Archive for July, 2009

The Next Generation

No, this is not a Star Trek diatribe comparing and contrasting the numerous iterations of the series, movies, favorite captains, sexiest aliens or worst plotlines.

Image credit: christiangates via flickr

Image credit: christiangates via flickr

This is about our own time machine, our memories, and how our children are experiencing a new world. The other day, I read an article on Wired.com titled “100 Things Your Kids May Never Know About“. It was definitely well thought-out, and relied on feedback from their readers. Reading it was a combination of nostalgia and pensively wondering what my own children will encounter. I’m 40 now, so half of my life has been lived as an adult, and the first half arguably as a child. My wife, family, friends and therapist may all disagree, claiming emphatically that I am still a child on many levels. I can live with that.

So the Wired article had me thinking about so many other things my kids may not know about, all of which I encountered as a child (in the physical sense of the word, not the mental sense, mind you.)

Here’s just a few…

  • Going down to the “record store” to buy a “45”, “album” or even “CD.” (Give the CD a few more years.)
  • Going to an “arcade” where you can play video games, and they only cost a quarter.
  • At the same arcade, there was a section dedicated just to giant machines called “pinball.”
  • Talking on the phone in the house meant staying within a 3-foot area, literally tethered to the wall by the phone cord.
  • The biggest taste of freedom ever experienced was when Dad bought a 30-foot telephone cord.
  • Actually dialing a phone meant that there was a dial on the phone, and dialing someone took longer than the resulting conversation.
  • Driving anywhere out of your neighborhood meant you had to have a list of surrounding streets, landmarks and the conversational know-how to ask the local gas station attendant: “How do I get to Juniper Street from here??!!”
  • Communication among people was limited to two things: spoken word or written letters. OK, three: hand gestures… and we all will still use them forever.
  • Video games against opponents consisted only of the person sitting next to you, and never involved teams.
  • Board games never needed batteries.
  • Going to get something for home repair, a fishing trip, sports activity, or your dog meant going to a store usually smaller than your own home.
  • Making ice cubes was a manual process.
  • Hot meals had to be prepared and cooked for a long time.
  • Making popcorn involved popcorn kernels, oil, butter and salt.
  • Throwing out garbage was a very streamlined process.
  • Getting a sunburn sucked for about a day, and it took around six hours on the beach to get one.
  • Watching a TV show meant being in front of that TV, with all snacks at the ready, bladder empty, exactly when the show was starting.
  • That show would not be seen if the antenna wasn’t just right.
  • Toys never moved on their own, unless we were testing the effects of velocity on static objects.
  • Toys had lots of small parts.
  • Most toys were made out of wood or metal.
  • Chemistry sets actually had chemicals in them.
  • Movies about the future all had lots of blinking lights, almost no explosions, vehicles that hovered, bitchin’ sunglasses and very shiny clothes.
  • Portable music players involved lots of breakable parts, the music was loaded manually, and you had a good 30 minutes or so of enjoyment.
  • Paper was used for everything.
  • To flip through photos meant to use your hands, plus you kept the blurry ones… after waiting two weeks to get them developed.
  • Flying on a plane meant you could get to the airport about an half hour before the flight, and you didn’t have to feel nervous about security.
  • Sesame Street was relevant.
  • A fax.
  • You could lend a book to a friend or family member. (OK, maybe not my kids, but definitely my grandkids.)

Well these are just a few of the ones jogged from my feeble, aging memory. I can’t remember what I had for breakfast, so there’s a ton more. Seriously, I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. So tell me in the comments what else I forgot!

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Camera Eye – A Baseball Story

Max Bishop - Image courtesy of Baseball Historian at www.baseballhistorian.com

Max Bishop - Image courtesy of Baseball Historian at www.baseballhistorian.com

Babe Ruth, “The Sultan of Swat” and Ted Williams, “The Splendid Splinter,” lead the all-time list in many offensive categories. Names such as Mantle, Mays, Musial, and Aaron enter into conversation when Ruth and Williams are mentioned. A man you’ve probably never heard compared to Ruth and Williams is Max “Camera Eye” Bishop. In fact, he may very well be a man you’ve never heard of at all.

