Friday, August 17, 2007

A mine is a terrible thing to waste

It’s dangerous, I know, but I have been doing some thinking about that mine disaster in Huntington, Utah, which seems to grow worse by the day. Several attempts to find the trapped miners have failed. On Friday, the rescuers themselves were trapped and three were killed.
The cave-in that killed the rescuers was believed to be caused by what seismologists call a "mountain bump," in which shifting ground forces chunks of rock from the walls. Seismologists say such a bump caused the August 6 cave-in that trapped the six men more than 3 miles inside the central Utah mine.
Three miles. Think about something that is three miles away and imagine a hole in the ground that deep. In the planetary sense, it’s a pock mark, but in human terms it is massive.
There are three things in life that you have to respect: The Ocean, anything beneath the Earth and J√§egermeister. Any one of them can kill you. The earth heaves and shakes, and if you’re under it chipping anthracite when it happens, it will crush you like a grape. And for what, exactly? To get something we burn to make something that makes other things burn.
Coal mining in the United States dates back to 1748, and it’s one of the few occupations that has not technologically advanced from those days. Take a rail car, go down there and blast it out, just like great-great-grandpa did. For instance, why is it that in this age of technology the only way to communicate with the trapped miners or find them is to drill another hole in the ground?
Mining an odd process to me, and one that I figured we would have technologically outgrown by now. Without getting into the science, common sense tells me that we have a constant, burning source of continual energy in our sky every day, and one would think that a few great minds would have by now figured out a way to tap into that energy and keep people from digging holes, drilling holes and otherwise endangering their lives so that the great industrial complex could continue to prosper. The great industrial complex should be smart enough to figure out another way to survive.
For now and the foreseeable future, we will keep digging and every time people die doing it, we mourn them and accept it as though they died in a car accident or something that is preventable, but the earth, like the Ocean, really doesn’t want us in there. It shakes and rattles uncontrollably and unpredictably, and I think we should be more frightened of it than we appear to be. The governor said he doesn’t want any more rescue operations unless the Mine Safety and Health Administration can guarantee that they will be done safely. How can they guarantee that? One seismologist said that “the mountain is collapsing in slow motion.” That doesn’t sound safe to me.
It has been 10 days since the cave in, and one wonders whether there could be any hope of finding the miners alive. Society however, needs their closure, and it will be interesting to see whether the rescue efforts will continue or they will be left down there as a permanent monument to the mining industry. In the battle between humans and the elements, the elements almost always win.

Coal mining seems like
a really old way to get
some really old stuff.

Haiku’s are old, too,
and easier than mining.
Plus, they can’t kill me.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Wide World of Sports

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - Jose Offerman was having a pretty good summer. Then in a flash, things went flying out of control. Looking for a last chance in the majors, the two-time All-Star turned violent at a minor league game Tuesday night. Hit by a fastball, Offerman charged the mound with his bat and swung at least twice, striking the opposing pitcher and catcher. Offerman, playing for the Long Island Ducks, was arrested on assault charges. The independent Atlantic League suspended him indefinitely Wednesday and expected to make a final decision by the end of the week.
City police, providing security during the game, arrested Offerman. He was charged with two counts of second-degree assault. Offerman posted $10,000 bond and is due in Bridgeport Superior Court August 23.

I guess “Duck” would have been good advice for Matt Beech, the pitcher whom Offerman hit. The thing that struck me [pun intended] about this story was that assault charges were filed against him. Correct me if I’m wrong, but don’t they have fights at hockey games like … 12 times a day? I’ve yet to see anyone arrested, although I think it would be a nice idea.
Do independent baseball leagues operate under different rules than other sports? Technically, couldn’t the pitcher also be arrested on assault charges for throwing the baseball at him?

Offerman "faces a lifetime suspension from the league." Big deal. He's ... like, 50 years old. Grab a bat, grandpa. They'll suspend you for life.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Bloggus Interruptus

Geez, like I don't get enough of this crap on TV. I'm in the middle of talking to two hot girls, and Bloggus Interruptus pops up with the "Restart" window. Screw you, buddy - you're Blog Blocking, big time. If I wanted to re-start, I'd re-start.
Then, I'm watching TV, and up comes the icon on the screen, telling me what's on next. I really don't care what's on next. I care about what's on now. Then, when the commercial break comes, they tell me what's on next - again. Not only do they have to hype up their next show, but they have to do it with moveable images that take up a quarter of the screen. Can I watch the show?
Imagine you're reading a book [a stretch, I know for the TV types] and someone waves a piece of paper in your face and says, "Read this!" Would you be irritated that somebody interrupted your book? Sure, you would. So, why do we stand for it when we're watching television?
They don't interrupt the commercials, only the program. To me, that demonstrates a lack of respect for their viewers, and reminds me that they only care about their advertisers (i.e. "bill payers") and figure that we're such slaves to their programs that we will withstand rude behavior because we're so addicted to Kyra Sedgwick that we will just roll our eyes and wait for the little "Here's what's next" thing to disappear so we can go on watching.
Rant over.

The question on everyone's mind.

