Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wow. The Padres Are Really Bad...

I guess it's obvious that I'm a baseball nut. I love the game. But I hate it when it is played badly (this is my problem with the "for fun" softball team I'm on... too many of the folks aren't playing the game, they are playing at playing the game... ah well... it's for fun... it's for fun... it's for fun.) Back to the Padres.

These guys are professionals. They are paid to play. They stink. Sometimes teams just aren't very good. I really think this team is better than their miserable 10-17 record.

But they keep failing at simple stuff like moving runners with outs. Getting runners in from third with less than two outs. Little stuff that makes a big difference. They complain about the home park being too big, but they refuse to play little ball. Pick one guys.

They play in a huge ball park, but have slow old outfielders. What is the front office thinking? They claim to be focusing on pitching and defense, but why then the old outfielders? They seem to recognize that the park is bigger and plays much bigger to right field than left, but all the "power hitters" are left handed batters. Now this time to the front office... Pick one guys.

Nice to get this all out... I feel better. I just wish the Padres would play like they care about the game as much as I do.

Monday, April 28, 2008


First, let's start with the fact that I'm a confirmed Luddite (don't let the blogging fool you, I'm a Luddite). Second, that as a Luddite I am among those very few Americans that refuse to send a check every month to some cable/dish company to get TV, when I can receive it for free through the air.

So with the impending switch from analog to digital broadcast, and being cheap enough that I didn't want to go buy an HD TV, I did what any self-respecting Conservative would do... I stuck my hand out and got one (actually two) of those HD converter box $40 coupons from the government. They arrived last Saturday. So off I went to a local electronics store and bought a converter box (again actually two).

Saturday night I sat down and installed the darn thing. OK first problem... How do I configure the rabbit ears? I mean when you use analog rabbit ears, you can see how strong the signal (how good the reception) is by simply pointing them and looking at the screen. This does not work for digital. With a digital signal you have no picture or a perfect picture (in special directions you can get random oscillations between these). So how to find the best direction? This web site will tell you which direction and distance the HD broadcasters are in your area and the type of (outside) antenna to use. If you use rabbit ears, they "point" in the direction perpendicularly to the plane defined by the two antennas.

Anyways, after fudging around for about 10 minutes (which included the unbox and cabling time) I now have over the air digital TV on an old 27" analog TV set. The picture is terrific (except for those every now and again block artifacts). I did lose the local ABC affiliate, which broadcasts from the same mountain top as the CBS affiliate which comes in great, so I'm stumped on this one, but still experimenting.

One last thing... When I was at the store, a clerk told me that I need to replace my analog rabbit ears with an HD set. Huh? Rabbit ears are two long wires. Both analog and digital TV are broadcast at RF frequencies. How can the rabbit ears be "digital"? There is a built in amplifier, maybe, MAYBE, that matters. But I sure couldn't figure how why. Since I was buying two converter boxes, one for our main TV and a spare TV in the back that I thought I'd get going for when my In-Laws visit, and only had one pair of rabbit ears at home, I figured, OK I'll buy one HD rabbit ear set and test the thing. No Difference! Now I won't tell you that this was a scam, but I'd suggest you try your old "analog" set before you plunk down cash on a "digital" set.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

This Is More Important Than The Story Indicates

There has been some recent press about how kids today are letting their text messaging shorthand creep into homework.

Why do I think this is important? First a short regression...

I am of the last generation that learned how to use trig tables, log tables, slide rules, and the like. Literally my eighth grade class was the last to learn how to use slide rules. The next year everyone was required to get a four function calculator. At the time I figured they were the lucky ones. Later I learned otherwise.

Eventually I got to college and then grad school as a scientist. What I discovered was that because I'd learned those things the hard way, I really did learn them. The younger kids who'd learn by punching calculator keys never really learned the mathematics behind them. This isn't just some old curmudgeon talking. I have hard data to support it. In grad school, while trying to teach freshman Chemistry, it wasn't that unusual to start explaining how to do a problem and have the "student" say 'just tell me which buttons to push'. True. Sad.

