Saturday, February 11, 2006


I enjoyed the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics last night. The part where the performers portrayed a ski-jumper was great.

But what I want to know is, did the Italians hire stand-ins for the women on their team for the athletes' entry into the stadium? They were all gorgeous.

Friday, February 10, 2006


"pictures of rasputins penis" listed my blog as fifth. Sorry, I can't help with this one.


Last Friday night I made my annual in-person visit to the world of track and field: the Millrose Games at Madison Square Garden.

I've been going to the Millrose Games almost every year since 1975. They've changed quite a bit since then, as has track and field in general, I'm not sure for the better. Thirty years ago there were three big track meets in Madison Square Garden every winter: The Millrose Games, the Olympic Invitational, and the National Indoor Championships, then called the AAU Indoor Championships (as it was run by the Amateur Athletic Union). Then the Olympic Invitational went across the Hudson to the Meadowlands for a year or two, and then disappeared. The AAU Championships departed for a longer track, and a bigger arena, in Atlanta if I remember correctly. (Longer tracks mean quicker times because there are fewer turns to slow the runners down.) And the AAU itself has since disappeared--the national governing body is now USA Track & Field.

But the Millrose Games stayed at the Garden. This was the 99th year, and they show no signs of departing--they announced a crowd of 14,000+. Maybe that included some no-shows, but there were plenty of people there. And they've greatly raised the ticket prices over the years, also. The best seats are now $90. (Compare this to the current price of the Indoor Championships, now in Boston. The best tickets there are $25 for each of two days. I should say that the comparison is not quite fair--I doubt the Championships have to pay any athletes appearance fees to show up, which I'm sure the Millrose Games does.)

One of the bigger changes Millrose has made in the last few years is to greatly reduce the number of college relay teams participating. There used to be dozens, divided up into many different races at the same distances. They would get colleges from all over the eastern half of the country--sometimes my Wisconsin Badgers were even represented. Now it's much more local, and there is just one race at each distance for each gender--only the top teams were invited.

They have added some other events. The women's pole vault has been contested since 1998, as it was added internationally in 1992. The men's shotput, formerly contested offsite earlier in the day, is now held in the Garden in the evening.

Other changes have been made to increase the spectator-friendliness of the event. A very upbeat announcer/interviewer is used, instead of the old monotone name and number guy. Rock and hip-hop music is played in the background. Videos are shown up on the scoreboard screens between running events--anything to keep the audience from being bored (and also to that end they have eliminated the individual races longer than a mile--there used to be one for each gender).

Last year they made another big change. Previously they would have the short sprints and hurdle races in the middle of the evening. This required them to disassemble the running track at both ends, and then reassemble it for the remaining longer events. It's a good 15 minutes for the former, and a bit longer for the latter. But last year they put the short races at the end of the night, so they never had to reassemble the track. I thought this worked pretty well, but someone thought otherwise. This year they went back to the old way.

Anyhow, I went, and I was immediately put off because I was early, but they had already started--my ticket said 6:30, but the program said things had started at 6:00. Now the events I missed certainly weren't of any great importance--first a pair of 4X400m Masters relays (masters being athletes over 40 years of age), one for each gender--then a couple of 4-lap relays for "youths" (youths being undefined in the program--apparently elementary schoolers, judging from the names of the teams entered). (Strangely, a lap this year was 145 meters, slightly shorter than the standard 160 yards.) Finally there was a "junior girls" 800m race, with contestants 11 to 14 years of age--the single 14 year-old being imported from California.

I missed all that, and I wasn't happy. I got to my seat in time for several 4X400m relays for high schoolers from differing geographical areas, plus one for Catholic high school girls. The last two were for the NYC public high schools. All of these races had several loud cheering sections, urging on their schoolmates.

I really wasn't too interested in any of these, except if a race was close. But at 7:00 they finally got to my favorite event, the pole vault. They started with the women's competition. This has been a Millrose event only since 1998, after being added internationally in 1992. Seven of the eight previous years it was won by Stacy Dragila, the American record holder both indoors and out. But this year she was absent. Present, however, was the second best American, Jenn Stuczynski. The announcer gave her a big build-up. But the event, and Stuczynski, were a big disappointment. There were six competitors, and one was eliminated at each of the first two heights (three misses in a row and you're out). Stuczynski passed at both heights, saving her energy for the higher ones. All four remaining made 4.40m (14-5¼), Stuczynski being the only one who needed two attempts. Then all four missed all three of their attempts at 4.47m (14-8¼)--12 misses in a row, which is not terribly exciting. And that was it. One vaulter became the winner because she had fewer misses. Stuczynski actually came in fourth, because of her miss at 4.40m--she only took 5 vaults altogether.

There was one nice thing about the event, though. They had a lighted sign that gave the vaulter's name and height attempted after each vault. This was very helpful, because they did not wear any numbers or names on their skimpy uniforms (think two-piece bathing suit).

