Saturday, June 30, 2007

Story of the Week -- June 25-29

China Buffet - um, don't eat that. Or that. And drive safely, your tires may explode. And careful when you brush your teeth tonight.

I've had some serious flashbacks lately to freshman year and this class I took on globalization.

There was this assignment we had to do. We were supposed to go through our closets and find out where all of our clothes were made, and then write how we felt about it.

I remember thinking it was kind of neat how my pants were made in Malaysia and my sneakers came from Guatemala or something, how the shirt I was wearing had, to that point, had many better travel adventures than I (not to mention all those trips through the wash) It didn't really bother me that the shirt was probably made by a 9 year old girl. Hey, for a nine year old, she did a pretty good job.

One thing that also surprised me was that not everything I owned was made in China. I had just assumed most stuff was. Growing up, "made in China" was one of the first phrases I learned to read (maybe, I don't really remember, but for argument's sake, let's say it was. It could have been) It was stamped on lots of toys, especially the ones that came in happy meals.

It still is. Lately, though, "made in China" isn't as trustworthy as it used to be. 24 different toys have been recalled so far this year in the United States. All of the recalls are for toys made in China. In one of the worst cases, Thomas the Tank Engine Trains - you know, the little wooden trains the toddlers tend to chew on as much as they play with - were recalled when the company that sells the trains discovered that the Chinese factory was using lead-based paints to paint the toys.

We also found out that the same chemicals China uses to make its plastic toys might be finding its way into a number of brands of pet foods. Oh, and 450,000 tires that they've exporting to New Jersey don't meet safety standards. And your toothpaste might be mixed with a chemical usually found in antifreeze.

And that shrimp fried rice you have there, you can keep eating it, but it might give you cancer later. This is the latest one - after a nearly 6 year investigation, the FDA concluded that fish farmers in China are giving harmful additives to the fish, and ordered a ban on at least four types of Chinese seafood, including catfish, eel and shrimp. The additives have caused cancer in lab animals, and the FDA doesn't want to take anymore chances. But this isn't a recall situation, it's just a precaution.

What we're going through with China isn't mad cow, but there is potential. If what they put in the pet food finds its way into human food (not unlikely considering the deadly chemical was added to wheat gluten), we might start to see some terror on some faces at the grocery store unless something is done. Good thing we're doing something, and we're not worried about pissing off China in the process. Because, we're pissing off China in the process.

But American companies are being responsible for a change, thanks to the wave of recalls that doesn't seem like it will stop any time soon. Companies like Toys R Us, Kellogg's and General Mills, are stepping up scrutiny of Chinese products.

The only question I have is, why haven't we been doing this all along? And the answer is that you don't ask a lot of questions when food is cheaper, toys are cheaper, and tires are cheaper. And big companies don't ask a lot of questions when profits are higher. The beauty of globalization is that things are cheaper and people make more money. The reason I don't care that my t-shirt was made by a 9 year old girl is it cost me $9 instead of $20, and now I have $11 to spend on faulty tires and tainted seafood.

So, I'm sorry Fido and Rex and little baby Timmy who likes to put toys in his mouth had to suffer before we did something about it, but I'm glad we're doing something about it.

Now I'm glad I did that globalization excercise. It's good to know not everything was made in China.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Foofaraw Immortalized

in today's New York Times Crossword:

58. Foofaraw

3 letters.

Can you get it?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Story of the Week -- June 18-22

In the Middle of Everything

Palestinians, for a change, are killing Palestinians. In Gaza, a piece of land half the size of Washington D.C, utter chaos broke out, then Hamas (essentially, "democratically" elected terrorists) took control, then Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah dissolved one government and set up another. Then the sun set.

I mean, it happened that quickly. And now there's talk of 3 independent states in an area the size of New Jersey (I know, I'm getting carried away with the comparative size thing, but the point is these people are and have been fighting over a very tiny piece of the world) 3 states? Palestinians can't keep the lights on and the children fed in one state, now they want two because they can't get along with each other?

Thankfully, the rest of the world refuses to recognize a Hamas-only government, and have gone as far as to promise money and weapons to Fatah (careful there) so they can fight Hamas. Then, I guess, cause they hadn't done it in a while, Hamas launches a couple of Qassams into Israel, Israel does the whole retaliatory thing and at the same time they allow Gazans who need medical attention to get out of Gaza. And here we are, for now.

