The Garden

A squash-friendly blog for our times

Monday, May 31, 2004

Yesterday, I promised to blog what I've been up to lately—other than, of course, watching lots and lots of tennis on ESPN.

On Wednesday, I joined an old friend in New York for a couple of days of Gotham-style entertainment. That night, we caught Wicked, the Tony Award-nominated musical that has captured my friend's heart. (This was his fourth time.) I have to say that I can completely understand his passion. Wicked has a witty story, one that completely reinterprets The Wizard of Oz; compelling performances by, among others, Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel; and, well, the allure of a good spectacle. I found the lyrics to be a bit hit-or-miss, but I'll be pretty shocked if Wicked doesn't bring home the Tony for Best Musical next weekend. I'll also be rooting for Menzel to take home the Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical. She sings like an angel or, I guess, an angelic witch.

On Thursday, after a nice lunch in the East Village, we caught a taping of The Late Show with David Letterman. When we got the tickets, Mike Myers was supposed to be the guest; when we got to the taping, though, the guest had suddenly become SNL's Darrell Hammond. Truthfully, I've never found Hammond to be that funny, but I definitely did enjoy Blink 182 as the musical guest. And for the record, the Top 10 List for the show was "Things You Don't Want to Hear at a Gas Station."

Later on Thursday, we saw Twentieth Century, the comedy starring Alec Baldwin and Anne Heche. I thought the play was pretty dreadful, consisting of little more than some forced irony pointed at pre-WWII America. Baldwin, too, was pretty unconvincing as a self-absorbed theater producer whose career depends on signing Heche to sign a contract. Heche, though, demonstrated a real talent for physical comedy. I can understand her Tony nomination for the part.... After the play, and this just made sense after an evening full of clichés, we had dinner at Sardi's.

On Friday, I headed back to Philly so the flatmate and I could attend the Jerry Seinfeld concert (hmmm, is concert really the right word?) at the Academy of Music. I was pretty tired, but Seinfeld was awfully funny. (And with Seinfeld's license, I now feel entitled to criticize the flatmate's rampant use of "tone.")

On Saturday, the flatmate and I entertained another old friend of mine, someone I met in the late 1980s in grad school. It was awfully good to see her. Plus, her visit prompted me to splurge at my favorite diner and have a slice of Boston creme pie. Yum.

Six straight days of good times and tennis. Is it any wonder that I don't want to go back to work tomorrow?
As I mentioned yesterday, I had a real shot at correctly picking six of the eight French Open men's quarterfinalists. And if it weren't for a few blisters on Marat Safin's hands, I'd've made it. As it is, though, I'm thrilled with my five-for-eight record. Let's look in depth at my picks:So, in the end, I correctly picked five of the eight quarterfinalists. Even with just missing the sixth, I'm happy with my performance. I correctly put an unseeded player, a No. 22 seed, and—for gosh sakes—Lleyton Hewitt into the quarters. I'll take that kind of tournament anytime....

Here's how I now see the rest of the tournament (changes from my original picks are in red):

Semifinals: Nalbandian vs. Hewitt; Coria vs. Chela.

Final: Nalbandian vs. Coria.

Champion: Coria.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

The women's quarterfinalists at this year's French Open have been set. Let's see how well I did with the picks. Answer: not that well!So, oh, how I've fallen mightily! Although I managed to correctly pick 10 of the players to reach the Round of 16, I only correctly picked a pitiful three of the quarterfinalists. How disappointing.

Given my misses, I need to make a minor (but only minor, he said defensively) change or two to my picks for the second weekend (the changes are in red):

Semifinals: Suárez vs. Mauresmo; V. Williams vs. S. Williams.

Final: Mauresmo v. S. Williams.

Champion: Mauresmo.
Two things to ponder (both via ArtsJournal's Daily Art News):
I've been away from my computer for several days (more on that later), so I haven't yet had a chance to review how my French Open picks did in the early going.

How did I do with my first-round picks? Of the 64 first-round men's matches, I correctly picked the winner in 45. That works out to just over 70%. It's not the best I've ever done (at last year's U.S. Open, I picked over 73%), but it's pretty darn respectable, I think. And by the way, in one of my 19 misses, I couldn't have correctly picked the winner: When I made my picks, lucky loser and eventual first-round winner Hyung-Taik Lee hadn't even been placed in the draw.

