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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Amazon

I don't normally write about trading stocks, even though I spend far more time on that than I do writing this blog. But, for some reason I'm in the mood to do so today.

I've been doing a fair amount of after-hours trading recently. Companies report their quarterly earnings when the stock markets are closed, but you can make a quick judgment as to whether a stock has overreacted or underreacted to a report in the after market, and trade accordingly.

One nice thing about after-hours trading is that the algorithm-driven buy or sell programs aren't in operation then, so you don't get as many wild moves that don't make sense.

Today, after the official 4PM market close, both Apple and Facebook reported. Facebook had a good report, easily beating expectations, and the stock traded up two to three points.

Apple, chastened after their previous lackluster earnings report, did everything they could to make their investors happy. Besides easily beating earnings expectations, they increased their stock buyback program, increased their dividend, and announced an upcoming 7-for-1 stock split. Sure enough, Apple stock rocketed up from 524 to 566 in the aftermarket.

Apple moved too fast for me, but I was able to flip some Facebook -- which I thought had initially underreacted -- for a small profit, buying at 4:10PM and selling shortly after 5PM.

In any case, both reports bode well for tomorrow's market. Both stocks are bellwethers, and if both trade up strongly, it's hard not to see the entire market rallying in sympathy.

Amazon reports after tomorrow's close. Amazon has always traded at an astronomical price-earnings ratio, simply because its earnings are so low. (Focusing on profitability and increasing their margins might result in loss of future market share.) For that reason, I've always stayed away from it, since I'm suspicious of stocks whose valuations follow no traditional metric.

Amazon, too, got rocked after their last quarterly report, and one would have to think they are somewhat chastened as well. Amazon, given its vast revenues, would seem to have more wiggle room than most to massage their earnings. (It's a lot easier to fudge your bottom line than your top line.) And after that 50 point dive three months ago, they certainly have motivation to do so.

Many of the high flyers got hit pretty hard in the five or six weeks leading up to last week, with some of them taking 25% haircuts. But in the past ten days some of them have recovered nicely. Amazon has not, and judging by its distance from its yearly high, has some room to move.

So, rather than chasing Apple, after today's close I bought some AMZN instead. I'll know shortly after tomorrow's close whether that was a good bet.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

"An open letter to Chelsea Clinton's unborn child"

Funny article in the NY Post by Kyle Smith about the nature of celebrity and politics in general and the nature of the Clintons in particular.

Unanswered questions Part VII

More mugshots and descriptions of crimes from the Huffpost, with my comments in italics.


Kola J. McGrathKola J. McGrath

Kola J. McGrath was arrested for sneaking into her boyfriend's apartment complex by hiding in a small pink suitcase in Portland, Ore. The police searched the apartment of Curtis T. Lowe after being informed that a man had kidnapped a woman, put her in a suitcase, and taken her into the building. They found McGrath hiding in a closet.

Why would McGrath have to sneak into her boyfriend's apartment in the first place? She certainly looks old enough to be carrying on a consensual relationship, unless the meth she's taken (note the sunken features) has aged her prematurely. And wouldn't it get awfully claustrophobic inside a suitcase?



Pocohontas

Luerissie Ashley Rose -- who is also a stripper called Pocohontas -- was arrested in February after she allegedly lured a man to his death and shot another in two robberies in Houston.

"Pocohontas" is cute enough to be a stripper, but did whoever gave her that name actually think customers would believe she was Native American? Didn't the real Pocohontas live in Virginia? Did Luerissie start to identify with Pocohontas and feel regretful for having originally saved John Smith?



Clyde Hobbs

Clyde Hobbs was arrested in May, 2012 for allegedly calling 911 at least 17 times -- to talk dirty to operators. He'd been arrested several times in the past for the same crime. When cops arrived to collar him, Hobbs asked, "Are you here to arrest me again?"

How much more put off would those 911 operators have been had they known what Mr. Hobbs looked like? Doesn't Mr. Hobbs appear more angry than horny? Mr. Hobbs looks like a man who enjoys his beverages; are there any honest liquor companies out there who would consider using him in their promotional campaigns? Was Mr. Hobbs asking that question rhetorically, or was he genuinely baffled as to why the police were there? 



Aaron Latham

Latham, 22, allegedly got naked, stole a man's truck and then ran it into the front of a home at 50 mph.

Which drugs did he ingest beforehand and how much of them did he take? How out of your mind do you have to be to do that? Why do certain drugs so often make guys want to get naked, even when they have no one to have sex with?



