Thursday, July 31, 2008

7-31-08: Inferno

I was reading a bit of Dante's Inferno last night. I'm not sure why I checked it out from the library, but I think it was just that I hadn't read it. Just curious.

Two things came to mind after reading the synopsis:

1) There seem to be a decent number of Popes in Hell. That was strange. I figured Popes would be... exempt. But Dante has some Popes in some of the deeper circles of Hell. That was a bit unexpected.

2) Of the three most horrible sinners, who are doomed to be chewed by Satan for all time, there's one who is seldom mentioned in everyday conversation: Gaius Cassius Longinus, or just Cassius to his buddies. He was the Roman Senator who plotted Caesar's death. It seemed odd to me that Dante picked him, because that meant that of the three most horrible sinners, two were involved in the death of Julius Caesar. The other, of course, was Brutus. The other sinner, more horrible than any other, was Judas Iscariot. No mystery there. But why Cassius? I think it's probably because Dante was Italian, and Inferno was written in the early 14th century. Maybe that's also why he didn't plug his website! I guess I can one-up the old man in that realm.

Other than those two things, I thought the story of the Pilgrim with Virgil was quite different than any other story I've read. It sort of reminded me of What Dreams May Come, only that was more of a story of a dead guy who wanted to go to Hell to find some one. Inferno is mostly just a story of a guy taking a really long alternate route to get past some unholy beasts. And that's another odd thing: how come Virgil could get past all of Hell's creation, including Lucifer himself, but say "Hey man, I can't beat that leopard for you. It's just too much." Where's the logic in that? Ah, symbolism, how you defy me yet again.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

7-29-08: Too Much Sun!

I played in a golf tournament today, and man did I have a blast. It was called the Senor Pancho's Golf Classic, held in Monroe, CT. Margaritas, golf, and good weather... can't go wrong with that.

To celebrate such a nice day, here's a little ditty by Tommy Tutone:

Monday, July 28, 2008

7-28-08: Congressman Christopher Shays on the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act

Here is an e-mail I got from Congressman Christopher Shays, who is my congressional representative. Overall, I think he's doing a decent job. This particular e-mail was in regard to H.R. 6003, which was the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act. I agree with his stance on the issue.

I just think it's interesting that he mentioned how 9/11 made us re-consider the breadth of our transportation options. I hadn't thought of that aspect. I just like taking trains!

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Congressman Christopher Shays <>
Date: Mon, Jul 28, 2008
Subject: Congressman Christopher Shays

July 28, 2008

Dear Patrick:                           

Thank you for your e-mail of June 12 inquiring about my position on H.R. 6003, the Passenger Rail Investment Improvement Act.  I appreciate you taking the time to contact me.

I voted for H.R. 6003 when it passed the House on June 11, 2008 by a vote of 311 to 104.  The bill authorizes $14.4 billion in funding for Amtrak over five years for capital and operating grants, state intercity passenger grants, and high speed rail. 

It seems to me Amtrak hasn't succeeded because it is underfunded, its lines serve too many areas which don't need service, and its customer service is poor.  I am pleased this bill addresses Amtrak's funding needs by providing adequate funding for capital improvements and operations.

H.R. 6003 also requires the Administrator of the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to develop and improve metrics and minimum standards for measuring the performance and service quality of intercity passenger train operations.  I believe we must tie federal support for Amtrak to reforms while simultaneously evaluating unprofitable lines across the country.

The bottom line for me is we can't afford for our nations' rail service to fail.  Our economy depends on it, and the September 11th terrorist attacks made clear that our country can't rely on one mode of transportation.  Additionally, making passenger rail a viable option for commuters will get cars off our congested highways, reduce the stress on our aging roads and decrease oil consumption.

Please do not hesitate to contact my office again.  If you would be interested in receiving my e-newsletter to update you about my work on your behalf in Washington, or for other information, please visit my website at to sign up or to contact me.


Christopher Shays
Member of Congress


I cannot guarantee the integrity of the text of this letter if it was not sent to you directly from my Congressional Email Account:  If you have any questions about the validity of this message, please email me or call my Washington, DC office at: 202/225-5541.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

7-27-08: Tony's di Napoli

My family went into Manhattan last night to celebrate my sister's birthday. We ended up going to a restaurant on West 43rd St. (by Times Square) called Tony's di Napoli.

