but expected.

I live in a town that has a cemetery that is nationally renowned for its Union Cemetery, where the White Lady resides. Apparently it is one of the most “active” locations in the United States. Radio stations and TV crews make regular visits to the site, and cops need to check on it at night so high school kids don’t do anything crazy while trying to catch a glimpse of the ghost. The White Lady has a special history in my town. One time, during my eighth grade history class, my teacher was showing us a series of slides that exhibited some of the history of the town. One picture stood out prominently. It was a picture of one of the oldest stores in town, and there was a woman on the roof… hovering. It was just odd, but my teacher simply passed over it, nonchalantly saying “And that is the White Lady,” before moving on to the next slide. It was an interesting class.

I’m pretty skeptical of ghost hunting in general. I remember in my senior year in high school, during my Writing to Speak class, a girl I knew gave a presentation on the topic. It was about 20 minutes long, and she did an OK job, but the questions afterward were interesting. I asked her a few grilling questions, which I, to this day, think were harsh but appropriately critical. Throughout the presentation, she relied on photographs she had taken of various locations, including Dudleytown (infamous colonial settlement in northern Connecticut that is supposedly cursed), to explain some of her paranormal encounters. She explained that there are basically two things that ghost hunters look for: orbs and fog. Orbs are circles of light, that are supposedly connected to the spiritual/paranormal realm, and fog is… fog. Either one, or a combination, of these two things can reveal a paranormal presence. Our shovel-toting guide on Saturday night mentioned orbs many times, and would tell us stories of seeing them in various photographs taken by guests on past tours.

One of the questions I asked the girl in high school was if it were possible that orbs could simply be dust on the camera lens or a lens flare. She didn’t bite. She stuck to her theories. That’s fine. I also asked how fog played its part. From what I remember, she said it was not simply fog, but how it moved or didn’t move that mattered. Spooky. I then went on to say, and I regret saying this, that “So, from what you’ve said, I could theoretically own a fog machine and a copy of Photoshop and declare myself a ghost hunter.” She went red, and I felt bad afterward, but it was an honest question.

I don’t believe in ghost hunting, but I will admit that, for many years, I was terrified of the dark. I think that people can do whatever makes them happy or excited, but they won’t convert me by using orbs and fog as evidence. I also find it odd that, often times, drugs are involved, as in many ghost sightings involve drunk or stoned individuals. I even saw a minute or two of a ghost hunting special on the History Channel once that had a guy carrying a stick and saying “This would hanging down straight for the ground if there weren’t a presence in this room.” Sure thing, or maybe you’re holding it up subconsciously.

In my opinion, it’s all about your subconscious. Is it really a ghost? How can you know? Try this out. Gather a few friends this Halloween, and tell them you’re going to visit a haunted graveyard or a house, or something. Then, go in the middle of the woods somewhere and pretend you heard/saw/felt something. See what your friends do. I can almost guarantee you that, if not at that moment, they will tell you they also heard/saw/felt something. If you are told to look for a ghost, you will see one. It’s all in your head. You seldom hear of ghosts in malls or office buildings. It’s always in places where people think they’ll be, like abandoned hospitals or graveyards, and it’s never somewhere new or recently settled. Wouldn’t you think there’d be more ghosts in cities, where more people have lived? You never hear one of those ghost stories, except in Ghostbusters. Man, that was a good movie.

Monday, October 15, 2007

10-15-07: Southern Hospitality

I spent the weekend in lovely Wilmington, North Carolina, visiting my sister, who is a freshman at UNCW. Being from the North, I have to admit: Southerners are good people. They certainly know how to show, and have, a good time, which is why I always enjoy trips down there.

That got me thinking: why is it that people from the South are, on par, friendlier than people from the North? I will use the Mason-Dixon line as a border, so basically any state north of Maryland on the east coast is in the North, and vice-versa for the South.

My first thought was obviously the weather, which is likely. North Carolina has much milder season changes, so you don't get that bitter cold and sweltering heat extreme temperature change overnight like in the North. But they do have hurricanes, which can't be fun. That's got to add a degree of stress, at least for part of the year. Blizzards suck, but I've never really had to worry about losing my house in a flood. I guess it breaks down to the extremes, though. If you don't have to worry when the seasons change, maybe that puts you into an easier state of mind. That, and heat slows you down. Look at the Thai people as an example for that. They simply can't get angry. It's too tiring.

