Thursday, July 31, 2003

And speaking of Star Wars.

Ran across this CD on It's the soundtrack to Star Wars: Shadows Of The Empire. Don't recognize it? Or perhaps you do? Yes, this is a soundtrack to a novel, not to a movie or live performance of the novel or something similar. And no, it's not music written by John Williams or music performed by the London Symphony Orchestra, as you might have expected. It's the Royal Scottish national Orchestra, and the music is written by Joel McNeely.

There are four 30-second snippets from the CD on the site, and one of the four is the John Williams main Star Wars theme, probably not the best choice they could have made if you were expecting to hear the newly-written stuff. And the sound bites you do get to listen to in the other three choices makes you realize that John Williams really does know his stuff (in comparison, at least).

Type Casting: Geek Star Wars.

So there's this guy in New Zealand who has even less of a life than I do. He is re-creating the movie Star Wars as animated ASCII characters. It's taken him only six years so far, and he's about two-thirds of the way through. Very bizarre.

I can't imagine he'll do the other Star Wars movies if and when he finishes this one, but he has done a short piece showing the death of Jar-Jar. And of course, there's always his jet-powered beer cooler.

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Growing mold.

We've already had more rain already this year than in the entire year last year, and more is on the way. It was like Seattle all spring, and summer hasn't been a whole lot better - over 9 inches already in July alone. On the other hand, I'm getting a lot more exercise mowing my lawn every 8 to 10 days this year than I did last year, when my yard was mowed exactly once in the last six months of the year.

Vive le Lance!

What a great Tour de France this year. Excitement everyday, where you could see team strategies at work, shifting not just every day, but minute-by-minute, with every new attack or breakaway on the road. Drama, where the Tour championship was decided on the last "real" day of the Tour, in an individual time trial on a rain-slicked road, and the sprint championship was decided by two inches on the final sprint in Paris. Personal stories of pain and triumph, with Tyler Hamilton breaking his collarbone on the first stage of the Tour and willing himself not only to continue, but to come in fourth overall.

But what has impressed me the most this year was Lance. Not just Lance-the-Athlete, who excelled at enough different parts of the Tour to win (at one point, Lance was second in the polka-dotted-jersey competition, for mountain climbing, and he ended up fourth), and Lance-the-Organizer, who put together one of the best supporting teams ever in Tour history, but Lance-the-Communicator, who now speaks French well enough that he talks to the French TV coverage at the end of a stage before he talks to English-language TV, and he goes out of his way to talk to the French press (enough so that while he was awarded the "lemon prize" in 2001 by the Tour's press corps as being the least accessible and most unpleasant rider that year, this year they awarded him the "orange prize" as being the nicest and most accessible rider) and Lance-the-Person, who views himself as wanting to do things "right" if he's going to do them at all, not because he's a champion or a hero, but because it's what he expects it of himself.

Boy, I'm looking forward to next year's Tour already: to see whether Lance can pull it all together one more time, to become the Tour's first six-time champion, to see the continuing struggle with Jan Ullrich and Joseba Beloki (who we hope recovers to race again), to see the development of Tyler Hamilton. To see whether next year's Tour can top the standard set this year. Until then, I'll just have to be satisfied with watching Breaking Away.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

A philatelist's nightmare.

Make-it-yourself stamps. There's a suggestion that the USPS adopt a plan already in use by the Canadian postal service whereby you can send in a picture and have the USPS turn it into a stamp. It would cost more than a regular stamp - presumably, enough more that the USPS would make a tidy profit on the deal (Canada charges $25 for 25 48-cent stamps) - and couldn't have a copyrighted image. This would have to be tough on stamp collectors, who would have to limit themselves to collecting "official" releases instead of "authorized" stamps. But Hey! A new outlet for my photographs, in addition to Christmas cards.

Bambi Hunt is elaborate hoax.

