Reactions to the Ubaldo Jimenez Trade

July 30, 2011

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Regular readers to The Soap Boxers know that I am a die-hard Colorado Rockies fan. I have rooted for the franchise since December of 1992, several months before they played their first game. I have stuck with them through thick and thin. Mostly thin – but it’s easier than it seems, since I was a Cubs fan prior to my reformation.

I have enjoyed watching a lot of Rockies players over the years, from the Big Cat, Vinny Castilla, and Larry Walker in the early years, to Todd Helton suffering with me through the lean years, and finally the current crop including Troy Tulowitzki and Carlos Gonzalez.

It always pains me when I see a good player leave town. It was a foregone conclusion that Matt Holliday would be traded because the small market Rockies couldn’t afford him. This wasn’t a consideration with Jimenez, as he was locked up at a very reasonable price through 2014 – $2.8 million this season, $4.2 million next year, $5.75 million team option in 2013, and $8 million team option in 2014 (Jimenez can – and likely will – void the 2014 option if traded). In other words, this was a great starting pitcher, cost controlled for another 3.5 years, and we still let him go.

Still, I’m OK with the deal. This is why?

  • We got a good deal. When the rumors of Jimenez being on the trade block initially surface, most observers felt that this was simply Dan O’Dowd gauging interest – with little interest in actually making a deal. Some also felt that this was a bad time to trade Jimenez, since he had struggled down the stretch in 2010 after a 15-1 start and had also struggled to start this year, However, Jimenez had been pitching much better since the start of June, and had been downright dominant on the road all year. A number of American League playoff contenders were rumored to be interested. Drew Pomeranz is one of the best pitch prospects in baseball, and Alex White and Jason Kipnis were the 1st (White) and 2nd (Kipnis) round picks in 2009. It’s a nice haul.
  • It addressed needs. It’s no secret that the Rockies have struggled to get production out of the second base spot since … um, have we ever had a decent offensive player at second base? Adding two quality young arms should also add depth to the rotation in future years. Pitching injuries seem to be a rite of passage in Denver; you can never have too many starting pitchers. All three players are also quite young (Kipnis is 24, White and Pomeranz are 22) and should still have several years of improvement ahead of them.
  • It could screw the Yankees. I have positive feeling for the Indians, and wouldn’t mind seeing them make the playoffs. If they happen to face off against the hated Yankees in the playoffs, I wish for them to have every possible weapon at their disposal. If Jimenez was going to be traded, Cleveland is a good spot for him.

You won’t see the name of Pomeranz in the official record of the transaction. Draftees must have been under contract with their team for a full year before becoming eligible to be traded. This is an odd little rule baseball enacted after the Pete Incaviglia trade in 1986. A stupid rule, but a rule nonetheless. Instead, you’ll see a Player to Be Named Later … and on August 15, that PTBNL will become Pomeranz.

You Know You Love Us: Art as Propaganda

July 29, 2011

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In 2007, the German Historical Museum in Berlin opened an exhibit titled, “Art and Propaganda: The Clash of Nations 1930-1945” (curated by Dr. Hans-Jörg Czech and Dr. Nikola Doll). As you can no doubt tell from the time period under observation, the show displayed artwork from Italy’s Fascist regime, German National Socialism (Nazism), and Soviet Communism. There was also an extremely controversial fourth nation represented: the United States. American New Deal-era artworks were displayed alongside those glorifying Mussolini, Stalin, and Hitler. Unsurprisingly, American viewers protested their inclusion alongside such unsavory company – virulently anti-Semitic posters showing Jewish people as bloated rats, Futuristic sculptures of Mussolini’s (il Duce’s) continuous profile, and ridiculously toady-ing portraits of an insanely idealized Joseph Stalin.

This intensely negative reaction is unsurprising, given the continuous American fascination with WWII, and our heroic place in it. Early twentieth-century Germany and Italy are colored black in our heads, although Russia was nominally on the Allied side, the degeneration into Cold War politics that followed the war knocks them into the same monstrous camp of forced deportations and genocide. To place American artworks – posters, paintings, sculptures, and other materials, alongside those of the three fiends of the twentieth century – the horror!

