Friday, November 30, 2007

Sean Taylor revealed

The point of this blog is to post Nick and I's writing, not to link to others. However, in light of the tragic death of Sean Taylor earlier this week, I found this article written by Elizabeth Merrill that I believe to be excellent. It really makes you wonder how someone in the prime of his life could be struck down so quickly.

ESPN - In life, and in death, Taylor was a natural mystery

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Classic case of one-upmanship

Though I really don’t like either team, the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees sure make for good entertainment during the offseason. Every year it seems both teams are fighting for the top free agents.

What I find particularly amusing is that neither team really needs most of the players. If the Yankees show interest in a player, so do the Red Sox, and vice-versa. It’s all about keeping the good players from your enemy.

Currently, both teams are in the running for Twins star pitcher Johan Santana. As trade talks stand currently, the Sox would send four players to the Twins including the awesomely-named Coco Crisp and pitcher Jon Lester. The Yankees have made no real offer as of yet.

The funny thing is the Red Sox really do not need Santana. True, they would be much better with him, however they already won the World Series without him. The Yankees, on the other hand, desperately need Santana. A young Cy Young caliber pitcher would tremendously help their aging starting rotation.

Whoever does get Santana must also sign him to a new contract. It is expected that Santana will ask for six years and $150 million from his new club. Personally, I think Santana is worth every penny.

In the end, I would expect the Yankees to end up with Santana. They simply have endless pockets and also are not scared of trading top prospects for established talent.

Frankly, that’s the best case scenario for the Red Sox. Successfully scare the Yankees into trading away top talent and overpaying for someone the Red Sox really do not need.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Technology trends leaving some in dust

Technology is evolving far and away faster than it ever has before. Computers, MP3 players, video cameras and the like are undergoing major changes and seeing major improvements every couple of months. Thanks to this technological expansion, more and more people are getting left behind in terms of knowledge.

Several years ago I became very interested in computers and their inner workings. Because of that, I began taking computers apart and putting them back together, and in the process I learned a ton about how they work. Since then, I’ve built my own computer and have upgraded/modified numerous others.

In the past two years or so I’ve come to learn just how valuable tech skills are. I often get calls from my friends or from random people asking me for help with their computers. I usually can help, and I don’t usually charge any money for what I do (unless they insist on paying me).

What scares me about all of this is that most of the people I help are my age. Our generation is definitely the most familiar with these technologies and yet very few people know how to do a lot of things they should. As technology evolves, the majority of consumers should evolve with it. Unfortunately, this is not happening.

Problems like computer viruses prey on people who don’t know what they are doing. Unless people start to learn about what they do on computers, the problem will only get worse. Personally, I believe this is one of the main reasons why people use OS X over Windows. They simply just fail to educate themselves about how something works and then blame the operating system for problems that they could have avoided themselves.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

2007 will not go down as a happy year

I found myself in a state of shock this morning as I read the headlines.

Sean Taylor Dead at 24

I did a double take. Was it the Sean Taylor I was thinking about? Indeed it was.

2007 has not been a great year for sports period. With the ongoing sagas of Michael Vick and Barry Bonds, professional athletes have been getting their images dragged through the mud day after day. Unfortunately, 2007 might very well be remembered as the year where too many athletes died far too young.

Taylor’s murder is just the latest end of a young professional athlete’s life. Others include:

MLB Pitcher Joe Kennedy – November 23, Age 28
NBA Player Eddie Griffin – August 17, Age 25
MLB Pitcher Josh Hancock – April 29, Age 29
NFL Running Back Damien Nash – February 24, Age 24
College Kicker Mario Danelo – January 6, Age 22
NFL Cornerback Darent Williams – January 1, Age 24

Seven deaths from the major sports and most of them were in or just entering the prime of their careers and life in general. Their deaths are all terrible tragedies.

Rest in peace Sean. Hopefully they find your killer and bring him to justice.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Cute marketing ploys by Apple stretch the truth

Unless you’ve been living in a hole in the past year or so, the Apple computer ads should not be new to you. The ads star John Hodgeman as a PC and Justin Long as a Mac, and currently they are bashing Windows Vista, Microsoft’s latest operating system.

