Sunday, September 28, 2008

CFB Viewing Report: Week 5

While I can't put it in the list - as I didn't actually see a play - I was fortunate enough to hear the radio broadcast of my alma mater's win on Saturday, in their biggest test so far this season. You'll find a couple of gamers here and here, (thanks for making that second one so easy to find, guys) and the old 'Hounds are off to a quick 4-0 start. Such is the wonder of modern communication, hearing a low-powered radio station from several states away.

Just as amazing, one of the games I did take in was Lehigh-Princeton, broadcast by the Lehigh Valley's lone television station - which I grew up watching - whose feed was picked up by FSN Pittsburgh, thus making it available to me here in Virginia on DirecTV.

It was a wild, wild, weekend. I've got some serious thinking to do about the SJ poll. Anyway, on with it.

Alabama (beat Georgia 41-30)
Alabama-Birmingham (lost to South Carolina 26-13)
Akron (lost to Cincy 17-15)
Arkansas (lost to Texas 52-10)
Army (lost to Texas A&M 21-17)
Auburn (beat Tennessee 14-12)
Bowling Green (beat Wyoming 45-16)
California (beat Colorado St. 42-7)
California, Pa. (beat IUP 21-19)
Central Florida (lost to UTEP 58-13)
Cincinnati (beat Akron 17-15)
Clemson (lost to Maryland 20-17)
Colorado (lost to Florida St. 39-21)
Colorado State (lost to Cal 42-7)
Connecticut (beat Louisville 26-21)
Duke (beat Virginia 31-3)
East Carolina (lost to Houston 41-24)
Eastern Michigan (lost to No. Illinois 37-0)
Eastern Washington (beat Idaho St. 45-31)
Florida (lost to Ole Miss 31-30)
Florida A&M (beat Tennessee St. 28-21)
Florida State (beat Colorado 39-21)
Fresno State (beat UCLA 36-31)
Georgia (lost to Alabama 41-30)
Houston (beat E. Carolina 41-24)
Idaho State (lost to E. Washington 45-31)
Illinois (lost to Penn St. 38-24)
Indiana (lost to Mich. St. 42-29)
Indiana, Pa. (lost to California, Pa. 21-19)
Iowa (lost to Northwestern 22-17)
Kentucky (beat W. Kentucky 41-3)
Lehigh (lost to Princeton 10-7)
Louisville (lost to UConn 26-21)
Marshall (lost to West Virginia 27-3)
Maryland (beat Clemson 20-17)
Miami, Fla. (lost to UNC 28-24)
Michigan (beat Wisconsin 27-25)
Michigan State (beat Indiana 42-29)
Minnesota (lost to Ohio St. 34-21)
Minnesota State (beat Winona St. 35-32)
Mississippi (beat Florida 31-30)
Morgan State (lost to Rutgers 38-0)
N.C. State (lost to South Florida 41-10)
Navy (beat Wake Forest 20-17)
Nebraska (lost to Va. Tech 35-30)
Nevada (beat UNLV 49-27)
New Mexico (beat New Mexico St. 35-24)
New Mexico State (lost to New Mexico 35-24)
North Carolina (beat Miami, Fla. 28-24)
Northeastern (beat UC-Davis 27-10)
Northern Illinois (beat E. Michigan 37-0)
Northwestern (beat Iowa 22-17)
Notre Dame (beat Purdue 38-21)
Ohio State (beat Minnesota 34-21)
Oklahoma (beat TCU 35-10)
Oregon (beat Wazzu 63-14)
Oregon State (beat USC 27-21)
Penn State (beat Illinois 38-24)
Pitt (beat Syracuse 34-24)
Princeton (beat Lehigh 10-7)
Purdue (lost to Notre Dame 38-21)
Rutgers (beat Morgan St. 38-0)
South Carolina (beat UAB 26-13)
South Florida (beat N.C. State 41-10)
Stanford (beat Washington 35-28)
Syracuse (lost to Pitt 34-24)
TCU (lost to Oklahoma 35-10)
Tennessee (lost to Auburn 14-12)
Tennessee State (lost to Florida A&M 28-21)
Texas (beat Arkansas 52-10)
Texas A&M (beat Army 21-17)
UC-Davis (lost to Northeastern 27-10)
UCLA (lost to Fresno St. 36-31)
UNLV (lost to Nevada 49-27)
USC (lost to Oregon St. 27-21)
UTEP (beat Central Fla. 58-13)
Virginia (lost to Duke 31-3)
Virginia Tech (beat Nebraska 35-30)
Wake Forest (lost to Navy 20-17)
Washington (lost to Stanford 35-28)
Washington State (lost to Oregon 63-14)
West Virginia (beat Marshall 27-3)
Western Kentucky (lost to Kentucky 41-3)
Winona State (lost to Minnesota St. 35-32)
Wisconsin (lost to Michigan 27-25)
Wyoming (lost to Bowling Green 45-16)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What I'll remember about Yankee Stadium

Yankee Stadium is gone, and we've heard from many that all that's left of the place is our own memories. Here are mine:

The first time I ever went there was in college, in rather unusual circumstances. A friend of a friend found out he was being laid off one day; an anti-celebration celebration was quickly organized. I was in on the plan early in the afternoon when my friend Brion called.

"Hey," he opened. "What're you doing tonight?"

It was college. I was a poor student. The answer was obvious.

