Friday, December 28, 2007

Friday Five

This week has been very laid back for the two of us. Karin had all week off, and I, of course, have been in town. We did a very quiet little Christmas, and have just enjoyed getting away from life for a while.

I don't really do New Year's resolutions, or at least I don't stick to them, but here are 5 things I'd like to work on in 2008.

  1. I'd like to drop about 20 pounds. Every time I say that, some well-meaning person will tell me I don't need to lose any weight. While I appreciate that, I'd still like to have a chin again.
  2. I'd like to read a little more non-computer stuff. Be nice to get through a couple of books over the course of the year.
  3. A little more time at home might be nice. Just saying. ;-)
  4. Figuring out who to vote for in the primaries is probably in order.
  5. There's quite a bit I'd like to get done around the house. Some new carpeting. Maybe new counter tops. Things like that.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Christmas in San Diego

IMG_2086 For those of you who've never lived somewhere that doesn't have all four traditional seasons, Christmastime is a tad interesting. There's something very cool about wearing shorts and driving around town with the top down. Never gets old.

The tree is our first in quite a while. We've spent quite of bit of time traveling the last couple of Decembers, so a tree just wasn't practical. This year, Karin insisted we get a tree. A real one, of course. We have quite a few decorations from our families, so it's always neat having a little bit of history on our tree.

IMG_2082As I mentioned before, Karin and I traditionally do something just the two of us for Christmas Eve. However with the Chargers playing last night, we decided to go to the game. For those who didn't watch, the Chargers jumped out to an early lead and cruised to a very easy 23-3 victory. A great Christmas present.

Today will be spent with my brothers and a couple of very good friends, enjoying Chicken Cacciatore. Sure, not very traditional, but it will be a good time.

Wherever you are this week, I hope you have a very merry Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

They don't know I'm not a terrorist

With these last three weeks excepted, I fly once a week now for work. Which means that twice a week I find myself dealing with the joy that is airport security. And unlike what seems like a majority of Americans, I don't mind it.

Now don't get me wrong - it is inconvenient. I did wind up having to change airlines one week at the last minute, which garnered me the dreaded "SSSSSSSS" on my ticket, meaning that I received extra special treatment at the security line. I also travel with a lot of electronics, meaning my bag gets extra scanning on a regular basis.

My personal favorite was the cooling pad I use for my laptop bothering the security folks. It took 5 TSA employees to look at the X-ray picture of my bag until they finally did a bag check, swabbing every last item. Because my last name is Harrison, the fan set off the bomb residue detector, meaning I got a pat-down as an added bonus.

The entire time, I was very friendly, talking with the TSA folks, and asking what I should do next time since I knew I'd be back again the following week. (Take the cooling pad out, BTW, is the correct answer.) I always give myself plenty of time, so I had no added stress at the moment.

I understand the folks at TSA are simply trying to do their job. They need to confirm that I am not a terrorist. Now, I know I'm not a terrorist, and everyone who knows me knows I'm not a terrorist. But they don't know that. They need to confirm for themselves that I'm not a terrorist.

What I don't understand is people who haven't figured this out on their own. I often hear people complain about TSA folks spending time with kids and "old ladies", pulling them aside for extra screening. The question is often asked, "Can't you tell they're not a terrorist?" Actually, no, I can't, and neither can the security personnel.

Let's remember that the second worst terrorist attack on US soil was perpetrated by a couple of middle-aged white guys. There is no definition of what a terrorist looks like. After all, up until a couple years ago, Islamic terrorists were always men - but that has long since changed, as boys and girls, men and women, have all blown themselves up in the name of jihad. The simple fact is if we stop scanning little old ladies, or people in pilot's uniforms, or anyone else who "doesn't look like a terrorist", the terrorists will then start enlisting people that fall under those categories. Everyone must be treated as a terrorist until we can confirm they're not.

The next time you find yourself getting "wanded", just remember the fine TSA person is simply trying to confirm that you are not a terrorist.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday Five

Home for a full week. What a great time this has been. Outside of the 4a conference calls on Tuesday and Thursday, it was a good time. I've done a whole lot of nothing, and loved every minute of it.

