Friday, January 29, 2010

Healthy Attitude

Contributed by Auggie
Tolerant health nut

Welcome to this weeks edition of “things that annoy me, but shouldn’t”. My day started like any other and probably would have ended like any other if I hadn’t looked at the calendar and realized it was only January 28th. Realizing I still had at least 3 days to honor my New Year’s resolutions I set off for the local health club where I am now a proud member.

About 2/3 of the way through my awesome workout (or as I like to call it, the “20 minute mark”), I became aware of strange noises that I deduced could only be the sound of a Siamese cat with its tail stuck in the vertical seated ISO chest press machine. However, having recently signed my membership papers I vividly recalled that cats were not allowed to join, so there had to be another explanation. My bewilderment vanished a moment later when a headphone-wearing brute strolled by obliviously singing in his best Robert Plant voice. A new form of bewilderment took over as I silently pondered the question “this still happens?” We’ve all heard the oblivious head-phone wearing singers at one time or another but I didn’t think it still happened in the 21st century. I mean, headphones became a permanent part of our social fabric . . . what, twenty years ago? To me, that is an acceptable adjustment period for the masses to realize this simple fact: when you pipe 105 decibels directly into your temporal lobe, YOU can’t hear your voice but OTHERS can.

This continued on for another several minutes until I thought it was time to alert him to his annoying behavior. So I hopped off my spinning machine and sauntered over to where he was preparing to bench press (or whatever it’s called when you lie on your back and lift weights). I had rehearsed my line: “hey Sparky, appreciate the free concert but if you’re looking for the redneck idol auditions I think they’re in Little Rock this year”. I patiently waited as he loaded the last of his 400 lbs on the bar when my other resolution suddenly popped into my head: tolerance of others. Hey, there’s enough room in the world for us all to live happily isn’t there? Tolerance is a liberating and healthy virtue that I would recommend to everyone. In fact, I might even make this a permanent resolution.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Obama: Imaginary Reader?

I love the State of the Union Address. I love the "pre-game" speculation about what the message will be, I love the actual performance, and I love the ridiculously partisan breakdown by each side when it is over. For me, it is a viewing event on par with the Super Bowl.

I have long suspected, but never actually confirmed, that the President is one of the imaginary readers who comments anonymously here at WWDS. Last night, I think we saw some evidence that he was either channeling Auggie or had read Auggie's recent post "Supreme Fallacy". If you missed it, here is his comment about the recent Supreme Court decision to reverse contribution limits from special interest groups:

With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests -- including foreign corporations -- to spend without limit in our elections. I don't think American elections should be bankrolled by America's most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I'd urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.
The full text of his address is widely available online. Even a casual perusal combined with a little creative insight indicates that he also believes pinatas are dangerous, steroids don't really help hitters, and modern pirates are sissies.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Sports Society

I am no fan of unnecessary formality but I tend to notice when reasonable boundaries are thoughtlessly breached. As was the case earlier today.

On my morning commute, I tuned into the sports news and learned that the Los Angeles Lakers visited the White House on a road trip to the east coast. The sportscast played a couple of snippets from interviews with the players and one of the comments really struck me.

In an interview taped prior to the team's visit to the White House, one of the players was asked what he was most looking forward to. He responded that among the many exciting opportunities in the nation's capital, he was "most looking forward to meeting Barrack".

I realize that we idolize athletes in our society and allow them to break the rules so consistently, and from such a young age, that many of them grow up and remain completely unaware of the notion that rules really exist. But have they really internalized a level of self-importance that places them on a first name basis with the President?

