Da Bulls

John Hollinger ranks the top NBA Finals teams of all-time, and the Bulls took 1st place (96 team), 4th place (91 team), 5th (97 team), 7th (92 Bulls), 12th (98 Bulls), and 15th (93 team). Lists like these are lightning rods for debate, but it's nice to be reminded of how spoiled we were as Chicagoans (and it almost makes up for a lifetime of misery as a Cubs fan).

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Economist Bryan Caplan wonders whether or not he should get LASIK. As an economist, he weighs the pros and cons.

Okay, hybrid vehicles' fuel economy ratings have been downgraded to account for more typical driving conditions. I think most people, all things being equal, would swing for a hybrid because who doesn't want to help the environment. But all things are not equal yet, and people aren't willing to make the needed sacrifices. Once auto manufacturers star producing a wider selection of hybrids, in more shapes and sizes, then the hybrid movement will regain momentum. The article mentions the price premium for paying for a hybrid, but the government could neutralize that by increasing the hybrid car tax breaks to match that price premium.

About this time of year, famous people start delivering commencement speeches. It seems like the only ones people remember are the ones by funny guys (Jon Stewart, Will Ferrell, and Conan O'Brien), the fake one by Kurt Vonnegut, and the inspiring one by Steve Jobs (all linked to here in an older post). I haven't caught wind of any additions to the commencement canon this year, but here are links to two other graduation speeches, both by, yes, funny men: Conan O'Brien at Stuyvesant, and Stephen Colbert at Knox College.

Cyclists agree to more stringent testing in order to save the sport from plunging viewership and sponsorships:

Under cycling’s new testing rules, the blood of the top 600 riders will be profiled to provide a baseline to aid in evaluating future test results. A major increase in random, out-of-competition testing has begun, and riders have signed agreements to provide DNA samples in the event of doping disputes. Testing is also done daily during competition, with blood and urine samples drawn from the stage winner, overall race leader and at least one random riders.

Declining revenue is probably what it would take for players and owners in other leagues, like the NBA, MLB, or the NBA, to meet halfway on drug testing also. For all the hubaloo about fans upset with steroids and HGH and the such in baseball, owners listen to the clickety-clack of turnstiles, and they keep turning over in record numbers.

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He can read minds?!

In my baseball dreams, I was always a pitching/hitting star, a sort of Babe Ruth who could switch hit and switch pitch. Because of platoon splits in baseball (left-handed hitters tend to struggle more against left-handed pitchers, and right-handed hitters tend to struggle more against right-handed pitchers, though the effect is not as pronounced as with left-handed hitters), being an ambidextrous pitcher would be an advantage assuming you actually were competent pitching from both sides.

Such a pitcher exists today, and he's pitching at Creighton University. Within the article, I realized that one theoretical advantage of such a pitcher is negated by the rule that "a pitcher must declare which arm he will use before throwing his first pitch and cannot change before the at-bat ends." Otherwise a pitcher could force an opposing manager to use up pinch-hitters by switching arms after they'd been announced.

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Is there a one syllable name athlete?

Funny but also debate-provoking bit from this Football Outsiders NFL article:

The greatest athletes of all time by number of syllables in their name: Two syllables: Babe Ruth. Three: Wayne Gretzky. Four: Michael Jordan. Five: Muhammad Ali. Six: Roberto Clemente. Seven: LaDainian Tomlinson. Eight: Martina Navratilova. Nine: Chris Fu'umatu-Ma'afala or somebody.

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Thanksgiving stuffing--in the bird or out? Mark Bittman recommends out, in which case it's dressing, not stuffing.

Do you really need a 1080p TV, or will 1080i suffice? You're probably okay with just 1080i, marketing literature notwithstanding.