I'll be honest, the more I try to make sense of what's going on in Gaza and the West Bank and try to figure out what's good and what's bad for Israel, the more hopelessly confused I get.

But this I know: In the middle of everything, 3500 people marched in a gay pride parade in Jerusalem.

Long Live Israel.

As one columnist put it, "Israel may have more faults per capita than any nation in the world" but he was proud of Israel for having the parade in Jerusalem, even if there was some controversy attached to it. For me, I'm proud of it especially because there was controversy attached to it.

Israel is extremely diverse, and the Jews of Israel are divided by differences in heritage (askenazi vs. sephardic), religion (religious vs. secular), politics, social standing (sabras vs. immigrants, and then what kind of immigrant...) On top of that, they're all Jews. What's the old saying? put 10 Jews in a room together and you'll get 15 different opinions? It's like that. How could a gay pride parade in the holiest city on earth NOT evoke some controversy?

While the 3500 people were marching in the parade, some 1500 ultra-Orthodox Jews demonstrated against the parade. 7,500 policemen (that's 1/3 of the country's police force) were sent to Jerusalem to ensure a peaceful demonstration on both sides. At least a dozen of the ultra orthodox were arrested for anything from planting fake explosives to setting garbage cans on fire. And 23 others were arrested the night before the parade.

Most Orthodox rabbis publicly forbade violence against homosexuals in spite of their religious opposition to homosexuality and a demonstration of homosexual openness in Jerusalem, of all places. Instead, they went on Israeli TV and spoke out against the parade, and debated those who supported it, in the way public discourse is supposed to take place in a democracy with free speech.

The parade happened, the protests happened. No one was killed. In spite of all their differences, Jews are learning to live with other Jews.

Meanwhile in Gaza, Palestinians, divided politically and by little else, are killing each other.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Too Much of a Halfway Decent Thing

Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic will do the play-by-play for the second game of ESPN's Monday Night Football opening doubleheader.

1. STOP with the Monday Night Football Doubleheaders. It started as a necessity in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina. The NFL was figuring out what to do with the Giants-Saints game that was supposed to be in New Orleans. They came up with "play it in New Jersey" only the Jets were occupying the stadium Sunday, so they came up with "play it on Monday." And ESPN thought it was a great idea. It's not. One game on Monday night is enough, thank you.

2. ENOUGH Mike and Mike. Having a halfway decent, tolerable, good-for-all-timezones radio show doesn't mean they should be everywhere! First Arena Football, then the Spelling Bee, now they're Madden and Michaels?? No. NO NO NO.
Oh, and adding Mike Ditka doesn't sweeten the deal. Especially after I have to listen to Tirico and Ron Jaworski in game one. I used to like Monday Night Football.


Friday, June 15, 2007

Story of the Week -- June 11-15

I chose to write this week's story as an allegory.

Georgie and the Albanians


The Puppy Who Lost His Way

About 6 years ago, the States family got a new dog.

They named him Georgie.

One day, Georgie went over to the Tigris family's yard and started digging.

He dug for days and days but never seemed to find anything.

Then he attacked the Tigris family dog for no reason.

Then he brought his things over to the Tigris family's yard and burried them.

By now, most of the yard is destroyed. The Tigris family is very mad at Georgie. So are the other families in the neighborhood.

Georgie is getting old. He's stubborn and mean to the other dogs. He never seems to want to do anything fun. He just likes to play in the bushes.

The States family is just plain tired of Georgie.

So this week, they decided to take Georgie for a walk around the neighborhood. They want people to like Georgie again.

First they went to see the Deutsch family. The Deutsch family has had some really mean dogs before, but they seem to have forgotten, and they just hate Georgie.

They don't like when Georgie sniffs their dog's butt. When he sees their dog, Angie, he goes right for it again. "Georgie! Mrs. States yells, "stop sniffing Angie's butt!"

But Georgie can't help it."Go away, Georgie" yells the Deutsch family.

Next, Georgie goes to the Frank family's house. The Frank family just got a new dog, Nicky.

Georgie doesn't pay attention to Nicky. The Frank family never liked the States family that much, though. And nobody really knows why.

