Monday, March 31, 2008

Sunday, March 30, 2008

3-30-08: Earth Hour

I heard about this movement called Earth Hour yesterday. Apparently it happened yesterday, as well. How's that for advertising?

There are two things about this whole deal that I'd just like to mention. One is funny, the other is more serious.

The serious element is that Earth Hour is supposed to bring awareness to climate change by having people shut off their lights for an hour. Which would assume that turning off the lights would mean people would be using less energy which would somehow stop the power companies from producing as much and burning fossil fuels and releasing carbon dioxide into the air.

I've made mention on this blog a few times that I am skeptical about this whole "reduce C02" movement. I just don't see how it's worth all the lost economical potential to reduce something that, according to a substantial number of climatologists, is probably not the source of global warming. I didn't participate in this whole movement. It's mostly because I didn't hear about it until after the fact, but I doubt I'd have done anything about it. If you want to be made aware of something, how about listening to both sides? You can't simply shut out one side of the argument because you think they're corrupt or because you think they're just lying to get attention. If that were even true, how is that any different than being ignorant and blindly following a movement? Pointing out all the science "on your side" does not prove anything.

This is not to say that I don't think Earth Hour is completely useless. If given the right context, I would probably observe it. Let's say it's in awareness of our rising energy costs or reliance on oil. I can buy into that. It's not for climate change, it's to simply reduce our use of energy so we don't run out. That's something I can follow, but it's completely separate from all the bogus hype of man-made global warming.

This all reminds me of a course I took about a year ago. It was a "Senior Seminar" and it was basically a bunch of discussions on various topics about the business environment. Somehow it was strung together as a class. I'm not sure how; I got a B. But one class was particularly good. A guy came in who had many years of industry experience at Xerox. He just sat down with us and talked about whatever. It was a really interesting class. He started us off talking about global warming. It was amazing to see what college seniors had to say on the topic. Some had almost no idea what the debate was about. They thought "Hey, I don't want to live underwater some day." Others just said "It has to be man-made; what else could it be?" All of these students, when asked, admitted they had done basically no research on their own. Myself and two others had done some reading on the topic. One girl said she was skeptical and believed it was probably a natural warming cycle. Another guy thought it was all being blown out of proportion and didn't believe and couldn't understand a lot of the science. I cited a few videos and articles I read and mentioned how it could all be due to the sun-spot cycle. The guy simply said at the end that he was just interested in seeing how we formed our arguments. He ended with: "Did you know they used to grow grapes in Greenland?" Interesting guy.

The second, and funnier, part of the whole Earth Hour ordeal is that a bunch of pubs in Ireland and Britain didn't participate in the hour-long shut-off. Not out of protest. They just didn't want patrons to fall and break their glasses or burn themselves on candles. You can't make this shit up. I hope some one puts that into an ad or something. "Don't get burned by the hype." Brilliant!

Saturday, March 29, 2008

3-29-08: Ripped Off

I had a pretty interesting but dissatisfying time at the bar last night. My buddy and I went to a place called Archie Moore's in Derby, CT. We've gone there several times before, and have gone to other Archie Moore's in the area. We've never had a problem. Personally, I think their beer selection and appetizers are both very good. It's a nice bar.

But last night we happened across a rather disheartening situation. We usually both get a couple beers and sit down at a table and eat nachos or some other heart-healthy snack. We do it almost every Friday. So yesterday we went in and ordered some nachos, but this time we ordered a portion. My buddy wasn't particularly hungry, and he said the half portions were still pretty big. I didn't know any better, so I went with it. No problem.

The order came and the nachos were as good as ever. The beer was good. The service was fine. They were pretty busy last night. It was when the bill arrived that we noticed the problem.

A full order of nachos was $10.95. The half order was... $9.50. That's less than $1.50, or not quite 10%, for a HALF ORDER. The half portions aren't on the menu, so we had no idea what the price was going to be. We figured it was roughly, I don't know, half of the full order. Maybe not half, but a little more would be fine. Somewhere around $7 would seem fair. But $9.50? That's too much. So we ended up talking to the manager, who told us she didn't set the prices. That was the owner. We got about $1 off the order. Wow. What a bargain. I'm not saying she was being rude, but maybe if she had comped a beer or something we would been delighted. She was definitely not on our side on the issue, though. My buddy said he had ordered half portions before and that he was usually asked if he wanted a full or half portion. The manager turned it around and asked if the prices had been the same before. He had no idea, who would?

I don't want to seem cheap, but that seems like a rip off to me. I'm not blaming our server; she was fine. But wouldn't you think something like that would have come up? If it's nearly the same price, who not order the whole damn thing, right? We had no idea. So, despite the $1 off, we're not going back. I just wrote a quick note to the owner and faxed it on over. I worked in the restaurant industry for a few years, and this is one of my pet peeves. I know it seems nuts, but I often get results.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

3-27-08: Athletic Politeness; Progress vs. Congress

It might just be an odd observation, but I've really started to take notice of a certain habit, especially among athletes and politicians, to almost never criticize some one in their field during an interview. With the exception of candidates, who go out of their way to criticize opponents, it seems like there's some strange rule of politeness.

The other part of this is the open unselfishness out there among athletes. It's always a team game, no matter what. I'm not saying they're saying the wrong stuff, or that they need to be selfish. I'm just saying it's funny how so many of these guys are so nice. Do you think it's just that they're expected to answer questions that way? Why even ask athletes questions? They really don't say much. Just listen to a post-game interview with an athlete. If they won, it's a team win. If they lost, it was a tough opponent or things just didn't flow right, or something like that. I love it when some one comes out and says "You know what, we just lost." I like that. I also like it when guys call out their teammates. It adds a bit of spice to the game. Sometimes it just needs that.