Generally speaking, the modern world takes a dim view of propaganda. Propaganda, to most of us, is the province of Saddam Hussein, Muammar Gadaffi (how have we as a people not decided how to spell this man’s name yet?), and the most James Bond villain-esque of contemporary dictators, Kim Jong Il. Propaganda is giant gold fists crushing Americans planes and having your face subtly displayed on two-story building-size posters. This view, however, is incorrect. Technically speaking, propaganda is the spread of ideas or information to further the cause of an institution or person. That ASPCA brochure you got in the mail this morning? Propaganda. The “Easy Ways to Redecorate Your Bathroom” article in the new Martha Stewart “Living”? Propaganda (but you knew that one). The integration of art and propaganda is not a new combination – Hitler and his ilk were drawing from thousands of years of using images to influence public opinion.

Although kings, queens, pharaohs, and emperors are some of the most obvious users (and abusers) of art as visual propaganda, I chose to dedicate much of my artistic education to considering the artistic propaganda of perhaps the largest and most powerful institution of the last two millennia of Western civilization: the Catholic Church. For Christianity’s first 1500 years or so, what became the “Catholic Church” was simply the Church, the only game in town.

Christianity began as a religion of the poor and dispossessed in backwater Roman provinces; they used artistic representation sparingly. Digging back to your Sunday School days (or, lacking those, “Intro to Religion” college courses), you might remember the Old Testament story (Exodus) in which Aaron created a statue of a golden calf to calm the Israelites while Moses was up on Mount Sinai. The calf was meant to be a stand-in for the Hebrew God, but greatly invoked the bull worship that was common in many cultures at the time. As if invoking paganism wasn’t bad enough, the creation and worship of such a statue was idolatry – the worship of an image – specifically forbidden by Jewish law. Of the three Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, Christianity is the only one that dispensed pretty thoroughly with the anti-graven images rule. This is less of a commentary on specifically Christian theology and more a result of Christianity emerging at the height of the Roman Empire, a time when Roman art was at its classical zenith.

As Christianity evolved from being the religion of slaves and poor minorities to the official religion of the empire, its artistic tradition developed from its early austere, primitive style (a loaded term in the art world, but evocative) to the highly naturalistic, incredibly detailed style one associated both with the Roman classical world.

This inherited artistic tradition was perhaps Christianity’s greatest weapon in the pursuit of believers (actual weapons were sometimes involved, as well). In ages where the vast, VAST majority of Europe’s population was illiterate (Dark Ages even into the Renaissance and beyond), the Church’s use of images helped explain and spread their beliefs to millions of people who otherwise would never have understood. The official language of Christianity was Latin, a language the Church’s own priests often had scanty knowledge of, and certainly no common parishioner understood a single word said in Mass. What they could understand, however, were pictures – scenes of the Nativity, Raising of Lazarus, and the Last Judgment in stained glass, prayer books, and wall frescoes. These works of art explained Christianity better than any priest ever could, and as Christianity evolved and eventually split, what became the Catholic Church clung to images as a continued means of impressing and convincing their parishioners that their way was the correct way.

Some of the best-known artworks in the Western world are blatant Christian propaganda. The Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s frescoes in the Vatican Stanze, Michelangelo’s David – all out to convince their viewers that Catholicism is the way. The fact that these works are propaganda in no way decreases their value as art; in fact, it emphasizes the very power of images and establishes that art is an extremely powerful force that can be utilized for good and evil.

Therefore, America’s inclusion in the Berlin exhibit wasn’t an inherently negative comment on Rooseveltian politics – just a nod to our obvious knowledge of the propagandistic power of images.

Pissed Off About The Debt Ceiling Debate

July 28, 2011

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There are five days left until the threat of default and the circus continues in Washington over the debt ceiling. Feeling the pressure? The Republicans seem to be as The Man With The Fake Tan seem to be getting more and more agitated by the day. First he is overheard saying he didn’t sign up to go head to head with the President and then you have him telling his party colleagues to get their asses in line behind his ideas.

Here is how I see the whole ordeal. First you have a Democrat as President sounding like a Republican – well one before they were taken off the cliff by these nut jobs anyways. Making every effort to come closer each day to anything the right had wanted at the expense of his own support from progressives in the long run, Then you have the Republicans that are insatiable in their desires and keep wanting more and wanting it now. It looks like the Tea Party is more the Veruca Salt Party and all bad nuts to me.

