Sunday, October 11, 2009
Hopefully I'll be back on here soon. Everyone always says that I know.
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Tetris and life
One day, flood waters were rising and threatening to submerge a small patch of land where we find our friend, the scorpion. He cried out for help, but most other animals fled for their own safety, not trusting the dangerous creature. Finally, a frog stopped to examine the plight of the scorpion. "Please, you've got to help me and take me to safety on the other side of the river!" the scorpion pleaded. "Ha!" says the frog. "Why should I trust you? as soon as I get you on my back, you'll sting me!"
The scorpion reasoned- "No, why would I do that? If I were to sting you, you would die, and we would both drown!"
The frog thought this over, and reassured by this logic, agreed to let the scorpion climb on his back. No sooner than they were halfway across the river did the frog feel the searing pain of the scorpion's sting. "Why did you sting me?" he cried out. "Now I will die, and we will both drown!"
"Because," said the scorpion, "it is in my nature to sting."
I don't know why that story has stuck with me for so long, but it's always left an impression on me. I thought of it the other day as I played Tetris- one of the top games of all time, if you'll recall my list from a few years ago. Like many people, my first exposure to Tetris came through the original Nintendo Game Boy- pretty much the gold standard of Tetris, the one that other versions of Tetris tried to one up or duplicate, but yet never really manage to outdo.
I mention that version because there's a version I play on my iPhone that is nearly identical to that version, except for one major difference- the scoring. The original version of Tetris, for those that don't know, gave a bonus for completing a Tetris (clearing four lines at once.) So many of us played that version and its derivatives that I'm sure many of us would agree that the "right" way to play tetris is to build up a large block of squares, leaving one column open for the long, straight pieces. So it was with an annoying realization that I found out the version on my iPhone gives the same reward for four one-liners that it does for a full Tetris. It seemed wrong to me. At first I chalked it up to a bug, because they obviously had not followed the reference material closely enough. I mostly ignored it, and I continued to play the way I had trained myself to play- slowly growing a block tower only punctuated by drops of the long pieces into the waiting empty space. But I wondered to myself- why play this way, when it's far less risky and far more sensible to continually go for the one-liners at the bottom? But try as I might, I would always find myself placing the blocks to arrange a beautiful (at least in my mind) tower with a gaping hole on the right side.
I realized that regardless of score, I enjoyed playing only when I could complete Tetrises (sp?) and regardless of score, it didn't feel right to play any other way. They could come out with a version of Tetris where you got penalized points to clear four-liners, and I would still not play it any other way.
Life is a lot like that. Sometimes everything works out great, the pieces come just as you want them to, and you do great. But was it luck? Could you have adapted had things not come as they did? Because sometimes you spend the whole game waiting for that straight piece to come, and it never does. You build up the whole tower, and in the end, your incessant drive to go for what you've trained yourself to do ends up screwing you. It never comes, and you lose. And sometimes your nature loses you the game, despite the best intentions, strongest logic, and all the luck in the world.
I remember when I was younger, I would see people who committed suicide on the news, and I would think- "Why would you do that? What could be so bad in your life that you can't just pick up your stuff and move on to something completely new?" I had an all-purpose contingency plan- if things ever got so bad that I was contemplating suicide, I would move to Mexico and open a Chinese restaurant. A fresh start, I thought. But that ignores the problems that people get themselves into, and the nature of themselves that causes them to get into those problems.
But it's not that simple. You might be able to leave your troubles behind, but you can't run away from yourself.
But we're not the scorpion. We can change, right?
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
Yet Another Political Endorsement
If you've been a long-standing reader of Your Thoughts Exactly, you know we differ on the relevance and importance of voting. I do feel its worthwhile to put my vote down, and trudged a whole 100 yards through the slush this morning to show my faith in Democracy and the Greatest Nation of All Time.
I try to have as great a grasp of the issues as possible when going into vote for the candidates, which becomes more difficult in primaries where the nuances between the candidates are slight. Many pundits have been reiterating that the policy differences between Hilary and Barack are almost inconsequential, so instead you need to look at alternative factors: The vision of the country in the next ten years. The personalities of the candidates and their abilities to inspire and lead. And the role the candidates see themselves in as President, in terms of how they will do their job once elected.
