Thursday, October 30, 2008

10-30-08: Congratulations Phillies

I know this doesn't mean much, but I'd just like to pass on my congratulations to all Philadelphia Phillies fans. Of all the NL teams out there, I have the utmost respect for the Phillies. They've had some rough spells in the past, but more than deserved to win it all this year.

(And thanks for beating the Rays)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

10-29-08: Guided Meditation

Every week or so, I like to do a bit of meditation. I should do it more, but often forget. But I do try to keep to a weekly schedule. Since I just did it, I figured I'd share the MP3 I use. It's a guided meditation from an Englishman named Martin Thomas. It's pretty good.





Tuesday, October 28, 2008

10-28-08: Party Loyalty

I read a great article from The New Yorker today about Chuck Hagel, a guy you don't really hear much about. He's a Republican Senator from Nebraska, and a good friend of John McCain. In fact, he ran McCain's campaign back in 2000. But in 2008, he hasn't even gone so far as to endorse McCain. It's a long, but good, article.

One thing that really comes into focus in the article is how Hagel has been ostracized by his party for not following along party lines, especially in terms of the Iraq War. He's also a big believer in diplomacy, and has tried to give some advice to the White House regarding talks with Iran. Interesting guy.

When small-government, fiscal conservatives like Hagel become disenfranchised with the Republican Party, you know something is wrong. You know the GOP has lost its identity, which is most likely why it lost seats in Congress in the last election cycle, and will likely lose more next week. When you don't offer a distinctively different alternative, you won't get the results you want.

But the issue is much broader and deeper than that. Just look at the rhetoric seen and heard in almost every news broadcast, pundit commentary, or political discussion. Doesn't it seem like it's nothing more than a pissing contest half the time? Who has more seats? Who can stop the filibuster? Who owes who in votes? Does it seem like things have gotten a little out of focus?

The problem is essentially this: how can you claim to be loyal to a party if you expect anything to get done? Who determines "the party line"? It just seems fishy to me.

Personally, any one who beats their won drum about voting for their party or supporting their party or wanting to beat the other party is nothing more than a gas bag. And the only thing worse than that is someone who says they want to work "across party lines" or bring in some sort of unified front, but then go on and do nothing but attack the other party's candidate. Sadly, that is what John McCain is doing. That's part of the reason why Hagel won't endorse him. There are many foreign policy issues as well, but that seemed to be a sticking point.

Independent thought seems to be a weakness in modern politics, which is sad. I'm not sure how or where it started, but it's continuously propelled every election cycle. What I try to do is look at the individual candidates, and try to ignore the party associations to some degree. I try not to just check the "All Republican" or "All Democrat" box. Please, if you have the time, look at the names. Do some research.

Seven more days...

Monday, October 27, 2008

10-27-08: Telecommunications Family Tree

My mother has worked for Verizon (or a form of it) for almost 30 years now.

Here's just a glimpse at the history of that industry. It's... a bit complicated (click on image for full view).

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"Dairy Infused Hair Band"

My buddy JP just sent me this. This is marvelous:

10-26-08: Short People Reference in The Office

Watch this clip:





And now...




And to make it a little classy:

Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Lucic Hit

This is hockey, folks.


10-25-08: Pride and Glory

Last night I was supposed to go on a "haunted hayride," but ended up going with a few friends to see Pride and Glory, which opened yesterday.

Pride and Glory is a cop drama. That's essentially it. It has all the elements of a cop drama: family values, corrupt cops, loyalty, etc. What it doesn't have: anything new. No twist, no over-arching theme that wows you at the end. It just goes along with a story and by the end you think you've sat through a 3.5 hour movie, only to look at your watch and realize it's only been 90 minutes. The review on RottenTomatoes.com says it perfectly.

I was trying to come up with a metaphor for the movie, and I think this one might do some justice. Imagine you and your family live in an average suburb. A family of four buys the vacant lot next to your house, and they want to build a brand new house. They're pretty much just like every one else on the block, demographically speaking. When they start building the house, though, they put up a big wall around it made of plywood. You can still hear the house being built, and you see construction vehicles coming in and out. You notice that the contractor they're using is the same one that's built several houses in your neighborhood. If you really wanted to, you could easily walk by from the front and see how they're doing. But, you're more curious to see how the house will turn out, and wait for the wall to come down. It might be something special!

After a few months, it seems like it's taking a little longer than normal to build the house. Then, when it's about 90% complete, they take the wall down, and you can see that their house looks pretty much exactly like all the other houses in the neighborhood. In fact, they simply borrowed ideas from other houses and put it into their house's design. Only, it came out pretty normal. They did a good job building it, and it's not a bad house. But it's nothing all new and exciting, which is what you were looking forward to while it was mysteriously being built.

