Monday, February 27, 2006

Jason McElwain: The Anti-Bode Miller

If you haven't heard about the story of Jason McElwain by now, now is a good time to do so.

Jason's story is not only one of the greatest sports stories ever, it is one of the greatest stories ever. He was diagnosed as highly functioning autistic and has served as a team manager for the boys' basketball team at Greece Athena High School near Rochester, NY. As a gift to him his senior year, the coach of the team let him suit up for the final game. With four minutes to play and Greece Athena up by 20 points, Jason entered the game to a rousing ovation.

With the crowd going nuts and hoping beyond hope Jason would score in his only high school basketball appearance, he air-balled his first shot attempt--a three-pointer from the right corner. His second shot attempt rimmed out.

Things looked bleak until reality suddenly became surreal, and a high school basketball game became one of life's inspiring moments.

Jason tried another three-pointer...and swished it. The gym erupted. The place was going nuts.

But Jason was far from finished.

He hit another 3...and another...and another. When it was all over, Jason tied a school record with six made three-pointers and finished with a game-high 20 points--in just four minutes!

With each made basket, the place erupted more and more. Just watch the bench in the video is one of the greatest things I have ever seen. And when he is carried off the floor by his teammates and fellow students, it looks like it is out of a movie, which I am sure is already in the works.

But you know what? A movie will never be as emotional and inspiring as the real thing.

So while Bode Miller was "partying at an Olympic level" instead of actually competing at an Olympic level and showing us the bad side of sports, Jason McElwain came along and reminded us all of how great and wonderful sports can be.


Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thinking of Albany

Usually around this time of year, I'm getting set to go to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Basketball Championships. The MAAC Tournament typically alternates each year between the two New York cities of Albany and Buffalo each year. This year, it's back in Albany, which I like because it's only about 3 1/2 hours away and it does a nice job of hosting the event.

Another cool thing about Albany is The Egg, the performance arts venue shown in the accompanying picture. It's a fascinating building that seems ridiculously out of place.

Unfortunately, I won't be going to Albany this year because the Rider men's basketball team--the very reason I go to the MAAC Tournament each year--is, to put it bluntly, not very good this year. It would just be a waste of time and money.

But I'm still thinking of Albany...and it just so happened that I came across the following video from They Might Be Giants. It is from a CD/DVD project called "Venue Songs," for which they wrote a song about the city or venue they were in each day during a recent tour. Here is their musical tribute to Albany's famous Egg:

Please don't allow Bode Miller back into the country!

Seriously, I can't imagine a bigger asshole than Bode Miller.

The guy is a total failure at the Winter Olympics and what does he say about his performance? He summed it up in four words:

"Man, I rocked here."

Are you freakin' kidding me? In what universe, does failing to finish three alpine events and a best finish of fifth place in the downhill count as having rocked?

But, wait...Bode didn't stop there.

"Me, it's been an awesome two weeks," Miller said. "I got to party and socialize at an Olympic level."


Holy crap!

I'm pretty sure Nike and the sponsors of the U.S. ski team didn't spend all their money to send the team to the Winter Games just so Miller could go for the gold in the local bar scene.

Nike should have reminded Bode its slogan is "Just Do It."

Not "Just Screw It."

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Bush and Bode: American idiots

I have wanted to chime in on this sale of London-based P&O to Dubai Ports World, based in and operated by the United Arab Emirates. However, my main problem is why are we so outraged over this now? Yes, I realize we would be giving control of many key U.S. ports to a country with alleged ties to terrorism. That could be a disaster.

However, I am curious to find out why we weren't up in arms that a foreign company was responsible for securing our ports in the first place. Let me repeat...P&O, the company being bought by DP World, is based in the United Kingdom! To me, it is insane that we have a foreign country looking over U.S. ports. Shouldn't this fact have been a bigger issue BEFORE DP World even got involved?

Forgive me if I missed it, but I think there should have been a mainstream media story years ago about what would happen if the ports operated by a company based in a nation that is an ally were to be sold to a nation that quite possibly funded the 9/11 hijackers?

Anyway, that's not the point of this post. My point is a slip of the tongue by Pres. George W. Bush. In this AP story, Bush says this about the ports being sold to DP World:
"The more people learn about the transaction that has been scrutinized and approved by MY government," Bush said, "the more they'll be comforted that our ports will be secure."

My government? The last time I checked, the United States of America is still supposed to be a democracy. In a democracy, it is supposed to be "our government."

Obviously, Bush meant to say "my administration." But what came out was what Bush really feels. He thinks he is beyond reproach...that because he is president, he can't be questioned or challenged. This is HIS government. It's not ours anymore.

I don't know...maybe I'm being too cynical, but between the Bush administration and some of these U.S. "Olympians" who think the point of the Games is to do a whole bunch of commercials before they start instead of actually representing--proudly and wholeheartedly--their country during them (yeah, I'm looking at you, Bode "Can Barely Finish a Race But Have a Ton of Cash from Nike" Miller), I'm just down on this country right now.

I mean, I'm not looking for everybody on Team USA to win a medal, but don't sound stupid and don't act like you don't care when you are wearing the uniform with those three letters on it. Just do your best.

But instead we get a skater (Johnny Weir) who failed because he felt "black inside," a snowboarder (Lindsey Jacobellis) who is sent to the Olympics to represent the United States but thinks she is there to have fun (and do a "showboat" move that costs Team USA a gold medal), and the infamous Mr. Miller, a fraud on skis I have started to call the James Frey of his sport.