Max Bishop was a second baseman in the American League from 1924-35. He played his first ten seasons with the then Philadelphia A’s and his last two with the Boston Red Sox. Hitting 41 lifetime home runs and with only a .271 lifetime average, it almost seems absurd he could be mentioned in the same breath as any of the offensive greats, but the truth is he compares quite favorably.

When it comes to walk percentage for a career, (just think of how a batting average is computed but use walks instead of hits) Max Bishop’s .204 is higher than Babe Ruth’s and just slightly lower than Ted Williams’ .207. An aberration? Far from it.

Looking at the nine seasons in which Bishop played more than 100 games (1925-33), he failed to record 100 walks only twice and even then did not fall very short with 87 and 97. The year he recorded the 97 walks, 1928, was the only season in which he batted over .300 (.316) and the following year the only season in the nine year stretch he failed to achieve an on-base percentage of .400 or more (.398).

Due to his on-base percentage constantly hovering around .400, A’s manager Connie Mack batted Bishop in the leadoff spot. Mack knew Bishop was no threat, but he also knew exactly what he was. He was pressure.

Batting after Bishop in the A’s lineup were the likes of Mickey Cochrane, Jimmy Foxx and Al Simmons, all very big threats. It was difficult enough for opposing pitchers to face any of the three with the bases empty, let alone with a man on. Max Bishop was that man and he set the table often, adding worry to opposing pitchers because they knew that any mistake to one of the big three not only meant one, but at least two runs against. The added pressure only made the big three more effective and in four straight seasons (1928-31) Bishop scored 100 runs or more.

Knowing that Bishop was not passed intentionally or pitched around because he was a home run threat like Ruth (714 home runs) and Williams (521 home runs), his ability to reach first base without swinging becomes even more uncanny. He was also not feared because of his ability to hit doubles and triples, as evidenced by his paltry .366 lifetime slugging average, a far cry from Ruth’s .690 and Williams .634.

Though Bishop may have walked alone to first, he does not walk alone in history. He is tied with Joe Jackson for 16th on the all time on-base percentage list with .423, (below him are Mantle, Musial and DiMaggio). Each of the fifteen players above him in this category had a lifetime average well over .300 (11 averaging .330 or more) and/or over 500 home runs. With 1,153 walks he is tied with Toby Harrah (who recorded almost 3,000 more at bats than Bishop) for 56th place on the all time list for bases on balls.

Bishop still holds the major league record for walks during a double header (18 innings) with 8 (which he did twice) and twice he walked 5 times in one game. Six times in his career he collected more walks than hits and proved to be more than just a “camera eye”, leading the American League in fielding for a second baseman four times.

In my eyes, Bishop should have walked into the Hall of Fame. I cannot tell you why he’s not in it, nor can I tell you how far he traveled on foot during his lifetime. But one thing is certain; because of a “Camera Eye” he walked almost two miles in a major league uniform, taking it 90 feet at a time. If nothing less, Bishop has proven one thing: you can walk tall and carry a big stick… but you don’t have to swing it to make a difference.

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Firsts and Seconds

We go through thousands of firsts in our lives. The first kiss, the first love, the first time you saw an acid base reaction, wait that one is just me. I recently took my son to get his first haircut, no tears by the way, and it got me thinking about all the other firsts we all go through. Most of which take no more than a few minutes and all of which affect who we ultimately become.

My first great sports moment took place when I was ten years old. I hit a grand slam over the fence for my little league team. My dad wasn’t there, and the other people had to tell my mom what was happening, but I’ll never forget it. The team was so dominant; 20 and 2 for the entire season and years later I made a Nintendo All-Star Baseball team copied exactly from the squad. We couldn’t be beat. It was so close to the original team that one of my best friends to this day who was on the team could still hit better than me. Welcome to living your life through video games! All that being said, hitting the grand slam and running around the bases took no more than 60 seconds.

