Thursday, November 29, 2007

11-29-07: Electric Bike Gets 110 Miles Per Charge

I was watching DiggNation the other day and saw an interesting article about a Japanese scooter-like motorbike that was entirely electric-powered and got 110 miles to the charge. Pretty decent, especially considering the price tag of $2100. That’s pretty remarkable. Imagine what the price would be if this thing was mass produced.

Things like this bike get me thinking about how much money we could all save if more people bought in to this sort of innovation. I’m not referring to how this could save our environment or stop global warming or any of that bullshit. I’m talking about saving some cash. What if companies started to offer incentives for employees to use these bikes to commute? You’d need to charge them up, so why not let employees do that at work? There’d have to be some logistics to work through, but it’s an idea. What about a tax break for people who buy these, like they already offer for hybrids? Give the people a $500 tax credit. That’d cut the price by ¼, probably over 1/3 by the time these things hit the streets in the U.S. Even if it’s just for the summer, I’d ride one of those puppies to work.

There are situations where this doesn’t make a lot of sense, such as winter time in the Northeast. That’d be just insane, unless these things could handle the snow really well. I’d doubt it. But still, if more people used electrically powered transportation, it would at least cut down on fuel consumption. It would also reduce our dependence on foreign oil. Sure, it would require some fossil fuel burning (nuclear power, anyone?), but the net cost of coal is lower than oil.

On the other hand, there are situations where this is ideal, like for those people who live in or near cities. If your city has public transportation, that should be your first option, but how about one of these neat bikes? You can probably take these on the highway, too, because from what I’ve heard they can go over 90 miles per hour. That should be fast enough for anyone.

This may just be an electrical engineer talking, but this sort of innovation is going to help move society forward. Look out for more of this in the near future.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

11-28-07: Negative News

I haven’t done much reading on this, so it’s pretty much just speculation. It’s amazing to me just how negative the news is. It’s constant murders and accidents and corruption scandals and court cases and product recalls. You sometimes will see something nice pop up, but not nearly as frequently as murder and mayhem.

It’s not like this is anything new. News has been like this since I can remember, and long before that. One could point out the obvious that life is normally boring and most people aren’t murders or thieves, so when a story comes out about a murder or a theft, it’s new, so put it on the news. But murder isn’t new, either, and it’s frustrating to constantly see the same sort of bad news on TV.

The news is meant to inform the viewer about the goings on in today’s society. One would hope this would be a fair and balanced report of the daily grind. It’s not going to be all about death and injury, as important things do happen every day in business and sports. Those are things people really care about. That’s not my concern. My worry is that all the filler material that news agencies use to finish up their 60 minute broadcast is all negative news meant to scare people. Is that truly how society is? The very news one broadcasts is subjective, so it would be easy to say “Well, it’s there to promote some one’s agenda.”

Everything is there to promote an agenda; otherwise human thought wouldn’t produce anything. If I wanted to have a perfectly balanced news broadcast, that would be my agenda. If I wanted to have a right wing or a left wing broadcast, that would be my agenda. Pointing out an agenda is pointless, since bad news isn’t exclusive to any particular political philosophy.

I think it’s just human nature. People want to hear bad news so that they feel better about themselves. It’s also why people also need good news, since that gives them hope and inspiration. You could easily exist with just good news. You’d probably get a little bored of it, but I don’t think it would kill you (well, unless you became too naïve to think you’d live after running in front of a bus or something like that). Bad news can kill you. You’d worry yourself sick. But, if you hear a little bad news every day, you’d at least feel better knowing that the bad news didn’t affect you directly. It might hurt you in the long run, like with the current housing crisis, but if you’re in the right situation now, you won’t feel anything.

So how does this fit in to the programming of major news organizations? Simple: they’re not idiots. They know what people want to hear. They know what people are afraid of. So, that’s how they choose their topic of the week. I was watching something on TV at lunch the other day, and realized the following rule: something is only as harmful as the public’s prior knowledge of its existence. Look at that staph infection scare several weeks ago. Do you see that in the news? Of course not, because once people realized it’s a common thing to have, they stopped worrying about it. This seems to happen too frequently. A news organization, desperate for something new, will manipulate the perception of a story to blow it way out of proportion. Those stories tend to always come right after a commercial break. My mentality is: if I’m really going to die, they probably won’t wait until the Geico commercial is over to tell me.

One thing I’ve learned from watching the news in 10 or 15 minute bursts is that you can easily fit all of the important facts of an average 60-minute broadcast into a segment about 5 to 10 minutes in length. If you cut out all the commercials, which account for about 20 minutes, or 1/3 of the broadcast, and the useless transitions, which I would guess take about 5 or 6 minutes depending on how much bullshitting your favorite broadcasters do, and the filler stories about some guy whose car was broken into and his pet armadillo was stolen, and the “expert analysis” given by people who for some reason no longer work in a particular industry but claim to be experts, you’d probably cut the broadcast down to its bare essentials: the weather, business news, and sports scores. That would be a hell of a broadcast. How often do you turn on the TV just to see the weather or the score of last night’s game? I’d bet it’s more often than when you want to see Jane Fonda, Political Advocate, talk about the dangers of war and how it has everything to do with the Clean Air Act.

If you are interested in such a broadcast, check out the following:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

11-21-07: Etymology Revisited; Body Clock

Several weeks ago I made a post about the science of etymology, which is basically the study of the origin of words and linguistics. I’ve always been fascinated by the origin of words. I became even more interested while studying Spanish in high school, in that I would find out that certain words have Latin origins, or German, or Old English. It’s just interesting.

