Sunday, August 31, 2008
Saturday, August 30, 2008
Friday, August 29, 2008
This was, for McCain, a major decision. And we can learn from it. And here's what even his supporters must admit: Country did not come first. Polls did. The calculations are fully transparent. Understanding that he needed to broaden his electoral coalition, he picked a woman. Understanding he needed youth, he picked a young politician. Understanding he needed to emphasize his reformist credentials, he picked a onetime whistleblower. What he didn't pick was anyone able to help him govern, or capable of stepping forward in a moment of crisis. Palin is not an experienced foreign policy hand like Lieberman or a successful and experienced governor like Tommy Thompson. Today, McCain chose his campaign over his presidency. Over our presidency. Palin seems like a promising young politician, but McCain increasingly seems like a desperate one.
I am not alone in being convinced that a huge reason he did this is to cater to bitter Hillary supporters. Oh, your candidate didn't pick a woman. Well, look at me. I picked a woman. She will do, won't she?
In my view, it's a dumb pick.
Reason #3. She doesn't like polar bears.
Next, John McCain's central and best argument in this campaign is that Barack Obama simply lacks the experience to be President of the United States. And now John McCain, who is a cancer survivor who turns 72 years old today, is picking a vice presidential nominee who has been governor of a small state for less than two years and prior to that was mayor of a town with roughly one-twenty-seventh of the citizens that Barack Obama represented when he was a state senator in Illinois.Whatever you think of Barack Obama's qualifications to be President, Palin is manifestly less qualified. And that undermines the central premise of McCain's campaign.
Reason #5. Oh, snap. Sullivan unleashes...
Sullivan rethinks his initial reaction a little bit.
The first criterion for a veep - and I'm simply repeating a truism here - is that they are ready to take over at a moment's notice. That's especially true when you have a candidate as old as McCain. That's more than especially true when we are at war, in an era of astonishingly difficult challenges, when the next president could be grappling with war in the Middle East or a catastrophic terror attack at home. Under those circumstances, we could have a former Miss Alaska with two
termsyears under her belt as governor. Now compare McCain's pick with Obama's: a man with solid foreign policy experience, six terms in Washington and real relationships with leaders across the globe.
One pick is by a man of judgment; the other is by a man of vanity.
She may be a fine person, but she's my age, she has zero Washington experience, and no foreign policy expertise whatsoever.
This woman is one heartbeat away from the presidency. And that is a major issue if McCain becomes the 44th POTUS. I don't think it would be wise for the Obama campaign to criticize Palin's experience because she is technically the only one with executive experience, but now, surely, the McCain camp's argument that Obama is lacking in experience cannot hold any water. How could it?
Thursday, August 28, 2008
And the music at the end...I thought it fitting that it was from the movie National Treasure.
I close with my idea for a team name of volunteers I worked with this summer:
Rock Out With Your Barack Out
Aside from not being a huge motorcycle fan, I've noticed a lot of similarities between these Harley fans and Star Wars geeks. When they congregate in mass they are uncontrollable. Pride for their obsession spills over and runs a muck during formal celebrations like Harley's 105th, leading people to stand on overpass bridges and wave at each and every group of Harley riders roaring into town on the interstate.
Businesses that support these fanatics love to throw their support into the mix. For Star Wars fans, this might come in the form of a local book store having a Star Wars book party prior to a major film release. But for Harley fans, book stores won't do. No, these people need strip clubs, like the Silk Exotic in Milwaukee advertising itself as "Milwaukee's Hot Spot For The 105th!" VIP Pass-holders get to see Kid Rock, Jesse James, Jenna Jameson (porn star), Ron Jeremy (porn star), Jade Simone St. Clair (from the advertisement she looks like a porn star, but I'm not too sure), Micro Wrestling (what the hell is this?), Midwest Largest (sounds very scary), Wet T-Shirt Contest, Private Bathrooms (I just threw up a little) and, of course, Womens Wrestling (without the apostrophe, this was an accident of course, wink, wink).
No VIP pass? No worries. For free you can see the Miss Milwaukee Contest, the Bikini Bike Wash, Milwaukee's Largest Bloody Mary Bar, Chest Painting (!) and Worlds Record Beer Pong (again, another error with the unnecessary (s) on "Worlds").
