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From the Notebook

-Gran Turino is a great movie. To complete review add your own superlatives.

-Writer’s Market is having a contest for self published authors. I’m debating whether to enter my Burger Tour into the contest. Here’s the main info. The contest has a $3000 grand prize and a few other prizes. Cost of entry is $100. What say you?

-I wrote up a quick column on the Bleacher Report just to make sure they don’t delete my account. Basically it’s a whimsical piece making fun of the proliferation of teenage writers in the sports world.

-Recently there’s been a rush of people wishing to add me as a friend on Facebook (I know, I’m as shocked as the rest of you). Since I’m the curious type, I’d like to know if anyone added me as a friend on facebook as a result of reading this blog. And if you intend to add me as a friend and are a reader of this blog and not just some pathetic friend collector with low self concept, let me know that too.

-Just a note, finished the DailyLit wikipedia tour on U.S. Presidents. Which means I get to start another book through the email. Dailylit is awesome.

-Snark isn’t an argument

-I watched “The Star Wars Holiday Special” along with the RiffTrax audio (The RiffTrax guys are the ones from MST3K). Hilarious. Mike Nelson et al. have truly mastered the art of the riff. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, visit the RiffTrax homepage and treat yourself to some of their free samples.


Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested And Written By Cynthia

Sgt James E. Craig
27 years old from Hollywood, South Carolina
1st Battalion, 8th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division
January 28, 2008

James, 27, was killed on January 28, 2008, in Mosul, Iraq, along with four other soldiers when the unit encountered an IED, followed by an ambush from a nearby Mosque. It has been a year since James was killed. I miss him each day.

James was on his third deployment to Iraq. There are so many things about James that I admired. He was ‘loud’ and funny and articulate and sweet – even calling himself ‘Sweet Soldier’ – and brave and tough. He was a devout Christian and more comfortable with telling people he was than anyone I ever knew – he had a enviable, easy comfort with this faith. It would be so easy to write and write about James, but let me share some portions of his letters – his long and articulate letters.

“…I am very much looking forward to this war being over. However, I fully support everything that is going on over here ever since I saw first hand what the real situation was. Our media doesn’t portray the truth of this operation or the necessity to the people here. They need freedom and desperately cry out for someone to help them. … I know one thing, God wants me here.”

“The war here is stating to come to an end. It will be a slow transition period where the responsibility of the battle space is handed over to the growing Iraqi Army. It all depends on the Iraqis if we are able to leave them with it safely.”

“…it is a tale of my wonderful journey where I made memories I will never forget and stood up for something that I believe in…that sweet taste of freedom when the day is done and the knowledge that I have done something to ensure the positive future of my loved ones. And, you should know that it comforts me the most that what I do protects wonderful people like you.”

To read more about Sgt James Craig, go here.

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.


I’m a huge advocate for homeschooling and I found these excerpts from the Wikipedia article on the subject quite enlightening:

Numerous studies have found that homeschooled students on average outperform their peers on standardized tests.[64][65] Home Schooling Achievement, a study conducted by National Home Education Research Institute (NHERI), supported the academic integrity of homeschooling. Among the homeschooled students who took the tests, the average homeschooled student outperformed his public school peers by 30 to 37 percentile points across all subjects. The study also indicates that public school performance gaps between minorities and genders were virtually non-existent among the homeschooled students who took the tests.[66]

New evidence has been found that home schooled children are learning more and are getting higher scores on the ACT and SAT tests. A study at Wheaton College in Illinois showed that the freshmen that were home schooled for high school scored fifty-eight points higher on their SAT scores than those of kids that went to a normal school. Most colleges look at the ACT and SAT scores of home schooled children when considering them for acceptance to a college. On average, home schooled children scores eighty-one points higher than the national average on the SAT scores.

