Friday, December 23, 2005

More Television Obsession: Project Runway

Okay, I'm a little late in sharing this love of mine, because the first season is already out on DVD and the second season has started. (But it's on Bravo where it will be repeated numerous times, so you can totally catch up). In the reality television genre, I am a fan of the competitive reality shows - particularly those where they are working towards a career goal. (Although that hasn't helped me like "The apprentice", but that's another story). "Project Runway" brings together aspiring fashion designers (and models). The designers compete in a series of competitions, all with insane deadlines. They're designed are showcased in a mini-runway show and then they are critiqued and a winner and a loser are chosen. The loser is out.

I think part of the reason this show is so much fun is that the designers are great characters, Everyone has their favorites and there a those who one might consider the villains also. Heidi Klum hosts, and Tim Gunn who works at Parsons where the show takes place offers wonderful guidance. This is the second season so the format is a little more familiar to those participating - although some of the contestants seem not to have taken that to heart.

The competitions can also be interesting. So far they have included the designers being sent to a party where they were told their next outfit had to be made entirely from what they were currently wearing, designing a look for My Scene Barbie, and putting together a lingerie collection.

As the show progresses, they will get down to three designers who will be given money and a decent (comparably) amount of time to put together a collection which they will show at fashion week. From that final show a winner will be chosen.

My super quick guide to this year's crop:
Andrae - Dramatic guy, most notable moment so far was a crying jag during the judging.
Chloe - Winner of the "Clothes Off Your Back" competition, she seems to have a level head and a very clean style.
Daniel F. - Sadly Daniel was eliminated in this week's challenge, he was (and is) a lovely guy with great tailoring skills.
Daniel V. - Winner of the "Team Lingerie" challenge, he has so far been pretty quiet.
Diana - Has some innovative designs - a skirt with magnets for example.
Emmett - Very tall, and very even keeled (which is a contrast let me tell you).
Guadalupe - Her designs seem fussy for my taste, and there has been a hint of future dram in her interactions with the other designers.
Heidi - Eliminated in the "Road to the Runway" challenge. She seemed very nice.
John - Also eliminated in the "Road to the Runway" challenge, in part because he admitted his simple design only took him eight hours (they were given a week for that first one).
Kara - Again with the drama potential - she had the Toys R Us employees stop the escalator so they could retrieve Barbie's hat for her.
Kirsten - Eliminated in the "Clothes Off Your Back" challenge for making a tacky outfit.
Marla - Has gotten on the other designers nerves for lacking some of the necessary sewing and piecing skills (and on the viewers nerves for constantly mentioning that she is from Allentown - we get it).
Nick - Winner of the "All Dolled Up" challenge, he has done some great stuff so far.
Raymundo - Eliminated in the "All Dolled Up" challenge for creating granny's dress instead of Barbie's dress.
Santino - Winner of the "Road to the Runway" challenge and cocky beyond belief, he has already demonstrated he does not take criticism or not winning well.
Zulema - She has been quiet recently but made her mark early refusing to share closet space and making a dress so short it bared her model's butt.

The Project Runway/Bravo site (which includes Tim's Blog and Podcast and you can look at the outfits produced so far).

Television without Pity has recapped all of last season, as well as this season:

All copyrights of course still belong to the people at Bravo and Mattel and all that.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Letter to Target

Hello -
I wanted to share my concerns over Target's policy concerning filling birth control prescriptions. I understand that there are people - many of the pharmacists - who object on a religious and/or moral basis - to the use of birth control. I certainly do wish for these people to do anything that would conflict with their beliefs.

However, as a pharmacist a person takes on a set of responsibilities, which includes allowing people to fill all their legally obtained prescriptions. If a pharmacist is unable to fulfill that duty - or to fulfill all of it, they need to make their supervisors aware of this restriction.

The supervisors then need to plan for that when scheduling pharmacists. We all lead busy lives. When I drop off a prescription, I expect that I will be able to pick it up in the timeframe that I was originally promised. I should not have to worry about returning only to discover that the pharmacist on duty is unwilling to provide me my prescription and that I now need to come back at a different time or go to another location.

If I can't have some certainty about being able to retrieve my prescription in a timely manner, why would I use the Target pharmacy?

Thanks for your consideration.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Debate Me

"...once a prejudice begins to be publicly debated, it is always revealed to be a dying prejudice. One does not debate a prejudice until the definition undergirding that prejudice has begun to be questioned." Bishop Shelby Spong
I'm on the e-newsletter list for Bishop Spong and this was part of his response to a question about how does he handle the setbacks in fighting for gay rights. And this was an "aha" moment for me. What a fabulous idea! The idea that once you have gotten the issue to the point where it is debated, you are already well on your way to winning. This could apply to gay rights, to anti-racism, to reproductive education - all manner of things.
It is so easy to get depressed and to think that we are never going to move forward. (And I realize some of you may have different ideas about what constitutes forward progress, and, well, I'm sorry to hear that.) So, this was inspiring. Now I have no idea how true this is - I have not verified the authenticity of the statement. Certainly I can think of examples in which public debate still led to another hundred or so years before the idea had any sort of mainstream acceptance.
But nonetheless, getting an idea or prejudice or concept to a point of debate should be - based on this - viewed as a huge positive step. It certainly doesn't mean sit back and relax. And certainly that doesn't mean yours is the idea that will turn out to be the accepted one certainly the idea of debate insists on at least two viewpoints, and you (or I) may turn out to be the ones holding onto the one that will die out or be pushed aside.
But a little something to keep in mind, when you are out there trying to expand minds. Whether about the rights of DC residents or about diversity in television.

Friday, December 02, 2005

To Gift or not to Gift

Well, we are rapidly approaching that time of year when many of us choose to exchange cards and/or gifts. Which leads to a dilemna. How do you determine who is card-worthy or gift-worthy or both? There are givens, like immediate family members (normally). But there are always those people who are on the bubble. There are those who are new in your life. They are a friend of a friend who you cross paths with frequently. There are those who you carded last year - have they moved up to gift status this year? There are those who you aren't sure you'll run into over the season - so are they postage-worthy? And there are those hangers-on who have been on your list in past years, but who you no longer really talk to or see outside of the holiday season. Should they be bumped down a notch? Dropped off the list. And there are people who you sent something last year - but got no response. What to do?

Well, I'm here to help! Okay - only in a philosophical type way. But nonetheless.

