Monday, December 31, 2007

12-31-07: A New Year

It seems like every year, people struggle to come up with good New Year's resolutions. I tend to think of simple, straight-forward ones that are measurable. For instance, I'll say "I won't sleep more than 10 hours in any one day." That's reasonable, and achievable, and useful. It's when people start to get really creative that they run into problems.

The other scenario involves a bet between friends. That really makes things interesting. Say you bet your buddy $100 that he can't go without drinking for a month (as the guys on DiggNation did). Once you put money on the line, all bets are off. Or... they're on. Either way, you can't really predict what will happen, because it usually involves a behavioral issue with one of the friends. Or it's just something stupid and it will still be funny. People taken out of their routine tend to act strangely over the short term. It's funny how many people will find a new habit to fill the void. For example, my boss from high school and college (who owned two restaurants down the street from each other), tried to quit smoking a few times. Each time, he couldn't continue, because he'd replace the smoking with eating, and he'd gain weight. So, to keep off the pounds, he'd smoke again.

What I think I'll do is I'll make a resolution to try something new in my free time. I've decided therefore to try writing a book. Nothing crazy. Maybe a short story for now, but something. I'm hoping to start graduate school soon, so I don't really want it to take up all of my free time. There's no real rush. Unfortunately, the plot line so far is kind of cliche in that it involves a sort of alien culture within modern society. So far it's not making much sense. I just need to find a hook and I'll be all set. I'll keep you posted.

Have a safe and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

12-30-07: Undefeated Patriots

The year in Boston sports continues to improve. It's just unreal. Despite the 5-0 loss the Bruins suffered to the Atlanta Thrashers (I wonder how many bars in Boston were playing that game...), the night was still quite joyous, as the Patriots have gone 16-0, undefeated for the regular season.

The truly amazing bit in all of this is the attitude taken by the Patriots. The entire mentality, known as the "Patriot Way," is quite remarkable. They never lose focus on the next opponent, on the next game. I wonder what Bill Belichick would say after winning the Super Bowl and going 19-0 (not saying WHEN, just an if statement): "I'm just focusing on the plane ride home and the Combine in April." He's most likely a robot. I bet he's a riot at home: "Honey, I don't want to know what's for dinner. Just let me know all you've got for lunch and we'll devise an offense to get it done. I have nothing but respect for Oscar Mayer hot dogs. They've done great things in the past, and many people enjoy them. They gave me bad heartburn the last time we met, but if we can just get through and take some Pepcid quickly enough, we can overcome any problems. I just want to take it one bite at a time."

Heartburn aside, the real story is the youth of the Boston area. They're spoiled will all this winning. If you were born in 1995 or later, you have little to no recollection of the many losing and near-miss years that so many Boston teams have suffered. The Patriots made the Super Bowl twice in 40 years before winning it three times since 2001. The Bruins have won five Stanley Cups, but none since 1972. The Celtics were prolific winners in the late 1950's, 1960's, and 1980's, but haven't win a championship in over 20 years. Let's not forget about that little 86 year drought the Red Sox went through. Now, kids grow up in New England seeing all this winning. Even the MLS team is doing well! I'm not saying these kids should suffer like the rest of us. I just don't want them growing up and telling their grandkids about this era like the goddamn Yankee fans do with their grandkids. That would be almost as bad as losing again. But for now, I'll take the winning.

The quote of the night, though, goes to Randy Moss, who told the press after the game, in straight terms, that he was proud to silent his critics by breaking Jerry Rice's record for touchdowns in a season. Many people would call that selfish, maybe say the old Randy Moss is back, but I don't blame him. For a guy to take a pay cut to come to a winning team after failing in another city, it means he was probably not as selfish as he was back in Minnesota or Oakland. If anything, he did it to play for a team that could use his talents, and he'd be there to break the records. It's not something that is simply given away; he'd have to earn it. And he did. He deserves all the credit, and all the naysayers with any sense of humility will have to eat their words. It's too bad he'll be way too expensive to keep once his contract ends, but damn did he have a hell of a regular season. Good on ya, Randy.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

12-29-07: PC Job Names

Since my time on earth, it seems that many job titles have changed. Jobs themselves haven't really changed, just what they're called. I was on a flight the other day from Japan with flight attendants, who have gone by that name, as opposed to stewards or stewardesses, for several years now. You go into stores and speak with associates as opposed to salesmen. When you go to Disney World, you speak to cast members when you have a problem with something.

