Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Gil McDougald 1928-2010

One of my favorite trivia questions of all time is this.

"How many times did Mickey Mantle win Rookie of the Year and why not?"

Since you can only win this award once in your career at most, the obvious answer to the first part is zero. The second part is that his teammate Gil McDougald had a much better year in 1951. Mantle struggled some and was sent down to the minors for a while. McDougald became a regular in the Yankees' line-up that year, alternating between second and third base and batting .306 with 14 homers in the regular season and one in the World Series.

For all his talent, bad luck followed McDougald around. In 1955, he was struck by a ball during batting practice and lost much of his hearing, which is at least part of the reason he retired young in 1960. In 1957, he hit a line drive that broke the skull around the eye of Cleveland pitcher Herb Score, who had been Rookie of the Year in 1955. Score missed the rest of the 1957 season and much of 1958 as well, and never returned to his dominant form before the injury. McDougald promised to retire if Score went blind, but fortunately for both men, that didn't happen.

The idea of "the rule of threes" is popular superstition when it comes to celebrities dying, but in the past news cycle, there were five people who died whose claims to fame I knew: McDougald, Leslie Nielsen, congressman Steven Solarz, famous for investigating the corruption of Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos, and two film directors, Irvin Kershner, who was a professor of George Lucas' at USC and later directed The Empire Strikes Back, and the Italian comedy writer-director Mario Monicelli.

Best wishes to the family and friends of all these men, from a fan.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Surely, you can't be serious!

Sadly, I am. Leslie Neilsen is dead at the age of 84.

And don't call me Shirley.

A few words from Tiger, Internets superstar.

Have you voted for me at Golf's Amazing Videos yet today?

Do you think you have something better to do?

Lemme 'splain. You are a human. I am a cat. You were put on this earth to do what cats want you to do.

I want you to vote for me in the Internet competition.

That's not so hard to understand, is it?

Thank you for your kind attention.

(Sheesh. Humans. Sometimes you've gotta draw them a flowchart.)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Random 12, 11/27/10

Taxman The Beatles
No Woman No Cry Bob Marley & the Wailers
Dinah Fats Waller
In The Backroom Brian Eno & John Cale
Fuck You Cee-Lo Green
Love Shack The B-52s
Love Junkyard Rickie Lee Jones
Pressure Drop Toots & the Maytals
Moonlight Bob Dylan
These Arms Of Mine Otis Redding
Fool That I Am Etta James
Knickbocker Fujiya & Miyagi

I decided to make a Random 12 instead of a Random 10 so there would be ten links to the You Tubes. There are three songs from this century, something both Padre Mickey and I think about, probably too much. I like that Love Shack is followed by Love Junkyard. Reminds me of Fred Sanford and his Elizabeth. While both Etta James and Otis Redding are deservedly famous now, they didn't get a lot crossover play on the rock'n'roll stations when I was a kid. I remember listening to the Best of Otis Redding album when I was a teenager after he died and wondering, "Damn! Why wasn't this guy as famous as James Brown or Marvin Gaye?"

No disrespect to James or Marvin. You gotta know Otis was strong. He's one of those artists who are admired more after they are gone, like Bach and Van Gogh and My Favorite Lenny, Leonard Euler.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You know me and numbers.
(If you don't know, I'm crazy about them.)

I have written about my other blog It's News 2 Them many times. For those new to this blog and that one, I get the cover stories from all ten American supermarket gossip rags every week, (People, Us Weekly, Weekly Life & Style, In Touch, OK!, National Enquirer, National Examiner, Globe, Star and the Sun) and print them on my blog. When I started, I made a rule that I wouldn't open up the magazines, just read the headlines, but I have since found that almost all of them have online editions, so I can find out more than just the headlines if need be. You might think this frivolous and I won't disagree with you. But it does provide a service that is hard to find anywhere else. Because of labels, you can look at all the stories featuring Scott Disick and Kourtney Kardashian (pictured here on the left) printed this year or see how reliable OK! magazine is . (Hint: not very.)

Frivolous or not, the website is popular. Back in March after barely three month of posts, I could expect about 1,000 hits a week, 2,000 if I was lucky. In September, that jumped up nearly overnight to 3,000 to 4,000 hits a week, which put it at close to a par with this website, which has been around for about three and a half years. Three weeks ago, the average hits per week went to 10,000 and it's stayed there so far, much to my surprise and delight. The other blog passed the 100,000 click milestone this Tuesday in less than 48 weeks online. It took this blog 86 weeks to get to the same level.

I do not expect fame and fortune to follow, but a little notoriety and a small amount of cash wouldn't hurt. As you may know, I decided to put ads on the other blog through a service Google runs, and I get paid through a formula I don't completely understand involving page views and clicks on ads. There is a website called PopEater.com which advertises on my site, and I think it's a great fit. They are a good online gossip source and it isn't just carrying coals to Newcastle. Supermarket rags tend to skew older and less urban than online gossip. For example, when Kanye West acted like a jackass and interrupted Taylor Swift's award ceremony, the online gossip mavens decided to follow Kanye, while the supermarket press followed Taylor, who is considered a country act.