  • One handy-dandy measuring stick is - would you be embarrassed if they sent you something and you hadn't sent anything for them? Now if you are one of those people who would always be embarrassed, then this rule won't be much use to you. Because you can't get something for everyone. But, in order to allay some concerns I do recommend having a couple of generic cards (and a pen) on hand. You can pre-write a generic message ("Happy holidays! Love, Me") and have it sealed ready for the card to get a name on the front. Keep them handy (purse, car, desk).
  • Miss Manners says anyone who did not respond to your gift can be removed from your list. Now, if it is a family member, this may get sticky so you may want to weigh the sticky factor before striking this offender from the rolls - but at the very least they should be downgraded on your list. Now, I should clarify that a response does not mean they sent you an equivalent gift or card - it means they acknowledged your thoughtfulness without you having to call to make sure they received it.
  • Another possibility is making a donation to a charity in the name of your family and friends (you don't have to name them all). You can then notify people - by card or otherwise - that you have made a donation on their behalf. That should help you take care of/pare down a portion of your list.
  • I'm a fan of sending out lots of cards. I may not have gotten to talk to or correspond with every person that year, but sometime the card is what starts the cycle up again. But if this person's only reason for being on the list is that they have always been there and you don't even really care to hear from them - drop them.

    The original traditions surrounded given presents to brighten up the days of those less fortunate, celebrating the change of the seasons, and gathering with friends and family. Those are the important parts. All this gift and card stuff should be fun. (I know - easy to say). So, try to keep that in mind when fighting through crowded malls and crazy traffic. Try.

  • Week 13 Picks

    NFL WEEK 13
    Sunday, Dec. 4
    *** MIAMI - Buffalo - Oooh - a division game when both are desparately vying for a wildcard spot. Miami hasn't won a division game yet, but Buffalo has yet to win one the road. So I'm going with Miami to break their trend. A squeaker! 1-0
    *** PITTSBURGH - Cincinnati - Yeah Pittsburgh just went down to the Colts - they are not losing this week. Whoops, not a good start (for me). 1-1
    *** BALTIMORE - Houston - Okay so I keep picking home teams, but in this case B'more is the less loserish team. Just barely - 2-1
    *** INDIANAPOLIS - Tennessee - This is not the week Tennesee will see improvement in their road game. Yeah - so not that hard to predict. 3-1
    CLEVELAND - *** Jacksonville - Jax took down the Cards last week even without Byron, I think they can take the Browns too. Close game. 4-1
    *** N.Y. GIANTS - Dallas - Big oooh - Winner takes the division and so far the Giants have been winning the big ones. Shocker, I know. 5-1
    CHICAGO -Green Bay *** - Now that GB is guaranteed a losing season I think they will - conversely - win some. Well, apprently they didn't get that memo. 5-2
    DETROIT *** - Minnesota - Two incosistent teams for anothe division battle - I think Detroit's a little madder after last week. Oops - well that's what happens when both are inconsistent. 5-3
    *** CAROLINA - Atlanta - Oh look another division game. I predict Carolina will remain on top. Not quite as close as I expected. 6-3
    NEW ORLEANS *** - Tampa Bay - The Saints are getting the hang of that winning thing and TB keeps going down when they shouldn't. Happy for the Bucs, sad for me. 6-4
    SAN FRANCISCO - *** Arizona - AZ just had a very sad loss. Yay! 7-4
    ST. LOUIS - *** Washington - Favored again! How cool. But seriously, I think we'll snap the losing streak now (Unless is goes to OT). Big yay! 8-4
    *** NEW ENGLAND - N.Y. Jets - Yeah, the Pats have yet to lose a division game and the Jets have yet to win a road game. And again. 9-4
    KANSAS CITY *** - Denver - KC's on a roll and ready to take this division rival down. Yipee! 10-4
    *** SAN DIEGO - Oakland - Yeah. Like I said. 11-4
    Monday, Dec. 5
    *** Seattle - PHILADELPHIA - It's amazing there are enough Green people left for Philly to play. Hah! 12-4

    Friday, November 04, 2005

    Week 9 Picks

    *** Detroit - MINNESOTA - The Vikings are riding high but Detroit just lost to another divsion rival so they are mad.
    *** San Diego - NY JETS - Yeah.
    Tennessee*** - CLEVELAND -Loser bowl. Both teams had crushing losses last week and both want to make up for that this week. But McNair is the guy who knows how to do it (much as I love Trent).
    Oakland - *** KANSAS CITY - Hee. Moss is back but KC has home field and an average of 24 points a game.
    Chicago - NEW ORLEANS*** - Crazy I know, but the Bears went into OT to hold on to the division lead last week, and I think they have underestimated the inconsistent Saints. And the Saints are going to want to please the home crowd (for real this time).
    *** Cincinnati - BALTIMORE - It'll be a tough division game, but Cinci is doing really well right now.
    Carolina - *** TAMPA BAY - This game will help break a three way tie for the NFC South, so I'll go with the home team but this will be a hard fought game.
    Houston - *** JACKSONVILLE - I'm still a little bitter about those Florida teams all conspiring against me last week, but Houston got their first win last week. They aren't getting number two this week.
    *** Atlanta - MIAMI - A big RB battle, but Atlanta's roll may be unstoppable (for now).
    NY Giants*** - SAN FRANCISCO - Last week was a fluke.
    *** Seattle - ARIZONA - The AZ coach said they have to learn to play better. This should help.
    *** Pittsburgh - GREEN BAY - GB's got interception issues, injury issues, running issues, etc. This will not be their week.
    Philadelphia - WASHINGTON *** - We got embarassed last week. Loser gets the bottom of the division - it'll be the green guys.
    Monday, Nov. 7
    *** Indianapolis - NEW ENGLAND - NE is banged up (you know it's bad when stroke boy coming back is the big thing) - they aren't in shape for Indy.

    Playing the God Card

    First - my disclaimer. I am registered as a Democrat - because I wanted to vote in presidential primaries (otherwise since I first was a voter in DC I might have registered with the DC Statehood Party). I do not think Democrats are a superior party, nor do I think Republicans are intrinsically evil. I tend to end up more on the liberal side (as you may have noticed) so I tend to hold a similar viewpoint on many issues to the Democratic party. I also recognize that our two-party-majority system holds within it a wide range of viewpoints.

