The Electric Commentary

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

How To Properly Waste Money On The Super Bowl

The Football Outsiders have their annual prop bet column up. I will contribute the same advice that I always give.

If you are betting on the MVP, your best value bet is to go with a defensive back. Corners and safeties are frequently in a position to make huge, game-changing plays and you will always get nice odds. Remember, Larry Brown of the Dallas Cowboys is a past winner, as is Dexter Jackson of the Tampa Bay Bucs. While QBs tend to win the thing you won't get much bang for your buck with Peyton Manning. I'd go with either Bob Sanders (he's been getting attention as the alleged savior of the Indy defense) or Ricky Manning Jr. The Bear nickel back has a tendency (or at least a reputation) of making big plays in big games.

Oh, and on the over/under on the national anthem take the under. Joel's voice, while very distinctive and very good in its own right, isn't terribly strong. He will likely go for a concise, tasteful anthem.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

The Social Security Toilet

The Coyote Blog adds some math to back up what we already knew:

This allowed me to answer a question: If I had been able to take these social security taxes and instead put them in a savings plan, and then took the accumulated balance out at age 67 and bought an annuity (at current rates), what would be my monthly payment? Well, assuming a very conservative after-tax rate of return of 5%, I would have $1,077,790 at age 67 to buy an annuity, which at current rates quoted on the Vanguard site, would give me $7,789 a month until I die. This return is just about four times the amount I get from having the Social Security Administration manage the money for me instead. Ugh. Also note that I did not assume "risky" equity investments or whatever straw man anti-reformers are using nowadays. If I assume a higher return of 8% (the stock market in the 90's returned something like 18%) then my annuity will be $17,860 per month, or 9 times the Social Security payout. Double ugh.

In fact, this all opens up the obvious question, what actual rate of return is Social Security paying out on your "premiums?" Well, in fact we can calculate this with the same spreadsheet. I plugged in 2% for the interest rate. No go -- resulting annuity is to high. Then I plugged in 1%. Still too high. Could the government be paying you 0% on your money? I plugged that in. Still too high. In fact, the implied rate of return on my money in the Social Security system is -0.8% a year. In other words, not only is the government not paying me any interest, they are charging me to hold my money.


Read this too.

Spurious Claims

Via MR:

A Swedish researcher put 18 volunteers on the same diet that filmmaker Morgan Spurlock went on while filming "Super Size Me."

And -- surprise! -- they didn't all become fatties:

To his great surprise, [the researcher] discovered that eating mass quantities of junk food affected each participant differently. While one volunteer gained 15 percent body weight after following the high-choleric diet for a month, several others experienced only minimal weight gain. [He] was thus forced to conclude that "some people are just more susceptible to obesity than others."

Also:

The 12 men and six women were banned from exercising.

While all gained weight, none reported mood swings or liver damage like Spurlock did in the movie.


Read it all here. I guess that Morgan just has a slow metabolism.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Obama Develops Some Substance

We can no longer claim that Barack Obama has no substance, as he has now taken a stand on a controversial issue:

Every American should have health care coverage within six years, Democratic Sen. Barack Obama said Thursday as he set an ambitious goal soon after jumping into the 2008 presidential race. "I am absolutely determined that by the end of the first term of the next president, we should have universal health care in this country," Obama told a conference of Families USA, a health care advocacy group.

The Illinois senator did not provide specifics on his plan for coverage.


I believe "universal health care" to be inevitable in this country, as well as a disaster waiting to happen. The current system sucks, and contains several huge market failures, but this will be worse.

Friday, January 26, 2007

Borat's Most Poignant Moment

Borat is currently playing at the Brew and View Theatre in my neighborhood, which is the perfect place for it. It's extremely funny, but one point in particular stuck with me as an especially well-crafted and intelligent moment.

Without spoiling anything, Borat has just had his heart broken while hitch-hiking with some drunken frat boys (who are now suing Sacha Baren Cohen), and he stumbles into a good old-fashioned revival meeting. We see several prominent politicians saying rather inflammatory things, but the true genius of the scene is in Borat's interaction with the preacher.

When he walks in he stands nervously at the back of the tent where he witnesses people running, dancing, and speaking in tongues. Eventually one of the tongue-speakers escorts him to the front to be saved.

He describes his challenges on his journey and asks if anyone can take away the pain. This, of course, prompts the obvious response that Jesus can. The preacher then puts his hands on Borat's head and at first Borat (remember, in character) resists because it's weird. However, after a few seconds he starts to pretend to speak in tongues just to fit in, and everyone takes it seriously.

Borat, as a character, is a simple fellow. Sacha Baron Cohen uses Borat to make a larger point about the ignorance and biases of those that he encounters, but this requires that Borat is fundamentally backward.

This dichotomy allows the scene to work brilliantly. We're all laughing at the revivalists with Cohen, but we're also seeing true conversion in action. They are essentially preying on the weak, the vulnerable, and the stupid with emotionally charged yelling, singing, and mob mentality, and they are getting him when they think he is in the midst of an emotional crisis.

