Friends in High Places

April 30, 2010

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Byron Walton sat on an uncomfortable folding chair near the back of the small bookstore.  The card table in front of him held a dozen copies of his book and a laminated copy of his biography.

Even in this independent bookstore in this small Midwestern city, his presence attracted very little attention.  Byron was beginning to doubt the wisdom of embarking on this self-financed book tour, against the advice of both his agent and his publisher.

After six days on the road, Byron had sold exactly eight copies of his book.  Far from being a big money maker, this trip was actually costing him money.  Byron sighed and wondered if he would manage to sell a book today. 

By late afternoon, Byron had sold exactly one copy – to the girl working behind the counter.  Byron thought that she probably bought the book out of pity for him.  On the bright side, Byron had finished the New York Time crossword and several Sudoku puzzles.  Closing time was quickly approaching, and Byron put the unsold books bag in his duffel bag and folded up the card table and chair.  He was chatting for a minute with Ashley, the girl behind the counter, when a last minute customer popped into the store.

“Am I took late for the book signing?” asked the tall, middle-aged man.

Byron was speechless for a minute and then recovered his composure.  “Nnnno, Mr. President.  You’re not too late.”

The President of the United States beamed a smile at Byron and Ashley.  “I apologize for stopping in so close to closing time.   I had a couple of town hall meetings to attend, and time got away from me a bit.  I hope I’m not making you stay late.”

“That’s perfectly alright,” responded Ashley.  “I have to finish up some paperwork anyway.  Take as much time as you need.”

“My wife read your book and absolutely loved it,” said the president, turning back to Byron.  “I must say that I agreed with her after I had chance to read it.  I’d like to buy two copies.  Can you make them out to Bob and Brooke?”

“I’ll be happy to give you a couple of copies, Mr. President.  I couldn’t possible charge you for them.”

“Oh, hogwash.  I can certainly afford the price.”  He pulled a wallet from his pocket and pulled out three twenty dollar bills.  “In fact, keep the change.”

Byron decided to stop looking a gift horse in the mouth.  He took the money offered to him by the most powerful man in the world.  Byron signed two copies of the book and handed them to the president.

“I noticed that you don’t have a foreword for the book.  I’d be very much interested in writing one, if you’d like.  I couldn’t do it while I’m still in office, of course, but I’ll be a private citizen again in a couple of months.”

“That would be, uh, great,” replied an awestruck Byron.  Certainly a glowing recommendation from the president would cause a spike in sales.  He was sure that he’d sell at least two copies of his book at every stop on the next book tour.

“I’m starving,” commented the president.  “Is there a good pizza place around here?”

“Sure,” replied Ashley.  “Mickey’s Pizza Parlor is a few blocks from here.  You just take main street two blocks and then …”

“How ‘bout you guys hop in and join us for dinner, instead.  I’m not very good with directions.”

Are Sports Drafts Fair?

April 29, 2010

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If I’ve heard it once, I’ve heard it a hundred times. Drafts ensure an equal distribution of talent.

But is it really true?

The concept behind drafts in the major sports is that the teams with the worst records receive the top picks in the annual draft of amateur players. In baseball and football, this is as simple as assigning the top pick to the team with the worst record. Basketball employs a lottery system. The worst teams receive more ping pong balls in the lottery, but they are not guaranteed the top pick.

Even if you’re not a sports fan, you probably spotted the moral hazard. If you’re having a bad season, it can be a good move to intentionally lose games late in the season in order to get a good pick in the draft.

Let’s take a deeper look at the core assertion that drafts ensure an equal distribution of talent. This isn’t true, of course. The best that the draft process can hope to do is produce parity in terms of win-loss records. Some organizations are simply much better at maximizing talent than others. Throw a bad coach and GM into the mix, and the team will easily under-perform the level you’d expect based on the talent.