To me though, policy always comes first. I have specific ideas about policies I would like the country to enforce in order to transform our society. In 2008, they prioritize this way:
- Foreign policy, both in trade and relations, with getting out of Iraq within the next 18 months being priority A short-term and relations with China being priority A long-term,
- Reversing the moves made by the Bush Administration to curtail civil liberties while expanding the power of the executive branch, with new FISA regulations and the closing of Guantanamo Bay being priority A.
- Universal Healthcare
- Energy Reform.
In terms of policy, Hilary and Barack are both vast improvements over the current clown-in-chief, and the differences are slight. I prefer Barack's ideas on Iraq and engagement with Iran, but Hilary is a little more pro free-trade. I'm wary of how the Clintons would do at curtailing executive power. Hilary has been a stronger advocate for universal healthcare throughout her career. Policy wise, I lean towards Obama, but for the first time the other factors almost equal out. There is one man to thank for this: George W. Bush.
As awful as his policies are, the style of his government is that much worse. Staunch, unquestioned partisanship that punishes party members who go against the grain. Secrecy and misdirection. Willfull ignorance points of view and perspectives different from your beliefs.
We've seen a Clinton White House before, and so we have an idea of what to expect. Partisanship and secrecy were major problems of the Clinton White House, especially in the last six years of office after the Republican takeover. The Clintons play the victimization card as a political tool, and are also both skilled and comfortable slandering and defying those whom they see as providing little political gain or suction to themselves. What they failed to learn, in my opinion, is that its better to have enemies that tolerate you than those that hate you passionately.
The other major flaw of the Clinton White House is how the personal relationship of the Clintons dominated their presidency in ways that hindered Bill's ability to govern and provided ammunition for the same enemies they made already. Is this is bad as the Bush Presidencies foibles? Hell no. But it was a problem and remains a problem today.
Meanwhile, Obama's greatest strength is the vision he offers of his Presidency and the fundamentals he claims he will run his government by. The role of the Presidency, for Obama, is providing a uniting force and positive image for America, in order to allow and enable the government as a whole to legislate based on the principles this country is based on. Many a candidate has played this card in my lifetime, but none has done it as poetically or as convincingly as Barack Obama. Being able to persuade, to have a vision of the office and gain the support of the people would be crucial to actually fulfilling this vision. It's a similar one to what Bill Clinton had in 1992, that he was ultimately unable to enact. Partly because maybe Americans weren't ready, and partly because he might not have been the man to do it.
Now we are ready. And I believe Barack's the man to do start us down that path. Hopefully, he'll get a chance to.
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Scroll down to my May 23rd post.
Yea I guess I was wrong about that one. At least about the Celtics being crappily run….maybe.
Trading for Ray Allen made very little sense to me at the time, because I thought that a Pierce/Jefferson/Allen corps was good for maybe a 5 seed in the East and unlikely to get by who I thought was going to be the top teams, the Bulls (oops) and the Cavs. But then the KG trade went down and…wow.
I don’t know if this was Danny’s master plan all along, and how much of it is just good fortune, the right guys becoming available at the right time. I wonder if he was working on Garnett during the Allen negotiations. The Allen move doesn’t make sense to me without the KG move, so if not, it’s just another example of incredible Boston sports luck that will hopefully keep going for another 8 months. But as Baseball Prospectus is fond of saying, luck is the residue of design.
Having gone to watch the Celts play the Bulls on Saturday, I was once again impressed by how well the team fits together in terms of how the players strengths complement each other. As stars, the combo of Pierce, Allen, and Garnett works because of their different offensive games, KG inside, Allen as a pure shooter, and Pierce as one most versatile scorers in the league. They are a matchup nightmare, because of Garnett and Pierce’s flexibility (both can handle being on the post or wing) and the passing ability of all three. Moreover, Rondo and Perkins are now relegated to roles in which they can excel, Perk as the recipient of layups off putbacks and other’s penetration, and Rondo as a quick PG who isn’t always asked to run the offense and can now hit 18 footers. It’s freaking awesome.
Defensively, KG’s presence inside, along with a not to be overlooked Perk allows Rondo and Pierce to step up the pressure on the outside. Being able to cheat on your man by overplaying the outside game because you have one of the best interior help defenders in the league is why the Spurs have played such great D the last 10 years, and why the Celtics are now destroying in defensive metrics.
So how far can this team go? Certainly the Finals are within reach. I know people are clamoring for a Sam Cassel addition (stay the fuck away) but if I were Danny, I wouldn’t be that concerned. Maybe add another big body for the Perk role because he still gets in foul trouble, and Pollard aint gonna cut it against Dwight Howard in May.
For now though, it’s definitely easy being green.
Wednesday, December 05, 2007
We Are Stll in Iraq
And I am responsible.
I must be, if we truly live in a free and democratic society. For the Constitution of the United States, begins with “We the People” and acts as the ultimate source of authority in our nation, of which I am a citizen. Thus the decisions of our politicians, elected by myself and my fellow citizens, are the responsibility of the people. Ideally, the majority will be able to make rational decisions that move the country forward in a positive manner.
Yet how much time have we allowed our country to be involved in a conflict that was clearly a mistake?
Our government is set up so that change occurs slowly over time, which is a good thing. Thus we are not totally at the mercy of the whims of the populace, which in this day and age of constant stimulation from various media sources, runs completely contrary to the rest of society. The re-election of Bush in 2004 was the death sentence for thousands of young American soldiers. It was an affirmation of his policies, even if Truth is something completely different. Truth is not subject to the electoral college, and the rationale behind going into Iraq (the WMDs!) does not hold up to Truth. Moreover the entire plan does not hold up to reason, it was foolhardy and wrong-headed. Democratization of the Middle East, which was the goal of this War in order to obtain easier access to a natural resource, combined with a little payback at a dictator was the ultimate goal of this administration. But hoping we could initiate a viral spread of democracy was a fairytale that ignored a basic fact about human society: The world is not a democratic place. Even in 2007, how many countries truly operate within a free, democratic system of government? Democracies can flourish, but they are so fragile and can be upset so easily; by a leader who wants increased power, by money and its persuasion, and worst of all by complacency, by refusing to listen to opposing and differing points of view to where those that air them are shouted down or mocked.
In fact, rather than spread Democracy to another country, the lasting legacy of the Bush Administration will be a weakening of Democracy and freedom within our own country. From reduced opportunity for social mobility to curtailing civil liberties to embracing exclusive rather than inclusive values, all of the actions on a domestic front have been about enhancing their personal power while reducing that of the individual or the other branches of government one of which represents the people more directly (Congress) and one of which is supposedly bound to enforce the principles and rights on which our Consitiution was written. It's a modus operendi that contradicts their international ambitions, and calls into question the very fabric of their administration. How can two such divergent tactics be part of any coherent moral plan other than to increase their power and wealth? What is the difference between a despot and elected leaders who act only to enhance their own power? Does the fact that they were elected make it ok? Hell no.
What we need is a reasoned reevaluation of American Democracy, before we go about trying to spread it to other places. Does this mean retreat from the international scene for a lull? Yes. I am not advocating isolationism...I'm advocating prioritization. The priority is Us. We the People, and our health, education, and opportunity. Through turning inward, and refreshing freedom and democracy here, we will be able to turn outward and play an important world in helping to bring freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world.
Wednesday, November 28, 2007
Recently, I've had discussions about media and its role in shaping behavior of the masses- specifically, whether mass-market culture promotes consumerism and environmentally unsustainable practices; and whether hip-hop culture promotes violence and racism. The flip side to the argument is whether these cultures are merely a byproduct of audience tastes. I've done my share of media-bashing, but I'm also pretty sure that they're only a small part of the puzzle. CNN is terrible, but if it is viewed by millions of Americans as the daily news, then who is to blame, CNN or Americans?
The short answer is both, but since that's a cop-out answer, the long answer is: what good is it to blame anybody? It's fashionable to blame hip-hop culture when gang violence rears its ugly head, and it's fashionable to blame the media when it spends 6 hours of coverage on Britney Spears or Drew Peterson. But blaming "the media" is akin to blaming nobody; it's like a blame version of Kitty Genovese- spread enough blame around and nobody is really going to take responsibility.
The link above is another symptom of this knee-jerk reaction to assign blame. It's a bill in Congress to do something about the Internet and its role in radicalizing terrorist groups. A lot of things that Congress does make no sense, and this is actually not the crux of the bill, but I wanted to point out that it is the only medium mentioned by name. As if terrorists don't use cell phones, television, paper, and even face-to-face communication. No, it's the internet that has helped spread terrorism.
The thing is, I won't even disagree with assertion. Just like I'm not going to dispute that video games (and violent movies and television) might cause violence in less stable members of the population, or that guns might cause violence. Sure, it might be true, but what are you going to do about it? Ban violent culture? Ban guns? Blame the internet? The point I'm trying to make is that these things are reality, and blaming them or trying to quell them is like the industrial revolution workers that destroyed the machinery that was "taking" their jobs. Things change in the world, and it's better to work with them than it is to fight against the inevitable. So it makes sense to blame the Internet. To the creators of this bill, cell phones, television, and talking are part of reality for them. They've accepted their place in the world, but the Internet just doesn't make sense to them.
I'm sure that's an oversimplification, but I'm painting with a broad brush. Blaming the media is fashionable, I'm sure, because it's an unprovable assertion. But what if we really could understand the causes and effects of the media? If we really knew why Britney Spears gets so much airtime, maybe we can change the rules of the game so that it isn't such a profitable combination to air her 24/7. Or maybe we would just learn to accept that Britney Spears is an absolutely compelling human interest story, that violent video games are fun, and that hip hop is violent and racist because it's just more awesome that way.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
Thursday, May 17, 2007
MANNNN THATS SOME BULLLLLSHITT
The Suns should have won last night, except they couldn't because when they needed to score in the 4th quarter, they had to run pick and rolls with Kurt Thomas instead of Amare or Diaw. This enabled Duncan to cheat of Thomas cutting off Nash's penetration. As usual, I defer to Simmons when describing the NBA; the Spurs have the edge on the Suns right now because 1) The NBA is retarded (suspensions etc.) and 2) Duncan is amazing. The Spurs are not a great team, they execute very well and put their players in positions where they can succeed. But there entire defensive scheme (pressuring the ball up top) is based on the fact that Duncan will save their ass if they get beat on dribble penetration. Which he did last time. Every freaking time.
Which is why the loss of Amare hurt so much. Amare is a young stud who actually has the ability to take it the rim with Duncan there and finish. Which is what he did twice in the last minute of game 4, to put the Suns on top. While everyone was focusing on Nash's passes, that was the real key to victory for the Suns. It's also why they still have a chance in Game 6.
On the suspension, it's made clear that David Stern has lost his ability to be an effective executive. Giving someone authoritarian control over a business enterprise works, until the power foes to said person's head and he/she starts making bad decisions that aren't questioned by outside sources because everyone is afraid of jeapordizing their own position. The first sign of this is when Stern lengthened first round series from 5 games to 7 in the middle of the season in 03 because the Lakers were in danger of getting a 5 seed and he wanted to ensure that they made it out of the first round. Changing a rule in the middle of the season? Who does that?
Of course Stern couldn't change this rule in the middle of the season because that would make him look incompetent. Which is more important than the integrity of the game of course.
Or not. I've written on the Smoking Section about the connection between basketball and hip-hop in the public eye, as two of the main avenues whereby young black males are famous and get exposure. What I wrote there, is that while elements of hip-hop exploit the "gangster" image, the NBA patronizes their players and fans. Everything done by the NBA in the last ten years has been aimed at taming this image, even if it's impossible, so that they can sell young black males to upper middle class white people.
What the NBA needs is an executive who can balance the positives of hip-hop culture, the style and expressiveness, with the corporate interests tied into the game, and market the product to youth. Jay-Z for NBA commissioner?
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Feeding the Monster Bullshit
While Mnookin does have some interesting insights on the Red Sox, this is one of the worst pieces of non-fiction I have read about the Sox. As a non-fiction writer, the goal should be to take a broad view, understanding that in profiling something as large as an organization, there are going to be different individual views as to how things happened. In something as that garners as much media coverage, opinionizing, and rumor-mongering as the Red Sox, this is definitely going to be the case.
Unfortunately, this "insider's" perspective reads as a PR piece put out by Red Sox brass. Mnookin, rewards ownership for the amount of access given to him by taking their line in every single major conflict. His lack of reporting skill is especially evident in his inability to get the player's side of the story. Granted, getting interviews with Manny Ramirez can be a challenge, but answering such a challenge is necessary if you are going to write about the man.
Mnookin consistently labels the players as "greedy," consistently pointing out the large salaries they make while referencing their complaints in order to make them look spoiled. No mention then, of the penny-pinching done by ownership, rather according to how Mnookin portrays it, the Red Sox are struggling to make money what with revenue sharing etc. (Mnookin places the caveat that revenues from NESN arent counted, total garbage because the Sox moved all their games to NESN after buying the network, cable packages then added NESN to extended basic and charged ALL New England consumers extra, whether they are Red Sox fans or not.) Who does he think he's fooling? The Sox have by far the most expensive tickets and fuck their fans over for money in a ton of ways. Don't look to me for pity.
Worse then this portrayal however is the misrepresentation of truth. Two examples come to mind.
The first is Mnookin calling out Dan Shaugnessy for glossing over the Red Sox racist history in his book "The Curse of the Bambino." The Shank is a total putz, and the city will be a better place when he retires, but I've got to back him on this one. I've read the book and his account of the Jackie Robinson tryout (with the famous "get these niggers off the field," from the owners box) the Willie Mays tryout, the racism of Pinky Higgins, and the de facto limit on minorities through the 80s are all covered in Dan's book. He even floats a theory that there is a twin curse of Ruth and Robinson, tying Boston's futility to their racist attitudes. Mnookin's statement is slanderous.
A second comes in backing the Red Sox decisions and buying the party line as truth. Mnookin claims that, in signing David Wells and Matt Clement over Derek Lowe and Pedro Martinez, the Sox managed to get a better combination of pitchers for 8 million dollars less. Of course at the end of 2005, Pedro and Lowe had a combined VORP of 86 while Clement and Wells were at 50. Whoops.
The 2004 Red Sox were a great team both as the game of baseball and in terms of the confluence of personalities. Shame that out of such a team, no one has written a definitive profile. Skip Mnookin's for sure, Johnny Damon's bio will probably provide more level-headed insight
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Ok I was just about to write a quick update on the NBA playoffs, but while I was waiting for the Bulls-Pistons games to start, I noticed something horrendous.
On one of the ubiquitous, much-maligned “Our Country” Cougar Melloncamp Chevy commercials, they pan between shots of white males working on farms. In addition to the acknowledged racism of these adds, the next of which will feature a group of guys standing in white hoods, two yokels are listening to the radio while bailing hay. Over the radio we hear, “The war in
Um What the fuck are you thinking GM? I assume this is reference to the first Iraq War, a reminder of a time when you could fight wars without land power or casualties. If it’s a reference to the current
Saturday, May 12, 2007
Baseball has been bery bery good to me
And it has. In the last three years I have seen my Red Sox finally break through to win the title and my fantasy baseball team win the inaugural Parade of Horribles championship. Can life be any better?
Yes, if I can somehow manage a way to have both happen in one season. 2007 looks like it could be that year.
First of all, the Red Sox have started hot. I mean super hot. The pitching looks excellent; two seasoned vets in Schilling/Wake, two young studs in Dice-K and Beckett have combined to lead us to the best ERA in the majors. The bullpen has also been solid, behind Papelbon and Okajima.
The offense looks like it will be at worst good, at best near the tops in the league although still not fucking with the 03 and 04 juggernauts. The Hall of Fame 3-4 has never been underappreciated from this corner and will ensure nothing less than above average. Greatness depends on the ability of Crisp, KY, Drew, and
Of course one of those 4 is not J.D. Drew, who was also supposed to play a vital role on B&B Enterprises (my fantasy team.) Currently his SLG stands at .368 making him one of four players on my team to have a slugging percentage within 50 points of their on base. Not good.
I still think I can win because there will be regression in terms of home runs for my team, which will lift me in the three categories I am trailing horribly in (runs, home runs, and slugging.) The question is, will current leader (and part-time contributor to YTE, David) experience a similar correction in pitching? Who can pull off the trade that puts them over the top?
