Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New Orleans revisited

I spoke too quickly the other day. The scale of this disaster is hard to comprehend. Talk of reopening and rebuilding the city is being measured in months. Months. That's really, really hard to think about in today's day and age. All I can do is hope that the estimates are wrong. That the damage is somehow less than it looks. That some level of recovery is possible.
Almost everyone I talked to on the phones today (at the travel agency) wanted to talk about what's going on down there. Many of them had questions of what would happen to the city from a travel standpoint. Obviously, the tourist industry is broken to bits. Less obvious is what will happen going forward. The biggest danger to New Orleans recovery is no one will go there again. I fervently hope that as they rebuild, conventioneers and tourists will make special efforts to go there. New Orleans will need it.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Monday, August 29, 2005

New Orleans

Just a note on how happy I am that New Orleans wasn't hit as hard as perdicted. Haven't been there since October 2001 and that's too long. The FP Gal hasn't been there at all. Will have to change that in the coming year.
My personal interest isn't as much with Bourbon St as it is with the art and antique stores elsewhere in the French Quarter. Well, I enjoy the Bourbon St part, too.

Anyway, I'm glad that the Crecent City is still around. Very glad. Truly one of the jewels of our country.

Why doesn't my job offer this?

Link

I'd take a mere 5000 and I'd be happy with that.

(Note: The FP Gal isn't looking for any additional help with me.)

Saturday, August 27, 2005

iTunes

Finally broke down and started to order some music off of iTunes. These are the first ten I ordered:

I Believe (When I Fall in Love) - Stevie Wonder
F.N.T. - Semisonic
Boys of Summer - Don Henley
Say You Love Me - Fleetwood Mac
Strange Desire - INXS
Steppin' Out - Joe Jackson
Let Her Cry - Hottie & the Blowfish
Jackie Wilson Said - Dexy's Midnight Runners [original Van Morrison unavailable!]
Life is a Highway - Tom Cochrane
Under the Milky Way - The Church

Very happy so far.

The English Patient - 1996

The antidote from 'Fargo' is this movie. Set mostly in the desert, waves of heat almost rise from the DVD case. This was the Best Picture winner of '96 and it's a great one.
The story involves a very badly burned man who is recovered by the Allies in the last part of WWII. Ralph Fiennes plays the 'english' patient and does an outstanding job. He probably deserves a medal just for the makeup he had to endure. The patient has almost no memory of who he is or was.
He falls under the care of a Canadian nurse (the very pretty Juliette Binoche) who believes that she is cursed. "Everyone who loves me, dies", she believes. She takes him out of the medical convoy to spend his last days in an abandoned Italian monastary. She's joined there by Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe) a former intelligence man and a Sikh bomb disposer, Kip (Naveen Andrews currently on the show 'Lost').
The movie is told through flashbacks, as bits of memory come back to the patient. Memories of the desert and the time before the war. Also memories of adultry and other betrayals. The story is powerful and very well told. The desert shots are stunning.
The movie portrays adultry in a fairly positive way. I know this bothered some people but not me. Conflict is the essence of drama and it's tough to write moving stories where the characters all act like angels. And the adulterers got their just due and then some.
The FP Gal thought the movie was too long. And the flashbacks bothered her. She thinks they're part of a fad and she's ready for that fad to end. She also didn't think Fiennes was as hot as the women I work with did. She did like the desert shots, though.
First saw this movie in Colorado Springs back in '97. The cheap theater had it and the joint was packed. It's the only time I've ever been to a movie by myself and had people sitting on both sides of me. There is a scene where Andrews takes his very long hair down and the women next to me audibly shuddered. (And the FP Gal doesn't understand why I miss my long hair!)

Fargo - 1996

Let me get the Minnesota complaints out of the way first. This movie would have been well served if a simple state map was used. And the accents are very over the top (and annoying). I've lived in the Cities (almost no one here calls them the Twin Cities) almost ten years and almost never heard the Minneyota dialect from this here film.
Now that that's out of the way, let me talk about the film. The story is interesting. The characters are interesting and well acted. The camera work is very good. Can't remember another movie that captures the Minnesota winter this well. Especially the parts of driving past Minnesota cornfields that are covered with snow. Blankets of eternal and infinite snow. This movie captures that. After watching, I had to remind myself that it's summer out right now. That's how effective it was.
This movie is good, but not great. I can think of at least three other Cohen brother movies that are better, Raising Arizona, Big Lebowski and O Brother, Where Art Thou. Not sure why this movie has the reputation that it does. Can anyone fill me in?