Social research

In the 1970s Raymond S. and Dorothy N. Moore conducted four federally funded analyses of more than 8,000 early childhood studies, from which they published their original findings in Better Late Than Early, 1975. This was followed by School Can Wait, a repackaging of these same findings designed specifically for educational professionals.[67] Their analysis concluded that, “where possible, children should be withheld from formal schooling until at least ages eight to ten.”

Their reason was that children, “are not mature enough for formal school programs until their senses, coordination, neurological development and cognition are ready.” They concluded that the outcome of forcing children into formal schooling is a sequence of “1) uncertainty as the child leaves the family nest early for a less secure environment, 2) puzzlement at the new pressures and restrictions of the classroom, 3) frustration because unready learning tools – senses, cognition, brain hemispheres, coordination – cannot handle the regimentation of formal lessons and the pressures they bring, 4) hyperactivity growing out of nerves and jitter, from frustration, 5) failure which quite naturally flows from the four experiences above, and 6) delinquency which is failure’s twin and apparently for the same reason.”[68] According to the Moores, “early formal schooling is burning out our children. Teachers who attempt to cope with these youngsters also are burning out.”[68] Aside from academic performance, they think early formal schooling also destroys “positive sociability”, encourages peer dependence, and discourages self worth, optimism, respect for parents, and trust in peers. They believe this situation is particularly acute for boys because of their delay in maturity. The Moore’s cited a Smithsonian Report on the development of genius, indicating a requirement for “1) much time spent with warm, responsive parents and other adults, 2) very little time spent with peers, and 3) a great deal of free exploration under parental guidance.”[68] Their analysis suggested that children need “more of home and less of formal school” “more free exploration with… parents, and fewer limits of classroom and books,” and “more old fashioned chores – children working with parents – and less attention to rivalry sports and amusements.”[68]

John Taylor later found, using the Piers-Harris Children’s Self-Concept Scale, “while half of the conventionally schooled children scored at or below the 50th percentile (in self-concept), only 10.3% of the home-schooling children did so.”[69] He further stated that “the self-concept of home-schooling children is significantly higher (and very much so statistically) than that of children attending the conventional school. This has implications in the areas of academic achievement and socialization, to mention only two. These areas have been found to parallel self-concept. Regarding socialization, Taylor’s results would mean that very few home-schooling children are socially deprived. He claims that critics who speak out against home schooling on the basis of social deprivation are actually addressing an area which favors home schoolers.[69]

In 2003, the National Home Education Research Institute conducted a survey of 7,300 U.S. adults who had been homeschooled (5,000 for more than seven years). Their findings included:

-Homeschool graduates are active and involved in their communities. 71% participate in an ongoing community service activity, like coaching a sports team, volunteering at a school, or working with a church or neighborhood association, compared with 37% of U.S. adults of similar ages from a traditional education background.

-Homeschool graduates are more involved in civic affairs and vote in much higher percentages than their peers. 76% of those surveyed between the ages of 18 and 24 voted within the last five years, compared with only 29% of the corresponding U.S. populace. The numbers are even greater in older age groups, with voting levels not falling below 95%, compared with a high of 53% for the corresponding U.S. populace.

-58.9% report that they are “very happy” with life, compared with 27.6% for the general U.S. population. 73.2% find life “exciting”, compared with 47.3%.[70]

Erratic emphasis mine. Of those I know who were homeschooled, the above results apply universally.

The Evil Genius’ 40-Man Roster

The Spitballer

A few things about the list so far, there’s a lot of pitching. There are a few logical reasons for this. First and foremost is the unusually high correlation a team’s ERA has to its winning percentage (about .75 depending on the era and other factors). Also, the most common position to get changed throughout the course of a typical game is the pitcher. Plus, pitchers have a lot of value outside the game, they can help make batting practice a closer approximation to the real thing.

So, another pitcher. But this one is different, he’s a cheat. Or is he? Gaylord Perry used the threat of the spitballer to great effect. Eventually Perry had almost no need to throw the spitter as his other stuff got about as good and batters were so paranoid about the spitter that he had won the mind game before the batter even crossed into the box. With this in mind, a devious Mad Scientist will always have a quirky pitcher known to throw an unidentifiable breaking pitch who’s always tugging at his clothes and touching himself somewhere on the 40-man roster.

