- Alex is a fan of…
- Am I the only one who doesn’t have a problem with Tiger Woods’ commercial?
- Before I kick the law school bucket…
- Remembering Uncle Kenneth
- Sigh, Texans
- My Most Memorable Sports Moments of the ’00s
- “Now You Are Ready to Go Out Into the World”
- If the NBA Was The Island From Lost
- Get Your Flu On – Part 1, Our Pets’ Heads Are Falling Off
Periodically my friends and I start hashing out epic analogies. These bull sessions last days or even weeks and are played out over e-mail. Yesterday my friend Jimmy asked the question “What if the NBA was the island from Lost?” Here’s what we came up with:
Mark Cuban would be Benjamin Linus . . . whiny, calculating, undeserving of being the leader, but still retaining far too much power. Popular opinion weighs that he will be the architect of his own demise, but there are a few fans who would love nothing more than to see him succeed in his evil plans.
Manu Ginobli would be Sayid . . . why is this guy not one of the most popular characters? Between the long hair and minority status, this is an easy match up. Both can kill you in a variety of ways, both flail wildly when struck, and both always seem to be physically hurt yet their play remains maddeningly unaffected by their injuries. Beware the team that boasts either of these men as an asset.
Kobe Bryant is Sawyer . . . you know he’s a bad guy, you know he’s only out for himself, but you fool yourself into thinking that he has grown as a person. While he is a one-of-a-kind player by himself, put him in a team context and he will tear it apart from the inside. Not saying you can’t win championships with him, but you can never have stability.
Shaq is Hurley . . . fat, goofy, always saying stupid things, paranoid, has a love/hate relationship with Sawyer/Kobe. You don’t think that Hurley can contribute, but when the shit hits the fan, Hurley hits you with a van, reminding you that a team with Hurley sucks on defense, but you still can’t stop him in the paint.
Allen Iverson is Kate . . . tiny, in the way, thinks he’s more important than he is, late in his career he is put on teams with superstars, but like Lenny from Of Mice and Men, Iverson always finds a way to kill the thing he loves the most. Kate always tries to take over, and when she does, people die.
Peja Stojakovic is Jin . . . You forget about him until you have to deal with him. He may not speak English very well, but when you need a dagger three as the clock strikes down, accept no substitutes. Much like Peja in the Playoffs, Jin has been known to choke when it matters most. For example – being caught in the tanker explosion, shooting dynamite that was 50 feet away, and missing 3 in a row.
LeBron is Jack . . . Everyone looks to him for leadership, and he seems to deliver, but where is the championship? You know he has the tools, but he just can’t seem to make it work.
D-Wade is Locke . . . knock him down, and he will just get back up again. D-wade will constantly surprise you with his ability even though we all know of what he seems to be capable. Whether it’s being shot by Ben, strangled by Ben, paralyzed by the man from Tallahassee, shoulder problems, knee problems, you name it, he can overcome it to win gold or bring home a title
Gregg Popovich is Charles Widmore. Cold, calculating, intelligent, grey haired, willing to sacrifice his morals to win, willing to kill Ben’s Daughter to get what he wants. He’s been to the top, and is now experiencing a slump, but don’t count him out of the game.
Len Bias is Carl (Ben’s Daughter’s crappy boyfriend) . . . We met him a long time ago, and he was a total badass – running in and out of the woods, being bold, but in the end, he died because he was young and foolish. Enough time has passed that the casual fan has no recollection of him.
Micheal Jordan is Jacob . . . Ever present, still the face of the island, but we know that there must be a regime change if things are going to move progress. The question is whether the new boss will be Jack or Locke.
Dirk Nowitzki is Desmond Hume . . . You want him to be more than he is, but let’s face it, you’re never going all the way with that guy. He is very happy, and very good putting certain people (Ben Linus, Charles Widmore, Faraday’s mother) in their places, but he could never take on all-comers. His team of Penny, Charlie and his son Charlie are solid, but not great. In the end, he can’t finish.
Grant Hill is Mr. Echo. The moment he first appeared, you knew that guy was going to be the best. He was everyone’s favorite character. Then he got injured/ killed by the smoke monster. We’re lucky if we get a cameo appearance in a flashback now.
