Sunday, October 31, 2010

Live blogging the ninth, game 4

8:15 Holland vs. Ishikawa. Holland who didn't throw a strike in San Francisco, is the Rangers' pitcher in the top of the ninth down 4-0. He walks Ishikawa on a full count.

8:18 Holland vs. Renteria. First pitch strike. Swing and a miss, 0-2. Third pitch called strike three. First out.

8:19 Holland vs. Shierholtz. First pitch, ball, two strikes follow. Shierholtz hits it to center straight at Hamilton, two outs.

8:21 Holland vs. Torres. First pitch ball, 1-0. Another pitch high, 2-0. Swing and a foul, 2-1. Torres fouls off another, 2-2. Batter's advantage gone. 51,520 fans at the stadium. Let the all go hone with ashes in their mouths, especially the evil Bush family, Babs with her crossword problems. Torres hits into an out. the all important bottom of the ninth begins.


8:26 Brian Wilson vs. Elvis Andrus. Fear the beard, Texas bitchez. First pitch strike. Second pitch ball. Andrus lines out to Shierholtz. One out.

8:28 Wilson vs. Michael Young. Strike then two balls, 1-2. Strike 2-2. Young hasn't swung yet. Now he has. SIT DOWN, MEAT!
Two outs.

8:29 Wilson vs. Josh Hamilton. First pitch, called strike. Second swing and a miss. Third, check swing strikeout. 21 year old Madison Baumgarner shuts out the Rangers in their home park for only the second time this year.

It's about to happen. Mark my words. I'm an old fart that waited since 19-fucking-62.

Let Timmy Smoke!


Michael Nava for Superior Court Judge

My blog buddy sfmike has a very good post today about an important endorsement Michael Nava received from Peter Keane, former dean of Golden Gate University of Law. Keane accuses the San Francisco Judiciary of essentially performing a shakedown on the local top corporate law firms to make sure Superior Court Judge Richard Ulmer retained his seat.

Ulmer is an appointee of Schwarzenegger, and like many such appointees, he comes from a large corporate law firm. The fear in the judiciary stems not just from their sense of entitlement that an appointment by a governor should be a ticket to a lifetime job, but that people who will have a natural bias towards corporate clients that appear before them need to be retained. Michael Nava does not have that bias and for that reason, he is better qualified to be a truly impartial judge.

His election will be an important step towards reform, a battle that concerned citizens for good government must fight with our ballots against entrenched interests, whether they call themselves Democrats, Republicans or independents. If you are a San Francisco voter, please put your mark next to Michael Nava's name on ballot due this Tuesday.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Live blogging the top of the ninth, game 3

Here's the top of the ninth for the Giants. They are down 4-2, two homers to two homers, but the Rangers had two on for their first one. The Rangers bring on Neftali Feliz, their fireballing rookie closer.

Feliz vs. Pat Burrell. Two pitches, two strikes, brings one inside for ball one. Gets him on a 98 mph fastball. Burrell gets the collar, three strikeouts in three at bats.

Feliz vs. Cody Ross. Starts off Cody with two hard strikes. Cody flies out deep.

Feliz vs. Juan Uribe. High with the first pitch. Throws the second one by him. Outside for 2-1. Swing and a miss at a 97 mph low fast ball. Last strike for the Giants. Fouled back a 99 mph fastball. Scary stuff. Fanned him! Rangers win.

Giants now lead 2-1. This was a must win game for the Rangers and so is tomorrow to tell the truth. I still like the Giants' chances. This is the fun time.

The final push for legalization

The election is only three days away and many campaigns are winding down. Not so the Yes on 19 campaign, which got a million dollar cash infusion from George Soros, the big money donor to progressive causes so often vilified by Fox News and other right wing media. This means there will be ads on TV featuring former San Jose police chief Joseph McNamara talking about how the drug war has failed.

I've seen a lot written about the topic on both sides, and the metaphor that I found most interesting was Nick Gillespie comparing it not to prohibition but to the Cold War, an omnipresent but rarely mentioned part of our society that spread its influence everywhere.

It's clear politicians will never change the laws. There's no money in it for them. But there could be plenty of money in it for us, the taxpayers who don't smoke. It will bring in a lot of revenue and help with overcrowding of jails. Also, if marijuana as a drug is legalized, it would take the stigmatization off people who cultivate hemp for other products. It's a very useful plant.

I'm not a parent, so I don't have the same concerns that many do. But I recently spoke to a man whose son's career in engineering is dogged by a conviction from years ago when he was caught smoking a joint on his porch late one Saturday night. Legalization is not a utopia, but we aren't exactly living in paradise now.

Again, I ask my friends and readers in California to vote yes on Prop. 19 this Tuesday. Thank you for your kind attention.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Random 10, 10/29/10

This House Is Empty Now Elvis Costello with Burt Bacharach
Pain In My Heart Otis Redding
Glowworm The Mills Brothers
(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher Jackie Wilson
Sunday Girl Parallel Lines
Baltimore Randy Newman
Bluebird Buffalo Springfield
My One And Only Love Rickie Lee Jones
Take Me To The River Talking Heads
Mystery Train The Band

As Padre Mickey and I have to admit time and again, this is a music list from an old person's computer. Usually, I see the Good Padre's influence in my musical tastes, but I knew about all these artists before I met him. There are two recordings less than twenty years old, but one is Elvis writing a song with Burt Bacharach in Burt's style, and the other is Rickie Lee Jones doing a standard from the American Songbook.

Not a bad list by any means, just not a new list either.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Live blogging the bottom of the eighth and the top of the ninth.

The deep back story: My first love of a sports team is the San Francisco Giants. I don't live and die with the team any more, and the post-Barry Bonds era feels like a hangover. But this scrappy young team has fought hard all year, and against the odds, they are in the World Series, so I'm learning their names now, more than a little ashamed I didn't follow their progress more closely.

