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KXVU

SF Observations

Things I notice now, working in SF, in contrast to living in DC for the past 6+ years:

1. Almost no one wears ties, on the street or at work.
2. So many Asians! And ethnic diversity out the wazoo, generally.
3. Such pungent pot smells on the street.
4. I can still navigate the City without a map.
5. Soy milk is available as a standard with non, low, and half-and-half in cafes.
6. Almost infinitely more people with piercings, tattoos, and colored hair.
7. Local paper front page picture is a head shot of a magenta-haired sex-worker with a ball-gag in her mouth.
8. People are so … calm? laid-back? nice?

And there is obviously much, much more. I still feel like I’m on some weird extended business trip, but I am settling in, slowly.

This is happening

But it hasn’t quite registered yet, the fact that I’m sitting in Long Beach on a layover, returning to California to stay. Already, I think that people look healthier and more relaxed, and that can’t just be in my head. Somebody is peeling an orange, and I’ve already heard conversations in Mandarin and Spanish. Skies are clear and blue, the temperature is pleasant, and all would be perfect if not for that one logistical inconvenience of my wife and I having jobs on opposite coasts.

THAT is what really hasn’t hit yet, the introspection and emotional realization that I’m not going home to my wife tonight, or most nights for the rest of the year. This year will pass quickly, I’m sure, but it will feel like forever. Thankfully, we live in the future, and phone calls are supplemented with video chats and relatively cheap airfare. Still, it sucks, but it will give me plenty of time to bill those hours at the new job. Woo-hah.

Still, no regrets are to be had. This helps us move forward with our lives, together for the long run.

Storylines for Super Bowl XLVII

NINERS!!!

That said, here are a couple of storylines that I predict will be beat into the ground over the next two weeks:

Did you know that John and Jim Harbaugh are brothers? Coaching against each other in the Superbowl? Jim is the “kid” brother (younger by like a year-and-a-half) who had a long and generally successful NFL career. John is the older brother with more coaching experience. Does this lead to “love lost” between the brothers? Was older brother John jealous of kid brother Jim’s NFL career? Is older brother John resentful of kid brother Jim’s quick rise to coaching success, in addition to that playing career? But what about Jim, will he be able to live up to the more accomplished coach that his older brother John is?

Did you know that RAY LEWIS is retiring? The presumptive assumed first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player has been such a zealous warrior throughout his career, this is the only fitting capstone. (Such a warrior indeed, let’s whisper about his involvement in that murder a decade ago which everyone in marketing wants us to conveniently forget.) And coming back from that torn triceps injury (how did he do that again / are we allowed to test him for PEDs?)! Ray has been such an exemplary leader of this Ravens defense for its existence, and now he gets to give these players a chance at a ring, just like he has. Particularly, Ed Reed, also a presumptive first-ballot Hall-of-Fame player. Ed missed out on the 2000 Ravens’ SB win; this is his shot. But what about Patrick Willis, the Niners star linebacker for whom Ray Lewis is a mentor; indeed, Ray has called Patrick a worthy inheritor of the most-talented/feared linebacker title. Will the student school the teacher?

Did you know that Superbowls mean a lot to football franchises? The Niners have a 5-0 record in Superbowls, four with “Super” Joe Montana and one with Steve Young. The fact that the Niners are undefeated in Superbowls must have an influence on this game nearly 20 years removed from their last appearance in the championship game. But what about the Ravens? They won with their DEFENSE and expected to establish a dynasty. They have been characterized and successful with defense since that win, but are not the dynasty they had hoped to be. Will this game bookend their grand tradition with another DOMINANT DEFENSE SB win?

