Assorted disasters, naturally

There was an earthquake in Virginia earlier this week. And this weekend, Hurricane Irene is headed up the Atlantic Coast. (See its path as of Friday, below.)

Both natural disasters have Washington, D.C., in their path of destruction. A lot of America will look at that as justice. I’m sure the folks on the right will say it’s Obama’s fault.

I see it as a reminder that I have to buy homeowner’s insurance one of these days.

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Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial Opens

The Martin Luther King Jr. National Memorial opened this week in Washington, D.C., and — weather permitting — there is a dedication scheduled on Sunday. Jerry Bembry, with Baltimore public radio station WYPR, visited the national mall to get people’s reaction to the memorial, and to see how the public felt about Dr. King’s dream.

Steve Jobs and Pat Summitt: legends and mortality

Two big stories today on two legendary figures in business and sports: one man, one woman. Each revolutionized their fields. Each will be studied for generations to come. And both reveal the sadness that greatness does not mean immortality.

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Steve Jobs resigned as CEO of Apple. He has been on medical leave since January, having gone through pancreatic cancer and undergoing a liver transplant just two years ago. His resignation letter was brief:

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

It’s clear from this letter that his health is getting worse, but he remains Apple’s chairman.

This is a man who has simply changed the world. When I was a kid, I wondered what the future would be like. Jobs has brought the world beyond my imagination.

Fifty years ago, a computer was a giant machine that took up multiple rooms. Jobs has made the computer a household appliance. The computers used in the Apollo space program to put men on the moon were less powerful than the machine I’m using now to type this post. I’m working on a mini-Mac, something I can carry in a backpack.

Back in the mid-1960s, the most advanced technology offered in television science fiction included a hand held communicator that Captain Kirk would use to contact the USS Enterprise from the surface of a planet. Spock carried a device that could give data at the touch of a button. In comic strips, the detective Dick Tracy had a two way wrist television as a communications device. That’s all those inventions did.

I have an iPhone, and it does thousands of things more than those concepts of the future ever could.

In the “olden days,” people kept thousands of albums that filled bookcases, milk crates, cabinets and shelves, taking up walls of space.

I have an iPod that does the same thing, but I don’t use it much because my iPhone also holds the music that would take up a room.

A little less than a decade ago, Tom Cruise was in a movie where he had a touch screen device that contained data, records, video and could call up any information imaginable.

I have an iPad. It doesn’t predict the future, but really, how far off can that be.

These are products that Steve Jobs brought to the world. More surprising, he did it after the company that fired him asked him to come back.

I haven’t even gotten into how he changed the music industry with iTunes. Or how he revolutionized animation with Pixar.

Walt Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal explains how Steve Jobs is a historical figure here.

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Pat Summitt, the head coach of the Tennessee Volunteers women’s basketball team announced she has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Summitt is simply the greatest living basketball coach today. Her record at Tennessee says it all: 1,037 wins to 196 losses, 18 Final Four appearances; and eight national championships.

Some will dismiss that, saying she’s just a women’s coach, but that isn’t fair. Her success at Tennessee has made women’s sports viable. The Volunteer women constantly sell out their arena. Her program is stronger than the Tennessee men’s program. If you’re a middle-school or high-school girl who’s a star at basketball, there are two places you’d want to go: Connecticut and Tennessee.

Summitt has proved women are competitors, and that influence carries into other team sports: soccer, softball, track and field, even ice hockey. Girls watched Tennessee women tear up their competitors and realized they, too, could excel at whatever sport they chose.

The coach is a legend, and, according to Sally Jenkins at the Washington Post, her encounter with mortality is a painful one:

“I just felt something was different,” she says. “And at the time I didn’t know what I was dealing with. Until I went to Mayo, I couldn’t know for sure. But I can remember trying to coach and trying to figure out schemes and whatever and it just wasn’t coming to me, like, I would typically say, ‘We’re gonna do this, and run that.’ And it probably caused me to second-guess.”

A brilliant basketball mind is being destroyed by an irreversible degenerative brain disease. Summitt’s interview with Sally Jenkins is here.

She’ll still be coach at Tennessee. Jenkins’s story indicates Summitt wants to stick around another three years. It’s possible she’ll win another national championship. That would be great to see.

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We have no immortals. But we have legends. And for now, they’re still with us.

Little League World Series: Pennsylvania pandemonium

The Pennsylvania team is putting up some awesome numbers in the Little League World Series. They won tonight’s game 7-5 against Georgia, their third consecutive win since their first game loss against Kentucky.

