Ah HA! (OR Nefarious Voicemail)

July 31, 2009

Turns out that Ezra is irritated by the obnoxious voicemail wench who instructs you on how to use voicemail, every time you go to leave a message.

I’ve long thought that this was a scam (like almost all other mobile phone silliness) designed to keep their consumers on the phone longer, and thus utilize more precious minutes. I was most sensitive to this when I was using a pay by the minute plan. I often found myself making 61 or 62 second calls thanks to the obnoxious voicemail wench and an overly long pause after she was done, but before the actual beep.

Now, it turns out I was right. Bastards!

several attendees (cell executives) admitted to me, point-blank, that the voicemail instructions exist primarily to make you use up airtime

Precision (OR Department of Good Ideas)

July 13, 2009

I must be going through major sports withdrawal… I check the Tour de France standings each morning, I’m actually a little sad that I won’t be able to watch the British Open this weekend, and I check ESPN.com for some piece of interesting sports related news much too often.

Today, my search for interesting sports related news was found on cnnsi.com as Chris Cooley (TE for the Washington Redskins) filled in for Peter King in his MMQB column. He calls it “Smart Football”:

The system begins by placing sensors in both tips of the ball and then it works with a laser or GPS system. At that point, the possibilities are endless. Technology is so advanced that determining anything that happens on the field with the ball is possible. The sensors indicate the instant the ball crosses the goal line, or any line for that matter. This eliminates officials having to slog in from the sideline, peer over 22 enormous men and try to determine from memory where the ball may have reached.

It doesn’t have to stop with the end zone, the league can sensor the first-down markers, as well.

This sounds like a really good idea to me. I’ve long mocked the contrast between the apparent precision of measuring for a first down and the inherent imprecision of the ball placement. Adding some computer aided precision could only improve matters.

Sure, there could be some issues, but it would have to be better than the human eye. Plus, we could eliminate challenges to the spot of the ball.

All in all, this sounds like a good idea to me… as long as Fox doesn’t get ahold of the frequency of the chips in the ball and superimpose a CGI tail onto the football.

Long Time (OR What are yooouuuu doing?)

July 5, 2009

Wow… it’s been a long time since I’ve posted. I’d say “too long” but something tells me it’ll be a while again before I’m back here. Maybe it’s that summer time, maybe it’s that work is crazy busy, maybe it’s the the news never changes… or maybe it’s that I’ve finally reached my limit of “political junkiness”…

It’s been about a year and half that I’ve paid pretty close attention to what’s been happening in national politics, and while the election cycle was interesting, if disturbing in its inanity. We’re now established in the governing cycle, and there’s no reason not to believe that the next year plus will be much like the last 6 months: Republican brainless obstructionism, Democratic policy conservatism, and MSM idiocy.

Anyway, I really can’t stand it any more… our economy continues to get worse, the climate continues on it’s irrevocable path toward catastrophic change, our health care “system” continues to degrade, and our political institutions aren’t equipped to take effective corrective action. Paying close attention only depresses me.

On the other hand, there was a fantastic tennis match earlier today. I fear that Andy Roddick’s performance is going to get lost in all the talk about Roger Federer breaking Pete Sampras’ record of 14 Grand Slam titles. You’ll be able to find plenty of stories about Federer, so I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge Roddick.

The NBC bobbleheads mentioned in passing that Roddick played the best match of his career two days after playing the best match of his career. As great as he played against Andy Murray in the semis, he was even better today. His serve, which has always been powerful, was a phenomenal weapon today, but it wasn’t just that. He played so well behind his serve. The fact that, until the last game of the match, he was not broken by the best player on the planet is absolutely incredible.

And Federer was on his game, too. Yet, Roddick broke him twice. He was patient, and did very well picking his spots in which to attack, and made his share of shots. The only thing I think he might have done better was attack more on his forehand.

Regardless, however, Roddick is playing the best tennis of his life and once he recovers from the heartbreak of the loss today, I feel like he’ll be a threat to win the US Open. He’ll certainly still need to get past Federer and probably Nadal, but if he keeps playing the way he’s playing he’s proven today that he’s capable of it.

So, here’s to Andy Roddick, who, I think, surprised everybody today, for giving us yet another highly memorable gem of a Wimbledon final. It sucks to lose, but you played your heart out in the match of your life. Well done, Andy.


June 9, 2009

Fun game so far – Magic by 4 – make that 3 with Lewis’ toe on the line –  with 1:06 to play at the time of writing.

Both teams just hitting shots, making passes, and filling up the basket in every way imaginable.

