[2006.09.30 - 08:00 A.M.]

Tracy and I are off to the Stadium to see the Yankees take on the Blue Jays. Have to say, when I bought these tickets off of a frat brother of mine back in the Spring, I imagined we'd be going to see a team in the final days of the division race or possibly the wild-card race. I did not anticipate that they would have already clinched not only the division but home field throughout the playoffs. So there's a bit of an anticlimactic tone to this, our only trip to see the Yanks in person this year. Still, there are worse things to do with a crisp, sunny, late September day than spend it eating pretzels and hot dogs, drinking $8 drafts, and watching the boys in pinstripes warm up for their World Series run...

Update: OK, as Paul alluded to in comments, we've got a story to share. Friday night, as we're getting ready for bed, Tracy asked me if I was sure the game was at 1:00 PM. Now, I knew it was an afternoon game, and they're always at 1:00 PM, but I checked anyhow. Pulled up the CBS Sportsline scoreboard for Saturday and, lo and behold, they show the game starting at noon. Kind of odd, since the only time you ever usually get a noon start is on a holiday or for an afternoon double-header. (Note: Before any of you smart-asses ask, the tickets had "TBD" under time.) So, anyhow, we get up an hour earlier and head down to the Stadium. When we get there, around 10:45 AM, everything is deserted. We pull up to the main parking garage and the attendant says "Sorry, we're not open yet." Well, we asked, doesn't the game start in just over an hour? "No. The game starts at 4:00 PM."

I was completely at a loss. We drove around for twenty minutes or so, but every single parking lot, even the ones that had attendants stationed at them early, refused to let us park. So I'm kinda freaking out. Partially because of stupid CBS putting the wrong time on there and screwing up our day. Partially because the very first thing I like to do when we get anywhere near NYC is ditch the car, and no one would let us. Finally, Tracy had an idea of how to kill four hours: Why not drive out to Coney Island?

This, we did, and it was great fun. Took about 45 minutes to navigate across the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn. We got to Coney Island around noon. Had beers and dogs at the famous Nathan's Hot Dogs. (It was refreshing to eat at a place that has "Famous" in the name that actually is famous.) Then we moseyed down to the pier, where we watched Asian families crabbing and a host of other locals fishing. We'd never seen people catch crabs before so that was particularly fascinating. (The technique involves a wire mesh basket and what looked like chicken for bait.) We wandered the beach for an hour or so, with my wife, a world-class beach comber, scanning the tide line for that perfect shell or rock or piece of glass to take home. It was just a wonderfully relaxing (and completely unplanned) afternoon.

As for the game, we had great seats, right down the third base line about 40 feet back from the field. It was, as always, a joy to sit in the Stadium and take in all the sights and sounds of the game. As is usually the case when we see the Yanks in person, they lost. I blame the Toast Hex, the power of which is apparently augmented by my proximity. (Seriously, we've seen them play live at least a dozen times in the last three years and I can't remember them winning a single one of those games.) No matter, anyhow, since they literally had nothing to play for. Torre pulled Sheff and A-Rod around the fourth inning and then gradually yanked the starters from there. The highlight of the day was getting to see my boy Melky make another amazing catch playing center for Damon, who had the day off. Torre better find Melky some playing time in the post-season, that's all I've got to say. (Oh, and speaking of, Tracy found me an awesome t-shirt: It has "Got Melky?" with the Yankees logo on the front, and Cabrera 18 on the back. I will treasure it.)

All in all, another splendid New York experience.

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[2006.09.29 - 04:45 P.M.]

OK, I'm taking a break from politics for the weekend (which, BTW, starts right about... now). Just too fucking depressing to deal with at the moment. Need to put that shit aside for a while in favor of sports, entertainment, and copious amounts of alcohol. Let's kick off the festivities with a new Question of The Week:

What was the first album (LP/cassette/CD/Whatever) you ever bought?

Not owned, mind you, but bought. Purchased of your own volition. Very important distinction.

I owned a lot of albums before I ever bought one. My parents gave me albums for birthdays and X-Mas while I was in grade school. I remember coming downstairs in third grade to find the Bay City Rollers waiting under the tree for me. I think I got the Grease soundtrack for my 8th or 9th birthday. My older brother gave me Sgt. Pepper's when I was in the 6th grade.

The first album I ever purchased for myself, however, was The Game by Queen.

I believe I was in 7th grade at the time, and one weekend I heard Another One Bites The Dust on Casey Kasem's Top 40 Countdown. It was the first time I ever heard an unfamiliar song on the radio and said "I Must Have This". I took some money from my paper route earnings, had my Mom drive me to Caldor's, and bought it.

As luck would have it -- let's face it, buying albums on the strength of a single is a sketchy matter -- I absolutely loved it. It was like a rock and roll primer for me, going from the straight-ahead guitar rock of Need Your Loving Tonight and Coming Soon to the funkiness of Dragon Attack to the over-the-top power ballads Sail Away Sweet Sister and Save Me. Every track was a keeper.

In High School, I bought The Game on cassette. In college, I bought it on compact disc. Twenty-some-odd years later, I still listen to it regularly.

Buying an album of my own choosing, without any input from peers, siblings, or parents, was a signal event in my life. It marked my Coming of Age as a music fan. Not too long after buying The Game, I made my next solo purchase, Back In Black, which blew my mind to such an extent that it quickly led to my buying the whole AC/DC catalog. For the next decade or so, a very large chunk of my disposable income went towards building out my music collection.

But it all started when I decided to play The Game.

So what was the first album you just had to buy for yourself?

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[2006.09.29 - 08:00 A.M.]

If the Bush years have taught us anything, it's that you can never really say with confidence "This is the Low Point. This is as bad as it gets."

Still, by any and all measures, this has to be one of the worst weeks this country has ever had. We have, deliberately and methodically, taken leave of our principles, forsaken our history, and no doubt called into question for many around the world our very sanity. Let's review:

Action: President authorizes blatantly unconstitutional domestic spying program.

Sane Response: Impeachment.

America 2006 Response: House of Representatives passes law making program legal.

Action: President defies Geneva Conventions and American law to allow for torture of detainees and prisoners.

Sane Response: Impeachment.

America 2006 Response: Senate passes law approving of torture.

Action: President asserts right to detain anyone he deems an "illegal combatant" indefinitely, without trial, recourse to counsel, or the right to see the evidence against them.

Sane Response: Impeachment.

America 2006 Response: Senate passes law doing away with habeas corpus.

Almost a decade ago a GOP-led Congress impeached a president for lying about consensual sex. Despite the penny-ante nature of the "crime", we were lectured endlessly about the absolute nature of the rule of law. Today we have a president who has effectively declared himself dictator and supreme ruler, asserting his will as the only law that ultimately matters. Yet the only response we see from Congress is to approve his unconstitutional, un-American, immoral actions after the fact.

If that's not insanity, I don't know what is.

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[2006.09.28 - 08:00 A.M.]

Everything you need to know about the sad state of journalism in America in just three sentences. From Today's Papers in Slate (emphasis mine):

The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times lead with the House's approval of the Bush administration's bill on the interrogation and trial of terror suspects. The legislation is likely to clear the Senate tomorrow, handing the president an important pre-election victory on a signature issue.

..

Accounts of the terror legislation all focus on the political and parliamentary maneuvering surrounding its passage, largely setting aside any substantive examination of its provisions.

That's right: The story here is not that Congress is about to sign into law provisions which give the president the power to make people disappear. The story is in the details of the legislative sausage-making apparatus.

American Dictatorship: Sponsored in part by the Fourth Estate.

UPDATE: In contrast to the vapid, politically-focused front-pagers on the detainee bill, this NYT editorial provides an outstanding analysis of the bill's contents, laying out in concise fashion the myriad ways in which this obscene piece of legislation violates America's bedrock judicial principles. It should be required reading for every last citizen in this fucked-up country of ours.

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[2006.09.27 - 07:30 A.M.]

Yesterday, president Bush released a partial version of the National Intelligence Estimate which, as disclosed over the weekend by the Times, shows what a colossal, terrorism-stoking fuckup his Iraq war has been. Actually, to be clear, Bush angrily released it. He was quite cranky about it. No, seriously, this angered him.

I have a suggestion for our angry president: Lick my fucking balls.

I'm so very sorry that you were forced to actually share information with us peasants, Mr. president, but you know what? That's a big part of what's called Living In A Democracy. Surely you've heard of "democracy", correct? It's that thing you claim to be spreading abroad and just love suppressing at home, remember? Well it means a whole hell of a lot more than filling out a ballot every couple of years. It means we get to know what our government is doing. It means that We, the People, are informed participants in the process of steering our nation. It means we don't just have to take your word on every damned thing that's being done in our name.