Jerry Sloan is Richard Alpert. It seems like whenever you look back in the island’s history, one thing remains the same: Jerry Sloan is Utah’s head basketball coach. Also, his team plays freaking dirty. Always stealing kids, tranqing you when you walk through the forest, and complaining about every foul they obviously committed.
Baron Davis is Rose. Had a career resurgence when he was traded to the Warriors and was cured of cancer. Then he went somewhere else (Clippers) and no one ever heard from him again. Seriously where the hell is Rose?
The Charlotte Bobcats are The Others. A shadowy, mysterious team that no one really thinks about. When you see your team is playing them you think, oh, the Bobcats, big deal. But then its a tough game. They came out of nowhere. Also, they take orders from Jacob (Jordan), who is there but not really engaged.
Chris Anderson is Michael. Busted for drugs and shooting Libby and Ana Lucia, subsequently left the island. However, guilt drove him to comeback, and now he’s totally redeemed himself by helping the Nuggets advance to the conference finals and freezing the bomb’s battery with liquid nitrogen.
Carmelo Anthony is Charlie. Before he came to the island, Charlie found fame as songwriter for Drive Shaft. Before he came to the island, Carmelo found fame as frosh phenom of the Syracuse Orange. One of the most popular characters despite his drug problem.
Pistol Pete Maravich is Daniel Faraday. A genius ahead of his time, both came into the league with high hopes of revolutionizing the game. They did, but both of their careers were extinguished in the 70s, all too young. Both of their demises were parental in nature. Pistol Pete couldn’t live with the aura of perfection his father had built, Faraday’s mom shot him. But oh that long hair, so dreamy.
Kevin Durant is Walt. This kid and his amazing powers are going to change everything. But you forget about him because he plays in Oklahoma/ lives in New York with this grandma.
“That’s it, I’ve had it with this dump!! We got no food, no jobs… our
PETS’ HEADS ARE FALLING OFF!”
– Lloyd Christmas
Science has not yet determined if pet decapitation is a symptom of swine flu, but if that happens you should probably see a vet. Should people be freaking out about swine flu? Well maybe and maybe not. I’ve done a lot of reading so I thought I would lay out everything I’ve leanred about the disease and the outbreak. In short, the disease itself isn’t the most frightening thing. As far as we can tell the vast majority of people who have or have had it didn’t even need to be hospitalized. Instead the most frightening thing about swine flu isn’t the answers we have, it’s the questions. DISCLAIMER: I ain’t a doctor. I just read.
1) What’s the big deal?
To answer that I had to read up on flues. There are many types of flu viruses (called strains). They affect all types of animals such as birds, pigs, and humans. Most strains are individually adapted to specific species. Just like how a flu strain is adapted to the animal, the animal is adapted to the flu. Regular ol’ human flu comes around once a year. Flu season. Your body pretty much knows how to handle it. It’s seen it a million times. It’s like that old girlfriend that you keep running into when you go to bars.
But even though your body knows what to do when faced with seasonal human flu, it’s still dangerous. For people with respiratory problems or people with weakened immune systems (such as the elderly or cancer patients) even friendly ol’ human flu can cause pneumonia, which can flood their lungs. Then they don’t have the strength to fight it off. In this way, just the seasonal flu we’re all used to kills an estimated 36,000 people every year in the United States alone.
The other thing about flu (not just human flu strains, all flu animal flu strains) is that they never sit still. A flu bug is constantly evolving. In fact, even the regular seasonal flu evolves from year to year. That’s why we get flu shots. But the flu is similar enough to what your body has seen before that it’s not that big a deal.
Sometimes though, an animal flu can change to the point where it can make the jump to humans. Either it mixes with a human strain or it adapts on its own. Then it’s a big problem. The animals have seen that type of strain before, but humans haven’t. Human bodies don’t know how to defend against it. It’s like wearing white boxers everyday then reaching into your underwear drawer and pulling out a leopard-print thong.