Michael Baker

Michael Baker was arrested after posting a Facebook photo of himself stealing gas from a police car in Jenkins, Ky.

Did Baker show those cops or what?! Did Baker believe that one's Facebook page is viewable only by one's friends? At what age do you suppose Baker will grow up?



Ray Woods

Ray Woods allegedly tied 89 bags of heroin and cocaine to his penis. When cops found him out, he reportedly urinated all over himself.

If Ray hadn't been black, wouldn't he only have had space for around 60 or so bags? Wouldn't most self-respecting heroin dealers not piss themselves when caught? Or was that simply an attempt to prevent the police from examining those bags? 



Keith Fehr

Keith Fehr is accused of wearing a black dress and exposing himself to children at a park in Illinois.

Very few transvestites are flashers, and very few flashers are transvestites; what psychological twist accounts for Mr. Fehr's rare combination of perversions? Do you like the goatee-and-dress look Mr. Fehr is sporting above? Doesn't he look more like a serial killer than anything else? 



William Bliss

William Bliss was arrested in March, 2012 after claiming four men made him carry a nuclear bomb -- while he was naked and drunk in the middle of an Iowa City street.

Has the Department of Homeland Security been notified? And how can al Qaeda be so dumb as to pick a naked man to be their nuclear suicide bomber? What did the police do with the bomb they confiscated?



Christina Lopez

Salem police say surveillance video shows Christina Lopez watched her 17-year-old (underage) daughter dance at Presley's Playhouse Cabaret, a strip club in Oregon.

Did Lopez ask her daughter for a lap dance? Did she tip her? Aren't there porn films with similar plot lines?

Monday, April 21, 2014

Philomena

Rented Philomena last night. It was as good as advertised. The (somewhat) true story was affecting, the writing was good, and the acting by both Steve Coogan and Judi Dench was pitch perfect.

It is annoying the movie to know that this slap in the face of the Catholic Church by Harvey Weinstein will go unanswered. (All religions -- including Catholicism -- have been guilty of many sins, but the one way flow of propaganda coming out of Hollywood gets tiresome.)

That aside, the movie was quite good. I recommend it.

My son had a different take. He groaned a couple times during the movie, and seemed distracted by his iPhone. Towards the end, he said, "This movie would be so much better if the Predator would appear in those trees and attack those people."

I replied, "Come on, you have to admit, this is pretty moving."

He retorted, "Yeah, it's moving alright. It's moving my eyelids from the up position to the down position."

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Unanswered questions Part VI

In January of 2012 this blog had a series of posts based on the Huffpost's collection of mugshots of dumb criminals. I suggested that the crimes raised more questions than they answered. Here are parts II, III, IV, and V of that series.

The Huffpost has since added more mugshots to their collection. The pictures and descriptions of the crimes are theirs; the questions below in italics are mine.


Darron Lynn Koenig

Koenig was accused in February, 2013 of throwing hammers at Texas construction workers and then baracading himself inside his residence when police arrived to arrest him.

Does Mr. Koenig think that hairstyle is flattering? Does he think the centipede tattooed on his chest is sexy? Who should be more embarrassed, Mr. Koenig for his appearance, or the Huffpost writers for not knowing how to spell "barricading?"



Garrett Michael Hoover

Hoover was arrested for disorderly conduct in South Carolina on November 16, 2012. But, more importantly, he's "down to boink."

Does Mr. Hoover feel that girls will be more forthcoming with their favors if he advertises his attitude? How high was he when he had that written on his face? If that is a permanent tattoo (it looks more like the work of a Magic Marker), how will it affect his future job prospects?



Arthur Brundage

Police in Syracuse, N.Y., say Arthur Brundage robbed a bank and then came back to claim he was shortchanged on the loot.

Given his attitude toward the bank and the expression on his face, do you think Mr. Brundage is the kind of easy-going guy who's fun to hang out with? Think Mr. Brundage's fellow inmates will make fun of him? 

Then again, what if the teller told him the bag was full of tens and twenties when it was only filled with ones and fives? Should he not feel cheated? First the mortgage crisis, now this; should we not all be on our guard against those heartless banks? 



Raymond Garcia

Garcia, 45, was arrested after cops saw him fighting a street sign.

From the looks of Mr. Garcia, the street sign throws a pretty mean punch; was it arrested as well? Was it ever resolved who started the fight?



John Caruso

John Caruso is accused of squirting dish soap in his girlfriend's mouth in an attempt to stop her from cursing.