From the Notebook

-Finished up the el-cheapo Dover Thrift edition of Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. I started the book without even realizing it was in year 2 of the 10-year Great Books reading program. Aurelius was a Roman Caeser and stoic philosopher from the second century. His Meditations are little tidbits on life, mostly focused on death. Yes, that sentence is accurate.

-After my own extended meditations on the subject, I have decided I will never “do Twitter.” It just seems really stupid to me. If you want to hear about my boring life, you can call or email me. I’ll be sure to give you too much information.

-I’m not in the habit of censoring comments, but this one was left in an inappropriate place:

US SUPREME COURT DOCKETS 08A505 08A524 08-570 08A391 08A407 Constitution”Natural Born Citizen” qualification for Pres-VP, born on US soil to US CITIZENS. Qualification for US Senators-Reps “CITIZEN” only. US Senate Resolution 511 30Apr2008. Obama is not a “natural born citizen”, his father was a Kenyan British Subject when Obama was born. Obama’s website FIGHT THE SMEARS admits it -factcheck.org

So I’m publishing it here. The comment was left by “Old Glory.” Well, whatever. If anyone wants to embarrass themselves pursuing this dead end, you can do so in this thread.

-On a completely different note, I’m never watching Chris Matthews again.

-Nor “Vantage Point,” which makes the Kris Kristofferson classic “Millenium” look, well, watchable. Hitchcockian? Whatever, Vantage Point sucked.

-I appear somewhere in Seth Stoh’s January 13th podcast talking about the new Burger Tour and some Twins stuff. It’s about a six minute interview. If and when I get permission to edit out just my interview, I’ll post it. Or maybe not, there’s a wicked echo at points in the interview and I did the interview from a rather loud restaurant to boot. Seth and I step over each other a few times, which was probably my fault (as I could barely hear anything). Big thanks to Seth for having me on. My interview starts around 38 minutes.

-Finished “Stand-Up Comedy: The Book” by Judy Carter. Working comics and wannabes could probably find a lot of value from the workshops contained therein, but there’s a greater lesson available to all of us from Judy Carter’s experiences as a working comic: Cut down on the setup and get to the punchline.

-Special thanks to the guys from the BigTenRoundtable for helping acquire a ridiculous number of autographs at TwinsFest this year.

TwinsFest Notes

Spent my entire Saturday roaming around TwinsFest looking for autographs. It was a blast, and some local friends joined me an helped me get a lot of autographs. It was an expensive weekend but I came away with almost 70 autographs from 20 Twins prospects and alumni.

Some notes:

-John Castino, an AL ROY award winner and Twins alumni, was noteworthy in my mind as he was the only signer who thanked every person who paid to get his autograph. “Thank you for supporting the Twins Community Fund.” A class act. I apologized to him for not having anything but a notepad for him to sign (by this time of the day I had run out of baseballs and other items) and his reply was “What, you couldn’t afford 30 cents for one of my cards?”

-I spent most of my time getting autographs from the various minor league players. The big names were Ben Revere, Steve Tolleson, Anthony Swarzak and Danny Valencia. When I passed Swarzak a baseball, I asked him to put his signature on the sweet spot. He paused, cocked his head a bit, and looked at me in confusion and asked “seriously?” Anthony, you didn’t do that poorly last year.

-My father was with me, getting his own autographs. He waited in line to get Bert Blyleven’s autograph and to correct Bert’s pronunciation of “Gutierrez” (The correct pronunciation is not “Goudy-Air-ez”). This did not make Bert very happy. Well, willful ignorance is not a virtue. My father’s mother’s maiden name was “Gutierrez” and her profession was high school Spanish teacher. I have yet to hear Bert get a Spanish diphthong correct.