OK, with that background, why am I so concerned about OMG, NBD, LOL, and the like creeping into homework? Because it allows students to not really learn. It rewards the short cut. But real learning is NEVER the result of short cuts. (One might also look at the recent story about how people do and don't learn math.)

The bottom line is that if we want our children, our posterity, to be prepared for the future, when they must be the leaders, we must lead today and ensure that they really learn.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Hubble PIctures

Just a short note to point to a page with lots of great pictures from the Hubble Space telescope. Here's one to wet your appetite.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Dumb and Dumber

Today was an odd day for "news" stories (I use that word loosely). First there is this story about Louisiana deciding not to ban "baggy" clothes. OK, I am not exactly thrilled with all the kids sagging and showing their underwear (and even a bit more at times). But then I'm an old curmudgeon. Even so surely they have more important things to do than this.

Then there is this story about people using a high pitched siren to chase teenagers away (the sound is pitched at high enough frequencies that only the young can hear it). Again, I'm a curmudgeon, but even I see no reason to chase these kids away, unless they are really doing something wrong.

So what's in common that made me think of these as linked in some way? Well I couldn't help but think of this
I see no hope for the future of our people if they are dependent on frivolous youth of today, for certainly all youth are reckless beyond words... When I was young, we were taught to be discreet and respectful of elders, but the present youth are exceedingly wise [disrespectful] and impatient of restraint"
That's attributed to Hesiod in the 8th century BC.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Man, That's Scary... Or Is It Coincidence?

Ran into this silly internet quiz What Generation Do You Belong In? Result...

You Belong in the Baby Boomer Generation

You fit in best with people born between 1943 and 1960.
You are optimistic, rebellious, and even a little self centered.
You still believe that you will change the world.
You detest authority and rules. Deep down, you're a non conformist.

What make sit scary is that without any actual data on my birth and only 5 questions, it figured out that I am Baby Boomer.

So if anyone out there takes the quiz, let me know if it gets you right...

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Is a Longer Time Better or Worse

Another member of the Feline Theocracy has posted a link to a silly quiz which purports to determine how long you could live in hard vacuum. OK here's mine...

How long could you survive in the vacuum of space?
Created by OnePlusYou

I couldn't help but wonder if a longer existence in this case is really better.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The News From the Supreme Court

Sure the supreme court agreed that Kentucky (and by analogy other states) can continue to have execution by lethal injection, but that's not the big news.

The big news was that Justice Stevens decided that "I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty" is unconstitutional. That's right "his own experience". Why bother with the Constitution? Who needs it? Let's just hang out, and use our "experience" to decide what the law should be.

The scary part is that he's hardly the only one that thinks that way. It is the basis of 'legislating from the bench'.

Compare that to the oath each supreme court justice takes:
"I, [NAME], do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will administer justice without respect to persons, and do equal right to the poor and to the rich, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge and perform all the duties incumbent upon me as [TITLE] under the Constitution and laws of the United States. So help me God."

Hmmm... I didn't see anything there about experience.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I'm an Old Geek... That Should Know Better

Tonight I played on a softball team that was put together by our group at work. I haven't played an organized game in more than two decades. After tonight maybe I still haven't. We are pretty bad. But it was fun.

The part about "geek" and "should know better" suggest this... Man am I sore. I think I pulled a calf muscle. Tomorrow is a nightmare waiting to happen. I don't even want to think about the rest of the season...

Oh, and we lost in the 9th, 7-6. Bummer. And to think I had tickets to tonights Padres v. Rockies game (currently 0-0 going to the 11th innning). Gave the tickets to my kids and went to the softball game. Bad choice.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Yeah, I'm a Geek

More proof the title tells the truth.

A big debate between the democrats. Not the story for me.

For me it is this one. NASA is extending the Cassini mission to Saturn.

That means more pictures like this

and these 1 2 3 4 5. Another two thousand, or so, more here.

