Friday, August 22, 2008

"Life ain't about how many breaths you take. It's what you do with those breaths."

The above quote comes from John Challis, an 18-year old boy who just lost his two-year battle with cancer. His obituary (here) is another reminder to all of us fortunate enough to be in better health to cherish life.

John's story popped up in the spring, when he got a single at-bat in a high school baseball game, and even in his frail condition, lined a single. The retelling still gives me chills. (Here's the original story - I highly recommend giving it a read.)

John was an inspiration to many, and graceful in every way. Goodbye, John Challis. We were privileged to know you.

St. Louis baseball fans

I've now seen major league baseball games in 17 ballparks in 14 cities, and can say without a doubt that the best fans are in St. Louis. (The best ballpark, btw, is San Francisco's AT&T Park. You can't beat the views, the experience, and vibe, and the fans are good too.)

The St. Louis fan experience starts before the fan even arrives at the park - everybody, from the youngest to the oldest fan dons some Cardinals apparel. Old fans wear Musial jerseys while teenage girls wear cut-off Rick Ankiel t-shirts. It really is amazing, even though I generally disagree that good fans dress up for their team. Still, when you look around the stadium, you generally only see two colors - cardinal red, and white.

The Cardinal dress code also shows that these fans are thinking about today's game from the moment their feet hit the floor in the morning.

You can feel this anticipation build in the hours leading up to the game. During the day, I overheard repeated references to the game, and was surprised when, for example, a woman behind a checkout register starting talking to a customer about that night's game against Pittsburgh. I also heard plenty of folks talking about the game while touring the Gateway Arch an hour and a half before game time.

Once in the stadium though, Cards fans excel. They're smart, cheering small things in nearly every at-bat, like a ground-out to advance a runner. You can also hear a nuanced appreciation for strategy, though their reaction is always positive and pro-Cardinal. I didn't hear any boos all night - imagine that in Philly (my hometown, btw.)

I also got the impression from the Cards fans that their first priority int he Stadium was the game itself. Sure, they ate and drank, bought souvenirs, and took their kids to the stadium playground, but I got the feeling a much higher percentage of fans never really left their seats during the game.

Oh, and as referenced before, all St. Louisans that I met were exceedingly polite. Even when I heard one St. Louis fan say something to a rival Chicago Cubs fans, all he said was "sheesh!" and shook his head no. I imagine that same conversation would involve several exchanges of curses, along with instructions about what to do with oneself.

Speaking of the rivalry, I'll be at a Cubs game tomorrow at Wrigley - a new experience for me that I am really looking forward to. I'll be looking to see if the Cub fans can take the crown of best fans from St. Louis fans, yet another way that these two rivals compete, but I suspect that baseball heaven is set in Busch Stadium.

Trip update: Colorado Springs

We arrived in Kevin's new hometown of Colorado Springs (CS) yesterday afternoon, and after unloading, headed out for a bit of touring. A day and a half later, and in total, I've seen the US Air Force Academy, Pike's Peak, Manitou Springs, the US Olympic Training Center, and downtown CS, which is quite cool.

CS has a nice feel to it - imagine Charlottesville with 4X the population, and 3X taller mountains. There's a slightly more slack and slightly grungier feel here, but compared to Cville, economically there is more going on besides one big employer.

Still, there's an obvious fringe, like this guy, who made a sculpture of Jesus on the pitcher's mound with the tag "He's going nine for America."

The highlight of the trip to CS has to have been the 1/2 day we spent on Pike's Peak. The Peak is famous for its' annual Pike's Peak Hill Climb, when souped up cars race UP Pike's Peak. It's about a 19 mile ride, and almost 8,000 foot elevation climb. While it took us over an hour to climb the hill, racers make it to the top in about 10 minutes!