Yeah...can you tell I have wanted to write somthing on my displeasure with the attitudes of many of the athletes on Team USA, too. Hadn't gotten around to it until now, though.

But Kansas City Star columnist Joe Posnanski, a very good writer I have just recently discovered who is covering the Torino Winter Games, had this take on Mr. Miller:
“I was super aggressive,” he said. Bode really likes using that word “super” as an adjective, doesn’t he? You know, I’m going to say that if he really had been SUPER aggressive, he might have, you know, inspected the course beforehand like other skiers did. Bode did not. He rarely does. Instead, Bode tumbled out of his trailer with barely an hour to go before the race, like some college kid rushing to his 8 a.m. class.

If that’s super aggressive, I can only imagine what plain old normal aggressive might have been. Sleeping through the first half of his race?

I encourage you to read Poz's work on the KC Star site, especially the recent Olympic columns. Good stuff.

OK...let's see. Criticized the sale of the U.S. ports. Check. Mocked Bush. Check. Called out the overhyped U.S. Olympians. Check. Plugged my new favorite sports columnist, Joe Posnanski. Check.

My work is done for today.

A cool site for live music lovers

I just read about a site called that allows you too look up musical acts coming to your town (or one near you) and download podcasts of those artists.

For instance, I searched for shows in Philadelphia, PA and the site produced a page of upcoming shows with links to information about the artists as well as direct links to one or two MP3 samples from those acts. However, the search also includes a link allowing you to download a podcast that includes MP3s of the artists coming to town along with information about their shows.

The site seemed a bit slow at times, but I do like the concept. Check it out.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Another song in the making?

I spent the weekend working on this song, tentatively titled "Heart of the Matter." It's just some piano right now...and I'm not sure I want to add anything else to it except vocals (didn't get around to writing words, but the phrase "heart of the matter" came to mind during one of the parts so I used it for a title).

Anyway, all the motifs heard in my previous attempts at songwriting are there. Of course, once I actually stepped back and listened to it without playing it, I realized some of the parts sound a bit too close to those in "Parting of the Ways," so I have to work out some phrasing.

That being said, I figured I should put it up on the blog as a work-in-progress demo. Enjoy!

Heart of the Matter (5:23/6.2MB)
(instrumental demo)

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Now, the Philly curse extends to NBA dunk contests

I'm used to Philly teams coming up short in big's been a tradition since the Sixers won the city's last major championship, the NBA title, in 1983.

But, after last night's NBA dunk contest, the "Philly curse" has ventured into exhibition events.

Andre Iguodala, 6-foot-6 swingman for the 76ers who won MVP honors for Friday night's NBA Rookie (vs. Sophomore) Challenge, clearly got screwed in the dunk contest, which is held each year as part of the NBA's All-Star Weekend. Instead, 5-foot-9 rookie Nate Robinson of the New York Knicks walked away with the title...after taking 14 tries--about 10 minutes of everybody's time--to make his dunk in the first-ever "dunk off" (the two were tied at 94 points after their two dunks in the final round).

Now, Robinson's dunk was good, but there is no freakin' way he should have been awarded 47 points for it. Two judges gave him 10s and the other three gave him nines. Now, if you take 14 tries to make a dunk, you should not be allowed to get anything higher than a nine.

On Iguodala's final dunk, he took two attempts to convert a between-the-legs-left-handed slam that he started with a baseline drive from the right corner. It was a sweet dunk and even the TNT announcers thought that sealed the win for the second-year Sixer. And, for a brief second, they were right. Four of the five judges initially put up three 10s and a nine...with the fifth judge slow in getting his card up. But as that last judge raised his card, one judge mysteriously took down the 10 and replaced it with a nine...and the "slow" judge inexplicably put up an eight.

AN EIGHT?! ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Iggy took about 25 seconds to complete an excellent dunk and only got 46 points. Nate #*$(*#@ Robinson took FOURTEEN ATTEMPTS to throw down his dunk and gets a pair of 10s and three nines because of a sympathy vote for being a) a midget, and b) a member of the craptacular New York Knicks.


So the judges--Kenny Smith, Elvin Hayes, Rudy Tomjanovich, Moses Malone (whose combined presence with current 76ers coach Maurice Cheeks and Julius "Dr. J" Erving helped the '83 Sixers win the NBA title) and Clyde Drexler--basically robbed Iguodala of the slam dunk championship. If the NBA thought it would be a good idea to have a one-trick pony like Nate Robinson win the slam dunk contest this year, well, the Association just cost itself many years of exciting dunks by Iguodala in the contest. After getting screwed over, Iguodala--while publicly gracious in defeat--said he likely won't be participating in the event ever again.

Way to go, NBA! Just give the slam dunk title to Robinson because he was able to leap over another midget--5-foot-7 Spud Webb, the 1986 slam dunk winner--for his second dunk in the final round after Iguodala picked up a perfect 50 for his first dunk, a monster slam preceded by a bounce pass to himself and an in-the-air-behind-the-back hand transfer.

Iguodala needed three attempts for his second dunk of the final round and still received a questionable 44 points, which set up the even-more-questionable "dunk off."

And I haven't even gotten to the fact that Iguodala completed the best dunk of the night and one of the most creative dunks in the entire history of the contest in the second round.

