Monday, July 30, 2007

7-30-07: Barry Bonds

Good weekend. I visited camp with my father yesterday. He had to fix a part of the climbing wall. Took a while, but he got it done. I mostly walked around to see what had changed since I worked there. Not a whole lot, just some expansion in some areas. I think it makes it easier for the counselors when there are more distractions for the kids. I hated improvising shit to do.

I have to say, I am very impressed with Skype, especially its video chat capabilities. Joanna was in Japan at a hotel, and the video was almost as clear (with a few glitches now and then) as when we first tried the service in adjacent rooms! Sure, it's not crystal clear, but it's still pretty damn good. The voice quality is pretty good. We tried iChat (over AIM), and the video was fantastic, but the audio wasn't as good. So, we chose the better audio. Either way, it's FREE. Fantastic.

Barry Bonds (as of today) is two home-runs away from breaking Hank Aaron's record of 755 career home-runs. It is the most heralded and respected record in all of baseball, or even sports in general. It's bigger than career wins, home-runs in a season (held by Bonds), and total hits. Hank Aaron was, and still is, considered an American hero for his efforts. But Bonds isn't, and nobody cares about the record. Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball, took months to decide if he is even going to be there when Barry breaks the record. Not if he is going to applaud Bonds for his feat, just if he was going to be at the game at all!

There are several arguments surrounding the current record chase about how Bonds should not be congratulated for what he has done. They're calling him a cheater. People bring asterisk ("*") signs to games to illustrate how they feel the record is tainted and should be recorded in the history books as a farce. Bonds is booed left and right, in every ballpark outside of San Francisco. One argument against Bonds is that he has lied about using steroids, or that he has never denied using them, so he HAS to be guilty. But I say... where is the logic in that? How can we call it "America's pastime," but treat a baseball star like Bonds like this? He has to be proven guilty, not assumed guilty. Unless he outright says "I have used steroids," you can't logically confirm he has used them unless you have evidence. A leaked grand jury testimony is illegal, and can't be counted in, and the people behind that deserve to be in jail. I hate it when people say "[Troy Ellerman] was trying to help America learn the truth, and he's being thrown in jail. How is that American?" It is ABSOLUTELY American. Ellerman committed an illegal act; he cheated. He is no better than the (allegedly) evil Barry Bonds.

The largest misconception in all of this is the true effect of steroids on an athlete. Let's assume Bonds used them for a brief part of his career, despite having never failed a drug screen. Steroids are used to help an athlete train harder than normal to develop more strength. This usually leads to more muscle mass. Bonds, a good power hitter, relies on bat speed (he uses the smallest bat in baseball). He has always had that bat speed. How? His frame. If he wanted to bulk up in muscle mass, it would possibly make him a little stronger, but it would likely effect his swing, which an athlete like Bonds might not want. You simply can't get around on a ball as fast with all that muscle in your chest in the way.

The other issue is: Bonds was probably not the only athlete using steroids at the time. Jose Canseco has admitted to using them. So has Mark McGwire (but legally). Where are all these other ballooned numbers? Shouldn't they be punished? How would you do it? AND... what about pitchers? Certainly a pitcher on steroids had to throw a few pitches during games. If he got a win, should that count? What if he pitched to Bonds? The misconception here is that Bonds, if on steroids, was in a much more level playing field than people make it out to be nowadays.

The biggest issue is the absolute cowardice of Major League Baseball in this. If he was being treated better by Bud Selig, I guarantee he'd be getting more appreciation from the fans around baseball. Selig, who is friends with Hank Aaron, seems to be letting too much of his personal feelings about Bonds get in the way of his role as Commissioner. Selig makes himself out to be an idealist, a janitor who has cleaned up the game. That's great. That's a wonderful thing. But that's irrelevant. You're the Commissioner, Bud. It is your job to represent Major League Baseball IN GENERAL, not just your dreamland league. Baseball has never caught Bonds cheating, so how can you objectively say anything but "We must congratulate Barry on his achievement" ? You're letting your emotions get in the way of doing your job, Selig.

