September 29, 2005

Chief Justice John Roberts

So Roberts gets the job of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.

Obviously, no surprise there.

It was a 78-22 vote, Democrats were 22-22, Republicans 55-0, and Independent Jim Jeffords voted yes.

Among those who voted against him were Clinton, Biden, Bayh, Feingold, and Kerry, a.k.a. 2008's presidential prospects.

If you want a complete breakdown, click here.

Feingold actually voted FOR Roberts. The formatting on the C-SPAN page between a senator's name and vote was off causing a bit of difficulty trying to see how a vote was cast. Sorry! Thanks to Chris Matthews on Hardball when he actually asked about the same 5 senators I listed as the possible presidential candidates, and noted that only 4 of the 5 voted NO, with Feingold the one who voted YES.

David Crowder Band's Collision

Anyone who has seen my CD collection knows that it is quite large and diverse. And yes, I actually still do buy CDs. I don't download (legally or illegally). I just keep it very basic. I buy the vast majority of my albums through a music club, spending on average of $7 per CD. Normally, you have to wait about three to four months from an album's street date until you can purchase it from the club, but the savings are worth it.

However aside from the music club and my savings, there are a handful of artists whose albums I can't wait for, so I go buy them on their Tuesday release date, and then overplay them in my car for the next month or so.

One such artist is the David Crowder Band. The very first time I heard them was in March of 2002 at a youth conference I was chaperoning. They were extremely new at this point, their debut album having just been released the month before. They were great in concert, but, not ready to commit to a $10 "out the trunk" purchase of their CD, I waited for it to appear on my music club to save my 3 bucks. However, after I listened to it, I realized that I should have actually bought that CD right then and there. And would have been willing to pay more for it.

Since that first CD, they have become one of my favorite groups to listen to live or in the car, and several months ago when I got the first email that their new album would be coming out on September 27, I was already counting down the days until it was released.

Their new album is called "Collision." And this is what the cover looks like when you go out to buy it:

Having listened through it three times in its entirety so far (and several of the tracks having received repeat play), here's what I can tell you:

It is excellent.

This is definitely one of those landmark albums - a record that at the time of its release is unlike anything you've ever heard before, but in five years if you listen to it again, it will sound mainstream.

The songs are deep, lyrically and musically. Each song is crafted on multiple levels. Tracks are lush and rich sounding - and it's a rock album.

Usually, songs with a lot of stuff happening in them annoy me, sounding overproduced and like plastic (if plastic made a sound). Additionally, those little skits and other random banter between songs is annoying even more so. Surprisingly though, this album contains them. But they work. Normally, the high production level and interludes make for a truly artificial sounding album, and only rarely do they make a natural, organic sounding CD - this is certainly one of those rare occasions.

The theme of the album is "When our depravity meets his divinity, it is a beautiful collision." It is divided into three parts - A, B, C, and D. Each a unique step in the journey that is "Collision." Part A sounds like the normal David Crowder Band repertoire, with an edge, but by the time you arrive at part D, you have come through an experience of harder but relaxed, darker but hopeful, songs. There is a classic spiritual fused into a driving rock track culminating in some bluegrass. Sounds bizarre, but it actually works. There is a natural progression, both across the album itself, and by DCB as a band.

You can download a track or two from iTunes or buy the whole thing from Amazon. You can actually listen to three tracks in their entirety on the group's MySpace page. Whatever you choose to do, it is most definitely a worthy purchase.

It's great. You can take my word for it.

September 27, 2005

September 26, 2005

How to Survive a Freestyle Rap Battle

On my Google start page, I get a daily "'How To' of the Day." Normally, they are pretty basic... helpful, but not exciting. For example, you can learn how to grill steak, how to excerise on a plane, or even how to create a makeup kit with a fish tackle box.

Every once in a while, however, you get a really funny one. Today, at the top of the list is, "How to Survive a Rap Battle." It is quite a read, and I'm sure helpful for many of you wanna be rappers out there... you know who you are.