As always, I didn't pick all of the women's first-round matches. Too many of the women's first-round matches pit unknown players against one another. See, e.g., Christina Wheeler vs. Marta Marrero. It's just too hard!

How are my projected quarterfinalists doing? I've waited so long to do this early(?) re-cap that many of the quarterfinal match-ups have already been set. Still, as for the men's draw—where the men's quarterfinalists won't be completely set for another day—six of my eight picks are still going strong. The two who aren't: top-seed Roger Federer and No. 6 Andre Agassi. I'll have more to say about this when I review all the men's quarterfinalists tomorrow, but I can't feel too bad about either of these. Federer lost to someone he really, really shouldn't have, and Agassi—well, I'm going to try to claim partial credit for that section of the draw. Stay tuned.

As the women's quarterfinalists were finalized today, I'll have more to say on that in a bit. The news there isn't quite as good....

How'd I do with the projected first-round upsets? I picked two first-round upsets on the men's side, and I was right about one. I—and every other tennis pundit on the planet—thought Juan-Carlos Ferrero, the injured No. 4 seed, would go down to Germany's Tommy Haas. It didn't happen. Ferrero did go down in the second round, though, to the unheralded Igor Andreev (who's still in the tourney!). Nevertheless, I correctly foresaw that Fab Santoro would take out fellow countryman and No. 32 seed Arnaud Clement in the first round. That match, by the way, was thrilling, with Santoro eventually prevailing 16-14 in the fifth set. I couldn't keep my eyes off the set.

I didn't pick any first-round women's upsets, and—in fact—there were only a handful....

What first-round upsets didn't I predict? There were several first-round upsets on the men's side, but only two actually took my breath away: Andre Agassi's loss to qualifier Jerome Haehnel and No. 16 Fernando Gonzalez's loss to qualifier Florian Mayer. I didn't pick X-man Xavier Malisse's upset of No. 16 Rainer Schuettler, but I had that match as a tasty match-up (and, in fact, I also noted that Schuettler's form was suspect). Partial credit? Other missed upsets: Julien Benneteau's win over No. 29 Max Mirnyi and Luis Horna's win over No. 18 Mark Philippoussis. I didn't have Mirnyi or Philippoussis going far in the tournament, so I won't kick myself too much about missing either player's first-round loss.

I didn't pick any first-round upsets on the women's side, and very few actually occurred. None of the upsets—Myriam Casanova over No. 22 Karolina Sprem; Stephanie Foretz over No. 26 Nathalie Dechy; Tatiana Perebiynis over No. 24 Jelena Dokic; and Marlene Weingartner over No. 27 Eleni Daniilidou—was very striking. Blame the seeding of 32 players for the boredom of the women's first round, ok?

How'd my other miscellaneous picks do? Pretty darn well, actually. Sadly enough, I correctly picked that legend Martina Navratilova would lose in the first round to Gisela Dulko. I also correctly forecast the first-round wins of qualifiers Alejandro Falla, Daniel Elsner, and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez as well as the first-round triumph of wild card Michael Llodra. And although I didn't get these picks right in the end, I also correctly saw that qualifier Potito Starace would be trouble for Dmitry Tursunov and that Juan Monaco, yet another qualifier, would be a tough opponent for American Alex Bogomolov, Jr.

So, in the end, I'm pretty darn pleased with my picks. In fact, if my picks for the women's draw had been as stellar as my men's picks, I'd be hitting overheads in my living room right now.

And, of course, it's been an awfully enjoyable tournament so far. I love those dirtballers.

Sunday, May 23, 2004

As I sit back and look at my completed French Open men's draw, one thought keeps occurring to me: I could be wrong. I could be very, very wrong. Sigh. It's just that the draw is one of the oddest I've ever seen. Many of the real contenders find themselves in the same few sections of the draw, while other sections seem to be entirely free of real contenders. Egad. Anyway, here's my list of projected quarterfinalists:

Roger Federer (seeded #1) - I keep reading how Federer has a tough draw, but I just can't see that he'll have any trouble reaching the second week. He's got a lucky loser in the first round, the injured Nicolas Kiefer in the second round (I'm guessing), and former-champion-turned-struggler Gustavo Kuerten in the third (I'm pretty darn positive). I don't see Federer stumbling in any of those matches. In fact, I think his toughest match on the way to the quarters might well be in the Round of 16—against Italian up-and-comer Filippo Volandri. Volandri is good, but he's sure no Federer.