Now let’s say an animal strain figures out how to jump from animals to humans. It might not be that strong of a strain of flu, and the human could basically shrug it off. Or it could be a really nasty flu and it could kill the human. Even in that worst case scenario it might not turn into an epidemic. Why? Because even if a nasty animal flu figures out how to jump from animal to human, it might not figure out how to jump from human to human. The only people it would kill would be those in close contact with the infected animal.
Let me give you an example. Remember the Asian Bird Flu scare back in the mid-2000s? It was a nasty flu, one of the nastiest anyone had ever seen.
It’s not unusual for chickens to get flu; in fact, avian-flu viruses far outnumber human ones. But Robert Webster of St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis has studied flu viruses for 40 years and has never seen the likes of the one that killed Ngoan.
“This virus right from scratch is probably the worst influenza virus, in terms of being highly pathogenic, that I’ve ever seen or worked with,” Webster says. Not only is it frighteningly lethal to chickens, which can die within hours of exposure, swollen and hemorrhaging, but it kills mammals from lab mice to tigers with similar efficiency. Here and there people have come down with it too, catching it from infected poultry like the chickens that died on Ngoan’s farm a few days before she fell ill. Half the known cases have died.
What scientists were really worried about is that that strain of bird flu that killed 50% of the people it infected was going to find a way to jump from human-to-human instead of animal-to-human. Fortunately it never did.
The deadliest types of flu like Asian Bird Flu are animal flues that evolve on their own to infect humans. Like I said before, the two ways an animal flu can make the jump to humans is to A) Evolve and mutate until it figures it out on its own or B) Mix with a human strain of flu. Let’s say you come down with a flu from Column B. You could get sick, because there are animal parts to that flu that your body has never seen before. But at the same time, your body HAS seen the human parts, so it kind of knows what to do. But let’s say it’s a Column A flu. Your body has no idea what to do. It keeps producing mucus and other fluids to try to expel the foreign flu but it’s unsuccessful so it keeps producing more. In the end, you drown in your own liquids. For this reason, these kinds of flus affect young healthy people the worst. They have the healthiest immune systems, so their overreaction is more potent.
The deadliest flu in human history was in 1918, when an bird flu made the jump to humans then started spreading rapidly from human to human. It killed an estimated 50 million worldwide.
After flashing through crowded military camps and troopships in Europe and the United States, the flu leaped out of uniform to ports and industrial cities. In Philadelphia, historian Alfred Crosby found, 12,000 people died of flu and pneumonia in October—759 in a single day. Schools and businesses were shut down and church services cancelled. Morgues overflowed.
By then the sickness had spread to the far corners of the planet, from the South Pacific to the Arctic. “Everybody on Earth breathed in the virus, and half of them got sick,” says Jeffery Taubenberger of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Maryland, who is trying to learn what made it such a killer. More than 50 million people died—at least three times as many as in the war. The best medical minds of the day could hardly believe that this was flu.
“We think it’s pretty likely that the virus was not derived from a previously circulating human virus,” Taubenberger says. All of its genes mark it as an animal virus, pure and simple, that somehow crossed to people without the help of genes from a previous human strain.
Before you freak out, let me point out that if a flu that deadly happened today, a lot lower percentage of people would have died owing to advances in medication and technologies such as respirators. But as Asian Bird Flu shows, the wrong strain of animal flu in a human can be deadly serious stuff.
So now I’m ready to finally answer the question about swine flu, What’s the big deal?
The big deal is that here we have an animal flu that’s NOT ONLY figured out how to jump from animal to human it’s figured out how to spread from human to human. We’re not seeing only people who are around sick pigs get it. We’re seeing people who are around sick humans get it. That’s part of why it’s a big deal.
But the good news is that swine flu appears to be a flu that’s partially derived from human flu. Itlooks like it’s one of the ones I called a “Column B,” an animal flu that mixes with a human flu. People just aren’t dying from it in alarming numbers. In fact, the vast majority of people who got it are now fine.
Just what the hell is going on? I’ll discuss more in Part 2…
NBA Playoffs begin. Baseball is starting up. NFL Draft talk is in full swing…Mid-April is a great time for sports. Then ESPN has to go and ruin it all.