Does Daisuke Matsuzaka throw the gyroball or not? Will Carroll published a new article (you have to be a subscriber to read it, unfortunately) on Baseball Prospectus today stating that he does believe now that Matsuzaka throw the gyroball, but that he doesn't yet have control over which type he throws. There appear to be two variations that differ based on the tilt of the axis of rotation. If it points up, the ball moves more laterally away from a right-handed batter (all this assumes a right-handed pitcher). If it tilts down, the pitch actually breaks in on a right-handed batter. Carroll pointed to this video of Matsuzaka as having the closest rendition of a pure gyroball:

You know what I enjoy about watching Japanese pitchers? They tend to have long, deliberate motions with high leg kicks, long windups, with hands and feet tracing wide arcs around their bodies (many also have these odd pauses or hitches that mess up the batter's timing). It's old school. Not many pitchers have such motions anymore (as a Cubs fan, Mark Prior and Kerry Wood's super simple deliveries come to mind, in contrast to a guy like Kevin Appier). I love watching old videos of guys like Luis Tiant or Sandy Koufax, with their huge leg kicks. Every pitch looked like a complex series of coordinated motions requiring maximum exertion to pull off correctly.

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Daisuke Matsuzaka

Baseball Prospectus examines Daisuke Matsuzaka to see if he's really worth spending $20 to $30 million on, just for the right to even negotiate with him. The answer? He probably is. He might just be the second best starting pitcher in baseball after Johan Santana. I want to see the gyroball.

UPDATE: Rumor has it the Boston Red Sox won the bidding war for negotiation rights with an offer of somewhere between $38 million and $45 million. Wow.

For your next vacation, won't you consider a virtual tour of World of Warcraft with Synthravels, the first online virtual travel agency?

The NanoNuno umbrella dries off with a simple shake. The secret? Nanotechnology. That image on their website makes it seem as if the umbrella emits some kinds of forcefield.

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Happy Labor Day

A thorough explanation of why Chinese is so difficult to learn. I grew up hearing Chinese in the house and even attended some Chinese school, and I found it to be a bear. I never did really learn to write or read cursive Chinese handwriting very well (yes, Chinese has both print and cursive, like English), another item I'd add to this writer's litany of complaints. Just when you think you've memorized a character, someone scrawls it in their own cursive style and it's as if someone took a print character's brush strokes and tied them in butterfly knots. Of course, without cursive, writing Chinese, with its numerous strokes, is like writing English in neat block capital letters...sloooooooooow).

Curse of the Golden Flower, a movie by Zhang Yimou, starring Gong Li and Chow Yun Fat, releases this Christmas season (trailer). Yeah, I hate dandelions, too, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them a curse.

Crocodile hunter, felled by a stingray. Stung through the heart by a stingray...brutal. I guess it should be obvious from their names, but I didn't realize stingrays were that dangerous. Earlier this year, on a dive trip down in the Turks and Caicos islands, Dave and I fed stingrays just off the beach with some fish our guides had brought along for that purpose. We were soon overrun with stingrays, and one ran up my back and bit me. I popped out of the water, and Dave said the ray had drawn blood. Shortly thereafter, two lemon sharks wandered over, and I hustled out of the ocean.

Get your bootleg Van Goghs and Da Vincis: a city in China is the world's leading producer of reproductions of famous paintings. It doesn't surprise me one bit.

A computer program named WebCrow defeated dozens of human competitors in a crossword puzzle competition. Humans managed to defeat the program in two Italian crosswords featuring lots of puns and political clues.

That green lump that resembles playdough, the one they dump on your platter of sushi? That's not wasabi. Real, fresh wasabi is rarely served at sushi restaurants, but whenever a sushi restaurant offers it I'll request it. Real wasabi is not as hot as the faux stuff, but it's better for you. Unfortunately, the real deal costs a fortune.

Michael Apted's next in his Up documentary series is about to release. He interviewed many children at age 7 about their lives and dreams for 7 Up, and since then, he's gone back to check up on them every 7 years (each doc in the series is named after the age of the characters, so 14 Up, 21 Up, and so on). This next installment will be 49 Up. All the previous installments are on DVD.

The new Sunday Night Football theme (MP3) is by none other than John Williams.

Four words no man wants to hear: bleeding in the scrotum. It's been that kind of year for the Cubs.

HiveLive is a site that allows you to post and share files and information among public or private hives, or groups of people.

