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Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Wild Cards 

Ahh the Brewers, we can’t believe it, September is right around the corner and the franchise has slipped under .500 for the first time since April, what surprise. Hey and here’s another, Ben Sheets has spent the last six weeks on this disabled list. No way. All right, way. The Clarion was saying months ago the Brewers were going to gag away their lead. We’re biased, we can’t stand used car salesman Bud Selig or the daughter he bequeathed the team to, we have no beef with Milwaukeeans. We abhor Selig for what happened to baseball under his regime.

The problem the Brewers imminent collapse points out is the Wild Card. At the Clarion, we keep trying to get excited about the Wild Card race. Everyone keeps telling us about the great races in both leagues. We keep trying to inure ourselves to the mediocrity, to pretend that a race between the one under .500 Brew crew, the three over .500 Cubbies and last year’s pretenders, the .500 on the button St. Louis Cardinals is real race. Their competitive, their competitive. Just click your cleats together three times and they’ll look like contenders, Toto. But there are no fairy godmothers to make it so. It isn’t exactly the 104 win Braves holding off the 103 win Giants in 1993 to win the N.L. West. Heck, the Reds, at 60 and 72, are sort of still in it, more so in the N.L. Central than the Wild Card, but with four playoff teams per league, up from 70+ years of one per, and another nearly 30 years of two per league, now almost everybody is still in it.

The Selig supporters want us to shout hooray for parity. But its hard. They have attempted to copy Pete Rozelle and the NFL. Having seen football shoot by them in popularity in the last thirty odd years, baseball’s owners cajoled by Selig, opened up the playoffs, and devalued one of their greatest assets, the regular season, shooting for parity. It was analgous to the era of the faux home run records, changing the substance and underlying values of the game to allow for a slow pitch softball like numbers didn’t work, provoking initial excitement but eventually a greater backlash. And so it will go for the expanded playoffs and parity. Diluting the competition is never a draw. It has made for fluke champions of the most watered down sort.

Everybody is in the race the supporters retort. There are a bunch of proponents right now, the Clarion is still in the minority on this position. MLB is drawing well, setting attendance records. (Right now...) Looking at the crowd figures last night for N.L. Wild Card contenders...

In indifferent Florida, only the road team was in the race and the Braves at Florida had the stadium 32% full with 11,500 people.

In the battle for the N.L. Central, The Cubbies sold out for the Brew crew with nearly 41,000 in Wrigley.

However, the fight for best in the West drew only 23,000 a paltry 54% capacity in San Diego. Where there are definitely other things to do.

With the home ruin chase over and only visiting San Diego in the race, the San Francisco Giants announced an optimistic 37,800+ tickets sold.

The Mets and the Phils did a legitamate 40k+ at Citizen’s Bank Park, even if the Phils are fading, lots of Mets fans made the drive down the Turnpike.

They sold almost 50,000 tickets to Chavez Ravine in LA for the contending Dodgers...

Will the Wild Card race hold fans spellbound or will it fizzle into another season capped by an 83 win World Series Champion, propelled to victory by the errors and gaffes of their equal medicore opponents.

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Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Google Book Search 

In a follow on to the link to the Caffeinated Librarian more library related links...

Cornell University is going to work with Google Book Search.

This is Wiki's take on Google Book Search.

In a practical test of Google Book Search, it found one of the first three random quotes the Clarion gave it. It did not recognize an Edward Abbey quote or a paragraph from Neal Stephenson, but it found a line from Milan Kundera’s, Immortality. Not a very scientific sampling, admittedly.

The manner in which it displays the books, while seemingly truncated and unpleasant, is truly not much different than the way Amazon and Barnes and Noble sell their tomes on line. One can't touch the books. One can look inside them (in a less than five sensory sorta kinda way.) Google provides a similar look and the link to Amazon, as well as, Barnes and Noble.

For now, the big deal about Google's service isn't after one finds the book, it is in the ability to search out and find the book in the first place.

Perhaps, the most interesting thing Google Book Search provides is a service to link from the book one has found searching, to a local library that has said book in it's collection via one's zip code. It is bad ass.

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Sunday, August 26, 2007

More Sony PlayStation news 

As Scott Adams once warned, in this day and age "Information is gushing at our brain(s) like a firehose aimed at a teacup."

