is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


New Record!

This morning I woke up to -24 degrees F. That's cold. In fact, it's my personal record of coldness, surpassing -20 from four winters ago. What happens at -24? Well, your nose hairs freeze with every breath. The only cars that start are ones with engine block heaters or new batteries (we replaced ours last summer. Go us!). Your dog's urine freezes in a stream when she goes outside. Ok, just kidding on that one. Oh, and your laundry room freezes.

So, last night I decided to do a load of laundry. I go downstairs to the Dungeon, and move the load that was in there from earlier this week to the dryer. Frozen. Solid. Big icebergs of clothing, all frozen to the interior of the washing machine. I pulled it all out, with some difficulty, and put them in the dryer and started it. GUH-BUNK GUH-BUNK GUH-BUNK said the dryer, as it defrosted the icebergs.

I loaded the washing machine and started it, and nothing happened. The intake hoses to the washing machine were frozen. This has happened before. I pulled out a little space heater that we have for such an occasion, pointed it at the intake hoses, and turned it on. A half hour later, and I was in business; the washing machine turned on and began the load. I came back down another half hour after that to move the clothes to the dryer, opened the machine, and to my chagrin noted that the washing machine was completely full of water. I turned the dial back to spin cycle, hit the button, and it spun but no water came out. The outtake hose must be frozen, I figured, so I pointed the space heater (not a very powerful one, as you must have guessed) at the back of the machine and went upstairs for another half hour; at the end of that period it still wasn't working, so I went back upstairs to wait it out.

It is now after 1 a.m. When I came back downstairs and hit the spin cycle button, the machine began to drain. This was good. The machine drains into a laundry basin sink we have, which then drains to the sewer. Unfortunately, the sink was filling and filling but not draining. When the sink reached fullness, I was forced to turn off the machine. And then, of course, to turn the space heater on to the drain pipe.

It is now nearly 2 a.m. Despite my desire for the clothes, I see that my quest for clothes is not going to be successful. I go to bed.

In the morning, the drain pipe is now unfrozen and the machine drains.

I hate the cold. It's fully 130 degrees colder than it was here this summer. Hell, it's almost 35 degrees colder than you people (MOM) complaining about it being 10 degrees. It's only 74 degrees warmer than it was on Mars the first week of the Spirit rover's mission.

Yeah, it's cold.

A link: An amusing cartoon story about a guy and his quest to know the plot without seeing the movie for "Maid in Manhattan." I shudder to admit that I've seen this hunk of crap. And as a tangent, Manhattan is where I'll be come Sunday.


Lying already

I know I promised not to be so damned political upon re-starting HB, but I have to break that promise. I’m sorry. As a peace offering to the Kristas of this world, here’s an amusing special interest football story about the only good thing to emerge from the XFL – He Hate Me (whose real name is Rod Smart, by the way. He Hate Me is what he wrote on his jersey, where names typically go. Jeff points me to this article which mentions other great back-of-the-jersey nickname stories). Smart/Me now plays for the Carolina Panthers, who are the upstart NFC qualifiers for this year’s Super Bowl, and the team that my mother will be rooting for. I, on the other hand, will be newly arrived in New York City, representing the University of Minnesota’s National Moot Court team in the National Finals, on Super Bowl Sunday. I’ll try to blog from the Big Apple to update my breathless public about my progress.

But now, some politics. I support Howard Dean. He’s a smart guy with good policies and proven foreign policy judgment – he didn’t fall for the obvious lies and politically convenient support of an illegal war authorized under knowingly false pretenses. But his campaign may be dead as of today. It’s very frustrating to me, because his downfall was engineered primarily because of negative press coverage and coordinated attack by Democratic and Republican party insiders and not because the public decided on their own that John Kerry has better ideas (consider that last claim, by the way. Have you heard anyone claim that John Kerry has good policy initiatives? Have you heard of any of his proposals?) No, the whisper campaign has always been that Dean is “unelectable” because of his anger and his liberalism, and the press picked that up and ran with it on the scantiest of evidence. And of course, the famous scream.