That was actually the traditional punishment for children who used foul language; why has it now been criminalized? Would Mr. Caruso have been arrested had he just pulled his girlfriend's pants down and spanked her? Does his girlfriend still swear?



Chad William Forber

Forber, 41, has been charged with possession of methamphetamine, resisting or obstructing a peace officer and possession of drug paraphernalia, stemming from an incident where he was found naked in public covered in nothing but Crisco.

Forber looks at least ten years older than his age; is that more a function of his meth habit or of using Crisco rather than Oil of Olay to keep his skin young? 



Joyce Coffey

Joyce Coffey was arrested four times in 26 hours for blasting the AC/DC song "Highway to Hell" and other loud music from her home and for throwing a frying pan.

Joyce doesn't look the violent type; think she might have been on meth? Meth seems to give even mousy middle-aged housewives the outlook and temperament of the 22-year-old Mike Tyson; does that not make it sound incredibly appealing? Then again, doesn't use of the drug inevitably lead one down the highway to hell?


Eric Butkiewicz

Eric Butkiewicz

Patriotically-adorned Butkiewicz, 31, was arrested in the wee hours of the morning after Independence Day for allegedly dealing drugs at Miami's posh Fontainebleu Hotel.

Is patriotism not the last bastion of the scoundrel? Isn't it disgusting how some people think that if they wrap themselves in the flag they can get away with anything? Or did Mr. Butkiewicz just have his face painted because he was tired of having people tell him he looked like Channing Tatum?



Lindsay Medd Stevens

Stevens was arrested by police in Knoxville, Tenn., for indecent exposure after his neighbor saw him cutting a tree down -- while completely in the buff. Knox County sheriff's deputy Scott Ritch told WATE-TV that he saw Stevens standing completely nude in his yard cutting a tree, only to run inside the house when he saw the officer.

Haven't chainsaws been known to cut off appendages? And given the condition of Mr. Steven's forehead, shouldn't he be worried about sun damage to the rest of his body?



Robert Gernot

Gernot was accused of threatening his neighbor by saying, "When I get done taking a s--t, I'm gonna kick your f---ing a--!"

Did Mr. Gernot get in a better mood after he was no longer constipated? Does an angry disposition turn one's hair prematurely white? 



Vladimir Mishkov

Mishkov is accused of masturbating in front of a jail employee on his way to court to face a previous flashing charge.

His first name indicates Mr. Mishkov might be a recent immigrant; has anyone considered that his behavior is merely a cultural difference? Aren't we supposed to pride ourselves on our multiculturalism?

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Chechens

Most Americans first became vaguely aware of Chechens as the combative people in the Caucasus who seemed to be constantly at odds with the Russians.

After the Boston Marathon bombing, American awareness of Chechens and their national character became more acute.

With the publicity attendant on the first anniversary of that bombing, Chechens are again in the news.  This recent video of a group of Chechens capturing an escaped brown bear might lend some additional insight into their character. The bear's not quite full grown, but still….it's not exactly how Americans would do it.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sprinter names 2014

Just took a look at the yearly high school track rankings, and sure enough, among the top-ranked 100 meter dash runners there are a lot of creative given names.

A few of my favorites among the men:

Isak Washington. His parents must have taken one of those "Learning by Phonics" courses.

Aunrie Davis. His parents probably heard the French name "Henri" and thought it sounded classy.

Jahrod Henderson. Is "Jared" not distinctive enough?

Gamarquis Girdy. His parents must have liked the name "Marquis," but also wanted alliteration.

Devarius Turner. The various what?

Orion Salters. He's reaching for the stars.

Cravon Gillespie. Better that than Craven. Or Cravin'.

Jamire Jordan, JeMaun Charles. Why does JeMaun -- but not Jamire -- capitalize the "M"?

Deltron Hopkins. Sounds vaguely like a new technical gizmo.

Among the women:

Jazmen Bunch. It's undoubtedly meant to be a variation of Jasmine, but it also sounds a bit as if her parents named her after Duke Ellington, Count Basie, and Dizzy Gillespie, all at once.

I'Shunique Hamilton. I is unique?

Aminat Iriafen. Am I not good enough?

Tiffani Johnson. "Tiffany" isn't trashy enough?

Diamond Spaulding. She's some girl's best friend.

Essance Sample. You know how when you go by those perfume counters they give you a free spray?

Rhesa Foster. Is a rhesa a female rhesus?

Glorilisha Carter. Were her parents trying to evoke glory or a gorilla or something delicious? Or all three?

Tope Williams. From Dictionary.com: To drink alcoholic liquor habitually and to excess.