We showed up at around 7:00PM, right in time for the end of the "theatre rush"; a time in which theatre-goers eat dinner. After grabbing a beer (I think it was a Merotti) at the bar with my dad, we waited no more than 5-10 minutes for a table. It's a pretty good sized place, and definitely reminds you of the Roaring 20's, even though it has caricatures of modern celebrities who ate there (and it opened in 1959). Still, it's one big room and it's neat to see.

If you want good, New York-style Italian food, you really can't beat Tony's. It's not the fanciest food out there, but it's an awesome place for "reasonably priced" (in New York terms) family-style dining. The portions are enormous, so you can't just order something for yourself. It's a group effort. My family ended up getting the house salad (made fresh by our waiter), some nice linguini, chicken parm, and a great shrimp dish with ravioli. Everything was very freshly made, and by the end of the night, you're stuffed.

The wait staff was great, too. Our waiter was funny, knew his craft well, and made a great salad. Overall, it was an awesome choice. If you're going to take your family into New York (especially if you're going to a Broadway show; the theatres are just a few blocks away), I'd highly recommend Tony's di Napoli. It's about a 10 minute walk from Grand Central, right between 6th Ave. and Broadway. If you reach Times Square, you've just missed it.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

7-26-08: An Attempt at Political Satire

I have a program on my Mac that does comics (it's called Comic Life), that I haven't used in a while. I figured it's time to try it out again.

Friday, July 25, 2008

7-25-08: The Telecom “Pardon”

There's been a bit of agreement amongst a surprisingly wide range of political groups, from Libertarians to Liberals, regarding the recent debate regarding major telecommunication companies being held non-liable for cooperating with the Federal Government in post-9/11 warrant-less wire taps.

I'll start by revealing my bias for telecommunications companies. My mother has worked for a major one for 28 years. It put me through college, and helped me live a very nice childhood. With that out of the way, I'd just like to propose a few arguments to poke holes in the logic. There may be holes in my logic, no doubt, but I think it's an interesting debate.

The major issue is obviously that phone companies invaded the privacy of law-abiding citizens. Well, they let the government do all the snooping, but they played the key role. This is the major source of discontent with people, and it is very understandable. I will not argue against this, as I firmly believe in the protection of personal privacy.

What I want to argue is that it's not consistent, regarding precedence, to blame the telecommunications companies and outright say they are at fault. They were simply helping the government. Sure, they could have said "No, that's illegal." But look at it realistically: they'd be telling the people who are supposed to enforce the law that what they want to do is illegal.

On top of that, all telecommunications companies are heavily involved with the government because of the regulations the government has on their normal business operations. This is seen all of the time with rulings passed down by the Federal Communications Commission. The FCC is involved with almost every aspect of business, so telecommunications companies have to answer to the government in order to make a profit. Don't forget: these are companies that offer a service that is for profit. They aren't non-profit organizations handing out food to people. They're capitalists. That's just some insight on their motivations for helping out; it's not a legal excuse.

What might be construed as a legal excuse is the precedence. Let's just stick with the whole idea of "you do what the government says." Let's just ignore the whole privacy debate for now, though it is quite important.

As far as logic goes, precedence is meaningless. If something happened before, it doesn't mean it has to happen again "just because." But, from a legal standpoint, precedence is very important. Just look at Plessy v. Ferguson or Brown v. Board of Education or Roe v. Wade. Those are all examples of preceding instances that can be legally cited in a court of law as being de-facto rules of operation. Now, let's use the idea of legal precedence for general business and government intervention.

The Food and Drug Administration makes policies that make sure you eat healthy food. It is an organization that is necessary to prevent massive food poisoning and other health hazards. How is this organization effective? Does it use Public Service Announcements? Sure, but it also has the power of legal action. They can legally fine businesses for not complying. They basically control how the food industry operates. And, for the most part, people agree with the actions the FDA takes, because it is for our protection.