I went to the Poinsettia Bowl last night with my brothers and a friend last night - good time, even if we did get stuck on the Utah side of the field. Karin and I did her work party as well this week. All-in-all, a very good time.

As for the 5, I figured a Christmas theme would work.

  1. My favorite Christmas movie is Miracle on 34th Street. The original black and white.
  2. It's not Christmas to me until I see Linus's soliloquy.
  3. Karin and I traditionally go out to dinner somewhere on Christmas Eve. This year will be a little more challenging with the Chargers playing on Christmas Eve.
  4. My mother's Jewish, which meant we always celebrated both Hanukah and Christmas. Hanukah was my preference simply because it meant my mother made latkas. (Simply garnished with applesauce, thanks.)
  5. I love this time of year for all the college bowl games. I will watch every last one of them. It's great seeing small schools go give it everything they've got.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Friday Five

Wow. What a couple of months this has been. Since moving back to San Diego, I have been in town for a collective 7 full days (12a-12a), 5 of those being Saturdays where I left the following day. I've flown around 22,000 miles in that time.

As a trainer, I tend to measure the passing of time on a class-by-class basis; time passes in 5-day blocks. So my life for the past couple of months had the following pattern:

Home on Saturday
Travel out on Sunday
Teach a class for 5 days
*rinse and repeat as needed*

(Of course, that will be the pattern for most of 2008, but that's a story for another posting.) All-in-all, though, it's been a good experience. This was the last trip for the year, except of course our annual trip to Vegas for New Year's Eve.

Earlier this week, a good friend of mine, and regular commenter on this blog, mentioned Pandora in a Facebook note. So it got me to thinking of sites that not everyone uses or knows of but should.

  1. Pandora - This is a site based on the "Music Genome Project", which tries to tie different songs together based on their characteristics. The way the site works is you type in a song you like, and it will go off and find other music similar to that song. Great way to set up background music. Listening to it right now as a matter of fact.
  2. Google Reader - Google makes a ton of great products, but this is one of their lesser known ones. Google Reader allows you to "subscribe" to blogs and easily read through them. There's a good number of blogs that I follow but I don't read every article. Google Reader makes it very easy to scan through a blog, read the articles you want, and have the rest automatically mark themselves as read.
  3. Wikipedia - It has come to my attention that not everyone uses Wikipedia. I don't understand how people exist without it. I've always found Wikipedia to be reliable on the whole. You'll be amazed how you'll find yourself reading articles on almost anything - like what a sesame plant is.
  4. Facebook - I didn't want to get hooked up on one of these personal sites. I really didn't. But what's nice about Facebook is unlike certain other competitors *ahem*MySpace*ahem*, Facebook looks good and isn't crawling with 20-somethings just looking for a fling.
  5. Meebo - I have had occasion where I did not have direct access through a normal chat client. Meebo allows you to chat on any service through a web-based client. Very slick.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

On the eve of what, exactly?

In a few hours from now the Mitchell Report, the report on steroid use in baseball, will be released. The impact it will have on baseball will be, umm, yeah. I'm thinking very little.

The report was commissioned by inept commissioner Bud Selig, who is currently trying to salvage his legacy by investigating steroids, much like presidents late in their second terms start getting Israel and the Palestinians to sit down and talk. While Senator Mitchell is certainly a very qualified man to conduct such an investigation, one has to wonder what MLB will do with this report.

As for the report itself, it's going to blame both MLB management and the MLBPA for the letting steroid use run rampant. Basically, it will justify anyone who wants to blame the union for resisting testing or blame management for turning a blind eye. I'm a little disappointed that this gives credence to any of those arguments, because at the end of the day it's the fault of each individual player that stuck an needle in their tukus. (Every company I contract with has rules against me showing up high. I don't need to be tested when I walk in the door on Monday to teach my class to prove I'm not doing drugs. It's this little thing called "personal responsibility".)

