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Saturday, July 31, 2004

Sports: Cowboys Begin Training Camp 

The Dallas Cowboys kicked off training camp for the 2004 season
Saturday morning in Oxnard, CA.

Expectations were raised by their 10-6 record and playoff appearance, but welcome to the world of the Dallas Cowboys. Quincy Carter has a couple of experienced veterans around him this year, as Eddie George and Keyshawn Johnson were acquired in the off-season. The development of Jason Whitten and Antonio Bryant needs to progress fluidly if the offense is going to improve on last season's performance.

The defense finished first in the league last season, but there were concerns about the pass rush. So the Cowboys went out and signed Marcellus Wiley, formerly of the San Diego Chargers. Wiley had a down year last year, but Bill Parcells hopes that he can return to the production of his Buffalo days. Cornerback is another concern for the team, as Pete Hunter has been thrust into a starting role in only his third season out of a small college. But with Terrence Newman, Roy Williams and Darren Woodson (who incidentally will miss all of training camp after back surgery) patrolling the secondary, Hunter will have some help.

I think it's going to tough to improve on last year's mark. Philadelphia and Washington both improved themselves in the off-season, and the Cowboys still have some questions about the offensive and defensive lines.

But with Parcells around, I wouldn't count them out.


Astros: A Lucky Break 

Two out, down 2-1, top of the 6th, rain threatening a third delay and possible early ending, who do you want at the plate?

Jeff Bagwell apparently. Baggy came through with a huge RBI, and now we have a chance to start over today. What does Phil Garner think?

"Atta boy, Baggy," Garner said. "That was a break right there. That's the first of many to come, big breaks."
Many breaks to come? They better hope so. Semi-doubleheadertoday, and we need both of'em.


Friday, July 30, 2004

Sports: Rangers At a Pivotal Point 

What a difference a week makes.

A week ago, the Rangers beat Mark Mulder and held a 4.5 game lead on the Athletics. 5 losses in 6 games combined with 6 straight Oakland wins leaves the Rangers a game behind Oakland going into game 2 tonight in Arlington.

So it is a pivotal time for the Rangers, as they can't afford to let Oakland get too far ahead in the standings due to their suspect rotation. And it doesn't get any better tonight with Sam Narron making his major league debut (although Narron did go 12-1 with a 3.24 ERA in Double-A Frisco and Triple-A Oklahoma this season).

While other teams can make deals, the Rangers prefer to stand pat and not mortgage the future for a run at the playoffs. And that is probably for the best, but 4 straight last place finishes leaves the area playoff-starved.

So it's up to the current team, and they have shown that they are more than ready to handle any challenge this year. Many proclaimed the team dead when they were swept in Cincinatti in mid-June, but the Rangers turned right around that weekend and swept the world-champion Marlins.

It's time to do it again. Baseball logic says that pennant races are won in September, but statistics show that very few teams make up deficits even as small as 4.5 games after July 31.

Sam Narron, Ryan Drese and Nick Regilio have a lot of weight on their shoulders this weekend, but the Rangers need them to pitch well and if nothing else gain a mental advantage on the A's.

Damn it's nice to still be talking about the Rangers when the Cowboys begin practing.

Update: The Rangers quickly fall behind 4-0 in game 2 as Sam Narron is the victim of a couple of long balls. But they string together two runs in the 6th, load the bases in the 8th and get a single from Laynce Nix that scores two runs (the second on a gutsy call by third base umpire to send David Dellucci, who barely beats the tag) to tie it. And then Michael Young, who should get consideration for MVP, singles to left, scoring two more runs. Coco Cordero comes in and allows a run, but still slams the door shut for his 31st save of the year.

And the Rangers are in first place once again.

F Larry Walker, btw. He rejected a trade to the Rangers today.


Astros: S.O.S. (Save Our Season) 

The Reds are in a tailspin, and ideally, Houston needs to sweep in Cinci. Can it happen? Let's keep those fingers crossed.

I, unfortunately, have no time to write a preview. Enter Stain's genius once again. It's been a while since I referenced his OWA column, but it should more than suffice.


Politics: Silly Statement Alert! 

Henrey Cisneros:

"We certainly can make Texas a blue state again ... Texas at heart is not a Republican state."
I beg to differ. Maybe an influx of Yankee emigrants in the past decade or so has helped the Liberal cause, but the Lone Star State is solid GOP country, as evidenced by the 2002 state elections that saw Republicans sweep just about every major state office.

Look at a county-by-county map of the 2000 election, too. You'll find a few scattered blue specks in a sea of red. Texans don't just vote Republican. They overwhelmingly vote Republican. President Bush took about 60% of the vote last time, and he'll probably repeat that this November.

The Republican party owns the Governor's mansion, both U.S. Senate seats, a majority in the U.S. House, and it has captured the state in each presidential election since 1980. Cisneros' statement is laughable, at best.


Politics: The Morning After 

Most of the blogosphere, it seems, believes that Kerry only energized his base last night, and that he failed to make an impression on the undecideds out there. I disagree.

What were the prevailing themes of his speech? God, Country and Values. What appeals to your average American? God, Country and Values. If standing behind God and pledging possible military action appeals to that base (and I mean the Democratic delegates, most of whom are probably to the Left of the traditional Democratic Left), then the Democratic Party has become significantly more conservative in the past few weeks.

I had a conversation with my friend Robert last night about Kerry's speech. We both came to the same conclusion: the rampant applause from the delegates reinforces that most of those on the Left prefer soundbites to substance (a comment I've made time and time again). Outside of the pledge to drive more funds toward social programs, very little of Kerry's speech targeted Liberal ideals. And the majority of it dealt with national defense and military policy.

I'm eager to find out what kind of bounch Kerry gets from the convention. I still don't think it was a very good speech. Its rah-rah aspect might sway some undecided voters (frankly, Kerry could, and probably should, move further to the Right, since the A.B.B. portion of his base will stick with him no matter what), but its transparency leaves a lot of fodder for the GOP to work with come September.


Thursday, July 29, 2004

Politics:Where's R. Lee Ermey? 

Random thoughts about John Kerr's acceptance speech.

"I'm John Kerry and I'm reporting for duty."

How great would it have been had R. Lee Ermey jumped on stage and barked, "BULL-SHIT, I'm gonna call you Candidate Snowball."

"John Edwards has lived the American Dream."

I have to wonder, does Edwards' dad ever get a little annoyed at this B.S. story about Edwards crawling from the ash-heap? It certainly doesn't make him look very good. If I busted my ass to raise a kid and 40 years later he made me sound like a backwoods pauper, I'd be pretty pissed.

"There were no Democrats. There were no Republicans. There were only Americans. And how we wish it had stayed that way."

Kerry and his party didn't exactly work too hard to maintain that. I'm not saying that partisanhip is the fault of just the Dems, but come on.

Rebuilding Alliances

I keep hearing the Kerry camp say that America must rebuild alliances so we can wage a more effective war against Terrorism. I'm curious, though, what alliances will assist us with that? Russia? France? Frankly, I don't want their help. Most Americans don't.

Family Values

Apparently it's time to start valuing families. Pardon me if I don't take that notion seriously, being as it comes from a man that voted against the Partial Birth Abortion Ban. Seriously, do you really care about children, Sen. Kerry? Quit grandstanding about values.

Check out VodkaPundit

Stephen Green is live-blogging the speech, and his computer is apparently a little faster than mine. This line is greatness.

The crowd is chanting "USA USA USA!!!"

How many of them were chanting that when Baghdad fell?
"I see one America, Red, White and Blue"

Well then you better alert your VP Nominee. I think he missed that memo.

Kerry on Faith

Now I actually like this section. Yes, we do need to make sure we're on God's side. Does the majority of your party agree? I think not. Oh, and I don't think George W. Bush "wears his religion on his sleeve," either.

Kerry on Science

Hey, I'm all for scientific progression. But after his speil about the Wright Brothers and JFK's promise of a moon mission, I hope Kerry keeps all of that in mind when President Bush talks about a renewed space program.


Astros: Anyone Hear That Sound? 

It's the Astros' playoff hopes getting flushed down the drain.

Thanks, Tim Redding.


Blog: Slow Activity 

Glenn Reynolds, yesterday:

I'LL BE DRINKING BEER tonight. I strongly recommend that you do the same.
It appears that Reynolds and I both had the same Wednesday evening plans. Of course I doubt that he was celebrating a hard-fought softball win. Anyway, as I'm struggling this morning, while trying to play catch-up at work, blogging will be somewhat slow today.

By the way, if you're ever in Austin and looking to take in some of the local flavor, I suggest avoiding The Tavern. Sure, it's an "Austin Orignial," but I don't think the place has cleaned its taps since it first opened (back in the days when air conditioning was a novelty).


Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Politics: 2008 Election 

All the hoopla about Barack Obama's address yesterday has me thinking about Presidential competitions that I'd like to see in 2008(granted that this is based solely on the premise that GWB wins in November).

Barack Obama (DEM) v. J.C. Watts (GOP): The late, great Tupac Shakur once rapped, "And though it feels heaven-sent, we ain't ready to have a black President." I bet Pac would change his mind if these two young, charismatic guys faced off.

John Edwards (DEM) v. Bill Frist (GOP): The Boy Wonder and the Senate Majority Leader, MD, can battle down in Dixie. I don't imagine all the yankees north of the Mason-Dixon would go for this, but maybe Major League baseball could just add another 25 Yankees-Red Sox games to the schedule and they'll be too preoccupied with that to care about the White House.

Hillary Clinton (DEM) v. Condi Rice (GOP): My Indian roommate asked me last night why America has never had a female President. I didn't have an answer, but these two represent the most likely Presidential hopefuls from their respective parties.

Hillary Clinton (DEM) v. Jeb Bush (GOP): I highly doubt America would ever elect another Bush. But I would like to think we'd never elect another Clinton, either. The two families have dominated U.S. politics for more than 15 years, so they might as well keep it going.

Tom Daschle (DEM) v. Trent Lott (GOP): Remember the old "Loser Leaves Town" wrestling matches? This race could be more like "Loser Leaves Politics... Forever." Preferably the winner would as well.


