Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Photo Sudoku

If you're as addicted to Sudoku as I am, you'll like this. Instead of playing with numbers, you can play with photos. If you have a Flickr account, you can play with your own photos by entering your username in the appropriate place at the bottom of the gameboard. You can also play with different kinds of photos by entering different tags or clearing the tag space completely. If you don't have a Flickr account, you can play with the photos provided or go to Flickr and find a user who has some pictures you like.

Monday, May 29, 2006


Other than the memorializing and the long weekend, Memorial Day weekend means auto racing. Yesterday was a full day of it. The Indy 500 in the early afternoon, the World 600 later in the day.

Yesterday was one of those rare occasions where the Indy 500 was the more exciting race. There were several lead changes at the end of the race. For a couple of laps it looked like Michael Andretti was going to end his winless streak at the Brickyard. That would have been special -- Michael Andretti holds the record for leading the most laps at the Indy 500 without a race win. Then Andretti's son Marco, an Indy rookie, blew by him. Then Sam Hornish tucked in behind Marco, shot around him as the finish line approached, and nipped him at the line by about a car length.

The World 600 was a little bit of a letdown for me. My favorite driver, Tony Stewart, crashed early, cracked his shoulder blade and was down for the count. Kasey Kahne took the lead with 29 laps to go and won by a fairly large margin. His win ends a 29-year Dodge drought at Lowe's Motor Speedway and is also the first Dodge win anywhere this year.

A couple of racing stories have caught my eye recently...

I'm sick and tired of articles like this one: "Is Danica in Danger of Being Anna-ized?" It's comparing Danica Patrick to Anna Kournikova, the tennis player who was much better at being beautiful and famous than she ever was at tennis. Yes, Danica is still winless in IRL racing, but remember that it took a racing legend like Al Unser Jr. three years to crack the winner's circle. Danica has finished in the top ten in her first two Indy 500s. This year she got into trouble with her pit stops. She got out of sequence and twice she pitted under green only to see caution flags come out a little later. She probably wouldn't have won, but she would have finished better than eighth if her luck had been a little better. If she goes five or six years without a win, let the Kournikova comparisons come then.

An article in the Christian Science Monitor, "Stock Cars Get an Overhaul," introduces us to NASCAR's latest innovation, the "Car of Tomorrow." The goal is to make a safer car and to make the races more competitive. Many of the races have turned into just long parades of cars. Get out of line and you lose your place in the draft and start falling back. Improved aerodynamics have also negated the slingshot effect seen at the end of Sunday's Indy 500. NASCAR would like to see a return to more side-by-side racing. They think the Car of Tomorrow is the answer...
"This is probably the biggest thing we've done in the competition area in 20 years," says NASCAR Chairman Brian France. "We're anxious to get this done and get it done correctly."

In short, the new race car, developed by NASCAR's research-and-development arm, includes a number of safety innovations (the driver's seat moves four inches closer to the center of the car; protective cages are taller and wider) and offers a possible solution to the endless engineering and body types that turn tracks into no-passing zones. By employing a more upright windshield and a thicker, boxlike front bumper designed to create drag, the new car should ensure that no lead is safe.

"Competition is going to get better," says Humpy Wheeler, a longtime racing promoter and president of Speedway Motorsports Inc., a publicly held operator of NASCAR tracks.

"Purists don't like it, but purists only buy 20 percent of your tickets," he says. "I need the other 80 percent, too. And they want to see cars passing each other on the track. This new car will give us that."
(photo: David Crigger/AP)

Ten Things

I was tagged by Carly for a meme that's making the rounds: 10 Things That Make Me Say, "Life Is Good." I'm a glass half-full sorta guy; it doesn't take a whole lot to make me happy. But here's a few off the top of my head...

1. Let's start with the very obvious -- spending time with family and friends, the people that I can always count on to stick by me through thick and thin. And yes, this includes the online friends that I've known for years, but never met face-to-face.

2. Writing something special. Occasionally, I'll write something, then sorta take a step back and think "Wow. Where did that come from." It doesn't happen very often, but it feels good when it does.

3. Getting positive comments in my blog. It feels really good to know that someone has taken the time to read something I've written and then taken the time to tell me what they think about it.

4. A really good book.

5. A really good movie.

6. Time alone. Especially having the peace and quiet to enjoy and contemplate #4 or #5. Or maybe a long walk to lay the groundwork for #2.

7. The Internet. It's a whole new world, and I'm not sure how I got along without it for so many years.

8. A really good cup of coffee first thing in the morning.

9. Amusement parks. For the kid in me. I especially love the roller coasters.

10. Digital photography. Taking as many pictures as the memory card will hold, editing out the best ones and sharing them online with others.

Well, that's ten. I could probably come up with many, many more, but those are the first ones that came to mind. Now, I'm supposed to pass the meme along by tagging five more people, but I'm not going to do that. I think most of the people I would like to tag have already done this little exercise. If you haven't and would like to play along, consider this an open invitation. Just leave a link to your entry in the comments.

Memorial Day Photos

As a sort of Memorial Day tribute, here are a few photos taken recently at the Chickamauga National Military Park. The first is of the monument erected by the state of Florida to honor its citizens who took part in the battle.

A monument located on Battleline Road.

This is an interesting monument. It's located in the woods along a trail that runs along the western perimeter of the park. It marks the approximate location of where Lieutenant George Landrum of the 2nd Ohio Regiment was killed and was erected by his family.

Pyramids of cannonballs mark the spot where officers fell. Colonel Edward King died near the Kelly family's cabin.

 Posted by Picasa

Jackson and Dickinson

Most people probably won't care about this, but I thought it was pretty interesting...

Tennessee State Archaeologist Nick Fielder is using ground-penetrating radar on a quiet dead-end street in Nashville in an attempt to discover the final resting place of Charles Dickinson, the man Andrew Jackson, our nation's seventh president, killed in a duel in 1806. Last Tuesday, Fielder found a likely spot: 216 Carden Ave., surgeon Daniel Jurusz's front yard.
"The first day here one of the neighbors came over and said 'You know, you have a body in your front yard,' and then told us the story," Daniel Jurusz said.
The Jackson-Dickinson feud started over a horserace. Jackson's horse Truxton was set to race Ploughboy, owned by Colonel Joseph Ervin, Dickinson's father-in-law. At the last minute, Ervin pulled his horse from the race. There were disagreements over the forfeiture fee. The feud escalated. Thomas Swann, an enemy of Jackson's, fanned the flames. Apparently, the final straw was some unflattering remarks Dickinson made about Jackson's wife. Rachel Jackson had been married previously to Lewis Robards. There was some dispute about whether Rachel was legally divorced from Robards before marrying Jackson, and this was the subject of much gossip and innuendo.