Typos do seem to be a common theme for the weekend. This is not surprising, considering Micro Wrestling and Chest Painting are big draws for the crowd. All the local businesses are welcoming riders with messages on their marques. I saw one of these messages on a hotel sign yesterday. The author was clearly confused by the apostrophe. "Welcome Harley Rider's!!!"
Update: I misspelled apostrophe twice on here and just realized. Doh.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
This argument is of course rubbish. Swimmers win by .01 seconds all the time and no one throws a fit. Torres lost the 50m freestyle by .01 and there was almost no attention paid to that margin of loss. Phelps' case is different though. Since, to the naked eye, it looked like Cavic just got him. However, people refuse to believe in miracles. They love to feel like they have uncovered a conspiracy. They love going against the grain and something like Phelps winning 8 gold medals in one Olympics is something too easy to fall in love with, so they pull at straws, looking for any reason to back up their pathetically weak argument.
For those of you that don't know, there is a certain amount of pressure necessary to stop the touchpad. Otherwise, the pressure from water and waves in the pool would stop the time. After experiencing many a long finish myself, I know that the rate at which Cavic was traveling was more than enough to stop the clock. After all, it is not easy to duplicate a Cavic finish, one of the worst finishes one can have in butterfly and breaststroke. Here is the proof.
Some argue that the upturn of Cavic's fingers is proof that he is at the wall. Nope. Fingers do this when the hand is outstretched to touch a wall first. And the pull of the water on the fingers is enough to slightly bend them upward. From the photos, you can see Cavic's fingers are well into this position long before he touches the wall. He is stretching and the speed at which he is traveling is certainly fast enough to force his fingers upward even more than a stretch can. Hell, he wasn't going slow. He was swimming 100m of butterfly in 50.59 seconds.
Cavic lost this race. And the journalist has posted an update to his previous column, admitting, somewhat, that Phelps could have possibly beaten Cavic.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Over the next week I think we're going to hear a lot of whining from the McCain campaign about how the press is so enamored of Barack Obama, all evidence to the contrary. So if and when you're at risk of actually buying that nonsense I commend to you again, this McCain campaign produced video of the press barbecue at the Sedona estate ...
As I have told you before, our friendship was a surprise to me. At first, we had mutual friends and there never seemed to be a legitimate connection. And then, something happened, I think it was the summer of 2006, but it was also growing up, maturing, and some of us growing apart that most definitely brought us closer.
In friendship terms, there are a handful of people in my life that are as loyal as you are. Whenever we talk I feel like we pick right back up at where we left off. Days, weeks, months...it doesn't matter. Your honesty is always refreshing. I love when you say things I might not have the balls to say. It inspires me to be more open and bare with people about my feelings.
I have learned a lot from you about being blunt and that helped me to be frank with you this last year when you needed to talk and were going through a tough time.
I raise the nearest glass of beverage for a toast to you. In this case, it is milk, but I know if I were with you it would be beer. God bless it.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Friday, August 22, 2008
"Great!" I sarcastically yelled back at the TV.
I love how within the U.S. we (well, a lot of us) start feeling great about a country when it starts looking a lot like ours. Whether it's a country's form of government, its rites of passage, its values, or its shopping malls, it doesn't matter. When any or all of those things become more western the excitement becomes too much to contain for many. Some people suddenly feel like they can now safely travel to this country. Others might merely make a mental note that this country is now "acceptable" or "safe."
I don't really think many Americans would admit to doing this, but we are definitely prone to it. I am prone to it. I'm not saying that becoming more western is a terrible thing. There are western traditions and practices that I would love some regions of the world to adopt. But this post isn't about that.
This post is about how after I heard that TV reporter say that about Beijing, I hung my head in sorrow, sad for the country that is becoming more like Southern California. I'm sad for the country that is well on its way to establishing materialism as their national religion, just like America. I'm sad that when a country builds a strip mall or a Wal-Mart they are coming out to the world.
Most of all, it bums me out that America, America has become the standard-bearer. The standard-bearer of the shopping mall.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
On Monday I had to get out of the house in order to write those restaurant reviews, but I've watched less Olympic coverage in the last few days. I've recorded more on the good old VCR and my disinterest in them is growing. Everything else pales in comparison to Phelps.