If you've got a problem with that -- if it makes you "angry" -- well, sorry chief, but you can go straight to hell.

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[2006.09.24 - 12:00 P.M.]

8:17 PM: Ireland Travelogue, Day Seven is up.

8:00 PM: Patriots vs. Broncos for the night-cap. Finally a prime-time matchup between two teams that are actually interesting. Oh, and by the way, just checked the Jets schedule for the next two weeks: Home against Indy and then on the road versus Jacksonville. Really, really good thing we got that win today.

7:20 PM: Nope.

6:55 PM: Well, now, this is interesting. The Giants have scored 21 points in just over four minutes to close to 42 - 24 with about ten minutes left. Is a comeback for the ages in the works? Stay tuned...

6:28 PM: Tracy just made Buffalo Wings using Fridge's patented sauce recipe, but with a twist: Chili & Lime Red Hot instead of the classic variety. Mmmmmmmm...

5:38 PM: Good lord. Assuming this latest TD doesn't get overturned on review, it's about to be 35-0 Seahawks. Bad, bad, bad day to be a Giants fan. This is one of the most embarrassing beat-downs I've seen since I've been watching football.

5:00 PM: WwwwwwwwwwwOW! The Seahawks are beating the Giants 21-0 after one quarter. Ho-lee carp. That is brutal. You know, the Seahawks are a weird team. Sure they went to the Superbowl last year. And sure they've opened 2-0. But you just know they're not for real, right? I know I'm not the only person who feels this way about them. And what's this business with the crowd noise in Seattle? The accusation has been leveled that the team pipes in additional noise to augment the decibels, and I have to believe it, because the alternative theory -- that Seattle fans are really that excited about their franchise -- simply isn't tenable.

4:10 PM: Miami just hung on for dear life to beat the Titans 13-10. This is significant because, working on the assumption that the Titans are the second-worst team in the league (behind the Raiduhs) I picked Miami in my Last Man Standing Pool. Good goddamned thing they won, the fuckers. And while we're on the subject of Miami sucking, let's take a look at the AFC East. This division is a cypher. The Patriots are 2-0, but neither of their victories were the sort of smooth, dominant affair that has characterized that team recently. The Jets (2-1) have obviously exceeded expectations, which, to be fair, were set way down in the sub-basement. The Bills (1-2) have also looked like a much better football team than people expected, almost beating the Pats in Gillette in the opener and then smacking Miami around last week. The Dolphins are clearly the worst team in the division right now, and they were the team many were picking as a dark horse to come out of the AFC. So someone explain this division to me. Three weeks in the books (except for the Pats, who play tonight) and all I see are surprises and big, fat question marks.

4:06 PM: Incomplete pass on 4th down for the Bills. Jets win it. Had to have a little drama though, right? Phew! Week three in the books and we're 2-1. Your 2006 New York Jets, people. Better than advertised.

4:02 PM: Uh-oh, the Bills just recovered the on-side kick. Fuck. Buffalo has one timeout left and 75 seconds left. Dammit, this should be over. Credit to Buffalo, though: They're giving the Jets a dose of the No-Quit attitude that New York has brought to the table the last two weeks. Heavy rain coming down now. McGahee just dropped a pass on first down. Now he just lost two yards on a reception. Buffalo takes their final timeout.

3:56 PM: Losman just scrambled in for a TD with 1:15 left. Have to say, JP Losman is no Peyton Manning (few are) but he's no joke either. The Bills could do worse at QB than this dude. Jets 28 - Bills 20.

3:43 PM: Another clockwork drive by the Jets, culminating in a rushing TD by Cedrick Houston. Jets 28 - Bills 13. Put this one in the books. Great afternoon for the Jets. This team is vastly better than I expected going into this season. Wow.

3:39 PM: Fourth and one for the Jets at the Buffalo 31. Mangini goes for it, calling a quarterback sneak, and Chad barrels through to pick up the first down. Two things: First, great call by Mangini. That's what I want to see. Herm would have gone for the field goal or, worse, punted. Second, we just found out a lot about the Jets' coaching staff's confidence in Pennington's physical condition. Obviously, any worries about fragility issues have been put to bed.

3:30 PM: Interesting. The Bills just flew down the field on the strength of their passing game (!), making it all the way to the 2 yard line. And then the Jets D stood 'em up. Got a sack on Losman to take them back to the 10 on 3rd down, and Buffalo had to settle for a field goal. Jets 21 - Bills 13. Nine minutes and change left. Fingers crossed.

3:18 PM: End of the third quarter, still Jets 21 - Bills 10. Losman just got picked off on a deep throw. Terrible call by the Bills staff there, trying to go deep. The Bills were moving along pretty nicely, just getting a drive going, and for no apparent reason they have Losman throw up a huge gamble like that. Anyhow, fourth quarter, Jets have the ball, an 11-point lead, and the 30 MPH wind at their backs. Let's put this one away, gentlemen.

2:52 PM: WOO HOO!!! J! E! T! S! Jets! Jets! Jets! Jets linebacker Victor Hobson just sacked Losman, forced a fumble, picked it up and took it 32 yards for six points. Jets 21 - Bills 10. Ooooooh. They just showed the replay, and Hobson stepped out of bounds at the 4. Unfortunately for Buffalo, their own guy, attempting a tackle, prevented the official from seeing it. Oh well. Them's the breaks, Bills fans.

2:30 PM: Nicely executed touchdown drive by the Jets to end the half. Jets 14 - Bills 10. Couple of decent runs by Barlow, but most of the yardage came courtesy of the beautiful music that Chad, 'Slaw, and Jericho are making together this season. As everyone predicted, McGahee is racking up yards (114 so far). He has not, however, found the end zone. The story of the game, at least from where I'm sitting, is that the Bills pass rush has been totally MIA. Chad has not taken a single sack. After the beating Culpepper took at the hands of the Bills last week, I expected the worst. Of course, Chad's football IQ is about 100 points higher than Daunte's, so that's one mitigating factor. But you have to give our O-line credit too. Could they be gellin' (like a felon) earlier than we expected? Here's hoping.

2:05 PM: Ireland travelogue, Day Six is up. Five more days. I can finish this thing. I know I can.

2:00 PM: McGahee just gashed the Jets D on a drive that ended in a field goal. Bills 10 - Jets 7.

1:55 PM: Wow. Beautiful catch & run there by Leon Johnson to set up the Barlow touchdown. Tie game.

1:40 PM: End of the first quarter. Bills 7 - Jets 0. Wouldn't be shocked if that was the final score, the way the last fourteen minutes have gone. Kudos to the Bills for that shocker on their first possession. All week long the story was how they were going to run the ball down the Jets' throat with McGahee. So what do they do but come out throwing. The Jets D seems to have made the adjustment, though, and early in the second Losman and the Bills are going into the killer headwind.

1:05 PM: Holy fuck. Two passes, fifty-five seconds, and a Buffalo TD. Can you say "inauspicious beginning"? I thought you could.

12:55 PM: Overheard on ESPN moments ago: "It's awfully windy up there in Bufallo. Pennington, with that arm, better hope he can get the ball past the line of scrimmage." Huh huh. Wicked funny. Here's a tip, football commentators: Shut the fuck up about Chad's arm. Dude's opened with two 300-yard games. Until he demonstrates a problem throwing the ball, stop talking about him like he has one.

12:00 PM: Temperature: Check. External Condensation: Check. Opener: Check. And we are Go for Beer in 3... 2... 1... (crack!). Readers, we have beer. I say again, we have beer.

HAPPY FOOTBALLDAY! Come on in and have a seat.

ESPN Countdown is pimping the shit out of the Steelers vs. Bengals game. To their credit, the "Carson Palmer returns to face the team that ended his storybook season" angle is awfully compelling. I know I'll be pulling for Cincinnati.

From the Department of Ridiculous Ideas: Patriots to kick off the season versus the Seahawks in China next year? Come on. I hate these stupid gimmicks. You know the players fucking loathe the idea of opening up on the other side of the planet. And... China? Yeah, that's a natural market for the NFL. Dumb idea all around.

Jets versus Bills coming up at 1:00 PM. I am at once excited and filled with trepidation. The combination of the Bills ferocious pass rush and the Jets weakness against the run could spell disaster. On the other hand, as long as Chad is behind center, there's always hope.

OK, back in a bit. Oh, and in live-blogging fashion, we'll be doing the bottom-to-top thing today.

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[2006.09.24 - 11:30 A.M.]