As an old baseball nerd, this team reminds me of the 1969 Mets. Nobody gave them a chance to even beat the Braves to make it to the World Series, but they swept the Braves 3-0 and bullied the Orioles 4-1 to become World Champs only six years after they were all time chumps. Their line-up was full of Ed Kranepools, Ron Swobodas and Cleon Joneses, but after their alleged ace, 26 year old Jerry Koosman, they had some kids with arms you had to like, like 24 year old Tom Seaver, and a couple of 22 year olds named Nolan Ryan and Tug McGraw.

The recent back story: The first game was supposed to be ace vs. ace, but the Giants won an insane game, 11-7. The Giants put up six runs in the fifth, the most runs scored in an inning of a a World Series since 1937. The bad news was the Giants used a lot of pitchers as did the Rangers.

The second game was a big question mark, but C.J. Wilson and Matt Cain came up big. Wilson gave up two runs in six innings for the Rangers, while Cain held the Rangers scoreless for a strong 7 2/3 innings. The Ranger bullpen betrayed them in the bottom of the eighth and the Giants put up seven with nobody on and two outs. This is fucking unbelievable. A record stands for 73 years and then it is broken the next night. 9-0 and the Rangers have three outs to redeem themselves.

8:06 Guillermo Mota vs. Nelson Cruz. On the second pitch, Cruz grounds out to third. One out.

8:06 Guillermo Mota vs. Ian Kinsler. One ball, one strike, fouls one off, 1-2. Outside for 2-2. Low for full count. Posey goes to change gloves. Lines out to Schierholtz in center right. One more out!

8:09 Guillermo Mota vs. David Murphy. First pitch ball. Second pitch a strike looking. Ball for 2-1, Swing and a miss, 2-2. Outside for full count. C'mon. Willie, get this guy! Fouled off, do it again. Fouled off again. Walks on a ball in the dirt.

8:12 Guillermo Mota vs. pinch hitter Jeff Francouer. Murphy takes second on the first pitch a strike. Second pitch ball. Third pitch, fly to right. Schierholtz has it!


I hate to celebrate early.

Celebrating early, bad, BAD, BADDD!!!!!!!

But I believe these kids are going to do it. The Rangers are going to have a hard time forgetting how badly they were
outplayed in these two games.

Since the Series has been best of seven, teams have come back from 0-2 deficits before. The New York Yankees did it twice in 1956 and 1958. The Brooklyn Dodgers did it in 1955 and the Los Angeles Dodgers did it in 1965.

Let me say it out loud. These Rangers aren't the glory day Yankees or the glory day Dodgers.

Two games away. This is a great feeling. This really could be the year.

How to lose votes and irritate people.

I don't pay that much attention to local politics, but over the past few months it's been hard to ignore. Early in October, I got a call from Pat Kernighan's campaign asking for my support. The person on the line gave me a rundown of the many civic improvements Kernighan lobbied hard for, and I listened attentively and said I would support her.

"Pat also supports Don Perata for mayor..." the caller said.

"Oooh, you just lost a vote." I told her.

Back in September, before the phone call, there was a leaflet on my door in my apartment building, an unusual occurrence since we have a gate. One of my neighbors, Jennifer Pae, was running for office and wanted to talk to folks about what their many concerns are. I didn't get back to her, lazy sod that I am, but I did file the name away.

She's running against Pat Kernighan. If you feel as strongly as I do that Don Perata is the wrong choice for Oakland, and you have a vote in District 2, please vote for Jennifer Pae.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Buffalo Skinners, performed by Raphael Boguslav

The third video on my YouTube channel is from an album released in 1956. Raphael Boguslav sang and played guitar, mandolin and banjo on the album Songs From A Village Garret, the village, of course, being Greenwich Village. He recorded a set of folk songs, some from the British Isles and others from the United States. Buffalo Skinners is a 19th Century American folk song, recorded most famously by Woody Guthrie.

There is no trace of Raphael Boguslav's music on the Internet, so I'm going to put some of his songs up on my YouTube channel. I will also share them here when I finish them. Special thanks to Peregrin who had the software that could change my old fashioned .mpg file to the newer style that iMovie can read.

Let me know what you think.

What do I do for a living? Why, you writing a book?

I was filling my mail-in ballot last night, or as Republicans now call it, participating in widespread voter fraud. I was looking at the candidates' listed occupations.

Candymaker. Community volunteer. Entrepreneur/Visionary/Businessman.

So far so good. I'm kinda wondering how much money is to be made in the visionary racket, but no matter. There are only two candidates on the ballot who do not list what they do for a living. One is a no-hope, down ballot loser from the American Independent Party, the racist remnants of George Wallace's third party attempt from forty years ago.

The other man with no visible means of support is Don Perata, the completely corrupt scumbag who has the most money to spend to become Mayor of Oakland. Even if he wasn't the epitome of a back room wheeler/dealer, I'm getting tired of the Oakland mayor's race being the Senior Tour of California state politics. First Jerry Brown, then Ron Dellums. Let's start hiring from the local pool instead of getting these retreads from Sacramento and Washington.

The East Bay Express recommends voting for Rebecca Kaplan, Jean Quan or Joe Tuman. Since we have Ranked Choice Voting, you can vote for all three in some combination, though you should know the person you put first is likely going to be your choice unless there are multiple run-offs. Personally, I put them in the order given above.

There's also a Peralta College Trustee running for mayor. No way in hell I vote for somebody in the hierarchy that is doing its best to steal from me personally.

I also didn't give a vote to the Entrepreneur/Visionary/Businessman. One slash in a job title is dodgy, two slashes screams "FLAKE".

But most importantly, vote No on Don Perata. That man needs to find honest employment, though I don't think he has any idea on how to start looking.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Are we ignoring the superficial?

Some traits are all a matter of perception. A person might be considered cheap, while others call her frugal. Another is perceived as mean, but well-wishers call him no-nonsense and tough-minded.

With some traits, the best defense is a good offense. If called a racist, a counter-charge of political correctness might soften the blow. If a public person is called stupid, why not call the accusers elitists?

But what can you do if you are called superficial? If still in high school, the counter-move would be to say, "Well, you're not one of the cool kids and nobody likes you!"

