Saturday, June 30, 2012

It's getting HOT In Here...

There's a crazy heat wave going on throughout the United States. Expected temperatures in Washington, D.C. for the next few days are in the triple digits! Last night there was an intense thunderstorm which took out power to much of Arlington County (in Northern Virginia just outside of the District) where I live. Fortunately, it left my power unscathed because this is not a time when one wants to be somewhere without air conditioning! Happily, Los Angeles looks like it is doing fine (low 80s) so I am looking forward to spend some time there for the upcoming holiday next week.

Hat/tip to Rad Homo.

2012 Wimbledon Day 6: Multiple Marathon Day

Day 6 of 2012 Wimbledon was pretty much upset free, with 2011 Champion Petra Kvitova(4) demolishing fellow lefty Varvara Lepchenko, Serena Williams(6) finding a way to win against a tough Chinese opponent (former Wimbledon semifinalist Zheng Jie) and Victoria Azarenka(2) winning easily. Other notable winners of third round matches to reach the second week were Tamira Paszek, Ana Ivanovic, Francesca Schiavone and Yaroslava Shvedova.

On the men's side 3-time finalist Andy Roddick lost to David Ferrer in 4 sets while Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(5), Juan Martin del Potro(9), Marin Cilic(16) and two Americans, Mardy Fish(10) and unseeded Brian Baker, advanced to the round of 16 on Monday. The astonishing Lukas Roso who defeated World #2 Rafael Nadal in stunning fashion on Thursday lost pretty meekly to Phillip Kohlschreiber.

Meanwhile, Andy Murray(4) was able to get past Marcos Baghdatis 7-5 3-6 7-5 6-1  a few minutes after Wimbledon's curfew at 11pm local time which should have forced the cessation of the match.

Match of the Day: 
S. Williams USA (6) d. J. Zheng CHN (25) 6-7(5) 6-2 9-7. Serena Williams blasted a career-high 23 aces but was unable to overpower her opponent with groundstrokes. When the rallies went beyond four strokes Zheng won the majority of the points. In fact, despite not having a very powerful serve, Zheng was able to hold serve very easily for the entirety of the first set, with Serena continually failing to impose her will on her opponent's service games. The result was a tiebreaker in which Zheng had one set point and capitalized on her opportunity. In the second set Serena started connecting on her groundstrokes and finally broke Zheng twice to win the set easily. In the 3rd set Serena continued her serving clinic and took a long time to get into Zheng's service games. Luckily for her, there's no tiebreak in the final set at Wimbledon so, in her longest grand slam match in a very long time, Serena was able to break and then serve it out to win.

M. Cilic CRO (16) d. S. Querrey USA 7-6(6) 6-4 6-7(2) 6-7(3) 17-15. The second longest match in Wimbledon history (5 hours 31 minutes) featured two 6'6" hard-hitting, big-serving players with pretty similar games. It was high quality tennis throughout, but Cilic had many more chances, including serving for the match at 6-5 in the 4th set and was only 2 for 6 on break points in the 5th set and 5 of 16 for the entire match. Cilic-Querrey was less than half as long as the Isner-Mahut 11 hour, 5 minutes of play over 3 days.

Rhode Island May Get 2013 Marriage Equality Vote

Openly gay (and Black) Speaker of the Rhode Island State House Gordon Fox who angered marriage equality activists last year by throwing his support behind civil unions legislation after concluding marriage equality could not pass his legislative body has announced that if he is Speaker next year he will push a marriage equality bill. The civil unions bill overwhelmingly passed both houses of the legislature last year and was signed reluctantly into law by Independent Governor Lincoln Chaffee. Since then, Chaffee has issued an executive order declaring that all state agencies should recognize same-sex marriages that have occurred in other jurisdictions where the practice is legal.

The Advocate reports on Speaker Fox's change in position on marriage equality legislation:

"I'm calling the vote," he said. "It's one of those issues that I need to come back, we need to address, and I intend if I'm elected speaker to address it early." 
Last year, Fox decided not to hold the vote on marriage equality legislation although advocates believed there were enough votes to pass the measure in the Democratic-controlled chamber. Instead, Rhode Island lawmakers passed a civil unions bill that has been criticized because of its broad religious exemptions.  
Fox, who is seeking reelection this November, also said in the interview, "It's one of the main reasons I'm coming back. There's unfinished business."

Just because the bill passes the State House does not mean it will become law because the Democrats head of the State Senate Teresa Paiva-Weed oppose marriage equality and supported the civil unions "compromise" last year. The Rhode Island civil unions law has been widely viewed as a public policy failure, since all of Rhode Island's neighboring states have marriage equality and there is no state law banning recognition of same-sex marriages. The broad religious exemption in the civil unions law means that Rhode Island couples in civil unions would actually have less rights and a greater likelihood of being discriminated against than couples who are married in a different state and reside in Rhode Island.

Anyway, after state marriage laws in Maryland, Washington, and Maine are resolved this November it looks like Rhode Island and Illinois will have opportunities to move toward marriage equality as well next year.

Friday, June 29, 2012

2012 Wimbledon Day 5: Federer Passes 5-Set Test

The day after the earth-shattering upset by World #100 Lukas Rosol from Czech Republic upsetting World #2 Rafael Nadal in the 2nd round everybody was wondering whether "upset fever" would be contagious among any of the other seeds. Encouraged by Rosol's success Julian Benneteau(29) and Radek Stepanek(28) nearly gave the Top 2 seeds as much as they could handle on their third round encounters. World #2 Roger Federer lost the first two sets and World #1 Novak Djokovic lost the first set in their matches but ended up winning. The seeds  that lost today were #8 Janko Tisarevich, #12 Nicolas Almagro,  #15 Juan Monaco, #17 Fernando Verdasco and #21 Milos Raonic.

