Friday, August 06, 2004

Alaskan Summer

Last Thursday afternoon wasn't the ideal time to go off-line. John Kerry was about to make the "speech of his life", my man Wes Clark was set to make a rousing appearance, baseball's trading deadline loomed, and Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle was about to open. It would've been a time to log some serious websurfing hours.

On second thought, last weekend might've been the best time to disconnect -- and that I did, dropping myself deep in the heart of red state Alaska to meet up with two of my closest friends, Mumon and WD, the latter of whom is now living happily in Anchorage.

Alaska itself is humbling. The vast expanse of mountains and trees, framed by water -- nature on a grand scale -- made me feel like a Lalliputian. The trip was fantastic, and it was less about the usual wildlife tour than getting a droplet of the local Alaskan experience: fishing, hiking, climbing, camping, drinking. However metrosexual you happen to be, it's best to summon the He-man (or She-ra) buried within you, because that encyclopedic knowledge of chianti and Verdi won't help you jack squat in skinning a rabbit. The folks I met lived life intensely in the outdoors but were totally unassuming; cool folks very much comfortable in their skin.

Favorite part of the trip: Catching a salmon, gutting it out with my bare hands, and finally eating freshly-cooked fish with the most deliciously fresh salmon roe sushi I've ever had, roe that came from the gut of a fish we had caught.

Reeling in a big red one (that's me in orange) Posted by Hello

Also, Seward's Folly, like many smaller states, stands in stark contrast to California in its vocal political expression. As we traversed through residential Anchorage, seemingly every house has a sign hoisted on its lawn supporting a candidate in the hotly contested senate battle between Democratic governor Tony Knowles and incumbent Republican Lisa Murkurski. It's cool to see that people care.

Weekend stress: Nomar and Kerry

So Alaska was all fun and games, right? Not quite. Catching a bit of SportsCenter (on mute) in a bar on Saturday night, I found out that No-mah, a man so iconic among Red Sox devotees that idolatry of the fidgety shortstop is regularly lampooned on SNL, has been traded, apparently for a glazed donut and yesterday's coffee. Though not entirely unexpected, the trade still left me traumatized, which not even knocking off a few burly Alaskan dudes at the pool table could assuage. Then, on Monday, I caught the USA Today headline: Kerry receives no post-convention bounce in the new poll, and actually lost ground to Bush. I spent much of my 9 mile hike that day brooding over this strange turn.

Now, I hadn't seen Kerry's speech, and only read the text in the NY Times on Friday. The text was awful, full of convoluted Kerryisms and no real punch. Not knowing the general reception of the speech, I had feared the worst: Kerry whiffed on Thursday.

Reading all the week's news after the fact was comforting (and provides more perspective than incessant daily news munching). Kerry's speech seemed well-received; he delivered those clunky lines quickly and forcefully. For another thing, bounce or no bounce, the fundamentals remain strongly in his favor, as polling guru James Zogby points out. And he did shore up his soft support and made a stronger pitch to the undecideds, as Ruy Texeira showed. So it's still Kerry's race to lose. By my count, Kerry's got 237 safe or leaning electoral votes to Bush's 168. Kerry can win basically just by poaching either Ohio or Florida, while Bush really needs to run the table.

And with the release of the anemic job growth numbers today, Bush is really in bad shape. Whenever he touts the economy, from now until the RNC, the news stories will point out that the economy's lost a lot of steam. Then, immediately after the RNC, another jobs report will be issued. If the September job report is sub-100,000, it'll take some crazy Al Qaeda plot to get the Chimp re-elected. Couldn't shake the stress, but at least JFK remains in solid shape.

As for Nomar, maybe he was so disgruntled he had to go. But it's still sad to see your favorite player traded. He's been in decline since the wrist injury suffered in 2001, and is playing horribly on the field this season (last in zone rating and defensive efficiency) and so I understand the baseball decision. I just wished Epstein picked up Matt Clement for him.

Thursday, August 05, 2004

Q. Why is "Web" capitalized?

Only in the last weekend (while reading a very informative article in the New Yorker about Al Qaeda's internet operations and its role in the Madrid bombings on the plane) did I notice this strange journalistic practice: "w" of web site is capitalized, as in "Web site". Perusing the LA Times and the NY Times later on confirmed this practice, and I can't make sense of it. Is "Web" still considered a proper noun, a shorthand for "World Wide Web"? Seems to me the language so ingrained now into 21st century English that it should be in lower case.

Anyone have an explanation for this strange grammar rule?