Let's say there is a massive outbreak of cholera that is the result of bad beef from South America. The FDA finds out about this, and realizes that they're not exactly sure when the bad beef started to enter the country. So, they take drastic action and make it illegal for businesses in (let's say) Louisiana to sell beef until the problem is dealt with. If a business sells beef, and is caught, they are fined by the FDA. Could this happen? I'm not sure, but I bet it has. But what's likely to happen is businesses in Louisiana will be very motivated to stop all sales of beef, for fear of action taken by the government. They're simply trying to do business. They could risk it and sell the beef to make a profit, but if they're caught, they'd be more likely to be put out of business.

Now let's break down the comparison between the fictional Louisiana beef distributors and the actual telecommunication companies. They are both heavily involved with the government in that they are regulated. They are both presented with a serious problem and approached by the government to take action. Sure, one problem involves the invasion of privacy and the other simply prevents people from eating beef for a while, so they're not quite on the same level. Ignoring that fact, and just paying attention to the concept of trying to prevent the government from getting its way, what is the difference? The action is first taken by the government, so isn't that the source? Should we be going after the messenger?

It may be true that the telecommunications companies helped violate personal privacy, but they aren't the ones to blame. They aren't utility companies that are legally obligated to hold down their prices. They are businesses that provide a service and that answer to the government. If you really want to help prevent future invasions of privacy, you have to look at the legal standing the government has to be allowed to even ask the companies to do it. It's a disappointing situation overall, but I'm not upset that the phone companies were let off the hook (pardon the pun).

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

7-22-08: The Inquisition

I just finished watching a film from 1986 starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater called Name of the Rose. It was about a Franciscan monk named William of Baskerville (played by Connery) who arrives at a remote, Medieval abbey to take place in a debate with Papal representatives about the poverty of Christ. But, that was just a side story. William, accompanied by his young pupil Adso (played by Slater), takes part in a murder mystery at the abbey. It's not exactly a thriller, but it had an interesting Sherlock Holmes feel to it. Slater also sleeps with a poor woman from the neighboring village, for seemingly no reason.

Then comes the Inquisition, namely a character named Bernardo Gui (played by F. Murray Abraham), who has a history with William. The film takes few unexpected turns, but it's an OK watch if you're a bit of a history buff.

Personally, I was a bit intrigued by the power of the Inquistion in Medieval times. There's a scene in the film where Gui, an Inquisitor, holds a tribunal to try three people of heresy. He chooses, as his aides, two fellow judges: the Abbott (played by Michael Lonsdale; the bad guy from Moonraker) and William. As expected, the Abbott says "Guilty"; William says "Innocent." Gui's reaction was: "Since the tribunal cannot come to an agreement, the confession will be extracted. Bring the tools." They torture the innocent! I'm not sure how historically accurate that part was, but just imagine living in those times. It makes that horrible commute to work seem to be not so bad, eh?

Monday, July 21, 2008

7-21-08: Summer in the City

I spent Friday afternoon in Manhattan. Though it was hot as hell (I even got to use the ol' "I'm sweating like a whore in church" quip), it was a fun time. I spent the bulk of the time in Greenwich Village, which, if you haven't been, is a real trip. I stepped out of the subway and was nearly face to face with a tall guy in drag. It was a fitting welcome to one of my favorite parts of any city.

I've been to the Village many times. I grew up in the New York area (just an hour-long train ride into Grand Central). Every time I go in, I try to see something new. This time was no different. I started the afternoon taking a tour via the Gray Line bus company (it's normally strictly for tourists) called the Heritage Tour. I saw an ad for it on TV back in January, on a trip to San Diego. It was $20, but well worth it. It was just me and the tour guide, romping through Mid-Town down Broadway. I was told so many neat historical facts that I will have ammunition for years. I'm strange like that.

My favorite characteristic of New York, specifically Manhattan, is its accessibility. My family is from the Boston area, which is where I was born, so I've always loved visiting Boston. It's a wonderful city in its own right, especially for walking, but getting there can be more of a pain than it should be. Sure, there are commuter rails and subways that take you in, but they are either too expensive or run too infrequently to make it worth it. So, a lot of people drive in. So, there are no parking spaces. It's more of a hassle than it should be.