The Statistical Review of World Energy 2006, by British Petroleum, including historical data series in Excel format.

You got the touch! Feel, feel, feel, feel, feel...feel my heat!

Show me the money

Talk about a horse: just one day after throwing 178 pitches in a 15 inning tie, Japanese high school pitcher Yuki Saito came back to throw a 118 pitch complete game victory to lead his team to its first National high School Baseball Championship title. It was Saito's fourth complete game in four days, and in the tournament he threw 948 pitches in seven games. My shoulder exploded just reading that.

Tim Harford uses game theory to explain why engagement rings came about. So that's why women want a huge rock! It's a security deposit on the marriage, so the larger the better.

Frank Bruni's first impression of L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon: very pricey, with slightly scattered service, but quietly thrilling. It's still in its soft opening (no reservations taken yet) so I've been thinking of stopping in for one last decadent meal before leaving NYC. But with prices like those...perhaps I'll just stop in, order Robuchon's famous potato puree (which happens to be my favorite potato dish ever; here is one online recipe, here is another), surrender my Amex, clap and spread my hands palms up like a blackjack dealer leaving a table, and walk out.

Our entire future lies behind us

World Hum's list of the top 30 travel books. I always try and read a book about the area I'm traveling to, or a book by an author from that region, but I've only read the Bryson and Twain off of this list (Bryson's next book, The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid, releases Oct. 17). The obvious cure, of course, is to pull out the passport and head back out into the world.


Speaking of travel books: download the 2000 through 2006 editions of the CIA World Factbook and Factbook on Intelligence for free as PDFs. Very cool reference.


Aymaran people of the High Andes think of the future as behind them, the past ahead of them, different than most everyone else, perhaps because of differences in their language. I have a conceptual metaphor for time as well. My mental map of the years looks something like this:

It's a bit more involved than that (if you imagine it as a flat board, the right side of the board is actually pushed further away from me so that the entire board is at an angle), but that's the best 2-d representation I can come up with. 1974 is the start b/c that's the year I was born. When I think of sports events of importance to me, I think of them as falling on this spatial representation of my life. 1984, Cubs lose in NLCS to the Padres. 1985, Bears win the Super Bowl. 1991, the Bulls win their first championship.

When I think of an individual year, my spatial representation is a vertical one, with January at the top, December at the bottom, the days of each week running horizontally, from Sunday at the far left to Saturday at the far right, one week above the next. I suspect this arises from the idea of a wall calendar whose pages are torn out and affixed to the wall, one month above the next.

When I think of 24 hours, my mental image is of a 12 hour circular clock, like an analog watch, with 12:00 at the top. The same with a minute, it's a circle with 0 and 60 seconds falling at the top.


Flickr still maintains a 20MB per month upload limit for its freeloading customers. Having just returned from a wedding, I had set up a Flickr group for everyone to use to compile photos for the bride and groom, but then the groom pointed out that the service is all but useless to people without pro accounts because they can only upload a few pics. Flickr needs to raise the upload bandwidth for non-paying customers.

Their pricing seems to be based in a world where printing was not possible. They should up the bandwidth limit but offer cheaper printing prices and longer storage of photos for Pro members. You want to hook people by getting them to upload pics, then convert them to paying customers by giving them strong incentives to stick around.


Is football (soccer) boring? I used to think so, but I'm coming around this World Cup (from the television ratings, it appears I'm not alone). I don't have the appreciation for the sport that an actual player has, but my love of cycling has opened my mind to sports that are usually described as appealing only to practitioners. A few things appeal to me. The sheer athleticism and coordination of some of the players is stunning, like watching Reggie Bush in the open field, but if he had to dribble a football. The format of World Cup once it moves into single elimination raises the stakes. Every goal that is scored seems a miracle, and many seem gorgeous in their angles and athletic execution. And the Brazilian female fans? Yet another justification for high definition television.