Case in point here: The Clarion hardly finished posting what was ostensibly an update to an older post about the battle to be the dominant gaming system, when we discovered two fascinating new memes of information about Sony’s PlayStations.

When the Clarion noted that Sony's habit was to come from behind on sales and end up, eventually, the winner of total sales, we hardly appreciated just how long the sales period was. Then we encountered a Reuters article this evening that noted the PlayStation 2 is still outselling the PlayStation 3, by a ratio of 4 to 1 in the second quarter of 2007. Even more remarkably new games will continue to be developed for the PlayStation 2 for as long as two or three more years.

The other data was in an article from the Financial Times. They ran an article detailing some of the wow-zer multimedia add-ons Sony is making available on the European version of the PS 3. These add-ons are not yet available in the U.S. and Japan, but Sony has partnered with British Sky Broadcasting to introduce an add-on device to the PlayStation 3 that allows it to function as a digital video tuner/receiver and a digital video recorder. It will be possible to transfer recorded programs from the PS 3 to Sony’s hand held PlayStation Portable.

Sony also announced that it had separately partnered with BT Group (UK telecoms leader) to allow Sony’s hand held PSP units to make voice and video calls, as well as handle instant messaging, and function as satellite navigation devices. Now that’s futuristic convergence.

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

News Updates 

A couple of quick updates from the editorial desk on some older posts...As predicted, it is "whoopee" a whopping 10.57 million units sold for the Wii. The Nintendo Wii has now outsold it’s competitors in the next generation gaming system contest to date. It has passed Microsoft XBox 360, which got out to an early lead, and relegated Sony’s Play Station III, to 3rd/last place. Sony’s Play Stations have traditionally been the latecomer, the last to be released system, but have taken over total sales down the final stretch. This time, however, the momentum seems to be shifting in Wii’s direction. As the Clarion noted previously, word on the street is big for the Wii. The gamers love the bowling, boxing and tennis. Big sports game designer EA Sports has announced it going to shift programming resources to develop more games for the Wii.

ESPN’s SportsCenter is lame and getting lamer. The Clarion hammered ESPN a few weeks back for an awful, cheesy segment on SportCenter called “Who’s Now?” It was atrocious claptrap, faux-faux make news from nil. It was reminiscent of the days when ESPN Classic was doing Sports Century specials on Anna Kournikova, proclaiming her one of the athletes of the century. Turns out the Clarion wasn’t alone in his upset and distaste with the inane “Who’s Now?” segment. ESPN’s Ombudsman reports that this was one of (or the) single most commented on piece of the year for SportCenter, “No single topic has ever drawn the volume and intensity of unsolicited complaints to either my or my predecessor's mailbox that this sports popularity contest has.” See her article here.

Finally from the world of golf, a few months back the Clarion detailed the mouthy South African trying to run it at Tiger Woods. Mistake Rory Sabbatini, mistake. It blew by so fast at the beginning of August the Clarion didn’t get a moment to drop a note on it, but Sabbatini who had baited Tiger, got a chance to play against him in the final round at Firestone Country Club. Tiger is not a man to talk smack to, he is in the Michael Jordan mode of competitor, talk smack to Tiger and he will administer the beat down. In the final round of the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone, Tiger took the folding Sabbatini apart by eight strokes. The Clarion was reminded of Sabbatini’s final round choke because he grabbed the first round lead at this week’s PGA tournament in Westchester. And he promptly imploded in the second round, like the gagging bum he is, from a 63 in Round One to a 71. In a monument to how irrelevant the newly instituted Fed Ex PGA not-playoffs are, Tiger didn’t even bother to show up for this week’s opening round tournament. He will advance anyway. Don't ask. Not only are these playoffs utterly meaningless, because Tiger wrapped up the Player of the Year award when he won his Major at the PGA, but the payout is tricked up, too. The PGA Tour and Fed Ex are billing them as having a $10 million dollar payday for the winner. Ooops, except, the winner doesn’t get $10 million, 2007 dollars, instead they get annuity worth $10 million only available when they reach age 52. (Untouchable until then, and subsequently devalued by years worth of inflation...not that it is anything to sneeze at, but it isn’t a $10 million dollar prize per se, either.) Two hot golfers besides Tiger to keep an eye on in next year’s Majors, the finally healthy Ernie Els, and the up and coming, bigger in the bigger moments, K.J. Choi.