New York is different. I live 15 minutes away from the Fairfield train station, in Connecticut. I can park there during the day and take any one of (just a guess) 20 trains into Grand Central. And that's just Fairfield. The Metro-North has trains that run to New Haven, Waterbury, and Danbury. Those branches are more limited, but they cover far more area than Boston's system. Never mind that there is a second Metro-North line that runs into New York State. Fares aren't exactly a steal, but at $10.75 one way from Fairfield, it's really worth it. Parking in New York is a battle in its own right.

It's a pretty simple system once you get used to it, but it's funny when people get confused. Here's a story from Friday night/Saturday morning:

I missed the 12:25AM train from Grand Central by about 3 minutes. So, I ended up taking the 1:12AM. No big deal. I found a copy of the New York Daily News in the Stationmaster's office to read. I got on the train early, found a seat, and settled in.

The train slowly began to fill, but it wasn't packed. It was mostly an older crowd, but no one was really past their late 50's. It was pretty quiet.

Then, as if on cue, two drunk, college-aged girls practically fall into two seats across the aisle from me. One of them was far drunker than the other, and was more than happy to let every one in the train car know that. Her friend wasn't quite so bad, but was still slightly annoying.

Once they sat down, the less-drunk one (I'll call her Shirley) said to more-drunk one (I'll call her Ashley, because I think her name was actually Ashley): "Well I guess we're going to Connecticut!"

Apparently they had actually planned on heading to Westchester, which is in New York State, which is on the Hudson Line of Metro-North. Instead of being constructive, Ashley simply shouted "What the fuck is in Connecticut?! Where is Connecticut?!" Mind you, she was asking a train car full of people who probably lived in Connecticut. Ashley then decided to continue insulting the state. No one helped her. It didn't help that she said "We don't even have subways in California!" and "I never thought I'd get wasted and get on a subway that went to a different state!" Charming girl, actually.

After a few minutes, the conductor came in to collect tickets. Shirley approached him when he came up to her and said "I think we're on the wrong train. We're trying to go to Westchester." Ashley chimed in with "Not Connecticut!" The conductor, who was fortunately in a decent mood, looked at her ticket and said "You did buy a ticket to New Haven." Shirley then went on with a story about how she asked "everyone" back at Grand Central what to do. She probably asked a homeless guy. Who knows. There are only two outgoing terminals she could have chosen for trains departing around that time. She ended up choosing the one that wasn't going to New York. Anyway, the conductor told them that all they had to do was get off at 125th Street (Harlem, baby!) and get on the next train outbound, which was heading to Westchester. Shirley then asked the guy about 50 times "Are you sure?" After re-assuring her all 50 times, he suggests to them that they wait by the door so they didn't miss the next stop. The entire car looked thankfully at the conductor for the suggestion.

I wonder if they made it. I guess I'll never know.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

7-20-08: Dog Days; Dark Knight

Well, I am once again reminded of why they refer to this time of year as the "dog days of summer." It's been pretty brutal out the last few days. It's interesting to learn, though, that the origin of the term comes from the Greeks because of the star Sirius. Fascinating stuff.

I went in to Manhattan on Friday evening to visit a friend, and we ended up seeing The Dark Knight. The first challenge was obviously finding a showing in the city that hadn't already been sold out. One of my buddies saw it in IMAX on Friday (in Manchester, CT). He bought the tickets a month in advance and the theatre was already half sold-out. I was lucky to get two seats to a 9:20PM showing a place called City Cinemas on 3rd Ave. The place was absolutely packed.

There was tremendous hype for the film. I'd had it on my Google Calendar for several months. And, with the whole Heath Ledger issue, it added a bit of mystery to the opening. The film really had to deliver.

And so it did, and overwhelmingly so at that. I was in absolute awe at the story. I was very impressed, and pleased, at how Batman Begins turned out. The Dark Knight took it one step further. It's basically how The Godfather, Part II took The Godfather one step further. The real show was Ledger as The Joker, who was just so creepy, cold, and evil that you couldn't take your eyes off the character when he was on screen. Christian Bale did another fantastic job as Batman, but you really have to admit, he was showed up by Ledger. It's really disappointing that he will not be unable to reprise the role.

If you haven't seen it, you really need to. You don't have to be a Batman fan, or a comic book fan, to enjoy the story. It had a really great take on suspense, mystery, and even elements of horror. I'm surprised it held to the PG-13 rating, but that didn't hurt the overall spookiness and shear enjoyment. There are moments in the film where the whole theatre, which wasn't particularly large, went nuts. Sure, it would have been nice to see in IMAX, but I'm not worried.