I've really enjoyed watching gymnastics. This is weird. I guess I watch because I have the opposite body build of all the competitors. They do incredible things, like sit on couches and let their legs dangle. It's really quite impressive.
Another highlight for me has been Usain Bolt. I didn't like his attitude in the 100m, but to see him actually try the whole length of the 200m race last night and beat Michael Johnson's 12-year-old record, was a treat.
As I write this I am being distracted by the final of the women's 200m. There's the gun. Goodbye.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
I'd be hard-pressed to think of a more disappointing world city to travel to as an Olympian. I guess another reason Atlanta is such a shocker is because I don't think of it as a world city. Even within the U.S., Atlanta would be last, or close to it, on a list of cities I would like to visit.
What do you do there? Visit CNN? Track down residences of famous rappers? There's the World of Coca-Cola museum. I'm sure that's a big draw, but on the international scene? Please.
I've recently decided to apply for a spot on the 2012 Olympic team. I'm glad Atlanta has been checked off the list.
Monday, August 18, 2008
Michael Phelps is at a pinnacle. The whole sporting world has slowed to watch this giant of sport do something that has never been done before. I feel so fortunate to have had the chance to witness his greatness over the last week and to share a love with him for the sport of swimming. I feel like a bit of an insider, having suffered through similar pain as Phelps has because of swimming workouts, weight sessions, and mental battles.
Of course, Phelps has faced more yardage and intimidating workouts than I have. His mental battles have been on a different scale than my mental battles, but they are essentially the same. You want to kill your alarm clock when it starts beeping at 5:45am five days a week. With your toes curled around the edge of the pool at 5:59am, the last thing you want to do is to jump into a cold pool. You want to be in a warm bed. You show up to a workout hoping it won’t be that bad, but you see your least favorite set, the one that makes you have spotty vision, makes you throw up in the gutter, makes your lungs burn and doesn’t allow you to get that long cooling breath that you need to dose the flames.
You face these challenges almost everyday for years on end so you can dive in for a few minutes, one minute, or even less. I once calculated the ratio between the time it took me to swim my best event, the 50 freestyle, and the time I would spend that season training for that event. The ratio was 1: 80,000. That’s a staggering number. Not really something too many swimmers face, but I know Phelps has lived that reality two times over probably, and that’s why I get goose bumps before his races. That’s why I scream during the last 50 meters. That’s why I am literally shaking from adrenaline after every race.
That’s why I jumped up off the couch and felt like I just won a gold medal eight times during the last week. Forget the fact that I get told by strangers that I look like Michael Phelps. Forget that I really am one person away from knowing Phelps. My college roommate, Scott Usher, swam with Phelps in the Athens Olympic Games in 2004. He has traveled to many meets with him and he has his cell number and is a legitimate friend with him, not just on Facebook, but in real life. Forget that I joke with my wife that since we are one person removed from Phelps “we are almost famous.”
No. It’s not any of those things.
It’s the stinging pain, the struggle, the pursuit of perfection in an element that we weren’t built for that binds me to this Olympian—the greatest ever.
Friday, August 15, 2008
Thursday, August 14, 2008
I’ve done it many times in the past. I read a book on writing. The author provides his or her secret strategy to becoming a better writer. Not surprisingly, this isn’t that much of a secret strategy at all. It boils down to reading and writing. You get the idea. Read more. Write more. So, I read more and I write more.
But every now and then they reveal a little more about where they gather their ideas from and these are the ones that most often are great strategies for improving one’s writing, but I ignore them again and again or put them off, saying I’m not willing to make that sort of commitment yet. Or, that’s the kind of thing you do when you are a successful writer. Bullocks. That’s the kind of thing you do if you want to write.
I remember in Bird by Bird, Anne Lamott spent a chapter writing about the index cards she carries around to write down those random, but often hilarious and priceless gems, that come to her throughout the day. These moments often strike when we are least prepared, meaning we aren’t sitting at a computer nor do we have a pen and paper out. And when these moments come to us and we have only our brain power to try to pin them down to the ground they often squirm away from us. To combat this problem Lamott carries a card with her wherever she goes. She also leaves stacks of them lying around the house. She quickly jots down a word or a phrase or writes the moment verbatim on the index card.