There’s another question to be addressed – even if drafts did ensure an equal distribution of talent, should this be a goal of a league? If your team allows stars to leave via free agency, makes bad trades, and makes inefficient use of the players, should the league bail you out by handing you high draft picks each year? This really amounts to a subsidy of the bad teams at the expense of the good ones.

What’s my solution? Throw all the team names in a hat and randomly draw to determine the draft order.

OK, maybe that’s a bit extreme, and could lead to massive apathy for some teams that struggle to improve. However, at the very least, baseball and football should adopt a lottery similar to the NBAs.

The Resin Bag

Like Johnny Goodman, I was a bit surprised to see Tim Tebow taken with the #25 pick in the draft. I’m not as down on Tebow as Johnny. I think he’s a project that could pay dividends down the road. However, you don’t take projects in the first round, particularly with better QBs still available.

I was hoping the Rams would break from conventional thought and nab Texas QB Colt McCoy with the top pick in the 3rd round (McCoy was taken by the Browns later in the 3rd round). It’s true that the Rams have a lot of holes, and that spending two high picks on quarterbacks is a luxury. However, picking a franchise quarterback can be a real crapshoot.  (For the latest proof of this, look in JaMarcus Russell’s direction).  If Sam Bradford fails, the Rams may be back to the drawing board in a few years, using another #1 pick on a quarterback. McCoy would have given the Rams a second roll of he dice for a lower price. Not only that, but he could have pushed Bradford for the job, bringing out the best in both players.  It’s hard for a sense of entitlement to set in when there is another quality young QB gunning for your job.  After years of battling in the Big 12 South, it would have been interesting to see them battling in training camp.

Iowa State basketball coach Greg McDermott left for a new job as the coach at Creighton. McDermott had a very successful run as the coach of UNI, but his Iowa State teams never won more than 15 games, and the patience of the fans was growing a bit thin.

After McDermott left, the ABC station in Ames began to report the news that favorite son Fred Hoiberg was being considered for the vacant Iowa State job. Hoiberg went to Ames High School before becoming one of the most popular players in the history of the program. His nickname was “The Mayor.” My business law professor was he actual mayor of Ames at the time, and he even referred to Hoiberg as “The Mayor”.  Hoiberg doesn’t have any hands-on coaching experience, but he did spend the last few years in the front office of the NBA’s Minnesota Timberwolves.

Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard signed a 5 year contract extension that pays him $25 million per year.  Seen licking him chops after the announcement was Cardinals first baseball Albert Pujols, who will become a free agent after the 2011 season.  Pujols is a better offensive and defensive player than Howard and could command upwards of $30 million per year.

Rockies pitcher Ubaldo Jimenez will finish the month of April with a record of 5-0 and  0.79 ERA.  If those numbers aren’t enough to warrant the National League Pitcher of the Month honors, perhaps his no-hitter will push him over the edge.

A Challenge to My Readers

April 28, 2010

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I have previously mentioned that I will be entering the 2011 Iowa Short Fiction Contest.  Today, I throw down the gauntlet and ask you, the readers, to join me in this challenge.  I know that we have writers in our midst – so join me in this plunge.

You can read all of the details here, but these are the basics:

  • Submissions are accepted between August 1 and September 30, 2010
  • Submissions must be a 150+ page (typed, double spaced) collection of short stories.  Stories that have previously been published in periodicals or in self-published works are acceptable.
  • There are no reading fees or fees of any sort.  Your only out-of-pocket costs are printing and shipping.  (Emailed submissions are not accepted).
  • The contest is open to US residents, as well as non-Americans who are writing in English.  However, current students at the University of Iowa are not eligible.

Note: this is my paraphrased version of the rules, and not the official version.

What happens if you win?  You get your book published, and you’re able to claim a prestigious award.

I need to get going on my latest longer story, Hollywood. Once that story is completed, I’ll begin the work of compiling my entry for the contest.  While 150 pages sounds like a lot, it should entailed around 40,000 words, which I should be able to meet with just the stories I have written in the last 15 months or so.  Happily, I should have enough content that I should be able to pick and choose the stories I want to include, instead of cramming in every last story in an effort to get to 151 pages.

