Update: Ultimate #4!!

Sorry for the repeated updates, but on a big news day (and it is a BIG news day) ultimate has manged to be the 4th most read article on the NYT. Granted, this is at least in part to the fact that every ultimate players across the nation is looking at it, but I am still really impressed. Hopefully this is one step towards generating more coverage of the most exciting team sport in the world = )

Chrysler Bankrupt, News Broken by Obama

As I talked about last night, it is amazing to me how interwoven Obama is with the operation and running of Chrysler. This is not the pres turning to a titan of industry and telling him to save the company, this is the pres trying to be a direct part of the leadership of private companies.

Ok, all that said, here is the autoblog breakdown of what happened today for Chrysler, with my commentary.

  • Blame it on the creditors – President Obama cited Chrysler's creditors' refusal to accept a debt-for-equity swap as the main reason filing for Chapter 11 was the only option left. (Yes - but the deal was terrible for creditors, and would have royally screwed them. The UAW had to give up some benefits, the creditors would have to have given up over 90% of their debt - I think that was the number).
  • Chrysler divided – 55% will be owned by the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA), 10% shared proportionally between U.S. and Canadian governments, 20% owned by Fiat. (Again, true... but... the VEBA is controlled by the UAW - which means that the UAW will be the new owner of Chrysler. As the VEBA is a pension plan, it wont have any kind of voting control, but still, the pension owns the company: ironic.)
  • Fiat's got goals – Remaining 15% of company will be distributed to Fiat in three 5% increments for meeting the following goals: creating U.S.-built 40-mpg vehicle platform, providing a U.S.-built fuel-efficient engine family and giving Chrysler access to global distribution network. (Honstly, WTF. The economy is going to shit, the company is going bankrupt, and the administration puts in ownership limitations based on "green" car building? What kind of crazy ass time do we live in? Why not make a requirement about performance, and then Chrysler would have to build cars that sell? Autocratic insanity.)
  • Nardelli nixed – Current Chrysler CEO Robert Nardelli will leave after the alliance with Fiat is completed and the company emerges from bankruptcy, though he has stated that he was not asked to leave. (Run man, run)
  • GMAC gets the job – Chrysler Financial has been replaced by GMAC as Chrysler's preferred lender for wholesale and retail transactions. (This is part of the "screw Cerberus" govt. plan, and has no other logical basis.)
  • In-and-Out – Chrysler and the U.S. Auto Task Force estimate the company will emerge from bankruptcy in 30 to 60 days.
  • Dealerships to be cut -- No surprise, but Chrysler's dealer network will be cut down as part of the restructuring. No hard numbers are available yet, but expect details to follow in the next 24 hours. (Buy your 300c's and Chargers while the getting is good)
  • Business as usual – Chrysler will largely run as normal in the interim, being funded by government-backed debtor-in-possession financing; warranties will be honored, suppliers paid and dealers supplied with inventory, but no new vehicles will be built until bankruptcy terms are finalized. (None need to be built - there is a huge backlog of vehicles sitting on lots. They are likely going to be skipping the 2010 model year on some models).
So there it is, the new vision of a UAW owned, politician lead Chrysler.

If anyone actually, honestly, thinks this means they will start building better cars they are out of their mind. The only thing that might save it is the pinnacle of capitalism, the Italian company Fiat.

A sad day.

Update: Ultimate is currently 8th most popular article on NYT

MOST POPULAR

Maureen Dowd is a fool

Never really been a fan of Maureen Dowd, even when she gave the Colby commencement speech for my class. Her latest op-ed is a real class act though.

She imagines what Cheney says in a closed-door meeting about the torture of prisoners.

Here is her take:
“Those insects weren’t even poisonous,” Cheney growled. “Facial slaps? Abdominal slaps? Throwing a naked man into a wall? Kid stuff. Those methods worked. They kept us safe for seven years. Safer than with that delicate Hawaiian orchid in the White House. America is coming across as weak and indecisive. Just when Rummy and I had stomped out that ‘Blame America First’ flower-child culture, Obama has dragged it back, apologizing profusely all over the world for the country he’s running, canoodling with greasy dictators, kissing up to those weasels in Europe, which is only free today because of our military. Friends and foes alike will be quick to take advantage if they think they’re dealing with a Creamsicle.”

The best part is... I mostly agree with fake Cheney. Ok, I dont agree with the 'Blame America' stuff, and I dont think that the Bush administration was at all intelligent at handling international relations, but I do agree with a lot of their methods. And the fact that the current president is a Creamsicle in terms of IR.

As I have stated before, I believe very strongly in individual rights and personal freedom. However, this is a world away from "human rights." In other words, I belive that there are courses of action which relieve you of your personal rights and freedoms. Engagining in terrorist activity is one of those, as is engagin in a war or comitting a crime.

I have no problem with torture, especially when the purpose of that torture is to save innocent lives.

Ultimate in the NYT

Article about women's ultimate in the NYT. Its actually pretty good, though for some reason it showed up under "Fashion & Style - Fitness" rather than "Sports."


Ultimate Frisbee Takes Off

Andrew Davis

DISC JOCKEYING Action in the Canada-United States Ultimate Frisbee match at the world championships last August.

Published: April 29, 2009

WHEN Susan Batchelder first played Ultimate Frisbee, 11 years ago, it was with the ultimate hippies.

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Trying to Catch a Game? (April 30, 2009)

Andrew Davis

Andrew Davis

IN PLAY Women’s participation has helped the sport grow rapidly.

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“It was in Omaha, where I grew up,” said Ms. Batchelder, a 29-year-old fourth-grade teacher who lives in Oakland, Calif. As a senior in high school, she started dropping into a pickup Ultimate game that went on Wednesday nights in town.

“This was Ultimate Frisbee the way it was played in 1975: all men, all of whom had been playing together for the last 20 years, wearing funny outfits,” Ms. Batchelder recalled. She was often one of only two women on the field. “Clancy, he wore his athletic tube socks pulled up to his knees and these short shorts. Another guy, he played in a onesie with rolled-up boxer shorts. They were the funnest, nicest guys around.”

It wasn’t until Ms. Batchelder got to Middlebury College in Vermont that she realized that Ultimate, as players today call it, could be a real sport. She joined the women’s team and learned how to throw a forehand — the quick-flick sidearm throw that is crucial to any advanced game.

Today, Ms. Batchelder is a member of Zeitgeist, one of the top competitive women’s Ultimate teams in the Bay Area. Most players she knows don’t subscribe to the old-school “Burning Man” aesthetic anymore — skirts, colorful costumes, funky clothes. Instead, they’re Patagonia-sponsored athletes, wearing sweat-wicking uniforms, who do plyometrics and strength training. And they’re well equipped with a repertory of throws that include flicks, hammers, scoobers and high-release backhands.

In the last 10 years, Ultimate Frisbee has become one of the world’s fastest-growing sports. It is played in more than 42 countries. Ultimate’s success at the college level, attracting traditional athletes from other sports like soccer and football to compete on its teams, is largely what has elevated the game to this stage.

And the rise of women in Ultimate is another crucial part of the sport’s growth. Watching these women play, one can see the athleticism that has attracted them: gorgeous arcing throws, full-extension dives, insane vertical leaps, and discs pinched out of the sky with the barest of fingertips. “I play pickup most every week, even in the winter,” said Fi Cheng, 33, who works for a solar backpack company in New York. She helps run a spring and fall league in Prospect Park in Brooklyn, and is treasurer of Westchester Ultimate Disc, the biggest Ultimate organization in the metropolitan area. “I’ve noticed a lot more women playing than when I started. There are women in their late 20s or early 30s who have been playing for 10 years now.”

