Thursday, January 31, 2013

In Historic 1st, U.S. Senate Has 2 Black Members

In an historic first, there will be two African-American men serving in the United States Senate simultaneously. William 'Mo' Cowan was selected by a fellow African-American, Deval Patrick, the governor of Massachusetts, to serve as an interim replacement for Senator John Kerry who became Secretary of State on Tuesday. Cowan, 43, served as Gov. Patrick's chief of staff until last November, when he stepped down. Cowan will serve until the winner of a June 25th Special Election is certified and he is not expected to be a candidate in that race. Former U.S. Senator Scott Brown (who was defeated by Elizabeth Warren) is expected to run, despite being a Republican in  a very Democratic state. Whoever wins the special election will have to run for re-election to a full 6-year term in 2014.

The other Black man serving as a United States Senator is former U.S. Representative Tim Scott, who was appointed in December 2012 by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley to fill out the remainder of Jim DeMint's term in the Senate.

Cowan will become only the 8th Black person to ever have served as U.S. Senator. Retired Congressman Barney Frank had openly lobbied to be appointed, which would have meant there would have been two openly gay Senators serving simultaneously, but Gov. Patrick chose instead his good friend and longtime close advisor.

55% Favor Marriage Equality In Hawaii (37% Oppose)

A new poll shows that support for marriage equality in the very Democratic state of Hawaii is at 55% with opposition only at 37%. An interesting result in the poll is that those who strongly favor marriage equality are at 39% and those who strongly oppose it are 26% of the population.

The timing of the release of the poll is propitious since marriage equality bills have been introduced into the State Assembly and State Senate in the last week.

Hat/tip to LGBT Think Progress

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Former NFL Player Accused Of Assaulting Boyfriend

Kwame Harris, 30, played football for Stanford and
the San Francisco 49ers
This is probably not the way Kwame Harris expected the general public to find out about his sexual orientation. In fact, it appears as if Harris was hoping o remain closeted forever. However, the story of the 30-year-old former NFL player was arrested in San Francisco on suspicion of assaulting his ex-boyfriend has become huge news, especially since the Super Bowl is being played in less than a week.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
Former 49ers and Raiders tackle Kwame Harris faces charges that he assaulted his boyfriend at a Menlo Park restaurant after an argument involving soy sauce and underpants, San Mateo County prosecutors said Monday.

Harris, 30, became angry with Dimitri Geier, 36, in August at Su Hong restaurant on Menlo Avenue, according to court documents.


Serrato said the men were romantically involved and previously had lived together. Geier, a resident of Los Angeles, was visiting Harris at the time of the altercation, said Craig Charles, Geier's attorney.

"They'd broken up and gotten back together a few times," Charles said. "It was not a formal relationship."

During the restaurant argument, Harris accused Geier of stealing his underwear, Serrato said. Harris then tried to pull down Geier's pants, the prosecutor said.

"I guess he was trying to prove that he was wearing his underwear," Serrato said.

Harris, 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds, then pinned Geier (6-1, 220 pounds) against a plate-glass window and hit him several times in the face and head, Serrato said.
Ouch. 6-foot-7 and 240 pounds? That is a big guy. Geier had extensive injuries and needed facial surgeries after the incident. Harris is scheduled for trial in April.

One of the key reasons why the story is so interesting to the public is that there has never been an openly gay male member of a professional sports team in the United States (basketball, baseball or football) even though everyone knows that they must exist and numerous players have come out (or been outed) after their professional sports days are over.

It's really just a question of when, not if, a professional player comes out, and then the question is how will the sport, and the public respond?

Hat/tip to Rod 2.0

Godless Wednesday: AZ Links God and Graduation?

Arizona is well-known for bizarre public policy proposals, but the latest news about a bill to require all high school graduates to state a faith-based oath in order to get a diploma has many people up in arms.

This is the text of the proposed oath:
I, _______, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge these duties; So help me God.
Anyone see any problems with forcing all high school seniors in Arizona to state an oath containing the word "God" in it?

Good grief!

Hat/tip to Think Progress

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Support for Marriage Equality in France at 63%

The debate about marriage equality legislation in France is in full swing. A recent poll says that 63% of the French populace support "mariage homosexual" (i.e. gay marriage) and only 49% (a plurality) support adoption by same-sex couples.

The two sides have held very large rallies in Paris in the last few weeks, with the opponents of marriage equality holding one a few weeks ago that National Organization for Marriage President Brian Brown attended.

This past weekend the marriage equality supporters held their rally, with an estimated 125,000 people in attendance.

Vive La France!

NYT Urges U.S. Intervention In Prop 8 Case

The New York Times published an editorial on Sunday titled "Beyond Selma-to-Stonewall" which strongly urges the Obama administration to intervene in the Proposition 8 case Hollingsworth v. Perry:
The outcome of the Proposition 8 case is likely to affect the lives of gay, lesbian and bisexual Americans for years to come, even if the final disposition is not sweeping enough to wipe out all state laws currently banning same-sex marriage. A strong filing by the Justice Department, forthrightly declaring that denying the freedom to marry violates the Constitution, would put the full weight of the federal government on the side of justice and could influence the shape of the ruling.
For the administration to be missing in action in this showdown risks conveying a message to the justices that it lacks confidence in the constitutional claims for ending gay people’s exclusion from marriage or that it believes Americans are not ready for a high court ruling making marriage equality the law of the land — impressions strikingly contradicted by legal precedent, the lessons of history and by the president’s own very powerful words.
Mr. Obama’s Inaugural Address appeared to reflect a deepened understanding that the right to marry the person of one’s choice is a fundamental right “under the law.” He needs to make sure his solicitor general conveys that sound legal view loud and clear in the Proposition 8 case.
The question of whether the federal government (as represented by the Department of Justice headed by Attorney-General Eric Holder) should take a position in the Perry case even though it is only about a particular state's marriage laws has been a slow boiling controversy in LGBT legal circles.

