This Cartoon Was Made For You and Me

I finally got a chance to watch the wildly popular JibJab cartoon. The only thing I don't understand is why it's not being played on every radio station across the country.


Let's be Frank

My coworker Shawn referred an important piece of Federal legislation to me today that needs attention from the voters of America. My representative, Barney Frank, voted the wrong way on a less serious but similar bill, but he (and the rest of the Massachusetts delegation) need to know we are watching their votes and holding them to their campaign promises. Below is my letter, which I urge you to imitate in writing your own congressperson on this hot-button issue.

Dear Sir,

It has come to my attention that a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee is currently considering H. RES. 460. I urge you to vote against this bill should it come to the floor, because it would "congratulate The Ohio State University and the University of Michigan on the 100th football game between the two teams and recognize their rivalry as the greatest sports rivalry in history." While this may be a well-intentioned resolution, it clearly goes against the beliefs and values of the people of the great Commonwealth of Massachusetts, who know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the greatest sports rivalry in history concerns not these two universities but the noble Boston Red Sox and another sports team, which I would not venture to name in polite company.

I appreciate your consideration of this vital matter and your steadfast representation of the 4th District.

Humorously yours,

Salim Furth

Camden Yards

Enjoyed my first road game ever last night, rooting for the sox with some 13,000 other Red Sox fans at Camden Yards last night. Having such a large visitor contingent was great. It was a game that would have been admittedly dull at Fenway - a 10 run lead with Pedro pitching well but not stunningly - but the heckling, shouting and competing chants of the two different sides made it an engaging game right through the ninth inning, when a group of fat O's fans started chanting "1918" right behind us.

Actually, they started by chanting "1912" until I corrected them.

The Red Sox looked alive, that was the best thing. With two more W's (tonight's will be the toughest), we could have a 5-game win streak and be poised to move out of the .500 twilight zone.


With friends like these...

Who needs a blog? I had dinner with a very pleasant young lady last Thursday, an event that I think can only honestly be described as "a date". My friends have apparently described it quicker and to more people than I ever expected. Almost everyone seems to know about this - and the info was only out for a day or two! Anyway, it was good, and there will be another date; beyond that God only knows.

Knockin' our Sox off

The Red Sox rebounded from what looked like a fatal Friday night wound to win the last 2 over the evil New Yorkers, extending Boston's season-series lead to 8-5 with six to come in September. I didn't get to see any of the games, but the play by play at Beth's Patsox was as good as being in section 35!

I'll be watching the Red Sox try to turn this uptick into a streak tonight at Camden Yards. Ahem, I'll be watching them at Camden Yards. Ahem, I'll be at Camden Yards watching them. Up in the nosebleed seats, but that's cool nonetheless - it's my first baseball game away from Fenway, and I'm looking forward to rooting against the house for once. Pedro should be able to keep the pesky Baltimore sticks quiet if his stuff is on - if not, the Sox prove that they're still the Majors' best .500 ballclub.

In other news, I'll be back in Boston this weekend, so give me a call - I'll be around town on Thursday night and Friday day, and then off to the 'Family Camp' retreat with my church and some others from New England. Lastly, anyone interested in Fantasy Football can sign up to join "The Razor" league. Yahoo league ID#: 143542, password: pats.


Lunch Hour

Saw an interesting exhibit at American History today, called "Within These Walls", which featured a house from Ipswich, Mass. Built in 1760, it sounds old to us, but it missed out on the first 130 years of the town's history. The exhibit highlighted five of the thirty families who lived there before the house was saved from demolition in 1963 and donated to the Smithsonian. Quite a cross-section of American history: Abraham Dodge was a militia captain in the American Revolution, another was a leader in the Female Anti-Slavery Society of Ipswich. A swift succession of poor millworkers inhabited the house when Ipswich became a mill town in the late 1800's, and the Ipswich High School custodian, a widow, planted a victory garden and lived on ration cards. Her daughter and son-in-law lived with her; the former did secret work in a factory making fuses while the latter was a sailor in the Pacific, fighting at Okinawa and Iwo Jima. And all of that took place is just over half of Ipswich's 375-year history!


WMD's in Iraq?

Reports have surfaced today of nuclear weapons located in Iraq. The story was covered by the Iraqi paper Al-Sabah ("The Morning"). United Press International picked it up, and it's on the Drudge Report and the Washington Times (which has replaced the article with one updated to include a US military denial). Reuters says that an Iraqi minister is calling it "stupid" and untrue. Cheers to Right Thoughts for the original information.

If this is true, which appears doubtful, the three missiles will be a political bombshell.


Introducing: the Protestant

  My real-life new friend Julie has set up a blog and become an instant internet celebrity, at least among Catholics who like a good fight. She's been calling for Protestant reinforcements - all ye anti-papists, let slip the blogs of war! Just kidding, but it is a pretty lively discussion she keeps up over there, and you'll be able to locate Julie under "Free Speech" in the links section. In other news, I retired two links of friends who have decided to stop blogging, at least for now.

