Two homeruns

Well, I’ll be damned: both my wishes came true. Bush did a hell of a job, sounding more confident than any other time I’ve heard him, even if he did look to be on the brink of tears throughout the whole thing. I don’t know who’s writing the speeches for him nowadays, but he’s got a winner.
Asides: Rumsfeld looks like a minor Dick Tracy character — what, is that jaw soldered on? Hillary needs to understand the camera is going to go to her at least a few times there’s a speech at the Capitol, and that if she’s clapping lackadaisically and looking sour, it’s not helping her image. There was a moment early on in the speech when Bush looked like he was imitating Bill Clinton: that upturned clinched fist, combined with the lean-in, is sooo Bill. And poor Bob Byrd, he looked like he was about to collapse from having to stand so long at Cheney’s seat.
And Bonds went deep. (Okay, just once, not four times, but one is plenty. I think he’s gonna do it.)

9/11 blog

If, like me, you get tired of hitting reload on, take a look at the San Jose Mercury News’ weblog on the ongoing crisis. Here’s hoping Bush knocks one out of the park tonight. (And actually, here’s hoping Barry Bonds knocks four out of the park tonight.)

Malkmus and Afghanistan

Probably my favorite song on Stephen Malkmus’ recent album is “Pink India,” a sad, strangely adult-sounding song set in the first time the West was interested in Afghanistan: the battle for colonial control then termed, in a show of arrogance strangely appropriate for colonialism, “The Great Game.” Some lyrics: As the news comes across the air today: / “Tension grows in Afghanistan / Carbine bullets could settle the score” / I had a crap gin tonic, it wounded me.

Flag waving

I’m certainly not nearly important to have a window view at the office, but I do at least have a view of the people who have a window view. On a normal day, the flag outside is too high up for it to be visible to those of us on the third floor. But when it’s at half-staff, it’s right there in your face.


Just got off the phone with Dr. David Lesch, professor of Middle East history at Trinity University in San Antonio. He wrote 1979: The Year that Shaped the Modern Middle East, a book about, among other things, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Certainly, the Soviet example is not particularly encouraging, even though our goals (grabbing Bin Laden) are less difficult to achieve than the Soviets’ (propping up a puppet regime, control of the countryside, etc.) But his explanation of the myriad coalitions, connections, and confusions among the region’s countries did make it clear that any involvement in the region will be neither brief or without risk of rapid escalation. (Look for a story in Sunday’s DMN. Until then, David Plotz’s piece at Slate does a good job of outlining the regional issues.)


In other news, the storm outside is looking mighty threatening: the sky’s all bruise-purple and the lightning’s spiking down quick. A couple of weeks ago, the word “apocalyptic” might have been appropriate; less so now.

Spare change

After yesterday’s item, I’ve gotten thousands — nay, millions — of emails requesting what follows, a brief history of my lifelong love-hate relationship with change:
Very young age: Enjoyed putting pennies in my mouth; tasted good.
Junior high: Was allotted four quarters daily by my loving grandmother; kept them in a little rubbery football-shaped container that had the LSU football schedule on it; still a slight jingle when I walked.
High school: No relationship with change whatsoever, except for occasional mocking comments about the failed Susan B. Anthony dollar.
College: A near-clinical obsession with quarters, which I determined to have an actual worth of 32.4 cents because of their utility in campus laundry machines. (There must have been a New England-wide quarter shortage in the mid-1990s; that’s the only way I can explain my alarming lack of clothes laundering in those days.)
First job after college: Anal qualities begin to show. One large cup holds all my useless pennies. Another, smaller, squarer cup holds nickels and dimes, useful for the vending machine on the ninth floor of my building. An Altoids tin holds the quarters necessary for laundry, which must be done more in the professional world than in the collegiate one, evidently. In many ways, a perfect system.
(Its one flaw: Leo, owner of Leo’s, the newsstand/porn shop I frequented on my block [for magazines, not porn, silly]. Leo is an older fellow, and for what ever reason, he decided long ago that giving someone a half-dollar coin as change would make his or her day. He was wrong, of course — getting a half-dollar would only make me scowl. What use is it? Not good for laundry, not good for candy bars, not good for anything. By default, the half-dollars ended up in the dime-and-nickel container, but trust me when I say I wasn’t happy about it.)
Today: My apartment building here in Dallas has laundry machines operated by credit cards, not coins. There’s something oddly Dallas-y about that. But quarters, while still desired, have much less of an impact on my life than before. I’d say I miss them, but that’s hard to do when you have 173 quarters all neatly stacked on your desk in front of you.

Counting coins, pt. 2

Oh, right: $65.55, not counting the pennies. (Even I have standards on how I’ll waste my time.) It’s kind of odd to think I’ve had $100+ sitting in my car for several years now.

Counting coins

As long as I’ve had my car — four years now — I’ve been throwing change into the armrest container between the two front seats. I stopped carrying around change a while back, annoyed by the jingle and the sheer size of any significant amount of coinage. (I could have told the U.S. Mint long ago that the Sacagawea coin would be a flop — who needs coins of significant value, anyway?)
Anyway, I have a lot of work to do: three stories to write this week, a major freelance assignment hovering over my head, some web work. So what do I do this evening? I decide that now is the time to count all the change in my car. (Or at least the roughly 50% of it I could carry into my apartment in an old Wendy’s bag.) The result: an hour gone, and hands with that sweet, metallic smell that can’t be washed off. I’m pathetic.


I am happy to report that, like the NFL, our newsroom football game will return this weekend. Of course, our season wasn’t interrupted — we’re just now getting back from our lengthy off-season. (This is Dallas, after all: heat makes the playable football season here slightly different from the equivalent in, say, Green Bay.) If anyone’s interested in joining the fun, email me.