In any case, if you go to the Other Blog and you see an ad that is even a little interesting, please click on it. With the big increase in viewers, I'm also starting to see an increase in ad revenue. I made about $85 from January to October. In November alone, ad revenue has climbed to about $50. If this keeps up, or who knows maybe even improves, I could be looking at an extra $600 a year or more. Not exactly flying to Rio money, but it could be the difference between having health insurance for half a year at a time or all year long.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Recommending a review of Decision Points

I haven't read George Bush's memoir Decision Points. I have little interest in doing so.

I've never been to Iraq, and I also have little interest in the trip. Unlike John McCain, if I went I would not be protected by a battalion of armed troops, so I would be worried for my safety. I am not the specific American who turned their country into an open air slaughterhouse, but I am an American, and some Iraqis might understandably consider that reason enough to mean me harm.

George Packer of The New Yorker has read Decision Points, has been to Iraq and knows the history that Bush tries to gloss over much better than Bush ever could, given his psychological foibles. Packer's review of the book is an interesting read and I recommend it.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Trying to kick the schadenfreude habit, but backsliding from time to time.

Schadenfreude is the pleasure one feels at the misfortune of others. I consider it a trait for a poorly evolved person, so let me say this about Tom DeLay being found guilty.


Evolution humor. Heh heh.

Tom DeLay is the quintessential example of why I hate a certain type of Christian. He smiled in his mug shot so people could see the love of Jesus. He said he wanted a speedy trial, but his lawyers delayed and delayed and delayed the proceedings. Of course, that was his lawyers' doing. His hands were clean, not unlike Pontius Pilate's.

The words "liar" and "scumbag" in the dictionary should have this picture next to them.

He and his defenders in the press said the charges were nonsensical and a witch hunt and he would be shown to be completely innocent of all charges. After all, all he did was get a check directly from corporations for $190,000 that he couldn't give to political campaigns, sent it instead to the Republican National Committee who sent checks totaling $190,000 to various campaigns.

In the period of about one business day.

This isn't the textbook definition of money laundering. This is the textbook definition of EXTREMELY BAD money laundering. Money laundering usually follows a convoluted route over an extended period of time. Forensic accountants should be up all night sorting through shadow accounts and dummy corporations and finally at three o'clock in the morning drinking cold coffee say "AHA! That's how they did it. We've got them!"

DeLay and his lawyers are now saying it's a gross miscarriage of justice.

Horse. Shit.

This was a quick trial and the defense was perfunctory. The jurors took 19 hours to deliberate and they get to have Thanksgiving at home with loved ones. The judge thanked them for their service and so do I.

Delay could be sentenced to up to life in prison. I think that is ridiculous when murderers get a couple years. What I would like to see the judge do is count the years between the crime and the trial and multiply that by two. Give Tom DeLay sixteen years in The Big House and tell him it would have been shorter if his lawyers could have pulled their thumbs out of each others' asses a little quicker than they did.

Again, I am not feeling very evolved about this, but Tom DeLay gets off easy. I wish we could find a way to get him to be bunk mates with Joran van der Sloot down in Peru.

Justice in Texas. Unlike Southern California, they don't play.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A half full guy in a half empty world.

So many of the stories about the 2010 elections have decided on the narrative. The Democrats were shellacked. As a Bay Area sports fan, I would like to say I know the difference between losing and being shellacked.

The Dems suffered some serious losses, but the GOP has some serious problems to face as well. Their alleged engine of growth, that nebulous group of discontents known as The Tea Party, did nearly as much harm as it did good for them, and trying to pander to this crowd has already hurt their chances in 2012.

Consider the year the Millionaires wanted to take over. Candidates with bankrolls that put them somewhere between very well off and stinking rich ran for public office this year and a whole passel of them got their very rich stinking asses handed to them. Here in California, both Meg Whitman and Carly Fiorina went down to ignominious defeat, as did Linda McMahon in Connecticut and John Raese in West Virginia.

This running for office stuff is not as easy as it looks.

Consider the complete failure of several of Sarah Palin's hand-picked candidates. Sharron Angle was given the lead by poll after poll in her race in Nevada, but all the post-mortem pieces talk about an incompetently run campaign. Joe Miller won as a write-in candidate, beating Linda Murkowski, than lost to Murkowski as a write-in candidate, and this in Sarah Palin's own home state of Alaska. Last but not least, Christine O'Donnell got a huge boost in the Republican primary in Delaware facing Mike Castle, one of those endless re-tread candidates that dot the landscape in the era of term limits.

I re-iterate, this running for office stuff is not as easy as it looks.

I understand Delaware's dislike of the revolving door created by term limits. In California, it gave us on the left the uncomfortable choice of voting for Jerry Brown for governor and the completely unpalatable choice of voting for incredibly corrupt Don Perata for mayor of Oakland. I happy that Brown won, given the alternative, but I am even happier that the allegedly inevitable Perata lost on the last run-off of Ranked Choice Voting.