"Nothing," I told him.

"Wanna go see the Yankees?"

What, a bar run? Didn't we get MSG in Bethlehem, or was that just in Lehighton?

"No. Actually going to see them."

Well, OK then.

A few hours later, I was in an old Caravan with several other guys, bound for the Bronx.

We drove over the GW Bridge and down the Major Deegan, took the exit and parked pretty close. We managed to get a group of tickets together behind the first base line and watched now-disgraced Roger Clemens pitch for New York; Kenny Rogers - never much friendly so it's hard to call him disgraced - threw for Texas.

I remember walking through the tunnel and getting my first glimpse of the field; it was overwhelming. Even if you despised the Yankees, it's hard to not be amazed at Yankee Stadium. As I walked in, my mind flashed through all of the players that had played on that field: Gehrig. DiMaggio. Mantle. Larsen. Jackson.

Hell, it's the House that Ruth Built.

All of them played on the patch of field before me. Wow.

The second time I went back, I was with my parents and we saw Milwaukee. I had to think a little bit; interleague didn't begin until I started working (I know, because I covered the Phils' first-ever interleague game against Toronto), and I believe I was still in college when i went to the second game. So Milwaukee would've still been an American League team.

That time was just as special, since it was the one time I visited Monument Park in left field.

They can build it bigger and they can build it better - as the new Yankee Stadium is bound to be - but they can't build history into it.

I saw two inconsequential games, both in an inconsequential part of the season. But I saw them, and I saw the stadium.

I can't wait to tell my grandkids about it. Old Yankee Stadium will sound as ancient to them as Shibe Park did to me.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CFB Viewing Report: Week 4

A full day of unadulterated football. So it's going to be a long list...

Alabama (beat Arkansas 49-14)
Air Force (lost to Utah 30-23)
Akron (beat Army 22-3)
Arizona (beat UCLA 31-10)
Arizona State (vs. Georgia)
Arkansas (lost to Alabama 49-14)
Army (lost to Akron 22-3)
Auburn (lost to LSU 26-21)
Ball State (beat Indiana 42-20)
Boston College (beat UCF 34-7)
BYU (beat Wyoming 44-0)
Central Florida (lost to BC 34-7)
Central Michigan (lost to Purdue 32-25)
Chadron State (beat Colorado St.-Pueblo 32-0)
Colorado State-Pueblo (lost to Chadron St. 32-0)
East Carolina (lost to N.C. State 30-24, OT)
Florida (beat Tennessee 30-6)
Florida Atlantic (lost to Minnesota 37-3)
Florida International (lost to South Florida 17-9)
Florida State (lost to Wake Forest 12-9)
Fresno State (at Toledo)
Georgia (at Arizona St.)
Georgia Tech (beat Miss. State 38-7)
Indiana (lost to Ball St. 42-20)
Indiana State (lost to No. Illinois 48-3)
Iowa (lost to Pitt 21-20)
Iowa State (vs. UNLV)
Kansas (beat Sam Houston St. 38-14)
Louisiana Tech (beat SE La. 41-26)
LSU (beat Auburn 26-21)
Miami, Fla. (beat Texas A&M 41-23)
Michigan State (beat Notre Dame 23-7)
Minnesota (beat Fla. Atlantic 37-3)
Mississippi State (lost to Ga. Tech 38-7)
Montana (beat UC-Davis 29-24)
N.C. State (beat East Carolina, 30-24, OT)
Navy (beat Rutgers 23-21)
North Carolina (lost to Va. Tech 20-17)
Northern Illinois (beat Indiana St. 48-3)
Northeastern (lost to Syracuse 30-21)
Northwestern (beat Ohio 16-8)
Notre Dame (lost to Mich. St. 23-7)
Ohio (lost to Northwestern 16-8)
Ohio State (beat Troy 28-10)
Penn State (beat Temple 45-3)
Pitt (beat Iowa 21-20)
Portland State (lost to Wazzu 48-9)
Purdue (beat Cent. Michigan 32-25)
Rice (lost to Texas 52-10)
Rutgers (lost to Navy 23-21)
Sam Houston State (lost to Kansas 38-14)
SMU (lost to TCU 48-7)
Southeast Louisiana (lost to La. Tech 41-26)
South Carolina (beat Wofford 23-13)
South Florida (beat Florida Intl. 17-9)
Syracuse (beat Northeastern 30-21)
Temple (lost to Penn St. 45-3)
Tennessee (lost to Florida 30-6)
Texas (beat Rice 52-10)
Texas A&M (lost to Miami, Fla. 41-23)
TCU (beat SMU 48-7)
Toldeo (vs. Fresno State)
Troy (lost to Ohio St. 28-10)
UC-Davis (lost to Montana 29-24)
UCLA (lost to Arizona 31-10)
UNLV (vs. Iowa St.)
Utah (beat Air Force 30-23)
Utah State (beat Idaho 42-17)
Virginia Tech (beat UNC 20-17)
Wake Forest (beat Florida St. 12-3)
Washington State (beat Portland St. 48-9)
Wofford (lost to South Carolina 23-13)
Wyoming (lost to BYU 44-0)

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's Friday night...

In now 12 years of covering football, there seems to be one constant: The weather takes a turn south starting with Week 3.