Marat Safin (#20) - It's incredibly foolish, I know, to pick the wildly inconsistent Safin to do anything but be wildly inconsistent. Plus, this section of the draw is downright jam-packed with good, good players: #8 David Nalbandian, #10 Sebastien Grosjean, #25 Ivan Ljubicic (who is one of my faves), and Felix Mantilla all find themselves here. I looked at the draw, picked the matches round by round, and I ended up with Safin advancing. Wish me luck.

Gaston Gaudio (unseeded) - I made my picks before I looked to see SI guru Jon Wertheim's picks. Lo and behold, he has the unseeded Gaudio reaching the semifinals. I don't have Gaudio going quite that far, but Wertheim's pick is definitely defensible. The "problem" in this section of the draw is that #3 Juan Carlos Ferrero is so injured that he'll probably withdraw before playing a set. And there's just no good reason to pick anyone else in this section of the draw—including Tommy Haas, David Ferrer, #14 Jiri Novak, #24 Jonas Bjorkman, and #29 Max Miryni. Gaudio's got the game on clay, and no one else really does. In my mind, the match for the quarterfinal spot may actually be in the second round, when Gaudio will likely face Novak. (I give another unseeded player, Ferrer, an outside chance of making it to the quarters [and even beyond].)

Lleyton Hewitt (#12) - Yeah, this truly is a fool's pick, I know. Hewitt's game—let alone his clay-court game—just isn't ideal these days. But this is one of those sections where, by rights, none of the players seems to be a deserving quarterfinal pick. So it's Hewitt, ok? Who else would you have me choose? There's #7 Rainer Schuettler, but his form is, um, not good right now. There's former champion Albert Costa (#26), one of my all-time favorite players, but he's hit-or-miss anymore. Who else? Victor Hanescu?

Carlos Moya (#5) - Coming off a win in Rome, and a good result in Monaco, Moya's the obvious pick here.

Guillermo Coria (#3) - Speaking of obvious picks...well, here's the most obvious of them all. Just look at this year-to-date record. He's the player to beat.

Andre Agassi (#6) - We haven't seen Agassi play much this year, but he always seems to show up (for the Slams, anyway) in top form. This is yet another section of the draw, by the way, that would be awesome—see, e.g., #9 Tim Henman, #18 Mark Philippoussis, #27 Vince Spadea—on a non-clay surface.

Juan Ignacio Chela (#22) - There are only two seeded players in this section, Chela and #2 Andy Roddick, who are plausible quarterfinalists. Paradorn Srichaphan (#13) doesn't really have a clay-court game, and #32 Arnaud Clement is likely to lose in the first round. I'm not counting Roddick out entirely, but my inner tennis voice tells me to go with a true clay-courter.

As for the rest of the tournament:And the miscellaneous picks:

First-round upsets: I like Haas over Ferrero, assuming the Spaniard plays; and Fabrice Santoro over #32 Arnaud Clement.

Just a handful of the other tasty first-round matches: Robin Soderling vs. #15 Sjeng Schalken; young Frenchman Richard Gasquet vs. Nalbandian; Guillermo Cañas vs. Gaudio; Xavier Malisse vs. Schuettler; Srichaphan vs. Tomas Berdych; and Irakli Labadze vs. Joachim Johansson. And there were still another half dozen or more first-round matches that I found downright vexing to pick....

Qualifiers and wild cards most likely to have an impact: I see qualifier Alejandro Falla and wild card Michael Llodra making it to the second round. In a first-round match-up of qualifiers, I like Daniel Elsner over Alexander Peya. I also like qualifier Guillermo Garcia-Lopez's chances to beat wild card Todd Reid.

Plus, although I'm not actually picking any of these qualifiers/wildcards to advance, several have a legitimate chance: Nicolas Almagro faces Kueren; Potito Starace meets Dmitry Tursunov; wildcard Julien Boutter faces the inconsistent #19 seed, Martin Verkerk; lucky loser Marc Lopez has a real chance against Christophe Rochus; and Juan Monaco could take down American Alex Bogomolov, Jr.

Enough talk. Let's watch some ball.
I had an awfully busy weekend, as I had to (unexpectedly) bring work home. Grr. The extra work left me little time to do my customary picks for the French Open, which begins tomorrow. But I'm a true fan, and I made time for what's really important—tennis.

