To Fuss is Human, To Rant, Divine!!

Location: Vienna, Virginia, United States

A graduate of Dartmouth College (2005) and Washington and Lee University School of Law (2010). These are my personal blogs, and the musings expressed on them do not reflect the positions of my employer. They do reflect my readings, thoughts, and aspirations, which I figure is good enough.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

My Idea

So one of Jen's friends recently got engaged. Yesterday over sushi, Jen and I discussed the couple's intentions to put their names on a wedding registry somewhere.

Where should they register? They're going to be a 23 year old couple, living in a small apartment in New York. Obviously, registering at Home Depot is out, since they don't have a home to fix up. Obviously, registering at a place like Williams-Sonoma or Bed Bath and Beyond might be ok, but then again, the couple might just end up with a lot of cooking utensils and stuff that they don't have any place to store.

Registering at a place like WalMart or Target is just tacky, so that's out. Electronic stores would present similar storage issues to Bed Bath or Williams-Sonoma.

Which is when I had a brilliant idea. An idea which should be capitalized upon and implemented posthaste.

Supposition 1) Young couples will not have a lot of room in their living quarters for material possessions. Sure a TV and some decorations are nice, and basic kitchen equipment, but if the wedding is a large one, they're going to get a lot of stuff they might end up placing on or Ebay.

Supposition 2) People age 18-24 are impossible to buy for. Unless you're their age, but even in that case, it's difficult.

Supposition 3) Since people are difficult to buy for, and giving people money is tacky, an alternative must be found

Supposition 4) A recently popularized alternative to gift giving has been charitable giving in the name of the couple. There was an article mentioning it in Money magazine last year. This is all well and good, but only if the couple has preferred charities.

Supposition 5) Young people, although often economically savvy, might not be the best at investing monetary gifts or savings.

Which brings me to my idea. Wedding Registry Mutual Funds. I've only found one mention of giving mutual funds as a wedding gift in passing, and it doesn't even suggest the idea of a specific mutual fund targeted towards couples wanting to register at one.

Before you think about how unromantic the idea of registering at Charles Schwab (for example) is, consider the benefits.

Such a fund, if created, would be quite popular. Kids these days know that they're supposed to save for retirement. They've been told over and over again that placing money in a mutual fund or retirement account can make their later years much more comfortable, especially if Social Security tanks. Yet, we tend not to do it because we get distracted and spend our money elsewhere.

And adults are always looking at the youth to be fiscally responsible. What better way to prove to the parents of both bride and groom, as well as their relatives, that the couple is responible and mature than by registering with a mutual fund?

It saves the wedding attendees the effort of buying gifts that the couple won't use, the gifts will appreciate over time, and if the wedding is a large one, the appreciation could be substantial.

Furthermore, it's a way for both the couple and the gift giver to emphasize that the marriage will be one that will last, because why else would you want to register at a mutual fund?

A savvy mutual fund company might also tailor the idea of a "Wedding Registry Mutual Fund" to make it more attractive.

Give the gift-givers some options - high-risk funds, low-risk funds, themed portfolios or sectored portfolios, nice ways to present the gift to the bride and groom, and really, the gifts can be just as impressive and surprising as a crystal goblet from Tiffany's. Also, the mutual fund won't break when the dog bumps into the china cabinet.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

As Promised

Day 1 - Of Blustery Days, Thumb-sucking, and Chevy Aveos

So last Tuesday found Jen and I flying into Orlando, where we proceeded to an off-site rental car location to pick up our stylin' Chevy Aveo. On the bright side, it was at least a four door vehicle, and didn't die on us during the trip, although it made funny noises when we pushed it over 75 mph.

We checked into our hotel, a nicer than expected Radisson, but had trouble finding our room, as our parking lot was away around in the back of the hotel. We took a right turn too late and actually found ourselves on the highway, headed towards Magic Kingdom. So we said, "to heck with it," and went.