Then the male pole vaulters started warming up. Meanwhile, there had been all sorts of races going on, plus the women's high jump--a track meet has been likened to a three-ring circus. Curiously, there was no men's high jump. Included was the longest individual event of the evening, at least time-wise: the men's one-mile race walk. The only ones longer were a couple of 4X800m relays.

Race-walking is this ridiculous-looking thing where the competitors are required to keep one foot on the ground at all times (there are judges stationed around the track to check on this). The result is this weird hip-swinging gait, especially at a distance of only a mile (in the Olympics the men walk 20K and 50K, 13+ miles and 30 miles). The winner took less than 6 minutes--only two minutes less than it takes athletes to run it. After a relay they held the Girls' High School Mile (with lots of screaming schoolmates in the stands). It was won by Danielle Tauro from Southern Regional (NJ) H.S.--last year's fifth place finisher.

Eventually they got to the end of the first set of races on the track, and a crew of men (I think they were all men) came out to disassemble the ends of the banked oval.
Meanwhile they got the men's pole vault going. I think it may actually have started a bit ahead of schedule, because the women's had gone so fast. Again there were six competitors. The men did attach their names to their shirts, so I could tell who they were, at least with my binoculars. As usual Toby Stephenson stood out as the only one wearing a helmet.

The men's competition was much better, with the lead changing hands several times. One competitor, Brad Walker, strategically passed his last two attempts at a height after missing. That gave him only two shots at the next one, but he made it on the second one. Then he passed the height after that entirely. Eventually it came down to him and Jeff Hartwig, a four-time winner of the event (though not since 2002). They both took three shots at 5.80m (19-0¼), but neither could make it. But Walker had passed at 5.73m (18-9½), which Hartwig made, so he won.

Meanwhile, they finished with the track, and ran the straight races down the middle of the arena. The runners actually go under the stands past the finish line, where there's a mat-covered wall to stop them. First they had the hurdles, men's and women's, college and open. 39-year old Gail Devers was making her return to competition after a year off to give birth to her first child. She finished far out, coming in fourth. The most memorable part of the hurdles was Andrea Bliss, who hit a hurdle and crashed to the floor, injuring her arm. She was down on the floor a long time, before she was ready to get up--a tween girl sitting next to me was amazed that the photographers just took her picture, rather than helping her. She's got a lot to learn about life and work. They tried to make a big deal of Terrence Trammell's attempt to be the first man to win both the hurdles and the dash at the Millrose Games, but he only placed third over the barriers.

Then they removed the hurdles for the dashes. They had the "Fastest Kid in New York City" 50m races for boys and girls 8-9 years old (they were cute, but a couple seemed really scared being out in front of thousands of people). That was followed by 60m races for high schoolers, then collegians, and finally the adult dashes. None of the names seemed terribly familiar except Trammell's, who came in third again.

When all that was done the crew returned to reassemble the track. They had a lot of trouble--by the time they were done they were half an hour behind schedule.

Meanwhile in the center of the field they set up for the men's shotput. This was a featured event--usually the throwing events, the shot put and weight throw (the indoor version of the hammer throw) are held earlier in the day in a more spacious building. But the U.S. has some very good athletes in the men's shot (some rather animated) so Millrose put them in primetime and prime place--despite the danger of having 16 lb. steel balls flying through the air. And sure enough, while they were warming up, one throw landed smack dab in the middle of the pole vault runway. Fortunately it didn't hit anyone, but it did wake some people up in that area.

As I said, some of the shot putters are animated. They are all big, strong guys, of course. But they have to be as fast as they are strong. Today practically all major shot putters use the spin technique, turning in the throwing circle much like a discus thrower, so it's not just strength and technique. One guy did a cartwheel after being introduced. Another guy has been trying to find a sponsor for a while. Last year he had "This Space For Rent" or something like that, printed on his t-shirt. This year it said "Still No Sponsor." There were four competitors here.

Somehow they chose four spectators from the stands. Each drew the name of one of the shot putters from a hat, and prizes would be awarded to the spectators depending on where "their" man finished. The first prize was a $100 gift card from the sponsor of the event, Visa.

The competition got under way. The announcer, and sometimes the competitors themselves, tried to get the crowd cheering. The T-shirt guy (I forget his name) has this routine before he throws. He stands way out in the landing area, exhorting the crowd. Then he strides to the throwing ring, pulling off his t-shirt and casting it aside. Then he gets to the ring, picks up the shot and throws it. This year his undershirt said "But My Mom Still Loves Me."