Well, the good news is that the Bambi Hunt is just an elaborate hoax, designed to sell videos of such supposed hunts. The bad news is that somebody thought these videos up in the first place, and then conned a TV news team into believing that it was real. The sad news is that there actually appears to be a market for this kind of video.

Monday, July 28, 2003

Pelusa the Purple Polar Bear.

I don't make 'em up. This poor polar bear turns purple as a side effect of some drug given her for a skin infection, or so the story goes. Looks more like a dyed Easter chick. So long as she doesn't start singing a Barney song, I suppose.

Homeowners Associations.

Interesting article in the NY Times about homeowners associations and the occasional disasters that come when the associations enforce their rules against homeowners. I can see both sides - the homeowners who don't realize just what it means to move into a development that has a homeowners association (HOA) with the power to make rules like a miniature government, and the association boards who may become a bit too zealous in enforcing "the will" of the association. I know that when I was involved with the board of the HOA when I owned my townhouse, the board often wanted to do things to "punish" absentee homeowners or to make excessively intrusive rules ("you can have only one cat or one dog, but not both") even if those rules violated rights given by the development's restrictive covenants. I usually fell back on an argument of "you don't have the power to do that" when the board wanted to do something silly, and it was sometimes even true. On the other hand, I got to experience trying to deal with homeowners who didn't want to believe that the HOA had the power to do those things it was supposed to do (charge quarterly dues in order to pay for trash collection and lawn maintenance, or approve architectural changes), or to enforce its rightful decisions.

It was an interesting experience, living in a neighborhood with an HOA that had such powers, and it was enough to make me realize that any future house I own won't be in a neighborhood with an HOA.

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Cakebread wines.

One of my favorite wineries got a lengthy (and favorable) mention in one of the Washington Post's wine columns yesterday. Cakebread Cellars -- great wines, great people, great tour. I heartily recommend their wines, and a visit to their winery if you should be out in Napa.

Jack Cakebread came out to Fuqua both years I was there, to lead a tasting for 50 people and a dinner for 12 at the Washington Duke showcasing his wines. Wonderful wines, and great to be able to try the wines paired up with food. Jack made the blanket invitation to anyone at the tastings to let him know in advance if we were heading out to Napa, and he'd arrange a special tour. Sounded like a plan to me: The summer of 2002, I went out to Napa and Sonoma for a week and a half, going to wineries during the day and brewpubs at night. And while I had wanted to do that trip for some time, the special invitation to tour Cakebread Cellars was the push I needed to make the plane reservations.

The wine highlight of the trip was the tour at Cakebread. (The beer highlight was the pilgrimage to Lagunitas Brewing Co. But I digress.) I was met at the winery by Mike and family (why I have to go to California to spend time with friends from upstate New York is a question whose answer does not bear close inspection, but again I digress), and we made up our own little tour group. We talked with Jack for a few minutes, and had a delightful little tour and special tasting. Mike and I spent the rest of the day touring, including the Niebaum-Coppola winery across the street. While seeing the Coppola museum (memorabilia and Oscars from his movies) was cool, the entire experience was much less fun. As Mike noted at some point during the day, at both Cakebread and Coppola, they've clearly spent a lot of money. At Coppola, they've spent the money to make you think they are important; at Cakebread, they've spent the money to make you think you are important.

Good people, good tour, good wine. Go visit them if you get the chance.

Weather. Bah. II.

Took them a day and a half to send someone out. They eventually diagnosed that the cable wire inside the house wore out. So, the lightning strike fried something? No, it was just coincidence that lightning happened to strike at the exact same moment that the wire "wore out". Okay.

At least the cable is back. *knock on wood* And I can watch the Tour de France without thinking that I'm getting the television signal sent directly from Paris.

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Tyler Hamilton.

Every day, something new in the Tour de France. Totally unlike so many Tours in the past, where it seemed that someone got a 10-minute lead and went through the motions to get to Paris.