However, now it is clear that the heterosexual supremacist forces represented by Charles Cooper are explicitly hoping that the Obama administration does not intervene in the case while the pro-marriage equality forces represented by Ted Olson and David Boies are explicitly asking for the support of the Department of Justice on behalf of the appellee-defendants:
Olson and Boies, former opponents from the landmark Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election for George W. Bush, urged the government to enter the case and assert that gay and lesbian couples have the same right to marry as a man and a woman. According to lawyers in the room, Olson stressed that the administration's voice should be heard at this historic moment. Olson, who as solicitor general under Bush from 2001-04 once ran such meetings, was especially fervent. He compared the contention that states need more time to resolve the gay-marriage dilemma to arguments half a century ago that states needed more time before blacks and whites could share the same public accommodations such as drinking fountains. 
A former Reagan administration lawyer, Cooper argued in his session that marriage is the business of the states, so no federal constitutional interest can be asserted. Cooper referred to Obama's own comments suggesting that states should decide the matter and echoed much of what he had written in his recently submitted brief to the Supreme Court. In that, Cooper included Obama's remarks from a May 2012 interview with ABC News referring to the "healthy process and ... healthy debate" occurring in the states.
The text is referring to arguments made by the pro-LGBT and anti-LGBT sides to Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (who actually represents the interests of the United States before the United States Supreme Court) at meetings that occurred on January 18th. The Obama administration and other parties considered "friends of the court" have until close of business on Tuesday to file their amicus curiae briefs.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Eye Candy: Daniel Akyeampong (reprise)

Daniel Akyeampong is a very young, well-known model who was associated with Abercrombie & Firth early in his career (circa 2009) but more recently has branched out to other areas. According to his Model Mayhem profile he is 21 years old, but his Facebook page says he was born in August 1993 which would make him still 20. I suspect maybe someone could not do the math and he was actually born in 1991 or 1992.

Anyway, Daniel appeared as Eye Candy once before (January 10, 2011). Regardless of how old he actually he is, he has a youthful appeal.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Djokovic Wins 6th Major; 4th in Oz

As I predicted, World #1 Novak Djokovic defeated World #3 Andy Murray 6-7(2) 7-6(3) 6-3 6-2 in the final of the 2013 Australian Open to become the first man in the open era to win three consecutive titles in Melbourne and capture the 6th major title of his career at age 25.

This was the fourth time the two had met in a major tournament, with Djokovic extending his lead to 3-1 over his rival, with the only loss coming in 5-sets at the 2012 US Open final. Additionally, Djokovic now leads their overall head-to-head 11-7.

The match was not of the extraordinary quality of either that previous final they played 4 months ago or the semifinal the two contested in Australia last year, both of which were on my list of the best men's matches of the year.

In this match, there were only 3 breaks of serve, while in those previous 2 there were 35 breaks combined. In fact, it was well after the first two-and-a-half mark before the first break occurred, although, surprisingly there were breakpoints saved by both players in the first two tiebreak sets. The player who saved the breakpoints in each case was the person who won the tiebreaker. After Murray was broken it became apparent something was wrong with his feet (or toes) and his movement was not as explosive to the ball, which Djokovic was able to ruthlessly exploit to earn two more breaks in the 4th set and close out thee match without ever losing his. This is a pretty astonishing achievement for someone who was playing against the person who is arguably the best service returner in the game right now. Another, aspect of the game where Murray fell short was that although he has the bigger serve and had only served two double faults in the entire tournament up to the final, he only managed 7 aces and squandered 5 double faults (including one on break point) in the championship match.

Djokovic's win means that all four major titles will continue to be held by the Top 4 players in the world: World #1 Djokovic (Australian Open), World #2 Roger Federer (Wimbledon), World #3 Murray (US Open) and World #4 Rafael Nadal (French Open).

Many people, myself included, expect Djokovic to make a huge push to try to complete his career slam on the red clay of Roland Garros this spring. He made the final last year and for a stretch of 8 games completely dominated the best clay court player of all time before losing in 4 sets. Can he do so again for 3-4 sets? That is the question that remains to be answered.

2013 AUS OPEN: Men's Final Preview

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2] vs. Andy Murray (GBR) [3]
Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray were born exactly a week apart from each other in 1987 and have faced each other 17 times on the ATP tour, with the younger player currently leading 10-7 in their career head-to-head.

The two have met in 2 major finals so far, with Djokovic winning the 2011 Australian Open in straight sets and Murray winning the 2012 U.S. Open in 5 sets. The two have only met one other time in a major and that was their thrilling 2012 Australian Open semifinal won by Djokovic 7-5 in the 5th set which was one of the best matches of the year.

Here is my prediction for the 2013 Australian Open men's final. I correctly predicted the winner of the men's final last year. I previously correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals this year. On the women's side of the draw, I correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals this year. This year I incorrectly predicted the winner of the women's final.