If past the age of consent, your options shrink significantly.

Superficiality has gotten a bum rap. My first blog hero was (and still is) Peteykins, the artist formerly known as Princess Sparkle Pony. He looked at politics and diplomacy through the lens of hairdos, dresses, shoes and accessories. Sometimes it was tongue in cheek and sometimes there was more to it. While the official birth legend of The Other Blog is that I awoke from a nap on my birthday with the concept fully formed, I would never have thought about writing about something so superficial had I not first seen a master do it so well.

Consider the two main statewide races in California. There are a lot of similarities. The Democrats have two career politicians on the ticket, the Republicans have two political novices from the world of business. The differences at the big level are that Jerry Brown is much more of a retread than Barbara Boxer, and Meg Whitman can point to a business record of success, while Carly Fiorina has a lot of baggage about driving companies into the ground and sending high paying jobs overseas.

Both Brown and Boxer are leading in their races, but Brown has been comfortably ahead for about a month while Fiorina is keeping it much closer.

What are we missing? Why is Fiorina a better candidate than Whitman? Let's take a closer look at the superficial.

Meg Whitman looks like hell, and it is within her power to do much better. She's a billionaire, for Lenny's sake! She can't find a hairstylist that can give her hair some body, some highlights, a more flattering cut? I'm not saying go crazy with the plastic surgery like she's some Hollywood wife, but straight white teeth would go over a lot better than crooked yellow teeth.

Fiorina was treated for breast cancer and was bald less than a year ago. Her hair came back in salt-and-pepper and she's making it work. High marks for her stylist and high marks for her dental hygienist.

Moving away from the superficial, I deeply hate the political positions both these women take. Should the polls be correct and both of them taken a beating a week from Tuesday, I'll be happier Meg and Carly lost than I will be that Jerry and Babs won. But if there is a reason why one of these women has a slim hope and the other almost none, the superficial goes a long way to explain the difference.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A disappointing setback.

When I was a lad, we had the album pictured on the left Songs From A Village Garret, folk songs sung and played by Raphael Boguslav, recorded about the time I was born. I loved the music and listened to it often, even after I discovered rock and roll. Boguslav stayed in the music business through the 1960s, but he never was a huge success and spent the rest of his life as one of the best known calligraphers in the United States.

So anyway, fast forward several decades. Songs from this ancient album would still get stuck in my head, so I searched for it online and bought a copy on eBay. (Thanks, Meg! I'm still not voting for you and I hope the millions you spent on this disastrous campaign will taste like ashes in your mouth until the day you die. Love and Kisses!) A friend had the tech to turn a record into .mpg files, so I now have the album on my computer and can listen to it at my convenience.

So far, so good.

If you go on The You Tubes, you can find a video about Boguslav's calligraphy, but none of his music. After I bought the album, I had a short e-mail correspondence with the artist, who was a very gracious person. He died earlier this year, and I thought that there should be some record of his music in the most important music library of today, The You Tubes.

I wanted to make an iMovie of his version of the traditional American folk song Buffalo Skinners, but iMovie doesn't like .mpg files, it only wants .mp4 files. This means I was able to make videos of Burl Ives and my own music, but trying to share Ray Boguslav's music with the world is so far no go.

If anybody knows an easy workaround, I'd be glad to entertain any suggestions.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Something has to give.

The San Francisco Giants, a team built on good pitching and timely hitting, will be in the World Series against the A.L. champion Texas Rangers. While the Giants won several pennants when they played in New York, they have not won since they moved west back when I was still in knee pants. The Rangers have never played for the world championship, so one way or the other, something's got to give.

The Giants beat the allegedly superior Phillies in six games, when Juan Uribe broke a tense 2-2 tie with a solo home run in the eighth inning with two outs.

The Giants have broken my heart several times in post-season play throughout my lifetime, starting with losing a Game 7 back to the (still) hated Yankees in 1962. But does Matty Boy come crawling back, time and time again? Of course I do, hypothetical question asker. That goes without saying.

This is our year! Go Giants!

(photo by Howard Smith/US Presswire)

Random 10, 10/23/10

The People's Limousine Elvis Costello and T-Bone Burnett (The Coward Brothers)
Can Your Monkey Do The Dog? Rufus Thomas
Low Symphony - Warszawa (Philip Glass) Brooklyn Philharmonic Orchestra
Money Don't Matter 2 Night Prince
Cry A While Bob Dylan
Shake, Rattle & Roll Big Joe Turner
The Flying Dutchman Raphael Boguslav
If You Want Me Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard
Standing Anthony Stewart Head
Beginner's Luck Fred Astaire

My lists are never as all over the map as Padre Mickey's, due in large part to not having any local music from Panama or 14th Century plainsong, but this one travels far and wide for the music from a hermit's computer. The three songs from the 21st Century, one from Bob Dylan and two from soundtracks, don't sound super modern, but the Low Symphony kinda does. I think my next project on The You Tubes is to get some of the music of Raphael Boguslav up and available. He was a folk musician in the 1950s and 1960s who became a top calligrapher. He passed away earlier this year. I bought his album on eBay a few years back and I got in touch with him through e-mail. He was a very gracious answering a fanboy's questions.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Good manners aren't expensive and they never go out of style.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a blog post about the candidates and ballot measures I support. I wrote about four of them and I sent $50 to each.

Some have gotten back to me by e-mail. Some of asked me for more cash. I am neither surprised or disappointed by this.

Today, I got a handwritten note from Michael Nava, the lawyer and former mystery novel writer now running for Superior Court judge in San Francisco. Here is what the note says.


Dear Matthew,

Thank you so much for your contribution to my campaign. Please call your San Francisco friends and ask them to vote for me. I deeply appreciate your help.


The title of this post bears repeating. Good manners aren't expensive and they never go out of style. To all my readers who are registered to vote in San Francisco, please vote for Michael Nava for Superior Court judge on the November 2 ballot.

Thank you for your kind attention.

Don't say nothin' bad about my baby.