Past week

Light blogging again this past week, I know. Very busy is all I can say. The open house went very well but we're glad to have it behind us. With all of the wedding stuff behind us (except for the honeymoon), it's good to not be planning any more parties or surprises.
Kind of a busy sports week for me and I was stuck because I don't want to drive the FP Gal over the edge. The White Sox came up here to Minnesota for a three game set. My work schedule makes it tough for me to attend weekday sporting events so I couldn't go to any of them. Tuesday night's game was one of the best of the season. Freddy Garcia pitched (and lost) a one-hitter with the only hit being a homerun. Johan Santana pitched a three hitter and shut out my Sox. It may seem strange to refer to a game that your team lost as a great game, but it was. The Sox looked sharp. The at-bats looked good. The defense looked crisp. And the pitching was top notch. It was a marked contrast to their play throughout much of August. After the game, I thought they looked like they'd turned the corner and the three game win streak since has showed that. Yes, the hitting still needs work, but here's the season's ERAs that they've faced: Mays, 5.16 (they scored 6 off of him), Silva, 3.26 (1 run) and Felix Hernandez, 1.75 (3 runs including his first two HR allowed). Good things ahead I hope.
Thursday night also brought my very first fantasy football draft. Always avoided them in the past and not sure I'm happy about this one. But so far it's been fun. Call me a homer, but my first pick was Culpepper so I'm not screwing up any team loyalty.
Last night we went out to eat and got some movies on the way home. We watched 'Anchorman' and loved it. Let's just say I'll never look at San Diego the same way again. Or the German language.
A good but busy week.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Five stages of throwing an open house

First stage: Denial - The party is weeks off and we don't need to prepare for it. We could even hold off inviting people.
Second stage: Anger - Why doesn't he/she (probably he) realize how much work we still need to do! Conversly, why didn't she want to do anything when her show is on? Now that mine is on, we're bad people if we aren't cleaning.
Third stage: Bargaining - If you'll leave me alone for an hour, I'll help with the yard, ok?
Fourth stage: Depression - People coming will judge this house (and myself) very harshly! It'll never be good enough! And the yard could sprout weeds since it was mowed yesterday!
Fifth stage: Acceptance - It's as good as it'll get. Hope that's good enough.

UPDATE: Everything went very well and we all had a good time.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Weird stuff

I've been tagged by my friend at Naturally Optimistic (my first tag!). She's listed five of her idiosyncracies and asked me to do the same. Here goes:

1) This is the weirdest one. I read all of the time. Usually two or three books going at one time. But if I get within 40 pages of the end of a book, I have to finish it before the end of the next day. Maybe it's more of a project than an idiosyncracy, but it is weird.
2) I must greet any cat I see out on the street or in a store. Really it's only polite, right? And then I always feel guilty if I haven't washed the scent off before I get home to my cats.
3) My sport superstitions are numerous and defy categorizing. Suffice it to say that I remember which shirt I'm wearing during bad Viking losses and will avoid it on game days for the rest of the season. And I can't escape the feeling that whether I'm watching the team or not has an effect on how they play.
4) Don't like to have people to my left. Gotten to the point where I can cope with sitting with someone sitting there, but really bugs me while walking. I have no idea how to communicate this to people I don't really know, so I just have to put up with it sometimes.
5) I can't stand to have my thumbs or my pinky fingers held down. Same with my ankles but not as badly. Had to train FP Gal not to hold my whole hand. We just hook index fingers and yes, it's cute.

The only person I can think to tag is Matt. You up for it?

Movie project

I'm not nearly as far behind as you'd guess from my posts. Can't believe it took me so long to finish up '95. You can blame the trip up north if you'd like. Or the reception. But the real answer is probably laziness. Anyway, I'm almost halfway through '96 and going strong. I don't know what odds I would have given myself at getting through all 50 before the year began, but this blog has been the differance. Feeling acountable to the literally eight people that read this on a regular basis had been an inspiration.

1995 in review

Babe
Apollo 13
Braveheart
Il Postino
Sense and Sensiblity

This year's set of movies is a bit of a mixed bag. 'Apollo 13' and 'Braveheart' were clearly the class of the year. 'Sense' is certainly oscar-worthy. 'Babe' was good, but probably not good enough for a nominee. And 'Il Postino'? Ick. I would have replaced the two of them with 'Toy Story' and 'Seven'.
'Braveheart' won Best Picture and that's fine with me. My personal choice would have been 'Apollo 13', but they're both great movies. Mel Gibson won best Director for Braveheart and I'm fine with that, too.
Nothing really stands out as far as music in these films. Some solid scores, but nothing outstanding.
A solid year and that's not so bad.