Transamerica: Good, not great, drama about a man's journey to become a woman. Felicity Huffman does a technically strong but, to me, oddly unmoving job as the lead. The most interesting character in the show winds up being the son, Toby (Kevin Zegers), who I found far more interesting and relateable. Predictable, of course, given that the character of the troubled teen from a broken life trying to find his way is far more familiar than that of a pre-operative transsexual. But then, that's where I feel the movie failed. I expected Huffman's character, Bree, to... make more of an effort... to help me understand why someone would do something to themselves that, forgive me for saying it, strikes me as such a violent act of self-negation. Maybe that's the point they were making: That it's not important that I understand. If that's the message, however, I would say a movie is an odd medium for making it.

Expected Rating: 7.5 -- Actual Rating: 6.0

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[2006.09.22 - 12:00 P.M.]

Speaking of Democrats shutting up, why the fuck couldn't they shut their friggin' mouths about Chavez' and Ahmadinejad's remarks the other day? Jesus, this is what Nancy Pelosi and company decide they have to take a stand about? A socialist rabble-rouser and an Islamist lunatic criticizing president Bush? What the fucking fuck?

Chavez and Ahmadinejad are not exactly model statesmen, but you know what? I don't care.

George W. Bush is a fucking piece of shit and I don't care who says it. I have no allegiance to him whatsoever. None. He's the worst president in American history. He's defiled everything this country stands for. He is at least as bad an actor as either of the two men criticizing him, and before you take issue with that, ask yourself who among the three of them has caused the most suffering and death during their time in power.

Standing up for the honor of George Bush. Please. If anyone -- anyone -- wants to knock that asshole around in public, I say give 'em a microphone. Fuck, someone call Kim Jong-Il and see what his speaking fee is.

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How about a big round of applause for the Democratic Party! Come on: I want everybody to put their hands in the air. Get 'em up there! OK, you got those hands in the air? Good. Now shackle 'em together. Guard, go get the electrodes!

I'm not sure what sickens me more: Is it the fact that the Democratic Party's leadership thought it was a brilliant pre-election political strategy to run away and hide while the far right and the batshit-insane right debated whether we should continue to obey the Geneva Conventions? Or the fact that they allowed political calculation to enter into their decision-making process at all with such bedrock principles at stake?

Just a disgusting display of cowardice. One of those episodes that reveals what "centrist", "mainstream" Democrats have become: A collection of lifeless placeholders, good for absolutely nothing besides the fact that their presence prevents a Republican from holding a seat in office. And yes, that's sufficient reason to vote for them, but it's a goddamned shame that has to be the only reason.

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There's nothing wrong with a bunch of guys getting together to take a vacation. Nothing at all. I mean, personally, I can't imagine a vacation that would be made better by Mrs. Toast's absence, but your mileage may vary, right? So go for it, men. A week of golfing. A long weekend in Vegas. Knock yourself out. But if one of the guys in your travelling party refers to the trip as a "mancation", I'd advise you to punch him. Hard. And repeatedly. Until he promises to never utter the term again.

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Last night, as Tracy and I were driving home, Queen's Another One Bites The Dust came on the radio. Great song. Great album, in fact. (More on that subject tomorrow.) So we're jammin', singing along, right? But as we hit the third verse, Tracy decides to switch things up and starts singing the lyrics from Weird Al's Another One Rides The Bus.

And another gets on / And another gets on / Another one rides the Bus
Hey! He's gonna sit by you / Another one rides the Bus

This, of course, cracks me up. As someone who has had, for most of my life, a compulsive habit of making up stupid lyrics to songs, Weird Al has always been a big favorite of mine. I don't care how many times I hear Fat or Achy Breaky Song, they still make me laugh out loud.

So I get to thinking, wondering if Weird Al is still out there doing his thing. It'd been a decade since I'd last heard anything new by him. Did he pack it in and call it a career?

Ten minutes later, we're home, surfing the web, and what do I see over at Shakes' place but a YouTube video of Weird Al's newest masterpiece, White And Nerdy. It's a send-up of gangsta rapper Chamillionaire's Ridin' Dirty, which Tracy and I both love. (Enough so that it's going on the Fall mix CD.)

Watching the video, I was spellbound. It's just fucking hilariously awesome. Glad to know the Master is still out there at the top of his game.

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Here's an interesting item that just came across my newsreader: A leaked French Secret Service memo claims that Osama bin Laden died in August of typhoid. The information is "unconfirmed" as of yet and Chirac's government is opening an investigation into the matter. If the story is true, it would be a huge boost for Bush, validating his clever strategy of ignoring people who actually attack the United States and hoping they die of natural causes.

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A Question: Why can't somebody figure out how to build an MP3 player that does a good job of equalizing volume levels between tracks? I just don't get why that is so hard. Every audio player I've ever tried has some sort of volume-leveling feature and they all suck. iTunes, which is an otherwise outstanding piece of software, is particularly atrocious. Even with "Sound Check" turned on, volume levels on my playlists are all over the place. I'm sorry, but I just don't see why this is a hard feature to code. Of course, I write insurance software, not multimedia software, so what do I know, right?

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Rainy Saturday morning here in the Shire and {My Plans} = { }. The potential therefore exists for a record stack of slices to emerge from the new toaster I've installed. What? New toaster? Yes, readers, it was time. The old pop-up unit was serviceable, but flawed, so I took out a small business loan and bought one of those cafeteria-style conveyor belt deals: Bread goes in the top, toast comes out the bottom. Dual speed selectors and high throughput. What will change with the installation of this shiny new device? Well, basically, the only difference that you'll see is that newer slices will appear on the top of the stack throughout the day.

("Wow, dude, you're beating the shit out of that metaphor. All that just 'cause you're re-ordering your stupid mini-posts?")

Yep. I'm bored. Sue me.

Let's kick things off with a toe update! (Get it? "Kick off" + "Toe"?) So, six days after my little mishap, I went to follow up with a podiatrist. He blanched a little when I told him that I was walking almost normally except that the toe was sorta flopping around. Showed me the x-ray and pointed out where the bone in question had "exploded". Nice word choice there. Said he didn't recommend surgery, that it would probably heal normally if I STAYED OFF OF IT AS MUCH AS POSSIBLE. (Underlying Message: Stop being an idiot.) Told me I'd almost certainly have chronic arthritis in the joint above the bone. Then he gave me one of those big Velcro-top shoes with the rock hard sole and told me to wear it until I came back to see him in five weeks. So there you go. Oh, except one more thing: He said to ignore anyone who says stuff like "It's just a toe", assuring me that this was a fairly significant (and very manly) injury. So bite me, poo-poo-ers.

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[2006.09.22 - 12:00 P.M.]

Well, now, that was interesting. In a grisly, car-wreck kind of way. Yesterday's episode focused heavily on Aitu, the hispanic tribe. The two women on this tribe, Cristina and Cecilia, seem nice enough. The guys, though... Wow. Three varieties of asshole: Ozzy, the big-haired, wiry, conniving little punk; JP, the whiny, self-righteous bitch; and Billy, the fat, dumb, lazy, metal-head loner.

Now, there's nothing wrong with being fat and a metal-head, mind you. I got a lot of mileage out of that act myself. Lazy loners, however, don't get it done on Survivor, especially when they're dumb as a rock to boot. Still, it was hard not to be on Billy's side when Ozzy and JP hatched a plan to deliberately throw the challenge so that they could vote him off. That was an audaciously despicable move. Totally outside the lines. I've watched many seasons of this show and I've never seen anyone pull such an underhanded, bullshit move.

Couldn't believe what I was seeing as Aitu casually and blatantly forfeited their chance at immunity, walking through the obstacle course, taking their sweet time collecting the little clue placards they needed. I'm surprised Jeff didn't call them out on it right then and there. Even clueless Billy figured it out.

It didn't take him long to figure out their motive, either. Predictably, he goes back to camp and tries to rally the women to his side. Cristina, the cop, gave him a foot in the door as she expressed her belated misgivings with the guys' unethical gamesmanship. Things looked good for a short while. The little prick Ozzy was going to get his. Then we go to tribal council. Ugh.

After calling Ozzy and JP out on throwing the challenge -- which they openly admitted to in front of Jeff -- Billy goes all psycho, revealing that he had "fallen in love" with Jessica, the "roller girl"* from Raro, during their 1.7-second interaction at the challenge where she said "Oh, we love you" as a gesture of support. Jeff just stared at him in disbelief, stating (I'm paraphrasing) "That is the oddest proclamation I have ever heard in all my years of doing this show." [UPDATE: Tracy points out that it was mild-mannered Raro member Candice, and not Roller Girl, that Billy pledged his heart to. Bad news for Billy. I think he would have had a better chance hooking up with the latter.]