Astros: Handicapping the Wild Card (short term) 

After last night's 10-3 win against Arizona, Houston moved back to .500, five games behind San Fran and San Diego in the Wild Card race. The Astros sit in a tie with Florida for 5th place in those standings.

With two more games against the D'Backs, and a weekend series with fading Cincinnatti, Houston has an opportunity to gain ground, because the teams in front of them continue to beat up on each other. The Phillies and Cubs battle this weekend, while SF and SD, who finish their series today and tomorrow, travel to division-leading St. Louis and LA, respectively.

I think there are two options here: 4-1 or 5-0. Keep in mind that Atlanta comes to town on Monday. It would be nice to have a little leeway against them. After that comes a nine-game stretch with Montreal and New York, but if the Stros are still five back at that point, at-or-below .500, then it's all but over.


Politics: Wictory Wednesday! 

If you've watched any of the Democratic Convention the past few days, like me, then you're probably expecting a post-convention bounce for the Kerry campaign. Centrist rhetoric from the likes of Bill Clinton and Barak Obama could sway undecided voters.

That means that every Wictory Wednesday from here on out is crucial in the battle for the White House. Every vote counts, so head over to the B/C'04 site and help out any way you can. One thing everyone can do is to make sure that their friends are registered to vote -- especially in those key states like Florida, Pennsylvania and Ohio.


Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Politics: Introducing Barack Obama 


I really wish this guy was on our side. If you missed his speech, then I would suggest finding a transcript. He might have trumped President Clinton. No wonder I keep reading that he's a rising star within the Democratic party.

I just caught the last few minutes of his address, but he really made a strong impression. His section about uniting the country is something that I wish every legislator and pundit would heed. He's right. There's only one America: Republican, Democrat, black, white, latino... we're all one nation. It's time to come together and make it happen.


Politics: O'Reilly v. Hollywood 

O'Reilly interviewed Ben Affleck tonight. Gret, another Hollywood elitist? Not quite. I was impressed with Affleck's candor and charisma, things that his movies have lacked for some time now, and I have to say that I have a newfound respect for him.

As O'Reilly put it, "he gets it." Unlike the typical Hollywood liberal, Affleck argued his position with substance. He laid out the issues that mattered most to him, and he didn't resort to vitriolic attacks.

When asked his personal feelings toward President Bush, Affleck shied away from the hatred expressed by his peers. He labeled Bush "collegial and affable," as well as "patriotic." That doesn't mean that he agrees with most of Bush's policy, but he he offered respectful debate instead of smug quips.

So what issues concern Affleck? The economy, veterans' benefits and the need for multi-lateral action in the War on Terror (including any pre-emptive action in other nations). O'Reilly also posed the same question to Affleck that he did to Ralph Nader last night (If you had multiple reports from foreign intelligence agencies that placed WMDs in Saddam's arsenal, how would you act?) and Affleck, unlike a defensive Nader, responded with a much more poised response. He would seek out true coalitions before acting.

Now I don't necessarily mesh with Affleck's views here. I like Bush's progress with the economy, I think veterans are in good hands with the administration, and I refuse to place international relations above American security. But he's willing to discuss the issues in a civilized manner, because of what he believes, and I can at least respect that.

O'Reilly also hosted Michael Moore. I was busy giving my Indian roommate a civics lesson, though, so I missed it. If you saw it, I'd be interested to hear any thoughts you might have, so don't be afraid of the comments section.


Sports: A Simmons Rant 

Poor Sports Guy. He didn't get to see the Sox and Yankees play Saturday afternoon, so he channels his anger toward MLB's national broadcast blackout policy.

How is it good for the sport of baseball not to make an important game available to a large percentage of the country? What's the logic? Seriously? Do they assume that I like baseball so much that A) they can black out my favorite team; B) I will happily watch a game involving two teams that I normally couldn't care less about; and C) I won't hold a grudge about this?
The thing is, Simmons got to see the Giants play St. Louis. I'd argue that it was just as important a game, if nor more, than New York-Boston.

I cannot begin to express how little I care about the plight of the Yankees and Red Sox fans. When did this become the only MLB game that matters? Sure, they played an exciting ALCS last season, but the fact is that the Yankees own the Red Sox. They own them. And until Boston wins a game of consequence over their northeastern neighbors, then this is simply not that great a rivalry, much less the best in sports.

Everytime ESPN spends three segments pimping another game bewteen the teams, I want to freaking puke. It's eastern bias/arrogance run amok. Don't believe me? Continue reading Simmons' whiney tantrum:

Here's the point: On Saturday, July 24, 2004, the customers at Mandalay Bay's sports book were treated to exactly one baseball game all afternoon: a riveting contest between the Cardinals and Giants. I'm sure there were pennant implications and stuff. It's just that I don't care. I don't care about the National League. I care about the Red Sox.
No, here's the point, Bill. There are 30 MLB teams. A good third of them are still in the hunt for postseason berths, and last I checked, your Sox are in about the same piss-poor shape as my Astros (i.e., hanging on by a thread). So your mediocre team deserves no more national coverage than a dozen other squads.

The sad thing is that New York and Boston did square off on ESPN's Sunday night game. In fact, I'd wager that at least half of the teams' meetings this year have drawn national coverage. God forbid one game go untelevised.

Poor Sox fans.


Politics: Michael Moore Invades Crawford, TX 

I'm semi-involved in the Austin Townhall Conservative Meet-up group, and I heard about the following event via their list-serve.

According to Paul McDaniel at the Crawford Peace House, in a phone call this afternoon, Michael Moore will indeed be in Crawford for a special screening of his antiwar documentary film Fahrenheit 9/11 along with his co-producer Jeff Gibbs and it won't have to be seen on a sheet hung from the side of a barn either! A business owner from Austin will be lending the Crawford Peace House "top notch" movie equipment. The Austin donors will shortly be opening a new theater in Bellmead, on the outskirts of Waco, dubbed the Alamo Draft House that includes the option of having dinner and a beer instead of the usual popcorn with a not-for-first-run film.

According to Paul McDaniel "All are welcome," especially those who intend to vote for President Bush in November. The group is suggesting an $8.00 donation to enter. Skip Landos, founder of Friends of Peace said recently that the screening would be a fundraiser for the Peace House, but that GOP members are invited to come for free.

"We don't want to play it just for people who already know what it says and already agree with it," Landos told the Waco Tribune Herald last week. "We want to play it for people who don't read the progressive news wire and that sort of thing...and encourage some sort of dialogue...We want to invite anyone who shows a Republican (voter) registration card to enter for free."

Michael Moore himself has invited President Bush to the Crawford showing in an open letter addressed to the President on the home page of his website. In it Moore says, "I write to invite you to the inaugural showing of "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Crawford ... Wednesday, July 28 at dusk. I am very much looking forward to this Crawford premiere because, after all, so much of the film is set there in the months leading up to 9/11."
President Bush will remain in Crawford for the next few days, respectfully maintaining a low profile while the Democrats hold their convention.

I would expect an enormous GOP response to this little publicity stunt. If Moore wants to bait the President, then perhaps he should have chosen a venue in liberal-friendly Austin. Crawford is in the middle of the Bible Belt, and people take their patriotism seriously in that part of the state. I think he might be in for an unpleasant evening.


Movies: Star Wars III Has a Name 

Revenge of the Sith.

Am I the only one who has noticed that "Sith" has a distinct anagram -- one that goes a long way in describing the last three installments of the series?

I'm assuming that the first trailers should start hitting theaters this fall. Even despite the barrage of Star Wars schmaltz that dates back to the final half of Jedi, I remain a fan of the franchise.

I'm just hoping that Lucas can pull off this next movie. When you think about it, there's not much left in the way of surprises. Fans already know what needs to happen between the end of Clones and the begiing of the original movie.


Music: 'Drag it Up' Arrives! 

I just bought my copy of the Old 97's sixth album, "Drag it Up." A hectic work schedule might keep me from listening to it until tonight, but I should have a review later, if not tomorrow.

It also dawned on me that I didn't post anything about their Friday night show at Stubb's. That was due to a 9 a.m. softball game Saturday, followed by an impromptu roadie to see the family in Temple.

The guys put on a good show. I would have liked to see less off of Satellite Rides (it dominated the set list) and more older stuff, but they brought their usual energetic best, so it's hard to complain. Surprisingly the band only played a few (I think I counted four) tracks off of DIU.

Best news of the night? I could have been drunk and merely thought I heard this, but I believe that Rhett said they'd be back in town in September for Austin City Limits Festival. That means a likely full show that weekend on top of the festival set.


Politics: As if Voting GOP Wasn't Attractive Already 

The Hill presents the 50 most Beautiful People on Capitol Hill.

I looked through the list and on the female side, the vast majority of the best-looking girls are Republicans. I'm not surprised.


Politics: What Can You Say? 

There's just no denying how effective Bill Clinton is at communicating his message. Last night's address to the DNC proved that yet again.

Clinton jumped on board the "Two America's" train that Kerry/Edwards has apparently decided will be the running theme of the campaign, and he ran with it in a manner that neither Kerry nor Edwards could ever hope to match.

I can't stand the guy, but he exudes charisma, and when he speaks, people pay attention. Several points that I thought particularly strong:

-His spiel about benefitting from the GOP tax cuts (I never thought I'd be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress. I almost sent them a thank you note for my tax cuts until I realized that the rest of you were paying the bill for it. And then I thought better of it) had the audience going.

-He was able to superficially appear cordial toward President Bush (we've got to choose for president between two strong men who both love their countries, but who have very different world views).

-He played up Kerry's military experience at his own expense (During the Vietnam War, many young men, including the current president, the vice president and me, could have gone to Vietnam and didn't. John Kerry came from a privileged background. He could have avoided going too, but instead, he said: Send me).

Now I don't necessarily agree with all of that. Many of the audience members that cheered his line about the tax cuts were themselves beneficiaries of said cuts. And I don't care how self-deprecating the remark, Clinton has no grounds for assailing President Bush's service record. None. Still, it was effective rhetoric. These conventions are mainly stages for preaching to your choir, but I think Clinton's speech, at least in those areas, spoke to a lot of the undecideds out there.