The global appeal of the World Cup leads to some great gatherings to watch matches. In Beijing last Saturday, as Jed and I were strolling down a dark street after the wedding, we came upon a group of Chinese twenty-somethings gathered around the blue-white glow of a television on the patio of a cafe. They had beers in hand and we were screaming with delight at every twist and turn. If I could have felt my feet, I am certain that I could have joined this group of strangers and been sharing Yanjing beers with them in no time. In 1994 I attended one World Cup match at Stanford Stadium, Brazil - Russia, and from start to finish it was one of most raucous sporting events I've ever been to. I spent almost the whole match jumping around, trying to learn some Brazilian chants and songs.

Still a few things about the sport put me off. Watching two subpar teams battle to a scoreless tie, the ball turned over time and time again, holds about as much appeal as watching professional darts. The theatricality involved in diving is just absurd; they should make players who dive exchange their soccer shorts for skirts for the next match. And using penalty kicks to determine winners in matches that are scoreless through overtime seems a poor method for determining the superior team.

I've often heard that he U.S. loses its best athletes to sports like basketball and football. I'm curious to see some athletic profiles of the best football (soccer) players. How tall and heavy are they, and what are their times in the 40? Vertical leaps? Strength? What types of American athletes would fare best if converted?


Please, please, let it end.


On tap for tonight: Roger Clemens vs. Francisco Liriano, aging vs. young gunslinger.

The trailer for Borat.

Stream clips from Thom Yorke's upcoming album The Eraser, which releases July 11 in the US.

The White Sox are a good team, but Ozzie Guillen is a punk. Someone put a pacifier in his mouth. Can we get Jack Nicholson to order the code red? Of course, his efforts to defend his use of a homosexual slur have the entertainment value of a car accident:

[Guillen] also said that he has gay friends, goes to WNBA games, went to the Madonna concert and plans to attend the Gay Games in Chicago.

WNBA games and a Madonna concert! Gay friends! Pin a rainbow medal on him. Of course, no one really likes Jay Mariotti, either, so this is either a win-win or a lose-lose situation, I can't tell which.

Tonight, his journey ends

Tuesday morning, parts of Spiderman 3 were shot in Manhattan at the Broadhurst Theater (slideshow).

Deadspin has an anonymous source that claims that one of the people named in Jason Grimsley's affidavit as a person who referred him to an amphetamine source is Chris Mihlfeld who happens to be Albert Pujols' personal trainer. No one wants to find out that Pujols was on any illegal substance. It's bad enough thinking back to the Sosa-McGwire home run battle of 1998 that supposedly saved baseball and thinking that both of them were more artificially enhanced than Joan Rivers.

That short Samantha Bee American Idol-esque video retrospective on al-Zarqawi on The Daily Show last night caused me to laugh water out my nose. "Tonight, his journey ends. Let's take one last look back." It was set to that cheesy pop tune; I'm not sure of the name or artist. I wish the video was online to link to; perhaps it will be in a day or two.

UPDATE I: The tune accompanying shots from al-Zarqawi's terrorist training clip montage, a helpful reader informs me, was Daniel Powter's "Bad Day."

UPDATE II: Here we go, the Samantha Bee clip is in the middle of this clip.

This day online

A copy (PDF) of the affidavit from the investigation into Human Growth Hormone use by Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Jason Grimsley. He names lots of other players who use steroids, but those names are blacked out. If MLB believes that the taint of steroids needs to be removed from the sport, they will need tougher policies, otherwise the hits will just keep on coming.

Royals hire Tom Emanski to teach then the fundamentals of baseball. I love those Tom Emanski commercials, from the wooden endorsement from that paragon of defense, Fred McGriff, to the hypnotic video of 14 year olds with perfect fundamentals executing relays and pivots at second base.

At long last, Google releases the Google Video Player for the Mac.

Slate compares and rates photo websites on their self-published photo album services and judges Shutterfly the winner. Flickr wasn't even mentioned, an odd omission considering its popularity as a poster child for Web 2.0. Flickr doesn't allow you to print hardcovers, but through a partnership with Qoop you can print glossy Photobooks.