Lunch Hour

  American History Museum again today.  I'm feeling a little slow after an awesome day at the beach (in Delaware!) with the Hill clan, Mistie, and Zach.  Work just doesn't measure up to building sandcastles and riding waves.  Anyway, the museum was cool.  Checked out the Star-Spangled Banner.  Those of you who visited the museum before 1999 remember the banner hanging gloriously three stories tall in the museum's central hall.  It's been replaced by the Pentagon Flag, which reminds people as they approach it why they must do so through a long, uncomfortable security line.  Stoopid govermint.  The Star-Spangled Banner, which flew over Ft. McHenry during the War of 1812, has been moved to a safer place where it won't die as quickly.  It can still be viewed, and the exhibit around it shows some of the techniques that have been used to maintain it.  In a neighboring exhibit, as part of the museum's frothy tribute to the Greatest Generation hang a few famous World War II flags, including one hand-sewn from Nazi scrap cloth by an American soldier whose division was leading the charge across Germany in 1945.


Lunch Hour

Finished up the "Communities in a Changing Nation: The Promise of America in the 19th Century" at the American History Museum.  The content was interesting - America through the eyes of those trying to realize the American Dream in the 1800's.  However, the slant is far too current: it's a postmodern analysis of the mores and success of these dreamers from 150 years ago.  Postmodernism is, of course, a self-defeating value system.  For if you believe, as a consummate postmodernist should, that all is relative, and the experience and values of people are just as valid regardless of their circumstance, then you are in no position to condemn the obvious evils of the 19th century: slavery, child labor, discrimination, etc.  A good postmodernist discourse should simply tell the story of those who lived in certain times, in their own words and with their own perspective.  Instead, this exhibit inherited that feature of modernism that postmodernists cling to most dearly: the pompous right to judge all others according to postmodern standards, a phrase that in itself should be a contradiction in terms.   A few interesting facts from the exhibits:
  • Almost 180,000 blacks enlisted for the Union in the Civil War.
  • The Jewish community in Cincinnatti was one of the most influential in the U.S., and a Rabbi Wise, I think, there became the founder of Reform Judaism, an American innovation.
  • Cincinnatti was the U.S.'s 7th-largest city in 1860, and the biggest West of the Alleghanies and only New York and Philly had more industrial output.
  • New York had 400 Jews in 1825 and 40,000 by 1860.  In other words, it was a serious chore to get a decent bagel on the Lower East Side during the Jackson presidency.
  • President Millard Fillmore (1850-52; never won an election) ran in 1856 as the candidate of the Know-Nothing Party, which was America's only real fling with virulent nationalism.
  In other news, kudos to Blogger for adding a bunch of shortcuts and hotkeys to their interface, making it look suspiciously like a dumbed-down version of Microsoft Word.  The improvements they've made in the last year to their hardware and software have changed me from a detractor to an exponent of their service.


Lunch Hour

I'm done with the 1st Floor West Wing of the Smithsonian American History Museum, so I took the escalator up to the 2nd. There are some cool central exhibits in the Museum, including a huge floor map of all the states, showing what type(s) of voting apparatus are used in each county of America. The blue & red map from '00 was cooler, but this isn't bad, except in New England, where they refused to accommodate the town government structure, and instead labeled almost all the counties "mixed", an unhelpful designation. Upstairs hangs the Pentagon flag, which originally covered the destroyed west wall of the Pentagon after September 11, 2001. On the not-so-cool side is a sculpture of George Washington in a Zeus-like pose; classical revivalism has just gone too far when an American statesman is portrayed bare-chested and wearing a toga.


Assassins Guild

"Meet fun new people... and then kill them.

McGill University has perhaps the coolest student group I've ever seen. How much fun would this be? Especially if we somehow mixed it with that whole downtown medieval battle thing that Dubya wanted to do.

Looks like M.I.T. and a bunch of other places have them too...


Lunch Hour

Finished the "Science in American Life" exhibit at American History. Not particularly novel - the 1990's isn't really history to me. The Superconducting Super-Collider, the Ozone hole, recombinant DNA and GMO's are all recent history. The most interesting bit was the Smithsonian's novel explanation of recombinant DNA, which they had Siskel and Ebert explain using a Marx Brothers sketch, which featured Harpo sliding the sheet music of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" into an otherwise coherent opera score.

Man Bites Dog!

My housemate Ben came back from a day hike out in the foothills of the Shenandoah mountains on Sunday. The Shenandoah has the highest density of black bears anywhere in the U.S., he says, and his ample experience with them has left him rather fearless. He encountered an adult black bear - sniffing about in some bushes about 30 yards ahead of him. He surprised the bear a lot more than vice versa, and a few seconds later he was racing through the underbrush...chasing the bear. The beleaguered quadriped finally escaped...by climbing a tree.