My first life defining moment took place around the age of twelve. I was asked by a neighbor to come and hang out with the “cool kids.” Being a life long geek, I was easily lured to see what all the fuss about. In the process, I basically blew off my boys, friends of which I have now known for 20 years, and with being 29 years old, that is really saying something. Inevitably, things went bad and I was expunged from the the realm of “coolness.” I went back to my crew, tail between my legs, and was taken back with open arms. For this I will be eternally grateful. My neighbor asking me to roll out with him to hang with a different crew, 30 seconds. My friends taking me back with open arms, two minutes.

The first time I realized my geekdom was something I enjoyed, was my freshmen year in high school. Our history teacher was a little off the wall, but she loved the ancients. The other history class ended with the printing press, we ended with Augustus Caesar. The class took months, but I was hooked during the 15 minutes she talked about Alexander and his horse, Bucephalus. Her love of the ancients and mythology directly translated into my love of comic books and current day mythology.

Knowing my girlfriend might just be my wife to be took three seconds. She looked at me and said, “good call.” Our first real date was going to see a movie together. We got to the theater and a few movies were playing. We hadn’t decided prior. I was all about seeing this hyped, but not explained movie… “No one can be told what The Matrix is, they have to see it for themselves.” My date alluded to seeing some romatic comedy, but wasn’t firm in her conviction.   So I went and bought tickets for The Matrix, for which I got the look of, “I am the woman and I can’t believe you just ignored my hint towards seeing a chick flick.” We sat through 20 minutes of previews with barely ten words said. Then the movie started. About five minutes into it, Trinity kicked a cop in mid-air, and my future wife looked at me and said, “good call.” Three seconds and that was enough for me to know.

trinity-matrix-kick

The birth of my son, my first child, as any parent knows, was earth shattering. Two minutes before he was born I started losing it, but I kept it together. The docs told me it was a boy, I saw him, and about a nanosecond later my world was changed forever.

My son’s first haircut was only a week ago. It lasted no more than ten minutes. He got his haircut and I brought him home. It was only a little while until people started referring to him as a “little man.” He is less than two years old and he is already a little man.

I chose a few examples from my own life, but the idea is consistent. I have been around for almost 30 years, but the majority of who and what I am has been formed in a little over 3000 seconds. We have all been through tons of firsts, but the most important points of all of these moments probably took no more than a few seconds.

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Death and the Joke(s) that Follow(s)…

Originally I intended to write a poignant piece about the death of a grade school class mate. It would have been a touching story that would have reduced you all to tears, but as I sat down to put my thoughts to the keys the media coverage of a certain entertainer’s death has overwhelmed me.View Image

I’ve had enough. Enough with the Michael Jackson shit. He was talented, he was a freak and now he’s dead. Get over it.

Don’t give me how much you loved Beat It or Billie Jean.   I remember watching the long version of Thriller every 30 minutes on MTV, and the Grammies where he did the moonwalk too. I remember the Thriller Trapper Keeper that Beth Fisher had in eighth grade like it was yesterday, but let’s be real – that was 20+ years ago.

When was the last time he was relevant for something other than being in debt or doing his best impersonation of a Roman Catholic priest at an altar boy convention?

I’m just tired of the way we as a society overlook things sometimes.  People – he was accused of molesting young boys…just like OJ was accused of murder.  No matter how talented he was as an artist he was an abomination of a human being.

John Wayne Gacy painted pretty darn good clown pictures, when he died did we celebrate his artistry? I think not.

Dare I bring OJ and his athletic achievements into the discussion again?   What’s the difference? OK two bloody corpses (DAMN technicalities…)

I heard one of the remaining Jackson Four speaking at his memorial the other night talking about seeing him in heaven someday… Hold On… I’m not much for the religion thing (12 years of Catholic school cured my of that vice) but should I die and should I somehow make it to the Big Dance in the sky and I see that freak there, I won’t want to stay because that’s just fucked up.

On a side note, we all know Michael’s burial location is top secret but since he had so much plastic in him, was his family was able to just leave him in the blue bin by the curb on recycling day?  Maybe they were able to just melt him down and make him into Lego blocks so little kids could play with him for a change.