But when Georgie comes by, they yell him "Go away Georgie! We don't want you here!"

Next they take Georgie to the Pasta's house. "It always smells so good here" says Mr. States.

But they won't let Georgie come near them. They are really mad at Georgie for what he did to the Tigris family's yard. "Go away, Georgie!" they yell.

"It's no use," says Mrs. States. "Nobody likes our stupid dog. Let's go home."

But just then, the family passes by a small house next door to the Pastas. This is the house of the Albanian family.

The Albanians are a strange family. They have two small children who don't like to play outside. And they don't have a dog. In fact, they've never even seen a dog before.

When they see Georgie walk by, they go crazy. They run to him. They pet him. And they kiss him. "We Love You, Georgie," they say. "You're the best dog."

Even Mr. States is surprised that the Albanians love Georgie. Then again, he didn't even know there was a house here before.

The Albanian kids bring treats for Georgie. Georgie licks their faces and wags his mangled tail. It's been a long time since somebody was this nice to Georgie.

"Kids, how would you like it if Georgie came and lived with you?" says Mrs. States. The Albanian kids jump up and down with excitement. They hug Georgie. "We love you, Georgie!" they say again.

Mrs. States says "Well, if they love him so much, they can keep him. We can go get another dog."

And they left Georgie to live with the Albanians.

And everyone was happy.

The End.

If only the end part had really happened, too........

On the other hand, less than 600 days til we can but ol' Georgie down for good!

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Today is Flag Day.

Flag day commemorates the adoption of the US Flag by the Second Continental Congress in 1777. It was proclaimed a holiday by President Woodrow Wilson in 1916, and made National Flag Day by an act of Congress in 1949.

The largest Flag Day Parade in America takes place in (where else?) Troy, NY. This is from the Troy website:

Troy's most enduring event, The Troy Flag Day Parade is now in its 40th
continuous year and is the largest parade in the nation in honor of the American
flag. The 2007 edition of the Troy Flag Day Parade takes place Sunday, June 10th
with a line up of exciting attractions. The Parade steps off at 1:00pm Sunday,
June 10th with many new attractions added to the line-up

No day off for Flag Day? They had to move the parade to Sunday? You're lame, Troy, NY. Have some respect, celebrate on the actual Flag Day.

Here's a few more fusses over matters of little importance...

Top 10 Reasons I won't be getting an iPhone when it comes out on June 29th:
10. I already have a phone.
9. I already have an iPod.
8. That thing is wayyyy too cool for me.
7. I'm secretly hoping it doesn't sell so CNN doesn't feel obligated to report the sales record.
6. Full color screen? movies, music, email, internet and a phone in that little thing? How long does the battery last, 5 minutes?
5. TV on my phone? Who gives a shit? I want a car that flies and folds into a brief case!
4. It costs $500 AND you have to join Cingular (which is now AT&T. That doesn't make them any better)
3. Commercials every 5 minutes on TV telling me how cool the iPhone is, displacing the awesome Mac/PC commercials
2. There's NO WAY they have all the kinks worked out


The more I think about the Sopranos finale, the more I love it.

There are 3 ways it ends in my head:
The half full part of me thinks Tony fixed his family and now they're having an innocent, childhood-like family dinner in a classic Jersey diner.

The half empty part thinks the guy comes out of the bathroom with a gun and whacks the whole family.

The film major part of me thinks David Chase was portraying the closest thing possible to Tony's point of view, making the viewer suspicious of every other person in that restaurant with a clever use of cutaways, close-ups, and benign dialogue and creating palpable tension, then letting the viewer decide for himself.

The genius of it all is that you could very well disagree with me threefold. And I'm fine with that.


By far the best part about Gmail: the smiley faces flip right side up when you type them on Gmail chat. :)

Ask anyone who has Gmail, they'll tell you.

And you say we're the high tech computer-savvy generation....


Ok, this one's important. Working at CNN, I get one of these emails every day:

BAGHDAD (CNN) -- Iraq's Interior Ministry on Thursday said 25 slain,
unidentified bodies were found on the streets of Baghdad Wednesday.
These killings -- which have been a daily occurrence since the first
Al-Askariya Mosque attack in Samarra last year -- are thought to be the result
of the Sunni-Shiite sectarian violence that flared up after that attack.
That Shiite mosque was attacked again on Wednesday.
The slain bodies, found dumped across the capital, are usually bound,
peppered with bullets, and tortured.
There have been 314 such killings in Baghdad this month alone.

