back in town, misc posts

Reason No. 6,430 to always trust Remember a few months ago, when I mentioned that Dead White Male Strom Thurmond had fathered a black daughter? I told you so!
I’m back in Dallas, still unpacking. No one [choose one: broke into/torched/filled with packing foam] my apartment while I was gone. I did, however, return to a freezer holding a single link of boudin. (I thought I’d thrown it out. I can’t imagine pork products bought in July would still be edible in December, no matter how frozen solid they may be.)
Mickey Kaus has defined an admirable goal for Internet journalists (although I think it can apply just as well to all us journos): “Leibling Optimality,” named in honor of the late New Yorkerist A.J. Leibling. Its definition, based on a famous Leibling quote: “being better than everyone who’s faster than you are and faster than everyone who’s better.”
I finally got a copy of Panther and installed it on my laptop. First negative reactions: that left column in the Finder is annoying as hell on a small screen; there appears to be no way to override the absurdly large white space Panther puts between icons in icon view; the new x-height settings for Lucida Grande and other typefaces makes everything in Safari just a touch harder to read. On the plus side, it did make my iBook/G3 500 faster, as promised. We’ll see how this all works out — I’ll wait a little while longer before upgrading my desktop.
Have I mentioned how nice it is to have a desktop with a big monitor again, after 15 weeks of living on a 12-inch screen? It’s nice.
Finally, Sen. John Breaux, The most powerful Cajun in American history, is retiring. A sad day for us Cajuns — whatever you think of his politics, he’s a good guy. Breaux’s from Crowley, about five miles from my house. It’s strange to think that when he was my age (28), he was already a congressman.
At least it appears there’ll be three strong candidates in the race to succeed him: Republicans David Vitter (a Rhodes Scholar I interviewed a couple years back) and Bobby Jindal (another Rhodes Scholar and 32-year-old wunderkind who almost got elected governor last month) and Democrat Chris John (who’s also from Crowley and has a good reputation around my neck of the woods).

jeremy’s slate and party crashing

My friend Jeremy is a fellow Pew Fellow and just got back from six weeks the Ivory Coast. Until now, you’ve been able to read about it on his blog.
But now you can read about it in his five-day series of “Dispatches” on Slate. From a blog I host to a legitimate, respected publication! Sniff — I’m tearing up with pride!
Jeremy and I did some drinking this weekend, and he showed me some admirable techniques for crashing parties where you know no one. We stumbled out of one house party near Capitol Hill Saturday night and wandered down F Street until we heard Outkast blaring from a random apartment. Jeremy took it upon himself to invite us both in. After equipping ourselves with some mulled wine, he decided it was time to set up our defenses with his patented two-step method:
– Introduce yourself to someone who looks like he won’t be too inquisitive. Preferably someone involved in an activity (in our case, closely watching a game of beer pong), so he’s likely to be too distracted to ask what your connection is to the party’s hosts.
– Then move away from that guy to another room. That way, if someone does later ask why you’re at the party, you can say, “Oh! I’m a friend of [insert name here]!” and hope you’re out of his earshot.
Worked well. Too bad they were almost out of mulled wine by the time we got there. We left after 20 minutes or so. Jeremy did make sure to say goodbye to our new friend, who was very sad to see us go.

pew presentation invite

An alert for Washington, D.C., area readers: tomorrow (Monday) I’ll be one of three Pew Fellows giving a brief presentation on my recent reporting in Zambia. (For those of you who haven’t been close readers of late, you can read all about that over here.) All are invited.
The details: It’s from 12:15 to 2:00 p.m., and you even get a free lunch. It’s in room 806 of the Rome Building at Johns Hopkins/SAIS, which is at 1619 Massachusetts Ave., N.W.
(And you might want to bring a coupla Prozac, since you’ll be hearing about mass AIDS death in Zambia, the fume-choked streets of urban Iran, and the mass murder of artists in Cambodia. It’s a feel-good affair!)
If you do show, please come say hello.