On the women's side everyone who was expected to win did so, namely Maria Sharapova(1), Aggie Radwanska(3), Kim Clijsters, Angelique Kerber(8), Sabine Lisicki(15) and Maria Kirilenko.

Match of the Day: R. Federer SUI (3) d. J. Benneteau FRA (29) 4-6 6-7(3) 6-2 7-6(6) 6-1.
The 16-time major champion endangered his jaw-dropping streak of 32 Grand Slam quarterfinal appearances by flirting with disaster against the powerful Frenchman today. Benneteau played excellent tennis, staying close to Federer in the first set and sneaking away with it with one break. In the second set, Federer earned an early break but Benneteau was able to get the break back and again stay close, eventually pulling out the second set in a tiebreak. Now Federer had a tremendous task ahead of himself: coming back from 2-sets down to win a match at a major. He was able to step up his game and easily took the third set 6-2. In the fourth set, Benneteau was able to right the ship and was able to hold serve until the inevitable high-stakes tiebreak. The problem for Federer was that he was serving second in the 4th set so if his serve was broken it could mean sudden death; it turned out that five times he was two points from defeat but after a hard-fought tiebreak featuring amazing shotmaking Federer was able to win the 4th set, forcing a 5th set decider. Unfortunately, Beneteau's body betrayed him and he quickly succumbed 6-1 to lose his best chance to write his name in the history books. Interestingly, last year in the quarterfinals, Federer had been up 2 sets against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and never even earned a breakpoint in the last 3 sets in a stunning 5-set loss. This year the roles were reversed and Federer dropped the first two sets and then never faced a breakpoint in the final 3 sets, eventually winning.

Federer will have the entire weekend off and face Xavier Malisse in the 4th round and then either Denis Istomin or Mikhail Youzhny in the quarterfinals. Djokovic faces countryman Viktor Troicki in the 4th round and either Richard Gasquet or Florian Mayer in the quarterfinals. The #1 and #3 seeds are the only remaining players in the Top 16 in their half of the draw.

Republicans Appeal DOMA Ruling To SCOTUS

As expected, the Republicans who control the U.S. House of Representatives have appealed to the United States Supreme Court to overturn the recent unanimous ruling from the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals in Gill v. Office of Personnel Management striking down the Defense of Marriage Act as unconstitutional. The organization paying for the appeal is the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (BLAG), which consists of the 5 highest ranked members of Congress. Curious they made their decision to file for certiorari late on the last Friday in June, eh?

Anyway, as usual Chris Geidner has the deets:
In a filing obtained by Metro Weekly, BLAG asks the Supreme Court, which must agree to consider the case, to take the appeal for three reasons: (1) the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 is "an issue of great national importance" and raises separation-of-powers questions; (2) the First Circuit decision conflicts with the Supreme Court's 1972 decision in Baker v. Nelson and other appellate decisions; and (3) the First Circuit "invented a new standard of equal protection review."  
In the course of the filing, called a petition for a writ of certiorari, BLAG states that "[t]he executive branch has ... abdicated its traditional role of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes."
It should be fascinating to see whether the Supreme Court will decide to accept case (which is expected) and how they will deal with the 40-year-old case of Baker v. Nelson which was decided when no state had legalized marriage equality and no court had ever found a constitutional right to marry included same-sex couples or even that LGBT people had any kind of constitutional protections at all.

Soon the heterosexual supremacists defending Proposition 8 will also have to decide whether they will appeal their federal appellate court loss to the United States Supreme Court. If SCOTUS accepts both, then there will be two blockbuster gay rights cases (both dealing with marriage equality in two very different contexts) in the 2012-13 term.

Celebrity Friday: Gilles Simon Is An A**!

*sigh* #11 Seed (World #13Gilles Simon of France is making waves at Wimbledon this week by wading into the mostly settled dispute about equal prize money for men and women at the Grand Slam tournaments. The Frenchman, who was recently elected to a 2-year term on the ATP Players Council, told the press on Wednesday that he does not support equal prize money for women at the major tournaments:
Simon told reporters at Wimbledon in French that he thinks "men's tennis is ahead of women's tennis" and "men spend twice as long on court as women do at Grand Slams."
He also said men "provide a more attractive show" in their matches.
All four Grand Slam tournaments pay equal prize money to men and women, something Simon said he doesn't think "works in sports."
World #3 Roger Federer was asked about Simon's remarks and diplomatically replied:
"I hope it doesn't become a big issue during Wimbledon. It's obviously a debate that's out there ever since, I guess, the Slams have made equal prize money. There's nothing you can do, anyway, about it," Federer replied. 
"It's just a matter of who believes what, and then that is an endless debate. So whatever you believe," he continued.
One person who is not surprised that Simon would be unafraid to reveal himself as a sexist idiot is 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens, who when asked about Simon's remarks said:
"I don't care what he says about anything. He hit me with a ball the first time I was a ballkid. He hit me in the chest, because he lost a point and lost the set. He turned around and slammed the ball with his racket and hit me ... and I've never spoken to him since then."
Wimbledon was the last of the four major tournament to pay women and men equally back in 2007, a year after Roland Garros started doing it. The argument against equal pay, ostensibly, is that men play best-of-five sets while women play best-of-three sets at the grand slams. But, honestly, I question whether the grand slams could even schedule all the women's matches and men's matches in two weeks if they had a 128-person draw and 5-set matches for everyone. I think that the first week (maybe up to and including the fourth round) should be best-of-three for everyone and then everyone shift to best-of-five for the quarterfinals, semifinals and finals. Then there would be no question that men and women are getting paid equal money for an equal amount of time on court. Federer has won his first two best-of-five matches in little under 150 minutes while the 1st round best-of-three slugfest between Tamira Paszek and Caroline Wozniacki took 192 minutes and was probably the most exciting match of the tournament in the first 3 days of play.