For several months, I have been kicked around possible titles.  Since my writing covers a multitude of different topics, most of the titles have been some sort of “stew” variant.  Then, last night, it hit me – Mountains, Meadows, Ravines, and Chasms.  The mountains represent the stories that detail the very high points in life; the chasms represent the low points, and the meadows and ravines the stories that are more neutral.  I doubt that this will be the final version of the title, but it’s the working title for right now.

What are my odds of actually winning the contest?  Not particularly good.  I’d actually be pretty shocked if the debut submission of my work won an award like this.  However, the actual submission is a goal within itself.  Not only have I been forced to produce enough fiction to meet the minimum requirements, but I’ll also have to act as an editor and separate the wheat from the chaff.  I think that some of my stories are pretty good, but I’ll be competing against some writers who are seasoned veterans – including writers who have frequently been published in large periodicals.

However, as the saying goes, “Nothing ventured, nothing gained.”  In a few shorts months, I’ll be printing out my manuscript and sending it off.  Who among you is with me?  (Martin Kelly, are you reading this?)

What Are the Broncos Thinking?

April 27, 2010

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Editor’s note: Today, Johnny Goodman resumes his regular gig on The Soap Boxers.  Good to have you back, Johnny.

Tim Tebow … Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow, Tim Tebow …

The Media cannot get enough of this guy. I am thoroughly convinced anyone living outside of Gainesville is sick and tired of seeing his mug on the television.

Of course he is a good guy. I mean the guy is practically a minister. Never in the history of football has a player put God in the forefront so much. Heck he even put bible versus on his eye black stickers that he wore for each and every game last year.

Which is part of the reason the NCAA passed a rule this off-season that messages on eye black are now a big fat no-no … No longer acceptable. I mean we would hate to have eye black patches get us into a big church vs. state discussion right … Not as long as Tim Tebow was in College, but now that he is gone, let’s get the rule into place.

The media made this guy the popular guy he is. Let’s break down what he was at Florida.

  • Heisman Trophy winner
  • Popular with the fans
  • A great leader for his team
  • Urban Meyer’s favorite player of all time
  • A big bruising punishing runner of a quarterback

What Tim Tebow was not at Florida

  • A good passer
  • A guy with a great Quarterback motion
  • A pro prospect at QB

What is Tim Tebow? A great Human being. A god loving Human being … I mean he has told us all about a million times right. Tim Tebow as a football player in college is nothing more than a media over-hyped and glorified Scott Frost, the former Husker QB who went on to play a few years as a safety in the NFL. Frost was also a big guy, could throw just a little but had a funky motion, but he was like a linebacker when running the football. Big and punishing, and good enough to lead the Huskers and Tom Osborne to a National Championship in 1997, Osborne’s final season.

What are the Denver Bronco’s thinking? This guy is NOT a pro quarterback, not even close. When they ask him if he is will to get better and change and do whatever, what do you expect him to say? “No coach, I want to be a quarterback only, I have no desire to change.”

I give the kid credit for working on changing his throwing motion since the end of the NCAA season, but trust me, Glorified Scott Frost, which is a big compliment while in college, but a huge let down for Bronco’s fan expecting him to be their savior at QB.

I personally think Josh Daniels just put himself about 5 steps closer to the door.

Analysis of The NFL Draft Coverage

April 26, 2010

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Let’s talk about the NFL Draft

It is the beginning of the Baseball season, the first round of both the Basketball and Hockey Playoffs, the sun is shining and yet the headlines are about the NFL. The NFL holds the draft in April each year. Why? Well there are lots of contractual reasons, and some logistical reasons, but mainly it is to keep so that the teams can get the newest players signed to contracts and into summer training. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban thinks that it is a strategic ploy to take viewing audience away from the NBA, I think not. People who actually watch the NFL draft are not interested in the first round of the NBA playoffs. The NFL has been holding the draft in April since long before anyone thought of broadcasting it, live or tape delayed. It has move to prime time because there is an audience, not the other way around.

