Monday, November 30, 2009

Laws of reason

Contributed by Auggie
I heard on the news this morning that Colorado has become the latest State to adopt a no-texting-while-driving law. What would be most surprising – if these things surprised me anymore - is that it needs to be a law at all. It seems that common sense might prevail once and awhile but apparently not. A wise man once told me that “driving is a privilege, not a right”. It’s a shame that more people don’t hold that view.

Since we’re writing laws against foolhardiness, I would also like to see the following acts banned while driving.

• Shaving
• Reading the paper
• Eating a three-course meal
• Applying make-up

Yes, I have witnessed all of the above on my daily commute. Furthermore – wait, I gotta go, the light just turned green.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Blog Cliff Notes

What would Den say? Lately, based on the lack of postings here, it looks like he wouldn't say too much.

But don't be fooled; I am still muttering to myself and reflecting on those things that strike me as odd, interesting, or flat out wrong. I've just been intensely busy for the past couple of weeks. Here are a few of the topics I would have blogged about had I found the time to do so:

1. Privacy - Not sure why I am not outraged by perceived threats to privacy like so many others seem to be. If you want to know what I buy at the supermarket or what I search for on google, I would be happy to tell you.

2. Health guidelines - Not saying I agree or disagree with the new recommendations from the US Preventative Services Task Force about fewer mammograms and no self examined breasts, just saying these are the types of approaches (controversial as they are) that can help us get a handle on the overall "cost of health care" problem.

3. Persnickety existence - I have passed my father and now I am working on becoming my grandfather. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to get drivers in my neighborhood to stop cruising though stop signs on the streets where my family walks, bikes, and plays. It's more of a courtesy issue than a danger issue but we grumpy old men do not like to tolerate discourteous young whipper-snappers; we prefer to lecture them.

4. Brett Favre for MVP - Must maintain my quota of BF references. His stats for the year are much better than any of the three years when he won MVP awards and he has his team in first place. Even Fran Tarketon was heard praising his leadership this week on the radio.

5. The Blind Side - I read this book when it came out a few years ago because it was Michael Lewis' follow-up to MoneyBall (and you know how I feel about MoneyBall). I loved The Blind Side and recommended it to many but have never met another person who read it (maybe one). Now it's a movie which I saw with my wife on the night it opened. Very well done and every bit as poignant as the book.

I may circle back and write in more detail about one or more of these. Don't know. We bloggers are a mysterious and independent lot.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Free lunch?

Contributed by Auggie
If not for the health care debate, there might be more publicity surrounding the energy debate which is also a hot topic, so to speak. What I find interesting as I listen to the discourse on energy alternatives is that some people still think you can get a free lunch. You can’t. Every energy alternative has a cost to society from someone’s perspective, there are no exceptions.

The usual suspects are well known. Coal fired plants produce large amounts of CO2 which contributes to global warming, and burning coal leads to smog, acid rain and other toxins that threaten our health. Nuclear is far cleaner than coal and has the potential to be an abundant, low-cost source of energy but the fear of radioactive waste has made it prohibitively expensive and politically challenging. Natural gas? Same problems as coal but not quite as bad. When you talk about “green” energy like wind, hydro and solar you would think that the most environmentally conscious people would be in favor of those, but in reality it seems to be the opposite. It’s the environmentalists who don’t want wind turbines because they destroy the beauty of nature. That is why wind projects have a difficult time getting approved for example on mountain ranges, or as some people like to call it “where the wind is”. In addition to aesthetic problems, wind turbines are a known source of noise related issues for people who live near them, and they disrupt bird migratory patterns to name a couple of cons. Well surely solar has no cons, unless you consider the annoying little fact that the sun needs to be shining for that to work. Even so, solar has some of the same issues as wind – it takes vast tracts of land and that can’t help but disrupt certain wildlife, even if it is in the desert. Not to mention the production of solar panels is very expensive and energy intensive in and of itself. There is certainly potential but you can’t supply the world’s energy needs with solar. Tidal power sounds exciting. One method being tried is the use of underwater turbines which work on the same principle as wind turbines, but they use the energy of the tides instead. This is all well and good except that you might kill a fish. It’s ok to fish the oceans dry so Biff and Muffy can enjoy their sushi, but kill a fish producing power and Green Peace will be strapping themselves to the turbine blades. Another argument against tidal power, ironically, is that the underwater equipment will interfere with the fishing industry. (My head hurts). Hydro would be a perfect complimentary energy source if only it didn’t flood certain areas that weren’t meant to be flooded, change the local ecosystem, and render the down steam portion of the river useless.

Here is a suggestion: Any published opposition to any source of energy should include that person’s proposal for meeting the energy demand. It’s easy to poke holes in an idea if you’re not part of solving the problem. And conservation doesn’t count as an alternative unless the proposal is to use zero energy – in which case that person would be deemed a nut job and we wouldn’t listen to them anyway.

Contrary to the tone of this blog, I’m not diminishing or belittling any of the concerns people have about the consequences of our actions on the environment. In fact, the world is a better place because of these people. Without them, near-sighted power hungry fools would surely run amok with our resources and destroy the earth in no time. I’m only trying to highlight the fact that whatever source of energy you favor, there is a cost.