How did the media pull it off? Consider, if you will, this handy guide to media election coverage. A sampling of the terms and tactics they use:

The Gaffe: when a candidate on the campaign trail takes a pounding in the press for something that just isn't said to the press on the campaign trail.
The Expectations Game: when a candidate "wins" by losing but doing better than the press expected, or "loses" by winning but doing worse.
The Horse Race: when the press centers its coverage around shifts in who's ahead, based on poll results the press says are bound to shift.
The Ad Watch: when the press converts political advertisements—and the strategy behind them—into political news, and then analyzes that news to advertise its own savviness.
Inside Baseball: when the press tells the story of politics by going to insiders, the "players" who know the game because they play the game and get paid to know it.
Electability News: when the press shifts from reporting on a candidate's bid for election in the here and now, to the chances of the bid succeeding later on.
Spin Alley: when, after a debate, the press shows up in the spin room to be spun by stand-ins and spokespeople who are gathered there to spin the press.

Each of these were used, at various times, to make Dean look ridiculous in the press. And, yes, again, the scream. It’s tough to say how much the media seized on this to try to put the nail in his coffin. But I’m hardly the first to notice how the media hates him, even among the press insiders. Other evidence, if you don’t believe my premise of media hostility: (1) the Diane Sawyer interview, where she asked 96 questions, and only six were about policy initiatives and observers agree that she was profoundly negative in her slant. (2) the famous Tim Russert interview, in which Tim grilled Dean for (among other things) not being able to recall the number of US troops on active duty (Dean said between 1 and 2 million; the real number is 1.4 million) Dean’s supposed gaffes made huge news, a sample of which shows how bad the coverage and meta-coverage quickly became (emphasis mine, to point out the decidedly normative word choice of the ‘impartial’ news media):

The negative commentary practically exploded after the former Vermont governor repeatedly stumbled during a Tim Russert grilling nine days ago on "Meet the Press." It was, thundered New York Daily News columnist Zev Chafets, "perhaps the worst performance by a presidential candidate in the history of television." A Washington Post editorial called his answers "waffling and evasive." The Dallas Morning News reported that "many top Democrats" are worried a Dean nomination would produce an electoral wipeout of George McGovern and Walter Mondale dimensions.

(3) this Salon.com feature (yeah, it’s premium; watch the little ad, it’s worth it) documented a week before Iowa the concerted press attack on Dean. So when Dean didn’t hit the expected vote totals in the Iowa caucuses, the media was able to whale on that, play up the scream, and primary voters, who famously vote for momentum, were snookered. So we’re left with Kerry as a front runner, and if what his spokespeople say about Dean and his foreign policy ideas is typical, it looks like we will have a typical choice of a spineless poll watching Democrat versus a lying, evil Republican again:
“Howard Dean wouldn't know good judgment on foreign policy if he fell over it. Remember, this is the same man who has said that the nation was not safer with the capture of Saddam Hussein, said we shouldn't take sides in the Middle East, and that Osama bin Laden should get a jury trial.”
(In other words, Kerry thinks that the capture of Saddam Hussein did something positive for our security in Iraq? He thinks that our policy is better served by being pro-Israeli and anti-Palestinian in the Middle East instead of being an honest broker for peace? He thinks that bin Laden should just get summarily executed? These are the words of a demagogue trying to get elected, not a person interested in good policy.)
I guess my end response is to note that while I hate Bush more than anyone, I can hardly get excited about a race where it is apparent that the electorate is being manipulated by the media and party insiders. I wish I had more faith that democracy always yields the correct result, but experience shows otherwise.


Winter of our discontent

News flash: Minnesota in winter is cold. I had this amazing dream two nights ago where I was on a boat speeding through some bay in California. It was warm, the scenery was beautiful, and then I woke up. The worst part about winters in Minnesota, at least for the last three, is that while they have been cold, there has been little snow. There is some snow today (2-4 inches) but it’s just enough to be a nuisance. St. Paul’s Winter Carnival is getting some press right now, primarily for the ice palace (live webcam!) constructed across from the arena. Since Maggie works there, I’ve driven by virtually every day of its construction. We live right by Lake Phalen, which is where they’ve cut the ice for the construction. (An aside: Lake Phalen’s water level has been down greatly, primarily because of the lack of snow but also because of general drought. They took a lot of ice from the lake; I wonder if that will further lower the lake level by an appreciable amount?)