Sure, they’re cute and funny. However, Apple is starting to stretch the truth a bit with what it claims are problems with Vista, and Windows computers in general.

I’ll start with the ad titled “Tech Support”. The ad features PC, Mac, and an IT guy attempting to install a web camera on top of PC’s head. The point Apple is trying to make is that Macs come with a camera installed inside of the case. Whoo! Guess what? So do many PC laptops.

In the ad “Choose a Vista”, Apple pokes fun at the six different versions of Vista, claiming that there are far too many to choose from. Okay, six does seem like a lot. But, consider that Vista Starter isn’t sold in the US, and Vista Business and Vista Enterprise are intended for businesses (hence the names), leaving three versions to choose from: Basic, Home Premium, and Ultimate. I’ll admit that Home Premium and Ultimate should be grouped into one; nevertheless Basic is a good alternative for people who don’t want all the bells and whistles of those two, more expensive, versions.

What really has maddened me over the last couple of weeks is the fact that they are complaining about how Vista is supposedly so terrible, and how people are switching back to XP. True, some people had problems. True, Microsoft has extended the life of XP. True, weak machines can’t handle Vista. Regardless, Vista is a serviceable operating system.

Since turning off Sidebar, system performance has increased noticeably. Sure, some will be quick to point out that I shut off one of the key features of Vista, but once it was gone I didn’t miss it. What I really appreciate about Vista is the general look and feel, the cool and very useful start menu search (Apple has Spotlight, but it’s in a weird spot in my mind), and the great security. I still don’t update near as much as I have to with my desktop that runs XP. Vista does what it needs to do for me.

To be completely honest, I would love to own a Macbook Pro. They are awesome computers as far as design and I’ve used a ton of OSX over the past four years. I’m sure I would still find myself using XP or Vista through Boot Camp however. Ideally, OSX, Ubuntu, and Vista would all be installed on the Macbook. That would be a great day in my book.

Mac may have the cutesy marketing, but Microsoft has the name. And until a new generation grows up on the new and improved Macs, Microsoft will continue to own the computer world. Even if Macs sustain this popularity hike, they may never grab a decent chunk of the market share.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bonds’ indictment finally comes

Barry Bonds was finally indicted this past week on perjury charges. If convicted, Bonds could spend up to 30 years in jail.

Okay, time for me to get blasted again. I still am not convinced that Bonds knowingly took steroids. Hopefully, this trial will give the world some hard evidence that he did. It better, or else the perjury charges are going to fall faster than Lloyd Carr’s approval rating in Ann Arbor. All it is going to take is a small seed of reasonable doubt to get Bonds off too. Don’t believe me? OJ Simpson was found not guilty of much more serious crimes, and got off scotch free in the criminal trial, all thanks to reasonable doubt.

Maybe Bonds did take steroids. But, there is still a big elephant in the room. He has never, I repeat, NEVER tested positive for any steroid, stimulant, etc. Many other players have. Why is Bonds a scapegoat? Why not pick on players that have tested positive for banned substances. It makes no sense.

Regardless, I am eagerly awaiting the trial, much like I am awaiting the Michael Vick trial. Two great sports trials in the next year or so. Yay.

And anyways, Bonds will probably get stuck with a couple hundred hours of community service. That’s what most celebrities get. And we all know the problems with celebs in prison. Paris Hilton anyone?

Friday, November 16, 2007

An Insider's Story

Michael Yon is a man who reports independently in Iraq. He posts his stories on his website, Yon, like many independent journalists in Iraq, offer a different more intimate perspective of Iraq. One of his posts has recently made it to Fox News. I believe that independents, like Michael Yon, will continue to grow as a reliable respected source of news. He is not the only one, and they offer something that the mainstream media does not. Many of their websites are linked under our blogroll. We do not receive any payment for your visits, it is merely out of my admiration for their work that I advise others to visit their sites.