Today, Tyler Hamilton came from lagging behind the peleton (catching up through the assistance of his team) to going on a breakaway that lasted 140 kilometers and gave him a 2-minute win over the field. Amazing enough that someone could keep up a solo breakaway for that long and keep it for the win, but he's doing it with a collarbone fractured in two places from the crash in Stage 1, two weeks ago. He's moved up into 6th place with today's stage victory, and as he's a good individual time trialist, there's a chance he could make it into 3rd place by the end of the Tour. You really have to admire someone who can struggle through the pain he's suffered in this Tour.

Weather. Bah.

Living in a house built 50 years ago has its charms and its disadvantages. The latter showed up last night. Big thunderstorm. Lightning strike, somewhere back behind the house. Knocked out the cable momentarily, then part of the cable came back. Enough came back that I can get maybe 20 channels, albeit with a lot of snow and static, including the broadcast channels and OLN, but not HBO. Also knocked out - and not returning - was the cable connection to the internet. Bummer. When I looked at the junction from the main cable line to the one coming to my house, I could see disconnected wires hanging down. So now I'm reduced to going to the library to get online.

Called Comcast this morning to report the outage. Went through their telephone menus to report the problem as a TV-cable problem. Ended up putting in my phone number so they could locate where the call came from, and I got a recorded voice telling me that no outage had been detected in my area. Well, excuse me: I'm looking at my TV right now, and there's an outage. So I had to call back and go through the internet-cable series of menus, and after going through - by actual count - 14 menus, I got to a real, live person. She confirmed that it sounded like a problem, even though her system didn't show an outage near me, and said they'd send someone out to repair it. Tomorrow.

Monday, July 21, 2003

More Tour de France.

Holy cow. Just when you think this year's race couldn't get any better - and over two weeks into the race, only 18 seconds separated first place from third, going into today's stage - today, it did. Ullrich attacking on the mountain before the last mountain. Armstrong being taken down by a kid and run over by Iban Mayo who was just behind him. Armstrong getting back up and starting to work his way back to the leaders when he almost goes down again, when his foot came loose from the pedal. Ullrich, adhering to the unwritten rules of cycling, not taking advantage of accidents and equipment failures - and returning the favor from when Armstrong waited for Ullrich to return to the pack after a flat tire two years ago - slowing the leading group down until Armstrong could get back. Another attack by Mayo, Armstrong counterattacks, and Ullrich can't join them. Armstrong zips away, and ends up extending his lead to 1 minute 7 seconds. Enough to win? Some years, yes. This year? I don't think it's over yet. We've seen Ullrich beat Armstrong in an individual time trial already this Tour, it could happen again. I don't think it'll happen, but there's been so much this year that no one could have predicted ....

Harry Potter movies, I and II.

Well, sure, I haven't made it out to too many movies of late. I plead frugality. But this past weekend, I stayed at home and watched a double feature of Harry Potter movies. I'd already seen the first one, HP and the Sorcerer's Stone, and enjoyed it for the depth of detail shown in Potter's world. But I hadn't yet seen the second one, HP and the Chamber of Secrets. I enjoyed it immensely. Because they didn't need to establish the world of Hogwarts, they could instead use the time to delve deeper into the detail of the world and traits of the characters. Dark and intricate, the movie was long enough (at 2 hours and 41 minutes) to cover it all well and still leave you wanting more. (Take note, Tarantino and Miramax.) And what a wonderful casting decision to bring in Kenneth Brannagh as this episode's professor of Defense against the Dark Arts.

Okay, I'm ready for the next episode to come out. June 2004, apparently.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Contractor update

They promised they'd show up on Friday between 9 and 10. Sure enough, they arrived promptly at 10:30. I suppose the good news is that they installed the new oil tank, apparently competently, and I now have hot water again. Bit of a shame that it took 2 days what should have been done in one, but I guess I should be happy that it only took 2 days.

Thursday, July 17, 2003

Pay twice to see a single movie? Not me.