The Ultimate Players Association, the governing body for the sport in the United States, has nearly 30,000 members. Total membership has risen 168 percent since 2003, when the association began breaking down membership statistics by gender. From 2003 to 2008, membership of women nearly doubled, composing about a third of total membership.

Among members, play spans from beginners’ pickup and laid-back summer leagues to elite clubs like Fury, a women’s team in the Bay Area that has won four national championships and the World Ultimate Championships last year in Vancouver.

“While there are significantly fewer female players than male players, most people who play say that the community aspect of Ultimate is a large part of why they play,” said Peri Kurshan, the president of the association’s board of directors. “It’s one of the few sports whose top tier of play makes no distinction between the two gender divisions. The men’s and women’s divisions are showcased equally in all U.P.A. championship events.”

Ms. Kurshan thinks that this aspect of Ultimate is what has allowed for the dramatic rise in the number of girls and women, as well as their success at the top levels of play.

Though the game was invented in Maplewood, N.J., in 1968, modern Ultimate has its epicenters in California and the Pacific Northwest. Its continued expansion is helped by the fact that all you need is a plastic disc and a field.

The seven-on-seven game has the speed and endurance of soccer plus the aerial passing and end-zone scoring of football. Once a player receives the disc, he or she stops running and has 10 seconds to pass it to a teammate; a team scores by completing a pass in the opposing team’s end zone. The beauty of disc flight and the athleticism of the chase have won Ultimate its fans.

“I love to run with purpose, meaning I hate the track, but I like to chase things,” Ms. Batchelder said. “I love the fact that when you’re playing, you make hundreds and thousands of little decisions — where the disc is, where your body is — but they happen without thinking.”

It may be a non-contact sport according to its rules, but Ultimate is hardly free of injuries. The quick cutting and sprinting have made anterior cruciate ligament tears among women players especially common.

JOY CHEN, a 33-year-old software developer in Alameda, Calif., considers herself lucky that herniated disks, a rotator cuff tear and ankle sprains have been the extent of her Ultimate injuries. “We hit each other and the ground pretty hard,” said Ms. Chen, who discovered Ultimate in college after years as a soccer and tennis player. She played with Stanford University’s Superfly, which went on a three-year run as undefeated women’s national collegiate champions.

“At first I thought it was just something you did while in college, but not as a ‘grown-up,’ ” Ms. Chen said. But the eclectic, close-knit community was tough to leave behind, and she continued to play and reinvent herself on various teams after college. Last year she and her teammates on Fury won the World Ultimate Championships.

Women like Ms. Chen are helping to train the next generation of female players. This year, she began coaching the Pie Queens, the women’s Ultimate team at the University of California, Berkeley. Jody Dozono, one of Ms. Chen’s teammates on Fury, was recently flown out for a clinic to help develop the skills of Scorch, the women’s team at the University of Arizona. The U.P.A. now sponsors free women’s clinics and coaching programs around the country, to introduce the sport to new players.

For Ali Fields, 36, a teacher who learned how to play as a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Zimbabwe, teaching the game is part of being in the Ultimate community.

“We do a big sixth-grade project every year, and my model project is about Title IX and women’s sports,” said Ms. Fields, who lives in northern Massachusetts and plays in a summer league in Portsmouth, N.H.

She and a friend have been teaching local students the basics of the game. “What I love is that in coed Ultimate, girls can huck the disc just as well as the boys.”

Jay Leno Says Goodbye to Pontiac

It seems that Jay and I are of a like mind on what is really of value right now from Pontiac, and what will be missed with its passing. What I did not really know (since I was not really around during the Pontiac heyday) was that it actually was an innovator at one point:

Jay Leno Says Goodbye to Pontiac: A Tribute to GM’s Performance Brand

If you haven't heard, Pontiac is no more. In an exclusive story for PM, Jay Leno looks back at the 83-year-old brand, focusing on Pontiac’s historic muscle cars and surprisingly innovative technology.
Published on: April 28, 2009

(Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)

I was always a fan of those "Wide Track" Pontiacs of the '60s. When I was a little kid there was no sexier wheel—either in the aftermarket or in regular production—than the 8-lug Pontiac wheel. I remember first seeing them around 1962 on some of the big Bonnevilles. My mom’s Falcon had four lug nuts, the bigger cars on the road had five lug nuts—these Pontiacs had 8.

Eight!

And the wheels fit onto those beautiful finned brake drums. I thought—that’s just the coolest wheel I’ve ever seen. So I really liked those big Pontiacs. And, of course, what kid didn’t go crazy for the GTO—the car that started the whole muscle car craze. The first few years of the GTO were great. Pontiac went from being the old salesman’s car in the 1940s to the hip cool car of the 1960s. And John DeLorean was a hero of mine when I was a kid. Then he was the center of scandal in the '80s—and I lost interest in everything he did.

8 Lugs
(Eight Lug Nuts)

My favorite period for GM was when each division had its own V8s. Oldsmobile had its own engine for the 442, Pontiac had its 389 and 421 and Chevrolet had the 396 and 427. Then of course in the late '70s and early '80s, they all switched to the same 350 cubic-inch Chevy V8. That was okay, but I liked the brands when they all competed against one-another. Sometimes Olds would be up, and Pontiac would be down. Then Pontiac would win and Buick would come back strong too. It was a much more competitive time between the divisions.

Pontiac had some very innovative technology back then, like the overhead cam six cylinder engine. At the time, overhead cams were unheard of on American cars. The early Tempest used a 195 cid four-cylinder that was basically one half of the 389 cubic-inch V8 block. It had a "rope drive" transaxle—essentially it was a flexible driveshaft. That was pretty cool. Of course there were the Firebird and Trans Am—those were great cars. To me the '69 Firebird with the 400 was the one. Obviously the Firebird was based on the Camaro body. But still, it was unique enough in its own right. I was never a big fan of the Smokey and the Bandit, big-chicken-on-the-hood Trans Am. I understood why they were popular but I liked the more technically innovative cars, like that early Tempest.

Pontiac was a great brand.

I think GM brought back some performance in the last couple years with the Pontiac G8—its a real sport sedan. I liked the last re-incarnation of the GTO too. I thought it was smart, powerful and a grownup driver's car. Unfortunately it didn’t have a lot of the hood scoops and racing stripes some might have wanted. It didn't look enough like a GTO and it was probably priced a little too high. They let me borrow one when it first came out—it was a terrific car.

But I guess if a brand had to go, it probably had to be Pontiac. I understand why they have to do it. You take your biggest divisions and you keep those. These days there are just too many car companies chasing too few customers and not enough to differentiate between the marques. GM already has a very exciting car—the Chevrolet Corvette. And if you need another one, you've got the Camaro. So really, GM was just competing against itself. I’m not an accountant or an automotive executive, but I’d guess if GM built another Firebird they’d only take sales away from the Camaro. Its just redundancy.

But I’d like to see the Pontiac Solstice get saved and brought back as a Chevy. It's fast, comfortable, fun and affordable. I think GM is taking the right steps now so I think they’ll come out of this in good shape. Cadillac is making world-class cars and Buick has become the number one brand in the 2009 JD Power Dependability Study. I think GM has the quality product. It’s just a matter of getting the word out.

