24: 11am-12pm

Ok, has this show jumped the shark? Spoiler alert...

Once again, another show that really wasn't worth my time out of a busy day. Sigh.
We meet Jack's father, played by James Cromwell. I best know him as the bad guy from LA Confidential. He's still alive?

And, of course, a little foreshadowing with token hot arab chick getting reduced access to CTU computers, only to have single white guy give her access to the network. Not good. Sheesh, make it a little more obvious. I bet she's not uncovered as the mole until closer to the end.

And it is oh so comforting that the arabs in the detention center are not terrorists... they're just glad a nuke went off and glad that more will go off.

And Jack gets himself into a bind at the end, at the mercy of his brother now, who has given orders to kill Jack and his father. Given that there is still 18 hours left in the show, I wonder whether Jack will escape? Hmmm.

Last two shows have been lacking in any redeeming quality whatsoever. I believe the Jack kill count for each is zero. Huh? That can't be right. Although Jack did get a little torture in.



Taking money from working people...

is now considered 'generous' in Washington.

The New Deal was one of the worst things that happened in the history of our great country. Why am I required to fund for others that aren't responsible enough to manage their own finances? I realize I already do, but why does it continue to get progressively worse?


the answer is four

The question? How many consecutive days can I eat pizza without getting sick of it. Argh, I don't want to see pizza for a while.


Garrett turned two on Sunday

We had a get together with the neighbors, ordering way too much Papa Murphy's pizza, and watching football while the kids played.

After everyone had left, Garrett managed to find his way to the leftover cake.

He gave it a good try blowing out the candles.

One of Garrett's first presents he opened was this Thomas the Train motorized train set. He set his sights on that and didn't open any more presents Sunday!


Well that was uneventful

Spoiler alert for 24...

Ok, so evil bald-headed mastermind from Day 5 is really Jack's brother. Well, this is fiction, so I guess that's ok.

I predict evil terrorist-turned-peacemaker dude is really a bad guy after all, and we'll find out in the next few hours that this was just a ploy to get intelligence on CTU. And I predict that token hot arab chick is evil as well, simply because she has added no value in the first five hours so far.

And I predict I will vomit if I have to hear President Palmer's sister open her mouth for one more second.

If 24 continues to follow its successful formula, tonight was a setup show for a big plot twist next week, including learning which of the current good guys is really a bad guy.

This week wasn't worth watching. They really need a 24 recommendations site giving a yea/nay vote on the show so that people can determine whether they need to tune in or just read the Cliff notes.


Another try at hi-res video

This time I used Google Video... you'll have to click here to view it.


Spencer gets his orange belt

Spencer took another step towards being able to kick my ass at a young age by getting his next belt in Tae Kwon Do yesterday. I took off work to see him test, and was proud to see this little five year old do a back kick and break a board (I got it on video and will try to post it). The got his orange belt, and it must really signify something to him as I don't think I've seen him more proud of a belt step as I had seen last night.

I had been telling him for a couple of days that higher up on the belts means more difficult tests, and that he really needed to focus. He simply told me "Dad, I know you don't think I can pass, but I can!" Guess he showed me :)


24 off to a rockin' start

Boo ya! The second best premier of 24, IMHO, behind Day 4. Show is off to a good start.

Spoilers will follow, so if you haven't seen the first four hours of day 6, stop here.

The biggest letdown for me was not doing anything with the Chinese angle (at least not yet). Jack spends two years in a Chinese prison, abducted from US soil, and nothing expands on that subplot. Oh well, Jack is free, apparently the US paid a big price to get him back, just to turn him over to the terrorists.

First three hours, fifty minutes was pretty standard 24. Jack is going to die, Jack escapes, Jack disobeys the President, Jack single-handedly stops a terrorist attack, yada, yada, yada. And all this within a couple hours getting off a plane from China. Apparently the Chinese fed him well.

The last 10 minutes was awesome. Two stunners (one predictable, one not) to close out the first four hours. Too bad on Curtis being killed by Jack - I really liked Curtis. Next to Jack, he was my favorite character over the first five seasons. This too is becoming a pattern (Bauer's sidekicks getting killed when confronting their archnemesis... in season 5, Tony met the same fate when confronting Chris Henderson). And, of course, what better way to close out the season premier than with a tactical nuclear weapon explosion. Too bad it didn't happen in Green Bay.

