The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Tuesday, September 30, 2003

Chicago 4, Atlanta 2
North Side 1, Dirty South 0

San Francisco 2, Florida 0
Barry Bonds and Company 1, Fish 0

Minnesota 3, New York 1
Contraction Kids 1, Evil Empire 0.

Monday, September 29, 2003

I really hate it when the Redskins win, especially when it's against my team - on those rare occasions when they are on each other's schedules. Nothing like being the only miserable person in a neighborhood of a happy people, and surrounded by saturation news coverage. I'm not kidding - instead of showing another game, the local CBS affiliate chose to dissect this game for a whole other hour.

If Tom Brady and Kevin Faulk hadn't simply handed the Redskins the game with four turnovers, who knows what would have happened? You guys are supposed to the team that sits around and waits for the other team to mess up and take advantage, not the other way around.

Red Sox start Wednesday night, unfortunately at 10:00 at night. I think tickets are still available in Oakland. More on that later.

Out Of Sight

I picked up this story from my fellow blog friend J.T.

On its face, the Secret Service excluding demonstrators from anywhere the President could see or hear them – regardless of viewpoint - would be a reasonable time/place/manner restriction. However, reports indicate that Secret Service personnel are allowing pro-Bush demonstrators to be much closer to the President than demonstrators critical of Bush or his administration.

While I suppose it’s human nature to want to be closer to people who are cheering you than those who are jeering you, this is not the direction in which our government should be going. Not only does this practice strike me as a content-based (and even worse, viewpoint-based) curb on speech - and therefore a violation of the First Amendment – it strikes me as dumb policy.

Anyone remember the movie “In The Line Of Fire?” The would-be assassin, played by John Malkovich, planned to hit the President at a fund-raiser, posing as a major campaign donor. Think about it – if you intended to harm the President, wouldn’t it be better to disguise yourself as a supporter, even if the Secret Service didn’t have this sort of policy?

Not to mention that this is yet another thing that bugs me about this administration. I read this interview he gave to Fox News, in which he says he doesn’t follow the news much, and relies on his handlers to feed him all he needs to know.

The pattern here seems to suggest that this president lives in a bubble. Now, all presidents live somewhat apart from the general public out of necessity, but it seems that this president has taken that a step further. President Bush never hears a bad word about his administration from anyone, which was certainly not the case with President Clinton.

It can perhaps be said that Clinton paid too much attention to trying to please people that were never going to like him in the first place. It's not an entirely bad instinct, but it often does not serve politicians - or anyone else - well. In trying to please everyone, you will always displease someone.

Still, I don't think the other extreme - what we seem to be seeing with this administration - is very healthy either.

Friday, September 26, 2003

One Last Look

Singer and songwriter Robert Palmer is dead of a heart attack at 54.

It was definitely a pleasure to hear "Sneakin' Sally Through The Alley" on the radio this morning. I recommend that someone looking for buried musical treasure pore over his early catalog, where he wrapped his blue-eyed soul voice around Southern- and Caribbean-inspired grooves by some outstanding musicians, including members of The Meters and Little Feat.

What he did later on - smooth, polished pop perhaps most famous for the accompanyng stylish videos - is of course better known, and proved more lucrative. But he was much more than, as AllMusic puts it, "an impeccably dressed lounge lizard."

Rest in peace.

(You may be thinking "Why didn't I do this for Johnny Cash last week?" Well, there was the little matter of Hurricane Isabel. Plus, Johnny Cash is so clearly a legendary figure in music history that a tribute to The Man In Black almost felt unnecessary. And so many of my friends had already beaten me to the punch on Cash, and Warren Zevon as well.)

Thursday, September 25, 2003

One Little Victory

It's official. The Red Sox are in the postseason for the first time since 1999.

Call On Me (Reprise)

Right on cue, no fewer than three telemarketing calls between 6:30 and 8:30.

I wish I were more capable of doing this when a telemarketer called.
(Technical note to Kristin: Charitable groups can still make telemarketing calls, even when and if the Do Not Call list goes into effect.)

It is my sincere hope that Judge Lee West got at least that many telemarketing calls as he was sitting down to dinner this evening.

In any event, Congress is quickly on its way to clearing up the technicalities that were the linchpin of Judge West's ruling.

UPDATE: Another judge, Edward Nottingham of the U.S. District Court in Denver has blocked the Do Not Call List, this time on the merits. More details here.