How does this really make sense, though? When it comes to politicians, especially on opposing "sides of the aisle," why do they stay so positive when it comes to specific politicians. It's usually fine to say "the Democrats did this" or "the Republicans should have done that." Blanket party blame is fine. But whenever some one asks if a specific colleague (note: a peer, not the President or just some random politician), the answer usually includes the word "respect" or "bit of a disagreement." When is some one going to come out and call somebody an idiot?

Then it dawned on me: what if Congress were a full-contact sport, or a life and death puzzle? What if they just walked in a room with a bat or a weapon of choice and just went at it until the last person was standing, who signed the bill into law? Or, what if they walked in, the doors slammed shut, the windows all closed, and they couldn't leave until they figured out some massive problem? Shit, Cuba basically signs all of their bills into law one day per year. Seriously. Ignoring the fact that their economy is completely down the tubes and they're run by a corrupt government, it seems like an interesting system. I'm not advising communism in any way, shape, or form. I'm just saying it would be interesting to see Congress meet just one day at a time, let's say once a month, and tackle a huge problem. Just get it all out there and literally don't let them leave until it gets done. Make it interesting. Do you think they'd want to filibuster once the cheese sandwiches ran out? I bet they'd think twice.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

3-26-08: Japan Opening Series

Waking up at 6:00AM to watch Opening Day baseball is an interesting experience. I wouldn’t really know, because I didn’t really “wake up” until about 7:00AM yesterday. I flipped on ESPN2 and saw some good baseball, which was nice to see. My lovely girlfriend, who is stationed in Japan, went to today’s game. Hopefully she grabbed me a cool souvenir (if they didn’t already sell out).

Part of me likes the idea, part of me doesn’t. I don’t really subscribe to the idea that it’s completely wrong to have opening day in a foreign country, since baseball is “America’s favorite pastime.” That saying came about decades ago, when foreign players were a significant minority. Even minority players were a minority. A team might have had a few Hispanic players on it, but not many. The first Japanese player, Masanori Murakami, didn’t play in the Major Leagues until 1964.

Nowadays you have teams with players from all over the world. The Red Sox are not the most diverse team out there (historically they are slow to integrate), but they have players from several countries. The Yankees’ pitching staff at one point had players from five countries (the U.S., Cuba, Panama, Dominican Republic, and Taiwan). That’s just off the top of my head. I think they also had a Canadian pitcher.

The point is: how American is baseball? It can still be America’s favorite pastime, but does that mean it is immune to globalization? Just look at the potential of the Japanese market. When I was over there in December, I saw it being played several times by kids. When I was in Yokohama I caught a few minutes of a high school team’s practice (maybe it was Matsuzaka’s high school…). I’m not even going to describe the decades of prominence in Latin America. The Red Sox’ two best hitters are from the Dominican Republic, and they’ve had many star pitchers from there as well.

But the teams are (save one) based in the United States. Should an American team play its first game abroad? Wouldn’t it be better to play the game later on, or maybe earlier on during the middle of Spring Training?

There are two parts of this that need to be weighed, and I think MLB made the right choice. First, you don’t want to waste every one’s time by going all the way to Japan just to play exhibition games. Teams won’t take the games seriously, and Japan will not be exposed to the real product. You don’t want to piss off both parties involved. On the other hand, how fair is it to the teams if they get worn out early because of these games on the other side of the world? You don’t want to cost the American fans, who pay top dollar to get into Fenway, by wearing their team out and causing them to perform poorly.

I think having the games this week, then more exhibition games before the real opening day in April, is the right move. You want the teams to take the games seriously, but you don’t want them to get worn out. It’s the only way to balance things out. Besides, many fans pay more attention to the home opener, which both teams will still have. The only fans that really care are so hardcore that they’ll play along anyway. Who would pass up the chance to watch the Sox live over breakfast? Come on. It’s pretty cool.

Monday, March 24, 2008

3-24-08: Certifying Parents

I read an interesting op-ed on WSJ.com about the recent happenings in California with regard to home-schooled children. Apparently it’s now against California law to home-school your kids without government certification.

The author is pretty openly against this. They apparently don’t like how the teachers unions are somehow benefiting from this legislation. I won’t argue for or against that. I’m not a fan of teachers unions, either, but I do see some of the author’s point in that it does help keep kids in schools.

There are, like almost every topic, several sides of this debate. It’s not a simple Red vs. Blue type issue. One part of it involves the freedom to educate your child as you see fit. One part involves properly educating a child. Another part involves the role of teachers and schools in this. All are valid, but not all are relevant to the core issue: should parents be required to be government certified to home-school their children?

I’m not going to argue against having a mandate. I want to simply point out some of the different sides of the argument and to point out some of the flawed logic involved.

There’s a big assumption being made here, which is that a “credentialed” educator is inherently better at educating a child than a “non-credentialed.” For this argument, “credentialed” means the educator has been certified to teach by a qualified government organization. How is this a guaranteed outcome? How is it that we have legions of credentialed teachers in America and still have poor school systems in certain areas? Even in California there is a wide variety of performance among schools. If all of the teachers are certified by the same institution, then what causes the discrepancy?

There are several possibilities. One is environment; another is culture; another is funding. But how has certification solved this? At what level must an educator be competent to have the proper credentials? If it’s at a high level, then why are some schools so much worse than others? If it’s at a lower level, then why rely so heavily on the standard?

The other issue is the role of individual education vs. the social education a school environment provides. Which is more important? If a child can be given much more individual attention and reinforcement of basic math, science, and English skills at a young age, is that more important than for them to develop social skills? Is there an age at which there is a benefit?

