January 2007 Archives

Today is Philip Glass’ 70th birthday. There’s no truth to the rumor that he’ll celebrate it again tomorrow.

Miracle Feats of Engineering

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So, I’ve been having some trouble with some cracking around one of the hinges of my laptop (if you’re not going to follow the link, it’s a Dell Inspiron 1150, which I bought because it was the second-cheapest laptop Dell offered when I started law school). Well, some more plastic cracked, I tried a cheap-and-easy solution that didn’t work, and it turned out that I was going to have to get into the guts of the machine get at the hinge.

These are the steps you have to take to get to the hinge:

  1. Take out the battery.
  2. Take out the hard drive.
  3. Take out the CD drive. (I skipped this part, as it wasn’t entirely necessary)
  4. Remove the hinge cover.
  5. Take out the keyboard.
  6. Take out the “EMI Shield” (a thin piece of metal under the keyboard)
  7. Physically remove the display from the main part of the computer
  8. Remove the display bezel (the plastic around the display)
  9. Remove the display panel proper
  10. Remove the metal frame from the back of the top cover.

And then I get to do my repair (which involved a frantic search for a screw I thought I dropped).

The hinge on my laptop attaches to the display by the way of two screws that connect to a plate. The nuts on that tighten the screws are actually embedded in the plastic of the top cover, and it’s that plastic that had cracked and eventually failed, in large part because the screws had come undone. By some stroke of luck, while the plastic had failed, the nuts were still rattling around in there. So I re-attached the hinge, and then performed the above ten nine steps in reverse order (of course, the whole process did take all morning).

The miracle feat of engineering alluded to in the title is the fact that I managed to re-assemble it without

  1. losing any screws, or
  2. having any screws left over.

Not every Super Bowl MVP had the best stats in their game; in fact, quite a few of them were outplayed, either by their teammates or by someone on the other side of the ball. Some of the MVPs below were clearly not the best player on the field; others, while posting great numbers, had the benefit of great supporting performances by teammates:

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Super Bowl I
MVP: Bart Starr, 16-23 for 250 yards, 2 TDs, 1 INT
Couldabeen-MVP: Max McGee, 7 catches, 138 yards (19.7 yards/catch), 2 TD, one hangover

Super Bowl III
MVP: Joe Namath, 17-28, 206 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT, one mouth that wouldn’t shut up
Couldabeen-MVP: Matt Snell, 30 rushes, 121 yards, 1 TD

Super Bowl XVI
MVP: Joe Montana, 14-22 for 157 yards, 1 TD, 0 INT, first SB victory
Couldabeen-MVP: Ken Anderson, 25-34, 300 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT, lost game
Couldabeen-MVP: Dan Butz, key defensive player on a four-down goal-line stand

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Super Bowl XIX
MVP: Joe Montana, 24-35, 331 yards, 3 TD, 0 INT
Couldabeen-MVP: Roger Craig, 135 total yards, 3 TD

Super Bowl XXI
MVP: Doug Williams, 18-29, 340 yards, 4 TD, 1 INT, “How long have you been a black quarterback?”
Couldabeen-MVP: Timmy Smith, 22 rushes, 204 yards, 2 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Ricky Sanders, 9 catches, 193 yards (21.4 yards/catch), 2 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Entire Washington offense, 602 net total yards

Super Bowl XXIII
MVP: Jerry Rice, 11 catches, 215 yards (19.5 yards/catch), 1 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Joe Montana, 23-36, 357 yards, 2 TD, 0 INT, only Super Bowl MVP he didn’t win, and a much better performance than his first MVP
Couldabeen-MVP: Roger Craig, 172 total yards

Super Bowl XXIV
MVP: Joe Montana, 22-29, 297 yards, 5 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Jerry Rice, 7 catches, 148 yards (21.1 yards/catch), 3 TD, arguably a better game when he won the MVP

Super Bowl XXXVI
MVP: Tom Brady, 16-27, 145 yards, 1 TD, how many MVPs have less than half the passing yards of the opposing QB?
Couldabeen-MVP: Kurt Warner, 28-44, 365 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT

Super Bowl XXXIX
MVP: Deion Branch, 11 catches, 133 yards, 0 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Donavon McNabb, 30-51, 357 yards, 3 TD, 3 INT, lost the game

Super Bowl XL
MVP: Hines Ward, 5 catches, 125 yards (24.6 yards/catch), 1 TD
Couldabeen-MVP: Officials, two phantom calls against the Seahawks

links for 2007-01-29

Il Maestro

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I’ve written about Ennio Morricone before, but I think that this profile in the Times is really worth a read. Even though he’s mostly known for his film scores, he’s really an old-school Italian composer, albeit one who’s staggering versatile.

My sister and I were watching For A Few Dollars More on TV once (one of the blessings of thousand-channel digital cable is that there’s always a Clint Eastwood movie playing somewhere), and she commented that the music sounded like Verdi was hired to write the score.