I will admit that I did not watch the entire draft. I checked in from time to time, but like most sports enthusiast, I could get everything I wanted to know from the newspaper or the web the next morning. Oh, I had interests; like who was my team going to draft? What about the other teams in my division? How did the players from my college fare? What about the nationally known players?

Now there are plenty of people in broadcast, and many more on various blogs who will discuss how the draft went. They will pontificate on what team did well, why some player was not drafted as they predicted, what the affects will be on each team. Since we cannot know how well any individual will perform at the professional level based on potential, I will leave that analysis for those people who get a great deal of enjoyment and possibly some pay for doing so. Instead, I intend on commenting on the coverage of the NFL draft in general.

First, I want to applaud the staff at ESPN. There were experts on who talked literally for three days straight. The support staff found video of every player and had statistics ready almost instantly. Now the talking heads did ramble from time to time, and contradict themselves, but that is part of the process when broadcasting live. If the who thing were predictable, there would be no point in having it. Like the old sports adage, if we knew who would win the game, why bother playing it.

I do have a complaint. As I watched, I could see what each team was doing by following the ticker tape along the bottom of the screen. At times, I even put the TV on mute, or listened to music when I was at the gym and could have tuned in the audio but chose not to. The announcers discussed picks from several minutes (up to an half an hour) earlier. This was mainly to give the support staff time to dig up video clips and stats, but it also revealed a bias in the reporting. Not only did they spend an inordinate amount of time analyzing and discussing the picks of the two teams from New York City, they would break away for the live announcements for those two teams, and those two teams alone.

This falls into the “it is the largest market” argument, but we must realize that these are the home teams for most of the media outlets, ESPN included. To do this consistently may be good business for that 10% of the national market, but it does not seen very smart for the rest of the country, especially if you are catering to the nation. If you want to be a regional broadcaster, than do so and let other regions do their own thing. ESPN seems to be moving to that regional model for the big markets like Dallas, Los Angeles and Chicago. This is actually sad to me. I live in the middle of the country, equidistant from Chicago, Minneapolis, Green Bay, St. Louis and Kansas City. Unfortunately, the team I follow is not from any of those cities, so if ESPN does go regional, I will miss out completely.

So the summary of my rambling today is – although the NFL draft is not riveting TV, and it is New York City centric, I like how ESPN has covered it and I hope there are no major changes in the near future.

The Imperfect Crime

April 25, 2010

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This is a special Sunday edition of Fiction Friday.  Sadly, a real-life local crime was the inspiration for this story.

Jason Rodriguez grabbed the insulated bag and jumped out of the Chevy Malibu. He was halfway to the house when several people jumped out of the bushes. Jason counted seven men, all apparently in their late teens or early twenties.

“Those are my pizzas,” one of the men growled.

“You’re Mark Briggs?” asked Jason, double-checking the name on the box.

“Yeah, Briggs, that’s me,” came the reply, followed by a guffaw.

“OK, that will be $10.70.”

“I don’t think you understand. You’ll leave the pizzas with us and get outta here. That way nobody gets hurt.”

At that moment, Jason noticed the switchblade knife in the guy’s hand. He set the pizzas on the sidewalk and waited for the gang to make the next move. To his surprise, they grabbed the pizzas and ran off in the opposite direction.

Jason decided to get out of the neighborhood before the guys came back, looking for more trouble.

When he returned to the Pizza Palace, he reported the crime to his boss.

“Are you OK?” asked Chris – always a guy to look out for his employees.

“Yeah, I’m fine. But they stole the pizzas!”

“Hey, at least they have refined palates,” laughed Chris. “How much money did they get this time?”

“No money. They just took the pizzas.”