That doesn't bother me. Though I disagree with 99% of the Democratic platform, I'll concede that they do make the occasional cogent point. However, several parts of Clinton's speech came close to infuriating me:

- His characterization of the Right (Republicans in Washington believe that American should be run by the right people ... in a world in which America acts unilaterally when we can and cooperates when we have to. They believe the role of government is to concentrate wealth and power ... leaving ordinary citizens to fend for themselves on important matters like health care and retirement security) was textbook Democrat; play up sterotypes and create fear.

- Does he honestly think his record on terrorism was strong enough to criticize President Bush (we live in an interdependent world in which we cannot possibly kill, jail or occupy all of our potential adversaries. So we have to both fight terror and build a world with more partners and fewer terrorists)

- He's apparently still upset about not speaking at President Reagan's funeral (Now, we tried it their way for 12 years. We tried it our way for eight years. Then we tried it their way for four more. But the only test that matters is whether people were better off when we finished than when we started. Our way works better).

Last I checked, trying it "their way for 12 years" led to the most significant Geo-political climate shift of the last century. And as far as building a world with more partners is concerned, our Coalition of the willing in Iraq really only lacked a handful of Western nations, and Saddam could have had an arsenal aimed in their direction and they still wouldn't have joined us. In the end it didn;t matter, because the most volatile area in the world today now has its second taste of Democracy. So I fail to see how their way "works better."

I also didn't like the way his "We chose to form a more perfect Union" ending created this impression that the Democratic Party was responsible for all of the sweeping change in America's past. But it was more fluff than substance, so I'll give him a pass.

The Kerry campaign had to have been giddy over Clinton's performance. He summed up their message better than Kerry or Edwards have even come close to doing. And as a staunch Bush supporter, I'm a little worried about the spark or momentum that the Democrats might have gained last night.

Fortunately Ted Kennedy headlines tonight, so I'm sure his partisan tomfoolery will erase at least some of the bump that Clinton created.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Astros-Snakes 7/26 

It's a laugh-a-minute at Minute Maid tonight, because Yvette the promotions girl is in the booth with Bill and Bill.

First she mentions that this Thursday, the first 5000 adults get a t-shirt featuring Carlos Beltran. Just as she's finishing, the camera cuts to Beltran, who's right in the middle of a ball-scratching session.

Then she pulled out the Jeff Bagwell nesting doll, which kids can claim during some game soon. I really wasn't paying close enough attention to know when. I did listen closely enough to hear the following exchange:

Yvette: See how cute that is!
Bill Brown (matter-of-factly): It is cute.
Bill Worrell (under his breath, but audible): It's not cute
The befuddled looks were priceless. Yvette has a perma-smile, and Brown had one of those "I can't believe I'm saying this" expressions. Worrell's was more of a "You just said Jeff Bagwell is cute and I'm never letting you forget it."

The actual game isn't as funny. Pettitte gave up two solo HRs in the 1st, and until Jeff Kent squeaked an RBI single through the left field side just now, Houston had gone 1-for-7 with runners in scoring position. 2-1 Snakes after five.

Sacrificial Lamb

Down 2-1 in the 8th, with one down and Ensberg at first, Mike Lamb put a ride on one. Unfortunately it died at the right-center warning track. Steve Finley gunned down Morgan at second when he tried to tag and advance.

9-1-2 in the 9th. We need a little magic here.

No magic tonight

Here we go, guys. Gotta win the next three now.


Politics: Bu-shhhhh! 

The Kerry camp is asking all speakers at this week's Democratic Convention to refrain from Bush-bashing. Is Al Gore capable of anything else these days?

With the Astros facing a win-or-else situation, I'll only end up watching bits and pieces of the Boston 'D' Party, but I'll try to offer some thoughts. Democratic strategist and FoxNews contributor Susan Estrich quipped that viewers should count how many times they hear President Bush's name tonight. She also added that Kerry advisors vetted, and rejected, as many as 12 speeches because of anti-Bush content.

Anyone want to keep count?

UPDATE: Al Gore: "Take it from me, every vote counts ... And this time, let's make sure that every vote is counted."

It's like some DNC lackey wrote a speech in January 2001, and then distributed it to every party figure for use whenever speaking to a crowd of more than three people.


Sports: More Ricky Fallout 

The Baseball Crank, back from vacation, says that Ricky Williams' retirement makes him "feel old."

It makes me feel, well, confused.

Matt and I partied in the vicinity of RW several times in college. I hesitate to say that we partied with him, because it would be a blatant falsehood. But we were friends with a guy named Richard Land, who was a year behind us (Matt and I started at UT in 1995, the same year as Ricky), and Richard played football.

There's a completely separate blog entry that I'll someday hash out about our friendship with Richard, but for the purposes of this post, it's enough to say that we hung out with him, and that when we did, it was often the same spot as other football players (e.g., Ricky Williams). The most popular football hangout in those days was the now-defunct Buffalo Club, just off of Sixth Street.

My first experience with inebriation actually came there, after the New Mexico State game in 1996. Their infamous Long Island Iced Teas hit me like a Ricky Williams stiff-arm, and as I sat on the side, watching the room spin, I looked over to see Ricky a few feet away, doing a little spinning of his own. I guess that was before his Personal Anxiety Disorder manifested itself.

Anyway, that marked the first of several times that we saw him out downtown, or wherever. Who knew then that he'd eventually win the Heisman, or become an NFL All-Pro? I certainly never anticipated that he'd vault to the forefront of elite NFL backs, only to walk away from it all at the ripe old age of 27.

Twenty-seven. I'm the same age as a retired NFL superstar. I don't even think that I've fully started my career, and his is over. It makes me feel old. It also makes me feel like I did something wrong somewhere along the way.

Damn. Twenty-seven. See ya on the golf course in another 30 years, Ricky.


Politics: A Conservative Reaction to President Kerry? 

Dean Esmay asks "an interesting question for conservatives."

So even if [President Kerry] does things I disagree with in conducting foreign policy, I will say, "I respectfully disagree with the President's directions, but I will do my best to express my dissent respectfully and hope that I am mistaken and that he has made the proper decisions after all."

That's my pledge. How many of you will take a similar one?
I will. I did during the Clinton Era, and I expect I should do the same no matter who sits in the Oval Office. There's a scene in one of the later Band of Brothers episodes that shows Captain Sobel (David Schwimmer) walk past Major Winters with a defiant stone face. "We salute the rank, not the man," Winters barks. That's true of the Presidency. Respect the office, even if you don't respect the man.

Looking at it from another way, let us reference Al Gore, whose last intelligent comment came in his 2000 concession speech: "And while there will be time enough to debate our continuing differences, now is the time to recognize that that which unites us is greater than that which divides us." I believe that remains true, even in spite of the partisan bickering that has marked this campaign.

We're all still Americans, and I think we want to see a strong America -- we just have different ideas of what that is. If Kerry gets elected with a mandate, then I think he will have earned a "honeymoon" to push across his agenda. I won't like it, but that's life. Now what I won't stand for is any cession of American soveriegnty to the U.N., or any other international body. I have a nagging feeling that Kerry would place world opinion above American interests, and that's not okay with me.

But that's a different debate, contrary to the spirit of the original hypothetical.


Astros: Bring on the Snakes! 

Can you believe that I haven't done an Astros preview since the break?

I don't think I have to stress how important this week's series is with Arizona. The D'Backs have lost 14 in a row -- 14 IN A FRIGGING ROW, you think we Astros fans have been hurting? -- and if that streak significantly alters in Houston, then you can go ahead and put up a "For Sale" sign in both clubhouses come Thursday afternoon.

I look for Houston to win their second four-game set this year (they're 1-3 so far: won 3-1 v. Pittsburgh, lost 3-1 v. LA, and got swept by Chicago and Cinci), and I don't thnk that a sweep is out of the question.

Here are the pitching matchups:

Monday Andy Pettitte (6-3, 4.14) v. Brandon Webb (3-11, 3.82)
Tuesday Roy Oswalt (9-8, 3.92) v. Edgar Gonzales (0-2, 12.46)
Wednesday Roger Clemens (11-3, 2.85) v. Casey Fossum (2-9, 6.17)
Thursday Tim Redding (4-6, 5.66) v. Lance Cormier (0-2, 14.73)

Poor Brandon Webb. His ERA is lower than every Astros starter not nicknamed The Rocket, yet he sports an impressive .214 winning percentage.

The only game that worries me is Thursday's tilt: (a) Redding pitched well this past weekend, but he's still Tim Redding (b) The day game after a night game means that Garner will shuffle the lineup to rest at least one of the older guys (granted, that's not necessarily a horrible thing), and (c) We all know about Houston bats and rookie pitchers.

You know that blackout period that spacecraft faces upon re-entry? Because of magnetic fields or whatnot, NASA can't communicate with the astronauts for a period of time once they enter the Earth's atmosphere, and it's always a tense few minutes as the control room awaits word that their crew didn't burn to a crisp. Well that's this series in a nutshell, except Astros fans face four excruciatingly nerve-wracking days.

Re-entry to Earth seems like a rudimentary exercise, but any of a number of slight malfunctions can spell disater for the flight. For Houston, a team that looks re-energized and focused on righting the ship, a potential sweep is there for the taking. But the margin of error is slim, and if something goes wrong, then the renewed hope of the past week could evaporate like a shuttle with a defective heat shield.

Of course we won't have a communications blackout to endure, but we will have Bill Worrell. The difference is negligible.


Blog: I've Been Blogging Since April... 

...And I still have no idea what the hell a "Trackback" is.

Could someone explain?


Politics/Baseball: Red Sox Fandom 

John Kerry threw out the first pitch before the Yankees-Red Sox game last night.

Okay, I've had it. It's bad enough that ESPN force-feeds us this one-sided rivalry, as if it were the only baseball series that matters, but now I have to see John Kerry while I'm trying to watch baseball?

Screw that. Kerry and his fellow lib Ben Affleck can keep the Sox. Constantly seeing their mugs in crowd shots at Fenway has decreased my interest in Boston. For all I care now, the Yanks can steamroll their way to a division title.

And then Texas can beat their ass.