Sense and Sensibility - 1995

Saw this movie in the theater with my mom. I enjoyed the story. She enjoyed the dishes. We saw the same screen but totally different movies. Other family note; my cousin-in-law in Cincinnati thinks this is the worst movie he has ever seen. My thoughts are different. I thought it was very good.
The secret to this movie (and all of Jane Austen's stories) is the very understated love story. It's present and we can see the effect, but everything is turned inward. Emma Thompson is the key figure in this story. After falling in love early with a man who can't express his own feelings to her, she's left in a terrible spot. Obviously in love, but not allowed to admit it. The screws are tightened later when she's told that her love has secretly proposed to another. Told by his fiance. And sworn to secrecy so she can't even get the release of comfort from her mother and sisters. Thompson does this very well and was rewarded with a best actress nominee.
Kate Winslet also merits mentioning for her job as the middle sister. Very romantic with a flair for the dramatic. She learns a terrible lesson about listening only to her heart. The lesson? Never trust pretty people. They're rotten at heart.
Enjoyed the music as well. Especially the song given to Winslet near the end of the movie. A Very good movie.

Krakatoa

Got back into town and was catching up on my blog reading when I ran across this and this from James Lileks. Two posts that include praise for the book 'Krakatoa' that I read a few months ago. He enjoyed it more than I did and our reactions were related.
The book has three basic sections: a history of the area, the actual eruption and the aftermath period. The first section details some of the early eruptions including possible mythical ones. It also discusses the spice trade that came through there and the dutch colonization of the area. The weakness (which James liked) is the constant digressions and footnotes. I found it unfocused and distracting. A better history of that area can be found in 'Scents of Eden', a history of the spice trade.
The second section was easily the strongest. The explosion was an enormous event, producing the loudest sound in recorded history. The ash and debris effected weather and sunsets for the next couple of years. The pressure wave actually circled and recircled the earth several times. Interesting stuff.
The third section covers the rebirth of the island and the ecological story of the returning of flora and fauna. Interesting in their attempts to keep the new place free from the human contaimination in order to see what nature would do. It also teases the possibility that radical Islam took root after the explosion with the natives seeing it as anger from Allah. I take that as a stretch. People looking for a reason to rebel or rise up can always find a reason. This is one of the more dramatic ones, but it's not hard to think of other real or manufactured reasons to fight back against the Dutch.
I really liked parts of the book, but certainly not all.

Back from vacation

and I'm ready to blog up a storm. First thing first, keep peppermint handy if you have occasional upset stomach. Altoids work well and I'm never traveling without them again. I know, TMI, but what can you do.
Some odds and ends from the last few weeks. Our reception went off well. Got to see some old friends and that's always good. Everyone loved the FP Gal, but how can you not? When we were putting together the menu, we told them no anchovies. The centerpiece of the buffet table? Anchovie spears. FP Gal's dad ate one (and enjoyed it). The highlight of the affair was the wedding video which my talented bride put together. (Of course I have to gush but everyone there was very impressed even before they knew that she put it together.) The open house is tomorrow and we're looking forward to it.
Left for a week and my White Sox failed to win a game while I was gone. What's worse is that they dropped three of them to the local team. The smugness will return. Oh, joy. I did get back in time to watch the Vikes play their second preseason game. They commited 413 penalties in the first half (number is an estimate). The offense looks good when they avoid a flag. The defense was very good while the first team was in. Crisp tackling. Coverage that's close. The receiver may catch a ball, but you can always see the defender in the screen with him. Big improvement.
On a related note, the FP Gal may kill me between now and the end of the baseball season. Two sports at the same time is too much for her. Just wanted to put this out in public in case of a mysterious accident. (Love you, hon!)

Friday, August 12, 2005


Beautiful lake Posted by Picasa

Running with the wolves Posted by Picasa

Beautiful FP Gal Posted by Picasa

Light posting

and no good excuse. Just lots of inferior ones. And the next week I'll be away from the computer. I'll be lounging by a lake (picture to follow). Take care!

Monday, August 08, 2005

Never thought I'd write this...

but I've got something in common with the terrorists down at Gitmo. We're reading the same thing.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Outsiders View

A commenter to this post wanted a little outside perspective.

I'm sure there are plenty of biases within the SABR community (as there are everywhere else as well) and it would have helpful and refreshing to see an 'outsiders' take on it.

SABR is the Society of American Baseball Research and they take a strongly statistical approach to analyzing baseball. They lovingly refer to themselves as statheads. I've read probably a dozen or so books that would fall into the 'stathead' category, including some by Bill James one of the biggest names of the movement. In fact, I'm reading a book by him concerning the Hall of Fame right now. I respect what they're doing. But...they've got some blind spots. (And, yes, these are generalizations.)