“You’ve got to be kidding. They risked jail for a couple of pizzas?”

“Yeah, I guess so,” replied Jason.

“I’m going to have the cops come by and take a report. Go back to my office and wait for them. When they leave, go ahead and take off early.”

A moment later, Chris popped his head into the office to let him know that the cops were in the middle of something, and it would be a little while before they could get there to take the police report.

Forty-five minutes later, the cops arrived. Jason could tell that they were also trying to suppress a small smile at the stupidity of the criminals. When Jason finished with his story, one of the officers suggested that he could downtown when it was convenient.

“We’d like to have you sit with our artist tomorrow, so that we can get a composite of the guys,” he explained.

“Actually,” replied Jason, “I had a bit of time before you arrived, so I took the opportunity to do a few sketches.”  Jason flipped his sketchpad to the first of the portraits and handed the pad to the officer.

The officer quickly flipped through the pad. This time, he didn’t try to suppress his amusement.

“You’ve got some talent, kid.” He handed the pad to his partner. “Recognize any of these guys, Marv?”

“Good Lord,” replied the younger officer, “Any of them? Heck, I recognize all of them. Clarence Billings lives in that area. Let’s start there.”

Ten minutes later, the officers interrupted a game of Old Maid at Clarence Billings’ house.

“Here we go, Bob.” Officer Marv pulled a pizza box from the trash. He turned to Billings. “You’re getting soft, Clarence. You leave this kind of evidence laying around?”

“So what. It’s a pizza box. We got hungry and ordered a pizza. Is that a crime?”

“There’s only one problem, Clarence. This pizza was supposed to be delivered to Mark Briggs.” Marv pointed to the sticker that contained the information about the delivery. “Being in possession of this particular box does create a bit of a problem for you.”

“You guys are all coming with us,” ordered Bob. “You’re being arrested for robbery and general stupidity.”

What’s Going On?

April 24, 2010

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We’re deep into April already.  What’s going on in Kosmo’s world?

We’re a few weeks into baseball season. This is my first year with Direct TV’s MLB Extra Innings package. I’ve been able to watch a lot of baseball, in spite of the crazy blackout situation in the state of Iowa. I also like MLB Network (not carried by my former provider) which gives me Hazel Mae’s baseball coverage without the distraction of the other sports. The “baseball mix” channel is also nice – showing action from as many as eight different games. It’s also a great way to get around blackouts (albeit by watching a tiny image of the game).  I also got into a bit of a disagreement with writer Mitch Albom about fantasy baseball a few days ago.

The audio version of The Cell Window hasn’t sold many copies yet.  However, I have made it available to some of my co-workers as a beta test.  The reviews are more positive than I would have hoped for.  At least three people have asked if I plan to lengthen the story (one going so far as to suggest that I pitch it to Hollywood, which is probably an exaggeration of the quality).  I see this as a good thing.  If people would like to see more of your story, that means they like what they see.  If they’d prefer a shorter version, that’s a bad sign.

Will I lengthen it?  I don’t know.  I’ve have to make it somewhere in the neighborhood of 7-10 times as long to be novel length, and that’s a lot to add.  My short term answer is “no, but I’ll let the idea simmer on the back burner.”

I’m going to temporarily slash the price of the audio booklet by 30%.  Yes, for the next 72 hours, the price will be $2.79.  Even better, I’ll offer a 10 day money back guarantee.  You don’t like it, you don’t pay for it!  Just respond to the order confirmation email asking for a refund.  Take the plunge – you won’t regret it.

This product is a 48 minute audio version of one of my original short stories.  The Cell Window is the tale of a voyeur, and follows the disturbingly escalating nature of his activities.    If you have ever wondered what Kosmo’s voice sounds like, this is your golden opportunity!  You can buy the audio version of The Cell Window and other items from the Hyrax Publications Store.