My only question is: what do they call the people who make up these names? I'm sure there's a clever title, but then again I doubt there's a dedicated position. Isn't that ironic, though... You'd have just a plain old "manager" come up with a catchy new job title. I'd think they'd want to be called Description Specialists, or maybe even Identity Engineers. Actually, the latter just sounds creepy. Let's just stick with Description Specialists.

The real issue is why the names are now different. It'd be simple to say it's all due to the political correctness craze that continues to sweep the nation, and world in general for that matter. But, I think it goes beyond that. I think it's just an overall new business practice to encourage employees to be more productive and proud of their job. If you're a team member and not just a sales rep., you can easily identify yourself as helping the business, even if you don't do anything different. You just feel different.

One of my Fraternity Brothers does business with a large insurance corporation. He doesn't work for them, but they are his employer's major client, so he deals with them intimately on a regular basis. He told me something peculiar about their business structure. Apparently, they have a plethora of Vice Presidents, along with (literally) thousands of Associate Vice Presidents, and several other levels of Vice Presidents. You can be a Senior Vice President, which is really high up, and have just regular Vice Presidents working for you. If you're just an Associate Vice President, you're small potatoes. Can you imagine working for one of those guys? You can work for a Vice President right out of college! That's just strange.

That's, of course, an extreme case, but it probably happens more often than you'd think. I'm an Associate Engineer, but I don't necessarily work for an Engineer, which is nice. It's just a pay grade thing. If you want a real chain of command, look at the Navy. My girlfriend is an Ensign. After a couple years, she'll become a Lieutenant Junior Grade (abbreviated as "JG"), then a Lieutenant a couple years later, then a Lieutenant Commander if she feels like continuing. After that, it's Commander, then Captain, then all sorts of levels of Admiral. BUT... there is a real chain of command, which you have to respect. They're very organized. If only business were like that..

Friday, December 28, 2007

12-28-07: The Joys of Jet Lag

Jet lag has to be the lamest part of travel. We ought to do away with it by going by a universal time (let's stick with Zulu time). You'd just wake up whenever it made sense according to Zulu time, that way if you wanted to travel, you wouldn't have to necessarily adjust your sleeping habits. But, that would be the ideal, and apparently travelers aren't as important nowadays.

I spent the bulk of my day running errands, at the dentist's, and coaching a hockey game. Well, that was after about 8 hours of consciousness, since I woke up just before 4:00AM. What fun, but I got a lot done. Ha, that rhymes. Anyway, one thing I noticed today, at Best Buy, is that it's fun to try to get the attention of Best Buy store reps in unexpected ways. My favorite is by hanging out around the expensive stuff, like the TV's, then asking about a computer-related issue I came to resolve. One time I said "I really like this 48 inch flat screen. Do you guys sell Firewire hubs?" It always throws them off. The funny part is that they're so helpful, yet they aren't paid commission. It's strange. There's no real pressure to buy, but if you do have a question, they seem to at least know where to go to find the answer. That's pretty remarkable.

Here's a tip for those of you who, like me, absolutely dread jet lag: take short naps. Keyword: SHORT. Long naps are what you DON'T want to take. Try to stay up late and not sleep too late, but get into a good rhythm. It helps cut down those sleepless early mornings. Those really suck.

I found a great album that I had forgotten about and wanted to buy: The Basement Tapes by Bob Dylan & The Band. Great album. I downloaded it off iTunes today using up most of a gift certificate. It only cost me $9.99, which is a great price, and so convenient! My next target is Dirt Farmer by Levon Helm. I love that sort of music.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

12-27-07: Back from Japan

Well, all I can say is that it was a wonderful, pleasant trip to the Land of the Rising Sun. I got off the plane about three hours ago, and I haven't slept in almost 24 hours, but I think I'm good for now. Need a little nap, but I'll get over the jet lag eventually.

As far as immediate observations about Japan go, I have a few:

First, if you like sushi (or can even just tolerate it), I'd strongly recommend a sushi diet, especially if you're in Japan. Japan is expensive, but you can find good, cheap sushi places. My girlfriend lives near a good one that had really great sushi for 100 yen (~$1) per plate. 10 plates can feed two people, and it's really good stuff. That was definitely a shock.

Second, they're extremely efficient and believe strongly in conservation. Their recycling is widespread, and they're very good with the space they have. It's cramped, but it's not too bad. My girlfriend's apartment is quite big for a single person to have by Japanese standards, but it's not necessarily huge. It is quite nice, though.