This is the only scene in the film that portrays Borat as a victim. Generally Borat's incompetence is used as an excuse to victimize others, but here in the house of God he actually becomes the victim, and in doing so he exposes the nature of such revivals. After all, if preying on the weak and stupid is the bread and butter of such people, what are we to think of the existing membership?

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Buffalo wings and taxes

I'm dragging a bit this morning. I got back to the apartment last night tofind Mike's Hard Lemonade bottles scattered about and the roomie's girlfriend on the couch, by herself, three-sheets-to-the-wind. The roomie was at the Marquette basketball game, so, left on her own, she decided to get wasted and watch Scrubs in our apartment. Awesome. Of course I had to have a beer or two with her until the roomie returned from the game. When he did, of course I had have a beer with him too. And of course we had to call Pizza Shuttle. [I have a new-found love for Pizza Shuttle. They have a huge menu and will deliver anything until like 5am. I'm used to settling for pizza or burritos when the clock strikes bar time, but with Pizza Shuttle, I can have a rack of ribs, mashed potatoes, fried cheese curds and/or a pint of frozen custard (we're unhealthy eaters 'round here) delivered to my house even in the wee hours of the night.] Anyway, I think I ate too many Buffalo wings last night. It's a slow day today though, so no biggie.

I'm going to go look at some condos tonight. I'm in the early stages of becoming a homeowner. That being the case, I've been bitching about property taxes a lot lately. I'm pretty sure that taxwise, owning is better overall then renting since I get to itemize my deductions and all that junk. But wow it's depressing to look at a cool condo, say "that's in my price range" only to remember that I have to pay an additional $5k a year in taxes. It's even more depressing when I read things like this (scroll to January 18 post). Milwaukee Public Schools are banning cell phones. Obviously, I don't care about this issue. However, some MPS students do care and they voiced their concerns in letters to the board. Here are a few examples of what they wrote. I'm not making these up and they are copied verbatim:

"I don't think cell phones should be banned. yes it is true all cellphones are not used at the right time or purpose for fights taking pictures, or calling friends and family up to the school 1/17/07 hour 7 i figured out that it is a felony a criminal law. so inclosing of this opinion afrter school activities. It's a cold world these days. all people want to do wrong."

"I feel that we should be able to bring cell phones to school because it is to much happeing in miwaukee wisconsin such as crimes and robberys and parents are concern about they kids and nine times out of ten thats why they bought them because they have to catch the city bus or walk and anything can happen for an example yesterday on the city bus a boy got jumped for his mp3 player and he went and asked the bus driver to call the poloice and he would not call them and i feel since he had a cell phone he was able to call the police and his mother his self so you might need to call the police or something and you cant because you dont have your cell phone and some kids have to stay after for school activites and it get dark early and most of them have to ride the bus or walk and its not safe and another reason is that most teens have jobs,kids or something could have happened at home and you need to know right away so you can be informed thats why i feeel you should not aband phones from school."

"I fell like we should be able to carrie our cell phones outside as well as inside the school building.Why cant we carrie our cell phones? The teachers carrie their's, and they be on them more than the students do.I fell like if they wont us not to have cell phones inside the building, they should do the same thing."

"It really isnt being used except for emergency like if you just got jumped at school. Or into it with an adult or if u just not feeling well an the teacher wont let you use there phone. . . . Cell phones is not th problem its the people that dont know how to act."

"I think that they shouldn't be banned because anything could happen and the faculty may not handle the situation like it should have. Somebody could get tranded or hurt . . ."

"I think also that students just shouldn't be on the phone being disrespectful and rudely to the teacher and the class."

"Cellphones is a way of communicating....Example... How can you win a basketball game without communicating...Let's just say that Life is like a basketball and cell phones are the communicators..."

I suppose I should be proud to see that my tax dollars go to molding young minds like these. Life is indeed like a basketball, and you can't win a basketball game without communicating. Therefore, I hate paying taxes.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Quick Political Thoughts

1. I think that the President has basically given up. He's phoning it in. I guess I'm ok with that. Has there ever been a more boring SOTU?

2. Barrack Obama is basically the Paris Hilton of politics. What has he done?

3. Al Gore will win the "Best Documentary" Oscar. His speech will be very annoying.

4. I vote to create gridlock. This means that in 2008 I'll probably end up voting for a Republican, which makes me feel dirty. (Of course, voting for John Kerry made me feel dirty too.) Who should I cheer for? The Mormon? That uber-conservative Brownback d-bag? That first-amendment stomping bastard John McCain? I suppose I could vote for Rudy. He actually reminds me a bit of Bill Clinton.

5. Bush's health care proposal was super-lame. It would possibly solve a minor problem while ignoring the elephant in the room. Plus it has no chance of being passed. I was planning on writing a longer analysis of it, but it's not worth it.

If you want to read more, click here.