I found a neat website called the Online Etymology Dictionary. Check it out. Look up your favorite word. It’s probably in there. It even has the history of some popular profanities.

This morning was an interesting awakening. Every once in a while, I wake up exactly when my alarm clock is supposed to go off. I’m not sure what happened, but I just remember sitting up and it being 6:40AM. What’s strange is that I don’t think my alarm went off. I have a program on my Mac called Aurora, which is pretty neat. It turns on iTunes and plays a specific play list for a specific amount of time at a specific volume. It’s great, and if you turn it on random it gives you a nice surprise.

Monday, November 26, 2007

11-26-07: Absolutely the Most Absolute Time Ever

Absolutes are nothing new. Absolutes sell newspapers and get TV programs the kind of ratings they want. But absolutes aren’t realistic. It’s just not possible. I mean… it’s highly unlikely.

What I mean by absolutes are assertions of grandeur, such as “This is the best team in history,” or “This is the worst time in history.” I’m referring to subjective assertions, of course. If it’s the coldest day on record, that’s a straight numbers issue, and can’t be argued. But when people, especially political and sports pundits, go on record and say things that are obviously blown out of proportion, there’s some cause for concern.

Again, these statements are entirely subjective. There aren’t any standards or enforcement agencies out there saying “You can’t say every week that a different team is the best ever.” I don’t wish there were an agency, either. I think it’s good entertainment, but it gets old unless it’s said in jest, and even that gets old.

What got me on this train of thought is the New England Patriots. I’m a fan of the Pats, and even I’m getting a little tired of the hype. They are a great team, no doubt. They’re having a great year. I’d like to see them go undefeated, because it would be something new. They’ve won three Super Bowls since 2001, and won all three in a four year span. They’ve been dominating before in recent history. They haven’t been undefeated, although they do hold the record for consecutive wins, just not all in the same season.

What gets annoying is comparing great teams. That’s obviously how people compare greatness and assert a team as “the best ever.” There are too many wildcards. The ’85 Bears were a great team, but their offense isn’t as good as the ’07 Patriots. The ’91 Redskins were a marvelous team, but could they beat today’s Patriots? Who knows? The game has changed so greatly in just the past 15 years that it’s difficult to say. I think the Patriots would beat both teams, and I think the Colts could, too. They’re both great teams. I think they’re both better than the undefeated ’72 Dolphins, who are crowned as the greatest ever, despite their relatively weaker schedule of games and fewer games played. If the Patriots go 17-0, they’re better.

I think this plays right in to our tendency to think that modern athletes are, on average, better athletes than in the past. That’s very much a possibility. It’s sort of an evolution in athletics, and technology plays a major part. Technology, and just straight knowledge. Athletes today have a myriad of resources to help them achieve their peak, and the breadth of sports that young children play is amazing. I grew up playing ice hockey, baseball, and soccer. I never played football, but my friends did. I loved playing all three sports, and even added on lacrosse and golf in high school, though I stopped playing soccer and baseball in middle school. They’re still fun to play now, though.

Back to my point: how do we determine if athletes are actually better nowadays? What does “better” even mean? Does it mean if you put them on a level playing field, with rules both could live by, that one would beat the other? Is that really a good indicator? No one knows for sure. It’s a reasonable form of measurement, but it’s not perfect. Personally, I don’t think the average athlete is necessarily better nowadays, since I’m sure athletes of older days would have been better had they been given the same opportunity. I think the superstars of today’s game are better, on average, because they’ve taken advantage of the technology better than before. I’ll leave the focus on superstars to another post.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

11-25-07: FOX News on Digg

I am a frequenter of Digg, and it seems to me that a lot of articles have been posted recently that blast FOX News. If you aren't familiar with Digg, it's a social news website. Users submit stories that they find interesting, and if other people like it, they "digg" the story. The popularity of a story is determined, obviously, by its number of diggs. It's pure democracy, and it sometimes produces some interesting results. Stories do vary, but not as often as you'd like to see. There seem to be a lot of liberals and Ron Paul fans (don't know how that happened), but I visit it more often for the Technology section. There are a lot of Mac fans on the site, which is good. Another similar site, which is in an earlier stage of development, is Thoof. Think of Digg, but with a few filters put in to keep out some of the crappier stories. Thoof uses "personalization algorithms," which are surprisingly good.

The interesting part about the recent blasts against FOX News on Digg is that they're probably not achieving what the story submitters are intending them to do, which is to prevent people from watching FOX News (or maybe protest against it). That's a guess on my part. If they want to have people watch the channel to poke fun at it, then they're getting the result. But, it's not going to do anything but boost FOX News' ratings. Personally, I don't particularly favor cable news stations over anything, because they're all ratings driven. Whether one is worse than another is not my concern. I don't watch any of them exclusively, but when I do watch the news, I often watch FOX News.

This goes back to the timeless saying "There's no such thing as bad publicity." Sure, you might be able to point something out to some one who already agrees with you anyway. That's not much of a victory. It's like posting a "Yankees Suck" sign outside of Fenway Park. You're not going to open too many minds. I'm exaggerating, I know, but how many people are going to objectively say "You know what, I had no opinion on FOX News before, but now that you pointed out this particular instance, I hate them and want to watch CNN from now on" ? People are brought up watching one station over another, or have no particular favorite. Those who fall into the latter category, like me, find the station that fits with their point of view. I like FOX News because they have an anchor (I forget her name) who had a minor stroke, but still sits behind the desk. That shows me that her journalistic ability was more important than other traits, like whether she looks prettier than 95% of America. I could give a shit how she looks or sounds. If she reports the news well, then put her on the air. I'm sure you could poke holes in my reasoning quite easily, but that's not the only reason I watch that station over another. To be honest, I only watch the 30 minute news broadcasts, not even the 60 minute shows and most especially not the pundits. I listen to radio pundits. They're usually funnier and smarter.