And that, my friends, is what Pride and Glory is like.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

10-23-08: Obscure Sports Facts

I've been accused by some of knowing too many stupid/useless sports facts, mostly in the realm of baseball trivia. I wouldn't call the facts useless, since they do come in handy in social situations. They aren't always good conversation starters, but it's better than most ice-breakers I know (e.g. "If you had a choice between dying from a bear attack or a snake bite, which one would you choose?").

But when I see some of the facts that ESPN or FOX or any sports broadcaster with far too large a production staff bring up, it simply amazes me. For instance, while I was watching the Patriots vs. Broncos game from this Monday (I had recorded it), I saw some odd fact that they brought up about a game between the same two teams back in 2003. That game was apparently the only game in NFL history when a team came from behind to win after committing a safety with fewer than three minutes remaining in the game.

Read that again.

Isn't that a bit... obscure? Why bring it up? I bet this past Monday was also the only game in NFL history when Teddy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison both ate Wheaties before 8:30AM whilst wearing two differently colored socks. But you don't see that little fact popping on the screen? It's too damn obscure. I guess it's supposed to show how rare that game was (the safety, by the way, was intentional). But still, why bring that stat up? It can also serve to diminish whatever value more important stats (like career touchdowns, interceptions, etc.) have over the course of a season.

Please, ESPN: take it easy. I know you guys know what you're doing. I love watching baseball and football on your many stations. I'm proud that you're based in my home state. But the next time an assistant digs up a fact about how Brett Favre has never thrown three interceptions into the wind in a third quarter, just let it go. It's for the best.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

10-22-08: Write In Colbert

My buddy Scotty came up with this idea, so he deserves all the credit. But, it's on my blog first.

With Election Day just 13 measly days away, are you tired of the same ol' drub that is Election 2008? Are you unsure who you are going to vote for? Are you simply going to "settle" for the "lesser of two evils"? Why?! Why waste your time, when you can write-in the only candidate out there who knows what's going on and can get things done?

I'm talking about television's Stephen Colbert, people. Stay tuned...


Monday, October 20, 2008

10-20-08: A Little Bummed

Well, the Red Sox used up the last of their nine lives last night, and lost in seven games to the Tampa Bay Rays. I have to admit, I'm a bit bummed. But, on the bright side, at least they made it interesting.

One thing that's good to see is that, despite all the injuries, the Sox really kept in it. Players who had produced last season didn't do much in this series, with the exceptions of Pedroia, Youkilis, and Drew. Beckett struggled, Lowell was hurt, Ortiz wasn't himself, Ellsbury was nowhere to be found, but they still kept in it. That's promising. And, players who struggled last year in the post-season, namely Coco Crisp, came through in key situations. Last night, they just got beat. It's as simple as that.

It's more frustrating when you lose to a team that is worse than you, and I really don't think that's what happened. The Rays had a great season, and hit their stride going into the playoffs. It was great to watch the Sox come back from 3-1 down to tie the series to force a game seven, too. All you can ask for is to be entertained.

But this isn't to say I'm wishing the Rays luck after they beat my team! Let's go Phillies!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

10-19-08: Lyrics Scavenger Hunting

From time to time I'll get a particular line from a song stuck in my head and will realize that I forgot the title of the song. It can be frustrating, but it's also quite intriguing for me. I then play a little game I call "Lyrics Scavenger Hunting."

This particular game has become about 500 times easier to play since the internet became so easy to search. Thanks Google! But it's still interesting. Sometimes I'll restrict myself when I know it's from a song in my iTunes library. If I remember the artist, I'll just take my best guess and listen to various songs until the particular lyric pops up. It's quite exhilarating, actually.

But most of the time, the line will be from a song I heard on the radio, or just a song I haven't heard in a while and it pops into my head (maybe from a commercial on TV or something). Those are really fun, especially if I only remember three or four words. I usually go onto Google and type "lyrics" and add the words I remember. The results can be surprising.

Terry Tate vs. Sarah Palin

I'd vote for Terry.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

10-18-08: Autumnal Weather

Right around now is my favorite time of the year, weather-wise. There are other parts of the year that are great for different reasons, but from a meteorological standpoint, mid to late October is great.

