A Gregorian Proposal

I believe that the day after the Super Bowl should be a national holiday. We could call it "Hangover Day." To make up for the lost productivity, we could get rid of a useless holiday like Columbus Day, which comes too soon after Labor Day to really enjoy, and pisses off a lot of Native Americans apparently as well. Something about smallpox. Or President's Day, because isn't every day the President's Day? The guy rules the frickin' free world, you'd think we could all just nod and respect the achievement. For that matter, let's just get rid of both of them and make Nov. 1 a holiday to recover from Halloween. The Dutch do that. It's under auspices of "All Saint's Day," but I'm onto them. And while we're at it, let's just push Veteran's Day and Flag day back to the last Tuesday and Wednesday in May. We'll get 5 days off to do something useful on Memorial Weekend. All in favor say "Aye."


How to hurt a 290-lb tough guy's feelings

Apparently, just score a few points on him in a football game. After Spygate was blown out of proportion in August, every non-Patriots fan in the NFL universe has made themselves feel better about their not-as-good team by using such terms as "classless Patriots" and "Belicheat." Look, what he did was against the rules, but it's not like it changed anything... I for one couldn't understand how there wasn't a bigger ruckus about Rodney Harrison using human growth hormone to "recover from an injury" and um, apparently, to get up for a big game or two. I mean, that's cheating. I was a little surprised by the length and depth of the outcry until I realized that most of the people with an opinion didn't know the facts... that Belichick was basically getting the same footage he could get from the NFL or Fox Sports, just in a slightly more convenient format because the cameraman would pan up to see time and down each play.

Fast forward 8 weeks, and the Patriots are just obliterating everyone in their path. Some say they used Spygate as fuel for the fire, but that's probably not true past week 3: they're just actually that good. They've beat opponents by over 200 cumulative points... in eight games. So now the big outcry is that they're running up the score. I personally have a problem with what the Patriots are doing, but not for the reason's everyone is claiming. Let's get those objections out of the way first.

1) They're risking injury to a key player. Tom Brady is a Pretty Good Player. Take him out, and the Pats are just another playoff team. Having him dive on fourth and one when they're up by 45 points with 12 minutes left is silly. Now Mike Wilbon, a scumbag/piece of shit type sportswriter from Washington DC (go figure) is calling publicly for someone to take a cheap shot at him. I don't condone this, in fact I'm frankly sickened by it and hope Wilbon gets out of his Avalanche this evening, to the sight of 5 300-lb guys running full-bore at his grille. The point is, there's just enough classless, childish, and undisciplined assholes on the field in the NFL where this becomes a concern. And Randy Moss is leading the team in offensive snaps. I think this is great in the early part of the game, but for God's sake, when you have God's ganky-hamstringed gift to quarterbacks on your team, get him the God out of the game when it's decided. And Wes Welker, the 4'2" slot receiver who makes his living as a tackle dummy - how long is he going to last? 19 games, one would hope.

2) The games are boring. As a fan, the highs just aren't as high without the lows. Dallas was a decent game because we waited until 25 minutes were left to get a double-digit lead. Blowouts are not good for a team. They make you soft and undisciplined - witness Junior Seau with the football over his head after an interception, or Donte Stallworth waving the football almost in the face of a D back 5 yards out of the endzone. Not only can you not do that in a close game, you can't even think about doing that, or think about that time you did that, or think about anything except holding onto the frickin ball. And also, it takes a whole other mental makeup to play from behind; and these Pats aren't getting practice with that. Good problems to have, all.

Now to my thinking on running up the score. First, let me say that I think running up the score is unsportsmanlike unless there's a reason. Second, let me say that it is pretty much the last conclusion I would come to that someone is "running up the score." The term to me is reserved for occasions when there is no advantage, tactical or strategic, to what you are doing; when there are obvious alternatives; when there is no danger; and when not running up the score is better for the winning team. When these are all satisfied and the team is still out there for no apparent reason but to demoralize for fun, then it's unsportsmanlike. I don't think I've ever actually seen an instance of running up the score by my definition, ever, except maybe in playground basketball. Let's take a look at the whining to the contary.