The article Yon wrote presents an example of how Iraqis continue to rebel from the insurgents. He shows that not all Muslims are full of hate toward others. In Baghdad many locals sat through a televised catholic mass with the hope that their friends, who are christian, would see them on the television and return to Iraq. Since the civil war many had fled to other countries. Their Muslim friends claim they would like to see them come back. They had even protected the church against Al Queda when they were a threat to the neighborhood.

Stories, like this one, are rarely found on the mainstream's news. They can not continue with out help from private individuals. Yon receives his funding from a PayPal account where people make donations so that he can continue his work. He also has a self-published book and pictures he has taken in Iraq.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Kahn turns in good performance with Memories of Summer

It isn’t often that I get a chance to sit down and read a book that I choose, especially considering the volume of reading required by my classes. However, in the past month I’ve had the pleasure of reading two good books; Last Best League as I have already reviewed, and now Memories of Summer by Roger Kahn.

When I initially purchased Memories of Summer off of Amazon, I was expecting to get a book that covered the golden era of baseball, the 40s through the 60s. Although the book does do that, it does it through the eyes of Kahn himself. He manages to turn the pages of the book into a sort of autobiography, something that I was not expecting.

Kahn follows his life from the time he was growing up in Brooklyn to his life now as a prolific sports author. Through his accounts of his own life, he sheds light on what affected him most as a sports journalist. Breaking into the profession as a beat writer covering the Brooklyn Dodgers, Kahn retells the story of Jackie Robinson, and the numerous power house Dodger teams that could never quite climb to the ranks of World Champions. Following his stint as the Dodger beat writer, Kahn spent time with numerous other publications including the illustrious (or not so illustrious as portrayed by him) “Sports Illustrated”.

What really stuck out to me was Kahn’s amazing memory. To be able to recall conversations he had as long as 50 years prior to writing the book is definitely a bonus. Conversations with the likes of Robinson, Leo Durocher, and Mickey Mantle are just some of the content that makes this book a wonderful read as well as a learning experience. Through his dialogs with these baseball heroes, the reader can get a since of what they were actually like.

Also, as a journalism major, I really appreciated the behind the scenes views of what life working for a newspaper or magazine was like. Though much has changed since the time period he describes, it was particularly interesting for me.

Overall, I thought Memories of Summer was a very good book. The content of it surprised me a little, but in the end, Kahn’s writing style and knowledge made up for any disappointment I had. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who really wants to learn what real baseball was all about.

Since reading Memories of Summer, I have purchased another book by Kahn, called October Men, which chronicles the 1978 Yankees. This is the next book on my “to read” list.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New helmet rule for MLB base coaches

MLB general managers have decided that first and third base coaches must wear helmets next season. The decision comes in response to the death of minor league base coach Mike Coolbaugh.

I really do not know where to stand on this issue. On one hand, you have the safety of the coaches in mind. On the other, I think the coaches should have a say in whether or not they are required to wear a protective helmet.

The incident with Coolbaugh was a freak accident. In all the baseball games I’ve watched and played in my life, I’ve never seen a base coach hit with a batted ball. Some close calls are inevitably going to happen but that’s the game of baseball. There are many more ways to get hurt than just off a foul ball.

The problem I have with such a measure is where do we stop? Do we make the field umpires wear helmets? What about infielders and pitchers? They all stand as close, if not closer, than a base umpire.

To me it comes down to the same issue as whether or not aluminum bats should be allowed in college and youth leagues. My response to that question is freak accidents do happen.

Unfortunately, what happened to Coolbaugh was terrible. However, I do not think one worst-case scenario requires action like that taken by baseball GMs.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Google sued over possible patent infringement

Google is being sued by Northeastern University for supposedly using university patented code in the web giant’s search system.

I for one think this lawsuit is ridiculous.

The lawsuit is fairly straight forward, and even believable. It is very plausible in my mind that Google’s search engine may contain some patent infringing code and concepts. Most big technological innovations do. Don’t believe me? Take a look at Microsoft’s court history. It is filled with infringement cases, perhaps most notably the “look and feel” lawsuit filed by Apple in 1988. Although Apple would lose this case, it proves my point. Infringement happens.