How They Got Here
A. Murray (GBR) [3] d. R. Federer (SUI) [2] 6-4 6-7(5) 6-3 6-7(2) 6-2. Murray had never beaten Federer at a major tournament despite meeting in three major finals (2008 US Open, 2010 Australian Open and 2012 Wimbledon). However, in the 2013 Australian Open semifinal the Briton came in to the match having not dropped a set while Federer had survived a tough 5-set test against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. Murray looked like he had the match wrapped up in the 4th set when he served for it at 6-5 but he was broken and then played a horrendous tiebreak which lead to a 5th set. Surprisingly, Federer completely faded relatively early in the deciding set and Murray quickly garnered an insurmountable lead and won the match.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [2] d. D. Ferrer (ESP) [4] 6-2 6-2 6-1David Ferrer is known as "The Beast" and "Iron Man" for his stamina and off-court regimen which has led to him optimizing the amount of power and tennis talent capable of emerging from his diminutive frame. The fact that Djokovic was able to demolish such a respected player who has been a fixture in the Top 5 for years in just 89 minutes is nothing less than astonishing. The Serb played absolutely other-worldly tennis, probably his best performance of the tournament.

Who Will Win
It is a very hard call to pick who will win the match. Since this is sports, the unexpected can always happen. Who would have thought that Li Na would turn her ankle and fall twice in the women's final despite almost never having done so in a professional match before? There are multiple dimensions to the contest on a tennis court, the primary being the mental and the physical. (And the two can be related and interrelated of course.)

Mentally, I would have to give a very slight edge to Djokovic. He survived a nearly 6 hours match against Rafael Nadal in the final last year and has beaten his current opponent just two years ago at this very same stage, so the Serb's confidence must be high and he believes that he can win this match. Murray knows that it is definitely possible that he can win this match as well, since he beat Djokovic in a tough 5-set match under very tough, windy conditions in New York a mere four months ago.

Physically, I can not really distinguish the two. Djokovic has the better groundstrokes (backhand and forehand) and movement around the court, but Murray has faster speed, a stronger serve, and a better service return. But Djokovic has slightly more stamina (as far as we know so far).

Who wants to win it more? Most definitely Murray wants it more than Djokovic at this point since the Brit only has one major while the World #1 has won four of the last 8 majors played and has a total of 5 majors so far in his career. Murray has been more efficient in his play throughout the tournament but Djokovic has the tougher competition even though he didn't have to face Federer.

If Djokovic plays the same level of tennis he exhibited against Ferrer he could win in straight sets again, but if he plays the tennis he has played throughout the championship and so does Murray then we could have another instant classic on par with last year's final with the winner being anyone's guess. Interestingly, Federer gives Djokovic the slight edge to win the title, but this may be sour grapes for his loss to Murray, since he was visibly upset and caught on tape swearing repeatedly during his semifinal loss. Federer's reasoning is that Djokovic has had an extra day of rest and he had a straight sets semifinal win while Murray had a 5-set win. But last year, Djokovic had a 5-set win in the semifinals over Murray while Nadal had a 4-set win over Federer and Djokovic was still able to win. But that was more because Djokovic is simply the better hard court player. At this point I think Djokovic is still slightly the better hard court player (51% to 49%) but that doesn't mean he will win the match.

What I do know is that I feel very lucky that we have two players entering the primes of their tennis careers while two of the greatest ever (Federer and Nadal) are still relevant and competitive. Regardless of who wins this particular major, the four will be exchanging wins and losses relatively evenly for the next 12-18 months at least.

Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic in 3 or 4 sets OR Murray in 5 sets.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

WATCH: Denver Nuggets Player Supports His Moms

Colorado is currently considering civil union legislation, it recently passed its first committee vote in the State Senate and is expected to be enacted this year. Republicans killed similar legislation back in 2011 and again in 2012 but in the November 2012 elections Democrats won legislative control and selected an openly gay man as Speaker of the House.

Denver Nuggets basketball player Kenneth Faried supports the legislation and appears in a video where he says "Nobody could ever tell me that  I can't have two mothers 'cause I really do!"

2013 AUS OPEN: Azarenka Wins 2nd Major Over Li

Victoria Azarenka became the first player to defend an Australian Open women's singles title since Serena Williams did it in 2010 by coming back to beat Li Na 4-6 6-4 6-3 in 2 hours and 40 minutes. It was a very dramatic, emotional match with Li rolling her ankle and falling to the ground once in each of the last two sets, which perhaps not incidentally were the two sets that she lost. Li started the match by serving well and blasting more winners (and errors) than her opponent. The entire match was characterized by a huge number of breaks of serve, with Azarenka winning 9 of 12 breakpoints while Li only won 7 of 18. That was the key stat of the match which overturned my prediction of a victory by the Chinese player. The audience was strongly in favor of Li (probably by a 90% margin) but Azarenka was mentally tough enough to overcome that, as well as a 10-minute break down 1-2 (on serve) in the third set for fireworks celebrating Australia Day.

With her win, Azarenka retains the #1 ranking and has now reached the final of two consecutive majors, serving for the title both times. She lost to Serena in New York, but was able to close it out against Li in Melbourne.

Friday, January 25, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Women's Final Preview

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [1] vs. Li Na (CHN) [6]. 

Here is my prediction for the 2013 Australian Open women's final. I previously correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and 1 of 2 women's semifinals this year. On the men's side of the draw, I correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals and 2 of 2 men's semifinals this year. Last year I incorrectly predicted the winner of the women's final.