Let's start with my picks for the women's quarterfinalists (as always, these are in the order that you'd see them from the top of the draw to the bottom):

Justine Henin-Hardenne (seeded #1) - We haven't seen Henin-Hardenne for several weeks due to some strange viral illness. As a consequence, we have no idea what form she's in. I doubt it could possibly matter, though. There's no one in this section of the draw who might even be a threat to an under-the-weather Henin-Hardenne. If the world No. 1 truly is in a sad state, I guess I'd go with #14 Paola Suárez as a back-up choice. My gut tells me I'm not going to need a back-up.

Vera Zvonareva (#10) - In my mind, this section of the draw will come down to Zvonareva or her compatriot, Nadia Petrova (#8). On the basis of recent form, particularly the Italian Open, I'm going with Zvonareva.

Amélie Mauresmo (#3) - Mauresmo has been the player of the clay-court season, winning both the Italian and the German Opens. With question marks next to so many of the other top names, this is surely Mauresmo's best shot ever to win a Grand Slam title. I like her chances a lot.

Lindsay Davenport (#5) - Until yesterday's debacle, Davenport has looked good, too. She ought to sail (or skate, if you're missing winter) through to the quarterfinals.

Svetlana Kuznetsova (#11) - I wish I had strong feelings about this pick. Kuznetsova looked good on the clay in both Rome and Berlin, and that's why I'm giving her the nod. There are definitely other contenders here, though, including Anastasia Myskina (#6) and Karolina Sprem (#22). If I had a ranch, I probably wouldn't bet it on the outcome of this section of the draw....

Fabiola Zuluaga (#23) - Ok, I've learned my lesson: Zuluaga's got game. Still, if Venus Williams (#4) were healthy (she has a bum ankle), I'd be picking her to emerge from this section. As it is, I like both Zuluaga's clay-court game and her chances. Don't say I didn't warn you.

Jennifer Capriati (#7) - Capriati's in form, and there's no one in this section of the draw who could possibly trouble her.

Serena Williams (#2) - I'm looking forward to an entertaining match in the Round of 16 between Williams and the ever-young veteran Conchita Martinez (#20). That said, it's still so easy to see Williams advancing to the quarterfinals and beyond.

Here's the rest of the story:And how about a few miscellaneous picks?

First-round upsets: Nah, I'm not picking any. I'm sure some will happen, but only a couple of the top seeds must cope with any obvious threat in the opening round. Plus, I'm chicken. If you forced me to pick an upset, though, I guess I might look to Flavia Pennetta to take out #19 Anna Smashnova-Pistolesi.

Other tasty first-round matches: Henin-Hardenne vs. French veteran Sandrine Testud; Nicole Pratt vs. Slovak Tina Pisnik; Myskina vs. Alicia Molik; Katarina Srebotnik vs. Cara Black; Tamarine Tanasugarn vs. V. Williams; and Gisela Dulko vs. Martina Navratilova. (By the way, I think Martina's going down in the first round.)

I'll be back in a few minutes with my men's picks.

Friday, May 21, 2004

Two completely unrelated items:

  • All hail Tivo! It helped slay the television rerun, now mercifully in decline (link via PVRblog).

  • Baby, my favorite four-legged creature, asked me to post this: The existence of so many dog breeds, and scientists' new ability to map those breeds via their DNA, may lead to new treatments for human diseases. What I found particularly interesting is that the DNA analyses suggest there are really only four major groups of dog breeds—guarding, herding, hunting, and ancient breeds (which are not that far removed from wolves).

    Now maybe some scientist can tell me just exactly what the "mix" is in Baby's black Lab-mix. I'm thinking it might be cherub.
  • Thursday, May 20, 2004

    Yet another silly meme (via Reflections in D Minor):

    1. Grab the nearest CD.
    2. Put it in your CD player.
    3. Skip to Song 3.
    4. Post the first verse in your blog/journal along with these instructions. Don’t name the band or the album title.
    I sucked the moon.
    I spoke too soon.
    And how much did it cost?
    I was dropped from moonbeams.
    And sailed on shooting stars.
    Who knows?
    Catch of the Day:

  • I've fallen hard for the Art Addict (link via Modern Art Notes). And if you're at all interested in contemporary art, especially collecting it, you might (want to) fall, too.

  • Kate of The Kitchen Cabinet has been playing Clue with the news.