So go ahead and Digg that story about some crazy caller on FOX News, or a Youtube compilation on select clips from broadcasts. At worst, you'll watch their next broadcast, boost their ratings a little, and that guy you think is an idiot will get a raise next year. I hope he does.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

11-24-07: Googled Justice

Every so often, whenever people wonder how much good has been brought by the whole "internet craze," it's interesting to see something positive. In this case, a woman who had been suspicious of the possibility that her husband of two years was hiding some money from her discovered that he did indeed win some money in a lottery. It, of course, happened in Florida.

The guy has since disappeared, and the wife is looking to sue him for the winnings. I don't exactly know her legal standing on this, but the fact that the guy hid the money from her makes it justified in my book. Apparently the guy is a habitual gambler, and loser. But, thanks to Google, the wife now knows that he won at least once, and she's looking to get some of the $600,000 he won in a 17-way lottery win. It's not exactly the kind of money that would set some one for life, since it'll be closer to $300,000 after taxes, but that's still a shitload of money to hide from some one like your wife. I can see where the guy is probably thinking "It's my money," but to hide that from your wife, and just spend it on your gambling addiction, is just wrong. I hope they find the prick and she gets some of the money.

I'd feel slightly different if he were hiding the money for a short period to buy something nice for the both of them, like if he was buying them both a new home (in fact, the guy did buy a new home, because the wife found a post-card in the mail congratulating him for the purchase but I doubt he was being charitable). Or, if he was planning a surprise big vacation trip for the family. That would be nice to hide, but just for a short time. If I won the lottery, I might do that, but I'd be too pumped about winning it to keep it hidden for long. They tend to publicize those things pretty well. I'd have to actually play the lottery to win, though.

What this most reminds me of is the saying about the lottery: it's a tax on the stupid.

Friday, November 23, 2007

11-23-07: History of Flight; Black Friday

I found a neat website that has a pretty interesting animation on the history of manned flight. It won't exactly blow your socks off or anything, but it's still pretty neat. Unfortunately, it doesn't have much in the way of helicopters, which is unfortunate. But, it starts in ancient China and goes all the way up to 2007 with the first flight of the Airbus A380. Pretty neat.

Well, today is Black Friday. Always an interesting day. Nothing but shopping for most people. I don't get it. Why would you want to get up at 4:00AM (or earlier!) and go shopping? I'm sure the deals are good, but not only are you up at an ungodly early hour, but so are 5,000 other people, most of whom are either as eager or more eager to get the goods as you. You'd think people would cut back on the tradition with the invention of internet shopping, but doesn't it seem like it's gotten worse and worse every year? It's unbelievable. I'm going away for Christmas, so I need to get my shopping done earlier. But, I'm going to be relying mostly on the ol' internets to get my shoppings done.

In case you were wondering, I do have my list of favorite shopping sites: for most things, especially books and music; used most frequently for anything computer related; not used much for other people for things I want to save money on; used frequently
Ebay for personal items that aren't needed right away for most things, though I rarely use it for some decent savings; used infrequently
Google Maps to find the stores that sell expensive things that I don't trust being shipped

Thursday, November 22, 2007

11-22-07: Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving! I always enjoy this most festive of days. It doesn't matter where you come from, what language you speak, or what faith you follow, there is always a reason to give thanks. I'm especially thankful for my wonderful family, my friends, and most especially my girl in uniform, who proudly serves and works her cute little butt off in the United States Navy.

So, on this day of thanks, make sure to take note of what you have and what you are thankful for. We often go through life bickering and moaning about what we want, or what we think we should have. That's not the path to happiness. What is important is to acknowledge what wonderful things we Americans do have, and why we have them. Make sure to say a prayer for our troops and loved ones on this wonderful Thanksgiving Day.

I love you, sweetheart!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

11-21-07: Kerfuffle

Have you ever heard the word “kerfuffle” used in a sentence? Well, I hadn’t until about five minutes ago. I’ve since heard it used twice in two separate instances. The first was by Fred Thompson in a speech in Rochester, NH; the second was in an NPR podcast. Both involved political situations.

The word itself isn’t the issue. It’s a goofy word, and is the equivalent of a commotion or a state of disorder. Thompson used it to describe the mess surrounding the restructuring of several states’ primaries, and how at end of it all, New Hampshire will still be first. Just some politicking on his part, I know, but I don’t remember ever hearing the word before. Then, just a few minutes later (if that), I heard it used in an NPR news podcast. Strange.

That reminds me of something that pops up every once in a while: have you ever heard a word or phrase used for the first time, then begin noticing it frequently? It’s a strange phenomenon. It’s not as if you’ve never heard the word before; you probably just never noticed it. Once you start paying attention to it, you notice it used all the time. One of my high school friends said she had a number haunting her. She had a really clever story associated with it, too. It kept popping up in various situations. I forget the number, but I’m pretty sure it’s not quite like in the movie 23 with Jim Carrey. My friend didn’t end up having a sinister alter ego, at least none that I know of.