When I was on the computer this afternoon, the Weatherbug temp seemed to be stuck around 74. This was in mid-afternoon when, in the not so recent past, we were much further up the thermometer.

I have long sleeves on for the first time since I don't know when. It's just a simple button-down shirt, but still.

I'm out in Manassas, and left the house at an appropriate time to be here. In order to avoid the frustration of Friday traffic, I took several back roads that - on more than one occasion - made me think I was back in Carbon County driving to a game. But such is the wonder of local knowledge and GPS.

On the way, I stopped in our Manassas office to take care of some quick office work, nothing major. As I walked outside, the sun was dying to the west, the air was cooler and the streets - normally much busier - were near silent.

I felt alone. It's a common feeling on days like this at a time of year like this.

The start of everyone else's weekend is simply a continuation of our workweek; obviously you know this when you sign up for this job, but the reminders, though infrequent, can be painful.

My wife's out at happy hour, getting just a little more visiting with our dear friends Andrew and Rebecca, who trek back to Phoenix tomorrow. Occasional commenter Donna says she's headed to Old Town.

And here I am.

I have no doubt that, some years down the line, young Drake will develop a love of Duck football and maybe he'll think he can cover them. I hope I'll be there to give him a lollipop and distract him from such silliness.

Eight minutes to kickoff. I guess I'd better start paying attention...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Is anyone home?

(A political rant below, if any of you are averse to such things.)

How's this for a stunner? Democratic veep pick Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) told Good Morning America that it's "patriotic" for the wealthy to pay more taxes that, in the Obama-Biden administration, would be used to help offset tax cuts for the middle class.

Good Lord... where to begin.

How about with semantics? It's not patriotic. Patriotic is believing, truly believing, what our country stands for and doing what you can, as a citizen, to support and promote those ideas. Patriotism is something that all of us, left and right, can agree on: Jefferson's principles about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Respecting the rule of law, even if you don't agree. Supporting our troops and all the sacrifices they make to protect us. That's patriotism.

Patriotism is not policy.

All that, of course, says nothing of the exaggerated idea of wealth redistribution. My wife and I are not rich; barring an unexpected lottery win, we will not be rich. So this whole Robin Hood ideal is quaint, but barely realistic.

Let's imagine for a moment Obama gets elected and this policy is enacted. Now, other folks are penalized to give me a few more bucks to throw around. Let's say, for instance, I decide to save that money. As an average citizen, I put the money in the bank - which is probably a large national or regional bank, like PNC, BB&T or Bank of America - which it uses to help make loans to others at much higher rates than what I get back. That makes money for the bank, which is run by wealthy individuals who get a cut of that money in either salary or bonuses. (In truth, we belong to a small credit union, yet I don't think the people running the credit union drive Kias.)

Let's say, for instance, I'm your average guy and want a shiny new techno-gadget or a new game for the 360. What am I going to do? I'll take that money to Best Buy or Circuit City and buy something. That money, in turn, helps the bottom line (however incrementally) of billion-dollar international retail outlets, which pay their executives a great salary and good bonuses because I decided I wanted something shiny from Best Buy or Circuit City. Moreover, the manufacturer gets a cut of that, possibly taking the money out of the country and making rich people even richer.

Let's say, for instance, I want to get ahead on bills. That means more money headed into the direction of the following: Verizon Wireless (Verizon's market capitalization: just shy of $93 billion); Washington Gas (market cap: $1.73 billion); Cox Communications (a privately-held company, but in 2005 made a sale to another company that brought in $2.55 billion); DirecTV (owned by Liberty Entertainment Group - market cap: $12.31 billion); XM Radio (now a part of XM-Sirius - market cap: better than $3 billion); and Carmax (market cap: $3.35 billion).

So, no matter which way I turn, I'd be giving that money right back to a large corporation, which are mostly run by rich people, who - per this policy - gave me the money in the first place.

Wealth redistribution is a myth, particularly in a capitalist society.

But here's what bugs me most about Biden's idea of patriotism: The money from the rich folks is supposed to come to me.

I live in a decent suburban house with a wonderful wife (happy birthday, honey) and two cats. I drive an Explorer (though I wish I drove a Stratus so I could exclaim it like this guy) and have enough to indulge in a newfound wine passion. Yeah, money is tight, particularly after we bought the house; but I can make it for however long it takes to pay off said Explorer.

So why, exactly, does Biden want to give money to me? I live a good life with few complaints.

Why not give the money to people who really need it? Like the lower class or the lower-middle class, people who struggle to pay bills on a regular basis. People living below the poverty line. The homeless.

There are people out there who are a lot worse off than me, through no fault of their own. Why are they not at the front of the line? Why me? I could use the money, but I don't need it. Lots of other people need it. Why don't they get consideration?

Oh, right. We don't pander to the lower class.

My bad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

RIP, Whiskey's

Mark passed along the sad news today: One of the venerable watering holes in Ketchum is no more.

He lamented the fact that he had spent so much time in that place. Mine was severely limited, as I've only been in the Hailey-Ketchum area once in my life.

But the one time I made it there, Whiskey's was on the itinerary.

A few years ago (Really? It's years with an 's'? Seems like yesterday...) we were in town for Mark and Maya's wedding. We got a brief taste of the town during our stay: The bars that I remember were Whiskey's, one with a lot of college kids and a third that several of us had (liquid) lunch in.

So I'm bad with names. It's the experience that counts.