Image Attempt

I've had poor luck with images in the past... so I'm going to try again. Tell me if you can see the Watergate.

Illegal, But Who Cares

The International Court of Justice in the Hague will issue an advisory opinion on the illegality of the placement of the barrier Israel has been erecting. Because Israel did not submit to the court's jurisdiction, it's an empty opinion, not a real case, but at least it is well established - by a 14 to 1 decision in the most highly regarded international legal body in the world.

The opinion will be released tomorrow at 4pm Eurotime, but InstantReplay has reliable sources who obtained an early copy, which reads:

"The Court is not convinced that the specific course Israel has chosen for the wall was necessary to attain its security objectives... The wall, along the route chosen, and its associated regime, gravely infringe a number of rights of Palestinians residing in the territory occupied by Israel, and the infringements resulting from that route cannot be justified by military exigencies or by the requirements of national security or public order."

This one is up to the U.S. Only you, Uncle Sam, can prevent human rights abuses and war in the Middle East. But with even the American judge, Thomas Buerghenthal, on the Court selling out to political pressure, it's unlikely that any administration in the next 4 years will give the Palestinians a fair shake at the rights to life, liberty, speech, and property.


Lunch Hour

History becomes less interesting when it is less historical. The development of the atomic bomb, garden chemicals, the pill, plastic, and the other scientific advancements that constitute my socio-cultural world are too recent and familiar to be fascinating. They lack the novelty of antiquity, so to speak. In any case, got through the midsection of the "Science in American Life" display. I guess kids growing up now have never seen a Tonka truck or a black & white television.

Oh, and if the Democrats think this administration is scaring us, they should watch some of the reels from Truman through Johnson - that's some scary stuff! "Little Jimmy knows the atomic bomb could explode any time...so when he sees the flash, he ducks and covers". I honestly don't think lying down in the street can save you from getting nuked, but it can almost certainly make you more acquiescent to the demands of your own government. Like the Democrats, I despise the Bush administration's use of fear in gettig Americans to cede their civil liberties; however, I definitely don't trust the Johns on the Left to give us those back. If anything, a John-John administration is going to be more controlling and more fear-mongering, though in a more self-righteously indiscriminate manner.



Woot for Meagan Healy! Her group got tickets to tonight's Crossfire from someone's boss, and they had an extra, so off I go to meet them. More on it tomorrow...

Lunch Hour

Started the "Science in American Life" exhibit at American History today. Pretty good, and thankfully not too indepth. The 1920-1940 room - the last one I saw - ended with a quote by a scientist-turned-politician from the 80's, saying that science has become so complex that most 'civilians' just tune it out, and thus the scientific establishment needs to do a better job communicating their work to the populace. He's right: I almost skipped the exhibit.

Some interesting things...
> The first scientific laboratory was founded at Johns Hopkins in 1876. How does the first lab end up with the name "Laboratory C"?
> Coal is life. You can eat it, take paint off with it, blow it (and everything around it) up, or develop photographs with it, all depending on how many nitrates and such you attach to it. Scary.
> William Jennings Bryan, the greatest American statesman never to be president, was the prosecuting attorney in the Scopes Monkey Trial, famous for lines such as "I am more interested in the Rock of Ages than in the age of rocks", was called by his opponent (Clarence Darrow) as a witness for the defense.

Good Books

I polished off a few good books this weekend. The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon by Stephen King is Lost on a Mountain in Maine meets Joe Castiglione meets, well, Stephen King. All around a good read (for a Sox fan), and the scariness isn't all that scary.

On the scholarly side, For Cause and Country is one of the best books on the Civil War I've ever encountered. It's a quick read - 200 pages - and is basically a study of 1,000+ diaries and papers of Civil War combatants, written during their service. The question is, Why did they fight? The answer is of course mixed, but author Stephen Ambrose finds that most soldiers joined, stayed, and gave it all in combat because they truly believed in the causes they fought for and had strong loyalty to their comrades. Unlike later American wars, discipline and training were not strong, and officers were not automatically respected. Worth the time to read this one; it sheds light on a different view of manhood from a time and culture not far removed from our own.


2005: The Victory Tour

OK, so it's a job and not a band's touring schedule. Nonetheless, I will be touring the U.S. this coming year for work, and I wanted to let all you groupies know where I'll be ahead of time so you can follow me on the road.