  • I'm enjoying spargelzeit this year. Unfortunately, unlike fans in Germany, I don't get to enjoy my fresh asparagus with the aid of an oompah band.

  • It just seems like the right week, hmmm, to point out Absolut's guide to planning a commitment ceremony (link via Queer Day). The guide is fun and also seems to be pretty darn useful. One thing is clear, though: Getting hitched can be a lot of work. By the way, I probably wouldn't go with the appletini for the announcement party....
  • Tuesday, May 18, 2004

    Manic Tuesday-ness:

    Sunday, May 16, 2004

    I enjoyed this New York Times piece describing how The Payphone Project evolved from offbeat art project to internet utility. And if you visit the Project, be sure to check out the pictures of North Dakota payphones. The photos—including my personal fave—really seem to capture the beautiful emptiness of the state.

    Saturday, May 15, 2004

    I've navigated more than a month of dieting without experiencing any serious cravings or regret. Today, though, the flatmate and I spent the day in Amish Country, and I really, really, really wanted a shoo-fly pie. Not so much that I was in danger of actually buying one, but just enough that I could almost taste all that sweet, gooey yumminess in my mouth.

    Now you know the true story: pie is my weakness.
    My little patch of suburbia is a cicada-free zone, but that's apparently going to change soon. If you just can't wait for the noisy invasion, the Washington Post's special report may tide you over for awhile. I'm already hooked on the Post's Cicada-cam, which is watching the action in a suburban Maryland lawn (link via The Kitchen Cabinet).

    Friday, May 14, 2004

    Food Network über-foodie Alton Brown believes (see entry of May 7, 2004) the American obesity epidemic can be traced, largely, to two packaged-foods ingredients: hydrogenated (or partially hydrogenated) fats and high fructose corn syrup. Brown, who is trying to lose 20-plus pounds, is removing both from his diet. He's also vowing to eat "oily fish, green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and soy protein" on a regular basis.

    As for my own diet, which I began about a month ago, I've managed to lose 13.5 pounds. I have about five more to go. I've increased my exercise and reduced the carbhohydrates that I intake (but, no, I'm not on that trendy diet). I've been successful, I think, because I've somehow been able to regard food as just fuel—and not as something that might be enjoyed or even relished.

    Thursday, May 13, 2004

    I'll take Potpourri for $1,000, Alex:
    Bookslut's Jessa Crispin has some interesting correspondence today. In her honor, here's a letter of my own:

    Wednesday, May 12, 2004

    Knuckleballers are quirky, sexy, and—sadly—a dying breed in baseball, as a swell piece from The New Yorker details (link via Royals Baseball). One highlight: How the knuckleball took one player from the Savannah College of Art and Design to the Boston Red Sox organization. I bet art school is actually good preparation for being a crazy knuckleballer....

    Monday, May 10, 2004

    Monday Miscellany:

    Sunday, May 09, 2004

    Blogger, which I use to to produce the mess that is the Garden, introduced some pretty dramatic changes tonight. Most of the changes are of the behind-the-scenes variety, but you may be seeing some new things here in the days and weeks to come. I certainly have some new choices, anyway.

    Update: Earlier tonight, after the rollout of the new Blogger, I had some problems with the formatting of my comments. If you stopped by during that time, you may well have noticed that some comments resembled e.e. cummings poems. Although the timing of all this suggested that the new Blogger might be interacting in an unsavory way with my Haloscan-supported comments, it turns out the problem was traceable to some tinkering undertaken by the good folks at Haloscan. Everything should be fine now.
    Just in time for Mother's Day, the Social Security Administration has announced the most popular baby names for 2003 (link via Boing Boing). My favorite name—James, ahem—held steady at No. 18. Just a little over a decade ago, James was still a Top 10 name, but now room has to be made for all the Tylers, Ryans, and Ethans, I guess. Sigh.

    Happy Mother's Day!

    To get into the right spirit for the day, check out this Washington Post slideshow of animals and their babies. Roberta of Artblog likes the African river hippos, but I'm partial to the manatees.

    Saturday, May 08, 2004

    Another Fifth Sentence Meme (via Wonder Boy):

    1. Go into your blog archives.
    2. Find your 23rd post (or the closest to it).
    3. Find the fifth sentence (or closest to it).
    4. Post the text of the sentence in your blog along with these instructions.