Third, the internet there is faster than you can imagine. It's simply outrageously, disgustingly fast. And, there's wireless nearly everywhere you go. It's really neat. And, from what I heard, their cell phone coverage is second to none. For a mountainous country, that's remarkable. If you've read The World is Flat, the author talks about this, but you have to see it firsthand.

And finally (as far as initial observations from me in my jet-lagged and exhausted state), they're the safest people you'll ever meet. You can leave you car unlocked and running, and you're more likely to come back to it with some one watching it for you than stealing something. They're a wonderfully safe people. Now if only they'd catch on to nuclear power, they'd be all set (though I can see why they'd be testy with that; sorry, that's an awful joke, in poor taste).

Do try the sushi. I recommend the salmon. Check out my slide show of the trip, by the way (it should be up within a day or two).

Friday, December 14, 2007

12-14-07: Off to Japan

This will likely be my last post for a couple weeks or so. I am off to Japan tomorrow to visit my favorite person on earth, who is proudly serving her country in the United States Navy.

So, when you settle down for your meal on Christmas Day, please think of our troops overseas who can’t be home to celebrate the holiday season. Or, do what I’m doing, and go visit them!

Have a Merry Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

My Mix

This is just a mix I made of some of my favorite music using a new site called Mixaloo. You don't have to buy it or anything, just enjoy.

12-13-07: $500 for College for Maine Newborns

The holiday season seems to really bring out the heart-warming stories. I only wish more of these came out during the year, but it’s just what holidays do.

A guy from Maine, who owned the prestigious Dexter Shoe Company, set up a fund that would allow parents of newborns born in Central Maine hospitals (born in 2008 and afterward) to sign up for a $500 grant towards the down payment on their child’s college education.

First, this is one of the most amazing displays of charity I have ever seen. It reminds me of what Ben Franklin did for Philadelphia, but this one has a really personal touch. The interesting part is that Harold Alfond, the deceased benefactor, never went to college himself. Simply amazing. This is a first in the United States, and it really is just a fantastic idea. I have no idea what Alfond was like when he was alive, but he had to have been a great guy to do this.

What I also like about this, and I don’t know if this was done deliberately, is that it’s focused on Central Maine hospitals only. If you aren’t familiar with Central Maine, let’s just say the population isn’t exactly booming. I doubt he could have done this in New York or California. But the other thing is that it’s not near the border, so it wouldn’t be easy for people to abuse this and just drive across to Portland and have their baby there. If you want to screw with the system, you really have to make the effort and drive pretty far, which would lead me to believe you really want your kid to go to college. There’s nothing wrong with that.

On a side note regarding yesterday’s post, I’ve come up with a goofy come-back for you kooky environmentalists: “Cry me a river and blame it on global warming.™”

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

12-12-07: New Study Questions Human Role in Global Warming

I found an article on a new study performed concerning global warming. But, instead of the same ol' story, it says we probably aren't as involved in the change as we think.

There’s a lot of confusion out there regarding global warming. It’s becoming more of a personal choice than anything, not unlike religion. But what is it that people are choosing to believe in? Ah, that’s part of the confusion.

The common misconception is that a lot of people seem to assume that global warming has to be caused by humans, and that if you don’t believe that humans are the main cause, you don’t think the planet is getting warmer. That’s just ridiculous. There are plenty of climatologists out there who believe the planet is getting warmer, but are skeptical about mankind’s role in it. People like Al Gore have done a fantastic job at scaring the shit out of people with clever line graphs and presentations. A lot is inferred, and emotions are heavily involved (“You wouldn’t want to drown a polar bear with your bear hands, would you? Well, that’s what you’re pretty much doing when you turn your car on.” [Exaggeration, of course]).

Then you have the people who go on and try to give the “unbiased” approach, like a guy did in a video I saw a few months ago. What he did was he made a grid with four scenarios: 1) It is our fault and we do something, 2) It is our fault and we do nothing, 3) It isn’t our fault and we do something, and 4) It isn’t our fault and we do nothing. Ideally, it would be great if it weren’t our fault and we did nothing but cope with it, but this guy had “unbeatable logic” on his side. He simply assumed (the first mistake) that all the money we’d spend on cutting down CO2 emissions would be less than the net cost of doing nothing. No data to back that up. Just his logic. He claimed no one had come up with an argument to beat that, though a few of the comments are pretty well stated. I bet the guy wins a Nobel Peace Prize for his brilliant display of flawed Game Theory.