It's mostly because it's no longer too hot, but it's not yet too cold. It's the weather man's Goldilocks story. Autumn weather is just right. I think I like the winter a little better overall (excepting the driving conditions), but the few weeks leading up to Halloween are quite relaxing. Plus, it's the only time of year the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins can feasibly play at the same time (if the Red Sox make the playoffs, which the fortunately did this year). For New Englanders, that's pretty nice.

So, if you're in the northeast, I hope you enjoy your autumn. I normally call it Fall, but when you're trying to describe the weather, nothing sounds quite like "autumnal."

Thursday, October 16, 2008

10-16-08: Hugh Laurie on House's Appeal

House is one of my favorite shows. This little clip helps explain why:


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

10-15-08: What McCain and Obama Won't Say About the Economic Crisis

On the drive in to work this morning, I tried to piece together what I understood about the credit crisis. Here's what I got:

For the past several years, housing had been going through a huge boom. House prices were going up and up, and people wanted to make money on this, which caused a little thing called positive feedback and prices just kept going up. More houses were built because people had more money to spend, mostly because it was so cheap and easy to get money with low interest rates (thanks to the Fed led by Greenspan). Things were good.

Then, when the good ol' law of Supply and Demand took over when the supply of houses got too high, the bubble burst. Good, honest people, couldn't afford to make payments on their mortgage because the value of their home was now less than what they owed on the loan to the bank. You see, let's say you can afford a $300,000 home, but really want a $400,000 home. You see all this good stuff going on with the house prices increasing, so you figure you can borrow against the equity in the future and pull things together. Then, BAM! Housing bubble bursts, and that $400,000 is now $400,000 you can't afford.

So what did people do? They walked away from their debts. Not exactly the right thing to do, but understandable. Banks foreclosed on properties, making nearby homes' values sink even lower, and the trend continued downward.

Now, things wouldn't be so bad if investors hadn't bought in to the housing bubble by taking big risks in securities backed by sub-prime loans. But who is to blame for these loans? Wall Street? Hardly. Sure, they deserve quite a bit of blame, but not nearly all of it. People who didn't deserve the loans were given them by banks who were overconfident in their earnings potential ("Hey, what harm could one more little loan do?") and got greedy and swindled people into getting into these loans. It's like keeping a pet tiger. Sure, you can train it all you want, but it's a fucking tiger and it could still kill you in an instant. You have to be smart, and these people simply weren't.

But blaming Wall Street is so easy for politicians to do. Wall Street and Washington. But you simply don't hear McCain or Obama, or any politician for that matter, blame everyday Americans who got themselves into these bad loans. What ever happened to personal responsibility?

I was almost shocked that Sarah Palin, early on in the Vice Presidential debate, talked about personal responsibility and how we need to live within our means. It almost seemed like she was talking about how we need to act as a result of this crisis and explaining how we got into this. I thought that was pretty good. Then you had Biden just blame Bush and McCain. Sure thing, Joe. President Bush made sure Sally Smith and John Q. Public signed those sub-prime loan agreements.

I'm not saying people weren't swindled, but you have to take some blame if you took on a loan you knew going in could not afford. It's not fair, but it's high time people started to take some more responsibility. It's the mature thing to do. And, at one point in time, it seemed like the American thing to do.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

10-14-08: Columbus Day

I don't have grad class tonight because of a schedule change due to my school being closed yesterday for Columbus Day. My father, a teacher, also had the day off.

Columbus Day is an odd holiday. Unlike Martin Luther King Day or Presidents Day, it's based on the celebration of a rather non-American historical persona in Christopher Columbus. He didn't even arrive in America and we're celebrating the guy. Isn't that a bit odd? Do kids really deserve a day off for that?

Columbus Day is also one of the few (major, at least) holidays that is both non-American and non-religious based. The only other one I can think of is St. Patrick's Day, but no one gets that one off. I think people should be allowed to trade. With Halloween and all that coming up, why take a day off for some guy who landed in the wrong place over 500 years ago? How many cultures look forward to Columbus Day, anyway?

I just think St. Patrick got jobbed on this one. You don't see any one protesting against his holiday, do you?

Sunday, October 12, 2008

WSJ: In Defense of Piracy

I just read an interesting essay by Lawrence Lessig in the Wall Street Journal about copyright law and its role in preventing piracy. This particular topic is one that has fascinated me for some time (I took the LSAT a little over a year ago; I had, and have, dreams of going to law school to study Intellectual Property Law). What I like most about the article is how Lessig puts things into a good context, showing the personal side (in part to play on the reader's emotions) of copyright law, and also showing how the law is dated and a bit out of touch.

