Saturday, June 30, 2007

Readership drops on the weekends, so ...

... I'll just rant to myself until I disappear into my own mouthhole.

Michelle Wie withdrew from the U.S. Open on Saturday. Perhaps it's time for Michelle to take some time and be a kid, let this wrist heal and stop drawing so much attention to herself. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.
Meanwhile, weather issues are making it difficult to enjoy either Wimbledon or the U.S. Open. They have both been delayed by rain and lightning. NBC did its best in an exacta of rain-soaked sporting events on Saturday. They had rain-delay coverage of Wimbledon, when Venus Williams' match was interrupted, then had to show taped coverage of the rain-delayed second round of the Open. Confused? Me too.

I'm not big on taped coverage of anything, and I didn't perk up until around 4pm when the third round started and they ran live coverage of the first few holes. Sadly, they had to stop at 6 so that the local news could saturate us with more iPhone stories. The local NBC weather guy had one that he waved in the face of the anchor, and handed it to her. I wish she would have thrown it into the fake city skyline behind her, but instead she gushed over it and smiled politely. I guess she needs her job.

Sunday's forecast for Southern Pines, North Carolina is for more thundershowers, so perhaps the final round will have to wait until Monday. Christie Kerr made a non-televised run today, and she's one shot off the lead held by Jayai Shin, who will undoubtedly crack under the pressure. Go get 'em, Christie. Paula Creamer is 9 shots off the lead, tied for 27th. Suzann Pettersen appears to be in line to miss the cut, in spite of her interesting method of lining up a putt...

While watching the Weather Channel [geek], I saw that Possum Kingdom lake in Texas has flooded. Up until about 3 hours ago, I thought Possum Kingdom was just a really good song by The Toadies. If you don't know the song, it's here - and it may be the best song ever written with such an odd time signature. It's either a measure of 7 followed by a measure of 8 or one measure of 15. You figure it out. I know I could kick ass on it if I had Guitar Hero 2. So there, you learned something. Thanks for stopping by.

Mika Brzezinski - American Hero

Mika Brzezinski tore her script to pieces on the air and then put another one through a shredder Friday morning when she was asked by her editors on MSNBC cable channel to lead the newscast with an item about Paris Hilton, arguing that she was fed up with the attention given to the heiress. "Listen, I just don't believe in covering that story, especially not as the lead story in a newscast when you have a day like today," Brzezinski said on the air.

I'm not sure what she meant by "a day like today." Maybe she was talking about the iPhone. Can we get her to put one of those through a shredder? Anyway, watch this clip. If I was her, I would have walked off the set.

Friday, June 29, 2007

The latest in a never-ending supply of ways to separate you from your money

The iPhone. Apple's answer to distracted driving and annoying people in movie theaters, concerts, at work or your local church. The more laws and rules they make, the more junk we have to inspire more laws and rules. It's technology's little joke on us. Keep chasing the technology and the technology will keep chasing you. Soon, we'll see another bunch of laws.
If you thought you were annoyed by regular cell phones ... wait for this thing. Music, video, the Internet and ... oh yeah ... it's a phone, too. Gangs of gullible consumers lined up for this thing today. Among them was Philadelphia Mayor John Street, but don't go by him. He's kind of goofy to begin with. He probably thought he was in line for a cheesesteak. He called it a "management tool" and said that he will use it "to get a lot of work done." More work than he got done today, apparently, although he still got paid. He was in line for most of the day - which probably translated into more work than he does on a normal day in City Hall. I know who the tool is, John. Don't you have someone you can send to the store to get this for you? On second thought, maybe the city is better off with you out shopping instead of doing mayor stuff. Just don't expense it.
Meanwhile, the nonsense was the lead story on the news tonight, which translates into free advertising for Apple. Hords of dopey customers that set up lawn chairs at 3am waiting for the store to open. As of 10pm, the store was still open and there were plenty of the nuisance devices left, so what was the point of waiting in line?
At least one of the customers at the Marlton store appeared to have a problem opening the thing, which makes me wonder if it's more of a status symbol than an actual working device. I didn't hear the reporter ask anyone exactly what they expected to do with this thing, other than look at it and get a little erection. It seems to me that it's one of those products that we are told we need, so we run out and buy it. Apple's marketing people are smarter than their customers, and buyers remorse awaits, just after they get their credit card bill.
It doesn't hold as much music as an iPod, there are issues with AT&T's service and the network that they use is something called EDGE which is slower than 3G and a little faster than dial-up, so expect to hear a gang of complaints once the adrenalin wears off....
...and the bill comes. Somewhere in the vicinity of $200 a month, on top of the $500 they laid out for the "phone". Disposable income must be a by-product of stupidity, since I figure that many of the sheep were there so that they can wave the thing in front of their friends, who will "Oooh" and "Awww" publicly, while privately wondering "what were you thinking?"
A lot of them aren't, which is Apple's target customer. Just keep the damned thing quiet and when you wave it in my face, expect an eye-roll and some questions about your pricing plan.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A big weekend for girls hitting balls