I then thought it was the food. Southerners eat differently than Northerners. We have our various chowders and Canadian bacon. They have their grits and hush-puppies. Maybe they eat more fatty foods, which slows thing down and eases it up. Plus, who wouldn't be friendly after some good ol' country barbecue?

It then dawned on me that it could be a fa├žade. Maybe it's just a Northerner's perception of the friendly South. After all, Southerners aren't always friendly to other Southerners. Look at all the race riots in the past. Those were times of Southern Hospitality, right? And what about the bitterness that still survives 142 years after the end of the Civil War (a.k.a. the War of Northern Aggression)? My sister actually heard another student say, in response to the question "What is something you have learned so far in school?", "Well, I've learned to accept Yankees a little more." Where's the consistency?

The truth of the matter is that it's about perception. I do believe, ON AVERAGE, Southerners are friendlier than Northerners. There may be some hidden racism lingering, but the North isn't exactly the ideal candidate for a racial Utopia. Judging by extremism works both ways, but it is funny to consider from time to time. All in all, I do enjoy visiting the South.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

10-11-07: Old Time Drivin'

I was driving down the road today and eventually ended up behind an elderly driver. It was at a traffic light, and the driver took a few seconds to see that the light had turned, then almost forgot to use their turn signal, and didn't leave much room for drivers behind them to get by. Not the worst driver in the world, but hardly safe.

After passing that driver, I began to recall a discussion I have had before: should elderly drivers be required to take a driving test to stay on the road? When I was a senior in high school, one of my classmates gave a stirring speech on the subject during our "Senior Speakouts." Their point was a little more severe, that all 70+ year-olds should be taken off the road. I don't quite agree with that sentiment, though. There are drivers in that age category that are far better than drivers my age or other younger generations. There's also no sense in taking all drivers off the road just because a good number of them are dangerous.

What I think should happen is this: once a driver reaches age 70, have them take a quick road test to see if they're able to drive safely enough not to cause a huge car wreck every day. No, you can't test for everything, but it's at least something. Some drivers are just terrible.

There are three obvious issues about this (I like to play my own devil's advocate):

Issue 1: It isn't fair to require some one to take a driver's test just because of age.
Sure it is. As people get older, their motor skills suffer. If this is such a universally accepted fact, along with the idea that most insurance companies require physical exams at certain ages, why not have them take a test? If they're good drivers, then they should be fine. The other issue is that most tests the elderly go through are to prevent harm to them, but a bad driver could injury many others. The risks involved are greater overall.

Issue 2: Who would pay for this?
The drivers would, initially, but see Issue 3 why this would make sense.

Issue 3: What about the AARP? They're a powerful group, and have strong lobbyists.
True, which is why making this a state law might not be the best thing to do. Instead, states could offer strong incentives to the elderly drivers who take and pass tests. Perhaps they make the costs tax deductible, or they encourage insurance companies to offer reduced rates. It would save both entities money, as many elderly drivers are involved in automobile accidents (or cause them). What might happen (and the AARP would have some influence in this, though) is that insurance companies will raise rates for elderly drivers, so they'll feel the pinch (with their limited and fixed income) and would want to save the money. This approach is more of a "soft" requirement, as no law would be made, but that's what I like so much about it. Let the market do the work.

In short, offering either tax or insurance premium incentives would have a significant effect on the elderly, since they often have limited income. Insurance companies know how much money they spend on elderly-caused accidents, so they'd see the profits in offering incentives to safe drivers (which they already do anyway). The AARP might fight back against raised insurance rates, but that's business, and they'd have some trouble fighting that. By letting the market direct the elderly to take the test, they'd basically require them to act in order to save money. The states could run a series of emotion-laden ads to hit the hearts of the elderly and their families, saying it would save lives (and money). It could work. You could even give them a second chance to take the test if they don't pass the first time, which might get some thinking "Maybe I am not such a safe driver…" and they don't go for the renewal.

On a side note, I know elderly drivers who are very, very safe. I know it's not fair for them to be required to take a test, but if they pass, look at the money they'd save! And, it'd be sort of a badge of honor.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

10-10-07: Diversity Study: It's Bad?