What I liked about the first four hours:

  • CTU/the US served up Jack to the terrorists just as they have served up others. At least the show is consistent and maintains a certain standard. I like that.
  • I thought the scene with Jack breaking the bad terrorist-turned-peacemaker out of the house was very well done. Suspenseful and realistic (well, as realistic as this show can get).
  • I liked the way the Curtis deal played out, even if I don't like him off the show. A little foreshadowing, a quick confrontation (not long and drawn out). That's one of the keys to 24's success, IMHO. Good guys don't always win, good guys aren't always good guys, etc. That's what makes it suspenseful and keeps you glued.
  • The head of the Muslim organization stepping up and doing what's right instead of what can be gotten away with. That is going to be an interesting twist that really has potential. I foresee a future Jack ally.
  • Some people are complaining that the show is becoming politically correct. I don't see it that way. If anything, the show is pointing out that political correctness comes at a steep price (loss of life of lots of innocent people).
  • I like the fact that Jack has changed from his two year stint in a Chinese prison. Not quite as effective as he was, and that's clear. Although still amazing he can physically do what he can do now.

What I didn't like:

  • the whole Jack and terrorist-turned-peacemaker splitting up and finding each other again within 10 minutes while Jack stops a terrorist attack. Way over the top and way, way too convenient. Gag.
  • Tell the attorney for the Muslim org to bag it. Really annoying. Apparently the President's daughter thinks she can get away with anything.
  • Enough with the side romance thingys. If you want a show tailored for women, write a show tailored for women. I really don't think women are watching the show waiting for the token one minute soap opera.

Looking forward to the rest of the season. I suspect the plot will have the same formula as season 4. That's fine by me, as long as its not a rip off of the content (and so far it hasn't).

Real life bumper cars

Part of the problem in the pacific northwest with snow and ice is that people here don't see snow and ice often enough to know how to drive in it, ergo they do some stupid things (like drive too fast and not pump their brakes). In addition, the hilly, mountainous terrain adds an additional hurdle in navigating the roads.

Check out this video...


Fun 24 Blog

I'll blog about 24 after tonight, but found this site funny.


The Commute from Hell

Do they say "from hell" anymore? Maybe I am dating myself. Oh well.

I was told by a friend at Microsoft a couple months back...

If you see that its about to snow, get your ass home as quickly as you can.

His rationale was that Seattle folk simply don't know how to handle driving in ice and snow, and the road system locks up almost instantly and will snarl traffic for half a day. And you'll be stuck in it. He relayed a story where it took 8 hours to cross Redmond, primarily because people just abandon cars, run out of gas, etc, and it becomes hell.

So far, I've heeded his advice. I've made sure to miss the major snowstorms.

Not yesterday. Sure, I was in US2 (one of Amazon's downtown buildings) at 4:05 when I saw the first snowflakes, and I instantly jumped up and said "meeting over, gotta go." I grabbed the shuttle to PAC (another Amazon downtown building where my office is and where I park), and literally ran to car. Got in, headed to the backstreets, and was on I-90 at 4:41pm. I assumed it would be longer than my normal 25 minute commute, so I called Amy to let her know I probably wouldn't be home by 6 (she had to work).

45 minutes later, I've traveled 2 miles, still stuck on the bridge. I called and told Amy "uh, it's going to be a while." Mind you, at this point there are some flakes, but no ice on the road, no accumulation. According to the radio, there was an accident at the express lane/local lane junction that blocked traffic on both. But, we were assured that once past that, it was clear sailing.

At 7:15, I called my neighbors, who were watching Spencer and Garrett, and let them know I would be a while (at that point I had only gone 3 miles). My neighbor had gotten home already by taking the backroads, which was not an option for me. They were very helpful and understanding, and assured me they would get the kids to bed. Very cool of them. Good thing I helped them move furniture a while back.