Great. So Billy, who we'd been sort of rooting to keep, turns out to be a fat, dumb, lazy, metal-head stalker.

Needless to say, Cristina and Cecilia dropped him like a hot, wet turd.

There were no winners in this affair, though, only different degrees of losers.

Meanwhile, taking a spin around the other tribes, I get a feeling that Hiki, the African-American tribe, is not long for these islands. They came in a distant third in the challenge. So distant, in fact, that the tribe that was trying to lose almost caught up with them. Nice enough crew, but not altogether with it. Over at Raro, the Caucasian tribe, Jon the Chicken Thief came back from Exile Island to find everyone else had accomplished exactly nothing in his absence. He tried to spark some initiative by organizing everyone to build a floor for their shelter. This irked the shit out of Cranky Adam, who petulantly (and stupidly) tried to debate the merits of floor-versus-ground. Finally, Puka, the Asian tribe, is just quietly plugging along, their only source of static being Cao Boi's run-on monologue of off-color autobiographical stories and Asian jokes.

Not a lot to like with this cast yet. The two other Asian guys seem cool enough, I suppose. In fact, so far, I like their tribe the best. But, generally speaking, two weeks into things this strikes me as an unusually dysfunctional assemblage of humans. No Terry or Tom the fireman in this crowd, that's for sure.

Favorite: Cao Boi. By default, Mighty Mouth stays in my top spot. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't find him nearly as amusing were I actually stuck on an island with him, but he's the one nugget of entertainment gold so far this season.

Most Hated: Ozzy. What a prick. For a guy who waits tables for a living, he oozes smug superiority and smarminess. I guarantee he makes it deep into the game. Douchebags like him always figure out a way to stick around.

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[2006.09.21 - 08:20 A.M.]

Congratulations to the New York Yankees, your 2006 American League East Champions. The Yanks, playing without Jeter, Damon, and Giambi and starting Sean Henn, lost to the Blue Jays 3-2, but the Boston Red Sox came to their rescue, laying down for the Minnesota Twins in an 8-2 loss and thus handing New York their ninth consecutive division title.

Sounds like the celebration was pretty sweet:

TORONTO - Young Chuck's "It's Going Down" blared from the clubhouse stereo as the Yankees formed a circle around Johnny Damon at the near end of the clubhouse.

In the middle of the circle, the center fielder started dancing by himself with a can of beer in hand, a 2006 AL Division hat on backward and an ear-to-ear grin on his face.

It was the same song Joe Torre and Derek Jeter hugged to earlier in the celebration after the Yankees clinched their ninth straight AL East title when the Twins put the Red Sox in the ground in Boston.

As Damon danced, Jason Giambi swigged Jack Daniels from a half-gallon bottle, Melky Cabrera and Robinson Cano poured beer on any head they cared to, and Chien-Ming Wang sipped from a can of suds.

"I came here for this," said Bobby Abreu, who solidified the Yankees' lineup when he was acquired from the Phillies at the trade deadline. "This is a team that always goes to the playoffs."

Yes they are. But you know what? It's time for them to start being that team that always wins the World Series again.

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[2006.09.20 - 11:10 P.M.]

Just posted Day Five for your reading enjoyment. And if you enjoy it 1/100th as much as I did...

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[2006.09.18 - 07:40 P.M.]

Uh... so... like... When the dudes at the Global Islamic Media Front decided to name this video game "Quest For Bush", do you think anyone in the room did the Butthead laugh?

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[2006.09.18 - 04:30 P.M.]

According to the countdown clock on John Howard's site, there are 854 days left in the Bush presidency. That's 854 more days of being forced to read and listen to comments like this:

"The way you win the war on terror is to find people and get them to give you information about what their buddies are fixing to do."

Can we make it? Can we hold onto our sanity? I dunno. Tough to say.

I'll say this much, though: Even if the unthinkable happens and the GOP hangs onto the White House in 2008, at least we will, presumably, have the small silver lining of no longer having to listen to a president who thinks it's cool to talk about national security policy (and everything else for that matter) like he's Larry the Fucking Cable Guy. That will be an immeasurable relief.

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[2006.09.18 - 12:00 P.M.]

Pain sucks. Yeah, I know, I made that point recently, but it bears repeating: Pain really sucks. And it's not something I'm used to. Sure, I have all the random aches and pains of middle age. Back pain, occasional joint pain, hangovers, etc. But real pain -- the kind that makes you sit up and take notice -- is a rarity in the sedentary life of the software developer.

So as I'm sitting here nursing my poor broken toe -- and, yes, I actually feel bad for my toe, which didn't do anything wrong besides attach itself to a 37-year-old Bruce-Lee wanna-be -- I'm pondering pains past and trying to recall what the worst pain is that I've ever been in. Off the cuff, here are my top 5:

5 - Up Yours, Guerriero: I broke my first bone in third grade. Actually, I didn't break it. Patrick Guerriero, future former president of the Log Cabin Republicans, broke it. We were playing soccer during recess and I was the goalie on the team playing against Pat. He lined one straight at me which I attempted to deflect with my outstretched arm. CRACK! Hurt like a motherfucker. Funny thing was, we got back inside and our idiot lunch lady wouldn't believe me when I told her something was wrong. She thought I was just whining for attention. Wrote me up for being disruptive. Later, after a proper diagnosis by the school nurse and a trip to the hospital, she was forced to apologize to me. Dumb bee-yotch.

4 - Burn, Baby, Burn: About six years ago I was up at Weirs Beach, New Hampshire, at a water park. The day was overcast, so I rather stupidly eschewed putting on sunscreen, "forgetting"* that UV rays have a pretty easy time getting through cloud cover. The result was the worst sunburn I've ever had. It wasn't the burning that was the worst part, though. It was the itching. Three days after the fact I was naked and writhing on the rug in my apartment, eyeballs rolling back in my head, trying in vain to scratch every inch of my skin at once. I honestly thought I was going to go completely out of my mind. If I could have crawled out of my own skin, I would have.

3 - Abdominhell: Three years ago this past July I came down with appendicitis. At first I thought I had just strained an ab or something, but as the pain grew in intensity, I finally headed to the doctor and got the bad news. The pain from my swollen appendix isn't what merits this entry, however. Nope, it was the recovery. The path to my innards, it turned out, involved a slice through the old six-pack. Well holy SHIT do we use our abdominals for a lot of stuff! During my convalescence, in fact, I discovered, or re-discovered, a good portion of the list of abdominally-related activities in my everyday life. Sitting up in bed, for starters. Standing. Reaching for stuff. Coughing. Sneezing. (No, seriously, sneezing was murder.) For two to three weeks, it seemed like every action was punctuated by the word "OUCH!" Just brutal.

2 - Pop, Damn You: Eighth grade, or thereabouts. Spring vacation, and my mother and I are going to Disneyworld along with her friends, the Sheas, and their three boys. Awesome trip, as it turned out. One of the most fun I've ever been on. But, boy, did getting there suck. See, I had my annual Spring Head & Chest Cold going on, right? My sinuses were jammed up, especially my Eustachian tubes. The plane takes off from Logan and I'm all excited, having a blast. As we climb, however, I notice my ears aren't popping, despite the frantic gum-chewing and swallowing I'm doing. Pressure keeps building on my eardrums. The sensation goes from merely weird (5,000 ft.) to unpleasant (10,000 ft.) to painful (20,000 ft.) to absolutely excruciating (30,000 ft.). I'm sitting there whimpering, thinking how in the hell am I going to deal with this for 3 hours? My mother prevails on the flight attendant to bring me a painkiller. Specifically, a double-shot of whiskey. (My first!) I gulp it down, and as I do I hear a sound like a toilet flushing inside my skull. I screamed, because I thought my eardrums had actually burst. Turned to my Mom, eyes bugging out, and asked her to say something to make sure I could still hear. (Yes, I heard myself ask her, which answered the question, but hey, what can I say, I was delirious from the pain.) To this day, I'm wary of getting on a plane with even the tiniest bit of congestion.

1 - Dilute, Please: This one is the undisputed champ for me. The King of Pain, if you will. When I was very young -- around six or seven years old, I think -- my parents and I took a vacation in Hampton Beach, New Hampshire. Somewhere along the way, probably splashing about in a tide pool or climbing around the break-waters and piers, I picked up a nasty rash. Really disgusting. This weird scaly shit popped up under my armpit and started to spread. Mom and Dad took me to the hospital in Exeter and the doctor there gave them a prescription for a topical ointment to clear the thing up. We get back to the cottage and my Mom takes my shirt off, applies the ointment to a cotton swab, and then applies the swab to my rash. At which point I fucking screamed so fucking loud I think they could hear me clear back in Boston. That shit burned like the fires of hell. Never felt any pain that bad before or since. I screamed, cried, completely freaked out. Almost gave my Dad his second heart attack early. He came out to find out what the hell was going on, and my Mom's bugging out, and they're both wondering why this medicine is driving me apeshit. Then they read the label. The stuff was supposed to be diluted 10-to-1 with water. Ooops.