One more update, this one on Britney Spears, the Clarion continues to pine for her recovery and rehabilitation. She is getting some help from her old media rival, Christina Aguilera. The talented singer Aguilera has booked Spears to headline the opening of her new nightclub, LAX, in the Luxor hotel in Las Vegas. Hopefully, Brit in contrast to her recent foibles, can have a good gig.

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Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Abu Ghraib shame gets worse 

Just in case one had any doubts about whether or not the United States Army and the Bush II adminstration were going to make sure the people responsible for the reprehensible violations of the Geneva Convention that occured at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were going to be appropropriately punished, they aren’t.

Don’t doubt for a minute that these folks, Bush II, et al., are going to do the wrong thing. This is the adminstration that pioneered the use of the signing statement to suborn the will of Congress. This is the adminstration that came into office under the dark cloud of one of the most partisian Supreme Court decisions ever made. This the adminstration that tried to appoint the President’s personal legal counsel to the Supreme Court. This is the adminstration that still has in place the Attorney General who wrote the memo condoning the use of torture. The Attorney General who tried to coerce his predecessor (an evil fascist himself, who must have felt a pang of conscience on his deathbed) to sign off on said torture memo against his will while sedated and dying.

A man with personal experience of war, unlike the current Air National Guardsmen-in-chief, Senator John McCain said torture was wrong in any and all cases, plain and simple. McCain said that the Army already had proper guidelines in place, all they had to do was follow the U.S. Army Field Manual and the Geneva Convention. The Senate voted 90-9 to support that position. Bush II simply added a signing statement indicating he and his adminstration would only follow the letter of the law only when they found it appropriate and convenient, otherwise they would continue to do as they pleased. Then they attempted to add a top secret classified ten page section to the United States Army Field Manual, to circumvent the Senate’s position and cover their asses.

The Bush adminstration’s former Secretary of Defense refused to apply the Geneva Convention to prisoners captured in America's wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. The President and his administration bang on and on about how "This is nation is at war." Then when America captures somebody in this open-ended, endless war the President wanted, they are classified an unlawful combatant, not a prisoner of war. The truth?

United States Army interrogators have admitted under oath to practices including beating of detainees, including broken bones (common) and severe injuries that (occasionally) resulted in death. United States Army interrogators have admitted to subjecting prisoners to near drowning, the brutal practice softened with phony verbiage, waterboarding. United States Army interrogators have admitted soaking inmates with icy water from huge hoses and leaving them outside in freezing cold weather for hours on end with no clothes. They have admitted to using sleep deprivation for periods of greater than forty hours with blaring air horns placed immediately next to prisoners’ heads to keep them awake. They have admitted to keeping detainees in completely black rooms, with no light or windows with extremely loud music blaring for days on end. It is self evident that such practices are torture. They are in violation of the Geneva Convention. Some honorable West Point graduates, despite the repeated assurances of the Army JAG Corps and their own superiors, found these practices so repugnant they reported them. The Bush Adminstration and the military chain of command attempted to supress and ignore those reports. The only reason we know about these tragedies today is some very brave and honorable military personnel tired of being disregarded and attacked by official channels, eventually went to first Human Rights Watch, the NGO, and then the press.

Today, today, the military reiterated for those still paying attention, and much of the country is not, that it’s policy and position hasn’t changed one bit. It is deny, obfuscate and refuse to accept any responsibilty to the bitter end. The highest ranking officer (a Lieutenant Colonel) to have charges brought against them in the military courts of justice following the Abu Ghraib scandal suddenly found out today that military prosecutors decided two of the most serious charges had to be dropped. The Army “discovered” that the Major General leading the investigation had failed to inform the defendant of his rights before interviewing him. Coincidentally, or NOT this reduced the maximum sentence the Lt. Colonel might face by half. Even more hard to fathom, how this could possibly be the second incident where incriminating statements made by this same Lt. Colonel on two different occasions to higher authority(two different generals) both had to be tossed for the Army’s failure to read him his rights!!?

So let’s repeat how the process went down for clarity and emphasis, “Give us a statement,” says Major General One. In May, those statements are tossed out because defendant was not read his rights. “Give us another statement” says Major General Two. On the opening day of defendant’s trial the Army says, “Ooops, we forgot to read him his rights the second time, too. Guess we’ll have to toss those statements as well. Sorry.”

