If you like trivia, check out my other site, THE HARRIS CHALLENGE, and play every weekday!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Final Table #35: At The WSOPE

This week on my poker radio show, The Final Table, Dennis Phillips checked in from London, where he played in the World Series Of Poker Europe and is about to begin the EPT London events. Both he and Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan, who is playing in cash games there, talked about how aggressive the European players are in both tournament and ring games, and how they have adjusted their strategies to deal with some wild play at the tables. I also talked with Dan Cypra, who has been covering the legal battles surrounding poker in courtrooms and Congress for PokerNewsDaily.com.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Combo Animation

In the courtyard of a rundown building, magical things happen via stop-action animation by Blu and David Ellis...

[thanks to Alan Light for the link]

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Moneyback Guarantee

Scott Reames e-mailed the link to this story with the note, "a policy like this could bankrupt the Rams."

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Final Table #34: Joe Cada, Tiffany & Maria

Tonight on my poker radio show, the Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked with:
  • Joe Cada, another member of this year's November Nine, who will play the final table of the World Series Of Poker Main Event in about seven weeks;
  • Maria Ho and Tiffany Michele, who were the last women standing in the 2007 and 2008 Main Event, respectively, and have now teamed up for the new season of "The Amazing Race," which debuts this Sunday on CBS-TV;
  • Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan, on how to handle those times when you're just running bad.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Shove That Soprano Sax

For every rocker who has had to put up with a boss who loves smooth jazz at the office...

[thanks to Jenna B for the link]

Friday, September 18, 2009

Money Talks

An appeals court in Washington today overturned rules that limited campaign finance spending, this time in the case of non-profits like Emily's List. There has been a lot of talk about this recently, with the Supreme Court on the cusp of ruling that corporations and unions may spend as much as they like to support political candidates.

The claim by all of these judges is that free speech is protected by the First Amendment, and that Congress has no constitutional right to restrict money spent on that speech. In their opinion, money equals speech.

This is patently ridiculous. In a free society, money should play no role whatsoever in your right to express yourself, and the donation of that money (or in-kind services, etc.) is not the same as you stepping forward to share your opinion with the world. Money makes it easier for your voice to be heard, because it allows you to buy air time and print space and web access, but it should not be confused with speech itself.

Moreover, confusing money with speech only adds to the class problems at the root of so much that continues to plague America. The courts are saying that the wealthier you are (as an individual or an entity), the more right you have to free speech, an idea that goes against everything this country should stand for. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once defended the free speech rights of the "poor and puny anonymities," arguing that those at the lowest levels need the most protection, not those at the top.

Money should not preclude your right to speak your mind, but when spent in such a pervasive manner as to overwhelmingly control debate of serious issues, increasing the power of those whose agendas get the special access that comes with that spending, permitting lobbyists to write our nation's laws, and flooding the marketplace to influence the electorate, there must be reasonable boundaries in place.

After all, we have plenty of limits on free speech in this country. We have restrictions on the words I can say on the radio, the claims you can make about someone else, the things you can shout in a crowded theater, etc.

You don't have the right to say anything you want anywhere you want. If you think you do, try walking into your boss' office and calling him an a**hole next week. Then hand him ten bucks and tell him he can't fire you because it was political speech, and thus protected by the courts.

Wonder Of Wonders

Matt Lauer is doing his portion of "The Today Show" from the new Cowboys Stadium, which he just referred to as The Eighth Wonder Of The World.

I thought the Houston Astrodome got that title in 1965. At some point, so did King Kong. So did the Grand Canyon. So did the Great Wall of China. So did the Panama Canal. So did Andre The Giant.

I'm pretty sure I once had a corned beef sandwich at a deli in New York that was billed as the Eighth Wonder Of The World. To my knowledge, it's the only Wonder that needed extra mustard.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Not So Grand

I stayed at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas eight or nine years ago and didn't like it. The place was too big, too crowded, and not nearly as customer-oriented as it should have been. When I left, I planned on never returning as a guest.

Unfortunately, I was back there this weekend for an event located in their conference center, so it made sense to stay in their hotel. Although several years have passed, the place has not gotten any better. They're still bringing in plenty of people, but they don't seem to care that those customers face frustration at every turn.

A few examples:

There are three elevator banks that take you from the lobby to your room, with each bank targeted to certain floors. The idea is to allow you to skip the lower floors if your room is on a higher floor. In execution, however, none of the banks had all of its elevators operating, so that when I came down from my room one afternoon at 5pm, there were over 100 people waiting to get on the two elevators available. These were people who were returning from a day at the pool, or convention meetings, or had just checked in, and all they wanted to do was go upstairs to change and get ready for a night out in Las Vegas -- but first, they had to wait up to 20 minutes just to get on the elevator. That's unacceptable.