When I was a child I was terrified of school. I’m naturally quite shy. It was only after receiving special, individual attention that I built up the confidence to speak up in class. My teacher was too busy educating the class as a whole, and I don’t blame her for it. It’s her job, and that’s absolutely fine. But many children today and in the past are scared of school. Why not allow those children to be taught at home for a few years to build up their intellect? What if a shy child has a question, and is simply too scared to ask for fear of ridicule? I personally have had that happen to me countless times. Not ridicule itself, but fear of it. I got over it eventually, but it wasn’t by engaging it directly. I received individual attention from my parents and educators, and I gained confidence.

With a variety of class sizes, educators’ competencies, funding, curricula, and many other factors, how is it that simply requiring a parent to be certified will help their child? What if they don’t apply the same principles, but it still works? The scary part is this all started because of a child abuse case. I would never defend some one who abuses their kids. But that’s a case that should be dealt with on an individual basis. It should not be the basis for state-wide legislation against home-schooling.

I do recognize the issue of properly teaching children, though. There does need to be a system to insure some level of competency with the parent if the child expects to enter the public school system. That’s the catch. Many educators complain about how students will come in at the sixth grade and can barely read because they were poorly home-schooled. That’s a real issue. It costs more money and time to educate that child, which is a valid argument.

Here’s what I propose: require any parent without a Bachelor’s Degree who wishes to home-school their child for more than a year, and then to send their child to public school, to obtain a basic level of certification. But, there needs to be a grace period involved in this. That’s the key. Some kids will still slip through during the transition. In addition, there should be some economic incentive, like a tax deduction on the expense for receiving the certification. The state could run the program to help keep it a level playing field.

The reason why I say a minimum of a Bachelor’s is that I believe some one who has completed such a degree would have the basic concepts down pretty well. Now, there is a lot of room for debate there. Perhaps there could be varying levels of the program, and those with a Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degrees could jump in later on or have shorter programs. Those people may also be employed, so taking time away from them and their children would need to be addressed (but that’s also a whole other side to this argument). I would argue that a parent with a college degree should be exempt. At the very least they can research good teaching methods.

One needs to keep this core concept in mind: the best sort of education for a young child depends on the child. If it needs to be done on an individual basis, then why prevent that? It’s up to the parent whether or not they go to public or private school, so if they are already being trusted with that decision, why not allow them to teach their own child? Private schools do not require the same competencies of educators as public schools, yet many of them seem to do a decent job. Who is to say a parent can’t do the same?

Sunday, March 23, 2008

3-23-08: Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all the Christians out there in cyber space. It being the most Holy day of the year (more so than Christmas), it's an important day for many families to get together and share something special. My family typically has ham. Always a safe bet.

So, on this holiday, make sure you remember all the good things you have and what is to come. With the way the world is changing every day, traditions tend to go by the wayside. Help keep the good ones strong.

Have a great day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

3-22-08: News Summary Slideshow

I downloaded (legally, mind you) the new Nine Inch Nails album Ghosts last week. I think it's pretty good overall, and while doing a search on Google, I found out they're doing an online "film festival" on Youtube. Basically, the idea is to have listeners submit videos they made, and have the background music be from the album. All of the songs are instrumentals, and I guess it's supposed to be a soundtrack. The song titles are pretty bland, just numbers like "18 Ghosts II."

I decided to try my hand at one, but I realized that I'm pretty much only good at making slide-shows. I got this idea this morning while listening to the "Front Page News Summary" from the New York Times. I had one of the songs from the album on in the background, and thought it would neat to try putting some pictures to the stories with the music. Unfortunately, they don't really want any slide-show submissions in the contest. I figured. It didn't really take too long to make. I think it came out OK overall. I won't be quitting the day job, though.


video

Friday, March 21, 2008

3-21-08: Day Off; NCAA Tournament

There's nothing quite like a day off. I got a chance to sleep in, watch some SportsCenter (my bracket is doing OK overall; those upsets I was looking for didn't really happen), then basically do nothing for a couple hours. It's been nice.

I'm not a huge college basketball fan, but since there's little else on TV for basically all of March, I'll watch it now. I was watching the Duke vs. Belmont game last night, and I was genuinely entertained... by a first round game. It came down to the very end. Too bad for Belmont, they lost a game they should have won. Oh well.

As far as my bracket goes, here's how I faired yesterday (my picks are in bold):

Notre Dame vs. George Mason - picked the winner
Washington St. vs. Winthrop - picked winner
Kansas vs. Portland St. - picked winner
Kent St. vs. UNLV - picked loser
USC vs. Kansas St. - picked loser (I was back and forth on this one; I had USC going to the Sweet 16)
Wisconsin vs. Cal St. Fullerton - picked winner
Michigan St. vs. Temple - picked loser
Pittsburgh vs. Oral Roberts - picked winner
Marquette vs. Kentucky - picked loser
Stanford vs. Cornell - picked winner
UCLA vs. Miss. Valley St. - picked winner
BYU vs. Texas A&M - picked winner (only "upset" that panned out)
Purdue vs. Baylor - picked winner (I had Baylor until yesterday morning)
Xavier vs. Georgia - picked winner
W. Virginia vs. Arizona - picked loser (dumb pick)
Duke vs. Belmont - picked winner (if Duke lost it would really have screwed my bracket up)

Right now I'm in the middle of pack nationally among iGoogle brackets. The people who picked all favorites (referred to as "chalk") are doing pretty well. That's lame.

