Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Dylan still strong


yesterday, bob dylan released the 742nd studio album of his illustrious career.

okay, not really. it was really only number 33, but if you were to include greatest hits, live albums, compilations and official bootlegs, then it would be surprisingly close to this figure. this album, Together Through Life, could be viewed as a continuation of his past three studio albums (time out of mind, love and theft, & modern times). but where those 3 were composed of very eclectic themes ranging from death, life, war, poverty, greed, & salvation, this album tends to focus primarily on one singular theme: love

what is consistent is the quality of music that dylan has been putting out for the last ten years. i would like to think that at this point in his career, he has a full staff of people whose sole purpose on the payroll is to make sure he finishes his career, and life, on top. when neil young said,"it's better to burn out, then to fade away", he did not have dylan in mind. not only is he not fading away, but he is far from burning out either. in fact, it is safe to say that this star is shining brighter than ever.

none of the music here is spectacular or groundbreaking. but if this were the only release from any other artist, it would be considered a masterpiece. very loose, very familiar, and yet still very enjoyable. oh, and if you are a fan of the accordion you will love this album: it is on every single track!

it is safe to say that i am probably one of the biggest dylan freaks around, but forget about that for a moment. this album is good. really good. if you are expecting bob dylan from the 1960's you will, as usual, be sorely disappointed. however, if you have come to embrace this ever changing artist through the years, then this is everything you have come to expect and more.

as the summer starts to heat up, together through life is one album to play when the sun's out. but keep it going when the sun goes down too. as the album cover depicts, things only get better as the sun goes down....

Swine Flu Death in Texas

Hypocrisy Alert: The first death from the Swine Flu to occur in the US happened today in Houston, TX. Republican Governor Rick Perry is now requesting help from the federal government:

“AUSTIN — Gov. Rick Perry today in a precautionary measure requested the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provide 37,430 courses of antiviral medications from the Strategic National Stockpile to Texas to prevent the spread of swine flu. Currently, three cases of swine flu have been confirmed in Texas.” [San Marcos Record]

I wonder how Gov. Perry would be handling this crisis as the President of Texas had his state seceded by now. Isn't this the same guy who was on the record a few weeks ago saying, "I believe the federal government has become oppressive. I believe it's become oppressive in its size, its intrusion into the lives of its citizens, and its interference with the affairs of our state."

If by "interference" he means providing medicine to his people that happen to share a border with the country that is the epicenter of this possible pandemic, then maybe he needs to rethink the whole secession thing, or at least find his antivirals from another source.

Monday, April 27, 2009

MVP, MVP, MVP


By now everyone knows that Lebron James is one of the top basketball players on the planet. Some can argue that Kobe Bryant or Dwayne Wade may have had a better season than Lebron, but what I have witnessed from him in his 5 years in the NBA and what he just did in the first round of the NBA playoffs tells me that no player is more valuable than King James.

As Cleveland closed out a first round sweep in Detroit yesterday, effectively ending the wonderful Piston run of this decade, the fans in the building (both Cavalier and Piston fans) were chanting “MVP” every time Lebron held the ball. Why? His performance in this series was amazing. He averaged 32 points, 11 rebounds, and 7.5 assists. Averaged these numbers! That is dominant.

As someone living in the mid-market city of St. Louis, I hear both sides argue whether we could support an NBA franchise. With the NFL, MLB, and NHL already in town, I highly doubt it. I would love to see Kansas City get an NBA franchise, but some still doubt whether KC could support a team. I believe that the NBA is unique in the sense that one player could literally make or break a team in a city.

New York, LA, Houston, and Chicago could produce the worst product on the court and still be okay simply due to the population size of their markets. Then you see places like Charlotte and Vancouver lose their teams because they weren’t “supporting” them enough. (I know Charlotte got another team and I don’t include Seattle in the mix because they probably would have lost the Sonics regardless). Do you think Vancouver would have supported their team more if Lebron was playing for them? Do you think if the NBA expanded into Kansas City and brought Lebron to town to play for the home team that they’d need to worry about not filling the Sprint Center every night?

Consider this, in 2002-2003, Cleveland won 17 games all year and their attendance was near the bottom of the league at 471,374. Just one year later with Lebron James on the team, they won 35 games and attendance jumped nearly 60% to 749,790. This season Cleveland lost only 2 home games all year and won 66 games with an attendance total of 820,439. Oh, and he’s only 24 years old.