Have you ever heard of drunk dialing? Of course, you have. Have you any first hand experience with drunk dialing? If you can answer in the negative, you are a more evolved human being than I am.

Here's an excellent rule of thumb with drunk dialing. If you get the answering machine, Odin, Krishna and the Li'l Baby Jesus are trying to tell you to HANG THE FUCK UP!!!!!

Cute li'l Ginny Thomas, a mere child of 53 years old, has had no one to instruct her in the proper ettiquette of drunk dialing, so she gets into the Drunk Dialing Hall of Fame on her very first try. If we are to believe a voicemail, she called Anita Hill, the woman who said her husband was a creepy scumbag and probably shouldn't get a job for life on the Supreme Court, and told Ms. Hill that it would be a good thing if she admitted she was wrong and apologized after all this time. She even told Ms. Hill that she "should pray on it."

Ginny has no idea how creepy that sounds to sane people, having so little personal contact with them. She works at The Heritage Foundation and before that for the Chamber of Commerce.

Stunningly, Ms. Hill decided that no conversation with Odin, Krishna or the Li'l Baby Jesus was necessary and that no apology would be forthcoming.

Ms. Thomas married Clarence in 1987, an innocent child who had only seen 30 summers, so she clearly did not know the ways of the world. Hon, here's a clue. Clarence had been around the block a few times before he got wind of your fat ass.

What's worse than drunk dialing? Ex-girlfriends, bitch. Here's another lesson most folks learn before they hit menopause.

Anita Hill would have stayed a dim memory from the early 90's, a trivia answer slightly better known than the name of The Tick's sidekick (Arthur), not as well known as the big hit for Bell Biv Devoe (Poison). Since Ginny had to proclaim her husband was not a creepy, porn addicted lover of the big bazooms and Anita Hill a jealous lying harpy, one of Clarence Thomas' ex-girlfriends who did NOT testify in front of the Senate thought this would be as good a time as any to tell her side of the story.

Her side: Years ago, Clarence Thomas was a creepy, porn addicted lover of the big bazooms.

Gentle readers, if you are new to the world of drunk dialing, let this be a lesson to you. As bad as it can be if the person you are trying to reach in your diminished state picks up, it's about a jillion times worse of you leave a voice message.

Glad to be of assistance with the 'splainin'.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wednesday Math, Vol. 130: Benoit Mandelbrot, 1924-2010

Benoit Mandelbrot coined the word fractal. Even non-mathematicians might remember fractals. They were a popular culture fad about thirty years ago, fading from view around the same time as sociobiology and Gödel Escher Bach. Fractals may not be bandied about in coffee shops anymore, but the idea is still bearing fruit in computer science, math and biology.

What is a fractal? Is it a noun or an adjective, like in the title of Mandelbrot’s most famous book The Fractal Geometry of Nature?

Mandelbrot was vague at first. Without a definitive statement, some wag declared “fractals are the mathematical proof for the existence of paisley.”

By the time of his death last Thursday, the definition had been refined to self-similarity, systems with small pieces that look like the whole. Think of tree branches or blood vessels. A nautilus shell, if shrunken and rotated just the right amount, will be almost identical to removing the last chamber the critter inhabited.

Benoit Mandelbrot is considered a French or Franco-American mathematician, but he was born in Warsaw in 1927 into a family of Lithuanian Jews, the family name Yiddish for “almond bread”. They left Warsaw in 1936 for Paris. When the war came, they moved again, leaving their son in the care of a rabbi. He spent much of the war in hiding.

After the war, he attended colleges studying math and aeronautics in France and the U.S., getting a Ph.D at the University of Paris. Instead of the teaching route, Mandelbrot took work at IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center in Yorkton Heights, New York. The standard mathematical path to glory is solving some open problem that has stumped the finest minds for decades or centuries. Mandelbrot found fame pondering a poorly defined concept of his own making for a very long time, usually a one-way ticket to Eccentric Palookaville. Could math replicate the messy shapes and patterns created by living things that grew following instructions stored in self-replicating cells?

Jonathan Miller said in The Body In Question everything must be understood first in metaphor. The heart was a drum until someone invented the pump, and no one could have dreamed the better metaphor before the pump’s invention. The computer was both Mandelbrot’s metaphor and major tool. Mandelbrot didn’t so much “prove” his main thesis as show it was plausible. Computer graphics took huge strides forward in creating natural looking landscapes and biological textures based on simple instructions repeated at different scales many, many times.

On self-similarity, the last word goes to Sally Draper, precocious daughter of Don Draper of Mad Men, from an episode this season, discussing eternity with her creepy friend Glenn.

Sally Draper: “When I think about forever I get upset. Like the Land O Lakes butter has that Indian girl, sitting holding a box? And it has a picture of her on it, holding a box, with a picture of her on it, holding a box. Have you ever noticed that?”

Creepy Glenn: “I wish you wouldn’t have said that.”

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Informed voters, yes.
Informative reporters, not so much.

So the Ipsos/Reuters poll I responded to has been made public. I always find new numbers interesting, but these are partly troubling, partly heartening and partly too undecided to be useful, especially at this late date. Also, the story gives some information that puts all the numbers in dispute.

The troubling numbers
Boxer's lead over Fiorina has shrunk to 46% to 45%.

The comforting numbers
Brown's lead over Whitman is now 48% to 44%.

The too undecided numbers
Prop. 23, the crap anti-environmental proposal endorsed by two Texas oil companies, is getting shellacked 46% to 35%, but having 19% undecided at this late date is unnerving.

The problem with the reporting is this. Ipsos/Reuters says the poll was done with 601 Registered Voters, of which 448 call themselves likely voters. They say the margin of error on the big sample should be 4.0%, while the smaller sample should have a margin of error of 4.8%.

Hmmmmmm, not so fast.

The probability that the smaller sample has the exact same percentages for Brown, Whitman, Boxer, Fiorina, pro-23 and anti-23 is teeny tiny. There should be some differences, but I can't find them anywhere in the story and they don't link to a raw numbers .pdf.