This got me thinking. With Ledger dead, they have quite a dilemma. Do they bring some one else in to play The Joker? I think, though it would be interesting to see the continuation of the Batman v. Joker story, Ledger really made the role work. Jack Nicholson did a good job, but that doesn't mean some one can match that level of creepiness and criminal genius. Honestly, I hope they don't. I think they should bring in The Riddler for the next one to complete the trilogy. Do you think they'd bring Jim Carrey back? Ha. I'd hope not. You know who might work, though... Edward Norton. Now that would be interesting.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

7-16-08: MLB All-Star Game

I found myself watching the MLB All-Star Game last night, mostly because there wasn't really anything else on. I've never been a huge fan of the whole concept of all-star games, mostly because the players aren't really that into the games and it's a bit of a farce.

    But I like what baseball has done to spice things up. Despite all the controversy, which is to be expected since there are some downsides, I agree in giving home field advantage to the winning league. Sure, it might not be fair that some guy from (just an example) the Pirates, who aren't likely to make the playoffs, could determine whether or not the Red Sox or Angels have home field advantage. Or, in the more likely case, a team like the St. Louis Cardinals, who made it into the playoffs a couple years ago after going barely over 0.500 for the season, could have had home field advantage over a team like the Detroit Tigers, who had a far better season, it wouldn't seem like justice. But then again, how would you go about determining home field advantage? Inter-league play is hardly the better solution, especially with the bullshit "rivalry series" every year. The All-Star Game is as good a forum as any to make that determination.

    Back to last night's game: it was pretty boring for the most part. All-Star games are usually pretty close, and are often heavily pitching-oriented, with low batting averages for both teams. Last night looked to be no different, with pitchers breezing through the line-ups the first few innings. But, the National League, which was pretty loaded, was looking to break the spell and not let the American League go a 12th All-Star Game undefeated (they tied in 2002). And, they struck first. The AL looked pretty dead, to be honest.

    Then J.D. Drew entered the on-deck circle, and I thought (honestly): "Drew is going to put one out." I figured this: he's been swinging a hot bat as of late (though he trailed off a bit towards the end of June), he's a left-handed batter with decent power and there is a short porch in right field tailored for his swing, and it was his first All-Star at bat. Sure enough, he hit one out (though barely). That tied it up 2-2.

    I wasn't sure what to make of the whole Papelbon issue with how he apparently said he was going to close the game instead of Rivera. That was just odd, but it didn't end up being an issue because neither pitcher factored into the decision. Papelbon ended up taking back what he initially said anyway, and it's not like the Daily News is a respected news outlet. I watched them both pitch, then turned the game off when the AL didn't win it in the bottom of the 9th.

    That turned out to be a good decision, because the game went a whopping 15 innings. That surprised me, since the 2002 tie game only went 11 before both managers went to Bud Selig and said "We're out of guys to play." Terry Francona had run out of position players, and I'm pretty sure Clint Hurdle didn't have many left on the bench. But, they kept going. Brandon Webb and Scott Kazmir both pitched on only a couple days' rest, which I thought was stupid. Why let them get hurt? Still, it ended up being pretty exciting.

    I watched the highlights at the gym this morning. First, I thought Navarro was safe at home in the 11th. On the radio into the office I heard a guy, allegedly from ESPN, saying what a great tag it was by the catcher. But the replay showed Navarro's foot coming across before the tag. Still, it was close, and the angle the umpire had wasn't the greatest to see the tag, so I'll give the guy a break. But, to win on a close play like that is pretty great, and is good for the game. Overall, it was a great game for the fans.

    What's odd is how Drew ended up being the MVP. Not a Yankee. A member of the rival team was MVP. I'm not gloating; it's just odd. But it's not like Rodriguez or Jeter or Rivera had great games; they didn't really get the opportunity to. All you need is one good at bat, and Drew had one. Good for Drew, I say.