    The result is from this post, dated November 25, 2002: As frequent viewers of Trading Spaces know, Hildi has definitely botched her share of bedrooms, dining rooms, and kitchens.
    This Vanity Fair correction made my day:(Info via Felix of MemeFirst.)
    As an Arizona Republic story indicates, gay and lesbian Star Trek fans—tired of waiting for a gay character—continue to take things into their own hands (link via Queer Day). By the way, although I guess it's true that there have been no openly gay characters on any of Star Trek's various iterations, I've always read one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, "The Outcast," as a fairly pro-gay statement. In that episode, Commander Riker falls for Soren, a member of the andryogynous J'Naii race. This love is forbidden because the J'Naii disapprove of gendered sexual relationships. Riker (and, for that matter, the episode in general) disapproves of the these arbitrary restrictions, and he takes action. I read the episode as an endorsement of the idea that sexual freedom is a basic human right.

    Of course, as with any good story, there are probably alternative readings. It's a bit, shall we say, heterosexist for the episode to require that Soren come to think of herself as "female" before love can truly blossom with Riker. On the other hand, Riker was attracted to Soren before the alien asserted a particular gender preference for herself, and he didn't go off on some self-hating plot detour (or seek out counseling from Troi). So, in my mind, although it's not quite Torch Song Trilogy, "The Outcast" gives Trekkies reason to think that sexual freedom is de rigueur in the multicultural, Federation-of-Planets future that Star Trek portrays.
    Food for Thought: A story in today's New York Times notes how the current craze for low-carb diets has taken its toll on Krispy Kreme Doughnuts. Are Americans really passing up those "Hot Doughnuts Now" signs?

    Friday, May 07, 2004

    Friday Non-Five::

    Thursday, May 06, 2004

    3AM Magazine's interview with Candyfreak author Steven Almond is lots of fun (link via Bookslut). As far as I'm concerned, any discussion that includes Idaho Spud Bars is a winner. One quibble: Despite what Almond says, lime Lifesavers are to-die-for.

    Almond raves about regional candy, one of my favorite subjects. Please let me recommend the Cherry Mash. (I can hardly believe it, but I don't seem to have ever mentioned my Cherry Mash addiction here on the Garden.) Yum.
    How did I spend my Thursday afternoon? Suffering through the Phillies' 7-4 loss to the Cardinals. And "suffering" is the key word. I got to the park, enjoyed a beverage, and found my pretty sweet seat (more on that in a bit). It was all downhill from there.

    Unfortunately, the Cards scored five runs in the top of the first inning, making it seem certain that the hometown fans were in for a long day. At the same time, I realized that my eyes were getting more and more irritated. I'm not sure if it was all the gunk (debris from the now-demolished Vet?) blowing around a windy Citizens Bank Park (The Vault); or if it was sweaty run-off from my sunscreened forehead (a problem I've had before); or some combination of the the gunk, sunscreen, and abundant pollen. But I spent the first five innings blinking madly, squinting out of one eye and then the other at the game, wondering if I looked like some kind of freak.

    And, actually, it turned out that I did look like some kind of freak. After the fifth inning, I took myself to a men's room mirror and found two of the reddest eyes I've ever seen. I imagine it looked like I'd been bawling about the Cards' five-run outburst. (Maybe that's why the woman seated next to me kept looking at me like I was some kind of threat to the baseball order.) I'm a big fan, but—I swear—I never actually cry at the game. I spent the rest of the game splashing water in irritated eyes and watching the game from shady locales. My eyes only stopped hurting when I was in the shade and was looking at something shady. This is not a good combo when you're at an afternoon ballgame. Just so you know.

    Anyway, I managed to survive the game. As soon as I got on the subway, my eyes started feeling better. A half an hour later, when the flatmate met my train with Visine and some tissues, my eyes weren't even red! Is it possible I'm allergic to the Phillies' new home? Or Jim Thome's new cologne? Maybe it's just Scott Rolen?

    Setting aside the red, watery eyes and the strange stares from seatmates, I have good things to say about Section 133, Row 22, Seat 7. Unlike my previous experience in what's billed as "third base territory" (a/k/a left field), Section 133 is actually near third base. It offers a great view, is close to the grass (maybe too close for my eyes' comfort), and you can see every part of the stadium you might be interested in. My only quibble: When the seats filled up in the section, it was difficult to find an unobstructed sight line to home plate. (I wasn't even sitting behind particularly tall fans.) The search for the perfect seat continues.
    Happy Blogiversary to How Appealing, the appellate attorney's best friend.