I used to watch a lot of women's tennis. I stopped when they started screaming on every shot. Not all of them scream, but there is enough of them that scream to make me turn off the TV when there's a match on, and I don't have a list of screamers and non-screamers, so I have to keep it on long enough to find out. They scream, I'm out.
This weekend (and next) is the famous Wimbledon, which most people can read but not pronounce. Even some so-called professional announcers call it Wimbleton. It makes me want to scream.
The screaming has gotten way out of hand. I don't know when it started, exactly, but I think it was that soft-hearted Monica Seles, who was stabbed in the back by a German (like that never happened before) and spent the rest of her life attempting a comeback.
I think the people that teach tennis players to scream are the same ones teaching baseball players that they should slide into first base.
You cannot overrun second or third base, so sliding is necessary. You can overrun first base, so sliding is not necessary. Sliding does not get you there faster. In fact, it may actually be slower, but it appears that you are hustling, so sliding looks good, but it is actually not good - or necessary. Sliding into first base is the sports equivalent of "all form, no substance", which is embraced by modern society although it is useless - like reality TV.
It looks particularly ridiculous when they scream on those little drop shots. They are standing about a foot from the net, and underhand a shot two feet from the other side - and scream. Arrrrggh! That was hard. [That might have been a rant, too].

Meanwhile, on the left side of the pond, the LPGA is playing its U.S. Open at Pine Needles in North Carolina; where there is no screaming whatsoever.

There's a 12-year old playing this year. At least until Friday. Some kid named Alexis Thompson - a seventh grader from Florida who tees off at 2:20 on Thursday. I'm hoping that she makes the cut and Michelle Wie does not.
They call it the U.S. Women's Open, but they don't call it the U.S. Men's Open; as though we wouldn't know the difference. It's called the U.S. Open when the men play. That's odd to me. Is anybody confused about whether it's Angel Cabrera or Natalie Gulbis on the course?
I'm not confused.
Natalie doesn't smoke on the golf course.
But she is smoking.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Picking my teeth with a sharp steel instrument makes me hot

Every six months, rain or shine, I'm in the dentist's chair having my teeth cleaned. Preventive dentistry, they call it. I have my own ideas.
While it may seem nice to have an attractive woman put her fingers in my mouth, the drama is lost on me when she breaks out the space suit. A face shield, that paper mouth guard and rubber gloves. It makes me wonder what what it says about me in my file.
I had two X-rays on Wednesday. It is considerate of them to give me that lead body apron to wear, but I can't help but wonder about the logic of covering my chest and arms while my entire head is being blasted. Shouldn't they cover my head too? My brain is in there - I think. That might be more important than covering my shoulders, but I'm not a dentist, so I don't know.
I didn't check, but I'm pretty sure that apron didn't cover my junk, either. Is that why is my urine is blue?
There's an idea for some enterprising entrepreneur with time and materials. The Dental X-Ray Helmet. Market it for kids, and the parents will insist that their precious little brats have their delicate heads covered and shielded from the 0.00001 rems of radiation that may be absorbed into their still-forming kid brain. Although most of them could probably benefit from a little Röntgen ray blast. Behave, or I'm turning up the voltage.
I'm old enough to remember the good old days when my dentist went in my mouth bare-knuckled and bare-faced. He used to spit a little when he talked, so maybe the face shield would have been a good idea for him.
That was when the dentist used to do everything. Now, they all have hygienists who handle the teeth cleaning, and according to this, almost 98% of dental hygienists are women. That's interesting, I think. One would figure that the numbers wouldn't be so lopsided once word got out that Hygienist School was a great place to meet girls.
I wonder if they wear that protective stuff when they go on dates?
There's a TV in my dentist's examining room, and they asked me if I wanted it turned on. Sure, as long as you're picking at my teeth with a steel spike, why not tune into Regis and Kelly to complete the torture? Maybe that's the point? The theory is that patients won't complain about scraping their teeth and picking at their gums if there is a suitable distraction that makes the picking seem mild by comparison. Wednesday's guests were Paula Abdul and Jimmy Fallon.
Pick away, sweetheart, I can't feel a thing.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Re-inventing the wheel