The only minus was that, as the weather was in the mid to high 80's, we were nervous about Jen's laptop being in the car for a few hours. So naturally I ended up lugging it around The Magic Kingdom and Epcot. It's at least a Mac, and not an 8 lb. Dell.

Despite all that is said about Disney being an evil empire, you can really have quite a lot of fun, especially if you grew up on the movies. People who grew up on movies like The Aristocats are likely out of luck, but there's even still stuff for kiddy Disney fiends like me who grew up with Robin Hood.

For those who don't know this about me, I watched Robin Hood every day for over a year, when I was about four.

Which is why I was ecstatic when I was able to take these pictures.

That was really the highlight of my time in the Magic Kingdom. There are a few new rides, of course, such as Pooh's Adventures on a Blustery Day, but those are more small-child oriented, along with everything else in the Magic Kingdom. However, Philharmagic, a 3-D orchestration of well known Disney songs, is well worth it for spectators of all ages.

However, Pirates of the Carribbean is closed until July, which I suspect is a way for them to build suspense of the sequal coming out this summer, as well as a way to update the ride with characters from the movie.

One note of interest - Pooh's Adventures replaced Mr. Toad's Wild Ride, but they found a way to keep Mr. Toad - if you look to the right as you ride in seated in Honey Pots (no joke), you can see a picture of Owl and Mr. Toad on the left. Kind of a nice touch, in my opinion.

For dinner, since we didn't know of too many places outside the parks, we went to Epcot. Although it was a touch on the expensive side, it was still fun, as we were able to get seats by a window in order to see Illuminations, the nightly fireworks display at Epcot.

Exhausted from walking around two theme parks in the span of an afternoon and evening, we returned to the hotel and finally found our room. The next day would bring more theme parks, but more importantly, baseball.

Day 2 - Longballs and Ryan Howard are like Peanut Butter and Jelly

We woke up bright and early to get out to Epcot again - since the rides were closed by the time we got there yesterday, we were there as soon as the gates opened to get in line for Soarin' and Mission: Space. Fastpass is indeed an amazing thing, since I remember distinctly waiting for an hour and a half for each and every ride when I went to Disney World with my family 8 or 9 years ago.

At noon, we headed out of the park and to the Wide World of Sports Complex, where the Braves have their Spring Training. We arrived a little later than we wanted, so there wasn't any time for autographs.

As for the game itself, we saw some nice slugging - homers from Andruw Jones and Jeff Francoeur for the Braves, and one that dwarfed all the others by Phillies' first baseman Ryan Howard.

As the description under the picture says, on a 3-1 count, Howard was waiting for a fastball, and he got one. And crushed it. A long ways to right. No doubt about that one. Howard and everyone else in the stadium knew that Jorge Sosa was going to throw a fastball on that pitch. Sosa's pitch wasn't good enough, and Howard punished the ball by hitting it well out of the park.

The pitching was uneventful, as Ryan Franklin is one of the most unexciting pitchers in the majors. Kyle Davies was interesting to watch, as he was changing speeds fairly well and generally doing a good job with pitch selection.

One thing I noticed was that Andruw Jones' stance, which was widened last year in Spring Training, is even wider than I remember it. It now looks like he's got his feet too wide, and it seems almost awkward when he swings. Even when he hit his home run in the bottom of the fourth inning, it looked like he was off-balance.

Jeff Francoeur, in addition to homering in the fifth inning, made an excellent play on a Chase Utley line drive in the top of the fourth inning. It's pretty much what his supporters have come to expect of him, and there were plenty of those at the game.

Tom Gordon, the 38 year old closer for the Phillies, looked pretty good for a 38 year old pitcher. His curveball was as excellent as advertised, and he was very good in his one inning of work, getting a swinging strikeout and two ground balls. Of course, he was facing James Jurries, Pete Orr and Todd Pratt, but still, results are results.