I read a fascinating article in the Boston Globe today, online, called "The Downside of Diversity" by Michael Jonas. It's about a study performed by a world-renowned social scientist named Robert Putnam. The study, which was done in 41 communities throughout the United States and included 32,000 people, resulted in some interesting findings regarding the effect of diversity in a community's "social capital." Putnam coined the phrase, which deals with "the social networks that are key indicators of civic well-being." After initially publishing his raw data in 2000, Putnam has spent the past several years going through the data to test the theory he came to at that time: diversity can often be bad for a community's civic well-being.

What's really perplexing about the study's findings is that it seems to go against the very fabric of the American social policy, which promotes diversity. But, it turns out, diverse communities often lack trust, charity, and optimism about society. It was often the case that people in diverse communities didn't trust people like them! For example, a black Baptist in a community with several other races and religions was less likely to trust a fellow black Baptist in that community than if they lived in a community with a majority of black Baptists. Less diverse communities seemed to have more overall trust, which is downright odd to learn.

An even stranger aspect of the study is that its facilitator, Putnam, is a liberal. His findings go completely against his beliefs; he's been getting complimentary e-mails from staunch bigots praising him for "proving that racism works." Part of the praise given to Putnam, as stated by a colleague at the end of the article, is that he was brave enough to publish the findings. That got me thinking: how many studies have been done that weren't published simply because the social scientists behind the study didn't agree with the findings? I'm sure it's worked against both liberal and conservative alike, but what if it was a ground-breaking study? What if it went against one specific thing that person believed in, but otherwise would have helped reveal a great truth? This begs the question of the role that cognitive dissonance plays in these studies. I think I'll e-mail Scott Adams about this...

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

10-9-07: Coffee Overdose

I read an interesting little article about a girl in northern England who overdosed on coffee. She’s fine, and fully recovered, but you have to admit, that’d be a strange way to go. Coffee overdose.

The girl apparently drank seven double espressos while working at her father’s sandwich shop. Seven. Double. Espressos. After being sent home by her father, probably for a dash of hyper behavior, she came down with a fever and began hyperventilating. After a trip to the emergency room, she was sent home and has had some lingering effects. She now can’t stand the sight of coffee, which I’m sure is a difficult working environment.

A couple funny things came to me while reading the article. The first was the father’s reaction, specifically his quote: “She did not realise she was drinking double measures.

"I have always stressed to my children the importance of moderation but she got caught out on this occasion.”

Now, I’m sure the guy was just busy, or maybe he wasn’t there the whole time, but the fact is: she drank seven coffees in less than a full work day. Never mind “double measures,” SEVEN COFFEES. I’m not addicted to caffeine, but I have had my share of coffee, and if I had three in a morning, I’d be feeling it, and would probably start. It’s not like booze, which can be spread out a little more (except for the hard stuff). Seven double espressos is asking for trouble.

But, the most encouraging part of all of this is that it didn’t happen in America. With all the educational advantages the English claim to have over us (the girl used the word palpitations in the article), they are not immune to dangerous and stupid behavior. That makes me feel all warm inside.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

10-7-07: October?

It feels a bit like Indian Summer outside. It's 75 degrees and sunny. Nice day, but I'm still looking forward to the fall weather. I like it nice and cool.

Very entertaining game today for Spurs. Liverpool is a bit weak this week, especially after a tough loss in the Champions League. Both teams had their chances, and Spurs scored two great, almost identical, goals. But, Liverpool tied it up at the end. Disappointing, but Tottenham got away with a point at a tough venue. Still, it would've been a great win. Oh well. They're moving up in the table.

Big game today for the Red Sox. Let's see how it goes. But... I'm looking forward to the Yankees game, too. It'd be unfortunate if they're eliminated so soon...

I wanted to try to put a video in one of the posts, so here's a goofy one from a zoo in Thailand:

Saturday, October 6, 2007

10-6-07: Postseason and Follow-up on Bush Impeachment

It's been an interesting post-season so far. Nice little win for the Red Sox last night. Let's see what they can do in Anaheim. I fell asleep before Ramirez's home-run. That's what happens when they START GAMES AT 8:30PM. I hate TBS. 8:30 play-off game? At least it's not an 8:00PM Red Sox vs. Yankees game on a Sunday night at Fenway. I already had that a few weeks ago. Boy, was I ever productive at work on Monday. Amazing.