I can almost guarantee that if Barry Bonds were a nice guy, he'd be seen in an entirely different light. Look at how baseball cherished the home-run race of 1998 with McGwire and Sosa. McGwire has admitted to being the same sort of "cheater" that Bonds is being accused of being, but he was loved! Race may have a small role to play, but most of it is that Bonds is an asshole. He doesn't care what people think of him, and that is his right. Ty Cobb was an asshole. So was Babe Ruth. But, people loved them for their achievements.

Bonds is being treated as a whipping boy for the ignorance of Major League Baseball's past. A past they in which they had full control. Shame on them. Let's go, Barry. You're still an asshole, but you deserve way more credit for your achievement than you are getting. I'll be cheering when 756 clears the wall.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

7-28-07: Logical Reasoning

My buddy Dan found a great podcasting series from Princeton Review called "LSAT Logic in Everyday Life." It's a pretty interesting series that breaks down contemporary social issues using the logical reasoning involved in the LSAT. They're not too long (under 10 minutes each) and do a decent job at explaining logical holes in issues such as terrorism funding, Borat, the Daily Show, and others. Things like this really fascinate me, and make me more and more encouraged to study and take the LSAT. Oh, and go to law school. That'd be nice too.

It is amazing at how flawed so many arguments are. The key factors are: emotional involvement in the subject matter, and false assumptions. It is perfectly fine to make an argument for something because that is how you feel about it, but as soon as you say it is a logical argument, emotions can't be involved. It's just like how Spock performs his reasoning; emotions aren't logical. Yet, so many people argue for things and hide behind their emotions. We're all naturally like that. I'm no different, but I try to take a step back to see the logic.

Take universal health-care as an example. So many people think it would be a great idea to have it. Their primary reasons are: a) so many other "first world" countries do it and b) companies who provide health-care nowadays are too greedy. An easy way to see the flawed logic in this argument is to see if the reasoning logically justifies the desired result. As far as "every one else does it" goes, there's the age-old "just because some one else does it doesn't make it right" response, which is inherently based on logic. Sure, European countries do have universal health-care, but they also have significantly higher tax rates. Our economy is based on pure capitalism, which is why it's cheaper to live in the United States than it is in Europe. Universal health-care is not free. People argue that taxes are high as is. Would you want it to be higher? Wouldn't our economy suffer? The second argument, stating that health-care companies are greedy, is also a bit flawed. Yes, they do make a profit, but that's their job. They provide a service, and are paid for it. Do you think the government would run health-care through volunteers? There is a cost to run a business, and if a business turns a profit, it does not automatically make them greedy.

The assumptions are that the U.S. government would provide health-care much better than specialized health-care companies. Where is the evidence that this would happen? Throwing more money at them will not directly lead to better service. Entrusting such an important service as health-care to a bunch of politicians and bureaucrats MIGHT save a little money in the long run, but it may cost lives. Our system simply isn't built for it.

Emotions are always involved in health-care. It's a very, very personal topic. Every one needs it. That is why it is such a hot topic, and people tend to take so much for granted that simply isn't realistic. Companies will lower rates if they feel a significant threat coming their way. It's how they do business. And that's how it should stay: in business.

Want to see an example: the Soviet Union. Privatization of social services led to the eventual collapse. They were a superpower once. If it didn't work for them, why should we assume we are any better?

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

7-24-07: Global Warming Revisited

I had a pretty interesting conversation with a buddy from work today about global warming. To be honest, he didn't know much about the topic, but, of course, had an opinion. I'm no expert, but I've read a bit.

One of his arguments was that, even if we're not sure man is responsible for global warming, we should still do something about it. I cited how the Kyoto Accord won't have an effect unless overall emissions drop 30% instead of the planned 10%, but "that's a start." Well, not really. Imagine donating $10 a day over the course of a politician's campaign. By the end of a couple years, you'll have given quite a bit of money, but they probably won't have any idea who you are. Whereas, if you donated the full amount at once, they'd likely see your name and might even listen to something you have to say. $10 will have no effect.