I think we have some chances to solve the problems we face. It would be easier if we weren't constantly facing an opposition party unwilling to acknowledge the problems even exist, but democracy never promised to be efficient.

The struggle continues.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sure I suck at fantasy football, but there are many circles of suckitude hell.

I'm not having a great season in fantasy football. People got hurt, some underperformed though allegedly healthy, I gave up on some guys I should have stuck with, I stuck too long with guys I should have dumped. That said, this week I have a 60 point lead going into a game on Monday night where I still have one linebacker to play and so does my opponent. In fact, we both have a linebacker who plays for the Broncos. In our league, linebackers don't score 60 points. If I didn't know better, I would say this game is a stone cold lock.

But I do know better. This is a picture of Carl, the next door neighbor of the main characters on the cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force. Besides being on the cartoon, every week during the N.F.L. season on the Adult Swim website, Carl gives you his Stone Cold Lock Of The Century Of The Week.

The main part of these clips is supposed to be comedy, but it's only funny if you know something about the N.F.L. Carl mocks players for inept play, mocks (or sometimes sympathizes with) players for their off-the-field foibles, almost always lauds players for cheap hits and/or vulgar gestures, then picks the result of a game that will be played that week.

As far as I can determine, Carl has not made one correct prediction this year. He started 0-4, making perfectly reasonable guesses as to who would win and always getting them wrong. In the fifth week he picked both the Cowboys and/or the Titans to win a contest where they were facing one another, so that one doesn't really count. And then we went back to really predicting and really being wrong.

It's not like he's trying to be wrong for comedic effect. The Cowboys were humiliated in week 9 by the Packers 45-7 and Jerry Jones fired the head coach after giving him a public vote of confidence. Carl mocked the Cowboys for their ineptitude, then picked his beloved G-Men to beat the Cowgirls. Instead, the Cowboys beat the Giants in what everyone agrees was an upset.

Carl followed the same flawless logic the next week. The Redskins were destroyed by the Eagles 59-28 last Monday night, so Carl picked the Titans to also run over the Redskins, who have problems on both offense and defense and a coach verbally showing little confidence in his quarterback but not benching him. The Redskins won in overtime.

Of course, Carl has a lot going for him besides his football expertise. He's balding, fat, hairy, rocks a porn 'stache, wears tank tops and gold chains. And he lives in New Jersey.

For those who might wonder how Carl and I differ, I still have a lovely though gray head of hair and I stopped experimenting with facial hair about ten years ago. I also promise never to wear tank tops or gold chains in public or move to the Garden State, and that my friends, is Matty Boy's Stone Cold Lock of the Century... Of The Week!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

I take it all back. It is now officially fall in Northern California.

On Monday, I was whining about the unseasonably hot weather for mid November. Well, it rained yesterday and right now on Saturday evening, we are getting a thunderstorm that is not messing around. The forecast is for rain off and on until Tuesday, and this is exactly what we expect from the season that is fall/winter/early spring in Northern California.

We don't get this day in, day out, mind you. This isn't Seattle. But some nice days, some overcast, some real storms rolling through for days at a time, that's the way we know it isn't spring/summer/Indian summer here near the 38th parallel on the Left Coast of the good old U.S. of A.

Bigger than Jesus - Internet 2010

If you are an old person like myself, you might remember the fire storm John Lennon brought upon himself when he said "We're bigger than Jesus." at the height of the Beatles' remarkable success.

No one would be so silly as to tempt fate in a similar manner now, would they Matty Boy?

That's where you are wrong, hypothetical question asker. Somebody collected the data for web traffic on the Internet in 2010 and turned it into this handy bar graph.

As anyone paying the least amount of attention would guess, cats are bigger than Jesus on the Internet. I was a little surprised that Justin Bieber is bigger than the entire species of cats and Lady Gaga is even bigger still, but that's probably because I am old enough to remember John Lennon's original comment. If I were a little younger, their Internet dominance would be obvious to me.

But as I said, cats bigger than Jesus? I mean, d'uh. That's as plain as the nose on your face.

Submitted for your approval, a cat, singular. This is Tiger Woods, household god that lives with my friend Mike Strickland and his partner Tony in San Francisco. They recently submitted a video of Tiger chasing balls on the TV screen hit by the other Tiger Woods to a competition called Golf's Amazing Videos being sponsored by the Golf Channel. Their video was selected as one of the final four and if they are the one with the most votes by December 7, the Golf Channel will send them a nice chunk of cash. You could not hope to meet two more deserving human recipients or a more deserving cat.

You can follow the link and vote once a day. They then ask you if you want to be included in e-mail alerting you to stuff on The Golf Channel. Do with that information what you will.

I am more than happy to give Tiger, Mike and Tony the plug. As for the competition itself, Tiger is the only cat entered and Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber are nowhere to be seen.