With Sixers teammate Allen Iverson helping out, Iguodala threw down a dunk after taking off from behind--that's right, BEHIND--the backboard. After clearing away the photographers sitting along the right corner of the baseline to create a lane for himself, Iguodala had Iverson throw a pass off the backside of the backboard. On the first attempt, Iguodala scraped his face on the bottom edge of the backboard. After an errant pass by Iverson on the second try, Iguodala caught the third pass off the reverse side of the backboard, ducked under the bottom edge and threw down a reverse slam that will live on forever in NBA lore (see the sequence of photos from below).


And here is Iguodala's other 50-point dunk of the night...again, sick...

(Photos: Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)

Friday, February 17, 2006

Nashville, here I come...yee-haw!

I have just received the purchase order number to complete my travel arrangements for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) Editors Forum at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee, March 29-31.

Since Ben Folds will be on tour then, I guess I'll just have to break into his house ; )

Damn, Ben will be at Vanderbilt on April 22. Stupid crappy timing.

And I have to pay very close attention because I'll be required to make a special presentation at the divisional senior staff meeting held after my return. Of course, since I'm not senior staff, I have no idea when that is. But I get back on a Friday so I at least have the weekend to prepare if it's the following Monday.

(Photo courtesy of

Thursday, February 16, 2006

First Mac OS X Trojan found in the wild

CNET reports a malicious program that could be the first Trojan in the wild to target Apple Computer's Mac OS X operating system has been discovered. The Trojan is spread through iChat.
Apple and outside analysts said the program, referred to as Leap-A, is not a "virus" per se. Rather, it "requires a user to download the application and execute the resulting file," Apple said in a statement to CNET The company provided no further comment on the nature of the program.

The malicious software, which has also been dubbed OSX/Oompa-A and the Ooompa Loompa Trojan Horse by other security experts, appears to have spread minimally so far and has achieved low-level threat classifications from McAfee and Symantec...

...Classified as both a worm and a Trojan, Leap-A appears to have begun its movement earlier this week after it was posted at a forum for Mac-related rumors. The file appeared as an external link promising pre-release screenshots of the upcoming Mac OS X 10.5, also known as Leopard.

Leap-A, which appears to affect only the OS X 10.4 platform, spreads primarily via the Apple iChat instant-messaging program. The program forwards itself as a compressed file called "latestpics.tgz" to all the contacts on the infected user's buddy list each time the program starts up.

However, it's up to the user to actually accept the download and then try to open the file to activate the Trojan...and we Mac users know better than that, right? RIGHT?

The mob, I mean, the record industry is at it again

How is the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) not brought up on racketeering charges? As this article states, the RIAA continues to insist you don't really own the compact discs you purchase.

In a joint reply filed with the government as part of the triennial review of the effectiveness of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), the RIAA says ripping CDs you legally purchased and/or making backups of those CDs are not covered by "fair use."

There are a number of ridiculous comments from the RIAA in the joint reply, which can be viewed here in PDF format.

One that stands out relates to the bungled attempt by Sony to put a spyware-like digital rights management (DRM) application on its CDs that installed a rootkit on Windows-based PCs, leaving them vulnerable to particular Trojan horse-like virus. In response to complaints that such a DRM prevents users from listening to CDs on their computers, the RIAA counters that many inexpensive CD players are readily available (a footnote even includes prices and links to two models sold on Best Buy's online store...I guess Best Buy is getting a piece of the RIAA action).
Of course, “playback [of a lawfully acquired CD] on a modern CD device installed in personal computers … is unquestionably non-infringing,” as the Register found in 2003. But even in the circumstances described in these submissions, consumers may listen to their CDs, without the installation of any additional software (objectionable or otherwise), on other platforms, notably including stand-alone players that are compatible with CD Audio Redbook Format. The Register found in 2003 that this state of affairs was not “more than a mere inconvenience,” because “standard CD players are readily available and inexpensive.” That is, if anything, even more true today.

That's fantastic...because life isn't cluttered enough, the RIAA wants you to get a CD player to put next to the perfectly capable CD player in the computer on your desk because it would rather resort to computer piracy as a means to extract every last cent from you.

But, wait, there's more. The RIAA then says if you want your music on your computer, you better buy it in a format native to your computer...because you shouldn't have the right to "format-shift" the music you legally purchased on CD.
Where a market is functioning to serve the demand otherwise being fulfilled by unauthorized copying, the likelihood that the unauthorized copying is fair use is diminished. In such a market, the inconvenience that faces consumers of works tethered to specific devices is far outweighed by the threat to the enjoyment of copyright posed by illegal digital distribution facing copyright owners.

That part about the market "functioning to serve the demand otherwise being fulfilled by unauthorized copying" refers to services like iTunes that sell music in a format that resides on your computer or digital music player. The RIAA's position is that since such services exist, anybody who is importing music from a CD onto a computer is doing it for "evil" purposes. Of course, since the RIAA conveniently leaves out any meaningful statistics to back up this statement, I have no idea if this is accurate.

In any case, here is the deal from the RIAA perspective: If you want to store your music in a digital format, you HAVE to buy it in digital format from an online service. Now, as an avid iTunes customer, I don't remember the last time I purchased an actual CD. However, with my eclectic tastes in music, it is not guaranteed something I want is available on iTunes. Also, some people just like buying CDs because they like having something physical in their hands (i.e., the disc, artwork, liner notes, etc.). However, according to the RIAA, if someone buys a CD, that person does not have the legal right to import it onto a computer so the music can reside in his or her digital music library...even though the music is in digital format on the CD.