No high ranking officer has been punished over the disgrace at Abu Ghraib. America’s standing and reputation are at stake. The senior officer in charge was let off with a reprimand and a fine. Only personnel obeying what they were repeatedly told were lawful orders have been scapegoated. Somehow this adminstration cannot understand why America’s reputation has never been worse, more tarnished. Once America was touted as the good guys. Once America was the driving force behind the establishment of the Geneva Convention. When the Clarion was a young lad, people genuinely worried about and prayed for the return of POW-MIA’s in Vietnam, of which John McCain was one. Now America condones torture, fights efforts to limit it, redirects prisoners beyond the reach of the Constitution and the Courts and when called to account subverts the very processes designed to deal with this abberrant, horrible behavior.


Saturday, August 18, 2007

As Goes the Catcher 

As goes the Catcher so goes the season, or so it seems anyway in 2007, for the pennant contenders. The Dodgers and Indians sprinted out to strong starts behind catchers, Russell Martin and Victor Martinez. As their catchers have cooled, so have the teams' fortunes. The Dodgers were 12 games over July 3rd and their hard hitting catcher Martin was averaging .306, he has since slide to .289 and had only 16 of his 71 RBIs. The Dodgers have lost nine games to .500 and fallen out of 1st place. The Indians peaked at 19 games over .500 on that very same July 3rd. Victor Martinez was hitting .324, since then he has slipped to .302 and had only 21 of his 88 RBI’s. The Indians have given back six games to break even.

The Mets have weathered the storm in their division hanging on to a 3 game lead coming into today. They have survived, in part, because when their starting catcher Paul Lo Duca went down he was able replaced by super-sub Ramon Castro.

The Cubs whole season was kick started by their catcher at the time, albeit Michael Barrett did it via a dugout fight with ace pitcher Victor Zambrano. Which not only cranked up Zambrano’s motor, he has been lights out since then, but fired up the entire Cubs franchise. They have leaped from 4th place and 8 games under .500 to 3 games over and the lead. The currently disabled Barrett was shipped to San Diego for Padres catcher Jason Kendall, who has rebounded from an early season slump raising his batting average by more than 40 points since arriving in the friendly confines.

The Braves plethora of young catchers allowed them to swing a big deal at the trading deadline. They were quite happy with the performance of All-Star Brian McCann, who is sitting on a career .299 average in almost 1000 at-bats. He meant the Braves could trade a top prospect, young, switch hitting catcher and the longest last name in MLB history, Jarrod Saltalamacchia. The talented Saltalamacchia brought back big hitting Texas 1st baseman, Mark Texiera, a local Georgia Tech alum, who has really lengthened the middle of the Braves batting order.

A couple of catchers who have slid statisically backward from terrific seasons last year, to have good, but not great seasons this year, have seen their teams do the same. As A.L. batting champion Joe Mauer has looked more mortal, so the Twins have hovered around .500. They were ten games over at this point in 2006. Likewise, Ivan Rodriguez in Detroit has been good but not stellar. He no longer guns down runners at the ridiculous rates he once did and his on-base percentage is an anemic .290. He is still a clutch hitter, and aces at blocking balls in the dirt. The Tigers 14 games off of last year’s pace are still in the thick of the race.

The recently thirty-six year old, free agent to be Jorge Posada has played at a superstar level all year in the Bronx. Playing a silent but deadly, second man to A-Rod’s headline grabbing season. Can he keep it up as the Yanks drive for the playoffs? And in another borough in New York, now Ramon Castro has joined Lo Duca among the temporarily disabled. Will light hitting Mike DiFelice herald a fade in Queens?

Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for another exciting episode of As Goes the Catcher...

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Interesting Links 

Interesting links we have encountered lately:

First, see a friend of the Clarion chronicling her travels across South America with beautiful pictures and brilliant, sparse, unadorned words. Found at tres soles.

This next one may not be news to some folks, a couple of clued-in hipsters who informed the Clarion about "Freecycle" were somewhat surprised we hadn't heard about it yet. It is a great site and more importantly a great interpersonal network. As the name indicates, it is an attempt to share and reuse, rather than use and discard. "Waste not" is a mission the Clarion is firmly behind. The ingenious mavens at Freecycle have prevented over 300 tons of trash from hitting the world's ever increasing landfills.