    Wednesday, May 05, 2004

    Still heady from the Flyers' win last night, I'm thinking about sports today:

  • A British sports historian suggests that Roger Bannister reached that important psychological barrier nearly 200 years too late (link via The Sports Economist).

  • I love my sumo, and my sumo news, but I absolutely have to draw the line at goat sumo. Egad! Still, I wonder what The Goatbelt would say about it....
    Would you like to see a visual representation of Google's news aggregator? Of course you would (link via LYD). The stories on Newsmap are color-coded by topic and, interestingly, sized by the number of articles on the subject. So just now, for instance, the headline "Sharon Sets New US Talks After Gaza Plan Rejected" was screaming, while "Traditional Fishing Damages Coral Reefs" was oh-so-teeny-tiny. As the proprietor of the site indicates, Newsmap "is not thought to display an unbiased view of the news[;] on the contrary it is thought to ironically accentuate the bias of it." Thought-provoking stuff.

    P.S.: Happily, "Roenick is overtime hero for Flyers" is a big, big headline this morning on Newsmap. Let's go, Flyers!

    Tuesday, May 04, 2004

    Tuesday randomness:

    1. Have you checked out Kinja yet? Kinja is a weblog portal that allows you to set up a personal digest of the blogs you regularly read. It sort of allows you to get the advantages of a newsreader without having to mess with RSS and XML or, well, some ugly newsreader. As an example, here's what I'll call the GreenGourd Kinja Mix, a digest of (nearly all) the Fertile Blogs listed in my blogroll. Cool, huh? In fact, I think I'll add a permanent link to the GreenGourd Mix in the blogroll. Feel free to use it. (If you make your own digest, please be sure to include the Garden!)

    Kinja also offers Editor's Digests, which feature some of the most popular blogs in a variety of categories. There are digests for readers interested in technology, food, music, books, and more. There's also a Showcase digest that features some of the best-known general-purpose blogs.

    I think Kinja is awfully, awfully useful.

    2. As Reality Blurred notes, Brad Cotter was named on Saturday as the winner of this season's Nashville Star contest on USA Network. Would it be bad form if I, ahem, mentioned that I thought from the start that Cotter was the most talented of the contestants? If so, would it be worse form to mention that I also thought that George Canyon, who finished second, was the second most-talented contestant? If so, would it be the worst form imaginable if I reminded you that I correctly picked last year's winner, Buddy Jewell, from the start, too?

    It's obvious that I ought to head a Nashville studio, huh?

    P.S.: With the win on Star, Cotter earned a Sony recording contract. His first single, "I Meant To," shipped yesterday. I've already downloaded it, as well as singles from George Canyon and oddball third-place finisher Matt Lindahl, from—hee— Cotter's is by far the best single, but each of the three is worth a listen (and 88 cents!). I genuinely hope, and think, that Cotter is going to be huge.

    3. Last night, someone reached the Garden via a Google search for "hemorrhoidal history." And, yes, I've actually used that very phrase here.

    4. An interesting Washington Post article discusses how the owner of Oaklawn Park insured himself, just in the nick of time, against an increasingly likely—and expensive—proposition (link via The Sports Economist).

    5. If, for some reason, you're feeling bad about your station in life, check out the Global Rich List (link via the always-excellent Paperfrog). It'll help put things in perspective.

    Monday, May 03, 2004

    Caveat: Not everyone in Oklahoma is as interested in the springtime weather as I always have been (link via Dooce). And when the tornadoes are close, anybody with even a little bit of sense starts to think about living somewhere safer—on the San Andreas Fault, maybe; or Erie-freaking-lake-effect-snow, Pennsylvania; or on some frequently-hurricane-swept West Indian island. On some spring nights in Oklahoma, Survivor's Glee truly is the best you can hope for.

    P.S.: It's a disaster-themed evening in Blogistan.
    As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm going to be following WeatherBug Storm Chase 2004 this week. Storm Chase 2004 chronicles a week of storm chasing by a meteorologist and a fifth-grade science teacher. The search officially began today in Oklahoma City. Unfortunately, the first part of the week looks to be a bit dry. That doesn't sound like the early-May Oklahoma that I remember....