My Final Four picks are still alive, though:

North Carolina vs. Clemson
Texas vs. UCLA

And the Championship:

North Carolina 77 - UCLA 74

Thursday, March 20, 2008

3-20-08: "Seen It" Feature

I visit IMDb.com from time to time, usually after a conversation involving some movie somebody has seen, or a TV show. It's an awesome site. But there's one thing that (as far as I know; it could be one of those "Need to register" deals) I think would be an awesome feature. What if it let you pick all the movies you've seen (through a simple Netflix-style interface) so that when you look up a name on the site, you can see what movies they've been in that you've seen? I know it might take a lot of time to list all the movies; it would have to be something really easy to do and would register it every time you checked a box or something.

This wouldn't have to involve some fancy algorithm, like how Netflix recommends movies for you and stuff. It would just be a neat way to see what movies you've watched that have a certain star in it. Wouldn't that be cool? OK, maybe not. But still, haven't you ever looked up a name and thought "What other movie did I see him in?" Eh? I know you have.

Remember to include me on the patent/copyright.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

3-19-08: Deli Style

I go to this great deli every once in a while, recently it’s been weekly, that has these awesome sandwiches. It’s technically a “Salumeria,” but its website calls it a deli. I’m telling you, great sandwiches. If you’re ever in Stratford, CT, check it out: Gaetano’s.

One of my favorite parts of visiting a traditional deli is the atmosphere. It’s 100% personal. I get sick and tired of these fast food places who try to rush you through as fast as possible, and if you’re lucky you might get a smile. It’s frustrating. When you go into a deli, especially if you’re a regular, you get a smile and they make things fresh right in front of you. And there’s a lot more personality, so don’t tell me “Well you can get that at Subway.” Any place that’s an international chain can’t have local personality.

I really hope there are still delis when “the world becomes flat.” I hope people remember to slow things down. I don’t think it’s a huge problem now, but it does seem like people are slowly forgetting to take their time. People want things done fast fast fast. That’s fine for some things, but food doesn’t have to be done fast. The thing I like most about the South is that they don’t need to be told to slow things down.

Monday, March 17, 2008

3-17-08: Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I don’t think I have a favorite holiday, but the fact that it’s my saint’s day, I always love it when St. Patrick’s Day comes around every year.

I used to dread St. Patrick’s Day’s dinner when I was a kid, though. I never liked corned beef or cabbage. I always liked potatoes and carrots, though. I’d eat those with no problem. But corned beef always gave me the willies, and I just couldn’t handle cabbage.

But I realized that within the past couple of years, I’ve become quite a fan of these two Irish delicacies. I think it all started when I began liking Reuben sandwiches, which are my favorite of all sandwiches. I’m not talking about those namby-pamby pastrami alternatives, though. I’m talking corned beef, sauerkraut, the whole deal. I don’t mess around when it comes to Reubens. When I was the Steward of my Fraternity while in college (in charge of the kitchen), I’d order Reubens on a bi-weekly basis. Some guys hated that, but for some reason I only listened to the compliments. One guy (the Fraternity President) wanted them ordered weekly. I nearly gave in, but you can’t have too much of a good thing.

What I don’t like about St. Patrick’s Day is all the boozing that’s associated with it. I have no problem with tipping back a few, but getting stupid and rowdy has no place in it. It’s just poor taste. “Everybody’s Irish on St. Patrick’s Day” does not mean “Every one can get drunk out of their minds on St. Patrick’s Day.” Be smart, people.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

3-16-08: A Coincidence?

Continuing on the holiday theme, let me just share with you a bit of an odd observation that I literally just had.

Today is Palm Sunday, which for Christians is a pretty big deal. It's the start of the Holy week of Easter, which includes Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and of course Easter Sunday is just a week away now. But it's also the earliest that Palm Sunday has been in something like 98 years. AND... if you notice the date: 3/16/08.

3/16/08. 3/16. John 3:16. The most frequently quoted verse in the entire Holy Bible. People has held signs saying "John 3:16" for decades at ball games. It's seen all over the place. For those of you who need a quick refresher on the verse, here it is (from the King James version):

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

It's probably the most powerful verse in the Holy Bible, which leads to it's frequent quotations. Isn't it then quite fitting that the earliest Easter in almost 100 years starts its week with such a date...

Happy Easter.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

3-15-08: The Ides of March

I'm a bit of a history buff in some manner. So, after a big Pi Day celebration, and before St. Patrick's Day, I like to take notice of another important date: the Ides of March.

Whether or not Caesar was really assassinated on the Ides of March is up to some debate, though I don't know why. The date really isn't that important. What is important is how the term has taken on such a strange doomsday connotation.

It all started with Shakespear's play Julius Caesar, and the phrase "Beware the Ides of March" has come to be the age-old catch phrase for alarmists and Armageddon people. It's strange how one date has taken on such an odd meaning. I would be few people know when Caesar's birth day is. I have absolutely no idea. But I do know the day he died. Isn't that odd? Sure, there are many who remember the date of the JFK assassination and Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination, but it's not like those days have taken on a doomsday stigma. Why is this? Is it simply because of the convenient location of the day in the middle of March?

The even stranger part is that the Ides of March is always right before the start of Spring. You'd think the doomsday date would be somewhere around Halloween or some time in late Autumn, right before Winter. Why before Spring? Who thinks of death and destruction when the snow melts and it gets nicer outside? I don't get it.

Now, there is some clarification to make: the Ides of March is simply a part of a phrase warning some one of impending doom. It's not a doomsday, per say. But there are people out there who treat it as such, since there really isn't another date in the calendar that has a similar history to it. "Beware the Ides of March" is usually said when things are looking bad for a person or an organization, or even a country. But why March...? Couldn't we find some other day in history where somebody important was killed, closer to Winter? Come on, people. We can do better.

Friday, March 14, 2008

3-14-08: Pi Day

I went to a relatively nerdy college, so when I heard it was Pi Day today, I immediately remembered all the kids who wore Pi shirts every March 14th. It's a really goofy holiday, but it's an interesting one.