And, during this time, upon a lot of reflection, something sinister occurs to me: I have my summer performance tires on the car. Shit! I never put all seasons on them. I've been waiting for the tread to wear down, then I was going with all-seasons. In Chicago, I would have had my winter tires, which on an Audi is friggin awesome (I've pushed cars out of ditches with my Audi in the past); now it occurs to me that if I hit ice I am driving a four-wheeled curling rock.

So, finally, about that time, traffic starts to move. By move I mean 1 MPH, w/o having to hit the break, and slowly up to 5 MPH. Finally, we're past 405, I can get going up to 25-30, and I approach Issaquah.

And then the fun began.

Little did I know that the 2.75 hour parking lot would be the EASIEST part of my commute.

Now, before we go any further, I am someone who is very comfortable driving in the snow. Whenever we had a snowstorm in the midwest (every month it seemed), I would go out at night and drive in the snow to learn how the car responds in it. Heck, as I mentioned, I would even. In fact, it was downright fun. Maybe crazy, but fun. I even drove from Columbus to Michigan City seven hours in a blizzard and foot of snow, and while I didn't talk to Amy the entire time (the reason I was driving in a blizzard is because we didn't leave on time), I never lost control of the car.

I wasn't thinking fun tonight.

By this time, between 7:30 and 7:45, a lot of snow had fallen. This is where the Cascades begin, and precipitation here is always 3-5 times what falls in Seattle (the Cascades just squeeze the water out of the atmosphere, which is why east of the Cascades its just a desert).

And I am now worried that I don't have the right gear to be driving in the snow. And I was right.

I-90 between Issaquah and Snoqualmie is a winding freeway through the moutains. Up, down, turns, angles, etc. A roller coaster for cars. Very fun when it's dry. A nightmare last night.

So, understanding the principles of winter driving (no breaks, keep speed up, don't turn, lots of distance between cars, yada, yada, yads), I head into the Cascades past exit 18.

First alarm: first turn past Issaquah, a parking lot of cars on both sides of the road. You can see the cars still there (and where cars were).

So I get around the first bend, and descend into darkness and blizzard-like snow falling, along with 9 inches of snow on the ground. Lots of cars on the side, some I'm wondering how they got that way, mostly I'm trying to stay in traction and a safe distance from the folks in front of me.

A couple bends later, a couple cars in front of me start to slide into the medium (the road is sloped down to the left), so I let up on the gas, start to slow down... and then I start drifting. Give it gas (normally Quattro would kick in and pull me wherever I wanted to go)... nothing. So I whip the back end around so I least I would be pointed the right way when I try to get out. And I slide into the side of the road. Not the ditch, but on the side. Right in front of 6 other cars, and behind another car 200 feet down the road.

After chatting with everyone on the side, figuring out if people were ok, and where they lived, I decide I really didn't want to spend the night on the freeway, so I decide to try and get out. I point the car uphill, put it in 2nd (I have a stick) give it gas, and the wheels start a spinning. I gain a little traction, drift a little, but before you know it I am out, heading across lanes of traffic. Wheel back left, now I'm pointed straight down I-90. I roll down my window and wave and beep at my new friends, hoping they can make it home tonight.

So, that occurred at mile marker 21. Four miles to go. Shit. And that's just the exit. How the hell am I going to get up the hill on the parkway? Oh well, first things first.

I pass exit 22, and what's that I see to the right? A snowplow. Is that good? Sure it is! He's dumping salt or sand on the road. And he's making quite a path on the road. So I slow down and let him get onto the freeway, and give him some space. Cool, now at least I know I am on the road.

We don't get half a mile, when the plow decides to slam on his breaks and u-turn in the median to go the other way on I-90. Shit! I'm not hitting my breaks, there's a half a foot of snow to my right, but no cars. So I try and change lanes and... it worked. Whew.

And this is where it got fun. I see barely see cars several hundred feet in front of me, and I can't tell if I'm moving faster than they are (I was going the speed of the plow who was moving at a good clip) or not. I am probably at mile marker 23 by now, but who knows, and at this point you can't tell the road from the ground, it's dark, and you can't even see the trees. So, I decide I have to stay with the cars, else I will for sure end up in the trees.