Govt. Control

Reading assignment: this article from the NYT.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/04/30/business/30auto.html?_r=1&partner=rss&emc=rss&pagewanted=print

It struck a cord with me as something that has gone deeply and terribly wrong. It is wrong because in the article it is clearly accepted that the US Government has just as much right to make decisions, give opinions, and decide what is best for Chrysler as the management of Chrysler does, or the bondholders do. In fact, from the tone of the article it is quite clear that the administration, and Obama himself, are closely and directly involved in the operations and details of the collapse of Chrysler.

While some say this is justified because of the extraordinary circumstances, never before has the US Administration been so interwoven with the fabric of American business. We are leaning dangerously close to the authoritarian style socialist state of Atlas Shrugged: and just as in the book, it is all in the name of "the people."

In mining, there is a term for mining out just the most profitable sections of the ore in order to make the quickest buck. It is known as "high grading," a term which is also applied in mining to outright theft. The long-term effects of high grading are the closure of the mine: the remaining ore is not of high-enough value to keep operating, so the mine has to close.

I believe the period we are in today is a period of moral and economic high-grading. We are selling out our best assets, and using them to try and cover up what has gone wrong. We take out trillions of debt upon the long-term value the US government has built up by being the world's best borrower, and the world's strongest economy. We decry greed, profit, achievement, personal wealth and all of the other virtues upon which this country has been built in order to try and establish a moral high-ground where we feel as though we are rectifying a wrong. The very fact that that wrong was brought upon us by the opposite of those virtues, by the very moral voice which cries out against Wall Street, against personal distinction can be obliterated by mining up and selling off our virtues.

There was a line of thinking, post-modernism, which claimed that the governments and the corporations of the world were working together to market, advertise, mislead and lie to the public in such a way that the public became a massive unthinking consumer. The onslaught was seen to be so complete, that few if any could see that behind it lay the evil corporations and governments. This has of course been proven entirely wrong. It is not governments and corporations who want to hide the truth from the individual, it is the individual who seeks to hide themselves from the truth. They do this by elevating the worthless as valuable, the pointless as interesting, and a protective, self-reconciling version of reality in place of truth.

The greatest crime will be if those who know better, those who understand, stand by the sidelines and allow this country to be high graded into worthlessness. To allow collective self-protecting revisionist shallow meaningless babble to take the place of real discussion. To allow the mob to replace the democracy.

Twitter

I dont think Twitter has any real value.

And it turns out neither do a lot of other people. 60% of those who sign up for a twitter account close it within a month.

I just read an interesting article from a guy who "gets it." He started off by explaining all the things that aren't true about twitter, such as: "its a bunch of people saying mundane things about their mundane lives," and "its just for people who are full of themselves."

Instead, he says, it is all about the conversation. Its a new way to have a conversation with lots of people, all at the same time. Oh, and its a great way to follow celebrities.

From my perspective, that makes the whole thing totally worthless. A conversation with 100 people is not a conversation at all, it is a lot of different people saying the same shallow things, or commenting in the annoyingly assertive yet intellectually vacant way that has become the norm for any kind of online forum. IMHO I think it is annoying as crap, and you a) learn nothing, and b) risk nothing. It is "discussion" for the lowest common denominator.

As for the "oh its good to follow celebrities" - fine. I dont care about celebrities. I never know anything about them unless it is painfully impossible to avoid knowing, and I am not really that interested in their artificially interesting lives.

So that said, I fully and completely do not see the point of twitter, other than the fact it is a way to pretend to converse with people without having to write more than a single sentence or really think about anything. It provides what so many are looking for online - the comfort of feeling connected, valuable, and loved while not really being any of those things.

Ubuntuing

Writing from ubuntu. Desktop is up and running - though sadly the connection from up here in my room is pretty poor - most likely due to the NetGear usb thumbdrive style adapter - which I have found is pretty poor (especially compared to the Nokia 770 - which picks up more than my laptop).

All that said, good to have my old comp back - and running well.

Now if only Linux played windows games... = )

Crop Circles Kaleidoscope

The post about crop circles reminded me just how cool these things are... for your viewing pleasure:

Swine Flu

forwarded from Ranimal... someone figured out the source of the deadly swine flu...

Picture (Device Independent Bitmap)

Chrysler and the UAW - today or bust

Today is the day for UAW rank and file to vote on approving the concessions hammered out with Chrysler.

Along with a number of benefit cuts, allowing suppliers to assemble in Chrysler factories, and a few other things, the new agreement also bans strikes by the UAW for a period of 3-5 years.

It seems there is someone higher-up in the UAW who realizes that all the jobs will simply be lost if they dont make concessions (well... other than the fact that the socialist state of America would not let that happen, and would probably nationalize the operation.) The vote is today, and it is likely to be close.

Most complex crop circle ever discovered in British fields

Image...
"The most complex, "mind-boggling" crop circle ever to be seen in Britain has been discovered in a barley field in Wiltshire.

The formation, measuring 150ft in diameter, is apparently a coded image representing the first 10 digits, 3.141592654, of pi.

It is has appeared in a field near Barbury Castle, an iron-age hill fort above Wroughton, Wilts, and has been described by astrophysicists as "mind-boggling".

Michael Reed, an astrophysicist, said: "The tenth digit has even been correctly rounded up. The little dot near the centre is the decimal point."

My take? It was probably made by a couple of guys with some wood and string who do this for fun. Actually... hells no. Most of these have evidence that they were not "broken" like a board would do, but actually bent down, in a way that is pretty hard to achieve. Not to mention the kind of amazing detail that goes into something like this - and the fact that they have been highly consistent over the years, and consistently getting more complicated. I am just proud of the fact that they are centered in England.

Obama PLedges 3% of GDP to Science

This is a huge level of spending. It rivals the spending on defense. No idea if it will actually come to be, but the intention is impressive.

I do feel as though there is a place for government leadership in certain areas of science. But I dont think that it should be spending this much. Encouraging the private sector, sure. Cutting restrictions and red-tape to make it easier for the private sector to do research, yeah.

But unless there is something that cannot be achieved through the private sector, due to the nature of its payoff (human space flight is one of these), then i dont think the government should be the one doing the funding.

However - in the current context, it is a lot better to spend it on this than a lot of the junk we have been throwing money at.
http://www.spectrum.ieee.org/apr09/8647

GM to cut 42% of dealerships: 10 ways to profit

Waiting for a new car? Want to buy a new car for $5,000? Believe in salvaging what you can from a shipwreck?

If you answered yes to any of the above, the next year will be good to you. GM is closing 42% of its dealerships. That is a lot. And of course, Saab, Hummer, Saturn and Pontiac are all getting killed off.

Which means, that if you are buying one of these brands from a GM dealership which is going under, you are likely to get one hell of a deal.