So those are my five worst pain episodes. This toe business would probably be in the next five, were I to enumerate them.

Which leads us to the Question of the Week: What's the worst pain you've ever been in?

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[2006.09.18 - 09:00 A.M.]

I have to say, this whole kerfluffle over Pope Benedict's remarks on Islam has spurred an interesting little internal debate.

Which do I care less about: People being offended at criticism of their religion? Or the Pope's opinions? Tough call.

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[2006.09.17 - 01:15 P.M.]

Welcome back to the Virtual Couch and Week 2 of NFL football. We kick things off today with an injury report: Yours truly is officially on the DL. After seeing no improvement in pain or swelling with yesterday's toe injury, Tracy drove me to the emergency room this morning. Got some x-rays. Doctor comes back after taking a look at them and says, simply, "Ouch." "Oh, yes. Ouch," I replied. "That thing is in pieces," he informs me. Shortly thereafter he used the word "shattered" to describe the bone at the base of my big toe. Yeah. Shattered.

I have to keep off of it completely for at least a week or two, and it'll be 4 to 6 weeks, at a minimum, before it heals. So there you go. Oh well. More time for blogging, at least.

Anyhow, let's get this party started. Got Giants vs. Eagles on TV right now with Bills vs. Dolphins as the flip-over game. Giants are up 7 in the early going. The Eagles just botched a second straight TD reception. But there goes Brian Westbrook into the end zone. Apparently I undervalued him in my fantasy drafts.

I'm pulling for Eli and the G-Men to make a statement here after their so-so performance against Indy in week 1. I like this Giants team. Think they're going places. Unlike me for the next few weeks.

1:40 PM: From the Commercials That Need To Go Away files: The stupid Burger King ads with the King. I can't believe these are back for another season. Advertising firms pre-screen their work, right? Which means somewhere out there a roomful of yahoos actually said "Yeah, definitely bring back the guy in the creepy plastic king mask. He rocks." Fuckin' inexplicable, I tell ya.

2:21 PM: Daunte Culpepper sure is looking like a bust so far in his career as a Dolphin. Sacked four times in the first half against the Bills and he threw a pick.

3:12 PM: Hey, that thing I said earlier about the Giants and how they were going places? Maybe not so much. The only place they're going right now is "last", courtesy of an Eagles team that is handing their asses to them. Oh, and let me confess this right now: I am One Of Those People who predicted the Eagles would have a crappy season and fall back into the pack. Shows you what I know about football.

3:33 PM: For those of you who are wondering, the bone I broke is called the first proximal phalange.

4:15 PM: Eli's got one last chance here for the Giants, who have managed to close to within 3 with under a minute left. Meanwhile, we're getting ready for the kickoff of Jets vs. Pats. Despite the fact that 1.) The Patriots sucked last week and 2.) The Jets looked great, everyone is predicting a New England win. Well, fine. Whatever. Let's play this thing and find out where we stand.

4:45 PM: 7-0 Patriots at the end of the first quarter. The Jets offense has gotten off a few good plays but, predictably, Belichick has found ways to prevent them from getting in a rhythm. On defense, the Jets have looked pretty decent against the run. We're not getting gashed the way I expected. Against the pass, however... well, it's been ugly. Vintage Brady. Vintage Pats passing game. I would love to have someone explain the inner workings of their system to me. How do you design an offense where you always have a man open. Always. It's just remarkable. It's a thing of beauty.

4:57 PM: WOW! Epic overtime win for the Giants. 3rd and 11 after two straight penalties, and Eli Manning heaves a rainbow pass to Plaxico Burress in the end zone. Just an awesome finish. So, like, that thing I said about the Giants going nowhere after I said they were going places? Forget I said that. Nice win for the G-Men.

5:38 PM: Halftime. Patriots 17 - Jets 0. Man, it'd sure be nice to put some points on the board. The Jets offense just cannot move the ball at all. The defense, on the other hand, was looking pretty good right up until that last minute there. They held off two Pats' possessions with seeming ease. Unfortunately, after Chad stopped the clock for them and our punter shanked one out at the 50, the D allowed Brady two consecutive huge passes, the second a TD to a wide open receiver in the end zone. Not good times.

6:00 PM: My favorite commercial of the season thus far: Dude has his Mustang Shelby 500 delivered to Europe. As he's picking it up, the dock master asks him "You couldn't find a car you like in Germany?" He responds "No. I couldn't find a speed limit I liked in America." Just so fucking true.

6:12 PM: Predictably, I guess, given that we've got two rookies on the O-line, the Patriots pass rush has been in Pennington's face all day long. Every play. Just no time at all to throw. That's going to be a serious issue. Against shitty teams like the Titans, Chad can compensate with his natural brilliance. But against a pass rush like the Patriots bring, he's completely exposed. Ah well. I guess this is the "Back Down To Earth" game.

6:15 PM: Woo Hoo!!! Touchdown, Jericho Cotchery!!! Just as I'm giving up hope of avoiding a shutout, Pennington heaves one, Cotchery catches it, barely evades a tackle, and takes it to the house. Oh... wait. That fat bitch Belichick just challenged it. Well, sorry, pretty girl, but Cotchery's knee didn't touch the ground. That's 6 points for the good guys, unless the refs are on the Patriots' payroll. Yep, the refs just upheld the call. Jets are on the board.

6:34 PM: AWESOME touchdown by Coles. Holy shit what a run. He juked about half a dozen guys and broke at least two tackles to take a 46 yarder to the house. Just beautiful. Wow. Suddenly, a 24-point deficit has become a 10-point deficit. I love my new Jets.

6:41 PM: Start of the fourth quarter. Jets just recovered a fumble at the 50. Do I dare hope? Is there magic in store this late afternoon?

7:20 PM: Ack. Game over. Pats missed a field goal, leading to a chance at a game-tying TD drive for the Jets. Chad took them to the 50, but then got picked off. Hell of a second half for the men in green though. I like this team. I like what Mangini's made them into: No. Quit.

Oh, and Belichick is still a huge bitch. Cocksucker couldn't even acknowledge his former friend after the game. What a classless, immature prick.

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[2006.09.16 - 11:20 P.M.]

Day Four, the Wedding itself, is in the books. Enjoy.

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[2006.09.16 - 11:00 P.M.]

Ocean's Twelve: A mildly entertaining caper film. The only time I truly perked up was with the whole "meta" bit they did with Julia Roberts' character. Other than that... Meh.

Expected Rating: 4.5 -- Actual Rating: 4.0

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[2006.09.16 - 01:00 P.M.]

Programming Note: For the next month or two, Slices of Toast will frequently be appearing on Saturdays instead of its usual Friday night time slot. Why, you ask? Well you see, peeps, this particular toaster runs not on electricity, but on a different kind of juice - namely, alcohol. And as it happens, I've got sparring class every Saturday morning at 9:00 AM between now and the first week of November. This, unfortunately, puts a bit of a damper on the whole Getting Righteously Shit-Faced routine that typically kicks off when I burst in the door after work on Friday. So there we are. Please grant me your forbearance as I make this feeble gesture towards getting tournament-ready.

Speaking of sparring, OUCH!!! Jammed my stupid fucking big toe this morning trying to get a kick around someone's guard. Might have broken it. I'll give it a day or two and see what happens. In the meantime, though, seriously, OUCH!!!!!

Pain sucks.

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You know, at first, I thought this might be the Coolest Study Result Ever: "Alcohol Use Helps Boost Income".

A causal relationship between booze consumption and income? Are you shitting me? I'd be set for life. I'd be ready to retire in my mid-forties.

Alas, the devil, as always, is in the details (emphasis mine):

"Social drinking builds social capital," said Edward Stringham, an economics professor at San Jose State University and co-author of the study with fellow researcher Bethany Peters.

"Social drinkers are out networking, building relationships, and adding contacts to their BlackBerries that result in bigger paychecks."

Um, what about anti-social drinkers? Where's the love for us guys who stay home and get loaded surfing the net and watching TV? Is there no financial benefit to be had for a couple who, for the most part, keep their boozing cozy and intimate?

I think someone should study this. I will even volunteer to be a subject. All you would-be researchers need to do is pay my bill at the local packie and we'll be off and running...