Microsoft pooh-poohs Google Spreadsheets' functionality, as expected. Most people I know who use spreadsheets use a fraction of Excel's functionality. Excel is super expensive, and now those folks have a free alternative. A few years back at Amazon we tried sharing an Excel spreadsheet over our network, and it was a disaster. I'm not saying Google Spreadsheets' collaborative features are superior (the invite they sent me yesterday didn't work until just this morning), but I can see using it to share spreadsheets with lots of people who don't have a copy of Excel from work. Just in the next week I'm going to test it to figure out travel expenses with a friend and to analyze a potential fantasy baseball trade. Google Spreadsheets isn't going to replace Excel for corporate users. If you have to build a sophisticated model, you're not going to use Google Spreadsheets. Frankly, I'm looking forward to more of these web service apps to fill the basic home user's needs, ones which have been overserved by expensive, bloated applications like Adobe Photoshop and Microsoft Office.

Speaking of online spreadsheets, an alternative to Google Spreadsheets is EditGrid. Here's their product comparison, built in their own product. Looks pretty nifty, but facing off against Google and then Microsoft, they'll be a bit like the Devil Rays trying to catch the Red Sox and Yankees.

Implanting a magnet in your fingertip provides a sixth sense, an ability to detect strong electromagnetic fields. The magnet was implanted in the author's ring finger because it was deemed least valuable of the fingers. The procedure sounds sketchy; body mod practitioners just use ice as the anesthetic.


Google Calendar launches.
Good essay by Chuck Klosterman on the emptiness of Barry Bonds breaking the Babe's HR record. At this point, however, it's not the sure thing it once was. Any minute, his body could just fail and and force him into retirement. Maybe the very substances that allowed him to make his late career run at the HR record will break him down just short of those milestones, a modern day Greek tragedy. Malcolm Gladwell suggests that perhaps we need to send in the forensic economists.
San Diego Serenade reenacts the bottom of the 10th inning of Game Six of the 1986 World Series in RBI Baseball. Conceptually brilliant, and I can't imagine how long it must have taken, but it's not super compelling watching RBI Baseball. If he could've gotten the ball to actually roll through Buckner's legs, that would have been unbelievable.
Tim Harford, author of The Undercover Economist, uses economics to answer mundane questions from readers of the Financial Times. For example, should a man leave the toilet seat down, as his wife demands? Sadly, the Financial Times requires a subscription to read the full columns or archived Harford articles, but Harford's website contains the gist of most of his responses.
An advance commitment from government to buy vaccines when and if they are developed would increase industry R&D in developing cures for low-probability, high-impact diseases (full PDF Report for download).
Yep, this gif is freaky, and so are these sculptures.
Scott Van Pelt does impressions of Mel Kiper and Stephen A. Smith (MP3). He should just do these impressions full-time when he's on Sportscenter; it would be funnier than his usual schtick and would finally complete the circular path that Sportscenter has taken towards becoming a parody of itself.

Vitamins and poison pills

Here are those snazzy opening titles from Thank You For Smoking.


Are vitamins really good for you? Well, I guess we can wait to see what happens to Ray Kurzweil. Most of the harmful effects of vitamins seem to arise in studies with high dosages. Should be interesting to see Barry Bonds and Kurzweil in about twenty years.


Once solely the domain of Corporate America, poison pills have come to the NFL. The Seahawks inserted a clause in their offer to Vikings receiver Nate Burleson that the contract would become guaranteed if he played five games in the state of Minnesota. So of course the Vikings did not match the offer, not that they would have even without the clause. I'd be surprised if these types of poison pills were allowed to stand. If you're allowed to make up random poison pills, then the entire concept of matching offer sheets is negated. You can make up anything to prevent a team from matching your offer.


Ryanair turns a profit by discounting plane tickets heavily and making up for that with fees for most every other flight amenity. It's difficult to ascertain exactly how the airlines turns its profit just from reading the article--it could be primarily a result of a low cost structure rather than gimmicky fees--but you can't argue with their results in a tough industry.


The most popular movie in South Korean history is King and the Clown, a movie inevitably compared to Brokeback Mountain for depicting a gay male relationship.