    I heard Jimmy Carter talking on NPR this morning about the differences between Republicans and Democrats and one of things the interviewer asked him about was the perception that the Republican party is the religious party. Carter said he didn't agree with that perception and moved straight into what he thought the major difference between the two parties (right now) is. However, this is an issue I have spent a lot of time thinking about and discussing, so here we go.

    It seems fair to say that people who don't spend a lot of time thinking about politics are aware that the religious right represents (as the name suggests) a conservative viewpoint and that they are active within the Republican party. But very little attention (comparatively, at least) seems to go to the religious left. It is sort of a chicken/egg problem - I don't know if the media doesn't seek out the religious left or if the religious left doesn't seek out the media, but the result is the same. I attended a dinner sponsored by a Democratic women's group where one of the speakers - a reporter for a political magazine - said she was often asked how could she be Christian and a Democrat. Her response was that they are intertwined, she is a Democrat as a result of her religious beliefs.

    I think this is more common than the public perception allows for. I think as the Republican party has become more strongly associated with a conservative Christian viewpoint, the Democratic party has tried to distance itself from that. Certainly that would be in part to allow for those who are "spiritual" but not "religious", those who are atheist or agnostic, and those who belong to other faith traditions.

    But here comes the question - how do you balance that with recognition that there are many religious people who find themselves in the Democrat camp not out of a subversion or denial of their religious beliefs, but because this is where they as a religious person have found themselves? And how do you acknowledge that without alienating those who got here through different paths - religious or not.

    Right now I think what happens is that people stay quiet. Which leads to the perception that they have subdivided themselves - sometime I am religious and other times I am a Democrat. Don't get me wrong, I don't want to start some sort of Democrat church or tent revival. But I think that people are keeping quiet about an important component of themselves. And I think there are others, who may feel they have more in common with the Democratic party, but feel that Democrats don't like religious people.

    And part of this concern about mixing too much religion and politics comes from the separation of church and state. And I think Democrats in particular are worried about talking too much about how a spiritual or religiously based desire to change the world informs some of their decisions. And I think part of that is how do you counter the God card. If I am having a debate with someone, political or otherwise, and they say that the basis of their conviction comes from God - it stops the discussion. Because what do I say to that? Your God is wrong? You misunderstood God?

    Which may lead us to another division. I think everyone turns to religion for answers. The questions may differ, but in the end we are looking for answers. But some people (and some religious traditions) start from a position that those answers are all - well answered. And some start with the idea that we journey towards a state of goodness (for lack of a real word). And there is plenty in between. So where I'm going with this is that some people think you can't argue because God has spoken and some people think you have to do your best to live what God (or whomever) wants and to figure that out for yourself. So when someone says to me, well that's what God wants or that's what [insert deity here] says, I'm shut down. Even though I personally believe in a higher power who wants me to better the world, I tend not to use the God card because I think there's a lot of gray in how I work towards that goal.

    Don't get me wrong I'm not saying that everything has gray, but that's what God wants is not a complete argument to me. Because, I have to be able to explain why I feel this is the right choice. Which might lead people to think that my religion doesn't factor into my political decisions, because I don't use it to explain my choices.

    So how do I get to a place where I can demonstrate both - at the same time? I don't know. At least not yet.

    Tuesday, October 25, 2005

    Week 7 Picks

    ***ST. LOUIS - New Orleans - The Rams coach is sick, which often leads to teams rallying for coach. Yup. 1-0
    MINNESOTA -Green Bay*** - Two inconsistent teams, but GB is all rested up. Which apparently only helped a little. 1-1
    HOUSTON - *** Indianapolis - Hee! Well, I called that. 2-1
    ***CINCINNATI - Pittsburgh - Oooh- a division match with Pittsburgh coming off a hard loss last week. So, when in doubt pick the home team. Well, that usually works. 2-2
    PHILADELPHIA - San Diego*** - Hmmm - another close one, but Philly lost to Dallas (who we beat - just wanted to mention that) so I think SD will figure a way to do the same. But not this time. 2-3
    *** MIAMI - Kansas City - Hmmm some more - the game's been pushed due to the wather and I figure the Dolphins are more accustomed to 'cane disruptions. Oh. 2-4
    *** CLEVELAND - Detroit - Loser bowl. Hmmm. 2-5
    *** WASHINGTON - San Francisco - Look! We're favored again! And by 12 points! Well, at least I have this. 3-5
    *** SEATTLE - Dallas - Seattle's unbeaten at home. And this. 4-5
    OAKLAND - Buffalo*** - Buffalo has revolving QBs and yet they still seem to win. And now Oakland remembers how to win. 4-6
    *** CHICAGO - Baltimore - Two good defenses and not much else, but Chicago has a slightly better offense. That's more like it. 5-6
    ARIZONA - Tennessee *** - McNair vs. Warner - please. Please show me how wrong I am? I guess. 5-7
    *** N.Y. GIANTS - Denver - It should be a tough game, but if I think the Giants can bring the Broncos off this streak. Ha! (Although that's as much fun as I want the Giants to have for now). 6-7
    Monday, Oct. 24
    *** ATLANTA - N.Y. Jets - The Jets are fighting some injuries on their front line. So - not too bad, but not great. 7-7
    So overall - 1-0-2. (I had some weeks where I forgot to post mine in advance.) So right now I'm at about Green Bay status.

    Thursday, October 20, 2005


    I read this today in the Washington Post. (The site requires registration,if you like, go to to borrow an established registration.)
    An English teacher at Cabin John Middle School assigned eighth graders to choose one of one hundred books that have been banned at one time or other. Students were encouraged to review the list with their parents as they made their selection. Part of the assignment was to understand what criteria is used in determining banned material. The assignment had been given to last year's class also, without incident.
    But this year some parents (some being up to five, but I'll allow that the number might have grown in the assignment hadn't been quashed so quickly) objected.
    Some of the books included explicit discussions of sex and/or presented a pro-homosexual viewpoint. And I can certainly see how some parents may not want their 12-13 year olds reading such material. But there are one hundred books on that list. Some were by Mark Twain, Roald Dahl and Madeline L'Engle. And the assignment encouraged parents to talk to their children about the list. So if there were titles on the list that they felt were inappropriate for their children, it was a perfect learning moment to have that conversation.
    I'm not saying that parents can't attempt to raise their children with values or that they have to agree with everything that goes on in the world. Everyone doesn't even have to agree with me (shocking, I know). But hey, part of raising your children is teaching them what's going on in the rest of the world. Just like you tell your kids not to talk to strangers, you tell them hey - this book conflicts with my beliefs. Or I think you're to young for this information.
    My mother was great at watching television with me - encouraging me to think about themes and messages within the shows and even the ads. So that now when I see the "Power Puff Girls" episode where one of the girls gets glasses and her sisters make fun of her, it drives me crazy. I have a friend who's mother didn't like "The Flintstones" because she thought it depicted a bad marital relationship. And my cousins weren't allowed to watch "Rugrats" because of Angela's behavior toward her sibling and his friends. But both my friend and my cousins knew why their parents' objected. So even if they didn't agree, they understood why their parents felt that way. They got their learning moment.
    Sadly, the children of Cabin John Middle School, got a different message. Your parents don't even want you to know about this stuff. They don't trust you.