-While I defend Bert as a broadcaster, and I think overall he’s a good guy and maybe his wilful ignorance of Spanish pronunciations is just a product of the stubbornness of age (ever try to teach a person with gray hair about OPS?), something which is not open for discussion is whether Bert belongs in the HOF. He does. It was nice to see Patrick Ruesse talk about how Bert is basically the only person he ballots for.

-KSTP was broadcasting their weekend sportstalk show, which was why I head anything from Ruesse at all. Bill Smith was on the show and Pat grilled the Twins GM on Anthony Slama’s lack of promotion through the system. Smith didn’t have much of answer. Slama should probably end the season in AAA, he’ll be 25 this season and time is running out on his career.

-About an hour into TwinsFest I started experiencing hip pain. Something I’ve never had before. Today, no hip pain whatsoever. I’m glad I don’t have to spend any time on astroturf.

-Toby Gardenhire was one of the prospects signing autographs. Unfortunately, he was sitting next to Ben Revere, which meant many people bypassed him completely, something I hadn’t seen at all anywhere else at TwinsFest. Have some decorum people, Toby was taking time out of his day to do charitable work and despite his lack of offensive numbers he deserved better than to be ignored by scores of autograph hounds.

-Speaking of which, I have several hats signed by Toby Gardenhire for sale, leave a comment if you’re interested.

-Got to meet up with Seth Stohs for a spell. Which was a good time.

-The card show itself was a lot of fun, and it included several dealers who had Ruth and Cobb signatures.

Wednesday Hero

This Weeks Post Was Suggested By Cindy

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike A. MonsoorPetty Officer 2nd Class Mike A. Monsoor
29 years old from Garden Grove, California
September 29, 2006
U.S. Navy

In April 2008, Michael Monsoor (who had already been posthumously awarded the Silver Star for his actions in a May 9, 2006 incident, when he and another SEAL pulled a wounded team member to safety amidst gunfire) was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor. His funeral, attended, in the words of President Bush, by “nearly every SEAL on the West Coast,” was held on October 12, 2006 at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego. During Monsoor’s funeral service, as the casket was taken from the hearse to the gravesite, fellow SEALs lined up in two columns to slap and embed the gold Tridents (a pin awarded for successful completion of SEAL Qualification Training) from their uniforms onto the top of Monsoor’s coffin.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike A. Monsoor’s Summary Of Action.

“The procession went on nearly half an hour, and when it was all over, the simple wooden coffin had become a gold-plated memorial to a hero who will never be forgotten.” – President George W. Bush

These brave men and women sacrifice so much in their lives so that others may enjoy the freedoms we get to enjoy everyday. For that, I am proud to call them Hero.
We Should Not Only Mourn These Men And Women Who Died, We Should Also Thank God That Such People Lived

This post is part of the Wednesday Hero Blogroll. For more information about Wednesday Hero, or if you would like to post it on your site, you can go here.
Wednesday Hero Logo

The Writer’s Realm

Scene: We join Young(ish) Enthusiastic Blogger (YEB) in his study as he’s working through some bit of inspiration, soon to be forgotten in his draft folder.

Enter a visitor appearing in a flash of light.

Visitor: Wha…? Where is this?

YEB: You have entered my study, I’m Yeb.

Visitor: How?

YEB: I can see by your confusion you must be new to the realm?

Visitor: Realm?

YEB: You’re newer than I thought, you’ve entered my study through use of the portal, it’s a tool of the writer’s realm. It can transfer a writer anywhere they wish, once one learns how to navigate its many rivers. For generations writers have relied on the varied pathways of the Muses to produce material and find inspiration. You accessed the realm while you were writing something.

Visitor: Why am I here?

YEB: Hmmm, usually newbies are transferred to an initial guide for an introduction after being led to the realm by a guide. You clearly are an apprentice to no one, so your case is a bit more complicated. Normally writers are helped along this process by someone else, but it looks like you’re alone. You weren’t helped out at all by someone like a librarian or an English professor?