To be fair, composers have to solve many of the same problems when writing an opera and writing a film score (if you do it right): both opera and film scores require that the composer deal with leitmotifs and use music to underscore emotion and underscore character motivation (when you consider that, it’s not surprising at all that this scene is considered by many to be one of the all-time great screen kisses).

What this all boils down to is that the Maestro is giving his first American concert next week at Radio City Music Hall, which is, when you think about it, a rather appropriate venue.

(For those of you playing at home, I’m finally out of the “B”s and now I’m up to “Chewing Gum”)

links for 2007-01-28

links for 2007-01-25

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George Bush: Not A Disappointment

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In Gothamist’s coverage of the State of the Union address, they make the following observation:

…everything that came after was a bleak reminder of how President Bush has been disappointing on so many fronts.

Actually, I don’t think that George W. Bush has been disappointing at all. I thought his presidency was going to be a disaster, and he delivered. I thought the war in Iraq was going to be a disaster, and he delivered. I thought that he would cravenly manipulate intelligence for political ends, and he delivered. I thought he would be a pawn of big oil, and he was. I thought that he’d initiate massive giveaways to the rich, and he did. I thought that he was stubborn, inflexible, convinced of his own rightness, a bully, and a coward. And he’s proven that over and over again.

No, George W. Bush hasn’t been a disappointment at all—he’s done everything I thought he’d do!

links for 2007-01-22

links for 2007-01-21

And Meanwhile, On The Other Side of The Atlantic

There's Only Trouble and Desire

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I’m watching one of my favorite movies on the television as I write this. What’s kinda curious is that I actually haven’t seen this movie in something like 15 years, and I’ve actually read the script more than I’ve seen the movie.

I was curious to see what my reaction to the film would be; Hartley’s films use highly stylized language and line readings, and they frequently veer into minor surrealism. Would the movie hold up over time or would quirks of the film be revealed as nothing more than gimcrackery?

Even though some of the gimmicks come off as stage-y, the movie as a whole really does hold up, and it has more emotional depth and resonance than I remember. Of course, fifteen years ago, I was young and stupid (as opposed to now, which I guess I could call “rapidly heading towards middle-aged and stupid”). In some ways it’s a very dated object, in that it has many of the hallmarks of indie filmmaking of the early 1990s, but that should hardly be counted as a failing (Lawrence of Arabia has many of the stylistic hallmarks of its era, but that hardly makes it any less of a great film).

Anyway, in other news:

  • I’ve upgraded the software that runs this blog to MovableType 3.34 (the very latest and greatest version), in large part because of some long-overdue speed bumps (made possible mostly by the fact that it’s finally possible for mere mortals to use MT under FastCGI).
  • A friend of mine recently sent an email with his resume and cover letter to a law firm; he got a rejection note in 28 seconds. That is not a typo.
  • This looks like a great art show.
  • For some reason, all the fact patterns in my recently-completed trial advocacy course seemed to take place in the same city. It also seems that this is a pretty dangerous city—we had fatal car accidents, bar fights, arsons, suicides, cocaine deals, and then some. I did learn a lot about life insurance, though…
  • Sometimes I don’t understand Wall Street. Apple introduces a product that’s not going to ship for six months and the stock goes up more than 11% in two days. Then Apple announces a billion dollars in profit in a quarter and the stock drops 5%. Go figure.
  • So there’s this new carbonated tea drink called Enviga on the market that claims to burn calories, and I had one tonight. It’s actually almost drinkable, but the aftertaste is goes far beyond vile to some bizarre disgusting place. There’s also a lot of caffeine in the sucker…
  • Art Buchwald, one of the only men to ever check out of a hospice while still breathing, is remembered in the Post. With his passing, we lose a great, if somewhat underappreciated, man of American letters.

And for those of you playing at home, I’ve gotten up to “Bartok” in the song list. This is gonna take a while…

links for 2007-01-15

links for 2007-01-14

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Another One Gets On The Bus

My long-time friend Matt McIver has a blog now (including a lovely picture of him in Civil War-era facial hair).

links for 2007-01-12

Random Wisdom

…as taken from a couple of recently-consumed fortune cookies:

When you get something for nothing,
you just haven’t been billed for it yet.

and

This life is not for complaining,
but for satisfaction.

You Know What To Do

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It’s National De-Lurking Week, or so they tell me.

So go ahead and leave a comment or two. It won’t kill you, I promise.

Notes On A Vacation

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I’m in the middle of a two-week intensive boot camp for trial lawyers, which explains my relative silence. Still, I was in Germany recently for 11 days, so here are some notes:

I flew over on Air France on a Boeing 777 and transferred there to a little ERJ-145 that took me to Hannover. Transferring at CDG was a bit of an adventure; apparently they’re doing a lot of construction, so the plane landed and then taxied around for several hours (all this, of course, is in the pre-dawn darkness of northern Europe) until finally parking somewhere near Brussels. Once there, we all got off the plane and on to a bus, which drove around the airport five or six times before finally getting to the terminal and letting us off. And then, of course, I had to hike several miles to get to my gate. I should say, however, that CDG’s Terminal 2F is a spectacular piece of brutalist architecture. If you’re going through Paris anytime, I think that it’s worth getting to the airport an extra half-hour early just to check it out.