In Duluth, they have had two feet today. Maybe it’s a good thing that I am not working there any more. At some point I’ll have to update what happened in Duluth last summer. I’ll preview: firms are not supposed to treat their summer associates the way I was treated.

A friendly plug: my good friend Jeff Shaw, who is a freelance writer, has gotten his first piece published in a major publication. His feature on a new U.S. military base proposed on a tiny atoll in Okinawa is now in the Christian Science Monitor, complete with professional map graphics. It’s worth a read. Jeff has had a huge number of pieces picked up before, but mostly they have been with lefty/indy publications with lesser circulation than the CSM. (As a sampling, Jeff has published pieces on bioprospecting in In These Times, the Patriot Act II in the New Standard, protests against nuke subs in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, and a bit about watching mountain goats while hiking that was picked up by the Bellingham Herald.) Nicely done, Jeff!

Finally, here is a "representative sampling" of mail I’ve received about the re-launch of this blog:

I wanted to write about you're new blog. Since I am at
least "50%" of teh people who read you're blog we should
get some say.

First of all, more tit's! Their are not enough tit's on
your weblog. If you cant show more "tit's" then I will
read some other blog instead! (The Mars picture was cool
but their were no tit's.)

Seoncd, stop picking on people who dont know how to use
aposytrfe's. It is literally killing me wehn you do
that. Not everyone goes to "law school" fucker! Terel
Owens "never' went to law school!

ok later!

(Thanks for the feedback, dude.)

Finally, I was recently remarking about the number of people who visit my site from Google looking for a translation for "Tunak Tunak Tun" by Daler Mehndi. My estimate is that I have had some 10,000 hits just for that search. As noted back in January 2002, the song has no meaning. It's just words that fit a beat. Think of it as Hindi scat. (I still like the song and Daler Mehndi, by the way. I recently found a CD of his at a local store. I think I'll start collecting.)


That's Wild

I have always been very interested in interplanetary exploration, and the Spirit mission to Mars has me nearly transfixed. This is one of the neatest space missions in years, and because of the coolness of the Intar-web you too can share in it. Check out Quicktime panorama of the landing site – truly a must.
The success of this Mars mission is overshadowing the amazing Stardust mission to the comet Wild 2 (the funky rock featured in the picture above). Stardust is currently collecting ejected material from the comet for a return to Earth in 2006. For the first time ever our scientists will be able to examine pieces of comets, which are widely believed to be leftover chunks of rock and ice from the formation of the solar system.
W’s plan to go back to the Moon and Mars is unbelievably transparent, by the way. He proposes an ambitious plan to establish a moon base, yet doesn’t actually fund it or propose any way to do so (beyond proposing to up NASA’s budget by less than he’s asking Congress for a PR plan to revitalize marriage). Moreover, in response to this unfounded mandate to NASA, the space agency has announced that they will now have to abandon the Hubble Space telescope some five years ahead of time, which means that the US is scrapping the single most useful piece of astronomical equipment in world history for an election year ploy designed to benefit contractors concentrated in Texas and (wait for it) Florida.

This woman is asking for damages in excess of $50,000 for injuring her foot in a McDonald’s – by fleeing a small, nonpoisonous snake (that no one could find afterwards). I guess that’s why people hate lawyers.


