Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The difference between nothing and something

Numbers are a funny thing. By funny, I don't mean "amusing" because there is nothing amusing about numbers. They are sadistic little monkeys and should be treated with contempt. But I digress. Numbers act on us in unusual ways. We have a fascination for extremes and when we can measure that something is the most or least, we celebrate. Can't say I know why but this provides us with milestones for excess, and we wait with bated breath to see if the most recent most will be bested, or if the last least will be lost.

I saw this fascination today while watching a baseball game. Two teams, each supposedly representing some area of the country which I have never visited, and about which I don't care, battled it out while some people, some where had to go to work. One of the pitchers was on the verge of a "no hitter." For all you non-baseball people in Serbia, this is when the pitcher does not allow the other team to get a hit. I hope that that clarifies things. I couldn't figure out the fascination with this game. First of all, the pitcher was not exactly having a perfect day -- he had given up a run in the first inning due to an error and his own wild pitch. Second, why is there any noticeable difference between no hits and 1 hit? The separation is as big as between 1 and 2 hits (I know...1 to 2 is a 100 percent increase, but 0 to 1 is an infinite increase, but let's not invoke infinity to justify slobbering over a pitching performance). [Third, why should anyone care simply because this is "history"? The teams are not the ones I follow and I'm not bidding for anyone's jersey on Ebay, so history is lost on me.] Is it that is a case where the pitcher has reached that elusive "least"? By allowing zero hits (and you can't get lower than zero in runs unless you lend some to the other team and they never pay you back and then you don't have any more of yours. The Mets are famous for scoring negative runs in a game, effectively losing while they are up at bat)the pitcher has matched an ultimate. But as if that's uninteresting enough, consider that he didn't have a perfect game or a shut out. So while this is real nice and all, do we jump up and down for a 1 hitter? Do we refuse to speak with a batter who is one hit away from the cycle? And isn't this pitcher simply doing the job he was hired to do?

They say that good pitching beats good hitting, but if that's the case, then we shouldn't have to congratulate a pitcher who exhibited good pitching. That's why he is paid. I don't get an attaboy for having all my students pass a test because that's what I'm paid to do. And trust me -- that's often tougher than pitching a no hitter.

Ok, maybe not on that last point, but I had to say something...

Anyway, tomorrow, the teams will be at it again. In a few days, the pitcher will be back out there being who he generally is -- a 6-8 pitcher who had a good day against a team that committed 4 errors and a pitcher who only gave up 1 earned run more than he did.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Government to be

I'm blogging this from inside the town council meeting. I'm actually sitting in the belly of the beast. This is it. This is where the magic happens. Decisions which affect my life - which really matter - are hotly debated with the full power of the Constitution in play. I'm here to hear about a Board's decision. Others are here to have their say about the town's goings on. It is electric in here.

Actually it is dreadfully boring. We have been sitting listening to someone sit and show a Power Point about proposed construction on the building I'm sitting in. Coming up are votes on resolutions to refund over paid taxes and to appoint people to other Boards. There will be a discussion of a raffle, a listing of bills paid and introduction of ordinances. I don't expect any of it to be as exciting as it sounds.

But meanwhile, there is still a subdued discussion over the square footage of the closets in the caucus room. This is why it is so horrible if governments shut down. Important stuff doesn't get done.

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Thursday, July 21, 2011

A sadly serious post

I was saddened by the recent death of an 8 year old boy in Brooklyn. What has come to light is the statement by a religious leader that the boy's death was the result of (and I'm being vague on the nature of the connection) NY State's decision to legalize gay marriage and the lack of protest from within the Orthodox Jewish community.

Side note -- I'm not discussing the propriety of gay marriage, nor am I discussing homosexuality in general. That's not what this is about.

I read some articles and the comments from people about this public statement and I wanted to put a few ideas down on virtual paper about it.

Let's say that god uses earthly events as a result and response to human events that he doesn't like.

Let's say that god holds the Jewish community responsible for not protesting a law passed by the secular state.

Let's say that it was our job to try and make connections between events and learn god's will through them.

Let's say that we could make these connections and claim therefore to know what god intends.

I still don't get it. And I have tried. I have tried to find what could come out of this in a spiritual sense or what reason in the divine master plan this tragedy could have. But I don't see it.

I haven't checked the newspaper, but on that day, I'm sure that there were a number of other deaths in the community and all around New York. In fact, I'm sure that in some Jewish community, on that day, someone died in a way that relatives and friends would consider tragic. Can we know which particular death is the one god wanted us to learn a lesson from?

I also haven't checked, but I have no doubt that there were other news events taking place around then and I'm sure that some ran against the norms of the Jewish community. How do we know which news item was the trigger that god wants us to rail against?

Also, assuming that this was an issue connected to gay marriage, wouldn't it have made sense for something in the "lesson" to be related to gay marriage? The innocent child had nothing to do with it, nor did his parents. Even his abductor and killer had been in hetero-marriages twice already. How does anyone decide that there is a link?

Ignoring that same sex marriages have been around on the practical level for over 5 years and have been a legislative issue since 2007, the newest legislation passed on June 24th, 2 weeks before the unfortunate events in Brooklyn. is there a statute of limitations on these things? Will a sad event next week be god's response to en event from 2 years ago? How can we know?

