## Sunday, December 8, 2013

### Castle Throwdown

Every once in a while a topic comes up that places your Gormogons on differing sides of Castle.  However, GorT feels he needs to clear the air regarding the metric system.  This post originally was longer but after the Czar and Volgi weighed in, I re-edited it.

First, I never advocated forcing universal adoption of the metric system.  I do believe that a universal measurement system would do some good (and given that the US is in the minority here, metric was my reference system) in that it would remove any need for conversion.  Second, as stated previously, I don't think we'd ever make the change.  Ever.

I wonder what the Volgi is building with his 1 1/2" x 3 1/2" 2"x4"?

### Last word from me on metric.

Czar,

Your point about my argument as (inelegantly) stated is correct, but I was trying to get at the handiness of the units of relative and different size (inch, foot, yard), as opposed to the reduction to numbers of relatively many significant figures for commonly-used lengths. There’s just nothing between the meter and centimeter to break things up into handily—although I remember as a kid thinking the decimeter (which no one ever uses) was a useful, different length (about four inches, or to be more abstruse, a bit less than half a span [which no one ever uses either—possibly because it's simply nine inches or three-quarters of a foot]).

Obviously, native users of the metric system will find the imperial system rather balky from the outside, but some of them evidently do come to appreciate its handiness as an evolved system for accomplishing tasks, rather than a rationally designed top-down master system (which is, to bolster your points, very, very good for dealing with things that are tiny or huge, and calculation with which is fairly simple).

### Another 2.65cm of Commentary

Well, we Gormogons love infighting. Watching the playful shoving match between Dr. J., GorT, and Volgi over the metric system is a strong reminder to you readers that we Castle men do not march in lockstep.

Each of the Czar’s overwhelmingly brilliant colleagues is correct. But let the Czar add some thoughts, as he tends to wander in and out of the metric system on a daily basis.

For common estimates, the Czar agrees that Volgi is right: a yard measures how many steps it takes to cover a distance. A foot measures how many things you can stuff into a shoe. An inch measures how many thumb-widths something us. A cup is how much liquid your two hands can hold when, well, cupped. These are inherently easy to conceptualize.

But the Czar also agrees that the metric system is really damned easy. The Czar frequently uses it for dimensions less than an inch. And he reminds all of you that you use the metric system every freaking day. If you worry about the wattage on your electric bill, or think about how many gigabytes a downloaded movie is, or think about a roller coaster in terms of Gs, and so on, you are using the metric system.

And, well, the Czar has yet to see a firearm enthusiast who cannot instantly flip from a .223 to a 5.56mm measurement. The Czar has seen metric haters go on and on about calibers, easily switching from metric to imperial measurements without any hesitation.

Know why? Because these are things you know how to use.

Most people who oppose the metric system immediately argue against ridiculous and seemingly arbitrary conversion values. Allow us to quote no less than Confucius*:
For us hu-mons, it’s a lot easier to eyeball (or visualize) the difference between three and four feet, or five and seven inches, than (approximately!) 0.9 and 1.2 meters, or 12.7 and 17.78 centimeters (note: not actually an official metric unit, but a practical subdivision).
Yes, and well...no. Because if you grew up using the metric system, you would not think of it in these terms—because you could make the following argument:
It’s a lot easier to eyeball (or visualize) the difference between one and two meters, or 600 and 750 millimeters, than (approximately!) 3.28 feet and 6.56 feet, or 23.6 and 29.5 inches (note: not actually an official SI unit, but a practical subdivision).
Sorry, Volgi: but your argument travels equally well in both directions.

The reader is invited to pause for a moment and ask whether it is easier to add 48cm to 150cm, or more practical to add 1'-7" to 4'-11". As someone who uses foot + inch overlaps a lot, the Czar finds metric a lot easier when doing stuff with measurements (as opposed to talking about them). Any decimal system is easier than 12 + fractions = 1 + 1/12 subdivisions. Calculating a whole buncha different lengths is easier if we convert it then ramp the sum back.