Cyclists are a misunderstood group. We are on the periphery of sports until someone uses an illegal substance or crashes and dies, then we are front-page news. Motorists dislike us because we take up valuable shoulder space that they could be using to weave into while talking on their cell phone. Occasionally, they hurl objects out of their car windows or shout obscenities at us, which, owing to the Doppler Effect, we cannot fully understand. What we do understand is that we are best left alone, but as we know, a lack of understanding never gets in the way of government, especially in New Jersey.

When it comes to rules and laws, we (the people) are reactionary. When you combine reactionary policy with ignorance, a perfect storm of nonsense breaches the shore. That storm has run aground in New Jersey, where a pack of nitwits temporarily impersonating state assemblymen have sponsored legislation designed to make life difficult for cyclists and impossible for the people who sell bicycles.

The issue is the Quick Release skewer that almost all modern bicycles use to attach the front wheel to the fork and the rear wheel to the … umm … rear. Flip the lever; spin it a few times and the wheel will come off. It’s so simple, an Assemblyman can use it.

The mechanism was invented in 1927 by Tullio Campagnolo, an Italian bicycle racer. He was frustrated when he needed to repair a flat tire during a race. The weather had turned cold, and his hands were numb, so he could not operate the wing nuts which retained the wheel. He had been well-placed prior to the puncture, but lost valuable time.

Now that the wing nuts have been removed from the wheels and placed in Trenton, they have determined that a device that has been used for 50 years is suddenly and dramatically flawed, claiming that it is responsible for inadvertent injury to children.

Introduced in February 2006, New Jersey Assembly Bill A2686, sponsored by Assemblyman PAUL D. MORIARTY, Assemblyman DAVID R. MAYER, Assemblywoman JOAN M. VOSS and Co-Sponsored by Assemblymen Gusciora, Bramnick and Conners, passed by a 77-3 vote. It is now headed to the New Jersey Senate Commerce Committee.
Originally drafted to bar the sale of quick release wheels on children's bikes due to the risk posed by the failure of the mechanism, the bill was recently amended to include bikes with 20-inch or larger wheels, affecting the sale of adult bikes. The bill also states that, in addition to a primary retention device, bikes must also have an automatic secondary wheel retention device - a new technology not currently available that would render current bike models un-sellable.

"It's being promoted as a bill intended to protect children," said Bob Burns, Trek's legal counsel and spokesman for the Bicycle Product Suppliers Association. "But the language would make every bicycle with quick release currently for sale in New Jersey illegal. This bill is not intended just for children's bikes."

For those of you from out of town, co-sponsor Paul Moriarty is a former consumer affairs reporter with a local TV station, who parlayed consumer protectionism into a (temporary) career in politics. This bill strikes me as yet another shallow attempt to cry out to his constituents, “I’m looking out for your kids!” when; in reality he is piling another layer of meddling bureaucracy under the guise of protecting your children while inconveniencing their parents. If there is a safety problem (and I have my doubts about that), then the issue is not the mechanism, the issue is ignorance. As usual, the gang in Trenton feels that the best way to address ignorance is to make another law. That’s the easy way, and we’ve got ‘easy’ covered. Why bother instructing people when you can hassle them with legislation? Hell, it’s easier than spinning a skewer and it gets your name in the paper. Concerned parents proclaim, “He’s looking after my kids,” but he’s not really. What he is doing is making it easier for you to ignore your kids because you think the law will protect them.