Every. Day.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Story of the Week -- June 4-8

Part 2 of 5,600 Furlongs from Baltimore is now up at The Travelers Pen! Check it out! The story continues...then it ends.

Here's the story of the week.

It’s short this week, but important, and to the point. And if I write any more about this subject, I think my head will explode.

The Most Important Story

The most important story this week, by far, is Paris Hilton went to jail to serve a 45 day sentence the War in Iraq. A lot has happened to Paris in Iraq this week. The situation continues to get worse, with no end in sight.

For one thing, the number of days Paris has been sentenced to serve is ridiculous US soldiers killed there since the war began more than four years ago topped 3,500. May was a tough month for Paris Hilton but she made the best of it one of the deadliest months of the war, with 127 killed, and there have been close to 30 deaths in June already. In fact, Paris Hilton went to the Billboard Music Awards for one last hurrah before she reported to jail Monday night an average of four soldiers have been killed every day in Iraq this month.

The story is far from over. 3 Days Soon after Paris Hilton went to jail the 3500th soldier was killed, she was released Muqtada al Sadr, the radical Shiite cleric, gave his first interview since the troop surge was announced, reportedly for ‘medical reasons,’ in which he blamed all of Iraq’s problems on the U.S presence there.

On Thursday, Paris Hilton was ordered to spend the rest of her sentence under house arrest at least 63 Iraqis were killed in a series of bombings, shootings, mortar attacks and execution-style killings that have sadly become part of everyday life in Iraq. Most Americans want to see Paris Hilton serve her entire term believe the surge to be a failure at this point, but General David Petraeus stressed that it is too early to see the progress of the surge, since the full troop buildup is not yet complete.

Today, a judge ordered Paris Hilton to return to court in person Lieutenant General Douglas Lute, Bush’s new war czar, admitted that the surge would only have a temporary impact. And Paris Hilton will be escorted to court by police, where she might be ordered to return to jail at least 16 people were killed in two car bombs we have video of Paris Hilton! We have video of Paris Hilton being brought back to court.

It is still shocking, though that Paris Hilton in handcuffs! On tape, confirmed as the death toll rises and the violence escalates, Paris Hilton, support for the war and belief in the surge strategy seems to be wavering even among President Bush’s closest advisers and Paris Hilton highest military personnel. We need to know what’s going to happen next with Paris Hilton may be at a crucial point in this war, at a place where the time Paris Hilton spends in jail may be increased may finally be right to think about a working strategy and a way to actually keep Paris Hilton in jail for her entire sentence end this long, hard, and increasingly more deadly wait tell me more about Paris Hilton I need to know war.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Bad Advice

I've heard this twice now, and I gotta say I have a problem with this particular bit of advice.

First it was a central theme in an episode of Gray's Anatomy in which George kept calling Torres a pig. Funny stuff (notreallyIhopethatshowgetsgoodagainnextseasoncauseitwasprettybadtowardtheendofthisone...)
and then I heard that Brian Billick (head coach of the Baltimore Ravens) used it in a graduation speech. Does that mean Brian Billick watches Gray's? With his players? Does Ray Lewis cry when he watches Gray's Anatomy? These are questions for another time. Anyway, the advice Billick steals from Gray's and gives to graduates is this:

"In a bacon and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed. Be that pig."

NO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! STOP!!!!!!!!!!!WRONG!!!!!!!!!!!

In a bacon and eggs breakfast, the chicken is involved, but the pig is DEAD! Dead, skinned, quartered, sliced into strips and fried in scalding oil! The chicken, meanwhile, laid an egg, got up and went across the street for Starbucks. And lived, to contribute to yet another breakfast.

Don't take this the wrong way (ladies...) I'm not afraid of commitment in the slightest, but in this scenario, I think, given a choice, I'll be the chicken.

Update to Story of the Week

I found out over the weekend that Spelling Bee champion Evan O'Dorney does indeed have Asperger's Syndrome, something I suspected but didn't want to mention unless I knew for sure.