The report will also list players who allegedly took steroids. This means essentially nothing. There will be players that we all suspected took steroids, there will be players we never thought took steroids, and almost every one of them will deny it.

But the real question is - what about the records? What about the stats? Will any of that change? Probably not. I'm guessing there will be a lot of talk about the report. (ESPN, which is rapidly turning SportsCenter into the Nancy Grace Show, will be covering the release of the report starting at 12N Central time.)

Will Major League Baseball actually suspend any players? Probably not. Most every player was not given any form of due process, so suspending players would face stiff legal challenges. Granted, any legal proceedings could have the added side-effect of forcing players to take the stand, but I still doubt doubt it will come close to that.

Will Major League Baseball take away stats? That would be a completely unprecedented move, and one that a very weak commissioner will be unlikely to take. And even if he did, what stats do you take away? How far back do you go? What formula do you use to convert juiced stats to clean stats? Nobody knows.

So what are we left with then? Well, at the end of it all, I think we're left right back where we started. There's a ton of blame to be spread around, there's players who we all suspect did steroids, and the fans are left wondering if what we're watching at the ballpark is actually real.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Interesting definition of long haul

Bobby Petrino was hired as the coach of the Atlanta Falcons early in 2007, long before the discovery of Vick's dog-fighting operation. When Petrino was hired, Atlanta was at a crossroads at the QB position - either Vick, or an unproven Matt Schaub who had shown flashes of promise. To clear up any possible controversy, the coaching staff and the Falcons decided to trade away Schaub.

Fast forward 11 months to the Falcons being 3-10 (and lucky to have those 3 wins), the team in complete turmoil, and in need of a complete overhaul. Petrino insisted he was in it for the long haul, and would see this team be rebuilt. Apparently long haul meant a couple of hours after he said those comments, as he took the head coaching job at the University of Arkansas.

I understand the concept of taking a job and immediately realizing you made a mistake. I also understand taking a job and having the situation you were walking into completely change - I just did that 6 months ago.

But he made a commitment. He gave his word. How does he walk away from that?

And just to show the level of cowardice Petrino showed during all of this - he didn't even meet with his players before disappearing into the night.

A coward and a liar. What parent would send their son to go play football and be mentored by this man?

Friday, December 7, 2007

Friday Five

This week had me in Rogers, AR of all places. I wasn't quite sure what to expect, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised. It's of course a small town feel, but they've seen a lot of growth, as there's a couple of large corporations that have a pretty sizeable presence here. Across the street from my hotel was a Famous Dave's, which, as most people know, is my favorite BBQ place in the world. Also, it's right next door to Oklahoma, which has Indian casinos, so I was able to go play a little poker on Tuesday night.

Rogers itself happens to be in a "dry county". Their definition of "dry county" simply means there are no liquor stores where I can buy bottles and bring them home. However, I can go into any restaurant or bar and get a drink. I'm not sure that I follow the logic there, but what do I know.

As for the five, I'm just going for odd facts about myself.

  1. For years I didn't print with lowercase letters - I would simply use smaller capital letters. This became an issue when I started teaching programming languages that are case sensitive. Having all the letters on the whiteboard capital was a tad confusing for the students. As a result, I had to force myself to relearn how to write with lowercase letters. I still have to sometimes thing about which direction b's and d's go.
  2. I try very hard to like all kinds of food. It bugs me that there are a couple of things that I just can't get a taste for, specifically cheeses, olives and oysters.
  3. I was 23 when I finally saw my first game on US soil (only saw the Expos at that point). I was 28 when I finally saw a game played outdoors (the only other game I had seen was the Twins).
  4. I did Amway for about a month. That is a cult with a fervency on par with Branch-Davidians.
  5. Just found this odd - I had a student this week who has 3 sons, with the names of Christopher, Patrick and Harrison.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Happy Chrismahanakwanzaka

I love the holiday season. From about the week before Thanksgiving through the final college football game, it's possibly my favorite time of the year. I find this time of year even more enjoyable knowing I won't have to follow it up with 4 months of winter, but that's another story.