Coming off a conversation with my esteemed coblogger the other night – is there such a thing as an ideal basketball player?  For instance, for the frisbee players out there, if I could clone 7 copies of ca. 2003 Mike Grant (top player on Furious George), I would put that team up against any other team you put together.  Grant was about 6’2″, lightning-quick, massive ups, with excellent throws, and hucks, from both the forehand and backhand side.  He was as close as you can come, as far as I’m concerned, to the ideal Ultimate player.  Sure, he would probably get roasted by your occasional squirrely handler type, but I maintain that his speed and length would cause enough turns, and there’s no way you could shut down the “Mike Grant-swings-to-Mike Grant-hucks-to-Mike Grant deep” game.  I maintain that team would be unbeatable.

It’s harder to know if you could do the same thing in basketball.  Who brings the ball up court on a team of 2001 Shaqs?  Would a Shaq just run rampant through a team of Kobes or LeBrons?

Watching the series, I might just put up a team of 5 “Good Lamar Odoms” against any other team you could put together.  That dude is amazing.  I don’t know if it’s the fact that he’s fueled by Twizzlers or what, but that guy is some wacky combo of creepy length, quick hands, 3-point range, and smart post play.  I think 5 of him would be very tough to stop.  Sure, Odom can’t stop classic Shaq 1-on-1, but the double is effective, and if you have a team of lanky Odoms to close out on the 3-point shooters, that’s pretty hard to beat!

It’s a shame he doesn’t seem able to do it on a nightly basis, but he definitely seems to have the physical skillset to be one of the top NBA talents…

Best News I’ve Seen All Week

June 9, 2009

Via Occasional Reader M.D., news that it’s time to back away…from…the Nalgene and just go drink a damn beer.

Science now says that beer, yes beer, is more effective for rehydrating the body than plain ol’ water. I think I’m not alone when I say that this qualifies as news on par with peace in the Middle East.

Researchers at Granada University in Spain found this Nobel Prize-worthy discovery…

World’s Worst Job

June 9, 2009

Via friend D.C., Massage Therapist For The Supermodels:

God Bless My Underpants

June 2, 2009

I guess this falls under the old ‘any publicity is good publicity’ rubric, right?

My beloved sport of Ultimate once again hits the pages of ESPN, this time on Page 2, in a story by Mary Buckheit about how the Oregon Ducks, ranked #3 at the time, were suspended by their school, with the support of the UPA, for playing a naked point against the Oregon B team at a tournament.

The last straw for UO administrators was the incident at Oregon State. The Ducks’ A and B teams were scheduled to play each other at the end of a drizzly afternoon, but opted to play a quick “naked point” in lieu of a whole game. Five players took off their shirts. Five others removed their shorts and underwear. A passerby filed a complaint to the safety department, and a letter detailing the incident ultimately landed in the student affairs office in Eugene. Before long, the committee which oversees Oregon club sports decided to pull the plug on the team’s season, and the Ultimate Players Association, the sport’s governing body, agreed with the decision.

Since I’m very out of the Ultimate loop, I hadn’t heard this story, but it sounds very, well, Oregon-like.  One of the Oregon players once deliberately pissed on the foot of the UPA’s Executive Director.  I wish I were kidding about this, but I’m not.  Oregon has been, for as long as I can remember them being on the national scene, one of those teams who feels it is their right, if not their responsibility, to make misbehavior at tournaments a defining feature of their team.

So, good on the Oregon administration, and good on the UPA, for trying to set this team along a vaguely more constructive path.  I doubt it’ll have much effect – but it can’t hurt to try.


June 2, 2009

Via Yglesias, these two maps from Andrew Gelman at Columbia blew my mind.  They show election results from the Bush-Kerry race in ’04, restricted to, first, only poor votes, and then second, only the rich.

That’s crazy!  The richest states (MA, NJ, and CT are the top 3, by average income; CA, MD, and NY are top 10) are the ones where the rich still vote blue.  Likewise, among the poorest states, (TX, ID, NE, UT, etc. are all in the bottom third of state average income) are the places where even the poor still bleed red.  All very weird.  Understandable, in a ‘rich places are full of latte-sipping America-hating elites, while poor places are full of dumb redneck racist hillbillies’ kind of stereotypical way, but that’s not quite a fully satisfying explanation for me…

On The Inevitability Of Stupidity

June 2, 2009

I try really hard to take Megan McArdle seriously.  I do.  For one thing, I’m pretty sure she could take me in a fight, and that scares the crap out of me.  Also, she knows people who could buy and sell me and everything I own 27 times before getting out of bed in the morning.

But it’s really hard when she writes paragraphs like this:

Now I can move onto the observation that if you actually think late-term abortion is murder, then the murder of Dr. Tiller makes total sense.  Putting up touching anecdotes about people he’s helped find adoptions, etc, doesn’t change the fact that if you think late-term abortions are murder, the man was systematically butchering hundreds of human beings a year–indeed, not merely butchering them, but vivisecting them without anaesthetic.   I’m sure many mass murderers have done any number of kind things over the course of their lives, to which the correct response, if you’re trying to stop the murders, is “so?” 