Since dueling was illegal in Tennessee, Jackson and Dickinson traveled across the state line into Kentucky to conduct the formal exchange of gunfire. Dickinson was an expert marksman; Jackson was not. Rather than try to outdraw Dickinson, Jackson decided to let Dickinson take the first shot, then take deliberate aim. Jackson's slight frame probably saved his life. He was six foot tall and never weighed over 145 pounds. Marquis James explains in The Life of Andrew Jackson...
A fleck of dust rose from Jackson's coat and his left hand clutched his chest. For an instant he thought himself dying, but, fighting for self-command, slowly he raised his pistol.
Dickinson recoiled a step horror-stricken. "My God! Have I missed him?"
Overton [Jackson's second] presented his pistol. "Back to the mark, sir!"
Dickinson folded his arms. Jackson's spare frame straightened. He aimed... and fired. Dickinson swayed to the ground... [and later died].
[Jackson, too, was wounded, to the point where his left boot had filled with blood.]
Jackson's surgeon found that Dickinson's aim had been perfectly true, but he had judged the position of Jackson's heart by the set of his coat, and Jackson wore his coats loosely on account of the excessive slenderness of his figure.
Dickinson's shot broke two of Jackson's ribs and lodged too close to his heart for removal. He carried the bullet in him for the remainder of his life. Jackson's shot hit Dickinson in the stomach; he bled to death within 14 hours. Although Jackson's conduct was acceptable according to the "rules of engagement," many of his detractors insisted that it was cold-blooded murder.

Some contend that Dickinson's body was returned to Maryland, the state of his ancestory, by a faithful slave, but others say that he was buried at Ervin's estate on the outskirts of Nashville. The Nashville claim seems to be more reasonable...
The spot has been well documented in Nashville over the years. It appears on an official 1876 Davidson County property map and was referenced in several deeds as the tract changed hands and became a residential lot.

Fletch Coke, a historic preservation leader in Nashville who has tracked evidence of the grave for seven years and urged Fielder to conduct Tuesday's search, doubts the Maryland claim. So does Marsha Mullin, chief curator for The Hermitage, Jackson's Davidson County home that is now a popular historic site.

"Considering it took 30 days then to make a trip like that, he would not have traveled well, I think," Mullin said.
In 1967, the Ervin mansion was demolished and subdivisions sprang up on the land.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ohio Soldier

This photo was taken at the Ohio Reservation on Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga in February of 2005 during an icestorm. This is one of four statues on a big Ohio monument. Posted by Hello

Photo Puzzle

If you're feeling a little bored this Memorial Day weekend - nothing to do, some time to kill - head over to and try your hand at my photo puzzle. It's just a simple 20-piece puzzle. You can make it as difficult as you wish by clicking on "Change Cut." Have fun.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Weekend Assignment: Travel Books

The weekend is not here yet, but the Weekend Assignment is already in at By the Way...

Weekend Assignment #113: Someone you know is traveling. Suggest a book or two for them to read on their trip. If at all possible, pick a book from the last couple of years. Also, keep in mind that it's meant to be a recreational book; i.e., they're not really reading to change their life, here, just to have fun.

If you're doing any serious traveling, especially involving airports and airplanes, it's essential to have a book with you to pass the time during lengthy delays and to forestall getting into conversations about aluminum siding with one of your fellow travelers. But the key is to pick something that's not too deep or dark. You're looking for the junk food equivalent of books. But they should be fun and interesting.

I'd go with anything by Miami Herald columnist Carl Hiaasen. His novels are like Elmore Leonard's, but funnier. His latest book, Skinny Dip, was recently released in paperback (another travel essential.) You can't go wrong with any of his books, but my favorites are Tourist Season, Lucky You and Strip Tease. He even manages to make professional bass fishing entertaining in Double Whammy.

Along the same lines, there's another Miami Herald columnist who's written a couple of good novels that are fit for travel: Dave Barry. Big Trouble and Tricky Business are hilarious.

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Photo Round Robin: Reflections

It's been a while since I participated in a Photo Round Robin. I hope no one minds if I just jump right in. The theme this time around is "Reflections." I couldn't resist the opportunity to show off one of my favorite photos. Click the photo to see full-sized.

This is a photo of the Regions Bank Building in downtown Chattanooga, Tennessee. The building reflected in the glass is the historic Read House Hotel.

If you'd like to play along, you can find all the rules and guidelines at the Photo Round Robin blog. Carly and Karen, co-founders of the Photo Round Robin Challenge, always have good up-to-date lists of the latest round of participants. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 22, 2006

Barry and the Babe

On Saturday, Giants leftfielder Barry Bonds hit his 714th career home run, moving him into a second place tie with the immortal Babe Ruth on the all-time list. Bonds is now 41 homers behind the all-time leader, Hank Aaron.

A funny thing happened to Barry Bonds. He played his first seven years in Pittsburgh, never hitting more than 34 home runs in a single season. About the time he signed with San Francisco, he entered his prime and became one of the most feared hitters in baseball. Since moving to the left coast, Bonds has failed to reach 34 homers in a season only twice. In 1995 he hit 33, and last year, an injury-plagued season in which he appeared in only 14 games, he managed only five. But along the way, Bonds transformed from a trim, lithe player into a muscle-bound behemoth. The whispering started. Whenever anyone speculated about which baseball players might be using steroids, Bond's name was always high on the list. The powers that be in baseball couldn't have cared less. No, that's not right -- they were happy about it. Nothing in baseball gets the average fan more excited than the long ball, and suddenly there were these gargantuan players hitting bushels of them. In 1998, Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa treated fans to the greatest home run race of all time. Both would surpass Roger Maris's single season record -- McGuire finished with 70 homers, Sosa with 66. Baseball officials were giddy about the increased attendance and the renewed interest in the game. Then, in 2001, Bonds took it one step further and surpassed McGuire's record by clouting 73 homers.

Now, caught up in the BALCO scandal, all of Bonds's career achievements are viewed through a cloud, a steroid taint. A poll on asks, "If Albert Pujols hits 62 home runs this season, who would you consider the single-season record holder?" Your choices are Pujols, Bonds, McGuire and Roger Maris. At the time I cast my vote, Pujols was polling ahead of Bonds 45% - 40%. Similar polls (with similar results) have sprung up everywhere. Some people think that Bonds's records should be marked with an asterisk, a la Roger Maris. The baseball powers that be now seem sheepishly embarrassed that Bonds has reached such lofty heights. No official ceremonies were planned to commemorate the passing of the Babe; the whole escapade has largely been greeted with an air of indifference.

In this country there is a presumption of innocence. Bonds, thus far, has never failed one of baseball's drug tests and hasn't been convicted of any crime. Granted, it has only been in the last year or so, with some serious prodding from Congress, that baseball has implemented anything resembling rigorous testing. Granted as well, the circumstantial evidence against Bonds is pretty overwhelming. Grand jury testimony that has seeped out from the BALCO case makes it almost a sure thing that Bonds was juiced. The few public statements he has made on the subject reek of an "I didn't know and I didn't want to know" mentality - a setup for some plausible deniability. There was some cream, there may have been some pills, it might have been linseed oil, my trainer gave them to me, et cetera ad nauseum.

Assuming Bonds did take steroids, it's impossible to say how much they might have helped him. They didn't sharpen his eyesight or enhance his hand-eye coordination. They didn't help him make contact with the ball, something he did better than almost anyone for quite a long time. What they did do was give him that little bit of extra oomph, that extra little bit of power and bat speed that turned a warning-track-out into a round-tripper. Would he be passing the Babe now without the steroids? No. But how many homers would he have? At ESPN's Page Two, Patrick Hruby puts the total at around 616. That sounds just about right. A fine career total for the one of the greatest players of his generation, but not quite challenging the immortals, the Babe and Hammering Hank.

