March 31, 2005

Great Scott!

I saw a DeLorean the other day, in all it's unpainted glory. No sign of the flux capacitor or Mr. Fusion, however. I hope it's just a coincidence that John DeLorean died the same day I saw the car.

March 28, 2005

Andy Vogel Experience Preview

I've never played fantasy baseball before, but I'm giving it a go with some friends this year. Our draft just finished last night, and I like my team so far. I probably put more time into it than anyone else, so I guess I'd better like it. Anyhow, here is my analysis of how everyone's picks went off, keeping in mind that we did an autopick draft where each person made a preferred list of players and then the computer did the rest for us. Also, since the season hasn't started yet, pretty much anything can happen between now and September, so take these predictions with a shaker full of salt.

Group 1 - The Contenders - I predict the overall winner comes from this group, though they aren't in any order

South Side Steroids (Andy Vogel) - I ended up with most of my first or second choice hitters. Pujols, Rolen, Tejada, Dunn, Morneau, and H. Matsui should be good for a lot of fantasy points, with Nomar, Junior Griffey, and the Greene/Crosby combo solid on the bench. For pitching, Prior is a big question mark, but the best NL pitcher (Schmidt) and a likely AL saves leader (Nathan) are both on my team. Morneau was the 17th round pick and the absolute steal of this draft, but just watch him outhit 3/4 of the players picked ahead of him.

Mighty Smalls (Amy Hall) - A-Rod, Beltran, and Chavez are all potential MVPs, though Boone's decline and Mauer's shaky knee may end up derailing things. Pierre and Ichiro! will add plenty of hits, which is underrated to most people, though it is important. For the pitchers, the super tandem of Lidge and K-Rod is downright nasty, and Sheets is K machine, though the rest of the starters are adequate if not spectacular.

Man Eating Squirrel (James Barley) - They could win this thing or fall completely and utterly apart. Johnson and Perez get lots of Ks, while Bonderman and Maddux don't. Dotel and Everyday Eddie need to bounce back for the Captain this season. For hitting, was Beltre's 2004 a fluke? It says yes here, but I've been wrong before. Can Thome, Alou, and Edmonds beat back Father Time for another year? The main downside on this team is the general suck of Podsednik, but he can be benched.

Rally Monkeys (Janet Vogel) - As the Sox go, so go the Monkeys. If Manny and Big Papi repeat last year, she's in the thick of it. Abreu and Teixeira should have big seasons as well. The only signs of concern for the hitters are generale weakness at 2B (Vidro and Womack), as well as questions about the last outfield spot (Chipper or Giles). As for pitching, she's got Clemens and possibly the best closer in each league (Gagne and Foulke). The back of the staff is a little thin, relying on the likes of Vazquez and Wright, while counting on bouncebacks from Hoffman and Wagner.

Group 2 - If All Goes Well - If any of these teams win, I'll be surprised, but not too surprised

Mystery, Inc. (Tim Romanoski) - The outfield is flat out bad (Roberts, Rowand, Crawford) with one bright spot (Cabrera), especially since steals don't count. Helton anchors a strong infield, along with the 2B I wish I had (Giles). Javy Lopez was an inspired first overall pick for the draft, but curious considering who was available (that would be everybody). If Lopez stays good, it might not matter for this Maryland boy. The pitching, she scares me. Harden could break out, and Hudson should stay good, but Smoltz will have to adjust to starting again, Percival, Sabathia, and Buehrle are injury risks, and Pavano may or may not be a good pitcher. That said, this group could put it all together and make me look bad.

The $10 Bet (Katie Kennett) - The pitching is unspectacular, but no one on the staff is a big risk, with the possible exception of Wood, but he also has the highest upside. The Bet shouldn't give up or score too much with pitching. The outfield depends entirely on Sheffield and his bad shoulder, which may or may not be a problem. If he goes down the Bet goes down. The two Cleveland mashers (Hafner and Martinez) were players I coveted, and Pudge should have at least one good year left. I put this team's chances a peg below Mystery, but that's why they play the games.

The Arbiters (Ryan Bedell) - This team has the best chance to jump into the top group and even win this thing, but for now, there are a truckload of injury questions. For the hitters, Ordonez, Bonds, and Berkman all have knee issues, and the latter two will not be playing for at least the first month or two. Drew and Guillen are likely to get hurt and regress, respectively. The pitchers feature Schilling, Pedro, and Affeldt if you like injury risks, and Santana, Rivera, and Izzy if you want good bets. You can see by this list that health is the big thing for the Arbiters. If they have it, look out world, if not, look out below!

