Thursday, December 22, 2011

The White Sox need Tebow

...or Adam Dunn (aka, Done) needs to find Jesus. Something.

Here is the redux on Dunn's dismal season:

Strange but truest player of the year

Did Adam Dunn's season really happen -- I mean, in real life? I've seen the numbers, printed on actual paper, so apparently it did. But really, friends, it ought to be impossible to do all this:
• On his road to hitting a mind-rattling .159, this guy had more trips to the plate when he DIDN'T put a ball in play (256) than trips when he did (240).
[+] EnlargeAdam Dunn
Eric P. Mull/US PresswireAdam Dunn batted .159 and struck out 177 times in 415 at-bats in 2011.
• He had 52 multi-strikeout games but only 12 multi-hit games. Seriously.
• He got six hits all season -- six -- against left-handed pitchers (in 94 at-bats). Just for comparison's sake,Adrian Gonzalez (who also bats left-handed, last time we looked) got six hits off left-handed pitchers in one SERIES (June 20-22 against the Cubs).
• Other than May, when the Dunner hit a not exactly Ty Cobb-esque .204, he never had a batting average higher than .160 IN ANY MONTH.
• You realize that Dunn went into this season with a higher career slugging percentage (.521) than Gonzalez, Paul Konerko and Troy Tulowitzki (among billions of others), right? You can look that up. He then went out and slugged an incomprehensible .277. That was 50 points worse than Juan Pierre, 63 behind Willie Bloomquist, 69 back of Aaron Miles and 82 lower than Elvis Andrus. You can look that up, too.
• This man had 111 more strikeouts (177) than hits (66). So how many other American Leaguers in history have had 100 more whiffs than hits in a season? That would be nada, obviously.
• And one more thing: If you ignore little technicalities like decimal points, Dunn's batting average (.159) was lower than his strikeout total (177). Other than Mark Reynolds, who pulled that off in 2010, no position player has ever done that in a season where he got more than 40 -- yes, 40 -- plate appearances. And with good reason!

And the best part: we have him for TWO more seasons!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Friday, December 16, 2011

Paul Ryan about to implode

Rep. Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, has taken up the mantle of enlightening the Republican party about health care and taxes.  He is using Wisconsin Republican Rep Raul Ryan has the vehicle.  Wyden and Ryan have teamed up to fix Medicare and health care "premium support" and there are enough changes to Ryan's original plan to make it work.  The caveats: it will provide universal coverage and it will entail higher taxes to pay for it.  In effect, Ryan is signing on to Obama's Affordable Care Act provisions and even includes a public option.

As Matt Miller says in the WaPo:

With this new plan, Ryan has signed onto the idea of subsidizing people to buy coverage from well-regulated health exchanges that must take all comers and charge them similar premiums regardless of health status (provisions that did not exist in Ryan’s previous premium-support plan). If that framework sounds familiar, it should — it basically describes the dreaded Obamacare! And here’s the kicker: Wyden-Ryan has a public option to boot, because fee-for-service Medicare would remain an option for seniors. 
Wyden has put Ryan in a box where he can be forced to admit that there’s no way to get our long-term fiscal house in order without higher taxes as the boomers age. (I know it must seem crazy to get excited about forcing a politician to admit the obvious, but that’s the kind of breathtaking intellectual dishonesty on taxes we’ve been dealing with). If the media are smart and persistent enough to force this question of Ryan’s endless debt, Wyden will have set in motion a Republican “uncle” on taxes that could fundamentally alter policy debate in the years ahead.

I can see how this plays out.  The Republicans will say that they are forced to raise taxers because of the irresponsible spending under Obama. It will be a lie of course.  The huge and growing debt is a result of the discretionary spending for wars, coupled with irresponsible tax cuts.  In time, to provide the promised health care and Social Security for seniors, the coffers will need to be replenished with the stolen money.  Maybe Ryan's acquiescence will serve as the beginning of that realization, but don't expect it to all happen magically without partisan rancor.

Given the hysterics demonstrated within the GOP about taxes, I cannot envision Ryan, with his reaching across the aisle, surviving this episode intact.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

MLB: Milwaukee Franchise to Change name

Breaking News:

Ryan Braun sporting the new uniform for the Milwaukee Juicers

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Book Review: Fall of Giants, by Ken Follett

This genre, historical fiction, is outside my usual reading preferences, but Fall of Giants is an excellent synopsis of the war and class struggle that changed Western civilization a hundred years ago. Follett constructs an intricate plot of believable characters that accurately portray likely traits of the various classes in the lead up to and during the Great War. The fall of the European aristocracy and the rise of the working class is played out by representative protagonists from nations of England, USA, Russia and Germany. 