Reese Hoffa, last year's winner, did 21.00m (68-10¾) on his first throw, and he need not have thrown again--no one could equal it. Christian Cantwell came close, at 20.88m (68-6), but that was it. However, Hoffa (obviously the favorite of the tween girl sitting next to me--if she ever loses her voice she'll find it in my left ear) did not stop there. His second throw was even longer: 21.65m (71-0½). He followed that with a couple more throws over 21m. His winning throw broke his own Madison Square Garden record--it was 3 centimeters more than he did last year.

Eventually they got the running track back together, way past 10:00pm. They ran the women's mile, where Carmen Douna-Hussar won for the third year in a row. Her Canadian compatriots took the next two spots also, to the chagrin of the very vocal group urging on Ethiopian Mestawot Tadesse. It was a competitive race, but not very fast--14 seconds over the Millrose record. This was followed by the women's 800m, easily won by Jamaican Kenia Sinclair. (The Ethiopian runner came in fifth.) The men's 500m was next--nothing remarkable.

Then came the Boys' High School Mile--time for more schoolmate screaming. The announcer made a big deal of John Coghlan, all the way from Ireland. This would be his first time running on a banked track. It showed--he came in eighth. It was an exciting race, with Dan McManamon of Shenandehowa H.S. in Clifton Park, NY winning by less than a second.

The final event was the "Wanamaker Mile for the Rodman Wanamaker Trophy." It was named after the son of the founder of the Wanamaker Department stores, and it has remained the biggest event in the Millrose Games--despite the fact that there hasn't been a Wanamaker Department Store in New York City for decades. The two big names here were three-time winner Bernard Lagat, originally from Kenya but a new USA citizen, and Ethiopian Kenenisa Bekele. Last year Lagat broke the 24-year old Millrose record of Eamonn Coghlan. Bekele, who holds the world records in the 5,000m and 10,000m outdoors, and the 5,000m indoors, was trying the shorter distance this year (and picking up some appearance money no doubt).

Lagat had no trouble this year, cruising in nearly 5 seconds ahead of Bekele, who needed all the speed he could muster to hang on for second--much to the relief of his loud compatriots in the stands. Lagat's 3:56.85 barely made the top 30 for the Wanamaker Mile all-time. The two took a victory lap, as most of the crowd headed for the exits.

As we were leaving they announced the Outstanding Performer of the Millrose Games. To no one's surprise it was shotputter Reese Hoffa, with his Madison Square Garden (though not Millrose Games) record.


Chocolate Stores See Big Business Around Valentine's Day


Tonight is the Opening Ceremonies of the Winter Olympics from Turin, Italy. We'll get to see the athletes march in, probably accompanied by trivialities about the various countries from the news anchor of the network broadcasting the games. Usually it's a pretty good show, though.

Tomorrow the actual competition starts. I can't wait for the penguin wrangling and team snowball fight events. What? They're not on the schedule? I'll just have to make do with curling and, what's the new one?, snowboard cross.

Seriously, I am looking forward to watching the Olympics, even though the big events will be shown on a delayed basis in the evening. (I hate knowing the results of an event beforehand, so I have to be careful to avoid news reports during the day.) Time Warner Cable has even managed to find a way to deliver NBC's secondary Olympic high definition channel, Universal-HD, in addition to the regular broadcast (both in standard definition and high), and the USA, CNBC and MSNBC channels they use for secondary events. My DVR will probably get a good workout.

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Michaels Traded From ABC to NBC for a Cartoon Bunny


Last night I was elected Assistant Treasurer of the LeGal Foundation, the charitable wing of the LGBT Law Assn. of Greater New York. And the way these things usually work I'll probably be the treasurer in a year or two, if I want it.

It's a little more work to do. But it's good work--it's so nice to be retired, and really have the time to do these things.


Navratilova, Turning 50, Plans Full Schedule With Slams

I wondered why she didn't play at the Australian Open. She has been my favorite player for a long, long time. It really would be interesting to see the two Martinas (Navratilova and Hingis, recently returned from her three-year injury layoff) playing doubles. They could be a formidable team.

I'd love to see her keep playing--and winning. She is only 4 behind Margaret Smith Court for the most Grand Slam titles in singles, doubles and mixed combined. Many of Court's wins were at her home country Australia's championships, back when many of the top players did not make the long journey there, so I think Navratilova has already accomplished more. Besides, Court is a homophobe. She has said Navratilova is a bad role model. I'd like to see her record eclipsed (by a lesbian, no less), just for that.


The House Republicans rewarded Tom DeLay, their former majority leader, with a powerful position on the Appropriations Committee. DeLay was forced to step down when he was indicted on money laundering and conspiracy charges.

Not only did his Republican cronies reward him with the Appropriations seat, he was put on the subcommittee that controls the money going to the Justice Department, the very body that is investigating influence-peddling involving disgraced Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff. I'm sure the Justice Department will now get all the money they need to pursue the connections between Abramoff and various Republican lawbreakers, oops, lawmakers. Like I'm sure the stork brings new babies.