I don't think their coach would refer to the President on a first name basis, nor do I think the team owner would do so. I acknowledge that there is no harm in this and that obsequious formality should be avoided when possible. I was just taken aback that an athlete, when interviewed by the media, would presume such equality with what is perhaps our most respected office.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supreme fallacy

Contributed by Auggie
Concerned human being

The Supreme Court this week reversed legislative restrictions on the role of corporations in political campaigns, ruling that companies can spend as much as they want to support or oppose individual candidates. The decision was made on the grounds that corporations have the same rights as individuals when it comes to freedom of speech. As a concerned citizen of the United States I find this philosophy extremely disturbing. If we can’t rely on the Supreme Court to be intellectually honest then who can we rely on?

A corporation is not a person in any way, shape or form – it does not exist in corporeal form. A corporation is nothing more than a bundle of contractual agreements filed in some office or database, and it has no more rights to participate in the democratic decision making process than any other piece of paper. You could write a book on this topic, but in the interest of blogging etiquette I’ll limit my remarks.

Many states already have “paycheck protection” laws whereby no union dues can be spent for any political purpose such as lobbying and campaign donations unless the union members specifically agree, but shareholders and other stakeholders have no such protection. They may in fact be contributing to political causes they do not agree with. Even if a shareholder agrees with the corporate view, an individual citizen has nowhere near the political clout of a corporation (where the actual decisions are being made by a small number of people with power). Investors, consumers and employees etc. already have the right to challenge and influence the democratic process individual citizens.

Furthermore, most large corporations rely on pools of capital from investors around the world, and by treating the corporation as a person we are essentially allowing non-citizens to have a say in American laws and regulations. My concern is naturally with the U.S. because I live here, but I would think that any country arriving at decisions through a democratic process would not want those decisions overturned by foreigners.

The Supreme Court ruling produced vastly different reactions from the two major political parties, but my viewpoint is completely non-partisan. And believe it or not has nothing to do with my opinion on campaign financing. My real concern is the anthropomorphizing of corporations and how it blurs the boundary between capitalism and democracy.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Why Men Don't Ask Directions

Can I just get this off my chest?

I don't know how this misnomer became so widely accepted so as to reach the status of being a cliche but somehow, it has. It's been joked about so often that people actually think men have an aversion to asking driving directions.

Generally, it seems as though the pop-psychologists you meet in everyday life attribute this perceived phenomenon to their belief that men think asking for help is a sign of weakness. Let me enlighten you.

I think it is probably true that men often do not ask for driving instructions when women passengers in the car would like them to. But this is not due to any aversion to appearing "weak". It is because usually, at the moment when women want us to ask directions, we are busy solving a problem.

The problem of course is how to find our destination. At that moment, we are focused on evaluating the alternative solutions to that problem, calculating the likelihood of success for each, and determining the most efficient path forward. Efficiency is often a key consideration because the show is starting and you need to arrive in time to be seated -- there is no time to waste on ineffective solutions.

In a great many instances, asking directions is not an attractive option. In fact, it is commonly futile. Especially when asking a random pedestrian or a cashier at a gas station. This is because so many factors can doom this approach to failure. The person you approach may not be familiar with the location you seek, they may know where it is but not how to drive there, they may be horribly deficient at describing a driving route, they may not speak the same language as you. An objective review of history shows that asking directions is rarely an effective choice.

My favorite confounding factor is that, for some reason, random pedestrians are often reluctant to admit that they can't help you and instead spew some unhelpful suggestions. This creates an especially combustible situation when female passengers in the car insist on following the obviously unhelpful suggestions while the male driver of the car dismisses the advice as blather. The ever-present possibility of wasting more time by being forced to pursue bad advice is factored in prior to choosing the "ask directions" solution. This makes that option even less attractive and unlikely to be chosen by most men.

Asking directions can be a reasonable alternative in some situations. For example, when we are driving to a location to which we have never been and we are seeking a well known destination like a sports arena or a concert hall. In this instance, it may be our best alternative and I think most men choose it. But when we are circling in a familiar location, seeking a recognizable clue that will get us back on track, it is almost never constructive to disengage our honing system and turn over navigation to a stranger. Especially given that, in such a situation, said stranger may be less informed than us.