Reminiscent of Gone with the Wind, this novel is an epic that brings us through a world war instigated by arrogance that informed a derelict world view. Young men died as old men lied to cling to their failing grasp of power and the resultant socioeconomic disaster hastened the universal rise of the proletariat. Characters easily garner our sympathy-- princes and paupers alike-- as Follett shows us how their motivations affected their actions and how the outcomes, in retrospect, seem unfortunately predictable. 

This is the first of the Century Trilogy and I look forward to the second installment in Summer 2012. Highly entertaining and easy to read despite it's nearly 1000 pages.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Rick Perry wears the jacket

(h/t GoodDoc01 )

How are God and Newt different?

Answer: God doesn't think He's Newt Gingrich.

Newt Links:

Newt the transformational figure in cartoon form.

Newt takes a "no-adultery pledge". You cannot make this stuff up.

Where was war-hawk Newt stationed during the Vietnam War? Come on, you know the answer.

During a recent debate Newt realizes that he is saying he, himself, should go to jail. Video shows the moment at 1:40 mark.

And I quote: “See, when I smoked pot it was illegal, but not immoral. Now, it is illegal AND immoral. That’s why you get to go to jail and I don’t.”

Conservative radiotalker Michael Savage offers Newt $1 million to drop out of race. And another righty makes the case against "globalist Newt."

Own your very own pet Newt!

Gingrich spokesman outs Newt as "anonymous source." With loyalty like that, who needs Democrats?

Ron Paul's anti-Newt attack ad video.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Adopt a Catholic!

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League is asking his members to adopt an atheist in time for Christmas:
If we hurry, these [Atheists] can celebrate Christmas like the rest of us. As an added bonus, they will no longer be looked upon as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.”

Biologist Greg Laden, in excerpt:
Oh. Bill. It makes me feel bad when you say things like that about me.
I “believe in” quite a few things, at least by my use of the phrase. I believe in my Christian friends, and my Atheist friends, as people, in that I trust them and hold them as important in my life. I stand for many things. I stand for a progressive society, and I stand for making a difference in this world. So, I hope I’m good for something. I feel that my main role in life is to carry out acts that improve the lives of those I love, sometimes by making them laugh, sometimes by helping them stop hurting themselves, sometimes by standing up for them, sometimes by leaving them alone, sometimes by doing stuff for them, sometimes by doing stuff with them so they know they are not alone.
Damn. I suppose that makes me a lousy Atheist.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Pujols to Angels

 for 10 yrs/ $254m

He rejected the Cards' 10 yr/ $220m offer.  Mark my words, this is a mistake.  He will fail in the American League, certainly he will not be the mega-star he was in St Louis and at the end of the day his reputation and endorsements will suffer more than the nominal $34m he will make over 10 years. The one advantage is that he can evolve into a designated hitter in he AL, which I'm sure is part of the calculation, but by that time he'll be decrepit and fans will resent paying a DH $25m/yr.

The big winner is Prince Fielder who is next up in the free agent wars.  To offer the 32 yr-old Pujols a 10 year contract is generous to the point of silly and sure to mean that the 28 yr-old Fielder will get an even better offer.  If he's smart, he'll stay in the National League.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Book review: Catching Fire, by Richard Wrangham

Five Stars.

This book was recommended by an evolutionary biologist and is written by an evolutionary biologist and primatologist but the Dewey decimal system in the library categorizes it as a cooking book. Admittedly, I was a bit disconcerted to find it next to Anthony Bourdain's latest tome, but Catching Fire is a gem: easy to read and presents a simple hypothesis with exquisite supporting evidence regarding the social and physiological evolution of hominids.

The basic premise is that Australopithecines developed the ability to process food by mashing and pounding 2.5 million years ago which led to the transition to Homo habilis, the "handyman", who had a larger brain and shorter gut.  The evolution was effected by easier digestion of food which enabled habilines to extract more energy from food sources.  Homo habilus learned how to control fire about 1.9 million years ago which brought about relatively rapid evolution to Homo erectus, a robust species marked with even greater cranial size and short, efficient gut.  This efficiency of calorie extraction allowed greater cognitive ability but also the ability to travel long distances.  Fire affects food in ways that make it easier to digest and therefore more calories are available.

We are evolved to eat cooked food as evidenced by our short gut and the development of taste for cooked food.  Other primates such as chimpanzees also prefer cooked meat although they have not evolved specifically to eat cooked food.  Wrangham hypothesizes that this is due to the easier digestion and the higher caloric extraction from cooked and processed food versus raw food.  He gives a fairly detailed and worthwhile description of how various food sources are affected by mashing and cooking...take that Bourdain! 