6. Finally, a science note. The Simpsons lied to me. The Coriolis Effect is bullshit.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Live-Action Miller Lite Ad

Today I left the house during half time of the Bears/Saints game to grab some snacks and beer at the 7/11 down the street. It's a 3 block walk from my apartment out onto Sheffield and down to the corner. As I turned on to Sheffield a veritable river of people began to trickle out of the apartment complexes and townhouses, all with the same idea. They were also headed to the 7/11, also to purchase beer.

I quickly realized that time was now of the essence. I had a small head start as I don't really care about the Bears and had left a bit early, but the sidewalks in front of me were quickly filling up. If all of these people managed to get there before I did, I would almost certainly not make it back for the start of the second half. So I did what anyone would do in this situation.

I ran.

And you know what? As soon as I started running, about 10 other guys started running. And it spread. This is unfortunate, as I am not fleet of foot. I thought that the social taboo on running for an actual purpose would keep everyone else in line (You know how people look funny when you know that they're running late or about to miss a bus or something, and so they either run or they do a really lame fast walk? Yet the sight of these people running in teeny-tiny running shorts wouldn't even cause you to bat an eye.) but instead I played the bellwether and broke the seal, so to speak.

I arrived too late. The beer fridge contained only 40s and cheap wine, and the snack area had been decimated by underfed, over-served Midwesterners. I purchased a lackluster TGI Fridays frozen appetizer and made for the corner liquor store, where a regular was directing traffic:


Domestics in the back, imports in the front, cigarettes behind the counter. Have your IDs ready people, let's keep this moving!



He didn't work there, he just wanted to get his Fat Tire a little sooner.

I secured my adult beverages just as the second half kick-off was taking place after what must have been the fastest NFL half-time in history. Once everyone saw that the second half was underway, the race was on once again as everyone took off like the Vick brothers in search of a Waffle House.

I got home just in time to see Dominic James knock down two free throws to beat Pitt, and in time to see the Bears completely dominate the game. These next two weeks are going to be infuriating for a Packer Fan in Chicago. But at least I got my snacks and my beer. And I feel like I earned them.

For all you Bear fans out there, courtesy of MDS and Deadspin, here's what that guy was looking for:



Here's Don Majkowski not crossing the line of scrimmage:



...

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Dumbest Political Issue of The Day

In what city was the hamburger created?


MADISON — A Texas lawmaker says she has no plans to back away from her proposed resolution declaring Athens, Texas, as the hamburger's birthplace.

"It's not just our claim and what we say," said Republican Rep. Betty Brown. "(The history) is very well documented."

Rep. Tom Nelson, D-Kaukauna, said on Tuesday learned of Brown's resolution and said he plans to introduce his own resolution declaring Seymour as the hamburger's true home."Seymour is the hamburger capital, period," he said Tuesday. "Texas must be confused with Manwich."

The history of the hamburger is somewhat murky....

Newton and Leibnitz invented the calculus independently of each other at pretty much the exact same time. This is well accepted and fairly common knowledge. But for some reason, these two idiot politicians can't comprehend the possibility that people in two different crappy cities came up with the idea of putting grilled meat on a bun at around the same time. And it's up to the legislative process to figure it out. Awesome.

Friday, January 19, 2007

You can keep your weed in there.

What is dumber?

A. Intercepting a pass on 4th down when simply batting the ball down would ensure victory, showing off instead of taking a knee, getting stripped, and giving your opponent a first down. And then challenging the fumble call, which was obviously a fumble, and costing yourself a timeout.

B. Putting your weed in a secret compartment in a water bottle, and then trying to sneak a water bottle, yes that's right, a water bottle, through airport security. And then, when they ask you to get rid of your water bottle, putting up a stink about it.

It's a close call, I admit, but I think that smuggling drugs (or smuggling a container that contained drugs at some point) in a container that is guaranteed to be searched by security might be the stupidest thing that an athlete has ever done. Way to go Mr. Mexico.

So, who will win this weekend?

I have no idea. I've been terrible at predicting games this year, but I think I have everything figured out.

In the AFC, I'm pretty sure that the Patriots will win. Even though the Colts defense seemed to have miraculously improved, I'll take the 16 weeks of data points indicating that they suck over the last two weeks in which they played against bad offenses. I also have a long-standing theory that the Colts will eventually lose in the playoffs because refs keep their whistles in their pockets during playoff games, which allows the Pats' DBs to beat up Marvin and the WR crew.

And really, are you seriously going to pick the Colts over the Patriots? Not a chance, right?

In the NFC the Bears will win. You see, in the winter, dome/warm weather teams do not win in cold weather venues. It doesn't happen. It's supposed to snow on Sunday too.

To make matters worse for the Saints, their defense does not force turnovers. I believe they have 13 picks on the year, meaning that they are not in a position to exploit one of Chicago's greatest weaknesses. Maybe the Saints will be able to simply outscore the Bears, but I think that the weather will bail Chicago out.