1) "When we're in those situations, we " - You're not in those situations. Very few players in the NFL have been in the situation where they lead 42-0 going into the second half, like against the Dolphins in week 7, or 35-0 in the third quarter. Seriously, what do you do at this point as a coach? There's a lot of time so you can't just start running the ball and punting after 3 and outs, because you actually do risk a comeback. You can put some reserves in to get them PT, but you're not going to throw the B team out there for 30 solid minutes like a preseason game are you? Or play soft until the other team gets within striking distance, and then hope you can pull away again with your cold starters. Saying you would do this in a league like the NFL, where people are paid millions and work 80 hour weeks to be the best 1% of 1% at what they do, is preposterous.

2) "You need to show some respect for the game" - This was a Redskins linebacker, after a 52-7 week 8 whupping. In my opinion, the people that need to show some respect for the game are Redskins linebackers. Washington's plan in this game was obvious - hit New England receivers as hard as possible after they got the ball. This is a fine strategy, but you have to actually make the tackles. Who disrespects the game more - the receiver who makes the catch late in the game and run his best route to get another first down? Or the tackler who misses plays because he's trying so hard to injure the guy on the other team? I learned team sports from a great teacher in college, and above all the message was this: you disrespect the game, your teammates, the other team, and fans if you're lucky enough to get paid to do this when you don't go 100%, and when you play dirty. That's it.

3) "There's unwritten rules" - this is true, and they are good things to follow. I don't think they apply here. Those rules usually apply to the last few minutes of a blowout game, and in this case the Pats ran 3 series with backup QBs. The fact is that it's outlandishly rare to do what the Pats are doing right now. Rules don't apply, for a few very simple reasons. First, you need to be realistic as a coach. Not every game will be over by halftime. You can't have your best players conditioned to a 40 minute game when you will inevitably have to play a few 60 minute games in the schedule. When it happens once, give them the fourth quarter off. When it happens 8 weeks in a row, you're asking for a late letdown if you don't force the intensity all the way through.

4) "Teams should put it on the ground when they're ahead by XX points" - This is somewhat misconstrued. Teams "put it on the ground" for selfish reasons at the end of games when they hold a lead. The clock stops on passing plays, but it doesn't on running plays, so you can eat more time off the clock all else being equal. However, if you just bunker down and run exclusively you don't chew much time at all, because the other team loads up against the run and you end up punting 3 and out. You eat time off the clock by a mixture of runs and first downs. Running more with a lead is reasonable. Running exclusively is stupid.

A corollary to this one is "kick a field goal instead of going for it on 4th down." This is just stupid.


Live! Music

I was searching YouTube today. YouTube was new to me about a year ago, and I only started using it this summer to get my Ron Paul fix. Go Ron Paul (To divert the political overtones into subliminality, I feel this way about the Pats, Sox, and Elephant Men as well)!

In the States, I used Pandora for my internet music fix. I highly recommend it - for those who lack the ctrl-Enter reflex, the website is http://www.pandora.com.

Excellent stuff. It spits songs at you that it thinks you'll like from information you've supplied, and you rate them thumbs up or thumbs down. And believe it or not, it "learns" what you like. Not exactly learning - I can see something into their algorithm, and I'm sure my AI programmer friends would have a good laugh at its expense, but it carries a database about musical style, and I think everyone has an idea of the power of databases these days.

Can it be improved on? Yes! If anyone from Pandora reads this, please implement a neural net, this whole "ranking songs on 11,233 characteristics" is not only time consuming, but it's insulting. All I care about a song is that it is the song I want to hear when I go to your website. Google gives me the link I want when I type in a word, and you better believe they'll give me the song I want eventually if you don't shape up!

I would love to get into my (amateur) thoughts on computational geometry at this point, but lets get to the point first. Live music. There is one band that has served as a bit of a thorn in my side since about the turn of The Bug or so because it completely dumbfounds every search engine (even Google!).

Which brings me back to another great early-oughts fad, just before the internet went corporate (much to my socialist friends' chagrin)(except for the added publicity they got from it because they were marginally more internet savvy than the common man): remember Googleplexing? It was something of a couch potato sport for about 3 days in 1998. You'd try search terms in Google until you found one that came up with exactly one result. Then you'd post on some newsgroup about what you had done, because your only friends were textual. Of course, if you knew anything about Google's ingenious algorithm, this post would quickly become the #2 listing and would thus constitute a form social suicide. It's like Bart Simpson reaching for that cupcake and getting it, only to be shocked anyway by Lisa. Mmmm cupcake. (Note to sportswriters who would put that in its own paragraph: you suck.)