The top of Pike's Peak is 14,000 feet, and the air contains roughly half of the oxygen in the air at sea level. It definitely had an effect on me - I found myself tired with just a little bit of walking over rocks. Nevertheless, we set off on a hike downhill. I pulled up after a half-hour to listen to the sound of diving ravens (very impressive), while Kevin went onwards another 15 minutes to an interesting overlook. While I kicked myself for being a gigantic wuss and not going the distance, I realized on the climb-out that I did the right thing. The return trip was a half-hour straight up, and I was completely drained at the end.

The views from Pike's Peak were amazing, and yet again, I curse myself for not remembering to put the battery in my digital camera. I captured some images with my camera phone, but these images are, at best, reason enough to go back with a good camera.

On the way back from Pike's Peak, we made a stop at the USOC training center. They wouldn't let me loose with any of their toys, but at least I got this shot in one of their bobsleds.

Next up: a 6am flight out of CS to Chicago, where I'll meet up with my buddy Karl Brewer, and enjoy a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

Hello from atop Pike's Peak!

Very glad this isn't an action shot - I'd be shown huffing and puffing. There's not enough oxygen @ 14,000 feet.

Nonetheless, Pike's Peak is spectacular, as additional shots will attest.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Random trip notes.......Larry King style

(how many planes can you identify here?)

One sensory memory from this trip that I won't forget: the smell from Arthur Bryant's BBQ in Kansas City that hits you immediately after getting out of the car - yum!.......The midwest folks are all exceptionally nice, and, as we saw yesterday, exceptionally devoted to the Cardinals......I might have to give the Cardinals fans the nod as the best baseball fans. Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH. It's equivalent to three Smithsonians....Conversely, don't go on a Budweiser Brewery tour with high expectations. It was low-brow (pun-intended), a sloppy presentation, and a tribute to homogenized manufacturing. Plus, after spending the bulk of the hour talking up free beers at the end of the trip, it only amounted to 2 x 8ozs beers....I was surprised at how nice Akron, OH was - very livable....I'm amazed at how the cities of St. Louis and Indianapolis just pop up out of the plains. There's nothing but fields and empty highway, then all of the sudden, pop, there's the city. Sure, there's suburbs, but it is very diferent from approaching, say Philadelphia or Baltimore......Seeing all of these 2nd and 3rd tier cities (in terms of size and economic heft) makes me wonder what the future holdsw for them. St. Louis is a regional capital, but regional capitals are becoming less relevant given the rise of world capitals through globalization. (In other words, 30 years ago St. Louis may have been the 30th most important city in the world. With the rise of cities like Guangzhou, and Dubai, St. Louis might be only the 100th most important city in the world.)

(apropos of the last point, here I am in front of the recently globalized Anheuser-Busch HQ and Brewery)

Road Trip Update

Greetings from the middle of I-70 in Kansas, approaching Salina, KS.

We're about 1,500 miles in, with another 400 miles to go.

So far we've managed to:

-see 3 baseball games
-see 1 fantastic aviation museum
-reconnect with 2 old friends and many new ones
-hang out with 2 different furry animals
-had 2 tremendously good, BBQ meals (at the legendary Arthur Bryant's in Kansas City, and Pappy's, in St. Louis.

(Lunch at Arthur Bryant's)

I'd say that the highlight so far has been the two hours spent at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, OH (see separate post), though there are several good choices.

The only disappointment so far has been excitedly pulling out my camera at the Air Force Museum to take a load of pictures of planes, only to realize that I left the battery at home - guh! I've made do with the camera on my phone, but the pictures have roughly one third of the resolution of my camera.

Here's the trip so far:

View Larger Map

Guess where I am!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Greetings from St. Louis!

David Price: Sell high, Ostroff!

Last night Kevin and I and my friends Scott, and Marcus who both live in Indianapolis, gathered to watch Ozzie's treasured prospect - and acknowledged top pitching prospect on the planet, LHP David Price, take on Indianapolis - Pittsburgh's AAA team.. Price was wild and largely ineffective, but so was John Jaso's bat.