The best part was the final warning:

"Spit" as used in the context of this article is a synonym for rapping, not the forcible expulsion of saliva from the mouth. Please do not practice the latter kind of spitting; it does not make you look nearly as cool.

To read the whole thing, click here.

September 21, 2005

JetBlue Flight 292

So I'm watching LOST when during a commercial break, I switch channels to see what else was on when I went by Fox and they had a split screen between an airplane and the regularly scheduled program. There was no indication as to what was going on with the airplane so I switched it to MSNBC where I learned about the problem with the landing gear.

So here on live TV we are watching an airplane with faulty landing gear. There are ambulances, fire fighters, and other emergency personnel waiting along the runway at LAX. It seems as if there might be a chance that the plane could crash land and we can all watch it live at home. How nice. But I was hooked.

As I am watching the plane flying in preparation to land, my thoughts immediately shifted to the passengers on the flight and what they may be thinking. So is this it? Are these my final moments? What is going on here? Am I dreaming?

Fortunately, it was one of the most relieving moments ever. Watching a smooth landing was amazing. When the wheels on the front of the plane (which were twisted 90 degrees from where they needed to be) were dragging on the ground, sparking and burning, I was prepared to see other parts of the plans catch. But thankfully this did not happen. The plane just went straight down the runway until it came to a final stop.

All I can say is that JetBlue has one incredible pilot.

MSNBC's coverage wasn't too bad either... Just moments after the plane landed, and the passengers exited, one was on the phone with MSNBC giving a first hand account of what happened. None of the other cable networks really had coverage which compared.

I have no idea how big a news item this will be tomorrow, but it was quite the event today.

A story with a happy ending sure is nice for a change.

September 20, 2005

Redskins Win!

Late in the midnight hour, the Redskins turn it around.

I love Mark Brunell. I love you, Santana Moss.

What a game last night! I have to admit, I was extremely doubtful late last night as I watched Dallas leading the Skins 13-0 with just a couple minutes left in the fourth quarter. The commentators frequently reminded us that Washington was 15-1 against the Cowboys in their most recent matchups, and that the last time we beat them in Dallas was back in 1995. Bill Parcells had an undefeated record when leading by 13 points or more in the fourth quarter - seventy some wins. Other "all odds against the Skins" stats were mentioned. Even when the stats are FOR us, it seems that the Redskins find a way to lose.

But no, not this time.

When I saw Brunell connect with Moss for the first touchdown, my first thought was "Whoa! That was CRAZY!" My second thought was, "And why are we waiting this long to pull this kind of stuff?!" But my thoughts were quickly interrupted by the second Brunell-Moss touchdown.

I've seen many comebacks in football before. But never with the Redskins. Never in this manner. Usually when there is a late 4th quarter insane comeback, its usually the Skins who are the ones defeated. It was such a surreal moment to see it happen for us this time!

Monday Night Football normally provides us with the best games of the season. For the first three quarters, it seemed that the Skins-Cowboys matchup would be an exeception. Fortunately not yesterday. This will go down as one of the best games in our team's history.

A comeback for the ages.

September 19, 2005

Tony Shalhoub Wins!

Congrats to Monk's Tony Shalhoub for winning the Emmy Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series. I love that show!

In his acceptance speech, he said to the other nominees he was "not familiar with their work," and "I just want to say there's always next year, except for Ray Romano."

Funny guy.

September 13, 2005

Who's really to blame for $3-a-gallon gas?

Check out this very informative article by Jon D. Markman. Click here.

Interesting snippet:

Right now there is plenty of crude oil in the world’s pipeline, but a scarcity of gasoline. Katrina knocked a considerable amount of crude-oil production out of commission in the Gulf of Mexico, to be sure. But as a gesture of goodwill, and to make a buck, our allies in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, agreed to produce more than their usual allotments to keep world reserves stable. At the same time, the U.S. government agreed to release tens of millions of barrels of crude oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, an energy piggy bank started 30 years ago after the Yom Kippur War between Israel and its Arab neighbors disrupted supply.