Anyway, the basic truth is that there’s a ton of money going towards research of mankind’s role in global warming, and it seems like the news outlets are biased. I don’t hear too much about this sort of thing in the news (skepticism, that is). I don’t think it’s necessarily a deliberate bias, but more of a simple overload of information. There’s so much new stuff out there saying we are responsible that it simply outweighs the alternative. Plus, the news does like scaring people, but saying “We can’t do anything about it,” would just be too much. After all, if there are possible ways to fix it, that would fit in quite nicely into a new segment on the 10:00 News in Spartanburg

This reminds me of a discussion in a course I took in my last term in college. It was a business class, which consisted of mostly senior engineering students. A guy with years of industry experience came in to talk to us one day about pretty much anything we wanted to know regarding the workplace environment. It was great, and the guy was very engaging. We just sat in a circle and talked. One of the topics the guy brought up was global warming (just out of curiosity on his part), and what we thought about it. You’d be surprised what senior engineering students said.

The biggest surprise was how little personal research had been done by some of the students who had already formed opinions. The few of us who had all pretty much said the same thing: there’s evidence to prove that humans aren’t a significant factor. People spoke about how they’re scared that coastal homes will be flooded out. Others said “I haven’t done much research, but it has to be humans if it’s happened so recently.” Mind you, I went to a very good engineering school, and most of these students were quite bright. When I spoke, I mentioned a book I had read, a video I had seen, and other research I had done, and concluded (using references) that changing patterns in solar winds (sun spots) are much more likely to be a cause for warming than human CO2 production (which is also a small contribution compared to natural components like the oceans and volcanoes). The guy leading the discussion also posed the question: “Did you know they used to grow grapes in Greenland?” On a side note, one of the students in the class made a remark one day that our service academies were a drain on our economy. Wow. She also spoke at our graduation… I guess she has to be right, then. Kidding, of course.

Let me just say that I am very happy that the United States did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Even some of those who advocate reduced CO2 emissions admit that the restrictions proposed by the Protocol aren’t nearly enough to do anything significant, especially since China and India are pumping more and more CO2 out each day.

I’m a big fan of alternative fuels, by the way, since it could be cheaper (and just way more neat) if we could rely more on renewable energy. But, that doesn’t mean I support the deliberate reduction of CO2 because of global warming. I just think electric cars are neat. I had one when I was a kid and just loved it.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

12-11-07: Interesting Analogy: Confusion vs. Awkwardness

Sometimes I think of really weird, but seemingly appropriate, analogies. You can use this one in the event that your child, or a friend, need to know the practical difference between confusion and awkwardness:

Think of the difference like notes played on a piano. Let’s say some one plays a C and a G. They sound OK, but you’re not sure where it’s going. If they add in an E, you get a C major chord, and it sounds good. That’s equivalent to confusion, as all that’s needed is a little extra information to fix the situation.

Next, let’s say they play a C and a C#, which are right next to each other on the piano. When played together, they sound terrible, as any one who’s fooled around on a piano for 5 minutes has experienced. Sure, they’re OK on their own, but it’s not easy to fix the situation without changing or removing one of the notes. That’s awkwardness.

I’m referring to these two in a social setting, of course. Awkwardness has multiple definitions and applications. But, in a social setting, which is common, it’s when two people or personalities really don’t mix well in a certain situation. Social confusion is more obvious, like if you don’t know some one is a vegetarian and is the only one not eating a hot dog at a barbecue. You have an idea that there’s a good reason for them not eating, but you still need to ask some one. Then, it’s resolved.

I’d recommend using this analogy when a piano is present. Even if the person doesn’t need to know the difference, it’d be a waste if you didn’t take the opportunity to educate. Bonus points if you do it at a party where awkwardness is present: “You see, Jim, you’re a C, and Bill is a C#. It just doesn’t work. Here, let me show you on this keyboard…”

Monday, December 10, 2007

12-10-07: Name Ownership

Freedom has been coming under fire for some time now. It’s nothing new, and technology has its role to play, but it’s essentially the result of “good business.” People scream out against the Federal government and how it’s destroying our privacy rights and whatnot, but you don’t really hear too much about another major cause: corporate greed.

I am a firm believer in a free market economy. I think it works well and drives our economy. But I cringe whenever I hear stories like I heard this morning. A charitable organization based out of Potsdam, New York, was contacted by General Mills and told it could not call its annual bake-off a bake-off. The Potsdam Food Co-op has run its “Holiday Bake Off” for charity for nine years, and all proceeds go to the help feed the hungry. No government support, just good people out to help the needy. But that doesn’t fit the business model that Pillsbury, owned by General Mills, wants. After all, they “own” the term “bake off.”