A Rose by any other name

When I was a kid, my mom bought me a cheap little picture frame that had the words “My Hero” affixed on the bottom and put a picture of me in it. It was a sweet little gesture, the type that moms do for their sons. When I hit adolescence and the Pete Rose gambling scandal hit (and moreover, when the snottiness that pre-teen testosterone seems to invariably breed) I replaced my own picture with a Pete Rose baseball card (a 1987 Topps card, the fake-wood-frame style. I remember this because it was the only year that I ever bought any baseball cards. I still have a bunch of these sitting in old boxes in my attic, but I’m pretty damn sure that they are worth roughly $0.01 apiece. I digress). Pete Rose was never really my hero, but I did like his playing style and the idea that he got to the top of the baseball world not because he was prodigiously talented but because he tried really hard and hustled more than the others. This was also around the time that I was playing Little League baseball, and I can say with some authority that I was the worst baseball player to ever tote a bat. In three years playing, I don’t think I ever got a single base hit. So, you can see, I had a certain respect for someone who succeeded despite his relative lack of talent.

But, as we know, Pete Rose was investigated for gambling on baseball and in August 1989 he agreed to a lifetime ban from baseball in return for avoiding an embarrassing “trial” at which all the evidence against him would be aired. The commissioner at the time was one A. Bartlett Giamatti, who was commissioner for something like a month and a half. A few weeks after the Rose agreement, he dropped dead of a heart attack. (An interesting digression: Bart Giamatti was the father of Paul Giamatti, who has received considerable buzz for his role in the recent movie American Splendor). His body was not even cold when Rose began proclaiming his innocence, or I should say, consistently lying about his innocence. I note that he was lying for the intervening fourteen and a half years because he now is admitting his lie.

Some people seem to think that gambling is just as bad as other vices that other important athletes engage in, or that Rose’s problems are otherwise excusable, no harm no foul. But there are important reasons why Rose’s sins are unforgivable, and why his new “apology”* should be given no weight.

First, gambling is the cardinal sin of baseball. The World Series was once fixed by gamblers, and a well-known decision of the commissioner after that scandal threw out eight members of the team, including the (arguably) best player in the game at the point. There was certainly notice that gambling on baseball was the worst thing a player could do.

Second, Rose’s timing of the confession could not be worse nor more transparent. He timed his announcement to coincide with the election to the Hall of Fame of two of his contemporaries (Paul Molitor and Dennis Eckersly) and his announcement took away focus from what should have been a time for their careers to be celebrated. Moreover, Rose’s primary motivation for this announcement is to get reinstated so that he can be eligible for Hall membership himself. Why, you might ask, would he lie for over fourteen years but now come clean? The answer lies in the manner of Hall selection. A player becomes eligible for election to the Hall by sportswriters after he has been retired for five years, but if a player is not voted into the hall within fifteen years of becoming eligible, he is no longer put on the ballot and can only be placed in the Hall by a vote of the Veteran’s Committee. The Veteran’s Committee is a notoriously conservative (baseball conservative, not politically conservative) organization and his election by this method is highly doubtful. Under the fifteen year rule, Rose’s final year of eligibility will be next year—if he is not reinstated by the commissioner by the time of voting, he will never make the Hall except through the Veteran’s Committee. His admission is plainly timed to make a final push for reinstatement before his time runs out.

Finally, the nature of his confession fits his overall pattern of concern for himself and his financial well-being over his concern for the game. He chose to admit his culpability by way of a book, one that he was given a $1 million advance for writing and which will debut at the top of the New York Times best seller list.

Rose blew it. He damaged the game, he hurt the credibility of athletes, and showed himself to be a lying, low-life huckster. If he does get his reinstatement, it will be further proof that professional sports are morally and financially corrupt and that the public has no business patronizing them.

One more link: the Dowd Report, the report commissioned by baseball investigating Rose’s gambling, is now online for us to read in sordid detail what Rose did. He bet on baseball, he bet on the Reds (the team he was managing), he bet from the clubhouse minutes before opening pitches, he used information he got from other players and managers to inform his bets, he had long-time associations with illegal bookmakers, drug traffickers, and mobsters, he sold his memorabilia to fund his gambling losses. Rose should never be reinstated.

*He never actually said that he was sorry for lying or sorry for the cost to the game. He said he was sorry, basically, for people getting so worked up about it. I find this arrogance akin to apologizing to one’s wife by saying “I’m sorry that you got so upset.”