By the way, if we assume the numbers are for the larger OR the smaller sample, we can do a confidence of victory test for Brown and Boxer, because over 90% of respondents show a preference for one of the two main candidates. With the 81% either pro or con Prop. 23, we are SOL because of the high undecided.

If the numbers are out of n=601
We are about 60% confident this poll shows Boxer will beat Fiorina if the election were held when the poll was taken.
We are about 85% confident this poll shows Brown will beat Whitman if the election were held when the poll was taken.

If the numbers are out of n=448
We are about 60% confident this poll shows Boxer will beat Fiorina if the election were held when the poll was taken.
We are about 80% confident this poll shows Brown will beat Whitman if the election were held when the poll was taken.

Neither election is in the bag, but early voting has already started, so for some people, the election is being held when the poll was taken. There is still uncertainty, but for right thinking people, none of the numbers point to our impending doom.

If you really want impending doom, go to my other blog and read the stories from the Sun.

It's okay to click. Remember, when it comes to my other blog, I'm not silently judging you.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Want to know something about Ranked Choice Voting?
You've come to the right place.

So I was walking across the Laney campus a few weeks back, minding mah own bidness, when a fellow steps up to me and asks if I would like the school the votin' populace of Oakland about Ranked Choice voting, also known as Instant Run-Off.

Hey, it's about combinations of stuff! It produces numbers which can be analyzed! I git PAID to 'splain stuff! What part of this is not fun, fun, fun to Matty Boy?

So this election day, I will be a Ranked Choice Voting facilitator in a precinct near my house. People will come to me confused and in need of knowledge, and they will depart in confidence that their vote will count.

I've taught the stuff to both of my stats classes and did a run through of how it might work in an election like the Oakland mayor's race, where there are ten, count 'em ten candidates.

It should be lots of fun.

Looking around the Internets for more info,I found this graphic showing how voters in Minneapolis felt about RCV.

Notice how Democrats and Independents, who we will lump together in a new category called Right Thinking People, prefer Ranked Choice Voting to a primary system by wide margins, while Republicans, who felt bad they didn't get a new category name so I will call them The Unwashed Masses just to keep them from whining, pretty much hate the idea in a nigh-exact mirror image of the Democratic numbers.

Weird, huh?

I get the feeling anything that takes more than 20 seconds to 'splain and doesn't have a catchy jingle is just not their cup of tea.

So to speak.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Simon McCorkindale has died.

This bad news makes it official.

Manimal, on hiatus lo these 27 years, is now canceled.

Matty Boy, Shaper of Public Opinion.

So I was lounging around my palatial penthouse suite the other evening when I get a phone call. A young woman is on the other end of the line, begging to know my opinion on the important issues of the day.

I know the question on your mind. Why should this night be different from any other night?

The young woman was calling from a company called Ipsos. She was very pleasant, though from their logo it appears they mainly hire Chia pets. She asked me questions about upcoming election in California. It just so happens that with all the questions she asked, good class warrior that I am, I was voting no on the rich stealing from the poor. No on 23. No on Whitman. No on Fiorina. She asked me some demographic questions and the call went smoothly.

She also let me ask her some questions about her job. As a statistics teacher, I was wondering how many people hang up on her. She couldn't give a reliable number, but she did say if someone was willing to answer one question, it was usually an "in for a penny, in for a pound" situation.

In the coming days, you may see a poll from Ipsos giving numbers on the upcoming California contests. You may wonder what sort of people they talked to. Rest assured, they were talking to bright and well-informed people, and the interviewers were pleasant and competent.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Random 10, 10/15/10

Big Chief Professor Longhair
All Falls Down Kanye West feat. Syleena Johnson
Bad Girl Smoky Robinson & The Miracles
Crawling From The Wreckage Dave Edmunds
My Girl The Temptations
All Along The Watchtower The Jimi Hendrix Experience
The Lost Chord (Topsy Turvy) Eleanor David
Paper Doll The Mills Brothers
That Lucky Old Sun Ray Charles
Sugar Daddy Blues La Vern Baker

One song from the 21st Century, but also one from the 19th and a whole lot of stuff that predates rock and roll. Sorry La Vern's song isn't on the You Tubes and surprised the song from Topsy Turvy is missing.

If you only have time to watch one video, watch the Temptations dance and lip synch. I love their dance routines, as do all right thinking people everywhere.

What's playing where you are at?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Exciting new ideas in disenfranchisement!

During the 1980's, a popular meme was that the left has no new ideas and the right was the ideology moving forward. Of course, the main idea of the right is very old.

"We hate government. If you let us run government, we promise you will soon hate it as much as we do."

I suppose when you have an idea as catchy as that one, you really don't need new ideas. Most of the weirdest ideas from the Tea Party crowd are obvious variations on that theme.

Where can we find exciting new ideas? Why, Hollywood, of course!

Enter Pat Sajak, deep thinker, connoisseur of ceramic dogs, every bit as good at math as Vanna White is good at spelling, which is to say he can read numbers off a teleprompter. Writing in the National Review Online, Pat puts forward the exciting new plan to take the vote away from public employees. After all, public employees want to keep being paid, so doesn't that mean they have a conflict of interest whenever an issue would mean less revenue is taken in?

To be fair to Mr. Sajak, he doesn't want to take my entire right to vote away. He doesn't want to put public employees in the same boat with ex-felons. He just thinks the 240,000 people like me who are California state employees shouldn't vote on measures where we have our livelihoods at stake. I expect he feels the same way about local government employees voting on local bond measures. Extend that to everyone who cashes a government check that isn't federal and we are talking about millions of people across the country.

As a public employee, lemme 'splain, Pat. I don't have a conflict of interest. I have an interest. You have an opposing interest, an interest in paying as little in taxes as you possibly can. You are right that it's easier to win an argument when you don't let the other side speak, but here's the chance of this little ploy gaining traction. Zero. Even if this nonsense got on the ballot somewhere AND more than 50% of voters thought it sounded like a good idea, the courts would kill it. You don't get to take away people's citizenship rights just because they work for the government.