One cat against three humans in an Internet competition. It's very close to not fair.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Random 10, 11/19/10

Big Tears Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Forever Blue Chris Isaak
St. Elmo's Fire Brian Eno
Just One Look Doris Troy
Do You Want My Job? Little Village
The Dream Before Laurie Anderson
Inoculated City The Clash
Twilight Time The Platters
It Was A Very Good Year Frank Sinatra
Little Wonder David Bowie

Not a bad list, but definitely an old list. The newest song is the last and it was recorded thirteen years ago. A couple of artists who have only one song each on my computer (Doris Troy and Frank Sinatra) show up, but there are also visits from artists I listen to a lot, like Elvis, David and The Clash.

As for clear Padre Mickey influence, that would be Brian Eno for sure.

Watchoo listenin' to?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Another great hot sauce choice

I loves me some hot sauce! Still first among equals in the Matty Boy kitchen are the Habanero sauces from El Yucateco. I haven't tried the Caribbean version pictured at the far left, but I have bought the "natural" version with no artificial colors and the green and the red. Yummy, great texture and HOT!!!

For the uninitiated, habanero is one heck of a hot chili. When I was a lad, Tabasco was considered somewhere between a condiment and a instrument of torture. Herb Caen used to joke about the couple married so long, they bought their second bottle of Tabasco. Nowadays, Tabasco is meh, barely a step above ketchup.

If you really need hot sauce, my first choice is El Yucateco.

If you've ever been to a Vietnamese noodle shop, you've seen the Sriracha bottle. Great packaging! Just the rooster, and one phrase in English "Sriracha HOT Chili Sauce", then a whole lot of Asian characters. If you can't read the characters, it makes the sauce look more dangerous. Hot sauce should be dangerous. I never have a bowl of pho without squeezing in some lime, tearing up some of the fragant herbs they bring to the table and pouring in some of that Red Rooster juice.

There is an Asian supermarket in my neighborhood where I shop for condiments where I bought my first bottle of Sriracha. The big bottle is very reasonably priced and I started using it in recipes where I like things spicy. I tried some taste tests of El Yucateco vs. Sriracha on fries, and El Yucateco is much hotter. Sriracha is more like zesty or tangy than actually hot, but it's still very flavorful and thick. For me, this is a big advantage over a runny sauce like Tabasco. I like to know in advance when I'm getting a forkful of hot sauce goodness.

A somewhat surprising development is that for all its exotic packaging and name, Sriracha is made in California by Huy Fong Foods. If you live in my neck of the woods, you can be all exotic and inscrutable and still be a locavore! Who knew?

And of course, while there are many good choices for hot sauces in local supermarkets, are any of the others anywhere near as fun to say as "YUCATECO!" or "SRIRACHA!"?

No, hypothetical question asker. Nothing else is nearly that much fun. Thanks for asking.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

This is why I don't spring for cable.

Maybe you've already heard this, but a 67 year old man in rural Wisconsin (you know, real America) put a hole in his TV after Bristol Palin made it into the finals of Dancing With The Stars. Police say Steven Cowan then turned the gun on his wife, but unlike a TV, she has legs and was able to escape.

Let's look at the situation, shall we? Mr. Cowan has a constitutional right to bear arms, and the sanctity of heterosexual marriage must not be abridged by a God loving nation. The one thing we can regulate is ownership of cable TV, the one ingredient in this potentially lethal cocktail that conservatives will not defend to the death or add to the Constitution.

It's time to advocate for abstinence from cable TV. You'll thank me later.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Hats off to Larry

You can now buy Beatles music at the iTunes store. I got on my computer to see if there were any Beatles tunes I couldn't live without and... not so much. I have the song Slow Down stuck in my head, but I already have the Lovable Liverpool Lads performing this live from the Beatles at the BBC CD I bought many years ago.

Like many early Beatles tunes, this was a cover and a semi-obscure one at that. Johnny, musical pioneer and devil that he was, got a serious hankering for the music of Larry Williams, an artist who was signed to Specialty Records in New Orleans when their big star Little Richard gave up the devil's music to preach the Word of the Lord.

Larry never became the star Little Richard was, but he wrote a hell of a lot of good music that other artists covered, including Dizzy Miss Lizzyand Bad Boy, also covered the Beatles, Bony Maronie, recorded by The Who, Dr. Feelgood and Johnny Winter, and She Said Yeah, recorded by the Rolling Stones.

Larry lived a short and turbulent life, plagued by drugs and violence. Wikipedia calls him a life long friend of Little Richard, but it also says he pulled a gun on the Reverend Penniman over a debt involving narcotics. After he died in 1980 at the age of 44, a drummer from southern Illinois named Martin Albritton started billing himself as Larry Williams and touring under his name. He has been confronted by several people who knew the real Larry Williams, including Etta James, and Williams' family has a court order demanding he cease and desist. So far, all this pressure has come to naught.

Without further ado, here is The Man Himself with the original recording of Slow Down by Larry Williams and his band from 1958.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Okay, we get it! Enough with the climate change already!

It's very common here in Northern California for August to be on the cool side and September to be much warmer. It's not completely unheard of to have the warm September spill into a few weeks into October for Indian Summer.