I understand when companies go after product names that violate intellectual property of original names or brand names. If some one is trying to make a buck off a name, like iPod or Frostee, then the company has the right to go after the people. But wouldn’t a charitable organization, which had no idea the term “bake off” was owned by a multinational corporation, be the exception to the rule? Laws are in place to protect people from loss. But how much loss is General Mills suffering because of a local fundraiser? I’d think the negative publicity they’re now getting is costing them more than whatever profits they hope to make by denying the use of the name.

I wonder how this whole process came about. Did some one from General Mills see a sign for the event, and just instinctively say “Oh God no! We own that word!” ? Did some one lose because of a bad submission and take it out by reporting the event? If it’s been going on for nearly a decade, and only now is it being changed, it can’t be that big of an event. Is there some sort of new policy at General Mills to go after any and all “opponents”? It’s just strange. It’s not unlike how Apple has been going around trying to shut down iAnything. Oops (please don’t tell Apple I said that…).

This sort of thing infringes upon a basic freedom, and it’s in the name of “good business.” You’d think they would have thought this thing through at General Mills a little beforehand. I’m all for protecting the company against illegal profit by other companies, but when they show no heart and go after a charitable organization, it just upsets me. You have to know where to draw the line. It’s not like companies that size are 100% all-legal all-the-time. They know how to bend rules. Why not go easy on people who are trying to help feed the hungry? Why not sponsor the event? Isn’t that good business? I’m not calling for any government involvement, just a little common sense on the part of the businesses who profit off of good American consumers.

The organizers of the event are now scrambling to come up with a new name, but they’ll have to settle for “Holiday Baking Contest,” and they’re clever enough to make a suggestion box in the shape of a Pillsbury Doughboy. One suggestion is to call it a “Bake On” next year. I hope no one owns that one!

Sunday, December 9, 2007

12-9-07: Afterthought Book

Did you ever walk away from a situation where you needed a clever response, but couldn't think of one? I'm sure you have, as it happens all the time. There's a French saying for it that I don't remember, but it seems to happen a lot to me. So, I thought something up that might be helpful: an afterthought book. You'd keep this book in your pocket and use it as a reference whenever and wherever necessary.

Now, an afterthought can be about almost anything, so the title can be as specific as you want. You could even split it up into sections. One could be about stuff you simply forgot about, or simply don't know, and need to look up ("Were Sodom and Gomorrah people or cities...?"); another could be just reminders to yourself ("Don't forget to bring your A game."); and another could be clever sayings broken down by subject.

Let's take a look at what sort of subjects you could break this down into. You might think it should just be at different types of locations, like at a bar or at a coffee shop. But, wouldn't it make more sense to break them down into simply the type of situation? There are a surprising amount of common elements from different locations. People tend to set other people up no matter what the location. For example, let's say you order something and they're out of that item. This could happen at a bar, coffee shop, or any restaurant. You could theoretically use the same, or similar, line at all locations. Here are a few examples: "Well that settles it, I'm becoming a Vegan," or "This has happened every time I've come here, and the server always looks like you. Is there a conspiracy or something?" or "Who had the last one? Did they have a smile on their face? I hope they did, the bastards." See, you can use those anywhere! It doesn't even have to involve food (and yes, I am including the Vegan line, which would be doubly funny if mentioned in a hardware store).

It all breaks down to KISS, which stands for Keep It Simple Stupid. If you aren't quick enough to come up with a line, it's usually because of the type of situation, like a fast paced environment of a store or a bar or anywhere. When coming up with a set of clever lines for your afterthought book, remember to keep them simple and universal. It looks really bad if you screw up the general, broad ones. Make them easy to remember.

Here are some that you might want to consider:

Scenario 1: Some one cuts you off in line and takes forever to order what they want.

- "So that's what jerks eat. I never knew." (after they're done ordering food)
- "I sure hope my medication doesn't wear off. The last person looked just like you, and that arrest just never seems to go away."
- "This isn't actually a line, you know. We're all just paid extras in the direct-to-TV movie of your life story. The title is The Asshole Who Cuts In Line and Orders Slowly."
- "This isn't actually a line, you know. We all just meet up here every week to catch a glimpse of our biggest hero. You're a minute late!"

Scenario 2: While you are ordering something, some one in line behind you becomes very impatient and starts to get rude.