Personally, I will admit to having downloaded music illegally, as have countless thousands of people my age. It's not something I'd say I'm proud of, and I completely understand where the artists and their lawyers are coming from. But what I don't understand is how they honestly thought their plan would work. Teenagers (as I was when I did most of my illegal downloading, first on the mighty and long-gone Napster) are not only rebellious, but ignorant. When they see a rock star they like in a music video doing things they could only dream of doing (owning expensive cars, hanging around famous people, living in mansions, etc.), they assume the artist has boatloads of cash, and if I were to download this album without paying, it won't really hurt the artist too much. It's not right, but it's how teenagers think.

Scott Adams, in The Dilbert Blog a while back, made some great observations on this topic, and many readers of the blog (who are far more intelligent than me) made some interesting comments. Adams, from what I remember, broke it down along his terms, as he was a victim of copyright infringement and downright theft. He argued, quite convincingly, that just because it's easy to do does not make it harmless. Downloading a song is easy, especially in the broadband days (I had a funny conversation Friday night with a friend about the good ol' days of dial-up). It only takes a few minutes (yes that's a bit of an exaggeration) to download an entire album. And, you know that there's a 99.99% chance you will not get caught. If you look at it from a risk standpoint alone, it's easy to see why people do it.

But the article by Lessig only briefly touches upon peer-to-peer downloading. He begins the article talking about a woman who put a video (see below) of her 13 month old son dancing to a song by Prince. The audio is tough to decipher, but that didn't stop the big record company from going after Youtube and the poor woman. Her intentions were simple: she couldn't justifiably e-mail the video to all of her family, so she put it on Youtube. It's obvious to most people that it's just a goofy, and funny, home video. But that didn't stop the lawyers. It's just sad.

10-12-08: Ugly Game 2

Game 2 was a bit disappointing, but at least the offense was there.

Too feel better about things, I always turn to music. Here's why:


Saturday, October 11, 2008

10-11-08: ALCS Game 1

Great win last night. Though Matsuzaka made it interesting, he still only allowed a couple hits and no runs. That's all that matters in the end.

Game 2 is tonight at 8:07PM.


Friday, October 10, 2008

10-10-08: MLB Playoff Predictions (UPDATE)

So far, so good on my predictions. I was surprisingly off by the Dodgers-Cubs series, though. I had the Dodgers in 5, not 3! That was a bit unexpected. And it was nice to see my Red Sox (yes, MY Red Sox) take care of the Angels in 4 instead of 5. Phillies and Rays won their series in 4.

I'm sticking to my guns for the remainder. Phillies and Red Sox in the World Series. Sure, it would be cool to see a Red Sox - Dodgers series, but I'd rather not have to deal with Manny and Torre together.

Game 1 of the ALCS is tonight. Are you as excited as I am?! I strongly doubt it, my friend.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

10-8-08: Formulaic Politicians

I'm really getting sick of the campaign season. On my way home from grad class last night, I listened to about 15 minutes of last night's debate. Honestly, it's sickening how these guys just hammer back and forth with the same stuff over and over again. And don't call it a debate, please. It's hardly a debate.

But then I wondered: is there a set formula that these camps (not just the politician; they have entire teams of people behind them) use that is supposed to work? Do successful campaigns all use the same core set of tools and methods to get the job done? I think there have to be some similarities amongst successful politicians, even across party lines.

One thing I've noticed is that, no matter how many people say they don't like it, negative campaigning and smear ads do work. And the catch-all "distraction" excuse isn't really any better. This week, Obama said McCain was simply distracting America with his negative ads, and would rather "tear our campaign down than lift this country up." Great words, but they don't really counteract whatever it is that McCain said. You'd think a simple "Let me set the record straight here" along with an explanation of how the other candidate is skewing the facts would work. I guess that's just not in the formula. Instead, just say THE OTHER GUY is even worse than what he claims you to be.

I think what people might want is just a refreshing attitude towards all of this. We're so stuck in the two party system. I got a phone call the other night from "The Republican Majority Campaign." The woman on the line asked me the following question: "If the election were held today, would you vote for John McCain or Barack Obama?"

My response: "Are those my only two choices?"
Her response: "No, you can say 'Other Candidate' if you'd like."
Me: "Other candidate."
Her: "Thank you for your time, sir."

I really can't wait for this to be over.

Monday, October 6, 2008

10-6-08: Returning from Vacation

I had the familiar, and not pleasant, experience of going back to work after a few days away from the office. I was up at my alma mater last Thursday helping my company with on-campus interviews, and stayed in the area on Friday to attend Saturday's Homecoming festivities. It was hardly a "vacation," but it was a nice weekend.