July 29-August 1: Boston & New Hampshire (personal visit)
November 11-13: Northeast Regional Model Arab League (Boston)
Novemberish: Kuwait Studies Program Escort
January 27-28: Atlanta High School MAL
February 17-19: Rocky Mountain MAL (Salt Lake City)
February 24-26: Michigan MAL (Grand Rapids)
March 10-11: Boston High School MAL
March 19: Colorado High School MAL (Denver)
March 30-April 2: National University MAL (D.C.)
April 7-9: Northwest MAL (Portland)
April 14-16: Southwest MAL (Waco, TX)
April 29-30: National High School MAL (D.C.)

So it'll be really busy for a couple months there! I plan to make the most of my trips... my skis are definitely going with me to Salt Lake City and Denver. Michigan in February isn't my idea of a vacation, but Kuwait in November is, so it all works out. A trip to Belgium will get in there somewhere too (maybe over the holidays?), and I'll most likely go on another study abroad trip in the spring or summer next year.


Darfur Info

For any of you interested in learning more about the crisis in Darfur, a new website was launched just recently dedicated to providing reliable factual information.

You Might Be A Nerd If

You visit the U.S. Dept of Agriculture's poultry and egg offices, and ask them which came first.

Dead Sox

If they write an autopsy on the Red Sox this year, I'm not going to read it. Watching the slow and tortured death of this monstrosity has been painful enough as it is.

So Theo, since I know you read InstantReplay regularly, here's my advice: see what the team can do in the next few weeks. Eight and a half games does not a grave make, but we're well on our way, as you know. Let the All-Star Break pass, and if they Yankees falter or we pick up serious steam, then go for it. But if at any time between now and July 30th we fall more than 12 games out, you need - we all need - an exit strategy. Say it's July 16th, and we've just dropped our third straight to fall to 13 games back. Don't mortgage the farm (as has been done every year since 1998) to try and catch up to the Yankees. They're going to get twice what we get at the trade deadline; there's no way around it. Rather, go the opposite way: trade veterans for young talent. There are plenty of close races in the League, and you should be able to get some serious minor league or young major league quality for Nomar, Pedro, and Lowe. Get some young arms, get some prospects, and jettison some salary. Save money - have a war chest for 2005 or 2006 that can put us over the top. We don't have to pretend we're in it every year. If we do make an ill-fated run this year (which it will be if we're already 13 back in July), the negativity will just increase to a crescendo that will drive Nomar and Pedro out of town faster than a New York Yankee stealing second, no matter what you offer them. It's not time to throw in the towel yet, but it will be, and we can't wait until September to admit it.

Fahrenheit 9/11

I saw the movie. You should (but only if you can find it for less than $10). Moore did a good job at keeping it factually ironclad; there's very little that conservatives will be able to say against it. Obviously it's a partisan piece, but most of his criticisms of the administration are legitimate, including the lies they told us to go to war, the cozy relationship with some specific business interests, etc. Every administration in history has had some level of corruption, and it's independent, opposition media like Moore that keep this country as good as it is. Bush needs Moore and his ilk to call him to account, critically examine his policies, and provide Americans with an alternative. You don't have to agree with Moore to see the need for him.

Moore, of course, would do no better in office. Many of his propositions sound like a policy wishlist. Who could be against better-staffed State Police, more intelligent airline security, or more jobs? However, if Moore really had a U.S. budget in front of him, he'd have to make some tough decisions between good policies. Of course, that's something that Bush is exempt from: he (apparently) can slash revenues and increase spending at the same time - and get away with it!

Will this help John Kerry? No, except inasmuch as it hurts Bush. Kerry isn't mentioned once, and the Senate Democrats are portrayed accurately as a group of do-nothing acquiescers "collaborating" (in the words of a recent cartoon) "on their own irrelevancy".


Lunch Hour

Visited a temporary exhibit at American History on the school desegregation battle. It's a pretty emotional place, and they do a good job at mixing facts, text, pictures, and artifacts. White contributors to the struggle get short play, but a few interesting facts I found were:

- Thurgood Marshall argued against one of the top lawyers in the U.S., named Davis, before the Supreme Court, a lawyer whom he'd skipped class to see as a law student at Howard.
- South Carolina spent over $11 million on education in 1930, and (despite almost equal numbers of students) just $1.4 million of that went to black schools.
- Massachusetts was the first state to outlaw segregation (by law in 1855) after an 1840's court case found that segregation was not unconstitutional.
- Howard University, which was the engine behind the legal struggle for civil rights, was founded in 1867 and named for a less-than-successful Union General, O. O. Howard, who commanded the ill-fated 11th Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg. His position at the head of the Freedman's Bureau in the Johnson administration (the first pro-civil rights Johnson administration) apparently was enough to overcome his wartime reputation for Howard University's founders.

The lesson of the segregated school struggle is that no matter what politicians say, separate is never equal. Even if equality is attained in spending or output, true equality won't be realized apart from unity. Today, both blacks and whites need to embrace that truth and step outside of comfort zones in the areas of life where our habits and fears keep us apart - leisure, music, travel, and above all church.