Price lasted 5 innings, walking a bunch, and giving up 3 runs. All agreed that he was nothing special. He appeared to be throwing only 2 pitches (fastball & slider) and was hit hard by the likes of Jose Bautista and Rod's hero, Ronny Paulino.

Still, we had fun, especially Scott, who saw not one but two of his players homer. (unfortunately, AAA stats don't count.)

We even got onto the action, as Bulls catcher John Jaso launched bats on bad swings into the stands twice, one about 20 feet away from us, the other hitting me lightly. (apparently it was not only $1 hot dog night, but also total carnage night at Victory Field, as someone one section over from us also took a line drive off of his cocoanut.)

My tour continues - Kevin and I will see the Cards play Pittsburgh's other AAA team. And I'll catch a game at Wrigley Saturday with Karl Brewer.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Akron, OH & baseball

I'm writing to you from Akron, OH, first stop on a cross-country trip.
My good buddy Kevin is moving to Colorado, and i'm riding shotgun on
the ride west.

Our first stop is Akron, where we're taking in a AA baseball game and
sampling the city's skyline and cuisine.

Akron surprised me with it's size - there's at least a dozen tall
buildings. The city seems very livable, especially if you sell rubber
well. (Akron is home to Goodyear Tire and Firestone.) There is little sign of
economic deterioration here, perhaps due to Akron's new favorite son,
LeBron James.

As for the game, the downtown ballpark has nice views, and all seats
are great. Plus, in the 4thinning, the bleacher seats came with a free
baseball, as the Akron pitcher was rocked hard.

The food (bratwurst) and beer (Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy) were the
perfect complement to our day in the sun.

Also while at the game, I made a new friend, Orbit.

Next up: Indianapolis, via Wright-Patterson Air Force Base (and Air Force museum.)

VP choices follow-up.....(Mark Sanford)

Wanna see someone who really should be VP (if not President?)

It's Mark Sanford, Governor of South Carolina (and Darden graad!)

Sanford has a deep, consistent record of fiscal responsibility, promoting liberty through school choice, resisting the REAL ID program, and generally a minimalist approach to government.

Unfortunately, Sanford isn't nearly self-promoting enough to be a national candidate and definiteloy not interested in treading the party line, so we'll probably never see him as VP, but as I've said before, I think he's one of the best candidates out there.

Here's Governor Sanford speaking on the future of the Republican Party:

Hat tip: Club for Growth blog.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Vice Presidential choices out of left field

Anyone notice how as the conventions approach, the buzz around most mainstream VP candidates has lessned?

I'd say that buzz around Kaine, Pawlenty, Jindal, Palin, and Sebelius has quieted. One possible interpretation is that none of these folks are "the" choice. who knows, but it is always more fun to talk about more dramatic choices

Here's three dramatic choices that would make sense (I am mentioning them basically so I can say "I told you so" on the off-chance either is selected.)

Mark Warner: Virginia is a must-win state for Obama, and there's no one who could deliver Virginia like Warner. Warner, though, is a shoe-in for the Senate this year from Virginia - why take a chance on losing?

One reason that Warner is such a shoe-in is that Mark Warner is very popular from his time as Governor. The other explanation is that his opponent, Jim Gilmore, is running a campaign that is, at best, still-born.

My guess here is that Warner could clinch Virginia (and the presidency) for Obama, and that the Dems' 2nd choice (or 3rd, or 4th, or even Doug Wilder) could still beat Gilmore.

General David Petreaus.
I don't know Petreaus' politics, but it is clear that he is ambitious, and a climber. He'd be an asset to either the Obama OR McCain campaign. He would provide immense credibility as VP, and whatever position on Iraq that he promotes would instantly have the high ground.

Obama needs someone like Petreaus more than McCain, who already has military cred, but I think Petreaus would still be a good fit for McCain as well.