Sunday, July 25, 2004

Astros: Moving on Up? 

You can't really call something a turning point in the present. Those labels come long after the fact. But if Houston manages to climb back into the playoff picture come September, then today's win over Milwaukee might possibly represent THE day that things turned around.

After splitting the first two games of the series, today saw the Astros' season hinge on the most important rubber match of the campaign thus far. A loss meant that Houston would drop back two games below .500, while losing ground on a division rival -- one of nine teams in front of them in the Wild Card race. A win, though, would vault them into seventh on that list, and even their record on the year.

The result? A dominating 9-1 win, which might just signal the spark that Astros fans have waited for during the past six weeks.

The highlight most certainly came with the game pretty much in hand. Jeff Kent took exception to a horrendous called-strike two in the 7th, and he took his time returning to the batter's box. Home umpire Chris Guccione tossed Kent, but to the fans' delight, Kent stuck around long enough to cover home plate in dirt after a fiery shouting match with Gucchione.

Enter Jose Vizcaino. Facing two strikes already, Viz lined a shot into center, and Lance Berkman just beat a throw home to ignite a three-run rally that extended Houston's lead to 9-0. From what I could gather via the TV broadcast, Minute Maid Park was as electric at that moment as it's been all year long.

I'm not ready to proclaim Kent's Lou Pinella impression as 2004's "Gregg Zaun Memorial Grand Slam Motivating Moment," but this team seems to have regained some of its passion and desire to win lately, and that breeds both confidence and optimism, at least with me.

So what now? Houston hosts the D'Backs for a four-game set this week -- a Randy Johnson-free four-game set at that. They sit five games behind Wild Card co-leaders San Diego and San Francisco, who play each other four times this week. That means that taking even three games will go a long way.

As Bill Brown noted on today's broadcast, Houston doesn't have the luxury of thinking more than a game ahead at any given time right now. But with four wins in their past five games, they're getting closer. Now they just have to keep it going.


Ricky Williams Retires??? 

Ricky Williams, 27, informed the Miami Dolphins that he plans to retire, one week before training camp begins for the 2004 season.

If true, it's an appropriate odd end to an event-filled career for the former University of Texas tailback.

"I just don't want to be in this business anymore," said Williams to the paper. "I was never strong enough to not play football, but I'm strong enough now. I've considered everything about this. Everyone has thrown every possible scenario at me about why I shouldn't do this, but they're in denial. I'm happy with my decision."

Williams was in Hawaii when he spoke to the paper.

"I'm finally free," Williams said in a phone interview. "I can't remember ever being this happy."

And I'm sure the NFL and fans will love this one:

Williams, who was busted by the NFL twice for marijuana use since 2002, told the newspaper he was tired of trying to skirt NFL regulations against smoking pot, and said he has used chemicals that enabled him to avoid detection in subsequent tests.

The issue did not play a prominent role in his decision, he added, but was just one example that he was no longer willing to meet the obligations required of professional athletes and celebrities in America.
Thanks to the New York Post for that tidbit.

I guess it wouldn't be Ricky if he didn't do things a little differently, but this really puts the Dolphins in a bind.  But I guess if your heart isn't in it, that could have caused even more damage to the team.


Friday, July 23, 2004

INsite: The Pregame Tailgate (August 2004) 

(note: The August INsite hits stands July 30)

The Pregame Tailgate
by Andrew Fox

If John Steinbeck were alive today and a Houston Astros fan, then he would most certainly label 2004 as the “summer of his discontent.” As it is, Steinbeck is dead, kind of like the hype in H-Town.

Most critics agree that he was overrated anyway. Again, kind of like the hype in H-Town.

The most uplifting offseason in team history has turned into a Shakespearean tragedy for the Astros. The team that many thought would win 100 games has piled up loss after loss, blatantly embracing its home city’s penchant for disappointment.

As of press time, the ‘Stros sit 14 games behind division-leading St. Louis and six games out of the Wild card spot. If I felt like resorting to cliches, this is the point where I’d drop in a Rick Renner-esque “Houston, we have a problem.”

Dr. Marvin Olasky, conservative pundit and UT journalism professor extraordinaire, used to stress in his “Critical Thinking for Journalists” class that good writers avoid cliches. He also used to stress in his “Sports Feature Writing” class that sports break your heart. In my time as a quasi-writer and as a sports fan, I’ve learned that he is right on both accounts.

I’m not going to launch into a spiel about how long I’ve cheered for the Astros. Anyone that’s read this column more than once has a good idea of that already. But suffice to say that I don’t remember a season as frustrating as Houston’s in 2004.

Something happened to me tonight, though, while blogging (more on blogging next month) about a rare Astros win streak. Houston swept a two-game series from Arizona, and I decided to use that as a preface for previewing the next few weeks of the schedule.

Something dawned on me. The Astros, as poorly as they’ve played since May, still have a chance. Granted it’s a small chance – the equivalent of Mack Brown exiting the Cotton Bowl each October without having to apologize to Texas fans – but a chance nonetheless.

For the rest of July and most of August, Houston embarks on a tour of the NL’s most notable doormats. With a little luck, Houston could climb their way back to respectability. Keep in mind that’s respectability relative to the .500 All Star break Astros, not the preseason NL favorites Astros. If they don’t, well then we still have Texas football to extend our discontent into the fall.

I suppose that’s another team that has made a habit of killing hype. Yet training camp opens in just a few weeks, and for the first time in months, I find myself starting to feel a football buzz.

The rumblings from around the Forty Acres suggest that we can expect good things from the Horns this season. Sure, we hear that every year from the Mack Brown spin machine, we can all hope that the good news pans out, right? Now I’m not sure if the overload of burnt orange optimism means that Vince Young has learned to throw a spiral, but who really needs to throw when he can tuck the ball and gallop 40 yards?

I’ll miss seeing Roy Williams, B.J. Johnson and Sloan Thomas streak across Joe Jamail Field this year, but at the same time I’m excited to see what the young crop of WR’s can do. Tony Jeffrey’s veteran presence should help rookies like Eric Enard, Limas Sweed and Jordan Shipley adapt to big-time college football.

The potent ground assault of Young and tailback Cedric Benson also means that the receivers won’t face the pressure of carrying an offense. Benson, I hear, has worked like a beast during the summer. If he hits the ground running (pun intended) in September the way he did during the last half of 2003, then I wouldn’t be surprised to see him top 1,500 yards.

Then there’s the defense. Sure, Bob Stoops’ Sooner offense smoked Texas last October like a turkey leg on the State Fair’s midway, but new defensive coaches Greg Robinson and Dick Toomey should add a degree of nastiness that the team has lacked in recent years.

As I write this, my mind has already begun to drift to that first weekend. Sure, North Texas will be the first of many home snoozers, but few things on God’s burnt orange Earth rival the greatness of the pregame tailgate (again, pun intended). Barbecue pits loaded with meat, overflowing kegs and girls in short shorts, wearing those spaghetti-strap Texas tops and cowboy hats – when you have all of that, who needs football?


Thursday, July 22, 2004

Politics: Intelligence Since 9/11 

I caught Condi Rice's appearance on Hannity and Colmes earlier. This statement stood out to me:

The terrorists only have to be right once. We have to be right 100% of the time.
Absolutely. That's one thing I think some people ignore. Our intelligence only gets mentioned when we fail. Its successes receive no publicity. The vast majority of Americans will never know if and when terrorists have plotted against us and failed.

But we have to be ready 100% of the time. The fact that al Qaeda hasn't hit us in the almost-three years since 9/11 tells me that something has gone right in that span. I find it hard to believe that OBL's minions decided to take a 36-month vacation in the wake of their most glorious victory.

Our intelligence failed us on 9/11, and incidents like Flight 327 show that skepticism of Homeland Security is warranted. All of our skyscrapers are still standing, though, so I'm willing to give a little credit for that.


Astros-Diamondbacks 7/21 

I just couldn't do it tonight. I tried to watch the Stros in a game that they almost couldn't lose, and I napped through most of it. Fortunately I was right. I awoke in time to catch the final inning of a 10-3 blowout.

10-3. I honestly don't remember the last time this team got into double digits. Maybe it was against Texas July 4 weekend. The graphic at game's end said it was their second output of more than 10 runs since May 2.

Carlos Beltran homered twice, leading a four-HR barrage from a suddenly potent Astros attack. Remember that stretch in May where Houston didn't top three runs for three weeks? The seven post-All Star games have seen them score no fewer than four ones in every game save one. That Houston's record in that span is only 3-4 speaks to a shaky bullpen.

So what is the outlook now? The Astros traded for darren Oliver today. I'm not sure what kind of role he'll play. If they can close to within a few games of the Wild card in the next week, then perhaps they'll make a move for relief help.

The next ten games will decide the season. Houston hosts Milwaukee for three games, Arizona for four, and then they travel to Cincinnatti for three. Milwaukee and Cinci both sit in front of Houston in the standings, so they represent an opportunity to catch, and possibly pass, those teams. And four games with Zona, the NL's worst team, who might be on the verge of unloading their only two weapons, represent an opportunity to gain momentum heading into August.

Once August arrives, the Stros face three with long-time nemesis Atlanta, before another "catch-up" stretch -- three with Montreal, three at the Mets and three at Montreal.

Now I'm not going to get ahead of myself, but I see the next three-and-a-half weeks as the opportunity this team needs. They can do this. In the last month we've seen Houston struggle with the best of the best. Series against Texas and Chicago, LA and San Diego, have been brutal. But in the upcoming weeks they play some of the dregs of the league.

The time is now, Astros fans. We're going to get back into this race. We've got 22 games to find out if this team has the heart to achieve what we all they could three months ago. I believe that come Aug. 15, Houston will be at least five games over .500. Will that be enough? We'll see.

But don't give up yet.


Music: Learning to Count 

I keep reading reviews that call the Old 97's Drag it Up the band's sixth album. Does that mean that I was the only peron that bought Early Tracks?

Sure, there was no hype surrounding its release (after Fight Songs and before Satellite Rides), and it wasn't nearly as good as anything else they've done, but Early Tracks is still an Old 97's album and should be considered as such.

