Saturday, February 21, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

It’s still before midnight out here….

The Week

I was at home again this week. Two weeks in a row. Not totally unheard of, but still a pleasant surprise.

The week was mostly spent with me at home, trying to get some work done. It was also a good chance to get caught up with some friends I hadn’t spent time with recently, which is always a blessing.

My laptop took yet another dive this week. I will put together a full posting, but the short short version is don’t buy a Dell laptop.

The Restaurant

Not really a restaurant, but a great sandwich place. It’s a little hole in the wall called Sandwich Afare. It’s on the back side of a business park in the Miramar area. It’s run by an Eastern European friendly curmudgeon who will give you static, but make a great sandwich and do it all with a smile.

The Exercise

Yeah, I suppose I should.

The Five

Things I’m kind of afraid to let the world know about.

  1. I’m addicted to Charmed. Yeah, it’s an empty show, but I watch it every time it’s on.
  2. I drink the water out of a can of tuna. When I go to drain it I just drink it out of the can. No, I have no idea where this habit started.
  3. I do pick my nose in the car from time to time. But really – who doesn’t?
  4. I sleep with a stuffed cow. It’s something Karin gave to me of hers when we first started dating. When I’m on the road it gives me a connection back to home.
  5. The skill I lack the most is budgeting. Yet another great reason to be married to Karin.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

What Exactly Do We Know About Steroid Use in MLB?

A wise man passed on a philosophy that I firmly subscribe to - “trust is given; distrust is earned”. Put simply (in deference to you, Kent), I’m willing to trust you right up until the point where you give me any reason at all not to, at which point we have problems.

In case you missed it, Alex Rodriguez* has been lying to us. Probably his most public lie was 17Dec07 when he lied to the American public (with Katie Couric asking the questions), saying he never took any performance enhancing drugs. Then, of course, we find out he tested positive for steroids in 2003. Alex responds by issuing the most carefully crafted “admission” since Jason Giambi’s*, when Jason apologized for everything and nothing. Alex admitted to taking a particular steroid, while denying he knew what it was, knew what he was doing, and limited the years in which he admitted to taking it to 2001-2003 – the years when it was “safe” to take steroids in MLB. I want to believe that, but it turns out Santa Claus isn’t real and Elvis isn’t cutting records anymore.

The fact of the matter is that Alex lied. As time goes on, the known list of baseball stars who took steroids continues to grow. Recently Miguel Tejada was added to the list, and Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will almost certainly find their way onto the list soon. As each star is added to the list, all we’ll know is that they took steroids.

Unfortunately we won’t know for how long they took the drugs. We won’t know what drugs they took. And we won’t know what impact these drugs had on their performance on the field and the numbers they put up.

And above all, we won’t know those who don’t wind up on any “confirmed” list did or did not take a drug.

People have called for the release of the remaining 103 MLB players on the list of those who tested positive in 2003. While that might help clear things up for some people, the reality of the situation is that the testing done in 2003 was inherently flawed. The way drug testing is supposed to work is tests are administered at random times when the players aren’t expecting it. The MLB Gestapo Players Association agreed to these tests in 2003 hoping to avoid future testing, as the only way future testing would happen is if 5% of the players tested positive. The MLBPA figured if it was announced in advance that testing was about to take place cheating players would clean up. Unfortunately for the MLBPA it turns out that MLB players aren’t quite as sharp as they seem. 104 players tested positive despite being told in advance that they were going to be tested. All the 2003 tests tell us is there are 104 players who aren’t smart enough to cycle off the drugs in time for a test, not every player who was taking drugs in 2003. A player not appearing on the list doesn’t exonerate them.

So here we are knowing little more than we did before with essentially no hope of getting any real idea of the scope of steroid use in MLB over the last 20 years. What players are clean? When were they clean? What do the numbers they put up mean? What have we watched in Major League Baseball that wasn’t in some part touched by steroid use?

Nobody knows. And that’s the biggest crime.