Chanell O'Conner. Ms. O'Conner is ranked #72, not #5.

Deja Young. Where have I heard that name before?

Akita Cook. Her parents also considered Malamute, Husky, and Shih Tzu.

Labria King. Thank goodness for that "r."

Chassity Love. Her name is not quite an oxymoron.

Monday, April 14, 2014

"Out of the Furnace"

My son and I saw Out of the Furnace this past weekend. It was slow-moving, heavy-handed, and predictable, your basic revenge film. Christian Bale and Woody Harrelson did their usual good jobs, but there wasn't much they could do with the script.

The movie also featured Casey Affleck as a veteran of Iraq around whose self-destructiveness much of the plot revolved:


My son, an Afghanistan vet, was utterly disgusted by the portrayal. He said, "The Hollywood types who made this movie have obviously never hung out with real vets. First of all, no Army guy would ever cover himself in Army tattoos like that. The guys I knew might get one Army tattoo at most; but the whole point of tattoos is to show your individuality and that you're badass, not that you're part of a large organization.

"Secondly, no self-respecting vet would wear the lower half of his ACU's [Army combat uniform] to engage in a bare knuckle prize fight.

"And finally, I guess they had to evoke every cliche in the war book, like how he saw a dying child, and how terrible it was for him to see body parts. And then he has to ham it up and scream histrionically at his brother so we can feel his anguish.

"What an annoying asswipe. I hope he [the character in the movie] dies."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mini-Me

I was looking at "Traffic sources" in the Statistics section of my blog and saw that I'd gotten a number of referrals from a blog called Coming Out of The Crazy Closet. When I looked at the blog, it turned out that its proprietor, one Connie Stevy, had copied some of my posts word for word without giving me credit. The reason I had gotten those referrals was that in a few of the posts she copied I had inserted links to previous posts of mine.

In fact, 26 of Stevy's last 51 posts (including 4 of her last 5) are simply direct lifts from this blog. (Click on the above link, you can see for yourself.) It's flattering in a way, but it's also infuriating. It's nice to be reproduced or linked elsewhere, but this is the first time I know of where someone has simply tried to pass my words off as her own.

She seemed to favor the prison pen pal posts and various posts on Obama, along with a smattering of others. When she's not lifting my material, she mostly posts about interior decoration; I have no idea whether those posts are original or not. In a couple of posts she references and posts pictures of herself; she's quite pretty -- if those are actually photographs of her.

I was going to write the following comment on her blog, "Love your blog -- it's brilliant! Where do you get all your ideas?" But she didn't set her blog up to allow for comments.

There are also no dates on the blog (other than months without years). The last month listed is December, and her latest posts are mostly lifted from December 2012 on my blog, so it seems she's stopped "writing."

If she starts another blog, she really ought to title it, Coming Out of The Plagiarism Closet.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The sports article I want to see

I find that as a follower of competitive swimming I'm just about (well, almost) as much a fan of women's swimming as men's. It's the same sport, just with a different set of standards. I think this is true of most hard-core track fans as well: they follow the women almost as closely as the men. Most tennis fans seem to follow the women about as closely as the men as well.

Somehow, the same dynamic doesn't exist with basketball; I don't know a single male fan who follows the WNBA. And the average baseball junkie knows next to nothing about women's softball.

But I enjoy following women's swimming; I just judge the performances by a different yardstick.

Nonetheless, whenever I read a politicized article -- the kind you find in the NY Times sports section -- about how women are making breakthroughs in previously male domains, or about how social barriers are being broken down so that women can compete in NASCAR, or about pay inequity between male and female golfers, it rubs me the wrong way.

Most professional sports are run pretty much according to market principles. If more people go -- or tune in -- to watch them, there will be more revenues, and thus more money for the athletes. (This isn't a perfect correlation, but it's generally true.)

The reason some women's sports don't pull in the same kind of audiences is simple: they're just not as good athletes. If you want to see the fastest runner on the planet, you watch Usain Bolt, not Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce. If you want to see a 100 mile-per-hour pitch, you tune into major league baseball, not women's softball. And so on.

That the NY Times is always trying to imply that it's only piggish males who hold women back from achieving their full athletic glory makes me wants to see an article which spells out gender differences in all their gory detail.

The following is adapted from the Wikipedia summary of swimmer Missy Franklin's accomplishments
at the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona (italics mine):


At the 2013 World Championships in Barcelona, Missy Franklin won six gold medals, setting a new record for the most golds won by a female swimmer at a single edition of the meet. Frankliln's three individual golds came in the 100 and 200 meter backstrokes and 200 meter freestyle.