I suspect the impetus for the call to not have equal pay for women is really a manifestation of the belief that men and women should not be equal, and is really a sexist impulse. Thus Simon's subjective remark that men provide a "more attractive show" than women. There's no way to empirically prove or disprove the truth value of this statement. I doubt there are many straight guys would agree that a 5-set match between Radek Stepanek and Florian Mayer would be "more attractive" than a 3-set match between Arantxa Rus and Ana Ivanovic.

What do you think? (Not whether Simon is an a**, that's a given, but how should tennis respond to the notion that men and women do not work equally at the slams). 

Happily, the day after Simon made his discriminatory remarks at Wimbledon, he was eliminated from the tournament by Xavier Malisse.

2012 Wimbledon Day 4: Nadal's Loss Looms Large

Clive Rose/Getty
Day 4 of Wimbledon was dominated by 11-time major champion Rafael Nadal's worst loss in a Grand Slam since 2005; the only other upsets of note were two French players Marion Bartoli(9) and Gilles Simon(13) being dismissed from the tournament. On the men's side the other seeds Andy Murray(4), Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(5), David Ferrer(7), Juan Martin del Potro(9), Mardy Fish(10), Marin Cilic(16) and Fernando Verdasco(17)  all won. Nadal's absence from the draw could have a profound impact on the future of one of these players, one of which should be expected to make the final a week from Sunday.

On the women's side Maria Sharapova(1) completed her postponed second round match, while Serena Williams(6), Petra Kvitova(4), Victoria Azarenka(2), Angelique Kerber(8) also won. Additionally, players to win who should be noted are Ana Ivanovic, Tamira Paszek, Klara Zakopalova and Nadia Petrova.

The Williams Sisters played their first doubles match of the tournament, easily winning. 

Match of the Day: L. Rosol CZE d. R. Nadal ESP (2) 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4.
6-foot 5-inch, 178-pound Czech 26-year-old Lukas Rosol played the match of his life, hitting 65 winners (to 29 unforced errors) against the Spaniard, including 22 aces. It was a high-quality affair with Nadal hitting 41 winners (to only 16 unforced errors). Rosol simply played lights-out tennis for roughly three hours, hitting backhand and forehand winners at almost 100 mph and regularly serving in the 130 mph range. Nadal probably did well to even make it a 5-set match. In the 5th sets Rosol had 20 winners to 2 unforced errors. Nadal had reached the finals of the last 5 times he had played Wimbledon while Rosol had lost in the first round of the qualifying the last 5 times he had played the tournament. Nadal had never lost to a lower ranked player in a major tournament ever!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

2012 Wimbledon: Nadal Loses 2nd Round 5-setter!!


In one of the most stunning upsets of the year, if not several years (at least since his 2009 French Open loss to Robin Soderling) World #2 Rafael Nadal was defeated by World #100 Lukas Rosol of Czech Republic 6-7(9) 6-4 6-4 2-6 6-4 in the 2nd round of the 2012 Wimbledon. Nadal had made it to the final of the only grass court major the last 5 times he had entered the tournament (2006, 2007, 2008, 2010, 2011), winning the title twice in 2008 and 2010. Nadal won his 11th career major and 7th French Open title a mere17 days ago and hadn't lost this early in a major tournament since the 2005 Wimbledon.

I don't know anything about Rosol but I bet Roger Federer and Novak Djokovic will be competing to see who can send him the largest bouquet of flowers. This completely opens up the bottom half of the draw for people like Andy Murray, Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic and Juan Martin del Potro to reach their first Wimbledon final. It also means that the potential semifinal showdown between Federer and Djokovic next Friday will be considered the "real" final, if it happens.

WATCH: Obama Reacts To Healthcare Ruling

U.S. Supreme Court Upholds Health Care Law!

The United States Supreme Court has apparently upheld the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as ObamaCare or health care reform law! Chief Justice John Roberts voted with Justices Sotomayor, Ginsburg, Breyer and Kagan to uphold the individual mandate under the taxing power of Congress. Justices Kennedy, Thomas and Alito joined Justice Scalia's relatively polite dissent.

BOOK REVIEW: The Impossible Dead by Ian Rankin

The sequel to Ian Rankin's The Complaints is The Impossible Dead. These two books are the first in a new series written by the best-selling Scottish author which features a police detective named Malcolm Fox.
I previously reviewed The Complaints and enjoyed it enough that I put the next book, The Impossible Dead, on my Amazon wish list for Chrismuhkwanzakkuh.

Fox is in The Complaints division of the Edinburgh Police Department, which is basically the equivalent of what we would call the Internal Affairs division in the United States. In The Impossible Dead Fox has been assigned to the far-away backwater town of Fife to investigate whether a potentially crooked cop was able to convince his colleagues to lie for him in court by declaring him innocent. However, this being a Rankin story, the first mystery we encounter is only the beginning of the tale, and not necessarily the primary focus. In The Impossible Dead the story leads us to 1970s Scottish Nationalist bombings and tracking down the people that were involved then who are now at the upper echelons of Scottish society and politics.

In the end I did not find the second book as engaging as the first, though I'm not exactly sure why. I think its because Fox's colleagues (or sidekicks) have a more prominent role, but we really are not given sufficient background on these characters to treat them as people that we should invest emotional energy caring about. That's not true about Fox, by the way. Rankin does his usual excellent job of making his central character a nuanced, fascinating person who seems real. It's not clear yet if Fox will have the longevity and dedicated fan base of Rankin's previous creation of Inspector John Rebus who inhabited 19 books, but it does seem like Detective Inspector Malcolm Fox will be around and investigating malfeasance by cops (and criminals) in Scotland for quite a few books to come.

Author: Ian Rankin
Length: 400 pages.
Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books.
Published: November 21, 2011.