Besides, it contains a few pretty good tracks: Harold's Super Service, Eyes for You and W-I-F-E (which was also included on Wreck Your Life).

Pre-emptive Edit: I checked the official site and it lists Early Tracks as an EP, not a full-length album. I suppose I'm wrong then. Eight tracks usually exceeds the length of an average EP, so therein lies my confusion.

Still, if you like the band's old-school twang and grit, then check out Early Tracks.


Blog: Check out 'Austin Bums' 

One of my good friends is a creative genius. Seriously. He comes up with the funniest stuff all of the time. Unfortunately, his planned projects don't always get off of the ground.

Until now.

May I present: Austin Bums. The newest foray into the blogosphere chronicles the characters and antics that comprise Austin's vagrant scene. What can you expect from Austin Bums? Here's a general idea:

I name them. I name the bums. Sometimes they get names because of their look. Sometimes because of demenor. Sometimes because of their accesories. Sometimes because I just feel like it. I like to see what their signs say. How often do they switch them up? Can they spell? Do they work in groups like those Lost World dinosaurs with the face flaps that ate the fat guy at the beginning of the movie? Are they crazy? Do they have some sort of special bummy flair that differentiates them from the rest of the bum Pantheon?

After a while you'll start to truly understand and see the Person behind the Bum. Of course this will be through my eyes and through my twisted view of these panhandling vagrants. Basically this blog is about you...and me...but more likely it's about bums. Truly I don't know what this will be about because I like tangents. And I like to roll with the punches. And I like to go out on a limb. And I like to venture forth, to stray. And I like redundancy.

I'll also look to enlist some of my friends and coworkers and whomever to post their accounts of bums or whatever as well. So next time you see a bum, don't look away and don't reach down into your ashtray to pull out some ashy coinage. Watch. Observe. Report. Give them names. Figure out what they might do if they weren't bums. Make funny faces at them. But be careful, they could be dangerous and have rabies or Rabbit Pox or worst of all SARS or the Bird Flu. So keep your eyes open and your wallet closed.
Austin Bums. Bookmark it, and get ready to laugh.


Politics: The Only Issue 

I'm not the only person that thinks Campaign 2004 boils down to one issue. Michele at ASV says basically the same thing I said a few days ago.
I am a security mom. It's a label I wear with pride. It's the reason I am voting the way I am in November. I don't think a man who is disappointed in the findings of a committee that says our president and our recent past president were doing all they could would make a good president. I don't think a man who knows so little about the people in his entourage would make a good president. And, if I can be frank here, I think John Kerry would be the worst thing to happen to national security since Jimmy Carter. Instead of pandering to me, to the people who are worried about the future of this nation, to the people who want protection and the people who want their safety concerns addressed, he panders to the far left liberals who think making up with France is a priority.

She goes into a little more detail than I did on Tuesday, but we're both making the same argument.


Astros-Diamondbacks 7/20 

I missed last night's game (softball), but I wanted to make a brief post to show that I haven't jumped off of the wagon yet. Looks like we held on at the end for a 5-2 win. It was 3-0 when I checked my wireless web at the park.

Arizona is the worst team in the NL. Houston has to sweep.


Politics: Bush and the Latino Vote 

This Washington Post article makes it sound like Bush's lack of Latino support has left his re-election hopes reeling. In reality, the 2-to-1 Kerry lead among Latinos represents about the same amount as what VP Gore amassed in 2000.

In other words, there's no news here.

The Republican Party has always trailed Democrats in getting minority votes. But Bush -- whose popularity among Hispanics in Texas helped him win two landslide Gubernatorial elections -- has made progress within the demographic. Before GWB, a mid-20% showing within the Latino community was unheard of. The Bush garnered 35% in 2000, and some GOP strategists think that number could climb to 40% this time.

If it does, Bush could win in a walk this November. Three battleground states, as the article mentions, have high Latino populations (Florida, New Mexico and Arizona). And in Florida, the biggest prize of them all, Bush holds a huge advantage over Kerry. Of course you have to dig deep into the article to find that nugget, perhaps because it works against the propoganda piece's biased premise.

I've touched on minority voting patterns before, and once again, I'll give the Kerry campaign (and the Democratic machine) credit for maintaining their stranglehold in this area. They do a masterful job of wooing minorities, even though I think it's more because of the element of fear that they create, as opposed to their ideology.

Every time John Edwards takes the stump and talks about "two Americas," he plays up on that antiquated notion that the GOP doesn't care about the middle-class and lower-class citizens, among whom minorities often fall. It's a great soundbite.

But what does that say about the rest of the country? Bush and Kerry run even in just about every poll. If the Democrats are getting 90% of the Black vote and 60-70% of the Latino vote, then what about the rest of the country? It tells me that when they're unable to prey upon a platform of inequality, their message doesn't get across so well.


Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Pop Culture: I (Don't) Want My MTV 

MTV appears to have a challenger vying for the 18-to-24 demographic's appeal.

The U Network hits college campuses this fall, offering an alternative to the MTV programming that TUN's creator labels "liberal" and "dumbed-down."
"I think a lot more kids are saying, ‘This is insane … 18- to 24-year-olds don’t need to be talked down to,’" said TUN President Lynne White, whose background is in Republican politics. "What this is going to do is it’s going to get these kids' juices flowing, get their creativity flowing."

Challenging MTV's hold on America's youth seems akin to Air America taking on conservative talk radio. We know how that turned out. Still, I wish TUN well. In the past five years or so I've grown so disenchanted with MTV that I feel guilty watching it at all (and I do so on rare occasion).

It's not so much the liberal bias that bothers me.  My problem with MTV lies more in the superficialality of it all. Sure it's entertainment, but I'd like to think that people my age (oops, I'm three years outside the target market now... oh well) care about more than just hooking up and getting hammered.

MTV creates this illusionary world with non-realistic reality fare and fabricated drama. Just the other day I caught part of their "Room Raiders" show, which sends a guy or girl to inspect the bedrooms of three strangers. The snooper then chooses which person he/she would like to go out with, based solely on the contents.  This particular episode's girl chose her man because his lifeguard gear and socer ball (paraphrasing) means he "probably had a good body." She actually posed that very question to the guy's mom during the inspection. Calling this kind of programming "dumbed-down" understates the nature of MTV by a longshot.

Good luck TUN.


Politics: Wictory Wednesday! 

Two nights ago I had a series of bad dreams, which repeatedly woke me during the night. By the time I dragged my groggy self out of bed around 7:30, I could only remember one of the dreams, but it left me with a prescient that I couldn't shake.

The episode had me watching FoxNews on the evening of Nov. 2. The state-by-state scroll on the screen went through one John Kerry win after another. Even Texas fell pray to the map's blue sprawl. By the time it finished, Kerry had ousted George W. Bush in a landslide.

We can't let that happen. Today is Wictory Wednesday. That means that today is a day of action for George Bush supporters. If you have the means, head over to B/C'04 and donate to the campaign. If you don't, then head over there anyway and volunteer. You can register your friends to vote or write a letter to your local newspaper.  Then you can come back here and check out the Wictory Wednesday blogroll (on the sidebar, below my other links), and support your fellow supporters.


Rant: I Hate Spell Check 

There's a scene in Outbreak where Kevin Spacey's character tells Dustin Hoffman to refrain from using an adverb. "It's a lazy tool of a weak mind," he says.

Reverse that (weak tool of a lazy mind) and you can sum up my thoughts on spell check.  Spell Check turns people into "trial and error" spellers. Don't know a word? Just type in whatever slop comes close and let Spell Check fix it for you.

Too bad Spell Check can't fix misuse (is it "too" or "to"? "its" or "it's"?). Those problems are just as prevalent, if not more so, than general misspellings. And since most people opt for the band-aid solution, as opposed to taking 30 seconds to learn the correct way, they go right on making the same errors over and over again.

Here's a suggestion to all of the Spell Check addicts: use Dictionary.Com when you're not sure. It's quick, it's easy, and it can help make the most marginal of spellers look like they know their stuff. You might even learn something.

(note: bear with me if I misspelled anything. I didn't use Spell Check).


Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Astros-Dodgers 7/20 

"This is your life, and it's ending one minute at a time."
- Tyler Durden
In the Astros case, it might look more like: "These are your pennant hopes, and they're ending one inning at a time."
If there's such thing as a must-win in July, then tonight is as close as you'll come. I started drinking 30 minutes ago.

The first rule of...
Maybe Phil Garner scheduled a team screening of Fight Club this afternoon? They're showing a scrappy side so far tonight (no pun intended on either level). Beltran and Bagwell drive in runs, and Berkman scores on an error by Alex Cora (who isn't having too good of a series, defensively). Pete Munro has looked sharp so far, though I'd like to see him put a fastball between Milton Bradley's shoulders before he hits the showers.


I dozed off in the 6th (blame a big early dinner and a few beers), but I swear we were leading 4-1 at the time. Unfortunately I awoke in the 8th to see LA 7-Houston 5 at the top of my screen. I'm thankful that I fell asleep when I did. Had I watched this team blow that lead, I might have lost it.

It's just a game, right? I can try and keep telling myself that. Gagne in to face the 3-4-5 hitters. Who wants to be they go in order? 


Music: Faith and the Old 97's 

Unfortunately, I don't have the time right now to fully go through and discuss this interview with Old 97's bassist Murray Hammond. But suffice to say I think it's a great read.

I'm impressed to find that Murray and I share similar beliefs when it comes to faith and Christianity. Many of the ideas that he touched on are conclusions that I've come to in the past few months as well.

It's a long read, but I'd recommend it to fans fo the band, or anyone who sometimes struggles in their own walk of faith and/or sprituality. There's also a lot of good content, from a strictly musical perspective, describing the creative influences and catalysts that go into songwriting.


Blog: Technical Difficulties 

Something appears wrong with Blogger... Blogging will (hopefully) resume this afternoon).


News: Terror in the Skies II 

Annie Jacobson's account of her encounter with 12 Syrian passengers on a recent cross-country flight spread like wildfire throughout the blogosphere last week. Many people expressed skepticism at her ordeal, which was picked up on by several major news outlet. Of course the NBCs and such scrambled to verify the details, and as best I can tell, no one came up with any certifiable falsehoods in Jacobson's story.