    Wednesday, October 19, 2005

    Bad Blogger

    Sorry - I've been a bad blogger. Well - here's some random assorted pieces of information first.
    "Veronica Mars" is back on - second season. Check it out if you haven't already. The DVD's of the first season are available for sale. They were rushed out, so there are very limited extras. But you can download a "Pilot" commentary from creator Rob Thomas' wesbite.
    "House" is also back on - although it's currently on a break due to baseball playoffs.
    So far, none of the new shows have triggered similar levels of obsession, so you are safe (depending on your perspective) from new ranting about shows. (Just those same two for now.)
    And my football picks - sorry - I slacked off a bit on those. I'll try to be better.
    And just a directional announcement of sorts. When I started this blogs I had visions of me being hilarious and funny and stuff. But generally my intent was to keep this fairly apolitical and areligious. And while there will still be plenty of that (unless you consider television a religion) I decided - to paraphrase Melissa Etheridge - if I try to keep that out of my stuff - you're not really listening (or reading) to me anyway. So - there will be that. May do some stuff will alternate identities so if you don't love my politics or religion or both you can just pay attention to the stuff that works for you. We shall see.
    And now back to your irregularly scheduled programming.

    No Prom

    I'm sure many of you have heard about the high school in New York that decided to cancel their prom. Now I realize this is certainly not a tragedy on the scale of - for example - a hurricane. And certainly no one is promised prom when they go to high school - they are promised education. However, this incident (for lack of a better word) raised some interesting things for me.
    I work as an Adult Advisor to high school age youth, so have had some interesting conversations both with teens and adults about youth empowerment. Like so many things I can see a number of sides here, so if you came here for the definitive answer, you can stop reading right now.
    First - the school administration absolutely has the right to make this decision. Second, it is my understanding that they sent a letter to parents in March reviewing their concerns and indicating they were seriously considering moving the date of prom or canceling it, so this is not completely out of the blue for parents and students. (Unless entering students and parents didn't get this letter - which is possible).
    Second - I went to a high school that made it very clear to us that the school takes on a huge liability hosting an event that has a high probability of underage drinking. If a student gets caught drunk and/or injured as a result of their drinking even if it is before or after the event, the school still can be held partially responsible since these events are considered to be tangential to the one that they held.
    Also, my senior year - after a drinking incident associated with a fall ball - they considered canceling prom. The students mobilized and signed a pledge to not drink or ingest other illegal substances before, during or after prom. (Yes - this was a tad silly since we were already not supposed to participate in those behaviors - both from a legal standpoint and because it was also a campus rule, but I think they appreciated our better understanding of our need to do this. Or to not get caught.)
    But I have a number of concerns. To start with, in the March letter that the school sent, they recommended parents watch "American Pie" as a movie that explained the current teen culture. I consider that ridiculous. There have always been movies that depict certain 'youth culture' behaviors, and some of those movies become 'classics' because they have some resonance with the generation and certainly "American Pie" might fit into that category. And while there are a number of characters in the movie one can identify with, I don't think anyone considers the movie as a whole to be a true to life depiction. Certainly there are incidents and pieces within it that are very believable, but like a lot of comedy, each storyline goes more for hyperbole that documentary. And teenagers know this. They are not dumb.
    Now the school said it has several principles that it is trying to instill in these kids and the culture of excess, the pressure (even if rooted in myth) to have sex, and the lack of responsibility that has come to surround prom, makes them feel it is no longer an event they can support. But here is my question, what is taking it away teaching them?
    If there is pressure to outdo classmates, wouldn't that permeate everyday life as well. Certainly a fancy dress event might contain better opportunities for expenditure (and I do understand that the school can't hold the event and then monitor expenditure) but there are cars and purses and and sneakers and cell phones and televisions. There are plenty of ways to spend money and prom is only one.
    If there is pressure to have sex (and let me just tell you I went to prom and didn't have sex) - isn't that part of the values they should have already been talking to the kids about. (It's a Catholic school.) And let's face it, people of all ages have sex when they want to. It's often easier to do it when not in fancy dress, if you ask me.
    And if responsibility is an issue, how does taking away an event due to behaviors of preceding classes teach responsibility? Let em tell you - it doesn't. It teaches teens - yet again - that people in power can make judgments about your ability to handle something, without knowing you. Without giving you an opportunity to understand their concerns and address them. And I know a letter went out - but it went to parents. And I may be wrong, but I get the impression there was no attempt to meet with this years seniors and give them an opportunity to address these concerns. So instead of teaching them empowerment, we have taught them the opposite.
    It is my understanding that some of the seniors and parents are mobilizing to look into holding their own prom or having an alternate event that the school would be willing to sponsor. I wish them luck.