I searched on YouTube for "Live". For those of you not born between 1979 and 1981, Live was a formative band of our triennial for the simple blind luck of putting almost all their lifetime talent into one album, Throwing Copper, which happened to be released in 1994 when I was particularly impressionable. To sum up the album, here's a quote from an "Australian interview" via Wikipedia:

Singer/songwriter Ed Kowalczyk was asked in an Australian radio interview in 1997 if R.E.M.'s Michael Stipe had sung the backing vocals at the end of the song "Pillar of Davidson." Kowalczyk laughed and replied, "No, that's just me trying to sound like Michael Stipe as hard as I can!"

Hero worship and general lameness aside, Live actually did produce what is in my opinion one of the top 5 albums of the '90s (this will be expanded upon in a future, I promise). I was a fan. I wanted to hear some live. Pandora, I found out, was blocked out due to lack of resolution of copyright laws. Not abridgement of copyright laws, since there hasn't actually been a conflict yet. But the music industry is set up in a pre-internet, and apparently pre-telephone paradigm whereby artists are usually signed by different companies in different countries/continents. So Pandora, which obviously survived from college start-up by quickly morphing out of necessity from a bunch of enthusiastic music supporters into a bunch of jaded lawyers-of-necessity, can not even play its music outside of America for fear of More Lawsuits.

Live is a great band, not just because they bring tears to the eyes of new mothers with "Lightning Crashes", or because they believe god is some combination of Buddha and Jesus and they have insisted on shoving that belief down their fans' throats, along with uninspired instrumentation, since apparently the day after they cut "White, Discussion" They actually cut some bad ass shit in their day, or at least they made me trip a little, and without shrooms. To prove this, I offer a line from the "quintessential Live song" (according to Manchester Memorial HS friend Jason Andrikovitz c. cut day 1998) "Freaks":

If the mother goes to bed with you
Will you run and tell the papers
How she picked you from a lineup in downtown Philadelphia
With a cigarette hangin' out of your mouth
And Henry Miller in your back pocket
You little fucker

I mean, that's gritty. A little? I'll write a post praising Tool to make up for this I promise. Before I got sidetracked into the territory of praising a B- '90s faux-grunge band, I was talking about computational geometry. Which these days will get you way more chicks than grunge bands, but I wouldn't have believed that, except in desperation, in 1994 either. If you search for Live on Google, you'll get a lot of results. Way too many. Millions.

Because when Google was invented, live music was not really around. I mean, my parents might have dropped way too much to see Huey Lewis and the News walk through a choreographed stage act fueled by diesel generators and copious amounts of cocaine, but live music and Live was not really a conflict to be taken into account in the early '90s. I think we've witnessed in our lifetimes a revival in live music. My parents saw bands that had sold out to record companies and, later, MTV. After about '80, when Zep broke up on what I can only hope was conscience, there was nothing. There was the occasional Talking Heads type infra-band now and then, and maybe Aerosmith would get out of rehab long enough to organize a tour every 5 years, but nobody mastered the act quite. Where were the minstrels?

I guess it all changed in 1983 when Phish came together. Apparently they played the Burlington college circuit, then the Northeast bar circuit, then the washed-up hippie circuit. It is something of a credit to them that they took about a decade to come of age. I say "about" because I wasn't there. I was never a Phish head. I went to one concert, Worcester 2/28/2003 (that's how Phish heads demarcate their lives). I heard a great "Maze" and a decent "Ghost" and I was happy, even though I had never heard "Maze" or "Ghost" before.

By then the tide was well in, and the wave had probably crashed a la Hunter Thompson on a hill outside Las Vegas. I had missed the copycat Woodstocks, the first Bonnaroo, the first ten or so Burning Mans, and umpteen "epic" Phish shows. I've never been cool until cool was uncool, and this is no exception. I watched my share of String Cheese Incident, Keller Williams, and Sound Tribe shows. I've seen bands that no one who listens to radio has heard of, and I'm proud of it: New Monsoon, Bela Fleck, Toots Thielman, Disco Biscuits.

The point I'm trying to make is a compound one, so try your best to follow it. Live was a reasonable band name for a band that had no reason to reasonably expect success in 1994. Live stumps Google, which is the most ingenious thing we've come up with since I'd be drivin' trucks my dear
I'd be skinnin' hunted deer>, which means, anyway, that it stumps YouTube too. Google was born in 1996. MTV doesn't show videos anymore, and nobody but insecure teenage girls and angry teenage guys give two shits about what's on the radio (except for me, who will listen whenever the Gas Hed's on the radio). Contrary to what marketers believe, teenagers don't have shit for money and change so much by the time they do that whatever dancing bear you shoved in their face in 9th grade won't mean shit but a few basis points on the margin of your company, the dying merger-cluster-fuck.