In 5 years Lebron has improved his team’s win total 288% and increased attendance 74%. If that’s not the definition of valuable, I don’t know what is. Better hope Cleveland can find a way to keep this guy once his contact expires.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Not Gone Yet... NFL Draft

As bigsmithdude told you, I will be off about the world for a few weeks. I'll still try to get some posts up, but they may be few and far between. Fortunately, I have some buddies who are as long-winded as I am. BSD, ESL and the man who is still nameless will fill in admirably.

But, I'm not gone yet. I'm watching the NFL draft. Three thoughts:

Kansas City is becoming the northern satellite campus of LSU as the Chiefs selected a Tiger in the first round for the third consecutive year.

My favorite NFC team, the Eagles, took Jeremy Maclin from Mizzou. That's the most exciting thing that has happened today from my perspective.

And... the NFL draft is one of the most tedious exercises in television watching ever devised.

Paul vs. John


there are many questions that a fan of rock music must ask themselves as they delve deeper in into the ever expanding catalog that is rock n' roll. what is the greatest rock band of all time? what is the greatest album of all time? what is the greatest song of all time? these questions can solicit an infinite array of responses. while these are all good questions that must be addressed sooner or later, there is another that leaves only two possible answers: who's better...paul or john?

i used to always be a john fan. every time i would catch the VH1 special about the last 5 years of his life, i would stop and weep openly. i didn't even really know why. perhaps it is because i, and the rest of the world to an extent, knew how many future songs were lost on that day.

for years, i only had the beatles hits on cd. even though i had a fairly vast knowledge of their music, it was limited to the red and blue albums. a few years ago, i was fortunate enough to have purchased for the first time--and on the same day mind you--rubber soul, revolver, sgt. pepper, and abbey road (somehow i got into the white album years earlier). i sat and listened to those four albums in their entirety and was so amazed. i was amazed at how wonderfully beautiful yet distinctly different each album was from the one before. i was amazed that all four albums were released during a period of only 4 years. i was amazed that for 28 years, this music had somehow evaded me. where had it been hiding, and why could i not find it? (it's funny how we sometimes come into things later in life than others. don't even get me started on Dylan.)

but mostly i was amazed at paul. i had always liked john the best...until i heard these albums that is. i play in a beatles cover band (if i were a beatle, i would be paul). we currently can do about 150 beatle tunes. nevermind that i still can't figure out how in the world he could play bass and sing like he did. for me, it comes down to which songs give me that "feeling". 9 times out of 10 it's paul. fuckin' paul! his chord progressions, his melodies--they are just better. lord only knows why his solo career tanked (tanked in terms of credibility and critical acclaim. in terms of sales, he's tops for sure).

all of this, however, is pointless drivel, right? wrong. it is time paul got his fair share of both respect and credit. a few years ago, when the debate sprang up between "lennon/mccartney vs. mccartney/lennon" i was amazed at how few people came to paul's defense (although i guess it is no surprise). in the later years especially, it was obvious who wrote what songs, and i think the time had come to set the record straight. once again, in comes yoko to stir up needless drama. i don't blame him for wanting what was rightfully his (although doesn't micheal jackson own the rights to all beatles songs anyway? wtf!!!)

i think if john were alive today, the race would be a little closer. history shows us that dying young is the best career move a young artist can make. in fact, there are many artists that have only come into the public eye after their demise. as i said earlier, i have always been a john fan. but in the end, when one really examines the two artists side by side, paul looks better and better.

"you've got to admit it's getting better--it's getting better all the time...."-paul

out of curiosity, what is the best beatles album? well, that is the 64 dollar question i suppose. it depends on the day, and it depends on the person. for me, its usually revolver--although i hate the song yellow submarine. currently, it is abbey road--its more like a symphony than a pop album. it's rarely sgt. pepper--although lovely rita is one of my top 10 favorite songs. i suppose you could sooner ask your parents, "which child do you love the best?". you would probably get a more definitive answer.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

a time of uncertainty

as some of you may or may not know, ancillary adams has decided to take some time off from reality for a bit and seek his fortunes elsewhere around the globe. during his potential absence from technology, there will be a few strangers posting their thoughts, ideas and opinions to this blog. it should be noted that while being asked to contribute by the great AA himself is indeed quite an honor, all ramblings contained herein are that of the specific author and not that of the founder.

while we do hope to generate discussion on a variety of topics, our sole objective is to make a valiant effort towards the maintenance of this blog. Current readership is at an all-time staggering high, and we shall do our best to maintain this current level of success. fear not, dear reader!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Tourism

I hope the KCCVA is already thinking about hiring these guys.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Popularity Contests

Republicans aren't doing very well in them. Maybe they should stop picking fights with the rather popular French kids.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Encouraging Royals Stats



The Royals pitching staff is off to an incredible start. They have the league's second best ERA, and if not for Kyle (The Arsonist) Farnsworth, they would likely be on top. The most encouraging stat, however, is the team's number of strikeouts. Royals pitchers are currently striking out more batters than any other team in baseball.