I first heard about this over on the progressive website Talking Points Memo. Most of the commenters went with jokes that were some variations on "Pat, I like to buy a _____." Instead of ending with a gag, I'll end with a brag. This is yet another moment when I'm proud to say I won my money on Jeopardy! and not on your crap show, Pat.

You should stick with the prize packages. This "thinking for a living" gig is harder than it looks.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Maybe We Could Write Letters

Yesterday, Padre Mickey posted a song from A Cruel Hoax called God In The Doorway, which he has posted up on The You Tubes. This made me realize I should stop being so damn lazy and post some of the songs I recorded back in the day up on The You Tubes as well.

This first song is titled Maybe We Could Write Letters. I went all Prince and stuff in the recording studio and played all the instruments, except well... I'm not Prince. The bass line is "borrowed" from Booker T. and the MG's Time Is Tight and the lyrics are kinda sorta like Prince's When You Were Mine, which is to say it's kinda sorta a clean version of Cee Lo Green's F*#k You, except when it's not, and it was recorded twenty five years earlier, so at least Mr. Green can't sue me.

All modesty aside, I'm proud of this and I'd like to know what y'all think. I'm going to put it up on Facebook as well.

Monday, October 11, 2010

A story on for profit colleges in The New York Times.

I've done some teaching at for profit colleges. That industry is now in the news because Congress is investigating it. I didn't teach at either of these schools for very long and I would have to think long and hard about going back to a for profit school. The pay isn't as good for the instructors and the students are charged much more for an hour of instruction than they are at community colleges. This link to an op-ed column in The New York Times by Jeremy Dehn from Denver, sent to me by my friend Ken Rose. Many of Dehn's experiences are similar to mine and he has seen some things I didn't see and investigated the industry more deeply than I have.

The most telling numbers are that for profit schools have 12% of all students in post-secondary education and those students account for 23% of all the student loans. They are also twice as likely to default on those loans. Admissions policies are as lax as they are at community colleges, but failing at one of these schools is a much more expensive proposition, leaving students with a lot of debt and nothing to show for it.

The part of the equation I wasn't aware of was who invests in the for profit education industry. Dehn brings up that his school, the Art Institute of Colorado, is one third owned by Goldman Sachs. The people with the most skill at gaming the financial systems realize that there are ample methods to milk money away from the government in the form of student loans and into the pockets of Big Finance, spending a short time in the hands of overcharged consumers who will be liable for picking up the tab should anything not go as planned.

I have an in-law I deeply dislike who decided to see if he could convert some of us to the glories of the free market over Thanksgiving dinner a few years back. He told me that private industry could do a much better job of educating people than the state schools currently do, and that I would be a happier and more productive worker in such a system. He was disappointed that my life experience was more convincing than his belief in a libertarian paradise where the profit motive would reward all conscientious workers and only punish the lazy and dishonest.

He doesn't show up to Thanksgiving any more. It's a much more pleasant holiday now.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rare (and not so rare) events and the calendar.

Today is the tenth of October, 2010. No matter if you think of putting the day first or the month first, numerically this is 10/10/10. This doesn't happen very often. Obviously, it happened in 1910 and will happen again is 2110. Also, if you are looking for triple dates like this, they happen in the first twelve years of a century and the last one we will see for a while will be December 12, 2012, unless those silly New Age types who put stock in those pesky Mayans are right and the world comes to an end on the Winter Solstice. That would mean 12/12/12 two years from now will be the last triple date ever.

Don't make book on it. Or more practically, don't buy stuff you can't afford on credit assuming you won't have to pay it off.

So, triple dates. xx/xx/xx only happens twelve times a century. There will also be dates like 6/6/66 or 9/9/99, but those are a little different. So far, so good.

I've also had friends and blog buddies send messages to this general effect.

"This October will have five Fridays, five Saturdays and five Sundays. This happens every 823 years..." or some other equally impressive number.

Impressive, but not even remotely true.

For a month with 31 days, having five weekends in a month like this month is exactly equivalent to saying the first of the month falls on a Friday. Look at the calendar above if this isn't clear. This happens about 1/7 of the time. Because of leap years, Friday, October 1 does not happen every seven years. It happened last in 2004 and will happen again is 2021.

I'd like to say this is just "common sense", but I know plenty of clever people who don't have a reliable numerical sense. Just like an aptitude for music or for draftsmanship, it seems like the most natural thing in the world to people who have it and a daunting task to people who don't. I wrote about this back in August, and I'd like to say I've had a wonderful breakthrough and know exactly how to solve the problem of giving everyone mathematical common sense through education, but that would be a lie. I know if I get all Socratic on a student and ask the right questions, I can get a interested student to see an idea like this with only a tiny amount of prodding. The trick is to get that person to have a little voice inside his or her own head that will ask the right questions.

I have that voice. I can't shut the little bastard up. A lot of people don't have that voice in their heads at all.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Random 10, 10/8/10

I Got It Bad (And That Ain't Good) Ella Fitzgerald and Duke Ellington
Let Down Radiohead
Deep Dark Truthful Mirror Elvis Costello with Allan Toussaint
Suavecito Malo
Texas Girl At the Funeral of her Father Randy Newman
Little Wonder David Bowie
A Porter's Love Song (to a Chambermaid) Fats Waller
Jesus Was Way Cool King Missile
The Masochism Tango Tom Lehrer
God's Away On Business Tom Waits

I have a boatload of songs by Elvis Costello, Tom Waits and Fats Waller on my computer, so it's only a matter of time until all three show up on the same Random 10. I also have a passel of David Bowie and Tom Lehrer, but if I was tempted to stop this Random 10 because it just wasn't going to get any better, I would have stopped in at the Radiohead tune, which I love like crazy.

What's playing where you are?

I agree with Anderson Cooper.
Either "The Dilemma" re-shoots a scene or there should be a boycott.