It's November 15 and the high temperature in Oakland today was 79 degrees Fahrenheit or 26 C. I have the air conditioner on in my stuffy little apartment.

It's mid November. I should be wearing sweaters by now and turning on the heater in the morning just so I can crawl out from under the covers. This is completely whack, as the young people are fond of saying.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Random 10+1, 11/14/10

Bushfire The B-52s
Who Are You Tom Waits
Let The Good Times Roll Shirley & Lee
Ghost of a Smile The Pogues
Till You Come Back To Me Aretha Franklin
Burning Down The House Talking Heads
Your Racist Friend They Might Be Giants
A Town Called Big Nothing (Really Big Nothing) Elvis Costello & Ross McManus
Once Markéta Irglová and Glen Hansard
Crosscut Saw Albert King

Bonus track: Ghost Riders In The Sky Burl Ives

I was an inch away from stopping this list once Tom Waits shows up, but I haven't had enough Pogues on these lists and I love the songs by Aretha, Talking Heads, TMBG and Albert King. The one song not on The You Tubes is a strange little tune Elvis Costello wrote in the style of Ennio Morricone, with his dad Ross on the trumpet.

Also, when the eleventh tune just happened to be my first contribution to The You Tubes, the great Burl Ives' version of Ghost Riders In The Sky from sixty one years ago, I couldn't resist adding it in.

Friday, November 12, 2010

The done blowed up function

My other blog It's News 2 Them™ saw a very dramatic increase in viewership this week, with the biggest day this week being yesterday, when there were 5,000 separate page hits. That is a stunning number. Before this, neither this blog or the gossip blog had made it to 5,000 hits in a week.

As I have written before, I expect the other blog will eventually surpass the numbers from this blog, even when counting in the nearly three year head start Lotsa 'Splainin' 2 Do has. But 5,000 hits a day translates to 1.8 million hits a year! Those are numbers for the really big boys.

This blog still has a lot more regular readers than the gossip blog, but that should change over time as well. This blog is just me yapping about whatever passes through my brain each day. The other blog is about the foibles of celebrities.

One of those premises has a large built in market. I'll let you guess which one.

I don't believe this upward pattern is permanent yet, largely because it is currently so dependent on a single Google search. Way back in May, I reported on a tabloid headline that said Loretta Lynn was living in a bus. The story is probably true. Miss Loretta Lynn is a country superstar, the biggest living legend there is. Country music fans revere their enduring stars. She's on tour a hell of a lot, and that means she probably lives in her tour bus, which I have heard is really big and very luxurious. A whole passel of people are doing searches for "Loretta Lynn living on bus" and my site is up near the top.

There is a second Google search that is adding a noticeable amount of traffic as well. For the very first time this year, one of the supermarket rags mentioned Miley Cyrus and blamed her for her parents' divorce. Miley is already a big favorite on the Internet gossip sites, but the checkout stand gossip sheets have an older demographic, and out of control young bimbos pretty much have to get arrested or rushed to the hospital for the tabloids to care.

In conclusion, let me state the official position of It's News 2 Them™ on both these topics.

1. Don't say bad things about Miss Loretta Lynn.

2. Somebody needs to give Miley Cyrus a three year timeout. That girl's crazy.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mastery and Memory

Working at the polls last week, I was talking to a fellow old person. Since she was female, it would be impolitic of me to say she's even older than I am, but it would not be false. The topic was young people today, a favorite topic of old people everywhere.

The reason I think my co-worker last week is my elder is because she said when she got vocabulary words wrong, she had to write them 100 times. That sounds more like torture than teaching to me. I think the standard in my day was ten or maybe twenty repeats of each misspelled word.

While I am not against computers and calculators as teaching aids, a lot of kids don't put much effort into committing things to memory. After all, why learn to spell when there is spell check? Why learn basic math when there is a calculator handy?

When I was a lad, I was good at spelling, though you might not believe me when you see the many typos in my blog. My common fault is that I'm a weak typist and lazy editor. On a test this week, my right thumb got ahead of my left hand and I typed "an done" instead of "and one". A spell checker isn't much use when you incorrectly spell the word you wanted but correctly spell something that makes no sense.

This is a significant problem in early education these days. The question "When will I use this?" often expects a specific answer of when the exact skill being demonstrated will be used in a real life situation. Sometimes, the skill the student is actually learning is how to learn.

My strongest memories of grade school are drills learning how to diagram a sentence or knowing the homonyms backwards and forwards. I almost never make a mistake about there, their and they're or yore, your and you're. I am a fully deputized member of the apostrophe police to this day. There was no such thing as spell check in my youth, and it still won't stop someone from typing loose when lose is correct. That is the nightmare of English spelling. If there was a shred of consistency, lose should rhyme with close and loose should rhyme with choose.

Sorry, kid, no consistency here. Learn how to spell or look like an idiot. It's sink or swim in this pool.