After work, a funny things popped into my head that, I think, is an interesting way to look at the "we should just do something anyway" argument. For the sake of argument, let's assume a great deal more liberals are on the side arguing that man-made global warming exists (note: saying "global warming exists" is not what I'm getting at; I'm going after "global warming exists AND is man-made). Now take the war in Iraq. Many liberals, and others, feel that the war has been doomed from the start. I don't quite think so, but let's just say "You're right. In hindsight, maybe it wasn't the best logic." Their reasoning is that the information the United States and coalition forces used was faulty. Saddam Hussein allegedly had weapons of mass destruction, so we invaded. There were other reasons, but liberals like to point that big one out.

So basically their argument is that taking drastic action without thinking it through and dealing with true facts is a bad idea. I agree with that logic, in general (not necessarily in this case because politicians like to cover their ass even after voting FOR the war). Now, these same people, for the most part, are saying that, despite evidence to the contrary, we MUST take action against global warming.

I see a definite parallel. Sure, the magnitude may not be quite the same, but the concept is. Weapons of mass destruction cause death; global warming may cause extinction. The roles seemed to be reversed, and the war isn't even over! Yes, you can say "this isn't a political deal; this is our survival!" Bullshit. Once policies are made, it's... politics. Government grants are given away every day to research the man-made warming theory. Money that could help further out development is now spent on making things "greener."

Technology has given us a lot, but it has taken away a lot, too. Whatever happened to thinking things through? Whatever happened to taking the time to find reason? The world has become so fast. It's nice to take a break and just think for a while.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

7-22-07: Classic Rock vs. Today's Rock

I've noticed that most people my age, early 20's, listen to really bad music. It's not just "different" music. It's bad music. It's good entertainment, yes. You can't deny that. If some one enjoys listening to something, it's, by default, good entertainment. It is when people say "This music is fucking great," when I often beg to differ.

I don't know enough about rap to make any good observations or insights, but what little rap I do listen to tends to be more "intellectual" in nature (e.g. Kanye West, Jay-Z, etc.) that I find to be cleverly done. Public Enemy and Cypress Hill are also good examples of smart rap. It's annoying, though, when I hear songs that are sampled from classic rock songs, or R&B, and the artists who make the songs into backgrounds for another "grindin' with my hos drinkin' 40's" songs that are meant to generate money from the music videos and shoe endorsements. Are they successful at it? Yes, they're quite good at what they aim to do. But, when an artist like Coolio (remember him?) makes a pretty good song called "Gangsta's Paradise," but refuses to let some one like Weird Al Yankovic do a cover of it, I get a little frustrated. Why? Because Coolio sampled a Stevie Wonder song and used it as the background! Listen to "Passtime Paradise" by Stevie Wonder and you'll know. Coolio took that song and changed a few lyrics around. Then, when Yankovic asked permission to do a parody, Coolio originally said yes, but denied it later. Coolio, you're a glorified thief, and you took a good song by a fantastic artist and never gave him credit. You deserve nothing from it. Funny song by Weird Al, too: "Amish Paradise."

But the main point I wanted to make, sorry for the aside, is how bad most rock music is today. I don't even pay attention to pop. That shit is just annoying. "All American Rejects" are to rock music what cancer is to blood cells. They get away with whiny vocals and bullshit lyrics and hope that their fans like their new chorus, which sounds just like the chorus in their previous hit, but with a different chord change when the bass player begins to cry. It's brutal to listen to.

MOST rock songs are bad, but not all of them. Queens of the Stone Age are great. Most alternative bands are pretty good. I love Red Hot Chili Peppers, because they put thought into their songs' entire structures: lyrics, rhythm, vocal progressions, everything. Does that make these bands better? In my opinion, yes, but only musically. I will never say a band is truly awful unless: a) they're terribly musicians and b) no one likes listening to them. If you're not entertaining AND you're no good musically, you are truly an awful band. Otherwise, if you've got talent, or people like you, keep at it. You're making yourself and somebody else happy. Just don't let me hear you if you can't write songs, please.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

7-18-07: Dream Jobs

When I was a kid I knew I wanted to be outrageously rich when I got older. I remember exactly where I was when I first thought up how I would do it. I decided I'd make pizzas for the super rich, who would pay an extremely high premium (in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars) for pizza. My job in high school: pizza delivery. Didn't quite work out, but it was a great dream.