So this morning I’m basking in the warm afterglow of a Rockets blowout playoff win. I’m having bacon and eggs at my parents’ house and I flip on Disney Sports Channel to watch highlights from the night before. I watch the first segment and I couldn’t believe what I saw.
“Dad, give me your watch,” I said as I rewround the show. “I’m putting this on a timer.”
Here was the order of highlight packages of the first segment: Mavs-Spurs, Rockets-Blazers, Bulls-Celtics, and the 22-4 drubbing that the Cleveland Indians put on the Yankees. See that I can understand. Three opening round NBA playoff game highlights, plus a historic low for the most popular baseball team in the world. Then you save the Cleveland LeBrons-Pistons highlights for the next segment to get people to stay through the commercial. Fair enough. But the time spent on each…
Mavs-Spurs – 2 min 5 sec
Rockers – Blazers – 2 min 7 sec
Bulls – Celtics – 3 min 48 sec
Cleveland – Yankees – 4 min
They spent almost as much time on a Yankees loss in April as they did two NBA playoff games combined! I understand it was an epic defeat, but it’s APRIL BASEBALL!! First, ESPN showed highlights of every run scored by Cleveland in the 14-run second, complete with a counter at the bottom of the screen. Then, they did a breakout piece by Tim Kurkjian putting the loss in historical context. Then they went back to the game highlightsto show the conclusion. Then they showed the box score. THEN they showed Yankee pitcher Chien Ming Wang’s abysmal early season stats. THEN they showed the New York Post’s reaction. “Stinkees.” How original.
I mean, it’s not like NBA Game 1s are important. The winner only goes on to win the serious almost 80% of the time. It only has implications for how the entire season ends up.
One of the million little things that set the Masters apart from other golf tournaments is the affordability inside the gate. At other majors they try to milk every last cent out of you. I mean, the US Open is still my favorite major, but at Torrey Pines last year I paid $2 for a slimy old banana and $4 for a cup of beer. The Masters sandwiches in green wrapping paper are the exact opposite of this sentiment. At the Masters this year I paid $1.50 per sandwich and $1.50 per cup of sweet tea and/or Coke. I ran the gamut of the entire Masters sandwich derby, with the exception of turkey. Basically I figured that I eat turkey so much that why waste valuable stomach space on what would ultimately be another turkey sandwich? Here are my rankings.
4) Pimento Cheese
Okay, so this is the most famous sandwich at the Masters. Everyone always talks about the pimento cheese sandwich. I found out that the reason everyone talks about it isn’t because of how good it is, but by how oddball it is. Only the Masters would serve this and get away with it. It wasn’t that bad, just odd. It tasted way too processed. Essentially, it was cheese goo. In contrast, the chef at the place I valet-parked served some homemade pimento cheese and it was excellent. I acquiesced that this sandwich might be an acquired taste, and resolved to give it a second chance. However, I liked one of the sandwiched below so much that I never got around to it.
3) Tuna on Wheat
I’ve never been a big fan of tuna salad. I don’t dislike it, just merely tolerate it. If someone is making tuna sandwiches I’ll take one. The alternative is getting up and making my own sandwich, and forget that. This sandwich was pretty good. The strong wheat taste contrasted the essential mayo-ness of the tuna salad. I decided that for future reference all tuna sandwiches should be on wheat bread.
2) Ham and Cheese on Rye
Surprising. I hate ham and cheese, but I liked this. Like the tuna, the bread is what made this (true of all Masters sandwiches). The intense rye flavor was perfect. And instead of bland cheddar Kraft slices they used swiss cheese. They also threw down a spicy mustard. I would eat ham and cheese more often if it was made like this.
1) Egg Salad
Golfer Stewart Cink doesn’t eat egg salad sandwiches, but makes an exception for the Masters. Picking one of these up during practice rounds. I agree with Stewie, these are the winners. Again, the secret is in the bread. Classic white slices are almost sweet. I pounded about five of these during the course of the tournament. Pair with sweet tea. Perfect.
Oh, and Angel Cabrera won a golf tournament in a playoff. More on that later.