How Did They Get Here? 
 Na Li (CHN) [6] d. M. Sharapova (RUS) [2] 6-2 6-2.
Sharapova had run through the first 5 rounds of competition by making a mockery of the word by losing a mere 9 games in the 10 sets played. Li Na had "upset" higher ranked (and hitherto unbeaten in 2013) Agnieska Radwanska in two relatively nervy sets the round before. Most people (yours truly included) expected a scoreline that ended this semifinal, but we expected the Russian to be on top, not the Chinese player! However, despite having a 4-8 career head-to-head deficit and having lost to Sharapova in 3 consecutive meetings in 2012, Li was able to put all that aside and come out firing from the very first ball and outhit and outserved the 4-time major champion. The book on Li Na is was that she has a world-class backhand and a very powerful forehand which eventually would breakdown if you picked on it. But Li's forehand remained rock-solid and it was Sharapova's groundstrokes which started to breakdown as the score deficit increased and she was forced to go for ill-advised winners that became unforced errors.  By the end of the match Li had hit 3 more winners than errors (21 winners, 18 errors) compared to her opponent who had (17 winners but 32 errors). This was not the same Li Na who Sharapova had beaten repeatedly in 2012 and she never found a way to solve the 2013 edition of Li Na.

V. Azarenka (BLR) [1] d. S. Stephens, 6-1 6-4.
Despite the score, this was actually quite a tight match, with the result in doubt until the last two games or so. In fact, there is now a significant controversy about the end of the match because after failing to convert 5 match points in the second set, Azarenka inexplicably took a medical time out and left the court for 10 minutes. This was one game after Azarenka had failed to convert 5 match points during Sloane's service game at 3-5. When she returned to the court she was able to break Stephens' serve and win the match. However, when asked about what happened while on court immediately after her win Azarenka said "I just felt a little bit overwhelmed realizing that I’m one step from the final and nerves got into me for sure." The problem with this response is that it doesn't appear to include a legitimate reason for an injury time out. And an injury time-out is supposed to last 5 minutes, not 10 so the official word is that she took two consecutive injury time-outs, 1 for her back and 1 for her rib. Many commentators note that Azarenka has often had difficulty dealing with the head and this was a day match played in temperatures approaching 100 degrees. The injury time-out(s) allowed Vika to sit in an air conditioned room for 10 minutes while she was "evaluated" and "treated" off the court. Regardless of the burgeoning controversy and Azarenka's shifting (and shifty) explanations, the match itself (especially the second set!) was very exciting. Stephens was down an early break and looked out of it but was able to use her preternatural defensive skills to frustrate Azarenka and get the set back on serve. In fact, in the game before the injury time out Stephens had numerous chances to break which she was not able to capitalize on. Many observers (including yours truly) felt that if Sloane had been able to break Vika and hold serve to win the 2nd set the match would have become very complicated for Vika. But, thanks to Azarenka's shenanigans after holding serve, we can only wonder what could have been.

Who Will Win?
As with most grand slam finals, the result will settle a number of important issues. Azarenka's #1 WTA tour ranking is not at stake; by reaching the final (like she did last year) she retains has the opportunity to retain the top spot. Unless she repeats as champion she will cede #1 to Serena Williams. However, since she started last year by remaining undefeated until the Miami tournament she has a lot of points to defend and it is very likely that Serena may still be able to unseat her at the top spot sometime this spring. Azarenka has a slight 5-4 lead in their career head-to-head and has won the last four matches the two have contested, including three they played in 2012. But, as her surprising win over Sharapova proved, Li Na is a new player with her new coach Carlos Rodrigues, so it is doubtful that their past matches will be any predictor of their future matches. For both players, this is their third major final, with Azarenka winning the first one she played here last year (over Sharapova) and losing her 2nd in the most recently concluded major tournament in New York (despite being up 5-3 in the 3rd set!) Li Na reached her first final here two years ago, losing to the now-retired Kim Clijsters in 3 sets and then surprisingly reached the final of the very next major on her worst surface and won that one in straight sets over Francesca Schiavone.

So really the deciding factor should be who is playing better right now, in this tournament, and who will handle the pressure of the moment better. On mental toughness, one has to give the edge to Azarenka, but on the question of who is playing better right now, Li Na's results show that she wins that comparison. Li Na has not lost a set in 6 rounds of play, and despite the fact that they have both hit 128 winners in the tournament I still give the edge to the Chinese player. Li is also serving significantly better, with the same number of aces and double faults while Azarenka only has 12 aces in the tournament compared to twenty-eight double faults. The one significant edge Azarenka has on Li is that she is more than seven years younger, so that Li may be overwhelmed by the occasion if she really does get close to winning her second major tournament. However, I trust that her coach will have prepared her for this moment and the local crowd support should help her over the finish line ahead.

Mad Professah's pick: Li Na.

Celebrity Friday: JJ Abrams To Direct Star Wars VII

The celebrity news today that geeks are buzzing about is that J.J. Abrams, the director of the reboot of the Star Trek franchise with  2009's Star Trek movie (and its sequel Star Trek Intro Darkness coming out on May 17, 2013) has apparently been chosen by Disney to direct the next Star Wars film coming out in 2015 following Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm, Ltd for 4 billion dollars last fall.