Tuesday, March 20, 2007
The World 3-20
Quick hit update before I try to keep shit moving with a longer piece on some awesomeness later in the week. There are three big sporting events going on in the world right now, the Cricket World Cup, the NCAA tourney and the Parade of Horribles Fantasy Baseball League, which everyone needs to keep updated with.
In cricket, the huge story has been the absolute destruction of everything Pakistan; not only did their team lose to Ireland meaning they don’t make it to the Super 8s, but the night after this historic loss their coach was found dead in his hotel room. People are afraid to speculate whether this was natural or shady for obvious reasons, but it’s put quite the damper on the whole tournament. Unfortunate, since the hosts (Windies,) have played well and moved on to the next round. The other Big Team that is threatened with missing the next round is
As for the tourney, I filled out three brackets, all with different outcomes, so hopefully one of them will end up right. I have
As for the PoH, we submitted our keepers this week; I chose to keep Ryan Zimmerman and
As for the rest of the world, we seem to be on the brink of a long hot summer, where things in
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
Sports Sports Sports Sports
Second I went to the Bulls-Celtics game, where I went in about thirty seconds from paying 20 dollars for standing room seats to getting comped to Google’s luxury suite. After recovering from the giddiness of free beer and sandwiches, I came away with the following observations about the teams in question.
The Celtics have some pieces; Pierce is still Pierce albeit maybe giving 80 percent (fine by me, this year is worthless and he is back from injury,) Al is a crucial frontline piece going forward, Delonte has some serious off the bench scoring potential…
Other than that though: Gerald Green is Kedrick Brown part 2, (someone who can jump and nothing else,) Rondo can beat anyone off the dribble but can’t play PG, Perkins got destroyed on the boards, Telfair is a joke, Scalabrine would be a great tenth man on a good team, etc. etc.
As much as the world’s most visible Celtics’ fan (Bill Simmons,) fiends over Durant in every column he writes, I am here to say that if I had the first pick, I’d draft Oden. It’s about need right now, and Tyrus Thomas and Ben Wallace DESTROYED us on the boards and inside. We don’t need another scorer, even if Durant is a once in a life time offensive player, Oden could be a once in a lifetime defensive player. In the Big Ten Championship, Wisconsin was afraid to come within ten feet of the basket.
As for the Bulls, they have as good a chance as anyone to emerge from the East. The key to their success will be Tyrus Thomas; it’s a good thing that they didn’t trade him for Gasol since he’ll be a better player in two years. Regardless with Deng, Hinrich, and Gordon in the back court and Big Ben in the middle, they have the pieces.
Of course they’ll still probably get killed in the Finals. Sorry Stu.
Monday, March 05, 2007
Know Your History
Remember ten years ago? You probably were at entering your peak pimple/masturbation years, thinking about trying out that “marijuana,” thing, and lying about how much sex you had. But in between managing your hormones, you were in high school. And if you were like me, you were taking European history, learning about white rich men the world over.
Anyways I want you to dig deep into your memory banks and see if you can’t recall one of history’s most dire times: The 30 Years War. Taking place between 1618 and 1648, it’s generally regarded as one of the deadliest periods in human history. (In “
Why am I bringing this up? Because, as this blog says, you have to know your history, or you are doomed to repeat mistakes that have already been made. And I think that the lessons of the 30 Years War can teach us about what we are dealing with in the present day
The violence taking place in Iraq and Afghanistan is due to two factors: anger about control over the Middle East by larger outside states (especially among previous groups who used to have power,) and underlying tensions between Shias and Sunnis that have been inadvertently brought to the forefront of geopolitical interactions by the U.S’ terrible foreign policy of the last six years. The
The invasion of
What we know now is that idea was a pipe dream; instead the radical groups, realizing that an invaded
On a larger scale, the destabilization of
Destabilization within the region and fear of the rival risks escalation to a scenario similar to that in
Ok so that would be terrible, but not too terrible right? Certainly not as bad as the 30 Years War.
The problem is that, the 30 Years War took 30 Years. And we are in year four of this conflict. Countries such as
Still, my point is that all wars don’t happen like World War II, where there was a defined threat we could see coming down the road and prepare for. Sometimes, they are more complicated and progressive; what was intended to be a quick mission or quick land grab turns into a mess involving more actors than you originally intended. It’s a different kind of war, the only similarity is the death.
I think that the