Sunday, 15 April 2007

Winning the Lottery

Why is it that one can hope to win the lottery but not intend to win the lottery?


Here is William F. Buckley’s latest column, about Don Imus. I know that Imus is a radio talk-show host, but I’ve never listened to him. I’ve never listened to Rush Limbaugh, either. Is Limbaugh still on the air? Imus will resurface, as long as there is a demand for what he sells. Didn’t Howard Stern take his shtick to satellite radio? Perhaps Imus will go there as well.


My friend Kevin in California sent a link to this Internet radio service. I’m only now exploring it. So far, so good!


Australian Stuart O’Grady has won this year’s Hell of the North (Paris-Roubaix), the hardest one-day race in cycling. Here is the story. I was disappointed that Versus covered only one hour of the race (on tape delay). I thought it was going to be two hours. But one hour is better than nothing. My pick to win the race, Steffen Wesemann, finished third (of 187 starters), 52 seconds behind O’Grady. I’m delighted for Stuey. He is one of the toughest men in the professional peloton, and he has come close to winning big races many times. Today was his day to shine. This is the first time an Australian has finished on the podium, much less won the race.

Addendum: Here are thumbnail images of the race. Click to enlarge. This image gives you a feel for what the race was like.

Addendum 2: O’Grady averaged 26.21 miles per hour on the 161.2-mile course. This is simply mind-boggling.

The Rules of Humor

This misses the point, as far as I’m concerned. The rule is simple: You can use disparaging terms about yourself or people like yourself, but not about people unlike yourself. For example, I’m a lawyer, so I can make lawyer jokes. I’m white, so I can joke about white people. I’m male, so I can put males down. My students at Texas A&M were able to make Aggie jokes (and did). Blacks can use terms such as “nigger” when referring to each other. Poles can make Polish jokes. And so on. There is one exception to the rule: Everyone, and not just morons, gets to joke about morons.


I hate to admit it, but yesterday’s bike rally in Lancaster (south of Dallas) was my slowest ever, of 398. The temperature was in the mid-40s (degrees Fahrenheit) throughout, and the wind was brutal. The average wind speed for the day was 18.6 miles per hour. The maximum was 30. The wind-chill factor must have been in the low 30s. Brrr! I covered 19 miles during my first hour of riding, during which I was with friends, but averaged only 10.92 miles per hour thereafter, for an overall average speed of 13.67 miles per hour (for 40.2 miles). (My previous low, which was embarrassing enough, was 14.21 miles per hour.) I decided early on to ride 40 miles instead of 62. Had I done the longer course, as in years past, I would have had 10 additional miles of fun, but also 10 additional miles of suffering. As it is, I rode 20 miles into the wind. I saw “7” and “8” on my speedometer many times, and even “4.7” once, while climbing a hill. I can walk that fast! It felt like a wrestling match rather than a bike ride, except that the opponent was invisible.

As hard as it was, I kept my composure. All bad things must come to an end, I told myself. Just keep the pedals turning and eventually you’ll be done. You can drive home in your new car with the heater on, listening to Wang Chung’s The Warmer Side of Cool (fitting title!) on the CD player, stop at Taco Bell for the traditional post-ride repast of bean burritos (hold the cheese), and take a hot shower and a nap when you get home. It’s amazing how thoughts like this can make something intolerable seem tolerable, even enjoyable. I wasn’t the only person suffering yesterday. Many people took sag wagons back to town. Out on the course, people held on for dear life to the wheels of strangers. If you ride behind someone, you work significantly less (about 30%) than if you were breaking the wind yourself. I did a little wheel-sucking myself. I’m not proud.

The suffering did not prevent me from enjoying the natural beauty of the Texas countryside. The bluebonnets were gorgeous. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many. At one point, I saw an entire hillside covered in flowers. It was breathtaking. I saw many animals during the ride, including two trotting donkeys. It made me think of the Democrat Party, which shows you how politicized I am. I saw many dogs. One of them ran out at me. I think he (or she) would have bitten my leg if he could have. Luckily for me, I was going fast enough to get past him. I hope nobody else was bitten. At one point, I saw two dogs lying on the grass near a driveway, watching the bicyclists pass by. They looked like spectators at the Tour de France, enjoying the festivities.

It won’t be long before it heats up in these parts. I’m ready for it. I’m tired of wearing a Gore-Tex jacket and gloves during my rides. Come summer, however, I’ll be wishing it were 45° and windy. Why do we always want what we haven’t got?

Richard Swinburne on Fitness for Heaven

If you think that God walked on Earth, you are likely to have a different kind of reverence for him than if you think of him merely as a philosopher’s first principle; and also a different kind of reverence for men of whom God became one. A man’s character being a matter of how he behaves, such a man will have a different character from the Christian’s. Sincere practice of different religions (and even, to a small extent, sincere practice of different versions of a religion such as Christianity) produce different kinds of character. It follows that the sincere Muslim and Buddhist will be ill-fitted for life in the Christian Heaven; for they will not pursue naturally or want to pursue the occupations of the Christian Heaven.

(Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason [Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981], 150)


My maternal grandmother, Florence Mae Burgess (née Edgett), was born 100 years ago today, on 15 April 1907. She celebrated her 50th birthday just eight days after I was born, in 1957. Now, incredibly, I am 50 and she would be 100. Grandma died on 31 May 1992 at the age of 85. She had a long and, I believe, happy life. She married my grandfather, Harvey Burgess, when she was 15. He was 42. They had 10 children, five of whom, including my mother, are still alive. My life overlapped with Grandma’s for 35 years. I all but worshipped her. I visited her many times during my law-school years, when I was within an hour’s drive of her house. It was like going back in time. We talked about the past, about the things she had seen and done, about politics, farming, music, our extended family, and baseball. Like me, Grandma loved the Detroit Tigers. She enjoyed the 1968 team that won the World Series. When I asked which player was her favorite, she said “Stan,” referring to Mickey Stanley. There was nothing pretentious about Grandma. She worked hard, raised her family, and lived modestly. I like to think that some of her virtues—which were many—rubbed off on me. From 1983, when I moved to Tucson, until 1992, when Grandma died, we corresponded. I saved every letter, naturally. They are among my most cherished possessions. I miss you, Grandma.

Addendum: I dedicated one of my scholarly essays to Grandma. See the first footnote.


Does anyone out there have Microsoft Windows Vista? If so, I’d appreciate hearing about it. In what ways is it better than Windows XP? In what ways is it worse? I expect to buy a new desktop computer later in the year. I’m curious as to what features it will have.

A Year Ago


From Today’s New York Times

To the Editor:

Valerie Seiling Jacobs left me crying into my morning coffee.

In November, Americans registered strong opposition to the continued killing and maiming of our troops in the interests of a misguided Iraq strategy. In return, what we’re getting from our leaders is an adolescent game of “chicken” over the war spending bill, with the ever-smirking president in the role of playground bully.

This, while soldiers and their families are left to deal with the ruination of their lives. At the very least, President Bush should have the decency to swear off smirking until our troops come home.

Candice Sherman
New York, April 11, 2007

Note from KBJ: Bush Derangement Syndrome.

Safire on Language