Has that ever happened to you? Do you have any phrases or numbers “haunting” you?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

11-20-07: Politicians vs. Businessmen

I was talking with some family friends last weekend about something quite peculiar. Have you ever noticed how poorly businessmen often do when running for public office? Look at Steve Forbes as a great example. He’s a bright guy, knows what he’s talking about, and has some practical views on issues. He seems very organized, which is important.

But, he’s a businessman. He’s used to absolutes, which is what business is all about. Politics has a lot of schmoozing and gray area to manage. If Steve Forbes wants something done, it gets done. If Jack Welch said “It will be this way,” it was that way. If George Bush says “It will be this way,” it might be that way, depending on how the House votes and if it can make it through the Senate without any pork being attached to it. There’s a lot of bullshit to deal with, but that’s politics.

Personally, I think having a CEO run the country is fine. People always scream about how Dick Cheney is a tyrant and is nothing but a corrupt politician because of his career with Halliburton. I think that’s a load of bullshit, because what made him successful in industry helped get him elected: his work ethic. He’s a brilliant guy. His operational ability is outstanding, which is why he is Vice President. That’s admirable. Why shouldn’t successful businessmen run the country? It’s not like lawyers are any less corruptible. I’d rather have a guy who wants to make a buck and doesn’t know all of the ins and outs of the law than some one who has the ability to be devastatingly sneaky. Business professionals want to get things done. They’re better at managing people. Have the lawyers do the dirty work.

The United States is the largest economy in the world. It’s what makes us move forward. People flock to our country because of the economic opportunity, not because of Roe v. Wade or Plessy v. Ferguson. They come because we’re the U$A, and there’s nothing wrong with that. People want to support their family, and if our economy can allow people to legally enter our country to do so, by all means, let it happen. But, what’s important is that our economy stays on the up and up, which is where businesses come in. Wouldn’t it make sense to have a businessman at the helm?

Monday, November 19, 2007

11-19-07: Plymouth Rock

I have the odd privilege of having been born in the easily-recognizable, historical small town of Plymouth, Massachusetts. Usually, when I tell people where I was born (usually for paperwork), I get “Oh, isn’t that where the Pilgrims first landed?” I used to reply with “Yep, that’s the one,” but as years have gone by, I’ve moved on to “Allegedly. There are those who say they landed in Provincetown first.” Age does that, I suppose.

The town, the namesake of the surrounding county in which I first resided (not in Plymouth, though; I lived in Duxbury), is home to the Plymouth Rock. The story of the rock is rather peculiar, both in how it came to be known as “the Plymouth Rock” and how it came to reside at its current location. Many from the area know it’s a bunch of bullshit, but tourists love visiting the plantation and seeing the rock. It’s probably not from where the pilgrims first landed. William Bradford’s foot did not likely set down on it, at least not as early as legend tells. People have spent millions of dollars to come see it, and the commonwealth has recently invested (hold on) $680,000 of taxpayers’ money to renovate the steel and granite portico protecting the broken rock.

The rock came to be famous in 1741 because a 94 year-old man named Thomas Faunce said that his father had told him decades earlier that it was located where the pilgrims landed. That was 121 years after Bradford’s people had landed. The guy’s father likely wasn’t even alive then, so there had to have been an additional source involved. But, the people bought the idea (who in 1741 Massachusetts Bay wouldn’t?), and it became a cultural icon of the area. People still love seeing it.

The other part of the rock’s history is how it came to reside in its large, expensive granite and steel portico. It’s been moved, and cracked, twice: once in 1774, another time in 1834. Some even say it’s not even the same rock that was originally moved from shore. When people ask me if I’ve seen the rock (which I have), I always make sure to point out its screwy history. It’s interesting to see, and I encourage you to visit there, if you can. Your dollars are always welcome in Plymouth County.

Friday, November 16, 2007

11-16-07: Gene Simmons: “College Kids Killed Music Business”

I read an interesting interview this morning between Billboard and KISS lead Gene Simmons. It was pretty short, and started off with just a couple questions on the usual “What have you been up to?” and “Are you guys planning on touring any time soon?” Then, when asked if he was planning on recording new material, Simmons jumped into a tirade about how it’s simply not worth it any more because the recording industry is in a shambles. He blames college students who have downloaded countless millions of songs illegally for years.

Most of his responses have been said before by other artists, namely Metallica, for years. He called it criminal and awful, and has put “millions” of people out of business. But then he said something that I thought was pretty interesting. Here’s that bit:


Well therein lies the most stupid mistake anybody can make. The most important part is the music. Without that, why would you care? Even the idea that you're considering giving the music away for free makes it easier to give it away for free. The only reason why gold is expensive is because we all agree that it is. There's no real use for it, except we all agree and abide by the idea that gold costs a certain amount per ounce. As soon as you give people the choice to deviate from it, you have chaos and anarchy. And that's what going on.

You can say all you want about how “they shouldn’t be in it just for the money,” but that’s beside the point. It is a business, just like any other. Gene Simmons isn’t exactly hurting financially, but that doesn’t make him wrong. He’s a bit extreme in his punishments, since you can’t realistically sue all illegal downloaders (only single mothers who download 24 songs, apparently). But his analogy of the worth of gold is quite interesting. Is music just like gold, though? It’s far from rare, and “good” music is entirely subjective. I make up a song in my head, which I do almost every day, that I think is fantastic, but I doubt it would sell as many copies as the next 50 Cent album. Still, it’s an interesting analogy, despite its obvious flaw.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

11-15-07: Imus Returns to Airwaves

On Monday, December 3rd, Don Imus will be back on air. This time, it will be at WABC. His new workplace is 1.4 miles (by car) away from his old one at WCBS. Hell, it might even be a shorter commute. In addition to a new contract from WABC, Imus is looking to get some cash from Rural Free Delivery, to the tune of $25 million over 5 years.