But Pennsylvania’s huge numbers don’t involve runs or games won. Look at the attendance. The Kentucky game drew 41,848 fans … for a Little League game. (Kentucky has since been knocked out of the tournament.) Last night’s game drew a measly 32,000 fans. Still better than what Major League baseball’s Washington Nationals draw on a work night. (Washington lost to the the Arizona Diamondbacks last night in front of 17,000 fans.)

Pennsylvania plays again Thursday night, and it’s been estimated that when that game is over, Pennsylvania will have drawn 160,000 fans, almost half of the total attendance for the entire World Series thus far. Chances are most of the fans at the other games had come early to see Pennsylvania play. And we’re not even at the championship game.

That’s a home field advantage.

If you want to see the game, watch it on the Web on ESPN3.

UPDATE: Pennsylvania’s run is over. They lost to California 2-0 Thursday night. California faces Montana for the U.S. title Saturday at 3 p.m. Eastern time. Japan faces Mexico at noon. The final is Sunday at 3 p.m.

The attendance at Thursday’s Pennsylvania-California game was more than 31,000, bringing the attendance at Pennsylvania’s games in this series to more than 167,000.

Earthquake shakes up folks in D.C.

I was sitting in the office just before 2 p.m. today, when the floor started vibrating. So 10 seconds into the shaking, I’m thinking, “Must be someone using one of those electronic dolly carts to make a big delivery.”

But that didn’t make sense.

So about 20 seconds into the shaking, I’m thinking, “Must be a big truck outside.”

But that didn’t make sense.

So about 25 seconds into the shaking, I’m thinking, “They don’t have earthquakes in Washington, do they?”

Then there was a big jolt and the building moved.

And, right then, the simple answer was, “Yes.”

A 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck the Washington area Tuesday, shaking buildings and prompting office workers to pour into the streets of the capital. The earthquake’s epicenter was nine miles south of Mineral, Va., and 87 miles southwest of Washington, D.C., according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The USGS initially recorded the quake at 5.8 magnitude, later upgraded it to a 5.9, and then downgraded it again. It struck at 1:51 p.m. Eastern time, the USGS said. A 2.8 magnitude aftershock was reported at 2:46 p.m.

Our building was evacuated, so I walked around and took some photos:

Around 15th Street NW

These streets are never this packed during the day.

MacPherson Square

On a workday, this square in downtown Washington usually has a bunch of homeless people sleeping on benches about now. They had to move.

Lafayette Park

Everywhere you looked, there were people standing outside of office buildings, even in this park across from the White House.

No one quite knew what to do. Traffic signals weren’t working. Sirens were blaring everywhere. Cellphone service was spotty, but texting worked fine. I could get text messages to family in Kentucky, Maryland and New York. Couldn’t make a phone call, though.

You train for fire drills, but that only involves one building, and you have a designated area to go to. You don’t train for earthquake drills on the East Coast: It turns out, your designated emergency area for the fire drill ends up turning into a mosh pit shared by thousands of other people.

Put it in context: This was nothing like what people experience in California.

And here’s something to think about: After being hit with a significant, but mild earthquake today, and seeing an entire city freak out, I’m figuring the people in Japan who went through an earthquake that destroyed buildings, led to a killer tsunami and ended with a nuclear meltdown must be thinking what a bunch of wimps we are.

DSK is free … but he’ll never be clear

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, as expected, walked today:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn became a free man Tuesday when a judge ended the sexual assault case against him at the request of prosecutors, who said the hotel maid who accused the former International Monetary Fund chief couldn’t be trusted.

Though evidence showed Strauss-Kahn had a sexual encounter with Nafissatou Diallo in his hotel suite more than three months ago, prosecutors said the accuser was not credible because of lies she has told, including an earlier false rape claim.

The only way prosecutors were going to get a conviction was if the victim was a nun or under 12 years old. So the fact that the victim has lied in the past made the case unwinnable, according to the New York DA.

But bottom line is he had sex with the woman. And she had injuries. For anyone to say this paves the way for him making a return to French politics and a possible shot at the French presidency is an abomination. Other women have come forth and said he attacked them. He cheats on his wife. He was in a sex scandal last year, and Nicolas Sarkozy surely had a file on him that would have been used if they were opponents in the presidential election.

The guy’s a predator, and now he knows he can get away with it. That makes him dangerous.