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The Boo Birds are out in force in the Bronx. The Sox are in town for four games in two days, and David Ortiz (aka Big Babi) just came to the plate for the first time since making derogatory comments about Captain Jeter's potential MVP bid. You had a feeling he wouldn't be received well. Now they're chanting "DE-rek JE-ter!" while Ortiz is still at the plate. I love it.

It's a shame that MVP-gate will be the only real drama this weekend. The Red Sox are dead men walking, 11-1/2 games in back of the Yankees in the AL East. The most they can do if they muster a win or two is to delay New York's inevitable coronation as division champs. Of course, it'd be nice if the Yankees could take three of these, clinching the division while their erstwhile rivals are forced to watch. But I don't wanna get greedy or anything.

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Wow. Unbelievable. FOX Sports adds sound effects to the pitches in their baseball coverage. Tracy just pointed it out to me and, sure enough, every time a pitch goes over the plate they add a little whooooosh sound to it. I am stunned at how fucking lame that is. What's next? Little cartoon "POW!" explosions when a guy drives a ball deep? (OK, I just noticed they only seem to do it for pitches that are 95 MPH or better. It's still astonishingly dumb.)

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I am witnessing something very unusual right now. I'm lying here sprawled on the couch with an ice pack over my foot. Across the room, sitting perfectly upright on the edge of the chair, is my wife. She is asleep.

Again: Perfectly upright, dish towel over her right shoulder, top of the coffee grinder in her hand, not leaning on anything, and asleep. I sincerely wish I could go get my camera right now.

Oh... Wait. She just woke up and repositioned herself. Opportunity lost.

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[2006.09.16 - 11:45 A.M.]

Closer: A fascinating, if somewhat twisted and depressing, look at love and infidelity. Well acted all around, although I particularly liked the job Clive Owen did as Larry, the jilted husband of Anna (Julia Roberts). More than most movies of this sort, Closer delves into the psychology and decision-making processes behind cheating. My favorite scene is when Dan (Jude Law) confronts Alice (Natalie Portman) to tell her that he's leaving her for Anna. He brings the always weak-ass "I just fell in love" excuse to the table, and she is having none of that noise. She parries with the observation that falling in love doesn't "just happen", that there's always a point where a person in a relationship decides to allow themselves to fall in love with someone else. Powerful stuff. I really liked this film. (Full-disclosure: You probably wouldn't guess this about me, but I'm a sucker for character-study dramas.)

Expected Rating: 5.5 -- Actual Rating: 7.5

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[2006.09.15 - 06:15 P.M.]

Survivor: Cook Islands kicked off last night and, as so many predicted, their casting gimmick was outrageous and offensive. Thirteen of the twenty contestants -- THIRTEEN -- are from California. Just what the fuck is that all about? Mr. Burnett, California is not 13/20 of the U.S.A.. Not by population, not by area, not by significance.

Next time, we damned well better see some more representation from the rest of the country.

You know, the east coast.

OK, so seriously: The racially-divided-tribes thing? It was fun. It was interesting. I like it.

The best part was watching the tribes trying to figure out what to make of it. The African-American tribe was down with the program, talking about how it was time to "represent". The Asians? Not so much. Their female members actively tried to snuff any racial cohesion in the form of auto-generalizations. The Caucasian tribe just seemed amused by the whole thing. At one point, someone on their crew cheered "Yay! Whitey!" Didn't really get a read on the Hispanic tribe, except to note that they seemed to get along with less immediate static than the rest.

Looks to be a promising season. They brought the "Exile Island" concept back, which is good. I hope they keep the tribal divisions in place long enough to let things develop. Last season, they started out with gender/age divisions, but then combined people into more traditional tribes after only two episodes. They should let this arrangement ride for as long as the elimination results allow.

The African-American tribe lost the challenge yesterday and went to council. The guy they booted, Sekou, had "loser" written all over him. Big talker, running his mouth about how he was a provider and knew how to live in a primitive environment, blah blah blah. Dude had love handles the size of couch cushions and pipe cleaners for arms. Please. Wasn't sad to see him go.

Other than that, the episode was all setup and "get to know you", so not much to report. Without further ado, then, my Favorite and Most Hated:

Favorite: Cao Boi. (No, seriously.) Highly entertaining Asian refugee-slash-mystic-slash-hippie. I just love this guy.

Most Hated: OK, "hated" is a stretch at this point in the game, but I don't like Jonathan, the dude who got sent to Exile Island, so much. Dude stole a chicken, talked about it on camera, and then when he got called on it he got all weaselly. Pretty lame, I know. Give me a few weeks to work the Hate up.

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[2006.09.14 - 07:45 A.M.]

Bill Belichick: Coaching genius. Punk-ass bitch.

From the New York Post's Mark Cannizzaro:

September 14, 2006 -- If you really want to know about the state of the relationship between Eric Mangini and his mentor, Bill Belichick, read between these lines:

Question: "Eric, did you hear from Belichick after you won your first game?"

Mangini: "You know, we missed each other a couple times throughout the summer."

Huh?

"This probably won't be the week that we'll be chatting too much," Mangini added. "Our relationship is the same as it's been. He's always been a good friend."

To that we ask: How good a friend is a mentor who doesn't find the time to even have his secretary send a congratulatory e-mail Mangini's way?

If a little bit of bad blood is what you're looking for in Sunday's Jets home opener against Belichick's Patriots, then you've come to the right place. Let the Border War re-ignite.

Mangini never has acknowledged it, but it is fact through rock-solid sources in New England: Belichick, who has a complete disdain for the Jets and little respect for their owner, Woody Johnson, did not think Mangini should take the Jets job to the point where he tried to talk him out of it.

..

Mangini, who privately has been irked by the fact Belichick hinted to some people in the offseason that Mangini did not make the defensive calls during his season as defensive coordinator in 2005, has done everything he can to say the right things about Belichick so far this week, done everything he can to deflect the attention from him and Belichick.

I don't care what Bill Belichick thinks of Woody Johnson, and I don't care what the fuck else drives his obsessive desire to screw over the Jets, the way he's handled Mangini's perfectly valid decision to come coach for us shows the man to be a total douchebag.

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[2006.09.12 - 07:45 A.M.]

It occurs to me that, in the age of the blogosphere, in the age of daily email dispatches and lively distribution lists, the phrase "Must Read" has become badly overused. The sheer volume of items to be read, and the unavoidable repetition that has resulted from so many more voices suddenly being readily accessible, dictates that there are very few items that truly can not be skipped because, well, someone else will say the same thing tomorrow, maybe even say it better.

Having said that, I can say without a moment's hesitation that Keith Olbermann's 9-11 essay, "This Hole In The Ground", is a Must Read.

I would be doing you a disservice to excerpt it. Grab a cup of coffee and set aside 15 minutes and let Olbermann lay it all out there for you.

Olbermann's always been good. He's always been what his foil, that fake-ass sack of shit Bill O'Reilly, pretends to be: Honest, direct, and unflinchingly willing to call those in power on their nonsense. Lately, though, he has -- to use a phrase this former ESPN anchor would doubtless smirk at -- raised his game to a whole new level. He has become, from his underexposed island on America's #3 cable channel, the conscience of a country.

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[2006.09.10 - 12:00 P.M.]

This week we're kicking off a new feature here at TwoGlasses: The Virtual Couch. It'll be part live blogging, part open thread for football discussion. Feel free to drop by every Sunday between now and the Superbowl. Crack a beer and grab some munchies. Gloat about a win, bitch about a loss, and, of course, rant about bad officiating and dumb commentators.

Tracy and I are heading out to the Double Down Grill in Avon shortly to catch the Jets game. As always, when the Jets play opposite the Pats, our Hartford CBS affiliate goes with the latter, forcing Jets fans in the area out to the nearest bar with a satellite package. On the one hand it sucks, because there's nothing like watching the game in your own living room. On the other hand, it is an excuse to go to a bar. So there's that.

For the record, I'm going to predict a victory. Let's go with Jets 10 - Titans 7. There aren't many teams in the league that look more sketchy on paper than the Jets this year, but the Titans are one of 'em.

We'll be back around 4:30 PM, at which point you can begin giving me shit for my lousy prognosticating skills.

4:32 PM: Wow, I see the party is really rockin' here.

4:45 PM: Know what sucks? Coming home to check your fantasy football and fantasy baseball scores and finding out that CBS Sportsline's servers are completely overloaded and you can't get through to any of your league sites.