Anyway, I do hope Whiskey's rebounds, though at the moment it's in shambles. When Mark talked about all the time he had spent there, I flashed back to JP McGillicuddy's in Bethlehem. It was a good-sized restaurant right across the street from our football stadium; they had 70-some beers on tap and I did my damndest to get through the whole stock. And I have yet to have wings that compare to theirs: huge and never lacking for a lip-smacking (and gastrically potent) hot sauce.

Apparently it was done in by a dual problem of letting minors in and not paying taxes. Not a good combo. The owner started a new place, PJ McGrady's, which apparently is still kicking on Bethlehem's south side, near Lehigh.

Whiskey's came to a more abrupt end (though one can only hope it gets rebuilt). That makes it all the more sad.

Here's hoping Whiskey's rises from the ashes. In a couple decades, I'm going to need a place to buy my nephew a beer.

Monday, September 15, 2008

CFB Viewing Report: Week 3

A little late, I know. And the viewing was a little limited because our dear friends Andrew and Rebecca were in town; we took Saturday to enjoy the evening with them.

We miss them dearly since they've moved to Phoenix, and spending time with them was way more important than me catching a game in the Utah-Utah State game.

And as I was typing, news flashed on screen: "(14:23) B. Westbrook up the middle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN."

Still making my way through the list, then this: "(10:34) (Field Goal Formation) N. Folk 47 yard field goal is GOOD, Center-L. Ladouceur, Holder-B. Johnson."

Sigh. "(8:59) B. Westbrook up the middle to DAL 34 for -1 yards. FUMBLES, RECOVERED by DAL-J. Ratliff at DAL 33."

Sigh. "(4:40) M. Barber right tackle for 1 yard, TOUCHDOWN."

We'll see what happens...

Anyway, on with it:

Arizona State (lost to UNLV 23-20, OT)
Buffalo (beat Temple 30-28)
BYU (beat UCLA 59-0)
Cal (lost to Maryland 35-27)
Chattanooga (lost to Florida State 46-7)
Clemson (beat N.C. State 27-9)
Duke (beat Navy 41-31)
East Carolina (beat Tulane 28-24)
Florida Atlantic (lost to Michigan St. 17-0)
Florida State (beat Chattanooga 46-7)
Georgia (beat South Carolina 14-7)
Georgia Tech (lost to Va. Tech 20-17)
Illinois (beat La.-Lafayette 20-17)
Iowa (beat Iowa St. 17-5)
Iowa State (lost to Iowa 17-5)
Lousiana-Lafayette (lost to Illinois 20-17)
Maryland (beat Cal 35-27)
Michigan (lost to Notre Dame 35-17)
Michigan State (beat Fla. Atlantic 17-0)
Minnesota (beat Montana St. 35-23)
Missouri (beat Nevada 69-17)
Montana State (lost to Minnesota 35-23)
N.C. State (lost to Clemson 27-9)
Nebraska-Kearney (beat Western St. 44-15)
Northwestern (beat So. Illinois 33-7)
Notre Dame (beat Michigan 35-17)
Navy (lost to Duke 41-31)
Nevada (lost to Missouri 69-17)
Ohio State (lost to USC 35-3)
Oregon (beat Purdue 32-26, 2OT)
Penn State (beat Syracuse 55-13)
Purdue (lost to Oregon 32-36, 2OT)
South Carolina (lost to Georgia 14-7)
Southern Illinois (lost to Northwestern 33-7)
Syracuse (lost to Penn State 55-13)
Temple (lost to Buffalo 30-28)
Tulane (lost to East Carolina 28-24)
UCLA (lost to BYU 59-0)
UNLV (beat Arizona St. 23-20, OT)
USC (beat Ohio State 35-3)
Virginia Tech (beat Ga. Tech 20-17)
Western State (lost to Nebraska-Kearney 44-15)

indicate a non-Division I game.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Uh, Carter Beauford's really good

After the sad death of Dave Matthews Band saxophonist LeRoi Moore, I was reminded of a video I had seen months before. It wasn't of Moore or anything, but another of the guys in DMB: drummer Carter Beauford.

The guy's incredible. I say that as someone who played as a kid and prayed frequently that one day I'd wake up to a Tama rage cage with double bass, more toms than I knew what to do with and cymbals hanging from the rack by a chain. (Mick Brown totally had the right idea.)

As proof, I'll offer up this doozy. Apparently he's making some sort of documentary or instructional video and he plays along with the studio version of Ants Marching. Since the camera's exclusively on him, he can showboat a little (which he does) and play much more intricate fills than he does on the released version (which he does).

The clip's on Google video, so no embedding here, sadly. But here's the link.

The first minute is pretty tame; the nature of the song pretty much determines that. But at the minute mark (:55, actually), Beauford starts getting into it. The standard beat on the song is pretty easy, but at :55, he fluffs up some of the fills with some syncopation and an off-beat accent on the partially open hi-hat.

It's not easy. Drumming is about rhythm, and the fill from :55 to 1:03 is anything but. It's intentional, of course, and impressive to watch a pro pull it off.

He cools it out again for a little while. At 1:45, he makes use of the full complement of equipment by using the small 'splash' cymbals. While it's hard to tell there, those little guys can make an interesting sound.

At 1:49, his fill is quite difficult, giving you a quick hit on the snare, chilling on the hi-hat and coming back with the crash, right on time.