Today Annie offers a follow-up. In it she tells of subsequent correspondences that she had with various airline personnel and journalists. One section, however, stood out to me:

Gary Boettcher, Member, Board of Directors, Allied Pilots Association, said, "Folks, I am a Captain with a major airline. I was very involved with the Arming Pilots effort. Your reprint of this airborne event is not a singular nor isolated experience. The terrorists are probing us all the time."
During a later phone conversation I had with Boettcher, he told me that based on his experience, it was his opinion that I was likely on a dry run. He said he's had many of these experiences and so have many of his fellow captains.They've been trying to speak out about this but so far their words have been falling on deaf ears.

How have multiple "dry runs" managed to stay out of mainstream news coverage? I realize that airlines wouldn't want to immediately alert the public, for fear of decreased travelers. But if Boettcher's comment has even the slightest bit of validity to it, then what is wrong with those passengers?

I've flown on five occasions since 9/11 -- three times to Omaha, Neb., once to Las Vegas, and once to Denver. The first thing I've done on each flight was to scope out my fellow passengers, usually before I even board. And when I see anyone that even looks Middle Eastern, I keep an eye on them for the duration of the flight.

Call me what you want, but there's probably no way in hell that I stay on a flight with eight Arabs, much less 14. And if I did, and they proceeded to engage in the types of activities Jacobson originally detailed, I would guarantee that the story would be in some newspaper the following morning. It would be my duty to do so.

The more I hear about incidents like this, the more I worry that we're staring another 9/11 in the face. America needs to get its act together. We're at war, folks, whether we want to pretend otherwise or not. As far as I'm concerned, this is the only issue facing us right now of major consequence.

Now I don't want to politicize this and turn it into a George W. Bush campaign spiel, but I do think he's the only choice when it comes to the War on Terror, national security, and protecting us from Islamafacists. You're free to agree or disagree, and I can respect the dissenters' opinions, if they truly believe that Bush's policies make us less safe.

But everytime I see a poll onthe news that shows 40% of Americans more worried about Social Security than Homeland Security, I cringe in disbelief. Wake up, America.


Monday, July 19, 2004

Astros-Dodgers 7/19 

Are the Astros finally getting a few breaks? For weeks I bemoaned Lady Luck's cruel lack of favor toward the boys in Brick. But the 3-spot Houston just put on Dodger's starter Wilson Alvarez makes me wonder if fortunes are starting to even out.
Morgan Ensberg's heady bunt single loaded the bases with one out in the bottom of the 2nd. But that unfortunately brought the eight hitter, Raul Chavez, to the plate. You'd expect Chavez to either ground into a double play or strike out, leaving spot starter Brandon Duckworth to strand all three baserunners.
Sure enough, Chavez hit a slow-roller to second. But Alex Cora opted not to turn the double play. Instead he tried to tag Ensberg, and when Morgan just stopped running, Cora hurried his throw to first and skipped one into the Astros dugout. Kent and Bagwell scored, and Brandon Duckworth's subsequent grounder drove in Ensberg (who moved to third on the error). 3-1 Houston.
Oh, and to make it better, Cesar Izturis' lead-off double in the 3rd was erased by Adam Everett's heads-up decision to go to third instead of first.

Ducky's line tonight: 4.2 IP, 6H, 1ER, 4BB, 1K. For a guy that had pitched fewer than 30 innings in the bigs this season, that's not a bad night. Houston's defense assisted Brandon with three twin-killings.
Despite getting some breaks tonight, I'd like to see the Stros add a few more runs. A two-run cushion and four innings for the Houston bullpen don't exactly go together like peanut butter and jelly.

Morgan comes up clutch!
Something is definitely up with this club right now. Sure, the bullpen blew a 3-1 lead, giving up four runs in the 6th. But normally that's when they fold. Instead, Kent and Baggy come up with two-out singles, and Morgan Ensberg, the hero of the 2nd-inning rally, launches a three-run bomb into the Crawford Boxes. 6-5 Houston.
Help on the way?
Brown and Worrell say that Carlos Hernandez could make his way to the bigs soon. He struck out 10 in his most recent AAA start, and last I heard, his velocity was back up to the mid-to-upper-80s. With Wade Miller out for who knows how long, Carlos could make an impact at the bottom of the rotation.
f Milton Bradley
First he ties the game in the 8th (right before Shawn Green put them ahead for good with another one), then he shushes the crowd after catching a 400-foot bomb from Morgan Ensberg. Ensberg put a good lick on a Eric Gagne fast ball, but he made the mistake of hitting it into Minute Maid's cavernous left-center field. Still, Bradley should shut up and play the game.
Another loss
What can you say about tonight's game? The Stros delivered clutch hits, they got a solid start from Brandon Duckworth, and they put themselves in position to win the game. LA just had their number. Houston now falls to 5.5 games back in the wild card standings, and though I refuse to give up hope, every passing day lenghtens the odds a little more. They have to start winning games, they have to start winning series, and they have to start winning them soon.


Music: 'Drag it Up' Almost Here 

The Old 97's 7th CD hits stores one week from tomorrow, and their tour brings them through their home state this weekend.
I haven't fully decided whether I will venture across town to see them at Stubb's, or whether I'll take 35 north toward Dallas (as opposed to "south toward Laredo") and check out the Gypsy Tea Room show.  Perhaps I'll do both. It wouldn't be the first time I've seen them on consecutive days (or the second, or the third).
The pre-release hype for "Drag it Up" has started, and Frank at the Olds' official site has a good collection of reviews. I'll offer my own as soon as I grab a copy.
I should probably warn everyone to expect a blitz of Old 97's-themed posts this week.


Sports: No Mail Needed in San Antonio 

I keep hearing a persistent rumor that the Spurs might sign Karl Malone. If that were to happen, you could officially consider me a non-basketball fan.
Sure, my NBA interest has waned in the past few years, but there remains a part of me that devoutly stood by San Antonio's side during the futility of the pre-Duncan era. At the heart of that futility stood one Karl Malone.
Malone's Jazz squad won just as many championships during that time as the Spurs, but they did advance as far as the NBA Finals on two occasions They also eliminated San Antonio from the playoffs on three occasions. All the while Malone -- along with his daisy duke-wearing sidekick, John Stockton -- cast a tough shadow on a Spurs team that carried a perpetual reputation for playing soft.
While David Robinson collapsed beneath the pressure of Hakeem Olaujuwon, Malone managed to elbow Hakeem's Rockets out of the spotlight.  Even when San Antonio drafted Tim Duncan, it was Malone and the Jazz that showed the Suprs who still ruled the Midwest.
Of course San Antonio finally rose up to capture the NBA title in 1999, and followed up with a non-asterisked version in 2003. But when the Lakers found a way to stab a dagger into the Spurs' hearts this past season, who did they employ to help them out? One Karl Malone.
The mere thought of that guy putting on the silver and black would be enough to chase me away from the NBA, or at least from the Spurs. It would be akin to the Astros signing Tom Glavine. I don't think I could stomach it.
Here's hoping that those vile rumors don't come true.


Sports: I Hate Golf 

Well, I don't actually, but I'm giving myself an ultimatum: Break 110 next time I play, or I'm never playing again.
I joined some friends at Austin's Bluebonnet Hills course for a Friday afternoon round. After playing well on the back nine at Avery Ranch a few weeks ago, I thought that I had a legitimate shot at a low-90s score. Things didn't quite work out that way.
Bluebonnet Hills, I had previously found, has a forgiving quality that embraces bad golfers. Its sloping hills kick bad shots back on to the fairway, and its greens don't require Brad Faxon-like putting prowess.
None of that helped me on Friday. My initial drive on a 300-yard-plus par-4 pushed just right of the fairway, but left me in good shape for an approach shot. Despite my large frame, I'm not a long hitter, and that works to my disadvantage on many courses. But I only had about 150 yards to the green. Then disaster struck. I topped a fairway wood, which sprung up the hill in front of me and popped over the other side. I never found it. Apparently it skipped down the hill and kicked right, into a brushy area that eats balls like a washing machine eats socks.
A 10-minute search found nothing and so I had to replay the shot, picking up a penalty stroke in the process. I incurred similar penalty strokes on the next three holes, after developing a tendency to push almost every shot to the right. That's the thing; I wasn't hitting poor shots. I wasn't hitting great shots either, but the shots I hit were simply not the right ones to hit on Bluebonnet's layout.
I put up a frustratingly bad 68 on the front nine, and tried to compose myself for a turnaround performance coming in. It just wasn't in the cards. I started out with a 9 on No. 10. My drive found the waist-high weeds to the right of the fairway, and it took three shots just to push my way out of them. The downward spiral continued until No. 15, a par-5 that looked wide-open enough to give me a chance at something positive.
I mashed a drive, followed up with a solid approach, and hit a 70-yard pitching wedge to the fringe of the green. It left me with a 24-foot downhill putt, which I deemed more wise than trying to chip.
I just nudged it enough to get the ball rolling. I usually have a decent putter, and my short game was the only highlight of my otherwise futile round. As the ball started down the hill, I knew it was going in. I braced myself, arms extended, and as it fell into the hole, I yelped a Howard Dean "AAARRRRGGGGHHHH." Justin Leonard only thought he could celebrate a long birdie putt. Of course he makes 5 in a round, and I now have one in my lifetime.
Anyway, I closed out the round with 57 on the back nine (I was "only" 13-over on my last five holes, which included two errant drives, both resulting in OB penalty strokes, on a hole I would have otherwise parred). Yes, the final score, a 53-over, 125, was forgettable. But ten years from now, I won't remember that triple-digit abomination. I will, however, never forget watching that ball roll down the hill and touch the bottom of the cup.
Still, three straight awful rounds (117, 110, 125) prove that I am far from a golfer. And if I don't improve soon, there's little point in continuing the charade of trying to become one.