    Finally, there's the opening ceremony, which was pretty good. It was pretty nice to see all those Hall of Fame players out there with today's All-Stars. Still, it doesn't hold a candle to back in 1999 when Ted Williams came out at Fenway and all the players broke rank to talk to him. That was really special. But, that's probably the biased Red Sox fan in me talking. But honestly, if you were to put a team together, who would be your first pick: Whitey Ford, Ted Williams, Yogi Berra, or Reggie Jackson? Three of them were at last night's game. The other was smiling down, knowing he's still the greatest.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

7-15-08: The Open Championship

Thursday is the beginning of one of my favorite annual sporting events: The Open Championship, commonly referred to here in the U.S. as the British Open. This year the tournament is to be held at the Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England (just north of Liverpool in northwest England). It's a tournament rich in tradition and culture (and funny facts like these: the oldest winner was Old Tom Morris, who won the tournament at the age of 46 in 1867; the youngest was his son Young Tom Morris, who won the very next year, 1868, at the age of 17). It's also one of the more entertaining tournaments to watch, as the host courses are often "links" style as opposed to the green, groomed courses so often seen on the PGA Tour. They do it a bit differently in Europe.

    The other factor is the weather. It's not uncommon to see dreary, foggy, wet conditions during the Open, which can really test the nerves and talents of the world's top players. Because of this, it's not uncommon to see "no-name" guys win it. Here are the winners of the last 10 Opens:

    2007: Padraig Harrington
    2006: Tiger Woods
    2005: Tiger Woods
    2004: Todd Hamilton
    2003: Ben Curtis
    2002: Ernie Els
    2001: David Duval
    2000: Tiger Woods
    1999: Paul Lawrie
    1998: Mark O'Meara

    Any casual golf fan should be able to recognize most of those names, even though players like Duval and O'Meara have fallen off the top tier since winning. But Todd Hamilton and Ben Curtis? What have they done? Not much, relatively. But their names are in the history books as winners. And Woods isn't even in the tournament this year, which leaves yet another door open for the underdog to walk through and win… the Open Championship.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Thursday, July 10, 2008

7-10-08: Strange Politics

There are two items from the news that I think are a bit odd, so far as to say I don't see why any one of a logical mindset would get behind either of these two ideas.

The first one was a story I heard on the radio about a guy in Nevada (or maybe New Mexico; somewhere in the rural southwest) who was campaigning for John McCain. He planned on traveling around the state, visiting small towns to spread the word on McCain. The demographic he chose as his primary target was Hispanic females who had supported Hillary Clinton. Here was his pitch: "Why vote for some one who deprived you of your dream?" What he meant, of course, was that he wanted to convince these voters that Barack Obama was a poor choice because he had defeated their favorite candidate.

There are many aspects of his pitch that are either idiotic, sexist, or just downright strange. First, if Hillary had won the Democratic ticket, wouldn't McCain be her biggest obstacle? Then there's the obvious sexism involved in assuming these voters based their opinion solely on the fact that they wanted a woman in the White House. That's not to say that opinion is wrong (one might think it's a bit shallow), but to make the generalization is a bit sexist. And on top of that, it doesn't say anything about McCain as a candidate. It's poor, ill-advised, negative campaigning. Good luck, buddy.

The second story in the news is how many people might not buy into the "Obama Saves Hillary" movement, in which Obama is asking his supporters to donate to Clinton's campaign to help relieve the debt it incurred. Sure, it's quite generous and (I guess) altruistic on Obama's part, but it's not his money to spend. What is the incentive for a voter to donate to a candidate they didn't want nominated in the first place? What do they get out of it? It may send a message of unity to the Democratic Party, but it's a strange notion for voters to buy in to. If I were to donate $50 to Clinton's suspended campaign against a candidate I voted for (which I didn't, this is a hypothetical scenario), where would my $50 go?

Two strange stories, but shockingly not too uncommon to see. I was listening to a podcast where they had Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, on. It will be interesting to see how well a third party candidate will do this year.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

7-8-08: Freaky "Human 2.0" Video from BBC

I've seen similar videos to this, but it's still a little creepy.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Fraggle Rock

Remember this show? It reminds me of Saturday mornings as a kid.

And for the French theme.

7-6-08: Chad Bradford is very, very flexible


Here's the view from my seat at Friday's Yankees-Red Sox game.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

New Bond Trailer: Quantum of Solace

The title alone makes me want to see it.