- "Oh, it's you! I am so sorry. If only you had said you were in line, I would have dropped to my knees and allowed you to order your food, which I like to refer to as The Meal That Was."
- "I'll tell you what, if you tell me exactly what you want in 5 seconds or less, I'll buy it for you." (then just turn around and keep ordering while they sputter; if they accomplish the feat, say "Well it appears that you're probably not in a hurry to get anywhere important" and ignore them)
- "You look familiar. I can't quite put a name to the face, though, but I recognize you. It was either in Asshole Magazine's December issue, or it was on the hit reality TV show called 'The Impatient Line-waiters.' Are you famous?"

Scenario 3: A salesman is obviously trying to rip you off and sell you something you neither want nor need in any way

- "If you can give me 10 reasons why I have to have this today, in under 1 minute, I'll consider buying it. And each reason has to start with a different letter of the alphabet. No repeats!"
- (If it's an extended warranty) "You know, the last extended warranty I bought was for my pet armadillo. Killer sure was a great pet. He'd always put a smile on my face whenever I'd get home, even if I ran over something. Do you think this could replace Killer?"
- "So let's say I buy this from you. What's in it for me? Because I certainly don't want it, and I sure don't need it, but you obviously have done my thinking for me already. So, I can only assume that since you've done so much thinking for me already, you'd already know what is in it for me."

Look for my book in stores next spring.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

12-8-07: Christmas Shopping

The other night, I was reminded of how much I dislike holiday shopping at malls. I had to buy a couple things on an errand, and the mall was the easiest place to go on the way home. I wouldn't say it was crowded, but there was a good amount of people walking around for a Wednesday night. There wasn't any real frenzy or mad dash to any store. It was pretty tame.

But then I remembered all of the TV coverage of Black Friday shoppers, hurling themselves into the great mass of other, equally inspired shoppers to get their part of the savings. The very next day after Thanksgiving, a day that people sit together and spread the good feelings, people fight and clutch and grab for items they need to buy for loved ones. It's downright disturbing, and so many people participate!

I'll bet that 90% of America knows what they want for Christmas, what they want to buy for their friends and loved ones, and where and when they will buy them, right now. But I would bet that only 30% can remember the gifts the kings brought to the birth of Christ: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The numbers might be a bit skewed since not every one is a Christian, and not every one actively practices their faith, but you'd think that at least you'd remember some of the details of the holiday, right? Even if you only buy gifts and don't religiously celebrate, wouldn't you be at least curious? To be honest, I don't go to church nearly enough to be remotely considered a religious advocate. But that doesn't hide the obvious point: Christmas has turned into a shopping holiday with religious overtones. It's sad, but that's America.

Friday, December 7, 2007

12-7-07: Snow

Big win for the Trumbull High School Girls Hockey Team tonight. Despite a 4-0 deficit at the end of the first period, they hung in there and pulled out a fine 6-5 win. Good way to start the season.

There was also a bit of snow today, which always makes for a fun adventure on the roadways. It wasn't really too bad, but the first major snowfall of the year always throws people off. There were a few accidents here and there, but I didn't see any blood or anything.

It should be a nice and easy weekend. Hopefully the weather will hold up and the roads will stay clear. Drive safe, America.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

12-6-07: Mormonism and Mitt Romney

A while back I made a post that poked a little fun at people’s concern over Mitt Romney being a Mormon. It was a bit over the top, which was deliberate, and I was criticized via a comment from a Mormon with no sense of humor. Let me just say that I am not planning on apologizing for my attempt at humor, only that it offended some one. See, that’s known as a coward’s apology. If you were offended, I am sorry for that, but I don’t apologize for my statement. It was meant to be funny.

What isn’t funny is that people are legitimately concerned over Mitt Romney's candidacy simply because he is a Mormon. He’s making a speech today to talk about his religion, which many, particularly Evangelicals, refer to as a cult. I could care less, since I’ve never had a problem with a Mormon. If people want to practice one faith over another, and it doesn’t hurt my bottom line, it’s not my problem. So long as they aren’t an atheist, I have almost no problem with some one being President who has different religious views than me. I’d say “absolutely no problem,” but there is the off-chance some one will run for office who belongs to the Wicca religion. That’d be creepy.