In addition to the steroid taint, Bonds comes off as a complete jerk. Almost every current and former teammate of Bonds's describes him as a great, fun-loving guy. Maybe he is. But he has yet to find a way to translate his private persona into a public persona that people can relate to. The public Bonds, a moody, whiny jerk, is all the public ever sees of him. Personally, I could cut him a break on this. If I had reporters dogging me 24/7, delving into all aspects of my private life, the public would probably not see me at my best either. Bonds's latest whine-fest is "Bonds on Bonds" on ESPN. Here, in a documentary-type setting, he bitches and moans about how hard it truly is to be Barry Bonds. Yet, one of the very first vignettes on the show was Bonds showing up at Family Court to discuss alimony and custody of his children. He rounded the last corner before the hearing room and there were 20 or 30 reporters waiting to document this private moment for posterity. Maybe it is hard to be Barry Bonds.

Another online poll, this one for AOL asked, "Who is the better slugger?" The choices were Bonds or the Babe. The Babe was outpolling Bonds by about 4-to-1. Well yeah. The Babe is a legend. He revolutionized the game, revitalizing it after the Black Sox scandal, transforming it from a deadball base-to-base game into a game of longball. Oldtimers like Ty Cobb were nonplussed, but the public loved it. Attendance and revenue reached all-time highs. He set records that still stand and others that took a generation or more to be surpassed. But it's difficult at best to compare players of different eras. The Babe played a segregated game with no blacks, Latinos, Japanese, etc. players allowed. The Babe never had to play night games, never had to fly to the opposite coast on extended road trips, never had reporters exposing any of his dirty little secrets for public consumption, never had to face the relief specialists of the modern era, never had to face the higher level of competition inherent in today's more modern game.

This will probably be Bonds's last hurrah. Unless he finds his groove soon, he won't pass Hank Aaron this year. Or next. He's aging rapidly as sluggers are apt to do. His knees are shot. He can't reach and drive the pitches that he could just a couple of years ago. His only real chance is to sign with an American League team and spend the rest of his playing days as a designated hitter. So maybe we should take this time to give Bonds his due. We don't have to show him the love, but we should probably show him a little respect. He's put together a Hall of Fame career. He's won seven MVP titles and should have won a couple more. He's put together some career numbers that, even adjusting for the steroids, are mighty impressive. Love him or hate him, for almost two decades he's been one of the greatest players to play the game.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Civil War Timeline: 1862

January 11 - Edwin Stanton replaces Simon Cameron as secretary of the War Department.

January 27 - Lincoln issues General War Order Number 1, calling for an immediate Union offensive. McClellan ignores the order.

January 30 - The Union ironclad ship Monitor is launched.

February 6 - General Ulysses S. Grant captures Fort Henry on the Tennessee River.

February 16 - Grant captures Fort Donelson on the Cumberland River. His call for "an unconditional and immediate surrender" give his initials new meaning.

February 25 - Nashville, Tennessee, becomes the first Confederate state capital to fall to Union troops.

March 7-8 - The Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern, Arkansas) - A dug-in force of 10,250 Union soldiers repel 16,000 Confederates.

March 9 - The first battle ever between two ironclad ships, the Union Monitor and the Confederate Virginia (formerly the Merrimack) takes place off Hampton Roads, Virginia. The battle is inconclusive, but the Virginia is scuttled to prevent her capture.

April 4 - The Union Army of the Potomac begins the Peninsular Campaign.

April 6-7 - The Battle of Shiloh (or Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee) - Confederate forces under General Albert Sidney Johnston attack Grant's army. The Union forces are nearly defeated, but reinforcements arrive and drive off the Confederates. Over 20,000 men on both sides are killed or wounded, more than the total American casualties in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, and the Mexican War combined. General Johnston is one of the casualties, killed by a bullet that cuts his femoral artery.

April 10-11 - Union General Quincy A. Gillmore batters Fort Pulaski, which guards entry to the Savannah River, into submission.

April 16 - Jefferson Davis signs the Confederate Conscription Act, the first military draft in American history.

April 25 - New Orleans, Louisiana, surrenders to Union Flag Officer David Farragut. He pushes north on the Mississippi River, capturing Natchez, Mississippi, on May 12.

May 4-14 - McClellan's army takes Yorktown, Williamburg, and the White House in Virginia. He halts twenty miles from Richmond to await reinforcements.

May 25 - The Battle of Winchester (Virginia) - Stonewall Jackson's 16,000 Confederate troops defeat Union General Nathaniel Banks's 8000 men, forcing them to withdraw toward Harper's Ferry.

May 31-June 1 - The Battle of Fair Oaks (Seven Pines, Virginia) - Confederate forces attack Union troops and nearly defeat them, but reinforcements arrive at the last minute and prevent the victory from bing complete. Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the Confederate army, is severely wounded and is replaced by General Robert E. Lee.

June 6 - Memphis, Tennessee, falls to Union forces.

June 25-July 2 - The Seven Days' Battles (Virginia) - In a week, Union and Confederate forces fight a series of savage battles -- June 26-27, Mechanicsville; June 27, Gaines Mill; June 29, Savage's Station; June 30, Frayser's Farm; and July 1, Malvern Hill -- that drives the Union army back, ending the Peninsular Campaign. The two sides suffer 36,000 casualties.

July 11 - Annoyed by McClellan's failure in Virginia and his plodding pace, Lincoln relieves him as general-in-chief, replacing him with Major General Henry Halleck. General John Pope is named commander of all the armies north and west of Virginia. McClellan is given command of a single army, the Army of the Potomac.

August 9 - The Battle of Cedar Mountain (Virginia) - Jackson's Confederate forces defeat Union troops.

August 30 - The Second Battle of Bull Run (Second Manassas, Virginia) - Confederate Generals Lee, Jackson and James Longstreet defeat General John Pope's Union army, forcing them all the way back to Washington. Pope is sacked and sent to Minnesota to quell an Indian uprising. McClellan is reinstated.

September 15 - Stonewall Jackson captures Harper's Ferry, Virginia, along with thousands of Union prisoners and a great quantity of supplies. Despite his proximity to Harper's Ferry, McClellan does not move quickly enough to prevent its capture.

September 17 - The Battle of Antietam (Sharpsburg, Maryland) - Lee takes the offensive, driving into Maryland, but a copy of his orders falls into Union hands, allowing McClellan to anticipate his moves. This is the single bloodiest day of the war with casualties exceeding 10,000 on both sides. Lee retreats back into Virginia, but McClellan fails to pursue.

September 22 - After the Union victory at Antietam, Lincoln has the victory he feels he needs to issue the Emancipation Proclamation. It is published in Northern newspapers the following day. The Proclamation doesn't free a single slave, but changes the character and course of the war. It ends any chance of European recognition of the Confederacy, and makes the war considerably less popular in the North. The decline in enlistments forces passage of the Conscription Act in March 1863.

October 8 - The Battle of Perryville (Kentucky) - Union General Don Carlos Buell's army defeats Confederate General Braxton Bragg's forces, ending Bragg's Kentucky invasion. Confederate casualties number 16,000 vs. about 4000 Union casualties, but Lincoln relieves Buell for allowing the Confederate army to escape back into Tennessee.