What does this all mean? Did he learn his lesson? Did he receive his due punishment?

I think he did learn his lesson, but it’s not necessarily just what he said was wrong. He did say something dumb. He did deserve some harsh criticism. But he apologized to the Rutgers team in person, and even went on Al Sharpton’s radio show to give his side. Al Sharpton is another issue. I have no problem with his message. That’s fine. What I have a problem with is his hypocritical nature. He cries out against Don Imus calling a team of predominantly black female athletes “nappy headed-ho’s,” but when a team of predominantly white male athletes is found to be innocent, Sharpton doesn’t feel an apology for calling them rapists is even necessary.

What Imus likely also learned is how fickle and bogus members of the media can be. His employer only fired him after advertisers left, but cited his racial slur as the reasoning. His opponents cry out, without listening, and refuse to reciprocate any sort of integrity when the time comes. One of the Rutgers players is even suing him for slander. What happened to their innocence? Weren’t they heralded for their response, and unity? The whole situation has turned into a sad betrayal of values. Imus has a new job. He’s still in New York. All he had to deal with was some severe criticism for a few weeks, and some free time at his ranch.

I plan on listening in on the 3rd to see what he’s been up to. Can’t wait.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

11-14-07: Cy Young to Sabathia

First, I do think C.C. Sabathia deserved the Cy Young Award. Second, I bet he’s happy as hell that the post-season doesn’t count towards the award. If it had, Beckett would’ve won it, no doubt.

The primary source of debate is how poorly Sabathia performed in the post-season, specifically his abysmal showing in the ALCS. Beckett, the series MVP, simply dominated the Indians. But the Cy Young Award is for the regular season only. On top of that, Beckett pitched 200.2 innings compared to Sabathia’s 241.0. But Beckett went 20-7, and Sabathia went 19-7. Despite pitching 40 few innings, Beckett garnered one more decision. That’s not necessarily Sabathia’s fault, though, and innings pitched are a large factor in Cy Young consideration. As Tim Kurkjian of ESPN also pointed out, those extra innings pitched might have caused some fatigue in Sabathia’s arm, which led to his poor ALCS performance.

I’m biased, so it’s obvious I would’ve awarded it to Beckett. It’s a close call, though. In this case, both pitchers had nearly identical records (though Beckett led the league in wins), and Sabathia had a lower ERA (by 0.06). The only difference is that Sabathia started four more games than Beckett, and, on average, pitched slightly over 7 innings per start, with four complete games. Beckett averaged about 6 2/3 innings per start, with only one complete game. Both were aces of their respective staffs. Both led teams to division titles. Both have hit home runs in inter-league play within the past few years (does that count?).

Though it was close, I don’t see why an unbiased voter wouldn’t vote for Sabathia. Despite the similarities, he did have a better regular season. I suppose Beckett will have to settle for the ALCS MVP Award and that little World Series ring. Poor guy.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

11-13-07: Why Modern Day Professional Athletes are Better than Past Athletes

In a conversation at lunch, I got to thinking of something that I’ve pondered from time to time. With the infusion of so much money and resources into professional sports, it seems obvious to me that modern teams (i.e. teams within the past decade) are better than teams of old. More specifically, the average professional athlete is better.

There are various reasons why this is so. With modern training techniques and the myriad of technologies that go into the game planning and execution, it allows the athlete to improve their skills and overall performance far easier and in greater depth than ever before. A great example is in baseball. It took the likes of Tony Gwynn to make video big with batters. Today, both batters and pitchers can get customized compilations of their past performances against that day’s opponent. Pitchers can see how they pitched to the other team’s batters, and vice versa. It makes both pitchers and hitters better.

But, the source of all this is money. If teams weren’t raking in billions of dollars per year in revenue from ticket sales, marketing programs, and merchandise sales, they wouldn’t be able to afford all the bells and whistles. On top of that, they couldn’t afford to pay their players the millions of dollars to play for their team. Part of this was the invention of free agency, but a lot of it was just good marketing. People are willing to pay the exorbitant amounts of money it takes just to get in the park, so why not pay the players more?

The high salaries are the key. My grandfather was an All-American football player for Holy Cross back in the early 50’s. He played professional football for the Marines. He even tried out for the New York Giants (baseball team), and was offered a contract. But the money was no good, so he became a teacher. How many top athletes stayed away from professional sports before it was such a lucrative occupation? There’s no way of knowing. I doubt the very best athletes didn’t play at the top level, since they’d be recognized as great players, but you never know. Let’s say Joe Schmidt from Port Lexington, Kentucky would have been the best football player in history back in 1958. But, he knew that he would never make any money then, so be became a lawyer after college. He could have been the best had he tried harder, but he didn’t. He knew football would have its limits, and his dream school had a lousy football team (or none at all).

With the higher salaries, today’s players also have more competition for each position. You’re not just going against other excellent American players. You’re playing against the best from Europe, Asia, South America, or anywhere in the world. So much money is going into sports that scouting is a worldwide profession, so the undiscovered talent is now being tapped. Teams are competing against each other for market domination, and fans are eating it right up. It’s a system with a great deal of positive feedback, and it makes the games more exciting and the athletes better every day.

Who do you think would win in the following scenarios?