This will set up one of the most storied rivalries in Super Bowl history: The NFC North v. The New England Patriots. In 1986 the Chicago Bears routed the New England Patriots, then in 1997 the Green Bay Packers defeated the Bill Parcells Patriot squad. We're due for another matchup. (And we can look forward to another Packer Super Bowl next decade.)

So take the Pats, the Bears, and remember, if you're going to sneak pot onto a plane, go with a phanny-pack. No one ever suspects the lame weirdo with the phanny-pack.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Once again, The Onion putting things into perspective.

Nation's Gays Demand Right To Library Cards

WASHINGTON, DC—In another salvo in the ongoing civil-rights battle, the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation announced the formation of a broad new campaign supporting full library-card privileges for homosexuals.

...

But opponents say the prospect of same-sex book-borrowing endangers the moral fiber of the country's most sacred reading traditions.

"What's next—gay people at the DMV, being granted licenses to drive cars?" Rev. Brian Peters of Verona, WI said. "Will we be soon seeing gays and lesbians at our local post offices, being sold stamps and mailing packages? We must protect our nation's public institutions from relentless encroachment by those who threaten our values."

Other critics say they oppose such a move not out of prejudice, but to maintain the sanctity of a bedrock community institution.

"No one's preventing gays from using libraries—they're fully welcome to walk into them, browse all they want, and sit down and flip through any book they choose, even in the reference section," said Sen. Jim Bunning (R–KY), one of several conservative legislators who has vowed to draft a constitutional amendment that would define library book-lending as a contract between a library and a heterosexual reader. "But to issue them the same library cards as a regular American citizen would demean what our nation's library cards stand for."

...

Some moderates who believe the country is not yet ready for full homosexual library-card access are proposing to state and local lawmakers a compromise solution in the form of a limited-access "Short-Term Government Literacy Loan" card. While the card would grant some borrowing privileges, it would have higher late-return penalties, shorter borrowing times, and may not be recognized as valid by all libraries within the municipality in which it was issued.

Living each day as if it were your last.

I keep seeing variations of this line on emails or those "successories" posters that boring people hang up in their offices or whatever. "Live each day as if it were your last but dream as if you'll live forever" or some other such nonsense. Here's my question, if you really had one day left to live, what would you do? Here is a list of what I think would be common answers to this questions:

-Spend time with loved ones.

-Finalize will, funeral arrangements etc.

-Go out for a big steak and a $200 bottle of wine.

-Tell off boss.

-Go skydiving/bungee jumping/mountain climbing etc.

-Get high and get a prostitute.

-Go to church and pray.

-Shoot somebody.

There are probably a lot of other ways that people would answer this question. But the point is that none of these are good things to do every day (Except eating the steak. And maybe spending time with loved ones. And probably... You get my point.). My guess is that almost nobody, even the people that have this line in their "about me" section of their MySpace profiles, would answer "I'd do exactly what I'm doing right now." (Especially since right now, you're sitting at a computer reading this here blog).

Sometimes we have to do boring or difficult or unpleasant things today so we can be happier tomorrow. We go to work today so we can buy a house next year. We sleep tonight so we can be well-rested for tomorrow. We eat a lean, 6oz chicken breast, broccoli and a salad today so we can be fit and have low cholesterol in 5 years. Living each day as if it were your last is for suckers.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Diamond Age on the Small Screen

Neal Stephenson's The Diamond Age is scheduled to become a six-hour miniseries on the Sci-Fi Channel:

SCI FI Channel unveiled a new slate of programs in development, which includes shows from executive producers George Clooney, Darren Star and Mark Burnett. SCI FI made the announcement Jan. 12 at the Television Critics Association's winter press tour in Pasadena, Calif.

Diamond Age, based on Neal Stephenson's best-selling novel The Diamond Age: Or a Young Lady's Illustrated Primer, is a six-hour miniseries from Clooney and fellow executive producer Grant Heslov of Smokehouse Productions.

When a prominent member of society concludes that the futuristic civilization in which he lives is stifling creativity, he commissions an interactive book for his daughter that serves as a guide through a surreal alternate world. Stephenson will adapt his novel for the miniseries, the first time the Hugo and Nebula award winner has written for TV.


Of all the Stephenson novels that could have been selected for adaptation into a series, I find this choice to be the most surprising. It's very surreal (especially "the drummers") and adapting it for the screen will be challenging.

It's also frickin sweet.

(Hat tip, Jodi.)

Quick Football Notes

1. I thought that the officiating was terrible in almost every game, especially the Colts/Ravens game. I wouldn't go so far as to say that the refs cost the Ravens the game, (The Ravens did plenty of work in that vein.) but the quick whistle on Ed Reed's pick, as well as the bogus holding penalty on Ogden cost them big time.

2. What is more classless?

a. To mock an opponents "sack dance" after defeating that opponent.

b. To have a "sack dance."