Anderson Cooper was on the Ellen Show and said he saw a trailer for a movie that had a character saying "That's so gay" in a derogatory way, using "gay" in the place of "stupid" or "lame" or "uncool". He said he hated that use of the language, but he did not name the movie.

I saw the same trailer this week. The movie is called The Dilemma and it is directed by Ron Howard and written by Alan Loeb. They should be ashamed of themselves. I'm not saying the phrase should never be uttered by anyone on screen ever, but the writer and director should know that when a character says that line, a large part of the audience will hate that character, assuming correctly that the character is mean and stupid. This line was put in the trailer in the mouth of the alleged hero of this alleged light comedy, played by Vince Vaughn.

The movie comes out in January. There is still time to re-shoot the offending scene. If Howard and Loeb have even a shred of dignity between them, they will bite the bullet and do the right thing. If not, let me be among the first to ask people of goodwill not to see this movie, which looks pretty damned stupid even without the pointlessly offensive scene in the trailer.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Yet another reason to love Princess Sparkle Pony.

If you know about lolz and you know about Delaware Senate candidate Christine O'Donnell and her anti-masturbation views, this joke kinda sorta writes itself.

Well, I know about both those things, but I didn't write this.

Peteykins, the artist formerly known as Princess Sparkle Pony, wrote this.

This is yet another reason to love Princess Sparkle Pony's Photo Blog.

You should visit sometime. Seriously.

My first post to The You Tubes

Last week, I had a song stuck in my head that I hadn't heard in years, Ghost Riders In The Sky. While I concede it's a little corny and old fashioned, I like it a lot. I'm not sure what brought it to mind, but I think it might be that it's similar in rhythm to an old folk song named Buffalo Skinners, which I have on my iTunes list sung by Raphael Boguslav, a folk musician in the 1950s and 1960s who went into calligraphy as a profession. You can see his calligraphy work on The You Tubes through this link.

Thinking about Ghost Riders In The Sky running through my head, it only made sense I get a version on my computer. I mean, what's 99 cents? And 99 cents on a credit card bill seems even smaller. There are about a jillion versions, the most famous by the baritone singer Vaughn Monroe. The song is made to be dramatic and bombastic, and after Monroe made a big hit of it, every version thereafter seemed to be about virtuosity or big production values.

But then I listened to about thirty seconds of a version by Burl Ives. He was the first to record the song in February 1949 and his version is very simple, just Burl singing in his haunting tenor voice and strumming a guitar. much sparser than Monroe's big hit recorded a month later or the famous jangly guitar version by Duane Eddy decades after. I decided to plunk my money down to get the Burl Ives version.

I went to The You Tubes to see what was there. There were lots of versions, naturally, including one by Burl Ives. But it was a later recording that made a big production number of it, like almost all recordings after Monroe set the standard. I decided I would put up the Burl Ives original.

I made a "video" with iMovie. It's just a title card and pictures of Burl alternating with illustrations of the story. I thought it would be better than looking at a blank screen.

The process takes a while, but now that I know how to do it, I'll be adding more videos to my channel. For the most part, I'll stick to putting up songs of my own to avoid any copyright hassles, but I'm also thinking of putting up some of the really rare stuff I have on my ITunes collection, most especially the songs of Raphael Boguslav from his album from the 1950s Songs From A Village Garrett.

Let me know what you think, either with comments here or in the comment section of the video.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

A concise review of The Social Network

There is a new movie out called The Social Network, based on true stories swirling around the creation of Facebook, or at least as much truth as you get in a deposition.

Here is my review.

It was directed by David Fincher, who also made Zodiac, based on the true story of the Zodiac killer and his crime spree that started about 40 years ago.

You should really see Zodiac.

It was written by Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay to The American President, not based on anything like a true story.

You would do well to see The American President.

This is my review of The Social Network.

You're welcome.

Endorsements on the local and state ballots

There are many races in the mid-term elections about which I have strong negative feelings. I really don't want to see Meg Whitman become governor, which means I kinda do want to see Jerry Brown win. I don't want Carly Fiorina, a dreadful class warrior and American job killer, elected to the senate. This means I back Barbara Boxer. For me, it's a little easier backing Boxer than Brown, but in both these cases, it's more about the unacceptable alternative.

Yesterday, I sent money to four campaigns because I feel positively about them. These are the candidates and propositions I wholeheartedly endorse on the ballot.

Jerry Ellis Powell is running for the at large seat on the AC Transit Board of Directors. He is a former student of mine and new to politics. He is running as an outsider who wants to look out for the interests of the people who use the bus service. I can think of no better motive to run for office and he has my full support.

Michael Nava is running for superior court judge in San Francisco. He was one of the top two vote getters in June and is in a run-off election against an appointed incumbent. My blog buddy SFMike (Michael Strickland, not Michael Nava) has written extensively on Nava's campaign. I support Nava's efforts, though his name will not be on the ballot I cast, since I live in the East Bay and his race is a San Francisco city issue.

There are several ballot initiatives I support, but none is more important to me personally than Yes on 25. Currently, it takes a two-thirds majority to pass a budget in California. Yes on 25 will make it possible to pass a budget with a simple majority, though it will still take a two-thirds majority to raise taxes. Personally, I would like to see a smaller super-majority for tax increases, but politics is the art of the possible, and the change to majority rule on a budget vote is possible. Because many of my checks are signed by the state, this issue is very near and dear to my heart.

Because it is so hard to get tax increases, we need a new revenue stream that can't be dammed by the obstructionist Republican Party. Proposition 19 would decriminalize marijuana cultivation and tax the newly legal proceeds. It's hard to say how much money this generate, but even conservative guesses say it could be substantial.

Politicians will not end the war on drugs. The people need to get out in front if anything is going to happen. I am not a big marijuana enthusiast. I've smoked, I've inhaled, but I'm not very good at smoking in general and the pleasant effects of marijuana fight against a nasty feeling in my throat. I've tried pot brownies twice, once thirty years ago and again recently, and only a small amount can put me on my ass, and not in a nice way.