    Tuesday, September 27, 2005

    Week 3 Picks

    Here you go! The benefit of my...whatever. Home teams is in caps.
    Sunday, Sept. 25
    **ST LOUIS - Tennessee - It'll be close but I think the Rams are ready. Not that hard a pick. 1-0
    ** PHILADELPHIA - Oakland - Oakland hasn't won yet. I don't this this is their week. Close. 2-0
    ** Cincinnati - CHICAGO - Last week was Chicago's biggest win in 18 years, I don't think this will be the second one. Yep. 3-0.
    **N.Y. JETS - Jacksonville - Jax is riddled with injuries. Well, go Jax! 3-1
    **New Orleans - MINNESOTA - It'll be close but I think MN has consistency problems that will continue to plague them. Hmm - apparently not. 3-2
    **MIAMI - Carolina - Carolina has injury issues. It was close. 4-2.
    ** INDIANAPOLIS - Cleveland - Hee. Closer than I thought it would be, but still...5-2.
    ** BUFFALO - Atlanta - Vick is questionable and the Falcons aren't that good on the road. Oops. 5-3.
    ** Tampa Bay - GREEN BAY - The battle of the Bays, it will be hard fought, but Tampa's riding high right now. Poor Green Bay. 6-3.
    ** SEATTLE - Arizona - The Seahawks have found their groove (although hopefully they'll lose it next week) and they aren't going down to a division rival. Oh yeah. 7-3.
    ** PITTSBURGH - New England - Reliving the playoffs - with a better ending. That's what I'm talking about. 8-3.
    **SAN FRANCISCO - Dallas - Crazy but I think the 9ers want it more. Well, not quite like I thought. 8-4.
    ** SAN DIEGO - N.Y. Giants - Oh yeah. They hate Eli. Yep. 9-4.
    Monday, Sept. 26
    **Kansas City - DENVER - KC is not losing the division lead. Okay - a little over-estimation on my part. 9-5.
    Enjoy your weekend!
    Updated 9/27/2005. Overall 1-0-1. (I did not make picks for week 1 - that was my bye.)

    Thursday, September 15, 2005

    Are You Ready for Some Football?

    Note: Contains reference to racist team names.

    Yeah - it's that happy time of year when my favorite sport (to watch) is on. And so, I thought I would share my picks so you can have the benefit of my wisdom (or lack thereof). and to force me to keep track of how reliable I am. Just to lay it out, I am a lifelong Redskins fan. And I have warm and fuzzy feelings about the Buccaneers, the Seahawks, the Dolphins and the Browns.
    So - my thoughts for week 2.
    (Home Team is in Caps).
    Saturday Games
    **Baltimore - TENNESSEE - It will be close, Baltimore got embarrassed last week, so I think they want this more. Called that wrong. 0-1
    **Pittsburgh - HOUSTON - Houston's a bit of a mess right now. Yup. 1-1
    ** INDIANAPOLIS - Jacksonville - This will be a tight division game, and Jax did well last week, but I think Indy might take this. Not that original a pick, but still. 2-1.
    ** Detroit - CHICAGO - The Redskins beat Chicago last week without scoring a touchdown. Nuff said. Well who knew Chicago had it in them. 2-2.
    **San Francisco - PHILADELPHIA - This is another tough one, McNabb is questionable for Sunday and Philly got beat by some other birds last week. And right now Philly is at the bottom of their division. (Hee - that's so much fun to say.) Yeah, yeah - I should have known not to bet against an injured Philly. 2-3.
    **TAMPA BAY - Buffalo - It will be close - both teams did great last week, but I think Tampa has better experience winning against good teams. Yay! 3-3
    ** New England - CAROLINA - The Panthers lost to the hurricane team and lost a key player, this is not a good week for them. Darn it - and I hate the Pats. 3-4
    **SEATTLE - Atlanta - This one is close too, Atlanta's D made Philly look silly and Seattle doesn't have McNabb. But this is Seattle's first home game so I think they will pull it out here. Ha! 4-4.
    ** St. Louis - ARIZONA - Kurt jost lost to his other former team last week, I think he'll end up doing the same this week. Yeah - I know - nothing original in picking against AZ. 5-4.
    **Miami - N.Y. JETS - The Jets were a mess last week, and former Skins QB Frerotte did a great job for the Dolphins. Hmmm - well what d'ya know. 5-5
    **GREEN BAY - Cleveland - It usually doesn't pay to bet against GB at home - especially the first home game. Yeah, yeah, every record eventually fails. 5-6.
    **San Diego - DENVER - Another division match, but Jake the Snake is once again demonstrating the inconsistency that he is so known for. Okay, San Diego is apparently experiencing post-Cinderella syndrome. 5-7
    ** Kansas City - OAKLAND - It'll be an offensive shootout, but KC will take it. Oh good. 6-7
    **CINNCINATI -Minnesota - It'll be close again, but Cincy has consistency on its side. See! 7-7
    Monday Games
    **Washington - DALLAS - Hey we're leading the division now. (Okay so we're tied with the Cowboys and the Giants - but still. And - I'm not the only person picking them.) Ha! 8-7
    **New Orleans - N.Y. GIANTS - This is a hard one to pick. Who wants to bet against the hurricane team that says they're playing to offer hope to all the dispaced residents? Well, okay this week the Giants want to beat them, but I think as it gets close the veteran QB will do the job. Oh - alright. 8-8.
    Edited 9-21-2005.