I would be remiss if I didn't record here that this was the first year that March Madness was streamed online, for free. This was a well-designed first effort, complete with a Boss Button, which would transform the streaming video window into a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with one click.


The cost-of-living in NYC is so high, I don't feel quite as guilty as I otherwise would in using the local Barnes and Noble and Sephora as a personal library and medicine cabinet. I still do feel guilty, but on the other hand, there's something of the New York survivor spirit in the frugality of such tactics. I have no idea if those high-falutin moisturizers really reduce aging, shrink pores, and restore a youthful complexion, but $50 for an ounce is probably too high a price to find out with my hard-earned savings.
Yesterday I stopped in B&N to flip through John Dewan's The Fielding Bible, which I do have on order, though from Amazon.com. It attempts to bring defensive evaluations to another level by using data from Baseball Information Solutions.
Instead of just looking at statistics, Dewan and company used video of every batted ball the past several seasons and translated each into a vector composed of direction and velocity. Then they computed which of those balls should have have been turned into an out by a particular fielder. That provided each defensive player with an expected number of outs, and the main statistic in the book is how many plays each player made versus expectation, the plus/minus. The book includes some other statistics for each position to evaluate things such as fielding of bunts for corner infielders and throwing arm for outfielders (the only position not evaluated is catcher).
Some of the book's conclusions align with widely held assumptions. Ichiro is the best right fielder (though the trend is one of decline). Orlando Hudson is probably the best defensive 2B in the game. Manny Ramirez and Adam Dunn are atrocious in left. Torii Hunter is fantastic in CF.
Bill James contributes an entire chapter on Derek Jeter's defense, a much debated topic. After putting Jeter through several different defensive evaluation systems and watching video of Jeter's best and worst plays, James, a noted contrarian, concedes that Jeter's defense is indeed lousy (Adam Everett evaluates as the best shortstop three years running, and it isn't even close). Hey, Jeter counts among his ex-girlfriends Jessica Alba and Adriana Lima; please allow us this one grudging flaw in his game.
At any rate, it's a fun compilation of stats to pore over, the type of book to bring to a ballgame and use to incite heated debates between innings.


Portable cloaking technology finally a reality?
In search of the mythical pitch called the gyroball, a baseball thrown with the rotation of a football spiral, or a bullet, and nearly unhittable.
Beware the flirtatious IM stranger, especially if you're a college basketball player about to play a big game.
Fastest growing city on Earth: Chongqing. The two times I've been to China, I'm always amazed to travel through towns like Chongqing, that no one has ever heard of, all with populations larger than New York City.
...the planet's population is currently split almost right down the middle: 3.2 billion in the city, 3.2 billion in the countryside. But by the start of 2007, the balance will have tipped decisively away from the fields and towards the skyscrapers.
I predict more men will be asking for jalapenos on their Subway sandwiches.

Deleted scenes from Star Wars

I hesitate to link to this because it feels like I'd just be speeding its demise, but for all I know these aren't that new anyhow: deleted scenes from Star Wars (Episode IV). Probably of interest only to the hardcore fans, as some of this is just behind the scenes footage.
Based on Gross National Product per capita, what is the 77th richest country in the world, wealthier than India, China, and Bulgaria? EverQuest.
Microsoft's Origami revealed, with a less friendly name of Ultra-Mobile PC. I'd like to see someone wear this on their belt like a cell phone. That is sure to impress the ladies.
The Elements of Typographic Style Applied to the Web.
On the new revelations surrounding Barry Bonds steroid use, which most people suspected since his physical transformation into a human Bobblehead, the claim that most saddens me is that Bonds started juicing to grab the spotlight back from McGwire and Sosa. It's as if the movie Amadeus had been reversed, and Mozart was the one fuming over Salieri. I feel sorry for Bonds, in a way. For such a gifted player, he's always seemed so bitter and angry, arrogant yet insecure. Well, once the book hits the street, it should serve as a truth serum one way or another. Lance Armstrong always sued anyone who made public accusations that he doped. Despite Bonds's alimony payments, I think he could afford to take legal action if the book made false accusations. Meanwhile, I don't know Bud Selig, but I can't help picturing him with a copy of the book on his desk, a blank and shellshocked look on his face, just like President Logan on 24. He'd turn to his Mike Novick equivalent and plead, "Mike, tell me what to do."