Now that is "your tax dollars at work"!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Good News - I Hope

So because of all the press about SnOb-ama and "bitter"-gate, there seems to be little if any coverage of what could be a very important speech by McCain. He is almost (but sadly not quite) calling for actual spending control. Here are the key quotes, as I see them
We need reforms that promote growth and opportunity. We need rules that assure fairness and punish wrongdoing in the market. We need tax policies that respect the wage-earners and job creators who make this economy run, and help them to succeed in a global economy.

'Discretionary spending' is a term people throw around a lot in Washington, while actual discretion is seldom exercised. Instead, every program comes with a built-in assumption that it should go on forever, and its budget increase forever. My administration will change that way of thinking.

While this isn't quite what I want, in that it isn't fiscal sanity, it is at least a step away from our current fiscal fantasy (and way more reasonable than the spend, spend, spend promises of the Dems).

Monday, April 14, 2008

This is News?

So today there is a report that says that California has a greater than 99% chance of a 6.7 earthquake (or bigger) in the next 30 years according to "scientists".

As a "scientist" all I can say is, "Duh!".

A significant earthquake somewhere in California in the next 30 years. Imagine that. I would have never guessed it. It's like prediciting snow for Minnesota sometime in the next 10 months. Or rain in Seattle. Or a scandal in Washington, DC. Or the sun rising in the morning (OK, technically appearing to rise).

How is this kind of "prediction" news? It doesn't make sense to me. But at least it ain't Obama...

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Friday, April 11, 2008

California Considering Raising the Beer Tax by 1500%!

Yes, that's right 1500%. The full article is here.

Seems that California Assemblyman Jim Beall (San Jose Democrat) wants to increase the current beer tax from $0.02 per can or bottle to $0.32 each. A six pack would go up in price by $1.80. Estimates are that a barrel of beer would see tax increase from $6.40 to $89!

Assemblyman Beall said the tax would generate $2 billion a year to fund health care services, crime prevention and programs to prevent underage drinking and addiction.

Seriously, is this classic tax and spend politics or what? I have said before (and have no doubt will have plenty of opportunities to say again) Taxes are too high now. Budgets must be balanced, but balanced by not spending more. We can not afford every pet project of every person that somehow gets elected, or spends money to get somebody else elected. Stop it now.

The good news is that apparently this particular change will require a 2/3 majority in the legislature and passage by the electorate. Fat chance of that happenning.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Arizona, Enforcing the Law

Arizona has recently passed a law that says essentially "if you hire illegal immigrants, we will pull your business license". The shake up is starting to be noticable according to this article.

I particularly liked the notes that Entire apartment buildings are empty, students are disappearing from schools and One in 10 workers in Arizona is an illegal immigrant.

So why do I think those are so great?

Well, the first links back to the post over at the Scratching Post about school costs. If "1 in 10" workers are illegal, then how many of the students are just sucking up our taxes? How many are way-below average in English (and therefore VERY costly to teach)? How much better off will our kids be if we actually 1) remove the drain on the school system and 2) remove the illegal workers that suppress the pay scale once they are done with school?

And then think about this... if the "apartment buildings are empty" (I suspect some journalistic hyperbole here, but I can hope), then without having our cops spend hours, without spending money to deport them, the illegals are simply leaving. Yeah!

Take away the jobs and the people leave. Simple. So simple. Time to expand this law into California.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Speech Every Voter Should Have To Read

I know that Obama gets all the press for his speeches. I guess... if you like... to hear... just a few words... at a time... then he... really is... a great orator. Or maybe he just doesn't have enough to say to really fill the time. I have yet to hear more than a few moments of John McCain speaking (unless you count the section where he's geting booed on the anniversary of Dr. King's assination).