Fusion anyone?

Selective Perception

Among all of the "expert" opinions condemning Bill Belichick's decision to go for it on 4th on 2 from his own 28 the other night, I am astounded at how partial and selective professional sports analysts are allowed to be with the facts. I think you can make a case that he should have elected to punt but, if you made that case based on a selectively supportive subset of the facts, then I would probably feel the need to blog about you too.

Here's an obvious reality that must be considered (unless you are trying to garner ratings with your besmirching authoritative expertise). I am sure Belichick took into account that an average punt with an average return would have left the Colts somewhere near mid-field. The Patriots would certainly have resumed their deep safety coverage giving the Colts as many 10-15 yard underneath throws as they cared to take. This means that the Colts would have had to use two or three plays and maybe a half a minute off the clock to get to the Patriots 28 anyway. In that regard, the decision was between "getting a first down and winning" or "missing the first down and allowing the Colts to arrive at the 28 with a needless, extra half-minute on the clock". Going for it was a defensible option.

I am especially struck by the commentary of Teddy Bruschi and Rodney Harrison, former Patriot defensive players who respect Belichick but hated this call because, as they said, "it sends a signal to the defense that he has no confidence in them". What? He had so much confidence in the defense that he wasn't worried about giving the Colts the ball with 28 yards to go. I think his decision sent the opposite message. He believed they could either get the 1st down and ice the game or else the defense could keep the Colts out of the end zone.

Either way, it's a good week for the Belichick haters. However, I think that they out-played the undefeated Colts in Indianapolis and then faced national mockery in the aftermath. This looks like it might be one of those "good losses" that always helps the Patriots burn their way through the play-offs.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Deceiving Children

I know that seeing great wonder and the joy of discovery on the face of your child is a delight like few others. I have witnessed and experienced this first hand on many occasions. On some of those occasions, the wonder was manufactured by my own lies about Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, and most elaborately, the Tooth Fairy.

One of my children lost a tooth tonight and is sleeping with that tooth under her pillow right now. Before going to bed, I will sneak in and replace that tooth with some cold hard cash. It's a fun ritual for everyone involved and it is one of life's small pleasures for which I am thankful.

The only problem is that my children have taken to leaving notes for the Tooth Fairy and, having set a precedent by responding to the first note, I am now locked in to an ever increasing chain of deceitful responses. They have asked many written questions and I have left detailed explanations about where the fairies live, how they got their names, if they know one another, what they do with the teeth, how they get inside the house, etc. These notes get saved and referenced by my kids as they generate more questions based on past answers. When I leave a reply that contradicts an earlier message, they grill the Fairy at the next lost tooth and I am left to spin an ever far reaching explanation to reconcile the expanding web of lies.

I know I should not get hung up over this but I really do not feel good about deceiving my children. Even though it is done for their entertainment and is not likely to cause any damage in any way, it just doesn't feel right to lie to them. I would be happy to play along if they didn't ask me such direct questions and didn't study my face so intently as I answered.

They are remarkably perceptive. This gives me great angst about the prospect of being caught lying to them but great hope that they will understand why I've done it.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Baseball Rituals

As we all know, watching sports in real time is a luxury enjoyed by men with no kids; highlights were invented for the rest of us. Nonetheless, I was somehow afforded the opportunity to sit down and watch the final two innings of the 2009 baseball season this evening.

I enjoyed this brief opportunity to watch two very skilled teams compete but I was struck by several prominent rituals I observed. Now, I don't know if I like rituals or dislike rituals but I can tell you that I am keenly aware of them when they unfold before me. This is especially true when it is unclear to me how the ritual began or why it has persisted.

What is it with the spitting? I know about the old tobacco ritual and understand how that was a prominent habit in the game for decades. Somewhere along the line I tried chew and I remember how it compels the need to spit. Today though, the tobacco is largely gone from baseball but the spitting has remained a part of nearly every player's between pitch routine. That strikes me as odd.

I guess gathering at the mound in a team embrace and hopping in unison is a pretty well entrenched ritual for celebrating a world series win. I have to say, it just doesn't seem spontaneous. It looks to me like the players do it because it is expected; perhaps believing that is what they are supposed to do. Perplexing ritual if you ask me.

I really don't get the immediate donning of championship hats and T-shirts as a celebratory ritual. I've played lots of sports and had many victories that were very important to me. I never once felt a natural desire to express my joy with head wear and I remain skeptical that a World Series win would trigger such an emotion. Somehow, the silliness and shallowness of a "Champions" hat does not belong in the same moment as the genuine and well deserved joy that is so clearly evident on the player's faces

Finally, and most importantly, I am shocked by the loser's ritual of sitting stoically in the dugout and watching the winner's tired charade. I know they are disappointed and I guess assuming a listless existence is probably a pretty natural reaction. Still, it shocks me that not once, has any player, manager, or coach from the losing team ever mustered the maturity to step on the field and offer a congratulatory gesture to the victors. When that happens, the man who does it will be an instant hero to me.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Cool Things with No Purpose - Part V

This cool thing is actually related to me.