OVERALL GRADE: A/A- (3.75/4.0).


Wednesday, June 27, 2012

2012 Wimbledon Day 3: Stosur(5),Wozniacki(7) Lose

Paul Gilham/Getty Images
After a pretty uneventful Day 2 at the Wimbledon Championships, Day 3 turned out to be a bloodbath for some of the top seeds in the women's draw.  Reigning U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur, the #5 seed, lost a very strange and streaky match versus Arantxa Rus of the Netherlands, 6-2 0-6 6-4 despite saving two match points! Stosur won 2 games, then lost 6 games, then won 6 games, was down 2-5 and managed to crawl back to on-serve at 4-5, 40-15 when she suddenly lost 3 points in a row and her place in the tournament.

Match of the Day: T. Paszek AUT d.  C. Wozniacki DEN (7) 5-7 7-6(4) 6-4.
But this was just an appetizer for what turned out to be the match of the day between Eastbourne winner Tamira Paszek and former World #1 (and current #7 seed) Caroline Wozniacki, a 1st round encounter that was carried over from Day 2. Paszek served for the 1st set at 5-4 but was broken and eventually lost the set 7-5. In the second set Wozniacki had double match point with Paszek serving 5-6, 15-40 but the Austrian player was fearless, dismissing both match points with screaming backhand down-the-line winners a
few centimeters from the lines. Paszek ended up winning the 2nd set in a tie-break. Wozniacki got the early break in the first game of the 3rd set and went up 2-0 but Paszek fought back to even up the set at 3-all. After holding serve to go up 4-3 in the final set on serve, Paszek broke Wozniacki and tried to serve out the match but was broken by good play from the Dane. However, when Wozniacki tried to hold serve she faced a single break point which was also match point and after a long stirring rally (one of many) Paszek won the match with another one of her 53 clear winners.

Amongst all this #11 seed Li Na was dismissed in straight sets. Kim Clijsters, Aggie Radwanska, Vera Zvonareva and Sabine Lisicki all won. Youngsters Sloane Stephens and Heather Watson also both reached the 3rd round. Maria Sharapova was unable to complete her match against Tsevetana Pironkova.

There were basically no upsets on the men's side, with Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic, David Ferrer, Milos Raonic and Janko Tipsarevic all won, with Andy Roddick completing his 1st round win.

The 7 Most Anti-Gay Republican Congressmembers

LGBT Think Progress has produced a list of the seven most anti-gay Republican Members of Congress by noting which of them have sponsored multiple pieces of anti-gay legislation from the following list:

  • H.R. 337, the Restore Military Readiness Act
  • H.R. 875, the Marriage Protection Act of 2011
  • H.R. 958, the We the People Act
  • H.R. 3828, the Military Religious Freedom Protection Act
  • H.J.RES. 45, proposing an amendment to the Constitution of the United States relating to marriage
  • H.RES. 143, directing the Speaker, or his designee, to take any and all actions necessary to assert the standing of the House to defend the Defense of Marriage Act
  • H.CON.RES. 25, expressing the sense of Congress with respect to the Obama administration’s discontinuing to defend the Defense of Marriage Act
  • H.AMDT. 573 to H.R.2219, to prohibit the use of funds to enforce the directive of allowing chaplains to perform same-sex marriages on Navy bases regardless of any applicable State law requirements
  • H.AMDT. 546 to H.R. 2219, to prohibit the use of funds in contravention of section 7 of title 1, United States Code (the Defense of Marriage Act)
  • and H.AMDT.1096 to H.R.5326, to prohibit the use of funds to be used in contravention of the Defense of Marriage Act
  • The most anti-gay members of Congress is Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) who sponsored 6 of the above pieces of legislation (while authoring 3 of them). There are six Republicans who have co-sponsored 5 of the anti-gay bills and resolutions: Dan Burton (R-IN), Phil Gingrey (R-GA), W. Todd Akin (R-MO), Vicky Harzler (R-MO), Doug Lamborn (R-CO) and Donald Manzullo (R-IL). There are fourteen other Republican congressmembers who sponsored at least 4 of the pieces of legislation from the list.

    Godless Wednesday: How Religion Is Subsidized

    There's a new academic analysis of the amount of that religion is subsidized by public policy in the United States. The estimate by Ryan T. Cragun, Stephanie Yeager, and Desmond Vega is that at least $71 billion (yes, that is with a B) of tax dollars are not received due to religious exemptions in federal, state and local laws. Thus, you, me and everyone else who pays taxes in the  United States are effectively subsidizing religion in this country.

    In their article, Research Report: How Secular Humanists (and Everyone Else) Subsidize Religion in the United States, they make the case for why religion should not be subsidized:
    For those individuals who argue that religions should receive subsidies because of their charitable work, there is an easy solution for that problem. If religions want to engage in charitable work, they should separate religious activities and finances from their charitable activities and finances. The charities run by religions could be tax-exempt, but the religious organizations would be treated like civic leagues or sports clubs or any other volunteer organization that exists for entertainment or the benefit of its members. Those groups are not tax-exempt and are not subsidized by the government. 
    The authors note that since it is unlikely the subsidies for religion will be ended anytime soon they call for increased tax write-offs for all "entertainment" expenses. What do you think?

    hat/tip to Joe.My.God

    Tuesday, June 26, 2012

    2012 Wimbledon Day 2: Kvitova, Nadal, Serena, Vika Win

    On Day 2 of this year's Wimbledon Championships there was no repeat of the upset fireworks that occurred on Day 1. The last two women's champions at Wimbledon, Serena Williams (2010) and Petra Kvitova (2011), both advanced in surprisingly complicated straight-sets matches, 6-2 6-4 and 6-4 6-4, respectively.
    Other players to watch who won today were Victoria Azarenka(2), Marion Bartoli, Vera Zvonareva, and Francesca Schiavone. 2-time major champion Svetlana Kuznetsova crashed out in the 1st round.

