Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bad-ass bulls, etc.

My mom, her boyfriend and I moseyed over to the fair a couple times Saturday, once in the afternoon to check out the exhibits and eyeball the rides, and again in the evening/night for the rodeo, which coincides with the fair each year.

The nighttime rodeos each day are the usual way for people to see the events, but people living on the cheap (night tickets are $10) could take in rodeo action during the day prior to the fair getting into full swing.

But then you wouldn't get the "advantage" of the harangue from the announcer, nor the genuinely entertaining antics of the rodeo clown. We're lucky to have a hyper, athletic and funny guy, JJ Harrison - a local dude who used to be a schoolteacher here - who pretty much horses around during the competition. Sometimes his timing is crap (i.e. capering around on one side of the arena while a competitor puts his butt on the line riding a feisty horse or a pissed-off bull. But he is hilarious.

Anyway, last night's highlight, for me, was one bull that after ditching its would-be rider, refused to be corralled and spent about 5 or 10 minutes killing time in the arena, feinting at the clown, walking around where it pleased, ignoring the cowboys who roped it and generally making a pest out of itself. A huge, scary, threatening pest.

I know, I know: Rodeos are a horrible scourge on animal welfare. But a) I'm pretty sure from having been to a bunch that's not true; and b) at least these critters aren't killed (bullfighting, cockfighting, dog fighting) and have a chance to win on their own (unlike horse racing, to pick an example at random).

I did wish a few times I was at a rodeo in a country where I don't speak the language, so that the announcer's nonstop commercials for trucks, trailers, home loans, bank accounts and anything else a sponsor had on offer would just be babble. But that's a pretty minor complaint, in the big picture.

On a side note: Although our city can be pretty segregated ethnically, the fair is not one of the places that happens, and neither is the rodeo.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Enzyte fiasco

Can you imagine being the judge - or worse, a defense lawyer - in the fraud trial for the Enzyte people? A far cry from Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District, I am sure.

Anyway, the cat who runs Berkley Premium Nutraceuticals got 25 years in prison and assorted fines today for his role in the bilking of zillions of people who bought into the whole "natural male enhancement" thing.

So, boo-hoo for Dracula. Two amusing footnotes:
  • The judge also ordered the nutria cuticle people to fork over a half-billion dollars in ill-gotten gains. A half a billion dollars! Numbers like that are hard to make sensible. But you could certainly build a very nice library in every state with that kind of dough.
  • The judge said the company's top dog, the one who got the 25-year stretch, can't remain free on bond while he awaits the outcome of appeals.
I think most normal people would figure that if you get convicted on 93 counts of anything, let alone conspiracy, money laundering and three kinds of fraud, that you'd probably need to expect to spend some time in prison.

But this kind of ridiculous shit happens. People convicted of felonies are allowed to stay out on the street while their cases are "decided."

Hello... Isn't that what the trial was for? If someone has been determined by a jury to have done the crimes, he should handle the time. Do you seriously think someone who would rip off $500 million would be harmless on the outside?

I remember an arson case in Nashua that had this weird aspect, but all I could get out of people as to why a convicted arsonist was out walking the streets - for years! - was that he was a good guy and well known in the community. OK, sure.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

A closing thought or two on the Olympics

Highlight: Women's marathon.
Lowlight: Dropped batons all around in the 4x100 relays. I know, it's super hard! But that's what practice and teamwork are far. This is why - besides not being a fantastic sprinter - I liked the 4x400 better: No need for a blind baton pass. And enough with calling it "the stick" already.
Top rule change to ditch: No ties in gymnastics. They must be short on dough if they can't afford two gold medals when there's a tie.
Top rule change to make: Relay teams need to be pared down. I would prefer teams be limited to four members, with no alternates, for the whole competition. I could live with four plus an alternate, but why compromise?
Top TV highlight: Mary Carillo's acupuncture and kite-flying reports, followed by Bob Costas' interview of George Bush.
Wish they'd covered it: Men's 800 meter run. Seriously, it would only have taken a couple of minutes.

All in all, an entertaining couple of weeks.

Friday, August 22, 2008

A hard cut

Lupe Fiasco, best known to most people, probably, as the originator of a slick counterpunch to Kanye West's "Jesus Walks" also cut this track, which has a typically hard-core video made by a fan.

Here's the response to "Jesus Walks," in case you missed it.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Music for the summertime, which it isn't in my town

I think I heard this in a commercial during the Olympics, but I can't recall for sure.

Speaking of, how about Insane Bolt? Damn! He made Michael Johnson look a little pokey, but I suppose he makes everyone look a little pokey.

I'm still voting for the women's marathon as my favorite event so far - Bolt and Phelps are awe-inspiring, but their races are so short I don't think you get the same impression of domination that the marathon had, especially being as the Romanian with the ever-changing name (Constantina Tomescu-dita or Tomescu-Dita or Dita-Tomescu, depending on who's talking) made her move on Ms. Domination, Catherine Ndereba, and the rest of the leaders with 10 miles - 10 miles! - to go. A great race.

Monday, August 18, 2008

The 9/11 treatment, but not for Michael P.

I see my colleagues around the country did the Sept. 11/Pope dies thing for Michael Phelps, who surely deserved a front-page presence, but maybe not quite the full 6 columns (or however many your paper has).

So what did Mr. Smug do today? Well, pretty much that, though I think this was a more suitable occasion, the deployment of our local National Guard unit to Iraq.
The day photographer, Matthew B. Zimmerman, shot these photos (and more that ran inside with a story by Andy Porter), and Web content editor Carlos Virgen reported and produced this story:

I'm pretty pleased with this, especially because the idea for the expanded coverage (i.e. more than photos) was cooked up by the Butterfly Lady and I during a rare coffee break downtown. She also filled in for Carlos on one of his daily tasks so he'd have time to rush out and shoot his story.