Free speech does not give you the right to force other people to listen to what you have to say. It also does not give you an unlimited right to use whatever manner you like to convey your message - otherwise, someone could follow you around with a bullhorn and claim a First Amendment privilege to do so.

In order to be on the "Do Not Call" list, one has to affirmatively place oneself on a list, a purely voluntary action. (There would be a problem if the government banned or placed a blanket burden upon all telemarketing activity.)

If I were the more irreponsible sort, I might jokingly suggest calling Judge Nottingham at home and attempt to sell him vinyl siding, a timeshare, or perhaps whatever it is you have that want to get rid of. Wouldn't that be your free speech right? Heh. Times like this it stinks to be a responsible adult - besides, calling Denver from here costs money.

Call On Me

Congress has decided to remedy the problem with the National "Do Not Call" List. Any time you can get a 412-0 vote in the House, it's astonishing.

I'm trying to figure out - without investing a lot of time - what would make a judge think it was not the intent of Congress to authorize a national "do not call" list. The stated rationale - that the FTC was not specifially authorized to implement the list - is a technicality of technicalities.

Though not entirely unreasonable from a constitutional point of view, this ruling strikes me as another politically tone-deaf ruling that makes the public weary of unelected federal (or state) judges. (And this from someone who sees something unseemly about elected judges, particularly as their campaigns more and more resemble standard political campaigns.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Lately, it seems that any time I have a blog-worthy thought, it evaporates in the time it takes to reach a computer terminal.

Red Sox are two wins (or some combo of wins and Mariner losses that add up to two) from clinching a playoff berth. My hope is that it happens tonight or tomorrow night, which would allow the Sox to rest Pedro Martinez, not to mention some of the regulars (Ramirez, Garciaparra, Mueller) who haven't had much rest. In the back of all our minds, we wonder if last night's 6-5 win, on the wings of two dramatic home runs, isn't a set up for the payoff in the form of yet another disappointment.

The other three AL teams are set, with the Evil Empire, the Contraction Kids, and the Moneyball A's.

In other news, the Cubs are on target for the playoffs. Maybe we are headed for the End Times. For as it says in Revelations, "When the small bears from the windy place take the flag, the end is nigh."

Tuesday, September 23, 2003

I've been neglecting my poor blog lately. Work and a busy life have interfered with my ability to write much.

Today, on my way to pick up lunch, I watched what seemed like a scene from the class struggle of sorts - a man with a goofy-looking mustache and a southern drawl was standing on a street, staking a claim for a parking space for his friend's large pickup, then double parked across the street.

[Note: If it matters, this is a pure commerical area - no residences for two blocks in any direction.]

Except that a yuppie in a BMW immedately pulled up, trying to claim the parking space for himself. A shouting match erupted.

Things were settled reasonably amicably when the BMW driver promised not to occupy the spot for more than three minutes - which is about the time it would take for the pickup driver to circle the block.

Except that I came out of the takeout place five minutes later, only to find that the man was still standing there - with no pickup in sight.

Just another reason not to have a car in this city. Or maybe just to stay out of the city altogether, if your tastes run that way.

But the whole incident got me to thinking - how long could that guy have stood there occupying a parking space? Forever? I can't picture a driver being able to do anything about it, unless he was willing to hit the guy with his car, which would land him in jail. I wonder if a cop would ticket him for standing there the way I would do if I were running the universe.

Every so often life here imitates an episode of Seinfeld.

Saturday, September 20, 2003

Isabel hath come, and hath gone.

Lost power for 10 hours or so, a minor annoyance, since the gas and the water both worked the whole time.

A tree feel just up the street from me, but many of the neighbors hung out on the street, to see what the a hurricane (or at least the periphery thereof) felt like. I did venture out from time to time during calm stretches.

Overall, it seems like the Washington area got (surprise!) a bit jumpy about the impact. Though I'm glad I didn't have to work Thursday to an extent, I think I could have come in for a few hours anyway. And as someone trying to bill as many hours as possible, it was an irritant.

The whole thing further solidified my idea of Washingtonians as weather wimps. Heh.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Any Way The Wind Blows

They say that Hurricane Isabel will be here to dump even more rain on a rain-weary Washington area. However, the track of the storm has weakened slightly and that its course has changed so that it appears to be passing to the west, rather than to the east, of Washington.

That's good news for DC, and for hopes that the damage in large urban areas will be lessened. It's bad news for the hollows of West Virginia, the Shenandoah Valley, and western Pennsylvania, who may be more vulnerable to flash flooding.