Men seek the best solution to arriving at the destination in a timely manner. Don't blame us if "asking directions" is a poor alternative in many situations.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cool Things with No Purpose - Part VII

I won't go so far as to defend this as "cool" but for some reason I find it fun to watch when adults drop the pretense of harmony and take shots at one another in an inappropriate social setting. I guess it's that whole inner geezer thing where I like to see people speak their minds.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Things People Say

Sometimes expressions don't need to make literal sense in order to convey the intent of the message. In my opinion, "ass over teakettle" is a perfect example illustrating this fact. The same can be said for single words as we discussed in my earlier post about term "scrut".

Following that earlier post, imaginary readers inquired about the origin of the terms "frig", "dub", "stove", and "puckerbrush". I am happy to report my recent discovery of the online urban dictionary where all of these terms are defined (although their origins are not completely divulged). You may read more by clicking on each link in the list below:
  1. Ass over Teakettle
  2. Scrut
  3. Frig (Parental Guidance Suggested)
  4. Stove
  5. Dub
  6. Puckerbrush (see variant: "puckerbrushknob")
For what it's worth, I also checked out the definition of "darker than the inside of a cow" which is pretty straight forward but curious as a choice of words that anyone could relate to from experience.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Add McGwire to the List

This isn't really surprising in terms of whether or not Big Mac was a user but the announcement and public airing of details was apparently unexpected. He will probably sleep better tonight than he has in years.

You all know where I stand on this. I don't applaud cheating or lying about it but I maintain that steroids cannot help a hitter learn the strike zone, recognize pitches, or make decisions at the plate. As far as I know, there is also no evidence that steroids improve hand-eye coordination or timing. I just don't think they really help hitting much, especially if the hitters are facing juiced pitchers.

I am glad he came clean and we have taken another step toward ending the entire conversation about who did and who did not use banned substances. We still have a ways to go but this was a good step.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Playoffs? Playoffs?

Contributed by Auggie
We are fast approaching one of the most enjoyable football weekends of the season – wildcard weekend. Four enjoyable playoff games spread out over Saturday and Sunday. No matter where you live, January is not the ideal month to be outside so there’s no guilt in sitting inside watching football the entire weekend. With a cooler and a package of Depends you don’t even need to leave the couch.

In addition to the pure enjoyment of watching playoff football, there are always subplots that add intrigue to the NFL’s second season. Following are some interesting storylines this year:

• If New Orleans makes it to the big game and they face San Diego there would be added intrigue. The quarterback matchup would be Drew Brees vs. Philip Rivers who were once teammates at San Diego. At a time when so many teams are looking for one good quarterback, it’s hard to believe that San Diego had these two on the roster at the same time – today they are two of the best in the NFL. At the time, San Diego basically had to make a choice of which one they would build around and would be hard to argue today with either choice.

• It’s odd that three of the wildcard weekend matchups (NYJ/Cincy, Phil/Dallas, and Green Bay/Ariz) are rematches from the final weekend of the season.

• Half the playoff field has won a past Super Bowl while the other half is still looking for its first. The six teams looking for their first Super Bowl victory are New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Arizona, San Diego and Cincinnati.

• New Orleans is the only team in the field that has never appeared in a Super Bowl. If they make it to the dance, that would leave Cleveland, Detroit, Houston and Jacksonville as the only NFL franchises yet to appear in a Super Bowl.

• It’s hard to believe that three weeks ago we were talking about Indy going 19-0. They finished the regular season 14-2 after taking the last two weeks off. Throw in a first round bye and the team will go three weeks without playing a meaningful game. Will they be able to go right back to the high level they played for the first 14 games? If not, expect them to be soundly ripped by fans and media alike for their strategy to ease up and rest the key players. A first round loss especially would lend credence to the philosophy that it’s better to keep the ‘high-level’ momentum going.