However, Volgi absolutely nails it that a lot of pro-metric folks labor under the impression that metric units are inherently more logical. They are not. In fact, they are even more capricious than imperial measurements; we just don’t talk about it in public.**

A little discussed reality is that metric values are constantly being redefined. Volgi references a meter to being one-two hundred ninety-nine thousand, seven-hundred ninety-two, four-hundred fifty-eights of a second that light travels in a vacuum. This has only been true since 1983. And because the speed of light in a vacuum may not be as constant as we hoped, this definition is certain to change as well. Why not? Since 1668, the definition for a meter has changed many times, ranging from earth-based distances to krypton emissions.

Is centigrade at all logical? 0 (freezing) and 100 (boiling) sounds good, but water does not freeze instantly at 0°C, nor does it absolutely boil at 100°C, either.

The gram is even better. Originally, the gram was basically equal to the weight of water in a cubic meter, except as we just saw, we have no idea what a meter really is. In fact, the General Conference of Weights and Measures hopes to have a definition of what a gram is by 2014 at the earliest. Because nobody really knows, other than the fact 2.2 pounds is a kilogram.

The Czar would really like to go on and on at this point, and take you through all the standard weights and measures of the metric system—except you already know what will happen. Every single unit is completely made up, and winds up being either arbitrary or so laden with provisions*** that the clarification undermines the base definition.

The Czar once got into an argument with a guy over this. The Czar was discussing the easy utility of the metric system when the other fellow erupted into a bizarre tirade about carpentry. Why should he throw away all his drill bits, saws, jigs, and other woodworking tools—which use fractional inches—and learn a whole new system.

See, that’s just the error. No one is asking you to do that. In fact, the two systems coexist nicely together. No one is forcing you to throw out a 3/16" drill bit; but if you happen to need a 3mm drill bit, you oughta know it’s smaller than a 3/8" bit.

*For those who came in late, Confucius is the Gormogons’ Œcumenical Volgi.

**The Czar thinks Volgi is spot on that the French have hoodwinked people on the perfection of the metric system. It is in no way logical, inherently useful, or based on universal understanding. And for the all the Europeans who tout it, it doesn’t take long to see them chuck it in favor of local traditional measurements. English drivers may pump gas in liters, but still measure economy in miles per gallon. Chinese nationals may post directions in kilometers, but still talk of li. And so on.

***Proof? The actual definition of the meter includes the comment “where lengths ℓ which are sufficiently short for the effects predicted by general relativity to be negligible with respect to the uncertainties of realisation.” Funny how you don’t see small print like this when discussing inches.

## Saturday, December 7, 2013

### All About Unions and Minimum Wage

A Primer on Union Types

There are basically three different types of labor unions. There are trade unions, who are the oldest, consisting of your electricians, masons, plumbers, carpenters, and so on. These men and women serve a serious function, and the union provides them training in the best construction techniques, safety, project management, and a whole host of other things that make it pretty easy to tell when a building was built by union trades, and when a building was built by a bunch of twits who taught themselves how to bang nails with a hammer.

The second type of union, which we rail on all the time, is the public sector union. These are your teachers, police, fire, DMV workers, pencil pushers, and break takers who will sue the everloving spook out of you if you ask them to work to 5:01 on a weekday. They might agree to work one weekend a decade if you agree to double their pension. They are, of course, an unskilled bunch of cretins who are an instant and irreversible financial drain on any local, municipal, county, or state government they touch.

The third type, which we do not talk about too much, is the industrial union: this is a grab bag of service sector employees (janitors, farm workers, nuclear power plant workers, nurses, grocery baggers) as well as organized labor unions, which include everything from teamsters, steelworkers, drivers, postal employees, and on and on.

Union Membership Declines To Record Lows

Now that you know all that, which of the three categories do you think has seen the greatest membership losses? Obviously, trade unions are doing very well. And we regret to concede that public sector union growth is tied to the growth of big government. Yeah, we saw a reduction in membership the last quarter, but public sector unions are still the largest type of union nationally.

Obviously this leave the industrial unions. Membership here is bad; for example, the commercial food workers union in Chicago alone is sliver of what it once was. Frankly, private employers are sick and tired of unions driving up costs and scaring away customers; as soon as they can force a union out, they do.