In a similar vein, this one from the Market, comes about half as good an idea. Half.com is operated by E-Bay. The idea is deeply discounted (half off, hence the name) products for sale from individual users. What a bargain!

On a less practical, but possibly more interesting vein Blogger recommend the Caffeinated Librarian recently in their "Blogs of note." It must be conceded that personal proclivities mean the Clarion is likely to be sympathetic to over-coffeed, bibliophiles. Check it out, she is a smooth, witty writer.

For less interactive personal exploration, last week we brought you the The Muppet Personality Test. It was spot on for this lab rat. This week we recommend trying out, What Tarot Card are you?


Friday, August 17, 2007

A.L. East update 

The Yankees have done what they were supposed to do. They plowed through a long stretch of largely lousy sub .500 competition.

They Yankees may have exceeded expectations, slightly, by playing at such a high level. The Red Sox helped by coming back to the pack a little, treading water at three over .500 since the All-Star break. The race is on, or so it appears. Depending on your rooting interest, beware, or be aware, the Yankees still have issues.

The Clarion’s concerns are not with the offense. The offense has been scorching, led by Matsui, Cano, Melky, and Posada. Even Johnny Damon has come around. Rookie Shelley Duncan has made an instant contribution. Statistically Alex Rodriguez is having an MVP season. No, no the Clarion's concerns are not with the offense.

It is the Yankees pitching that is the issue. Even during the Yankees recent magnificent hot stretch, their pitching was still 7th in the league over that time. The offense was just scoring so many runs that they were able to mask it. Many of the Yankees games, wins and losses, were lopsided. The stretch run will be tougher. The Yankees will be facing higher caliber pitching when they play the Tigers, Angels and Red Sox.

The Yankees starting pitchers must do a little better. Unfortunately, Mussina is all but finished. His last contract extension was a big mistake. The sooner he leaves the better. Hopefully, the Pirates want to put him along side Matt Morris. The Clarion has no worries about Andy Pettitt. Roger Clemens is a gutty, gamer. The Clarion is happy to have him on the Yanks side. He even drilled a Toronto hitter for A-Rod last week. If the Yankees make the playoffs it will be because Clemens had a great stretch run. Wang is solid. Especially when, as Joe Torre said yesterday, he doesn’t overthink. He has stuff he can and should trust, he is never going to be unhittable, but great groundball pitchers can be a hitter's worst nightmare.

The best news for the Yankees since the All-Star break, in this columnist’s view, even better than the post All-Star break record, is that the Yankees didn’t trade any young pitching at the deadline. Something the Red Sox can’t say. They traded their best young pitcher Gabbard (5-1 in ten starts, though he left a game last Sunday with elbow pain) to the Rangers for the aging Eric Gagne. Close observers new this was a dangerous deal. Gagne, who's arm has yet to come all the way back, had been inconsistent in his last month plus in Texas. Even worse news for the Red Sox is superb Japanese relief pitcher, Hideki Okajima, has cooled off. He has allowed 4 runs in his last 11 and 2/3 innings, after having a long scoreless streak earlier in the year. Gagne melted down again tonight spoiling a four run, eighth inning rally.

As for the Yankees young pitching, Joba Chamberlin and Phillip Hughes are integral to the Yankees future. Obviously, they are quite important this year, Hughes is the fifth starter, but this is only the beginning. Much better to use them carefully now, than to use them up like Ed Lynch and the Cubs did to a young Kerri Wood.

The Yankees middle relief, season to date, has been very shaky. Scott Proctor was likeable, but Joe Torre had used him up (83 appearances last year.) Luis Vizcaino is doing okay, at the moment, but confidence is limited. Kyle Farnsworth is so atrocious that the Yankees couldn’t bribe anyone into taking him at the trading deadline. He may be second only to the charlatan, Carl Pavano, as the worst signings off the Brian Cashman era. Mariano Rivera, the ageless wonder, has looked somewhat less than his most potent self in the last few outings.

