Category Archives: Sports and Leisure


I heard a story the other day that kind of set my head spinning. Terrell Owens, who is apparently a mildly annoying football star, was playing against the Dallas Cowboys on their home turf a some time ago. After a touchdown, he took the ball and ran out to the center of the field to attempt a celebratory spiking on the huge star. One of the Cowboys, incensed by this lack of respect, tackled him.

Now having seen the footage, the hit was far less violent than I had been led to believe by the storyteller. Wearing that much protection, it was little more than rough-housing. Still, the tackler had to be pulled away from Owens, presumably because he wanted to inflict some more damage.

Apart from the idiocy of getting that worked up about a game, I was struck by the sheer number of levels of symbolism and misplaced understanding at work here, mostly from the fans who were booing Owens.

When discussing this with someone more sport-savvy than me (i.e. someone other than me) I was told, in effect, “That’s something you just don’t do.” The subtext was that violence was a valid response to spiking a ball in the center of the Dallas Cowboys Stadium field. And, trying to wrap my brain around that got me thinking about symbolism.

So, when Owens spikes the ball on the Dallas Star, his action symbolizes disrespect. (It also symbolizes jubilation, but that’s irrelevant to the Cowboys fans.) But, technically, at this level, it is only disrespect to the Star itself.

At the second level, the Star represents the Cowboys. A team of however-many football players, and the attendant staff. But really (and this is where things get a little muddy) the symbolism also extends to the entire history of the Dallas Cowboys, back through the mists of the last half of the Twentieth Century.

But why would the fans care? Because the Dallas Cowboys function as a symbol of Dallas, and to a lesser extent, all of Texas. (A case could be made that they symbolize the entire USA, what with the talk of them being, “America’s Team”. But that’s not going to sit well with fans of… well, any other NFL team.)

Still, why would the fans care if Owens disrespects a graphical symbol of a team which is a symbol of a city? Because they see the city as a symbol for themselves. “I am a Texan, therefore disrespecting that Star means you’re disrepecting me!”

So, my question is, how is it reasonable to have such a deep emotional reaction, to the point where violence is not only indicated but desired, when the only thing happening is a symbolic gesture (spiking) against a three-times-removed symbol of a person: Star->Team->City->Me? This is a remarkable example of a large group of people each confusing the symbol with that being symbolized. If someone wants to spike a ball into your head, yeah, I’ll condone the use of violence to stop that action. If someone spikes a ball into a star that’s a stand in for a team that’s a stand in for a city that’s a stand in for you…? Not so much.

What’s more amazing is how often this kind of thing shows up. How much better would the world be if people stopped confusing symbols with that which is symbolized? No more fights about burning a flag. Also, no more flag burning. No more calls for the killing of cartoonists who dare draw an unflattering depiction of Muhammad. No more cross burning. No more outrage at cross burning. No more Twitter explosions when a young man of questionable musical talent steps on a picture of a Native American that’s been plastered onto a high traffic parcel of floor.

I wondered, then, if I am simply being a hypocrite. I don’t care about football, so there’s zero chance I would care about symbolic gestures that disrespect a football team. On the other hand, what do I care about?

I care about movies. But if someone writes a bad review of a film I really like, I don’t feel compelled to punch them. I feel compelled to argue with them. I feel compelled to respond in kind. If someone were to stage a public burning of posters of the Lord of the Rings films, I would not vow to bring them to justice. I would actually find it funny.

In a less trivial example, I care about my country. I could not care less if someone burns a flag. I suppose I might care if that’s an indication that they want to do something actually damaging. But fire-roasted colored cloth does little to move me.

The 9/11 attacks were a great example of something which was both a symbolic and a real attack on the US. The symbolic attack is irrelevant, at least when it comes to the use of force. The actual attack is what’s important. The actual attack started a war, and got lots of people (including the guy who ordered the attack) killed. That’s rough justice, but in the arena of global terrorism, that’s really the only justice to be had. The symbolic attack required a symbolic response. We’re building an even taller building on the site. We’ve created a memorial. These are absolutely the right responses to the symbolic attack on our nation and its institutions.

Hopefully, if the 9/11 plot had been to toilet paper the World Trade Center, America would not have expected the government to hunt anyone down to kill them.

I just wish humanity could pull themselves out of this sort of caveman thinking that pictures can have as much meaning as people.


Lloyd Weber To Make A New “Phantom”

Sequels, especially to classics, are tricky things.  Hopefully this won’t be a terrible, horrible mistake:

Andrew Lloyd Weber has announced a sequel to his massively successful "Phantom of the Opera" that will be set at Coney Island.

Weber’s new production, "Love Never Dies," is due to open in London in March of next year.

Smith & Wesson 642 .38 Special

09-0919 028I had a chance to fire this Smith & Wesson 642 Airweight Centennial revolver yesterday, and holy cow, what a little monster it is.  

I have fired revolvers before, including the longer-barreled Smith & Wesson I blogged about here a couple of years ago.  Shooting the 642 was a different… and I must say not entirely agreeable… experience. 