Group 3 - Oops - This team had a definite strategy, it just didn't work out, and if they win with this roster, never listen to me again

Stuckeybowl Sluggers (Vikki Bol) - How you can try to stock your team with Red Sox yet miss out on both of their best hitters is beyond me. Not only did the Vikster not get Big Papi or Manny, the same person got both. Mueller and Millar aren't that good, unfortunately, and Johnny Damon's hair is the best outfielder, unless Finley can find the fountain of youth one last time. You can tell I'm not big on the hitters. The pitchers, however, I like a lot. Burnett, Mulder, Zito, Beckett, and Clement are all solid choices. Saves may be hard to find, but that's only one stat. Some prudent trades with for better hitters, as well as watching the waivers/free agents, could help pull this team into contention. At least they have the best team name in the league.

March 26, 2005

Trash your browser

If you haven't ditched Internet Explorer for Mozilla Firefox, what the heck are you waiting for? It's super cool. If you have switched, let me know which theme you're using. I'm currently rocking SomeOrbitGrey.

Link for Today

If you want to put a picture on your website or blog, but don't have anywhere to host it, use ImageShack. You upload a picture, and then you get a bunch of URLs to use for various things. If you forget the URL, just upload the picture again. You don't even have to sign up for anything. It's a heck of a thing. Here's an example: say you have this great picture of your friend James. You can upload it to your blog, just like this:


Now, anyone can look at the URL for this picture and put it anywhere on the web. Great, huh?

March 25, 2005

Deserters

Military deserters have been in the news lately. Most recently, a deserting soldier has been denied refugee status by Canada, as they have decided he will not face persecution or cruel and unusual punishment should he return to the United States. He would, however face a likely jail term as a deserter, even though he seems to feel the war is illegal. The strangest thing so far is a comment from the soldier's attorney, Jeffry House, "We don't believe that people should be imprisoned for doing what they believe is illegal." Read that a few times and tell me if it makes any sense. I'm hoping that the man was somehow misquoted, as what is written here effectively says that you should not have to go to jail if you thought what you were doing was illegal. So, you should only be imprisoned if you thought it was OK?

Anyhow, the point here is not to point out this attorney's mangled syntax so much as to talk about the issue at hand. In my estimation, these deserters don't have a leg to stand on. The choice to join the military is currently a voluntary one. The draft has not been in effect since Vietnam, so every soldier who is in the military is there out of his own free choice. Inherent in that choice is the decision, conscious or otherwise, that you have given up the power to decide whether a particular mission/battle/war is worth fighting or legal. If you think military service is wrong and you don't want to fight, then you should not have joined up in the first place, as it might have been peacetime when you signed the forms, but hostilities could break out at any time, as the soldiers in Iraq can surely tell you. Applying for conscientious objector status after things heat up won't fly, and it isn't, especially after you joined up on purpose.

What I think happens with some of these people is that they are trying to get some money out of the deal. The Army will pay for college and the Reserves will pay for the well known one weekend a month and two weeks a year of service. These are pretty good deals, if I say so myself, especially for people without the means to pay for college on their own and the desire to wrack up some debt to Uncle Sam. However, when there's a war on, the Army calls in its favors to you and gets some return on its investment. At least some of these deserters I would imagine were thrilled to get the cash, but less excited when the Army's special form a payback reared its head, so now they claim to be objectors or that the war is illegal. Like they always say, you can't get something for nothing.

March 23, 2005

Fun Site

I know I'm late to the party, but if you're interested in hearing about the latest, greatest, rumored, or just weird technology, then Gizmodo is the blog for you.

March 22, 2005

Picture of the Day

Here you can see a picture of 415 pound Chris Taylor being thrown by a much smaller opponent in the Greco-Roman portion of the 1972 Olympics. This is one of the more famous images in amateur wrestling history.

March 20, 2005

One Sheet of Paper

Back in college, I took a few physics classes. Most college students carry around these giant backpacks with everything they own in them (it seems). I tried to carry as little as possible to class, especially if I only had one class to attend before heading back to the dorm. This meant that I often only had a pencil and a notebook on my way to Physics. This fascinated the girl sitting in front of me that I would have so little with me. It made sense to me. I didn't need the ginormous book for class, so a pencil and a notebook was all I needed. One day, just for kicks, I decided to come to class armed solely with a pencil and a single sheet of paper. Turns out, that was all that I needed, and it elicited the intended reaction from the girl in front of me. She didn't quite make it in engineering, but I hope I didn't set those events in motion by refusing to overpack for class.