I boldfaced the part about the "inconvenience" because the RIAA insists you should only be allowed to listen to a CD on a computer with a CD drive--not import it. Of course, even listening to it may be a problem if the RIAA is going to let companies basically put spyware on their CDs. But I digress...the real issue is if I'm flying for five-plus hours somewhere, one CD isn't going to cut it. And I'm not wasting precious carry-on space for a stack of CDs to keep taking in and out of the laptop. And since I can't import them onto my computer, I can't put them on my iPod, which would be the simplest solution. So what the RIAA really means is, "It's inconvenient for our bottom lines if we're not ripping you off by charging you at least twice for the same music so you can have it in different formats."

The RIAA then says that simply making copies of your CDs, without any intent to share or distribute them, is copyright infringement under all circumstances...
To the extent that the submissions propose a similar exemption with regard to CDs, the Register’s analysis of DVDs is equally applicable. The submissions provide no arguments or legal authority that making back up copies of CDs is a noninfringing use. In addition, the submissions provide no evidence that access controls are currently preventing them from making back up copies of CDs or that they are likely to do so in the future. Myriad online downloading services are available and offer varying types of digital rights management alternatives. For example, the Apple FairPlay technology allows users to make a limited number of copies for personal use. Presumably, consumers concerned with the ability to make back up copies would choose to purchase music from a service that allowed such copying. Even if CDs do become damaged, replacements are readily available at affordable prices. Similar to the motion picture industry, the recording industry has faced, in online piracy, a direct attack on its ability to enjoy its copyrights. Granting the requested exemption would further weaken the industry’s ability to protect its copyrights in the digital marketplace.

Now, since I mentioned earlier that I haven't purchased an actual CD in a long time, I don't know if there are any CD replacement programs in place through any retailers or record companies that allow you to swap a damaged CD for the same title at a discounted price. However, I seriously doubt it. Apparently, some studios have programs that allow you to replace broken DVDs at a drastically reduced rate (according to footnotes in the joint reply, Disney and Fox Home Entertainment will replace broken DVDs for about $7 a disc). Since none of the record companies are listed in the joint reply as having such programs for CDs, I can only assume you would have to pay full price to replace a damaged CD (assuming the store does not allow a simple exchange for the same title).

But here is where it gets really interesting, as Ken "Caesar" Fisher writes on
But they're not done with that argument. The real kicker is buried in a footnote, where the joint reply suggests the unthinkable: that making copies of CDs for any purpose may, in fact, be infringement.
Nor does the fact that permission to make a copy in particular circumstances is often or even "routinely" granted, see C6 at 8, necessarily establish that the copying is a fair use when the copyright owner withholds that authorization. In this regard, the statement attributed to counsel for copyright holders in the Grokster case, is simply a statement about authorization, not about fair use.

Allow me to translate: just because people have been copying CDs in the past doesn't mean that that they had the authorization to do so, and a general trend does not override such explicit authorization. But as the EFF has picked up, the RIAA is engaging in a little historical revision. Their last comment about the Grokster case is attempting to change the substance of comments that were uttered by their own legal counsel. Why they would do this is abundantly clear when you see the statement in question:
"The record companies, my clients, have said, for some time now, and it's been on their website for some time now, that it's perfectly lawful to take a CD that you've purchased, upload it onto your computer, put it onto your iPod."

It looks like someone is having a change of heart.

In the world of the joint reply, if and when the RIAA and its member studios say that copying your CDs is not permitted, then it's not permitted. Forget fair use. Forget historical precedent. The joint reply here is arguing that copyright owners have the authority to deny what has become fair use—what their own lawyers have admitted is fair use in front of the Supreme Court of the United States.

Just how many CDs is one person expected to buy? What really bothers me is that the RIAA responses in the joint reply all defend the "copyright owners," but that is laughable. The two groups that get screwed over the most by the RIAA are the consumers and the "copyright owners" (i.e., the songwriters).

Instead of just giving songwriters a bigger piece of the pie, the record industry would rather spend its money on lawyers trying to rip more people off so it can pay for marketing the latest half-naked, no-talent hack in the limited amount of years before she marries a complete loser, has a kid and is forgotten except by the paparazzi who just can't wait for the next time she's smoking and/or drinking while pregnant or driving with her baby on her lap.

By the way, any similarities in that last sentence to factual people or events is purely coincidental.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cheney accepts blame for shooting...finally

Dick, Dick, Dick...all you had to do was say this Saturday night, or even Sunday morning, and it would have saved myself and scores of other bloggers a lot of time and typing.
"Ultimately, I'm the guy who pulled the trigger that fired the round that hit Harry [Whittington]," Cheney said in an interview with Fox News, adding that Saturday was "one of the worst days of my life."

"You can talk about all of the other conditions that existed at the time, but that's the bottom line.

"It was not Harry's fault. You can't blame anybody else. I'm the guy who pulled the trigger and shot my friend. It's a day I'll never forget."

It's nice to see Cheney accepting the blame for something...Satan must be awfully chilly right now.

