10/28/2007

NFL in London

I'm really enjoying that as I type this, the Miami Dolphins are playing the New York Giants in London. There's a nasty, cold drizzle coming down, but the stands seem to be packed. I had a lunch meeting at 1:00 so I missed the first half, and the opening festivities.

Hey! They just had a streaker! There's a guy who does this at all the events.

So, anyway, for me, this is significant. As readers may or may not know, I'm first generation American, born to parents who moved from Liverpool in 1965. Being English-American barely counts as an ethnic category, but yet, I've always felt caught between two cultures. I'm a fan of both American and English football, and so this is a lot of fun, having this game on.

I could probably write out a lot of interesting comparisons, but for now, I'd like to see the Dolphins continue to get trounced. If they lose, they will be 0-8 and Outskirts guy will find some way to blame our fair city.

When I've been over to England, American football is always an object of ridicule. Sure, a few people actually like it, and I think Channel 5 still shows highlights way into the night, and there's a show that tries to explain the game to people who are absolutely confounded that a game called football has so little to do actually using the feet.

They supposedly sold this game out, but there are a lot of empty seats on display. I certainly would never choose to watch this game, except for the novelty of it being in England. I'll be there in less than a month, and I can't wait to be there to see my family. As I'm watching this at the moment, I can feel the cold and the damp, and the apathy, and the Englishness of it all. This upcoming trip, I'll be taking my son to London, and so, for the next hour or so, I'll feel close to him and feel close to the place where he's growing up.

The pitch is soaking wet. I can call it a pitch because this match is being played in England. I so often mix up my words, though I try to keep it in context. If I write to someone English, the extra u comes out fairly frequently.

I love that the camera keeps panning on Dolphins fans who took this trip with their team. The NFL wants to stage more of these regular season games outside the country. I'm a supporter of it, because I really do love American football. It's a great game, and frankly, it is more interesting to watch than soccer. I like soccer, but a lot of that is because of the flexibility of the leagues. If the structure of the English Premiership was suddenly transferred to the National Football League, the Dolphins would surely be headed to relegation to the second tier league. That would either give them the pressure to play better, or it would put them out of our misery, and their status as a second-class team would be affirmed.

People in the crowds seem to be enjoying themselves, though I'm sure no one understands the game. My cousin James, who supports Liverpool as well as Luton, doesn't get American football one little bit. I've tried to explain, but I've also tried to explain baseball, and it just doesn't work.

The field is nasty. The players, who are much heavier than soccer players, are tearing it up fast.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is now in the box, talking about the experience of being in England. I hope that they don't expect an instant success. I hope that they are patient with this. For them, it must suck, because the Dolphins are so poor. I can imagine this would be much more interesting if something was actually on the line .

As it is, I'm enjoying this.

Update: I hit send so I could concentrate on just watching, but I just realized that Goodell was wearing a poppy. This is significant, because every year around this time you start seeing poppies on everyone. 89 years after the end of World War I, the British (and the Canadians) still commemorate the event with poppies, and you see them everywhere in the days leading up to November 11, Remembrance Day in the UK, and Veterans Day here. I thought that was such a nice touch.

10/16/2007

Drawing your attention to the widgets

One reason I continue to keep this personal blog of mine in Blogger is because of the ease of placing widgets in the sidebar. I don't think they're terribly effective, but they're kind of neat.

Of course, you have to come to the site in order to actually see them. One concern I have with advertising on blogs is that the most loyal readers who read feeds throughout the day don't ever have the opportunity to see the ads. Ads in RSS feeds seem to be kind of discouraged, or at least, filtered out. I subscribe to about 200 feeds, and none appear to have ads.

So, no one sees the widgets on the side of the screen, and I don't know if they're effective. But they sure seem neat to me at times.

First, the top box is just a simple thing that reads the feed of the Charlottesville Podcasting Network. Nothing fancy, and it only seems to post the top item. I'm still looking for a good player to use, and would love to figure out a way to place this kind of a player on other people's sites. So far, there's resistance to this.

Next, the Google ads. Ubiquitous. Too easy to install. I'd prefer to sell local ads here somehow, cheap, like, dirt cheap, even free, to advertise things I'm interested in. I'd place others widgets here, for instance.

Below that, I've got the e-mail subscription through Feedburner. I've now got five subscribers (including me, admittedly) through that service, which sends out a daily e-mail digest of everything posted in that 24 hour period. I was using Feedblitz for this, but consolidated with Feedburner. CPN now has about 150 unique subscribers.

I'd encourage anyone who is interested in the site to sign up for this e-mail service. We really do post a lot of content each week. I've just put up five episodes of WINA's Charlottesville--Right Now on topics ranging from U.Va energy conservation to what the body experiences in a 24-hour period. Not to mention the usual government and politics stuff. It's hard to keep up with all of it, and e-mail is a good way to stay in touch with all that we're offering.

