Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Buffalo Stance

Free exchange has been blogging about Buffalo, NY a lot this week. The posts are all interesting, and all related to an article written by Ed Glaser in the current issue of City Journal entitled: Can Buffalo Ever Come Back?. I'm not very familiar with Buffalo. I've driven through it many times and I once stopped at LaNova for dinner, but I am something of a armchair rust belt historian and urban planning wonk. I agree that cities like Buffalo and Detroit are probably not going to return to prominence any time soon. Still, I'm more bullish on the future of the rust belt than Glaser, if for no other reason than I'm not sure how things can get any worse. Glaser's argument is that federal, state, and local governments should stop throwing money at "prestige" economic development projects. I didn't realize that we were even still arguing about this; of course convention centers, unusable public transit systems, and other such boondoggles are bad ideas. Glaser's piece comes off sounding contrarian, but he's not really saying anything new. I agree that a lot of money has been wasted and that a more friendly tax and regulation climate could have helped, but is there really anything rust belt cities could have done to prevent their demises? Even if Buffalo had decided in 1960 that it needed to get into the knowledge economy in a big way, would it have even been possible? Even if all of the labor unions had disbanded, manufacturers would still have had to pay a higher hourly wage in Buffalo than in the south due to the higher cost of living, higher cost of land, etc.

The real tragedy of rust belt is not the blighted downtowns and shuttered mills and factories, it's the colossal amount of human capital that has gone to waste. If Buffalo can find a way to harness the power of the human capital that exists within its core and metropolitan area, it will be able to reclaim at least a little bit of its past glory. For another cautiously optimistic viewpoint, read Richard Florida's assessment of the greater Toronto-Buffalo-Rochester,NY region.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Stick that in your pipe and smoke it

I finally got around to checking out Yahoo! Pipes today. I was trying to figure out an easy way to create an RSS feed that would pull out all of the Fanhouse posts written by MDS. The default RSS feed that AOL publishes for all of the Fanhouse bloggers is the general feed for the entire site. I heard about Pipes whenever it came it (sometime last year, if memory serves) and I thought it could do stuff like this but I really wasn't sure. As luck would have it, this is exactly the kind of thing that Pipes was designed for. I have created a pipe called Fanhouse MDS and made it available as an RSS feed that mines the Fanhouse RSS feed for Michael David Smith's posts. It seems to be working correctly, but it only fetches the 20 most recent posts at a time. This doesn't seem to be a problem once you plug the feed into an RSS reader that keeps track of history, but if you're viewing the output of feed by itself, you might only see a couple of MDS posts (or possibly none), although I can't image it's too often that his Fanhouse colleagues manage to crank out 20 or more posts before he has a chance to publish at least a couple.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Georgia on my Mind

This year marked the first time Michelle and I didn't dress up in complementary Halloween costumes. None of the other Arrested Development characters were a good fit for her, so she put together sort of a generic vampire outfit. Perhaps this was why no one commented on my costume while we were out on Saturday night. I figured going in that my costume was going to be something that people would either find hilarious or not understand. I hadn't counted on a third possibility, which is what happened with the friends we went out with. All of them were somewhat familiar with the show, but none of them were big fans. They didn't get the costume at first, but after some prompting, they found it funny.

Part of the problem was we spent most of out night at Trinity Brewhouse. Since I was sitting at a table the whole time, my cutoffs were not visible. The rest of the time we were at Waterfire, which was sparsely attended due to the rain. Plus Waterfire never seems to draw much of a young crowd, so most of the people there were not in costume and presumably had never heard of Arrested Development. Still, I was a little disappointed that I didn't get any comments about my costume. The highlight of my night, from a costume standpoint, was when a middle-aged woman from Georgia (the country, not the state) came up to us before Waterfire and asked if she could get her picture taken with us. I'm not sure how popular Arrested Development and/or never nudism is in Georgia, but with any luck, these things may be getting a little more recognition over in that part of the world.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Mountain Do

We did our annual fall hike this weekend. We climbed Mt. Monadnock, a 3165 foot peak in southern New Hampshire. According to signs I read at the park, it's the most climbed mountain on earth. Everything I've found on the web says it the second most climbed mountain (after Mt. Fuji). I'm not sure which one is true, but needless to say, it's a fairly popular climb. We visited Mt. Fuji on our trip to Japan a few years ago, but we didn't manage to make it to the top. Had we done so, climbing Monadnock would have made for an impressive 1-2 punch, but it was still an enjoyable hike.

The fall colors were at or near their peak. It was a little hazy and the sun was right on top of us since we reached the peak shortly after noon, so none of the pictures from the top came out very well. Michelle snapped this nice photo of the colors during the hike up the mountain.

We started on the White Dot trail, then took the Cascade Link over the the Spellman Trail. The White Dot and White Cross trails are the most popular routes up the mountain so they were quite crowded, but once we got onto the Cascade and the Spellman trails, we hardly saw anyone else. The Spellman is supposedly the hardest way up the mountain. It involved a lot of scampering over boulders on all fours, but it wasn't as difficult as I thought it would be. Once we reached the end of the Spellman, we took the Pumpelly trail up to the summit, where we had lunch. We then fought traffic all the way down the White Dot trail back to the parking lot.