When I was in high school, the dream was still there, but this time I would be an energy tycoon who invented some wild way to create cheap electricity. I'd be the first trillionaire in history. I went to college to be an electrical engineer, which I am now, but I don't plan on being an energy tycoon.

Now I just want to travel with my favorite gal, maybe live in Europe. I'm considering going to law school. My company will pay for it, so long as I go part time and get C's or above. Four years and I'd have my JD in Intellectual Property. Hopefully I could get a job with a big international company based in the U.S. and live in Italy for a year. That would be nice. I'd just need enough to get around, get a nice place. That's my dream job now.

I'd say "I miss being a kid," but, to be honest with you, I'm never sure when I really grew up. My dreams just changed.

Saturday, July 14, 2007


Fun day today. My parents made a trip over to Long Island for a barbecue put on by my mother's co-worker Beth. I hung out with my buddy Dan.

It's fun sometimes to attempt to re-live your childhood, but today I found out that it can be thoroughly embarrassing. I decided to try the batting cage. The pitches came in at 54 MPH, and I couldn't hit shit. Fortunately (well, at least I think so), I was ahead of the pitches, but still, nowhere near them. It was awful. To think, 9 years ago, I could hit those, easily. It's sad. Maybe I'm too used to softball speed. Oh well, it was fun.

Dan and I went to a bar called the Grille and Bar. We've been there a few times. Not a bad place, more on the upscale side. For a Saturday afternoon, it was dead. Towards the end, I mentioned something to the bartender about young baseball stars, and how I had met Edgar Renteria when he was 16 and playing for the Portland Sea Dogs. The bartender was amazed, then asked if I was from there. When I told him I had lived in Durham, NH, he was, again, surprised, because he had gone to UNH. Imagine that: five people in the bar, including the bartender, and two of them had spent serious time in the small town of Durham, NH. On top of that, he had lived with hockey players. One of his roommates was a big-time player who won a few Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers. My dad would get a kick out of hearing that. Unfortunately, I forgot the guy's name. I'll look it up, I guess. He played for UNH back in the late 70's. Maybe the guy knows my old hockey coach. I hate to say it, but this gives me a good excuse to go back there. Not a good sign.

So David Beckham is playing for the LA Galaxy. This should be fun. I don't think it's as big as when Pele came to the New York Cosmos back in the 70's, but it's still pretty big. I think Alexi Lalas (President of the Galaxy and former U.S. Soccer star) was a bit overzealous when he started saying how the English Premier League was overrated, and that MLS is "pretty much" as good. He made one good point: MLS is more competitive, but who cares? It's still not as good. The pace is slower, and the best players in the world, even from the U.S., play in Europe, and a lot play in the Premier League. In fact, the five best players on the U.S. soccer team, including the Captain Claudio Reyna, play in... the English Premier League. Say what you will, Alexi Lalas (who never played in Europe), but the facts aren't behind you. David Beckham is in the United States as a marketing scheme. Playing it off as pure sport is bullshit. He's not worth that much money as a player ($32.5 million over 5 years), but he sure is worth it as far as marketing.

Monday, July 9, 2007

7-9-07: War and Peace

So many people nowadays are convinced that there is such a concept as world peace, and that if only we'd stop fighting wars, we'd find our way into the magical land of happiness. Ask any Miss America from the past 20 years. She's won money from supporting that cause.

I'm not the first one to ask for a definition of world peace during this discussion, and I won't be the last, but WHAT is world peace? Before we get into the nitty gritty of HOW we can achieve world peace, let's start with nailing down a definition. My definition may be far different than yours. Let me just give you an example: I work at a significantly large defense contractor. I see and know many people who are deeply proud of what we do, and am proud to work for my company. The company is not particularly well known, but you see our products in almost every single war movie made since 1970. But, we also make products that save people's lives. We're proud of that too. So, when I walk around on our factory floor, watching men and women of various ethnicities making our products, I know that they are probably happy, too. It gives them a bit of peace in their lives knowing that they are making something that people know and recognize.