I also heard that food poisoning may have been a contributing factor to his death. Apparently they found traces of twelve year old nuts in his mouth…

So anyway, Michael Jackson – talented, rich, skin bleaching, nose-falling-off freak is dead. Long live the next freak so TMZ can stay on the air!

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Google and Apple and Schmidt, Oh My

google-apple-schmidtThere was an interesting article by Tom Krazit on Webware today.  In it, he directly addresses the CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, and calls for Schmidt to step down from his seat on the Board of Directors at Apple.  While some in the comments became hung up on the delivery of the message, found an opportunity to take a shot a Microsoft, or talked about the Google conspiracy of stealing all of your secrets, I read more into the meat of the article.

The quick background as to why Krazit wrote his article is because Google announced today that they will be releasing a new product called “Google Chrome OS” next year.  The OS, or Operating System, is the “root” of what runs your computer’s software, modern mobile phone, GPS and just about anything else.  In the PC world, there are several, most notable are Microsoft Windows, Apple OSX and many flavors of Linux.  Google already had a web browser, released last year, called Chrome.  The big deal here is Chrome OS is it’s own operating system that sits on a Linux kernel.  The main focus will be accessing the web, and that’s it.  Because it cuts out the idea of native applications (apps that are installed locally and thus take up system resources), this OS can be stripped down to the bare minimum, and be extremely fast and versatile.  Anything that it runs will be web-based, which means anything that you can access now online will run on it.  Google explained further that it will be available, initially, on netbook computers starting in the latter half of 2010, a year from now.  You have to start some place, right?  Oh wait, they already did!  Google acquired the mobile phone software company, Android, back in 2005, and created (along with the Open Handset Alliance), the Android mobile phone operating system, which was installed on mobile phones starting last year.  People who use it like the phones, although the hardware itself gets more of the negative press.

We’re in a world of technological change, and that change is happening faster than anything we have ever seen before.  It’s not only because of the big companies and their big software.  A lot of the driving force now is from the small developers.  Apple opened the iPhone/Touch App Store to any developer, and allowing those developers to set the prices.  At last press release in June, Apple stated there were over 50,000 apps in their Apps Store.  Research In Motion, the manufacturer of the Blackberry phones, created their own App World with the same concept back in April, and already has over 2000 applications.  The Android Market boasts the same for Android users.
Another aspect of this drive is something called “open source”.  Basically what it means is the code is free to the public to alter, update, fix and enhance, collaboratively.  This has been around for a long time, and is what the Linux OS and it’s many flavors is based on.  There have been many open source applications available for essentially all platforms, and most of that software is free.  Because it’s run by the community, the support is usually excellent and fast, if you know where to look.  Never is the support for an open source program outsourced to someone not speaking your language who has no knowledge of what you’re talking about, and is simply running through a prepared script.  Well Google stated that Chrome OS will be released to open source later this year.  The myriad of “new eyes” will optimize the code, make it more secure, and concentrate on web coding standards that the likes of Internet Explorer abandoned and manipulated for their own purpose in years past.

Innovation will be the end result of all of this.  Innovation driven by independent coders.  They will continue to see the opportunity to build a business for themselves, take part in something they love doing, or take pride in making something better for others.  Innovation driven by competition.  Microsoft, the behemoth, has been slapped around in the browser wars lately because faster, less bloated, and more standards-compliant browsers have been released by Mozilla (Firefox), Apple (Safari), Google (Chrome) and Opera.  It has forced Microsoft to go back and do things differently.  Internet Explorer 8, released in March, is faster and more standards-compliant than it has been in a very long time.  (Still not good enough for me to go back to, but that’s a digression.)  That’s good.  Apple and Linux OS releases have also hurt Microsoft’s Windows foothold and gained ground in the install base.  No small feat considering the market share Windows has enjoyed.  Granted it’s partly because of Apple’s rebirth, Linux becoming more mainstream-friendly, and in no small part Vista’s horrendous launch and subsequent 2-1/2 year marketing damage control efforts.  We’re hearing from many locations that the new version, Windows 7, is better than all previous releases.  That’s good.
If they push each other, if the coders push on each other, and consumers push via our money… we win, as innovation happens.

Getting back to Mr. Krazit’s call for Schmidt to step down from Apple’s board, I agree.  Government regulators have come down ridiculously hard on Microsoft regarding their anti-trust practices.  Was Microsoft practicing hard-handed anti-trust?  Of course they were.  But some regulators have taken it far enough to stifle some of Microsoft’s innovation, and in some areas it seems Microsoft is playing catch-up.  Regulators have started paying more attention to Google because of their increasing size and scope.  If the CEO of Google, who is now in the business of application development as well as operating system development, is also on a Apple’s Board, who also develops applications and operating systems, these regulators will pay even more attention.  More attention may lead to government intervention, anti-trust issues, extensive costs, and less innovation.

I use products from Microsoft, Linux, Apple and Google every day.  I do love them, but I want them to be better.  I’m selfish.  I want innovation.

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With This Post, I thee…Apologize?

This time I got an email from several women asking: “Must you constantly break our balls?” I didn’t realize you had balls. Perhaps you might need to be gelded? That question does raise an interesting…well, question. Why hasn’t anyone ever said anything about that phrase?

It’s never been considered sexist or politically incorrect to use the term: “Breaking your balls.” Why? Because it’s in reference to male genitalia and not female? I bet if the saying was “Kickin’ your pussy” there would have been a replacement by now. Well, only after a march on Washington, too much public outcry and that communist Jane Fonda flapping her pie hole. Women’s groups around the globe would have had it obliterated because it was sexist. Or it would have been replaced with something neutral and less wordy than the “powers that be” felt wouldn’t offend anyone. Maybe something along the lines of: “I’m just being destructive to your reproductive organs.”

What’s my point? My point is that you should just relax. “Break your balls” is still a widely used term because guys don’t care about such a reference. (We also have better things to do than worry about such a thing.) So when some guy posts names of famous women on a website and you don’t agree with his choices, get a giggle out of it if you can, and move on. We’re all just having fun here.

I am fully aware that I’ve upset several women with my posts, so allow me to apologize. I am sincerely sorr…I’m just “Crushin your tits”… I’m not going to apologize. And to answer the question the broads with balls sent me: Yes…I must.

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Great Women

I received a few emails from women regarding my last post. They informed me that I was not being fair and the women I picked in my “We have, You have” section were jokes. I don’t see it that way, but OK. I’ll mention a few women (“you have”) and not even enter any guys (“we have”). This way they won’t be compared to men and can bask in the glow of their own greatness. This should level the playing field and make the disgruntled women happy.

You have Lizzy Borden, Squeaky Fromme, and Patty Hearst. Madame Curie gets a very distant honorable mention.

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Fat Guy Runs a 5K

Back in February, right around my 38th birthday, my oldest son told me that he wanted me to run my town’s “Father’s Day 5K”. Initially, I was less than pleased about it. You see, my motto in life was simple, “Only run when being chased.” For me, to get my fat ass off the couch and train for and complete a 5K without catching a myocardial infarction would completely go against my entire philosophy in life. Now I’m sure many of you out there are scoffing at my complaints. “WAAAHHH, my kid wants me to run a 5K, WAAHHH!” Trust me, I hated myself for feeling that way. So I decided to commit to the process and train for it. Here’s the skinny:

February – bought running shoes at Kohl’s. I have really wide feet and New Balance makes wide widths. I also didn’t feel like spending hundreds on real running shoes. My wife tells me that my feet look like Fred Flintstone feet. She’s a riot. I consulted with a friend who runs marathons who told me about the “Couch to 5K” program. Perfect. Just what I needed. If only the couch had wheels.

WEEK 1 – I walk carefully over to the local park and stretch for a few minutes and start running. The “Couch to 5k” program is simple. Three times a week, go running. Start with running for 60 seconds, walking for 90. Repeat for a total of 20 minutes. Warm up and cool down walks on either end. Simple. Thought my lungs were going to explode and my shins and feet disintegrate from the abuse. Can fat get sore after a workout? Yes it can. Considered taking the boy to the mall, buying him an Orange Julius and an Aunt Annie’s Pretzel and leaving him there.