The Soap Boxers will be getting an infusion of estrogen in the next couple of weeks, with more articles by female writers.  I’m always tried to achieve some semblance of male/female balance, but haven’t been very successful in reaching that goal.

After a couple of months of struggling along a bit, traffic on The Soap Boxers has picked up a bit.  March traffic was about double what we had seen previously.  This was due in large part to exposure gained through a series of guest articles on other sites.  April traffic has dipped a bit, but is still the second highest month on record.  We’re still looking to grow the brand, of course, so mention us to your friends (or even your enemies).

I have made it easier for you to tip your favorite writer.  Tip as in “give money in appreciation for a well-written article”, not tip as in “overturn”.  In the author blurb at the end of each article, there will be a link to that specific writer’s tip jar at the Hyrax Publications Store.  As always, tipping remains completely optional (we promise not to spit in your internet if you don’t leave a tip) – but if you do choose to tip, it’s a bit easier now.

We’re getting to the point where The Fiction of Kosmo, Volume 4 should be produced.  I’m kicking around three ideas for the longer story right now.  Three completely different ideas with absolutely nothing in common.  I really need to settle on one of them and get writing.  I’m going to try to finish up by mid-May.  Soon, I’ll also be selecting the stories that I will include in my entry for the 2010 Iowa Short Fiction contest.  I’m happy to have enough content to be able to pick and choose the stories that will make the cut.

The Champion

April 23, 2010

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The tattered banner fluttered in the breeze.  It was faded by years of exposure to the sun, but still trumpeted its message to the world: CLUB CHAMPIONSHIP TODAY.

You could have cut the tension with a spork.  The 72 hole competition was going to come down to the very final hole.

Three time defending club champion Prescott Morris had played a flawless tournament, carding birdie after birdie.  In contrast, upstart Roger Blass had experienced an eventful tournament.  Blass’ card featured an impressive array of eagles along with a large number of bogeys.  Nary a hole went by that didn’t involve Blass blasting out of a hazard or draining an absurdly long putt.  Sometimes, he combined both in the same hole.

Morris was beginning to feel the pressure.  He had a one stroke lead on the final hole.  He had a lengthy conversation with his caddy before finally selecting his club.  His trusty Ping putter would be used for this shot – perhaps the most important shot in the history of Hillside Country Club.

Morris adjusted his purple and green plaid pants.  He tugged on his cap nervously.  Morris walked off the distance to the hole once again.  He studied the slope of the green.  At last, Prescott Morris felt that he had a good read for the shot.

Morris gave the ball a firm, measured tap.  The white sphere spurted toward the hole.  As it approached the hole, it appeared that Morris had hit the ball too hard.  The ball hit the back edge of the cup and popped up into the air.  The crowd held its collective breath.  The ball dropped harmlessly into the hole.  The pro-Morris faction of the crowd clapped politely.  Morris’ putt allowed him to save par on the hole, and retain his one stroke lead.

As Blass stepped into the tee box, his fans broke into frenzied shouting.  Blass was the underdog, a champion of those who clawed for everything they got in life.  Roger Blass had begun his career as a night watchman at the local bean factory.  Decades later, he owned not only the bean factory, but seven other plants.  He was the perfect example of the self-made man.

Blass basked in the glow for a moment before acknowledging the crowd with a nod.  Blass knew that his golf game was inferior to that of Prescott Morris.  He had compensated by adopting a feast or famine approach to the tournament.  The strategy was high risk, high reward.  Blass knew that he had been blessed with more than his fair share of good luck during the tournament.  He needed to take advantage and close out the 18th hole strong.  He needed an unlikely eagle to win or a birdie to tie and force a playoff.  Par simply wouldn’t be good enough.

Blass had found himself in the shadow of the billionaire oil baron for far too many years.  Morris drove a Rolls Royce while Blass had to settle for a Lexus.  Morris lived in a sprawling estate at the top of the hill while Blass had to settle for a 9500 square foot home with a somewhat smaller pool.  He finally had the chance to knock Morris off his high horse.