The problem here is that ignorant people are the ones making the rules, and they scream loudest about the things they know little about, like bicycles and common sense. I’m surprised that the law doesn’t include some sort of Skewer Tax or a state inspection fee. Hey, there’s an idea, 'eh Paul?

All you need to know about their level of ignorance is that the bill requires the use of technology that does not exist, and probably will not be available until Moriarty is back to work at the TV station. How can he know whether this “belt and suspenders” fastener will work if it doesn’t exist? Did I mention how a lack of understanding never gets in the way of government? I did.

The bill states: Children riding bicycles with quick release wheels have been involved in over 100 accidents. Many of the children involved in these accidents have suffered injuries, including permanent scarring, disfigurement, major bone and dental trauma, severe scraping and bruising, brain injury and ruptured internal organs.
Hey, that sounds serious, but there are a lot of vague terms in there, like severe, major and trauma. And, what does many mean? Is it more than 10 or less than a hundred? If you know it’s “over 100,” then you must know the exact number of serious injuries. Second, how many kids are injured playing soccer? Many, I’d bet. Let’s pass a bill for safer air in those soccer balls and padded fields.

It continues: It is, therefore, altogether fitting and proper that the State regulate the sale of bicycles with quick release wheels to stem the rash of senseless injuries to children resulting from their use.
No, it isn’t fitting and proper. What would be fitting and proper would be fewer senseless laws and senseless lawmakers who only make life in New Jersey more complicated. This is the first I've heard about a rash (another vague term) of accidents involving bicycle wheels. You wouldn't be making it up, would you?

Nonsense like this does nothing to make children safe. Safety comes from knowledge of the circumstances and understanding the equipment being used. Safety does not come from a bolt or a fastener.
Here’s an idea: School. Children go to school, right? Children ride bikes. Can we get someone – like a bike shop owner or a bike mechanic or God forbid a teacher or a parent – to take an hour at school to teach children how to properly use the equipment? Spare us another law, and try making us smarter. All I hear is how the educational system is failing in this country. Maybe it's because we aren't teaching anything that helps people in their daily lives. Instruction makes more sense to me than another law.
This equipment has been working for 50 years and will work for another 50 if we can get meddlesome politicians to stop goofing with it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

The end of civilization (as we know it)

Too busy to search the web? Google scientists have uncovered a way to shave yet another second off of your life and thereby create even more opportunities for you to do more searches in less time. Confused? Me too, a little.
I had no idea that I could save time by hitting the return key instead of clicking on "search". Thanks, Google, but is it really faster? I'm going to make you proud and use that extra time to make the world a better place.
Faster porn searches.

I get these almost every day. Someone, somewhere must figure that ebay users are the most gullible people on the planet. This one made me giggle, though - which is no small feat.

It says, "Although these emails appear to come from eBay, they are really sent by people attempting to gain access to your account." Really? Ya think? They go on to tell me that if I do not get satisfactory results from clicking on the link they provided, that I should reply directly to the e-mail. OK, sure thing. It's signed "Ebay trust and Security", so I know it can't be fake.

Are you smarter than a 2-year old?

I'll bet that a 2-year old Mensa baby wouldn't be taken in by such nonsense. A British kid, Georgia Brown (really) has just been named to Mensa, and if I had any respect for them to begin with, it just went out the window. You might think that it is ridiculous to put a 2-year old into Mensa [because it is]. According to their web site: Membership in Mensa is open to persons who have attained a score within the upper two percent of the general population on an approved intelligence test that has been properly administered and supervised. Did she take the test? It's probably hard to supervise an IQ test on a 2-year old, what with changing diapers and all. Of course, being a Mensan, she can probably wipe herself by now. But hey, welcome aboard, kiddo! From the sounds of their mission statement, she will fit right in.

Mensa seeks to identify and foster human intelligence for the benefit of humanity, according to its website. It also seeks to provide a stimulating intellectual and social environment for its members as well as to encourage research into the nature, characteristics and uses of intelligence.