November 7 - Lincoln relieves McClellan, replacing him with General Ambrose Burnside. McClellan returns to New Jersey and doesn't command again, but runs against Lincoln in 1864.

December 13 - The Battle of Fredericksburg (Virginia) - Union General Ambrose Burnside's forces are defeated in a series of attacks against entrenched Confederate forces. Union casualties are more than double Confederate casualties.

December 31-January 2, 1863 - The Battle of Stones River (Murfreesboro, Tennessee) - This sporadic, bloody battle fought for control of Tennessee results in more than 20,000 casualties. After three days of fighting, Confederate General Braxton Bragg inexplicably withdraws, leaving Murfreesboro in control of Union forces under General William S. Rosecrans.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Civil War Timeline: 1860 - 1861

My blogging habit got completely out of hand for a while. I was trying to maintain several blogs, too many even in the best of times when I always had Internet access at my disposal. I have already deleted my sports blog. No one was reading it and almost everything in it was outdated. My next goal is to delete my Civil War / history blog. My goal is to end up with the two sotto voce blogs (one here and its mirror at AOL), my photo blog (which I haven't updated in quite some time), and political writing contributions to the Blue Voice.

Before deleting my Civil War blog, I am going to move almost everything in it here. I'm not going to do it all at once, so don't tune out if the Civil War is not your bag. I started that blog in November of 2004 with a general timeline of the war...

Kenneth C. Davis's book, Don't Know Much About History, is a nifty little U. S. history book, very readable and fairly comprehensive. Chapter 4, Apocalypse Then - to Civil War and Reconstruction, contains a brief timeline of events of the war. His timeline contains a couple of noticeable errors and skims over a whole lot of details, but is a very good way to learn what happened when. I have attempted to minimize the errors and omissions by cross-referencing his timeline with another in Everyday Life in the Civil War by Michael J. Varhola.

Here is a listing of events for 186o and 1861:

November 6, 1860 - Abraham Lincoln is elected president of the United States.

December 20, 1860 - South Carolina's legislature, perceiving a threat to the state's autonomy from Lincoln's election, votes to secede from the Union.

January 9, 1861 - Mississippi secedes.

January 10 - Florida secedes.

January 11 - Alabama secedes.

January 19 - Georgia secedes.

January 26 - Louisiana secedes.

February 1 - Texas secedes.

February 4 - Delegates from the seven seceded states convene in Montgomery, Alabama and begin to draft a constitution for the Confederate States of America. The new constitution is based on the United States Constitution, but places greater emphasis on the autonomy of each state and protection of slavery.

February 8 - The seceded states form the Confederate States of America.

February 9 - Pending elections, the delegates select Jefferson Davis as provisional president of the Confederacy.

February 18 - Davis is inaugurated president of the Confederacy.

February - United States President James Buchanan refuses to surrender Federal forts in the south to the seceding states. Confederate troops respond by seizing them. At Fort Sumter, South Carolina, Southern troops repulse a supply ship trying to reach Union forces stationed in the fort.

March 4 - Lincoln is inaugurated president of the United States.

March 6 - Jefferson Davis, with the authorization of the C. S. Congress, calls for 100,000 one-year volunteers for the Confederate military.

April - Lincoln informs South Carolina that he intends to send supplies to Fort Sumter. South Carolina demands the immediate surrender of the fort.

April 12 - South Carolina militia under Gen. Pierre G. T. Beauregard bombard Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor. The fort commander surrenders. The only fatality occurs during the surrender ceremony when a cannon explodes.

April 15 - Lincoln declares a state of "insurrection," and calls for 75,000 men for three month's service.

April 17 - Virginia secedes.

April 19 - Crowds in Baltimore stone troops marching to reinforce Washington, killing four soldiers and 20 civilians. Lincoln orders a blockade of southern ports. Lincoln asks Robert E. Lee to take field command of Union forces.

April 20 - Lee resigns his U. S. army commission and assumes a commission in the Confederate army.

May 6 - Arkansas secedes. The Confederacy recognizes a state of war with the United States.

May - Forces under General George B. McClellan drive rebel forces out of western Virginia, bringing this antisecessionist section under Union control.

May 13 - British Queen Victoria announces Great Britian's neutrality. The Confederacy is given "belligerent status," meaning British merchants can trade with Confederate states.

May 20 - North Carolina secedes.

May 24 - Union troops move into Alexandria, Virginia. Elmer Ellsworth becomes the first combat casualty of the war, shot while removing a Confederate flag from a hotel roof. Both he and the hotel keeper who shot him, James T. Jackson, become martyrs to their sides.

June 8 - Tennessee votes to secede, the eleventh and final state to do so.

July 2 - Lincoln authorizes suspension of the constitutional right of habeas corpus.

July 21 - The First Battle of Bull Run (or First Manassas) -- Confederate armies under Beauregard and Gen Joseph E. Johnston rout the Union troops. This is where General Thomas J. Jackson becomes known as 'Stonewall.'

August 5 - Congress passes the first income tax law to pay for the war. Enlistment periods are increased from three months to two years.

August 10 - Union forces are defeated at Wilson's Creek, Missouri. General Fremont withdraws surrendering much of the state. To reverse his losses, he declares martial law and announces that the slaves of secessionists are free. Lincoln requests that he withdraw the order. When he refuses, Lincoln removes him from command.

October 21 - The Battle of Ball's Bluff (Virginia), another rout of Union forces.

November 1 - Lincoln forces General Winfield Scott to retire. General George B. McClellan becomes the new general-in-chief.

November 7 - A naval bombardment by warships under Union Captain Samuel F. Dupont drives defenders from Forts Walker and Beauregard in South Carolina, allowing General Thomas W. Sherman to occupy Port Royal, Beaufort and all the Sea Islands of South Carolina.

November 8 - The Trent Affair - The USS San Jacinto stops the British ship Trent in international waters and seizes two Confederate commissioners, J. M. Mason and John Slidell. The two are transported to Boston and imprisoned. Britian reacts strongly, and Lincoln and Secretary of State William H. Seward disavow the action and release the commissioners.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The Fall TV Schedule

Some great television last night. Lost is winding down toward a two-hour season finale next week with the primary story of Michael leading a group of four into a trap in order to get his son back from The Others. But Sayeed is onto him. And in the final scene last night, the castaways spotted a boat approaching the beach. Invasion ended with a bang that normally would be a great cliffhanger to get you tuned into the next season, but that bang might turn out to be bittersweet. Invasion has been cancelled by ABC; if the show is not picked up by some other network (Anybody? The CW? SciFi? Please!) last night's finale is going to be very unsatisfying. There's still a long way to go to get to a conclusion to the story. Hopefully, if no one picks up the series, ABC might be persuaded to air a two-hour movie that wraps the whole thing up.

By the way, did anyone notice the commercial for the Hanso Corporation toward the end of Lost? This is a part of the Lost Experience, the elaborate alternative-reality game that has been set up to explore the show's backstory during its summer hiatus.

Well, since Invasion is not going to be back on ABC, I decided to take a look around and see what is and isn't going to be on next fall.

ABC is also cancelling Commander in Chief, The Evidence, Hope and Faith, Freddie, In Justice, Less Than Perfect, Miracle Workers, Sons and Daughters and Rodney. Good riddance to most of these. Commander in Chief was a good show, sort of a poor man's West Wing. Less Than Perfect was a pretty harmless little diversion. Sons and Daughters was amusing and quirky, but not really my cup of tea.