I am literally writing this entry

Welcome back. I begin this re-iteration of this webpage with what I’ll call a NAQ: Never Asked Questions. No one ever asks me a damn thing about this web page, and while that doesn’t BOTHER me per se, I’m just going to ask them myself.

Q: Why do you call this Hobbsblog III?
A: Great question! I started writing this blog back in 2000, when I saw the writing on the wall on the end of the early adopter period of weblogs. I figured if I didn’t start it soon, when I did start it people would be able to figure that I was just doing it to be trendy. Now there’s enough time for people to forget that motivation and realize I’m doing it for no good reason whatsoever. But I’m digressing from your fantastic question. I started it on the blogspot servers and then had some trouble uploading data, so I switched it to the current site in early 2001 and called that Hobbsblog II, just to be cool (again. Are you noticing a trend?). At the end of 2003 I neglected it and the code got wonky, so now I’ve switched out the basic code template and am resolving to actually write entries a couple of times a week. Hence III. As for Hobbsblog, although I have an undying motivation to be cool, I sure as hell can’t come up with a good name, so I just called it that and haven’t ever had the inclination to change it. I usually just call it HB instead just to be inscrutable.

Q: What do you do in real life?
A: I am a law student entering my last semester. As of now I still don’t have a job. So let me use my never read blog to pimp myself. I am a top quartile student at a top-twenty law school. I am a fantastic writer and great oral advocate and have experience working for two full-service law firms. I can get any prospective employer references and recommendations. In fact, allow me to use a sports analogy to tell you about my skills. Terrell Davis was a running back at the University of Georgia in the early 1990s. He was overlooked in most of the pre-draft workouts and hype when he entered the NFL draft, finally being picked in the sixth round by Denver. He ran for over a thousand yards each of his first four seasons, becoming the first player ever to run for 7,000 yards in such a short amount of time, and led the Broncos to Super Bowl wins twice. I am the Terrell Davis of the law school world. I haven’t been hired yet (most of the big firms have already hired all their entering associates, so that’s not great), but I’ll be the best lawyer my class produces. I research better, write better, and talk better than anyone else here. I am the man.

(please excuse the hyperbole. I’ve been told to not undersell myself in interviews, and I’m practicing.)

Q: Are you a nerd?
A: Uh, define “nerd.” I’m married and consider myself fairly social. I can’t code worth a damn. Comic books don’t do anything for me. On the other hand, I have played Dungeons and Dragons in the past, which is usually the acid test of geekiness. So yeah, probably.

Q: Do you have any insights to offer?
A: Honestly, no. If you’re reading for that purpose, you might as well go away. Hell, the only people that read this are my family and people that come here by way of Google searching for stories about John Ritter’s scrotum or Daler Mehndi. In the last year all I seem to write about is about how much the Bush administration stinks or about law topics. That’s alienated half my readership (my sister-in-law, Krista). I’ll try not write as much about that stuff with HBIII, but that won’t be successful.

Q: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Where are the stories about Daler Mehndi or John Ritter’s scrotum?
A: (sighs). Use the search function to the right.

Q: Do you have any amusing pet peeves or other funny stuff that irritates you?
A: I don’t know. Stuff that annoys me includes:
  • Intersections that disallow ‘right turn on red’ for no apparent reason

  • Cheesy romantic comedies like “Serendipity”

  • Regional sports telecasts that make me watch bad Big Ten matchups instead of the Oklahoma Sooners.

  • Misuse of the word “literally.” Yesterday I was watching the Colts-Chiefs playoff game and Dan Dierdorf said “Peyton Manning is literally carving the Chiefs’ secondary to shreds. Funny enough, John Clayton wrote in his wrapup of the same game, “[Manning] literally put the Chiefs defense in the electric chair and kept playing with the switch.” Uh, no he didn’t. Not that it constitutes a real pet peeve.

  • Misplaced apostrophes. (In the first draft of this, I had it as “misplaced apostrophe’s” for effect, but I couldn’t stand the idea that someone would see that and think I did that unintentionally.) If I see a misplaced apostrophe I assume the author is an idiot. Fair warning.

More to come.