Closed shops (if you want to work here, ya gotta join the union) are disappearing at crazy speeds. Businesses are literally leaving states that promote union membership and heading to states where closed shops are disallowed. Yes, the tide has turned. People don’t want to be in unions, and others don’t want to deal with union workers.

Imagine a world where a union simply says “We had our day. We did our thing. People don’t see the need for us, so we decided to close up the whole thing and go home. Enjoy the higher wages, former members: you don’t owe us any more dues.” Yeah, us neither.

So unions need to drive up membership. And what better way to do it than to convince undereducated younger fools that they deserve higher pay? You know, for just showing up.

Minimum Wage

The most interesting take on this crap recently is this absolutely moronic notion that fast food workers should be paid a living wage. A living wage means that you can actually live off the money you get paid, in case you wanted to make a career out of shoveling burgers into white paper bags. You laugh at the way we phrased this, but actually that’s exactly what that means by a living wage. A teenager who stabs icons of sandwiches on a register or the perky girl on the drive-thru headset should make enough money to go to college, buy a house, own a car, and set up a diversified 401(k).

The living wage—which theoretically means “just enough to survive on” but practically means anything you associate with survival in the United States—is commonly but inappropriate linked to the concept of minimum wage. Minimum wage, legally defined as the lowest allowable dollar per hour that an employee may be compensated, is an inherently bad idea and severe headache for business. The Czar has previously walked you all through the business logic.

So the AFL-CIO and SEIU—guess which type of unions they are—have been fomenting these minimum-wage walkouts. Basically, if your employer does not equate minimum wage with living wage—popularly but effectively set at a totally arbitrary $15 per hour—you are being encouraged to stage mass walkouts. You got that right: if you work at a fast food place or coffee shop and aren’t being paid$15 per hour, or $31,200 a year, you and your colleagues should just walk right out the door and refuse to work until the next day. Okay, can you live on$31,200 a year? Remember, after tax, you would be making about $25,000 a year. That’s a shade more than two grand a month. Think that will pay your rent, pay for Obamacare, cover$15 a day in groceries, your utilities, a car payment, and auto insurance?

Never mind that. Forget we brought it up, because the $15 per hour is not a living wage. It is pure fiction. So who came up with it? Actually it originates with the Service Employees International Union, or the SEIU. And in nearly every write up you encounter where minimum wage = living wage, you will see the added demand (ready?) that these fast food workers join a union. And that union, not surprisingly, happens to be the SEIU. Equally non-shocking is that the vast majority of fast food workers are not interested in this bullshit. The number of fast food employees walking off their jobs ranges between 15% and 20%. Wait—where have we seen that number before?—generally, in any employee labor pool, about that number will be jackass agitators. Go Ahead, Turkeys So if you happen to own a fast food establishment, and about 15-20% of your staff turned their noses up at your pay scale and walked off the job, you would likely respond by recording which employees walked off the job. And you would either fire them on the spot, if you could afford the labor debt, or simply advertise that you were accepting applications to work there. And prioritize it so that the same 15-20% were the first positions replaced. It’s this simple: you don’t want to work for Mr. Amundsen at$10 an hour? Quit and get a better job. Because if you don’t want to work for him, he certainly doesn’t want you as an employee. Maybe you have noticed the 7% unemployment rate. There are a lot of folks who would line up for $10 per hour. A motivated employee is so much more helpful than a stuck-up princess who thinks pressing the PROMO button on the register warrants her a Porsche Cayenne with GPS and Bose sound. One thing about SEIU members: they never seem to be the heads of major organizations. Because anyone with a lick of sense, like our readers, can see that a business owner will deal with a$15/hour minimum wage pretty simply. In fact, why not let a reader tell the rest of us how she would handle it?

I notice that the President is attempting another one of his famous "pivots."

Since the whole roll-out of Obamacare has totally harshed his mellow, hey, let's just change the subject to something all social-justicey, like raising the minimum wage. I imagine the meeting could be summarized with something like this: "All those Ebeneezer Scrouge sorts will knash their teeth (bonus!), but this is just the ticket to rally our base. Double winning!"

So Obama gives a speech yesterday extolling the virtues of hard-working single moms (for some reason he has no sympathy for hard-working married types). And he affirms his solidarity with waiters, fast-food workers, etc.