When they pull back for the wider shot at 2:33, you can see an odd-shaped cymbal in the upper right; it looks like it's inside out. It's called a China, and adds a different kind of sound, as you can hear. He comes back to it again later.

The fill at 2:58 might be my favorite. It utilizes the low toms by themselves for effect, which you don't often see in pop music. Usually they provide more of a rhythmic background (think of the trippy bridge in 'Welcome to the Jungle', here at 3:24), so it was nice to see them stand on their own.

A few seconds later, my favorite technical piece: He uses his right hand to take down the toms and the splash cymbals. Speaking from my own lack of expertise, that would be something I'd need two hands to do. Beauford needs only one, and is pounding on a cymbal on the left with his other hand. But then again, that's why he's a world-famous musician.

The fill coming out of the bridge at 3:42 is also impressive. Quick hands are a necessity.

At 3:51, he rides the toms up and down. I've always thought that was underused in pop music; it seems like you can get a wonderful effect when you go against the grain like that. Out of the fill, he puts the China on display, and you can really hear the difference from a normal crash.

The showboating's at 3:58. Nothing hard about hitting cymbals the way he does, but it does make for a more flashy performance. And that's really what it's all about, right?

Even so, it's an impressive display of musicianship. Bravo, my friend.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Killing time on a Friday afternoon...

A few weeks ago, I walked downstairs in my normal evening attire; shirts are only for the most important of occasions, such as the chance of me dribbling dinner down my chest.

"Go get some clothes," my wife urged. Her fear, she said, was that unexpected guests might pop by. All I'd have is my evening, uh, best.

Her fears were realized this week when I was relaxing after a short day. I was awaiting her arrival in my typical at-home attire when the doorbell rang. Now what?

I didn't have a shirt on. When I answered the door and found out it was a traveling salesman, I didn't care that I didn't have a shirt on.

Long story short (and believe me, it'll be a lot less painful for you, dear reader, than it was for me): His company, a new startup, was in the neighborhood and was looking for suckers homeowners who needed a renovation and they were offering free estimates and would I be around Saturday and if that wasn't convienent they were also around in the weekday evenings because they know how challenging everyone's work schedule can be.


The guy was all about signing people up. I was all about not being signed up.

I felt like I gave him plenty of outs. Did he have a brochure I could show my wife, we would discuss it and get back to him? Nope, he just ran out of brochures. So, for the second time, would I be around Saturday and if that wasn't convienent they were also around in the weekday evenings because they know how challenging everyone's work schedule can be.

In the meantime, Grace the cat takes advantage of the open door and runs outside. Still shirtless, I chase after her and shoosh her inside.

Silly me. I thought perhaps my frustration of having the cat run outside while several minutes into this high-pressure pitch was evident on my face. It wasn't. He didn't miss a beat, even as I scolded Grace.

My sigh or general look of disinterest would've been a clue to a more adept salesman. But, well, you do the math.

My final lifeline was to ask for a phone number. My wife and I would discuss it and I would be in touch if we wanted to pursue their offer. Well, he said, we're still a pretty new company and don't really have a phone number yet, but would I be around Saturday and if that wasn't convienent they were also around in the weekday evenings because they know how challenging everyone's work schedule can be.

"Then we're not interested," I said. "Take care." And I closed the door.

Ten minutes of my life I won't get back...

I don't mean to dismiss the guy or his job; it's got to be a tough job. But how, exactly, does he expect to be taken seriously when he shows up out of nowhere selling a product we don't need from a company I've never heard of that doesn't even have a phone number? And then I'm supposed to be sympathetic when he doesn't take a veiled 'no' for an answer?

Sorry. Next caller.

But hey, if you can make some kind of a credible sales pitch, maybe I'll put a shirt on for you.

-- OVER AT THE WINE BLOG, we're rapidly coming up on our centennial wine. I can't believe I've made it that far. And I can't believe just what that says about me... (cough cough L cough U cough cough hack cough S cough cough H hack cough, clears throat)

Anyway, I signed up with this outfit called BlogBurst which takes your blogs and distributes them to various media outlets that sign up for them. When one of your blogs goes through, it gets posted on a little side area of the page.

I thought it made sense to sign up the wine blog, since that's more focused than this one, which is just a whole mess of crap.

But the latest stats from BlogBurst about who put one of my snippets on their page: Chicago Sun-Times 845, Reuters 23, Computer Shopper 1.

That's exactly what the Windy City needs: To be exposed to another blowhard.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Seven years ago

Remembering how my day unfolded on that terrible day...

I lived in Manassas then, the first of my now four addresses since I moved south. I lived in the dark basement which was always brutally cold in the winter; but I did have the benefit of Dish Network, which the house's owner proudly purchased.

It should be no surprise that I've always been a news junkie. When I was a kid and got shipped off to summer camp for a week, I enjoyed camp for what it was but hated the fact that I felt so out of touch with what was happening elsewhere in the world.

When I woke up that morning, the remote was nearby and I flipped on one of the news programs; I can't remember if it was CNN or our local CBS affiliate, which was my choice at the time before the quality dropped off dramatically a few years later. I remember being confused; the words didn't match the picture. There was quite clearly a fire at the WTC, but the on-air folks were talking aviation.

Later, when the two ends met, I was stunned, as we all were. I flipped between channels to see who was reporting what, but there was no chance I'd turn off the TV. (That same TV had served me well over the years, coming on board during college and serving as the broadcasting centerpiece in the Woodbridge bachelor pad.)

When the first tower fell, I was on WUSA's local coverage, since events at the Pentagon were unfolding. I'll never, ever forget hearing JC Hayward, a veteran anchor and a real pro, mutter only "Oh my God," as it fell.

Then reports came in about the doomed plane that was taken down in a quiet field in western Pennsylvania. One thing ran through my mind: Is this it, is this the big one? Are we all screwed? I mean, four planes in one day?

I was incredibly saddened and moped around for a few minutes. But I figured my best option was to get into work and see what needed to be done. As I drove, the traffic seemed heavy but moving, and I wondered if all the other people on the road were feeling as shitty as me.

Once at work, I managed to slap together a photo page for the special edition that we put out. It wasn't a prizewinner, but we were all still in a fog and just trying to do what we could.

That night, there were three of us back in our Manassas bureau. We all had slices of a larger story, re-connecting with people who had ties to NYC or the Pentagon. I talked with the parents of a kid then at NYU, one that was a pretty damn good soccer player and and an even better singer while in high school. He went on to bigger and better things.

Once we had all filed, I hoped like hell the nearby pub was open. It wasn't. I had just hoped to find someplace to drown the sorrows of the day, and I would have gladly run up a considerable tab that night.

Instead, I went home and tried to sleep.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Go read this. Now!

Our friend Dave, the pilot, details his descent into Philly as Hanna nears the city.

It's not a fun flight for anyone. But Dave is able to recount the blow-by-blow of how he landed in a tropical storm, which I'm sure tested even the most veteran flyers on that aircraft.

To get a sense of what Dave experienced - and this is in lighter winds on a clear night - here's a cockpit view of a 767 coming into JFK.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Flashback: Tourneau

I drove for lunch yesterday when I was taken aback - in a good way - by a commercial I heard on our all-news talk station, WTOP.

The commercial itself wasn't anything flashy, nothing that would make you drop groceries to hear what was being said.

But it was one distinct word that caught my attention: Tourneau.

In the days of my youth, I got my television news from the 10 p.m. broadcast from WNYW, which is now the Fox affiliate in New York. Our cable system was such that channel 6 on our dial would broadcast WNYW programming until 11 p.m., when it changed to WPVI-6, the ABC affiliate in Philadelphia. We didn't miss any network programming, since my hometown was located in the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre market.

Those were the rollicking days of New York, with former mayor Ed Koch, Bernhard Goetz ("Go Mets! Go Jets! Go Goetz!" the punchline in Mad read), Tawana Brawley, the cocaine and crack epidemic, racial tensions in Bensonhurst and, later, late mob boss John Gotti. Every night, there was a spate of headlines that made NYC feel a thousand miles away from our 5,000-person rural town.

WNYW always began its newscasts with this: "It's 10 p.m. Do you know where your children are?" I can see some of the anchors and reporters as if it were yesterday. Perhaps you recognize the guy who appears in this clip at :17 and 1:30; he's on a network now, if just a little crustier. (If you couldn't guess, here you go.) Longtime anchor John Roland always came across as a pro, never overly dramatic, never needlessly hyping second-tier news. Every year, he would urge us to be careful with fireworks on Independence Day; and I'll never forget the night when a pre-recorded tease opened the news and Roland effortlessly brushed it off to get to the night's breaking news: the crash of TWA Flight 800.

I remember Nick Gregory from the weather (he's still there, too). Bill Mazer answered sports trivia questions every night from viewers; Carl White took over in 1991, but he was no Mazer. There were two guys who did commentary - Wiki IDs them as Dr. Martin Abend and Prof. Sidney Offit - who never agreed on anything. But I guess it was their job to get ratings.

Anyway, I remember much about the old Channel 5 newscasts. And I remember the commercials, too: Nobody Beats the Wiz. And discount electronic chain competitor Crazy Eddie (say it with me, his prices are IN-SAAAANNNNNEEEE). And who could forget Phil Rizzuto (RIP, Scooter) for The Money Store. (I also came across a Carvel ad, but I think that was more or a WWOR property.)

And then there was Tourneau. Back then, it was Tourneau Corner.

For all of the crazy news and wacky ads, nothing seemed so distant as Tourneau Corner.

What, I'd think, there's a store just for watches? And some of them cost a thousand dollars?!

There may well have been multiple locations, but I never saw an ad for Tourneau on any of the Philly stations. Now, they've got shops in most every major city in the country; the ad I heard the other day was for the shop at Pentagon City in Arlington.

In mere moments, I flashed back to my childhood and the wonders of living near a major city. I snapped back to that reality.

All because of a 30-second radio spot.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Analysis discernment

With the advent of 24-hour news, there has to be something that fills those hours. Yes, to some degree, news happens every single minute of the day. But news judgment, which should be our industry's common sense, dictates that very few of those news events matter to the populace at large.

So gives rise to the analyst, which helps fill the duller moments. And it's a tricky business.

We all have agendas. Hell, I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't think anyone out there gave a rat's ass what I thought. (That may well be the case, but I'll take my chances.)

Analysts are no different; they are experts in their field. But for some, those agendas take precedence over their analysis.

The easiest example of this would be a certain media outlet serving, implicitly, as an organizational mouthpiece. Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder, for example, recently purchased the region's top sports talk radio station; others have wondered openly whether criticism of the team would be neutered. Of course, those at the station say no, but it's a fair question.

It doesn't always have to be organization-wide, either. Which brings me to my least-favorite anaylst on any network that I frequently watch: this guy, whose name I cannot bring myself to type.

I have yet to see a moment of cogent analysis whenever he is on camera. CNN's other political analysts of either party seem to have little problem with this, the most basic aspect of their job. Republican strategists say that McCain is trying to achieve this, Democratic strategists counter that Obama will come back with that. Is it risky? Why is that this is important to be achieved? What's to be gained? What's to be lost?

You may get that from that guy, but whenever I've seen him, it comes in an offhand, dismissive manner. Instead, he cannot wait to jump all over whatever Democratic platform and decry what's so wrong with it.

I can figure that out for myself, thanks.

I'm watching to learn, to be informed, not to be persuaded. I'm looking for information, not beliefs. I'm looking for informed opinion, not outright bias.

He's the worst of the bunch. Sadly, the election is still two months away. That means two months longer of listening him blather on while failing to offer any significant insight.

But not for me. As soon as he comes on, I'm changing channels.

Saturday, September 06, 2008

CFB Viewing Report, Week 2

The TV signal managed to hold out in spite of the threat from TS Hanna. We missed HD broadcasts for much of the early afternoon, but the SD signal was much hardier and we weren't forced to miss any game action.

It was touch and go in the morning as the heaviest rains were moving in. We missed a fair portion of GameDay, but that wasn't a terrible loss. Well, it was for my wife, ever the Kirk Herbstreit fan.

(And by the way, is this a record? Three posts in one day?)

So, on with it, the rundown of who we caught in Week 2:

Air Force (beat Wyoming 23-3)
Alabama (beat Tulane 20-6)
Arizona State (beat Stanford 41-17)
Army (lost to New Hampshire 28-10)
Auburn (beat Southern Miss 27-13)
Boston College (lost to Ga. Tech 19-16)
Bowling Green (lost to Minnesota 42-17)
Buffalo (lost to Pitt 27-16)
BYU (beat Washington 28-27)
Central Florida (lost to So. Florida 31-24, OT)
Central Michigan (lost to Georgia 56-17)
Cincinnati (lost to Oklahoma 52-26)
Connecticut (beat Temple 12-9)
East Carolina (beat West Virginia 24-3)
Eastern Illinois (lost to Illinois 47-21)
Eastern Michigan (lost to Michigan St. 42-10)
Florida International (lost to Iowa 42-0)
Florida State (beat Western Carolina 69-0)
Georgia (beat Central Mich. 56-17)
Georgia Tech (beat BC 19-16)
Idaho (beat Idaho St. 42-27)
Idaho State (lost to Idaho 42-27)
Illinois (beat E. Illinois 47-21)
Indiana (beat Murray St. 45-3)
Iowa (beat Fla. Int'l 42-0)
Kansas (beat La. Tech 29-0)
Kansas State (beat Montana St. 69-10)
Kentucky (beat Norfolk St. 38-3)
Louisiana Tech (lost to Kansas 29-0)
Marshall (lost to Wisconsin 51-14)
Maryland (lost to MITSU 24-14)
Memphis (lost to Rice 42-35)
Miami, Ohio (lost to Michigan 16-6)
Michigan (beat Miami, Ohio 16-6)
Michigan State (beat E. Michigan 42-10)
Middle Tennessee State (beat Maryland 24-14)
Minnesota (beat Bowling Green 42-17)
Montana State (lost to K-State 69-10)
Murray State (lost to Indiana 45-3)
New Hampshire (beat Army 42-10)
New Mexico (lost to Texas A&M 28-22)
Norfolk State (lost to Kentucky 38-3)
Northern Colorado (lost to Purdue 42-10)
Notre Dame (beat San Diego St. 21-13)
Ohio (lost to Ohio St. 26-14)
Ohio State (beat Ohio 26-14)
Oklahoma (beat Cincy 52-26)
Ole Miss (lost to Wake Forest 30-28)
Oregon State (lost to Penn State 45-14)
Penn State (beat Oregon State 45-14)
Pitt (beat Buffalo 27-16)
Purdue (beat No. Colorado 42-10)
Rice (beat Memphis 42-35)
Richmond (lost to U.Va. 16-0)
San Diego State (lost to Notre Dame 21-13)
South Carolina (lost to Vandy 24-17)
South Florida (beat Central Fla. 31-24, OT)
Southern Mississippi (lost to Auburn 27-13)
Stanford (lost to Arizona St. 41-17)
Temple (lost to UConn 12-9)
Texas (beat UTEP 42-13)
Texas A&M (beat New Mexico 28-22)
Texas-El Paso (lost to Texas 42-13)
Tulane (lost to Alabama 20-6)
UNLV (lost to Utah 42-21)
Utah (beat UNLV 42-21)
Vanderbilt (beat South Carolina 24-17)
Virginia (beat Richmond 16-0)
Wake Forest (beat Ole Miss 30-28)
Washington (lost to BYU 28-27)
West Virginia (lost to East Carolina 24-3)
Western Carolina (lost to Florida St. 69-0)
Wisconsin (beat Marshall 51-14)
Wyoming (lost to Air Force 23-3)

EDITED to update with late-night scores. Hey, I was going to have a long day Sunday...