It really pisses me off to see every compromise being offered their way on every single damn thing and, not once any compromise by the other side. No matter what he does to alienate his base, the right will always view him in a bad light. Heck he could suddently decide to outlaw abortion effective immediately and I am sure the right would reconsider its position on that.

Right now it seems that there are two last ditch efforts to avoid default. The one that is proposed by the Democrats has more dollars in cuts than it raises the debt ceiling and gives the Treasury room to pay the interest on past debt through 2013. It is not a good proposal, as it does not have any revenue side reform. However it will do suffice to avoid the end result and, what the hell, we can continue this circus without putting our credit rating on the table. Then on the other side you have a proposal of more cuts, but only enough debt ceiling room made to last until Christmas. Heck you even have teabaggers proposing we should vote to lower the debt ceiling – what absolute morons they are indeed.

It seems that the Pubes want to redo this side show again at Christmas and then I am sure once again during the heat of summer campaigning, all with the country’s economic fate at stake each time. When August 2nd gets here and there is obviously nothing going to get done the President should just use the 14th Amendment to avoid the end result the teabaggers want to see and then let us all continue this circus without holding the country’s credit rating ransom.

Now let’s discuss the Bad Nuts of the Month.

Glenn Beck: He may not have his show on Fixed News anymore, but he still has other outlets to put forth his agenda of lies and hate. This week in the aftermath of the tragedy in Norway, he compared the camp that the kids were killed at to being like the Hitler Youth. Saying who has a camp that is all about politics. Who? Well Glenn Beck, that is who – with his 9/12 indoctrination camp for kids this summer in Tampa. Anyways, what was with the comparison anyways? Does he think the kids deserved to die or something because they were at a camp run by a political ideology he does not agree with? Unfortunately that is probably the case.

Bradlee Dean: Well it seems that the nutcase that runs You Can Run But You Can’t Hide International did not take well to his own words putting him in bad light and has made a frivolous $50 million lawsuit against NBC, MSNBC, Rachel Maddow, The Minnesota Independent. It stems from it being reported that Dean referred to Muslims as being at least more moral than us in executing gay people. Now he did not come out and say so in many words, but when one preaches for morality and says that the moral thing to do is to execute gay people, then you pretty much are advocating for that stance. I guess Dean thinks he can hide from his own words and thinks that you should not be able to make him beheld accountable for them.

Allen West: As you may know as Crunchy talked about in her article last week, Allen West, a Congressman from Florida, took issue with fellow Florida Congresswoman Debbie Wassermann Schultz. He did not like her talking about his publicly known views on issues on the floor of Congress when he was not in the room. In an email her West basically said that DWS was the most vile piece of trash in the entire Congress an that he was not going to treat like a lady because she was not one and she needed to know her place. Now what does not treating her like a lady mean? If she does not stop talking about his views then he is going to beat the crap out of her or something? Anyways I am sure there is no evidence of West ever talking about someone else in a bad light when they were not present are there? Sure there are plenty of those. I guess DWS can just remember that West will likely soon be out of Congress after the next election and find peace in that like we all will.

Big Brother Week 3 – Veto Competition

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All sorts of things happened in last night’s episode of BB, before AND after the veto competition. Adam and Dominic were nominated for eviction, but would have a chance to remove themselves if they won the veto competition. Dominic struck a deal (or so he thought) with Brendon and Rachel to throw the competition, thinking that they would vote Adam out and he’d just be the pawn.

In the veto competition, players had to jump into a giant shallow pool and pull hairs out of a sunbathing woman’s leg, and the hair had a letter on the end. Whoever spelled the longest word in the allotted timeframe, won. Ok, the “hair” was more like a “noodle” that you’d find in most backyard pools…and the sunbathing woman was just a giant “statue” of sorts, but the rest of the game is the same. Spell the longest word, correctly, and you win.

Jordan spelled “little”…but I’m sure she did more than most of the other players were expecting. Dominic, who was supposed to throw the competition, ended up spelling a 9-letter word, and tied with Adam and Jeff. Rachel misspelled her word (Mouisturizing [sic]), surprise surprise. Brendon won the competition, and he and Rachel now have complete control.