Deadline Hollywood reports:
Star Trek director J.J. Abrams will be helming the next Star Wars movie. “It’s done deal with J.J.,” a source with knowledge of the situation told Deadline today. Argo director Ben Affleck was also up for the gig, the source says. Despite saying publicly that he didn’t want to direct a new Star Wars, Abrams was courted heavily by producer Kathleen Kennedy to take the job. Expected in 2015, Episode VII will be the first new Star Wars movie since 2005′s Episode III: Revenge Of The Sith. Michael Arndt is writing the script for the first installment of the relaunch of George Lucas’ franchise by Disney.
Many people are unhappy with the choice, notably Alyssa Rosenberg of Think Progress. I think I am agnostic on the choice, but it is definitely unusual to see someone who belongs to both "nerd universes" of Star Wars fandom as well as Star Trek fandom.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

FOOD REVIEW: Corduroy (Washington, DC)

Chocolate Tart with Caramelized Banana
Broken Arrow Ranch Antelope with Chestnut Puree 
Crispy Striped Bass with Wakefield Cabbage
Roast and Confit Guinea Hen
with Maitake Mushrooms
 Carpaccio ofLobster with Drawn Butter
Interior of Corduroy
Washington, D.C. is a good town for foodies and good food. I have been taking advantage of my temporary relocation to the DC metro area to explore some of the best restaurants in the area. Recently, I went to Corduroy, which is well-known as one of the best restaurants in the city. I was with two other foodies so we decided to have the 5-course tasting menu for $65. Two of us were omnivores but one member of the group was a pescatarian so the restaurant offered to accommodate us by substituting our red meat entrees with fish. Instead of the antelope course he had the Seared Sea Scallops with Anson Mills Antebellum Grits (which looked amazing) and instead of the guinea hen course the vegetarian option was Peppered Rare Big Eye Tuna with Sushi Rice and Hijiki.

The night started with an amuse bouche of a small, piping hot serving of the Kabocha Squash Soup. Then the five courses were, in order, the lobster carpaccio, the guinea hen, the crispy bass, the antelope with chestnut and ended with the dark chocolate tart. (Another interesting twist on the tasting menu was that they offered each one of us a different dessert. I had the chocolate tart, the other meat-eater picked the apple tart tatin and the pescatarian chose the pistachio bread pudding. I think my desert was the best of the three, by far.)

The service was exquisite throughout, and the restaurant started off relatively empty but by the time we finished it was about half full but there was no diminution of the level of quality of service and the courses came at a very comfortable and timely pace. The food was superb, with my favorite being the antelope dish. It was perfectly paired with the chestnut puree (which tasted sort of like a semi sweet creamy mashed potatoes). I'm not a fan of brussel sprouts, but the ones with the guinea hen made me a believer in that vegetable. The lobster carpaccio sounds like a good idea, but it is really not. It's just sorta of weirdly gooey and bland, with a frankly unsettling texture. But the high quality of the rest of the courses (and the very tasty soup to begin) outweighed that single wrong note in the symphony of flavors the meal provided.

Corduroy was by far my most enjoyable dining experience I have had living in Washington for the last 17 months. I hope to dine there a couple of times more before I return to Los Angeles at the end of the summer.

: Corduroy.
Location: 1122 9th Street Northwest Washington, DC 20001 (Mt. Vernon Sq/Convention Center).
Contact: 202-589-0699.
Visit: Tuesday, January 15, 2013.

FOOD: A+. 

OVERALL: A (4.0/4.0)

R.I. House Passes Marriage Equality Bill 51-19!

Courtesy Rex Wockner

Rhode Island made another significant step towards joining its neighboring states in enacting marriage equality today by passing HB 1505 by a vote of 51-19.

The Providence Journal reports:
After House Speaker Gordon D. Fox announced the vote, members rose to their feet in a prolonged standing ovation. 
The vote followed a debate that lasted roughly an hour and a half, with supporters and opponents giving often impassioned, emotional speeches explaining their positions. 
Until Tuesday, the issue -- introduced annually for the last 11 years -- had never made it beyond committee hearings. 
This year, the outcome in the House was never really in doubt, with Speaker Fox signed on as the lead cosponsor and 42 of 75 members signed on as supporters. 
Now the bill goes to the Senate, where there is more opposition and leaders say it may sit for weeks or even months before a hearing is held.
This is just the first of many states that will likely make progress towards marriage equality in 2013. I'd really love to hear what the objections to marriage equality are in Rhode Island since most people simply reject the heterosexual supremacists common "arguments." How long can people say that "marriage is between a man and a woman" when there are nearly 10 states and hundreds of thousands of legally married same-sex couples in the United States?

2013 AUS OPEN: Men's Semifinal Preview

The men's semifinals are now set at the 2013 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. This year I  correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

I have also correctly predicted 1 of 2 women's semifinals this year.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs David Ferrer (ESP) [4]. Ferrer is very lucky to be here because he was down 2 sets and a break against his good friend and countryman Nicolas Almagro whom he had never lost to before in 12 previous matches.
With this belief, Ferrer was able to battle back to win the 3rd set and then after repeatedly trading service breaks he was to win a 4th set tiebreak and then easily run away with the win. Djokovic continued his domination of Tomas Berdych  by winning his 12th match in 13 meetings against the tall Czech, this time in 4 sets. Ferrer and Djokovic have met 14 times in their career with the World #1 enjoying a significant 9-5 edge, including 3-0 in 5-set Grand Slam matches.  In fact, the two met at this very same stage in the previous major in New York with Djokovic prevailing in 4 sets but Ferrer was in control of that match for a significant stretch of time under very difficult windy conditions.  There's nothing that Ferrer does better than Djokovic and he is yet to show that his residency in the Top 4 of Men's Tennis will not be temporary as we await the return of his friend and compatriot who has a dominating record against him: Rafael Nadal. Last year Djokovic was able to outlast Nadal in an instant-classic, nearly 6-hour final (the best match of the year), is there anyone who thinks that Ferrer can exceed that performance? I didn't think so. Mad Professah's pick: Djokovic in 3 sets.