Oh, and all this was done on deadline (the sendoff was at 10 a.m.; deadline is just past noon.) This is why I like working at a small local paper: I can change the plan for the day at the drop of a hat without having to clear the decision with anyone, let alone three other editors.

Of course, this works because my boss, who gives me almost absolute control over the daily newsgathering, hires people who do really great work and can be counted on in the clutch.

A very good day indeed!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Olympic fun

OK, Michael Phelps is obviously awesome, and a Tunisian won the 1,500, but although swimming is now my sport, my first true love is distance running, and for me, the highlight - the moment that made my hair stand on end - was Constantina Tomescu-Dita's marathon win.

When she made her move about halfway through the race, the announcers rightly expressed some doubts about how things would turn out, but she just kept it up and kept it up. And kept it up. Damn!

I was watching a documentary on ESPN about a mixed martial arts wanker who is suspected of being a big-time robber, and at one point, a coach-like guy said if the MMA dude was really the big-time robber, he had "brass ones."

Yeah, maybe, but Tomescu-Dita showed a lot more chutzpa than any of those slap-fest pissants. She was brilliant.

On a side note, I'm getting tired of NBC's fake-o pronouncements about how their coverage is "live." I'm sorry, if they're live, USA Today is the best prognosticator of results in history.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The early call

OK, this is - I hope - just for kicks.

I say Netflix is going to shit the bed. We got the form letter everybody on Earth received about how, oopsy-daisy, we're not shipping right now because "Our shipping system is unexpectedly down."

The e-mail didn't contain anything resembling a reason why, so my call is: Netflix has encountered the first in a series of unfortunate events that will unravel it like TCBY and all those other can't-miss operations whose former stores you pass on your way home, the ones whose dried skeletons hold the last breaths of their owners' dreams, the ghosts of hope that died parched deaths in the echo-less wastelands of weeds and concrete.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


It is trippy to listen to a record online. Or maybe it's the way I perceive the experience that is indeed trippy...

Friday, August 08, 2008

Around town

Big Katy doesn't like the big heat of summer around here, but sometimes the weather is Newfy-approved. Or there are sprinklers to soothe the beast. Yuki, of course, is way too young to be out on major expeditions. Anyway here are some shots from a walk with the pooch and the butterfly lady to the college's organic garden, where we volunteer some time, and beyond, to Big K's favorite in-town haunt.

The entrance to the garden has a funky gate of reclaimed junkola. It is still up because meth addicts don't waste time with ferrous metal.
Big K lends a helping paw to a flower-seed collector, or at least puts on a helping face.
The water dog thinks Eastern Washington stinks, mostly, but not the parts that have sprinklers.

Here's a pretty pleased face midway through the party.
and taking a break after the festivities in another Newfy-approved area, the shade.
Lulu's right, they are our family :)

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Concrete ideas

Assorted thoughts collected while pondering the number of weeds growing in the cracks on the street in front of my house:

Big environmental problems often have Silly, arcane, boring or ambiguous names. Noxious weeds - sure, I guess. Impervious surfaces - what? Aquifer recharge - zzzzz. Light pollution - you mean light bulbs or not heavy?

But they're all connected. Check this out:

Take your run-of-the-mill parking lot. What have you got? Room for 200 cars, a lot of asphalt, five or six islands with shrimpy trees, a bunch of light poles and a couple of drains.

Take your typical street. What have you got? Miles of asphalt (or sometimes concrete), trees along the edges if you're lucky and occasional drains.

Take your typical sidewalk. What have you got? I think you can see where I'm going with this.

View Larger Map
Now, I'm not saying let's just tear everything down and live in yurts, but any one of these three surfaces - parking lots, streets and sidewalks - can be built to allow the water that falls on them to go somewhere that isn't a storm drain. Retrofitting is another matter, but I have seen parking lots that have filtration systems under the asphalt to get all the phosphates and oil to land somewhere besides the nearest stream.

I know it could mean fewer places to park, but my feelings wouldn't be hurt if parking lots had more trees in them, by which I mean more trees tall enough to provide shade. And lights that are shielded so they don't spread the wealth to the sky.

With enough places reinvented to cut down on the amount of asphalt exposed to the sun, maybe we could also stop using the ground as a big passive solar heating system. I know my Newfoundlands are a lot happier when the night cool sets in, but that's always slower when you live in a place with lots of pavement.

So that's the lite version of my manifesto on pavement. I could, of course, go on and on, in much greater detail. Just buy me a glass of bourbon sometime if you'd like to hear the whole spiel.

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Two b.s. sports "rules"

The brilliant sprinter Michael Johnson will have to give up a gold medal he won in the 4x400 relay in the 2000 Olympics because yet another of his teammates was using drugs at the time. Others on the team have since been found out for other transgressions, but the new revelation means actually no medal for that race.

Oddly enough, six runners are losing their gold medals for that race, reason being that two runners who were in the preliminaries were swapped out for the finals, and the Olympic dimwits have decided that if you helped out, you're a winner, too, even if you didn't actually, you know, win.

So, that's dumb shit rule No. 1. Second on my list is more obscure, but just as annoying to me.

Baseball includes 2.2 million stats, including several for fielders. You get credit for - among other things - putouts (you actually catch the ball or tag the runner to make an out), errors (which aren't even reliable, as whether it's a hit or an error is decided by the hometown scorer) and assists (you threw the ball to the guy who made the out).

Simple, right? Yeah, except what if you throw the ball to the guy who makes the out, but he drops the ball and the runner is safe? Well, you get an assist anyway, because... oh, yeah, because we're all winners.

But of course, there's big money in both these games, so maybe the explanation is pretty easy to find.