One of my bad habits is that I buy books faster than I read them. I tend to read based on what I’m interested in that particular week. When I’m really into a book I can crank it out in a matter of days. However, sometimes my interest flags halfway through the book and I start reading something else, and never come back to the original book. And then sometimes I’ll never get started at all, I just buy it because I know I’ll want to read it at some point. So I’ve set a goal of knocking out my all the books on my bookshelf that I haven’t read.
To help myself, I’ve decided to rank them. If any of you are looking for a random book to read, you’ve come to the right place. I buy random yet interesting books. I’ve imposed a moratorium on buying any new books until I’ve read all the ones on this list, which is like cutting smoking cold turkey except more educational (probably). Of course, all this starts after I’ve finished my current book. Like everyone else in the world I’m reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan.
This book is first because its a library book, and I’m sick of checking things out from the library and never reading them. Anyway, by the time I read this my last two books will have been broad, modern, anthropological works examining humanity’s currents habits in regards to, respectively, eating and crapping. That will be Dilemma and The Big Necessity (which will probably be the subject of my next post). I need a smaller story after those two, something close to fiction.
Wild Trees is perfect. The book is about tall treeclimbers in the wilds of California (didn’t realize California still had wilds). From the synopsis:
Richard Preston unfolds the spellbinding story of Steve Sillett, Marie Antoine, and the tiny group of daring botanists and amateur naturalists that found a lost world above California, a world that is dangerous, hauntingly beautiful, and unexplored. The canopy voyagers are young–just college students when they start their quest–and they share a passion for these trees, persevering in spite of sometimes crushing personal obstacles and failings. They take big risks, they ignore common wisdom (such as the notion that there’s nothing left to discover in North America), and they even make love in hammocks stretched between branches three hundred feet in the air.
The New York Times describes it as a “swashbuckling reading.” Any book with that description is bound to be one of my favorites.
There are a couple of books on this list that I first heard about when their authors appeared on The Daily Show. This is one of them. I generally like Friedman’s columns for the New York Times. Friedman’s book argues that America needs to take the global lead in a “green revolution” much like we took the lead in the Industrial and Information Revolutions (“But the puppy was a dog…”). If we don’t someone else is going to take the lead for us. On the back cover Friedman says that America needs “to get its ‘groove’ back.” That America needs a green revolution is something that’s been pretty painfully obvious for a couple decades but the movement is only now catching on, what with Barack Obama promising to wave a magic wand (of cash) and generate millions of green jobs. A timely book, in my opinion.
I love reading about history, I love biographies and I love reading about science. I got this book for Christmas from my G-ma. It’s the first of two Isaacson biographies on this list, and the first of four. Isaccson is a pretty prolific biographer, but I’ve never read any of his stuff. Looking forward to this one.
I bought Banana some months ago. I had seen it in B&N weeks before and made up my mind immediately that I wanted it. I mean, my family had always been a banana family. But how much do you really know about bananas? Anyway after looking forward to it for all those weeks I bought it, and started reading it only to false start. I just wasn’t feeling it for some reason. The interest is still there, though. Some of the interesting things I learned while reading the first 20 pages or so: the banana plant is actually one of the world’s largest weeds, Americans eat more bananas than apples and oranges combined (even though they’re not grown in America), 40-year-old Americans have eaten roughly 10,000 of them on average, and a disease is currently threatening the world’s banana crops.
Because after a broad sociological work, an exhaustive biography, and a very detailed book about bananas I’ll need the literary equivalent of a Law and Order episode. That title says it all.
I got this book from my grandfather several years back. I read the first couple of chapters but never more. As the years have gone by and I look at it on my bookshelf, I have always regretted not finishing it. I remember that the 20th Anniversary of the Dow chemical spill in Bhopal was when I was in college. There were some displays on campus and one of my very intelligent friends admitted that he had never heard of the disaster, which some estimate killed over 10,000 people. It’s one of those disasters that Americans tend to forget because it happened on the other side of the world. I mean, 10,000 people. God. The first of three disaster books on this list.
After five and six, I’ll need a lighter fair. Three Cups is the story of Greg Mortenson, a Minnesota-born mountaineer, and his quest to build schools (primarily for girls) in rural Afghanistan and Pakistan, the heart of the War on Terror. Mortenson is the founder of the Central Asian Institute. Should make for an entertaining, feel-good reading full of hopeyness. I’ll need it before diving into the next one on my list.