A major difference between language and mathematics is how important the foundation is. A good writer doesn't have to be a good speller if that writer can find a good editor. Shakespeare was famously bad at spelling, but brilliant at rhythm, remarkably insightful as a student of human nature and if he isn't the best coiner of new words ever in any language, I have no idea who is. (Examples: Give me precise synonyms for "assassinate" and "apostrophe". I haven't a clue how people expressed those ideas succinctly before Shakespeare made those words up, among dozens and dozens more.) James Thurber, who wrote some great and funny essays about grammar, freely admitted his first drafts were terrifyingly clumsy.

You won't get to be good at math if you can't do arithmetic. I have a lot of students who don't know if 3/4 should be .75 or 1.333... I tell them that if the top number (numerator) is less than the bottom number (denominator), the decimal should be less than 1. It goes in one ear and out the other.

It's pretty well established that children need to learn language early, probably before the age of five, or they will not understand grammar rules, synonyms and context. I have a hypothesis which I haven't seen tested that committing stuff to memory helps you commit more stuff to memory, like exercise makes you stronger in the long run. The other important component of a good memory is the relational end of it, when you can access a memory from multiple directions. I'm not sure exactly why some people are better at that than others. I know I've had times in my life when my relational database failed me spectacularly, but I haven't been able to come up with a testable hypothesis for why it happened and the best way to avoid it in the future.

I'll be blunt here. I sit on top of a mighty mountain of mathematical knowledge and most of my students are barely in the foothills on a cloudy day, completely unaware of the mountains they have yet to climb, or more likely never will climb. How do I teach mastery to them? I can teach them a few cute tricks they may have never seen and maybe, like me, they'll decide they want to see more. I can give them some vocabulary and grammatical rules, but will they have even a vestige of mathematical insight?

When you see it work, when you have a thorny problem and you see the path home, it's like heaven. Those who haven't done it may not believe me, but it's prettier than Indira Varma when the solution to a hard math problem falls into place. It really helps to have a memory that makes getting to the end of a mathematical idea no harder than finding your way to your childhood home from a few miles away. I am convinced you get that memory from exercising it again and again when you are young. I worry that we have a generation where that kind of exercise is getting rarer and rarer.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

You learn something new every day, if you aren't careful. Yet again.

My other blog, It's News 2 Them™, is now essentially equal to this blog in terms of daily hits, reaching that level of Internet popularity in 10 months while this blog has taken 42 months to get to the same place.

They grow up so fast.

Because the Other Blog is tacky, I decided to put ads on it, and those ads are working pretty well. If things go as expected, some time this month I will have made my first $100 in ad revenue, which means Google will send me my first check.

Yes, I am netting $10 a month. Soon I will have my feet up, watching a big screen TV and eating bon-bons as the free money just rolls in.

I bring up The Other Blog and the ads because I clicked on one last night for a book entitled The Deeds of My Fathers by Paul David Pope. Pope's grandfather Generoso was an Italian immigrant who started with nothing and formed an empire in the building trades in New York, as well as an influential Italian-American newspaper. Pope's father Gene was his father's favorite son, but his family forced him out of the inheritance and he was left with next to nothing, except the good graces of his godfather, mobster Frank Costello.

Really, Frank Costello was this guy's godfather.

The Pope family is not mob, but they are mob adjacent. It's hard to get anywhere in the cement business in New York without connections to guys with broken noses. Young Gene buys the New York Enquirer and turns it into the National Enquirer. The blurb to the book makes him sound like the Boss From Hell, and the story of how the newspaper got into every supermarket in the country sounds like it includes some mob adjacency, but it definitely counts as an American success story. The author of the book worked at the newspaper until it was bought out in 1988.

It does not make me think more of The National Enquirer or the company that now owns it, American Media Inc. Readers of the Other Blog will know I refer to "the AMI kennel". Still, it helps explain why the Enquirer and its related rags are as seedy as they are.

By contrast, my family is not mob adjacent. I have no godfather with a colorful background, and we have no connections to the construction industry. My father, pictured here, is still alive and in good health, and he has always been generous with his son in the dispensing of words of wisdom.

For example, to the best of my knowledge, the Gosh Darned Pater Familias is the originator of the phrase used in the title of this post, a gem that bears repeating.

"You learn something new every day, if you aren't careful."

Truer words were never spoken.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Rejecting the null hypothesis

In my statistics classes right now, I'm teaching hypothesis testing. The null hypothesis can always be translated into the sentence "nothing special is happening", which usually means we assume two things we are measuring are equal until we get strong evidence they are not.

The null hypothesis would be that the Raiders suck. They sucked last year, and the year before that, and for several years before that. The worst they got was 2-14, really truly awful. The best they got was 5-11, not good enough to be mediocre, just consistently not very good.

As of yesterday afternoon, the Raiders are 5-4, over .500 after more than half the season. More than that, they are the second highest scoring team in the league. Even better, the rest of their division has no team that is a world beater, so they are only one half game out of the division lead after beating the division leading Chiefs yesterday in overtime in Oakland. So far, the Raiders are 3-0 in the division, which could be an important tiebreaker.