2007 New England Patriots vs. 1982 Miami Dolphins

2007 Boston Red Sox vs. 1975 Cincinnati Reds

2007 Ottawa Senators vs. 1976-77 Montreal Canadiens

Monday, November 12, 2007

11-12-07: Busy Weekend; Happy Veterans Day

First, Happy Veterans Day, America. Having a loved one in the military isn’t easy, but it’s something I’m extremely proud of. Whether it’s a moment of silence, sending a postcard to a soldier, or donating to charity, it’s important to give back to the men and women in our armed services. They do fantastic work and protect our freedom 24 hours a day. Keep it up, sweetheart!

It was a busy weekend. I traveled close to 500 miles in two days, by car, train, and on foot. It was fun, though. I had a great time up in New Hampshire with my girlfriend’s parents. We went to a meet and greet with Mike Huckabee, Presidential candidate, at the house of some family friends. Over 100 people turned out for the event, and it was packed. Huckabee was pretty good. He went around the whole place shaking hands, then gave about a 10 minute stump speech covering various topics. It was pretty impressive, but some of his policies are a bit controversial. The one I don’t quite get is the Fair Tax. I first heard about it a couple years ago on the Neal Boortz radio show. It’s basically a national sales tax on consumption. Ideally, it would work, but it seems to be difficult to enforce. Huckabee spoke out against the “underground economy” that doesn’t pay any taxes, like prostitutes and gamblers. With a consumption tax, they’d be contributing. But, how would to enforce that? My buddy Scott had a great line: “If you can enforce the tax, shouldn’t you be able to stop them from breaking the law?” Makes sense.

Huckabee is a very nice guy with good conservative principles, most of which I agree with. I’m not huge on pro-life or pro-abortion. I’m more on the pro-life side, but I don’t see it as a black-and-white issue like most people. One thing Huckabee said that I thought was particularly interesting was his view on healthcare. Some years ago, Mike Huckabee was told by a doctor that he needed to get in shape or die in less than 10 years. Well, he went on a diet and lost a ton of weight. That inspired him to try to incorporate a diet and exercise program in the state of Arkansas. His national plan would involve more preventive care funding and exercise, which I think is a good idea. It’s also cheaper in the long and short term. That would be interesting to see.

I don’t know if I’d vote for Huckabee, but he seems to have a good head on his shoulders. I’d have to learn more about the Fair Tax program to see how I feel about it. I don’t know a lot about it. Either way, getting to meet the guy was a great experience.

After the meet and greet, we went to a Manchester Monarchs hockey game against the Lowell Devils. Decent game. The Monarchs scored first, but let in four goals in the 2nd period. Three of the goals were scored on the back-up goalie because their starter had to leave with a minor injury. The 3rd period was entertaining, and the Monarchs almost pulled off a great comeback, but fell short. The final score was 5-3, with Lowell scoring an empty net goal with 2 seconds left.

After a long drive back to Connecticut (3.5 hours) on Saturday night, I headed in to Manhattan with two of my buddies on Sunday. We took the train in, which is always nice. Our first stop was Carnegie Hall, where we went on a tour. It was pretty neat to see. We even got a chance to listen to a few minutes of the rehearsal going on. It was just us three and three older ladies from Sacramento, who were there for the show that afternoon. The tour guide was wondering what three twenty-somethings were going on the tour, to which our reply was “Our company gets us free tour tickets.” He was a nice guy.

The rest of the day included stops at Rockefeller Center, Wall Street, Bowling Green, Battery Park, Greenwich Village, and Times Square. A lot of walking, but it was nice to see the city. Wall Street was eerily empty, since it was a Sunday. Bowling Green was nice, though it was disturbing how many people wanted to take a picture with the bull from behind. That reminds me that I need to send the picture I took of my buddy to him.

We ate dinner at a place called Phebe’s in Greenwich Village, because McSorley's was packed with old people and college kids. Decent bar. Not sure about the $7 for the Guinness, but it’s a bar. Food was good. It was an odd crowd, though, because there seemed to be more people watching the Bengals game than the Giants game. Maybe it’s a Bengals fan meeting place. Who knows.

After a long weekend, the rest was nice to get. Thanksgiving is next week!

Friday, November 9, 2007

11-9-07: Daylight Saving Time

I’m still not quite adjusted to Eastern Standard Time. It usually takes me a week or two, for some reason. I’m not sure why. It’s not too bad, though. I just go to bed a little earlier than normal. Nothing wrong with that.

I decided to do a little research into Daylight Saving Time. By “research,” I am referring to the practice of looking on one page of Wikipedia for 5-10 minutes. It was apparently invented by a well-to-do Englishman named William Willett in the early 20th century. He was on one of his morning horseback rides, which all good inventors take, and was frustrated by how few Londoners took advantage of a glorious summer day, instead choosing to sleep in through some of the morning sunlight. So, for the remainder of his life (a whopping 10 years), he fought to have the time changed by one hour in the summer time. Imagine that: you want to change time. That’s amazing.

The concept wasn’t first though up by Willett, though. He was just the catalyst to make it official. Ben Franklin had a similar idea in 1784 by writing how Parisians could save money on candles by arising an hour early to use the morning sunlight. This eventually led to the energy saving reasoning of today. Since it is more expensive to use artificial light in the evening, it would make sense to have as much natural sunlight to use. So, by moving things up an hour is supposed to save energy. So far, it has saved very little (well under 1%). But, that’s something. I’m sure glad to alter my life to save 0.13% on energy costs!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

11-8-07: Local Politics

I'm a big fan of local politics. Not that it's necessarily something I dedicate a lot of my time to, though. I just think it's nice to see people you know run for office. One of my CCD teachers from middle school ran for First Selectman (well, First Selectwoman) of my home town. She's a very nice woman. Unfortunately for her, she lost to a Republican. I didn't vote for either candidate, though.