But what is different in this case is the timing of the lawsuit. The technology in question was patented in 1997, which is a full ten years ago. Worse, the president of Jarg Corp, the company in charge of licensing the technology, said they knew about the infringement for a long time.

Hmm, it sounds like a classic get rich quick scheme to me. Of course the university had to wait until now to sue, citing a lack of resources. Or was it the fact that Google has in the last couple of years become a corporate juggernaut? I just don’t believe that they had to wait until now. They simply waited because they stand to benefit more from a lawsuit now than they would have three or four years ago. Google’s stock is hovering well above $600 a share right now, and I believe that this group of people only wants a piece of the proverbial pie.

It is too bad really. I am getting so sick of these frivolous lawsuits where people just want to make a quick buck. Do I condone the fact that Google may be infringing on Jarg Corp’s patent? No, of course not. However, my response to Jarg Corp is that just because Google managed to make a ton of money using similar technology and you didn’t, live with it.

But, instead you’re going to be sitting pretty with a nice little settlement from Google.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Staged Questionnaires?...Big Deal

Hillary Clinton's campaign has been accused of planting people in crowds during her campaign stops. Presumably, they were meant to allow her to avoid the tough questions. Fox and CNN have posted articles as well as made the story a part of their broadcast. Anchors and reporters are making a big deal out of what should come to no surprise.

Mrs. Clinton is a politician, and no politician wants an embarrassing scene while on the campaign. I would be surprised if a presidential candidate did not have plants in the crowds. If they control the questions that are asked, then the candidate can guide the event to focus on their key issues. This strategy should be expected from both democrats and republicans, and it makes sense as bad publicity leads to bad pull numbers.

The news is reporting on the fact that Clinton's campaign has apparently been caught in the act. Much like Clinton wants to avoid tough questions, the news appears to be avoid tough reporting. Instead of finding real issues to talk about, they create issues out of what is probably common political ploy. The news will go on about the incident as if it is a shocking revelation that a politician would stage a public appearance, whereas I say, big deal.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Spygate does not diminish Patriots’ accomplishments

Don Shula's comments about the New England Patriots couldn’t be more wrong.

Yes, they cheated. That’s undeniable. However, what they’ve done since then says just how great of a team the Patriots are.

They are 9-0. Even if they did cheat during their first game that is 8 games where they’ve managed to win, for the most part pretty handedly. The Colts game Sunday just cemented my opinion that they are indeed the best team in football.

The conversation about who can remain undefeated comes up every time somebody starts a year with a string of wins. And every time it comes up, the team in question loses. However, this year the Patriots look poised to claim the second perfect record in NFL history.

Following their bye this weekend, the Patriots play the Bills, Eagles, Ravens, Steelers, Jets, Dolphins, and Giants. The combined record of these teams stands at a dismal 24-33, with only the Giants and Steelers having better than .500 records.

Despite their great chance to remain perfect, Bill Belichick must decide how much they really want the dubious distinction. If it means leaving Tom Brady, Randy Moss, and the like in the final game of the season, is the record really worth it? An injury to Moss, or Brady especially, would be catastrophic for the Patriots.

The Patriots have a good chance of going undefeated. Spygate or not, the deserve the honor if it does happen.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Improvements in Iraq come at a cost

2007 has become the deadliest year in Iraq for American soldiers since the war began. This is a result of U.S. forces setting up smaller stations for the soldiers instead of heavily fortified bases with thousands of soldiers. The surge has given generals the manpower to become more affective quelling insurgents in various neighborhoods. While this has made more areas of Iraq safer, it is a result of U.S soldiers becoming more engaged with the enemy. American forces have also created more relations with the people of Iraq. This has increased their trust of the U.S., which has also led to more help from the locals.