After the game ended in a rather anticlimactic strikeout looking, we headed out and went back to the parks. We went to MGM this time, where we rode a re-vamped (and less exciting in my opinion) Tower of Terror, and Star Wars. There's not much to do in MGM. We did have dinner in the Sci Fi Diner, in which diners are relegated with campy sci fi scenes from the 70's. Good stuff. It's a nice reminder that even back there, there were a lot of crappy movies. It's just that now, those same crappy movies have large budgets and advertising campaigns, which makes them seem all the more disappointing. See, quality isn't really the issue here, just expectations.

Day 3: In which Jen gets a cool signature

Instead of hitting up a park in the morning, we went straight to the game. The game started at 1:00, but we got there around 10:00 to watch batting practice and to get autographs.

I managed to get Jarrod Saltalamacchia's signature, as well as Kelly Johnson's and Ryan Langerhans'. Jen, however, ran over down the first base line when she saw that Jeff Francoeur was signing, and got her Francoeur jersey autographed. I think that made her day.

Even though the marquee players, Andruw and Chipper Jones, and Marcus Giles, didn't pay much attention, we were able to get some good picture of them in batting practice. Bobby Cox was there too, looking sagely as usual.

Giles taking batting practice is pretty astounding. The ball jumps off his bat, and at one point, he sprayed four or five balls that all left the park in different directions. Other players were impressive as well, Francoeur and Matt Diaz being memorable, but Giles was especially fun to watch.

The game, Braves vs. Indians, was a nice game featuring decent pitching on both sides - CC Sabathia for the Indians, and John Thomson for the Braves. Sabathia's delivery seemed off, as his lead foot was often planted pointing too much as the first base line, making him look off-balance at times, but he got the job done with a fastball that touched 94 and a good variety of breaking balls.

Edgar Renteria, the new Braves shortstop, did not look very impressive. His bat looked weak as he grounded into a double play and flied out to center, after which he was replaced by Tony Pena Jr., another soft hitting shortstop. Pena, however, had a couple of decent games in the three that I saw. Even though he's getting older for a prospect, maybe Pena still has time to make the majors as a backup. He really needs to cut down on his strikeouts though.

Giles walked in all three of his at bats today, perhaps an indication that he's changing his hitting approach in anticipation of hitting leadoff. If so, I think he could have an excellent year. Even if Renteria is no good, if Chipper and Andruw are healthy, Giles could easily score 120 runs.

Joey Devine, the Braves reliever, and possible closer, continued his torrid spring by striking out two of the three batters he faced. He is a candidate to close this year if Chris Reitsma's injuries keep him out for long.

I'll have the rest of the Day 3 summary (with pictures) and Day 4, as soon as we upload the rest of the pictures.

Baseball is in the air

I got back from Spring Training in Orlando on Saturday. Pictures and comments on games and players coming soon to a blog near you (this one).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

In Parody Of....

Yahoo!'s new MLB writer Jeff Passan, who has a flair for the dramatic, even when it's not called for.

In his latest article "The ghost of Barry Bonds," Mr. Passan writes

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One of these days, Barry Bonds will look in the mirror and see what the rest of us see. Nothing.

None of this matters anymore. He can't undo the lies, the injections, the arrogance, everything that follows him today and tomorrow and beyond. The home runs he hits will be ignored, the records he sets empty. To the baseball world, Bonds is dead. And, much like Bruce Willis' character in The Sixth Sense, he's the only one who doesn't realize it.
Yadda yadda, etc. etc. blather blather.

Now, there are good points in this article, like when Passan calls the San Fran Giants Barry's co-conspirators, but there's also a lot of hyperbole, which could get Mr. Passan into trouble. Or at least get him a lot of criticism.

He hasn't read "Game of Shadows," which comes out later this month. He's read an excerpt in Sports Illustrated, which claims that Barry used a ton of steroids, but does NOT provide names of previously unknown sources or direct quotations. The excerpt mentions sealed testimonies and interviews, but as the journalists who wrote the book must know, those don't mean much if those sources are not documented and explicitly named. Otherwise, it's a bunch of he said, he said.