Quentin Tarantino and Miramax have come up with what I'm sure they think is a nifty idea: release his upcoming movie "Kill Bill" in two parts, the first part in October and the second part between two and six months later. It's now a 3-hour movie, and this will split it into 90-minute parts. And all they're going to do is chop it in half - no filming additional scenes to ease the transition, or anything.

What an amazingly bad idea, on so many levels. If the movie really needs to be 3 hours long, let it be that long, and go ahead and release all of it. Aren't movie patrons still willing to watch a long movie, if it's good and the story justifies the length? Or would viewers need to have The Godfather cut into bite-size pieces for them? Or split The Longest Day into The Longest Morning and The Longest Afternoon? I have a higher opinion of movie viewers than Tarantino and Miramax do, apparently.

An alternative plan would be to cut the movie to a studio-acceptable length of 2 or 2 and a quarter hours. A good editor could help him do that. But I guess Tarantino is too big a director to work with an editor.

I certainly don't plan to watch the movie, not if I have to buy two separate admissions six months apart to see it all. I suppose I'll consider renting the DVD when it comes out and the two pieces are merged back into a single movie.

Cat translator.

A Japanese toy company has come up with a handheld machine that translates your cat's meows and purrs into English, or so it claims. I suppose that, at $75, it's a bargain compared to its similar machine that translates dogs' barks ($125). But can this machine really tell the subtle difference between "Feed me", "Feed me now", "Feed me NOW", and "Feed me right now or else you'll find a surprise the next time you put your black shoes on"?

Contractors. Bah.

I bought my house almost a year ago. As part of the pre-contract dance, we tested around the 50-year-old underground heating oil tank to see if it was leaking, and sure enough, it was. Got the seller to credit some amount of the purchase price to me so I could get the tank replaced. Around October, I got in touch with someone to talk about having that tank dug up and the contaminated soil removed, and a new, above-ground tank installed, and somewhere around Christmas, I signed a contract with them.

Since then, weather has made it somewhat difficult for them to come out here, between the rain and cold of the winter and the rain and cold of the Seattle-like spring. No point in bringing in a backhoe if it's just going to sink out of sight in the back yard.

So they finally show up today, dismantle the back steps to the deck so they can get to the tank, and start in. After they've dug the hole, drained the oil tank, and dented and holed it enough to completely put it out of commission, they knock at my door. "Um, have you made plans for a new heating system? Are you going to get a new above-ground tank installed sometime?" Well, yes. You're going to do it. "Oh, no. Not us. We've never heard of that." Well, yes. It's part of the deal. "It's not in the contract." Well, yes, it is. Let's look at it. "Oh, hmm. I guess we are. You know, this should have been taken care of six months ago." You don't say. "And, is this how you heated your water? Well, whatever hot water is now in the tank will be it until you get the new tank put in, and it probably won't stay hot too much longer." Well, I guess I'll go take a shower now, and try to remember what it feels like to be clean.

As it now stands, I'll have a new tank installed tomorrow morning, complete with enough oil to compensate me for the oil they weren't able to transfer out of my old tank (because I didn't have a new tank to transfer it to), and a bit more. I'm already looking forward to tomorrow's hot water.

Wednesday, July 16, 2003

Barry Bonds is an idiot.

Barry Bonds thinks he's better than Babe Ruth. Don't think so, Barry. Come back when you have won as many games as a pitcher as The Babe did, and with an ERA to match. Until then, you don't have the standing to compare yourself to Ruth as an overall baseball player.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Commodore 64 Makes a Comeback.

Cool. The company that now has the rights to the Commodore 64 brand name is going to relaunch the brand to try to take advantage of an upsurge of interest in the C64 computer and its games.