One area the Yankees have improved in significantly since the All-Star break is the bench. Wilson Betemit has some pop. Clearly, Shelly Duncan is a promising young hitter. Even better, perhaps because his Dad, Dave Duncan, is a pitching coach, he is very selective at the plate for a big bopper. Damon’s rememergence has helped. He has gone from the .230’s to almost .260. In the rotation between he, Melky, Matsui, Abreu, Phillips and Giambi somebody is always going to be on the bench. Phillips has tailed off somewhat at the end of both of the last two seasons. Each time it appeared that he felt the pressure of being a regular down the stretch. It got to him, especially as starters (Sheffield, Giambi) returned from injuries. Hopefully, the same thing isn’t about to happen this year. Phillips has been playing well around the bag and hitting near .290. Tonight, unfortunately, he made a boneheaded defensively play cutting off a ball that gave the Tigers a run instead allowing it to be a close play at the plate. (On the other hand it probably saved Jorge some wear and tear.) It was a bad mental play because as the first baseman, on a ball to the leftfielder, he isn’t the cut-off man. The third baseman is, worse Phillips it cut it to trap the batter between second base and third base, but because he would have been the guy covering second base, there was nobody there when the Yanks attempted to catch Branon Inge in a run down.

Note: no sooner did those words leave the keyboard than Phillips got his second hit of the game, a double and two, big, rbi insurance runs. This bench is a huge improvement from the likes of Cairo and Doug Mientkiewicz. Nobody is talking about retired Yankee great Bernie Williams now.

Sorry Orioles and Devil Rays fans your franchises currently suck wind.

Good news for Blue Jay fans. The most exciting new discovery in the A.L. East this side of Joba Chamberlin, is Toronto's uber-slick field shortstop, John McDonald. Follow this link to the multimedia header for some sweet fielding highlights.

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Monday, August 13, 2007

Rove resigns 

George Bush the II's long time election mastermind, Karl Rove, announced his pending resignation today. Democratic presidential candidate, John Edwards was quoted as saying "Good riddance, goodbye." But the Clarion believes there is plenty of reason to think Rove is more dangerous to the Democrats outside of the floundering Bush White House. Rove helped plan and direct the triumphant Republican election campaigns of 2000*, 2002 and 2004. But in recent times, he had been asked to spearhead Bush II policy flops, such as privatizing Social Security, and Immigration restriction. Rove can now hone the Republicans' themes for the 2008 election without the rotting carcass of the President's albatross around his neck.

Make no mistake, despite claims today that he will take no formal role in the upcoming presidential election, regardless of plans to write a book and help ride herd on Bush the II's presidential library, Rove will be deeply involved in guiding and directing Republican strategy for the 2008 campaign. He admitted as much this afternoon, "I've got friends in all the campaigns. I won't take any formal role … but I have to talk to my friends when they call." Rove went on to say he is going to retain the President's ear, as well, "Something tells me that we're likely to continue to gossip and talk. I know his phone number, and he certainly knows mine."

The only question that remains on the heels of yesterday's Republican Iowa straw poll is which candidate Rove will back. His support is likely to be much more valuable than the President's endorsement during the Republican primaries. Surely, Rove won't put his support behind the unelectable Mitt Romney, winner of said straw poll. USA Today quoted Senator John McCain's campaign, Rove's bitter nemesis in the 2000 Republican Presidential primaries, stating the obvious, it wouldn't likely be them, "He will be "guru in chief (for all Republican candidates.)" Perhaps, this is the opening bell for the undeclared campaign of actor Fred Thompson? Or a shot heard round the country for yesterday's shocking second place finisher, little-known, Arkansas Governor, Mike Huckabee?


Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Math of Summer 

Remember those endless days of Summer as a young kid? Those lazy, hazy days of Summers that seemed to last forever? The days were a month long, and the months, well they were incalculable.

What happened? Why does Summer fly by so fast now, when it used to take so long? It can’t just be the pressure of a job, can it? After all, one had to go back to school at the end of those summers. Shouldn’t the dreaded anticipation of that first day of school have made Summer blow by? And maybe it did. At first, it was just the last few days of Summer that flew by, but eventually those Summers started to get away more and more quickly. Start with when did the feeling end; the endless Summer feeling, 4th grade, 5th grade, middle school, high school? It was not the same age for everyone, but likely, gradually, one felt the Summers were getting shorter and shorter.

As a grown-up, unless one is a teacher, professional basketball player, or retired, one does not get to take the whole Summer off. Logically, it goes by faster when one does not get to stop for it. But even before that, what happened as an older kid, and then a teenager, when did Summer go from forever to over? And why? Here’s a quick thought and the math behind it. Maybe there was a baseline reality to why Summer seemed to last forever as a truly, young kid.