    Speaking of the Oklahoma that I remember, though, the Storm Chase 2004 meteorologist, Mark Hoekzema, drove to Oklahoma City from Maryland. Oklahoma—or, at least, the eastern two-thirds that he saw from the interstate—wasn't at all what he expected:Oklahoma just needs a good public relations specialist, I guess. When I tell people that I grew up in the green hills of northeastern Oklahoma, they're suspicious. I try, often unsuccessfully, to convince them that my Oklahoma doesn't resemble a Martian landscape. Sure, there's some red dirt in the western third of the state, but Hoekzema saw the verdant Oklahoma that I know.

    Of course, Oklahoma will need some spring thunderstorms to remain green. Maybe Storm Chase 2004 will find some later this week....
    Currently filling my mind:

    1. This is how I feel when I need a haircut.

    2. Costa of The Critical 'I' asks a very pertinent question: Why is anyone still writing checks at the supermarket? Unless the culprit is over 70, I have no sympathy....

    3. This word from the Kristy McNichol Blog is poignant:For what it's worth, I wish I could time-travel back 25 or so years and retrieve my Kristy and Jimmy McNichol LP. I wonder whatever happened to it.

    4. Design Observer has some thoughts about the new Iraqi flag. That post, by the way, prompted me to search for the site of the North American Vexillological Association. I'm tempted to join just so I can see what happens at NAVA's annual meeting.

    5. An interesting article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer discusses how it's actually possible to die from a broken heart (registration req'd).

    Sunday, May 02, 2004

    Blender Magazine and VH1 have joined forces to produce a list of the 50 worst songs of the past three decades. The Top (Bottom?) 10 songs:
    1. "We Built This City," Starship (1985).
    2. "Achy, Breaky Heart," Billy Ray Cyrus (1992).
    3. "Everybody Have Fun Tonight," Wang Chung (1986).
    4. "Rollin'," Limp Bizkit (2000).
    5. "Ice Ice Baby," Vanilla Ice (1990).
    6. "The Heart of Rock & Roll," Huey Lewis and the News (1984).
    7. "Don't Worry, Be Happy," Bobby McFerrin (1988).
    8. "Party All the Time," Eddie Murphy (1985).
    9. "American Life," Madonna (2003).
    10. "Ebony and Ivory," Paul McCartney and Stevie Wonder (1982).
    You can see the first 25 and the next 25 at Blender's website. (For some reason, a press release for the related Blender/VH1 special provides a subtly-different list of the Top 50.)

    With a couple of exceptions, I have no major quibbles with the Top 10 or, for that matter, the Top 50. These are definitely some truly dreadful songs. Sure, I would've thought that "Achy, Breaky Heart" was clearly worse than the also-repulsive "We Built This City," but I can see the other argument. Blender marks the Starship song up (down?) because it's knowingly hypocritical, and, yeah, there's that. Also, I'm a bit surprised that Bette Midler's "From a Distance" is only No. 14? Midler has a real voice, but you wouldn't know it from "Distance." And don't get me started on those saccharine, preposterous lyrics. Another candidate for moving up to the Top 10: Mr. Mister's "Broken Wings." It's nauseating.

    Other minor quibbles:As I said, I do have a couple of major quibbles:
    Like many people with a Blogger account, I've been playing around with my new Gmail address. Gmail, as you surely know, is Google's new email (ad)venture. (Google owns Blogger.) I haven't received enough email at my Gmail address to have gotten a real feel for the service and its features. (Email me!) When I do, I may blog a little about it. The preliminary question, though, is whether to be concerned about any loss of privacy due to Gmail's ability to target ads to me based on words in my email. There are two schools of thought, of course. (For a particularly unnerving account, see this post from John Battelle's Searchblog.) I'm inclined to view Gmail as I do TiVo: Yes, there's a theoretical possibility that some kind of abuse could occur (particularly if Google decided to correlate a user's email with his Google searches), but the commercial risks to Google are probably so high that it wouldn't actually undertake any action that would creep out too many users.

    Still, there's an additional ethical/privacy concern here. I'm willing to risk a little of my own privacy for a good, useful service, but do I have any right to expose my correspondents' words to Gmail's prying eyes? Of course, if my correspondents were squeamish, they'd have the option of not emailing me. But what if that's the only email address I've given them? Or what if they don't know about Gmail? Even if they know about Gmail, what if they simply fail notice that that's my address? I may consent to some small loss of privacy when I sign up for Gmail, but my correspondents haven't. What are my ethical obligations here?

    Would you email me at a Gmail account?


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