Before the veto ceremony, Dominic talked to Shelly, and gave away his entire gameplan. He gave away that he and Danielle are a “team”, and that they’re targeting Jordan and Jeff, and eventually would turn on Brendon and Rachel. Shelly is a big fan of Jordan and Jeff, so she went to Jordan to spread the news. Not much longer, and they’re in the HoH room telling Rachel what’s going on.

Finally, they see that Danielle is NOT a good member of their alliance and her trying to convince Rachel to backdoor Jeff and Jordan is only for herself, and Dominic. Shelly, Rachel, and Jordan say they’re going to keep this whole revelation a secret, but can they?

Dominic thinks he’s safe and is only being used as a pawn to get Adam out of the house, but with last night’s episode I think it’s pretty clear that he’s going home. He spoke WAY too soon to Shelly, and really gave up his entire game. Tonight’s episode should be pretty entertaining…….

PREDICTION:
This is pretty obvious, but I predict that Dominic will be voted out, in convincing fashion. I also predict fireworks in the house! It’ll be interesting to see how Danielle reacts, since he’s the only person she really has in the house.

Time To Disband The Big XII?

July 27, 2011

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I never thought I would say this, but…

The Big XII media days are a bit entertaining this year.

Most of the head coaches questioned on the topic of the recently formed “Longhorn Network” an exclusive deal between ESPN and the University of Texas, were hush hush on the topic. But not Missouri Head Coach Gary Pinkel.

“It’s a lack of common sense there to think that the network, the university network, can have high school games,” Pinkel said.

A major up-roar has caused some dissention in the ranks of the “New” Big XII Conference. The Longhorn Network has announced plans to cover high school games. Most everyone still left in the Big XII Conference, outside of the University of Texas thinks this is a complete and utter unfair recruiting advantage for the University in comparison to the remaining members of the conference.

Pinkel echoed sentiments expressed last week by Texas A&M Athletic Director, Bill Byrne (who coincidentally prior to this job was the Athletic Director at the University of Nebraska)

Last week Byrne released a statement expressing concern about the network carrying high school content as well as broadcasting a Texas game against a conference opponent, said Big 12 athletic directors will hold a meeting to discuss the issues within the next two weeks. Yesterday Byrne, who just returned from a fishing trip to Alaska, declined to expound upon his Longhorn Network thoughts with the following statement.

“I caught about 36 salmon, and I learned that if they keep their mouths shut, they won’t get hooked,” Byrne said.

Texas coach Mack Brown disputed the notion high school content on the network will give the Longhorns a recruiting edge.

“It would have nothing to do with the University of Texas,” Brown said. “Those games would be games that might be on ESPN anyway. … We’re going to sign 20 to 25 players a year, and those players will probably be committed to us before June in their junior year. So I don’t think that part will have any effect on recruiting at all.”

Yeah….whatever Mack…..

But before you start throwing stones at glass houses….

Texas A&M and Oklahoma are both more than happy with the new agreements in the Big XII Conference. Last summer when A&M almost bolted to the SEC, and as part of the deal to stay home, A&M, Texas and Oklahoma each get $20 million a year from TV revenue while the remaining sisters of the poor in the conference would get more in the 14-15 million realm.

Also these three schools got the majority of the “blood money” that was paid out by Colorado and Nebraska in order to be allowed to leave the league. Matter of fact some of the smaller schools even gave their share to these three as a means of appeasement.

HA HA …Nebraska and Colorado….Allowed to leave the league. It is looking like a better decision all of the time.

It appears that the rich (mainly Texas) is trying to get even richer. One of these days the rest of the teams will realize what Nebraska realized after they finally woke up and smelled the coffee.

Texas only cares about Texas. At the end of the day it is football, not academics, which rules the conversation of conference alignments…because after all it is all about the money.

It is time for this sham of a conference ran by an inept administration to simply disband. I am hoping that some of the other football powers in the remaining Texas…errrr….Big XII conference decide to take their ball and go home the way that Nebraska and Colorado did.

Until next time…stay classy in the Republic!

Madden 12 / Big Brother

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Madden 12……It’s On!