Andy Murray (GBR) [3] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [2].  This has been the most anticipated match-up of the tournament since the draw was released before the 2013 Australian Open began. The big question was with Nadal out of the tournament, in whose part of the draw would the #3 member of the trivalry at the top of men's tennis: Djokovic's half or Federer's half? Not only did Murray finish in Federer's half but so did numerous other problematic opponents like Jo-Wilfried Tsonga, Milos Raonic and Bernard Tomic. In fact, of the top four players, Federer's path to the final was by far the most difficult. Amazingly, he was able to win a tough 5-set match against Tsonga in the quarterfinal despite playing his worst tennis of the tournament, with what is very likely a career low of a mere six aces in a 5-set match, with less errors but also less winners than his opponent. If you look at the stats of the match, it is astonishing that Federer was able to win 7-6(4) 4-6 7-6(4) 3-6 6-3 despite converting far less breakpoints than his opponent as well. With this   win Federer has now made 10 consecutive Australian Open semifinals, and has a 5-4 record in those matches.

Murray on the other hand was able to easily dismiss the hard-hitting Frenchman Jereny Chardy who earlier had upset Juan Martin del Potro 2 round before. In fact, the winner of the last contested major tournament has yet to drop a set in this tournament, the only semifinalists to do so. Murray is simply playing the best tennis of the four and despite Djokovic's head-to-head advantage over him and should be considered the favorite to win the entire tournament at this point. Murray has always matched up well with Federer and has a slight 10-9 career head-to-head edge which he should use to give him confidence to win this mach. Before winning his first major title in New York, Murray often had difficulty playing his best tennis in big matches but that is probably a thing of the past. Mad Professah's pick: Murray in 4 sets.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Queer Quote: GOP Brief Claims Gays Are Powerful

In their opening 60-page brief to the United States Supreme Court defending the odious Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) in the U.S. v. Windsor case, the Republican U.S. House majority claims, in a brief written under the name of conservative superlawyer Paul Clement (who has billed federal taxpayers nearly $3 million to date for his services), that gays and lesbians do not deserve the "equal protection of the laws" found in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution because they are too "powerful."

And that, dear reader, leads to today's Queer Quote:
In short, gays and lesbians are one of the most influential, best-connected, best-funded, and best organized interest groups in modern politics, and have attained more legislative victories, political power, and popular favor in less time than virtually any other group in American history.  Characterizing such a group as politically powerless would be wholly inconsistent with this Court’s admonition that a class should not be regarded as suspect when the group has some “ability to attract the attention of the lawmakers.” Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 445. 
Gays and lesbians not only have the attention of lawmakers, they are winning many legislative battles.  And the importance of this factor in the analysis cannot be gainsaid.  This Court has never definitively determined which of the four factors is necessary or sufficient, but given that the ultimate inquiry focuses on whether a group needs the special intervention of the courts or whether issues should be left for the democratic process, the political strength of gays and lesbians in the political process should be outcome determinative here.
LGBT Think Progress demolishes this argument pretty convincingly by placing its content in context with the Civil Rights struggles of the 1960s:
One can only wonder what Paul Clement might have written if Virginia had hired him to defend their practice of racial marriage discrimination when it was before the justices in 1967. “Negro leaders meet often with the President and with Congressional leaders, and indeed, President Johnson himself signed two major laws pushed by the Negro lobby. Negro groups not only led a widely attended rally on the National Mall, but they routinely organize well-attended sit-ins, marches and other events that garner press attention and national sympathy. Recently, a Negro march at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Alabama even sparked the President of the United States to give a speech endorsing the Negro lobby’s agenda before a joint session of Congress.
So if a minority group is actually able to organize and win battles in legislatures and at the ballot box Clement (on behalf of the House Republicans, using our tax money) is arguing that the Courts do not need to intervene to strike down an act by the federal legislature which explicitly discriminates against that same group. "Orwellian" or "Catch-22" only begins to describe the logic at play here.

And it is completely historically inaccurate. Congress passed landmark legislation to protect racial minorities in 1964 and 1965 prior to the United States Supreme Court ruling in Loving v Virginia in 1967 that 16 states' ban on interracial marriage violated the United States constitution.

I am waiting with bated breath to see what our side, represented by Mary Bonauto of Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders (GLAD) will say in the reply brief about this and other specious arguments invented to try and defend the indefensible discrimination inherent in DOMA. The good guys have won before the last 10 federal courts to consider DOMA and there's good reason to suspect that the Supremes will rule similarly.

2013 AUS OPEN: Women's Semifinals Preview

The women's semifinals are now set at the 2013 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. This year I  correctly predicted 3 of 4 women's quarterfinals and correctly predicted 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals.