Mitt Romney is a nice guy, and he seems to be a pretty smart and practical man. He’s been a lifelong Mormon, and he even went around the world promoting his religion when he was a youth. So he’s devoted to his faith, which is fine. What’s the big deal, then? Does he have a history of brainwashing people to become Mormons? I don’t remember hearing about anything like that happening when he was Governor of Massachusetts, and I strongly doubt he’d try something like that as President. Though, when I think of Romney… all I can picture is a strange flashing image of Brigham Young with the word “OBEY” above his head…

The issue is fear. People are simply afraid to elect a Mormon President. It’s not unlike the concern when Kennedy was running for the office as a Catholic back in 1960. Yet, he got elected, but only after saying: “I’m not the Catholic candidate for President. I’m the Democratic candidate, who happens to be Catholic.” Then, as if by magic, people liked him. I have a feeling Romney is going to say something similar. He shouldn’t have to come out and say it, but we don’t live in a perfect world. Sound bites are important.

So long as he’s morally strong and doesn’t come out and say he’ll be swayed by his church, which would be political suicide if he did, I have no problem with the guy. I don’t feel that strongly either way regarding abortion, since I don’t see everything as a black and white issue. Some people do, but most of the time they’re either hypocrites or ignorant. Politics, and life in general, are far too complex to base your entire decision on one issue, which in itself is not black and white. If Romney is fiscally conservative and believes in the powers of the states over the Federal Government, that’s more important to me than most moral issues.

With that being said, this isn't an endorsement of Mitt Romney. I'm still not sure who I'm going to vote for, but he's in my top three or four right now (also included: Fred Thompson, Mike Huckabee, and Ron Paul; Rudy Giuliani is starting to slip a bit, but there's no guarantee I won't vote for him, either). All I'm saying is his religious views will not be a factor in my decision.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

12-5-07: Mickey Mouse Subpoenaed... in Italy

Every once in a while you hear a story that really brightens up your day. For me, it’s usually not something inspirational or heart-warming; it’s just something goofy enough to get me thinking about interesting scenarios.

This morning, on the radio on the way into work, I hear about a funny story out of Naples, Italy involving a court case that, through a clerical error, had Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Daisy Duck, and Tweety Bird as key witnesses. They were given summons to appear in court to testify against a man accused of selling counterfeit Disney merchandise.

First of all, it was a clerical error, and no characters were seriously expected to show up. But still, wouldn’t it have been great if it had gotten that far? Wouldn’t that scene in court be outright hilarious? I can only imagine what the interchange would have been:

Prosecutor: Your Honor, I would like to call my first witness: Tweety Bird.

Judge: Very well, Mr. Bird, please approach, swear in, and be seated.

[Swearing in]

Prosecutor: Mr. Bird, you are an employee of The Walt Disney Company?

Tweety: Why yeth, I am.

Prosecutor: And how long have you been an employee of that company?

Tweety: Ooh boy, 65 yearth.

Prosecutor: 65? Why, that’s quite a number of years. That’s longer than many of us in this courtroom have been alive. So for 65 years, you’ve dedicated your life to The Walt Disney Company. Do you like working there?

Tweety: Why yeth, I love it.

Prosecutor: Of course. So, Mr. Bird, what did you think when you heard about the defendant’s horrific counterfeiting scheme?

Tweety: I was vewwy angwy!

Prosecutor: And rightfully so. How much is this sort of merchandise worth to your business?

Tweety: Well, quite a lot, but it would depend on the country of origin.

Prosecutor: Let’s just focus on Italy, then. How much?

Tweety: Euroth or dollarth?

Prosecutor: Euroth… I mean Euros. Sorry.

Tweety: 1942 money?

Prosecutor: No, Mr. Bird… 2007 money.

Tweety: Future money?!

Just imagine the possibilities.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

12-4-07: The BCS

Big win for the Patriots last night. It came down to the wire, but they somehow pulled it off. Even if they lose one game, at least they’re making it fun.

Well, the BCS bowl selections came out the other day, and, as usual, there are flaws in the system. I’m not a huge college football fan by any stretch of the imagination, but I can see why a lot of people get pissed off every year. In particular, I can see why fans of Missouri are upset. They got robbed.

I understand why the BCS exists. It is incredibly difficult to determine which teams are better than which since there are so many leagues. The rankings take many things into account, including coaches’ polls, AP polls, number of losses, computer rankings, and strength of schedule. But, despite all of this, a simple head-to-head matchup doesn’t seem to have a lot of effect on the system. That’s why Kansas is in a BCS bowl and not Missouri. That makes for some good complaint fuel for Missouri fans.

The strange thing is how, no matter how many people call out for a playoff, it never sticks. They say “It makes the season too long,” or “it’s not necessary; the system works.” Let me pick on those two.