In her first individual event, held on the third day of the pool competition, the 100 meter backstroke, Franklin won gold in a time of 58.42. The men's event was won by American Matt Grevers in 52.93. (It took a 54.72 just to make it into the men's semi-finals.)

On the fourth day, in the 200 meter freestyle, Franklin won her second individual gold in a personal best time of 1:54.81. The men's event was won by Yannick Agnel in 1:44.20. According to Swimming World's conversion charts, Franklin's 1:54.81 equates to a 200 yard freestyle in 1:41.49, which might even win the boys' state high school championship in a few places like Wyoming and Alaska.

On the seventh day, Franklin successfully defended her title in the 200 meter backstroke, winning with a time of 2:04.76 and setting a new championship record. The men's title was won by Ryan Lochte in 1:53.79; this means that had they raced head to head, he would have beaten Franklin by roughly ten body lengths. 

Franklin's primary advantage as a female swimmer is her size: she is 6'1", with large hands and feet. But even though she is basically man-sized, her times show that the women have a long way to go before they catch up to the men.


(I emphasize: it is only the Times and their ilk who make me want to see such an article.)

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

William Shatner

The other day my son pointed out a video of William Shatner "singing" (speaking) the words to Elton John's Rocket Man, from 1978. (Shatner's part starts about 50 seconds into the video.)

My son said, "Can you imagine what a tool this guy is, to speak the song this way, thinking he's being really cool?"

Shatner, wearing a tuxedo and smoking a cigarette, exudes an air of self-importance and egotism so strong it has to be seen to be believed.

My son continued, "You should hear his rendition of Mr. Tambourine Man, where he does this incredibly hammy, anguished, Shakespearian interpretation. It's really painful to watch."

My son watched it with me anyway, and couldn't stop giggling the entire time.

The videos make one think of Galaxy Quest, the excellent 1999 comedy which spoofed Shatner's legendary ego and referenced his castmates' utter contempt for him.

The weird thing is, it wasn't just William Shatner who thought his "singing" would be a success. His agent undoubtedly told him it was a good idea and would sell. A band agreed to back him up. A producer produced it. A record company marketed it. And distributors sold it.

It was mass insanity.

You have to wonder what the musical types who were involved in this production thought as they made it. How many of them secretly snickered, or at the very least, had to hide their disgust at Shatner's massacre of perfectly good songs?

Monday, April 7, 2014

Bigotry

I got the following comment yesterday on the Gay Men post:

Having looked at a number of your posts, John, it seems to me that you are very interested in men, their bodies, and their sexuality. Over and above your clear bigotry toward gay folk exhibited in this post, I seen a strong desire on your part to become more involved in the gay world. I encourage you to stop hiding your desires and just be the person you truly want to be. 

The comment is interesting on two levels. First, the commenter is almost undoubtedly a gay guy, yet the most scathing insult he could come up with was to accuse me of being gay.

And second was his use of the word "bigotry." If you take a look at the original post, What I did was describe the atmosphere at a Club Med as busloads of gay guys arrived and categorize the different types I observed. (They did come in several distinct flavors.)

Merriam-Webster.com gives the following definition of "bigot:"

: a person who strongly and unfairly dislikes other people, ideas, etc. : a bigoted person; especially : a person who hates or refuses to accept the members of a particular group (such as a racial or religious group)

Does that make me a bigot? I certainly don't hate gays, or refuse to accept them as part of society; and I had gay friends long before the movement gained mainstream acceptance. I simply described a group of guys the way they were. I've always had an interest in how people differ

Why is a simple statement of facts called bigotry these days?

It seems to me that to show true bigotry, or prejudice, would be something more along the lines of me meeting a really tough guy who happens to be gay, and saying, oh no, he couldn't be tough, he's gay! That would be prejudice -- I would have pre-judged him based on his sexuality. But if I, say, pointed out that after climbing Mt. Everest without an oxygen tank he then spent a lot of time in gay bars, I would merely be pointing out a fact.

Are the facts themselves bigoted?

It's similar to today's conversation on race. It used to be that racism referred to judging a person based on his race. Todays definition has expanded to judging a race by its people, i.e., noticing differences. To do the former is unfair, but to not do the latter is simply ostrich-like. But today, if you merely point out a statistic on racial variations on IQ or crime, you are a racist.

It seems to me that most everybody observes human differences, but nobody feels free to comment on them, even when they impinge on public policy.

I seem to be one of the few people rude enough to admit to noticing such differences.