In other words, music is back to some sort of purity. I love it. Festivals are all over the place. Bands can define their success by either records or tickets sold. Great musicians can spread by word of mouth again, while on the other hand music corps can make money off the Long Tail effect.

Has the internet enabled the rebirth in live music? In a word, no. It was happening long before Larry and Sergey. But the synergies have been one of the nice little gifts the internet has bestowed. Great bands are judged by the experience they provide, rather than the director they work with.

But then there's the bad side. Sports, for instance were revolutionized by television. In fact, since everyone could afford to watch for free now, ticket prices for sporting event have gone to the point where Average J. can now afford to bring his family to the game about once in an Eric Gagne save. Zing!

The saving grace here is that you can't watch a football game live in any one of 5 bars in any one of 300 cities in America every weekend night. And maybe, just maybe, that band will be half good. Maybe they'll be even be great, and you'll be 17, and you'll follow them on the road until your trust fund runs out. Maybe you'll even try learn the "Mike's Song" intro on guitar, or maybe even bass to be different. And if Americans start deserting bars for their internet music-casts, you can probably see the price of bar beer going down. Maybe they'll even have to charge less for beer licenses! Maybe we'll even get local government out of the alcohol racket! Of course, the last time we tried that they threw prohibition on us, in the hopes that government troops would get enough innocent people killed that they'd have to repeal the amendment... which they did. And now I enjoy a nice 14-cent Eurobier. From the Netherlands.

But I digress. I do miss the good old U S of A. I talked French with some Quebecois today, and we talked about maple syrup, and I got homesick. In the Netherlands, they claim to be "truly" free. Which means they take 50% of what you earn up front, and then if you can still afford it you're "tolerated" for smoking weed, as long as you buy it from a registered (read: highly-taxed) establishment. I don't want to bang on the Netherlands, because I think their history and their country is quite amazing in its resiliency, but the freedom rap is a tourism gimmick for the city of Amsterdam. I was told it would be much more free before I came, but the majority of culture shock I've felt here is due to being watched and hounded by bureaucracy and rules. When it comes down to it, America does offer a lot of freedom, only it's selective and that begs the "when they come for you" type of questions. Which are perfectly valid what if? questions. But on the other hand, I felt just as free walking down the street with a burning J in San Fran as I do in Delft. Right.

Back to Live music, and live music, the two are currently indistinguishable by the internet but clearly distinguishable, by everyone. People who scream "Britney is more popular, so that means her music must be good!" are clearly deluded, but it has taken us some time to realize why. Live music is just better, period, unless you're a bad band.


Another Late Birthday

For all you people who were still hitting the YouTube replay button on Britney's comeback video from the VMAs, and missed it, October 4 was a big anniversary for Earthlings, because Sputnik was launched 50 years ago, ushering in the boomer generation's excuse to spend trillions in abject fear.

Now, clearly I missed this the first time around, but luckily I had a government-certified elementary school history teacher back my formative year to tell me the significance of it all. Apparently this caused a big fuss at the time because it signalled the commies' technical domination of us, leading to people taking off their shoes at the UN and providing a boon for Popular Mechanics magazine and Quikrete alike as the new family fad of bombshelter living went to new heights. Yes, these were heady political days, when it was easy to forget that...

...Humans actually put something into outer space. You see, up until October 4, 1957, the only chance you had of getting off the Earth in any meaningful sense (and for these purposes I’m counting the atmosphere as part of “the Earth”) was to either be a very light atom and hang around the upper atmosphere for a few million years on the off chance of being struck by a particularly energetic ray of UV light, or to be somewhat heavier and way for a few million years for a big rock to collide with the Earth and then maybe, just maybe, you’d get a free ride. Unfortunately, you’d be extinct along with everything else bigger than a marmot, or you’d be an atom.

It is, I think, a similar issue to the risk assessment shortcomings of Human Beings in general. The best example of this is airplanes vs. cars. It is basically a wash. But people in general feel more nervous flying than getting in a car. I do, okay, I admit it.