You can have all the oil in the world and still run short of gasoline, however, if major refineries are out of action. Refineries are large, smelly, unattractive plants that “crack” crude oil’s hydrocarbons into the stuff that makes modern life go, such as heating oil, kerosene, jet fuel, the feedstock for plastics, diesel and automotive gasoline. Few U.S. states have ever wanted these noxious beasts on their coastlines, so the ones built in loosely regulated Louisiana half a century ago make something like half of all the refined crude oil products in the country. When Katrina blasted through, her high winds and storm surge knocked these plants for a loop, and the partial shutdown caused 10% of the nation’s entire supply of gasoline to vanish in a weekend.

Comments on Opening Day

Being the political junkie that I am, I spent a bit of yesterday evening watching C-SPAN replay yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee Hearing on John Roberts' nomination to be Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. There were a couple things that struck me as I watched.

The first was Senator Patrick Leahy from Vermont. He commented that, "If anyone needed a reminder of the racial divide that remains in our nation, no one can now doubt that we still have miles to go. I believe that the American people still want, expect and demand their government to help ensure justice and equal opportunity for all and especially for those who, through no fault of their own, were born into poverty." His comment is an obvious reference to the criticism leveled against the Bush Administration that had New Orleans been a town of rich white folks, then the problems faced in recovery efforts (i.e. the delay) would not have been an issue.

There were problems with the recovery effort. The federal government, the state government, AND the local government all had their fair share of screw ups. However, this is not a result of a racial divide; it is merely a reflection of bureaucratic incompetence. When you have many different powers attempting to get something done in unison, there will always be difficulties. Ideally, in a post-9/11 world, the synchronization of the multiple levels of government would have happened without chaos, however we've got what we've got, and we've got a ways to go.

Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts noted, "The powerful winds and floodwater of Katrina tore away the mask that has hidden from public view the many Americans who are left out and left behind. As one nation under God, we cannot continue to ignore the injustice, the inequality, and the gross disparities that exist in our society."

The thing from this comment that jumped out at me was firstly, the reference to the racial criticism of the handling of Katrina victims, but more significantly the "Christian pandering" he evoked with the phrase "one nation under God." This is a contentious issue that he is generally regarded as being on the "other" side of, so it was quite interesting to hear him say it.

Also, New York Senator Chuck Schumer commented regarding the prospect of being Chief Justice at such a young age whose term of influence can last more than a generation, "I cannot think of a more awesome responsibility; awesome not in the way my teenage daughter would use the word, but in the biblical sense of the angels trembling in the presence of God."

The use of "awesome" describing God's greatness equated to that of holding a government job for twenty some odd years? I'm sorry, but that's not even close.

While confirmation hearing are supposed to be about a candidate for a post, it seems as if its actually more about the committee members. It is about what a Senator can say or do to score points with his or her base. The sad reality of politics - its never purely about the issues, but more about the power obsessed on their journey for more.

September 9, 2005

A Helping Hand

If you've got some cash or have something more long term to help out victims of Hurricane Katrina, check out the following:

American Red Cross - $5 minimum online contribution, or donate by phone or mail - dedicated to helping families affected by Hurricane Katrina by connecting them with churches and other organizations willing to assist them with long-term recovery.

The Power of One

The greatest power on earth is the power of one. The power of an individual. It is from a single person that the greatest feats on earth have been accomplished. While triggered by an individual, it is enhanced by the collective force created when others, in like mindedness come together to get something done. A group of people who are not of one accord is useless; accordingly, it is the role of an individual both severally or collectively that matters the most. A house built of brick is worthless if each brick is broken.

This power is can be used for good. However, this power can also be used for evil.

One such evil is the very first person who is driving and brakes to take a look at the cool flashing lights of a cop who has pulled over another driver, or to take a gander at someone changing a flat tire. This very first person has the power not only to add a couple additional seconds to their commute, but seconds, and eventually minutes, to all drivers behind them. If you add all the time each individual who is sitting in rubbernecking delays wastes, you would have a total time value of days, weeks, and maybe even months.