I will not admit, however, to what the commenter accused me of.

Political movements as personality disorders

The essence of narcissistic personality disorder is that people who have it can never admit they're wrong, and can never take blame. No matter how badly they screw up, narcissists will never own up to mistakes: it's always someone else's fault. We've all known people like this.

People who will never admit they're wrong can never learn from their mistakes, and as a result are rarely right.

When you have an entire political ideology based on the inability to take blame and a commensurate need to blame others, you can be sure that ideology is deluded.

The essence of feminism is blaming others -- i.e., men -- for all of women's problems. Most women don't subscribe to this type of thinking. But if you're the type who doesn't like to ever admit fault, it's an attractive belief system.

Don't earn as much as you'd like? It's men's fault.

Don't like the fact that you can't have a full time career and also be a full time mother? It's men's fault.

Don't like the fact that the fireman's test requires one to be able to lift a 160 pound dummy and carry it across a room? It's men's fault.

Feel worthless? It's the fault of our patriarchal society that values men more.

Aren't considered pretty? Men need to be reprogrammed.

Men can be used as scapegoats for everything.

Feminism is essentially a narcissistic political movement. This is not to say that there is no truth to anything the feminists say. But for the most part, feminists are the types who must lay blame for their own lack of accomplishment, or personal issues, or faults, elsewhere.

When you think about it, most liberal thought runs along these lines: it's rich people's fault that the poor have less money. It's white people's fault that black people don't test well. It's the fault of the Group of Eight that Third World countries remain less developed.

Feminism, like most of liberalism, is just narcissism writ large.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Gun-free zones

All big Army bases  -- like Ft. Hood -- might as well post those signs which announce "Gun-free zone." Which pretty much translates as, "Shoot at will; we will not resist."

For someone bent on mayhem, can there possibly be a more open invitation? 

Many are now suggesting that the Army reconsider its no-gun policy on bases, and that a percentage of military personnel on base be allowed to carry in order to avert another mass killing like the ones perpetrated by Ivan Lopez and Nidal Hasan. 

Has there ever been a more self-defeating policy? Does anyone think that some crazed killer is going to see a ""Gun-free zone" sign and think, "Oops, I guess I better carry out my mass shooting somewhere else -- it would actually be illegal here."

How could they possibly be more inviting? A few possibilities:

Only nice people allowed on premises!

We promise not to shoot back. 

Defenseless wishful thinkers area

Victims inside!

C'mon in! We're unarmed and un-dangerous!

The sign basically paraphrases the NRA's "If guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns."

If the anti-gun crowd did have their way and private ownership of guns was banned, how would people react? I imagine suburban homeowners would be disgruntled, and complain, but most would probably end up turning in their guns.

But would the criminals turn in their guns? Hmm…..here's how the gun control crowd evidently expects them to react: 

The Mafia: "We better turn our Uzis in. They're against the law now." 

The Russian Mafia: "No more Uzis for us. It's back to the good old days of just knives and garrotes." 

And the Crips and Bloods would sigh, "West Side Story, here we come -- we're just going to have to have our rumbles with chains and switchblades from here on."

So….with law-abiding people unarmed, and criminals armed, will that make for a better society? Just ask the folks at Ft. Hood.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Questions about the college players' union

A recent article pointed out that the impetus behind the new college players' union is coming from the United Steelworkers Union, which funded the case. And the NLRB -- the same organization which tried to prevent Boeing from opening up a new plant in South Carolina -- passed judgment. Evidently the unions see a chance to collect more dues.

The rationale is that colleges make millions off their football programs, both in TV revenue and alumni donations, but the athletes themselves get no compensation beyond their scholarships.

One wonders exactly how this will work. Let's say these student/athletes end up being paid a couple hundred thousand a year: how much resentment would this engender among the other students? Would they still root for their college team?

Unionization certainly puts into clear relief that certain "students" are attending college mostly to play ball. That big time college football and basketball players are not serious students is hardly a secret, but how much more scrutiny will their farcical academic credentials withstand before serious questions start being asked about whether this situation should be allowed to continue?

The vast majority of colleges will doubtless harrumph and insist they are serious educational institutions, not factories for future pro athletes. (Does any academic ever pass up a chance to sniff at a lesser college?)

The essential power of a union lies in its ability to call a strike. How exactly would that work for a college football team? They would seem to lack leverage, since their only alternative is the pros, which most of them aren't good enough for. What kind of bargaining position does that give these unions?

