Monday, February 25, 2008

Broken Promises, Exercise and Iran

I promised a post about Google Reader this weekend. I didn't do it. I won't bother making excuses, since I don't think I really upset anyone. But I will do it soon. Promise.

So since I randomly titled this post "Broken Promises, Exercise and Iran", I should probably find some suitable content for the latter two.

I recently purchased a pretty simple exercise tool called the Spri Xertube. I know what you're thinking - it's a remake of a popular '80's gimmick that your dad and that you tried a couple times but gave up because it pinched you. Seriously, that was annoying. Fortunately in the last 20 years, a non-pinching material has been invented - rubber.

No, it's not as effective as weights, has no Chuck Norris endorsement, and it won't land you a date with Andi (Andi!!!!! YOU GOONIE!!!-GOONie!!-Goonie!-goonie...). But it costs $13, can be purchased in varying degrees of resistance, and can effectively work just about every muscle in your body. No joke - the website has video demonstrations of multiple different exercises that can be done with the Xertube. And since it's essentially the size of a jump rope, it's a lot easier to travel with than a dumbbell set.

Moving on to Iran...

Around 6 months ago, a U.S. intelligence report concluded that Iran had ended development of its nuclear weapons program in 2003. This calmed the nerves of many citizens fraught with the possibility that the U.S. would engage Iran in acts of war.

However, the BBC reports that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has information that suggests the weapons program may not have been curtailed. I won't take the time/space go into my thoughts on Iran's nuclear ambitions, but the article did spur the following quick reactions:

  • Does the fact that this information is NOT coming from the U.S. (apparently, although the article didn't mention the specifics of the "multiple sources") make it more credible?
  • What does this say about the reliability of U.S. intelligence?
  • How happy is the McCain campaign? I won't go so far as to say that John McCain wants a nuclear Iran, but there are plenty of people who look at this as an "Every silver lining has a cloud" type of "problem".

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Weekly Podcasts for the Podcast Binge Listener

Last November I began a three part series about my addiction to podcasts. That post covered my favorite daily podcasts. This is the second installment in the series and will cover my favorite weekly podcasts. The final chapter will cover podcasts of varying frequency.

In the first installment, I might have left out some of the selling points of podcasts, so here's a brief outline:
  • Podcasts are free.
  • Podcasts allow you to listen to what you want when you want. No need for the TV Guide or PreviewChannel.
  • Podcasts allow you to fast-forward or rewind. Listen to what you like, skip what you don't.
  • No matter what your interests, there are almost certainly podcasts that cover them.
Remember when you got your first cell phone, or your first DVR, and you had this epiphany where you realized you had no idea how you'd gone that long without it? I've had the same experience with podcasts. Whether is driving to/from work, running errands, doing chores around the house, talking to my boss, walking the dog, walking to the cafeteria for lunch... I now fill these mostly forgettable parts of my day by educating/entertaining myself.

As I mentioned in the top of this post, this post focuses on my favorite weekly podcasts, so here they are (in no particular order):

The Economist: You've probably heard of the magazine, and if you've ever read it you know the value of its content. I can't find a direct link to the podcast page, but if you search for "the economist" in iTunes it should be easily identifiable in the podcast results. Calling the frequency of this podcast "weekly" is a bit of a misnomer, as subscribing to this one feed actually gives you three separate weekly Economist podcasts. The three podcasts are: "From the Paper", a review of a few of the top articles in the magazine that week, "The World Next Week", a discussion of the events to come, and "Democracy in America", a discussion of the 2008 election. They are all well worth the listen, each episode 10-15 minutes in length.

Lostcasts: For the fan of LOST who can 't get enough of the show but doesn't have the time or will to navigate the plethora of "they're in a separate universe on the tip of Donald Sutherland's fingernail" theories, the tagline of this podcast is "We search the forums so you don't have to." It's essentially three dudes who get together a few days after each new episode and discuss the discussions about LOST. Each episode is about 60 minutes. To someone who doesn't watch LOST, that probably sounds like counting sheep. But if you're a big fan of the show, not only will you enjoy the podcast but you'll probably enjoy the show even more, as you'll catch some of the less obvious references and patterns that the podcast clues you in on.

Slate's Political Gabfest: You may know as a popular online magazine run out of D.C. focusing on news, politics and culture. Each week, three bright minds get together to discuss and argue about the week's biggest political news. They move at a quick pace, and they offer both objective and opinionated views. 30 minutes in length, and I look forward to it every Friday.

The NYTimes World View: Also delivered every Friday, this 10 minute podcast covers a story from one of the many international correspondents for the Times. Quick and informative. While news is often covered 10 times over by multiple publications, but this podcast usually produces fresh content, or at least a fresh take.