Blog: New Direction 

The light amount of postings in the past week or two might indicate that I've become burned out on blogging after just three months. That's not really true, but I'm definitely burned out on something.
Anyway, I think I want to change things up a little on here. Basically, that means less linking and more original writing. Part my reasoning for starting this blog was that I wanted put my Journalism degree to work -- more than just my monthly INsite pieces. Besides, while most of the links I include have a small bit that I add, the more I think about it, the more I realize that if you just wanted to know what other bloggers think, you'd read their blogs. The ones I usually cite are among the most widely read blogs on the Web.
So that's my plan. I welcome your opinions, too, via the comments section or even e-mail. One last thing: I'm adopting the Baseball Crank's method for labeling entries by category. I know some people like to read my Pop Culture posts, but aren't wild about the Astros stuff. And others might like to skip the politics. With the labels, you can do a CTRL-F search for only the content that appeals to you.


Friday, July 16, 2004

Pop Culture: The Fantastic, er, One 

I can't say that I ever read The Fantastic Four comics, but after seeing this bit of news, I will say that it's about time the foursome got a movie!
Yep, Jessica Alba will appear as the Invisible Woman in the comic book adaptation. She better not spend too much time in the invisible form.


Thursday, July 15, 2004

Terror in the Skies 

I found this fascinating article via Michelle Malkin.

A bit annoying having to click on "more" every 10 seconds, but well worth the read about a couple's recent flight from Detroit to LA and the eerie 9/11 memories it brought up.


The TV Anchorwoman Crush 

We all have one.  My current one?  WFAA's (Dallas) Alexa Conomos. Oh, to sit and eat gyros with Miss Conomos.


McDonald's or Macdonald's? 

I've heard that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but this is a bit ridiculous.  Someone tell The ZONE that imitating The Ticket is okay....copying it might be a bit much.


Pop Culture: I Love(d) the 90's 

I don't think that I'm old enough to enjoy VH1's new "I love the 90's." The thing I enjoy about the 80's version is that I was a kid then, so everything seems so foreign. The clothes were awful, the music was cheesy and everything had this weird feel to it.
But most of the 90's doesn't even seem that long ago. I still listen to Nirvana and Pearl Jam CDs sometimes, and with the exception of owning a jorts-free wardrobe, I don't dress much differently than I did then. Perhaps in five or ten more years, I'll look back on that decade and think the opposite. But the way I see it now, we're STILL living in the 90's.
You know, it just dawned on me that I avoid MTV like the plague, yet I click on VH1 regularly when I channel surf. Maybe I'm old after all. Or just lame.


Wednesday, July 14, 2004

NCAA 2005 Review 

And i swear that I'll get back to political blogging soon...

Anyway, as you would expect, I really do like this game, even more so than the 2004 version.

The defensive AI has improved, which makes running your offense more of a challenge. Money plays don't decide close games anymore, at least not as much.

I haven't played enough of a dynasty yet to get a feel for the discipline feature, but some of the guys on Hornfans.Com have cited that as an annoying function. Apparently players can also transfer, so I've tried to get PT for my reserves. Again, I'm not nearly far enough into the season to see how this new function affects gameplay.

Two of the the big changes, home field advantage and the matchup stick, are a little underwhelming. HFA is a great concept, but I haven't noticed it make much of a difference, save for a botched chip-shot FG that I missed against Florida in The Swamp. The screen shook a lot, but I'm not great at kicking anyway. The matchup stick tells you who's rattled or who's composed, but who cares? Again, I haven't noticed the "composed" guys playing that much better than the "rattled" ones.

The biggest change, I think, is with online play. You can see much more detailed stats about a potential foe, meaning that the cheeseballers can't surprise you with their booty ball. You can scout opponents and see how often they throw Hail Mary's, what percentage of plays they run no-huddle, or how many times they scramble with the QB. You also have the option of playing 32-, 8- or 4-team online tournaments, as well as quick Overtime rules games.

All in all, the guys at EA didn't just recycle last year's games. There's a lot of new stuff worth checking out, and I'm sure that as we approach football season, gamers will spend a lot of prep time exploring its many features.



Jimy Out, Garner In? 

The Astros are expected to name Phil Garner as the club's 14th manager in a little more than a half hour.

As a frustrated fan, I think that it is indeed time for a change. But make no mistake, this move is more PR than baseball. Jimy, despite his flaws (and he has many), is not the inept leader that many Astros fans suggest. I don't think he deserves to get villified the way he does, and he doesn't come close to deserving the full blame for the anemic offense of the past six weeks. I also think that Astros fans deserve any bad press they receive for unnecessarily -- and I might add classlessly -- booing Williams before last night's All-Star game.

It's a bad situation, so sayanora, Jimy. But don't worry, you'll land on your feet. Williams isn't the best in the bigs, but he's far from the worst.

Speaking of...

What do I think about Garner? I think that he's done nothing as a major league manager. His stints with Milwaukee and Detroit never came close to producing titles. But he was a fan favorite in his six seasons with Houston (81-87), and also during his coaching days (89-91). Again, it's a PR move. Garner remains popular with Houston fans and with the organization. If nothing else, he provides a friendly face, and perhaps a spark.

I'm not convinced that he'll provide much more than that, but I will gladly eat crow if he proves me wrong. Please do, Scrap Iron. You'll endear yourself to the few thousand of us still left on the wagon, even if we just make it into the final week with playoff hopes alive.

Most of the Houston fanbase raised the white flag weeks ago, despite sitting just a few games back in the Wild Card race. That's fine with me. I've stuck through truly bad teams for years, when hope was a foreign word. The Stros have a little life left in them, I think. Whether it's Garner that brings that out, or whether they just sack up and play like they're capable of playing, I feel that we'll see a more focused, determined team in the next few weeks.

I've got NCAA 2005 ready, though, in case it doesn't work out that way.


Tuesday, July 13, 2004

2004 College Football season preview 

According to my crystal ball (aka NCAA 2005's simulation mode), Texas' 2004 season will look like this:

W 27-17 v. North Texas
W 35-30 @ Arkansas
W 59-6 v. Rice
W 59-28 v. Baylor
L 24-30 @ #2 Oklahoma (Dallas)
L 23-31 v. #17 Missouri
W 36-29 @ Texas Tech
W 41-38 @ #25 Colorado
L 24-31 v. Oklahoma State
W 34-7 @ Kansas
W 48-42 v. Texas A&M
L 7-26 v. Michigan (Alamo Bowl)
Two home losses? Not even the TRCM could manage that. In fact, for all of his bumblings against OU, Brown has lost a grand total of two home games in his six seasons at UT. And an Alamo Bowl loss to Michigan, while unlikely, wouldn't be the strangest thing that could happen this season.

USC wins the National Title with an Orange Bowl victory against LSU. Here is the simulation's complete BCS rundown:

Orange- USC 44, LSU 21
Sugar- W. Virginia 47, Florida State 42
Fiesta- S. Carolina 37, Oklahoma 30
Rose- Nebraska 33, Michigan State 26
Heisman Trophy winner: Darren Sproles, Kansas State; 272 car, 1690 yards; 13 rec, 204 yards, 24 total TDs

I guess this all means that we're in for one crappy year of college football. The funny thing is that the game shows its realism. Despite going 8-4 with a pathetic showing in the Alamo Bowl, Texas finishes the year at #19. The TRCM can really sell that snake oil, even in the EA Sports universe.


The 2004 All-Star Game 

First off, let me say that it's BS that Barry Larkin's sympathy vote earned him a trip, while Craig Biggio -- a much more deserving player -- watches on TV.

Player intros: former Astro watch

Randy Johnson receives thunderous cheers; Mo Alou does not. Good. RJ did everything within his power to get Houston that elusive playoff series win (despite his 0-2 record in the 98 NLDS). I think that most Houston fans still appreciate the Big Unit's contribution. Alou, on the other hand, did squat. I didn't like him before he came to Houston, I grudgingly cheered for him while he was here, and the second he left town I didn't shed a tear at all.

Player intros: Astro rival watch

Any Astros fan that didn't boo: Alou, Sammy Sosa, Mike Piazza, Tom Glavine or any Cincinnatti Red, deserves a kick in the nuts.

Bringing up the rear

Houston starters Lance Berkman, Jeff Kent and Roger Clemens will bat 7-8-9 tonight. I wonder if it's the first time a team has had three representatives, only to have them bat in the last three spots of the order?

National Anthem: excuse me?

Who the hell is Fantasia? Tell me that Destiny's Child is on tour, because even though I'm not a fan, either Beyonce or Kelly Rowland -- both Houstonians -- would have made much, much better choices.

The Greatest: Ali throws out the first pitch

Great moment: Ali shadowboxes as both teams crowd around. Muhammed, there's no need to pull that punch on A-Rod! Knock him out!


Two HRs, a triple, a double, a single and an error. Add'em up and what do you have? 6 AL runs in the top of the 1st is what. Get it out of your system, Rocket. Good Lord, what a nightmare.

Mike Piazza sucks

Thanks for killing a potential NL rally, Mike. Berk was about to go deep.

Ho Hum

Awful showing for the Houston contingent. That's enough All-Star game for me. I'm off to play NCAA 2005.


Happy Birthday... 

to my friend Robbi, the LM Queen!

I think Abba may have written a song about her.


Monday, July 12, 2004

Just Pre-Ordered NCAA 2005 

I get to pick it up after 5 p.m. today. Blogging might stay light during the evening hours after all.

My plan is to win the 2004 National Title with Texas by the end of the week. God knows it'll be the only title that Texas can win this season.

If any of you play PS2 online, look for me: lnghrnmfia. I'll even include a recap on the blog if you beat me.


Light Blogging 

I have a client in this week at work, so daytime blogging might be a little light from now through Thursday. I'll try to get around to it more during the evening hours.


Sunday, July 11, 2004

Astros-Dodgers 7/10 

From the "What More Can Go Wrong" Department: A lazy pop-up that should have been the third out, falls safely when Jeff Kent loses it in the sun.

2-0 Dodgers going into the 4th. Jose Lima is pitching like Cy Young right now.

The more that can go wrong:

Baggy leads off the 4th with a double. The the 3-4-5 hitters (Beltran, Berkman and Kent) go quietly. Carlos at least made solid contact. Berk popped up the first offering, and Kent struck out on a ball two feet outside, after getting ahead in the count, 3-0.