Holy crap! Time out...I need to go off-topic for a moment. I just noticed a HUUUUGGGGEEE mistake in the story. Get a load of this:
The situation has been worsened, some said, by the fact that Steve Schmidt, who was Cheney's senior counselor and was in charge of media strategy, left last week to manage California Gov. Arnold Schwarz's election campaign.

SCHWARZ?!?! Of course, I'm sure will correct it--probably by the time I actually post this. Trust me, though, it really does/did say that.

OK...back to Cheney...he still totally screwed this up. But what am I talking about? If there is one thing this administration excels at, it's screwing things up.

Cheney to talk about shooting...oh, but only to Fox News...never mind

Well, Vice President Dick Cheney will discuss last Saturday's hunting accident in which he shot 78-year-old Harry Whittington.

The interview will be broadcast at 2 p.m. ET today on Fox News Channel.

CORRECTION: The interview will be taking place at 2 p.m. ET (which is the current time as I type this update) and will be broadcast at 6 p.m. ET tonight.

I'm sure the Fox News interviewer(s) will really be hitting the tough questions that need to be asked. I'm thinking the interview will last about five minutes, 4 1/2 of which will be spent by the interviewer(s) kissing Cheney's feet for gracing him/her/them with his presence.

UPDATE: Brit Hume is conducting the interview.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

CNN: Cheney's victim, er, hunting buddy has heart attack

Harry Whittington, 78, the man shot and wounded by Vice President Dick Cheney in a hunting accident Saturday, suffered what is being called "a minor heart attack" Tuesday when birdshot still in his body migrated into his heart.
Dr. David Blanchard, the hospital's emergency room chief, said Whittington suffered an "asymptomatic heart attack," without displaying symptoms such as chest pains or breathing difficulty. He said a roughly 5 mm piece of shot became lodged in or alongside Whittington's heart muscle, causing the organ's upper two chambers to beat irregularly.

Time on Cheney's "slow leak"

OK...this will likely be my last post on the Dick Cheney hunting accident, but had this interesting story about how the news of the shooting eventually got out and thought I should share it.

More interesting, though, was the actual Web page on which the story appeared...

Note the ad I circled at the bottom right corner about winning a trip to one of eight Texas destinations...I sure hope the Armstrong Ranch isn't one of them. And, if it is, Dick Cheney better be nowhere within shotgun range.

White House says Cheney not to blame for shooting; NRA, hunters disagree

Well, after the White House was forced to acknowledge that Vice President Dick Cheney accidentally shot his friend in a hunting mishap, it decided to use its second-favorite tactic: blame-shifting.

Echoing comments made by Katharine Armstrong, the co-owner of the ranch where the shooting took place, the White House said victim Harry Whittington was to blame because he did not audibly announce his presence:
The White House blamed the 78-year-old man whom Vice President Cheney shot during a weekend quail-hunting trip in Texas for the accident, as officials struggled yesterday to explain why they waited nearly 24 hours before making the news public.

Neither Cheney nor President Bush made any public comments about the shooting. White House press secretary Scott McClellan tried to absolve Cheney for shooting wealthy Austin lawyer Harry Whittington, saying hunting protocol "was not followed by Mr. Whittington when it came to notifying others that he was there."

"Unfortunately, these types of hunting accidents happen from time to time," he said.

However, hunting experts and at least one National Rife Association representative say this is not the case, as Cheney did not follow a basic rule of hunting:
Several hunting experts voiced skepticism about McClellan's view. They said Cheney might have violated a cardinal rule of hunting: Know your surroundings before you pull the trigger.

"Particularly identify the game that you are shooting and particularly identify your surroundings, that it's safe to shoot," said Mark Birkhauser, incoming president of the International Hunter Education Association, a group of fish-and-wildlife agencies.

Safe-hunting rules published by the National Rifle Association and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department echo Birkhauser's advice.

This Philadelphia Inquirer story goes into more detail on the NRA's stance on these types of situations:
The National Rifle Association places the onus of responsibility on the person pulling the trigger rather than the recipient of the gunshot.

"If that was just a regular Joe Blow, they'd say it was carelessness," said Peggy Bodner, executive vice president of the Association of New Jersey Rifle and Pistol Clubs, an affiliate of the NRA.

Bodner compared an unintentional shooting to a motorist who rear-ends another car. "It's like if you were in a car and struck somebody from behind," she said. "Even if the other person stopped short, it's your fault."

The NRA drills members on three fundamental safety rules: Always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction, always keep your finger off the trigger until ready to shoot, and always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.

Hunters add a fourth commandment: Be sure of your target and what lies beyond it.

"This means observing your prospective area of fire before you shoot," the NRA says on its Web site and in its promotional pamphlets. "Never fire in a direction in which there are people or any other potential for mishap. Think first. Shoot second."

Monday, February 13, 2006

10 Ways Dick Cheney Can Kill You

Somebody posted this on the site and I decided to do the same here...

Update: White House tried to sweep Cheney's "accidental" shooting under the rug

OK...I took some artistic license with the quotes around the word "accidentally" in the headline, but I couldn't resist.

Here's the AP story (via

UPDATE: I guess I was too tired from shoveling snow yesterday to focus on this story and didn't notice that this happened SATURDAY. The world didn't find out about it until late afternoon SUNDAY.

Are you telling me this administration is so secretive that the Vice President can shoot a man and the world not be told about it until more than 18 hours later? I ask that rhetorically, of course, knowing the answer is "yes."

