Friday, December 31, 2004

Books

Read three books so far this week. All are Discworld novels, The Truth, Thief of Time and Night Watch. They were all very good. The last was probably my favourite since it followed Sam Vimes pretty much exclusively, and I find him the character with whom I can most sympathize. Only two more to go and I'm all caught up with this series.

I started reading The Bell Curve which, you may recall, caused a lot of controversy when it first came out. For those not in the know, it was a statistical study of intelligence that seemed to indicate that intelligence may well be linked to genetics and that intelligence is heritable. Anyway, I meant to read it years ago to see what all the fuss was about, but I'm just now getting around to it. They haven't said that much that I find controversial yet, but I'm only in the second chapter.

Baseball Roller Coaster

And we're back to sadness again. The AP is now reporting that the Yanks and the D'backs have reached a tentative agreement to move Randy Johnson. I don't think I can take this much longer. Just do something already!

Take Out Chinese

Or maybe I should make that "Taiwanese". John Derbyshire comments in his December Diary that the US needs to make its policies in Asia more consistent with its stated policies elsewhere.
Most recently the ChiComs have put out a policy paper on national defense...The policy paper goes on to say that separatist activities on Taiwan have become the “biggest immediate threat” to China's sovereignty and to peace and stability in the region.

Taiwan has been functioning as an independent nation for 55 years. In all its previous history, the place was governed by China as a Chinese province for just twelve years. Exactly why the open declaration of what everyone knows to be the case should be a “threat” to anyone at all is a mystery to me. The threat to peace and stability in the western Pacific is not posed by the Taiwanese, who just want to get on with building up their country in peace and independence. The real threat arises from the unrestrained aggressiveness of the Chinese Communists.
And he concludes by asking "Where is all our bluster about “spreading democracy” when it comes to East Asia?"

A good question.

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Joy In Mudville

Hail to the Dodgers! Who have blocked the trade of Randy Johnson to the Yankers. It was to have been a three-team trade between the Diamondbacks, the Yankees and the Dodgers. My reasons for not wanting the Yankees to pick up Johnson can be found here.

And now the Yankees are complaining about the Dodgers last minute withdrawal from the deal.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Books

Haven't finished a book in a while. Been doing a fair bit of reading, but events have conspired against me.

Started Damsel in Distress by P.G. Wodehouse, but when I was about two-thirds finished, I forgot it at my parents house and drove to my in-laws without it. My parents will forward it to me in Seattle and I'll finish it next week. Quite good, so far. It's like most other Wodehouse novels, but for all their similarity, I never tire of them. This is one of his earlier works, and uses characters I don't recall reading about elsewhere in the Wodehouse corpus.

Also reading The Siege of Vienna, which, while interesting, is slow going. The topic is quite good, the writing less so. Still, shall probably plod through to the end. And once I clear the initial chapters to get to the actual fighting, it may pick up a bit.

Other than that, I've mostly just been browsing through various books without really applying myself to any of them. I expect I'll get back to reading more diligently after I get clear of all this family interaction stuff. Which is fine in its place.

City of Brotherly Love

Philadelphia, that is. While not strictly in Philadelphia, I am there in the same sense that I tell people I live in Seattle. I don't live in Seattle proper, but very close and, unless you live or have lived nearby, you wouldn't have a clue where I was talking about if I gave the name of the small town in which I do live.

Been a nice, relaxing couple of days, and I'm here until the end of the week. My father-in-law trounced me soundly in several games of pool, and I have demurred ping-pong knowing I have even less hope there. My plan is to get my own back through several games of chess. We'll see how that goes.

Been doing some reading, watched a few movies, played games with family. Taught myself to play bridge not too long ago and have been inflicting that on my family.

Watched Secret Window for the first time. Not too pleased. I figured it out pretty early, and I didn't like the way it ended. While trying not to give too much away, let me just say that when movies end in the manner that this did, it has to be done just right to prevent me from being disappointed. Watched Pirates of the Caribbean for the second time. It's funny, and I enjoy the dialogue, but I'm not going to spend money on it myself. I was reminded afresh that Orlando Bloom is nothing more than a face. (For further evidence that he can't act, see the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) Watched the Legend of Earthsea mini-series on the SciFi channel. It was... okay. I guess. For a made-for-TV movie. I think I may finally be motivated to read the books, but I'm afraid that it will turn out like (shudder) Eddings. Of course, that could just be the influence of a bad mini-series, so I'll give it a shot. Oh, and I saw Shrek 2. Which could have been sub-titled "Shrek 1 Warmed Over". It was funny, but the novelty and edge was gone.

Don't have time to recap books at the moment. Maybe later today or tomorrow.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

D'backs make effort to ruin my Christmas

It seems the D'backs are determined to play the Grinch and have renewed efforts to move Randy Johnson to the Yanks. Bah. Humbug.

Happy Christmas!