I like local politics because they are the only politics that I can really see in operation. Sure, you COULD watch C-SPAN or visit your state's legislature, but who has the time? All I need to do is read my local paper (which has undergone a fantastic transition within the past few months) about once a week and keep up with what's going on in town. It's nice. There aren't many complex bills and acts. It's relatively straightforward.

This weekend I get to experience something truly special: national politics brought to the local level. I'm lucky to date a fine woman from the great Granite State, and her parents (who for some reason actually seem to like me) invited me up to see Govern Mike Huckabee on Saturday. I lived in New Hampshire for 10 years, and miss the campaign extravaganza. It's just a neat time. It's like the Olympics: it comes every four years, and you don't recognize half the people, but you know they've got to be good at SOMETHING to have gotten this far. It's a real treat. I'm looking forward to it.

My buddy Scott has a new blog called Bikes, Travel, and Bagels. Check it out:

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

11-7-07: First Sick Day

Well today was my first sick day, well sort of. I felt fine in the morning, except for a bit of a stomach ache, which got worse and worse once I got to work. So, I ended up leaving at around 10:00AM. I'm feeling better now. It was one of those intestinal pains, too. Those really suck. The pain is still there, but it's much better than earlier in the day.

I went to an information session at Fairfield University this evening. It wasn't what I expected; it was better than I thought it would be. I was expecting a big presentation with a bunch of people, but it turned out to be just a bunch of one-on-one sessions with professors. I spoke with one of the ECE guys in a conference room. Nice guy. I'm thinking of just doing FU because it's closer to work and because they'd let me take a couple business classes that would count towards a Master's in ECE. That's pretty neat.

One of the cooler parts of the FU program was that there's one class that the guy with whom I spoke teaches that does a signal analysis of the stock market. That's just fascinating to me. Sure, doing real engineering problems is useful, but that's just fucking cool. If it teaches the same principles, why not? Plus, it'd be more useful in business, which is what I'm looking to go into. So, I'm applying to FU tomorrow. FU. It's just funny to say. I bet they get a lot of applicants just because when they're asked where they applied to, they can say "FU." Hilarious.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

11-6-07: Strange Swastika Incident

Every so often, a story appears in the news that starts off one way and ends up being something completely unexpected. That’s real news.

Apparently a girl had been deliberately drawing swastikas on her own dorm room door at George Washington University, and had been complaining to campus police about them for a short while. At first glance, you’d think “She’s an awful person,” because she is Jewish and should be appalled by the symbol. Well, she is Jewish and is genuinely appalled, but decided that other people weren’t quite as appalled as she was. From what I’ve read, she registered a complaint, or multiple complaints, about some one drawing swastikas on the door of her dorm room. After the police didn’t take the action she thought was required, she began drawing the symbol on her own door and kept complaining. It was meant to draw attention to the original acts, which she says she did not commit. What she had admitted to is drawing swastikas on her own door for most of the incidents.

I find these sorts of stories very interesting, because there is an extra layer that most people don’t notice. They just assume one thing and stick to it. They read the headline and assume the girl drew all of the swastikas, when in fact (according to her) she had only drawn most of them because she felt the original swastika drawing had been ignored. She obviously was too naïve to realize that getting her point across this way wouldn’t work. It’s a universal fact that Jewish people are greatly offended by swastikas, but the simple truth is that you won’t win any one over by committing fraud. What she ended up doing was embarrassing herself and her Jewish friends, and she lost all credibility. It was the exact opposite of what she was hoping to accomplish.

I’m not advocating anti-Semitism, or saying the girl is a bad person. She just got caught in an emotional battle and she simply took the wrong path to resolving the situation. I just find these sorts of stories, where typical roles are reversed and that extra layer of truth is often ignored, quite interesting.

Monday, November 5, 2007

11-5-07: The Mukasey Nomination and Presidential Debates

It’s interesting how politics work sometimes. It’s often frustrating, but it’s always interesting. Look at the recent debate raised in the nomination of Michael Mukasey.

At first glance, I thought it was a simple “Democrat vs. Republican” issue, but then I read the article on about the debate between John McCain and Rudy Giuliani regarding the role of torture. McCain is a big critic against Mukasey’s nomination because Mukasey didn’t say water boarding was illegal. He’s got a bit of clout in this issue, because he was a POW for years in Vietnam. He’s against torture.

But apparently Giuliani might be favorable towards the practice of “intensive questioning,” which was used in the fight against the New York Mafia. He said it was necessary to reduce the crime in the city. Though he never said water boarding was used, McCain still fired back by saying that if some one didn’t know the difference between intensive questioning techniques and the practice of water boarding, they shouldn’t lead our military. Fair point, but it seems to be a bit of a stretch by McCain. I didn’t see any quote in their by Giuliani that said he did know the difference, but I don’t know what the rest of the interview contained. Maybe it was a question about whether or not torture was necessary. If it was, and he gave that answer, then McCain’s on to something. I just thought it was interesting that the issue is not just a party vs. party battle.