I suppose we're lucky in that Washington has so little in the way of weather, generally, this year notwithstanding, with the snowstorms and the numerous powerful thunderstorms. But it seems that weather phenomena elsewhere tend to be more extreme, whether it's the more frequent hurricanes of the Carolinas or Florida, the tornadoes of Texas, the bitter frosts of Minnesota, the blizzards of New England...and then there's California, in a category by itself.

Sure, most of the time it's pleasant there. But... Earthquake! Wildfire! Mudslide! It's as if the state's flair for the dramatic extends to its natural phenomena.

And its political landscape as well.

The good news about the postponement of the California recall election is that issues will have more time to surface, voting systems will be made more uniform, voters will have more time to deliberate about whether they really want things turned upside down... the bad news is that the rest of us have to hear about this damn election for another five months. Ugh.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Be The Ball

Four good friends of mind and I went on a miniature golf expedition Saturday night, after our efforts to be athletic earlier in the day fell casualty to bad weather and were replaced by a board game session capped off with the great game Illuminati.

Nothing like a board game in which Feminists are controlled by Professional Sports, or when The Mafia controls The FBI. I haven’t decided whether it’s funnier if the connections make negative sense or if the game can be seen in some way to imitate life, at least in the mind of conspiracy theorists.

This course, located next to a driving range near White Flint Mall, was an “adult” type course, with no whimsical obstacles (no windmills, or giant clowns, or barns) to negotiate. The hazards took the forms of rocky bunkers, tricky sloping greens, and sadistic water hazards from which it was difficult to extricate one’s ball.

The funnest part was the running three-way commentary, done in horrific British accents. Perhaps if Josh, Dave, and myself were allowed to do commentary for golf on television, it might be more watchable. Or heck, maybe ESPN2 will let us help them to televise a miniature golf tournament.

I did happen to win this particular round on the miniature links, and I’ve noticed that
as much as it can be painful to play difficult miniature golf courses, I seem to fare best (in relation to my competition) on tough courses. Though there are many players who can make better long putts, and sink more aces than I ever could, I have some degree of skill at staving off disastrous holes.

Maybe this says something about my future in life. Or maybe it doesn’t.

Sunday, September 14, 2003

Wow, 38-10, over the defending almost-NFC Champs. In their backyard.

And to think that much of the first half, I couldn't get myself to watch. 38-10, Patriots, in a game in Philadelphia, which is a tough place to win on the road, having seen lots of NFC East teams flail about in this town during my time in Washington.

My brother's theory (he's a Doplhins fan) is that Ray Lucas kidnapped Donovan McNabb, stole his uniform, and played today in his stead.

The defense looked especially good, generally containing the rushing attack, blitzing to reduce the effect of McNabb's scrambling abilities, and generally not giving the Eagles' plays time to develop. They forced five turnovers and the game reminded me a little of the second half of the Pats' Super Bowl winning season.

This was just one of the many games in Week 2 that seems to up the "random" factor in football. Lots of teams and players that looked just awful last week appeared to be world beaters today, and vice versa.

Not so good news on the baseball front, as the Sox dropped two of three to the other Sox, a possible playoff team. They cling to a half game lead in the Wild Card race, as the AL East title seems beyond their reach as Tampa and Detroit offered about the expected level of resistance to the Yankees. In theory, the going should get easier as the remaining opponents (Tampa Bay, Baltimore, and Cleveland) are pretty much the three worst non-Tiger teams in the league.

Perhaps Anaheim and Texas could be a bit more helpful than they have been thusfar in keeping Seattle and Oakland down until they start to face each other again, in the six of the final nine games of the season.

Friday, September 12, 2003

Yesterday's entry was something of a downer, I must admit. I actually have been faring well as of late, taking full advantage of life in Washington, which offers amenities few other cities can touch.

On Monday, I attended a Howard Dean rally in College Park. I'm still not quite ready to commit to him yet, but the energy he inspires gives me hope.

Tuesday was, as usual, NTN Showdown night at the Grand Slam. Maybe next week we won't get stuck with a repeat game.

On Wednesday, I shuttled up to Baltimore to witness Pedro Martinez pitch a gem of a game for the Red Sox, 8 innings, 3 hits, in the final Sox visit to Baltimore this season. The weather was perfect and my seat was comfortable and provided a fantastic view of home plate action.

That evening, a friend of mine and I went to dinner at Saigonnais, a wonderful Vietnamese restaurant on 18th Street in Adams-Morgan, highly recommended.