Yes, it's a bit early, but I'm already off on the East Coast of the US to visit my family and my wife's family. I'm in Northern VA for a week and then to Philly for a week. Blogging will probably be light, since I'll be spending time with family instead of online, but I'll probably squeeze a post or two in on more personal topics rather than on news items between now and Yule. I hope everyone has a safe and Merry Christmas.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Technical Difficulties

The number of boxes full o' stuff is decreasing in my new apartment, but still no internet. I am now considering, broadband. (gasp!) Probably going to be DSL. Be nice to have cable, which I'm told is much faster, but one must pay for such blinding speed. Further updates as events warrant.

Monday, December 06, 2004

Steroids, Baseball and the US Congress

In response to Steve's query, more on the steroids in Major League Baseball (MLB).

Which is a good question. The Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) is a very powerful union. Things in general have broken their way since Curt Flood started to break the hold of the reserve clause owners used on players. (For more on that, go here.)

Congress is now threatening to get involved and force MLB to impose more stringent rules to find and punish users of performance-enhancing drugs. Why Congress? Because MLB has an anti-trust exemption that ruled it is not a business but a sport, thus it is immune from some of the usual laws that govern businesses. More stringent testing and punishment rules must be agreed upon by the MLB and MLBPA. (More on the anti-trust exemption, here.)

In 2003, under terms of an agreement between MLB and MLBPA, baseball conducted 1,438 random, anonymous steroid tests during the season. The agreement was that if more than 5% came back positive, then every baseball player in MLB would be tested twice the following year and punishments imposed for positive results.

Though the league wasn't specific, it was announced that 5%-7% of the tests in 2003 were positive. Because of the number of positives, MLB did activate the second part of the agreement and for the 2004 season, the testing and the penalties were in effect. The penalties ranged from clinical treatment and additional testing for one offense to a year suspension and a $100,000 fine for 5 violations. This regimen is in place until two consecutive seasons combined have less than a 2 1/2% positive test rate. (More details, see this from Nov03.)

I'm a lot fuzzier on what substances are banned by MLB. According to this article from ESPN, any substance is added to MLB's banned list "when the Food and Drug Administration declare[s] it an illegal substance". I tried to find information on the internet regarding what exactly is on the list of substances banned by MLB, but I couldn't find a comprehensive list. Androstenedione, usually shortened to "andro", (which is the product famously used by Mark McGwire when it was still licit) has been banned by MLB, so some substances that are not illegal to possess and use in the US are still banned by baseball, but I don't know what all of them are.

Hope that's helpful to Steve and others.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Big Unit not going to Big Apple

AP reports that Randy Johnson will not be traded to the Yankees. Which is good news for me. I loathe the Yankers and am a big fan of the Big Unit. The resulting conflict of loyalties would trouble me in whether I should cheer for Johnson to win or the Yankers to lose.

But the joy in Mudville brought about by this news is tempered by a sentence near the end of the article. "Johnson has a no-trade clause, and it's not clear whether the Yankees are the only team he would accept a deal to." Johnson is a phenomenal pitcher and is a lock for Cooperstown when he retires; if for no other reason than his place on the all-time K list. But I fear that he'll be viewed by the general public as being 2nd to Roger Clemens among his contemporaries because he's about 80 wins behind Roger. If he doesn't accept a trade to another contender and ends up stuck in Arizona for another couple years, he might not make it to 300 wins, which (though I've pointed out their uselessness as a stat) matter a lot to the average baseball fan.

Giambi on the juice

Jason Giambi has admitted it. He was juiced. That powerful physique? Created by chemicals. And who did he get the stuff from? Why, Barry Bonds' personal trainer, of course. In fact, his opening inquiry that led to the use of the steroids was to ask Bonds' trainer Greg Anderson "what are the things you're doing with Barry?" And while Anderson never came straight out and told Giambi that Bonds was doping as well, I think the circumstantial evidence against Bonds is even more damning that it was before.

UPDATE: Turns out Barry has admitted (though he claims it was all a misunderstanding) that he was on the juice too. Which came out before I could get the above posted. Dang it!

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Books

Read C.S. Lewis' A Grief Observed. It was interesting, but quite short. I don't think even a hundred pages, in fairly large type. Lewis moved through what looked to be the classic stages of grief, but most of it had a religious bent. It wasn't one of his best.

Finished out the Aubrey-Maturin series. I have to say, while I knew that I really enjoyed it while I was reading through it, I didn't realise just how much I enjoyed it until I finished. I was so disappointed that there were no more books, no more stories, no more information about these two characters. The last books were The Hundred Days, The Yellow Admiral and Blue at the Mizzen.

I also read 21, which is the fragment that was to have been the 21st Aubrey-Maturin book. It was unfinished when Patrick O'Brian died. It looked to have been quite as good as the rest and further increased my disappointment by reinforcing the point that there will be no more such books.