According to Editor & Publisher, the Corpus Christi (TX) Caller-Times was the first newspaper to report the shooting, which took place around 5:30 p.m. Saturday. But the first reports did not come until Sunday afternoon.

And more questions were raised by Editor & Publisher late Sunday night:
E&P has learned that the official confirmation of the shooting came about only after a local reporter in Corpus Christi, Texas, received a tip from the owner of the property where the shooting occurred and called Vice President Cheney's office for confirmation.

The confirmation was made but there was no indication whether the Vice President's office, the White House, or anyone else intended to announce the shooting if the reporter, Jaime Powell of the Corpus Christ Caller-Times, had not received word from the ranch owner.

One of Powell's colleagues at paper, Beth Francesco, told E&P that Powell had built up a strong source relationship with the prominent ranch owner, Katharine Armstrong, which led to the tip. Powell is chief political reporter for the paper and also covers the area where the ranch is located south of Sarita.

Armstrong called the paper Sunday morning looking for Powell, who was not at work. When they did talk, Armstrong revealed the shooting of prominent Austin attorney Harry Whittington, who is now in stable condition in a hospital. Powell then called Cheney's office for the confirmation around midday. The newspaper broke the story at mid-afternoon--not a word about it had appeared before then.

Powell asked Cheney spokesperson Lea Ann McBride if the White House intended to release information about the shooting and was told by McBride, "I’m not going to speculate. When you put the call into me, I was able to confirm that account."

The E&P story goes on to say that McBride, when asked why she or the White House did not make a statement about the incident on the day it happened, told the New York Times, "We deferred to the Armstrongs regarding what had taken place at their ranch."

So now it's the job of a property owner to put out a press release saying the man who is second in command of the United States of America (or first in command, depending on who you ask) shot somebody? Are you freakin' kidding me?

The E&P story ends with some strong words from the Chicago Tribune's Frank James, who wrote the following on the paper's "The Swamp" blog run by the paper's Washington bureau:
When a vice president of the U.S. shoots a man under any circumstance, that is extremely relevant information. What might be the excuse to justify not immediately making the incident public?

The vice president is well-known for preferring to operate in secret....Some secrecy, especially when it comes to the executing the duties of president or vice president, is understandable and expected by Americans.

But when the vice president's office, or the White House, delays in reporting a shooting like Saturday's to the public via the media, it needlessly raises suspicions and questions of trust. And it may just further the impression held by many, rightly or wrongly, that the White House doesn't place the highest premium on keeping the public fully and immediately informed.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Blizzard Blog '06!

Figured I'd blog along as this nor'easter goes through the area overnight...

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 4:28 p.m. EST
Some more pics...
I took this from ground level in the middle of the sidewalk leading to the parking lot. That's my building in the background.

Here's my snow-covered VUE. I think this may be the first photo of my car to ever appear on this site without it being on the back of a tow truck.

I took four measurements and three of them came in between nine and 10 inches. Although drifts make it difficult to get an accurate reading, I'm going with 9.5 inches as the official snow amount for my particular area.

Just a photo of the cars in the parking lot.

I cleaned off my car and started shoveling around it. However, the person who was parked on the one side of me came out and started cleaning her car. So, after I got the other side of my car dug out, I offered to help her get her car shoveled out. To speed things up, I started just piling snow up on the side of my car I had not done yet. The plan was to get her space cleared and then finish up shoveling mine. Of course, guess who showed up at that point? The owner of the car parked on the other side of me came out and started cleaning off his car, so now the one side I had done was just going to get snowed in again.

Hence, I gave up, came back inside and enjoyed my traditional, post-shoveling meal of grilled cheese and tomato soup...mmm, mmm good.

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 11:45 a.m. EST
Another pic...

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 11:02 a.m. EST
Just heard something on Philly's NBC 10 that prompted me to write all those who plan on driving in this mess today, here is one request: CLEAR OFF ALL THE SNOW FROM THE TOP OF YOUR VEHICLE!

I cannot stand these ignorant bastards who just clear off the snow on their hoods, windshield and windows, and then drive away cluelessly. Just to let you idiots know, THAT SNOW IS BLOWING ONTO THE CARS ON THE ROAD BEHIND YOU! And that hinders the visibility of other drivers on the road, which is very dangerous.

I never understood why people do that anyway. I mean, the first thing I clear off is the roof of my car and then work my way down. That seems like the logical thing to least it is to me.

OK...end of rant.

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 9:23 a.m. EST
OK...update time. And it looks like there is a whole lot of snow outside my door. NBC 10 in Philly just showed some snowfall amounts in the area. Warminster, PA, which is a few miles to the west of me, reportedly has about 16 inches of snow on the ground (although I have a feeling drifting may be skewing that count). Meanwhile, Lawrenceville, NJ, a few miles northeast of me and where I drive to work everyday, is reporting 13 inches of snow. Since I am pretty much right in the middle, I have to assume I am going to be digging out of a double-digit I guess I was wrong about being on the low end of that 8-12 inches prediction (see two updates down).

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 5:42 a.m. EST
I was just about go back to sleep when it happened...THUNDER-SNOW! The wind suddenly picked up and the snow started hitting the window a bit harder. Then, I saw a flash of light through the window and...BANG...thunder. I love me some thunder-snow!