The one thing I don't like one bit is the annual controversies over what to say to someone to wish them a happy whatever. One side complains because this is some vast conspiracy to eliminate Christmas, and in turn Christianity. Others complain about Christmas, and in turn Christianity, being "forced" down their throat. (I find both positions rather ironic since Christmas is a remarkably secular holiday, even banned by the first settlers to what became the United States, with Christian ideals bolted on at a much later date, but that's a subject for another posting.)

Almost every major religion and culture has some form of a holiday around this time of year. Most of them revolve around celebrating the harvest or the solstice, or simply the need to have a holiday to make the harsh winter a little more bearable, even if for just one day. And just about every one is represented in this country by some portion of society.

This has led a lot of society, for whatever reason, to want to avoid offending people by wishing them something that doesn't match the holiday they celebrate. Somehow speaking in generalities has become the way to respect other people's beliefs.

We're supposed to be a melting pot. We're supposed to celebrate each other's beliefs. What better way to celebrate another's beliefs than to find out what it is they actually believe and share that part of ourselves? And a great start is to say "Happy ____" or "Merry ____".

By saying "Happy" whatever, you're doing two things. You're, of course, wishing well upon the person, in a very personal way, and what's better than that? On top of that, you're sharing a bit of yourself by declaring what it is you celebrate.

I would much prefer someone wishing me "Happy Hanukah" when I see them on the street than just "Happy Holidays". Same goes with the employee at JC Penney's. Or my coworker. Or anyone else for that matter.

Rather than everyone hiding what they celebrate, let's celebrate what each individual celebrates. Wish people what you normally would, and graciously thank them when they wish you their normal blessing. And who knows - maybe you'll learn something about a culture you never knew.

So with that, I wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas, and a very enjoyable New Year.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Don't blame the officials

Since the dawn of sports, fans and players alike have criticized the officials. Those with an emotional connection to the game often pinning their losses on a couple of calls that didn't go their way.

For those who don't know, I used to officiate high school football games. As a result, I have kind of a unique perspective on this. I'm here to tell you, it's unbelievably stressful, and an extremely difficult task. Unfortunately, I am in a very small minority; very few fans, and even fewer commentators, have ever grabbed a whistle or thrown a flag.

One of the biggest things most fans don't seem to understand is the officials get just one shot at making the call. There is no replay available for the vast majority of calls (all of those that fall under the "judgement" heading are not reviewable). Within a split second, you must decide if the defender did something to impact the receiver when the receiver tried to catch the ball. You don't get to rewind it. You don't get to zoom in. You don't get another angle. You get one shot. And quite often, you're the only official that is looking at that section of the field, so if you boot the call you won't get any help later. Certainly, mistakes happen. But considering the percentage of correct calls under these circumstances, I think we can all agree a little leeway is in order. I challenge anyone who thinks they can do better to find out where their local football officials association gathers and volunteer.

The next thing to keep in mind, is that the majority of the time the official has the best angle on the play. Cameras are in place to give the fan the best overall view of the game, not positioned to make calls. There are times when a camera particular angle won't be correct, and commentators will start complaining about the call. They don't understand what the official saw because they didn't have the same angle. I can tell you at least 9 times out of 10, the official has the better angle.

And then there's the self-proclaimed experts commentators who think they know everything. I always get a kick out of someone criticizing a call when they don't understand the rule in the first place. I like to think I have a decent grasp of the rules, but I also understand I know less than most NFL officials have forgotten. They've been doing this for years, often decades; I did a couple of years at the high school level, and most everyone on TV has never read the rules. Just because Al Michaels (who I respect a lot) says something doesn't make him right and the official wrong.

At the end of the day, the officials are right almost all of the time. The couple of times they are wrong isn't what costs one team the game. Take last night's game as a perfect example. If the Ravens gain one yard on their possession before the Patriots score, they can effectively run the clock out. If Boller doesn't throw to an area of the field with 3 Patriots and 0 Ravens, they at least add 3 more points to the board, which would have meant the Patriots final TD tied the game rather than winning it. In both of those situations, the calls the officials made (correctly, mind you) don't matter one bit.