All the while, the smartest president evah, who's pretty tech-savy (just ask him about Kayak) ignores the technological revolution that has already nearly eliminated bank clerks and is well on the way to replacing grocery-store check-out clerks. Robotic components of assembly-lines is old news, just ask the auto-workers. And now, Amazon wants to use drones for delivery? Wonder how totally stoked my favorite UPS delivery guy is about that?

But what about positions that require more academic expertise? All those professors at colleges and universities are cannot be terribly excited by Coursera's offerings. But here's something I'd never seen before taking our younger son on a visit to look at North Carolina State's engineering school. I think there are some librarians who are not getting hired because of this technology:

Actually this video does not do justice to the Hunt Library's "bookBot." It moves much faster in real-time and is really cool to watch.

If Obama wants to raise the minimum wage, he'll only hasten the process.

Yours from the Doublewide, JAB
Bingo. There is a reason you are being paid $9.50 an hour: you don’t contribute very much. And the owner of the company is being extra nice to you by keeping you on...because for less money, she can replace you with a BookBot. Or an ATM. Or healthcare.gov. Volgi is squirming in his chair right now, and wants the Czar to address an essay by the respected Alec Torres: Are ‘Fast-Food Worker’ Protests Just Another Gasp of Occupy? The latest round of protests for higher fast-food wages hit New York City today, but they could have been mistaken for just about any other gathering of the city’s progressive coalition. I finally ran into the 200 or so people (by one organizer’s estimate) in downtown Manhattan, after they’d been shuffled by leaders from Times Square to downtown Brooklyn, over to Upper Manhattan and back down to City Hall, popping up to chant in front of apparently random fast-food restaurants before packing up, hitting the subway, and heading to the next establishment. The protest — and it was certainly a protest, not a strike or a picket line, since the easy majority of the marchers, by my estimation, were not actually fast-food workers — ostensibly was aimed at a$15 an hour wage and unionization rights for fast-food employees, but the group contained such an array of interests and causes that it resembled the eclecticism of Occupy Wall Street more than a single-issue movement.

After several rounds of invocations for “justice” and “equality,” condemnations of the One Percent, calls for full-day, universal pre-school, and more, I eventually left, unsure if I had observed a demonstration for fast-food workers or an Occupy Wall Street reunion.
Not quite. In fact, this is backward.

The labor unions are pushing for unionization and using the $15/hour fiction as leverage. It is by happenstance that the average Millennial foolish enough to humor this concept is also likely to engage in Occupy-style fantasy. Both living wage = minimum wage and Occupy appeal to the same deluded man-children. Both are symptoms, not the disease. The disease, of course, is Leftism. A$15/hour minimum wage will (a) not be a living wage—and you can thank the Democrats for the rising cost of living—and (b) almost certainly destroy service businesses or ensure workers are permanently replaced by automatation.

Oh, one thing JAB did not explicitly say in her automation observation because she assumes you are smart enough to catch it: once a business owner automates a job function, he or she never goes back to de-automate. Let us suppose to ask for $15 per hour, and the business owner replaces you with an iPhone app. All right, you grabbed too much and you realize it; you’re actually sorry about being so greedy. Guess what: you won’t be getting your job back. Also, catch that bit about the iPhone app? The unions will tell you that your boss dreads replacing you. In fact, you can call his bluff at any time because replacing you with a robot will cost him millions of dollars he doesn’t have. Automate your job? What a farce: you know he’ll cough up the do-re-mi. No, kids: robots are so1970s. It’s almost 2014. For$5,000, he can replace you and all your peers by hiring a coder one time to replace you with an app. Once customers realize they can order cheese and substitute onion rings for fries by tapping on a smartphone icon, you’re smoke. History. If you support a $15/hour living wage, you probably cannot do basic math—so let us help you here.$5,000 is about what you would make during summer vacation at \$15 per hour. That’s not much, right? Your protest said as much. Think he’s bluffing now?

## Friday, December 6, 2013

### Pre-human DNA found 400,000 years ago?

 Who else is a suitable companion for The 'Malcolm Tucker' Doctor!
Sounds like 'Puter was joyriding in GorT's time machine again.