Norms pickins' from the wreckage:
1) Sky/Solstice. See previous post, and pic of the fresh for Feb 09 targa Solstice. Sexy.
http://www.likecool.com/Car/SportsCars/Pontiac%20Solstice%20Targa/Pontiac-Solstice-Targa.jpg
2) Pontiac G8 - this is a hell of a car. Basically a Holden Commodore and the new generation of the old GTO - this is a great car. It was already a good deal compared to other cars, and that was at list prices. Step up tothe GXP and you have a 5-series beater.
http://www.houstoncars.org/wp-content/uploads/2008/03/2009-pontiac-g8-gxp.jpg
3) Pontiac Vibe- its a basic little car, but it is essentially a Toyota - and you will be getting it dirt cheap
http://images.dealer.com/nctd/09-vibe-hero.jpg
4) Saturn Outlook - this is one of the Lambda triplets (quadruplets? I forget), and is a nice 7-passenger crossover, if thats your thing. I dont want one, but its a good car, and stacks up well against the competetion.
http://www.houstoncars.org/wp-content/uploads/2007/01/WindowsLiveWriter/de7dd5ff3154_8AE8/2007-saturn-outlook%5B2%5D.jpg
5) Saab 9-3 Turbo X - I specify the X because it is Saab's dyanmic AWD system similar to what is on newer Audi's, Subarus, Mitsubishis and a lot of other sports cars - it can send torque to just one wheel rather than just splitting front to back. Along with more power and a nice car overall, this makes the 9-3 Turbo X a very decent alternative to a BMW 328xi.
2008 Saab 9-3 Aero XWD. Image by Newspress.

6) Saturn Aura (XR) - This is basically a last-gen Opel Vectra - and is quite a good car. Not really a show-stopper, but pretty good all around, and a nice car to drive. Sporty, four doors, relatively well built, decent engine, middle of the pack vs. competitors. Thats saying a lot for a GM. Just remember to get the 252-hp, DOHC 3.6-liter XR.

http://www.dragtimes.com/images/9833-2007-Saturn-Aura.jpg

7) Pontiac G6 Convertible - you can get this cheap and it has a folding hard-top as a party-piece. Actually, I think that is the only reason to own one. Other than that, it is a pretty dull car - I drove one recently and the steering reminded me a lot more of my Expedition than my S4.
http://img.worldcarfans.com/2006/1/medium/2060120.001.1M.jpg
8) Hummer H3/H3T - Please dont shoot me or throw things. This is a nice truck killed by the fact that it looks like its out of style big brothers. The inline-5 is anemic, but the v8 is very nice. Also, go for the H3T as an alternative to a Wrangler or small pickup.
http://www.thelightisgreen.com/Hummer%20H3%20black.jpghttp://www.rpmgo.com/images/hummer_h3t_pickup.jpg

9) Models are thin on the ground at this point. I would go for a... Saab 9-7X Aero??? Its a Chevy Trailblazer made to look like a Saab, and its pretty outdated at this point, but it is almost a Chevy Trailblazer SS, but its a lot more refined, still has 390HP though. Would be a pretty sweet SUV to have.
http://www.autospectator.com/uploads/Saab/2008/9-7X_Aero/9-7x_Aero.jpg
10) Ok, not much left thats worth driving... I would think about a...errr... umm.... possibly...Saturn VUE Redline? Its really not that bad. If you like small crossover SUVs. Which often have less space than sedans - and always less space than wagons. That said, it will look like you are driving an SUV, and with 250hp, at least you will be able to get out of your own way.
http://cache.jalopnik.com/assets/resources/2007/09/saturn_vue_redline_o8.jpg



So thats it. The only 10 decent models currently made by Saab, Pontiac, Hummer, and Saturn combined. Maybe one of them is your dream car. Probably not. But almost certainly there is a hell of deal in there somewhere.

Sky / Solstice

One of the few things I care about any longer for GM is the sad demise of the Sky/Solstice twins. By far the best looking cars that GM has made this decade (and I include the Corvette - they have hardly altered its styling since 1983, though I think it looks good) are the Saturn Sky and Pontiac Solstice. They are small, cheap, light, fun to drive, and damn good looking.

Sadly they came too late in the lives of their brands (and possibly GM) and are too much of a niche product for a socialist peoples-owned Russian.. I mean American car company.

RIP Sky/Solstice, two of the only good cars of GM's last 50 years.
http://z.about.com/d/cars/1/0/I/S/2007_pontiac_solstice_gxp.jpg
http://media.canada.com/b17a5268-e809-4db2-a84b-06fc4c00d03e/saturn_sky_2007_800500.jpg

Pontiac

Might as well add that in GM's death-throes it has confirmed that Pontiac will be killed off by the end of the year.

Hopefully the other brands go with it.

Living Atlas Shrugged: The UAW's agenda

Turns out that as major contributors to the Obama administration and an important voting block, the UAW will be protected by the US Government.

The latest and final plan to save GM was announced on Monday, and it will likely see GM owned by the government with UAW jobs protected by the government.

This is ridiculous.

Bondholders will get screwed over, the American public will get screwed over, and a bunch of lazy labor union workers will get their jobs saved:

"The new GM that would emerge from the restructuring would be 89 percent-owned by the U.S. government and the UAW, provided workers and officials approve the plans. Current GM stockholders would have 1 percent."

Absolutely friggin ridiculous. More and more I feel like I am stuck in Atlas Shrugged.

I hope the bondholders tear GM to shreds. Before, I hoped that it survived, because it has a rich history, and for a while I thought a bright future. Now I hope it is chopped up piecemeal and sold to the highest bidder, hopefully from a non-authoritarian state like our own. I want it dead and gone, and hopefully the UAW with it.

Obama Photo op gone wrong

This one is just so incredibly stupid, it has to be mentioned. The Obama administration set up a photo-op with a low-flying passenger aircraft (Air Force 747) and two F-16s over NYC.

WSJ Video


Bloomberg's comments were the best:

"The good news is it was nothing more than an inconsiderate, badly conceived and insensitive photo op with the taxpayers' money," Bloomberg told reporters.

"They should know how sensitive people would be if they had low-flying planes down around the World Trade Center site," said Bloomberg, adding that he was "furious."

Bike Tire Leasing - a new trend on craigslist:

It seems the new trend on craigslist is to lease components of bikes rather than buy them outright. For example:

Trek 850 Teen or Mens Mountain Track bike - $250 (Dover Mass)


Reply to: sale-dspjm-1141190786@craigslist.org [Errors when replying to ads?]
Date: 2009-04-26, 3:41PM EDT


21 speeds,

Index shifting,

Quick re-lease on front and rear wheels,

Quick re-lease on seat tube,

Colby College Wiki

In the aftermath of the incident on campus, I added an encyclopedic and well documented section on the event to the wikipedia page for Colby college. It has held up relatively well, but something interesting happened over the last couple days.

Someone rewrote the second para from this;
The school has come under criticism for the incident and subsequent administrative handling.[15] The administration has made no formal apology, nor has it suspended the officers involved.[16] The school released misleading information to the press in the aftermath of the incident.[17] For these reasons, Colby College students organized a rally on April 14th in support of the students and demanding action from the administration.[18]

To this:
The school has unjustly come under criticism for the incident and subsequent administrative handling.[14] The administration has made no formal apology, nor has it suspended the officers involved because they do not know all of the facts of the incident and they could get in legal trouble.[15] For these reasons, Colby College students organized a rally on April 14th arguing that excessive force was used. [16] The video, or the accounts from unbiased parties continue to show Colby Security did nothing wrong.

Because the idiot did not have a Wikipedia name, got to run a little lookup on the IP. The result?
IP Address 137.146.114.101
Host 137.146.114.101
Location US US, United States
City Waterville, ME 04901
Organization Colby College
ISP Colby College
AS Number AS6056
Latitude 44°56'16" North
Longitude 69°55'59" West
Distance 7037.37 km (4372.82 miles)

But luckily someone else changed it back to this, which I can live with:
The school has come under criticism for the incident and subsequent administrative handling.[14] The administration has made no formal apology, nor has it suspended the officers involved because the events are still under investigation.[15] On April 15, students organized a rally arguing that excessive force was used. [16]

Personally I find it pretty amusing that there was someone in the administration (ok, it might have been a student) blatantly trying to change the article. And in a very poorly executed and obviously biased way.