I still have my C64 and its games. Okay, I haven't taken the system out of its box and turned the power on in at least 3 years, but I still have the stuff around and, as of 3 years ago, it worked. Maybe I'll be able to sell it all and get more than the $20 the whole load would have brought the last time I checked on eBay. Yeah, maybe. Still, it's nice to see that one of the pioneers of the home computer isn't completely forgotten.

Hunting for Bambi.

In the immortal words of Dave Barry, I am not making this up. Out in Las Vegas, men are paying thousands of dollars to shoot naked women with paint ball guns. Sad, sick, and bizarre. And pathetic. Mostly pathetic. There's even a website - not linked to here - for the organization behind it, complete with photos of the bozos in their camouflage outfits, standing over their prey. And - just wondering here - where do these goons get the kind of money that it takes to take part in this sick activity?

Dolphin Stress Test.

A quick little diagnostic tool, the Dolphin Stress Test should help you determine whether you have too much stress in your life.

2003 Tour De France Map Pint Glasses.

I like souvenirs as much as the next person, so when I saw that there were 2003 Tour De France Map Pint Glasses available, I had to go look, didn't I? They really do look kind of cool - pint glasses with the map of this year's TDF, the centennial logo, and all that. Then I took a look at the price: $50 for a set of four. Ouch. And my guess is that postage and handling is on top of that. Double ouch. Don't think I'll be getting them.

One for $5, two for $15 shipping included, something like that would have been reasonable. But this is treating a potential customer rather like the way the road treated Beloki yesterday.

And if you're interested, they also have a matching pitcher ($40) and coasters ($7).

Monday, July 14, 2003

L'Alpe d'Huez.

Y'know, I really like the Tour de France. Tremendous athletes, who batter their bodies day after day for 21 days, exerting more in a single day than the professional "athletes" of baseball, basketball or football do in a week. Team players - domestiques - who really do give their all for their team. Stories of individual glory, like French riders who want more than anything to win a daily stage during this centennial Tour. Absolutely unbelievable stories of individual bravery and achievement, of overcoming adversity. Lunatic crowds of fans, like the half-million who lined the road up L'Alpe d'Huez on Sunday, creating a tunnel of people and noise unlike anything seen in other professional sports: where else do fans get to squirt water onto the overheated athletes, or run alongside them, urging them on? (Not in football or baseball, where fans placidly sit in their seats, or in soccer where - in South America, at least - players are separated from the crowds by chain link fences. I guess in the U.S., empty seats serve the same purpose.)

While I'm pleased that Lance Armstrong has finally taken the yellow jersey, and think that the U.S. Postal team has been riding a great tactical race, understanding that the race lasts another two weeks and that what's important is who leads at the end of the race, and not who leads at the end of the first week, what has completely dumbfounded me is the Tour that Tyler Hamilton has been having. He was in a crash at the end of the first stage, and broke his collarbone in two places. He's stayed in the race (yes, the race physicians have looked closely at him and his x-rays), and a week later, he's not only still racing but still racing at the front of the pack. He went up L'Alpe d'Huez with Lance Armstrong's group at the front of the race today, and even took off on a couple of challenges to Lance. All while being unable to stand up in his seat to accelerate without incurring incredible pain. It takes tremendous courage and stamina for him to stay in the race, and I look forward to watching his success in future Tours de France.

Sunday, July 13, 2003

Reading list: *A Short History of Nearly Everything.

Bill Bryson is best known for his travel books and books on English. His latest, *A Short History of Nearly Everything, is a combination science overview and history of science, and is written with his usual wit and touches of his breezy humor.

He does a good job of explaining difficult concepts like superstring theory without causing your eyes to roll back into your head, and puts scientific discoveries into the context of the times and the personalities involved. And he sprinkles in loads of anecdotes and fun factoids (e.g., the Pacific Ocean is a foot and a half higher on its western edge than on its eastern edge, due to forces from the earth's eastward rotation) to lighten the writing.

At 500 pages, it's not really a short book, except when considering what it's covering, and is not as conversationally light as his travel books. But it's good at catching you up on what you should have learned in your various science courses, and what's happened in those fields since you took those courses (a longer time for some of us, of course).