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Hannover is a lovely city, if a bit small. It was basically completely destroyed during WWII (a lot of historical plaques around the city note that something bad happened in 1943) and subsequently rebuilt. The main highlights include the baroque garden and the Neue Rathaus, a magnificent neo-baroque structure. Hannover will also be quick to remind you that the city was an independent kingdom and that the House of Hanover ruled England for a time. Basically, though, most of the highlights can be covered in two days (if you’re a slow walker and stop often for tea or coffee).

One thing about German cuisine is that it’s entirely dominated by Schweinfleisch (not that hard to figure out what that is). A popular dish is schweinhaxe (aka pork shank), which is a huge hunk of bone-in pork. The same cut, prepared somewhat differently, is called eisbein. After you eat one of those, you can’t but help wonder what happened to the rest of the pig. As for vegetables, just remember that sauerkraut isn’t just a vegetable, but it’s the vegetable. I ate more sauerkraut in eleven days than I’d ever eaten before in my life.

Also, German cities are famous for their Christmas Markets; however, I’d say that at least 2/3s of the stalls at these markets don’t sell gifts but rather mulled wine and various food items (i.e. sausage, sausage, and more sausage).

Two Towers
Hamburg is a surprisingly beautiful city. Full of canals, it allegedly has more than 4,000 bridges (though the question is does that count include footbridges). I didn’t take any pictures of any of those bridges, mainly because it was too dark. All the canals and little footbridges make it a seem like a German version of Venice. Plus, the Rathaus in Hamburg is sensational. Two comments: 1. If you listen to the tourist propaganda, it’s almost like Bismark never unified Germany; the city is almost always referred to as “the free and Hanseatic city of Hamburg” (despite the Hanseatic League having been entirely irrelevant for at least three hundred years); 2. the citizens of the city are, in fact, referred to as “Hamburgers.”

One thing you will learn if you visit the little village of Hameln is that not only is the city perfectly happy to trade on the legend of the Pied Piper, but the legend is actually based on a real event. Unfortunately, no-one seems to know what actually happened on that fateful day in 1284, but whatever it was, it did leave a lasting impression. And, for the record, it seems that the rats were a 16th-century addition to the tale—originally, the story was just about a piper in brightly colored clothing who made 130 children disappear from the town. Creepy, huh?

Radio Tower
Berlin is, of course, a fascinating city. First off, it’s huge. We were there for a full day and we barely scratched the surface. The Holocaust Memorial and the associated museum underneath it are stunning. The Checkpoint Charlie museum is fantastic, even if it does overreach itself at times. One curious thing about Berlin is that because of the Wall, it’s a city without a center. They’re starting to rebuild a center for the city, starting in Potsdamer Platz, but that’s so new that it doesn’t yet really feel organic (and this is some fifteen years after the fall of the wall).

One thing I did notice is that the Germans are big on leaving monuments to the past. Most German cities (at least the few that I’ve been to) seem to have at least one bombed out church standing as a memorial to the war. Also, the Wall is still standing in a few stretches; the impulse seems to be to leave concrete reminders of the past so that it will never be repeated.

That’s it for now; if I find the time, I’ll write more later.

So Instead of Resolutions...

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One silly project that I’ve started for 2007 is that I’m trying to play through my entire iTunes library. Right now, it consists of 6,979 songs and is 22 days, 21 hours, 10 minutes and 45 seconds long, if played continuously.

I suspect that it’ll take a couple of months to completely play through the entire library (I’ll be done sometime in mid-March is my best guess). I’m playing the tracks in alphabetical order; the first track played was “?Y Tu Que Has Hecho?” by the Buena Vista Social Club; the last track played will be “Zyphormius” by the American DJ Marumari.

Playing through the tracks alphabetically provides some degree of randomness in the play order (e.g. unlikely that you’ll hit a long block all by the same artist, and track times will vary) while at least providing some kind of structure to this project.

The problem with this approach will come when the playlist hits, say, the six different versions of “In Your Eyes”, the four different versions of “Wonderwall)”, or the five different versions of “Who Do You Think You Are”. And, of course, when I get down to the “Sy…” section, there’s all nine Beethoven symphonies plus two by Brahms to slog through.

You can track my progress on Last.fm, if you’re so inclined; at the moment, I’m in the “2”s, playing “2/2” from the Bang On A Can All-Stars remake of Brian Eno’s Music For Airports.

It's 2007 Already?

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No resolutions this year—been too busy with travel and stuff (seriously, what kind of maroon flies into JFK on New Year’s Eve?) to make resolutions. Anyway, no-one ever remembers what their resolutions were come two weeks into the new year.

Still, this year in the Chinese calendar is the Year of The Pig, so that’s something worth getting excited about…

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