March 18, 2005

Here's a Hearing

I've decided this post goes on both blogs, so don't be surprised.

I only caught about 30 minutes of the steroids hearing yesterday while I was on the treadmill, and the thirty minutes I saw were the players' panel. I've read a few different recaps, the best being Will Carroll's and David Pinto's. From the sounds of it, there were four separate panels, and here is the reaction to each, keeping in mind the reaction is to both the panel and the congressmen:

1. Senator and Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Bunning - Boring
2. Parents and doctors discussing use by children - Misinformed
3. Current and former baseball players - Useless
4. Baseball officials - Well Played

Of course, the big story to come out of the hearings is Mark McGwire and his refusal to answer any questions concerning his past. He wouldn't say whether or not he used performance enhancers, which is his right, I suppose. His stock answer, "I'm not hear to discuss the past, I'm hear to be optimistic for the future," made me cringe every time I heard it, and not because it makes me think he is or isn't a steroid user, but more because is was just so dissatisfying to hear. He wouldn't answer questions about the past, regardless of whether they involved illegal activity.

All that said, however, he didn't ask to be dragged into this, and it's all Jose Canseco's fault that he even had to appear. McGwire has kept a low profile to date since his retirement, and I think he'd be pretty glad if we never heard from him again. Until this month, he's been able to live his life, play golf, and be with his family without fear of hearing his name on the news every day for a month straight. I think he wishes he could stop being pestered by reporters and legislators so he could live his life the way he wishes. I've said before that I think my stance on his participation would be different if he had been trying to keep a life as a public figure since his retirement, but he has clearly desired to keep a low profile. I think the problem was not in that he didn't want to talk, but more in his execution. He was clearly uncomfortable and just wants to be left alone. I think we should leave him alone, and the Skip Bayless and Buster Olney types who crave attention should just find something else to write about.

Of course, the most ridiculous thing was the suggestion that all children under age 18 be mandatorily drug tested. Fourth amendment? What fourth amendment?

March 15, 2005

Vermont, the Green Mountain State

I have been to Vermont four times.

That is more times than I have been to New York, Boston, Washington, Miami, Los Angeles, and Seattle combined. I will surely go back to Vermont on pretty much a yearly basis for at least the next 30 years, I would imagine, but I will likely never ski there.

Vermont is an interesting place that sounds very far away. To tell you the truth, it is pretty far away from most things except New Hampshire. People have an idea of Vermont. To them, it's all skiing, maple syrup, and gay marriage (civil unions, really). If they like politics, they might know of Jim Jeffords. You also hear a lot about Patrick Leahy, since he's been a senator for a long time, and he likes to cause trouble for the more important states.

Like I said, people have an idea of Vermont, but they don't know the Vermont I know. The Vermont everyone else knows is medium sized mountains, overpriced hotels, and expensive maple syrup, with some Vermont Country Store thrown in for good measure. The Vermont I know is dirt roads, cool summers, and empty highways. When I say Vermont, the first thing anyone says is, "Oh, Vermont, it's beautiful there!" They say it without fail, every time. I can't tell them they're wrong, since they're not, but I think they have an idea of Vermont more than actual experience. The time I've spent there has been more like living there than a vacation, even if I've never been there long. I think that's because Springfield is no one's idea of a vacation spot, as there aren't a lot of hotels or mountains to ski, and they only get people for the telescope makers' convention in August.

You know what, though? A lot of the Vermont stereotypes are true. They are liberal, it is rural, and the maple syrup is delicious. It is also cold like you've never felt. That's ok, though. People that live in Vermont live there because of these things, not in spite of them, and it's not like they're out there trying to convince everyone else to move there. Heck, they wish less people would move there, even if it is the greatest place ever (in their minds). So I say, visit if you must, but know that your abstract idea of the place is a bit different from reality, but that's ok.

March 13, 2005

Don't see that every day

As I was walking toward the entrance to the store today, I saw a man tying a woman's shoe just outside the store. I thought to myself, "Why can't she tie her own shoe?" Then, I saw that she was holding something, and I thought it was probably a baby or, possibly, a puppy. As I approached, she turned so I could get a better look. It was a baby all right...a baby monkey! Yes, the woman was about to walk into Bed, Bath & Beyond with a monkey in her arms. It was a very small monkey, it's head no bigger than a baseball, but still, a monkey. In her arms. On the way into a store. Don't see that every day.