And you may just decide to stay away from Yellowstone.

Running with the bulls, thinking like the turkeys.

The Fiesta de San Fermin. Running with the bulls. The rite of passage made famous by Hemingway. Darwinism in action.

One of the more fascinating things I've seen while watching OLN's coverage of the Tour de France is its daily coverage of the running of the bulls in Pamplona. Part ESPN-overkill (with its slow-motion replays, animated graphics, and block-by-block analysis of the course, complete with fatality statistics), and part Comedy Central (mocking the participants, acknowledging that it's better to be in the commentary booth than down in the street), the show covers the bull running as though it were an actual sporting event. They even introduce the day's bulls, showing each one's name, photo, weight, and interesting fact.

I end up rooting for the bulls, hoping that they get in one last blow for their dignity, as they run terrified from the stockyard to the bullring, where they will be poked, stabbed, and eventually skewered by the matador ("balletic torturer"), picadors ("henchmen"), et al., to the delight of the bloodthirsty crowd.

Friday, July 11, 2003

How can you tell when it's time to mow the lawn?

I had thought there were two answers to this question: 1) When your parents come to visit, and 2) when you feel guilty upon turning into your driveway.

Turns out there are at least a couple more answers: 3) When the neighborhood bunny rabbit can hide in your front yard, and 4) when a 12-year-old offers to mow the lawn for you.

With any luck, this spring's constant rain has ceased, and I won't have to be out cutting the grass every week. It all rather makes me long for last summer's drought, when my yard went from the end of June to the middle of October between mowings.

Thursday, July 10, 2003

Not that there's anything wrong with that.

"A typical wine writer was once described as someone with a typewriter who was looking for his name in print, a free lunch, and a way to write off his wine cellar. It’s a dated view. Wine writers now use computers." - Frank J. Prial, New York Times Wine Critic.

Tour de France.

I don't have a whole lot of patience for those who say that world-class cyclists somehow aren't athletes because all they do is ride a bike, and anyone can do that. And yet, baseball and football players are? When they stand around doing nothing 95% and 75% of the time, respectively? I'd sure like to see any of them - columnists or baseball and football players - ride a bike for 125 miles, ride the bike up a mountain that is steeper than they would want to either drive or walk up, and have the energy left to sprint to the finish line. And then do that for 21 days in a row.

On the other hand, some commentators do get it, and get it well enough to realize the beauty of a well-designed team supporting the team's star. Given that those team members don't get much recognition for their work, it's wonderful to see that one of them (Victor Hugo Pena) now leads the Tour, one second ahead of the star teammate (Lance Armstrong), and that Armstrong is clearly delighted that Pena has gotten the chance to wear the yellow jersey.

Anyway. There's been remarkable coverage of this year's Tour: the helicopter shots are amazing: rock-steady telephoto shots from ten feet off the ground make it look as though the camera is in the peleton, and there are enough cameras around that you don't miss any of the action. And the commentators do a reasonably good job of explaining the various strategies in a manner that casual viewers can understand without boring people who are familiar with stage racing.

Great fun watching yesterday's team time trial, and the U.S. Postal team turning on the speed. They clearly were better prepared to work as a team, always in a tight aerodynamic line, while many of the other teams - including the good time trialing teams, like ONCE - rode in packs, rather than lines, and occasionally dropped team members from the pack to finish more slowly, on their own. (One of the sadistic, guilty pleasures was watching the U.S. Postal team, an hour into their run, zip past a dropped member from a team that had started 15 minutes earlier.) With the tremendous finish, Armstrong looks well poised to grab the lead of the Tour when they make it to the mountains in a few days.

Monday, July 07, 2003

Stoner Cellars beer.