    On the men's side Rafael Nadal(2) lost the first 4 games of his match against Thomaz Belluci but then managed to win a first set tiebreak and cruised to a straight-sets win. Jo-Wilfried Tsonga(5) dismissed 2-time major champion Lleyton Hewitt in straight sets while Andy Murray(4) easily beat former World #3 Nikolay Davydenko. Other notable winners were Juan Martin del Potro, Marin Cilic, Kei Nishikori and Philip Kohlschreiber. Feliciano Lopez was upset.

    USTA Names Men's and Women's Olympics Teams

    The United States Tennis Association today named the members of the men's and women's teams who will represent the United States at the London Olympics. As I predicted, Venus Williams and Serena Williams were named to the team in both singles and doubles. Interestingly, John Isner and Andy Roddick  (as well as Mike and Bob Bryan, of course) were named to the doubles team, so I wonder who will get to play with Serena in the new mixed-doubles competition?

    Oreo Cookies Celebrate Pride

    Oreo cookies posted the above picture of a rainbow-themed version of their cream filled snack with the caption "Proudly support love!" This is yet another example of how the bad guys are losing the ongoing kulturkampf over LGBT equality as corporations are continuing to choose the side of gay rights.

    Monday, June 25, 2012

    2012 Wimbledon Day 1: Berdych(6),Isner(11) Upset

    Day 1 of the 2012 Wimbledon Championships was dominated by the not-very-shocking defeat of 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams in the first round. However, Venus was not seeded, although she was expected to win. The biggest upset of the day was the surprising loss of 2010 Wimbledon finalist and #6 seed Tomas Berdych in 3 tiebreak sets to Ernests Gulbis.

    The other big upset was Big John Isner, the #11 seed, going down in 5-sets (6-4 6-7(7) 3-6 7-6(7) 7-5) to Argentinian Colombian Alejandro Falla who two years ago when Isner was playing his seemingly interminable match against Nicolas Mahut served for the match against 6-time defending Wimbledon champion Roger Federer.

    Other winners on Day 1 were Kim Clijsters playing in her final Wimbledon taking out former World #1 Jelena Jankovic(18), World #1 Maria Sharapova, World #3 Aggie Radwanska, World #5 Samantha Stosur and World #8 Angelique Kerber  all won their first round matches. Seeded losers were Flavia Penneta(16) and Daniela Hantuchova(27).

    On the men's side World #1 Novak Djokovic, World #3 Roger Federer, World #8 Janko Tipsarevic (who surprisingly took out 2002 Wimbledon finalist David Nalbandian), Gilles Simon(13), Juan Monaco(15), Fernando Verdasco(17), and Richard Gasquet(18) allwon their first round match with Berdych, Isner and Andreas Seppi(23) losing.

    SCOTUS Strikes Down (Most Of) AZ's SB 1070

    The United States Supreme Court issued a split decision in the case of Arizona's controversial attempt to legislate immigration (and immigrants) with SB 1070. In Arizona v. United States, the nation's highest court  struck down 3 of the 4 provisions of the law by a 5-3 vote, but allowed what some viewed as the most offensive provision, dubbed the "papers, please" law to go into effect, unanimously. However, the Court also left open legal challenges (including on civil rights and equal protection grounds) after the law is actually operationalized by Arizona. If the "papers, please" results in racial profiling, it will be quite vulnerable to constitutional attack.

    The U.S. Supreme Court was expected to rule on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. ObamaCare) today, but that ruling will probably now happen at 10am on Thursday.

    2012 Wimbledon: Venus Loses In 1st Round

    Clive Rose/Getty Images
    5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams lost in the first round of the 2012 Wimbledon championships for the first time since her debut at the tournament in 1997 to Russian Elena Vesnina in straight sets 6-1 6-3. The 32-year-old American was lethargic and listless in the match, with her timing off. She lost her serve 3 times in the first set (starting the match with 5 consecutive missed serves) and had a service percentage of 38% and never really looked competitive. She walked off the court looking tired and disconsolate.

    Venus is still in the tournament, playing doubles with her sister Serena Williams.

    Eye Candy: Yusuf Myers (reprise)

    Yusuf Myers is the real name of the hottest guys from the "City Gym Boys." He is a top trainer in New York City and has his own website, YM Fitness. He says he is of Panamanian-American and African-American descent, which I would classify as "Blatino."

    He was one of the rare guys to appear on my blog without really knowing his name because of the amazing images that have been shot of him as part of the City Gym Boys and in other places.Rafael Leonidas, another City Gym Boys member has appeared here as Eye Candy before. Yusuf's pictures have often been featured by fellow aficionados of the male muscular physique David Dust and Dark Flex.

    Now you can enjoy his pictures, and find them by searching on his real name!

    Sunday, June 24, 2012

    SUCCULENT SUNDAY: Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa

    ​Eriosyce paucicostata ​ssp ​floccosa​ is reportedly known only from the region of Blanco Encalada in the coastal mountains of Antofagasta, Chile. It has been known under many synonyms, especially ​Neoporteria floccosa ​and ​Neochil​enia floccosa.

    This young specimen has white spines and wool obscuring the green body. Some individuals are not covered quite so completely.

    Flowers have the appearance of antique paper, with the outer petals a darker pink, fading to pale pink for the inner petals.

    Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa are noted for long hairs under the flowers. Full grown plants look somewhat different, but the plant pictured in habitat is just as completely covered by long spines, wool, and hairs. (This photo is at
    Eriosyce paucicostata ssp floccosa in habitat from

    1 Year Ago: New York Enacted Marriage Equality!

    One year ago New York was celebrating the state legislature completing action on a marriage equality bill, which Governor Andrew Cuomo swiftly signed into law (and went into effect at 12:01am on July 24, 2011).