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 5:29 a.m. EST
Weather Channel still saying 8-12 inches for my area, but I think we'll max out in the low end of that...but I could be wrong. Here is the radar image from National Weather Service:

Sunday, Feb. 12, 2006 - 5:13 a.m. EST
Another photo below of the scene outside my window. There is definitely a decent amount of snow outside, but I can't really tell how much. At least there wasn't a snowmobile incident this time (see below).

Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006 - 11:47 p.m. EST
Below is the scene outside my window, but something odd happened while I snapped this picture...if you look closely, there is an object right behind the post. What is it, you ask? It's some idiot riding a snowmobile around my complex. He was in mid-turn when I took the photo and he appeared to almost crash into the other side of my building. That was the first and only time I have heard the noise from it, so he either decided to drive it somewhere else or he learned his lesson.

(Yes, I know the photo is blurry...I didn't use a flash and I moved the camera when I reacted to the noise of the snowmobile...sorry.)

Genesis: The Musical Box

With the "Blizzard of '06" in its early stages outside my window, I was bored and went looking on the fantastic for some interesting videos. Perhaps inspired by Peter Gabriel's performance of John Lennon's "Imagine" during the Winter Olympics opening ceremony, I searched for Peter Gabriel videos on the site and came up with this classic Genesis classic, "The Musical Box."

Yes, that is Peter Gabriel as lead singer and Phil Collins on drums and vocals, along with Mike Rutherford (bass, guitar) and Tony Banks (keyboards, guitar) and Steve Hackett (guitars).

Steve Fossett breaks aviation record; CNN screws up story

Adventurer Steve Fossett broke the record today for longest non-stop flight in aviation history, surpassing the previous mark of 24,987 miles when his experimental plane -- the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer -- flew over Shannon, Ireland.

Fossett was supposed to land at Kent International Airport in Manston, England, but his plane suffered an electrical problem and he had to make an emergency landing at Bournemouth International Airport -- blowing out two tires in the process. However, Fossett is safe on the ground after a few tense moments.

CNN had been breaking into their Saturday programming every now and then to give updates on Fossett's progress. Right after they broke in to say Fossett had broken the distance record, I noticed on the GlobalFlyer tracking site that the plane had made a sharp southwesterly turn west of London that took it from its intended southeasterly route to Manston. The plane then seemed to circle near Bournemouth, giving it the appearance that it was making a landing approach there.

Finally, the text updates on the tracking site confirmed this, saying "mayday declared...diverted to Bournemouth...generator problem with aircraft...Steve avoided having to ditch...Steve safely on ground."

However, a few minutes later, CNN again gave an update on the flight, but the weekend anchor erroneously reported that Fossett "has successfully landed at Kent International Airport in England."

Now, I know it's not a big deal, but CNN had been covering the story and now when the flight finally comes to an end, it gets the story wrong. I'm just somebody who was casually following the GlobalFlyer on its official tracking site and knew what had happened. How come a major news organization can't get it right?

Oh, well...another media screw-up.

Congratulations to Fossett and his team!

Friday, February 10, 2006

Target on crime

Katie will be happy to see I'm posting about something I saw on the Anderson Cooper 360 Blog.

Cooper recently paid a visit to a crime lab run by in the discount retailer. The lab, located at Target's Minneapolis headquarters, is apparently one of the most advanced in the world and was set up to deal with things like theft, fraud and personal injury cases related to its stores. But it now also lends its services and facilities to law enforcement officials nationwide, including the FBI, Secret Service and ATF...and Target does it for free as a form of community service.

Sadly, the lab is used by so many law enforcement units because their labs are not as well equipped. Also, Target's lab is usually able to get results quicker because of typical logjams in agency labs.


I also found this Jan. 29 story from The Washington Post about Target's crime lab. This is not only an interesting story, but it is also very well written. I especially enjoy the lead and the conclusion...
When arson investigators in Houston needed help restoring a damaged surveillance tape to identify suspects in a fatal fire, they turned first to local experts and then to NASA. With no luck there, investigators appealed to the owner of one of the most advanced crime labs in the country: Target Corp.

Target experts fixed the tape and Houston authorities arrested their suspects, who were convicted. It was all in a day's work for Target in its large and growing role as a high-tech partner to law enforcement agencies...

...Such close cooperation sometimes has Target employees working as de facto law enforcement officials. Chris W. Nelson, director of assets protection for the retailer, recalled one case in which he worked with federal agents for two years to break up a crime ring. He questioned informants, got to know some of the suspects and was there as a federal SWAT team surrounded one of the ringleaders on a speedboat on a lake in Minnesota.

The suspect "stopped short as he spotted me in the crowd and shouted, 'What the [expletive] is Target doing here?!' " Nelson said. "I still love that one."

(Photo: By Ben Garvin For The Washington Post)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Do you believe in real people being traded for cartoon characters? YES!

Veteran sports announcer Al Michaels—best known for his "Do you believe in miracles?" call when the USA ice hockey team beat the Soviet Union in the 1980 Winter Olympics—has been "traded" to NBC/Universal for basically four rounds of golf, highlights of the Olympics, Notre Dame football, the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness...and 1927 cartoon character Oswald the Lucky Rabbit.

Why? Well, Walt Disney himself created Oswald and produced 26 cartoon shorts featuring the "lucky rabbit." However, Universal Studios distributed the films and has owned the rights to Oswald ever since. Because he did not have any rights to Oswald, Disney created a similar character in the form of a mouse...and an empire was born.