Can anyone at Mensa tell me how a 2-year old can do all those things? How do you think all those brainiacs feel with a small child in their midst? A lot like Dian Fossey with the gorillas, I'm guessing. And what if she turns out to be a dumbass? I've seen a lot of precocious kids in my life, and not all of them turned out to be geniuses or necessarily the smartest kids on the block. It seems to me to be pointless, and obviously done for the benefit of her parents, who probably feel as though they need to have something to rub in the faces of their neighbors at the next community picnic.

What I'm suggesting is that it might be nice if the kid joined Mensa because she wanted to. God forbid we do something for the kid. I hope she turns out to be a real pain in the ass and decides to write a tell-all book about the behind the scenes goings-on at Mensa meetings.

I'd be willing to bet that Georgia isn't the only Mensa member who wets the bed, either.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Car free Sunday 2

Car free Sunday doesn't necessarily involve the bicycle. Sometimes, it involves the feet, which was the case today. Today's quest was the Iroquois sculpture that was recently erected at Eakins Oval near the Art Museum - OK, the one that Rocky ran up in the movie. No, I didn't do the run - that's for tourists. I live here.
Lucky for me, the bus runs out in front of my place, so I can make my way to and from the city without moving the car - provided I make it back in time. There is a 9pm curfew, or else I'm finding a room somewhere in Philadelphia.
My quest was easy to find, since it's kind of big and red. It's out there in a little plot of ground north of the Art Museum.

Since there wasn't much mystery in the day's outing, I decided to make the rest of it rather mundane by comparison. Lunch at The Independence Brew Pub, followed by a stroll through the Reading Terminal Market, conveniently located across the street. Marisa has many more interesting stories to tell. Mine are rather humdrum. The woman in front of me at Mueller's Gourmet Chocolates wanted "a fourth of a pound" of something, whereas most of us would have asked for a quarter of a pound, as I did of the salted macadamia's. She seemed a bit confused as to the way the confections would be handed out, wondering if there was a box or something. Finding that there would be no box, she requested a single chocolate-covered pretzel. Anyway, visit Marisa's blog to find many more interesting stories from her. It's a good read, and it provides an insight to the tiny things that make Philadelphia such a great city.

Stop by the pub and have an Independence Ale. For some nice produce, stop by the market.

Bus travel involves patience. The woman who got on with me traveled 2 miles for $1.35, and got off to go to her job at Acme. For the time she spent waiting for the bus, she could have walked to work for free, but who am I to question logic? Another guy on the bus appeared to fall asleep and "lose" his cell phone. He needed to get off in Woodbury, which was sad because he missed his stop by a state, a bridge and five towns. A nice bystander offered to call his number.

"It's 609-395-68888," he said, which we immediately recognized as being too many numbers.

"It's all eight's after the six," he told us. The Samaritan dialed, after which we heard his voice mail appear. Who'd-a-thunk that the phone stealer wouldn't pick up the phone? Well, who'd a thought that a guy would be drunk and asleep on a bus at noon? Go figure.

For much of the day, I wandered around. Finding the Irish Pub on Locust that was a great place for one of those dark, sweet Irish beers (who'd have thought?) Some nice people from one of those bottled water companies were handing out free water in Rittenhouse Square, and I never turn down free.
After wandering my way out to the nether regions of the Art Museum (no, I told you, I didn't do the Rocky run) I had a couple of hours to kill until my 9pm bus left for home, so I found myself in the TGI Friday's near Logan Circle. Who'd a thought I would find such an interesting cast of characters at a chain joint? Go figure.

In addition to our aspiring comic/bartender, we had the interesting couple (she on her third marriage, he on his second) who became more interesting as the Cabernet flowed. Let's just say that if you happen to be near The Laff House on South Street on Wednesday nights, stop in and give Josh some support. Be prepared to stay, however, since the open mic performers don't have a schedule.

Suffice it to say that I got on the last bus headed home at 9pm and lived to tell the tale. It's times like these that I am glad I don't have tons of disposable income, or I'd probably be posting this from a hotel in Philadelphia wondering how I would get home on Monday morning.

Maybe next week.