One morning, I thought I'd grab a quick meal at the Grand Buffet, which is right next to the Sports Book and the Poker Room. When I arrived, there were at least 150 people in line, and things were moving very slowly. The hostess was working alone, taking each party of one or two or five people to their table and then returning for the next one, and she was moving at a very leisurely pace. This, despite the many people who were waiting and the dozens of tables that were empty and available inside. Eventually, the woman ahead of me got too frustrated (at the same time I did) and left the line. We both went to demand a refund from the cashier, who apologized but said she could stamp our receipts as "invited guests," which would allow us to skip the rest of the line and jump ahead to the front. This didn't seem very fair, but I was hungry, so I accepted the offer, as did the woman. We were each seated rather quickly, but within minutes, I wish I'd gone somewhere else, as the food turned out not to be worth the wait. The items that were supposed to be warm (e.g. eggs, pancakes, french toast) were uniformly cold, and the items that were supposed to be cold (fruit) were uniformly warm. There's nothing I like better for breakfast than cold scrambled eggs and warm cantaloupe. A horrible experience.

As I exited, I went next door to the sports book to bet on some NFL games. This was the first Sunday of the season, and there were lots of people in line waiting to get their wagers down before the first kickoff. You'd think that a sports book with some 15 betting windows would have them all open at a time like this, to accommodate all of the people who wanted to give the casino their money. You'd be wrong. The MGM sports book had exactly 4 windows open, causing the line of customers to lead out of the sports book and around the corner. If I'd had time to get to another casino and place my bet there before the games started, I would have, but I was stuck, and just barely got them down in time after waiting for more than 20 minutes.

Was everything terrible about my MGM experience? Well, I still like the incredibly soft games in the poker room, where I was able to run over the table in three separate sessions. I may return for that, but I see no other reason to ever stay, eat, or wager in the MGM Grand ever again.

They must be bringing in a lot of new customers, because I can't believe they get a lot of repeat business. Those who have experienced the place, can't have been in a rush to go back. If they expect to get my money in the future, they're going to have a long wait -- a concept the MGM Grand is far too familiar with.

An Anchorman With Pluck

What did anchorman Ernie Anastos say about a chicken after meteorologist Nick Gregory's forecast on a local New York newscast last night? The gaffe seems to have surprised his co-anchor, Dari Alexander, who Ernie then complimented on her looks during a promo for the next segment...

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Final Table #33: Daniel Negreanu

This week on my poker radio show, the Final Table, Dennis Phillips and I talked with Daniel Negreanu, one of the most recognizable poker players in the world, who you've seen on pretty much every poker TV show in the last several years.

Daniel talked about fantasy football, playing on "High Stakes Poker," going against young aggressive players like Tom Dwan, and his upcoming TV show, the "PokerStars Million Dollar Challenge." Since he's on the WSOP Players Advisory Council, we also talked about changes Daniel is advocating for next year's event, including getting the $50,000 HORSE tournament back on ESPN. We also discussed his friendship with Doyle Brunson (who has been taking some knocks in online poker forums recently), playing in the Big Game in Bobby's Room, and whether the use of Twitter at the tournament tables is a good idea.

To bookend the show, Dennis and I covered the poker news of the week -- including a man who won a women's tournament in Atlantic City -- and Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan analyzed the way Hevad Khan played a hand by giving off reverse tells to induce more chips out of his opponent.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Death Of A Hero

Lots of media outlets are spending time lamenting the death of Patrick Swayze, a guy whose entire resume included two good movies ("Ghost," "Dirty Dancing") and one camp classic ("Roadhouse").

Meanwhile, not nearly enough has been written and broadcast about the death this weekend of Norman Borlaug, the man credited with saving a billion people from starvation. He may not have molded clay with Demi Moore, but his work with wheat fed severely overpopulated parts of the planet, and led to Borlaug becoming one of only five people to win the Nobel Peace Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the Congressional Gold Medal.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Defending The Newspaper

Earlier this week, I talked with Alex Jones about his book, "Losing The News." In that discussion, I lamented how the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has become a shadow of its former self, with fewer pages, more articles from wire services, and a drop in its subscriber base.