1) The biggest blind spot is in counting out the opinions of people who play the game for a living. They seem to think that athletes opinions on what's going on during play or over the course of a season is worth very little in comparison to the coldly analytical approach. Batting slumps and hot streaks, for instance, are usually thought of as mental issues by the players but probable injuries by the statheads.
2) Along that same line, they don't believe in hot streaks. They want to treat baseball like a clockwork universe where streaks are just the bunching up of probability. Nevermind that in life we all go through our own hot streaks. Times when we feel on fire. And times when we feel out of synch and nothing quite works. Why wouldn't ballplayers go through the same thing?
3) They put enormous weight on whether a player or team can repeat a trait from one season to the next as if that's the only way to judge whether or not that trait shows skill or just dumb luck. With players this is understandable, but the difference in a team from one year to the next is fairly large. Especially here in the free agency period. Along with that is the use of the word 'lucky' to say 'unusual'.
4) Undervaluing the impact of different payrolls in today's baseball era. Yes, brains can overcome money in the short term. And rich teams can make stupid mistakes. But the richer big market teams have a huge advantage over the small market teams. Just ask the Devil Rays. Related, is the viewing of small market owners as cheap skates that won't shell out for the better players without paying attention to the strict limits on payrolls those owners must keep if they want to remain profitable.
5) Overreliance on the 'Pythagorean' method (where the ratio of runs scored to runs allowed reflects the winning percentage of a team). Seen as a truer value of a teams inherent quality. I can't help wonder if the relationship isn't more casual than they think it is. Good teams tend to overperform their expected wins while bad teams underperform them. (Actually, I wish they'd look into this more.)
6) They seem to think that there's only one way to build an offense. Taking walks and hitting homeruns. Kind of the Earl Weaver approach. Using speed and defense can't possibly work. This is especially galling to hear as a White Sox fan this year. Their continued success has almost driven them mad. Article after article has been written explaining how their luck is about to come to an end. The current trend is to describe how they could have an historically large flop to end the season and miss the playoffs. All of this as they continue to win and their nearest competition (Twins and Indians) play mediocre ball. (Yes, this one is personal.)
7) They rely on computer models to prove how things in the real world are. The don't seem to fear the GIGO factor that all computer models risk.
8) They don't revisit old predictions to assess the value of their methods. (Full disclosure, I could have missed some of this. I've only been reading baseball blogs for the past year and a half or so. Maybe the offseason will be filled with such articles.)
9) They hold grudges and want to judge action by their biases towards certain players. Most anything Billy Beane does is golden while the actions of GM Kenny Williams are stupid regardless of how they turn out. I have huge respect for what Beane has done with the A's, but that doesn't mean he's infallible.
10) Asking us to just make up the 'e' sound in the word 'SABR'. Couldn't they have found another word to make a real word? Why didn't they put their big brains to work there, huh?

This may be

the funniest thing I've read this year. Warning! Possible (but not likely) spoilers of the most recent Star Wars film.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Does this look like a 'Q' to you?

Not a good pickup line according to the FP Gal.

Update: Hey, another Tuesday post!

Diplomacy update

My diplomacy game is finally over. Russia was able to push to a solo win, thank you very much. That brings my online record to 1-0. Maybe I should go pro!

Twins vs A's

The Twins are hosting Oakland at the dome right now. The FP Gal asked me who I was rooting for. It's a tricky question. The Twins are the Sox rivals and cheering for them is tricky to say the least. On the other hand, the A's have owned them, winning 7 of the 9 games they've played this year. It'd be painful to finally get into the playoffs only to lose (probably swept) by the A's. And the A's certainly look playoff bound. They lead the wild card by a couple of games (depending on when you're reading this). They only trail the Angels in the West by a couple of games. And they've been playing outstanding ball for the last couple of months. If you were to put money down on two teams to make the playoffs from the AL it'd be Oakland and Chicago. The other two spots? Who knows? About 8 other teams are one hot streak away from contention.
So who to root for? Part of me wants the Twins to suffer as painful a second half as the White Sox did last year. I got far too much grief from Twins fans last year who really didn't mind laughing at my pain. In addition, preseason predictions had the Twins as possible World Series champs, with the Sox finishing third or fourth in the weakest division in baseball. Suffice it to say that four months later a very different picture has emerged. But...I don't really wish that on the Twins. I know far too many good people that are Twins fans to wish them pain.
So who do I root for? This year I'm trying to come to grips with the (bizarre) concept that my actions as a fan sitting in my living room may not have an impact on what happens in the sports world. Heresy, I know. In accordance with that theory it may not matterwho I root for.
(But I'll tell you my dirty little secret.) I hoping that the Angels hold off the A's for the West. And I'm hoping the wild card winner is...the Yankees. That's right, the Yanks. Two positives would come from a Yankees/White Sox playoff series. Much of the country would be come fans of the Sox (if only temporarily). And they'd show the games in primetime so I could actually watch them.
Yep, the Yanks. Does that make me a bad person?