March 10, 2005

BEEP

My phone beeps loudly every 15 minutes or so if I have a voice or text message. I got one last night, and the beeping woke me up several times, but I was too tired to go downstairs to make it stop. Turns out, it was a text message sent at midnight by a certain Amy Hall on her birthday. I'm not saying adult beverages were involved, but I'm also not saying they weren't. Well, Happy Birthday to Amy, and I'm kicking her in the shin the next time I see her.

March 8, 2005

I just can't leave it alone

I've finally come to some conclusions of my own concerning Social Security. It helps that I've had a few of my questions answered and that I've read an article or two that cut through the politics and actually got down to talking about the problems and how to solve them.

It's difficult to get an honest look at what is going on with Social Security thanks to the various opinions of people about the President. The (mostly) liberal media examines the Social Security plan set forth by President Bush and doesn't even give it a fair shake. I'm not saying that privatization is the answer (I'm not saying it isn't either), I'm just saying that it isn't given a chance by most observers in the mainstream media. The people writing the articles have decided before doing any research that the President's plan will not work, so they spend their time very diligently digging up information that supports this idea. Their conclusions are not what bothers me, but the fact that they reach the conclusion before doing any research does.

That's why it was refreshing to read an article on Fool.com that talks about it without letting politics get in the way, other than to explain the lack of incentive for politicians to do what it takes to fix the problem. Basically, it comes down to this: in 15 years, it is likely the Social Security system will be taking in less than in pays out, leaving about 20 years after that until it runs completely out of money. Of course, that all will happen only if nothing changes in terms of payments and age requirements.

The problem with Social Security is demographics. In 1950, there were 10 people working for every person who was drawing a benefit from the system. In the next five to ten years, that number will drop down to two workers for every Social Security beneficiary. Obviously, this system is untenable in the long run. The system was designed many years ago when the life expectancy figure was not nearly as high as it is now, and it will only go up in the future. This is how an economics professor I asked about the problem answered me. To use data: the average life expectancy in America has gone up by about 10 years since 1950, not to mention the fact that the first crop of Baby Boomers is retiring, and there are only more after them. The average Social Security benefit is around $11,000 a year, so each person who lives an extra ten years withdraws an average of $110,000 more than they would have 50 years ago.

Several solutions have been posited to fix this problem (thankfully, none of them involve executing retirees to limit their use of the system). Privatization is the President's plan, and it sounds pretty good to me, a young, fairly financially savvy individual who understands the importance of saving for retirement. I know not everyone is in the same situation as I am, though. That said, I can see the merits of privatization, but the big stumbling block to me is that astronomic transistion cost that has been estimated in the hundreds of billions of dollars (on the low end). I'd like to think the problem could be solved without getting buried in an even bigger mound of debt.

The solution put forth by Fool.com relies on rethinking our view of Social Security as some sort of investment. It's not an investment, it's a government program designed to ensure a certain quality of life for people who didn't save enough. The I in FICA stands for Insurance, and perhaps it needs to be treated as such, so that the only payout is to people who really need it. Warren Buffet is a multibillionaire, but he still gets his Social Security check every month. It's like collecting disability insurance when you're not disabled. If these inefficiencies could be worked out of the system, it probably wouldn't go broke. Right now, the benefit level is somewhat tied to how much you put in, not how much you need it. Developing a formula that sets the benefit based on need would solve the insolvency problem.

Is this the best idea? I really don't know, though I'm sure it would cost less than privatization, and I'm not so much of a capitalist that I want to see retirees become indigent. The problem is that this sort of plan could never be implemented because it would reduce many retiree benefits, and retirees vote a lot more frequently than your average 24 year old. Politicians want to stay in office, and suggesting that seniors with more than three homes maybe don't need that $1,500 check each month will have the AARP in your office by the end of the day and your voicemail full of angry messages.

Something needs to be done, and a reevaluation of what exactly Social Security is and is supposed to do should be first on the list.

March 4, 2005

College gets Big

I was doing a little searching around on the Equity in Athletics Disclosure Act information page the other day. It's an interesting resource that gives you the opportunity to see the number of athletes on different college teams as well as the number of full and part time coaches along with the expenses of each team. For example, Duke University spent $1.5 million on basketball last year and under $35,000 on wrestling. It's a little bit sickening, but that's not what I'm here to talk about.