Hopefully my Alma Mater can get their sh*t together on this one, because right now all I have seen is a lot of spin and sweeping things under the carpet.

Medvedev dismisses spy chief

Medvedev wants to reorganize the military and cut back from 1,300,000 to about 1,000,000 serving men and women. A lot of cuts would come from the officer corps. This is basically like cutting down on middle-management and to me it seems like a good idea.

His spy chief disagreed, and today was dismissed without warning and without explanation by Medvedev. Gen Korabelnikov had been the head of the GRU since 1997. The GRU is one of two main spy organizations, the other being much smaller, and no, thats not really that odd to have 2, the US has 16:
# Director of National Intelligence
# Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence
# Air Force Intelligence
# Army Intelligence
# Central Intelligence Agency
# Coast Guard Intelligence
# Defense Intelligence Agency
# Department of Energy
# Department of Homeland Security
# Department of State
# Department of the Treasury
# Drug Enforcement Administration
# Federal Bureau of Investigation
# Marine Corps Intelligence
# National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
# National Reconnaissance Office
# National Security Agency
# Navy Intelligence


The best part is though.. and what this has been building up to.. is the logo of the GRU. It is absolutely amazingly fantastic. It basically comes right out of a cheesy 80's anti-Russian war movie. And I love it.

Logo of Main Directorate of Intelligence (GRU)

An evil bat covering the globe. Amazing. I wonder what the symbolism is??

Recycling for Charity.

No, I'm not going soft. And yes, my vision of "recycling" used electronics is selling them on eBay. As I have learned people will amazingly buy just about anything for a few bucks, including completely broken electronics. Why? I have no idea. But I take their money.

If your feelings are less capitalistic, or you want to do a good thing, or you just want to not bother getting 30 questions a day from idiotic buyers asking you information that is listed right on the page,
http://www.recyclingforcharities.com
is another way to go.

You get a tax deduction and all that jazz (like most of us take anything other than the standard deduction anyway), but the best part is that they pay for shipping. You weigh it, you measure it, you print off a shipping label, and you ship it to them.

Nevadans use Metallica against Mormon Crickets

Seriously. Nevadans use Metallica against Mormon Crickets. Exactly like it sounds.

From the WSJ:

TUSCARORA, Nev. -- The residents of this tiny town, anticipating an imminent attack, will be ready with a perimeter defense. They'll position their best weapons at regular intervals, faced out toward the desert to repel the assault.

Then they'll turn up the volume.

Rock music blaring from boomboxes has proved one of the best defenses against an annual invasion of Mormon crickets. The huge flightless insects are a fearsome sight as they advance across the desert in armies of millions that march over, under or into anything in their way.

[A Mormon cricket crosses a highway north of Sparks, Nev., in a recent spring. The 2-inch-long insects often carpet the arid landscape in the spring and summer, devouring vegetation and driving residents to distraction.] Associated Press

A Mormon cricket crosses a highway north of Sparks, Nev., in a recent spring. The 2-inch-long insects often carpet the arid landscape in the spring and summer, devouring vegetation and driving residents to distraction.

But the crickets don't much fancy Led Zeppelin or the Rolling Stones, the townspeople figured out three years ago. So next month, Tuscarorans are preparing once again to get out their extension cords, array their stereos in a quarter-circle and tune them to rock station KHIX, full blast, from dawn to dusk. "It is part of our arsenal," says Laura Moore, an unemployed college professor and one of the town's 13 residents.

In flyspeck villages like Tuscarora, crickets are a serious matter. The critters hatch in April in the barren soil of northern Nevada, western Utah and other parts of the Great Basin, quickly growing into blood-red, ravenous insects more than 2 inches long.

Then they march. In columns that in peak years can be two miles long and a mile across, swarms move across the badlands in search of food. Starting in about May, they march through August or so, before stopping to lay eggs for next year and die.

In between, they make an awful mess. They destroy crops and lots of the other leafy vegetation. They crawl all over houses, and some get inside. "You'll wake up and there'll be one sitting on your forehead, looking at you," says Ms. Moore.

They swarm on roads, where cars turn them into slicks that can cause accidents. So many dead ones piled up on a highway last year that Elko County, Nev., called in snowplows to scrape them off.

Squashed and dying crickets give off a sickening smell. "For us, it's mostly the yuck factor," says Ron Arthaud, a painter here.

Many springs, the infestation is negligible. But every few years, far bigger swarms hatch. From 2003 to 2006, armies of crickets went forth. They smothered the county seat, Elko, causing pandemonium as residents fled indoors. Realtor Jim Winer couldn't, because he had to show homes. "I carried a little broom in my car," he says, "and when I got out, I would sweep a path through the bugs to the house."

Every half-century or so, plaguelike numbers hatch. The critters got their name in the 19th century after a throng of them ravaged the crops of a Mormon settlement. But "I don't think they care about Mormons or Baptists," says Lynn Forsberg, who runs Elko County's public-works program. "I don't think they care about anything."

Including one another. Mormon crickets are programmed to march. Any cricket that falls by the wayside is eaten by others, ensuring that at least some cross the hot, barren stretches well-fed.

Charm to Cricket Menace

"Taking the gong and a club, she faced the army of crickets and beat hard." Read the 1934 article from the Elko Free Press.

Following an unseasonably warm winter, some in Elko County fear a big crop this year of Mormon crickets, known more precisely as shield-backed katydids, or Anabrus simplex. State entomologist Jeff Knight is using computer models to document when the crickets will hatch, and "once they have hatched, we will start going in and mapping where all the crickets are," he says.

Towns in their path aren't waiting to find out. Elko County officials have stored tons of poison bait, which they'll soon start handing out. Placed properly, it can help. In 2003, which was a bad year, residents organized a bucket brigade to lay poison bait in the countryside, luring many bugs to their doom.

But last year Diana Bunitsky sprinkled the bait too close -- right outside the rural diner she runs, Lone Mountain Station -- and crickets swarmed onto her property to gobble it. Ms. Bunitsky ran outside and sprayed them with a garden hose, "but when I looked back, they had gone around and were all over my walls," she says.

Some people use chalk dust to try to smother crickets. Lori Roa, a job counselor in Elko, swears by Lemon Joy. She sprinkles the detergent over her shrubbery. In Jarbidge, Nev., Rey Nystrom, proprietor of the Jarbidge Trading Post, says a neighbor uses a squirt bottle loaded with soapy water. "But you're squirting one at a time, so it's spitting against the wind, so to speak," he says.

Here in Tuscarora, signs are worrisome this spring. Numerous cricket nymphs in the sandy soil are beginning to wiggle, says Elaine Parks, a local artist.

Tuscarora began as a gold-mining town in the late 19th century, and by 1878 had a population of 5,000. But the ore mostly petered out by 1900, and the town has been dwindling ever since, to its current size of just over a dozen. ("But in summer we get up to 20," says postmaster Julie Parks.)

There are hints the community has mixed feelings toward its crickets. The town sports a giant sculpture of a Morman cricket, made out of chicken wire, burlap and glue. For the Fourth of July parade last year, three women dressed up as "cricket witches."