I ran across this speech of Sen McCain and thought it the best I've read in a long time. I suggest you check it out. If that seems too hard, then read these two excerpts and reconsider.
I'm a conservative, and I believe it is a very healthy thing for Americans to be skeptical about the purposes and practices of public officials. We shouldn't expect too much from government -- nor should it expect too much from us. Self-reliance -- not foisting our responsibilities off on others -- is the ethic that made America great.
If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them. I hope more Americans would consider enlisting in our Armed Forces. I hope more would consider running for public office or working in federal, state and local governments. But there are many public causes where your service can make our country a stronger, better one than we inherited. Wherever there is a hungry child, a great cause exists. Where there is an illiterate adult, a great cause exists. Wherever there are people who are denied the basic rights of Man, a great cause exists. Wherever there is suffering, a great cause exists.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Obama Babble

Last night on the late news on our local station they had a story about the YouTube and like posts about all the little kids that can be seen saying "Obama".

Then they had a child development expert explain it. Seems that "Ba" and "Ma" and other 'ah' sounds (like "Pa" and "Da") are the first ones kids learn. They babble them (and get really positive feedback from the adults around them). The sounds become friends to little kids. Consequently O+Ba+Ma is something they like to hear and say.

I have to wonder, how much of that childhood affinity to O+Ba+Ma sounds is still impacting the young adults that seem so drawn to Sen. Obama? Is it really as simple as childhood babble affecting our political process? I think it would explain a lot.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Another Beautiful Day at the Ball Park(s)

First my youngest had a game this morning. Despite the overcast gray skies, and the fact that his team lost 5-2, it was a nce start to the day (of course his two innings - six batters) might have been part of why it seemed nice.

Then over to Petco. By the time we got there, the skies had cleared and it was a wonderful day. Brad Penny for the Dodgers vs. Jake Peavy for the Padres. A great match up. Peavy had a three up, three strike outs first. Penny had some bad luck in the bottom of the inning, 5 straight singles, a sacrific fly, and then an error by the third baseman to allow the 4th run (technically the official scorer said the ball hit to third was a single, but seriously, what was he looking at?). At this point the game was pretty much over. Peavy pretty much coasted (even though he gave up two hits, both in the 4th to allow the Dodgers a run), Penny settled in and went 6, two Dodger relievers later we are going into the top of the ninth.

If you've ever been in Petco when the Padres are in a "save" situation, and Trevor Hoffman is warming, then you know what comes next... The scoreboards all go dark, the music on the loudspeakers silence. As soon as the centerfield bullpen door opens and Hoffman takes his first step on to the warning track, the first knell of Hell's Bells rings out and all the scoreboards light up with fire and the text "Trevor Time".

A strange thing happened today. The scoreboards all went dark, the music on the loudspeakers silenced. The centerfield bullpen door opened but Trevor didn't step out. Heath Bell stepped out - to play warmup catch with the left fielder. Peavy went back to the mound. Trevor stayed in the pen. Three batters later (walk, 4-3 double play, ground out 4-1) game over. Padres win.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Padres v. Astros (part IV)

For Todd...

Nice game today. Sunny, warm, and a 2.5 hour game. Started with Garlic Fries and a Burger (it felt wrong, not a beer and a dog, but it tasted oh so good).

Walked all the way around the park with my wonderful wife in the sunshine. Took our seats in left, just before the first pitch. A nice easy top of first for Randy Wolf. A two run dinger by Kooz in the bottom of the inning, right into the Padres bullpen about 15 feet to my left.

A horribly frustrating bottom of two. Two quick outs, a single by the pitcher, then walks to Hairston and Iguchi (ending with 7 straight balls). Adrian Gonzalez comes up with the bases loaded, takes ball one, then swings at the second pitch! That's right, eight straight balls and he swings at a borderline pitch, grounds out, and kills the inning. Don't these guys ever learn? If the Pitcher can't throw a strike, don't help him! Ish! If a player had done that when I coaching, I would have gently taken him aside and explained that that is stupid baseball. If I was Buddy Black, I would have explained to Gonzo that since he is too freaking stupid to understand the game, henceforth in obvious "take" situations, we were actually going to give him the "take" sign. Urgh!

(OK, time to calm back down...)