    Since then Washington State and Maryland have passed and had signed into law (by Democratic Governors Christine Gregoire and Martin O'Malley, respectively) marriage equality bills, but they are not in effect until referenda on the issue are resolved during the November 6, 2012 general election. Additionally, Maine voters will be acting on a ballot measure circulated by pro-equality activists which, if passed, would enact marriage equality in that state as well.

    How many more states do you think will have marriage equality by this time next year?

    Saturday, June 23, 2012

    Today is Alan Turing's 100th Birthday!

    Alan Turing was born 100 years today, on June 23, 1912 and Google celebrated the anniversary by having an especially complicated Doodle to honor the father of computing.

    Andrew Eland, the Engineering Director of Google UK published a blog post discussing why they decided to honor Turing:
    Turing’s life was one of astounding highs and devastating lows. While his wartime codebreaking saved thousands of lives, his own life was destroyed when he was convicted for homosexuality. But the tragedy of his story should not overshadow his legacy. Turing’s insight laid the foundations of the computer age. It’s no exaggeration to say he’s a founding father of every computer and Internet company today.  
    Turing’s breakthrough came in 1936 with the publication of his seminal paper “On Computable Numbers” (PDF).  This introduced two key concepts, “algorithms” and “computing machines”—commonplace terms today, but truly revolutionary in the 1930’s.
    Turing is one of the openly gay icons of the last century and it is very cool that Google is calling more attention to him, especially during gay pride month.

    Friday, June 22, 2012

    WIMBLEDON 2012: Analysis of The Draw

    The 2012 edition of the Wimbledon Championships starts on Monday and yesterday the seeds were announced while today comes the release of the men's singles and women's singles draws.

    Men's Draw
    For the umpteenth time in a major tournament for the last 5 years that Roger Federer, Novak Djokovic and Rafael Nadal have been grouped in the Top 3 of the rankings, Federer and Djokovic are placed in the same half of the draw, so that in order to win the tournament Nadal will only have to face one of his rivals while both of his rivals will need to face each other before they reach him. In addition, Nadal has a pretty easy draw which should allow him to get directly to the quarterfinals, where he will likely face last year's giantkiller Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He may have to face 2-time Halle grass court champion Tommy Haas or the man who beat him on grass last week, Phillip Kohlschreiber but not both because the two Germans face each other in the first round. There are literally no seeds in his quarter that should give Nadal any kind of trouble at all. If he gets past Tsonga (and if Tsonga gets past Lleyton Hewitt's last hurrah in the 1st round), then Nadal would face Andy Murray to reach his 6th consecutive final in Wimbledon. Murray has a number of potential obstacles to his reaching the semifinals of his home country major again, starting with Ivo Karlovic in the 2nd round and including Juan Martin del Potro, Milos Raonic, Marin Cilic and  even 3-time Wimbledon finalist Andy Roddick.

    In the Federer-Djokovic half of the draw things are pretty much set to allow another semifinal showdown between these two, although their French Open match-up a few weeks ago did not live up to the hype when Federer couldn't hold on to service break leads and lost meekly in straight sets. The defending champion has a somewhat tough potential quarterfinal with 2010 Wimbledon finalist Tomas Berdych and maybe an earlier round encounter with Radek Stepanek while Federer's only obstacle to the semifinal is a quarterfinal match-up with the winner of a possible Janko Tipsarevic-John Isner 4th round tussle. The only other person which could possibly make Federer sweat would be Frenchman Gilles Simon whose game for some reason often gives Federer fits and actually owns two wins over the 16-time major champ.  Astonishingly, John Isner and Nicolas Mahut may meet for the 3rd consecutive year at Wimbledon, although this time it could be in the second round and it will almost certainly not take 11 hours of play over 3 days to complete. Djokovic has already shown that he will do almost anything to defend the major titles that he won last year and has now been in 4 consecutive major finals in a row. Can he make it 5? (Nadal will be going for 6 major finals in a row.)

    Women's Draw
    Defending champion Petra Kvitova has the daunting task of trying to defend her title with 4-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams waiting in the quarterfinals. Happily for Kvitova, the only seed who might (but really shouldn't) give the Czech lefty any trouble reaching the quarters is the diminutive Slovak Dominika Cibulkova. Serena, on the other hand, has some potentially tricky seeds, such as Lucie Safarova and Zie Jheng who could possibly derail her. It would be a shock if Serena lost early in two consecutive major tournaments although her 1st round opponent Barbara Zahlavova Strycova (heretofore to be called Double Ova) is not exactly a walk-over. In the rest of the bottom half of the draw looms World #2 Victoria Azarenka who finally broke through here last year by reaching the semifinals. Unfortunately for Azarenka she probably has the toughest quarter of the top 4 seeds with people like Marion Bartoli, Svetlana Kuznetsova and Ana Ivanovic floating around. Most likely her quarterfinal will be between the winner of Bartoli/Kuznetsova.

    In the top half of the draw Maria Sharapova has a potential second round meeting with Venus Williams-killer Tsevetana Pironkova followed by possibly Serena Williams-killer Virginie Razzano. Other dangerous opponents in Sharapova's quarter include Angelique Kerber, Kim Clijsters and Sabine Lisicki. However if she gets past the quarterfinals, then Sharapova's semifinal match should actually be relatively easy with either Agnieska Radwanska (if she gets past a second round match with 5-time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams) or Samantha Stosur. I think Sharapova would like her chances with either of those players. If she makes it to another Wimbledon final, I don't like her chances against anyone who comes out of the tougher top half of the draw: Serena, Vika, Kvitova or even Bartoli.

    I don't have predictions for a winner at this point, but if a gun was held to my head I would choose Djokovic on the men's side and Serena on the women's.