Christopher Ave, political editor at the Post-Dispatch, wasn't happy with my comments, so I invited him onto KTRS/St. Louis this morning to defend the newspaper. We started off with some analysis of President Obama's health care reform speech to Congress, and then dove into the economic realities of providing news in print (and on the air), plus the difficulties in monetizing content they're giving away for free on their website.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Losing Her Son Made Her An Activist

Judy Shepard lost her son, Matthew, in October, 1998, when he was beaten to death for being gay by two men in Laramie, Wyoming. The incident became a landmark in the push for hate-crimes legislation, which has been passed in several states, but never on a national basis.

On KTRS/St. Louis today, I talked with Judy about why she feels such legislation is necessary, how her son's murder turned her into a gay rights activist, and how she deals with people in her town who refuse to accept what really happened to Matthew.

As you'll hear, she started the interview off a little tentatively, but eventually got rolling. Her book is "The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Final Table #32: Listener Mail + Al D'Amato

This week on my poker radio show, the Final Table, Dennis Phillips talked his adventures in Argentina at the America's Cup Of Poker, where he served as captain of the US team. We were joined by Joe "The Poker Coach" McGowan, who talked about unorthodox hands he likes to raise with, and former senator Al D'Amato, now chairman of the Poker Players Alliance, who provided an update on the legislative and legal battle to get the government off the backs of poker players in the US.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Leonard Pitts

Leonard Pitts is one of my favorite newspaper columnists, so I was happy to talk with him on KTRS/St. Louis this morning.

Our conversation ranged from President Obama's back-to-school speech to the health care reform attempt to why Democrats can't seem to work as a team to whether we're really living in a post-racial society. We also discussed his book, a collection of columns called "Forward From This Moment." The moment refers to the attacks of 9/11/01, and how the USA has responded in the last eight years.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Flying Drunk

In March, 1990, Norm, Bob, and Joe sat in a bar in Morehead, Minnesota, and drank for about eight hours straight. Norm had 15-20 rum-and-cokes. Bob and Joe split a half-dozen pitchers of beer. The next morning, less than 10 hours later, they got on a Northwest flight to Minneapolis, except they didn't sit in the back with the other passengers.

Norm, Bob, and Joe were the flight crew, and they were still a little toasted. Fortunately, they flew the Boeing 727 safely and the 91 people behind them never knew that the cockpit was full of drunks. But when the FAA learned the truth, all three of the men had their flying licenses revoked, were tried and convicted, and went off to prison for a year or two.

Nearly two decades later, Joe Balzer is sober and flying again, as a pilot for American Airlines. Today on KTRS/St. Louis, we talked about that day, the regulations that allowed an incident like that to happen, how it wasn't the first time, and how he can reassure the flying public that it's less likely that your pilot is going to be drunk or hungover these days.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Joe tells more of his story in his book, "Flying Drunk."

The Ground Truth of 9/11

John Farmer was senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission and, as we approach the eighth anniversary, has published a book called "The Ground Truth: The Untold Story of America Under Attack on 9/11."

We talked about it today on KTRS/St. Louis, from the lessons learned to the lessons missed, including the now-declassified documents that reveal how screwed up our military's response was. Farmer's not a "truther," one of those who believe our government had something to do with the 9/11 attacks. He's an informed insider who reveals some of the mistakes our leadership made before, during, and after the disaster.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Late Night Wars

"Leno may now dominate prime time, but Letterman has triumphed by doing something more interesting: He’s grown up."

-- the new issue of New York magazine, which has several articles about late-night TV, including a timeline of the various shows, a list of the hosts who have passed on to the talk-show graveyard (who remembers Paul Robins and Phil Cowan of "The Wilton-North Report"?), and a conversation between Jimmy Fallon and Dick Cavett.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Taking On An Obama Hater

I got into it this morning with Peggy Venable.

She's one of the Obama-haters who ginned up controversy over his speech to schoolkids this morning. In the 80s, she was White House liaison to the Department of Education.

While she conceded, after seeing what the president was actually going to say, that there was nothing wrong with his speech, she still argued that she and others were right to raise a ruckus over it last week. When I challenged her to explain exactly what she'd been worried about, she tried to deflect the question repeatedly and turn it into an argument about health care reform, but I kept bringing her back to the education speech.

The most amusing part of our conversation was when I referred to Venable as a "Republican activist." She blanched, insisting that she was nothing more than a concerned citizen -- a blatant lie, considering that she's the Texas director for Americans For Prosperity, one of those conservative groups that opposes virtually everything Obama does (they made noise at many of those health care town halls last month).