Visitor: Hell no, I just started writing about sports on the Bleacher Report a few months ago, I was trying to show why Jason Bartlett is overrated because he makes a lot of errors, I started searching online and then poof, I’m here.

YEB: The Muses have a sick sense of humor then.

Visitor: What are you talking about?

YEB: Your analysis is deeply flawed.

Visitor: Wait a second, you’re one of those stats geeks? And…wait…you’re a senior writer on the Bleacher Report, which is ridiculous as you haven’t written a column in several months, and…you’re an embarrassingly loyal Twins fan. How do I know that stuff?

YEB: The realm is fully integrated with the net, you just ran a Google search in your mind and all was delivered.

Visitor: Cool.

YEB: Normally a journeyman writer or a librarian gives you some warning about the possibilities in using writer’s portals.

Visitor: So, as long as I’m here, I guess I can ask why my analysis is so wrong.

YEB: It’s simple, players who make a lot of errors do so because they get to a lot of fielded balls in play. Errors are in fact a rough proxy for range. Luckily, there are better ways of judging a player’s fielding ability. My guess is you’ve been warped by some high school baseball coach, or Tim McCarver.

Visitor: My coach seems like he knows what he’s talking about.

YEB: Wait, you’re still in high school?

Visitor: Well, sure.

YEB slams his head into his keyboard.

YEB: You’re lucky you weren’t thrown into one of the abysses which pocket the realm. J.D. Salinger hasn’t been able to write a book since he hit a metaphysical abyss and had to find himself again.

Visitor: Salinger?

YEB: Maybe it’d be a good idea if you were to, you know, stop writing for a while.

Visitor: Writers write, jerk.

YEB: Well, I warned you. Just read some books once in a while.

Visitor: Maybe you can answer me this, why haven’t you written in such a long time?

YEB: When the biggest news story of the offseason is the signing of Nick Punto, it’s hard to find a lot of inspiration, even with help from the realm. Plus, I’m working on an MBA, so my writing time is at a premium.

Visitor: I like Nick Punto, he’s scrappy.

YEB slams his head into his keyboard.

YEB: I think it’s time for you to go, before I throw you into an abyss.

Visitor: You’re not much of a guide.

YEB: And you’re not much of an apprentice.

And with that, a quick flash of light and the visitor was gone. YEB returned to his keyboard and began writing. A minute later, through the writer’s ether, YEB heard the faint screams of his neophyte visitor, caught in an abyss no doubt. With a deep sigh, he opened a portal, and dived in, vanishing from his study.

A Call for Help

Anybody know how to run a multiple variable regression in openoffice calc?

Update: I bit the bullet and purchased MS Excel, and all is working properly.

This is Your Captain Speaking…

Captain Bogs:

This is your Captain speaking:

In response to overwhelming public demand (that’s you, Josh), here are my thoughts to the recent water landing, called ditching by those of us in the industry, in the Hudson River by a US Air A-320.

First of all, let me add my praise to Capt Sullenberger. He did an outstanding job putting the plane down in the river without loss of life, and really without major injuries to almost anyone. A couple of broken legs was all the human cost of an accident that took the total loss of of an airframe.

That being said…..

Any accident has a chain of events that lead to the accident. This one was no different. I am not going to go into the the anti-gun, anti-hunting environment we find ourselves in. Because waterfowl, especially large waterfowl like the geese, were so heavily over hunted in the early part of of the 20th century, they were rightly given protection from hunters which were the only effective predators the big birds have now that almost all large, meat eating animals have been eliminated from all populated areas of North America. The subsequent population explosion in goose and to a lesser extent crane populations throughout the US are easy to see. Here where I live, my barber’s father was instrumental in reestablishing the goose population in the area. The birds have gone from 15 animals in the early 40s to many thousands today. We live in central Minnesota, and we are a nesting and transition point in waterfowl migrations. The Canadian geese transit the area on their way north in spring and south in the fall, with other goose species staying here during the summer season, causing my dog to happily chase them from the shoreline and into the lakes. (We try to keep him on a leash when the goslings are too small to evade him. To my knowledge, he has never caught a single wild animal. I’m sure he would starve to death if he had to catch his own food.) Air traffic is sparse, and the airfield is run by folks who know the problems presented by a large goose (and other bird) population. They keep the airfield and its surrounding airspace as clear as they can, and they do a good job of it.