Last month, I wrote about Madden 12 and how the NFL lockout would impact the release of this year’s game (read it here).

No, this won’t be yet another story on the NFL lockout, because over the last several months I know we’ve all gotten more than tired of reading about it.  This is much more important….with the announcement earlier this week that the lockout is now over, Madden 12 is back on!  The most recent announced date I’m seeing is Madden will become available August 30th this year, which is a little later than usual, but still not bad considering the work that Madden maker EA will have to put in to release the title.

I do have to say, in the world of receiving software updates over the internet, this fairly quick release date is much more manageable.  With teams not signing recent draftees and free agents until now, it would be nearly impossible for those events to happen AND for EA to get rosters updated, etc in time for the release.  With today’s technology, and being able to receive roster updates via the internet, us Madden lovers can get the game we’ve been waiting for since…..well, last August!

Big Brother – What are they Thinking??

Last week, when Jordan and Jeff had control of the house, and ultimately had a chance to back-door Brendon and Rachel at the veto ceremony, they should have!  It was the perfect chance to get rid of the duo that ultimately is their biggest competition.  However, they felt it was too early in the game to go against their alliance.  Partially true, but still may be the only chance they get. 

Of course, Rachel won the last HoH, and now she and Brendon have the chance to do exactly what could have been done to them.  There was a luxury competition, with Jordan winning the chance to take 3 other houseguests to the viewing of a new show on CBS (Same Name, CBS, 9pm/8pm CT).  Of course she picked Jeff, and then picked Kalia and Shelly?!?!  What are you thinking, Jordan?  Rachel already won the HoH, and of course she’s going to get upset that you didn’t pick her and Brendon.

Of course, what does this lead to, Rachel getting upset and then arguing with Brendon, like they always do.  And, of course, this led to the other houseguests trying to convince Rachel to back-door Jeff and Jordan at the veto ceremony.  She nominated Adam and Dominic for eviction, and the veto competition will be tomorrow night.  If Rachel and Brendon or Adam and Dominic win the veto competition, I fully expect that Rachel will back-door Jordan and Jeff….which means Jordan and Jeff HAVE to win the veto competition.   Yes, if you can’t already tell, I’m pulling for Jeff and Jordan to win it all!!

Inside Kosmo’s Life

July 26, 2011

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As usual, I’m juggling a lot of balls at the moment. That tends to be par for the course these days.

Amazon Associates

One of the more interesting – and profitable – ventures stemmed from Amazon’s recent decision to sever ties with California residents who were members of the Amazon Associates affiliate program. A lot of people took a financial hit when this happened. Previously, they were making commissions when they referred sales to Amazon. This revenue dropped to zero. This has happened in several other states, but I personally knew some people who were affected in California.

My simple solution to this problem is to have a middleman from a non-affected state step into the middle. Let’s call this person “Kosmo”. Kosmo provides new tracking IDs to the affected people that are tied to his account and then replace the old ids with the new ones (this only takes a few minutes for an entire site). Amazon then pays Kosmo, who then takes a cut and passed on the lion’s share of the money to the site owner. This creates two separate relationships. Amazon no longer has a direct relationship with the site owner.

Interested in knowing more details? Email me at kosmo@ObservingCasually.com

The Cell Window – Kindle version

I’m very happy to announce the release of The Cell Window for Kindle.  This is one of my all-time favorite stories, and probably the one that took the most work – requiring six weeks to complete the 10,000 word tale.  This is the story of Duncan, a tech-savvy voyeur who invades the lives of his employer’s customers.  I distributed free copies of this story to a lot of my friends, and it tended to evoke a reaction from everyone.  My friend Jaylene commented that if I weren’t married, she’d be a bit freaked out to be around me.  (I guess all the weirdos are single people?).  You really SHOULD find the story a bit disturbing.

You can buy the story on Amazon for 99 cents or you can be a big spender on pony up $3.79 for my short story collection Mountains, Meadows, and Chasms, which also contains the story (along with 73 other stories).

If you buy either book, please leave a review when you are finished.  All I ask is that you be honest with your feedback.

Other writing

I’ve been renting myself out in recent weeks in an effort to keep the lights on at Hyrax Publications.  You’ll be able to see articles on financial and insurance topics over at The Digerati Life.  At this point, I’m not looking for any additional work in that arena, but I am entertaining any offers to do some freelance short fiction.

I’m also making an effort to kick-start my novel, which has been laid aside a bit to make time to chase after young kids.  (I should clarify that.  I’m referring to my own kids.)

The book will be a nice little serial killer novel.  I’m starting basically from scratching, putting aside about 8000 words that I had written previously.  I’ve circulated the newly written prologue to a few trusted friends, and it has received very positive reviews.  Now I just need to write the rest of the book …  I’d love to finish by some time in 2012.  It’s going to be a ton of work (and require a fair amount of research), but it should be a lot of fun).

Space, the Debt Ceiling, and the NFL Lockout

July 25, 2011

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The United State Space program

With the landing of the Space Shuttle Atlantis last Thursday, the Space Shuttle Program comes to an end and a chapter of United States history also comes to a close. Based on the current priorities within the beltway of Washington DC, there has been insufficient budget to have a replacement vehicle in place for a seamless transition from the Shuttle program. The United States is in the same position it faced in the mid-1970s when the Apollo/Skylab programs ended and the nation had to hold its breath until 1981 as we had no manned presence in space.

This time we will still have the Space Station, but we will be dependent on other countries to keep that vehicle properly manned and supplied. Most notably, we will be dependent on the Russians who, as the Soviet Union, were our chief rivals in the space frontier for more than forty years. Now we will take a break from manned space travel as we work towards a new vehicle (which appears most likely to be upgrades to the capsules used in the 1960’s and 70s) while the Chinese push forward with an aggressive program of their own. We have a significant lead on the Chinese, but we cannot depend on that lead when we consider our national safety. The Chinese will not have to spend as much time or money to get to the level of the United States simply because we have shown what can and cannot be done.

I therefore want to make a call out to all Americans and specifically those who have been elected to run our country. Refocus on Space – NOW.

The United States Debt Ceiling

There are a lot of opinions about raising the debt limit for the United States federal government. Frankly, I do not care. If the debt limit is not raised, automatic budget cuts are activated to keep the country running, which is exactly what individuals have to do. There is a lot of noise about the county’s credit rating dropping if we do not get the limit raised. From what I have seen, if you keep upping your limit your credit score goes down, not up. If you pay off your debts your credit score goes up not down. Now maybe things work differently in Washington DC then they do in my house, but I would prefer that they did not.

I find it comical that we hear on the news that the only way to get of debt is to spend more money that does not exist. My whole life I have learned that the only way to get out of debt is to pay off that debt. That means, on a personal level, a reduction of funds spent on entertainment, transportation, housing, and, at times, even food. When ever I have resorted to getting more credit, I have used that credit and gotten further into debt. My take on this debate is to let it keep going with the congress doing nothing at all. At least while they are arguing about this, they are not enacting more laws that make the nanny state that much more intrusive. Over the last few years, the federal government has decided how much water we can use to flush, what kind of water heater we can have, the amount of energy a dishwasher or clothes dryer can use, and what kind of light bulb goes into light fixtures. I have always been much more at ease when congress is NOT in session

The NFL Lockout

This is probably the most important topic I wanted to bring up this week. Are we going to have a professional football season this year or not? This is not a life or death question. I can always survive watching college football, and I am sure that many more games will be broadcast if the professionals cannot get their act together. Some dollar conscious schools will move games to Sunday and even Monday night to fill the void.

As of this writing, the Billionaires (owners) have approved and presented a proposal to the Millionaires (players). Now the Millionaires have to reorganize and vote on whether they like the proposal or not. The reorganization is required because they dissolved their union. Many people do not understand why they dissolved, thinking it is just adding more difficulty to the decision. They dissolved to avoid federal arbitration. If a union and a corporation come to a deadlock in negotiations, either side can ask for binding federal arbitration. What ever the arbitrator decides is binding to all participants. The players did not like the odds when most of the owners are politically active at the federal level (one is even an ambassador), so they dissolved the union. No union means no union-employer deadlock, therefore there is no basis for arbitration.