Victoria Azarenka (BLR) [1] vs Serena Williams (USA) [3] Sloane Stephens (USA) [29]. For only the second time since 2001, Serena Williams will not be playing in the finals of the Australian Open during an odd-numbered year. The 31-year-old 5-time Australian Open champion (2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2010) lost to the 19-year-old American Sloane Stephens playing in her very first major quarterfinal in a tight, dramatic 3-set match 3-6 7-5 6-4.

Serena was definitely nowhere near her best form during this encounter since she had rolled her ankle in the first round of the tournament and she had also played a lot of tennis the day before losing a long 3-set match in the women's doubles quarterfinals with her sister Venus. That being said, Stephens kept her cool for its entirety while playing the most important match of her young career, against one of her idols and heroes. (It helped that she had lost a tight 4-6 4-6 match against Serena at the Brisbane warm-up tournament just a few weeks before.) . On the other side of the net, Serena got a code violation for demolishing her racket after she lost the second set despite starting it with a comfortable early break and a 2-0 lead. According to her press conference afterwards, Serena mentioned that she had actually hurt her back a few days earlier and during a point in the 2nd set it went out completely. It was the first time in her career that Serena had ever lost to an American player younger than she is and Sloane became the first American teenager to reach a major semifinal since Serena did it in the semifinals of the 2001 US Open. Stephens will face Azarenka, the current world #1 for the very first time. That the two have never met before is another indication of just how rapid Stephens ascent has been. In her quarterfinal, Azarenka reached her 5th career major semifinal by eking out a tough first set against Svetlana Kuznetsova despite a handful of service breaks and then running away with the second set to win 7-5 6-1. Azarenka is the current defending champion at this tournament and should be able to use her confidence and experience to get past the fast-rising American star. If Sloane can match Serena's power she can definitely match Azarenka's, and she has even more power (is most definitely a better mover) than the young American Jamie Hampton who may have been on the way to beating Azarenka in the 3rd round before her body failed her. It is not within the possibility that Stephens could reach her first grand slam final by winning this match, although the odds are heavily stacked against that happening. But it looks like it is simply only a matter of when, not if, the 19-year-old will be competing for major titles. Mad Professah's Pick: Azarenka in 2 sets.
Na Li (CHN) [6] vs Maria Sharapova (RUS) [2].  Sharapova has been demolishing her competition. She has not lost a single set, in fact she hasn't even had a set point against her, since no one has even been closer than 3-all in any of the 10 sets the Russian has played this tournament. She has won half of these 10 sets with the score 6-0 and another two 6-1.
She has lost a record nine games in 10 sets. Then again, she has had an absolutely dream of a draw, with her only brief test coming in the third round against Venus Williams and the only other seeded player she faced was #19 seed Ekaterina Makarova whom she had never lost to before. Her opponent will be Li Na in the semifinals who ended the unbeaten run of Agnieska Radwanska in two close sets. Li and Sharapova met three times in 2012 and Sharapova won all 3 times. They played one of the best matches of the year in the finals of Rome but the other two matches were on hard court and were not even close. However, the two have not met on court since Li started being coached by 7-time major champion Justine Henin's former coach Carlos Rodrigues who is trying to make the hard-hitting Chinese player more aggressive and not so reliant on her superior movement. Li's main problem is her (lack of) consistency which leads to mental anguish on the court (sort of similar to Andy Murray). I think it's still too early to see the full results of the new coaching relationship but I believe Li will have a very good year, and will compete very well against Sharapova, but not enough to win, Mad Professah's pick: Sharapova in 3 sets.

Godless Wednesday: Funny Comic On Christianity

Hat/tip to The Far Left Side

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Rhode Island Marriage Equality Bill Clears 1st Hurdle

Rhode Island (along with Illinois and Delaware) is a state which is likely to make some significant progress towards enacting marriage equality in 2013. The openly gay Speaker of the House Gordon Fox has promised to make passing a bill to enact marriage equality in Rhode Island a priority in the current session, and today a House legislative committee unanimously advanced  HB 5015 for  a vote of the full House on Thursday January 24th.

The Governor also supports marriage equality and the President of the State Senate has promised to allow a vote in her body on the legislation, even though she personally does not support equal treatment for same-sex couples under the law.

Interestingly, a dozen years ago, a Rhode Island legislative committee considered a marriage equality bill and the vote was 19-1 against, with the lone affirmative vote being cast by now Congressman David Cicilline, who was an openly gay state legislator at the time.

Hat/tip to Joe.My.God

2013 AUS OPEN: Williams Sisters Lose To #1 Seed

At the 2013 Australian Open yesterday Venus and Serena Williams lost 3-6 7-6(1) 7-5 to the #1 seed in women's doubles, Sara Errani and Roberta Vinci despite being up 6-3 5-3 and 6-3 6-5 with both Serena and Venus each serving for the match and getting broken. After playing a horrendous tiebreak the two went up 3-0 in the 3rd set and then proceeded to lose 4 games in a row. They stemmed the tide at 4-all but their play for the entire match was sub-par, with Serena's movement questionable at times. Venus' serving was particularly atrocious and one memorable fault bounced on her side of the net (and never even hit the net); she eventually double-faulted on breakpoint down at 5-all to hand the Italian team the opportunity to serve out the match, which they did efficiently and promptly.

Hopefully, the result (and the potential re-injury to her right ankle) will not impact Serena's play in the Australian Open singles quarterfinals against fellow American Sloane Stephens tonight.