The difference between Pi Day and most goofy, unofficial holidays is that it is obviously a math joke. I'm sure there are people out there who try to celebrate Euler's Number "e," but that's a tough one since it's approximately 2.72. You'd really have to try for that one. Pi is conveniently a number that can be translated to a date with ease. In fact, it's the only math holiday I know.

I suppose you could try celebrating some bizarre constants, like Planck's, but who would notice? And what exactly are we celebrating on Pi Day? The number itself, or its significance? It's obviously pretty important. Many things wouldn't be as easily constructed if it weren't for Pi. One could easily imagine Pi being as important as some people, but I always like to maintain that a number is just a number. People make it important. So, I'll pay a small homage to Pi Day with this blog post, but I won't hold it in higher regard than any national holiday that celebrates a person.

Happy Pi Day.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

3-13-08: Movies These Days

I've noticed that a lot of movies these days are just awful. They're really easy to spot, too. You can sit through the 20 or so minutes of previews (and now commercials) at the theatre and easily spot the one or two movies you might see and then pick out the majority of them you'd never want to see, with ease.

I'm not sure if it's that it has become cheaper to produce a film, or if it's just easier to find out about movies these days. I do know there were crappy movies made decades ago. You just never really hear about them. Nowadays you see all the crap. Whether it's a crappy high school movie, or another slap-stick comedy with no plot, or a parody movie like Epic Movie, there always seems to be a simply awful movie out in theatres.

The strange part is that there are people out there who not only pass off on the idea, they support it. Who in their right mind would think some of these movies are any good? Simple: most people just pay attention to the hype. All you really need to do is hype up the film enough to have a good opening weekend. Then people will see that you were #1 at the box office and go see your movie. By the time people realized that it's a really bad movie, you'll be three weeks in and have made millions more than you'd ever hoped for. Money well spent.

This isn't to say that there aren't any good films out there. I saw No Country for Old Men last week and loved it. I'd say that within the past year I've seen some quality films. And, I can't say I've seen fewer good films out at any one time than in the past. I think I've just grown older and developed a keen sense for crap.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

3-12-08: The Spitzer Scandal

The Elliot Spitzer scandal is an interesting one on several levels. First, he’s a governor of a very influential state. He’s also a big Hillary Clinton supporter, and a noted super delegate. But, of all things, he was a famed New York Attorney General who fought to stop a great deal of crime, including prostitution rings.

The real issue that Spitzer simply couldn’t avoid was that he could be charged with a federal crime. Apparently there is a 98 year old law called the Mann Act, which was put in place to prevent white slavery and the sex trade, which prohibits the transportation of a woman across state lines for immoral purposes. It’s a federal crime, and there have been some famous members of societies, like Chuck Berry, Charlie Chaplin, and Charles Manson (watch out Charlie Sheen!), who have been charged under the Mann Act. Spitzer could face jail time. That’s pretty significant.

The other interesting part is how other politicians reacted. New York is in a bit of a budget crisis, and the timing of this is absolutely dreadful. But nobody was exactly coming to Spitzer’s aid to help him get through this. It would be an immense distraction. I’m actually glad no one did. Not that I dislike Spitzer; I just like how politicians actually (at least pretended to) care about the state’s well-being.

Spitzer comes out like a hypocrite in all of this, which he is. Though, I’m sure if he is found to have funded the organization, it will be a lot worse. He did something incredibly reckless, and immoral, and he deserves punishment. I’m not sure how this will pan out, but it’s not good for American politics in general. I’m not going to say “the Democrats had it coming!” and say that not just Republicans get into scandals. That doesn’t do anything, and nobody looks good in this. It just points out the obvious that even the “holiest” of politicians… have holes.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

3-11-08: Hudson Yards Development

Check out this website: http://www.brookfieldpropertieshudsonyards.com/

I found it off the NYC MTA website. It’s a concept design for the new development on the West Side Yards on Manhattan. Fascinating stuff. There are a bunch of really interesting design concepts on there.

If you’re unfamiliar with the area, the rail yards are an eye sore on the west side of Manhattan, between 30th and 33rd Streets. It’s right next to the Jacob Javits Center, and it’s just a few blocks away from Penn Station. The MTA is currently in the early stages of choosing a developer, but my hope is that Brookfield wins this one. It looks really neat. Maybe it’s because they have the best website of the group, but the design still looks neat.

The other interesting part is that most of the concepts pay particular attention to sustainability. It’s good to see that New York is paying attention to a cleaner lifestyle, but I hope this isn’t going to be one of those utopian development plans. It’s just not realistic. The goal is to complete construction by 2013, so by 2020 we’ll probably see some good work done.

Still, fascinating stuff.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

3-9-08: Daylight Saving

A while back I made a post about Daylight Saving Time. That was back in November when Eastern Standard Time was being re-initiated. Today was, of course, the first day of Daylight Saving. I don't know about you, but I'm pretty pumped. It was light out 'til 7:00PM! That's awesome.

I really can't wait for it to warm up. It's been a long winter. I'm tired of fighting the weather. I just want to enjoy it. I think my trip to San Diego in late January helped out a bit, but it also reminded me that there are places in America that don't really worry about the weather all that much. In New England, you have to plan your travel schedule around the weather. "Oh shit, it's snowing. Can't make the drive up to ski this weekend." That's a bad, though ironic, example for me. I don't ski. It's not that I hate skiing, I just don't ski. Never really got around to it. My girlfriend loves skiing, so I'll make the effort to learn.