Sure enough, I'm able to keep up, and even close the gap. But now I have a new problem. I am getting really good traction, and another rule I have about winter driving - if it's working, don't mess with it. So, what to do. I assume there is a lane to my right, even though no cars are over there, so I drift over there. Whether it was a lane or the shoulder or grass, I don't know, but I keep my traction and speed. And I pass mile marker 24. Yay! The snow is still really coming down, I can barely see anything, but I know I got to start looking for signs of the exit here in the dark. After a while I start to panic thinking I actually missed it, but sure enough, I'm able to barely make out the overhead sign at the exit. I get off, am able to slow down, and coast around the corner onto SR-18/Snoqualmie Parkway.

But there's more.

I am now close enough to home (about 2.5 miles) that I could walk if I had to, so I start to think in terms of "if I can't make it up the hill, the car is going into the ditch, and I'm walking home" (didn't occur to me until later that wasn't a bright idea to walk in the dark on a slippery road... by now I had been in my car four hours).

So, there it is, "the hill." One car way in front of me, and I start to build up speed on the straight before heading uphill. I made it, albeit with a little drifting. So now the next fun part, going down the hill. So I'm cruising in 3rd gear, letting Quattro do its work, and I start to pick up speed. The car in front of me was approaching the bottom, and he hits his breaks, and I decide I need to slow down. So I downshift... and I start to drift to the right. No problem, give it gas and pull out... nothing. No gas, no power. WTF? Turns out I stalled it. Oh well, that's just a guardrail on the right, not another car. Boom. I tapped it, it straightens me out, I restart the car, and head into Snoqualmie Ridge without incident.

Now 1.1 miles from home, again, down a hill, I downshift, STALL. WTF? Boom, hit the curb.

A minor dent on my front right quarter panel from the guardrail, that's all to show for my four hour drive. Not fun. All because of a dumb accident on I-90. And that was my friend's point. It just takes one domino to knock the rest down.

This really caught Seattle by surprise. Over the weekend they predicted a big storm Tuesday night. When everyone woke up Wednesday, saw that it was a dusting, we were like "huh" and began our day. There was a prediction of more snow late Wednesday evening, but only an inch or two, and I thought I would be missing that by leaving early. Argh.


Interesting article on Jim Delany and BCS

Jim Delany is commissioner of the Big Ten, and while the author wants to crucify JD over the BCS and his opposition to a playoff, the reality is Jim Delany is doing his job - promoting and enriching the Big Ten.

Here's the problem I have, and it's not brought up in the article... there seems to be a conflict between the Big Ten Presidents wanting to generate more revenue, and the status of college athletics being tax-exempt. Are they revenue generators or not? You can't have it both ways... you can't claim you are running these programs for students, for the greater good, and get tax benefits, while at the same time pushing agendas that increase revenue at the expense of others. The universities are going to have to pick one side or the other. The IRS is already examining universities to see if they still qualify for tax-exempt status.


Wow was I off on the MNC game

Not that being off is that surprising for me, but I would have expected a much, much better game out of tOSU. I know 51 days is a long time, but still. Congrats to the Gators.

Basketball champs and Football champs in the same year. I don't think that's ever happened before.

For the record...

tOSU wins tonight by 20 points. 40 something to 20 something.

Hard for me to say as I will be at a friend's house whose a UF alum where I will be eating his food and drinking his beer :)


Hey Morgan Burke...

Go hire the head coach from Boise State NOW. Not that Purdue could attract him, but damn that was the best college game I think I've ever seen (1988 ND-Miami was a good one too, as was 1998 Purdue-Kansas St), and the playcalling and guts from the Boise State head coach was amazon. THAT'S college football, and why I'd rather see Boise State play OSU (as I had said a month ago) than Michigan, Florida, etc.

Looking forward to Boise State

We'll see if this small school from the Northwest can compete with the big boys. I hope so. Not just because they are underdogs, but to wipe the arrogance off the face of the sports media. Go Broncos.

The Crusader

I just finished reading The Crusader: Ronald Reagan and the Fall of Communism, which was a wonderful read into the background and motivation behind President Reagan's crusade to bring down the Soviet Union and Communism.