I noticed something that I had previously written off as just an observation of a newcomer to a full-time job. It has to do with how other people look when you get back from vacation. There's a similar phenomenon for people who get back from vacation and you've been at work the whole time. When you get back to work, even from a short vacation, people (at least to me) look tired. Maybe it was just accentuated because today is Monday, but my co-workers just seemed to look tired today.

This might also be because it's getting towards the end of the year. Fall is in the air, and people have kids that get up early for school. Things aren't quite as nice as they were in the summer. But still, I noticed the same thing over the summer.

As for people who get back from vacation while I've been working, they just seem depressed. But that's not always the case. You get back and you feel great, but then you realize you're back at work. This seems to have more to do with people who enjoy their jobs and those who don't. Those who do enjoy their work seem to look relaxed. Those who don't look depressed.

Again, it's just an observation made by a relative newcomer to the workforce.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

10-5-08: The Birdfeeder Analogy

video

WARNING: Some foul language. But it's pretty funny.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

10-4-08: Bad Journalism

I'm not a journalist, and I don't pretend to be one, but I know it when I see bad journalism. Yesterday's incident in which CNN falsely reported, via its iReport "citizen journalism" website, that Steve Jobs, Apple CEO, had suffered a heart attack. Apple's stock took a bit of a dive before it could come out and deny the report. The damage had, however, been done.

CNN is on all of the time at my office in the cafeteria, so I've seen this iReport featured quite a few times. To me, it just seems lazy. Yes, it's all well and good that normal people like you and me can send in first-hand footage of a newsworthy event. But, we're not journalists. As soon as an entity like CNN, which touts itself as "the best news team on television", issues a false report submitted by "Joe Six Pack" (thanks for that one, Sarah Palin), it loses its credibility.

There are plenty of ways that the average person can try their hand at journalism. Blogging is the most popular form, and it has its place. There are many respectable blogs out there, as there are plenty of bad ones. I hope this blog fits somewhere in the middle (well, I hope at least some people other than myself get something out of it). But what they all have in common is there are no real standards for blogs. I can just type whatever I want, which is great, but it does not make it a reputable source. The moment you start mixing that with something as widely followed as CNN, you can easily get what happened yesterday with Apple. CNN: stop letting Joe Six Pack do your job for you.

Friday, October 3, 2008

10-3-08: Do I Feel Bad for Cubs Fans?

The Cubs are now down 2-0 in their NLDS series with the Dodgers (yes, the same Dodgers I picked to win that series). No, the Cubs are not out of it yet. Coming back from an 0-2 start in a best of 5 game series is not as unlikely as coming back from an 0-3 hole, but when you lose the first two at home and have to win both games away, it's tough.

The real question, as a Red Sox fan, is whether I feel bad for Cubs fans in general for their 99 year World Series drought. If the Cubs lose Game 3 in LA, it will be 100 years. In essence, I don't feel bad for them. I don't feel good about them losing, either. I just think it's not quite as much of a curse as some fans think. They haven't been to a World Series since 1945 (the beginning of the so-called "Billy Goat Curse"), so it's not like other teams who have come so close but lost in the big game. The Cubs simply haven't been good enough.

That is, until this year, when a lot of fans hoped they'd have their big year. It's not out of reach yet; they can come back in LA and win it at home. But, if they do lose, is the curse now real? When everything is pointing towards success (best team in the National League coming in to the playoffs; 100 year anniversary since their last championship, etc.) and you don't come through, who or what is to blame? I'm not sure, but until the Cubs make it to the World Series and lose, or make a monumental collapse in September, I really don't think I can feel all that bad for fans.

But, if they do come back and somehow beat the superior American League and win it all, good for them.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

10-1-08: MLB Playoff Predictions

I want to get this one out before any final scores are posted this post-season.

Here are my predictions for the Major League Baseball Playoffs:

For the National League:

Divisional Series:

Cubs vs. Dodgers - Dodgers in 5 (shocker!)

Brewers vs. Phillies - Phillies in 4

Championship Series:

Dodgers vs. Phillies - Phillies in 6


For the American League:

Divisional Series:

Red Sox vs. Angels - Red Sox in 5 (tough call; going with my team)

Rays vs. White Sox - Rays in 4

Championship Series:

Red Sox vs. Rays - Red Sox in 6


World Series:

Red Sox vs. Phillies - Red Sox in 5


Should be interesting though with all of the injuries on the Red Sox. I will have faith in their pitching overall, though, and will hope Youkilis and Pedroia can keep up the hitting to make up for Lowell and Drew.