CBS has cancelled Courting Alex, Out of Practice, Love Monkey, Threshold, Still Standing and Yes, Dear. Threshold was an alien invasion show similar to Invasion, but was easier to get into and understand. It was more episodic. There are some amusing sitcoms on the list here, but nothing that will be really missed.

NBC is doing away with The E-Ring, Conviction, Four Kings, Heist, Joey, Surface, Teachers, West Wing, and Will and Grace. There's nothing here I'll really miss except West Wing. Surface seemed like an interesting show from the previews, but I never sat down and watched it to see what it was all about. Will and Grace had a big following for a long time, but I never cared for it much.

Fox has cancelled Arrested Development (again), Bernie Mac, Stacked, and That 70's Show. The critics loved Arrested Development; I never understood the appeal. Of these, I'll miss That 70's Show the most, but it's outlasted its premise. It's time to let it go.

The new network on the block is CW. It's a merger of the old UPN and WB networks. Merging two networks into one means a lot of cancellations. Gone are The Bedford Diaries, Charmed, Blue Collar TV, Everwood, Eve, Get This Party Started, Half and Half, Living with Fran, Modern Men, One on One, Pepper Dennis, Related, Survival of the Richest, Twins, and What I Like About You. I've never even heard of most of these shows. Blue Collar TV is fairly amusing, but it's an acquired taste.
It was rumored that CW was going to pick up Invasion, but it's nowhere to be found on the fall schedule.

TV Guide has descriptions of all the new shows. It's really hard to judge how good a show is going to be by reading a brief synopsis, but some sound really interesting. The Nine will be taking over Invasion's post-Lost time slot. "Nine people are caught in a bank robbery gone wrong and endure a 52-hour hostage standoff that will leave more than one person dead. When all is said and done, these people will never be the same. They will share the common bond of what happens inside the bank and will be forever affected and intertwined because of it. Starring: Chi McBride, Tim Daly, Kim Raver, Scott Wolf." Hmmm. Doesn't really sound all that interesting, but I'll watch it a time or two to see what it's like. I'm most interesting in seeing if Jericho, Heroes, and Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip are worth watching. The latter show is Aaron Sorkin's (West Wing) return to television.

What cancelled television shows will you miss the most? Which new shows are you looking forward to?

Need for Speed: Most Wanted -- Tips, Tricks, Suggestions

In a previous post, I talked about my addiction to the Need for Speed: Most Wanted video game. It's not a new game so there are a lot of FAQ and cheat pages out there to help you get through it, but I thought I'd put in my two cents, my personal observations for playing the game well. This post is not meant for anyone except a Need for Speed: Most Wanted player; anyone else probably won't get much out of it. It's my hope that at some point a NFS:MW player will stumble upon this and get something out of it that helps him/her win the game.

The two cardinal rules to winning at Need for Speed: Most Wanted are:

1. NEVER, NEVER, NEVER hit anything. This piece of advice applies to any racing game. If you hit things, you slow down. Hitting the wall, hitting oncoming traffic, hitting an obstacle can mean the difference between first and last place in a race. Maybe I shouldn't say "NEVER, NEVER, NEVER because there are rare exceptions to this rule, but it's pretty ironclad. Brushing the wall while cornering is better than hitting it more head on. Getting through the corner clean is better than brushing the wall. Take advantage of the Speedbreaker button to get through the sharper turns.

2. Learn the map. You don't need to know all the streets and what their names are, but you should have a good idea of how to get from one place to another. In NFS:MW, you especially need to know where all the pursuit breakers are and how to use them. At the end of the game, in the final pursuit, you have to know how to get from Ocean Hills, the southernmost part of the city, to the final exit, north of Rosewood, without access to the big map. (More on this later.)

A major suggestion: Turn off the Game Moment Camera. While it may be fun to run into the giant tire and see it fall on the pursuing cops, your car is still moving. It is much better to be able to see where your car is actually going.

When you start your career as a street racer, you are new to the metropolis of Rockport. You are driving a BMW M3, challenging all comers to become the best street racer you can be. You begin with three races that you must win before you can advance. Just don't hit too many obstacles and you shouldn't have any problem. When cops appear in some of these races just treat them like any other racer. Don't let them slow you down too much. Wait for a clear opportunity to pass them. The fourth race is against a punk named Razor who is fifteenth on the Blacklist, a ranking of the best Rockport street racers. Razor's gang has sabotaged your car so you can't win this race. Your car will conk out on you before the finish line. You lose the race and your pinkslip to Razor and get busted. When the game continues you discover that Razor has taken your BMW and advanced to become Number One on the Blacklist. The object of the game is to move up the Blacklist and supplant Razor as the most wanted street racer.

You start the game with $30,000 - $10,000 for each of the three races at the beginning. If you have a Need for Speed: Underground 2 game saved on your memory card, you will receive an extra $10,000 to begin your career. The first step is buy a car. You have three choices: a Lexus IS 300, a Chevy Cobalt, and a Fiat Punto. If you have the Underground 2 bonus money, you can also buy a Volkswagen Golf.

Cars are pretty subjective things. What works for one person might not work for another. I've read game FAQs where they swear by the Cobalt, but I think it's the worst of the starter cars. It rides too high to suit me. I can never get it to handle the way I want. I prefer tight cars that hug the ground. If you've got the bonus money, go for the Golf. If not, buy the Punto. I've defeated most of the Blacklist opponents with both cars. The Punto might give you some problems at the beginning, but a few performance upgrades make a big difference. The Lexus is a great starter car. It'll serve you well until the latter stages of the game. By then, you should have a whole fleet of cars to choose from. Again, this is all subjective. You might love the Cobalt.

There are three races that you must win before you can challenge the first Blacklist opponent, Sonny. I recommend alternating between the races and the shops, spending your race winnings on upgrades to your car. Run the races as many times as you need to in order to get your car fixed up. Concentrate on performance parts.

Types of Races:

Circuit: Usually two to four laps around the same course.
Sprint: A race from point A to point B.
Lap Knockout: A circuit race. On each lap the driver that is in last place is eliminated.
Tollbooth: There are a series of tollbooths on the course. You have to make it to the next tollbooth in the allotted time.
Speedtrap: There are a series of speedtraps on the course. The goal is to register the top total speed through the traps. Save your nitrous until you have a clear path to the trap, then blast through it. You don't have to cross the finish line first, but you lose speed for every second back you finish. The timing of your nitrous is critical. If you hit it early be sure you don't hit anything to slow yourself down before the trap.
Drag: A drag race. Your car will automatically follow the curves of the track. You use your steering to change lanes to avoid obstacles - mainly other vehicles. Timing of your shifts and nitrous is critical. I prefer to use my nitrous in short bursts to get to the next gear quickly.

When you first start putting parts on your cars, go to Performance Tuning and get your cars running the way you like them. The Performance Tuning is much better in NFS: Underground 2, but you can make a few adjustments here that will make a big difference. Steering and handling depends on the car and the driver, but I usually have the steering at +1 and the handling at +2. Experiment with these settings until the car suits you. Turn the brakes up a notch or two. Lowering the ride height and increasing the aerodynamics makes the car hug the road better. I like -4 or -5 and +4 or +5 respectively. Turning the nitrous down makes it burn longer, turning it up makes a more intense burn. I like to turn it up to +3 or +4. For hard photo ticket milestones, I'll turn it all the way up. Turn the Turbo up a few notches.

