Pitching, Pine Tar, and Philosophy

The big fuss in baseball this week is not Albert Pujols’ milestone 500th home run, nor the Cubs celebrating the 100th birthday of their stadium by losing. It’s a blatant smear of pine tar on the neck of Yankees’ pitcher Michael Pineda.

There’s a whole lot of discussion about the use of pine tar and other substances, about the logic of having a rule in place that practically no one follows, and about such “cheating” in general. It’s rather a fun discussion, especially since it seems that most commenters are being civil about it. But also because it touches on some important philosophical issues.
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Book Review – Catastrophe: 1914

Catastrophe: 1914 by Max Hastings

This year is probably a centennial that no one really wants to commemorate: the start of World War 1. The technology for killing had advanced much farther beyond military strategy, leading to horrific casualty figures. But the war (also known as “The Great War”, “The War to Make the World Safe for Democracy”, and “The War to End All Wars”) should be studied, as it is responsible for shaping the 20th century.

British historian Max Hastings has written a fantastically researched and extremely readable account of the first several months of the conflict. He has dug deep into the archives – not just in Germany, France, and England, but in eastern Europe and the Balkans as well to get information from periodicals, journals, diaries, and private letters. While giving plenty of information on the battles and strategy, he also gets down to the level of individuals, both on the front and at home.

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Happy Income Tax Day!

The income tax is a just law. It simply intends to put the burdens of government justly upon the backs of the people. I am in favor of an income tax. When I find a man who is not willing to pay his share of the burden of the government which protects him, I find a man who is unworthy to enjoy the blessings of a government like ours.

– William Jennings Bryan,
Speech at the Democratic National Convention, July 9, 1896

I HATE Tissues

Right now, my immune system is mopping up after a short but intense battle against the forces of the Evil Common Cold. The bodies of the invaders are being swept up and expelled, but it’s taking some time to clear them all out.

While my head is clear, and there are no more aches and pains, my nose is still running a marathon. You could end a drought with the fluid coming out of my nose. Of course, it’s not polite to snort it all back in to be swallowed (or otherwise dealt with internally), so I have to blow my nose every fifteen minutes or so.

This presents a problem for me. There’s a LOT of goo to be dealt with, and the standard tissues are just too small. If I use one layer of tissue, I blow right through it. If I fold it in half and use a double layer, it’s too small to contain the spray. If I take two tissues and double up, by the time I’ve arranged them properly, I’ve dripped into my lap. And one tissue (or pair of tissues, for that matter) is simply not enough to handle the two or three blows (and the final wipe) that you need to do to clear out my nasal passages. Tissues are great for the occasional wipe or skin care issue, but for dealing with massive amounts of nasal drip, forget it!

My usual solution is to have a couple of wads of toilet paper in my pockets. Pull off about six feet from the roll, and fold it up twice, so I’ve got a four-layer strip. Thick enough to hold up to the most powerful sneeze, enough paper for the follow up blows, and still some left for the final wipe.

The only problem is that the paper isn’t designed for such a use, and I wind up irritating the heck out of the skin around my nose.

What I really need is tissues the size of paper towels.

Anybody want to make them?

European Idol

Right now, we’re in the thirteenth season of American Idol. A few weeks from now, the 58th annual Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Copenhagen.

For those of you unfamiliar with it, the Contest started out as a way to promote television across Europe. Member nations of the European Broadcasting Union send one musical act each to the competition, and the winner is chosen by a combination of a panel of judges and viewer votes. It’s different from American Idol in that it’s open to groups as well as individual artists, and the artists are already professionals. It’s something like an international “Battle of the Bands”. Also, it’s the song that’s being judged, not the artist.

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