But when a throng of crickets began to advance ominously on Tuscarora in the spring of 2006, Ms. Parks, the artist, dug up a 1934 article in the Elko Free Press about a woman who had used a Chinese gong to drive them away. That led to the modern adaptation of a boombox perimeter.

"Crickets kind of sleep at night, so I would wake up first thing in the morning to get the music on and we would shut the music off at night," Ms. Moore says. Townsfolk cranked up the volume throughout the daylight hours for several days in a row.

"The theory was they'd hate heavy metal," Ms. Parks says. Indeed, locals report, in 2006, at least, many of the bugs stopped in their tracks. Says Mr. Knight, the entomologist: "The vibrations may deter the bugs, but I don't know of any research that says yes or no."

Some of the following year's crickets had hipper tastes, waltzing in to lay their eggs, as many as 100 apiece. In 2008, these eggs hatched right in the middle of Tuscarora. "They were crawling all over the side of the houses and three deep in the yard eating each other," Ms. Moore says.

The nymphs now wriggling in the dry soil near homes are too close to people for poison bait, although residents will probably try some when the hatchlings start to move about.

To fend off the armies marching in from outside, Tuscarora is ready to deploy the boombox defense again. "We'll have to come up with a playlist for the crickets," Ms. Parks says.

They have a fallback strategy, to make even more noise if rock music isn't enough: The townsfolk plan to crank up their lawn mowers and Weed Whackers.

Pic of the day

This is just ridiculous... Its an Italian fighter jock in a Typhoon, and crap is he good/crazy/lucky.

Ubuntu

Despite the fact that a recent attempted installation of Ubunto Hardy Heron onto an older Win2000 machine hangs during the install every damn time....

... I am excited about the new Jaunty Jackalop. There are no major changes other than a new file management system which should speed things up. However, as usual, Ubuntu delivers a nice user experience on top of a well build, crash-resistant, and spyware/adware/bloatware/nagware/malware free life.

Of course, its easy being number 3, because the only reason Ubuntu is "safe" from all those "wares" above is becuase no one cares about writing code to attack 1% of the public.

That said, I have two new hard drives on the way, and I am looking forward to getting my old desktop up and running again with some Ubuntu goodness.

I smell a mistrial

The Pirate Bay 4 were recently sentenced to prison by the Swedish courts. It was, in my opinion, highly dubious due to the way in which the Pirate Bay is structured - there is no way they should be in any way responsible. However....

Turns out the judge in the Pirate Bay case, who decided that the founders should go off to prison for their crimes against copyrights, is a member of copyright lobbying organizations. Amazing.

Here is the article... all I can say is that the trial seems to have been a sham from the start. The best part is, there is no way the verdict will hold up, and the Pirate Bay's political party -- yes, they have one -- is now very very likely (in my opinion) of winning a EU seat in the upcoming elections - the backlash in Sweden over this latest piece of news is quite large.

In the words of Sunde, and one of my favorite quotes of the year.... EPIC WINNING LOL

Pirate Bay judge and pro-copyright lobbyist accused of bias

Defence lawyer demands retrial

Free whitepaper – CRM: Realizing business benefit through industry best practices

The judge in The Pirate Bay trial has been accused of bias, after Sweden's national radio station revealed that Thomas Norström was a member of the same pro-copyright groups as several of the main entertainment industry reps in the case.

Additionally, the judge sits on the board of the Swedish Association for the Protection of Industrial Property (Svenska föreningen för industriellt rättsskydd), which is lobbying for tougher copyright laws.

However, Norström insisted to the radio station that his membership of the various copyright protection groups did not “constitute a conflict of interest”.

Unsurprisingly, one of the defendants’ lawyers in the case has disagreed with that standpoint and this morning called for a retrial.

"I will point that out in my appeal, then the Court of Appeal (Hovrätten) will decide if the district court decision should be set aside and the case revisited," Peter Sunde’s lawyer Peter Althin said today, according to The Local (http://www.thelocal.se/19028/20090423/).

"In the autumn I received information that a lay judge could have similar connections. I sent these to the court and the judge was excluded in order to prevent a conflict of interest. It would have been reasonable to then review this situation as well."

Expert attorney Leif Silbersky told Sveriges Radio that if any of the lawyers representing The Pirate Bay wanted to demand a retrial, it would have to happen “immediately”.

Meanwhile, Pirate Party chairman Rickard Falkvinge accused the copyright lobby of bringing “corruption” to Sweden.

Sunde - aka BrokeP - characteristically used Twitter (http://twitter.com/brokep) to give his views about the latest revelation.

“For those who missed it - the #spectrial judge seems to be working within the copyright lobby. Breaking news right now in Sweden,” he wrote earlier today.

More recently he cockily quipped: “Oh how I love the smell of victory in the morning.”

We asked the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry to comment on Norström's close ties to pro-copyright groups, but at time of writing it hadn't got back to us.

Netflix

1) I have just shut down my Netflix account.
2) I think Netflix is a good service. I was especially impressed with the instant download movies.

These two go together, well, because I am forgetful and I realized I really dont watch many movies. I had netflix for just a couple months, liked it, but never really used it. This was partly because of my failure to send DVD's back, for free, in the pre-adressed envelopes.

To me however, the most impressive feature, and the most important for the future of movies, was the instant streaming. Not a lot of movies are currently included compared to the total Netflix library, but there are enough that if you wanted to, you could sit down and find something good to watch. Movies pop up instantly, have a built in chaper feater, are in high-resolution, and rarely skip out. It is the best streaming service I have used, much stronger than the online offerings from the networks, or the relatively poor quality of Youtube and Hulu.

So bye bye Netflix for now, but maybe I will see you again.

Norm Wants: V6 Camero

The new Chevy Camero is here, and while the v8 versions (of course including the SS) are amazing... this is the one I really want (though not the color):



It is the V6 RS, and with a manual 6spd box, and 306hp it is a recipe for a good time. It still gets 26mpg in the real world, has enough horsies to pull away from almost anything out there - heck my s4 can tear it up and it weighs only a little less but with 250hp.

The RS brings stiffer suspension, and so while I doubt it would corner like the s4, it would still be a contender in the "fun to drive along Rt. 2 in western Mass at 7:00am" category.

Norm wants.

T-38 shoots down F-22

Recently, in a training exercise, a T-38 trainer shot down a F-22. This is a pretty impressive occurrence. I read the story on gizmodo, and then, doing something that I usually avoid, I read some comments. And of course, one of them pissed me off enough to have to write something back. So here it is:

His Comment:

The US does not face any substantial threat in the air when it comes to the technological aspect of the aircraft to warrant investment in the F-22.

The US avionics is miles ahead of any of its prospective rivals in the sky. In today's battle skill coupled with Avionics win. The US pilots are very well trained and are up there second maybe only to the Israelis.

That coupled with the sheer number of aircraft that US can put in the air by means of its carrier fleets negates any advantage the enemy has (Except maybe China, which can also play the game of attrition).

F-22 is an overkill and an extreme strain on budget. Its like you wanna race with a drag race car when the competition is driving ford Taurus :) You can just buy an Aston Martin instead and still run circles around them and it will be cheaper.


My Comment:

Just want to point out that while the F-22 is certainly expensive, there are legitimate threats to US air-superiority.

You need to get your facts straight. It's not a Taurus against a drag car, more of a Taurus against a Fusion. These days, the F-16 and F-15 are old, and we are learning that the rest of the world has caught up. In a number of recent exercises it was found that the F-15/F-16/F/A-18 are all looking at kill ratios of maybe 3-1 against gen 4.5, upgraded gen 4 and in some cases gen 3.5 airframes, depending on missiles, jamming equipment etc.