Today I made a trip over to New Haven for the St. Patrick's Day Parade. It was pretty good overall, but I don't know if I'll go back next year. I mean, it's great to see people getting all dressed up and marching down the street showing some of their Irish heritage, but the drunken idiots in the crowd get annoying after a while. I could go without seeing another fat guy in a "Kiss Me I'm Irish" t-shirt for a while. I'm not ruling the parade out entirely, it's just that I now know what I've never gone before. I've lived in the area for 12 years now, and this is the first time I've gone to it. The organizers did a great job, though. No knock on them.

Stay warm.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

3-8-08: High School Championship

Congratulations to the New Canaan Rams Girls Ice Hockey team in winning the state championship game this morning against Greenwich. It was a fine victory for the team and coach Rich Bulan.

The game, held at Yale's Ingalls Arena, was a closely contested match for the first period. Both teams have been among the top in the state for several years running, so it was no real surprise to see either of them playing this morning in the championship game. Led by Bulan, New Canaan has won the state title numerous times, and were the defending champions going into today's bout. Greenwich, coached by Kevin Turbert, had something to prove after a tough loss to St. Joseph's in the FCIAC tournament. New Canaan also lost to the surprising St. Joe's squad, who had been eliminated by Simsbury in the first round of the state tournament this week. New Canaan was also fatigued (or at least it was expected) after an emotional five over-time victory against Guilford in the semi-final game.

After one period the score was as close as you can get at 0-0. The two teams were going back and forth, and both goalies had been given some challenging shots to face. Sitting in the stands with my father, along with other coaches from around the state, it was clear that one team would have to break through soon if we were to avoid another five over-time game.

The second period belonged to New Canaan. After serving a penalty for tripping, star forward Maggie Burke scored on a brilliant shot after leaving the penalty box to make it 1-0. Not long after, she rifled one over the Greenwich goaltender's right shoulder to make it 2-0. It was clear that Greenwich looked to be the more fatigued team, as unexpected as that was.

The third period was close, but Greenwich simply could not break through the tough New Canaan defense. After getting a penalty late, New Canaan was faced with a 6 on 4 scenario once Greenwich pulled their goaltender late. But, after failing to get the right shot off, Greenwich gave up an empty-netter, and New Canaan sealed the deal with the 3-0 victory.

My favorite moment was at the very end, when New Canaan's head coach Rich Bulan put on some of the players that had received limited ice time during the game and season to finish the game. Both coaches deserve very high marks for wonderful seasons. But, once again, New Canaan was the victor.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

3-6-08: Climate Change Lecture

Yesterday I went to a lecture at the University of Hartford given by a fascinating English gentleman named Lord Christopher Monckton. The subject: climate change. My girlfriend’s father, a great guy (I’m extremely lucky to have great parents AND be dating a girl with great parents), found out about the lecture and asked if I wanted to attend. I am very happy that I went.

For about 90 minutes, Lord Monckton gave a stirring presentation on various issues surrounding the man-made global warming debate. He started off by saying “I am not a scientist. I am a policy maker.” He’s no slouch, either. He advised Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. He’s been spending a significant amount of time studying the debate itself, and the massive amount of math and science that goes into it.

My favorite part of the presentation was how he explained what he was not arguing. He wasn’t arguing against global warming. He wasn’t arguing against humans producing carbon dioxide. He was simply arguing against the studies performed by the IPCC and how so many people are following simply bad science.

The amount of data he presented was astounding. He picked apart several arguments made by the “Greenies” as he called them, mostly how they relied too heavily on computer models and did not peer review enough. As an engineer who peer reviews and deals with (relatively) simple computer models, I know that it is not important to fact check and get it right, but it’s even more important that you don’t rely on computer models for long-term prediction. Failures occur all the time in simple systems. Look at how difficult it is to predict the weather today! It’s been determined by many meteorologists and statisticians that you really can’t stay accurate for more than 2 weeks in predicting the weather.

What was also amazing was the “mathy” stuff. This guy really did his homework and put in the effort. He took what the IPCC did, which is relied upon quite heavily by many policy makers, and picked apart the math and came up with some new figures. He went a bit fast, but there were time constraints. What’s funny is that it took him months to even determine how the IPCC calculated their value. They simply were not very transparent in their methodology. He kept reminding us of how he was worried that too much “politicizing” had gone in to the alarmist mentality.

Monckton didn’t come up with a set theory of what was happening, but he had his ideas. He had read a tremendous amount of literature, and was also insisting that we wait for the peer review process to be done on some of the papers. Monckton proposed that the sun spot cycle might have a bit to do with it, and that more attention should be paid to the oceans. He insisted that carbon dioxide does not nearly have the effect as a greenhouse gas that people are claiming.

The even more impressive part of the program was the Q&A afterward. I stayed for about 20 minutes of it, and Monckton was great. He answered a couple questions on how the economy would be affected, and responded very eloquently by saying that the carbon trading program was a farce and has failed in Europe already, and that by reducing our outputs now would be devastating to developing nations. He also said that the reliance on fossil fuels was a very serious problem, but reminded the audience that it was a separate issue from the climate change debate.

It’s too bad this guy has been basically shut out by the media. No one from the local paper came. I guess they’d rather print a story on some traffic accident or some drug bust in Hartford. People can only really pay attention to one side of a debate, anyway.