    Celebrity Friday: EW Special Report On Out Celebs

    The latest issue of Entertainment Weekly  (just in time for the traditional date of LGBT Pride celebrations on the anniversary of the Stonewall Riots on June 28, 1969) includes a cover story that is a special report on how celebrities are managing the process of coming out.

    The article is about the new art of coming out in Hollywood, which apparently is to do it as nonchalantly as possible, without much fan fare. This is in stark contrast to the huge media roll-out (cover of Time magazine, special episode of a TV show starring Oprah, etc etc) that occurred when Ellen Degeneres came out way back in 1997. The article discusses the recent self-outings of celebrities like 2-time Emmy winner Jim Parsons, star of The Big Bang Theory, one of the hottest sit-coms on network TV, Matt Bomersmoking hot starof the cable TV series Blue Collar and the upcoming Steven Soderbergh-directed Channing Tatum male stripper movie Magic Mike and Zachary Quinto, co-star of the J.J. Abrams reboot of the Star Trek film franchise, among others. I had previously blogged about all of these celebrities on previous editions of Celebrity Friday.

    I think it shows progress, but there is still no A-list star (i.e. Oscar winner or big movie or music star) who is openly LGBT in Hollywood, and it appears to be easier for women to maintain their star power when they come out, or come out when they are more advanced in their careers. We'll see how Parsons, Bomer and Quinto's career progresses. Also, the career of Neil Patrick Harris does not seem to be hurt by his coming out, but none of the people mentioned could really be considered an A-list celebrity, primarily because they are mostly television stars, and have not made it big in movies (i.e. the success of a hit film is believed to be because that person was in it). 

    Of course there are many A-list celebrities who are rumoured to be LGBT (*cough* Jodie Foster, Tome Cruise, John Travolta and Oprah *cough*).

    Consider this an open thread to add the names of celebrities you have heard are closeted.

    Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

    Thursday, June 21, 2012

    MOVIE REVIEW: Snow White and the Huntsman

    The same day I saw Prometheus opening weekend, afterwards I decided to make it a Charlize Theron film festival and walked over to the theater which was going to start showing  Snow White and the Huntsman in five minutes.

     Snow White and the Huntsman had an excellent marketing campaign, with clever trailers which was able to convince me to include it in the list of films I was looking forward to see this summer. Unfortunately Rupert Sanders was directing a major motion picture for the first time and it shows, especially in the lead performance of Snow White given by Kristen Stewart, who is well-known for her starring role in the execrable Twilight film adaptations (and is now the highest paid actress in Hollywood). Stewart is definitely striking, but is she really more beautiful than the Dark Queen, played with almost riveting abandon by Oscar-winner Theron?  There are seemingly uncountable numbers of scenes where the camera is focused on a close-up of Stewart's face, and she is staring directly into the camera, with no dialogue. Many times we have no idea what Stewart is supposed to be communicating to the audience, and it appears as if neither Sanders or Stewart did either. I think it's supposed to be some kind of suggestion of enchanting Snow White's beauty is, but it mostly just seems annoying and slows down the progress of the plot.

    In fact, the story is another one of the curious aspects of the film. We all remember basic details of the Snow White fairy tale: Snow White is the daughter of the King whose queen dies and he marries someone else who is jealous of her step-daughter and casts her our to the enchanted forest, where instead of being killed by a Huntsman, Snow White meets seven Dwarves. After her Magical Mirror tells her that she is no longer the "fairest in the land" the evil Queen tricks Snow White into eating from a poisoned apple which causes her to fall into a deep sleep which is only broken by the kiss of her Prince who is in love with her beauty. The screenwriter Evan Daugherty takes great liberty with many aspects of the story (relax, there are dwarves!) and has produced a screenplay which improves the agency of both of the lead female characters and gives the Huntsman a much larger role. This is not a bad thing, per se but there is a problem when the third act of the film basically devolves into a swords and arrows battle led by Snow White (in shining armor no less) storming the castle in order to defeat the Evil Queen. At this point all one can do is shake one's head and be glad one didn't pay a lot of money to see the film. But unfortunately, you can never get those 2 1/2 hours of your life back!

    TitleSnow White and the Huntsman.
    Director: Rupert Sanders.
    Running Time: 2 hours, 7 minutes.
    MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense scenes of violence and action, and brief sensuality.
    Release Date: June 8, 2012.
    Viewing Date: June 10, 2012.

    Plot: C.
    Acting: B.
    Visuals: A.
    Impact: C.

    Overall Grade: B- (2.75/4.0).

    Wednesday, June 20, 2012

    Republicans Divorced From Reality On Obama

    A poll from a Dartmouth professor on American attitudes towards foreign policy also reveals that Republicans are absolutely divorced from reality about whether Barack Obama was born in the United States: Fully 55.6% of Republican respondents answer affirmatively to the statement "I have always believed President Obama was born in another country." This is a view shared by only 5.3% of Democrats and 24.6% of Independents.

    Basically, birtherism (i.e. the idea that Barack Obama was born in a foreign country and ergo is unqualified to be President of the United States) has become a part of Republican orthodoxy, similar to what opposition to marriage equality is becoming. It is just one test in a series of signifiers of partisan loyalty and ideological purity. In other words, if you are a Republican you must believe that Obama is not a Christian, was born in a foreign country, that taxes must never ever go up, global climate change is a hoax (or not caused by humans) and that marriage is (and has always been) an entity created by God that consists of one man and woman.

    The problem with this orthodoxy is that most of these statements are beliefs, and they are not supported by actual facts. Thus the nature of political debate changes to one between one side who provides its own facts and the other side which just looks on in disbelief, unsure how to even begin such a "debate." There can be no debate between orthodoxy and reality.
    This really does not bode well for future actions that our political system must take in order to solve our nation's pressing problems.