The Chargers should just be glad that the Pats didn't combine Merriman's "sack dance" with mock steroid injections.

3. Martyball is dead. By the way, if it's late in a game and you are up by 1 point, and you score a TD to go up by 7, you should always go for a two point conversion, because the cost of missing it is very low, and the reward for making it is very great. No coaches ever do this.

4. Rex Grossman plays terribly against good defenses, but thanks to the Colts and the Saints, there aren't that many good defenses left in the playoffs. The Pats present the only big threat (unless the Colts really have pulled off one of the greatest defensive turn-arounds of all time), and they're not even a great defense.

5. I'm sure that you've heard this by now, but Favre cancelled his country club memberships.

6. Tom Brady's "winnerness" had nothing at all to do with the Patriots' win. In fact, Brady didn't even play very well and was basically bailed out by Marty and by an incredible San Diego fumble. I'm sick of hearing about how Tom Brady just finds ways to win games. Sometimes you just get lucky.

7. Like, for instance, Peyton Manning. He played horribly in the Colts' win over the Ravens. Is he now just "finding ways to win games?"

Update: Ahren points out, correctly, that I am wrong about #3. It is in fact smarter to just kick the PAT and make the opponent try to convert the low-percentage 2-point conversion. William Krasker's dynamic programming model agrees as well.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Cryptonomicon Quotes

My favorite book is Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon, and my favorite character is Bobby Shaftoe. Catallarchy has a nice collection of Cryptonomicon quotes, including one of my personal favorites:

“Just kill the one with the sword first.”

“Ah,” Reagan says, raising his waxed and penciled eyebrows, and cocking his pompadour in Shaftoe’s direction. “Smarrrt —you target them because they’re the officers, right?”

“No, fuckhead!” Shaftoe yells. “You kill ’em because they’ve got fucking swords! You ever had anyone running at you waving a fucking sword?”


And this paragraph regarding evolution isn't bad either:

Let’s set the existence-of-God issue aside for a later volume, and just stipulate that in some way, self-replicating organisms came into existence on this planet and immediately began trying to get rid of each other, either by spamming their environments with rough copies of themselves, or by more direct means which hardly need to be belabored. Most of them failed, and their genetic legacy was erased from the universe forever, but a few found some way to survive and to propagate. After about three billion years of this sometimes zany, frequently tedious fugue of carnality and carnage, Godfrey Waterhouse IV was born, in Murdo, South Dakota, to Blanche, the wife of a Congregational preacher named Bunyan Waterhouse. Like every other creature on the face of the earth, Godfrey was, by birthright, a stupendous badass, albeit in the somewhat narrow technical sense that he could trace his ancestry back up a long line of slightly less highly evolved stupendous badasses to that first self-replicating gizmo–which, given the number and variety of its descendants, might justifiably be described as the most stupendous badass of all time. Everyone and everything that wasn’t a stupendous badass was dead.

Racial Discrimination in Sports?

From Greg Mankiw:

Studies of sports teams suggest that racial discrimination is, in fact, common and that much of the blame lies with customers. One study, published in the Journal of Labor Economics in 1988, examined the salaries of basketball players. It found that black players earned 20 percent less than white players of comparable ability. The study also found that attendance at basketball games was larger for teams with a greater proportion of white players. One interpretation of these facts is that, at least at the time of the study, customer discrimination made black players less profitable than white players for team owners. In the presence of such customer discrimination, a discriminatory wage gap can persist, even if team owners care only about profit.


But...

A similar situation once existed for baseball players. A study using data from the late 1960s showed that black players earned less than comparable white players. Moreover, fewer fans attended games pitched by blacks than games pitched by whites, even though black pitchers had better records than white pitchers. Studies of more recent salaries in baseball, however, have found no evidence of discriminatory wage differentials.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Closing Wolski's, Basketball, and Book #1

I closed Wolski's the other night. Wolski's is a local hole-in-the-wall that had the brilliant idea of handing out bumper stickers that say "I Closed Wolski's" to everyone that is at the bar when they shut down for the night. Closing Wolski's has become a sort of right of passage to Milwaukeeans. The bumper stickers are brilliant for two reasons really. The first is that they practically insure that everyone that goes to Wolski's stays until close, and additionally, a lot of people will come from other bars for "one last round at Wolski's before bar time." The second reason is that the bumper stickers are key advertising. If you drive around Wisconsin, they are ubiquitous. I've seen them all over outside of the state too. There was even one plastered behind a bar I went to in Galway, Ireland. I think that, sadly, this was the first time I had ever closed Wolski's. But I'm not sure. I don't always remember when I close bars... That's odd...

I've been watching a lot of basketball lately. This is strange because, historically, I've been a huge hater of basketball. It always struck me as incredibly boring. Every game seemed to go approximately the same way. Both teams score easily for three quarters so that by the beginning of the forth, the score is something like 72 to 70. To me this translates to zero-zero rendering the first three quarters moot. So the forth quarter should be exciting, right? Until the timeouts begin anyway. Well, for some reason, in spite of all of this, I've been getting into it a little bit lately. The Badgers have been dominant and are ranked third, their highest ranking ever. I guess it's easier to get into a sport when your team is kicking ass. Especially when they have a guy that looks like Chris Rock on the team. I know this has been beaten to death, but I still laugh every time I see Kammron Taylor.