While it's been three years since I made any beer at the late Monticello Brewing Company in Charlottesville, and most of the beer I made there was meant to be consumed while fresh, some of them were well-suited to age: the imperial stout, the cherry stout, and the barleywines. The stouts were brewed with so much flavor that even though they've faded over time, they still have a lot of flavor, and the barleywines needed a couple of years - well, four or five - to mellow out.

I recently discovered a small stash of my aging beers (okay, I'm still in the process of unpacking), and had a couple of them last night: a cherry stout, from about 1997, and a barleywine, from 1996. The cherry stout has lost all of its cherry characteristics - the hint of fruit, the juiciness, the slight tang of acid - but was still drinkable. Wish I'd had it a couple of years ago, though. In comparison, the barleywine was wonderful. All of the harshness was gone - and this beer's hallmark flavor was its rough edges. Now it's settled down to have a dark caramel flavor to match its color, the sharp alcohol flavor has disappeared, and there's a hint of pineapple on top of the gentle sweetness that remains. Yum.

Friday, July 04, 2003

How to make banjo playing interesting.

And this is possibly the only way. Thanks - although that perhaps isn't the right word - to B3ta.

Mia and the great outdoors.

Mia should learn not to ask too often for something, she just might get it. Over the past month or so, she's occasionally meowed plaintively for something, and near as I can tell, she's wanted to go out. (Surprisingly, she didn't want to be fed, and she didn't want company. She'd lead me to the sliding glass door and look at me and then look outside and then look back at me, and then slowly shake her head when I'd open the glass door but leave the screen door closed.) And evil person that I am, I wouldn't let her out. Of course, I'm not entirely sure why she wants to go out. When she sits in an open window and sniffs the outdoors, she doesn't react to any of the interesting things happening on the other side of the screen, like the neighborhood bunny rabbit and squirrels. Hmm. Maybe she's near-sighted, and needs little kitty glasses. Old as she is, she probably would need little kitty bifocals.

Anyway, today, she got her wish. Early in the afternoon, I carried her out to meet the neighbor, who had heard of Mia but never seen her, as Mia doesn't sit in open windows on that side of the house. The neighbor fussed over her and told her how pretty she was; all Mia wanted to do was to squirm and twist and get away. I was holding her too tightly for that. Later in the afternoon, we went out again, just onto the back porch. I put her down on the top of the railing, and she didn't like it much. It wasn't too narrow for her - it's maybe 4 or 5 inches across. She looked over the railing at the ground 8 feet below, and walked quickly along it back towards the house, jumped down onto the porch, and went back into the dining room. Perhaps she realized that it's actually more fun to stay inside where there's a pillow to sleep on, air conditioning for comfort, and what's-his-name to wait on her hand and foot. (Well, "paw and paw," to be precise.)

ACC expansion.

I just can't get all that excited about the ACC's addition of the University of Miami and Virginia Tech, or what it all means to other conferences. To the extent that it makes the existing ACC schools' football programs better, that's fine and dandy, but I don't see how this is going to help Duke's 2-for-the-21st-century record. (They can't beat Northwestern, how can they possibly beat Miami?) And it certainly doesn't help the ACC's basketball reputation. Duke (like most ACC schools) will end up adding four more automatic wins to its schedule, but at the cost of removing four other games from the schedule - and Duke schedules some stiff non-conference games for experience. If they end up not being able to play Michigan State or Boston College so they can instead play Miami, Duke - and ultimately the ACC - ends up becoming weaker.

And all the hullabaloo about how wrong it is that the Big East was raided, and this will be the death of the Big East - utter baloney. Funny how the people decrying the ACC expansion are either sportwriters in Big East cities or administrators in Big East schools. If what was "done to them" was so evil, why is it all right for the Big East to raid Conference USA, for Louisville? And where were these voices when Virginia Tech bolted from the Atlantic 10 Conference to join the Big East in 2000? Or when the Southwest Conference was torn asunder in the mid 90's? Oh, that's right: Hypocrites don't need to be consistent, just loud.