My company has profited from war, but not in any illegal way. We are simply a manufacturer of something that people who become engaged in combat like to use to gain a tactical advantage. We have large contracts with multiple branches of the military, a few of which are in the multiple BILLIONS of dollars. Most of that money goes into the products we make, but a great deal of money still goes to the proud people who design and manufacture the products. I'm an electrical engineer, and I'm a bit different than the guys on the floor, but we share a bit of joy in what we do. Every time I get bored or slightly dislike my job, I remember what I am doing, and become a bit revitalized. I realized that today, actually, when my co-worker asked if I ever get excited. I replied "Not in general," but realized that I get a bit excited about being a part of something greater than myself. It gives me peace.

My definition of world peace: MOST people are happy. Not every one, just most. Can that happen without war? Sure. Will it? Probably not. WHY? Because people often fight wars because they aren't happy, and just because a war isn't being fought doesn't mean people are happy. It's simply bad logic to assume so. Look at the conflict in the Middle East. Sure, there are times of peace, but it's a relative peace. The Palestinians are always going to be pissed off at the Israelis. It's just how they are brought up. It is part of their culture, and it's how they derive at least some of their pride and heritage. It's what separates them from me. I don't hate the Palestinians or the Israelis, but I hate Al Qaeda. It's part of being a proud American. HATE is not all that bad, actually. It gives me a chance to unite with other people. It gives me peace.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

7-8-07: Global Warming

It's almost become a religion, only there's no real God, just an idea. The global warming debate has sparked so much discussion, and apparently more environmental concerts, that it has become virtually a black-and-white issue.

The scary thing is that so much has gone into the debate, but there isn't enough good science to back up either side. I'm reading a book called Unstoppable Global Warming, which is about how the Earth goes through a climate cycle every 1,500 years, and, believe it or not, we're living through a warming period. There's even scientific evidence to prove it, but people don't want to listen to that. They want to believe that humans are the root cause. Humans are the end all, be all of the damage done to the earth, so they have to be the cause of global warming.

To say that global warming exists is not a lie. I'm sure it does. But, saying that it exists AND then assuming that it's a new thing AND then assuming humans are causing it, is simply going too far with too little science to back it up. The real issue is this: how do you prove it exists. Why, you take core temperature readings and correlate it to human CO2 production. OK, that's a method. But, what about the effect of sun spots? There's a meteorologist in England who has accurately (relatively speaking) predicted climate cycles for the past 15 or so years using sun spots. To learn more, please see "The Great Global Warming Swindle" on Youtube or Google Video. It is a bit biased, but there's plenty of science in it.

Politics get in the way of every great environmental debate, or any debate in general. Some people say "Socialists and anarchists are behind all this man-made global warming bullshit." Some say "Al Gore is using this as a rouse to get in office." I don't quite agree with either, because it would be just too easy to say they were true. I'd rather have a challenge. Sure, Al Gore could have mentioned all this before the recent election campaign began (he apparently has been doing the presentation for many years; why make a movie now, hasn't this been going on for years?), but that pales in comparison to the lack of good science behind it.

Wow, I just heard a HUGE car accident through the woods. Sounded bad.

[5 minutes later] Police are on the scene. It sounded like two loud bangs, with definite screeching tires beforehand. It doesn't sound good; the car horn has been going off for several minutes. Now there's a fire truck, and what sounds like an ambulance.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


You'd think with "lucky 7's" day (the luckiest day in the past century), my luck would be a bit better, but so far it's been a little spotty. I am referring to my visit to the blood drive at the Easton Community Center this morning. Overall, it wasn't too bad, but it took FOREVER. I got there at 9:45AM, left at about 11:15AM. First, it was the questionnaire, which took a while because of my travels. Then, I waited on the bed for 20+ minutes because the older gentleman next to me was having all sorts of problems with bruising and whatnot. Then, of course, it took about 20 minutes for my blood-bag to fill up (slow flow).