Top: Kammron Taylor, Wisconsin Basketball Star. Bottom: Chris Rock, Comedian










Additionally, the Bucks were doing pretty well until Michael Redd and Mo Williams and that guy with no eyebrows got hurt. They were a game over 500, which put them at... Last place in their division. But I'm told that the division is tough so that's still pretty good. Right? They've now dropped like four straight. So... They're still last in their division. Anyway, now they're trying to fill the gap left by Redd and Williams with this little peanut named Earl Boykins. He's like 5 inches shorter than me, but apparently he's pretty good, and can score, which is important. I like that.

I promise never to post about Basketball ever again. I'm really sorry about that.

I finished the first book in my 25-Book Challenge. It's called Stumbling on Happiness, by Daniel Gilbert. I swear, it's not a self-help book. I found it on the recommended books on the Marginal Revolution blog. Gilbert's premise is that humans are not very good at predicting what will make us happy in the future. Basically, when we try to imagine what some point in our future will hold, most of us make certain mistakes. Gilbert identifies these mistakes and spells them out. He references all sorts of material, empirical and anecdotal, to support his thesis. It actually contains some pretty heavy stuff but the book comes across as completely light-hearted. Gilbert writes a lot like Malcolm Gladwell, which is a huge compliment. Sometimes, though, he shifts from Gladwell to Dave Barry, and sometimes that Barry silliness doesn't seem to fit quite right. Overall, it was really good and I would definitely recommend it.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

The Death of Blu-Ray and HD-DVD.

Since the invention of the phonograph, recorded home entertainment has followed a consistent model. You have your "software" part, which holds the recorded information, and your "hardware" part which decodes and plays the information. This was necessary due to technological limitations which required the hardware to be rather large, and the software to be rather large as well. Over time software has been getting smaller. Records were huge, 8-tracks and tapes were smaller, CDs, due to their thin nature, are debatably smaller. This has also been the case with video media. VHS and Beta (and Laser Disk) were all very large, DVDs are smaller. Quality has increased as well. CDs sound better than records (although former co-blogger Ryan actually makes a compelling case that this is not necessarily so), and DVDs look better than tapes.

Recently, Apple (and other MP3-player manufacturers) destroyed this model for music. Now, instead of having a software component and a hardware component, the two are combined into one, extremely small unit. Software is acquired, more or less, out of thin air, and it is, for all practical purposes, immaterial. CDs are basically obsolete. They may hang on as a niche, but their days are numbered.

Despite this development in music, much techie-talk surrounds the next generation DVD formats of Sony's Blu-Ray vs. the competing HD-DVD. Sony put Blu-Ray technology into their most recent game system, the Playstation 3, and if memory serves, Microsoft is embracing HD-DVD. I'm telling you that neither of these will catch on, and that we all witnessed the true winner yesterday: Apple.

Apple's new "Apple TV" service apparently lets you effortless play any content from your computer (presumable through iTunes) on your TV, in 720p Hi-Def. And, as you can download an ever-increasing amount of movies and TV through Itunes, I see no reason that this technology cannot completely eliminate the DVD player, just as the iPod has basically eliminated the CD player.

Even though Blu-Ray and HD-DVD may offer superior visual quality now, for a product like Apple TV, increasing bandwidth and increasingly cheap storage will allow better and better downloadable content which will quickly match and surpass the two disc formats.

With Tivo-esque contraptions and On-Demand cable offerings this transformation is well underway, but this Apple product will probably provide the ultimate tipping point. It is only a matter of time before we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want, with the push of a button. That time is now February.

And the new iPhone isn't bad either.

Monday, January 08, 2007

The Wonderful Thing About Tiggers...

Is Tiggers are badasses:

"I attempted to get in a shot with Tigger when he stuck his arm out and I figured the photographer could get a shot with two little guys," father Jerry Monaco told The Early Show co-anchor Hannah Storm. "At that point he started bumping into me and I apologized and I figured it was hot out and give him some space. At that point I backed off and went to take some home video of the rest of the family and, out of nowhere, he sucker-punched my son."



If you actually watch the video it's really not very serious, and I'd wager that a lawsuit is probably in the works. Of course, no amount of money is worth being forever labeled as "the kid who got beat up by Tigger."