There are plenty of students who played high school ball but weren't good enough to make their college teams who'd jump at the chance to take the place of the striking players. Would these "scabs" be ostracized by the first string players? Would they have to cross picket lines to attend practice?

What if one of these second string teams ended up playing in a big game? It would probably end up getting more publicity -- and possibly even paying fans -- than a normal game. It's not hard to figure out whom the average American fan would be rooting for in that situation. That fan might be disappointed in the lack of a Hollywood ending to the game; nonetheless, he would still be interested enough to watch.

So will we ever see a situation in which the Chicago Bears and University of Oklahoma get into a bidding war for the services of a star running back? Doubtful.

Part of the rationale behind the NLRB's decision was that the football players devote a lot of time to their sport as well as having to take courses. But if having to take courses as well as train for a sport is a "job," then why don't the rest of the student/athletes unionize? Because the less publicized sports don't make money for their colleges.

But that still begs the question of why their campus existence is any less of a job. Don't swimmers, rowers, and cross country runners work even harder at their "jobs" than do football players? Especially when you take into account the GPA's and graduation rates of those teams vs. the football and basketball teams?

Here's another way to look at it. Maybe the colleges where the athletes have honed their skills and gotten national exposure should demand a cut, say 15%, of the athletes' future earnings from their sport. After all, they've helped the players develop as athletes, all while giving them a free education and room ad board to boot. 

These colleges are effectively coach, agent, and benefactor all at once. 

So, how about it? Shouldn't they get a cut of those fat NFL salaries?

Sounds like a case the NLRB might be sympathetic towards. As long as the colleges are willing to pay union dues.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

South Americans at the NCAA swimming championships

This past weekend the men's NCAA's took place in Texas. Here are the first three finishers in the 100 yard freestyle:

Joao De Lucca of Louisville and Brazil:


Note the humped trapezius muscle and the huge deltoids and arms. De Lucca came to Louisville as a 1:40 200 yard freestyler but by his junior year swam a 1:31.5.

Here's second place finisher Marcelo Chierighini of Auburn University and Brazil:


Note the humped traps, convex deltoids, and thick arms. Chierighini didn't even start swimming until age 16.

Here's third place finisher Cristian Quintero, of USC (via Venezuela):


Note the thick trapezius and convex deltoids. Quintero also placed second to De Lucca in the 200 free and won the 500 free.

Obviously, I can't know for sure whether these swimmers are taking steroids. But I do know that De Lucca and Chierighini have both shown near miraculous improvements. I know that it's basically impossible to become a champion swimmer if you start at age 16 (11 is considered too old these days). I know there's a bit of a steroid culture in Brazil. I know that humped trapezius muscles and convex deltoids are steroid signatures, and that it's virtually impossible to get those kinds of traps without juicing.

I also know that it's hard to gain --- or even maintain -- muscle mass while training hard for swimming. Here's Connor Jaeger, a University of Michigan senior who got second to Quintero in the 500 free and who has a more typical swimmer's build:



And here's freshman Jack Conger of Texas, perhaps the most versatile swimmer at the meet, who finaled in the 500 free, 100 fly, and 200 backstroke:


Obviously, people come in all shapes and sizes, and genetics and exercise have much to do with that. But sometimes other factors come into play as well.

I'll let you make up your own mind about what's going on with the top three finishers in the 100 free.

My mind is already made up. 

Monday, March 31, 2014

Workouts as windows to personality

My son recently mentioned something he'd just read: that you can tell everything you need to know about someone from watching him work out. I thought about it, and realized it's true.

Working out is something you generally do purely of your own volition. It's not like the Army, or even a corporation, where you're expected to conform. So you can find out a lot about someone's personality from watching him work out.

Does he work hard at it? Does he break a sweat? There are those, mostly women, who don't even break a sweat on the treadmill.

Does he know what he's doing? Does he work his entire body, or just his upper body? (Any guy who works only his upper body is almost guaranteed to have an IQ below 110.)

Does he do exercises which utilize his entire body, or does he isolate the Hollywood muscles? (One guy can move well, the other generally can't; there's an IQ correlation here as well.)

Does a woman work her upper body as well, or just her legs and tummy and tush? If the latter, she is doing it purely for sex appeal, and has zero interest in athleticism. 

Does he look in the mirror a lot? Does he seem to like what he sees? You can get a good read on the ego-meter from that.

Can he work out by himself or does he need workout buddies to keep him motivated? (Is he a peer pressure-type or does he actually have any will power?)

Does he prefer exercise classes? (Sheep alert! Or, possibly, voyeur alert.)

Does he vary his effort depending on whether someone else is watching? (If so, don't expect honesty in other regards.)