But still, it’s not a bad idea for Mukasey to hold back from making the assertion without learning more of the facts. Though it would be simple to say “yes, it’s illegal,” making sure of facts is a good way of doing things. I hate all these bullshit “debates” they show on TV every other week. They aren’t debates. They’re showcases. They don’t help to distinguish one candidate over another, because they aren’t debates. Anything that has a “Lightning Round,” simply isn’t a debate. They should have matchups of one candidate vs. another, sort of like a playoff system, only the elimination would be determined by the outcomes. Of course, the top candidates would find this too risky, and God forbid they have to back up their own views! I think it would be entertaining. If people are worried about which candidates to debate against each other (or the goddamn TV ratings), they should just make it random. Have a group of eight candidates match up in four debates. They certainly have the time right now with all these silly little debates, so why not do one on ones? Wouldn’t you want to see Rudy vs. Ron Paul, or Fred Thompson vs. John McCain? What about Hillary vs. Edwards or Obama vs. Mike Gravel? That is good TV. If the lesser candidates can’t hack it, then they probably won’t be a good President.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

11-4-07: Big Win for Patriots

What a game. All those yards of penalties, and the Patriots still pull out a win in Indianapolis. Huge win. It certainly didn't look good for them in the first half, but that's why they play two halves. Think about that...

Anyway, good win. 9-0. Good week for a bye week? Maybe not, but they could use the rest. Hopefully they can rack up 3 more wins to wrap up the division.

With all the winning that Boston area teams are doing right now (Red Sox are World Champions; Patriots are #1 in the NFL; BC is #2 in the BCS; Celtics are winning in their early games; Bruins are doing well), there's one team that people always forget about. Of course, I'm referring to the New England Revolution, who are back in the playoffs after finishing 2nd last year in the MLS (I think it was last year, at least). So, for all those few fans who knew that, Let's Go Revs!

Nice day today. Took our dog Cysco for a walk up at my high school. He liked it, but he's an older dog, so it's a little more tiring. He slept for hours when we got home. My backseat is now covered in dog fur, but he enjoyed it, so it's fine. It's been a little tough for all of us since Ebert died, but he seems to be doing fine.

Friday, November 2, 2007

11-2-07: Sleeping on the Job

Here’s a thought: have you ever been on an airplane and wondered if the pilots were actually awake at the controls? Well, I’ve found an article that will have you thinking this the very next time you fly:

Apparently, back in March of 2004, a pilot and his first officer fell asleep for the last 45 minutes of a red-eye flight from Baltimore to Denver. They woke up, and landed the airplane safely, with no further incidents. This all came out a recent Congressional hearing, and, of course, Congress is worried about… why this wasn’t in a report from NASA, who monitors such behavior.

The pilot was up front about it and put it in a report that he had flown two red-eyes in a row and was fatigued. I can’t say I blame him. He flied for 8 straight hours in the wee hours of the morning, with no sleep in between. I’d imagine flying an Airbus A319 (about the size of a Boeing 737) isn’t easy, so it has to tire you out. So who’s to blame? I think it’s the employer, who is unnamed in the report (but is most likely Frontier Airlines since they are the only airline that flies A319 red-eyes out of Baltimore). If they schedule these sort of flights back to back, accidents are bound to happen.

I’m not really scared to fly because of this, unless I was on a red-eye from Baltimore. It’s just an odd situation that luckily didn’t end in tragedy. It seems like the airline industry has really been pushing the limits in many areas over the past few years. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

11-1-07: Westboro Baptists Lose Case

Despite the fact that I’m overall against America’s lawsuit-happy culture, sometimes the suits are completely necessary, and sometimes they even work out for the good guys:,0,418843.story?coll=bal_sports_highschool_baltimore_util

There are several issues surrounding this case, but the most prominent is whether or not the First Amendment protects the crazy parishioners of the Westboro Baptist Church from protesting military funerals. In most cases, it does, but not all the time. In this case, the jury ruled for the plaintiff, a Mr. Albert Snyder of Pennsylvania. Snyder’s son, a Marine, was killed in Iraq while serving his country. At his funeral, no doubt an extremely sad time for the Snyder family, the Westboro Baptist Church staged a protest, spewing their obtuse, hateful beliefs that God hates America for tolerating homosexuality, and that dead soldiers are his way of showing that. Though I think these people are psychotic (most of the church are family members of Fred Phelps), they do have a right to their beliefs. What they don’t have the right to do is harass a grieving family, which they’ve done time and again.

The damages came out to about $11 million, which is far greater than the net worth of the defendants. The amount of money, although great, is negligible. The fact is that the good people, the Snyder family, won the case. That’s reassuring.

What frustrates me is how so many people cry out against cases like this as violations of the First Amendment. What they don’t realize is that the First Amendment is not black and white. It has quite a bit of gray area that prevents people from abusing others by deliberately causing harm or restricting the rights of others. This gray area is where the Snyder v. Westboro case fits in. The people of the jury found that the rights protected by the First Amendment did not apply to the protestors, and God bless the jury for being sensible people. People like the Phelps family are nothing more than attention-mongers who are so extreme in their views that you have to wonder if they even know that the soldiers fighting for their country also protect them.

Let’s put this scenario into play. Let’s say that the Phelps family moves their church to somewhere like Costa Rica, but they maintain their citizenship. Let’s say 200 of their followers go with them. Then, after a few years, a conflict breaks out in Costa Rica that significantly threatens their safety and the safety of other Americans living in the country. The President orders the Marines in to extract U.S. citizens in despair. Let’s assume the Phelps family’s church would be burned to the ground by angry Costa Ricans (who aren’t necessarily mad at them, just mad at Americans in general). Would the Phelps family accept the help of the Marines? What if one died in the process of saving them? This is an extreme case, but it would be an interesting scenario.