## Thursday, December 5, 2013

### Forced metricization? Politely, bite me, GorT.

GorT, perhaps spurred on by some weird base-10 bug in his base-$\sum_{n=0}^\infty 2^{-2^n}$ processor or a virus picked up passing through the Carter Administration, has made some claim for the superiority of the metric system based on its alleged non-arbitrariness. Because of the total obvious rationality of basing it on, I guess,the distance travelled by light in an absolute vacuum during 1/299,792,458 of a second. That’s less arbitrary to his galactic mind. Ok, fair enough, if a tad biased. But why, exactly it’s better to render our degrees of temperature less exact so they can be pegged to freezing and boiling of water? I know, because Science! But for everyday? Come on.

The thing is, the metric system is already universally used where it’s useful, which is to say GorT’s beloved engineering, as well as astronomy, physics, pharmacology, and all sorts of other places. So, great. What metric is godawful at is everyday usage, because it forces you into four-digit decimalization of every damn thing. Which is just not practical, when you can’t process petaflops per picosecond like GorT. For us hu-mons, it’s a lot easier to eyeball (or visualize) the difference between three and four feet, or five and seven inches, than (approximately!) 0.9 and 1.2 meters, or 12.7 and 17.78 centimeters (note: not actually an official metric unit, but a practical subdivision).

As for that spacecraft that bollixed itself because of incompatible measurements? That’s an engineering FUBAR by the contractor for not standardizing in advance. I don’t care if my barrel is bored out to 11.43mm or .45 inches, but the guy who makes the silencer better match exactly whatever the guy who made the gun chose.

Also, GorT dishonors the legacy of his greatest (and I believe favorite) math programmer, who used to grade his tests and quiz on 60 and 12 point scales because of…their greater even divisibility! Kind of like those pesky, non-metric hours, minutes, feet, etc. Or the half-quarter-eighth-sixteenth divisions of inches that we’ve found useful over centuries of practical handiwork. Ten has exactly two factors (ignoring 10 and 1) by which it’s divisible. Twelve, say, has four. It’s therefore twice as useful. A hundred has only twos and fives in its prime factors, whereas 120 adds a three! Quantum leap!

Metric for everyday life is an insane, French Revolutionary hyperrationalist pain in the ass, an evangel from the Cult of Reason, a madness consanguineous with Decimal Time and Fructidor. Not to mention a certain language dreamed up by the Villain Zamenhof. Leave it where it belongs—the beautiful realm of abstract reasoning (which is to say, also, France)—and keep it the hell off my rulers.

So, count me out on everyday metric. By all means, use it in engineering and Science! but please, let me saw my 2x4 into yards and measure my Liao Drug with tablespoons and cups…

### Detroit's Pensioners Screwed Themselves (And So Are All Other Public Pensioners)

 Public sector union members thoughtfully  and politely discuss the possible reduction  of their pension benefits with the taxpayers  footing the outsized and ever-growing bill.

Detroit’s public sector unions are squealing like stuck Irish pigs about their pensions being treated as just another unsecured obligation of a bankrupt employer. ‘Puter wrote about bankruptcy judge Steven W. Rhodes’ decision here yesterday.

‘Puter’s written extensively on public sector pension obligations and bankruptcy law. ‘Puter’s always believed public pension benefits are properly treated as unsecured claims in bankruptcy, regardless of any contrary state law.  And that’s exactly what Judge Rhodes held as a matter of law.  While it’s satisfying to see his longstanding position vindicated, ‘Puter’d rather focus on the incoherence in the unions’ new claims.

Faced with the likelihood union members’ pensions will be crammed down in Detroit’s bankruptcy, unions immediately switched tactics, claiming union pensioners are blameless victims of heartless politicians.  Unions are telling anyone who will listen that public workers are hardworking middle class men and women who through no fault of their own have been wrongfully stripped of their meager retirement savings.

Here’s a sampling of some of ‘Puter’s favorite quotes from unions and unionistas regarding Judge Rhodes’ decision.

The New York Times quotes AFSCME president Lee Saunders claiming: “[Judge Rhodes’ ruling] sets a bad precedent for cities that are under economic distress to look at doing the easy thing: to attack the workers and attack the retirees.”