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Losing The News

Alex Jones knows about news from both the business side (his family has owned a newspaper for four generations) and the academic side (he's a professor at Harvard). He writes about them both in his book, "Losing The News: The Future Of The News That Feeds Democracy."

Today on KTRS, I talked with him about what he sees as "the erosion of the iron core of news," and what newspapers and broadcast outlets have to do to reclaim journalism front and find new ways to make money in the internet age.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Dick Enberg

Any sporting event is made better by having Dick Enberg announce it. The man has done it all and is still at the top of his game. My wife and I loved watching him this afternoon while Melanie Oudin continued her Cinderella story at the US Open with a comeback victory against Nadia Petrova.

As always, Enberg knew when to remain silent and let the pictures tell the tale, how to best set up his colleagues John McEnroe and Mary Carillo (combined, they are the best three-in-the-booth team ever), and when to sprinkle in his Enberg-isms, those phrases that no other sportscaster uses to help underscore what we're watching:
  • After Oudin hits a winner down the line to cap a long rally: "A delicious point by the teenager!"
  • After a shot of Petrova in her chair during a changeover trying to psych herself up to play better: "There's Petrova in a clubhouse meeting with herself."
  • After an Oudin lob lands perfectly over Petrova's outstretched arm: "To the Russian's dismay, the young Georgian puts it on the line!"
  • Finally, after Petrova hits one last shot just a few inches too long, giving Oudin the match: "It ain't Broadway, but a star is born in New York!"
I've been honored to talk with Enberg several times over the years, but my favorite was in February, 2005, when he published his autobiography, "Oh, My!" Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Friday, September 04, 2009

Contractors Gone Wild

The Project On Government Oversight released a report this week about inappropriate behavior by some of the private military contractors who guard the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. Witnesses say the guards worked in a "Lord Of The Flies environment," with hazing sessions, a climate of fear and coercion, and the kind of parties that get fraternities kicked off campus.

As POGO's Adam Zagorin explained to me on KTRS/St. Louis this morning, these boys-gone-wild incidents are more than just a public relations nightmare in an Islamic nation with a different culture. They also threaten the safety of our embassy personnel there.

The Pentagon is using so many of these mercenaries in the wars that they outnumber the soldiers and Marines we have in Afghanistan, but there's little released about the contractors, who are often given immunity for their actions and cost a lot more than members of the US military.

I asked Zagorin why there hasn't been more oversight of the contractors by Congress (Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill is chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Contracting Oversight) and the State Department, which has known for at least two years about questionable behavior by employees of ArmorGroup. That's the private contracting firm that, despite other problems, just had its contract renewed -- at a cost of $189,000,000 -- with your tax dollars and a look the other way.

ArmorGroup North America is a subsidiary of Wackenhut Services, which used to provide security at airports in the US. They and other companies in that business did such a bad job that they were replaced by the TSA, but only after years of lousy service.

Updated on Friday afternoon: the State Department announced late this morning that they have fired 8 of these guards who worked at the US Embassy in Kabul. The local management team of ArmorGroup North America is also "being replaced immediately" and a team from the Investigator General's office is now in Kabul to look into the allegations. Two other guards resigned before the inspectors got there, but those resignations have been rescinded, the guards were fired, and all have had their security clearances revoked, so they will be unable to work again as a government contractor in a war zone.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Four Problems That Could Sink America

Rick Newman of US News and World Report says the recession may be winding down, but that doesn't mean things will go back to the way they used to be. Today on KTRS/St. Louis, we talked about the four problems that he says could sink America: we don't like to work, nobody wants to sacrifice, we're uninformed, and the iCulture.

I agree with him wholeheartedly on two of the four. To find out what it all means, listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Here's Newman's entire US News and World Report piece.

General Tony Zinni

Tony Zinni is a retired four-star Marine general who served as commander-in-chief of Centcom. He was also one of the first to warn of the dangers of terrorism coming out of Afghanistan pre-9/11, and then opposed the invasion of Iraq.

Today on KTRS/St. Louis, I talked to Gen. Zinni about the political battle over whether we should keep our troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and if so, how to accomplish the mission there. We also talked about the private contractors who form the invisible armed force that equals our regular military presence in those countries, and the scandal involving the inappropriate behavior by some of those private security guards at the US Embassy in Kabul.

We also discussed a breaking story, the objection by Defense Secretary Robert Gates to the Associated Press regarding their publication of a photo of a mortally wounded 21-year-old Marine lance corporal named Josh Bernard, despite a request by Josh's father not to do so.