That Peyton Manning commercial for Mastercard makes me cringe. In it, Peyton seeks the autograph of a grocery store clerk and feigns ecstasy when a hardware store employee tosses him his apron. Having a multi-millionaire athlete satirize the anonymity of the common man? Priceless.


Sportscenter aired a segment on Bodacious, one of the most feared rodeo bulls of all time. The footage of him bucking cowboys off of his back like rag dolls was awesome (and I don't mean that in the modern sense of mega-cool). Here's a short homage to Bodacious which includes the key highlights from his life, including his conquest of famed bull-rider Tuff Hedeman. Bodacious broke every bone in Hedeman's face, and the next time the two were to meet, Tuff climbed off when they opened the gates, essentially waving the white flag.
How did bull-riding start? What cowboy thought to himself, "Hey, let's put an electric prod to that bull's testicles and then see how long I can hang on its back before it either tosses me and tramples me or headbutts me in the face, cracking my skull like a coconut?" Someone on the prarie was smoking some serious peyote.


One of the first things I do upon arriving in Southern California is to hit In-N-Out, home of America's most beloved burger. I'm embarrassed to admit, though, that it wasn't until this most recent visit for Thanksgiving that I heard of and sampled something off of their secret menu.
I went for a burger Animal Style, and my receipt actually read "ANIMAL STYLE". A burger prepared thus contains a layer of sauteed onions embedded in the melted cheese. I enjoyed it, though it unleashed hell on my digestive system. James tried getting his fries Animal Style; it didn't really work. All you could taste were the onions.


Over Thanksgiving break, our family was discussing what book should serve as the next nominee in our unofficial family book club. Every so often, one book gets passed from one kid to the other until all the siblings have read it. Given our diverse tastes, it takes a special book to make the rounds; fiction novels seem to be the most palatable across the board. The first book to complete our circuit was Atonement, and currently crossing home plate is The Time Traveler's Wife.
One book that came up just a few kids short was The Life of Pi. It was originally to be adapted for the silver screen by M. Night Shyamalan. Now it's in the hands of Jean-Pierre Jeunet. I was intrigued to see the Shyamalan version. The book has, in its own way, a big twist of an ending. When I heard Shyamalan was directing, I could already picture how he'd reveal the twist in a Keyser Soze-like moment.
I would have preferred Shyamalan direct, if for no other reason than that Jeunet's sensibility doesn't mesh with mine. Regardless, I want to see the movie to see how Jeunet interprets the book, and he will have fun with the fantasy imagery. I'm always surprised at how many people interpret the book in vastly different ways--the ending seems to strongly favor one interpretation of all the events that came before. The book accompanied me for a week through New Zealand in 2003 after I picked it up from a Borders in Auckland. I'd like to flip through it again to refresh my recollection of the details, but my copy seems to have disappeared.
On the bright side, with Jeunet on board, we're spared the possibility that Shyamalan might have cast himself as the lead.


Michel Gondry's next movie, The Science of Sleep, sounds interesting, and joy of joys, it will be at Sundance!
Ticket packages for the first half of Sundance sold out in a day this year. I had a lottery time on day two and got shut out. If you have enough friends also entering the lottery, you can pool resources, but the festival is outgrowing its capacity. Every year its popularity rises some more, and every year the scrum for tickets and accommodations becomes that much more onerous.


Thank goodness, we can finally sleep at night: Congress is looking into the "deeply flawed" BCS system. Hey, I'm a guy, I like sports, but it's ridiculous that our elected officials spend time investigating sports issues like steroids in baseball and the college football post-season format.


I'm always a big fan of Filmoculous's list of year-end lists. Here's his compilation for 2005. Among them is the short-list for Time's Person of the Year. My money's on either Mother Nature or The Google Guys.