With a record of 5-4, it's not fair to say they are awesome. One of their losses was against the struggling 49ers, and they also lost to the Cardinals, another team under .500. Still, the evidence is strong enough to reject the null hypothesis. As of November 8 2010, we reject the notion the Raiders suck, and not sucking is a very important step forward.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

A disturbing realization.

My mom was very pretty. She modeled before she got married. I wish I could find one of the more glamorous pictures of her, but I'm not sure who has one. This picture will do the trick. If you can take your eyes off her very fine stems for a moment, you'll see she had a long elegant nose and high cheekbones. When she was young, people often compared her to Joanne Woodward. Other actresses who look like her include Cloris Leachman, and if we go a generation younger, Meryl Streep.

Mom was pretty. So far, so good.

Consider the women whose pictures I put up when lazy blogging. First among equals is Indira Varma and her nigh perfect collarbone. If our eyes stray upward, we might notice she has a long elegant nose and high cheekbones.

Of course, my mom had a light complexion and blond hair, while Ms. Varma is much darker.

Still. Hmm.

Then we have Julie Newmar. If I put up a picture featuring her spectacular gams, many people might never get around to looking at her face.

Long elegant nose.

High cheekbones.

Pattern emerging.

Melissa Theuriau. There's nobody like Melissa Theuriau. Her eyes are actually gold not brown. I don't think I've ever seen eyes her color anywhere else except on some felines. She is impossibly angelic.

Okay, okay, she has a long elegant nose and high cheekbones.

Hey, Matty Boy? Wasn't The Attack of the Fifty Foot Woman the first time you felt those funny feelings? Allison Hayes was quite the looker, wasn't she? If you can take your eyes off her obvious charms, doesn't she have kind of a long elegant nose and high cheekbones?

Those are many good questions, hypothetical question asker. Let me give them all one well-considered answer.

Shut up.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Ranked Choice Voting does its job.

For several election cycles, the mayor of Oakland has become the Senior Tour of California politics. Instead of giving the job to somebody from the city council, we have had retreads from Washington or Sacramento winning the very tough job by name recognition alone. First it was Jerry Brown, who did kind of okay, then Ron Dellums, who is viewed as a disaster. This year, Don Perata, formerly a President pro tempore of the State Senate and currently a lobbyist for the Prison Guards Union, easily the most corrupt union of state employees, was trying to get the gig. He spent the most money and was always the leader in the polls, but like a lot of politicians with name recognition, he had both high positives and high negatives. More than that, his name was linked with the return of the Raiders to Oakland, a move that stinks to this day of back room politics.

The ballot had ten names and a place for write-in votes, but the system now in place is Ranked Choice Voting, which I have written about before here.

Perata's money and clout gave him the first place position after the first round of voting, but those negatives were still a worry for his campaign. The completely corrupt San Francisco Chronicle supported his run, but the East Bay papers threw their support behind three candidates, a number chosen cleverly since Ranked Choice Voting lets you choose three candidates. That lucky triumvirate was made up of councilpeople Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan and political science professor Joe Tuman. Both the Oakland Tribune and the East Bay Express gave their endorsement to all three.

On the first ballot, Perata had a commanding lead.

Perata 34.0%
Quan 24.6%
Kaplan 21.5%
Tuman 12.4%
Others 7.6%

Because Tuman was so far behind, he had no chance to catch Kaplan, and by the time the small fry were re-distributed, Tuman trailed the Top Three by a little more.

Perata 36.1%
Quan 27.1%
Kaplan 23.3%
Tuman 13.6%

Perata still looked to have a commanding lead, but the voters for the other three understood the system remarkably well. As Tuman's votes were redistributed, the big boost went to Kaplan, but it wasn't enough to catch Quan.

Perata 40.2% (up 4.1%)
Quan 31.0% (up 3.9%)
Kaplan 28.8% (up 5.3%)

Going into the last round, Perata was still on Easy Street. If even one in three of Kaplan's supporters switched to Perata, he would be the next mayor. Instead, Quan got 75% of Kaplan's votes that weren't exhausted and ended up with 51.1% of the remaining vote. The word had been spread. If you vote for one of the other three, don't vote for Perata. He spent a boatload of dirty money and he ended up in second place.

I don't think Quan will be a miracle worker. She was in fact my second choice, but I am every bit as happy that Don Perata will not be my mayor as I am that Meg Whitman will not be my governor and Carly Fiorina will not be my senator.

Plagues on all their houses and ashes in all their mouths would be just dandy with me.

Dig up all their fields and salt the earth.

Other Biblical and Shakespearean invectives are implied.

Best of luck to Her Honor Jean Quan.