Similar claims have been made about the Haitian earthquake and the Japanese tsunami -- they are the result of an acceptance of a certain problematic way of thinking or acting. But there the response is on a large scale. Here a single victim is supposed to point out a greater societal ill?

Now, I know that there are movements within Judaism to explain tragedies and tie them to behaviors or a failing in the greater group. Prophetic texts warn of horrible events as results of the people's misbehavior. Of course, then, the religious leader pointing this out should have warned us clearly before hand if he wanted to be taken seriously. Additionally, the Rabbinic sources try to create a link between the events and the nature of the ill.

Does this mean that this boy's death should teach us nothing? Absolutely not. And if his death causes us as a group to be introspective about all of our own misdeeds, and yes, even about our response to secular legislation, then so be it. Every man's death should sadden us and wake us up to the need to be better at who we are and even, how we make our voices heard on issues which should concern us. But to make a direct and absolute causal link smacks of arrogance and insensitivity.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Don't Argue with me

I spend probably too much time on web forums and message boards, discussion those things I hold near and dear. One of those things is religion. I happen to be a fan. But the criticisms continue and they are often misguided. So I'm putting together a list of things not to do when arguing religion with me.

1. Don't tell me what I believe. I know my religion better than you do so don't try to summarize my beliefs so you can malign them.

2. Don't impute motives to my actions. Odds are, my actions regarding religion are informed by the stuff you don't know. The other odds are that I know my mind better than you.

3. Don't try to persuade me by showing me my texts and explaining what they mean. CF #1.

4. Don't try to persuade me by showing me things that aren't my texts and expecting them to convince me of anything.

5. Don't try to convince me that your rational approach is the right approach so my belief based one is necessarily wrong.

6. Don't expect that I am so intolerant of other views that if I see any other view, I will necessarily either attack or be defensive. Generally, I don't care about other views.

7. Don't expect that complex real world attitudes and ideas can be reduced into simple explanations that will make sense.

These are a start. What it boils down to is that I'm there to explain what I believe, and not to defend its validity, because the arguments against its validity simply won't work.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

I'm offline

A strange thing happened recently. My incessant complaints to Verizon about my DSL suddenly bore fruit. I guess writing long and angry emails to every VP I could find finally got someone's attention. I have had executive tech people call me, field reps visit my house and a new modem shipped to me. And the bottom line is that to prove their effectiveness, they have cut off my DSL service.

Now I'm not saying that they did this maliciously, but to have a tech come out eithout my making an appointment and tell me that wiring had to be changed at the central office and my internet would be back up in an hour and then he apparently never submitted the work ticket so the work isn't being that suspicious?

Anyway, without the web to keep me busy (I'm writing this on the BBerry) I have rediscovered life. I took a nap on the outside swing. I have read 2 novels in 2 days. I took a walk and had a nice salad in a cafe with the wife. Are we really all so addicted that our circadian rhythms are in sync with the blinking lights on our modems?

I don't know but I have to make sure not to antagonize the good people at RIM.
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

edit -- after a bunch more calls and the loss of all phone service, things seem to have gotten straightened out. An entire underground cable had to be replaced and a small wire next to my house had come undone. So I am, for the moment, back in service. Here's to complaining.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Baseless Ball

I like baseball. It is a complex sport but I, on a very rudimentary level, understand it. Football is nice but there are positions I still don't get and rules which baffle me. Basketball is dumb. My official position is that if you score 100 points in any game, you should win. Even golf. Did I mention I hate golf. Maybe I should have started with that.

Anyway, while I am not an expert in the arcane rules of baseball (balks, interference, no beer after the 7th inning) I like the game and so when I come up with an idea I think will help a team, I feel the obligation to pass it along.

My goal is to increase the efficacy of the pitching staff and reduce costs. I start with the position that a team carries anywhere from 11 to 13 pitchers, between starters and relievers, and that starters, because they are expected to pitch more innings, get paid more than a middle reliever. But I also posit that the middle reliever is getting paid to come in in the middle of things and stop the opposing team for 3 outs.

So here's my thought. Drop all the starters and carry 13 relief pitchers. Assign each one an inning, and every night, that pitcher will pitch that inning -- still responsible only for 3 outs and still getting paid as a middle reliever. The other team will be constantly shuffling its lineup to deal with ever changing pitchers, and my team can play with its lineup during the game as a new pitcher will be inserted each inning.

If the pitchers do their job, then they will keep the other team quiet for 3 outs and that's it. Then hand the ball off to the next guy. No one burns out an arm. No one stays in for too long. If a guy really seems to be doing well, he MIGHT be allowed to stay in for another inning in a close game -- with only 13 pitchers, extra inning games have to be avoided. Maybe keep 1 starter on staff who can be given the ball in the 10th inning of every extra inning game -- he would be expected to pitch for 5 or six innings at that point unless there is a game winning hitting opportunity so he is taken out for a pinch hitter.

I think that this is the future of baseball.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Dear Mr. Noah Wyle

I first watched your work on TV in ER and The Librarian and have started wathing Fallen Skies. I appreciate your work. I saw you on a magazine and noticed you have a beard now. That's a nice choice. I know that as you grow older and you get some gray in your beard you will look even better. I know this because I have lots of gray and I look great.

Yours truly,
Dan Rosen
Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry