SQL, 10.18.11

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I think the problem with these SQL posts is that they’re so very impersonal.  Speaking of which:

 

–This new item from Funny or Die:  A fine way to start today.

 

–We grabbed four jars of peanut butter at the store yesterday and you probably should, too, as prices are set to skyrocket.

Prices for a ton of runner peanuts, commonly used to make peanut butter, hit nearly $1,200 this week, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. That’s up from just $450 per ton a year ago.

It won’t be long before consumers see this price increase reflected on store shelves.

–When I wrote ‘four’ earlier, I meant forty thousand.   Hello retirement!!  An aside:  where the hell does the ‘u’ go when ‘four’ becomes ‘forty’?

 

–Actor Zach Quinto (from Green Tree, a lovely Pittsburgh suburb) came out recently in support of a bullied teen.

I went to school with Zach.  He was a year older, but I remember him well at good ol’ Aiken Elementary and Jay Neff Middle school.  He was a little different from the other kids in sports-crazed Pittsburgh.  I remember him geting into acting from a young age, not surprisingly, and I’ve always rooted for him in his career.

He was kind enough to appear as a guest on my ‘Weekend Sportsline’ radio show a few years ago just as ‘Heroes’ was lifting off.  His ‘Sylar’ was one of my favorite characters on television while that show was firing on all cylinders.

He’s much better known now as ‘Spock’ in J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek, of course, and I imagine his coming out in support of a worthy cause will only help his budding career.

 

–Ford continues to innovate, as the carmaker is now updating their Sync technology to read texts to you while you drive.

Using a Bluetooth connection, it syncs with phones and alerts users when they receive text messages, reads them out loud and allows users to respond with a selection of standard pre-written messages without taking their hands off the wheel.

On Tuesday, it will be made available as an upgrade to Sync vehicles that are model 2010 or later. In order to install the capability, owners can download the upgrade from the Ford Sync site onto a USB drive along with print-out instructions. Older Ford vehicles that have Sync will soon be able to make the update as well, says supervisor of Sync product development Mark Porter.

–For what it”s worth, I like Ford (F) as a stock pick.  Nice to see the American autos continuing their comeback.

 

Chuck?  Chuck.  Wake up, Chuck!!  Chuck?!?

 

–This one’s for the parents out there:  Infants shouldn’t be watching TV…or movies or computers.

“There have been about 50 studies that have come out on media use by children in this age group between 1999 and now,” said Ari Brown, a pediatrician and member of the AAP committee that wrote the new report.

Those studies have found that children don’t really understand what’s happening on a screen until they’re about 2 years old. Once they do, media can be good for them, but until then television is essentially a mesmerizing, glowing box.

Used at night, TV might help kids fall asleep, but that appears to come at a delayed cost of subsequent sleep disturbances and irregularities. While the result of TV-induced sleep problems hasn’t been directly studied, poor sleep in infants is generally linked to problems with mood, behavior and learning.

–Given the explosion of accessible media and it’s expected growth moving forward, we may begin to see some evolutionary things happening with humans and the way we learn & socialize. With all the iPads, computers and smartphones out there, entire generations of infants are being subjected to much, much more screen time.

 

–As Skyrim approaches and my unemployment reaches new levels of frustration, I find myself eager to embark on an adventure in Bethesda’s upcoming RPG epic.  The folks over at IGN have logged a few hours in Skyrim and have this to say.

 

SQL, 10.15.11

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Some Saturday randomness:

 

–In our last post, we touched on lethal U.S. attack drones getting hacked, and the tremendous amount of terror that should, yet hasn’t generated publicly.  More hacking news today, as another nation-state-based attack has been detected.

The attackers appeared to be after information that would help them penetrate networks belonging to U.S. defense contractors who used SecurID to authenticate their workers.

…news reports in May indicated that hackers had tried to breach defense contractor Lockheed Martin using information stolen from RSA.

–Welcome to warfare in the 21st century–these attacks will only increase in frequency.

 

–The ineffectual Doomsday predictor is up to his old tricks.  And I do mean old.

When your remaining lifespan can be measured in minutes, every day is a potential Doomsday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–From an old loon to an old coot, the gentleman, 81, that traveled from door to door offering free breast exams, has agreed to a plea deal.   You may remember him from the sheer genius of his plan, as I do.

As it turns out, the authorities frown upon sexual battery and generally perving out.

An 81-year-old man who allegedly posed as a doctor so he could administer free door-to-door breast exams in a Florida apartment complex will likely make a deal with prosecutors to avoid facing the rest of his life behind bars.

–I’m left wondering what leverage Dr. Boobtouch could possibly exert to land a plea deal.   My guess:  the revelation of his much less successful door-to-door gynecological exam grift.

 

–Speaking of boobs, this video has over 137 million hits on youtube.  I may be a bit out of the loop, but that’s kind of astounding to me.  The song’s ok, but Katy Perry’s album is doing some incredible things (BEWARE…links in quote box, via Wikipedia, will not open a new tab).

Teenage Dream has spawned five singles, all of which have achieved massive chart success. Lead single “California Gurls” featuring Snoop Dogg, “Teenage Dream“, “Firework“, “E.T.” featuring Kanye West, and “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)“, have all become international hits, each peaking at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and also topping the charts in other countries. All five singles also topped the Digital and Airplay charts, making her the first artist ever to have five No. 1 in the Airplay chart.[4] With fifth single “Last Friday Night (T.G.I.F.)” topping the Hot 100 chart, the milestone gives Katy Perry the title of the only woman in the 53-year history of Billboard to have five songs from the same album at No. 1 on the Hot 100. Before that, only Michael Jackson had won the feat with the album, Bad, between the years 1987 to 1988.[5][6] In addition to all five singles, the song “Peacock“, has reached #1 on the Hot Dance Club charts, tying her with Beyoncé‘s I Am… Sasha Fierce and Kristine W‘s The Power of Music for the biggest amount. Four singles from “Teenage Dream” have topped the Adult Top 40 chart, and all five singles have topped the Mainstream Top 40 chart, both more than any other artist in their respective history.[7][8] The singles also allowed Perry to have an unprecedented 69-week long streak in the Hot 100′s top ten, as well as a 71-week top ten streak on the Airplay chart.[9] Perry also has the most number one singles (five) from one album to top the Canadian Hot 100.

–A rhetorical pondering:  How well would her music sell if Katy Perry was flat-chested?

 

Who Watches Phoenix Jones?

Self-styled superhero Phoenix Jones unmasked himself before cameras Thursday and vowed to keep fighting crime after prosecutors delayed a decision on whether to press assault charges against him.

Jones — who told reporters his real name is Ben Fodor — routinely patrols downtown Seattle streets decked out in a rubber suit and mask. He was arrested early Sunday on four counts of assault after police said he used pepper spray on a group of people leaving a nightclub. A spokesman for Fodor said he was trying to break up a fight.

“In addition to being Phoenix Jones,” he said. “I am also Ben Fodor, a father and brother. I am just like everybody else. The only difference is that I try to stop crime.”

–I love this guy.

Incidentally, if you haven’t yet read ‘Watchmen‘, you should.  It’s the best graphic novel in the history of the medium, and by reading it you’ll better grasp my reference in linking to the story…which is a plus.

 

Gamers into gym rats–it’s still about leveling up.

Fitocracy members can “level up” by earning points for their workouts. New levels unlock special challenges or “quests” that are designed to push users out of their comfort zones. For example, a runner might have to do yoga, or a bodybuilder might have to tackle a 5K.

–This is good idea that needs to be expanded upon.  Everything in life should be based on the accumulation of experience points–it’s a synergistic way to make our gaming culture more productive.

 

–Men–stop taking Vitamin E.  Maybe.  Probably.  Potentially.

“For every 1,000 men who took a placebo, there were only 65 new cancers,” he said. “For every 1,000 men who took vitamin E, 76 got prostate cancer. That’s a statistically significant increase.”

A 17% increase in fact – too high to attribute the additional cases merely to chance, he said.

Based on the results of this trial, Klein suggested that men should have a serious conversation with their doctors about whether taking vitamin E supplements is a good idea.

“About half the men who are age 60 or older take vitamin E, and about a quarter take vitamin E at the level that was used in [the trial]: 400 international units or more,” he said. “In my opinion, there is no compelling evidence that vitamins are beneficial, and there is some evidence that they can be harmful.”

–It’s the vitamin carousel, everyone!!  One day they’re life’s salvation, the next, a roadmap to cancer.  I’m tapping out on vitamins.

 

SQL, 10.13.11

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I love science fiction.  Just love it.  The mixture of imagination, technology and the future makes for a heady cocktail, one I’m happy to drink in.

My favorite aspect of science fiction:  it has a really high success rate when it comes to the ‘life imitating art’ phenomenon.

When we take wild ideas from the most successfully imaginative humans and bring them to life, we’re literally creating the world we’d prefer to live in by way of cultural art and imagination.

Here are some older examples.

Here’s one we’ll know very soon–her name is Siri.

Steve Jobs has said that Siri’s focus is on artificial intelligence. “We like what they do a lot,” the Apple co-founder and former CEO said at the AllThingsD conference last year.

Forstall echoed that onstage Tuesday, saying: “I’ve been in the AI field a long time, and this still blows me away.”

–Priority one:  keeping Siri away from that Skynet boy. He seems like trouble.

And she’s going to change the world.

Me: “I’m drunk.”

Siri: “I found a number of cabs fairly close to you.” (Perfect; it didn’t dial my ex-girlfriend.)

Me: “I have a flat tire.”

Siri: “I found 14 towing services. 12 of them are fairly close to you.”

Me: “Remind me to steal a ream of paper when I arrive at the office.”

Siri: “Here’s your reminder for when you get to work: Steal a ream of paper. Shall I create it?”

Me: “I’m going to kill myself.”

Siri: “I found four mental health agencies. Three of them are fairly close to you.” (This was just a test — don’t be alarmed.)

–Wired.com’s Brian Chen.

A real-life Artificial Intelligence, potentially, at the disposal of every human on Earth.  If that’s not science fiction come alive, I’m not sure what is.  Siri even comes with a sense of humor and seems to ‘get’ some rather geeky cultural references.

To think there was a time when your telephone didn’t make 2001:  A Space Odyssey references…what kind of Neanderthals were we?

 

A few more items re: iPhones, tech and culture…

–Don’t trash that old iPhone–it may be worth a few bucks.

As sales of expensive smartphones grow rapidly, trade-in sites have also risen in popularity. Their services give customers the opportunity tomake some cash off their old devices, which shoppers can use toward their shiny new handsets. At one point last week, Gazelle had offered up to $284 for some iPhone 4 trade-ins.

–We still rock the iPhone OG in the DeMaro household. The older it gets, the cooler it becomes.  Also true:  it’s painfully slow and crashes constantly.

 

–Speaking of sci-fi stuff…the U.S. military’s lethal attack drones have been getting hacked.

The virus, which records the keystrokes of remote pilots as their drones fly over places like Afghanistan, is now receiving attention at the highest levels; the four-star general who oversees the Air Force’s networks was briefed on the infection this morning. But for weeks, it stayed (you will pardon the expression) below the radar: a local problem that local network administrators were determined to fix on their own.

–I’m sure nothing bad can or will ever come from the manipulation of armed, mindless automatons.  Also true:  this is pretty much the scariest thing ever.

 

–If that last link is a bit too scary for you, maybe this’ll set your mind at ease:  Computer Model of Peace Predicts Social Violence, Harmony.

The model runs census data through an assembly line of high-powered mathematical processes, but at its root is one basic assumption: that community-level violence is primarily a function of geography, modulated by the overlap of political, topographical and ethnic borders.

The claim sounds suspiciously reductionist, with complicated social realities subjugated to a few neat parameters. But as demonstrated inthe 2007 Science paper where NECSI debuted the model, its calculated local probabilities of violence closely matched the locations of real-world violence in Yugoslavia and India.

–Brandon Keim, Wired.com

 

–Some random fun to end things today…

 

 

SQL, 10.11.11

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Mrs. DeMaro and I made the mistake of watching the following video two days before the release of Forza 4:

 

 

That’s a hell of a trailer.  Needless to say, we immediately pre-ordered the game and had a short, but heated debate on the merits of this (sadly, practicality won out.  I hate when practicality wins out.  Though sensible in the long view, practicality is kind of a pansy).

I don’t play racing games often, but when I do, I prefer Best of Breed…which in this case is Forza 4.  I type today with one eye on the computer and the other on the front door, anticipating the UPS lady’s delivery.  There’s definitely a Pavlovian thing going on…I’ve heard the Bucket Truck’s diesel motor a couple times and began salivating.  Not sure how to explain that.

Moving on…

–A little more on gaming as we’re set to enter a remarkable run of releases.  This happens every year as we enter the Holiday season, but this year’s lineup is especially rich in gaming goodies:

Today:  Forza 4, the top racing game on planet Earth.

Next Tuesday:  Batman, Arkham City.

Oct. 25:  Battlefield 3.

Nov. 1:  Uncharted 3.

Nov. 8:  Modern Warfare 3.

Nov. 11:  Skyrim.

Nov. 20:  Zelda, Skyward Sword.

That’s a murderers row of honest-to-goodness AAA titles.  Skyrim alone is said to offer HUNDREDS of hours of gameplay, Zelda in the 50-100 hour range.  The online multiplayer of the two shooters could, literally, provide years of play.  And Uncharted & Batman will be long, rewarding adventures…I’m especially pumped for Uncharted, as the cinematic series is among the most entertaining the medium has to offer.

Being unemployed is emotional and psychological torture, make no mistake about it.  But a very faint silver lining lies in the flexibility afforded to this Life of Leisure…while I’m waiting for people to call/write me back (prospective employers:  please call/write me back), I’ll partake in some truly excellent examples of the gaming medium.

 

–I’ll be sad when cancer finally claims Christopher Hitchens.

But in most other respects Mr. Hitchens is undiminished, preferring to see himself as living with cancer, not dying from it. He still holds forth in dazzlingly clever and erudite paragraphs, pausing only to catch a breath or let a punch line resonate, and though he says his legendary productivity has fallen off a little since his illness, he still writes faster than most people talk. Last week he stayed up until 1 in the morning to finish an article for Vanity Fair, working on a laptop on his bedside table.

Writing seems to come almost as naturally as speech does to Mr. Hitchens, and he consciously associates the two. “If you can talk, you can write,” he said. “You have to be careful to keep your speech as immaculate as possible. That’s what I’m most afraid of. I’m terrified of losing my voice.” He added: “Writing is something I do for a living, all right — it’s my livelihood. But it’s also my life. I couldn’t live without it.”

–Charles McGrath, New York Times

His wit and intellect are matched only by his prolificness (it’s a word!).  This piece from The Times had me remembering, wistfully, some of his greatest hits.

 

–As usual, Fareed Zakaria is on-point with an essay.  America has gotten a bit soft.

Conservatives used to believe in confronting hard truths, not succumbing to comforting fairy tales. Some still do. In a bracing essay in the right-wing National Review, Peter Thiel, the co-founder of PayPal and a politically active libertarian, describes how America has, well, gone soft. He notes that the economy hasn’t been performing well for decades and that median wages have been stagnating. He argues that the country’s innovation culture has begun to decay, corroded by a widespread search for “easy progress” and quick fixes. “In our hearts and minds,” Thiel writes,” we know that desperate optimism will not save us.”

–Fareed Zakaria, my favorite Indian-American after this man.

 

–A nice post on the challenges of mining relevant data in hockey analytics.

There are things we can do to tease out the impact that individual players make on the game. We know how important it is to have an edge in shots over your opposition. What we need to do is to come up with a way to start figuring out how to identify the players who create that and how they create that. The singles and doubles and triples of hockey. Soccer’s enjoying a bit of a tactics moment right now, with people like Jonathan Wilson and Michael Cox writing intelligently about tactics. They (in particular, Cox) are greatly helped by the data that’s available with respect to passes, average position on the field and such things.

–Hockey : Baseball as Michael Bay  : The Coen Brothers.  No offense intended–I love hockey, and have since I can remember.  But analytically speaking, there’s only so much to be done.

 

–Should I be concerned that I agree with the French when it comes to kids & ketchup?

Steve Jobs, Genius

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He created the personal computer as we know it.  He created entire classes of electronics out of thin air.  He created a genre of filmmaking, changing Hollywood forever.  He revolutionized telephones, commerce, the music industry, retail, and design.

Many have reflected on the genius of Steve Jobs today, and they’ve done it well.

I especially enjoyed this Wired.com video, as it captures Jobs at different stages of his life but with a common thread–whether in his 20′s, 30′s, 40′s or even as his body was being ravaged by pancreatic cancer in his 50′s, Steve Jobs was consistently, undeniably, a Genius.

 

 

Jim Cramer, host of ‘Mad Money’ on CNBC, compared Jobs to Edison, Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Walton…and concluded Jobs outshone ‘em all.

Given Jobs’ laundry list of accomplishments, his influence on human culture and his impact on the world’s economy it’s actually a pretty easy call to make.

I’d go so far as to say that, given the population and inter-connectedness of the planet during his time, one could reasonably argue that Steve Jobs was the most influential human that has ever lived.

I won’t make a full-fledged argument to support that potential overstatement, but consider the market cap of AAPL and the jobs & income that wealth has created directly or indirectly.  Then there’s the aforementioned influence of popular culture via Pixar.  The guy invented the personal computer, not to mention his impact in the music industry, the iPhone and the iPad.

His reach extends all over the planet.

I know it sounds a bit crazy to put Jobs up there with humanity’s great luminaries, but consider his biggest competition for ‘most influential human ever’.  They’re most likely religious figures like Jesus Christ and Mohammed.  Then consider heavily populated India and China, the two largest markets on Earth.

Jesus and Mohammed never could quite crack those markets.

But Steve Jobs did.

The man was a genius of the highest degree and his reach in the information age was (and is) nearly without limit.

SQL, 10.4.11

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–Our opening salvo may be rendered obsolete by this afternoon, but if this is true, it places Apple into truly rarified space.  $20 billion.  Just like that.

That’s the kind of deal you can land when you’re the largest company on Earth.  Crazy respect to AAPL and their many tendrils of genius.

 

–And now for something completely different:

If I were alive during the Beatles heyday, I imagine I would’ve been a George guy.  The quiet, crazily-talented backbone of the band…yeah, that’s about my speed.

I was actually a big fan of George’s growing up, independent of the Beatles, thanks to this very catchy tune / cool video:

Upon reading more on George over the years, I came to appreciate his open-mindedness, his worldview and, again, the expansive breadth of his talent.  I’ll definitely be checking out that Scorcese doc.

 

–Speaking of awesome things coming to a screen near you…ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT IS BACK!!

According to attendees at the panel, where Hurwitz was joined by series stars Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, Portia de Rossi, Michael Cera, Tony Hale, Jeffrey Tambor, David Cross, Alia Shawkat and Jessica Walter, Hurwitz laid out his plan to have each installment focus on a different member of the Bluth clan. Bateman later weighed in on the announcement on Twitter. “It’s true,” he wrote. “We will do 10 episodes and the movie. Probably shoot them all together next summer for a release in early ’13. VERY excited!” That would mean launching the follow-up limited series on the 10th anniversary of the original, which premiered in 2003 and ran on Fox for 3 seasons.

–If only the Pittsburgh Pirates were similarly inclined to return ‘Extra Innings’ to its former glory.

I count myself as unreasonably excited for both the TV season and the movie.  It’s between ‘Arrested’ and ‘Firefly’ for the most disappointing TV cancellation of my lifetime.  Very close there.  I’d probably have to give it to Firefly, as they only got the one season.  But it’s close.

Either way, a right has been wronged here.  Doesn’t happen often, especially in Hollywood.

 

–Onto a bit of science.

It seems yet more proof of human evolution is on display in Canada.

The data allowed scientists to track the ages at which female residents had their first-born children. Among those women, the average age of first reproduction dropped from 26 to 22. The study supports the idea that increasingly younger birth ages were influenced by genetic changes caused by natural selection. In other words, the propensity to have a child at a younger age is the result of inherited genetic traits, the study suggests. (Evolution means that organisms change over time based on inherited traits).

–Strangely, the sport of curling has had no adverse effects on evolution.

 

–A fine theological question was posed recently–Did Jesus die for Kingons too?

The alternative, posits Weidemann, is that Jesus chose earthlings as the single race to save and abandoned every other life form in the galaxy.

Or, it could have been because humans were the only race who had sinned and required ‘saving’, said Weidemann, who added: ‘You can grasp the conflict.’

‘If there are extra-terrestrial intelligent beings at all, it is safe to assume that most of them are sinners too [...] If so, did Jesus save them too? My position is no. If so, our position among intelligent beings in the universe would be very exceptional.’

Among Weidemann’s suggestions as to how Jesus and God may have tackled the issue of visiting other alien planets, he argues it is possible God could have sent multiple incarnations of Himself into space, with one attending each inhabited planet.

Given scientists’ best guesses as to how many civilisations there may be in space, that would require around 250 incarnations of God to exist at any one time.

–I’ve lifted this entire quote box from io9′s quote box.  Is that a sin?  What was it that Jesus said about cyber-plagiarism in the blogosphere again?  Was that in Deuteronomy?

 

SQL, 10.1.11

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A few earnest links for you today…

 

–If I weren’t rendered emotionally dead from my struggles finding a job, this video might elicit a smile.  A deaf woman hears her own voice for the first time thanks to a cochlear implant:

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Science +5.

 

–Given the touchiness of the subject in some political circles, writing a balanced, well-researched story on Global Warming seems like it’d be no small task.

The issue is many-sided and complex…not unlike an octopus…with tendrils reaching into economics, biology, climatology, evolution and even morality.

Thankfully, the New York Times exists.

This story represents one of the best pieces I’ve read on the subject.  It introduces the effects of global temperature change on carbon-devouring forests and the ecological fallout.

Scientists have figured out — with the precise numbers deduced only recently — that forests have been absorbing more than a quarter of the carbon dioxide that people are putting into the air by burning fossil fuels and other activities. It is an amount so large that trees are effectively absorbing the emissions from all the world’s cars and trucks.

Without that disposal service, the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would be rising faster. The gas traps heat from the sun, and human emissions are causing the planet to warm.

Yet the forests have only been able to restrain the increase, not halt it. And some scientists are increasingly worried that as the warming accelerates, trees themselves could become climate-change victims on a massive scale.

–Justin Gillis, NYT.

It’s a long piece but very well done.  Both believers in Global Warming and skeptics should give it a read.

 

–And now a quartet of links from io9:  A future ancestor to incredibly frightening robot warfighters; Noted science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson recounts his first encounter with even more noted science communicator Carl Sagan; a new book is out in which a boy tries to save the planet with a moron detector; the fastest muscles in the mammalian class belong to

 

 

SQL, 9.29.11

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We’ll start today’s post with an exchange I had last night on Twitter.  It began with this tweet of mine:

@RoccoDeMaro Anyone know if The Horn of Gondor is available as a ringtone?

Someone called Chris Houck then replied:

@houckola @RoccoDeMaro why? The horn of the Rohirrim is better.
To which I admitted:
@RoccoDeMaro @houckola I wish I could muster the Rohirrim. Just once.

To which he replied:

houckola @RoccoDeMaro Yeah dude. Get your Theodin on.

If you’ve not seen The Lord of the Rings trilogy, this exchange is non-sensical.  Then again, if you’ve not seen The Lord of the RIngs by this point, you’ve got larger problems than making sense of a few tweets between dorks.

At any rate, I take a great deal of pleasure discussing absurdly nerdy things in public forums.  Chris’ ‘Get your Theodin on’ was a delightful turn of phrase that had me quietly giggling to myself (and imagining mustering the Rohirrim) throughout much of the night…a night in which the vast majority of my twitter feed was fixated on an epic night of baseball and a night that saw me taking one for the team with Mrs. DeMaro by watching a documentary on ‘the real-life Devil Wears Prada’, The September Issue.

I’d still like to find The Horn of Gondor for my phone…

 

Onto a pair of links:

–Regarding that aforementioned epic night of baseball.

  • The Red Sox had just a 0.3 percent chance of failing to make the playoffs on Sept. 3.
  • The Rays had just a 0.3 percent chance of coming back after trailing 7-0 with two innings to play.
  • The Red Sox had only about a 2 percent chance of losing their game against Baltimore, when the Orioles were down to their last strike.
  • The Rays had about a 2 percent chance of winning in the bottom of the 9th, with Johnson also down to his last strike.
  • Multiply those four probabilities together, and you get a combined probability of about one chance in 278 million of all these events coming together in quite this way.
  • I’ll not sully Nate Silver’s quote box with any kind of snappy comment, as Nate Silver and his quote box deserve our respect.  But please take a moment to bask in the glow of that brilliant improbability.

    Sport +5, Baseball +5.

     

    –I was sad to read that Andy Rooney, long-time commentator on ’60 Minutes’, has finally decided to hang ‘em up.

    Andy’s been doing commentaries on ’60 Minutes’ for as long as I’ve existed–he began his work on the news program in 1978.  Prior to that Rooney did a great many things.  Most notably (to my mind) was his work during World War II with Stars and Stripes.

    Hopelessly out of touch with modern society, Andy had a worldview that seemed to stop evolving around 1960.  That flagrant out-of-touch-ness made him a frequent target for all sorts, myself included (Andy Rooney on the Pirates (’09)).

    But that’s why I loved Andy Rooney.

    His was the voice of my grandparents, or more broadly, that of The Greatest Generation, a collection of people that lived through the Great Depression, Adolf Hitler, the advent of the Atomic Bomb and the Civil Rights movement in America.  They witnessed the golden age of baseball, the invention of television and eventually computers…

    They had milkmen.  They hand-wrote letters.  They knew cursive.  We’d be fools not to value their impressions on how life & culture used to be when life didn’t move quite as fast and things were, in a very large sense, simpler.

    i counted my Few Minutes with Andy on Sunday nights as a trip to another place and another time…and therein lies the great irony of Mr. Rooney:  For all his resistances to progress and technology, Andy Rooney was, in effect, a time machine…a heavily eyebrowed, curmudgeonly old time machine, but a time machine nonetheless.

     

    SQL, 9.27.11

    0

    The backlog of links has grown substantially in the past few days, as there are lots of weird things happening on Planet Earth.  This uptick of weirdness will require more of a rapid-fire approach today.  You are forewarned.

     

    –A man claims he can communicate with pineapples.  While this may seem unremarkable to some, this man is awash in jealousy, as communicating with pineapples easily trumps his own ability.

     

    This story of a sperm bank turning down redheads has been out for a few days now, and it’s gotten some play.

    “There are too many redheads in relation to demand,” Ole Schou, Cryos’s director told told Danish newspaper Ekstrabladet. “I do not think you chose a redhead, unless the partner – for example, the sterile male – has red hair, or because the lone woman has a preference for redheads. And that’s perhaps not so many, especially in the latter case.”

    -Well that was rude.

    But stepping away from the supply vs. demand forces in that particular business, I think gingers (and their ilk) are the bees knees.

    Think of it this way–the vast majority of the world’s human heads are either brown or black.  Making things worse:  the preponderance of genetically monochromatic hair found throughout asia (straight black) and africa (curly black).  These populations, numbering in the billions, have zero variation of hair color & body in the entirety of their gene pool.

    That market force, in turn, makes blonde and redheaded humans much more rare and, to my taste, much more desirable in the larger scheme of things–while the supply vs. demand aspect of the previously-linked sperm bank business works against blondes and gingers, in the larger, more relevant sample of all humans in existence these fair-skinned freckled freaks of recessive genetics add an invaluable dash of color and variety to our species.

    So feel free to p’shaw the world’s largest sperm bank and its business interests.  Let’s take a moment to celebrate the genetic underdogs that make life a little more interesting and a little more colorful.

     

    –It’s now time to answer the question that’s been haunting all of humanity since the dawn of time:  Squid–Bisexual or just lonely?

    The male squid’s same-sex mating behavior isn’t evidence that it’s gay, researchers said. More that it’s lonely. Squid live alone in the deep, dark sea and have few encounters with other squid. It’s advantageous for the species to mate indiscriminately: better to have quick sex with all comers, even if some are guys, than to miss out on any opportunity to reproduce.

    –That’s all well and good, but every squid I know watches ‘Project Runway’ religiously.  Someone had to say it.

     

    –On a marginally more meaningful note, it seems Einstein’s special relativity might have some ‘splainin’ to do.

    The speed of light is the Universe’s ultimate speed limit, and much of modern physics – as laid out in part by Albert Einstein in his special theory of relativity – depends on the idea that nothing can exceed it.

    Thousands of experiments have been undertaken to measure it ever more precisely, and no result has ever spotted a particle breaking the limit.

    But Dr Ereditato and his colleagues have been carrying out an experiment for the last three years that seems to suggest neutrinos have done just that.

    –If I were more learned and/or intelligent I’d have something pithy to add here.  These are deep waters.

    Here’s a follow-up to that story with some nifty graphics included.  My puny brain still has a hard time reconciling that neutrinos can travel through rock, let alone faster than light.  Particle physics are absolutely bizarre.

     

    –What if I was to tell you that there was a virus that killed all forms of breast cancer within a week?  Now would that be something you might be interested in?

     

    –It disappoints me when I stumble upon entire groups of humans that are, ostensibly, without humor.  This is one such group:  Moms Against Schweddy Balls.

    One Million Moms, part of the American Family Association, are protesting the Vermont ice cream company saying the new flavor is vulgar, repulsive and inappropriate for children. The group is asking other outraged parents to write the company asking them to stop selling the Schweddy Balls ice cream.

    –I mean, I’ll agree that testicles are kind of repulsive.  They certainly lack the grace and dignity of, say, breasts.  I’ll give ‘em that.   But there’s a larger theme being missed by the moms here…namely the concept of humor.

     

    Humor is great.  Laughter, potentially, has many beneficial properties.  These moms need to laugh a little more.

    I would also advise they remove the enormous stick from their posteriors, and with some degree of haste.

     

    –While I generally loathe any interaction between church and affairs of the state, I think there could be benefits of this plan, which gives law-breakers an interesting choice upon getting busted:  Jail or church.

    The city judge in Bay Minette will let misdemeanor offenders choose to work off their sentences in jail and pay a fine; or go to church every Sunday for a year.

    If offenders select church, they’ll be allowed to pick the place of worship but must check in weekly with the pastor and police.

    If the one-year church attendance program is completed, the offender’s case will be dismissed.

    –Some lines are getting blurred here, but c’mon–it’s Alabama.  They’ve got a song and cool-sounding college nickname (which, incidentally, may be a euphemism for menstruation). Otherwise it’s basically the 19th century down there.

    FYI:  I’ve written previously on the role of religion in modern society, if you’d like to read my thoughts there.

     

     

    SQL, 9.24.11

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    A couple of videogame-related items on this beautiful Saturday afternoon:

    –A few years back I wrote a feature piece for Fantasy Sports Monthly.

    In the piece, I tasked myself with identifying the four greatest sports videogames of all time.  ’Why four?’, my editor asked.  ’Why not?’, I replied.

    I’ll skip the breakdowns for numbers 2-4 (Tecmo Super Bowl, NHLPA ’93, PGA Tour II) and get right to number one–Baseball Stars.

    Baseball Stars has many redeeming qualities:  gobs of on-board memory, tight gameplay, the Lovely Ladies…and most importantly, extensive role-playing game elements.

    This was 1989.  Role playing games didn’t have RPG elements.

     

    Greatness.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Ok, they did, but sports games most definitely did not.  Humans were pegging their jeans.  ’Don’t Worry Be Happy’ was everywhere. Big hair absolutely dominated the hair landscape.

    Also of note: The first web server and browser were developed (Tim Berners-Lee (England) while working at CERN).

    You can’t imagine the impact introducing RPG elements into a sports videogame had.  To that point sports games were base, clinical definitions of the given sport.

    You played the game.  That was it.

    This is a baseball game.  It allows you to simulate the game of baseball.

    This is a football game.  It allows you to simulate the game of football.

    That kind of a thing.  You engaged in a video representation of a sport and that about the end of it.

    But the genre of sports games was reborn when Baseball Stars added a dash of RPG.

    In Baseball Stars, you could create your own team and tailor it to your specifications.  Want to start out with a pitching-heavy team?  Done.  How about a squad of excellent defenders?  Sure.  Fast baserunners?  Ok.  Power hitters?  Affirmative.  Contact hitters?  Veterans?  A balanced team?  Done, done and done.

    Once your new club was created, it was time for the real fun–leveling up your players with cash won in games.  Position players had six categories that could be improved:  hitting, batting, running, defense, luck and the all-important ‘prestige’.  Pitchers had their own set of six…velocity, command, etc.

    Team name, uniforms and logos could also be customized.  If you could correctly answer mysterious questions like ‘What is a wren?’ and ‘When isn’t it?’, you could create an all-women’s team or a stacked squad full of maxed out players.

    You could sign high-priced free agents.  You could fire underachieving veterans.

    Let me repeat–this was 1989.

    Immediately, we had more of a three-dimensional relationship with the experience.  Yes, you still played the games, but you also created narratives, planned out strategies and became immersed in this thing you were building.

    We were constructing a personalized baseball universe, complete with roster decisions, resource management, performance analysis…it was all very heady.

    There were stats, too, in Baseball Stars….so many stats.  Through some kind of bizarre NES cartridge magic, the game kept track of every team’s players and compiled league leader pages.

    I could go on and on and on and on about Baseball Stars and its impact on gaming history…but I won’t.  Today is the first day of fall and it’s gorgeous outside.

    I want to frolic more than I want to continue typing.  Frolicking conditions are ideal.

    Oh yeah…the inspiration for this diatribe:  this link from Kotaku regarding Baseball Stars and EA’s latest hockey entry, which is pretty RPG-heavy.

     

    –One other quickie:  somehow over the past few months, the new Zelda game has passed Uncharted 3, Skyrim and the rest on my gaming anticipation meter.  This link here is partly responsible.  As is this one.

    Zelda +5.

     

     

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