Did you know that these quarterbacks have questions surrounding their performance? Colin Kapernick looks like a brilliant mid-season replacement, for now. Will be avoid young-QB mistakes in the biggest game of his career, so far? He has a high ceiling, but will he stay consistent when it matters the most? But what about Alex Smith, who was 2 muffed kick returns away from bringing the Niners to the SB last year, how does he feel? Is Kapernick overrated and Smith underrated? Then you get to Joe Flacco, who may be both underrated and overrated. Flacco gets tons of flak (unavoidable pun) for not being that good a QB… well maybe good but certainly not great, and he makes mistakes at times. But he was just a dropped pass away from bringing the Ravens to the SB last year, does he feel he has a shot at redemption now? Flacco has won playoffs games in each season of his 5-year career, so far; is that him or the DEFENSE carrying him?

Feel free to add other storylines, I’m sure I’ve missed some other obvious ones.

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Kokopelli

One of Kattenkilling’s aunts gave us a Christmas tree ornament for the holidays, a Kokopelli. A Hopi fertility / agriculture / trickster god, the description I like the most is as follows:

Another theory is that Kokopelli is actually an anthropomorphic insect. Many of the earliest depictions of Kokopelli make him very insect-like in appearance. The name “Kokopelli” may be a combination of “Koko”, another Hopi and Zuni deity, and “pelli”, the Hopi and Zuni word for the desert robber fly, an insect with a prominent proboscis and a rounded back, which is also noted for its zealous sexual proclivities.

I find it amusing, but I think my wife may be a wee bit grossed out by it, thus, I may start buzzing around the house like a sexy mosquito.

Happy New Year

It remains slightly incredible and wonderful that we’ve all been friends for as long as we have. Significant others have joined and expanded our circle only for the better, and though the distances between us vary, I know we stay, at our cores, the same  I just want to say I appreciate and cherish you all. Much love.

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Uncomfortably Good

We just saw Django and it was, as Katenkilling put it, uncomfortably good. Treating slavery with as much honesty and brutality in a self-aware cinematic exercise is not easy, but Tarentino did it about as well as could be hoped. The use of the n-word was ubiquitous, but felt accurate and not excessive. The editing was very restrained, and the story remarkably straightforward, especially for a Tarentino movie. The visuals related to the cruelty of slavery were probably as real-life awful as can be depicted in a wide-release film. The light humor scenes and soundtrack did draw line out of the moment, but that was by design; this isn’t a pure drama and the meta music and Jonah Hill cameo are necessary emotional pauses. All told, I recommend it (just like any other “it’s a Tarentino” movie) although I don’t know if it will become a cultural touchstone like his other movies. I’m glad this story was made and told, but I don’t see a rush of Southerns being made in the future.

New Tech / Toy

My laptop died a few months back, as the battery was a bit loose and lost connection while I was updating the Ubuntu OS. It bricked, sadly. So I’ve been looking at getting a replacement, but putting it off because I had a work laptop to hold me over. I decided to try an alternative, and got a Nexus 7 tablet instead.

It’s kind of awesome. I only need a device to surf the Internet and check email; everything else is kind of peripheral. So far, its serving me well, although I fear if the battery will be able to hold up with the heavy use I have planned. I’ve had poor battery luck / habits / training but maybe this will change. The lightness of traveling without a laptop is extremely pleasant, and enough reason for me to seriously consider not getting a replacement laptop at all, so long as I have an employer laptop for actual work.

I’m finally getting into apps as well. It is interesting seeing such a diverse ecosystem of specialized software to focus on things that a general browser can do. I’m not sure if this is good or bad for innovation, but I see why things have developed this way. I actually bought my first app yesterday; everything else I have on the tablet or have on my phone have been free apps. It’s for the holidays at the in-laws, and to make up for the fact that as a 6-year old I declined my grandpa’s offer to buy me a Nintendo (because I realized I would spend too much time on it, oddly mature everyone said at the time). So now I get to share in the nostalgia everyone has for Final Fantasy III, and yes I am loving the old-school hardcore RPG difficulty.

Happy Christmakwanzaukkah everyone.

College Football Compensation

I don’t care about the game of college football.  I find the game more sloppy than exciting when compared to the pro game. Mostly though, I just can’t see the point in trying to define the best team in the country each year. There is such wild disparity between schools, that the hallowed undefeated records, built on disproportionately weak opponents, and the rankings as a whole are essentially meaningless noise obscuring any actual underlying signal.  The uneven opposition and the sheer number of schools builds in too much inaccuracy to make a championship truly representative of the “best” team in the nation.