I know what you’re asking. What are Anthony’s favorite TV shows? I knew it.
I used to watch more TV than I do now, which is ironic since I’m paying for it now, and I watched more when it was free. There’s so much crap and nonsense on TV that, frankly I’d rather be blogging. Here are some can’t miss shows:
American Chopper – I was on this bandwagon from day one, but got a little burned-out on it last year. I took some time away and now that it’s on Hi-Def, the bickering is as clear as ever. I have a lot of respect for the Teutel’s and what they have accomplished, and even though I don’t ride a motorbike, the ones they build are amazing. They’ve gone from a little shop in Montgomery, NY to TV stars. They’ve built quite a little empire.
My Name is Earl – Season three is coming, and I can feel the show slipping a little. I’m hoping they can inject some life into the plot line to keep me interested. I’m still with ya, though.
The Office – I was late to the party with this one, but thanks to DVD, I have used the summer to catch up on season one and part of two. I think it’s the best comedy on TV, even though comedy is a short list item these days.
Family Guy – Also a late arriver, but it’s fun, because animated shows can get away with things that live-action shows cannot.
Sunrise Earth – I didn’t know about this one until I got the Hi-Def TV. All it is are static shots of sunrise at different places around the world. Last week, it was a hot air balloon festival in Vermont. I think it might help to be stoned when watching this.
Curb Your Enthusiasm – Until I got HBO, I had to wait for the DVDs to come out at the end of every season. Now, I’m getting it free (for a little while) so I’ll be able to see it first-run in October. Watch – it’ll suck now that I can see it.
CBS Sunday Morning – A nice low-key way to start Sunday - a little cereal, the cat and Charles Osgood. Most of the time, it’s more interesting than 60 Minutes.
That’s about it. I got burned out on the Howie Mandel game show pretty quickly, so that’s a pass. The new one with Drew Carey is pretty good, but I think it’s mostly because I like him and he’s good at hosting the show.
I watch Letterman if I’m up that late, and I used to watch The Daily Show every night. I might need to go back to that.
I’m warming up to Mythbusters and Dirty Jobs. I didn’t care much for them at the beginning, but there’s a hottie on Mythbusters and Mike Rowe is a pretty good host. Girls probably think he’s a hottie, too.
60 Minutes is a staple, but if they took it off, I wouldn’t cry. I watch the first two minutes to see if anything interesting is on, then tune back for the Andy Rooney segment. Ditto for Saturday Night Live. I haven’t seen it in a couple of years, but it used to be a fixture. I couldn’t tell you 3 cast members now.
Mostly, I look at the TV listings every night and say “ugggh” to myself. Game shows, 'reality' TV and 'reality' TV disguised as a game show. As you know, I believe that reality TV is at the basement of every moral, spiritual and ethical belief that I hold dear; but that's OK, since I don't have to watch if I don't want to. Things go in cycles, and we’re in the “Disco” era of TV, where most things stink, and you have to dig to find quality.
I’ll keep digging.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The D40. The "D" stands for Drunk.

"If he can pipe rats pie-eyed, I guess I can sober."
- Jerry "Curly" Howard

A while ago, the good folks at Nikon gave 200 people in Georgetown, South Carolina new D40's and turned them loose on society to take pictures. The idea was to prove that anyone could take great pictures with the D40. Chances are, almost all of them were sober and operated during the daylight when things could be seen and understood.
In my case, it was between midnight and 2am last Wednesday morning, I was drunk on a combination of SoCo and cranberry and Long Island Iced Tea and I had never used a D40 before. To make matters worse, I had no tripod and it was dark. Still, I managed to snap off a few decent photos, proving Nikon's point. I hereby volunteer myself to the marketing people at Nikon to give me a D40, get me stone drunk and turn me loose on Philadelphia. Next time, I'll need a tripod.
The target area is Logan Circle, outside of The Four Seasons hotel where my friend was waiting patiently for the appearance of Dave Matthews after his show at the Tweeter Center. Since I bore easily, I ran with her camera and snapped off a few. All of these are on "auto", since I have no idea how to change anything, and probably couldn't see it if I did.
Proving that a flower grows in the city. This is part of a basket of pansies on the sidewalk outside the entrance to the hotel. I think they're pansies. I know they're purple. This proves that I can operate the little button that pops up the flash.

One of the oldest churches in the city, and the largest Catholic church in Pennsylvania sits to the north of Logan Circle on 18th Street. The Cathedral-Basilica of SS. Peter & Paul. It's beautiful on the inside, too. I found the juxtaposition of the Sheraton intriguing. You would too, if it was 1am and you were drunk. I think I rested the camera on a nearby phone kiosk or trash can. There's no way I could have taken this by hand.