Lamott isn’t the only writer that I’ve heard of doing this, but she is the only one I can name right now. Bill Bryson comes to mind, but I’m not sure. Regardless, it’s a great idea and one I ignored for far too long. Not anymore. Instead of going with index cards I’ve opted for a memo book that is 3x5 inches. It’s a spiral bound book so I can easily write on both sides of the paper. There are 60 sheets. It cost me $.80.
I started writing in it on August 7.
I won’t stop.
True story. A lot of the fireworks you saw last Friday during the opening ceremonies weren't really there. From NPR:
... during at least one sequence, viewers who thought they were seeing real fireworks burst across the nighttime sky Friday were watching computer generated graphics.
NBC didn't create them — the footage was provided and controlled by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, a Chinese company. A Chinese Olympics official told The Daily Telegraph of
that it would have been too expensive and too dangerous to tape the actual fireworks — though there were actual fireworks set off that night. London
So, the vivid fireworks on the broadcast were really computer graphics created by a team of hundreds of Chinese visual effects specialists who worked for nearly a year to pull it off.
The local Beijing Times, which first revealed it, said there was even slight camera shake introduced to make it seem as though the footage came from a real helicopter flying above.
Read the whole story here.
If you want to see Phelps’ closest race, tune in to the 100 butterfly semifinals tonight and the finals of the event tomorrow evening. Phelps qualified 2nd for tonight’s semifinals, but it is going to remain a very close event.
Also, Phelps has the finals of the 200 IM tonight and that should be fairly close, but I don’t expect it to be as scary as watching the 100 butterfly tomorrow night.
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
Kate and I are dining out on someone else’s tab. I picked up a freelance assignment to do two short reviews of local restaurants and we are visiting the first one, a new pizzeria, tonight.
We were encouraged by the magazine to get drinks as well. Get a feel for the full spectrum of the menu.
If they insist.
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
It was dark in the room except one promising point of light—the TV. Kate was asleep. I was awake, watching the Olympics into the middle of the night and one event had kept me up all night long. The 400 Free Relay. One of the weak links in Phelps’ quest for eight golds.
I tried to stay quiet, but once Lezak (who is 32 by the way!) started closing I sat up in bed and started clapping and yelling. I woke Kate up and probably scared her a lot. There was no containing my excitement. I pointed and laughed at the French. They said they were going to trash the Americans. Well…they didn’t.
That relay was the most amazing swimming event I have ever seen on TV or in person. Phelps’ victory yell was exactly like his celebration following the 800 Free Relay in
Lezak’s comeback was pure magic. The man is ancient in swimming years. He trains by himself. 46.06! That’s not an easy time to match when you are swimming in a pool 25 yards long.
I could not get enough of the speechless French team and Bernard, still in the water, shell shocked that an old man ran him down.
It took me a long time to fall asleep after that relay. I felt like I had just run a sprint. Eventually, I fell asleep whispering amazing out loud over and over again.
Monday, August 11, 2008
I was worried for the man (Phelps) because if the relay team finished second last night it would be a national day of mourning today for most of the sports world and definitely for NBC. You can't watch one hour of their coverage without hearing about Phelps' quest to best Spitz's record of 7 golds. Although it is one of Phelps' goals to do that, the media has made it into a do or die story. I just wish that Phelps' quest could have been kept on the down low so it didn't get blown out of proportion by every single media outlet across the world.
Anyway, I'm not saying he's not going to do it, but if for some reason he finished second in a relay or gets touched out in the 200 free or 100 fly, Phelps' Beijing journey will somehow be spun into a disappointment. I really want Phelps to get eight, but just as much as I want him to get eight, I don't want the media to have that chance.
In the left sidebar click NBC Encore.
Watch the Swimming: Day 3 Finals video.
Fast forward the video until 12 minutes and 30 seconds.
And watch the 400 Free Relay.
Dat's what I'm talking about.
"That was one of the most unbelievable team efforts we've seen in relay Olympic history. And on the other end of things you got Bernard, who did the talking and he's not saying much right...now." - the least annoying of the two NBC swimming commentators coming through with a little zing for the French team.