What you point out about the state of the world was true, in 1999. You are still holding onto an outdated world view, one which was popular and largely correct post-Cold War, but is now simply wrong. Russia is increasingly militaristic, and a further push by NATO into Eastern Europe could spark limited conflict. However, by far and away the greatest threat is China. Now the third largest air-force in the world, they are rapidly building a large number of gen 4.5 airframes, both based on Chinese designs and Russian designs. The entire purpose of their current military expansion is to counter US naval and air power in a possible confrontation over Taiwan. Seemingly, you just did not know about this. Which is fine, but don't then go spouting off about something you dont understand.

So sure, the F-22 is expensive, and we probably dont need 500 of them, but we do need to retain an edge in air-superiority. If that means deterring China from invading Taiwan and engaging the US in war, I would say it is a worthwhile expenditure.

Obama convicted of lying like a Russian

Ok, the actual headline is "Obama Open to Inquiry in Interrogation Abuses," but if you listened to all of his rhetoric in the past, they amount to the same thing.

This might have to do with his continuously dropping (though admittedly still high) approval rating?

Best Lake name ever

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/6/63/Chaubunagungamaug_lake_sign.jpg/800px-Chaubunagungamaug_lake_sign.jpg

Fiat to also buy Vauxhall and Opel

The latest news is that Fiat is going to, possibly, buy GM's European brands of Opel and Vauxhall as well as Chrysler. This would make Fiat the worlds second largest car company. And firmly prove that American auto manufacturing is going the way of the UK's before it...

Google upgrades search

Google has added new features to search. You can now see search results in a timeline - useful for high school papers now that Encarta has been officially killed off by Microsoft (ok, not that anyone uses anything but Wikipedia anyway), and also a search feature for images which lets you search for "similar images".

I took a quick look, and did not see either of these features. All I saw was a new search feature for images which lets you select by color and type (portrait, graphic, etc.).

I only looked for 2 seconds, anyone else find these things?

Ahmadinejad = Ahmadumbass

Ahmadinejad has made a big hulabaloo at the UN Racism Conference, which, as was expected, turned out to be a forum for Arab states to mouth off at Israel. It does not matter what your stance is on Israel, the comments Ahmadinejad made were totally out of line.

It is unfortunate that such a crass thug, and obvious fool, is able to project his idiocy onto the world stage.

Hopefully, one day, Iran will be ruled by a legitimate regime, with the support of the people, and with the goal of improving the lives of its citizens. Sadly, because of the all-welcoming nature of the UN, Ahmadumbass gets to make a mockery of any legitimate internationalism.

Oracle to buy Sun

Oracle is snapping up Sun, in a move that will make Oracle an integrated software and hardware vendor, much more akin to IBM.

April 3rd, 2009: Robot first Knowledge

Almost missed this milestone, as it did not seem to get much attention anywhere.

Turns out that April 3rd (well, results were published April 3rd) marks the first instance of first knowledge from a robot. Essentially, this was a lab bot which was programmed with an AI of the scientific method. It came up with a theory (about yeast enzymes in this case), came up with a way to test it, tested it, and proved the theory. The test was then able to be replicated by humans.

This is, to me, incredibly exciting news, because it will allow humans to vastly increase the speed with which we are able to conduct new research and make new discoveries.

That is, until the robots decide to take over the planet using malignant forms of yeast enzymes. But so it goes.

Samurai cuts BB pellet in flight

This is pretty impressive. Action really starts around 5:30


Cats and Dogs.

Classic.. I love the logic..



funny pictures of cats with captions

Crimes Against Humanity

In the wake of Kim Jong-il showing up all feeble looking in front of his people a couple weeks ago, and promoting his brother-in-law to a high position inside the government, the issue of the N. Korean regime comes to light.

For decades, the policies of N. Korea have been regarded as "unsustainable." Their only viable exports are nuclear technology, missiles, and counterfeit US notes. Over the past decade over 1 million N. Koreas have died of starvation. Who knows how many more have died because of poor medical care etc.

It is believed that about 1million more are currently at risk of starvation.

Which leads to my question: what duty does the world have to the citizens of N. Korea. Those individuals are not in any way shape or form voluntary citizens of an organized political unit: their situation is much more akin to serfs under a "divine" king of the middle ages. They have no political freedom, no ability to organize against the govt, and nothing to do but starve to death.

I would argue that the World community has a responsibility to remove the current regime from power, and allow the N. Korean's a chance to govern themselves. Yes, this would be expensive. Yes, it would be risky. Yes, there is no legitimate precedent (I believed in invading Iraq for exactly the same reasons, but I would like to see some more tenable form of legitimate internationalism.)

Chrysler Screwed

Fiat sent a letter to the UAW saying that more concessions were needed before they would buy Chrysler.

One factory responded by having a public burning of the letter outside of the factory.

I have only one central question: do any of these guys have an IQ over 50? Because no Fiat means no Chrysler: there were a lot of people kind of interested, but Fiat was the only one who stepped up to plate, there was no bidding war for the sinking American car company.

Its amazing to me that the UAW does not see they are taking themselves down with the ship. In the great, not PC language of Boston, they must be retahded.

Tokyo Timelapse

This video was made using a Canon 350d, a slightly better version of my camera, and cheap as dirt by today's standards. And the video is absolutely amazing (and relaxing, I think.)



remanence : variance from Samuel Cockedey on Vimeo.

Quote of the Year

My vote for quote of the year so far? Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's description of Barack Obama as "my new comrade."

Jeter Sucks - According to Science

Article from PopSci. Short version is, according to a new statistical methodology which much more accurately analyzes a players ability to field and handle the ball, Jeter is the worst shortstop in MLB. Don't you just love the progression of science?

A-Rod and Jeter:

Once upon a time, the only fielding statistic listed on the back of baseball cards was fielding percentage, a simple calculation of the number of assists and putouts a player records divided by total chances. But this only tells you how well players handled the balls that they were able to put a glove on, giving pretty much zero insight into how much ground a player covers at his position and, ultimately, his impact on the outcome of the game.

Enter Spatial Aggregate Fielding Evaluation, or SAFE, a new yard stick for fielding developed by professor Shane Jensen and his stat-junkie colleagues at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and presented today at the AAAS Meetings in Boston. In short, Jensen examined every hit from the 2002-2005 baseball seasons and developed a formula that spit out the probability of the average player at each position recording an out on a batted ball. He then compared this to individual players' stats and determined how many runs each player's fielding performance either saved or caused.

First basemen, it turns out are relatively inconsequential when it comes to fielding balls. On average, the best first basemen will only save their team one or two runs over the course of the season; the very worst only cough up five. The distinction is much more apparent at the shortstop position, where Alex Rodriguez was the best everyday shortstop in the league, saving 10.40 runs each season for the Texas Rangers. Derek Jeter, the New York Yankees shortstop who is often hailed for his defensive prowess and has won three Gold Gloves, ranks dead last in the majors, coughing up 13.81 runs per season. Before the 2004 season, the Yankees traded for A-Rod and shifted him to third base in deferrence of Jeter, but based on these numbers, that move could be costing them 23 runs per season. Would the Yankees be better off with A-Rod at SS? Probably, but I'm a Red Sox fan, so I'll keep quiet on this one.