• The cards would need to fall right, but should Green Bay and Minnesota meet it would be the most hyped postseason game outside the Super Bowl. I am rooting for the scenario more than any other with the hope that Green Bay would throttle the Vikes. A quick side blog in this topic:

[Two of the most hyped games of the regular season were the GB/Minn games (aka Favre Bowls) and Minnesota won both of them handily. If Green Bay were to knock them off when it really counts it would be poetic justice (at least in my mind). Why were these games so hyped? It’s because the media worships Brett Favre. I for one have been officially tired of the Favre gushing for about five years now. There are members of the media who act like high school girls at a Jonas Brothers concert whenever the talk about Favre – and they talk about him often. I can’t take it anymore. Regardless of Favre’s role (or lack thereof) in this, I just can’t root for the guy anymore. Can’t do it. The sooner they lose the better but preferably they would meet Green Bay and Favre would throw six picks while Aaron Rodgers throws for 380 and 5 TD’s.

Speaking of Rodgers, I think that he has handled the whole Favre/Green Bay situation and his succession of Favre with as much class and professionalism as you could imagine. And his performance has been even better than expected. I believe he is well on his way to being a top five quarterback (at least) in the NFL and he will someday be the proud owner of a Super Bowl ring. I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s this year – and if they destroy Minnesota on the way then even better.

In addition to the situation Rodgers was thrust into at Green Bay, there are a couple independent, minor incidents that contribute to my desire to see him succeed. These are so minor as to be meaningless, but they contribute nonetheless (I never said I was rational in why I root for someone). Case 1: Draft day 2005, Rodgers was one of the NFL’s invitees to sit in the “green” room during the draft. The green-room invitees consist of 4 or 5 players who are expected to go in the first 5-10 picks. The routine is that after the player is selected, he proceeds to the stage where he meets the GM for his new team while donning a team cap and holding a jersey (with a #1) in front of him while everyone take pictures. In this particular draft Rodgers was the last one of the invitees to be drafted. Everyone else went in the top ten but he lasted until Green Bay took him with the 24th pick. This may not sound like a big deal but the actual time between say pick 8 and pick 24 is about 4 hours. In that 4 hour period, the camera’s must have shown Rodgers about 2000 times as he sat there in his new suit and tie anxiously waiting for his name to be called, only to be disappointed time and time again. It was heart breaking. (The NFL has since changed the way they choose the invitees). Case 2: I was watching a pro-am golf tournament a couple years ago and Rodgers was teamed up the Ben Roethlisberger of the Steelers. As they were heading down the fairway after their tee shots, a group of young fans approached them with pen and paper in hand. As Rodgers turned to one of the kids to grant his autograph request, the punk shook him off and went straight to Roethlisberger. He shook him off - I couldn’t believe it. I don’t know if the kid simply didn’t know who Rodgers was (possible) or if Rodgers just wasn’t a big enough name, but in either case the brat will rue the day he passed up the autograph of a future great quarterback. Ok, back to the main blog.]

• Many rookie quarterbacks have thrown over 20 interceptions in their first season (e.g. Peyton Manning), but only one led his team to the playoffs – Mark Sanchez. The Jets benefited greatly from their last two opponents tanking (Indy and Cincy) but they made the playoffs nonetheless. How will Sanchez perform in the playoffs? In some ways he is not a rookie anymore because he has a full season under his belt. The Jets have a championship caliber defense and running game, and if Sanchez performs reasonably well they could be a surprise team. I hate the Jets.

• In contrast to Sanchez, a couple of old guys are still getting it done. Kurt Warner (38) for Arizona and the old guy (40) in Minnesota.

• How will the Patriots recover from the loss of Welker? One of the most painful things about Welker’s injury is that he is such a good, hard working and classy player. Hate to see his season end that way.

• Can Dallas win their first playoff game since 96? For such a popular and celebrated team it’s hard to believe they haven’t won a playoff game in 14 years. They are playing as well as anyone right now and could be the team to beat in the NFC.

Can’t wait to get started.