Fire also allowed hominids to live on the ground since it afforded greater protection from predators and led to migration across savannahs, increasing the available habitat.  Homo erectus was a robust and long-lived species that survived over a million years in harsh, predator-filled environments.  They lost their hair/fur since they were able to sit and sleep by fire; this enabled them to dissipate heat when running and allowed long distance running.  Fire changed the social relationships between sexes and communities enabling beneficial division of labor and shaping the roles we still have to some degree today.  It all started with the control of fire. 

Darwin recognized the control of fire as "probably the greatest [discovery], excepting language, ever made by man," and Wrangham develops this thesis with strong supporting evidence from anthropological studies of hunter-gatherer societies as well as observations of lower primates.  

Wrangham discusses the biochemistry of food calorie availability and remarks that the current system of calorie determination is flawed since it does not take into account the processing of food.  Cooked meat contains denatured protein which is easier to digest than raw meat.  Likewise, cooked vegetables and seeds are easier to digest and therefore contain more available energy than raw food.  Wanna lose weight? It's simple, eat raw food which burns more calories in digestion for the fewer calories that are liberated.

Catching Fire is an intriguing, well-written book which answers a lot of questions about how and why we enjoy food and how fire affected nearly every aspect of our physical and social evolution.  It's a short readable book, and gets my highest recommendation. 

Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Packers selling more shares

The Green Bay Packers are offering new stock through February, which will dilute those shares owned by current shareholders.The new shares will mostly be sold to to the unwashed masses to fund new boxes that will allow millionaire season box-holders to have a more pleasant game experience.  

The reason stated in the article that Personal Seat Licenses (PSL), the usual way most franchises pay for stadium improvements,  won't be sold is that PSL's might lose money for the seat-owners.  Heaven forbid the titans of industry don't put their asses in soft cushy heated seats subsidized by working stiffs!  The cost of stadium upgrades instead is borne by poor folks who shell out $250 per share for... nothing-- no dividend, no tickets-- nothing.  The least they could do is rotate some seats in the end-zone for shareholders so that once in a lifetime the sawmill jockey from Fon-du-Lac can grope Kuhn's ass.  

If anyone chooses to waste money on Packers shares-- which by the way cannot be re-sold, thus making them worthless-- they should make damn sure that they've first 1) paid all their health care premiums for life, 2) funded their retirement with real investments and 3) covered their kids' education.  Only then is it allowable to throw your hard-earned money away so that CEO's can have a temperature controlled buffet and warm totties in front of the Jumbotron.  What is it that PT Barnum didn't say? 

Interestingly,  from the article:  "...only two franchises, the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Bears, where PSLs were selling at a premium to their initial sale price."  That's called free-market capitalism, but why try it when you can get the hoi polloi to willingly give you money?

Sunday, December 04, 2011

Prof Newt, educator-in-chief

Bonus! If elected president, Newt Gingrich will teach an on-line course from the White House!
"The idea would be, why wouldn't you want a president in the age of social media to methodically in an organized way share with you what they're going to accomplish so that those people who really won't understand it can understand it," Gingrich said.

Number 1: Who are you calling "those people"?

Number 2: Newt, how would you find the time to design a "social media" course when there would so many staffers to fornicate with in the White House?  

How much raging narcissism does Newt  have coursing through his veins to think that the American people would  benefit from , as Miranda Celeste says, the "Sleazy, ethically bankrupt, thuggish, pompous, painfully unlikable Newt Gingrich" as president?

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Religion changes its “morality” based on secular considerations

Religious morality appears to change under only two conditions: either secular morality moves ahead of religious morality, causing it to change... or scientific advances show that the scriptural basis of religious morality is simply wrong (e.g., there’s no Adam and Eve and hence no Original Sin).
If a religion’s moral dictates remain fixed in stone for centuries, even under the press of secular advances, then that religion loses adherents.  This, of course, is what is happening to Catholicism in so many places.
My comment: I agree.  Consider that the vast majority of nominal Catholics do not adhere to the fundamental behavioral teachings of the Church: 98% use artificial birth control and abortion rates among Catholics are the same as society in general. Church leaders seem to look the other way in order to keep the “faithful” in the flock, although this remains a sore point among conservative, ie, orthodox, Catholics whose numbers are dwindling.
Believers, of course, will maintain that any changes in morality are "inspired" by divinity while all the observable evidence is otherwise-- that moral behavior is determined by very human desires and secular considerations.