    The poll was conducted April 26 to May 2, 2012 and has a margin of error 3.3 percentage points.

    Hat/tip to Kevin Drum.

    Godless Wednesday: Millenial Youth Reject God

    New longitudinal survey data on religion from the Pew Research Center for Poeple & The Press shows that the Millenial generation (i.e. Americans 18-29 years old) have a sharply different view on the existence of God than their older, more religious cohorts. Only 67% agree with the statement "I Never Doubt The Existence of God" compared to truly scary numbers like 81% (ages 30-49), 86% (ages 50-64) and 87% (age 65+).

    Pew, which has been studying the trend for 25 years, finds that just 6[7] percent of millennials in 2012 agree with the statement “I never doubt the existence of God.” That’s down from 76 percent in 2009 and 83 percent in 2007.
    Among other generations, belief in God is high and has seen few changes over the last few decades. Between 81 and 89 percent of older generations say they never doubt the existence of God, although the older the generation, the more likely they are to believe in God.

    Hat/tip to Talking Points Memo

    WA Poll Indicates Majority Support for Marriage

    A new PPP poll of Washington state uses the somewhat problematic question of "Do you think same-sex marriage should be legal or illegal?" and gets the result that 51% say legal, 42% say illegal and 7% are undecided. This question is problematic because it most likely overstates support for marriage equality. After all, even people who oppose same-sex marriage do not necessarily want it to be "illegal." The poll was taken from June 14-17 and has a margin of error ±3 percentage points. This poll is another data point that shows majority support for marriage equality in Washington state, which some people can serve as a proxy for how Washington voters will vote on Referendum 74, which if approved in November 2012 would legalize marriage equality in the state.

    Hopefully, more polls will come out that will actually ask the public the exact same question voters will see on the ballot.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2012

    Happy Juneteenth! Should It Be A National Holiday?

    Today is Juneteenth, the day that African Americans have been celebrating the news of the Emancipation Proclamation and the legal ending of involuntary servitude (a.k.a. slavery) in the United States since 1865.

    I was unaware until today that there is a campaign to make Juneteenth a federal holiday. I am very well aware that there is only one federal holiday (Independence Day on July 4th) between Memorial Day at the end of May and Labor Day on the first Monday of September. That's pretty rough going for people like me who work for the Federal Government.

    Today  U.S. Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) introduced legislation to have the federal government recognize Juneteenth:

    June 19, shortened to the unique date Juneteenth, has become the symbolic anniversary of the freeing of the slaves. The Juneteenth Independence Day observance would be similar to Flag Day or Arbor Day; institutions would not be closed, but the event would have national recognition.
    "By observing this day, our nation will honor the role that Juneteenth has played in African American culture in Texas and throughout the country, and it will remind us that, in America, we are all blessed to live in freedom," Hutchison said in an e-mail.
    Hutchison's staff, not authorized to be quoted by name, says the legislation is not controversial and they do not expect any opposition.
    The bill is another step in a movement to bring Juneteenth into prominence. Forty-one states have passed bills establishing a state observance of Juneteenth, almost half of them since 2007.
    On June 19, 1865, Union soldiers landed at Galveston, Texas, to declare that the Civil War had ended and that all enslaved people were free. General Order Number 3, as it's known, was read by Maj. Gen. Gordon Granger. The declaration came more than two years after President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, which he issued Sept. 22, 1862, to take effect Jan. 1, 1863.
    Hmmm, well I am glad that the process for federal recognition is moving along.

    Where We Live: The "gayborhoods" of America

    This is interesting! The real estate blog Trulia did an analysis of 2010 U.S. Census data which recorded in what geographical census tracts same-sex couples lived and overlaid it with median price per square foor for homes listed to come up with the list of the Top 10 "gayborhoods" in the U.S. by percentage of the neighborhood which is either male or female same-sex couples. One interesting thing to note is that of the Top 10 the only jurisdiction where same-sex couples can get legally married right now (or in 2010 when the data was from) is Provincetown, Massachusetts (although I suspect many of the California couples would have been married in the June 15-November 3, 2008 173-day window when marriage equality was legal in my home state).

    To summarize
    Just three neighborhoods — ProvincetownRehoboth Beach, and the Castro — are on both the men’s and women’s top lists. The top four women’s neighborhoods, including Provincetown, are in Massachusetts. But one of the biggest differences is that the top men’s neighborhoods are much gayer than the top women’s neighborhoods: just one women’s neighborhood breaks the 5% barrier, while five men’s neighborhoods have more than 10% same-sex male couples. Remember, there are roughly the same number of male and female couples in the U.S. So, that means that male couples are much more clustered in particular neighborhoods than female couples are: female couples are more likely to be the only ones on their block.


    The gayest male neighborhoods are a mix of well-known urban neighborhoods (Castro,West Hollywood), less-well-known communities (Wilton Manors, FLPleasant Ridge, MI), and vacation areas (ProvincetownPalm SpringsRehoboth Beach).
    Trulia also did an analysis of the gayborhoods in my hometown of Los Angeles:
     The gay center of LA for men includes two zip codes in West Hollywood: roughly from Doheny Drive to Sweetzer (90069, $481) and from Sweetzer to La Brea (90046, $465), as well as the Hollywood Hills (90068, $410). By Los Angeles standards these are expensive areas, though New Yorkers might not think so. Much more affordable, and still very gay relative to the rest of the region, is Signal Hill (90755, $200), a small city surrounded by Long Beach, about 30 miles south of West Hollywood. 

    Long Beach also hosts the six neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of female couples in the LA area. The top three are Belmont Heights (90814, $278), Plaza / South of Conant (90808, $299), and Eastside (90804, $207) – all of which are far less expensive than West Hollywood.
    Where do you live?

    Hat/tip to Towleroad


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