5:25 PM: So the Jets held on for a 23-16 win over the Titans. For the first two and a half quarters, Tracy and I -- and the horde of similarly exiled Jets' fans at the Double Down -- were ecstatic. Then things went south. The Jets defense went to sleep, allowing the Titans to drive to an easy score. Then Pennington fumbled deep in Jets territory, leading to an easy Titans TD. Suddenly, a 16-0 lead had evaporated into a 16-16 tie. Of course, that 16-0 lead should have been a 23-0 lead, but fuckwad kicker Mike Nugent had missed an XP and two easy field goals earlier in the game. The last five minutes of the game were tense, but Pennington and the offense mounted a decisive TD drive to take the lead, and then the defense, after allowing the Titans to drive right back down the field, held for the final four downs in the red zone. It's a win, and that's enough for this Jets fan. Let's break it down:

Passing - A: Chad looked outstanding, hitting 24 for 33 for 319 yards and 2 TD's. He got knocked around a lot, too, and didn't seem to suffer any ill effects. Laveraneus Coles, after a slow start, exploded, hauling in 8 catches for 153 yards. Now, granted, it's hard to say how much this means until we know more about the Tennessee defense, but anyone who thought Chad would be a joke should be on the way to their sock drawer right about now. Oh, and how nice was it to see a coaching staff that is willing to throw the ball vertical? Jesus was that a sight for sore eyes.

Rushing - C: Kevan Barlow showed some occasional flashes, busting through for a few decent gains and a rushing TD. If the line could give him a little more daylight, he might turn out to be a pretty good back. Blaylock, who got the bulk of the work, however, did absolutely nothing, averaging under 2 yards a carry. Every time he tried to bounce a run outside there was a Titan or two there to meet him. He's incapable of running up the middle. Too small. Every time he tried it was like he was running into a brick wall.

Rushing Defense - C-: I don't understand why Fisher didn't use Chris Brown more. Brown had 16 carries, averaging about 4.5 ypc. Every time they handed the ball to him, good things seemed to happen for the bad guys. Henry was less effective in the middle of the field, but he punched in the Titans' two TD's from inside the 10 fairly effortlessly. Neither of these guys are stud running backs. I'm very afraid to see what a truly good ball carrier will do to us.

Pass Defense - B: They shut down the Titans in the first half, but seemed to let up in the second. Not sure what to make of that. They certainly were an opportunistic unit, with newcomer Andre Dyson grabbing two picks and rookie Kerry Rhodes another one. Of course, this was against Kerry Collins, who's only been with the Titans for a week, and Vince Young, playing his first series as a pro. So we'll see. Promising, though.

Special Teams - B+: Justin Miller was great on kickoff returns, averaging almost 30 yards per attempt. Leon Washington, a rookie, was considerably less spectacular on punt returns, averaging a mere 5.5 yards. Our punter, Ben Graham, the converted Australian Rules Football player in his second year as a Jet, could be something special, as he averaged a shade under 50 yards over 4 attempts, consistently giving our D good starting field position. Good thing, 'cause I think Ben's going to be busy this year.

Kicking - F: I simply cannot believe the Jets took this fucking loser Nugent with a first-round pick. How does a professional kicker miss FG's of 30 and 34 yards and an extra point in the same game? Damn. They need to grab a veteran kicker off free agency now. Let Nugent gather a little dust on the bench where he can serve as a telling reminder of the folly of the old regime.

6:27 PM: OMFSM, would you look at the man boobs on Bill Parcells. FOX just had an angled profile shot and I swear to the Noodly One that old Bill is sporting at least a B cup. Wow.

7:50 PM: Jacksonville 24 - Dallas 17. Condolences on the loss, John. Hope the game was fun anyway.

8:15 PM: My nightmare hunch is confirmed. NBC is going to use that awful, awful, stupendously fucking awful Pink/Joan Jett mash-up as their theme for the Sunday night broadcast. God it's awful. Did I mention how awful it was?

8:25 PM: Allright, baby, here comes the Manning Bowl! I am jacked for this game.

8:40 PM: Memo to all the players who have started adding the word "THE" before their school name during intros in an apparent attempt to mock Ohio State alums: Knock it off. It's an irritating and classless move. Losers.

9:54 PM: OK, so the Manning Bowl isn't the barn burner I'd been hoping for, but it's still been reasonably entertaining. You think the Colts are missing Edge right now? And how about about Plaxico? Man that dude can go up there and get the ball.

7:30 AM: First Monday morning of football season, and I have not even a trace of a hangover. I love it when that happens. It's such a rarity.

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[2006.09.09 - 04:45 P.M.]

Day Three is in the books. More to come tomorrow.

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[2006.09.08 - 05:00 P.M.]

Is something burning? Oh, wait, it must be time for... Slices of Toast!

Overheard just now at the farmstand from a young girl talking to the sales clerk: "I'm not sendin' my kid to no public school!" Yeah, you wouldn't want to do that. They might grow up an' start speakin' like a retard or somethin'.

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Sitting in the stall today trying to read the sports page in peace, I was, as I so often am, overwhelmed by the obnoxious stink of some other dude's shit. This resulted in my having to depart sooner than I otherwise would have liked to, mid-article as it were. The experience was not without merit, however, as it gave me an idea for a new men's restroom layout: Why not alternate urinals with stalls?

This design kills two birds with one stone. First, the stalls serve as the ultimate partition between urinals. No danger of anyone sneaking a peak at your wee-wee with an 8' x 7' x 4' box in between you. This advance alone would cut down the rate of "stage fright" to almost non-existent levels, improving rest-room throughput dramatically. Second, for the shitters, having that urinal space between them would prevent any two from having to bask in each others' stench, thus facilitating the stall's secondary purpose as reading room. Sure, the guys taking a leak might have to bear a little extra olfactory input, but they're not sticking around anyway.

Personally, I think this would be a revolutionary advance in restroom design that would make everyone a lot happier. But then I'm deeply fucked up, so maybe I'm wrong.

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WASHINGTON DC: The Senate Intelligence Committee today released a report stating that, prior to our 2003 invasion of Iraq, Saddam Hussein had no links to al-Qaeda. The ensuing media frenzy eclipsed an announcement made earlier in the afternoon by the Congressional Select Committee on the Physical Sciences that light waves are not, in fact, propagated via the so-called "luminiferous ether".

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Last week at Karate I was talking to one of the high school kids I've befriended about my recent Ireland trip, and he began lamenting the drinking age here in the U.S. It got me thinking about our various "threshold ages" and how fucked up they are, how precisely wrong they are. In short order, I devised the Toast Societal Orientation Plan, which shuffles the age limits for various activities thusly:

There, three more problems solved. I'm on a roll.

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El Nino is coming! Yep, it looks like an unseasonably late El Nino effect is developing, which should deliver to us a nice, mild winter.

Wow. I'm actually rooting for a mild winter. I must be getting old...

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With a big hat-tip to Angelos, one of the funniest fucking things I've ever seen.

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[2006.09.07 - 08:45 P.M.]

Well, we're almost nine minutes into the game and we just saw our first first down. Good lord what a suckfest. Or, alternatively, "Wow, what great defense!"

Nope. No, I'm pretty sure I was right the first time. Suckfest.

A few idle thoughts to share during this first game of the year:

OK, that's all my bitching for now. Can't wait for Sunday...

Update: And another thing... I know complaining about the start times of NFL night games is an exercise in futility, but then so is pretty much all the fist-shaking I do on this blog, so what the hell. Do the NFL and NBC really imagine that millions of viewers in the mountain and western time zones stuck around to watch all four quarters of an opening game between two east coast teams? Because I find that proposition highly dubious. If that's the case, I'd like to see some figures to back it up. What I do know, if only through informal polling and anecdotal evidence, is that there are plenty of hard-core football fans here in the east who probably would have watched the entire game but, needing to get up for work the next morning, bailed out around halftime. I just hope I live long enough to someday see the NFL get a friggin' clue when it comes to this perennial thorn in the side of its east coast viewers.

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[2006.09.06 - 07:45 A.M.]

Over at Slate, Jack Shafer has written a pseudo-defense of disgraced sock-puppeteer Lee Siegel. Not surprisingly, I think it's a swing and a miss:

Siegel's role in pseudonymously posting flattering material about himself and criticism of others appears shocking. But practically every Web site with a comments area implicitly sanctions the practice of sniping at foes from a camouflaged position. Few sites, Slate included, make any effort to make users post under their real names. Anonymity appears to be one of the inalienable—if not operational—rights of Internet "citizenship." It's my conjecture that posters adopt pseudonymous names precisely so they can express stuff they don't have to accept responsibility for. It's the Web.