I get irritated by the business of college football.  What I primarily see in the college game is a group of young men being exploited for their labor without pay.  Some of these players would be better served getting paid as professionals, and not having to spend their time, risking injury, in college.  The majority of these players are not going to be pro, and are simply young, naive kids who are sacrificing their bodies for a transitory glory, which will not be of much value when dealing with the long-term health effects that playing college football creates.  The compensation of an education would mean something if the players actually had to take rigorous classes or were encouraged to make their education off the field a priority, but that seems a rare thing.  (Stanford being the only exception that comes to mind where the players are expected to be serious students.)

As an aside, I’ll agree that it would be “bad” for the business of the NFL to hire 18-yr old kids without the benefit of further training in college, but all the NFL does is graft off of the free development by the NCAA so that it does not have to support its own minor league.  (The NBA has been just as bad about this, although the NBDL does show some promise of being a meaningful step to the pros bypassing college.) With the NFL raking in money hand-over-fist, I imagine they could afford to carry and train more players if they wanted; which they won’t as the unadulterated profits are certainly preferable to the owners.

But what about compensation? The schools and the BCS make a disgusting amount of money off of the backs of these student-athletes, emphasizing the athlete over the student. Whatever moral high ground the NCAA wants to claim about “amateur status” and not allowing any paid athletes to play in college, their rules are Byzantine and hypocritical.  The industry of college football is profitable because they have essentially free labor, and this is fundamentally wrong.

So what should be done to right things? My thoughts, and the reason for this seemingly random rant:

  1. The schools are never going to directly pay the players so I’ll not even bother discussing that.
  2. Required classes on personal business management and labor economics.  For players that do go pro, they should be educated to be as prepared as possible before getting huge paycheck, which will quickly be sapped by taxes, agent’s fees, friends and family needing and “needing” money, and union dues. If the schools are going to teach anything to these kids, it should prepare them to not go bankrupt 3-5 years after a pro playing career is over and they have lost their best earning years.
  3. Lifetime health care:
    1. A first step would be another required class, this one on nutrition and how to live post-football. What does a 330-pound offensive lineman do after his senior year is over if he isn’t going pro, because he is just too slow or had a knee injury, or whatever?  He no longer has access to the university gym after graduating. He no longer has the team to eat meals with, where a dietitian (if there is one) makes sure he is putting on good weight. He doesn’t have the team doctor to help with the fact that he is 330 pounds which no healthy person can sustain as a living weight. He loses his entire routine in life and lacks the significant guidance, so at the very least teach the players how to live post-athletic career.
    2. The biggest redeeming act the schools could take is paying for health care for the players, for injuries and life-long health affects from playing football for the school.  Concussions stand out as something which the act of playing football is directly responsible for, but no treatment or aid exists for the players once they leave school.  A health pension of some sort would be the moral way to keep the players on an even playing field so that they can succeed in their later careers. It is just unconscionable to me that there is no mechanism to address this risk.
  4. Actual enforcement of academic requirements.  I really don’t expect the schools to do anything to compensate their athletes. But continuing to hammer on the actual purpose of college, to earn an education in real classes, seems like the easiest way to get colleges to do anything productive.

Some may make the argument that these “kids” are adults and choose to risk their bodies for the glory of college football. I would counter that if they were being paid as professionals, then yes, this is a fair choice to take a risky job for the benefit of glory and financial rewards. But mere glory is treated as enough payment for kids because they are really still kids who generally don’t know better, believe as all youth do in their invincibility and immortality, and are conditioned to play football as a priority over anything else.

A legal problem that occurs to be is Title IX, because how can there be a health pension for (male) football players if there isn’t one given to female athletes in equal proportion. Maybe if certain sports are qualifying for the pension, or if injuries are treated as qualifying and not the particular sports, then Title IX will be appeased.