Below that, the headlines from the Charlottesville Tomorrow weblog. It's my day job, of course, and I write a lot of these articles. Below that, headlines from Charlottesville Tomorrow's news blog, which aggregates local media stories on the issues we're interested in - land use, transportation, community design.

And so on, and so on, with more headlines from other blogs, including cvilleblogs.com and my friend Jeffry Cudlin's DC art blog. And then links, etc. At one point, I had videos in there, but it got too cluttered.

Larry Sabato weekend

So, this past weekend was a Larry Sabato weekend for me. On Friday afternoon, I went to the U.Va bookstore to record the director of the U.Va Center for Politics talk about his new book "A More Perfect Constitution" for eventual podcast on the Charlottesville Podcasting Network, as well as for a special edition of WVTF's Evening Edition.

And then on Saturday, I recorded Mr. Sabato giving a slightly similar lecture as part of U.Va's More than the Score Lecture series. That recording also features Sabato's Crystal Ball. Go take a listen on the U.Va Minds website.

10/14/2007

The real Charlie Brown?

So, what kind of a man was Charles Schulz? I've heard his family is upset about a new biography by David Michaelis' new biography called "Schulz and Peanuts" and I've just read a review of it on Salon. The book paints a picture of Schulz as much more complex than the simple life his official biography. In other words, perfectly normal and just like the rest of us. The difference is, Schulz produced one of the most recognizable works of the 20th century. But, I never knew he got divorced, and I didn't know he wasn't particularly close to his four children. He was known to respond to reporters' questions about his kids by telling tales of Charlie Brown.

I think I'd like to read the book. Fantagraphics has been printing a deluxe hardcover reprint series. When I was a kid, I used to devour reprint books, and at one point knew intricate details about the character. Peanuts is what first drew me to serial strips, and I'm still hooked as an adult. I just read Marvels by Kurt Busiek and Alex Ross, and it was superb. I actually had a conversation today with someone about Love and Rockets, an experience that is fairly rare for me.

But, it shouldn't be. Everyone reads comics, on some level. Yet, I don't talk to anyone about it, or there aren't that many people here. I don't even really know where to buy good alternative comics, except online. There's a whole back catalog I have to go through.

10/03/2007

An update on the incident at this weekend

In advance of the Hook posting an article on the topic in tomorrow's issue, I wanted to say my piece.

I've been in touch with the police department through Captain Bibb. He phoned me first on Monday, but didn't have as much information then, as he hadn't spoken with the officers in question, had not gotten their report. On the first call, he did tell me that it was a report of a suspicious person in the area, and he said the officer was a seasoned veteran.

On the second call, he had more information. He said the officers were responding to a call made by the elderly woman who lives in a house behind my street. Somebody had been knocking on the door, and she was frightened. When the officers arrived, they heard loud shots coming from the vicinity of my house. That's because we live underneath a stand of oak trees, and when the acorns come down, they're as loud as gun shots. I'll post an mp3 of this later on tonight. They came to my back door, and seeing the open screen door, they suspected there was a crime in progress.

Captain Bibb told me he didn't think the actions were unreasonable given the clues the officer put together. But he did say he thought the matter could be handled in a more safe manner. For instance, he suggested that the officer should have posted one of the officers to cover the back door while someone went to the front door to let us know what was going on. Captain Bibb also said that the officer would be counseled so as to avoid this kind of a situation in the future.

How do I feel about all of this? Here's what I wrote to Dave McNair of the Hook:

Well, I feel satisfied that the incident may help provide for better public
safety. I can put myself in the shoes of the officer, who put several clues
together and made an assessment that something bad was happening in my
house. Our house sits underneath a stand of tall oak trees. When the acorns
fall, they hit the roof with a very loud thud. That coupled with an open
screen door and a report of a suspicious person in the area led him to do
what he did, which was to investigate what he thought was a crime in
progress.

Now, was it handled properly? My opinion is that it was a bit excessive. I'm
still pretty sure I saw a gun pointed at me when I opened the door, and
Captain Bibb told me that they had handguns, but rifles. I'm pretty sure it
was aimed at me.

But, I feel confident that the officer will learn from the incident, and can
use this as a way to improve the way he does his job. A more appropriate
response would have been to post an officer at the back door while another
came to the front door, and I'd like to think that this incident will help
the police do their job better.

As I said, there's a lot more thoughts that I have about this, but I'm not
at a point right now where I can write out a lot more. I bet you if it
wasn't the month before the election, I'd be a lot more shaken up!



Am I being too generous, as Dave wrote on the Hook's blog this week? Possibly. I don't know. This is one of the busiest weeks of the year for me, with me co-moderating two candidates forums for Charlottesville Tomorrow. I'm kind of filled with the adrenaline of that.

But, I do hope this continues a conversation about public safety, and what it means to be safe. What can we do to make our homes safer, without going overboard. Many people have asked if I want an apology, and, I don't know what that would really mean. I don't know what that would do.

In any case, I'm still thinking about the incident, and I still feel safe in my community. I blame the acorns.