First of all, I couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn with this thing.  I completely missed a standard bulls-eye target at 7 yards with my first 5 rounds, and hit only twice on my second five.  Now, I’m not likely to win a shooting competition any time soon, but I’m not usually that bad.  For comparison, I switched to my XD after shooting the 642, and put five rounds in an inch-and-a-half circle from the the same distance.  I have read elsewhere that the 642 is highly accurate, so I’ll write it off to user error.  I can see some serious practice being required to shoot well with this gun.

Being a much lighter gun than the XD (with an unloaded weight of around 15 oz, it weighs about half as much) it makes sense that perceived recoil of the 642 should be higher—and indeed it was.  The double-action trigger pull was also much heavier than the XD’s striker action, or even the DA/SA trigger on my Bersa Thunder 380, and in tightening my grip to overcome the greater tension, the recoil was transferred more forcefully into my arm.  It was a little uncomfortable.

I’ve read favorable review of the 642 elsewhere (here for example) which speak to its virtues of small size, simplicity, and value, and I can certainly appreciate the perspective.  I don’t think it’s really my cup of tea, however.

David’s Links for 2008-07-20

Springfield Champion

Springfield Champion I found myself near one of the better shooting ranges in town last week minus a shooting iron, and wanting to stop in and try something new, I rented a pistol chambered for 45 ACP, specifically the Springfield Champion you see here.

I’d never held a 45, let alone fired one, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I was, however, expecting that bigger rounds would make for a bigger bang.  (.45 ACP rounds are roughly 11.5 mm in diameter, about 25 percent larger than 9 mm rounds.)  So I was a bit surprised at how little difference the larger caliber seemed to make to the shooting experience.  I was expecting more report or recoil, and didn’t really notice any.  Maybe my experience would be different if I compared back to back.

In any case, the Champion seemed nice enough, but the feed spring in the magazine they gave me may have been getting old and tired, because I had terrible feed problems every time I tried to load a full magazine.  I would slide in seven rounds, tap the magazine, load it, release the slide… and the first round would jam half way into the chamber. It never happened with six or fewer rounds, so after some experimentation, I just loaded fewer rounds, and the problem went away.

I Don’t Think My Cats Can Do This…

…though I’ll admit I haven’t seen them try.


Spider-Cat Does whatever a spider can!

Pool Room

This is clever, until somebody not in on the joke tries to dive in…

Gym Power

What a clever idea:  Hong Kong Gym Uses Exercises to Generate Electricity

I’m thinking you could make this fairly cost-effective, since as the article suggests, a generator is pretty basic technology, and is really just a motor running in reverse.  That means that many of the parts required are already present in some types of exercise gear, like treadmills and exercise bikes.  I can see it having some qualitative impact on the customer experience, depending on how you set things up–for example, I’ve always preferred powered treadmills to the kind you have to drive yourself, for example.  But that might be a surmountable obstacle, and I’ll bet you could add generators to some gear, like weight lifting equipment, with little if any effect on the experience.  Resistance previously provided by the weights would be provided by the generator, instead.

I wonder how much power could have been recaptured by now if all gyms did something like this?  I doubt it would be much relative to world power demand, but it might well be enough to run the lights at the gyms.

Ambiguous Adjectives, Anyone?

Headline:  Italy Passes Anti-Soccer Violence Law  Hey, I’m as opposed to soccer as anyone, but I think passing a Violence Law to suppress it seems a little much.

David’s Springfield XD9

Springfield Armory XD9

I finally decided that my interest in recreational shooting is more than a passing fad, and bought myself a pistol.  After doing some research on my options, and having fired a few of them, I picked up the Springfield Armory XD 9mm Tactical Service you see to the right.

The XD shares many features with the Glock 19 I rented.  Both are polymer-framed, striker-fired compact 9mm pistols with roughly 4” barrels.  Both hail from Europe—the Glock from Austria, the XD from Croatia.  Like the Glock, the XD has a trigger safety and an internal safety to prevent accidental discharge if the gun is dropped, but no conventional manual safety.  Unlike the Glock, however—and this is part of what attracted me to the XD—the latter has an additional safety feature, a grip safety similar to that on the Colt 1911, which you can see in the picture at the top rear of the grip.  Unless this is depressed, both the trigger and the slide are locked.  Unlike a manual safety, which requires that you consciously think to release it, the grip safety disengages effortlessly when you hold the gun in a normal shooting grip.

I find the XD’s three dot sights ever so slightly less visible than the bright white dovetail sights on the Glock, but they are still very clear.  Like the Glock, this is a gun I find engenders confidence.  I took my folks out to the range to try it a couple of weeks ago (Mom’s first time shooting) and they like it too.  Between us, we’ve put about 800 rounds through it at this point, and it has performed flawlessly.  I am well pleased.

Oh, and despite being quite a bit less expensive than the Glock, the XD came with a nice accessory package, including a two magazines, a holster, a mag carrier, a cleaning brush, a lock, and a magazine loader.  The last item was particularly welcome, as several weekends of loading semi-autos at the range had left my fingers very sore.