Bugs and drunks are attracted to light. This is the traffic light on the corner near the hotel. I wasn't straying too far, lest I miss the appearance of the Great One. I took about 30 shots, but without a steady hand or a steady surface, most of them were kinda fuzzy. They looked good through the viewfinder, though.
I'm not sure what time it was that he finally showed up. I did get to shake his hand and say, "Great show". Next time I'll have to take something for him to sign. He's great with the fans, and twenty or so devotees hung out at the side door until about 2am waiting for him.
As for me, I may have to get me one of those D40's. I'm still on the film thing, outside of my little Olympus digital that I carry in my pocket. My bag full of Nikon lenses would still fit the D40, so it wouldn't be a total loss.
I could probably put the 6006 and N70 on eBay and make up some of the price. Film is so 20th Century.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Getting a firm grip on reality

George: What's that?
Jerry: Oh, it's Risk. It's a game of world domination being played by two guys who can barely run their own lives.
- Seinfeld, The Label Maker, 1995

Wake the kids, phone the neighbors – it’s time once again for the annual ritual that sports geeks across America call Fantasy Football.
Fantasy football isn’t exactly a game of world domination, but to hear the participants talk about it, you’d think it was. And, we do hear them talk. The only thing that makes it less annoying than overhearing a cell phone conversation is that the rambling about their fantasy team only goes on for 9 months of the year.
Believe it or not, it started in 1962 in Oakland, California. Now, it has riddled the countryside and for some (like me), it has ruined the game of football. It’s the reason for the scrolling player updates on TV and the obsession over numbers of minor players and over-emphasis on offense. And God forbid their fantasy Quarterback is playing against their home town team. They get very confused, because in fantasy football (unlike real football), individuals are more important than the team.
Fantasy teams are not put together like real teams. There is no team chemistry or complimentary players – it’s all about the statistics and who can run up the biggest point totals through self-glorification on the field, which is fitting, since modern society has become something of a “me first” culture. Individual glory at the expense of the group.
I was lucky enough to get out several years ago, when I realized that I was no longer enjoying the game for the game. I enjoy watching football, and I can watch any two teams play, but when the element of gambling or rooting for one particular player is involved, much of the enjoyment is lost for me. Now, much like the ex-smoker who hates smoke-filled rooms, I have a similar disdain for fantasy football.
The funny thing about fantasy players is that they get some odd enjoyment out of making themselves sound smarter than other people. “I drafted Steve Smith in the sixth round!” they proclaim, as though we are supposed to see the brain power involved. My response is usually, “I tied my own shoes this morning.” Getting a “steal” in the draft is seldom accompanied by letting us in on the mistakes they made. In those cases, the player is to blame, since he failed to live up to expectations. Crediting yourself for success and blaming others for failure is also a mantra of society.
They think we’re all as interested in their team as they are. Out of nowhere, the topic will come up in conversation. “Drew Brees is killing me.” Really? I had no idea, since the Saints are 5 and 0. “Antonio Gates sucks!” Sure. What about that block he threw that sprung his receiver for a 20-yard gain? Oh, sorry; no fantasy points for blocks.
They probably didn’t see the block because fantasy players aren’t really watching the game. They’re watching their own game where their made-up teams of real players compete against other made-up teams. The money is real, and in some cases it’s considerable. A thinly veiled gambling exercise disguised as entertainment.
When the season starts in a few weeks, I’ll be rooting for the Eagles and Chargers. The whole team, not just the players on offense. I’ll talk about the team and the real players on the real field. As for your little fantasy world - talk amongst yourselves.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The little things.

I noticed that someone from Colorado State University ran across my post about the hurricane forecasters after Google searching William Gray, who heads up a hurricane research team at Colorado State University. Things like that really make my day. I'm funny like that.
Last Tuesday, I noticed that someone at work Googled my name and came across the blog. I was off work that day, so it stood out like a sore thumb. That's strange, since anyone at work who wants to know anything about me could ... um ... walk downstairs and ask. Who's Googling me at work? [I wonder quietly to myself].
It's 100 degrees in Tulsa, Oklahoma; where they are playing the PGA Tournament. Men in polyester shirts and slacks out in the hot sun. There must be a rule that says men are not allowed to wear shorts during their tournaments. I'm going to believe that there is, because if there isn't, then the whole bunch of them are dumbasses. Who willingly wears long pants when the temperature is over 95 degrees? There has to be a rule.
Today I was reading an article on Yahoo detailing 7 Dating Ups and Downs. Near the bottom of the article the author proclaimed: Rejection is what dating is all about. Really? That's what it's all about? Swell. It's nice to know that all these years I've been doing it right.
To your immediate right is Dolly Parton - or what is left of Dolly after chemical peels, cosmetic surgery or whatever else she has had done to herself over the years. People scream about the way Michael Jackson looks, but how much different is Dolly? I suppose, because she's a girl with big cans that it would be odd to complain. She's 61 years old, you know. Of course, people have free will and money - and the combination of the two often leads to questionable decisions, or in Dolly's case, repeated questionable decisions.
I think the thing about cosmetic surgery is that it is rarely an end to a problem. It is often an interim step toward a lifetime of obsessive behavior taken by people who are (for whatever reason) uncomfortable with the way they look and believe that changing their exterior is going to make them happier about the kind of person they are. Would Dolly Parton be as popular if she didn't have huge silicone jugs? She has a thin voice and writes nice songs, but so do a lot of people. If the answer is yes, then looks don't matter, but we know that the answer is no, and that's a little sad.