For many of the same reasons, I could see Obama selecting the less qualified, more political version of Petreaus, Wesley Clark.

Meg Whitman Already a McCain surrogate, and a strategic advisor, Whitman would bring business and economic savvy and managerial credibility. She's one of the few "rock star" CEOs. She'd be an exciting choice, and a great political move for McCain.

Much like Wesley Clark is a shadow of Petreaus, Carly Fiorina could provide the same outline as Whitman, except she's less successful, less talented, and less credible. (But more of a spotlight hound.)

I'm juiced about an Obama-Warner ticket vs. a McCain-Whitman ticket. But don't listen to me - 12 months ago I thought the election would be Gore vs. Powell.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Great idea: immigration to solve housing/credit crisis.

Alan Greenspan is blamed by some for instigating the current credit crisis. (See the BBC article compiling all of the possible targets of blame.)

Personally, I think blaming the Fed Chairman for a loose money supply is off-target - he helped write the rules (i.e. the monetary policy), but he sure wasn't the primary actor (i.e. making loans, buying more house than you should, etc.)

Anyway, Greenspan - who has a libertarian mindset - has a novel idea to help turn the negative momentum of the housing market: increase the number of H-1B visas granted every year.

(H1-B visas are granted to highly skilled non-immigrants - think Ph.Ds. Currently limited to 65,000 annually, almost everyone agrees on 2 things: 1) there aren't enough of visas authorized, and 2) they make a tremendously positive economic contribution.)

As Greenspan suggests, these highly-skilled workers - in addition to turbocharging the economy - are likely to buy houses. As Greenspans says "A double or tripling (of skilled immigrants) would markedly accelerate the absorption of unsold housing inventory for sale-and hence stabilize prices."

(Also, the skilled immigrants are likely to gravitate towards some of the locations most affected by the housing slump. Wouldn't the Bay Area real estate market improve with 5,000 more software programmers seeking new homes?)

Alas, this is such a good idea, that it stands very little chance of ever happening. Immigration is a topic that neither party wants to address, nor does this idea "sell" well - politicians would much rather suggest solutions that let people think they're getting something for nothing. (Example: Obama's $1,000 energy rebate.)

Reflecting some of the ineffectiveness of political solutions, Greenspan also gave his opinion of the housing bill passed by Congress last month. His verdict on the bill: "Bad."

Wanna be like olympic swimmer Michael Phelp? Eat 12,000 calories/day

The WSJ Health Blog reports that Phelps has a monstrous appetite to support 5 hours per day of training in the pool.

Here one Phelps meal:

"Three fried-egg sandwiches loaded with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, fried onions and mayonnaise. Two cups of coffee. One five-egg omelet. One bowl of grits. Three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar. Three chocolate-chip pancakes."

And, as the WSJ points out, "he doesn’t choose among these options. He eats them all."

In all, he eats 12,000 calories per day. The USDA recommends 2,000 calories per day for an average America. Can you imagine eating 6X as much per day to catch up to Phelps?

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Cool picture of the day

This looks like something from the movies (maybe Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back). Instead, it's a view of Dubai.

(Hat tip: Radley Balko's "The Agitator.")

Friday, August 08, 2008

If you liked Bert & Ernie rapping, check out Davey and Goliath

Before South Park, and before Robot Chicken, a bunch of undergrads in Upstate NY (I think at Hamilton or Clarkson) spent a winter voicing over off-color dialog for the very Christian children's program Davey and Goliath.

Somewhere in my belongings I've got a VHS copy of the original hour-plus effort by the students. (One of my friends' brother was a co-creator of the tape.)

Fast forward 15 years, and a few segments of the students' extremely foul-mouthed Davey and Goliath parody are now online. Check them out at YouTube (link above) or the video below.

(Warning: definitely NSFW.)

Check this out: cool gizmo showing Olympic medal hauls thru history

The NYT has a very, very cool way of presenting Olympic results by country in the form of a map that changes over time. Think about that, then click here to take a look.