While everyone including Bud Selig has denied responsibility, the fact of the matter is that everyone, including the MLBPA who protected the players, the players who took the drugs, and the owners who turned a blind eye are all culpable. But I don’t want to worry much about pointing fingers. There’s plenty of blame to go around, and plenty of other fingers to do the pointing for me.

My question is – what do we do now? Do we eliminate all the numbers for the last 20 years? Do we prevent players from going into the Hall of Fame who are proven to be steroid users? What about players who are likely dirty but have never tested positive?

The answer is there’s nothing we can do. Unfortunately we are left having to accept the numbers as they are. As I’ve blogged before, we can still choose to decide what numbers mean something to us. But the genie’s out of the bottle and there’s no shoving it back in.

I’m with Bob Costas. There should be a plaque explaining that many things have changed over the years in baseball, including segregation, the pitching mound height and the dead ball. Steroid use is simply another factor that impacted the game.

After all – what else can we do with so little known?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Controlling One's Online Persona

I mentioned at the end of the Friday Five (on Saturday) that I have a Twitter account. This led to a couple of people requesting to follow me on Twitter, and a realization of what Twitter is - it's a hybrid messaging/blogging/board service. I can't really explain it, but I get it.

As such, I dove in headfirst yesterday requesting to "follow" numerous users, which means I want to see what they post on Twitter. A handful of them requested to follow me, meaning they wanted to see what I post on Twitter. After all, that's really what it's all about - you see what they post, and they see what you post. And that's where the problem arose.

I requested to follow a few Twitter-ers who would be on the professional as opposed to the personal side of my life. And a couple of the Twitter-ers from the professional requested to follow me. Meaning they would see what I post.

No don't get me wrong - I don't post anything that's offensive, just not always very PC. I work very hard to maintain a separate persona when it comes to my professional life; it starts by using my full name in any communications with a client or would-be client and goes from there. You'll notice that outside of mentioning the city I essentially never mention here what class it is I taught unless it's something very cool like working a convention.

I just need someplace where I can just be me and not have to worry about censoring myself. Facebook, for instance, is a strictly personal thing for me. While I do have friends on Facebook who I've met in my professional life, they are people who know "the real me", are people I can trust, and thus people who I can loosen up with.

And now I have people requesting to follow me who I can't let my hair down with. Which means I need to make sure I have a clean separation between my personal and professional life online as well. As such, I need to set up a new Twitter account and ensure that separation.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Friday Five

The Excuse

Well, last week it was simply that I didn’t have a chance to type on out. This week … well, I’d say that it was because my mother was in town, but I wouldn’t want to blame her.

The Week[s]

Last week (the week of 2Feb) I was off in Seattle working TechReady, a semiannual internal Microsoft conference. It was a great experience, and it was nice seeing old friends and meeting new ones. I was able to get to do lunch with a couple of good friends who I hadn’t seen in quite a while which was very nice.

This past week my mother visited. This was her first winter trip to a “warm weather” area, although the weather didn’t really cooperate – it was chilly and rainy basically the entire week. But the weather wasn’t a deterrent, we still had a very good time, including visiting the Cabrillo National Monument. The week included a trip to Pomegranate Restaurant, a Georgian restaurant, as well as a fantastic dinner which featured my mother’s pot roast and latkas. Everyone had a fantastic time.

In a rare moment for me, I also finished a book this week. I polished off The Bourne Supremacy, the second in the series. If you’ve only seen the movies, you need to understand that about the only thing the movies and the books share in common is the names of the characters. After that, everything else is different. But it was a great read. I’m now on to reading Traffic.

The Restaurant

Just down the road from our house is this great place called Pomegranate. It’s a little hole in the wall; for years I drove past there, spent time at the bar next door, and didn’t know it existed or what it was. Finally one day I visited the place with Jumbo and realized what I was missing. The place is run by Georgian natives, with the accents and attitudes to match. The food is traditional offerings, which feature hearty stews that are boldly seasoned. The place is cash only, so keep that in mind when you head over.