But it was a nice experience. I haven't been able to donate for a while, so it feels good to give. I've never donated in Connecticut, so I'll be getting another Red Cross card. Apparently in December there's a great blood drive down the street at our church, with great free soup. I can't wait.

I wish more people donated blood, but after all the screening, and after realizing that I haven't donated in almost two years myself (been rejected once since), it's a shock at how many people actually do donate. Gay men can't because of the HIV risk. If you're on serious medication, you can't. Low iron. Hepatitis. All sorts of stuff. I'm not saying they should lower their standards, it's just that it's not like any one can just walk off the street and donate. It's just how the system works.

Tottenham won 3-1 in their first pre-season match against Stevenage. Hooray!

Wednesday, July 4, 2007


DAY OFF! Can't complain. My plans for today involve a bit of nothing followed by a little bit of... nothing. I can't say my job is quite as intense as Joanna's, so I won't say too much.

The Tottenham Hotspur jersey looks pretty awesome. I know, my smile is goofy, but the jersey looks damn good. I like how I was able to customize it. Right now I'm looking on for some good Spurs chants. Funny stuff. I can't wait for the day I can walk into White Hart Lane, their home stadium, with my jersey, able to watch a game. By then I'm sure the jersey will be a bit older, but who cares.

Sam's party was pretty fun last night. His house is amazing. For five young professionals, it's a really sweet deal. There's too much space, so much that they dedicated one room as a "crash room."
It's big enough for three people to live in comfortably. One of the housemates, "Mick," who I met last year, grabbed the master bedroom quite cleverly. He was the last one in on the deal, and was the make-or-break guy. Since his rent actually increased from his last place, he basically said "To make it worth my while, I get the big room." Smart guy. Going five or six ways on a house is definitely the best deal. Bartl and I both agreed that it might be a good idea to try that in a year or so.

Monday, July 2, 2007


I had a much better day at work than I had expected. Having spent most of the day in the lab, it wasn't half bad. I got to meet a couple interns who are good kids. I didn't feel old or young, which is OK I suppose.

I just started watching a hilarious new show on HBO called Flight of the Conchords. It's about a folk song comedy duo from New Zealand called... Flight of the Conchords. It's a real band; the story is fictional. Pretty funny stuff. Very dry, which I like. They have a bunch of little musical bits during the show that are just great. I highly recommend it. Episodes are only 30 minutes, and it's on every Sunday at 10:30PM.

I'm watching the Red Sox game, and I have to say, Jacoby Ellsbury is impressive. In his second game in the MLB, he just stole 2nd base, then took TWO bases on a past ball to score. Amazing speed.

Definitely looking forward to a shortened work week. It'll be nice to have Wednesday off; splits the week right in half. Not a bad deal.

Sunday, July 1, 2007


Great weather this weekend. The Bluefish game went pretty well. Fun time. They won 12-0; the other team (the Road Warriors) made 5 errors. Bad baseball, but a fun time nonetheless. After the game was over, they had: a hula hoop contest (with a professional hula hoop lady), an Irish dance school show, and fireworks. It was quite the place to be.

Today is just an easy, relaxing day. I ran a couple errands earlier; had to buy some work clothes. I grabbed some lunch at Duchess, and I have to say: I wasn't impressed. I've noticed that, maybe it's just in my area, that people have gotten worse at basic customer service. It's almost as if customers are a nuisance. Even at the lowest level job, be it a cashier or a drive-thru server, you need to be nice to customers. If they are put off by being shortchanged (like I was today) without receiving an apology, then they're likely not going to come back (like I won't). All I needed to hear was "Oh, sorry about that." Instead, I got "Oh..." and the guy grabbed some change. BASIC customer service is not too much to ask for, and it's not the first time I've seen this happen, nor will it be the last.

There are two basic reasons to be nice to customers as a cashier or other server, despite the low-paying nature of the job. No, you're not going to make as much money as the manager, but you are the first, and often the only, employee to interact with a customer. Not only can the customer decide not to come back, but they very well might complain.

Maybe it's just my background in the industry, but you always need to be good to the customer.