In any case, I’ll be happy when I don’t have to deal with college football being in the background again. It is just a poor product with ultimately immoral management that irritates the hell out of me.

Ken Burns’ Yuletide in America

We watched Ken Burns’ most recent documentary, The Dust Bowl, which was incredible and depressing and quintessential Ken Burns.  As such, when I was “asked” to recite T’was The Night Before Christmas for Thanksgiving this evening, I decided to “annotate” the poem and will … grace my friends with a reading in grizzled old person voice.

T’Was The Night Before Christmas, As Annotated By Ken Burns

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;

During the Dust Bowl, mice were used in lieu of Christmas hams. -John Steinbeck

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,

A sugar plum was worth 2/3rd of a slave for a time in Alabama. -Dorothy Gray

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

Ty Cobb was known for tearing drapes down in hotel rooms to hide his dead hookers.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer,

During the Dust Bowl, children considered new-fallen snow a cruel joke. -Elizabeth Henderson

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:

The name for St. Nick is, of course, taken from the name of Louis Armstrong’s first trumpet.

Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!

Thelonius Monk kept a stable of breeding reindeer next to his 11-dimensional house.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

In the Confederacy, this verse was amended to say “white house-tops”.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

St. Nicholas’ ability to avoid soot in chimneys is due to him greasing up with magical elf butter every Christmas Eve.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.

Johnny Appleseed was mistaken for St. Nick by native American cultures before he was cannibalized by the Mohawk in the winter of ‘62.

His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow;

Coincidentally, dimples were an identifying mark for dalliances by slave masters and Ty Cobb.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly.

St. Nick has Type 2 diabetes and has weighed over 400 pounds for the past 150 years.

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;

In 1925, St. Nick took a sabbatical to star on trombone in King Oliver’s band before being summarily replaced by T-Boz Jenkins, future senator from Missouri.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;

The “Dirt Devils” were a travelling baseball team that had a chimney as their mascot; they were beaten to death as insensitive jerks by homesteaders in Oklahoma.

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight,
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night.”

Gun Control Argument

Here is an argument I’ve been mulling in favor of gun control, to present in a discussion with someone who is against gun control, and bases that opposition in the sanctity of the Second Amendment. (Just putting thought to digital ink here.)

Just because a right is enumerated in the Bill of Rights, that doesn’t make the right absolute. Consider the First Amendment. The Freedoms of Speech, Religion, Press, and Assembly. Each and every one of those rights is quintessentially American, but even those Freedoms have limits. You aren’t allowed to yell, “Fire!” in a theater or make threats against the life of the President. You aren’t allowed to have multiple wives even if your religion considers it a sacrament. Journalists are not allowed to publish all information they come across, if it affects certain financial entities or national security. A group of people are free to assemble, but they often need a permit so that a city can make sure things remain orderly and they reduce the risk of a mob or riot.  Each of these limitations are in place for good policy reasons, which no one reasonably disagrees with.  Each limitation can be abused by authority, but the abuse which can be corrected does not invalidate the underlying reason for the limitations.

So why would anyone think that the Second Amendment is a blank check to bear any and all arms? It is completely consistent with the application of the Constitution to put limitations and restrictions on the type and scope of arms one can bear.  In fact, we already accept some limitations, because there is a legal distinction between rifles and handguns and things other weapons, such as rocket launchers and flamethrowers. There is no logical distinction to be drawn from the Constitution to say that one type of individual weapon should be allowed and another not, just because one type of those weapons is more traditional and existed in some form in 1776.

So it is evident that (1) all of our Freedoms have limits and (2) the degree of those limits is based on public policy. Further, the contours of such limitations are not based on any prophetic foresight of the Founders, but is a flexible set of limits that react to the reality of the times. SO, what objective argument can one have to say that it is unacceptable for the government to decide that some automatic guns, or high capacity magazines (like the ones used by the Aurora shooter), or hollow-tip bullets are excessively dangerous and should be banned or strictly regulated?