    Wednesday, September 07, 2005

    A New Embedding

    Like many, I have watched hours of coverage of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, read countless stories. I watched as the coverage went from graphics of a big giant circle to footage of homes decimated and turned to kindling. As people talked about the luck that Katrina had seemingly spared New Orleans by jogging a few miles to the east before smacking the gulf coast. (Interestingly, none of the coverage I have seen seemed concerned that by jogging east Katrina also smacked some other town that hadn't had as much time to prepare.) I watched as the reporters stationed in New Orleans discovered that the levees which protect New Orleans from flooding failed. The geography of New Orleans that made the levees useful, also meant that the remaining levees would help keep the water in the city - turning the city into a bathtub with no plug.
    I cannot explain why the coverage abated - temporarily - when it appeared that New Orleans may have missed the brunt of the storm. Perhaps the media assumes that New Orleans being the city most people outside of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama had heard of therefore made it the most interesting. But as the streets of New Orleans filled with water, it suddenly became newsworthy again. But more quickly it seemed that the story was not just that years of predictions about the fate of the city should a hurricane hit it again had come true. No, the story was that there was no plan.
    Residents had been urged to evacuate the city the weekend prior to the storm - and about 80% of them did. Some stayed because they had stayed during Cindy and Ivan and other storms that had also been supposed to devastate the city and turned into - for New Orleans at least - nothing but rain. Some stayed because they did not have access to transportation out of the city. Some stayed - like some of the students at Xavier University - because they figured if it was that bad - someone would come get them. And as we all know - many who couldn't get out of town took shelter at the Superdome and the convention center.
    So, now someone needed to get these people out of the city. And I readily confess that I don't know enough about the redesigned government to know whose ultimate responsibility this is. Although that may be part of the problem, as many have said they offered help, but couldn't figure out who was supposed to authorize them. I totally understand that no major city has been evacuated in this century. But I find it mind boggling that in the last four years, as the specter of the next September eleventh hung over us, that no one came up with a plan to evacuate a city. And here's the thing, I don't even mind so much that there wasn't a plan. I work in an industry (as I think most everyone does) where things we hadn't predicted or really hoped would never happen happened. And what you do is you say - okay - we need to make this work and we'll worry about the right way to do it later. I'm sure someone was saying well we need a plan so we don't do this wrong, but the problem was the only thing worse than doing it wrong, was appearing to do nothing at all. And that's what happened.
    I don't want to take away from the Coast Guard, the National Guard, the Red Cross, the New Orleans city officials (including the police and other emergency personnel), the City of Houston (who stepped up to the plate while other cities were still standing with jaws hanging), the Jefferson Parish officials, the Mississippi and Alabama personnel (and many others I'm sure that I am unintentionally forgetting) all who worked tirelessly. And while FEMA and the Homeland Security office that it rolls up to will likely take the brunt of the backlash for this failure not only to plan but to act, there are I'm sure many people there also who were working to get stuff done.
    The irony is not lost on me (or many of you I'm sure) that under a Republican president, who ran on a let's simplify things platform, it was red tape that prevented people from getting assistance they need. That places like the convention center and Superdome in New Orleans that had been intended as temporary shelter (to say nothing of hospitals and nursing homes that were only partially evacuated), became - as electricity and sewage systems in New Orleans failed - a new torture all its own.
    So, here's the thing. I have watched as the news media tired of counting destruction (although that will change as body counts become available I am sure) and turned to trying to get someone to admit there had been breakdowns. Trying to get someone in power to say that we didn't do all we should have. Because if this administration has tried to make us feel safer, this tragedy has shown us we can't handle something we knew was on its way. We have no plan for getting you out of an area that is unsafe.
    But the thing that had my jaw dropping in utter shock (to be followed by cursing at the television) was this. Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said that they had no idea the hurricane would hit New Orleans. That he and his organization had no idea the levees would break. And that they had no idea that there were people stranded in the convention center.
    You have got to be kidding! I knew this as a viewer at home! So - here's my suggestion. Since clearly the FEMA and DHS folks can't get wherever they need to be to get this kind of information - I think FEMA needs to embed some folks with news organizations. A sort of reverse embedding if you will. That way, the FEMA person embedded with CNN can discover that there is a hurricane heading for New Orleans and other parts of the Gulf Coast. The FEMA person embedded with NPR can let someone know that hey, they've been predicting for years that any kind of serious hurricane is going to break the levees in New Orleans - that in fact that's why the Army Corps of Engineers keeps asking for money to reinforce the levees. And the FEMA person embedded with MSNBC can call and say hey - our helicopters spotted several thousand people stranded outside the convention center - we should probably send someone to get them.
    And hey - even if we treat these statements seriously (instead of as the ridiculous defensive statements I hope they are because I prefer mismanagement to utter stupidity, it's easier to fix). So - if we take these statements seriously is this not the biggest 'come and get us' message we could possibly ever send to the terrorists out there? Hey - you don't need dirty bombs to get us - just flood a city! Since we won't know it's coming, we'll have no way to plan for it, and since a flooded city is beyond the prediction models we have used to make plans for disasters it will take us weeks to get people out and everyone will be mad at the government! Woo - hoo! And hey - if they're smart, the terrorists will do it in the middle of some sort of event that will gather people in one large location, because that won't make it easier for us to rescue the people. On the contrary, it will take us days to figure out where they are! So - come and get us!
    But seriously, it saddens me that the news media appears to have had people in place (just in case) and the government did not. I don't expect perfection from the government. But some basic planning. And hey, the news media had people in places that were less devastated, but they have apparently decided (as I can only assume the government has not) that sending people in case something happens is usually worth it because then you are already there if it does. The media and the government sometimes seem to work from similar principles of marketing tactics. Get people mobilized around an idea, show them how it affects them, and they will come - to the polls or the station. But sadly, the media seems to have made it work better for them. The government that asked for greater vigilance from each of us, has failed to demonstrate that for itself.

    Saturday, September 03, 2005

    Stories of Kindness

    In the wake of Hurricane Katrina - a phrase I expect we will be using for quite some time - there is plenty of blaming going on. It is not that I don't think there is blame that is deserved - I am sure there is. It is not that I don't expect myself to be making decisions about politicians based on the response to this tragedy because I do. But I would like to focus here on some stories of kindness. There is no way I could possibly - especially geographically removed as I am from the hurricane affected areas - account for all of them. So consider these to be representative. For the most part, I will not attempt to name names - not because these people are nameless, but because to do so incompletely would be a disservice to those whose stories I do not know about.
    Although the exception to the above, will be Mayor Ray Nagin. I'm sure as the immediacy of this disaster fades he will come to be included in the list of people who are blamed in part for failure to properly anticipate this disaster. But for now, this man, who had never held political office but who wanted to help New Orleans. I'm sure he had no idea what was to come, but while sending his family and most of his staff to safety, he has remained. He has worked hard to try and get his city the aid and assistance it needed, while balancing the need to get the word out through the media with the need to stop talking and start doing.
    People - referred to by many as looters - took food, water, orange juice and carried it to victims still waiting for a way out of New Orleans. (It is ironic that a city that sees so many people come and go each year, has now become so difficult for people to leave.)
    A reporter taking footage of hospital patients still stranded in New Orleans, stopped and shared some water with an old man lying on a cot on the floor.
    Two parents trying to locate their newborn baby who they assumed had been evacuated from New Orleans told everyone they could find about their story. Eventually they were reunited with their son after a six or seventh degree of connection made a call to the right hospital and got the number back to them.
    A woman whose name is Katrina, so had a website in her name, discovered she was getting increasing numbers of hits as the hurricane approached and then struck. She has converted her website to a hurricane relief information site for the duration.
    A vetrinarian stayed with animals that had been kenneled as their owners left, because he promised the owners. With some help, he has now evacuated all the animals.
    Medical staff who stayed at hospitals in New Orleans went without food so that their patients could have more to eat. Then, hungry and tired, they carried their patients to buildings where the helicopters could reach them.
    Even as others struggle to leave and help others leave the city, crews have been working tirelessly to help repair the broken levee on Lake Pontchartrain so that they can try and get the city - well not fixed - but in a better place.
    Cities and states across the country have opened shelters and stadiums for displaced people. They have offered medical personnel and construction personnel. Schools and colleges have said we will make room, we will take on extra students, we will find a place to educate displaced students. A university in Austria also volunteered to take additional students from the US.
    US and Canadian airlines have offered planes to assist with transporting evacuees to other locations. Some airports have waived landing and other fees for planes assisting with hurricane relief efforts.
    Over 60 countries - without us even asking - have volunteered search and rescue personnel and equipment, disaster relief coordination teams, medical staff, medicine, cruise ships to house displaced people, construction workers and other aid. Some of these are countries we do not normally consider allies.
    The Red Cross has been overwhelmed with people offering to volunteer. They have held additional training sessions across the country, and many of them have had waiting lists.
    One sports team, loaded up their plane with relief supplies before heading to the south for the game. People across the country have offered their homes to displaced people.