This book is not a "history of Ronald Reagan," or even his presidency. Instead, it solely focuses on the role Reagan played in teh downfall of communism. For example, although the bombing of Libya in April, 1986 was a key event in reducing Libyan terrorism, its not mentioned in the book.

The book starts in Reagan's childhood, with the key reference being Reagan's work as a lifeguard saving 77 lives "and not one of them thanked me for it." The author, Paul Kengor, contends that this was a key indicator of Reagan's natural inclination to help others and a confidence builder in his decisions and actions.

It then spends a good deal of time on Reagan's acting career, or, more importantly, the amount of time he spent fighting Communism in Hollywood. This is what struck me most about this book. Reagan saw first hand in Hollywood during the 40s and 50s the lengths the Soviet Union and Communists would go to influence Western culture and embed itself into the West as a means to undermine and eventually "turn" the West. (Side note: I argue that we are still feeling the effects of this today, given the anti-Americanism I've witnessed over my life in the media, from Hollywood, and in academia. The Soviets knew what they were doing when they were converting, teaching, and raising communists here in the US). It was in Hollywood that Reagan fought his first battles with Communism, and where his deep-rooted conviction that Communism must be pushed back.

The book then begins covering his political career, which really started while he was host of GE Theatre, which he used as a platform for his political ideals. Before too long, Kengor is covering the 1980 election and laying the foundation of fall of Communism.

Anyone who has paid attention realizes that the Soviet Union failed due to its getting in an arms race with the US under Reagan's guidance. While the nation was in uproar over the trillion dollar deficit Reagan had created, at the time few realized the administration was planting the seeds of the downfall of the Soviet Union and the spread of Communism.

The book devotes a chapter to each year in the 80s, painting a picture of the administration goals and strategy, and tactics executed each year to first stop the advance of communism and eventually roll back communism.

Key learnings from the book that I did not realize before reading:

  • I did not realize how important Poland and the Pope were in Reagan's strategy and daily life.
  • The crusade against communism did not stop with the arms race; other economic warfare tactics included getting the Saudis to increase oil production to drive down the price of oil (thus hurting the Soviets biggest source of hard currency), and the generation of deceptive high-technology leaked to the East that failed in the field
  • How much his cabinet and staff was against many of his policies. I realized the public at the time was against many of Reagan's foreign policies (he got re-elected on the basis of the economy, IMHO), but did not realize the extent he "went it alone" with his confidence and belief driving him. He did have some key allies in Bill Clark and William Casey, but they were in the minority.
  • France sucks. Oh, wait, I knew that. But the book gives me more reasons to believe so.
  • How important Grenada was strategically to eliminate the bad taste of Vietnam.
  • Once Reagan took office, not once inch of free land was lost to Communism. WOW.

Best thing about this book is that it is rich in cited statements and documents, even to the extent that a KGB letter in response to Sen. Edward Kennedy's communication to the Soviet Union to help defeat Reagan in 1984 was printed in the book. Kengor's references include administration documents that have been declassified and Soviet documents (TASS, Pravda, and KGB). In fact, I would venture that Kengor has more references to Soviet press than he did to US/Western press. Ironically, it was telling just how much the Soviets understood what was happening and why (that Reagan was waging an economic war on the Sovient Union), while the West simply bought into the Soviet propoganda that Reagan was a blood-thirsty warhawk that thirsted for WWIII.

Kengor also uses interviews from those who served under Reagan to back his claims, giving his perspective much credibility.

"Those who fail to learn from history and doomed to repeat it." While in the past I've likened the current war against terrorism to the fight against Communism (on a smaller scale of course), this book really brought out the two in a very similar light: leaders committed to eliminate a threat to freedom, leaders criticized for "going it alone,"

Usually looking in the past shows us plenty of failures; fortunately, with Reagan, we can see success, and learn from that success.

Interesting enough, Amy and I have used this opportunity to teach Spencer about Reagan (he saw the name on the book and said "that's my name!"). We've taught him he was a great leader, a great man, a great father that made this world much, much safer for him. I'm not sure how the public schools teach the history of Reagan, but I'm not leaving it to chance. After all, educating my children is MY responsibility, not the schools'.