Oh, by the way, how did the vacancy on the Appropriations Committee come about? It was due to the resignation of Republican Randy "Duke" Cunningham, who pleaded guilty to taking $2.4 million in bribes.


I previously noted that I was skeptical how long John Boehner, Tom DeLay's replacement as House Majority Leader, would last. Things keep popping up and popping up, tying him to disgraced lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Now there's a report tying him to another lobbyist. So far they are these ties are indirect or incidental, but where there's smoke there's fire, as far as I'm concerned. He may not be quite as "dirty" as DeLay, now fighting felony charges, but all this just shows that "clean" Republicans still have an awful lot of dirt clinging to them.


Israelis Won't Stop Dig at Muslim Cemetery
JERUSALEM (AP) - A dispute over the fate of an ancient Muslim cemetery in Jerusalem threatened Wednesday to ignite tensions in Holy City as workers removed skeletons from the site despite Muslim pleas for the work to end.

Israeli developers and archaeologists are removing the tombs to make room for the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center to build a multi-million-dollar Museum of Tolerance, dedicated in part to promoting understanding among different religions. Muslims are incensed...
and most of the rest of us are just incredulous.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006


I took this silly little Three Question Personality Test. It said:

Your Personality Is

Guardian (SJ)

You are sensible, down to earth, and goal oriented.
Bottom line, you are good at playing by the rules.

You tend to be dominant - and you are a natural leader.
You are interested in rules and order. Morals are important to you.

A hard worker, you give your all at whatever you do.
You're very serious, and people often tell you to lighten up.

In love, you tend to take things carefully and slowly.

At work, you are suited to almost any career - but you excel in leadership positions.

With others, you tend to be polite and formal.

As far as looks go, you are traditionally attractive. You take good care of yourself.

On weekends, you tend to like to do organized activities. In fact, you often organize them!

Some things it got very right ("You are interested in rules and order" "With others, you tend to be polite and formal"), and some very wrong ("You tend to be dominant - and you are a natural leader" "A hard worker, you give your all at whatever you do").

I think a personality test needs at least four or five questions to peg someone.

Monday, February 06, 2006


"film clip of gazelle running into tree" lists my blog as third.


New Service Would Charge E-Mail Senders
AOL and Yahoo! are going to introduce a new service for e-mail senders that would allow the senders' e-mails to bypass their spam filters for a fee of 1/4 to 1 cent each. The idea is that legitimate senders will no longer have to worry about their stuff getting caught, but spammers will not pay for their huge mailings. The senders must pledge to send only to people who have opted to receive their messages.

My first question is, why are the spam filters so bad that they screen out legitimate e-mails? So AOL and Yahoo! can charge senders to get around them? This whole thing smells like a protection racket! If I were a legitimate sender whose messages weren't getting through I'd raise the roof.

Next question: has anyone ever heard of an e-mail recipient complaining that he or she is not receiving these e-mails? I'm sure the e-mails that are getting caught are not individualized ones. They are mass advertisements. The senders may be more legitimate than the spammers, but the e-mails are still just mailbox clutter.

The whole thing is academic to me. I wrote (and continue to write) my own spam filter, and no one can bribe me to let their spam bypass it.

Well, I suppose if someone offered me $10 each I could be bought.

Sunday, February 05, 2006


Steelers Win Fifth Super Bowl Title
I'm waiting for "Browns Win First Super Bowl Title." I suspect I'll have a long wait.


Regenerate your aliveness?
Regenerate your intimate experience?
Regenerate your intimate liveliness?
Regenerate your liveliness
Regenerate your sexual aliveness?
Rejuvenate your aliveness!
Rejuvenate your existence!
Rejuvenate your intimate life
Rejuvenate your intimate life!
Rejuvenate your intimate liveliness!
Rejuvenate your intimate living!
Rejuvenate your liveliness
Rejuvenate your living!
Rejuvenate your sexual aliveness
Rejuvenate your sexual existence
Rejuvenate your sexual experience
Rejuvenate your sexual liveliness
Rejuvenate your sexual liveliness!
Renew your intimate aliveness
Renew your intimate aliveness!
Renew your intimate existence
Renew your intimate living!
Renew your sexual aliveness
Renew your sexual aliveness?
Renew your sexual existence?
Renew your sexual liveliness!
renew your vitality
Restore your existence?
Restore your intimate aliveness?
Restore your intimate experience
Restore your intimate life?
Restore your liveliness
Restore your living!
Restore your sexual aliveness?
Restore your sexual existence
Restore your sexual life
Restore your sexual living!
Revitalise your experience
Revitalise your intimate existence
Revitalise your intimate liveliness
Revitalise your sexual aliveness?

If you like this sort of, er, inventiveness see my previous installments, starting with this one. I update them (and this one) continually, as more examples arrive.