God speed, Lord Monckton.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

3-5-08: The Boeing Tanker Contract Scandal

It's interesting, being in the aerospace industry, to read or hear about the recent Boeing tanker scandal regarding the big Air Force contract.
From my point of view, it isn't good that a European company is getting the contract for our economy, but I strongly doubt that factored in to the decision. I listened to a radio program that featured Congressman Norm Dicks, a Democratic Representative from Washington state's Sixth District ("Boeing Country"). His ignorance in the bidding process shined like a beacon. He kept talking about many factors that were completely irrelevant and baseless accusations of wrong-doing.
I completely agree with Dicks' argument that it will mean lost job opportunities. That's a very fair point. But it's a completely irrelevant point in this instance. The real question is whether or not Congress will fund the program, which it will likely not do since the contract has been given to a European company. Having politicans argue over the decision made by engineers and professionals working in the Air Force is completely irrelevant. Why was the contract competitive? Where were the politicians then? I understand that John McCain had something to do with making it competitive, but that was a different time in the American economy. It's not like this was all done in a week. This was a years-long bidding process. It's wonderful to see politicians care about American jobs. That's really good to see. But they're not making sense within the correct context.
I completely agree that it's important to keep our aircraft being made in America. But what does this mean to the competitiveness of the American aerospace industry? It's very important to stay competitive. Our country has the best aerospace companies in the world, my company included. Why are we ignoring the fact that Boeing should have won this contract hands-down? I think this is a slap in their face. They're a very well respected and wealthy company with a lot of success. They should have won this contract, but my guess is that this will help them to wake up and improve their performance.
Here's what I think will happen: Congress won't fund it until Boeing is selected. It's a bit corrupt, but that's how it is. It's important to remember that the bidding process doesn't factor in the economic factors. It's fine to not pay for it if you feel it's not the right move for America in general, but the Air Force picked the supplier based on solid fundamentals. They are separate issues.
It's also interesting to see how this, again, plays into party politics. EADS' partner Northrop Grumman will be assembling the tankers in Alabama, a "Red state." Washington, where Boeing is, is a "Blue state." Gotta love Red vs. Blue. I wonder what would happen if this weren't the second largest defense contract in history…

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

3-4-08: Obama vs. Clinton

I’ve been listening to a lot of stuff on the radio that has been solely focused on the battle between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. It’s all over the news. I was listening to a station out of New York, and the first three words I heard after switching the station during a piece on Clinton and Obama was… “Clinton and Obama.” Unreal.

There are a few issues I have with some of the arguments made by supporters of both candidates. I’d just like to highlight a few for now.

1. “I won’t vote for Hillary Clinton because I didn’t like Bill Clinton’s administration.”

How is that even relevant? Since when does the First Lady run the government? I understand that Hillary was far from the typical First Lady, but does that mean she ran the government then? I can see how people are afraid that Bill will return and Hillary will be running as a puppet President, but aren’t there enough safeguards against that as is? Aren’t there people in Congress who would notice that?

The same goes for people who vote for Hillary because they liked Bill Clinton. They are two separate people with different management styles. Hillary is a legislator; Bill was an experienced governor. It won’t be Bill’s administration all over again.

2. “I won’t vote for Barack Obama because I don’t know enough about him.”

Well whose fault is that, really? He may have limited experience on that national level, but surely you can check on his website or read something about him in the paper, right? Besides, how much executive experience does either Democratic candidate really have? They’re both legislators. Look at their voting records. Obama was a state senator in Illinois for seven years. Look at his record. I don’t see how this attitude is anything but a cop out. In this day and age, it’s a cop out.

3. “I’m tired of the way things are going and I want change and I think Obama is the only one that can bring change.”

Not so fast, there. Slow down. You think a candidate with less clout on Capitol Hill is going to effect more change than the other candidate? You can honestly say that a candidate with more extreme ideas is going to effect more change? As polarizing as Hillary Clinton is, and as much as she is a spear-head of party politics, she is more likely to change things in four years than Obama. Just because some one has been shouting “Change! Change! Change!” and speaking almost spiritually about how we need to unite does not make them the country’s savior. These two candidates are too similar on too many levels, policy-wise, to make a clear distinction that one of them will bring change more quickly.

The real issue is electability. Which one will stand up against McCain? Look at the demographics involved. McCain is more popular among independents than Clinton. Obama has many young supporters, who have a history of poor voter turnout. Which demographic votes more often? Old people. As racist and sexist as it sounds, do you really think the elderly voters are going to vote for Obama or Clinton? When it’s you and your friends and you’re having fun at an Obama or Clinton rally, it’s one thing. But when you sit in that voting booth on your own on November 4th, who are you going to choose?

Monday, March 3, 2008

3-3-08: Hockey Mom Attack

Disturbing news in the world of youth hockey. A hockey mom decided to take matters into her own hands last week when her son was apparently knocked down in a game. She allegedly went over to the player bench, grabbed the kid who hit her son, and slammed his head against the boards. She is denying that ever happened, and said she simply scolded the boy and never touched him.

I refereed in the same league in which the incident took place, so I can say firsthand that I'm not surprised, and I think the woman is lying. Witnesses saw her grab the kid. The coach of the boy's team (the victim's, that is) said he saw her grab the kid. Why he didn't go over to stop her is another issue, since the boy's mother ran all the way around to help out her son. I think he was paying attention to the game, which makes sense. It's very, very rare to hear about something like this, but again, I'm not surprised.

To say she simply went over to the player bench to scold the boy is outrageous and unbelievable. She could have done that after the game if she felt it was necessary, though I'd disagree of it ever being appropriate. It's an issue of her feeling her seven year old was being bullied by a bigger 10 year-old. It happens. Going over to the bench to confront the kid in any way is entirely inappropriate and hypocritical. How would that not be a form of bullying? If you have an issue, take it up with the official. I've been in those discussions many, many times. As I got older I began to almost enjoy it, as sick as that sounds. I never allowed a kid to get hurt, though. That's highly, highly immoral. I simply enjoyed it when parents went up to me and questioned me for something either harmless or part of the game. Since I usually couldn't avoid it, I turned the frown upside down and made it a form of post-game entertainment. Parents always felt they knew more about the rules than I did. The funny thing is the parents who actually did know (a few of them were officials themselves), never complained.