(Hat tip, Nicole)

It’s rough getting old

I threw a little engagement party for my roomie and his fiance on Saturday. I cooked (read: opened some cans) a Mexican feast and blended some Margaritas. It's now Monday morning and I still have a slight headache. Gone are the days when I could stay out all night and still wake up at 8:00 am and run ten miles. I spent most of yesterday on my couch. I got to work on my 25 book challenge by putting a dent in The Singularity is Near. I also watch a faux-documentary called Who Killed the Electric Car? It tells the story of an electric car that GM made and sold in the 1990s, and then abruptly killed. According to the movie, they were affordable, produced zero emissions, were fast and cool, could turn invisible, and made anyone who drove them irresistible to hot babes. Like most movies in this genre, you have to put some effort into separating the fact from the propaganda. This movie made it difficult to do this because it included testimony from several A-List celebrity A-holes that I think are insane and consider every word out of their mouths to be fiction. Martin Sheen narrates. Mel Gibson appears sporting a Charles Manson beard. Interestingly, this weekend's NYT had this article about GM Unveiling it’s new electric concept car.

DETROIT - The company that supposedly killed the electric car will unveil a sleek new electric vehicle that someday could ease America's addiction to gasoline at the Detroit auto show. The Volt has a battery-powered electric motor that can run the car for up to 40 city miles on a single charge...

But the Volt is limited by battery technology and GM has no date for it to be available to the public. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner was expected to announce Sunday that the company is committed to getting the Volt to market as quickly as possible.

GM officials stressed that development of the battery pack is critical to the concept vehicle reaching showrooms, and the technology likely won't be available until 2010 or 2012.

So basically, they have a new battery-powered car... but no batteries.

Anyway, it was an okay movie if you like the faux-documentary genre.

As long as I'm talking about movies, I feel it is my duty to tell you to not go see The Good Shepherd. Wow, that movie sucked. It has all the signs of a great movie-Bob De Niro directing his first film since the awesome Bronx Tale, Matt Damon starring and wearing cool glasses, Alec Baldwin in a supporting role, a couple hot chicks... But the end result was outright awful. There are like 15 different plots going on, all boring, and Matt Damon only says 15 words in the entire movie. It's three hours of too-long camera shots and random crappy operatic singing. It's a spy movie with absolutely no suspense. I seriously give it zero stars. It was that painful. Don't go see it.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Google Search of the Day

Someone got to this blog by running this search:

packers bears grossman sodomy


About what, exactly, they were hoping to find, we can only speculate.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Blogroll update

I decided to update our blogroll a bit. It had gotten pretty cluttered. There were quite a few links that haven't worked in months... or years. So they're gone. I also have a few links I added. Here are some links you should check out:

One of my classmates, Texas Scott, had a well popular blog for the last few years. He has discontinued it but he selected what he thought were his best posts and compiled them together here. Scott got a book deal out of his blog. Na 'bad.

My friend Amanda has taken her myspace blog more public here. Amanda is a pretty interesting girl. She teaches in a French immersion high school in the hood, and she's a model. And she seems to drink a lot. Most of her early posts are copied and pasted from her old myspace blog, but well worth reading. I like this one, about the time that Badger football star Booker Stanley stole $3 from her at Taco Bell not long before he was convicted of several felonies.

I also added a few blogs I found by way of Ace Cowboy: Jason Mulgrew and [redacted]. Both these guys have made me laugh out loud more than once. Mulgrew is the epitome of the blog success story. If there is such a thing. I'm sure they'll make a TV movie about him someday. The story of a regular Joe that, through self-depreciating humor and the interweb, became one of People Magazine's 50 Hottest bachelors.

We should all be so lucky.

Resolutions (some broken already).

One of my new year’s resolutions is to start writing stuff on this thing again. Not every day, but a couple times a week. Since I’ve already failed in one out of my five resolutions, I thought I should write something. Without further ado, here are my new year’s resolutions:

1. Get back in shape. This is of course the grand-daddy of resolutions. Who doesn’t make this one? (For the last 8 years or so I’ve fallen in and out of shape. I ran cross-country my first year of college. I was pretty mediocre—just under 27 minutes for 8k was my best—but I was pretty fit nonetheless. I was probably the skinniest I’ve ever been. I think at 5’10” I was tipping the scales at a buck-sixty or so, which, by the way, was too fat to be a runner according to my coach. But screw that jerk, I have big shoulders, gimme a break. I suffered a knee injury during track season that ended my running career and then I got fat. Then I got tired of being fat. Then I tried out for the swim team. I got really fit again. I think “jacked” would be the word. I got sick of swimming after two seasons because, well, swimming sucks. So I got a little fat again. Then I started doing triathlons off and on. Fit, fat, fit, fat. And so it goes. I did Ironman in ’04 and sometime during the training, or maybe during the race, I got a stress fracture in my shin. Then I became an attorney. I havn’t been able to get back in very good shape since.) Before, I was sort of an all-or-nothing workout guy. A two-mile run wasn’t worth it. Two workouts per week? I might as well do none. I only worked out at all if I could work out hard and often. My new plan is different than past plans. I’m going to focus on weights and only do about four aerobic workouts per week. I think this is more manageable than the varsity sport and Ironman routines I’ve done in the past.