WEEK 2 – Run for 90, walk for 90. Starting to get into it and liking it, sort of. Feels good to brush the chip crumbs off my chest and get off of the couch. Try to start eating better. Not being too successful with that.

WEEKS 3 & 4 – Really getting into it now. Running 3 – 4 days a week, alternating between the treadmill and outside. Pushing myself to run more than the program says. My already-bloated ego tells me that I’ll be doing the Ironman by August.

WEEK 5 – Went on vacation to Myrtle Beach with the brood and brought my running shoes. They never left the suitcase. Ate everything in sight and drank A LOT of BEER. Decided that being a fat sloth was more fun.

It was at this point that my training took a turn. I was inconsistent at best. Some weeks I ran three times, other weeks I skipped altogether. However, I did start running longer distances on the treadmill. Did two miles in 23 minutes on a Wednesday in May and then ran 5K (3.1 miles) on the treadmill on Friday in 33:30. Was very proud of myself. Considered me to be done with training and was ready for the 5K, even though it was still a month away and I had never actually run the thing outside. So that weekend I decided to try to run the course. Not good. Really thought I was going to puke at the 1.5 mile point. Stopped and stole a bike off someone’s lawn and rode it home. By the way, my 4 year old, loves her new Barbie Island Princess bike with the training wheels.
Fast forward to the week before the race. I’m running like a fool on the treadmill, hoping for the best but expecting to embarrass myself and my kids on Sunday. The day before, I go to bed early, try to deny my wife nookie to “save my strength” but once she sets her mind on something, there’s no stopping her. I reluctantly give in, quoting lines from Raging Bull about “Not before a fight, Vickie” but she doesn’t get the joke. I wake up early the next morning to pouring rain. I figure that the run is off but I wander over to the park anyway and there they are, all set up. I register, get my number and try to look like I belong there. It felt like high school again. “Hey, look at the fat band geek trying to hang with us cool people!” I guess it would have been better if I didn’t fall into a puddle while stretching my quads.

So we line up for the race in what the lead race official calls “heavy fog” and the gun fires. I start running faster than I should but I felt good. Two seconds later, as I’m being passed by, well, everyone, my ego kicks in and tells me to stop being a pussy and pick up the pace. I spot my goal, a fat woman in pink spandex. I catch up to her and pass her. About five minutes into the run, I realize that my pace is way too fast and I’m going to die if I don’t slow down. SO I slow and get my pace to where it should be. Two minutes after that, Pink Spandex passes me. I feel ashamed but resign myself to the fact that I’ll probably be pacing with this woman. Her ass looks like chewed gum. I’m surprised that her thighs didn’t catch fire. She’s breathing like she has asthma but then again, so am I.  Yes, I’m angry and taking it out on her.  She probably has a glandular problem.  Anyway, things are going fairly well even though I’m soaked to the bone. The race goes right past my house and as I turn the corner, I see all my kids and wife on the lawn cheering me on. On the house they had big signs “GO DAD!!” and “OUR DAD ROCKS”. I was hoping for a “BJ AFTER THE RACE” sign, but the wife must have forgotten to hang it up. Seeing the kids excitedly cheering me on brought a tear to my eye and made me realize why I was doing this. And then the faggoty trainer who was running with bubblegum ass in front of me turned around and ran backwards and said “AWWWWWWW!” Screw you Fruity McGee, pay attention to the Jabba the Hutt-ish looking Teletubby that you’re torturing and stop trying to check out my soaking wet crotch. I digress.

The rest of the run goes smoothly, except when I spilled water all over me at mile two. How the hell do you drink from a cup while running? Didn’t matter, I was soaked anyway. I had a nice rash on my corpulent thighs from the rubbing.  I crossed the finish line at 33:42 and didn’t have to stop once to catch my breath. Not bad considering I hadn’t run the 5K outside before. I considered having a Rocky moment,  “Yo, Adrian, I did it!” but was too tired. All in all it was fun and I’m glad I didn’t quit. Hope to do another one before the summer is over. I’ll let y’all know how that goes.

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