While any American death is tragic, I see the story behind the numbers as encouraging. While the risk is greater when our men and women are closer to civilians, it also gives of the opportunity to prove them that we are not the Great Satan that the terrorists accuse us of being. Also, it deters insurgents from returning to villages when our forces leave to return to one of the bases. Instead they find that our soldiers remain and even help the area rebuild. I believe that our soldiers will die less frequently as we gain the Iraqi's trust.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Lion’s start has me “believing”

To quote The Monkees, “I’m a Believer”.

True, the song is about a girl, but in my case, it applies to the Detroit Lions. Their 6-2 record certainly has me believing.

For a franchise that has had as little success as the Lions have in the history, the quick start is something unknown to a younger fan like me.

If someone had told me we would score 44 points against the Broncos, I would have cried blasphemy. Although the Broncos defense is surely no brick wall, an amount like that is nearly unbelievable. I have never seen such an impressive string of games from the Lions.

Now the real tests start to come. The rest of the season pits Detroit against better teams than they have played so far. But, in my opinion, no game is bigger than the Thanksgiving matchup against the Packers. The favorite to win the NFC North will be the victor of that game.

One thing is for sure. It’s way too much fun to be a Lions’ fan right now. Here’s to seeing them get ten wins or more, and make Jon Kitna’s prophecy come true.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Patriots vs. Colts: One for the Ages

With as much success as the Detroit Lions have had this season, it would be easy to forget (at least as a Lions’ fan who is still shocked by their 5-2 record) about the biggest story in the NFL this year. However, week nine’s matchup of the 8-0 Patriots against the 7-0 Colts should prove to be way too good to miss.

Never mind the week one spy scandal the surrounded the Patriots during the first weeks of the year, they are the best team in the NFL right now. Their steamrolling of opponents just goes to show that the tape had very little to do with their success.

Tom Brady is putting up numbers that even A-Rod’s salary would be jealous of. He is just shy of 2,500 passing yards already this season, not to mention he has thrown 30 touchdowns compared to only two interceptions. To say the least, I intend on riding him all the way to my fantasy league championship this year.

It’s amazing what some decent receivers will do for a quarterback. The New England offense has become so much more potent thanks to the additions of Randy Moss, Wes Welker (did I mention I have him in my fantasy league too?), and Donte' Stallworth. The trio has accounted for 20 of Brady’s 30 passing touchdowns. No offense to Patriots’ receivers of the past, but they simply didn’t have these types of playmakers before this year.

On the other side you have the Colts, led by another great quarterback in Peyton Manning. Though he only has 13 touchdowns, Manning can have a breakout performance at the drop of a hat. Throw in explosive receivers like Reggie Wayne, and second-year standout running back Joseph Addai and you have a scoring explosion waiting to happen.

The toughest part about this game is that someone is going to stay unbeaten and the other will suffer their first loss of the season. Both teams are so evenly matched that it is tough to pick a clear cut favorite.

As far as the offense goes, I think the Patriots have a slight edge. Though the Colts have just as great of an offense, the Patriots’ production has been better so far this year. In addition, the injury status of Marvin Harrison is still up in the air, and if he is limited, the Colts lose the great receiver that he is. However, if Addai is effective against the Patriots’ staunch defense, the advantage could swing to the Colts.

Both defenses are great as well. I’m not going to pick a better one, because they are both simply so good. Look for Bob Sanders and Mike Vrabel to be all over the field.

No matter what, the game is going to be spectacular. But, in my opinion, the Patriots are going to come out on top, keeping their momentum going all the way to a Super Bowl victory.

Zumaya hurt... again

Tigers' pitcher Joel Zumaya just can't get lucky.

Trying to save some of his father's things from the California wildfires, a box fell on Zumaya's shoulder, injuring it to the point that it required major surgery.

Zumaya's injury is a huge loss for the Tigers. Now they must work on resigning Todd "Blowns" (Jones) or look elsewhere for a closer. With a bullpen that was decimated by injuries last season (including Zumaya's first injury, a ruptured tendon), the Tigers were shaky late in games at best. The bullpen now becomes the major weak spot again.

I would look for the Tigers to resign Jones. He is a serviceable closer for the time being.

It's just too bad that this had to happen to someone as promising as Zumaya is.