Then we dove into Gen. Zinni's book, "Leading The Charge: Leadership Lessons From The Battlefield To The Boardroom."

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Thursday, September 03, 2009

Harry Shearer

Harry Shearer, Michael McKean, and Christopher Guest went on tour earlier this year -- not as Spinal Tap or The Folksmen, but as themselves singing the songs their fictional alter egos had made famous in "This Is Spinal Tap" and "A Mighty Wind."

Unfortunately, I didn't get to see them because the tour didn't make a stop in St. Louis. Fortunately, they hired a crew to film one of the shows, which has just been released on DVD.

Shearer joined me today on KTRS/St. Louis to talk about the "Unwigged and Unplugged" concept, how they adapted the songs for their stripped-down stage performances, and why they got into a legal tussle with "the Lego people" over whether a fan's YouTube version of a Tap song could be included on the DVD. I also asked him about the reaction of real rockers they've performed with, where things stand now with his day job as one of the key voices on "The Simpsons," and whether Guest has come up with a concept for their next movie together.

Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Your Tax Dollars In Action

After the massive intelligence failure that preceded the 9/11 attacks, no one was fired from the CIA. Not one agent, not one supervisor, not one corner office guy. In fact, their leader, CIA Director George Tenet, was given the Medal of Freedom by President Bush. What a nice gesture.

Eight years later, I imagine a similar medal is being crafted for former SEC Chairman Christopher Cox, after a report detailing the failure of his investigators to stop Bernie Madoff's ponzi scheme, despite a slew of red flags. Mary Schapiro, the current SEC Chairwoman, issued a statement yesterday calling the problem “a failure that we continue to regret." She claimed that there would now be better training, more attention to outside tips, a "new skill set" in place to prevent fraud like this in the future.

A new skill set. Like, for instance, following up on leads and tips from consumers and others inside the financial community about someone who's ripping off billions of dollars? That wasn't part of the job description already? Is it too much to expect that the agency charged with oversight of this activity actually oversee it and enforce the regulations?

Watch. While everyday people have had their lives ruined by this con man, the investigators who should have unearthed the scam and put a stop to it will still be around. Not one person will be fired from the SEC over this report.

Some of them will probably even be recruited by the CIA.

All News Is True

More evidence that you should believe every news story you read...

  • From the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: "Obesity can inflict big toll on brain. Study shows weight can increase risk of dementia in elderly"
  • From Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology: "A new study shows that older people who are thinner or are losing weight quickly are at a higher risk of developing dementia"
In other words, it doesn't matter whether you're fat or thin. You're gonna go crazy either way.

Extreme Water Slide

This video of a man on an extreme water slide has gone viral recently...

As soon as I saw it, I knew it was fake. My tipoff was the audio, from the friction of his body on the slide to his landing in the water. From the distance of the camera, there's no way it would have picked up that sound, and there's no chance that an "amateur" video would have been miked this well. Here are some details on how they did it, as uncovered by the blogosphere.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Final Table #31: Peter Eastgate and Mike Caro

On this week's edition of my poker radio show, The Final Table:
  • Dennis Phillips phoned in from a casino high atop the Andes in Argentina, where he’s captain of the US team at an international poker event, the America's Cup of Poker;
  • We talked with Peter Eastgate, 2008 World Series Of Poker Main Event champion, about his perspective on the famous AK-AQ hand between Dennis and Ivan Demidov, and about Peter's experience playing on "High Stakes Poker" with Doyle Brunson, Barry Greenstein, and Tom Dwan;
  • Mike Caro discussed why he has made spotting players' tells his life's work;
  • Plus, Joe “The Poker Coach” McGowan on strategies you should know so you don't leave chips on the table when you have a big hand.
Listen, then click here to subscribe to these podcasts via iTunes!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Open Opens

My wife is the one responsible for me being on the tennis court.

She used to play several times a week before a knee injury suspended her USTA career, and several years ago encouraged me to take some lessons and re-learn the game I loved in high school. I have missed playing while sidelined for medical reasons this summer, but I'm looking forward to returning to the doubles court next month to play at the same mediocre level I've become famous for. I'm happy to say that my wife's passion for the sport not only got me hooked, but now our daughter is on the courts every afternoon with her high school team.

That passion extends to watching the major tennis tournaments on TV, so that when there's a Grand Slam tournament going on, my wife controls the remote. For the two weeks each of Wimbledon, the Australian Open, the French Open, and now the US Open, the DVR is set to record approximately 37 hours of coverage each day. Somehow, once she gets home from work in the evening, she still finds time to watch a lot of it, even though I have a feeling she's sneaking a peak at the online coverage during the day in her cubicle.