All in all, it was about a five hour round trip. It wasn't as grueling as the hike we did up North Moat Mountain last year and views weren't quite as nice, but it was a very good hike and less than a two and half hour drive from home.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Great Moments in Blog Commenting History

According to MDS, Kevin Everett, the Buffalo Bills TE who suffered a severe spinal cord injury, is walking on his own and expected to make a full recovery. This is great news, of course. I couldn't help but notice the first comment on this post. It's from a reader who goes by the name of BrettFavre4, who says:

GOD BLESS....From a Packer fan....

First of all, I find it amusing that someone who uses the online persona BrettFarve4 feels the need to state that he's a Packers fan. The way he qualifies his comment with this information almost makes it sound like he thinks that in football, fans generally root for the opposing team's players to suffer life-threatening injuries at the hands of their favorite team. I guess there are probably a handful of people whose favorite part of professional football is watching players from teams they dislike getting hurt, but it can't be a very large group of people, even amongst the Eagles and the Raiders fanbases. I can't image that there are very many Packers fans who harbor any sort of resentment towards the Bills, nevermind bloodlust. The two teams have only faced each other ten times in their history, and never in the postseason.

Speaking of MDS, make sure you read Larry Brown's (not that Larry Brown) interview with him.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Road Food

One of the joys of travel is eating great food that you can't always find at home. When we were out in Seattle last month, we ate at a superb Chinese restaurant, the New Kowloon Seafood Restaurant. With the exception of a cold chicken dish that I didn't much care for, everything dish they served was outstanding. I'm sure there are a number of great places in Seattle for authentic Chinese food, but you definitely can't go wrong with New Kowloon.

If you find yourself about 800 miles down the Pacific coast from Seattle and you're in the mood for Spanish Tapas (and really, when are you not in the mood for Spanish Tapas?), check out a place I visited back in May when I was in San Francisco. It's a little place in the Mission called Picaro. I've only had Tapas a few times, but I've always enjoyed it thoroughly. The chorizo at Picaro was amazing. I also discovered a delicious Spanish cheese called Manchego, which is made from sheep's milk.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Used to it

A friend of mine has recently re-launched her used book online store. You can check it out here. I'm not sure how I feel about shopping for used books online. As I've said before, I'm a big fan of the used book store atmosphere. I generally don't go to a used book store looking for a specific book; perhaps a genre or even an author, but if you go in looking for a specific title, you're generally going to be disappointed. The website is a bit rough around the edges, but it looks like it will get the job done. Perhaps its lack of polish is intentional, a paean to the thrown together style of the used book store. If you love used books but avoid used books stores due to the weirdos who hang out in them, this website may be the answer for you.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Revved Up Like a Douche

I was astounded to learn recently that the song "Blinded by the Light", a long-time staple of classic rock radio, was written and originally performed by Bruce Spingsteen. I heard his version for the first time last week, and I like it a lot more than Manfred Mann's more famous rendition. I was never much of a fan of Springsteen but I've been warming up to at least some of his older stuff lately. My favorite Springsteen songs combine rock and roll with spoken word and even orchestral sensibilities, and "Blinded by the Light" is a great example of this style. You can listen to both version here.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

You're Under Arrest

I finally finished watching Arrested Development. Every episode from every season from start to finish, in chronological order. Arrested Development is a show that either you've never heard of or you've seen every episode multiple times. I'm proud to consider myself a member of that second group. It's a little late in the game for me to declare the show's brilliance. I'm still not sure why I didn't get into this show when it was on the air. I do remember watching a few episodes early on and thinking that it was pretty good, but I never really gave it much of a chance. In all fairness, Arrested Development is a lot easier to enjoy on DVD. Still, I think that it has a lot to do with the fact that until very recently, I assumed that every show on TV was junk until presented with massive amounts of evidence to the contrary. I don't know if TV has gotten a lot better, or I've recently entered the sweet spot of the network's primary demographic target, but today I feel like there are more good shows on network/basic cable/premium cable TV than I could ever hope to watch on a regular basis, and I certainly didn't feel that way as recently as a year or two ago.

I enjoyed the first two seasons of Arrested Development more than the third, though I'm sure that the third season could have been as good if it was given a full run of episodes. Like most viewers, I was initially drawn to arguably the two most outrageous characters, Gob and Tobias, but I think that in the end, my favorite character was George Michael. What can I say, he reminds me of myself at that age, to a certain extent. The reason Arrested Development is so funny (and the reason it did so poorly in the ratings) is the continuous structure of its narrative. Unlike most sitcoms, which have an implicit reset back to normal at the end of every episode, Arrested Development continued every absurd plot detail from episode to episode (and from season to season). The writers not only made each episode of the show more ridiculous than a typical sitcom, they did so knowing that they were going to have to sustain nearly every single plotline throughout the life of the series. I'm sure that had the show continued on, it would've eventually collapsed under the weight of itself, so in some ways, it's good that it had an abbreviated life, but I think that it still could have continued at a very high level of quality and humor for one or two more seasons.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Extrême limite

If the world ended tomorrow, my one regret would be that I never got a chance to see Point Break Live! on stage. I'm being facetious here, but only a little bit. I learned about this absurdist reality-play today on Deadspin and I have been barely able to contain myself ever since. The saddest part of this story is that I've never even seen the movie Point Break. I saw the commercials for it hundreds of times back in 1991 when it came out. I remember thinking how ridiculous it looked, but at the same time, I must have had some desire to watch it and experience the absurdity firsthand. The show is out in LA right now so it doesn't look like I'm going to get a chance to catch it anytime soon. Here's a teaser from the YouTubes.

One more thing: the subject of this post is the title under which Point Break was release in Francophone markets, but you knew that already.