This is important because strikeouts reduce the number of things that can go wrong when a ball is put in play. It is also big news because from 2000-2007, the Royals were in the bottom five in strikeouts every year (twice finishing dead last). Last year, they moved up to a below average but more respectable 17th place. Now they are #1. That may not last, but it is hard to imagine them dropping out of the top 10.

So the pitching is in pretty good shape. What about the offense? The offensive equivalent of the strikeout is the home run. When you hit a home run, nothing else has to happen for you to score a run. One swing, one run (or more). The Royals are currently 16th in home runs. That may not seem great, but we are again talking about a team with a recent track record of being truly awful. Between 2000 and 2008 the Royals finished better than 20th only once, and they finished dead last in 2006 and 2007.

In comparison, 16th doesn't look so bad. And when you combine 16th in home runs with 1st in strikeouts, that seems to be grounds for optimism. Go Royals!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Another Good Chart

This one is relevant to the Tea Party folks and others up in arms over government spending.



If you don't like the U.S. Government spending money, you should probably figure out what to do about Social Security, defense spending, and Medicare/Medicaid. Even if pork was an addition to the budget (which it isn't, it's just an assignment), it would be a couple of percentage points at best.

Via Kevin Drum.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

We've Covered This Territory Before

I know I mention this a lot, but this is yet another great chart about the difference between liberal America and conservative America.



About the time conservative policies began to take hold in America, there was a detachment between per capita GDP and median family income. This was true under both Republican and Democratic administrations (though more so under Republicans). Just keep this in mind the next time someone cries to you about the return of socialism.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Conservative Tea Parties

I had somehow missed this bit of information, but conservatives are apparently throwing tea parties meant to be reminiscent of the Boston Tea Party and to protest taxation without representation. Paul Krugman has a column up featuring these parties and coins a term I was heretofore unfamiliar with:

Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
I don't think Krugman made up the analogy, but I like it. Matt Yglesias meanwhile focuses on the fact that the event that occurred in Nebraska wasn't built on a very accurate premise.

The 1.8 million Nebraskans are very much represented in congress. There’s Rep. Jeff Fortenberry, Rep. Lee Terry, and Rep. Adrian M. Smith in the House of Represenatives along with Senators Ben Nelson and Mike Johanns. Indeed, with a mere 0.6 percent of the nation’s population, Nebraska gets to elect fully 2 percent of the Senators. If anything, Nebraskans have taxation with overrepresentation.
I don't think I have much to add to this. I suppose I would just say that this can be amusing, but ultimately is bad for anyone who would like two parties competing with one another in debates on real ideas. Not that you didn't already know that.

Friday, April 10, 2009

80's Movie Line of the Week



No matter what kind of work you do, at some point, you look forward to the weekend. Just ask Arthur.

Arthur: I race cars, play tennis, and fondle women, BUT! I have weekends off, and I am my own boss.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Religion and Science Joined by Wadsworth

An interesting article on Slate today. It talks about scientific explanations for events in the Bible. None of this is terribly important, of course, if you believe that religious texts are more about philosophical wisdom and morality than they are about historical accuracy.

But since a lot of people think it is vitally important that every word of the Good Book be interpreted to be literally true, these scientific explanations can be kind of fun. It seems to me a little like Tim Curry running around at the end of Clue explaining who killed who. The best passage is about the plagues.

Before he parted whatever sea it was he parted, the Bible describes Moses and his brother Aaron delivering 10 plagues on the people of Egypt. The Nile turns to blood, all the fish die, frogs are brought forth abundantly, and so on. Drawing on theology, Egyptology, and biology, epidemiologist John Marr developed a "domino theory" to explain each of the 10 plagues in order. Marr believes the plagues were a series of natural disasters and diseases triggered by a bloom of water-borne organisms called dinoflagellates. The dinoflagellates turned the Nile red and killed the frog-eating fish, which in turn caused a population explosion among frogs. The tainted water eventually killed the frogs, causing lice and flies to run rampant, which lead to a number of animal diseases (including African horse sickness) and an outbreak of boils (fancy glanders). This reign of disaster and disease continued through hail, locusts (Schistocerca gregaria, to be precise), and sandstorms until the death of the firstborn sons, which Marr thinks was caused by grain infected with mycotoxins. Others, building on Marr's domino theory, argue that the plagues were triggered by the eruption of the Greek island of Santorini, causing a string of disasters such as those that occurred at Lake Nyos, Cameroon, in 1986.
And then Moses hit Pharaoh with a candlestick in the study.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Defensible Defense Budgeting