If I weren't sore all over from yesterday's water volleyball tournament (My team, Aqua Sanchez, took second) I'd turn off the TV and go practice hitting my new driver.


Carlos F'ing Beltran goes deep! 2-2 in the 6th.

I think all Houston-area stores should put out collection jars to help raise money to re-sign Beltran. Seriously, at this point, all I want for Christmas is a deal that keeps Carlos in brick and sand for years to come.

Farewell, Jimy!

Paul Lo Duca's 8th inning grand slam closed the door on Houston's chances to win. It also likely closed the door on Jimy Williams' two-plus years as Astros manager. I can't say that I'd be upset. Though I don't think he's the sole reason Houston sits at .500 in July, I've never been a big Jimy fan.

I expect an official announcement on Wednesday or Thursday. Of course that's just a gut feeling -- no one is, of yet, breaking news of Jimy's firing, but like an Octavio Dotel blown save, it's not hard to see.


Mingling of Cultures 

This afternoon I was watching the Braves-Phillies game with my new roommate, who hails from India and is in the MBA program at UT. He knows almost nothing about baseball, and he asked a lot of questions about the game.

I had to explain the difference in balls and strikes, fastballs and curveballs, and the AL and the NL. Though annoying at first, I found the tutorial kind of fun after a while. He said that at his Catholic grade school in India, they played softball, but he never saw it anywhere else in the country. I thought it was funny that he kept calling the pitcher the "bowler," like in cricket.

I couldn't imagine how weird it must be to live in a foreign country. I've watched baseball all of my life, so some of his questions seemed elementary (e.g., What happens if the batter hits it out of the field?). I suppose, though, that I would be at just as much of a loss if I were trying to watch a cricket match.


Friday, July 09, 2004

A Quick Plug 

My friends Cruiserweight have a new CD due out soon, and two of the upcoming tracks are posted on Pure Volume.Com.

Give them a listen if you get a chance. If you like what you hear, they're playing Saturday night at the Back Room in Austin.

While I'm pimping Cruiserweight, I should note that their newest video, "Yellow Lights," debuted on Austin Music Network last night. It's not my favorite song of theirs (that honor goes to the greatness of "Dearest Drew"), but I'm sure the video kicks some ass.


American Values in Action 

At last night's Kerry/Edwards fundraiser:

Whoopi Goldberg delivered an X-rated rant full of sexual innuendoes against President Bush ... Waving a bottle of wine, she fired off a stream of vulgar sexual wordplays on Bush's name in a riff about female genitalia, and boasted that she'd refused to let Team Kerry clear her material.
Um, okay. I seem to remember something yesterday about... wait... here it is in the same article...

Edwards said it was "a great honor" to be there and insisted, "This campaign will be a celebration of real American values."

Kerry thanked all the performers for "an extraordinary evening," hailed the "great producers" — Harvey Weinstein of Miramax and Jann Wenner - and said "every performer tonight ... conveyed to you the heart and soul of our country."
(emphasis is mine) I wonder how many undecided voters in the Heartland think that a has-been comic represents their values when she goes off on foul-mouthed tirades?

Celebrities making headlines by blasting Conservative leaders -- most notably President Bush -- is nothing new, and certainly nothing to get worked up about, especially when it's a B-list group like the ones quoted in the piece.

But I have a hard time understanding how the Kerry/Edwards camp could condone that at an official campaign function, after spending the past few days grandstanding about values.


Iraq is No Vietnam 

I found this at InstaPundit.

National Review's Victor David Hanson comments on the civilizing of Iraq.

Surely, the slow emergence of real civilization in Iraq is one of the seminal events in the history of an Arab and Muslim Middle East that has had no prior record of either consensual government or an independent judiciary. Unlike Hitler, Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot, a global criminal is facing his victims in a legitimate court administered by the beginnings of a free republican government. The more Washington, D.C., insiders insist that the transfer of power was a meaningless construct, the more we are beginning to see the future shape of an autonomous, free, and civilized Iraq. Don't listen to cynical American reporters and played-out professors who laugh at the idea of civilization. Watch instead how dictators and monarchs in the region recoil at it all. After all, such autocrats have lots to worry about: 70 percent of the world is democratic; excluding Israel, 0 percent of the Middle East is.
If you read one thing today, take five minutes and read this piece. Hanson decries the cynics that belittle our work to depose Saddam's tyranny, and he puts into perspective the historical significance of the new, free Iraq.


I've Got a Fever... 

and the only prescription is "More Cowbell."

The Sports Guy had a contest to let readers decde his column's new name, and they came up with a good one.

Brief aside: "More Cowbell" is quite possibly SNL's best skit of the past five years (or so). The only bits that come close are the "Celebrity Jeopardy" parodies. Notice the common link in all of those.


Thursday, July 08, 2004

Astros-Dodgers 7/8 

Craig Biggio moves into a tie for second on the all-time Astros HR list with No. 223, a two-run bomb in the 3rd to put Houston up 2-0.

Trivia question: Bidge now has 13 HRs on the season, two more than Bagwell's 11. When was the last time that Craig went deep more times in a seaon than Bags?

Par for the course

Duckworth lasted a whole 3.2 innings, surrendering 3 ER and 7H. He pitched well early, but got himself in trouble in the 4th, though LA's first it was a pop-up that both Kent and Beltran seemed to lose in the twilight.

Gallo comes on for one batter and walks him to load the bases. But Kirk Bullinger gets Cesar Izturis to dribble one to Baggy for the final out. Bags had a tough time getting a handle on it, but shoveled it to Bullinger in time. Maybe he actually chunked it. With his shoulder, it's hard to tell. 3-2 Dodgers going into the 5th.

Futility, they name is Astro

Jose Vicaino rips a sure double to RF -- diving catch by Jason Werth. Adam Everett rips a sure double to CF -- diving catch by Milton Bradley.

It's offical: this team cannot buy a break. The bullpen can't buy an out either, it seems. 6-2 Dodgers. No need for a 7th inning stretch -- Werth and Bradley already took care of that.


When Orlando Palmeiro fouled off a should-have-been ball four -- a fastball three inches off of the ground -- one pitch before striking out, I thought Houston had wasted an opportunity to get something going down 7-2 in the 8th.

Little did I know. Darren Dreifort promptly walked the bases loaded for Lance Berkman. Great development, huh? For a double play, yes. 6-4-3 later and it's still 7-2.

Tonight's piss-poor effort is made worse when I realize that I could have been watching Seinfeld for the past half-hour.

Funny: Tim Redding nails Paul Lo Duca in the upper arm. The fans, of course, jeer and serenade Redding with chants of "ass-hole." They obviously haven't seen much of Redding this year, if they think he can intentionally hit a spot like that.

Trivia answer:

Biggio hit 22 Hrs in 1995, eclipsing Bags by one.

Line of the night:

"Jimy Williams never gives up the fight. Even down 7-2 with one at-bat left, he's still out there managing."

- Jim Deshaies

You know, if I thought my ass was about to get fired, I'd probably try to soak up my last few experiences on the job, too.


Kerry Laying it on Thick 

Here we go again...

I got news for you. In 2004, not only does every vote in Florida count, but every vote is going to be counted

It's four years later and we're still talking about this? It's bad enough that Kerry has resorted to parading John Edwards around as a poverty-stricken youth, who rose from the ash-heap to grab the American Dream, but seriously, this is worse.

Here's a thought: earn ovations with substance instead of soundbites.



Back in the days before excessive expansion and realignment, Houston and Los Angeles had a heated rivalry in the NL West. I still remember the day that the Astros traded Phil Garner to LA. All I could think was, "the Dodgers? That can't be right."

Now it wouldn't seem like a big, but in those days it was. Sadly the Dodgers have become any old team -- a non-division foe that we see just six or seven times a year. That can't be right.

I must be getting old. Anyway, there's no time to reminisce this weekend. The Astros visit Chavez Ravine, but the focus is on the here and now. It's crunch time for the Good Guys, and as we head into next week's All-Star break, a series win against first-place LA could pay huge dividends.

Yep, the "first-place" Dodgers. The Stros vaulted LA into first via their win over San Diego, which dropped the Padres from the NL West perch.

Houston's recent slump really couldn't have come at a worse time. Since June 14, they've had one series -- with those scrappy Bucs -- that hasn't come against a team either leading their division, within a game or two of leading their division, or in control of the Wild Card spot.

Sounds to me like the boys need to put the Padres back in front. The "Never Give Up -- Never Say Die" tour hits the City of Angels tonight, and like I said last night, I'm feeling oddly confident.

The pitching match-ups are as follows:
Thursday Brandon Duckworth (1-1, 7.56) v. Edwin Jackson (1-0, 4.05)
Friday Andy Pettitte (4-2, 4.37) v. Jeff Weaver (6-8, 4.26)
Saturday Roger Clemens (10-2, 2.54) v. Wilson Alvarez (2-3, 3.77)
Sunday Pete Munro (1-2, 4.45) v. Jose Lima (7-3, 4.42)

A few thoughts about the series:

- Weird stat -- Houston has not split a four-game series this year. They beat both Milwaukee and Pittsburgh 3-1, and were swept by Cinci and Chicago.

- Jeff Kent rejoins the lineup tonight. It's his first game since June 29. Should I be upset that his return knocks Jose Vizcaino out of the lineup? Viz has only hit .393 in Kent's absence (though not every appearence came at 2nd Base).

- Jeff Bagwell hasn't hit a HR since June 19, though he should have had one on Tuesday. I'm predicting that baggy breaks the slump in LA, even though Dodger Stadium is an infamous pitcher's park.

- What would be a good outing for Duckworth tonight? I'd settle for 5IP and fewer than 4 runs. Unfortunately...

- LA starter Edwin Jackson is only making his third start of the year (sixth career start). You know what that means. Expect a Cy Young-esque performance.

- Lima Time has turned things around in LA, and I'm happy for him. But I'd like to see Houston batters treat him like the rest of the National League did in 2000.

I'm not making a prediction, except to say that I expect to see some fire from the guys this weekend. If they half-ass it and do anything worse than split, then I guess it's time to dust off those UT football tapes and get ready for training camp.


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