I personally have no idea what the overall conflict was about or what is in the proposal. I really do not care either. I just want to know what I will be doing on Sunday afternoons this fall. The players and the owners are the only ones who can decide if there will be a season. That decision will determine whether I spend time watching their product and the advertisements that substantially help pay their income, or whether I spend my time doing something else. Their choice, I hope they choose well.

Random Thoughts From Kosmo

July 22, 2011

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There’s much debate in Washington – and much discussion around the nation – about whether or not to raise the nation’s debt ceiling. Realistically, everyone knows that the debt ceiling must be raised. In recent history, neither party has had a track record of balancing the budget. There’s chatter about cutting spending, but when the rubber hits the road, members of both parties have their own pet projects.

Wondering how to make some money in the financial markets?  Figure out where the money will go after the gold bubble bursts.  When people realize that the speculators have turned gold into a de facto currency – while at the same time criticizing de jure (fiat) currency – they may realized that investing in shiny rocks might not be the best idea in the world.  When the crash comes, investors will be scrambling for a safe place to put their money.  If you can figure out where they will put their money, you might be able to ride a bit of a surge when demand outstrips supply in that market (at which point, you should consider selling).

The NFL owners ratified a new labor deal with the union. It could be a while before the players ratify the same deal. More often than not, I side with players in sports labor issues – but not this time. I really feel that many of the tactics of the players – most notably their sham decertification of union (a union which continues to bargain on their behalf) – amount to bargaining in bad faith. I’d actually be interesting in having the courts weigh in on the issues. If a deal isn’t done soon, we’re looking at the possibility of some lost games (pre-season, at least) and a compressed off-season. The proposed shortened free agency period seems like a very bad deal for the players – giving them little time to shop around for a deal. Personally, I’ve been staying away from the NFL for the last two years after my team signed Brett Favre – and I’m really close to walking away from the NFL permanently. There’s plenty of baseball year-round to keep my occupied.

The Colorado Rockies have been listening to trade offers for ace Ubaldo Jimenez.  In talks with the Yankees, they were reportedly looking for a deal in which Yankees catching prospect Jesus Montero – an elite hitting prospect – did not make up the bulk of the value in the deal.  Although Jimenez’s number are not close to his 15-1 start at the beginning of last year, he’s not doing as poorly as you might thing.  After a horrible start to the year (0-5, 5.86 ERA though the end of May), Jimenez is 6-3 with a 2.58 ERA since June 1.  A big key to his success has been a dramatic reduction in number of walks.  Jimenez has also been downright dominant this year on the road – a 2.28 ERA and a stunningly low .158 batting average allowed.  I’d prefer to keep Jimenez, but I trust GM Dan O’Dowd.  After all, he did very well in the Matt Holliday trade, obtaining Carlos Gonzalez and Huston Street in the deal.

I’ve been reading an old book by a favorite author lately. The Kindle edition of Lawrence Block’s Killing Castro is available for $2.99.  Not only in the story set in 1961, it was published in 1961 under a pen name.  I’m about 75% of the way through the book, and am thoroughly enjoyed it.  How often can you read a 50 year old book by an author who is still producing new books?

Speaking of Amazon … if you like The Soap Boxers, consider using the big Amazon ad at the top of the right side of the screen as your entry point into Amazon.  This will give us a small commission when you buy things, and there is no additional cost to you.  Consider this to be payment for the many articles on this site 🙂

Space Shuttle Memories: Becoming An Advocate

July 21, 2011

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The following is a remembrance of the United States Space Program as I have lived it. I will restrain from naming specific people except historic figures and the actual crews of missions I have witnessed or supported. My qualifications for writing this memoir are; a BS in Aerospace Engineering from the University of Texas, three tours as a Co-operative engineer at the NASA Johnson Space Center, and nine years as an engineer supporting the Space Shuttle and Space Station programs for what eventually became the United Space Alliance (USA) on the Space Transportation System Operations Contract (STSOC). For those who are interested, technical summaries of each Space Shuttle flight can be found at the NASA web site. All NASA manned missions can be viewed in the archive.

In the fall of 1995, I left NASA. I was still working in the aerospace industry, just not the space portion. I continued to monitor the happenings at NASA and always prayed for the best for everyone working the projects. From my new position outside looking in, I continued my love affair with space. I tried to watch every launch and every landing. I kept in touch with my friends in Houston and had them send me mission patches to add to my collection.

I have always advocated for the space program, not just because of the adventure, but because of the benefits that naturally come from exploration. We have had great advances in material science, medicine and even heat transfer from our experiences in space. The space program is expensive, but it produces products and knowledge that benefit many people and disciplines. Space travel can grab the attention of children and adults, sometimes the whole nation or the whole world at one time. Unfortunately it can also become routine. That is when budgets are cut and people stop watching, reading or caring. That is what happened in January of 2003.

On January 16, 2003, the Space Shuttle Columbia launched for the one hundred and thirteenth mission (STS-103). I watched the launch, but pretty much ignored the rest of the mission. My brother in law called to ask me if I was watching the landing, that is when I turned on the news and knew immediately that another shuttle and another crew had been lost. When I had worked at NASA the single most dangerous part of all missions was launch. That is when a controlled explosion was used to put the vehicle into orbit. Coming down was easy, slow down and let gravity suck you in, aim for the runway and land. I had been away from the program for more than seven years and did not personally know any of the astronauts lost, but it was still like loosing members of my family.

It was shortly after the return to flight of STS-114 in July of 2005 that I decided how I was going to support the space program from a distance. One of my co-workers’ wife is a teacher at a local middle school. Part of there curriculum includes a journalism segment where the student right about famous events in history; Columbus reaching the Antilles, Washington winning the battle of Yorktown, the assassinations of President Kennedy and Martin Luther King, and the first landing on the moon. I established a K-12 program where I go and talk to the students over a full day of classes. I try to explain the inch by inch method of achieving a goal, we did not just suddenly land on the moon, a lot of work had to be done to get there. More important, we continue that progress today, with potential for each of those young people to have a great affect on the history of humanity.

Every year I speak with these kids and have their attention throughout the day. Some of it is that I am not their normal teacher, some is the fear of misbehaving while their teachers are watching, but some of it is actual interest. Space is cool in every generation. I tell them silly stories about astronauts, I tell them the serious nature and danger of space flight by discussing candidly the Challenger and Columbia accidents. I also do a demonstration of size. I have cardboard constructions of the Mercury and Gemini capsules. I put one volunteer in the mercury mock up, it is very tight. I then put two in the Gemini mock up, also a tight fit. I give one a rope and open the “door” and have them step out. This is to demonstrate how hard it would have been for the craft bound astronaut to get a disabled space walker back into the craft.

So as not to bore them, I break into some video and artifact demonstrations with plenty of time to ask questions and look at all of the space stuff I have collected over the years. Most often the kids ask about the space ships. How big they were (I have a poster for that), how cramped they were (more than just Mercury and Gemini), what the Soviets had. For space within the craft, I showed the Mercury by putting a cone around a single chair and the Gemini by putting a cone around two chairs close together. The Apollo could be shown by having a cone around three chairs close together (there is space behind the chairs for more room). The Soyuz could be shown by having three chairs in a sphere. They had room overhead and beneath the chairs making it a little roomier than the Apollo. The Apollo usually had a Lunar Lander attached when housing three astronauts so there was additional space there. All of these would be considered sub-compact cars when compared with the luxury of the Space Shuttle.

The Space Shuttle has two decks with ample space around the chairs when they are installed. Only the commander and pilot seats are permanently attached. The decks are tall enough to stand up in and when in orbit, you can float into every cubit inch of that volume. When you add a Space Lab module in the payload bay, it is pretty much a resort hotel in space. The space station is even bigger, with private quarters for crew members to sleep and get away when necessary.

I will continue my advocacy for the space program. I am disappointed that the decision has been made to retire the Space Shuttle before a new vehicle is ready. This is the same mistake made in the transition from Apollo to Shuttle. I do not like being dependent on other countries to keep our Space Station fully crewed. I never want to allow another country to overtake the United States in space technology. As the Shuttle program comes to an end, I do feel sadness and even disappointment. I felt this same way when the Apollo program ended. But I am also optimistic. The Space Shuttle moved us forward in so many areas, from Avionics to Medicine to Astronomy. I can only dream about what we will do next. For now, I await with anticipation the next space craft to launch our imagination.

 

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