Random 10, 11/5/10

Cemetery Polka Tom Waits
Red Rain Peter Gabriel
Sunday Kind of Love Etta James
Children Will Listen Bernadette Peters
My Evil Twin They Might Be Giants
It's Over Roy Orbison
Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want To Meet) Jackie Wilson
Pressure Drop Toots & the Maytals
In Germany Before The War Randy Newman
The Imposter Elvis Costello & the Attractions
Bonus non-random 1:
Jackie Wilson Said (I'm in Heaven When you Smile) Van Morrison

This was very close to a one and out. I love Cemetery Polka. But there's a heck of a lot of songs on this list I love. Etta sings one of my favorites, and so does Bernadette. They Might Be Giants and Toots & the Maytals put forward a couple of their strongest tracks. Then we have the Royal Orb followed by Mr. Excitement! himself, two of the greatest voices in pop music in the last 50 years. Reet Petite is such a great tune about being in love, Van Morrison decided he had to write a song about a song.

"Jackie Wilson said she was Reet Petite
The kinda love knocks me off my feet..."

Have a great day and listen to a couple tracks.

I'm in heaven when you smile.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

These aren't the results you are looking for.

Thought I might try a little Jedi mind trick to see if we could get a do over, but obviously the Force is not so strong in this one.

I sent $50 each to four campaigns and only one of those campaigns won. Prop. 25 passed, so now it's a majority vote to pass the budget, though it's still a two-thirds majority to raise a tax. At least it's a step in the right direction.

Prop. 19 failed, Jerry Ellis Powell did not get on the AC Transit board and in the closest run of all the losing causes I donated to, Michael Nava will not be on the Superior Court.

There is some good news. In the statewide races, the Republicans got poll-axed, with the exception of Kamala Harris whose race is still undecided. The money spent by the two Texas oil companies to thwart air pollution standards also failed, so it has not been a good year for obvious moneybag jackasses to buy an election in California.

And then there's the matter of the less obvious moneybag jackasses, which brings us to the Oakland mayoral race. Ten people ran and the top four candidates are as follows.

Don Perata 35.2%
Jean Quan 24.2%
Rebecca Kaplan 20.9%
Joe Tuman 11.9%
six others less than 8%

This one goes to Ranked Choice Voting and the computer program will be run on Friday. It's a lock that Tuman won't be mayor, since even if he's the second choice on every ballot of the six people who did worse than he did, he won't catch up to Rebecca Kaplan. This means it's clearly going to be at least six instant runoffs and it might go to the maximum of eight. If it's decided before the eighth ballot, Perata wins. Quan, Kaplan and Tuman were all seen as the anti-Perata candidates, and several newspapers endorsed all three. There is a chance Kaplan or Quan will become mayor. I would be very disappointed if Perata is our next mayor, but given what I've already seen on Wednesday morning, I'm used to disappointment.

On the bright side, did I mention the Giants won the World Series? Yes, I believe I did.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

We love all you Giants

A lot of the stories being published right now would have you believe the last fifty years of fandom for supporters of the San Francisco Giants have been like a prison sentence. Don't get me wrong. It feels great to say "World Champion San Francisco Giants". It will certainly shut up some of the A's fans who actually put more effort into being Giant haters. But my memories of the Giants aren't about pain and misery. We got to root for some great teams and some astounding players over the last half century.

Of course we love Mays and McCovey and Marichal, but we also love Gaylord Perry, the forgotten man of the retired SF uniforms. He was like a precursor to Barry Bonds. Yes, he was cheating, but he was cheating for us, and that made a difference.

We also love the guys we got late in their careers who still produced for us. We love Harvey Kuenn and Joe Morgan and Rick Reuschel. We love the kids we traded away too early. We love Gary Mathews and Gary Maddox and George Foster and especially Orlando Cepeda.

We love Jose Pagan and Jose Uribe, Manny Trillo and Tito Fuentes.

We love all three Alou brothers.

We love the great nicknames. Ollie "Downtown" Brown. "Fireball" Frank Linzy. John the Count, Will the Thrill, Sudden Sam.

We love Jeff "Old Penitentiary Face" Leonard.

We love the guys we had at third. Jimmy Davenport and Jim Ray Hart. Matt Williams.

We love our second basemen. Hal Lanier, Tito Fuentes, Joe Morgan, Robby Thompson, Jeff Kent.

We even love the guys we hated. Poor Ray Sadecki, whose tombstone should read "The Bum We Got When We Gave Away Orlando Cepeda". Johnnie LeMaster, the shortstop who had the misfortune of taking the job after local boy and All-Star Chris Speier was traded away. LeMaster, who had the word "BOO" on his back for one home game back in the 1970s. We love Candy Maldanado, whose bad play in right cost us the NLCS so many years ago.

We even love Barry Bonds, a very unlovable guy. While it feels like a bad marriage now, I have to admit a screamed like a banshee at several home runs that found their way into McCovey Cove.

Thanks to all the guys who wore the uniform, who had on the cap the the big orange "SF" on it these past fifty years. It feels great now that this new team of kids and castoffs have brought home the big trophy, but we won't forget all the great guys and great memories that came before.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Please vote today, if you have not done so already.

I already voted, and for the first time I'm a poll worker this election. This could be interesting.

If you have not already exercised the franchise, please do so today.