Friday, July 4, 2008

7-4-08: Independence Day in New York

Baseball is America. At least, it's America's sport.

Today I went to the Red Sox game against the Yankees in Yankee Stadium. Despite the lengthy rain delay, it was an awesome game (mostly because the Sox won). I went with my family, which was fun.

There were many highlights to the game (Lowell's home-run; the crazy play where Damon got hurt and the ball somehow stayed on top of the fence before rolling back into play; Ellsbury's catch), but the pre-game ceremony was pretty special. Sure, there have been a lot of pre-game ceremonies that have honored our service men and women in the armed forces, but it's not often you get to see one on the 4th of July. It just feels more special. Adding to that, it's the last 4th of July game ever to be held in Yankee Stadium. I felt like I was witnessing a small part of history.

The best part was that they had a retired soldier, who looked to be in his early to mid 30's, throw out the first pitch. He's an intern for the Yankees this summer, and is finishing up an MBA at NYU. He has one arm. The other was blown off in Iraq during combat. That was pretty powerful. And best of all, he threw a strike.

God Bless America.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

7-3-08: Should we leave Iraq if the Iraqi government says it’s OK to leave?

I saw something in the news yesterday about how there have been discussions between the U.S. and Iraqi governments about U.S. troop levels in Iraq. It has to deal with a U.N. mandate that's set to expire this year. Apparently they are on the verge of finalizing the pact and keeping U.S. troops in the country, but there had been some issues in the early stages of negotiation.

That got me thinking: what if, one day, the Iraqi government just said "We're not going negotiate. We think we can handle it. We'd like you to please leave"? It won't likely happen this year, or next year, but what if some time in 2010 or 2011, during the next President's term (whoever that may be), Iraq just decided they didn't need our help any more. Well, let's say for reality's sake they just say they don't need that many U.S. troops any more. Should we just leave?

It seems like a pretty straightforward "Of course! Why let any more of our troops risk their lives?" But… I think it would be a complicated decision to make. It's sort of like if a sick patient just said "I think I'm good to go," and just walked up and left the hospital with some obvious issues. It's entirely possible that within a few years Iraq won't seem to be as "sick" as it is now, but do you think we'd rather leave on our own terms? After all, we've spent a lot of money and a bunch of troops have lost their lives in this war. Shouldn't we make the decision?

But it's not our country. It's Iraq. It is ultimately their decision, since we are there to help them rebuild. If, one day, they garner up the courage to say "Thanks for all the help, but we think we can stick it out," I think we need to honor their wish. We're not there to build an empire (or, at least we shouldn't be), and I don't want my tax dollars going to people who don't want or need it. It seems like a simple answer, but I wouldn't be surprised to see it come about and it turns out to be quite complicated.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

7-1-08: Poor spelling; When did THAT happen?

I'm one of those jerks who corrects people's spelling a bit too much. Not all of the time, but probably annoyingly too much. I just think using proper spelling separates us from the animals, you know.

The most annoying thing to me is when people don't even come close to trying in e-mails. I take the time to make my e-mails deliberately well-formed, with proper punctuation and everything. I'm not going to stoop to text-messaging levels when I have the full keyboard in front of me and the time to spend. Is it too much for me to ask for others to do the same?

Correct spelling and punctuation is another way of showing respect. At least, that is what I was taught growing up. I see folks my age (early 20's) using all sorts of bad spelling, and think "Take the extra minute to at least do a spell check, please." It just says to me: "I want to say this to you but it's really not important enough for me to spell check." Sure, I do like reading stuff from people who bother to send things to me, out of courtesy, but I usually stop reading after a while if I have to figure out what's going on.

Think of it another way. Have you ever heard the saying "You should always dress for the job you want"? It's a great way of thinking, because it applies to more than just career improvements. If you want people to read what you are writing and take it seriously, take the extra time to proof read the e-mail. If some 22 year-old engineer cares, what are the odds your boss will?

Do you remember when you were a kid and they made you write letters to people? I mean, actual letters, with pen and paper? Do you think some day they'll just stop doing that altogether and say "Just write an e-mail." Will they still teach proper spelling and punctuation? Are we losing something with this technology?