    Thursday, September 01, 2005

    Hurricane Resources

    Hurricane Katrina and her friends have clearly devastated a huge area of the gulf coast and beyond. I felt like maybe the best thing I could do (at least from a blog perspective) was collect places people can go to find or give assistance. There are plenty of places you can go for news on the tragedy (and please do).
    This is certainly not a comprehensive list, and I expect to update it as I discover more.
    How to help:
    If you would like to help victims of the hurricane, I suggest donating money. If you already belong to an organization that assists in disaster relief, you may contact them to see what their plans are. However, at this time organizations are requesting donations money rather than items, so that they do not have to figure out how to transport items and so they can make sure items available are exactly what is most needed. I recommend donating to America's Second Harvest, who provides food to families in need. Instapundit also has a list of other charities you may choose to donate to.
    There is also a Katrina Help page on the Wiki Portal - It includes ways to help as well as numbers for assistance for hurricane victims.
    Finding People:
    This website has is available for people to contact relatives. There are safe, found and missing lists.
    The Times-Picayune's site also has many resources for help, people offering to volunteer, people connecting with relative, etc.
    The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is helping families who have been separated from their children (and vice versa). Their website is: and their number is: 1-800-THE-LOST.

    For those affected by the hurricane:
    Roommate Click - a free roommate search service - has added a section to assist displaced people in finding temporary housing. has also set up a website for hurricane victims to fond housing -
    There is also
    Many school districts are treating displaced families in accordance with their rules for homeless children, which often include waiving the need to birth certificates and/or proof of vaccination and quick enrollment for school and meal programs.
    The American Council on Education has together a website to help displaced college students find alternate education and to get information about the status of their university. It is
    The National Association for College Admission Counseling has added a Katrina forum for colleges and displaced students and faculty to connect with one another.
    The federal government will make it easier for displaced students to receive federal aid.
    Many universities are offering streamlined enrollment, reduced tuition, and assistance finding housing to displaced students. Please check with the university in your area.
    If you worked for a chain, please contact them. Many chains are trying to find work for employees in alternate locations.
    A website to find jobs for displaced workers has been set up here -
    Network for Good's is offering free job postings for managers looking to hire displaced people and - as always - free searches for job seekers.
    They have also set up SOSHotels for displaced hotel workers.
    Financial: Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are making decisions about delayed or temporarily reduced mortgage payments on a case by case basis. Mercedes Benz is offering deferred or delayed payments on a case by case basis to their loan recipients. Hurricane victims concerned about tax matters can contact the IRS hotline at 1-866-562-5227.
    Last Updated - 10/19/2005

    Friday, August 12, 2005

    Survivor's Guilt

    That's the only explanation I can come up with for the latest development in the Air France Flight 358 incident (for lack of a better word). This is the flight that landed at the Toronto Airport, was hit by lightning, skidded off the runway and was evacuated completely successfully by the crew in approximately 90 seconds so all 309 passengers were safely off the plane before it became engulfed in flames.
    Touted by many as a miracle, Air France stated that since their crew spends hours training to accomplish just this type of swift evacuation they felt it was less of a miracle and credit should go to the crew.
    Now I understand that certainly it was a traumatic event. I certainly hope to never have to be evacuated from a plane or to be on a plane that skids off the runway. And yes, I can see how this experience could cause such things as Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome and back problems. And so perhaps Air France has some responsibility to help passengers with costs associated with dealing with that.
    And apparently Air France has already given money to some passengers, but the amounts have differed which frustrated passengers. According to Air France the money was to compensate passengers who did not have access to their money since that and other belongings were left on board the plane.
    And yes, it may turn out that there was some pilot error that led to the plane landing farther down the runway than it should have.
    But a class action suit has been filed in Ontario for - according to the Washington Post - "$269 million in damages for trauma, any future medical expenses and loss of property and earnings".
    So - my point. I accept that we live in a society that feels we should be compensated for any inconvenience we experience. And say this not to belittle the experience these people went through. But I have trouble understanding why - beyond reparation for lost belongings (which I believe is layed out fairly specifically on the back of your ticket) and possibly minimal compensation for psychological and/or medical trauma - I think that's it. I think you deserve very little for surviving.
    I'm terribly sorry if this has affected people's ability to sleep, enjoy flying or get to their meetings on time. (And I do mean that, even if I sound a bit flip). But this is not the airline's fault. Even if there does turn out to be some pilot error (which we likely won't know about for months), I'm not convinced. (And yes, since we are without all the facts at this point, this may possibly change). The airline's responsibility is to get you there close to when they promised and safely.
    And let's face it - all of those passengers got off that plane. As I stated, that wasn't the way they planned to exit, I'm sure - but everyone made it safely. Given the circumstances, I think that's incredible.
    Note: I apologize, while I double checked my basic facts in the more recent articles in The Washington Post, I do not recall where I gathered all the bits and pieces.