Anyways, the Astros managed a run in the third and thus it stood at 2-1 Pads into the 7th. Wolf was taken out (seemed like he was running out of gas to me, so a good move, in my opinion). Padres brought in Enrique Gonzalez to pitch (short powerful looking guy, with a high eighties dead straight fastball... I was worried). Two batters later it's 2-2 with a runner on second and no one out. Somehow he manages to get out of the inning without any additional runs. In the bottom of the inning Hairston triples, Iguchi singles, Pads back up 3-2.

In the top of the eighth the best defensive play I've seen this year... Heath Bell pitching, two out, slow runner on second, a hard ground ball to the right side. Gonzalez dives, but can't reach the ball. Iguchi ranges far to his left into shallow right field. Gloves the ball and throws to Bell covering first. Sweet!

Top of the ninth... Hell's Bells... Trevor Time. Last night Trevor completely gagged a one run lead by giving up 4 runs. Today was a simple ground out to short, ground out to first (with Trevor covering), ground out to third. Cue the music, walk to the car.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Hot Fusion - Will It Ever Be Practical?

WARNING: This entry is unabashedly scientific. If you are a science-phobe, stop reading now.

OK you're still reading so the question I want to think about is "Will Hot Fusion Ever Be a Practical Power Source?"

Let's start with, it is, of course, impossible to predict the future with perfection, but the past is the best predictor of the future. When I was a kid 40 years ago, the experts said they'd have Hot Fusion as a Power Source in 20 years. So 20 years later (20 years ago), it still wasn't ready, but the experts said it would be working in 20 years. Today it still isn't ready. Tonight I saw an article over at this place. In this article an expert says that at current funding rates it will take about another... no, not 20 years... 35 years.

Ok, so after 40 years, with consistent projections of "20 more years", we now hear "35 more years". My projection based on this is that Hot Fusion as a Practical Power Source will happen... when it happens. I don't mean that to sound like a cop out, so let me clarify. It will happen at a time that is unpredictable. I believe what we are seeing is a reflection of the truth that the whole process is simply beyond our current technology. Not that won't happen someday, but it will happen after a breakthrough that is unforeseeable.

So if I believe that (and I do), what would I do? Would I keep funding Hot Fusion? Yes. It is the ultimate solution to power. Would I cut the funding a bit and use that to fund other possible energy sources? You bet. I think that solar, and wind are the better short term answers. They are both free and non-polluting. Biofuels are a red-herring. We can barely grow enough food for all the people, no way we can grow so much more that we can feed the power needs as well.

Well that's my two cents.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Love and Marriage (Maybe)

The Scratching Post has a wonderful post titled On the Effects of Sex Ratios. In the post our Maximum Leader points out that "Women want marriage, and men want sex". While that is, of course, an over simplification, it certainly isn't wrong.

Many years ago (ick... it was 1989) I read a book called "Sexual Selection" by James L Gould and Carol Grant Gould (a Scientific American Library publication, which does not seem to be in print now). On page 258, there is a revealing list of thirteen characteristics that one might use to select a mate. The list was ordered by males and females here are the lists:
Kindness and understanding Kindness and understanding
Intelligence Intelligence
Physical attractiveness Exciting personality
Exciting personality Good health
Good health Adaptability
Adaptability Physical attractiveness
Creativity Creativity
Desire for children Good earning potential
College graduate College graduate
Good heredity Desire for children
Good earning potential Good heredity
Good housekeeper Good housekeeper
Religious Orientation Religious Orientation
Basically the lists are identical except for the two items in bold (technically the "College graduate" is also one higher in the Female column, but it correlates with Good earning potential, so it can be ignored). Notice the two items are exactly the kind of things that one might expect based on basic evolutionary arguements about who cares about what (just as per the arguements KT gives in his post).

These sorts of facts cause the social liberals great consternation, as they challenge their cherished beliefs about what should be (in their opinion).

To them I can only say what every scientist is taught, "Theory guides, Experiment decides".