We accept that when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders–had Tiller whipped out a gun at an elementary school, we would now be applauding his murderer’s actions.  In this case, the law was powerless because the law supported late-term abortions. 

Okay, look.  In no way, shape, or form do I accept the proposition that “when the law is powerless, people are entitled to kill in order to prevent other murders.”  That’s an absolutely insane legal paradigm to subscribe to.  So if I really, in my heart, believe in my “Meat is Murder” bumper sticker, I am entitled to go on a manhunting spree during hunting season here in Colorado?  Or to stalk, harrass, or murder the girlfriends of teenagers who work at McDonalds, because I find their attitude towards animal cruelty to be beyond excuse?  That is, not to put too fine a point on it, the stupidest thing I will read or hear today, and I am still scheduled to spend 5 hours in a room full of children, aged 6 to 13.

In McMegan’s example, the law is powerless to prevent the spree killing at an elementary school because there doesn’t happen to be an officer of the law present.  But it’s still illegal to kill elementary school children.  If there were a hostage situation at the school, and the cops had the place surrounded and the situation fairly under control, until some wild-eyed wacko ran through the barracades and started shooting up the place, we would not laud that person at all – instead, they would be castigated and prosecuted, if not actually shot dead by the police.

In this case, the law was absolutely empowered to stop Tiller from performing his procedures.  He did not operate in a back alley, under cover of darkness.  He performed what he saw as his duties plainly and openly, without shame, for all the world to see.  Law officers could have entered his clinic at any time, or knocked on his door and arrested him.  Only, the law did not stop him, because the law happened to say that what he did was not illegal!

Again, I’m not going to get deeply involved in the question of whether or not abortion rights should be restricted, whether it should be a federal or a state governmental question, or whether it’s morally right or wrong, and up to what point.  I will simply note that it is absolutely ridiculous to say that it can be a defensible paradigm to say anything along the lines of “I think what you’re doing constitutes murder, so even though what you are doing is open and publically known, I am going to kill you.”  Such a thought process, if adopted by everyone, would lead to a complete societal breakdown.  Thus, it cannot be defended in a country which aims for civilization.

Enough abortion stuff from me; no more, I promise.

On The Legality

June 1, 2009

There has been some renewed discussion across the blogosphere today about whether or not Dr. George Tiller’s murder should be used as a justification to renew defense of procedures like dilation & extraction.

I’m not going to get involved in a long and involved discussion of the legalities.  There are people much better suited and much more interested in making the relevant cases, and I encourage you to read up on them.

Instead, I have an entirely personal reason for my preference.

Being an Ashkenazi Jew, one of the most well-studied inbred groups known to mankind, I am subject to all manner of unusual genetic conditions, both positive and negative.  In my case, the most notable is that I am a carrier for Tay-Sachs disease, one of those lovely genetic inheritances of my background.  In my case, I was a 50-50 chance to be a carrier, because my father is as well.  My mother is not.

Tay-Sachs is a straight 2-allele recessive genetic condition right out of high school biology.  One genetic locus per chromosome, two possible alleles.  If you have no copies of the flawed gene, you’re fine.  If you have one copy of the flawed gene, you’re fine, but you have a 50% chance of passing that copy on to any children.  If you have two copies…well, let’s head to Wikipedia:

Infantile TSD. Infants with Tay-Sachs disease appear to develop normally for the first six months of life. Then, as nerve cells become distended with gangliosides, a relentless deterioration of mental and physical abilities occurs. The child becomes blind, deaf, and unable to swallow. Muscles begin to atrophy and paralysis sets in. Death usually occurs before the age of 4.

Pretty gruesome stuff.  Most commonly, in order to prevent the sort of short, nasty, misery-causing life that any child who has Tay-Sachs is guaranteed, if both parents are carriers of the disease, amniocentesis is performed as soon as it is safe, and any child who has two copies of the Tay-Sachs gene is aborted.

Imagine if I were to find out, seven months after a some illicit tryst, that evening had had further consequences than a headache and vague feeling of shame the next morning.  And imagine, further, that after finding out that I was the father, and knowing of my possible genetic inheritance, we decide to test for Tay-Sachs, and we discover, to our dismay, that the mother was also a carrier, and the fetus is doomed to a short, unhappy life such as the one discussed above.  

You are stuck between the rock of aborting a fetus that, if it were delivered today, would almost certainly be able to survive the birth process and begin its life, and the hard place of dooming that same child to the ‘relentless deterioration of mental and physical abilities’ which will, without a doubt, end in a horrible death.  Isn’t that tragic decision difficult enough without some self-righteous Christian extremist shouting horrible things at me and the mother of my child while we try and seek consultation in our time of difficulty?

That reason alone is enough, to me, to justify keeping this procedure safe, legal, and without significant restrictions apart from those placed on the doctor and mother by themselves and their consciences.  I’m sure there are other, probably better reasons to be in support, but that’s enough for me.