So, if Siegel is a cretin for concealing his role in the authorship of Web comments, then so are millions of other posters. If Siegel is a cretin for arranging pseudonymous posts that benefit him, then so are hundreds of thousands of other posters. One could argue that if Siegel's critics can blast him from the dark, he should be allowed to do the same to them.

Um, no. This completely misreads the nature of Siegel's transgression. The problem with spazzatura wasn't that it was an anonymous identity, it's that it was a secondary identity that Siegel used to the benefit of his already public face.

The notion that one should not use dual identities to mutually benefit each other is as old as the earliest internet gaming communities. While this sort of policy is usually made more explicit in a gaming context than in a blog's comment threads, it is a code of conduct that is at least implicitly understood by everyone who's ever been a regular blog commenter or chat room participant. It is just not done. In fact, it is rightly seen as an abuse of the very anonymity that so many participants in the "Wild West" of the internet enthusiastically embrace.

Siegel knew that what he was doing was wrong, but he couldn't resist taking the easy way around an argument. It was a loser's gambit, and, sure enough, he lost.

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[2006.09.04 - 12:50 P.M.]

On this date, two years ago, I married the love of my life, my perfect mate, a woman so dear to me that words literally cannot capture the depth of my emotion for her, whose nature so complements my own as to suggest that the universe sculpted her with me in mind.

Happy Anniversary, Princess. May we live into our triple digits together.

OK, so gifts? Check that out, readers. Oh yes she did. Oh yes she did get me a bathrobe with "Toast" embroidered on it. That's my girl. As for my gift to her, it's a little hard to make out, but that is a porcelain frog she is holding. And it's a Lladro. See, back in Ireland, we were having dinner at this beautiful restaurant (you'll have to wait for Day 8 for details) and on the table was a candle holder in the shape of two frogs. Well, Tracy loved it, and she launched into a discussion of Totem Animals and suggested that we adopt the frog as the Totem Animal for our home. Thus, when I was browsing the offerings at the local department store searching for an anniversary gift of china and/or cotton, that pretty little frog seemed like an ideal choice. Of course, Tracy completely forgot the conversation that spurred this. But she still loved her lucky frog. So all's well.

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[2006.09.04 - 11:45 A.M.]

50 First Dates: The plot was improbable, to put it mildly, but Sandler and Drew Barrymore took it and ran with it and the result was sweet and silly and entertaining, even if the Cheese Factor was clear off the meter. So, yeah, I guess it's official now: I'm a sucker for Adam Sandler movies. Sue me. (Oh, and Rob Schneider was awesome.)

Expected Rating: 5.0 -- Actual Rating: 5.0

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[2006.09.03 - 02:30 P.M.]

Next week this time, I will be sitting on the couch, beer in hand, much as I am now, but with one key difference: Instead of taking in the lazy, soothing sights and sounds of the Yankees playing out the string on their way to yet another AL East title and their inevitable playoff berth, I will instead be watching NFL football. The most interminable offseason in professional sports officially comes to a close this week, and it is about damned time.

I've already had one fantasy draft and I've got another on Tuesday and -- bonus -- Tracy has a fantasy draft Wednesday night for the newly-minted, Angelos-run league "Helmet and Shouldamapads". (The wife is already the most indulgent of creatures when it comes to my NFL addiction, but I figure once she starts playing fantasy football, she'll truly be down with the program.)

I can't wait to hear the smashing of pads, the shrill blowing of whistles, the rhythmic swell of the crowd noise as it builds from a murmur to a roaring pitch with each play. I can't wait to see guys getting de-helmeted by a tackle, to watch, holding my breath, as wide-receivers streak down the field with superhero-like grace to get under the long bomb and bring it home. I can't wait for league-defying touchdown celebrations. Bring it on. Bring it all on.

(sigh)

As a Jets fan, I'm looking forward to this season. Yes, you read that right. Despite the widely-held consensus view that the Jets will end the year well below the .500 mark, the fact remains that this is a season of hope and renewal and change for the team. The ineffective and befuddled Herman Edwards is gone, replaced by Belichick protege Eric Mangini and a coaching staff brimming with new ideas and a fresh philosophy. A rich, deep crop of draftees and a host of trade acquisitions will be donning the green and white as the franchise looks towards the future. It's going to be a fascinating journey.

(...takes off green-tinted glasses...)

OK, look, they might not win a game. That's my starting assumption: 0-16.

I've been working for weeks to set my expectations at zero, so if the unlikely happens and the Jets do win a game or -- FSM forbid -- string together a few wins, I'll be just fuckin' tickled. Every time that stupid little green devil appears on my shoulder and starts whispering nonsense -- "Well, what if, Toast? What if Chad finally makes the comeback you've been waiting for? What if Kevan Barlow does step in and fill Curtis' shoes? What if Mangini's the greatest football genius to ever don a headset and his brains spur this team on to unimagined heights?" -- I slap him down. I say, no. Silence, you fool. This season is a mere proving ground. It is an extended, year-long training camp wherein the Jets will learn and grow and prepare for the greatness that still lies a year or two away. Think naught else, for if you do, despair and disappointment will be your wages.

The funny thing about the NFL? Even if the Jets suck all year long, I will still sit here every Sunday, rapt with attention. Football is the one sport that I find irresistibly interesting regardless of the fortunes of my rooting interest. Good thing, too, given the team I root for.

Here then, fellow pigskin fans, is the Question of the Week: How do you think your team will fare this season? Superbowl? Suckdom? Someplace in between? Let's have it.

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[2006.09.03 - 02:00 P.M.]

"Over the past 30 years the Republican Party has gone from Gerald Ford to Ronald Reagan to Newt Gingrich to Dick Cheney -- i.e., from conservative to reactionary to crazy to batshit insane." -- Kevin Drum

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[2006.09.03 - 10:15 A.M.]

Day One of the Ireland Travelogue is up. Mostly narrative, as I didn't get many pictures in that first day. I'll be adding a day at a time as I get the chance to work on this. It's kind of a retrospective journal, and so it's quite a bit of work to get everything down. My future self will thank me though, I'm sure of it.

Update: Day Two is complete. I'm crankin'.

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[2006.09.01 - 05:45 P.M.]

Just stopped by Bob's Stores looking for a Melky Cabrera t-shirt. Do they have any? Of course not. He's a rookie. Guess his name hasn't made its way into the t-shirt production pipeline yet. I can understand that. What I could not understand was seeing the stack of Carl Pavano shirts hanging on the wall. I'd have thought those would have all been torn up and redistributed to the staff as rags, or maybe burned. I dunno. Sad and annoying.

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From the Stupid Shit That Annoys Me™ files: People who follow me through the traffic light when I absolutely, positively should have been the last person through. I cannot adequately express how much this drives me apeshit. But let me try:

I see the light turn yellow. I feel it go stale. I enter the intersection and as I look up I see it turn red. Yay!!! I made it! I was the last one through!!! Bwah-ha-ha! Suckers! But then... then... I look back and see... NOOOOOO!!!!!! No, YOU can't go through! The light was clearly red! You evil-ass bastard, I was supposed to be the last one through. Damn you to HELL!

Yep. That's pretty much what goes through my head. Every damn time it happens.

(sigh)

I am damaged.

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Memo to the Martial Arts Instructors of the World: 9:00 AM on Saturday morning is not an agreeable time for sparring class.

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Interesting story in the New York Times on Thursday on the relationship between genetics and life expectancy. Turns out they're not as closely linked as we've been led to believe:

The scientific view of what determines a life span or how a person ages has swung back and forth. First, a couple of decades ago, the emphasis was on environment, eating right, exercising, getting good medical care. Then the view switched to genes, the idea that you either inherit the right combination of genes that will let you eat fatty steaks and smoke cigars and live to be 100 or you do not. And the notion has stuck, so that these days, many people point to an ancestor or two who lived a long life and assume they have a genetic gift for longevity.

But recent studies find that genes may not be so important in determining how long someone will live and whether a person will get some diseases — except, perhaps, in some exceptionally long-lived families. That means it is generally impossible to predict how long a person will live based on how long the person's relatives lived.

Initially, I rejoiced at this news. After all, the fact that my dad died of heart disease at a relatively young age has hung over my head like a black cloud most of my life, and here's this study telling me that might not be the death sentence I'd always assumed it was. On further reflection, however, my thanatophobic anxieties reasserted themselves. If you don't need a genetic predisposition to come down with any of the big-time life-threatening diseases, well, hell, that means I could die of just about anything.

Aaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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I just saw one of the most retarded bumper stickers I've ever seen in my life. It read:

"If Animals Could Talk, We'd All Be Vegetarians"

I mean, seriously -- (deep, deep breath) -- DUH.

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