Which makes Passan's statement "An excerpt from the book Game of Shadows itemized the steroids Bonds took. Details filled crevices where any doubt existed. The tangible proof was right there, down to the cubic centimeter, as indicting as a positive test, the final needle mark" extremely disingenuous, because that's not what the excerpt says at all.

Now, I think Barry used steroids, and that it is at least somewhat likely that the book does substantiate its claims with sources and concrete evidence, but Passan can't write this. He can't take a book he hasn't read and use it as incontrovertible proof. Maybe if he has read the book, or if I had read the book, and there were a list of sources, I could accept this melodramatic article. But until then? This is what I think this article should read.

The Ghost of Barry Bonds

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – One of these days, Barry Bonds will look in the mirror and see what the rest of us see. Nothing.

Because Barry Bonds is a vampire, a Nosferatu. Although he himself does not realize the full extent of his power, steroid and hormone treatments have turned Barry into an undead creature which now can only be defeated by a stake through the heart. According to legend, he can, however, be held in check by immersion under running water and garlic liberally strewn in his path. First basemen, take note.

Bonds is now so strong that he has recently emerged from his coffin, where he slept the entire winter, and now braves the daylight to take batting practice with his human teammates. That the emergence into the sunlight did not destroy him is further evidence of his awesome strengths.

Despite attempts to disguise his malformed, pustulent body, teammates, media and fans recoil from him, no matter what shape he takes.

Bonds' teammates, who once revered his abilities as a player as much as they feared his prowess with a bat, now only feel revulsion at the monster which confronts them, a monster which is still capable of hitting baseballs out of the park, despite Major League Baseball's best efforts to check his infernal powers.

As Bonds takes batting practice, flaunting his super-human strength and vision, possibily aided by a bat-like sonar, Bud Selig plots to put an end to Bonds and those who Bonds would convert to his side. Baseball's greatest fear is that Bonds will place himself at the head of an army of darkness and blanket the world in a cacophony of mayhem and steroid-aided home runs.

It would be too blantant to hire a pitcher to take a piece of a broken bat and run Barry through during a game. The pitcher would likely fail, as Bonds is simply too fast and strong to be defeated by a single pair of mortal hands. Also, the FCC fines would be astronomical, if the Super Bowl debacle is any indicator.

No, Bud Selig, the latest in a long line of bespectacled heroes that includes Professor Van Helsing and Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, must work quickly but carefully. He cannot let Barry Bonds know of the plans against him.

The only future for Major League Baseball as we know it rests on not only the shoulders of Selig, but on Congress and the owners of baseball, and on the sacred and holy contract known as the Collective Bargaining Agreement, a contract which even a creature as demonic as Bonds fears.

For although drug testing has been set to catch the nefarious Nosferatu, and amphetamine testing is underway this year, we must wait with bated breath until everything from drugs tested to methods of testing to lists of MLB sanctioned supplements, not to mention the contentious issue of revenue sharing, are in the renewed CBA. Only then will the balance between the owners and the players association be set anew.

Until this contract can be remade, a dangerous, intricate ritual taking place every four years which requires the most careful planning and execution by the owners of all the major league baseball teams and representatives of the player's union, Bonds and his ilk will still play, only held in check by a heroic army of "pure" baseball players led by Albert Pujols and David Ortiz.

And if the ritual should fail, all baseball could come to a standstill. While it is not in the interests of the owners or teams, it must be pointed out that such a stoppage would stop Bonds, as he would no longer be invited into the opposing teams' ballparks to wreak his havok. Without an invitation, Bonds would be limited to standing at the gates and hissing in impotence, as he could not cross the threshold of the ballpark otherwise.

The fight that is happening at this very moment is surely a difficult struggle, one which will likely claim the soul of more than one hero, the lure of the transformative steroids being strong. But if men will stand against the forces of the night, we may yet see a day when, under a renewed CBA with more revenue sharing, all men can play baseball without the aid of steroids, on an even playing field, only judged by their on-field performance, as well as their looks, quotability, nationality and race.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

I ask you this

So a thought came to me after South Africa came within three outs of beating Canada in the World Baseball Classic tonight.