A lot of talk recently about Obama and Gates "cutting" the defense budget. They aren't, of course. Their budget calls for an increase in defense spending, but not as much as the military requested. If I ask for a 10% raise and receive 5%, can I say I took a pay cut?

The more important question is, so what if it didn't rise? What if we cut it? If we cut it in half, we'd still be spending more than the other five countries on the chart below together. As it stands today, half of all defense spending in the world is spent by the U.S.



Via Matt Yglesias.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

At What Point...

do we seriously start worrying about the right-wing nuttery that feels like it is gaining steam? When Republican members of Congress like Michelle Bachmann say things like she did yesterday, is it odd to find out that t-shirts like the ones pictured below are hot items?





I certainly remember hearing a lot of the crazier pronouncements by this crowd during the Clinton years, but I wasn't really engaged enough to be able to compare it to now. This feels, to me, more dangerous. More malevolent. More likely that something really bad could happen. Is that an overreaction? I hope so.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Hey, Who Has Something Crazy to Say?

From Minnesota Representative Michelle Bachmann, who is trying really hard to earn craziest member of Congress status.

"It's under the guise of -- quote -- volunteerism. But it's not volunteers at all. It's paying people to do work on behalf of government," said the Minnesota Republican. "I believe that there is a very strong chance that we will see that young people will be put into mandatory service. And the real concerns is that there are provisions for what I would call re-education camps for young people, where young people have to go and get trained in a philosophy that the government puts forward and then they have to go to work in some of these politically correct forums."

Postponement

The Royals will not play today because of bad weather in Chicago. This gives me 24 hours to determine whether or not I think my hopes for the Royals season ( a .500 record) are

A) wildly optimistic
B) too pessimistic
C) completely dependent on the health of the pitching staff
D) generally depressing because I'm hoping for .500
E) not important enough to put this much thought into

I think C, D and E are all probably true. Not sure which of A and B would be the most likely addition to that group.

Friday, April 3, 2009

80's Movie Line of the Week



I've been running behind all week it seems, which made me think of this great rationale for being late in The Sure Thing.

Gib: Sorry I'm late. There was this big problem... and I'm late because of it.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Getting Carried Away

The local sports talk stations are full of callers an hosts, and even national expert guests, hinting at the idea that the Royals could be the surprise of the season. Maybe they will. But if they are going to be, the starting rotation needs not to look like the one below by sometime in early summer.

Zach Greinke
Gil Meche
Kyle Davies
Sidney Ponson
Horacio Ramirez

One of those last two names has to be replaced, and it would be prefereable if they both were. The bullpen isn't going to be what it was last year, so the Royals need starters that can last more than 4 innings.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Good News About Robots

They apparently aren't as close to taking over the world as some have suggested. A blog post on the Times's Wild Side blog explains that it we've got several things going for us that computers still don't.

It's about power:

This projection overlooks the dark, hot underbelly of Moore’s law: power consumption per chip, which has also exploded since 1985. By 2025, the memory of an artificial brain would use nearly a gigawatt of power, the amount currently consumed by all of Washington, D.C. So brute-force escalation of current computer technology would give us an artificial brain that is far too costly to operate.

Compare this with your brain, which uses about 12 watts, an amount that supports not only memory but all your thought processes. This is less than the energy consumed by a typical refrigerator light, and half the typical needs of a laptop computer. Cutting power consumption by half while increasing computing power many times over is a pretty challenging design standard. As smart as we are, in this sense we are all dim bulbs.
and emotions:

Still, engineers could learn a thing or two from brain strategies. For example, even the most advanced computers have difficulty telling a dog from a cat, something that can be done at a glance by a toddler — or a cat. We use emotions, the brain’s steersman, to assign value to our experiences and to future possibilities, often allowing us to evaluate potential outcomes efficiently and rapidly when information is uncertain. In general, we bring an extraordinary amount of background information to bear on seemingly simple tasks, allowing us to make inferences that are difficult for machines.
Sarah Conners the world over can breath a sigh of relief.
 

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