Thanks to those few people who get Google Notifier alerts about certain topics for making comments on a few of my recent posts. I got a good one from some one named Causal about my post yesterday. I'd just like to highlight a few things he said. First off, I respect your opinion, and think you're a smart individual, Causal. I won't dispute your ability to formulate a good argument. Instead, I just want to point out a few things.

"Holding government officials accountable for their actions strengthens our democracy. Letting lawlessness stand weakens it."

True. That's completely valid, and I agree with you. Lawlessness should never be allowed. But, in this particular case, you're pointing out an extreme. You're using the slippery slope mentality, indirectly, to argue that what is happening is currently, or is leading to, complete lawlessness. However, what MIGHT be happening is a bit of a disagreement on the current state of lawmaking. The Patriot Act is the hot topic, and parts of it have been found to be unconstitutional, but it is not necessarily Bush. It's Congress. You're placing blame on one person, which is oversimplifying.

"Some previous impeachment attempts were considered a waste of time because they were pursued for things that didn't rise to the level of a Constitutional crisis, which is what the Impeachment tool was intended for. The argument that we can't impeach Bush because there are previous presidents who also did bad things is the same as the argument you might hear from your child that you shouldn't punish him because the neighbor's kid did the same thing and didn't get punished."

Ah, an argument by analogy. Always a fun one. I'll let the "Bush is like a child" inference go, though. Let's just address the first part of that paragraph. As soon as you start using the subjective approach to impeachment proceedings, you leave yourself open to criticism. Who decides when it's a waste of time? The people? Congress? My mentioning of previous Presidents, namely FDR, was to point out the situational similarities, not to make an excuse to just not do it altogether. People nowadays seem to jump on the impeachment bandwagon because they see everything and anything the President does that they disagree with, then, after a while, add it all up and shout for impeachment. Looking back at history, there are cases where Presidents made decisions they felt were right that blatantly violated the Constitution AT THAT TIME. But, laws were passed afterward and things are different. It's all part of the changing political dynamics. The world changes, and to continually use the slippery slope mentality, as I will point out in the next part of the comment, is not solid logic.

"Besides, Bush can still do a lot of damage. Our troops, Iran, and our Supreme Court are all endangered so long as he remains in office. Waiting until Bush is out of office will leave us complicit in any further crimes he commits. The Union of Concerned Scientists has estimated that the death toll from a "tactical" nuclear weapon of the kind Bush is contemplating using in Iran would be at minimum 3 million men, women, and children. The path of death would stretch across country boundaries into India."

This is blatant ignorance on your part, Causal, I'm sorry. The other day, a bill passed through the Senate (vote was 76-22) known as the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment. Many people are crying out that it's another step towards war with Iran. Basically, it states that Iran's Islamic Revolution Guard is a terrorist organization, and more money should be spent by the U.S. to deal with that group. Here's a quote from the bill: "It should be the policy of the United States to combat, contain and roll back the violent activities and destabilizing influence inside Iraq of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran." You are placing ALL of the blame on "war-hungry George Bush," and yet you mention nothing about this amendment. How do you expect the Senate to impeach such a "dangerous man" if they are passing laws like this?

You and I don't live in the same reality, Causal, but I admire your determination.

Friday, October 5, 2007

10-5-07: Christopher Dodd and "Impeach Bush"

I listen to a bunch of podcasts throughout the day. One of my favorites is "On Point with Tom Ashbrook," an NPR production. Today, they had a podcast with Christopher Dodd (D - CT), a United States Senator. He's one of my senators, so I figured I'd give him a listen.

Dodd is very much a dark horse candidate in the Presidential race. Right now he's not even registering in national polls, and I thought his response was interesting when asked "How are you going to respond to this lack of popularity at this point?" He basically said it was too early to know, that we have months until the first primary, and that "money doesn't win an election." Well, that would make sense for some one with good values, like Jimmy Carter (and look at how his Presidency turned out!), which Dodd… sort of… has. He's basically a Catholic guy from Connecticut who has a slightly above-average Senatorial career, and does a whole lot of Republican-bashing. In the podcast, he said "We should stop screaming at each other and pull together." That's a nice sentiment, but how does that fit in with the rest of his stance on how "pretty much anything the Republicans want is wrong"? How can you bring people together when you can't even respect the other party?