T.W.i.T (This Week in Tech)
: A weekly discussion of what's moving in the world of technology. 60 minutes with renowned tech pundits Leo Laporte, John C. Dvorak and others. A show for geeks, by geeks.

There are plenty other podcasts to which I listen. If you're interested in a specific category, I'd be happy to help you find something to your liking.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rosin bags and facemasks

When you woke up today (if you're awake yet) did you have a little more energy than usual? Did you have a hop in your step seemingly unexplained? When you threw away the coffee filter, did you look over your shoulder to check the runner at first? I did.

This can all be explained by the phenomenon we call "Pitchers and Catchers". It is derived from the custom of having Major League Baseball pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training around a week earlier than the rest of the team. And for 8 teams, including the Cubs, today is that day. The Cardinals report tomorrow. Here's a list of major league team report dates. The last teams to report: The Marlins and the Twins on the 17th. You think they're trying to save money.

It's kind of ironic that it will no doubt be over shadowed by the Congressional hearings in DC about steroids or rather performance enhancing drugs. And did anyone hear or read about John Rocker? Oi vey. This guy will do anything he can to get himself in the news and then complain about that everyone gives him grief. A quote: "I've taken a lot of crap from a lot of people. Probably more than anybody in the history of this sport. I know Hank [Aaron] and Jackie [Robinson] took a good deal of crap, but I guarantee it wasn't for six years. I just keep thinking: How much more am I supposed to take?"

When searching for a news story for Mr. Rocker, I found his website. Yes, his website. It's kind of funny but mostly it does everything to confirm he's an egotistically driven racist. Example: Under the link "rocker gear" the only things you can buy are a bumper sticker and T-shirt that say "Speak English." And it contains a formal statement about his steroid use, because I guess he couldn't control his big yapper. For me it evokes the expression, don't go away mad, just go away.

And speaking of away, that's exactly where the Cubs will start their Spring schedule. Feb. 28 at San Fran. Get out your eye black and get ready for a long season.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Suburban Senselessness

The close approximation of the The Loop and The Lou (the cities, not the blog) has inevitably formed a relationship between the two cities. Whether it be through the Cubs and Cardinals or Imo's and Gino's East or the teams formerly known as the Blues and the Blackhawks.

But I wake up today to to find another a new relationship: Inexplicable loss. Two of the three metro areas that I have called home, have been hit by senseless murder within the past week. A robbery in Tinley Park, IL last Saturday and a suprise attack on a civic meeting in Kirkwood, MO last night, both claimed 5 innocent lives. Two of our (Roller and I) closest friends from high school reside with their families, in Kirkwood. Three women I worked with for the past three football seasons live in Tinley Park. Thankfully, I recognized no last names among those who were killed, but I'm sure that brings little solace to the people who did.

We call it entertainment when this happens on TV and Briscoe and Green are dutifully tracking the case. But we call it horror if you happen to go shopping on a Saturday or participate in the civic process on Thursday. We call it terrorism when someone from another country does this. But we doing enough to protect ourselves from our own terrorists?

TATL sends out its thoughts and prayers to both towns and all the friends and families affected by these acts.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Really Super Bowl

I must admit that I didn't see myself catching much of the Super Bowl action after Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' halftime show. Which, I thoroughly enjoyed. Engrossed in reading about external threats to organizations, the second half started and I'm glad I didn't change the channel.

There was a part of me that wanted New England to win so we could all stop hearing about the 1972 Dolphins. But a greater part of me wanted the Giants to win. The Bears would still be the only 18 win Super Bowl winner and, as with any sports dynasty that's not the Bulls, I'm just sick of New England.

So many times this year we've seen the Patriots' offense capitalize after it seemed their possession was over. Such seemed to be the case when The Giants were caught 11 players and 1 leg on the field. I wanted to argue with someone that the Giants should have taken a timeout, but I was watching the game by myself and I was to drunk to talk. Turns out the Patriots don't score, and New York needed that timeout on the winning drive.

And being a Bears fan, I love to watch good defense and both teams played great defense.

I'll always think that Eli Manning was wrong for demanding a his draft day-trade (and it would have been a whole different media week if the Giants were playing the Chargers), but my disdain for him is waning. He has it tough. He's got this brother, Peyton, who besides being one of the best quarterbacks ever, is this articulate, affable and downright likable superstar. And Eli's, just, not. His quiet, or un-Peyton-like demeanor, has given amateur psychoanalysts free reign to diagnose his problem, when his biggest problem just might be his last name.

And that's why my memory of Super Bowl XLII won't be David Tyree's catch or Tom Brady getting tossed around like a Supermodel in windstorm. It will be seeing Peyton Manning as fired up as anyone will ever see him after the Giants scored. You'd have to think that it was not only hard for Peyton to watch Eli struggle and receive criticism, but also to know that it was magnified because of how successful he was. Good for Eli. Now go home and start licking those Double stuff.