You as an individual have the power to break the rubbernecking chain that is created when a fellow driver needs to pull over. You can either choose to continue driving to your destination or to slow down the commute of everybody behind you.

Use your power for good.

September 8, 2005

Jordis Goes Home

I know that you watch Rock Star: INXS. I just know it. It IS the best show on TV this summer.

Anyway, imagining that you (for whatever reason) do not watch this show, here's what happened last night...


You see, Jordis was the best singer on the show when it started. Easily. Hands down. I still think she's the best. However, in recent weeks, her performances were not quite on par with what she started, with the exception of "Knocking on Heaven's Door" which was phenomenal.

So, now it was down to the final five, and yesterday, when I thought about the performances from Tuesday's show and who would get eliminated, I knew for sure it would have to be Jordis. Not because she was bad obviously, but because she was not really the type of person who can get all glammed up and lead this existing rock band. She's 22 for goodness sakes. I doubt she even remembers the glory years of the band because I sure don't.

With that said, I knew she was going to get eliminated all day, and when she was called to the bottom three, and available for elimination by the band , I knew it would be her. After her performance on the elimination show, the band asked her if she could lead INXS. She replied, "I hope so." Right at that moment, I knew her fate was sealed. You don't say that!

Regardless, Jordis is far more than just a flash in the pan. I don't know what happened for her to start out so strongly and then fizzle, but she didn't have the same mindset as the other contestants did. They were always talking about adapting themselves to INXS, whereas Jordis never did. It was always more about Jordis is who she is, and she was just hoping for a match.

I said previously that I thought Marty would be the best fit for the job, and I still stand by that. I hope that he wins. I know he will win.

It still sucks to see Jordis go! But I am definitely expecting a modern solo career from her... none of this 80's band revival.

September 1, 2005

So I met Mark Warner...

Last Saturday evening, I had to chance to attend the West Virginia Jefferson Jackson dinner in Charleston where Governor Mark Warner was the keynote speaker. I drove just over 5 hours, was there for about 3, and then drove back the 5 hours, got 45 minutes of sleep, and then drove to the airport to catch a 6 AM flight. Hectic? Yes. Tiring? Sure. Worth it? Definitely.

So to those of you who have talked politics with me before have long known I've been plugging a Mark Warner candidacy for president in 2008. I have posted on this blog about this as well.

So basically, a couple months ago I hooked up with the Draft Mark Warner (DMW) organization. This event in West Virginia was the first "on the ground" operation at a political event by DMW, and since it was relatively close, I knew I had to be there.

After a scenic drive through western Maryland and into West Virginia, I finally arrived in Charleston where the dinner was just getting started. Many West Virginia democrats were honored, and speeches delivered, but the headliners were WV's Senator Robert Byrd and Governor Joe Manchin, and of course, Governor Warner.

Governor Warner's speech really made it clear that he is going to be actively involved in the 2008 election. He dealt with national themes, such as employing a 2008 strategy that involves more than 16 states on the electoral map (50 maybe?), the importance of being visionary, and the dilemma that the American education system is in. As I listened (being 20 yards away), I thought to myself "this guy is it." I had an out of body moment because here is a guy whose speeches I had seen video of and whose record I had examined but had never seen in person, and here he is, right in front of me, giving an address. I had a "what am I doing here" moment several times.

So right after the speech, people are standing and applauding, and guess where he comes down to first? That's right. The DMW table. That was a very cool moment.

But the cooler moment happened a bit later. After the event, we were handing out some flyers to enthusiastic post-address democrats about the prospect of a 2008 run. After the crowds leaving had died down a bit, the DMW folks were standing near the front doors of the convention center when I noticed Governor Warner and an staffer walking past. I see him looking over at us as he walked to the door, at which point he stopped, came over to us and said, "hey guys, we need to take a picture." At which point we did. It was really an amazing moment to have him come over and initiate the picture taking.

And let it be known here on out, that in January of 2009 when President Warner is sworn in, you saw the beginning of the journey right here.