2. Read some books. I think I read about five books in 2006. Lame, I know. But I was busy and I drink a lot. A few years ago, Paul did this thing called “The 50 Book Challenge,” in which he read 50 books in a year. I think some of them were economics textbooks. Paul is smarter (read: nerdier) than I am so I invented my own “challenge.” I call it “The 25 Book Challenge.” So I’m going to read 25 books this year. Here’s where I need your help. I have a list of books I want to read this year. Right now I’m reading “The System of the World” by Neal Stephenson and “The Singularity is Near” by Ray Kurzweil. I think they’re both over 800 pages. I have a few other pretty substantial books on my list too. If I’m going to finish this thing, I’m going to have to pick some books under 300 pages or so. Any recommendations?

3. Don’t consume red meat, fried foods or beer during the week. Anything still goes on the weekends. I broke this one last night when I went to a restaurant called Carnevore (No, I don't know why they spell it wrong) with the folks. Yeah, believe it or not, I ate red meat at a restaurant called “Carnevore.” And I had a few beers. But I still plan on getting back on track with this one. Interestingly, five 6’6” or taller African-American gentleman came into the restaurant. I didn’t recognize any of them as Bucks, but to be honest, I wouldn’t recognize about half the team and didn’t get a really good look at these guys. They could have been Cavaliers too since the Bucks play them tonight. Is it wrong of me to assume that very tall black guys eating $80 kobe steaks (note: I had a standard $35 regular cow steak and it was awesome) are professional basketball players?

4. Become a homeowner. I’m looking at condos downtown. I keep hearing that it’s a buyer’s market or something. My current lease ends on April 30th. So I'm going to try tofind a cool place in the next few months.

5. Write more garbage on this blog.

So that’s 2007 for me. Any of youse guys have New Year’s resolutions for aught-seven?

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

The Boise State Game

I'm still not sick of highlights from the Boise State-Oklahoma game.

Hussein

1. I am against capital punishment, especially in my own country. The government is bad at everything and it should not have the power to kill its citizens.

2. This was a foreign government (more or less), but to some extent I agree with Christopher Hitchens that his was basically a lynching.

3. I will not weep for Hussein. That said, the fact that you execute an evil man does not excuse capital punishment. If you execute willy-nilly you will kill some evil men. The problem is that you will also off some good men, and you have no right to do so. The problem with capital punishment has nothing to do with the actual execution, and everything to do with the system for determining who will be executed. We (theoretically) slant that system towards finding innocence, and for good reason. It limits the government's power. You might, in theory be able to design a functioning system, at least on paper. However, once you give the government the right to kill it will probably look to expand that right, and to subvert the protections that you have enacted. It is what government does.

4. I have two pragmatic objections to this execution:

a. I suspect that keeping Hussein in prison could have been useful for intelligence-gathering purposes.

b. We are trying to create stability in the Middle East. As a rule, large public executions, without regard to any moral concerns, do not foster stability.

Saddam Hussein deserved to die. No one is qualified to kill him.

And make sure that you read Hitch's full piece.

Top 10 Good Things About Being A Fan Of The Detroit Lions

Let's cheer up MDS and all of my other friends from Michigan

10. You did get to watch Barry Sanders every week.

9. You always have your January's open.

8. If you're into scouting potential draft picks a la Mel Kiper, you need only examine the wide receivers.

7. You probably enjoyed "Webster" on deeper level.

6. You do have good basketball, baseball, and hockey teams. The Red Wings are still good right? They were last time I paid attention to hockey. Which was in 1995. On a Sega Genesis video game.

5. You can always get a ticket.

4. National Thanksgiving Day audience elicits unprecedented levels of nation-wide sympathy never experienced by fans of Brewers, Clippers, or Browns.

3. Proximity to Canada ensures that Lions' broadcasts are inflicted on actual Canadians, making them overconfident in their puny CFL and allowing America to retain football superiority.

2. Let's face it, naked driving is pretty damn funny, and an NFL coach naked driving is absolutely hysterical. And I'm willing to bet that the Wendy's employee deserved everything that he/she got.

1. You could be a Bear fan. Detroit fans may be cursed, but Bear fans are evil. And don't even get me started on Viking fans. Pound for pound the worst fans in the NFL with their stupid horn and their stupid dome, their whizzinators and sex boats, their WRs hitting meter-maids and their kickers smuggling heroin. (Remember Donald Igwebuike?) Plus we all know that the best NFL yearbook videos feature bad teams, and say things like "with John Kitna providing newfound stability and an improving defense featuring Dre Bly and Shaun Rogers, the Lions will soon be a force to be reckoned with." My favorite of all time prominently featured Bernie Parmalee.

So cheer up, it could be worse. And remember, Matt Millen may never quit, and the Fords may never fire him, but you can still outlive him.

Abandon all hope, ye who enter here.

We need to have some sort of benefit concert for Lions fans. Or at least a charity ball. This is funny, as long as you're not the punch line.


 
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