John Edwards going down.....hard

here's an update on the John Edwards cheating/baby scandal, this time from a reputable mainstream press source (The Economist). It's not good, unless you're happy to see this holier-than-thou charlatan/ambulance chaser fall from grace.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Bert & Ernie as Gangsta Rappers

Sent to me by a friend, this is one of the funniest things I've seen in a while. It's also really well made - it almost looks like Ernie is mouthing the words.....

China's Olympic Stadium (yuck!)

So, the NYT just published their architectural review of the Beijing Olympic Stadium. It's a glowing review.

Many of you have already seen the stadium, and surely anyone who watches the Opening Ceremonies this week will see it as well. It is nicknamed the "Bird's Nest" for the threads of steel that compose the outside of the stadium.

The Chinese are very, very proud of the stadium, and see it as a symbol of their nations' progress. There is also symbolism at play, as the stadium design echoes a Chinese delicacy, Bird's Nest Soup. (I guess the American parallel would be an arena shaped like a Krispy-Kreme donut, or perhaps a stadium resembling a Papa John's Pizza.)

I'm not an architecture critic, nor Chinese, but having seen the stadium up-close, I gotta say that the stadium is waaay oversold. It is, in fact, ugly, unless you find a pile of paperclips sexy, or think that wax drippings are cool. When I saw the Stadium, I had to ask if it was complete. When told yes, I had to process the fact that the Stadium was actually built according to plan, and that, amazingly, someone actually authorized it.

In my case, I had to process all of this while standing in the break-down lane of a Beijing highway. My guide on the way back from the Great Wall had offered to stop by the Stadium on the way back to Beijing. I enthusiastically accepted, but didn't realize until too late that their version of "stop by" meant pulling over on the highway, with cars whizzing past inches away.

Still, I managed to take a few shots, including this one.

Online timewaster: aviation photos

Everybody has their favorite web sites where every now and then you visit the site and enjoy it, but end up saying to yourself "I really should be doing something more productive." And then you spend ANOTHER hour on the site, or perhaps longer, until something more serious forces you to move along. If you're reading this, you're online, and if so, you'll either instantly understand what I'm talking about, or, you're an absolute liar - everybody has a favorite online time-sink.

For some folks, it is online celebrity & gossip sites, but for me, it is aviation photography. So, in an effort to justify the time I've spent surfing sites like this, I offer a few samples to get you hooked, and implicitly validate my online fetish.

(Either that, or I just want to show a few cool images, all from, and none of them taken by me.)

Thanks for indulging me. What's your favorite online time-sink?

(pictures: #1 is a landing at St. Maarten airport. #2 is the Plane Graveyard at an Air Force base near Tuscon, and #3 is an aerial view of the San Diego airport.)

Monday, August 04, 2008

What's your Chinese name?

One of the most popular postings on this blog was the "Brazilian Soccer Name Generator." A little more serious is Hilton's Chinese name generator.

Head to this site and enter your name, and birthdate, and you'll get back an approximation of your name in Chinese.

I'm officially now Guo Tian Mu, with "Guo" being any easy approximation for Gallagher, and Tian ("sky, heaven; god, celestial") and Mu ("long for, desire; admire" being how the Chinese ear hears "Tim." (I've also heard Tim translated as "Tamu.")

One interesting thing is how closely the translation from Chinese for "Tim" (one combination being 'admire God,') matches the translation from Latin of "Tim" - "honoring God."

-Guo Tian Mu

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China

With my new friends on the Great Wall of China
Click to go to my online photography

World sun clock

Uncommon Man's Creed

"I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon -- if I can. I seek opportunity -- not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I wish to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole, I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence, nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any master, nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud, and unafraid, to think and act for myself, to enjoy the benefit of my creations, and to face the world boldly and say, "this I have done." All this is what it means to be an American." -- Anonymous