The Wall Street Journal reports retired Detroit librarian and union member Gwendolyn Beasley said: “I am very angry. I believed [the judge] would approve the bankruptcy but I can't understand that we have state law that I thought secured my pension and now he says he won't.”

Not to be outdone, the Sacramento Bee found Steve Maviglio, a spokesman for public employee unions, who whined: “In California, teachers, firefighters, police officers and other public employees are fully prepared to resist being scapegoated for the financial mismanagement of elected officials.”

The Sacramento Bee also found an unnamed CalPERS (California’s public pension system) drone to parrot the union line, unbelievably claiming: “The ruling is short-sighted and does not take into account the promises made in exchange for the financial and physical investments that public employees and retirees make in our communities.”

Reporters may uncritically print interested parties’ remarks, but not ‘Puter. ‘Puter calls bullshit.  Each of the quoted individuals is lying, deluded or both.

‘Puter doesn’t give two figs about the corrupt pension bargains union bullies struck with greedy politicians.  Anyone not riding the short bus knew damn well at the time the pension promises were made that they would not be kept.

Unions didn’t give a damn because it kept the union dues rolling in, allowing them outsized power.

Politicians didn’t care because their union masters paid them off richly in campaign contributions, not to mention that they wouldn’t be around when the house of cards came tumbling down.

Pensioners didn’t give a crap because they were getting paid a gold plated lifetime pension for 20 years of inept and intermittent “service” in a no-fire job. Nice work, if you can get it.

Unions bitch and moan that evil, greedy politicians have short-changed the pensions for years, not putting in funds as required by law. Maybe so. But what unions won’t say is that the taxpayer money politicians didn’t pour into public pension systems they poured into public workers’ current year paychecks.

Study after study after study shows that after norming for education and competence, and when including all forms of compensation (e.g., salary, pensions, health care, vacation, etc.), public workers are offensively overpaid.

To come up with the blackmail payments funds to increase workers’ salaries, politicians shortchanged pension systems. Either way, unionized public sector workers got fat off taxpayers’ “contributions.” ‘Puter’ll be damned if he sits idly by as unions now cry “Woe is me!”

Current pensioners ripped off taxpayers for the length of their active “service” and their years on the dole pension. Current workers’ ripped off taxpayers by receiving undeserved benefits, which are particularly galling as many private workers lost their jobs and homes thanks to liberal Democrat policies.

If unions and their sob-story pensioners are looking for someone to blame for their current predicament, they need go no further than the nearest mirror.  That face staring back at you, get angry at him.

It wasn’t politicians who screwed unionistas.  And it sure as Hell wasn’t the taxpayers footing the bill for unionistas’ benefits.  It was unionistas themselves. Their greed and willful ignorance of basic economics led them astray.

To hear unions complain after living high on the taxpayer hog for the last 70 years is rich.  Unions are the child who murders his parents then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he’s an orphan.

Unions, like Czar, can suck it.

### America's Pasttime in 27.432 Meter Increments

GorT's recent post elicited some interesting responses. First BG writes in regarding flopping and various sports:

So basketball and football are better than soccer because the NBA and the NFL are taking steps to deal with the curse of “flopping,” while soccer permits it to go on, interrupting the flow of the game.

Big deal. All that does is demonstrate yet another reason baseball is the greatest sport.

Well, not exactly my point - I wasn't arguing that one sport was better than the other. And no, baseball is not the greateest sport...but I'll get to that shortly.

Tom Boswell, one of baseball’s best writers, wrote, more than 25 years ago, Baseball has no penalties at all. A home run is a home run. You cheer. In football, on a score, you look for flags. If there's one, who's it on? When can we cheer? Football acts can all be repealed. Baseball acts stand forever.*

In football, basketball, and soccer, the primary function of the officials on the field or the court is to determine whether or not what just happened was legal, and then to punish the malefactors as they see fit. The result is howls of outrage from the fans of one team or the other, and, every so often, howls of outrage from EVERYONE when the officials make a ruling that is demonstrably idiotic.

Baseball has no such flaw. With very rare exceptions, the umpires simply rule what happened, not whether or not it was legal. Safe or out? Ball or a strike? Did the throw to first beat the runner or not? Did the catcher make the tag on the runner before he slid home?