But now Oswald is a Disney property...79 years later.

Some interesting quotes:
"When Bob (Iger) was named CEO, he told me he wanted to bring Oswald back to Disney, and I appreciate that he is a man of his word," Walt Disney's daughter Diane Disney Miller said in a statement. "Having Oswald around again is going to be a lot of fun."

"Oswald is definitely worth more than a fourth-round draft choice," Michaels said, referring to what the Kansas City Chiefs gave the New York Jets as compensation for releasing coach Herm Edwards from his contract. "I'm going to be a trivia answer someday."

Sunday, February 05, 2006

West Philly Hybrid Attack: Zero-to-60 in 4 seconds and 50 miles per gallon

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer published this story about a hybrid sports car built by students at West Philadelphia High School's Academy for Automotive and Mechanical Engineering.

This car was named best overall at last year's eco-friendly Tour de Sol competition, beating out those made by teams from some of the nation's upper-echelon colleges and universities. The vehicle is currently on display at the Philadelphia Auto Show.

Although budget cuts threatened the West Philly auto program, it was saved by public outcry from parents and area auto dealers. And the students will be back at Tour de Sol this year to defend their title.

Here are a couple of excerpts from the article:

The high schoolers' engineering feat may have observers wondering why Detroit hasn't already made such a car.

"This is off-the-shelf technology, and we're not 180 I.Q. people around here," said Simon Hauger, a physics teacher who is the West Philadelphia automotive program's administrator.

"We're super low-budget," he said, so automakers "should be cranking them out.

"Who wouldn't want a cool sports car hybrid?"

The Motor City could have built one, but years ago, the Big Three domestic automakers misjudged where oil prices and consumer desires would be today...

...The West Philly squad's car is based on a kit called the Attack, made by K-1 Engineering, based in Serbia and Montenegro. The kit's carbon-fiber body fits over the chassis and frame assembled from a K-1 kit and a Honda Accord donor vehicle, which the team modified extensively.

The students altered the frame to accommodate a 200-horsepower electric motor under the front hood. An upgraded 150-horsepower, turbocharged Volkswagen diesel engine occupies what would be the trunk on most cars.

To comply with Tour de Sol rules, the engine runs on "biodiesel" fuel: It's biodegradable and nontoxic, and has significantly lower emissions than petroleum-based diesel when burned.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Trailer remix: Brokeback to the Future

I just recently discovered this trailer remix Internet craze. I have seen the "Top Gun: Brokeback Squadron" remix, but my friend Katie, a "Back to the Future" fanatic, sent me a link to this one and thought it was fantastic...

Brokeback to the Future -

Other good movie trailer remixes...

Sleepless in Seattle - Horror Remix

The Shining - Comedy Remix (now featuring Peter Gabriel's "Solsbury Hill")

Thursday, February 02, 2006

The Onion: How Will Users Respond to BlackBerry Shutdown (infographic)

Puppy pushers


So cute...but why am I showing pictures of these puppies?

Well, it's because these Colombians allegedly used these puppies... smuggle millions of dollars of liquid heroin on commercial flights into New York City for distribution on the East Coast.

And, yes, I know the puppies were technically couriers and not's called alliteration...and artistic license.

(AP Photos)

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jason and the Blogonauts

After some hesitation, my great friend Jason Pester has joined the blogosphere!


Bush channels the late, great Robert Palmer

The Philly Daily News' Attytood blog on came up with this one:

'Addicted to Oil': An excerpt from President Bush's State of the Union address

My first song idea of 2006!

This is still a work in progress, but I sat down at my keyboard last night for the first time in 2006 and came up with this song.

I wanted to rock out a little bit since so much of my stuff has been, well, I couldn't resist throwing in some 70s-style synth and faux funk rhythm guitar (which I need to replace with the real thing at some point) into the mix.


I Want You to Know (demo) - 3:58 / 3 MB

My sort of new obsession

When I was researching Apple Computers' newly announced iTunes U program to see how Rider could benefit from it, I checked out how Stanford is using iTunes.

On Stanford's iTunes U Music Store site, there are a number of lectures, guest speakers and news stories in both audio and video formats. One area of particular interest was the music section since Westminster Choir College is an important part of Rider University.

When I checked out Stanford's music selections, there was a compilation of songs by the university's students, alumni, faculty and staff. I decided to listen to a song by Natalise called "Everything's Gonna Be Alright" and -- although a bit underproduced -- it turned out to be a really good dance track.

I decided to investigate further...meaning I Googled her name. Well, of course, it turns out she has incredible looks to go along with her musical talent. But then I read this on her bio page:
Despite being a straight-A student at one of the nation's most prestigious schools, Natalise could not ignore her calling. She made a pact with her parents that if she could graduate from Stanford in only three years, they would let her pursue her real dream of having a musical career. Naturally, Natalise -- who majored in communication, while working on her songwriting and singing occasionally at community-based events -- won the bet. THREE years?! So she is gorgeous, talented and smart! That's a killer combination.

I'm not really into dance or pop music, but I admire someone who is talented and works hard at her craft. I mean, she could have taken the easy route by going on "American Idol" or something, but she's doing it her own way so I don't mind giving her a little more exposure.

So check out her site and her stuff on iTunes.