Blass  took a moment to gauge the wind.  He carefully selected a club and readied himself for the shot.  He took a moment to steady his nerves, then swung the club.  As Blass followed through, a drunk fan yelled “GET IN THE HOLE!”.  As the ball approached the green, it slid between the paddles of the windmill and dropped into the hole for an eagle.  Roger Blass had toppled the establishment and was the newest club champion.

Arizona Takes a Step Back With Immigration Legislation

April 22, 2010

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Earlier this week the Arizona Senate took a huge step back when it decided to pass a new tough immigration bill 17-11 along mainly party lines (Republican for, Democrat against). The bill make it illegal for illegal immigrants to not have paperwork on them proving they are in the country legally as well as requiring law enforcement to question the legal status of an individuals.

Now the first part of the law is kind of redundant and idiotic. An illegal immigrant is not going to have any proof they are in the county legally so making it a crime for them not to have the papers is kind of moronic – similar to the laws that make failure to pay taxes on illegal drugs a crime when there is no mechanism in place to pay the taxes.

The second part of the legislation is the more controversial and the part I will spend my time discussing here. Basically under the legislation, if and more than likely when the Governor of the state signs the bill into law, if you can’t prove you are a citizen on the spot, then you are just gonna have to go to jail while they sort it out. The Governor faces a primary challenge, so the logical thought is that if she does veto this she will kiss her political career in Arizona goodbye. Heck even John McCain who is trying to out teabag the teabaggers in Arizona to save his political career has come out in support of the legislation calling it a needed and useful tool for law enforcement in the state. A complete 180 from his recent as of the 2008 Presidential race on immigration reform.

Anyway, outside of a Social Security card and a Drivers License, I don’t know what I myself would have on me while driving at any given time. So I am guessing I should make sure to carry plenty of extra documentation on me next time I go to Arizona. Then again I am not the main objective of the law (which will focus on non-white people, primarily Hispanic individuals, legal or illegal) so I wouldn’t probably face much of a hassle, but then again that is what is wrong with the law in general. It requires law enforcement to question the legal status of everyone, but in reality the mood of the law as well as the probable enforcement is for one particular group of individuals.

Then again, what exactly will prove the legal status of someone on the spot, I said I wouldn’t probably expect someone to have more than their License and Social Security card on them, so that isn’t gonna be enough more than likely as I have said. Birth Certificate? I don’t carry mine around or really know anyone who does on a regular basis. Then again this is Arizona – where the legislature doesn’t believe in the accuracy of the President’s birth certificate. Why would I expect them to believe in the authenticity of mine? Immigration papers? A person whose family has been here for generations is not gonna have anything of the sort. Green Card? Once again that’s only gonna be useful if I were not a citizen but here legally. Student visa? same story as above.

You get the point? It is gonna be near impossible for someone to actually prove to the officer who already probably has prejudice against you that you are a legal citizen, so your time and civil rights are going to be trampled upon and racism rules the day.

I get that illegal immigration is a problem that needs to be solved, not only in Arizona but around the country as a whole. However blatant racism is not the way to “reform” the issue. I am guessing the next legislation they are going to propose is shoot first and prove innocence or guilt later, or maybe to post armed militia at the borders ready to shoot to kill those crossing the border.  Oh wait, it is Arizona they already do that, don’t they?

And now for the Bad Nuts of the Month (other than the Arizona Senate)

As always in no particular order, because a bad nut is a bad nut….

Bad Nut No. 1: Jacksonville, FL City Councilman Clay Yarborough

Yarborough’s questioning of prospective Human Rights Board members suggested that he was seeking members who would discriminate against gays and Muslims.  In later interviews, he also said that gays and Muslims should not be able to elected office – only Christians should be allowed to hold office. Just another dumb small-minded bigot, but on the deeper note of his bias and ignorance, I am guessing he means only people with a similar view of Christianity as him should hold office.