kill bill review

Saw Kill Bill yesterday. I’m not quite a full-fledged Tarantinista, but I’ve enjoyed his work enough in the past to be somewhat amazed at the visceral, intense rage in some of the movie’s reviews. I mean, this was the SF Chronicle:
It boggles the mind that after six years of silence, all Tarantino has to offer is this garbage…Let’s just call it pornography. And let’s just admit it’s indefensible.
And this was the New Yorker’s David Denby (he of the crippling Internet porn addiction!):
Coming out of this dazzling, whirling movie, I felt nothing

back to the moon

So Bush wants to go back to the moon. Interesting. (Although I’m not sure it’ll have the nation-uniting-in-common-purpose effect he expects — I think you’ve got to go to Mars to get that sort of reaction.)
Here’s what I don’t get: “Sources tell CNN the target for returning to the moon is about 15 years from now.” 15 years?! Honestly, why couldn’t we be back there in 12 months if we wanted to? Are you telling me it’ll take 15 years just to bring space technology back to the point it was at in 1969? I mean, have you ever seen these Apollo vehicles? They’re glorified tin cans, run by computers less powerful than a modern electric toothbrush. Have we forgotten how jet propulsion works? Did we misplace all our lunar maps and have to start over from scratch? I don’t get it — it just doesn’t seem like it’d be that hard any more.
And I’m feeling better, thanks.

i’m sick, random links

Sick, sick, sick. That’s me. Head about to implode, mouth perpetually agape, sinuses making new enemies. Must return to bed. I’ve been running a lot since I got back to D.C. (well, a lot by my piddly standards — 10 miles in the last five days). Hope the illness isn’t related to that — my body was probably pretty worn out already after all my travel of late.
A few links of note:
Great piece on Larry King. I’ve never read a piece that ends up with ol’ Larry standing as a symbol and defender of solid journalism. Bravo to Joe Hagan for getting those juicy quotes.
The pool report from Bush’s Thanksgiving Iraq visit.
Colin Meloy, leader of favorites the Decemberists, follows Joe Pernice’s lead and writes a book for the 33 1/3 series. Colin’s is on the Replacements’ Let It Be.
Kevin Kelly’s Cool Tools, for those with Christmas shopping lists left to fill. Kelly’s got quite a background — very polymath. (Although it is a little strange to have Wired News writing a piece about how great ex-Wired editor Kelly is.)
Jack Shafer on newspaper’s traditional reluctance to defend themselves. Tell it, brother — it’s such a pain when people attack your stories for clearly illogical, self-interest-motivated reasons and you can’t defend your journalistic honor. It’s not The Newspaper Way (as opposed to The Magazine Way, which typically allows reporters the chance to respond to attacks). Bonus points (I think, at least) for Shafer’s use of the phrase “splitting more hairs than a palsied barber.”
Speaking of which, I need a haircut.

saints-redskins game

Happy World AIDS Day, everybody! I bet restaurants everywhere are totally booked solid.
Went to my third (if memory serves) professional football game yesterday: the New Orleans Saints, a force for good in the universe, versus the Washington Redskins, a race-baiting conglomeration of hatred and evil. (Aren’t the clear black-white lines of sport ethics wonderful? No silly shades of gray.) Fellow Pewtron Noel and I managed to scalp front-row seats (!) for $35 each — quite a deal. It proved even more of a deal when the Saints pulled out a 24-20 win.
I’ve got to admit, though, I was a bit disappointed in the ‘Skins fans. I mean, I was the only Saints fan around. Whenever anything pro-Saint happened, I was yellin’ and hootin’ and hollerin’ — the sort of vigorous fandom that is de rigeur in a home stadium but potentially risky on the road. I fully expected a few catcalls, or perhaps some popcorn thrown my way.
I got nothing! Even when Boo Williams caught his 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter — ripping away a seemingly secure Redskins win — there was no reaction to my pro-Boo yelps. I expected better.
By the way, I was back in Dallas yesterday — if only for an hour, in Terminal E at DFW. Sorry I didn’t call. I’ll be back to Dallas for good (or at least a few days) in two weeks.