After you beat a Blacklist racer, you can choose two markers from him/her. There are three wild card markers. Choose two of the three wild cards. You can win the pinkslip to the racer's car, extra impound strikes, extra cash, or get out of jail free markers. You need these more than the unique upgrades offered. Occasionally, you might want to get the Unique Performance Upgrade for that special car you like the most. Before too long, you should have a fleet of cars at your disposal that you've won from the other racers.

I'm not a big fan of buying more cars outright or selling cars. If you really, really, really need the money and must sell, you will only get half of the stock price of the car. To get a little more money, first go to the shop and trade the body parts in for stock parts.

As you advance in the game, keep two or three cars as maxxed out as you can get them with whatever parts are unlocked at the time. Keep a couple of other cars almost maxxed out. You don't need to keep all the parts on all the cars, but you should always have a couple of cars in reserve in case you get into heat or impound strike trouble with your key cars.

The Blacklist racers and their rides:

15. Sonny - Volkswagen Golf
14. Taz - Lexus IS 300
13. Vic - Toyota Supra
12. Izzy - Mazda RX-8
11. Big Lou - Mitsubishi Eclipse
10. Baron - Porsche Cayman
9. Earl - Mitsubishi Lancer EVO
8. Jewels - Ford Mustang
7. Kaze - Mercedes SL 500
6. Ming - Lamborghini Gallardo
5. Webster - Chevy Corvette
4. JV - Dodge Viper
3. Ronnie - Aston Martin DB9
2. Bull - Mercedes SLR McLaren
1. Razor - BMW M3

I'm a big fan of the Volkswagen, the Mazda, the Porsche, and the Lamborghini. Keep these cars maxxed out and you can beat anyone with them. The Lexus, Lancer, Mercedes, and Viper make good secondary cars, useful if you run into heat and impound strike trouble with your primary cars. Get them up to the Pro and Super Pro levels and they make great pursuit cars. Results may vary. You might have better luck with a different set of cars depending on your personal preferences.

One note about the cars: the cars you win from the Blacklist racers will often have parts on them that are still locked. Ming's Gallardo, Webster's Corvette, and JV's Viper already have the ultimate engine and turbo. Those parts are still locked until you beat Ronnie (#3). These cars need very little, just a nitrous upgrade, to make them ultimate everything. Win one of these cars and you're well on your way toward beating the game. I love the Gallardo; it's great for races and pursuits. The Viper is great for pursuits, okay for races. I'm not a fan of the Corvette. I can't get it to handle the way I want it to. Again, results may vary. Also, if you get deep into the game and have a lot of money burning a hole in your pocket, save it. After you beat Ronnie, the ultimate turbo and ultimate engine upgrades are a mind-boggling $175,000 per car. But by this point you should have at least one of the upgraded cars (the Gallardo, Corvette or Viper) and should only need to upgrade one or two other cars to finish up the game.

Some people like to have cars for races, cars for pursuits, and backup cars. Often the best racers make the best pursuit cars so I use my top cars for races and pursuits. If the heat gets too high or you get too many impound strikes, park it and drive another car (an advantage to having two or three cars maxed out.) The heat will go down while it's off the road and the impound strikes will go away as you win races and beat pursuits in another car. If the race does not have cops on it, you can race a car with high heat or impound strikes with no ill effects. Just return to the Safe House or advance to the next race promptly so that you don't inadvertantly get into a pursuit.

I've been talking a lot about pursuits so let me explain what that's all about. In addition to winning races, you also have to hit milestones and amass bounty in order to challenge the Blacklist racers. There are several types of milestones, most involve getting into pursuits with the cops.


Photo Ticket: The only non-pursuit milestone. Go through traffic cameras above the required speed.
Trade Paint: Tag a certain number of police cars. Only one tag per unique police car.
Cost of State: A dollar total of the property damage amassed during a pursuit.
Time Limits: Have a pursuit lasting at least a set amount of time, or alternately, end a pursuit before a set amount of time is up.
Roadblock and Spike Strip Challenges: Drive through a set number of roadblocks and/or spike strips.
Infractions: Commit a set number of violations in view of the cops.


Ramming a Police Vehicle - Just tag one.
Hit and Run - Tag a civilian car.
Damage to Property - Hit just about anything along the road.
Driving off Roadway - Self-explanatory. Just drive off the roadway. Cutting a corner in the grass will get you this one.
Speeding, Excessive Speeding, Reckless Driving - Hard to get them. Get on the highway with the cops behind you and speed. Go too fast and you'll skip the speeding and get excessive speeding or you may lose the cops. Reckless Driving is almost impossible to get. You have to go over 200 mph without losing the cops. Easier to get at higher heat levels when the cops are faster.
Resisting Arrest - Awarded when you evade a pursuit and enter cooldown mode.

Bounty: A measure of your street rep with the other Blacklist drivers. Your bounty increases the longer you stay in a pursuit. It increases faster at higher heat levels. You also get a combo cost of state/bounty increase for disabling police cars.

Achieving any milestone adds a bonus to your total career bounty. A certain level of career bounty is needed to take on Blacklist racers. Each racer takes a different amount of races, milestones and bounty. Clear as mud, right?

You have to get three race wins, three of four milestones and 20,000 total bounty in order to race Sonny (#15). His milestones are a photo ticket, trading paint with two police cars, completing a pursuit after two minutes and completing a pursuit before four minutes have elapsed. The bounty bonuses for completing the milestones add up to 19,000. The bounty achieved during the pursuit(s) will put you over the top. It's quite easy to achieve all three pursuit milestones in one pursuit. Just tag two cops while you're waiting for two minutes to elapse, then evade the pursuit before four minutes.

It gets progressively harder. In order to challenge Earl (#9), you have to win five of his eight races, and achieve four of his seven milestones - three photo tickets and tag twelve cops, dodge six roadblocks, end a pursuit in less than three minutes or get 30,000 bounty in a single pursuit. You must also amass 790,000 career bounty. Bull (#2) takes eight of twelve race wins, five of seven milestones and 7,550,000 career bounty. His milestones include three photo tickets, cost to state of $200,000, a pursuit lasting over nine minutes, dodging twelve roadblocks and dodging eight spike strips. Razor (#1) takes winning nine of eleven races, five of seven milestones and 10,000,000 total bounty. His milestones are three photo tickets, tag 35 police cars, 850,000 bounty in a single pursuit, evade a pursuit in less than two minutes, and a pursuit lasting more than thirteen minutes. Whew!

You can do as little or as much as you like to advance in the game, as long as you do the minimum. I like to do all of the races at least once. I'll run extra races if I need the money. You can also go for 100% game completion and try to do it all.

I like to go for the pursuit milestones out of races with cops. This usually gets pursuits started quicker than just going to the Bounty screen and starting a pursuit at one of the locations. When going for Photo Ticket milestones, trying coming at it from another direction if you have trouble getting it from where they start you out. For example, one of Kaze's Photo Tickets starts you out on the Rockport Freeway. You begin on one side of the stadium. The Photo Ticket camera is on the other side of the stadium. The path they've got you on takes you through the stadium pillars. It's easier to back up a little and go around the other side of the stadium.