This is the book Obama was touting before he nominated a White House full of Clintonistas and Robert Gates. Oh well. An in depth look at the politics of Civil War. Essentially answers the question, what’s the big deal about Abraham Lincoln. I really dig Doris Kearns Goodwin. She’s got a Diane Keaton-in-Something’s Gotta Give-except-smart thing going on. I could club an elk to death with this book. It might take me as long as a month to crank this one out, and that’s if I don’t put it down and come back to it.
I’ll need something piquant after Rivals. I read some of this book in college but inexplicably never finished it. Then I found it last year at BookPeople in Austin for only $8. This book gave me one of my favorite food anecdotes, about the medieval feast tradition of taking a peacock or swan, skinning it and removing the feathers in one piece, roasting the bird, reinserting it into the body and feathers, gilding the beak in gold, placing a ball of cloth soaked in alcohol in the beak and lighting it. Then you put the whole thing on a platter and bring it into the hall. The bird looks like it’s breathing fire. I ought to do that sometime.
I bought three books during the campaign. Obama’s two books and McCain’s Faith of My Fathers. I only got around to reading one of them, Obama’s memoir, Dreams From My Father. That’s the one where he talks about his struggle for dealing with his racial identity. Hope is drier, but now that’s he’s president it’s even more important. I mean the guy basically lays out all his plans and viewpoints in this book. He’s having a rough transition in Washington. I think he needs to do a better job in standing up to his own party. Especially Pelosi, who’s the mirror image of everything that was wrong about Republicans like Tom Delay.
Iraq is a war fought by my generation. I really want to understand more about how the war got started and what went so wrong with it. Now I’m not as virulent a critic of George W. Bush as some of my friends, but I don’t think anyone can argue that the war wasn’t mismanaged. We didn’t support our troops. Fortunately, they turned the tide and Iraqis are safer and have a chance at a free country. I like that Obama is being reasonable about this and committing to continued troop presence even after the majority of combat troops come home, or head to Afghanistan. Ricks is Pulitzer Prize winner, but I found this book in the Bargain section at B&N for less that $7. Go figure.
Another fun book about food to refresh the palate (groan). Alan Richman is a sportswriter turned food critic at GQ. This is a collection of his best work.
This is the first of two books on my list by Simon Winchester. Hot damn, the man gets amazing titles. I mean, “The Day the World Exploded.” HOW can you NOT want to read that?!! Krakatoa was an island in Indonesia that got destroyed in 1883 by one of the most powerful volcanic explosions in the geological history of the world. I can only imagine if (when) something like this happened (happens) in the Information Age. The explosion was heard in Australia. The tsunami killed 40,000 and affected tides as far away as France. Barometers in Washington D.C. went nuts.
“Ben Freakin Franklin,” as George Washington often referred to him. I’m even more excited to read this book after seeing the entertaining portrayal of him in the HBO series John Adams.
Tehran is a popular book club book, mainly because it deals with women’s lib in often oppressive Iran. Despite its popularity, I found this book for three bucks at Half Price in Austin. Seems like a poignant work. I had originally intended to read it in companion to Three Cups, but I need this here to break up the biographies. I bet this book will shine a light on my inadequacies when it comes to classic works of literature.
LBJ was many things, almost all of them contrasting. A crude man from rural Texas who was a master of politics. If he’s half as entertaining as Billy Lee Bramer’s parody of him in The Gay Place this book will be plenty entertaining. Randall Woods’ biography is one of the most thorough and accurate portraits of one of the most complex individuals in recent American political history.
Seriously. Simon Winchester. Best titles EVER.
Godspeed, Little Buddy
A small bat that was spotted blasting off with the space shuttle Sunday and clinging to the back side of Discovery’s external fuel tank apparently held on throughout the launch.
“He did change the direction he was pointing from time to time throughout countdown but ultimately never flew away,” states a NASA memo obtained by SPACE.com. “Infrared imagery shows he was alive and not frozen like many would think … Liftoff imagery analysis confirmed that he held on until at least the vehicle cleared [the] tower before we lost sight of him.”