Thursday, September 11, 2003

I Looked Away

We knew this day was coming. We circled it on the calendar and dreaded the return of some horrible memories.

But the time came, and I wasn’t up to it.

There were numerous references to the September 11 terrorist attacks, and I decided I wasn’t going to listen to any of them – on radio, on television, and the rest. Whenever I heard a reference to what happened two years ago, I changed the station.

I didn’t want to hear it anymore, for a variety of reasons.

I was lucky enough, despite living in Washington and knowing a good number of New Yorkers, not to have lost any friends or relatives on that day. Part of me felt as if I had far less of a “right” to grieve or even to commemorate the attacks than those who lost spouses, children, loved ones and friends. It just felt selfish in a way, like how showing up at a stranger’s wedding reception and eating their food might feel. It’s more their day than it is mine.

Last year was different. Last year, I attended a moving photographic exhibit at the Corcoran Gallery of pictures taken in New York on or shortly after 9/11. I wrote extensively about how the first anniversary made me feel. I replayed the airplanes slamming against the World Trade Center buildings and the Pentagon, the crumbling twin towers, the wreckage that remain in their aftermath, in my mind, over and over again. I watched a commemorative television special.

But not this year. I wanted no part of any of it.

It was not denial – living a mere four miles from the Pentagon, I couldn’t very well refuse to acknowledge the horrible events of that day.

Nor was it some notion that I or anyone else needed to “get over it,” for any reason Humans express their grief in innumerable ways. I neither expect nor demand anyone take the same approach to dealing with the events of that day in the same fashion in which I have done so.

Nor was it apathy – I would question my humanity if I could ever feel apathetic towards such an event. It will be an experience that I will be relating to those who come after me for the remainder of my natural life.

It’s none of those things. I think it is fatigue. It is fatigue at trying to comprehend the overwhelming nature of this catastrophic event, the immense scope of its far-reaching implications, and the awesome sense of despair that lay in its wake. Even the strongest adjectives I could employ would seem to fail to convey the proper level of emotion.

But it is more than that as well.

I grow tired of seeing this tragedy being used as a justification for wrongheaded and counterproductive policies, both foreign and domestic.

I grow tired of seeing this tragedy being exploited as a tool of crass partisan politics.

I grow tired of seeing this tragedy being wielded as a club to bash minorities, immigrants, dissenters, or anyone else deemed somehow less “patriotic” than the sort of American who believes everything his government spoon-feeds him.

And I feel like every time I dwell on that day and its events, I give those who would manipulate our grief into emulating the polarizing creed that sees only the pure righteous against the pure wicked more fuel for their bonfires. It is this creed that was drummed into the men who hijacked those planes and collided them into those buildings, and those who admire their deeds. And it is this creed that will serve only to divide us and ultimately to destroy us, from within if not from without.

So I changed the station. Your mileage may vary.

Sunday, September 07, 2003

Fearless NFL predictions for the upcoming season…

AFC East
1. Miami
2. Buffalo*
3. New England
4. N.Y. Jets

AFC North
1. Pittsburgh
2. Baltimore
3. Cleveland
4. Cincinnati

AFC South
1. Tennessee
2. Indianapolis
3. Jacksonville
4. Houston

AFC West
1. Kansas City
2. Oakland*
3. Denver
4. San Diego

NFC East
1. Philadelphia
2. N.Y. Giants*
3. Washington
4. Dallas

NFC North
1. Green Bay
2. Minnesota
3. Chicago
4. Detroit

NFC South
1. Tampa Bay
2. New Orleans
3. Atlanta
4. Carolina

NFC West
1. St. Louis
2. Seattle*
3. San Francisco
4. Arizona

* = Wild Card Team

For Super Bowl XVIII, I have a rematch of Super Bowl XXXIV, Rams vs. Titans, except with the results reversed this time. (Which I guess means, dear readers, not to pick the Titans in your prediction .)

Why Tennessee? I think they’re getting home field throughout, because they’re in an easy division, and it’s going to be tough for anyone else to win there.

Why St. Louis? They’re still the greatest show on turf, their defense is better, and their schedule is soft.

I know that, technically speaking, these are in late, but, it's just one game, and Britney Spears notwithstanding, it will prove to be of minimal import when people look back on this season.

Saturday, September 06, 2003

Back In The Saddle

I have returned, thanks to getting back broadband access.

Hopefully, the hiatus has inspired me to fine-tune what I was working on, and maybe I'll have lots of good stuff on here.

Sadly, the comments widget is down.

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