This might not seem like a huge upset, but considering that Canada can put at least 6 or 7 major leaguers in the lineup at one time, and that South Africa currently does not have anyone on the team with major league experience, it's pretty impressive.

My thought was that so much of Major League Baseball's marketing and interest is focused in developing baseball in China that they're missing an obvious target nearby. It seems to me that China, with very little infrastructure, little to no present interest, and little experience in similar sports, is not the easiest place to promote baseball.

Why not India?

You have nearly as big a population to pull talent from, the majority of them already speak the English, and best of all, they have experience with cricket.

So why not try to get baseball on the map in India? It doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me not to, especially when I hear about MLB's efforts in China.

The language barrier isn't a problem in India, so it's not too difficult to convey the nuances of the game. Baseball is at least somewhat similar to cricket (somewhat), so the novelty could bring people to the game, while the familiarity allows the game to be easily accessible. And if the argument for China is that there's 1.3 billion people to find talent from, well India is the next best thing with over 1 billion individuals.

Also, Major League Baseball would not have to compete with basketball in China, which is a battle which for the time being they're going to lose badly. With Yao Ming and the NBA advertisement / marketing / product line in place, basketball is the rising sport, not baseball.

It strikes me that Major League Baseball is clearly buying high on the "untapped resources" stock, and while I think it will succeed eventually given enough time and money, they already have direct competition present with the NBA. I can't help but think that India would be an easier market to penetrate.

Finally, I would definitely go to see a Bollywood remake of "The Natural." I think it would be absolutely hilarious. The rather fantastic premise of the movie lends itself well to Bollywood, and the image of spontaneous song and dance on the baseball diamond tickles me. Once you got some interest in baseball, getting into Bollywood would be an easy and lucrative way to promote the sport.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Tall Drink of Water

I haven't watched very much basketball this year, NBA or NCAA. But I did notice one thing as I was perusing the box scores that I haven't seen in the papers yet.

And that is that after the All-Star break, Yao Ming has been playing some damn good basketball. There have been several articles already, this year and last, about how Yao doesn't play with enough authority, or about how he doesn't have enough stamina to play a good full court game.

But over the past 7 games (after the break), Yao has averaged 26 points and 14.3 rebounds a game. His efficiency is excellent as well, as he is shooting well over 50% from the field. His free throw shooting has been almost impeccable, at nearly 90%. Those are stats that would be comparable to Shaq two years ago, or even Hakeem in his prime.

Yao has also stayed out of foul trouble, racking up 4 fouls only once during the past 7 games.

While the Rockets’ playoff chances may be in jeopardy, especially with Tracy McGrady’s ailing back, this polish and level of play from Yao is encouraging for the Rockets’ future. If he keeps this up, he might actually live up to all the hype, which would be damn impressive, as I have not ever heard one person say that he wasn't at least somewhat overhyped.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006


At last, there's a movie coming out that I'm exciting about seeing.

I've been waiting for Dave Chappelle's Block Party to come out for about six months now, and it's finally seeing wide release this weekend. From the looks of trailers and reviews, it's a fun piece of film, and who can pass up the musical cast that Chappelle assembled? Jill Scott? The Fugees?

I've seen The Roots and Outkast (Outkast is not in this movie), but I missed out on Lauryn Hill when the Smokin' Grooves tour was at Jones Beach a few years ago. People who were at the Block Party have written on the web that it was quite the live show. I figure seeing the movie is the next best thing.

And as a last note to this short post, I watched part of Robin Hood: Men in Tights this past weekend. And I was stunned when I looked closer and realized that A-Choo was none other than Dave Chappelle. It's his first screencredit on I think I had known this somewhere in the back of my mind, but it was very strange seeing him and associating with Dave Chappelle as we know him today. For one, he was something like 19 when Men in Tights was made.

Ah-Choo, son of Ah-Sneeze (Isaac Hayes!). Tyrone Biggums son of Chef? Makes sense somehow.