    Tuesday, August 02, 2005

    An Interesting Dining Experience

    Below is the text of the letter I sent to Red Rock Canyon Grill about our experience. To be honest, I never thought I would complain about over-solicitousness in restaurant staff, but that was before last night.
    01/11/2006 - Update - We returned to the scene, and I must say that the service was much better. We had a consistent waitress throuought the evening, and while she still had a few team-members assisting her, there was no hovering, just a feeling that everyone was willing to help us.
    I and my friends went to the new Silver Spring location last night and I wanted to tell you about our experience. We had received a mailing concerning the restaurant, so while we knew that it was new, we were unaware that we were attending the grand opening, until our arrival. There were several greeters stationed outside, enthusiastically corralling passersby to come into the restaurant. We were greeted by several people before speaking with the hostess and being led to a table. Our table was placed in the section off to the right as you enter the restaurant, and we were the first table you come to as you come around the column.
    Our first waiter explained the team oriented approach they would be using to serve us and took our drink orders. A waitress approached us several minutes later to describe the appetizer special she recommended. With the wood floors and high ceilings (which are beautiful) the sound made it very difficult to hear her, and she was standing right next to me. We placed our orders for entrees and one person also ordered a salad.
    Throughout the evening, many of the staff gathered near our table to converse and keep an eye on the area. I never had to worry about finishing my water, in fact it was often replaced before it was finished.
    The salad arrived and shortly after that two servers arrived with two meals. One was a cluck ‘n’ oink, which we directed to the gentleman who had ordered that and the other was placed in front of my friend. She had ordered a sandwich and this appeared to be a different entrée. We asked several times what the entrée was (which may have been due to the noise) before being told what it was (pork I believe), at which point we explained that we had not ordered that. It soon became clear that the orders should have gone to the table behind us – which is an understandable mishap in a new restaurant when everyone is still learning the table numbers. However, at that point my friend had begun eating what he thought was his meal (and at that point was).
    Several minutes later, what I assume was a manager of some sort – based on the color coding of his outfit – came and informed us that we had taken someone else’s meal. I assume his intent was to explain why the other meals had not arrived at the same time, but the end result was that my friend was made to feel that he had done something wrong in taking the meal that was offered to him. We did explain to this person that both the meals were brought to our table and it was only after they took the other meal to the table behind us that we figured out what mix-up had occurred.
    Our meals did arrive a short time later and they were wonderful. We continued to receive attention, and when someone was not at our table, they were usually three to four people standing just behind it. We were approached by a server who offered us desserts and/or coffee. One person ordered dessert and requested a diet coke to go with it. The dessert arrived beautifully presented but there was no drink. We asked another server for the drink and several minutes later a diet sprite was brought to us. We explained that she wanted a diet coke and were told that what we had was a coke. We sent it back and eventually got the diet coke. And about ten minutes later the one arrived based on our second request.
    At this point, the feeling of constantly being watched had grown a little too claustrophobic and so we requested a box for the dessert. After several minutes we had not received the box, and we really wanted to leave so we requested it again from a different server. Shortly after both boxes arrived, although it worked out because the first box was too big for the bag we had been given so the second box worked much better.
    We were then offered coffee again, which we declined and requested the check. The server who had been our most consistent visitor, asked us about the experience and we explained that we had felt a little crowded.
    As someone who lives near Silver Spring, I was thrilled to have another southwest food restaurant to choose from. However, after our experience I would have trouble convincing my friends to go there again. Some of this I understand is natural growing pains. While I think the team oriented approach is a fabulous idea, in our experience it led to inefficiencies and communication problems. I realize we added to this by requesting things twice in two cases.
    And I suggest that either the tables need to be arranged so that the staff are not so close to one table or there needs to be a better place or system for them to monitor the tables. While initially we felt well taken care of, it quickly reached a point where we felt crowded.
    The food was wonderful, the setting was lovely if noisy and the staff were all very pleasant. Hopefully the kinks can be worked out, communication improved and the hovering lessened so that if I can get someone else to go there in a few months, we will have a better experience. Thanks for your consideration.

    Friday, July 08, 2005

    Sometimes the World Sucks

    Already I can hear my mother cringing (she hates the word sucks in the context of something being less than good.) But on to my main point. I've taken history, so it is clear to me that there have always been great dangers in living. Back in the day your uncle would kill you in your sleep if that meant that he could marry your mother and inherit all your land. Let's face it - until refrigerators (and still in many parts of the world) - just eating carries risk.
    Where am I going with this? Well, my point is there are many who after an event such as the terrible bombings on the public transport in London, who like to suggest that the World has gotten worse. I don't agree. It doesn't mean that what happened in London yesterday morning isn't terrible - because it is. And it doesn't mean that certainly forty years ago people worried a bit less about being bombed on their way to work, because I imagine that they did. (Of course they were also doing bomb drills at school about then - so that may be a bit too optimistic of me).
    But we are always telling people that life isn't fair. That tragedy strikes the nicest of people - illness, natural disaster and of course terrorism). I was attending university in Scotland at the time of the first World Trade Center bombing and I remember an article in one of the British papers bemoaning the loss of innocence for Americans. Because while Americans get the world news, so they know that terrorism was I hesitate to say a way of life for those in Israel and Palestine, and at the time in London and Northern Ireland. It was commonplace in 1993 in a European airport or train station to see posters and hear frequent announcements to report all unattended baggage. Many airports and train stations had removed the storage lockers. And the first World Trade Center bombing was the beginning of the end in that respect. Americans are now fully feeling the effects of that and the subsequent 2001 attacks.
    It was interesting to hear British officials say - almost matter-of-factly- that this had been expected. That the reality is that mass transit systems by their very nature are open to all people and cannot be fully monitored from top to bottom the entire time. To hear the almost proverbial statement that terrorists only have to be lucky once. It remains to be seen what the reaction of the British people will be in the longer term and even in the near short term. But this acceptance seems in some way more helpful than the blame game that occurred here post - September 11th, that culminated in the 9/11 commission.
    I'm certainly not saying that the commission wasn't useful - they gathered a lot of information that is hopefully being put into place to make our intelligence and emergency response systems more efficient. I'm not even suggesting that there wasn't room for improvement.
    It's also wonderful to remember in the midst of this tragedy - as with the tsunami in Asia, the Madrid train bombings last year, and even September 11th and all the states affected by that - that to balance all the people who think killing commuters is a good way to send a message there were wonderful people. People who opened up there homes and businesses that were near blast sites in London to provide a space for triage. People who offered assistance to other passengers. People who acted as a phone point so relatives and friends who couldn't get through locally could confirm that everyone was alright. I never thought I would quote Queen Elizabeth (II and I) but she said it well, "Atrocities such as these simply reinforce our sense of community, our humanity, our trust in the rule of law. That is the clear message from us all."
    So sometimes the World sucks. And sometimes the World is wonderful. And sometimes - cliched though it may be - it's both at the same time.