As a member of his constituency, I don't like Dodd. He's the semi-brilliant son of the brilliant Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd, and I almost never hear from the guy about anything. I'm not saying he's the beneficiary of nepotism, but it's a possibility. That's nothing new in politics, on either side. I'm not saying Dodd is a bad candidate compared to all Republicans (though I'd likely never vote for him over any Republican); he's just not a good candidate compared to other Democrats. I know this is bad logic (small sample size), but here's my beef with him: a few months ago, I sent an e-mail to Joseph Lieberman, Christopher Shays, and Dodd, about a bill concerning the fate of internet radio stations. I was hoping to hear back from Shays, my Congressman, but nothing came back. Same with Dodd. Lieberman wrote back to me TWICE, with all the information I wanted AND his stance on the issue. Lieberman lived up to his promise to stay connected with his constituents. So far, all I've ever heard from Dodd is "I'm running for President." Well, you're doing a lousy job on both fronts. I hope he doesn't get any votes.

Dodd isn't a bad person. He's a good Catholic (from what I've seen), and a good father, and I can respect that. But when he plays the same game as all the other lackluster politicians, why should any one Democrat favor him over Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama? I'm not voting for any of them, but I sure would never favor Dodd.

On a side note, I did like Dodd's response to a crazy caller who compared his father's Nuremberg trials to the "necessary" pursuit to impeach Bush. He doesn't support it because it wouldn't be good for the country. Though I'm sure he'd love to see Bush impeached, at least he's not crazy.

With that in mind, let's take a look at the role of the President vs. the Constitution. Many anti-Bush people say his administration is passing all sorts of illegal bills that bash the Constitution. Let's assume that's true, which I don't agree with, but let's play this game for a minute. There have been times in history when certain situations required seemingly drastic action taken by the President and Congress. One is now, in the age of violent terrorism, and another was back in the Great Depression. Back in the Depression, FDR created several government-sponsored agencies (the Alphabet Agencies) to help spur job creation. It seems like a wonderful idea, right? Well, it was… against the Constitution. The Judicial System ruled that the role FDR took was illegal, and that government should not have full control of the economy, which was basically what it had. FDR is now heralded as a hero, and he broke the law! What did they do as a result? They changed the Constitution, for good reason. But, he still broke the law. FDR wasn't impeached, and his actions were found illegal at that time. If the Justice Department is behind Bush's plans against terrorism, does it make sense to impeach him now?

The other interesting part of FDR's socialistic plan is that it failed to help end the Depression. World War II ended it.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

10-4-07: The Office vs. House

Well, TV is decent again. I've never been a huge follower of a major network show, but I do like to keep up with a few favorites. This year, it comes down to a few: The Office, House, and It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. I'm also following a show on Adult Swim (late night on Cartoon Network) called Metalocalypse.

The two best among the group are probably House and The Office, though the other two are hilarious. House is the only show that runs a consistent 60 minutes, the others have either 30 or 15 minute run times, though The Office has three 60-minute episodes to start this season. I was thinking which one was the best on the way into work this morning, and I've decided to do a quick comparison of The Office vs. House.


The Office: Based on the British show of the same name, it's about a small branch of a fictional paper supplies distributor in Scranton, PA called Dunder Mifflin. It's shot in documentary format to make it appear realistic, but it is entirely scripted. Steve Carell is the star as Michael Scott, the boss, and he's very funny in the show. This season looks to continue the story of previous seasons, and it's been fine so far.

House: A hospital show with attitude. Dr. Gregory House, played by British actor Hugh Laurie, is one of the best diagnosticians in the world, and has gained a reputation for diagnosing patients in even the most extreme cases. This season is the first without his star team of three assistants, who either quit or were fired at the end of the last season. The humor is excellent, and each episode is extremely well-written.

Verdict: Although both aren't original themes, I'm giving the edge to House.

I might come up with more categories later, but overall, I like House slightly better.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

10-3-07: Etymology

I’ve had a slight fascination with linguistics for a short while. I like learning about the origins of words. It just seems neat to me. I’m from New England, so I’m used to a hodge-podge of town names and locations. If you break down the six New England states, two have American Indian origins (Massachusetts and Connecticut), one is from Greece (Rhode Island), two are French (Vermont and Maine), and one has British origins (New Hampshire). That’s just neat.