But the lack of a definitive method of measuring fielding excellence has spurred many statisticians to create their own stats. David Pinto, formerly the chief baseball statistician at ESPN, has devised what he calls the Defensive Efficiency Ratio, or DER, which, in simple terms, determines the probability, at each position, that a fieldable ball results in at least one out. (This approach is slightly different from SAFE, which rates fielding efforts based on how many runs a player prevents or allows.) Pinto compared the expected number of outs to actual stats to evaluate each fielder's performance.

This is where some interesting ambiguities between statistical facts and baseball strategy arise. Colorado Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki led all shortstops, recording 50 more outs than was expected of him. In particular, Tulowitzki picked up most of his extra outs on the third base side of shortstop. Meanwhile, Garret Atkins, the third baseman for the Rockies, recorded 41 fewer outs than was expected of him. But does that mean that Atkins is a bad fielder? The stats would say yes. But perhaps his coach is telling him to play near the line, putting him out of position of balls that are running through zones that third basemen are expected to cover and being gobbled up by Tulowitzki, who is being told to play a shade deeper to help cover Atkins' ground. Such a strategy would artificially drop Atkins' outs recorded while simultaneously increasing Tulowitzki's, but, looking at the stats alone makes it difficult to say if this is the case. "It's quite possible that Atkins' fielding weakness is accentuated by strategy, and that's what we're seeing here," Pinto says. "But, my guess would be that if he were a better fielder, you would see a much more balanced split between the two players."

Despite this and other shortcomings, fans and statisticians have never known more about defense than they do today. "Fielding, in general, was a fairly intangible tool," Jensen says. "I think we've helped make it more tangible."

Twitter

It seemed to me that in Mach, everyone was suddenly talking about Twitter. Every website had a signup page, every celebrity was Twittering, and all of a sudden, it was a household word.

I am not sure exactly why, but it does seem as though there was a legitimate point of critical mass: Twitter's web hits jumped %131 between February and March. Thats pretty incredible.

Personally, I think it is pretty stupid, because I have no desire to know when every one of my friends is tired, hungry, sad, happy, or had a bowel movement.

Seriously Cool Picture



This is the USS Annapolis (SSN 760) on the surface of the Arctic Ocean, after breaking through the ice.

Taiwan to build its own subs

After rejecting the offer of 8 refurbed Italian Sauro boats, and the continued stalling of the US offer to build an updated Skipjack class for them, Taiwan is expected to announce that they will build their own boats.

Of course, without US/other nations assistance, these will be no match for the relatively modern fleet of Chinese subs.

Did I mention that China wants to have 80 modern attack subs by 2030? Scary..

TJ Quotes

Thomas Jefferson: The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.
*
Thomas Jefferson: It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world.
*
Thomas Jefferson: I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.
*
Thomas Jefferson: My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government.
*
Thomas Jefferson: The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
*
Thomas Jefferson: To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical.

Texas may Seceed, Chuck Norris to be President

I am not even joking.

Mostly, this is just political rhetoric, but the Texas governor stated at the "Texas Tea Party" that it may be time for Texas to start thinking about being its own country again. This is because of inept fiscal policies of the federal government.

The best part is that Chuck Norris stepped up and publicly stated that he would run for President of Texas. I am not kidding. Seriously. This is true:

From CNN
“I may run for president of Texas,” Norris wrote in a column posted at WorldNetDaily. “That need may be a reality sooner than we think. If not me, someone someday may again be running for president of the Lone Star state, if the state of the union continues to turn into the enemy of the state.”

Of course, it is really just political posturing, but it must be understood that Texas still feels itself very far removed from Washington, and with the big W out of the White House, it feels completely left out with the current Harvard-professor leaning, liberal minded, Obama Administration.

Texas has gone so far as write up legislation reasserting state sovereignty over federal mandates. The yet to be passed legislation, which has gained wide support, states that "all compulsory federal legislation that directs states to comply under threat of civil or criminal penalties or sanctions or that requires states to pass legislation or lose federal funding be prohibited or repealed."

This actually overall makes me very very happy. The main reason is I think there is very little legitimate constitutional basis for the way in which the Federal government is currently operating. My hope is that a re-assertion of State power will limit the idiocies of D.C. The downside to this is that I have no evidence that State politics are in any way less idiotic, but for a number of reasons I still think it is a good idea.

Chuck Norris for President of Texas
http://thesift.atlblogs.com/images/chuck-norris-002.jpg

Chuck Norris destroyed the periodic table, because he only recognizes the element of surprise.

US Astronauts to hitch rides... with China..

Presidential science adviser John Holdren, head of the White House Office of Science and Technology, has floated the proposal that in the 5 year projected gap of 2010-2015 when the Space Shuttle is retired but Orion is not ready to go, the US could hitch rides with China.

In the words of Jeremy Clarkson, I would rather have bird flu.

The fact is, however you look at it, space is still an incredibly nationalistic endeavor. That is the whole point of manned space programs these days - to prove that your nation can do it. China, especially, has been incredibly loud and proud over its ability to photocopy the Soyuz and put a couple people in space - which is actually impressive, even with copying the tech from Russia.

From a nationalistic point of view, the fact that we are considering flying with China, the same China which is building up its military with the very specific purpose of defeating the US in a confrontation over Taiwan, is a huge mistake.

I would rather spend billions developing a 2nd launch system or keeping the shuttle running than seeing Americans go to space aboard Chinese rockets. Call me old fashioned, but I think it is a long-term misstep in America's projection of power.

My Letter to Colby Security

Mr. Chenevert is the head of Colby security. The backstory is that about a year and a half ago I was back on campus as an alumni, and when they came to break up a dorm party, they kicked me off campus for no good reason. When I returned to campus, they agressively manhandled me, told me I would be charged with trespassing etc. Obviously, it was just one in what is likely many incidents where Colby security has been overly agressive with the students.

Obviously, this most recent case went far far further, where racist Colby security guards and racist Waterville and other local cops (and yes, a large percentage of that area of Maine is heavily racist, especially the cops, so I am not just inferrign from the incident), teamed up to completely violoate the rights of Colby students.

I can only hope that this is one case where the truth gets out, as usually security forces cover each others asses, perjur the hell out of themselves, and get the benefit of the doubt in court.


Mr. Chenevert,

You likely do not remember an incident of a year an half ago where I, as an alumni of Colby College, was kicked off campus and aggressively manhandled by members of the Colby Security force. At the time, blame was laid largely on a ex-Waterville Police Officer, who I was told would not be staying with Colby Security for long. Believing in my Alma Mater, I let it go at that.

In the light of the incidents this weekend, I am ashamed with myself with not having taken this matter further. As it is clear Colby security are not only overly aggressive, but also racist, and generally unfit for the jobs they hold, I am upset that I did not attempt to press charges or bring legal action against the school for the treatment I received. Perhaps then you would have woken up, at least in part, to the fact that the Colby Security office has continuously upheld a tradition of hyper-aggressive behavior cloaked beneath a veneer of authority.

The actions of Colby Security over the last seven years (the extent of my knowledge) have transformed the College from a place of fraternity, safety, and good natured living into a national example of miss-managed campus security. As a result, Colby's relations with Waterville have precipitously declined, student quality of living has declined, and the College's reputation has also declined.

I would wish nothing more at this point than to see you, and the entire Colby Security force, replaced. If I can make a suggesstion, it seems you would find better employment with the Maine Department of Corrections.

Regards,
Alexander Tallett
Class of '06