People can't handle big numbers. The amount of energy needed in a small amount of time in a directed, controlled fashion to get to orbit is unreal. That is why things blow up on the way up.

But stepping beyond the numbers, it's really not about that. Humanity has stumbled on something in the last 500 years or so - I think they call it "science" - that makes big numbers small quickly. Ask Gordon Moore. October 4th is our Columbus Day. Most frontiers are settled slowly and incrementally in something of a Brownian motion. This is how it worked for the first, oh, million years of human existence. Columbus is interesting because it was a discrete step. The Chinese did something like it in 1430 or so with Zheng He, rounding the horn of Africa before Vasco da Gama. Then they torched the fleet and withdrew into 500 years of xenophobia.

It's not like you can just slowly work your way into space. You can live your 30 miles up and hope your kids reach 31. You have to jump really high, all at once.

That's not normal or natural, but it is absolutely necessary. It's my passion, and I'm somewhat embarrassed that it took a World War and a Cold War to get there.

You'll probably read lots of articles about how slow the progress has been in space in the last 30 years since Sputnik. This is bunk. We are opening the most difficult frontier in the history of history. Not only is it far away an tough to get to, but there is nothing there that we can't get here cheaper (yet). There are no people there to trade with. And even though Daniel Boone had to kill his own food, at least he didn't have to manufacture his own air.

In other words, my passion and dream is to open the space frontier. But don't feel bad for me if it doesn't work out in my lifetime. This is a big job, and I gotta admit it was kicked into orbit (so to speak) by some pretty unfortunate circumstances. Now, the real wave of progress is catching up. I think we ride this one to the end. I sure will.


I guess this is the hard part

Some orders of business to attend to first.

It was my sister Corinne's birthday on the 23rd. Sorry about missing that Corinne. I do things like that.

I've been told to start a blog, I swear that's the only reason. Some people MySpace, I don't. I have nothing against it, I just don't like people that much. I was once part of Friendster, and I surfed that wave right into the rocks. I can't do it again.

Worse case scenario, I look back in 80 years and don't remember any of this.

One thing that bothers me about sportwriters is one word sentences, especially at the end of an article, but really everywhere. The internet revolution gave them them this unlimited tableau, and all they can think up is, "Let's emphasize this thought with bad grammar!"

I didn't really do anything that I can report yet today. Oh, there's lots cookin' for sure, but I have to get home to the missus at some point tonight or my ass is grass and she'll have turf toe. Plus, I'm at the point in life where letting everything out is counterproductive. I have to hold it all in until it's so big it forces itself own way out. "Hey, mom, I'm moving to the Netherlands next month!" I do stuff like that. One try - I blurted it out once and it was so. When I was 22, it took me 4 tries over 6 months to figure out that getting in your car and driving to the west coast involves more than saying "I'm gonna get in my car and drive to the West Coast." It requires, for instance, a car.

I will end this with some quotes. Why? Because I just looked up a ton of quotes for the title of this blog, and even though Hunter won, there were some close runners up.

My favorite (well, everyone's favorite) F&L quote, of course:
"It seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run... but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of 'history' it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons that nobody really understands at the time — and which never explain, in retrospect, what actually happenedMy central memory of that time seems to hang on one or five or maybe forty nights — or very early mornings — when I left the Fillmore half-crazy and, instead of going home, aimed the big 650 Lightning across the Bay Bridge at a hundred miles an hour... booming through the Treasure Island tunnel at the lights of Oakland and Berkeley and Richmond, not quite sure which turnoff to take when I got to the other end... but being absolutely certain that no matter which way I went I would come to a place where people were just as high and wild as I was: no doubt at all about that...There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the Bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda... You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark — that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back. "

The most incomprehensible thing about the world is that it is comprehensible. - Albert Einstein

The program for this evening
is not new. You have seen
This entertainment thru & thru.
You've seen your birth, your
life & death; you might recall
all of the rest — (did you
have a good world when you
died?) — enough to base
a movie on?

- Jim Morrison

Life is a short, warm moment
And death is a long cold rest.

- Roger Waters

The death of one man is a tragedy, the death of millions is a statistic. - Josef Stalin

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. - George Patton

Magnificent desolation. - Buzz Aldrin

Well, that's a nice short list and I'll keep it that way. I kept some of the really good ones for future blog titles. I'm not really the type of person to keep my blog title the same for very long. Kolb would call me a "diverger."