Last night, we watched a first round match between Venus Williams and an unranked player named Vera Dushevina. The Russian was crushing Venus, beating her 7-6 in the first set and moving out to a 5-4 lead in the second set. This was interesting to watch, because everyone expected Venus to cruise to an easy victory, even with her recent tendinitis problems, yet here she was one game away from being knocked out of the US Open.

That's when I saw the look in Venus' eyes change. It was if she said to herself, "Okay, stop screwing around and start playing like you're supposed to." All of a sudden, she was coming to the net, making Dushevina run all over the place, grabbing control of the game and winning the next three straight to take the set.

That's when I saw the look in Dushevina's eyes change. It was the same look I'd seen in Andy Roddick earlier this summer at Wimbledon, when he had Roger Federer on the ropes. He was up 6-2 in the second set tiebreaker. One more point and he'd move into a two-sets-to-none lead, giving him a pretty good shot to win the championship and dethrone the king. But somehow, Federer came back with six straight points to win the tiebreaker and then went on to win an epic match (including a 30-game fifth set) and the title.

The look in both Roddick's and Dushevina's eyes at the end of their respective second set losses was one of realization that they had missed their opportunity. You could see them mentally cursing themselves at blowing it. They'd had the better player down and almost out, but couldn't land the final killer shot. Though they continued to fight valiantly and put on quite a show for the fans, in the end, they came up short.

To the contrary, Williams and Federer both did what champions do. They never gave up, they kept fighting, they found a way to win.

If you're Dushevina, perhaps you look at it as a great night even though you lost. She's 23 years old, hadn't gotten much notice before, and here she was almost beating one of the best in the world on primetime TV. She probably earned some respect, and maybe a few more endorsement dollars in years to come, depending on how she responds in her next match.

If you're Roddick, you have to look at this US Open as the time to redeem yourself. Win the early rounds, advance to the finals, and close the deal for once against the king. Oh, and put on a good show, because my wife will be watching.

Unfortunately, she's rooting for Roger.

Next In Line

I had to renew our car registrations and get new plates yesterday, and I dreaded the trip to the License Bureau. It was the last day of the month, so there was likely to be a crowd, and the place is not known for its efficient and pleasant customer service.

When I got there, I was pleasantly surprised to see only one person ahead of me in the renewal line, and he was almost done. The woman behind the counter then took my info and chatted with me amiably without losing a step as she processed my paperwork. Meanwhile, another clerk called out, in a tone that I knew meant trouble, "Who's next in line?"

A young woman, probably 22 or so, approached and asked that clerk if she was in the right place to renew her registration. The clerk angrily replied, "Are you next in line?" The woman looked around, saw no one else nearby, and responded, "I think so, but I don't know if this is the right counter." The clerk stepped it up a notch: "I asked for the next person in line. The operative word here is line. That doesn't mean the people sitting in those chairs over there. It means whoever is next in LINE!!!"

The young woman, still confused, went up to Ms. Mean Clerk with a handful of papers and tried to explain that she'd never done this before, that her father usually handles it, and she wasn't sure what to do or where to go. The Clerk From Hell showed no sympathy, shuffling the papers while badgering her verbally until the woman started crying.

I normally mind my own business, but I was about to intervene to put a stop to this customer service nightmare when another woman, who seemed to be a supervisor, came out of an office in the rear, saw what was going on, walked around the counter and put her arm around the crying woman's shoulder.

She told her, "It's okay, it's not worth crying about," as the young woman sobbed so forcefully she couldn't even speak. The supervisor then made a dismissive motion to Satan's Clerk, who rolled her eyes and walked away, no doubt to devise a new method of torture for another customer later in the afternoon.

There's no defense for this clerk's actions. I don't care that it was Monday, the worst day of the week, or that it was the last day of the month and she'd had to deal with more than her share of problems already, or that perhaps the previous customer had been a jerk to her. None of that matters; none of it justifies the abuse she showered on this woman; none of it should allow her to keep her job. Unfortunately, I'm sure she was back behind the counter not long after, waiting to bite the head off another unsuspecting customer.

I glanced at the very nice woman who was just finishing up my renewal, and told her how much I appreciated the expert and congenial way she had helped me. She nodded, knowing exactly what I meant -- that I was really thankful that I hadn't gotten there 30 seconds later and ended up with Cruella Da Clerk.