What I'm here to talk about is the other site I stumbled upon, the IPEDS COOL college search site. Here, you can get information about enrollment, acceptance, test scores, graduation rates, and a lot of other statistics that are hard to find elsewhere. They are reported to the Federal Government as one condition on continuing to receive Federal Aid. For example, you can find out that less than 2/3 of Messiah College full time freshmen graduated within four years in the latest report. This likely includes transfers and dropouts, but still. The actual number was 64.6%, which jumped up to 71.4% if stretched out to 6 years. Also, in six year's time men graduated at a 75.8% rate compared to 69% for the women. Before getting alarmed, let's check some comparably sized schools.


Elizabethtown: 60% for 4 years, 69% for 6
Lebanon Valley: 61% and 69%
Gettysburg: 71% and 75%
Lycoming: 56% and 66%
Taylor: 67% and 77%
Wheaton: 77% and 86%
Lancaster Bible: 30% and 48%


So, you can see that Messiah is not doing too badly here for a school of its size. I included LBC because I was curious. There is all sorts of good information here that is often more accurate than what you'll find in college guides or even reported on a college's web site. Searching here I found that my alma mater accepted 83% of freshman applicants for the Fall of 2004, of which 40% accepted admission and enrolled as full-time students. The middle 50% of these scored between 1080 and 1310 on the old SAT.

I don't really have a problem with any of that. The school doesn't seem to be suffering for allowing 80% of applicants to be admitted. The problem is that the school has been trying to grow for the past 8 years or so without adding any on-campus student housing. There are a few places in downtown Harrisburg they are encouraging seniors to use, but overall, almost all students live on campus, which results in all freshmen and many sophomores tripled up in tiny rooms. Since the Fall of 1999, the school has over 150 more students on the Grantham campus to fit into roughly the same number of rooms. Comparing just the advertised occupancy with the actual shows and overflow of 62 students based on Fall 2004 data. This is dubious to me, as the advertised occupancy seems to have taken into account the number of students in tripled rooms and counted them as normal. What I really need is someone to go through each dorm and count the number of rooms so I can get a good estimate of the intended occupancy. The apartments are ok for now, as they have not yet, to my knowledge, been overpopulated. Suffice it to say that there are far more students in the dorms than originally intended based on the size of the rooms.

The school needs to build another residence hall of some kind. Apartments or a dorm would be ok in my book to alleviate the fact that nearly all 694 freshmen in the Fall of 2004 were put into tripled rooms designed for double occupancy. Assuming 100% triples, that equates to an overflow of just over 230 students, and that is not taking into account the smaller number of tripled sophomores. What this means is that in order to get just the freshmen back into double rooms would require building another dorm the size of Witmer, the largest dorm on campus, and even that might not get every student into a double room.

If Messiah wants to grow, I say go right ahead. People know the school and think well of it, but the school must accomodate the larger number of students by building living space for them. There is plenty of land on which to do so back toward the fitness trail and across the train tracks on the rec fields. To their credit, building the Larsen Student Union and Boyer Academic building was a step that was necessary to grow, but the next step must be taken so that the students who congregate in the union and attend classes in the state-of-the-art buildings have a place to sleep.

March 2, 2005

Back in the swing

It's taken me a bit to get back on my blogging horse since we got back from our trip. I guess catching up on what happened while we were gone has gotten me behind. So indulge me here as I talk about Stargate SG-1.

I've gotten minorly addicted to this show, so I guess it's good that it's on four times every Monday. It's tough trying to catch up while also watching the new ones on Friday nights. The reruns are in season 2 right now, but the new ones are season 8. Needless to say, a lot has happened since season 2. Frankly, a lot has happened since season 8. On Friday, both of the show's main bad guys made an appearance, though they're fighting each other as well as planning Earth's demise. It's some crazy stuff, and before this season is out, there's going to be some time travel. If you've ever watched anything about time travel, it's awfully easy to muck things up if you're not careful, which apparently will happen according to a Stargate website. If they have a big cliffhanger of an ending in a few weeks, I might go a little crazy. You can't leave me hanging like this. Frankly, this week was bad enough, now that we've determined that the weapon on the planet is capable of destroying everything in the galaxy, which seems like a problem if you ask me, but I'm hoping that Replicator Carter gets her comeuppance at some point.

Thanks for bearing with me here. I'm sure this space will return to its usual quality some time soon.