The pursuits gradually increase:

Heat level 1 - Marked city cops chase you. These cars are pretty slow and fragile. They're easy to lose and easy to disable. Just ram them a few times or run them into something.
Heat level 2 - Unmarked city cops. Still pretty slow and fragile. The police will begin setting up roadblocks to try to slow you down. When you approach a roadblock, hit your Speedbreaker button and size up the roadblock. Look for gaps between the cars and the walls, aim for sawhorses (the weakest part of the roadblocks) or aim for the rear half of the cars.
Heat level 3 - Marked state cops. Rhinos make their first appearance at this level. These are SUVs that appear out of nowhere, coming straight at you. They're trying to ram you head-on and pin you or slow you down. When you see them coming try to hit your Speedbreaker and dodge them. The police are also getting a little tougher and feistier. Use your Pursuit Breakers to thin them out.
Heat level 4 - Unmarked state cops. You know you're at level 4 when the helicopters make their first appearance. Thin out the ground cops with a Pursuit Breaker or two and wait for the helicopter to run out of gas and leave. Alternately, if you don't have any ground cops on you, you can use long tunnels to lose the copter. Also in level 4, the cops begin laying down spike strips. Watch for roadblocks on your map. When you approach them, hit your Speedbreaker. Don't automatically shoot for the gaps. That's usually where the spike strips are. Aim for the sawhorses and the rear of vehicles. Sometimes the cops get tricky and lay the spike strip in front of the vehicles.
Heat level 5 - Federal cops. Here the cops pull out all the stops. The Feds are driving ultra-fast, extra durable Corvettes that can keep up with any car you've got. The helicopters come out more often and join in the chase, buzzing you to slow you down. The Rhinos are tougher and stick with the pursuit longer. Plus the spike strips and roadblocks. Your only hope is to keep moving and nail those Pursuit Breakers.

At the beginning of the game, the heat level will slowly advance through the first level and stop at the beginning of level two. Later it will stop at level 3. It's only toward the end of the game, after you've beaten JV (#4), that you'll see level 5. Use this knowledge to your advantage. Check out the rankings in the Rap Sheet. Try to get the top spot before the real trouble begins. Get into extra pursuits to make your way up the rankings. Reach the top spot in all the categories and you unlock some extra bonus cars.

During the chase, a pursuit bar will appear on the bottom of the screen. There's a meter to tell you how close you are to being caught or getting away. When it starts turning red, get away. Don't let it get too green before you've reached your milestones. Above the meter are three numbers. The number on the left is the number of police cars you've traded paint with, the number in the center is the number of cops in the chase, the number on the right is the number of police cars you've disabled. Keep an eye on the center number. The police come at you in waves. Waves of five at level 1, waves of ten at level 2, waves of fifteen at level 3, waves of twenty at level 4, and waves of twenty-five at level 5. Not all of the cops are chasing you. Some are setting up roadblocks and some trying to get in front of you and cut you off. When you've got a fresh wave on you, start ducking and weaving. Don't stay on the same road for too long and allow them to converge on you. If you get too many on you, thin them out with the Pursuit Breakers. When you get the pursuit down to one or two cars, the backup meter will come on. You have two minutes until a fresh wave gets there. If you get out of the sight of the cops chasing you and enter cooldown, the backup meter will reset to two minutes when the police reacquire you.

Different pursuit milestones require different tactics. Getting a Cost of State, a Trade Paint or a Time Limit milestone requires getting a car with no heat and getting as much done as you can before the heat gets too high. Bounty increases much faster at high heat levels so you might want to get into a pursuit in a car with a little heat on it when chasing a bounty milestone. Roadblocks don't appear until level 2 and spike strips don't appear until level 4 so take that into consideration when going for these milestones. For a Cost of State milestone, you want to hit everything that you can when you can. When you start out and when you get the waves thinned out, hit oncoming cars, small trees, signs, lightposts, etc., etc., etc. Bounty only goes up by time and disabling police cars so try to avoid hitting the objects in your path in a bounty pursuit. For Trade Paint milestones, when you don't have many cops on you, go back and forth through the roadblocks and try to trade paint with all the cars there. Be careful though. If you get too greedy you might get busted.

Almost all game cheat pages list the bus station glitch. Enter the bus station with a bunch of cops after you. There are two ramps. The one on the left leads to a row of buses. The one on the right leads to a little ledge. Go up either ramp and go to end of the buses or to the end of ledge and sit there. The cops will still be able to see you, but usually won't be able to figure out how to get to you. They'll drive around and knock each other out, then finally give it up and leave. If a cop does figure it out, knock him off or go off and go back around. If you go up one of the ramps and turn at the top toward the other ramp, you'll probably lose any pursuing cops.

Hinkley Field, the baseball park, is another great place to end a pursuit, especially going from the college toward the freeway. Cut through the ballpark, drop the signs at each end on the pursuing cops and hide in the cooldown zone on the other side.

Above all, practice makes perfect with the pursuits. Practice getting into and out of pursuits at higher and higher levels. Try the Challenge Series events for more pursuit practice. Listen to what they're saying on the radio. Watch your map.

So you've finally made it to the end of the game. You've beaten Razor in his final race which ends on the boardwalk in Ocean Hills. What's next? Throughout the game, a chick named Mia has been helping you. Now you find out she's a cop. She beats up Razor and hands you the keys to the BMW. Suddenly cops appear from everywhere. Mia yells, "GO!" and you're off. Oh my God! You're in a LEVEL SIX PURSUIT! Sgt. Cross, the baddest of the bad Federales has called everyone in to take you down. Don't panic. Your ultimate goal is to make it from Ocean Hills, at the southernmost part of the map, to the old bridge, at the very north. It's on the Rosewood Freeway next to Hinkley Field. Until now it's been a cut-out in the road with some mounds of dirt and some road paving equipment. But don't head there right away. Five minutes into the final pursuit, Mia will call you and tell you about the old bridge. The road won't be open until she calls. Duck, weave, dodge, evade around the Ocean Hills area until you've hit almost all of the Pursuit Breakers and thinned the pursuit down to a more manageable level. Wait until two or three minutes have gone by, then start heading toward Rosewood. This requires you learning the routes while working your way through the game. The best route is to take the long tunnel out of Ocean Hills. Take a right immediately after exiting the tunnel. This puts you on a straight line route toward the drive-in. Drop the screen on any cops that follow you in and keep heading north toward the mall. You can try to drop the front of the mall on your pursuers, but don't dawdle and give the cops a chance to block the roads. Take the freeway or the bus station road into Rosewood. Hit the Pursuit Breakers there and keep heading north. As you head down the old bridge, don't hit the walls or any cops around you. Keep your speed up. Hit your nitrous at the jump and you'll be the Most Wanted. The final pursuit may take you several tries. It's you against the world. The slightest mistake at the wrong time will get you busted, and you have a few disadvantages here: you can't call up the world map, the BMW doesn't handle very well, and you can't adjust it or change cars. Not to mention the thirty cops chasing you in a car that doesn't bust through roadblocks well.

Some suggestions for Most Wanted 2:

Let's go back to Hot Pursuit 2 and have a rearview mirror for all driver views. In Underground 2 and Most Wanted you only get a rearview mirror in bumper or hood views.