The modern English language is a real interesting mix of several languages: French, Old English, German, Spanish, and even American Indian. Most people assume it’s a Romance language, but few realize it’s actually considered West Germanic. That’s interesting. There are plenty of words that people use every day, but have no idea where they came from. I kind of wish I took Latin in high school, but I’d rather just figure stuff out as I go along. It’s more fun that way. Besides, Latin is boring. I’m more fascinated in the etymology (word origin) of place names.

One place name in particular that I’ve always liked boasting to people that I know about is Philadelphia. A lot of people assume it’s an American Indian name. But it’s actually Greek. “Philos” means “love”, and “Delphos” means “brotherly.” Combine the two and you get Philadelphia (“phila-del-phia”), or the “city of brotherly love.” That’s just neat, and it’s original. This sort of hobby often annoys people, but sometimes it catches people off-guard and can make for an interesting conversation starter (or finisher…). Here are a couple other place names you might not have known about:

Pittsburgh has a rare, if not unique, naming scheme, since there is an “h” at the end of “burg,” which is common in German place names. But, this is for good reason. Pittsburgh’s name is of Scottish origin. It is named after William Pitt, a wealthy and powerful British politician, and dedicated as “Pittsbourgh” by General John Forbes in 1758. The name can be broken down into “Pitt” and “borough” to mean “Pitt’s borough,” or “Pitt’s town.” The name has since changed due to a heavy influx of German people to the area, and is now known as Pittsburgh.

Boston was originally known as Shawmut, and was named after the town of Boston in Lincolnshire, England. That town’s name comes from “St. Botolph’s Stone,” which was shortened to Boston over time. St. Botolph was a Saxon monk who settled the town along the River Witham in the year 654 AD. The interesting part of the two towns is that they were both settled along marshy land, both being given the name of “The Fens.” That is to say, there are Fens in Boston, Lincolnshire and in Boston, Massachusetts. This is likely the reason for The Hub’s namesake.

I hope that sparked your interest. Tell your friends.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

10-2-07: Sad Day

Not a great day at my house. My dog Ebert has finally passed. We just got back from the vet's. It was a shock, but it was the right thing to do. He's had a tumor for a little while now, and it was his time. He's in a better place now. Rest In Peace, boy. We all loved you.

That's it for today.

Monday, October 1, 2007

10-1-07: Politics and Baseball Predictions

This probably won’t happen, but don’t you think it would be funny if Mike Gravel actually won the Presidency? I’d personally rather like to see some one like Ron Paul win, as far as extremists go, but I think Gravel’s a funny guy.

I saw another highlight reel of Gravel from last week’s Democratic Debate at Dartmouth College. The guy is an absolute riot. The things he says just make you wonder if behind the scenes he smiles, laughs, and tells his closest buddies: “Can you believe that shit I just said?! Whoa! Let’s see how long this thing can go.” I’m not suggesting he’s fake. I think he really is a bit of on oddball, but it makes for fantastic entertainment. With the election now just 400 days away, things are really starting to heat up.

Here’s my prediction: Hillary vs. Giuliani. I know, saying the two favorites will face off against each other is lame, but more often than not it comes true. I hope Obama gives Hillary a good run for the money, but she has a bit more experience, and she happens to be married to Bill Clinton. I thought it was funny this morning when I heard Bill say, in an interview on ABC, that “she will be the policy maker.” No shit. How bad would that look, having Bill make Hillary’s decisions for her? That might come back to hurt her, but I guess Bill had to say it. It doesn’t matter, because I think Giuliani will beat her. But if I had my way, Fred Thompson would be President.

October is finally here, which means the weather is getting cooler, and BASEBALL is the word of the month. If it weren’t for the Patriots playing tonight in Monday Night Football, I’d be tempted to watch the one-game playoff for the National League Wild Card between the Padres and Rockies. What a story that would be if Colorado won, but I think San Diego has the edge with Peavy. Still, Fogg has been coming on strong this past month, and the Rockies have a better offense. It’s also AT Colorado, which is a result of their 10-8 record against the Friars. Should be a good game.

You saw it here first. Here are my predictions for the ALDS and NLDS:

Boston vs. Los Angeles: Boston in 4

New York vs. Cleveland: New York in 5

San Diego* vs. Philadelphia: Philly in 5

Chicago vs. Arizona: Arizona in 4

* Colorado vs. Philadelphia: Colorado in 5