Bad Nut No. 2: Dr. Gregory Thompson, former Humansville, Missouri School Superintendent

In a recent opinion piece the former Public School official says amongst many other moronic notions and “facts” that you will go to hell if you don’t take your kids out of public schools.

Bad Nut No. 3: Thomas Mitchell, Editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal

Had an editorial piece on it being time to repeal the 19th amendment, because “men are consistent and women are fickle and biased.” Full opinion piece from him is here.

Was the Y2K Bug a Hoax?

April 21, 2010

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In 1999, corporate America was gripped by a fear – that the flipping of the calendar to 2000 would cause significant problems. Then 2000 came not with a bang, but with a whimper.

I was chatting with my brother yesterday, and he seems to be of the opinion that the entire situation was overblown. Was it – or were the fears well founded? This article is a decade late, but let’s take a deeper look at the Y2K bug.

What’s the problem, exactly? The problem was that many older computer program stored dates with two digit years instead of four digit years. This would cause a problem when the date flipped to 2000. Let’s use a simple example.

Let’s say the Social Security Administration had a computer program that checked to see if you were old enough to receive benefits. Let’s say that your birth date is January 1, 1920. This would be shortened to 01-01-20 in their system. This works fine in 1999. 1999 would be shortened to 99, and when the SSA computer takes the current data and subtracts your birth date, they determine that you are 79 years old (99-20).

Let’s flip to 2000. The program would shorten 2000 to 00. What does the program get when it takes the current date and subtracts your birth date? 80? Nope … -20.  (Yep, 00-20 = -20.  No check for you!)

This is a simple example. Any program using two digit years would have encountered problem. Imagine a nuclear power plant that used a program to determine if scheduled maintenance was needed …

Why didn’t they get it right the first time? An interesting thing about the Y2K bug is that is really wasn’t a bug. The programs were working exactly as designed – and the two-digit year was an intentional piece of the design. You could argue that it was a design flaw, but that would be pretty harsh. The real issue is that storage space at the time was much, much more expensive than it is today. Absurdly expensive. Using a two-digit year instead of a four digit year saved space, and thus money.

Certainly the programmers knew that the year 2000 would create problems. However, even the most optimistic programmers of the 1960s and 1970s could never have imagined that their programs would still be in use 30-40 years later.

What happened is that companies kept adding to the existing code base. Some programming languages were extremely good at certain tasks and simply refused to succumb to obsolescence. COBOL, I’m looking at you.

OK, then why didn’t they fix it later? I honestly think that each generation of programmers kept thinking that the old code would eventually be replaced by a completely new architecture, and that this resulted in less emphasis being placed on fixing Y2K issues. Going back and fixing all the instances of two digit dates would be a long process, with lots of testing. Simply building a new system would avoid this effort entirely.

Unfortunately, those replacement systems never got built, for a variety of reasons – lack of funding, or simply because the new languages simply couldn’t compete with the older ones. Finally, when Y2K was just around the corner, companies realized that something must be done, and NOW. Millions upon millions of hours were poured into testing and fixing problems with Y2K compliances issues.

OK, why didn’t I hear about any Y2K problems? In large part, Y2K went off without major problems because of the diligent work of programmers and other analysts. I have firsthand knowledge of this, having been in the trenches at the time.

There actually were some Y2K related problems. If you had your ear to the ground in early 2000, you may have heard about them. Of course, the public was expecting a dynamite-sized explosion and didn’t notice the firecrackers.

Another reason is that some people were looking in the wrong places. Your relatively new desktop computer was not going to stop working, your TV was not going to switch to black and white, nor was your freezer was not going to start boiling food. Even somewhat large companies could sidestep the issue if they were new enough to note have lots of code from the 60s and 70s lying around. The vulnerable systems were those belonging to major corporations.

The Y2K bug was definitely not a hoax. We dodged a bullet because a lot of people worked very hard in the late 90s to fix the problem.

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