I'd also like to see a return of the little triangles at the bottom of the screen in HP2 that told you about cars right behind you.

Bring back HP2's leaderboard that showed you who you were racing and what kind of cars they were driving. Give the player the option of showing the leaderboard in time or distance ahead or behind. And for God's sake, put the leaderboard on the same side of the screen as the mini-map so you can see them both in one glance.

Do away with the Look Behind button that shows you the view behind you while the car is still moving forward. Return HP2's Look Around button that pauses your car and rotates a camera around, showing everything around you.

That's about it. Let's go racing!

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Delong Reservation

This is a follow-up to the Monday Photo Shoot. Here's a view looking into Delong Reservation, which marks the spot where the 2nd Minnesota reached the summit of Missionary Ridge. Just on the other side of the monument are two barely visible cannons marking the location of the Confederate battery (Water's Alabama Battery) that was defending the ridge. Posted by Picasa

Monday, May 15, 2006

Monday Photo Shoot: Bottoms Up

Over at By the Way, today's photo assignment calls for a change of perspective:

Put your camera on the ground to shoot a picture of something you don't usually see from the bottom up.

Posted by Picasa

This picture is of the 2nd Minnesota Infantry Regiment monument at Delong Reservation atop Missionary Ridge in Chattanooga, Tn. During the Battle of Missionary Ridge, Federal troops stormed up the steep ridge and drove away the Confederate defenders on top. The victory gave the Union control of Chattanooga, which became a staging point for Sherman's Atlanta Campaign. The 2nd Minnesota was among the first regiments to reach the ridge's summit.

Update: For a more normal view of the monument, see entry above.

Windows Live Local: Supermax

Since I enjoy fooling around with Google Maps so much, I thought I'd try an entry from time to time linking to their cool satellite images. Not anything as elaborate and as well thought out as the Google Sightseeing site, but maybe something every now and then that is timely. Google Maps also has a new competitor called Windows Live Local. Whichever has the better image of what I'm trying to show you is the one I'll give you.

No high resolution shots of the area on Google, so this is Windows Live Local. This is Zacharias Moussaoui's new permanent address, Supermax, a.k.a. ADX Florence or "the Alcatraz of the Rockies." This facility is located on the outskirts of the tiny town of Florence, Colorado, and actually holds a Guinness World Record for Most Secure Prison. Moussaoui will be surrounded by some of America's most notorious inmates, including Ted Kaczynski, Terry Nichols, Omar Abdel-Rahmen, Ramzi Yousef, Richard Reid, Matthew Hale, Robert Hanssen, David Lane, and Anthony "Gaspipe" Casso. Supermax was also where Timothy McVeigh spent his last days on Earth.

More info on Supermax can be found here.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

The Lost Experience

It seems like I find the really good television shows just a little late and have to spend a bit of time trying to catch up with what's going on. Case in point: "Lost." When it first premiered, I didn't think it would be that interesting and ignored it. Then, intrigued by all the media hype, I tuned in and was hooked. I came in about the time the gang found the hatch and it has turned into "Must See TV" for me. I also HAVE to hang around to see what's going on on "Invasion" too. (I did catch "Invasion" from the very first episode though.)

"Lost" and "Invasion" are two peas in the same pod to me. They both suffer from the same drawback. They are maddenly plotted to draw everything out to the nth degree. "Lost's" second season is rapidly winding down, but the gang has only been on the island a couple of months. I'm not sure how much time has gone by on "Invasion," but it's not nearly as long as real time. But even with this excruciating pace, both shows are amazing examples of great storytelling. And every time I think I've finally figured out where either show is heading, here comes a nasty curveball or slider that makes me rethink the whole thing.

I was very intrigued by an article in today's Washington Post, "With 'Lost Experience,' ABC Moves Beyond the Island." According to the article...
The network has set up a complex system of Web sites for phony organizations, launched an international treasure hunt, commissioned a novel by an unidentified author and taken out ads for bogus issues in real newspapers -- including this one -- in a conspiracy to extend the show's fictional world into the real one.

Hoping to keep "Lost" viewers hooked during the summer rerun doldrums, ABC has created an "alternate-reality game" of a scope heretofore unseen in television marketing. "The Lost Experience" is designed to create a parallel world of fresh content outside the show and plant hints via the Internet that the network hopes will lead viewers right up to the September launch of the show's third season.
The article provides a good starting point for the ARG, the website of the fictional Hanso Foundation. After you've roamed around the site for a while, you can get clues as to what it's all about at the ABC "Lost" blog, "Inside the Experience." Many different websites are springing up to explore the clues and theories of the game. "The Lost Experience" seems to be a good place to be to toss theories around with other players. If you think the game sounds interesting but you've never seen the show - in other words, if you're totally lost (pun intended) - you can get caught up at the show's official site or at its encyclopedia - a Wikipedia-type thingy appropriately called the Lostpedia. The Lostpedia also has a page devoted to the Lost Experience that has many, many more links to help you on your quest, including a few more links that are part of the game.

The whole things sounds pretty fun and interesting, but I'm not going to get involved. It sounds like it's going to involve way much more than a normal person would devote to a TV show. It all sounds a little too hardcore Trekkie to me. I'll let the hardcore fans do all the heavy lifting, but check in from time to time to see how it's all progressing, especially as we get closer to fall and the start of Season Three.

Update: Invasion is being cancelled. It's not on ABC's fall schedule. There are some rumors floating around the Net that it might appear on the new CBS/WB channel CW. I hope so. ABC was disappointed in the ratings but it was their own damned fault. They interrupted the show's flow very early with three or four weeks of special events, then interrupted it again to put Conviction in that post-Lost time slot for several weeks. I think they lost a lot of viewers that never picked the story back up again. Sigh. Commander in Chief has been cancelled as well.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Seeing Pink

This Sunday, while you're watching your favorite Major League Baseball team at the park or on the telly, you might see something quite Major League Baseball is honoring mom on Mothers' Day and raising some money for the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation with a whole lotta pink. Fifty or so players will be swinging pink bats. Some will even have mom's name burned onto the Louisville Slugger label. There will be pink breast cancer awareness ribbons and logos on the players uniforms, the bases, and home plate. There'll be pink wristbands and pink lineup cards. After Sunday's games, the bats and bases will be autographed, collected, and auctioned off for the charity.

It seems that the whole idea originated with Hillerich and Bradsby. One of their subsidiaries, TPS Hockey furnished the NHL with pink hockey sticks back in March. They passed the idea along to H&B's most famous subsidiary, Louisville Slugger. Major League Baseball loved the idea and quickly approved the pink bats for use in Sunday's games; black, brown, reddish-brown and white are the only approved bat colors normally. Louisville Slugger had the lion's share of obstacles to overcome...

The bats posed something of a logistical problem for Louisville Slugger. Each player uses a different model and size, so coloring, branding and shipping them for Sunday's game has been a challenge, company spokesman Dan Burgess said.

The whole thing sounds like a great idea. Only one thing troubles me. Baseball players are a superstitious lot and there will be someone somewhere who'll go 4-for-4 with a bunch of RBIs. They'll want to use those pink bats for the rest of the year. Well, maybe that's not that big of a problem after all.