On Friday, Evan appeared on CNN's American Morning. Keiran Chetry interviewed him, then gave him a word to spell. Only she mispronounced it, then couldn't give him the language of origin, then told him he was right when he wasn't (and the word was, of course, spelled out on the screen). It was a disaster. Why? Aside from the obvious reasons, Evan couldn't laugh along when Keiran got flustered, he just kept asking for the language of origin. He was a terrible interview.

Which returns to my point from the original point about home schooling. Kids with Asberger's are highly intelligent. Their academic excellence is inevitable. They need school for the social aspect as much as for the academics. Home schooling takes away that chance.

Put the Spelling Bee trophy on the shelf, put the money away for college and send Evan to a public high school. It'll do him good.

Sorry, it'll do him well. (see? public school worked for me...)

Friday, June 1, 2007

Story of the Week - May 28--June 1

Spell Check

In 1983, the winning word at the Scripps National Spelling Bee was "Purim". Seriously.

In my lifetime, thanks to ESPN, a popular documentary, a slightly less popular movie, ESPN, a hit Broadway musical, and ESPN, the Bee has gotten bigger, tougher, and geekier. And I can't figure out how I feel about it.

This year's Bee, the final rounds of which are now held on ABC in Prime Time and High Definition, was won by a home-schooled 13 year old who is also a math and music prodigy and admitted he doesn't even like Spelling all that much.

Hey, Evan O'Dorney! You just won the Scripps National Spelling Bee, what are you gonna do next? I'm go study logarithms and get ready for Math camp! Then I'm gonna compose a symphony about how I'll never have any friends!

But it wasn't really my intention to bash the kids in this competition. They're brilliant kids, have insane memories, knowledge of foreign languages and word parts, and most of the kids that ABC spotlighted were involved in tons of other activities. O'Dorney fits right into that profile.

I do mean to bash home-schooling, though. I'm serious about the friends thing. Going to school and interacting with other humans is as essential to education as the schoolwork itself. Students learn social skills that will help them later on in life. There is an advantage to being a working part of society in addition to being one of its brightest bulbs. And for someone like Evan, who might have trouble making friends to begin with, home-schooling only lowers those odds even more.

Well, he is going to math camp, so that's something.

So what I really set out to do was bash ESPN a little. See, I still can't figure out why I like the spelling bee, but I do know that I used to like it more, before it went to prime time, before Stuart Scott interviewed the kids from backstage and compared them to Steve Nash, before Mike Greenberg and Mike Golic stumbled through pre-written cheeseball commentary.

The Spelling Bee broadcast is actually a tradition of ESPN's, going back to the days when the upstart cable channel broadcast anything that came anywhere close to being called a sport. You can't call the Bee a sport, but the drama of the competition is compelling and the kids are impressive. But ESPN is ruining it with oversaturation. These kids don't know who Stuart Scott is (most of them don't anyway) get him out of there. And the Mike and Mike thing, which included a Spelling Bee of their own on Sportscenter, was terrible. Golic got "Favre", Greenberg got "Roethlisberger", I got a little sick and turned off the TV.

Lately Sportscenter is more like this and It's just a giant commercial for everything ESPN broadcasts, plus 30 seconds of hockey coverage. Hockey is still a pretty popular sport in parts of the country, and if ESPN gave it a little more exposure, they might decide to go bid for the TV rights again, instead of showing so much girls softball. For the nationwide sports audience, the Stanley Cup Finals have to be more popular than girls softball. They just have to be.

The Stanley Cup Finals also should be more popular than the Spelling Bee, since winning a Stanley Cup is a greater achievement. Sorry to say it, Evan O'what's your name, but nobody will remember you in a few years, but we all still know Wayne Gretzky.

But that's what I like about the Spelling Bee, too. Not many people get on TV for academic achievement. One night a year dedicated to bright, young minds (without a gimmicky game show, certified morons, and Jeff Foxworthy) showing off their mental capacity and exposing the outer fringes of the English language to an increasingly dumbed down American public (most of whom are not smarter than a fifth grader) is great, and it's great television.

But Stuart Scott doesn't need to be involved for it to be great television. Nor does it need to be in HD, by the way. Pock-marked pre-teens don't need high definition. Yikes. I'll like the Spelling Bee a lot more when it retreats to daytime, standard definition, no frills, high-drama geekery.

What can I say, I'm a P-U-R-I-S-T.