The Five

Just some oddball things about me…

  1. I can’t even begin to count the number of computer books I own. Ironically enough, I don’t read well online, so I still prefer books.
  2. I currently have a pretty good backlog of books to read right now. After Traffic I have to read Total Access by Rich Eisen.
  3. I’m currently watching the Daytona 500 in the background. It’s nice to have NASCAR back on for something to watch on Sundays. I miss the NFL.
  4. I’m not at all a car geek. I don’t even know how to change my own oil. However I do drive stick.
  5. If you’re at all interested, I am on Twitter. I don’t know that I grok Twitter, but I’m on it. @jersey1972 if you’re at all interested.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

How About Having an Expert Available?

This morning the FAA released the voice recorder from US Airways flight 1549, the flight that landed safely in the Hudson. And as luck would have it, I happened to have CNN on right when the tape was released. And CNN being CNN wanted to put it on the air immediately.

I’ll give CNN credit for a couple of things here. They really did try to make this whole thing work. They brought on a survivor from the crash so the survivor could hear the recording for the first time on the air. They played the tape from start to finish right after it was released with no editing.

Only they forgot one small little piece to put the whole thing together – someone that actually understood what was on the voice recorder.

For those of you not familiar with how the voice recorder on a plane works, it simply works on an endless loop, recording all transmissions the plane sends and receives for the last few minutes. As a result, the tape contains not only communications intended for that plane, but all air traffic control (ATC) communications on that frequency that the plane picked up.

When they started playing the voice recorder tape on the air this morning, the first few minutes had normal ATC chatter, with planes being given instructions on altitudes, headings and who to contact next. And it was 30 seconds in that the entire plan fell apart.

The anchor that was on the air did not understand what she was hearing. And the producers clearly didn’t understand either, and nobody gave her information as to what it was she was hearing. As a result, as she didn’t understand that the first part contained chatter for other planes; instead she informed the viewers that “obviously” the pilot was trying to figure out what to do with the plane and that everyone was calm. Well, yes, everyone was calm – because it wasn’t flight 1549 that was communicating with anyone at this point. And this continued for the bulk of the airing of the tape, until they finally got to the very end when the flight went into the Hudson.

I will give 24 hour news networks credit for trying to get actual news on the air as quickly as possible. But what I don’t understand is how they don’t prepare themselves to be in a situation where they can give accurate information. Every network has contacts that are experts in nearly every subject. Why didn’t CNN get a pilot on the phone either during the airing of the tape or beforehand to prep the anchor on what it was she was about to hear?

At the end of the day, accurate information is much more important to the populous than rushing it to the air.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

And Then There Was Nothing

On the whole, I’m really a two sport kinda guy – football and baseball. I’m not into the NBA in the least. I am starting to follow college basketball more, but it doesn’t really pique my interest until March Madness starts. I used to enjoy the NHL until the stoppage and they left broadcast television[1]. NASCAR and golf are enjoyable ways to spend a Sunday, but it’s really just that – just a way to spend a Sunday and not something I follow that closely.

Watching the Super Bowl is always a bit of a double edged sword for me. I of course enjoy the game, but there’s always the knowledge that the season is coming to a close when the final gun sounds. All the build-up, and then boom – nothing[2]. Over. Done. No football until late August.

On top of that, baseball is still a couple of months away. But to add insult to injury the Padres have traded away Green, let Hoffman leave and are doing everything in their power to jettison Peavy, meaning that the Padres will be lucky to get to 60 wins this season. So once baseball season does start, we’re going to be looking at a Devil Rays-style season[3].

All-in-all, it’s going to be a long few months waiting for football to start back up again.


[1] There are rumors it’s on some channel called OLN or Versus or some such nonsense. All I know is that it’s never on the TV in the hotel room I’m in.

[2] Yes, I know the Pro Bowl is still to come, but the Pro Bowl is not football.

[3] Notice I said Devil Rays, not Rays.