And on those occasions that the umps decide someone did something illegal, the call is made instantly, such as when the Cardinals won game 3 of this season’s World Series on an obstruction call. They don’t throw a flag or blow a whistle and stop play while they huddle to decide whether the play was legal or not. The most frequent umpire huddle is to review a home run call – and that is simply to make sure they get the call right, not to decide whether it was hit legally or not.
Uh oh - Math.  BG conveniently leaves out the most subjective part of the game which the home plate umpire has complete control over: balls versus strikes.  When a ball is traveling 144 to 160 kph over 18.44 meters, it takes about 0.4 seconds to leave the pitcher's hand and reach the plate during which time the batter and the umpire need to make a decision.  The umpire's decision is further complicated by the fact that he is viewing the ball from a skewed angle coming towards him.  In various studies, it has been concluded that somewhere between 5 and 15% of these calls are incorrect.  This call is at the heart of the sport as it determines the whole course of play.  He continues:
In football, new rules that the fans don’t comprehend are instituted every season. Some illegalities are overlooked while others are penalized, and what’s happening on the field is so fluid, so complex, that no one can follow it all. Sometimes you even get the sense they’re just making it all up as they go along, the tipoff being when you hear an announcer explain a penalty by citing some arcane new rule you didn’t even know existed. And, as Boswell notes, football acts can all be repealed.

Sounds a lot like Obamacare to me.

You want to deal with flopping? Here’s how: Meanwhile, it’s only 73 days until pitchers and catchers report for spring training.

-- Bernie Gilbert

I love the idea of Mr. T telling soccer floppers to get some nuts and as I stated it is a tragic flaw in soccer. Let me put two more digs into baseball.  First, if baseball is such a cut and dry sport why has MLB provided the means for managers to challenge up to three plays per game using instant replay?  I thought done was done?  Baseball acts stand forever?  Well, at least until Don Mattingly or Joe Girardi tosses his red bean bag onto the diamond from the dugout.  Second, baseball is a slow sport - just do some reading and you'll find ample evidence of that.  Compound it by the majority of action takes place over the 18.44 meters between the pitcher's mound and home plate between 3 players (pitcher, catcher and batter) while 15 other guys stand around on the field.  Baseball has a rule that the pitcher must pitch the ball within 12 seconds of having the ball - how many times have you seen a MLB umpire call an automatic ball for pitcher delay?  That's the rule.  Look at the pitcher pace numbers and while it doesn't map fully to the 12 second rule, it should give you a sense of the pace: he second fastest pitcher pace is 18.1 seconds (Buehrle) and Houston's Bud Norris clocks in at 25.7 seconds.  The average is 21.5 seconds.  Almost double the rule.  Baseball can't even follow its own rules and has started using fines to dissuade slow pace.  How about enforcing the rule in the game?  According to BG, if "someone did something illegal, the call is made instantly."

No offense, BG, but you'll get no love of baseball from this tin can especially the MLB.

In an attempt to reach the 7.62 meter mark for the Czar's posts, I present the digital submission from Operative SMR:
To the Magnificent & Metallic GorTechie:
I also am an engineer.  When I took my EIT and PE exams, it was optional to take them in either Imperial or metric units.  I elected to take them in metric because 85% of the time, I got any question dealing with gravity and force wrong by a factor of 32.2.  One would suppose, viewed through the lens of probability, that I would only get it wrong 50% of the time, but through some perverse Imperial twist, it was more.
That said, I find I cannot think in metric.  Oh, for an immense cybernetic brain!
Faithfully yours,
Operative SMR

Well, hopefully you weren't multiplying by 9/5ths and adding 32 when working with gravity.  Although I prefer Kelvin.

I'm sure I probably stirred a hornet's net regarding baseball and maybe I'll get a few more submissions regarding the metric system.  Keep the coming as I'm just waiting my turn for the Castle XBox as 'Puter is tying it up playing FIFA '14.

* Baseball acts stand but with asterisks given the whole steroid issue.