Queer Quote: Rick Santorum on our "moral decline"

Former Republican Presidential candidate (and religious extremist) Rick Santorum was on Washington Watch, the radio show hosted by fellow heterosexual supremacist (and Family Research Council flak) Tony Perkins recently, when he said the following, which is today's Queer Quote:
The cultural indicators that I talked about earlier that are sort of going the wrong way, we're, you know, in ever-increasing numbers, less and less people here in America, you know, and believe in God, and believe in Jesus Christ, and believe in truth and right and wrong. It’s understandable, I mean, if you certainly, if you look at popular culture and what comes out of Hollywood, if you go to our schools and particularly our colleges and universities, they are indoctrinating in a sea of relativism and a sea of antagonism toward Christianity -- religion in general, but Christianity in particular.
Yes, Rick (and Tony), you all are losing the culture war that your side started. And it's a lovely thing!

Hat/tip to Tidbits of my Life.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013 AUS OPEN: Men's Quarterfinals Preview

The men's quarterfinals are now set at the 2013 Australian Open. Last year, I predicted 4 of 4 women's quarterfinals correctly and 4 of 4 men's quarterfinals correctly. I have also previewed the 2013 Australian Open women's quarterfinals.

Novak Djokovic (SRB) [1] vs Tomas Berdych (CZE) [5].  The World #1 played one of the best matches of the year to survive a near-death experience against determined Swiss Stanislas Wawrinka in the 4th round. That match lasted 5 hours and 2 matches and was one in which Wawrinka was outplaying Djokovic for extremely long stretches but somehow the Serb kept fighting and was able to take advantage of his limited opportunities to stay close in the match. The Warwrinka-Djokovic slugfest was surprising because Djokovic has owned Wawrinka to date in their career and had been slicing through his opponents with deadly efficiency in the first three rounds.  In fact, Djokovic is the only one of the Big 3 to lose more than one set in the first four rounds, and he did it in one match! One would think playing 5 hours would have a negative impact on Djokovic's performance in his next match, but last year he played an epic match against Andy Murray in the semifinals here and followed it up by winning the best (and most hard-fought) match of the year against Rafael Nadal roughly 48 hours later. Although Berdych is not one of the Big 3 he has been running through his section of the draw like one and comes in to this showdown with the Serbian fresh and ready to cause some damage. The career head-to-head greatly favors Djokovic since the only time in 11 meetings the Czech has won was the grand stage of the 2010 Wimbledon semifinals, but Berdych has made large noises at the slams before by  taking out Roger Federer at the 2010 Wimbledon and 2012 US Open. Can Berdych do so again at the major where Djokovic has been his most dominant? Possibly, but unlikely.  Mad Professah's Pick: Djokovic in 4 sets.

David Ferrer (ESP) [4] vs Nicolas Almagro (ESP) [10]. This all Spanish-quarterfinal ensures that there will be a Spaniard playing in the semifinals of the Australian Open for the fourth time in five years (2010 was the only year that was missed). Both of these players have prospered during the extended absence of their compatriot Rafael Nadal with Ferrer reaching the #4 seed at a major and both players reaching their highest ATP ranking. This match-up should be the least interesting of the four men's quarterfinals played since Ferrer has a 12-0 stranglehold in the career head-to-head with Almagro. Of course, past results are no predictor of future events but it is difficult to see a scenario where Ferrer does not play up to his seeding and reach his 5th major semifinal. Mad Professah's pick: Ferrer in 5 sets.

Jo-Wilfried Tsonga (FRA) [7] vs Roger Federer (SUI) [2]. Federer is playing in his 35th consecutive major quarterfinal (and 39 quarterfinals overall) and has reached 32 major semifinals (losing only 7 quarterfinals), so he should be considered a 4:1 favorite to reach his record 33rd semifinal against most opponents. However he is playing someone who has beaten him in a major quarterfinal before, in the 2011 Wimbledon quarterfinals despite Federer winning the first two sets! The career head-to-head favors Federer 8 to 3 but one of those wins is a walkover during their one scheduled meeting in 2012. In 5-set matches, Federer leads 2-1 but Melbourne has to be considered Tsonga's most successful major, since he has reached the final here 5 years ago (losing to a very young Djokovic). Federer has had the most difficult draw of any of the top 4 players but he is also the only player who has managed not to lose his serve at all through 4 rounds, despite facing Benoit Paire, Nikolay Davydenko, Bernard Tomic and #13 seed Milos Raonic. Federer had an astonishingly low 12 unforced errors (to 34 winners) in his dismantling of Raonic in the 4th round and is still yet to lose a set (or have his serve broken) in the tournament. I don't think that streak will continue in the quarterfinal, but I do expect Federer to reach another major semifinal, his 33rd. Mad Professah's pick: Federer in 4 sets.

Juan Martin Del Potro (ARG) [6] Jeremy Chardy (FRA) vs Andy Murray (GBR) [3]. Murray has done well in Australia and has probably been the second best hard-court player in the world over the last 12 months. Winning his first major championship in New York appears to have brought clarity to his game and no really expects him to lose to players lower ranked than he is any more. Chardy is playing in his first major quarterfinal, having taken out hard-hitting Argentine Juan Martin del Potro in the 3rd round in a surprising show of mental and physical fortitude after blowing a 2-0 set lead.  That being said, Chardy needed 4-sets to get past Andreas Seppi while Murray has yet to drop a set all tournament long and almost certainly will not do so on his way to reaching his 4th consecutive semifinal in MelbourneMad Professah's pick: Murray in 3 sets.


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