Calling bullshit

Did you see that flag at the end of the BYU-Washington game?

As a part of a Husky household, it's hard not to be emotional about that call. In case you missed it, Washington quarterback Jake Locker scored on a draw with two seconds remaining, pulling the Huskies within a point of a ranked, non-conference opponent.

The PAT should have been a no-brainer, as they usually are. Until someone noticed there was a yellow flag in the end zone. Locker was called for unsportsmanlike conduct, and the PAT was pushed 15 yards back. The kick was blocked, sending Washington to an unexpected loss (though it's very much a possibility they could have lost in overtime).

Locker dove over the goalline, popped up and dropped the ball over his shoulder, like he was trying to reach an itch on his back before proceeding to celebrate with his teammates. In the officials' view, this was unsportsmanlike conduct.

Except it wasn't.

Given the situation and the call, it was as horseshit a call as you'll see. Officials are supposed to be like reporters: never inject yourself into the story. Yet here we are, talking about how these officials decided a game on a questionable call at the game's ultimate moment. (And BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall's interview after the game didn't help. "The rules are the rules," he said, but you can bet he'd have had a hernia if the flag didn't hand his team a win.)

Was it merely a misinterpretation of the NCAA's new, get-tough rules? Or was it just an awful call, limited only in scope by the game it affected?

There is a lot not to like about the NCAA. No other organization is so blind to reality; at postseason tournaments, the players are unfailingly referred to as student-athletes, yet there is at least some part of the population that is all of the latter and none of the former. The NCAA will always be happy to tell you how great and wonderful college athletics is, and yet when a situation contradicts that - as often happens - it's simply a rogue trying to gain an advantage.

And so with this, as the NCAA tries to crack down on showboating and me-first celebrations, taking a page from the No Fun League.

But I defy you to tell me that Locker's celebration was worthy of a penalty. Tell me that, at the moment of the touchdown, all the Cougar fans back in Provo or SLC pointed to the TV and screamed, "That should be a penalty!!!"

You can't, because you didn't. No right-minded person would have.

Washington got jobbed. Even the most frothing Wazzu or Oregon fan could not help but agree on this, not if they were being honest and not just putting on a show.

They were Pac-10 officials, and a statement from that league ought to be forthcoming. I won't advocate suspension or expulsion for this crew, but the Pac-10 simply must remind its officials that, in the end, common sense must prevail.

Because Lord knows we can't count on the NCAA for such a thing.

Hola, Hanna

I thought of my brother-in-law, Mark, this morning. Funny that we should hear from him.

We've talked from time to time about weather, and just the radical climatological difference between his home region and mine.

I won't pretend to be any sort of expert on the Hailey/Ketchum, Idaho metro area, but my limited personal and anecdotal evidence suggest it's cold as balls. Snow hanging around late into spring, that sort of thing. When we visited for Mark and Maya's wedding, the nights were winter-jacket appropriate - which was rather jarring for me, considering it was October.

That's not severe weather, of course, just a simple climatological difference. But in the Northwest and into the Mountain West, wildfires are a constant threat. That's some scary stuff; we had a small one (by Western standards) a few miles from my house during high school. It was eerie to watch; though it was no threat to people or property, there was an overwhelming sense of helplessness, knowing that you could do little to change the fire's mind if it wanted to go somewhere.

The Northwest also deals with the occasional earthquake and the rarer volcano eruption. Pretty wild. Or so it seems to someone whose feet have been firmly entrenched in the Mid-Atlantic.

But I've been able to come back with some weather events that make our fair region formidable. Some areas of the Northwest can get humid in the summertime, though there's no comparison to the oppressive levels we can deal with here. That humidity has a tendency to kick up some wicked thunderstorms; 'bad' thunderstorms have a completely different meaning there than they do here.

And there's the occasional tornado, the most frightening of our weather events. Thankfully, they're rare; we had one earlier in the year that dissipated before it reached us. Still, seeing your county fall under a tornado warning is an attention-grabber.

If that wasn't enough, sometimes we just get some freak of meteorology that happens to pound us all with snow. If you lived on the east coast in the early 90s, you probably remember the Blizzard of '93, which kicked ass in my hometown in Pennsylvania (which, understandably, was ill-suited to handle the volume of snow we received) to places further south (which, understandaly, were ill-suited to handle any significant snow). The Blizzard of '93 happened to be an especially strong Nor'easter, a phenomenon also unknown to those west of the Mississippi.

And then there are days like today. Hello, Hanna.

The west coast is unaffected by storms that have names. We'll get them once every few years, the last notable one being Isabelle, which cancelled my wife's surprise birthday party that year. We held out hope for a long time that we could give it a go, but we gave up when our area started falling under a state of emergency.

Today is pretty much a washout, as expected. NASCAR rightly called off last night's Nationwide race and tonight's Cup race, pushing both back until Sunday. While it would be a fine day to spend watching college football, the severe weather has disrupted our DirecTV signal, which remains my greatest frustration with satellite TV. Even the standard-def channels are gone, and for some reason, they seem to be hardier than the high-def channels.

So we don't quite know what we'll be doing today. Maybe there's a trip to a bar in our near future.

Just so long as we don't get patio seating...