Does he/she spend a lot of money on his/her workout outfit? (There's an imperfect but generally inverse correlation between the expensiveness of the outfit and the seriousness of the workout.)

Does he/she read a book while he works out? If so, he's not putting much effort into it. And you probably won't want to have lunch with him, because he'll be spending most of his time staring at his cellphone.

Is he more into lifting or cardio? One kind of guy wants to be more manly, the other wants to live forever, and each will probably express that dynamic in every other facet of his life. (Marathoners don't drive Ford 150 pickups, and power lifters don't drive Volvos.)

Is he the type who talks about his workout plan but always finds an excuse not to stick to it? (Don't expect him to stick to anything else either.)

How neurotic is he? If he misses an exercise, will it really bother him? (If so, don't expect him to be flexible in other regards.)

Does he use good form? Does he bridle if you suggest a change? (That's his whole personality right there.)

Is he willing to share whichever machine he's using? (A hog is a hog everywhere.)

Friday, March 28, 2014

Bad hair days for all

A recent article in the NY Post said that Kim Jong Un, North Korea's leader, had ordered all the men in his country to get his haircut:


If you knew absolutely nothing else about North Korea, that one little fact is all you'd really need to pretty much understand what kind of country it is.

Just as a brief snapshot of someone's personality can sometimes give you all the information you need to make an informed judgment about him (for instance, that he treats waiters badly), so too can a snapshot of a country suffice.

It's not that North Korea hasn't given us plenty of similar snippets before. During the reign of Kim Jong Il, the current leader's father, the North Korean press announced -- with a straight face -- that he "regularly" hit four or five holes-in-one during each round of golf that he played.

Like father, like son.

It's tempting for a libertarian to attribute all this ridiculousness to communism, but in fact, while North Korea calls itself a communist country, it's really just another tin pot dictatorship run by a dangerous megalomaniac. North Korea could call itself a socialist paradise, or a capitalist empire, or even Eden, and it would all be equally meaningless: it would still be the same thing, Kim Jong Un's personal fiefdom.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to succeed in journalism without really trying


Former television anchor Willow Bay has just been appointed director of USC's journalism school. She was until recently a senior editor at the Huffington Post, and has hosted Good Morning America and NBA Inside Stuff as well as other shows. She started her career as a Ford model.

She also happens to be the wife of Bob Iger, CEO of the Walt Disney Co. (They are pictured above.)

Bay went to Andover, Penn, and NYU's Stern School of Business, so for all I know she has an IQ of 150.

But there are plenty of others with her academic credentials who never achieved a fraction of her success. Most of them got stuck writing about local news for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch or the Spokane Spokesman-Review.

Their problem was, they just weren't good-looking enough. I'm not sure exactly how a pleasing facial physiognomy helps one craft more insightful editorials, but evidently it does.

This blog has previously discussed men who've parlayed their bodies into success in fields where their physicality should theoretically not matter.

Bay is part of an even larger tradition of women who have parlayed their looks into power and prestige.

It's highly doubtful she would ever have been hired as a television anchor had it not been for the physical attributes that helped her as a Ford model. It's also doubtful that Bob Iger would have married her if not for those same attributes. (I think I can make both those statements with great certainty.)

And once she had those things on her resume, all sorts of other doors opened for her. Including those at USC.

There are undoubtedly some people at the school -- grumpy old profs who see journalism as a sacred calling -- who are muttering similar sentiments right now.

But USC in fact made a commonsensical decision. Most heads of academic institutions are primarily glad-handers and fundraisers for their schools. And frankly, whom would you rather shake hands with, some bitter, cynical old rummy who takes his craft seriously, or a beauty like Bay?

Bay's connections will certainly not hurt. Think some money from her former employers at the networks will find its way into USC's endowment? Think any Disney money might possibly wend its way there?

Of course, nobody associated with the school will admit to any of this publicly. All of their talk will be about journalistic integrity, reporting the news in unbiased fashion, the duty of the press in a free society, and so on.

Bay herself will undoubtedly participate in this charade. Who knows, she may even teach a course or two herself. They'll probably have titles like Television Journalism in the Age of the Internet and The Role of Media as Watchdog.

But in fact the courses she is best qualified to teach aspiring journalists would be:

How to shed those pesky pounds around your tummy and thighs

How to find the best plastic surgeon

How to appear perky on TV

How to snag a rich and influential husband

And the best advice she can give those students is, "If you want to be successful, be good-looking. Very good-looking. Then everything else will just fall into place."