First, the season is long as it is with the bowl games being played in January, and it doesn’t help the teams who have to wait that long. Ohio State is going to go 51 days between their last regular season game and the BCS National Championship game on January 7th. Fifty one days. No games. Do you think they’re going to be at their sharpest? Does it really do the system justice? Wouldn’t the season be just as long with two games in between? Even with the extra week because of other league championships, it could work. Pick the top eight or so teams from various polls and have them go into a playoff. You could even keep the BCS rankings intact and use those. Have three rounds: quarterfinals on the second Saturday in December; semifinals on the third Saturday; championship game in early January. You’d think players who go on to handle a 17 week season in the NFL would be able to handle the extra two games, right?

The second point, that a playoff would be unnecessary, is just wrong. I remember a few years ago there being co-national champions. Two champions! Lame! Shouldn’t the winner of the National Championship be… the National Champion? Well, ideally, but it depends on how big a team wins in another bowl game, and maybe (just maybe) if it rained 3.5 vs. 3.6 inches in Anchorage, Alaska. Maybe. With a playoff, it’d be all head-to-head. Put all of the games in neutral sites. Keep all the lower bowls intact and pump some money into the playoff.

The real issue is money. There’s simply too much money in the bowl system now to justify any real change. Not enough people are pissed off at the flaws to spend any serious money to fix them. I guess that’s what you get with top-notch AMATEUR athletics. But seriously, if all other major college sports thrive on a playoff system, just look at the money that schools rake in during March Madness, and the NFL uses one, why can’t college football do a playoff?

Monday, December 3, 2007

12-3-07: Ron Paul

I saw an interesting video of a Ron Paul appearance at Google back in July. It’s a 65 minute video of him answering questions. It was pretty much a big love-fest, with only a few exceptions. Paul was, for the most part, very good. By “good,” I mean he was very consistent and straightforward. His answers were concise and well thought out, and he certainly wasn’t at a loss for words.

I agree with a good amount of what Ron Paul stands for. My only question is how realistic his plans are. He’s not crazy. He knows it would take some time. One of the best questions from the Google crowd (all employees) was which parts of his plan would be addressed first and which would be overall goals for his term in office. He did acknowledge that some of his goals would be difficult to achieve, like the elimination of the IRS and other government institutions.

I don’t think Ron Paul is electable, but I do think his ideas are refreshing. He’s not coming out of left field; he’s been a Congressman for some time. He is a very capable legislator. He’s a Libertarian running on the Republican ticket, which some may say is dishonest, but I see nothing wrong with him trying to get as many votes as possible. He’s playing to win, which is fine.

What I like about Ron Paul, though I can’t say I’d vote for him, is his mentality for small government. He’s very laissez-faire, which makes it really easy to predict what he’ll say about many issues. I like that. You’d think a Google employee would be smarter than this, but one of them asked him about rural pharmacists. It was a loaded question, and he addressed it pretty well by acknowledging how it was loaded, then citing his anti-restriction policy. That takes balls, and it was well played on his part. He’s also remarkably good at citing historical precedents, which I like as a history buff.

I do think Ron Paul would do a fine job as President, since he’s been consistent for years and has “old-time” conservative views. He believes strongly in the Constitution, which is fantastic. Even if he doesn’t win, the fact that he’s getting this kind of attention is good. Fortunately for him, there isn’t a front-runner in the Republican race. If he does well in New Hampshire, we’ll see. Right now I’m supporting Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney, but I do wish Ron Paul all the luck in the world.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

12-2-07: First Snow

I meant to post on Friday, but must've forgotten to do so. I'll put something up tomorrow about the topic I was planning on writing about, which was Ron Paul.

Busy weekend, but a fun one nonetheless. Friday night was Bids Night up at WPI. It's the end of the Greek community's Rush period, and is the night that potential members sign their bids to choose the Fraternity they wish to join. It's also a night of celebration, and graduate members like myself like to visit to join in on the fun. It's a good time. Last night was a hockey jamboree for the high school team I coach. It went pretty well, which was very good. We played two of the best teams in the state, and stayed very competitive. Some obvious work needs to be done, but it's manageable. Should be an interesting season.

Today was the first snow of the year. Pretty normal, early December. It's definitely the start of the winter season. It may not officially be here for a couple weeks, but snow is snow. I don't think it cares if it's official. Unfortunately, we still have some leaves to take care of, and even though it's just a light covering of snow, it doesn't make things any easier. Oh well. Gotta do it.