Time was and is a perception thing. Humans perceive it through, among other things, astronomical and meteorological cycles. We also inevitably measure time by the ultimate clock, mortality. It is the Clarion’s contention that time is perceived like an accordion, bellows expanding and compressing. On occasion, perceptually, it is stretched, expanded as it were into long slow, languid flat waves where the days seem to crawl by. During other spans, time is compressed, contracted as it were into choppy waves, with high crests, deep troughs and short periods. Days pass, and pass, and pass. Each day passes faster and faster. Most people have had some experience with this phenomenon. People often perceive periods of boredom as slow compared with periods of heightened activity. Busy days, hectic stretches appear to fly by, whereas during stretches with no responsibilities, no pressures or cares, time moves at a slow and leisurely pace. When it is final exam’s week, or the CPA exam or the Bar exam is looming, or one is in Basic Training, time whips by like a high speed train. The days and weeks blow by like the scenery outside the window, blurring.

So then, think back to those endless Summers and consider this math for an American child. (not in a year-round or a home school situation.) After the Summer following 3rd grade, a typical eight and a half year old child would have been alive for 3102 days. Assuming that one couldn’t remember much before age three, one would have a memory of approximately 2372 days. Assume also an average American public school’s eleven week Summer vacation, which at the end of Summer of 3rd grade year would have occurred four times, (a total of 308 days.) And that the child remembers having age four and five essentially without obligation, 730 more days on vacation. At the end of the Summer of 3rd grade the average American kid would have spent approximately 33.5% of her/his rememberable days on vacation. Nearly one-third of life thus far would have been a break!! Summer vacation, only, was already a restriction from having the whole year off. It is likely kindergarten and 1st grade didn’t entail much homework, so maybe school wasn’t a burden. But each passing year comes with more and more homework and responsibility. Simultaneously, each year the eleven weeks Summer would represent a smaller and smaller percentage of a child’s days. After the Summer of 5th grade, the average kid would have spent approximately 31% of her/his rememberable days on vacation. By the end of 9th grade the percentage of life on vacation is down to 28.3%, and they are handing out mandatory Summer reading lists. By the end of high school it is 27.1%, without calculating for time spent in today’s hyper competitive extracurricular activities and training camps rather than relaxing.

Assuming five years of college, and eleven week Summer breaks still, things don’t get much worse until one joins the workforce. But, if like many American’s the newly hired employee gets the standard two weeks vacation a year, between age twenty-three and thirty-three, the percentage of days spent on vacation drops from nearly 25% to 18.5%. Even if seniority starts to get you three and four weeks of vacation annually, the numbers don’t improve until...yep you guessed it retirement.

Obviously, there is something more than math underlying why people look forward so much to retirement. And those endless, forever Summers one remembers from youth, there something more to the nostalgia they represent than just the math. But it wasn’t just in one’s head, those Summers, they didn’t just feel longer, they were a much greater slice of life to that point.


Wednesday, August 01, 2007

American Soccer 

Here's all you need to know about the future of professional soccer in America. Thirty-two year old, broken down, Englishman, David Beckham signed the biggest (by dollar value) soccer contract in American history.

Beckham is a celebrity. His wife is a Spice Girl and a celebrity. They already have their own reality TV show. Paparazzi are tailing them everywhere in the City that always Peeps. Beckham has barely played for his new team the LA Galaxy in the three or four games scheduled since his arrival, one token fifteen minute appearance was all he could manage thus far.

On the other hand, the most talented American soccer player, young, athletic, rising star, Freddy Adu is leaving behind professional soccer in America. He has signed with a Portuguese club team, Benfica. You know that global economic powerhouse, Portugal.

Soccer has as much chance to make an impact on the American professional sports scene, as track and field has of making a huge comeback. Soccer is behind in ratings and recognition NASCAR, hockey, horse racing, ultimate fighting, boxing, etc. and this is not to mention the big three American sports.

Anybody old enough to remember when the Cosmos signed an aging Pele to the biggest contract in the sport's history? It was going to change the course of soccer in North America forever. The Cosmos folded seven years later. The LA Galaxy and Beckham won't even be around that long.

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