Allow me to share my three favorite stories:

1) I was refereeing a "mite" level game when I was 15. I'd been doing games at that level for about three years. It was usually very boring, and very easy. The kids ranged in age from 5 to about 7 or 8. A few of the kids I had even helped to learn to skate at a program my dad and I ran on weekends. Anyway, it was a relatively close game, and one of the teams had the puck behind their opponents net. One of the kids was standing in the crease, and his teammate went around the net, passed to him, and they put the puck in the net. I was about 10 feet away from the net, staring right at the kid standing in the crease. Since it is illegal to stand in the crease, let alone score a goal, I waved it right off. The place went nuts. One of the coaches screamed at me "But he's only five! You've gotta be kidding!" My only response was "Coach, the rules are rules." After the game, he confronted me again, and my response at that time was "If you can find where in the rulebook it says 'This doesn't apply to younger players', I'll correct the error." I'm a jerk, but he did apologize.

2) I was 17 and referring a "pee-wee" level game (12-14 year olds). Since it was legal for them to body check at that age, but few knew how to, most of the penalties were for some variation on an illegal hit. One such incident, which is very common, is when a player takes his stick and nails another player with it by holding it with the hands spread apart and "cross-checking" the other player. I was watching the play, and, sure enough, I see a cross-check. I go to call the penalty, when the kid who got hit gets up and takes a swing at the kid who hit him. I blow the whistle and give them both matching minor penalties. The coach of the team with the kid who was cross-checked was not happy. He used the ol' line of "How can you call that?! He cross-checked him!" To which my response was "That's why he's in the penalty box" (you'll notice that by this time I had become far too cynical). The coach then asked "Well what did you give my son a penalty for?" This was after he told his son to calm down. He later apologized.

3) This is my favorite since it was one of the rare times that I actually thought of a clever response. I was 17 and again refereeing a pee-wee level game. This time the penalty was a simple "too many players on the ice." One team had something like 8 players on the ice at once, and it was a very easy call. Well, the coach was going to try his luck. After I explained to him what the rule was (that you can't have more than 5 skaters on the ice) he sarcastically asked "Do you even know the rule?"... I was in shock at first, but quickly came up with "Well, that one I might be a bit fuzzy on. But I do know another one. That's a bench minor. Put another in the box. Now you have three players on the ice." I didn't smile in front of him, though. He ended up losing, but it wasn't me. The 8-0 score probably had something to do with it.

The moral of the story: parents and coaches really need to calm down. It's just a game.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

3-2-08: Star Power

I've often wondered why it seems like today's society revolves around stars. Whether it's Hollywood, business, sports, or anywhere where some one can stand out, people pay so much attention to the individuals at that level. It's almost as though they were the only ones there sometimes. The media will showcase a game, let's say an NHL game, as "Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals take on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins." Why do this? Why is so much attention paid to the stars?

I think it's simple psychology. I'm sure there have been numerous studies on this and papers written in several different fields, but it's simple: people identify with individuals. You can't think "Hey, I really can relate well to the San Francisco 49ers." No, you'd say "I like Joe Montana; he reminds me of myself a little bit." How is up to you, but the point is: it's the individual. You could theoretically say you like how a team is run, but that can only go so far. It always breaks down to the individual. That's why they don't do "team interviews" after games.

But how does this relate to the idolization of stars? It's easy to make the connection, of course, using the same reason as in the previous paragraph: individuals relate to individuals. But that's not everything, right? In sports it's a bit different, since most of the time it's a team effort. So it's not exactly the same reasoning that goes into the idolization of music or movie stars. Sure, there's a "team effort" in how that star got to where they are now, but it's their career. In sports, you could be a great athlete and still never get any attention. It's about your team. Archie Manning is a great example. He was probably as good or better than either of his two star sons Peyton and Eli, but he played on a bad team and never got the attention that a Joe Montana or a Tom Brady would.

The real issue is that I don't think it's good to let kids idolize athletes. I always like to point out the lesser known players. It's good to point out the team players, who may not have the talent of a star but still contribute almost as much. A great example of this is the relationship between Michael Jordan and Scottie Pippen during the great championship runs of the Chicago Bulls. But it wasn't just those two: their coaches were great, and their teammates were great. We teach kids so often about how it's important to be part of the team. But it seems like we also point out how great it is to be a star. There's a disconnect that needs to be pointed out and corrected though: stars become stars with the help of others. We need to stop treating kids like they're all going to be stars, because chances are the more often we do that, the less often a star will be born. My favorite thing to see is when a star puts the spotlight on a teammate. That's always nice to see.

In other news, I'm going to a lecture on global warming on Wednesday. It will be given by Christopher Monckton at the Wilde Auditorium at the University of Hartford. It starts at 5:00PM. It should be interesting.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

3-1-08: Prince Harry in Afghanistan

Let's just start off and say that the Royal Family doesn't have a history of being close to "normal," but my view of it changed a little bit when I found out about Prince Harry. That guy has balls. To not only serve your country, but to do so at the front lines in Afghanistan, is pretty awesome. I'll give the guy some real credit. He wanted it to be kept on the down low, which it was for 10 weeks or so, but he had to know the story would break eventually. Smart move getting him out.

Then I thought of the plight of the Prince Harry look-alike in the British Army. Let's say you look somewhat like Harry, and you're in the British Army in Afghanistan. Odds are, if people from your own country have confused you with Harry, some dude in the Taliban with a gun will make the same incorrect assumption. You'll have gone from the occasional "Harry! I love you Harry!" back home to a bullet in the ass in Afghanistan. That would suck.

Sleep well, Harry look-alike. You're safer now.