This leads us the the chilly winter day in New York with an A-320 taking off from the horribly out-of-date airport on northern Long Island called La Guardia. Waterfowl migrate only as far south as they have to to find food, and the fields, marshes, and garbage dumps of Long Island give them a reason to stay there all winter. As their population has increased, so does the likelihood of airplane/bird interaction. But waterfowl, especially geese, are easy to see. They are large birds which fly in formations which can number into the thousands, so large, in fact, that they can be seen on radar easier than a B-2. And in this case, the formation of birds was indeed seen in the cockpit by the pilot flying the plane. For some reason, he was unable to avoid the birds. I really do not know why they flew into the geese. It may have been just a case of not seeing them as the danger they really are. Bird strikes are just so common in aviation that they are often seen as just a nuisance rather than a danger. (But when I was in pilot training we lost an instructor when he and another instructor hit a sandhill crane while flying a T-37, a slow (for a jet) small aircraft. The bird hit just below the canopy, breaking it and penetrating into the cockpit. It hit the pilot in the face and chest, inflicting fatal injuries. The other pilot took over control of the jet and landed it safely and quickly, but it was too late for the first pilot.)

Back to the US Air accident. After the bird strike, Capt Sullenberger took the jet and considered his options. Not many of those. He was too low to do anything other than look for a place to land, which he found in the Hudson River. Conditions were ideal for a successful ditching. He was going downriver, so the current was helping lower the difference between the speed of the jet and the water’s surface. There was no wind and therefore no waves, and the jet would have it’s longitudinal axis aligned with its flightpath, all good things. There was not enough time to prep the cabin or even brief the flight attendants about what was about to happen, all bad things. No matter, call over the intercom to brace for impact, and set the plane on the water. Good touchdown, normal to-be-expected hard landing as the engines dug into the water, and a straight run-out on the water. He managed to make the ditching survivable, all one can really expect from a emergency landing.

The normal sequence of events for a ditching is for the jet to sink to the wings while the cabin has no or little water in it. The main emergency exits should be the two doors forward and the two doors aft where there are emergency slides, which double as rafts in the water. The overwing exits should not be used, since the jet may sink fairly quickly as the fuselage fills with water. In this case, the jet settled down nose-high, with the aft doors awash. This precluded the use of the aft two rafts, cutting the available flotation to the two rafts forward. In this case, in a river filled with ferries which were able to respond immediately to the crash site, the two aft rafts were not needed. Passengers exited through the overwing exits and lined up on the wings. The jet had only the two forward exits open, so the fuselage did not fill rapidly and the jet stayed afloat until all people had been rescued. Major kudos to the master mariners who so quickly and skillfully deployed their ships and boats to rescue the people from the plane. Their performance reflect great credit on themselves and the city they serve.

So a major success. But the aft exit problem is serious. A ditching in the open ocean will have to have all 4 rafts available if all the passengers and crew are to have a chance to survive. I flew many flights over the Caribbean from Miami to Puerto Rico or to northern South America, and if something had happened en route that would have put us into the water I would have needed everything I could get to give everyone alive (assuming I could have done as well as Sully did here in New York.) The crews must be able to deploy all the survival equipment the jet has, or a ditching will have the same situation the Titanic found herself in where there is a choosing of who will live and who must die. We no longer live in a world where that is acceptable.

Modern jets do not undergo water landings as a part of their certification process. Models are used to predict the performance of the airframe configuration in the water. Here we have an actual controlled water landing which I’m sure Airbus will look at very closely. They may very well have quite a problem.