I don't want to see Prop. 19 passed to make it easier for me to buy drugs. Beer and wine are my drugs of choice and it's already legal for me to get them. I don't pretend it will have no negative effects on society. I want to see us try something different with regards to marijuana because I believe what we do now doesn't work even a little bit. We jail people for no good cause. The most logical use for ample illegal income sources is the widespread corruption of the police. With the extra revenue legal pot could bring in, state workers like me might have a little more job security. That is the main selfish reason I support Yes on 19.

If you can vote in favor of any of these candidates or propositions on your ballot this year, please do so. As I said before, these have my wholehearted support.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Fantasy football update: first third of the regular season

My fantasy football team, the Mutant Mercenaries, is 2-2 after four weeks of play. If the playoffs started today, the team would not be in, but the league is closely bunched and good things could happen.

In the interests of full disclosure, bad things could happen, too. My top draft pick Chris Johnson has had two excellent games and two lackluster games. Last season he was pretty much excellent week in and week out. My QB, Matt Schaub of the Houston Texans, was chosen because he played on a team that was often behind without much of a running game. This year, a back named Arian Foster has been a breakout performer in several games, so the Matt Schaub calculated risk is looking more like a calculated bust. As for my first backup QB, Alex Smith of the 49ers, the less said the better. He is no longer wearing a Mercenary uniform, whatever that is.

All the games for week 4 are through, but the official NFL stats can change after the games. There is currently only one undefeated team at 3-0. In week 4, his game currently has him losing by less than a half a point as it now stands. Games like this sometimes switch outcomes when the final stats are in. In any case, I play the previously undefeated team next week. If I catch a little luck, my position could improve dramatically.

It could also go straight into the dumper. Nothing is guaranteed.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Crazy, but calmer.

Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars*, is still keeping track of the financial situation despite the fact he does not have two nickels to rub together, and I'm not talking about the gold plated nickels seen at the lower part of this picture. I'm talking nickel plated nickels or pure nickel nickels or whatever alloy they are passing off as nickel nowadays.

For anyone who isn't sure who was in office when things went nuts and then crashed and burned, here's a quick rundown of what happened to gold, silver and oil in the past few years.

Gold +34.9%
Silver +17.4%
Crude Oil +74.8%

Gold +1.4%
Silver -30.0%
Crude Oil -61.8%

Gold +27.1%
Silver +49.8%
Crude Oil +57.1%

2010 (nine months)
Gold +20.3%
Silver +31.1%
Crude Oil +2.7%

There's a lot of talk about the people who sell gold to an unsuspecting public, but it's actually a pretty good investment, though not when you buy coins as the company Glenn Beck shills for recommends. If we have another 2008, and those who are given to praying should pray that we don't, gold tends not to crash and burn like other investments. Still, since the crash ended, silver has steadily outperformed gold. Before things went to hell, about 50 ounces of silver bought an ounces of gold. At the bottom of the investment crash, it took 80 ounces of silver to buy an ounce of gold. Now the ratio is 60 to 1 and improving in silver's favor as both commodities climb.

The "nice" part of the investment world right now is that crude oil is off the roller coaster. It's bounced around in a range from about $70 to $85 a barrel this year, which might seem high by the standards of the beginning of the century when people thought $50 a barrel was the end of the world, but it's nothing like the $140 a barrel nonsense from 2008 before the crash and it no longer shows much correlation to the gold and silver prices, thank Odin.

Metals are supposed to be the investment for speculators. The life blood of the world economy, not so much.

And then there's the other weird worldwide speculation market, currencies. The dollar was very, very strong at the end of last century, trading as the USD index at around 120 points. During the early part of the last decade, it began to plummet, and at its lowest the USD index was around 70. It rebounded to around 85 after the 2008 crash, but it's slipping again and is below 80.

The USD index measures the dollar again a mix of currencies. The strongest elements in that mix are the pound, the euro and the yen. A few years ago, the euro and the pound were beating up the dollar. Now, the greenback has rebounded against those big currencies. The big currency that is now beating up the dollar is the yen. Usually, a yen and a penny are about at an equal footing. Today, 84 yen buys a dollar. That's as strong as the yen has been in a very long time.

The yen is the big winner right now as a currency investment, but an odd mix of other currencies are doing well against the buck. The Aussies, Brazilians, Canadians and Swiss are all near ten year records against the greenback. The Chinese, who don't really believe in completely unrestricted capitalism, bless their little Commie hearts, often don't let the yuan float in value in the day to day currency market. For years, they set the price and a dollar bought 8.25 yuan. In late 2005, they let the yuan float and it became more expensive. In 2008, they decided that was enough fun and the price became stable at about 6.8 yuan for a dollar. It's starting to show downward movement again, currently at 6.68 yuan.

I hear you ask, Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars*! What can I do to profit in these uncertain times? When I hear this, I immediately know... you are new around here. Matty Boy's broke-assedness is not just because he has decided to work as a teacher when budgets are being slashed. The last good investment he pulled off was selling his Activision stock as soon as he could back in the 1980s, and that was done just because he wanted some extra walking around money.

Pretty much, you are on your own.

*Matty Boy, Investment Advisor to the Stars, knows no stars. Any star he might know in passing would not be stupid enough to ask him for investment advice. If Matty Boy says silver looks good, you should probably look at pork belly futures. His track record is only slightly better than the Chicago Cubs, who last won the World Series in 1908 and are already mathematically eliminated from contention in 2011, even though the season has not started yet.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Autumn Dance Party Random 12

Choo Choo Ch'Boogie Louis Jordan
Pump It Up Elvis Costello & The Attractions
Everybody Plays The Fool The Main Ingredient
Patricia Pérez Prado
Get The Party Started Pink
F**k You Cee-Lo Green
I Think We're Alone Now Lene Lovich
Linus and Lucy Vince Guaraldi Trio
Yakety Yak The Coasters
Police and Thieves Junior Murvin
Stupid Girl Garbage
Everybody's Free (To Feel Good) Rozalla

Here's the dance mix for this season. Click on something you like and get up on the floor. There's pretty much something for everybody.