## Wednesday, December 4, 2013

### Four-Way

Look, everybody knows the Mandarin is the most popular writer here because he can distill total rage in about three short paragraphs, accompanied by either a funny graphic or some utterly bizarre YouTube video never more than a couple minutes in length.

Followed closely by Dr. J. “Ha ha! Pretty ponies!”

And then people love to skim through ‘Puter’s posts to catch up on his latest, homespun portmanteau insults. “Ha ha! Assknob!”

Of course, there’s the popularity of Volgi’s posts, which only a few professors read and then only to see what common word or phrase he rendered in proto-Aramaic. “Trepidatious! ܡܟܬ ܗܥܨܪܡ How bold!”

GorT is probably next. “Uh oh! Math.”

At the bottom of the popularity chart is the Czar and our fifty-five-foot-long posts. “Man,” we know you all think, “Six hundred paragraphs of shouting on a topic no one gives a crap about.”

But so many of your write to the Czar with your wild ideas, crazy-assknob notions, and obscure references because you know—no matter how bizarre or byzantine your ramblings—the Czar will reprint them in their entirety. We are like a manifesto self-publishing service.

In order to accommodate the many emails we get with the need for a shorter format, the Czar will introduce a divided post!

First, Island Dweller’ Esteemed Associate writes in:

I am reporting EA's missives from the bowels of the government beast have grown in weightiness and content to the point where Little Birdie is unable to carry them any longer; consequently, LB has been retired after his last run carrying EA's messages, and is firmly in residence here on Shangri-La, well beyond the reach of even the most athletic of our three cats, who truly are vertical animals.

In LB's place last week came a full-grown carrier pigeon, who fluttered up to the back windowsill and rang the gong to announce his arrival. After a display of credentials, I discovered our new courier is related to Cher Ami of WWI fame. The courier's name is Lobot Ami. LA is closed-beaked about the identity of EA, who appreciates your majesty's offer of posting directly to this site but has most graciously declined the offer, allowing ID to do so in proxy.

LA extended his leg and displayed a message roll with double-locks, containing a well-written missive from EA, which I provide below for your enjoyment.

------------------------------------

ID,

By now, the rollout of the Healthcare.gov website has become the primary focal point of those opposed to the Obamacare legislation. What if it's more than just a punchline for the problem? What if it's actually part of the problem?

A number of commentators have observed that one of the senior executives of CGI Federal, the firm contracted to develop the website, has close ties to the White House. Toni Townes-Whitley is a college classmate of the First Lady. It's easy to speculate that the awarding of the contract was the result of "crony capitalism," nepotism, or a variety of other terms that evoke images of Tammany Hall or a number of Chicago mayors. However, there are valid reasons for the Federal Government to award contracts to people whom they know and, therefore, trust. These involve situations requiring secrecy, like bringing bin Laden's body to ambient temperature. One would think that providing health insurance to over 300 million citizens of a democratic republic would not fall into this category. What if the Administration feels otherwise? What if it feels it needs a contractor whom it can trust as opposed to one who offers better financial terms?

Why would one need to have a special trust with a website developer? It seems like a fairly rudimentary process. That is until one realizes that, at its most basic level, software is a compilation of human thought and creativity in the form of ones and zeroes. Even if the 500 million lines of code in the Healthcare.gov website is an exaggeration, it is still much larger than websites having a much higher capacity (that actually work). It is even larger than entire operating systems. Contrast this with HealthSherpa, a website created by three 20-year olds in a matter of days which contains much of the functionality that the .gov website is supposed to have. There's obviously much more going on with Healthcare.gov.

What is going on with all of these "extra" lines of code? Why was a trusted, rather than competent, developer chosen to put them there? Certainly not all of these lines can be "bugs" or "glitches." There must be some "features" in there somewhere. Why the secrecy surrounding these "features?" Where is it pulling data from? Where is it sending data to? How is it processing, or even manipulating data? What if these "features" were secretly directed to be included and played a major role, not only in the amount of code, but in its complexity and the resulting delays. With the bill that begat this website we were told that we had to "pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it...." Well, we've already spent around half a billion dollars on the development of the website. Maybe it's about time we found out just what is in all those "extra" lines of code. By making the website a single point of entry into the mandated health insurance system, the website represents an unprecedented capacity to collect, in a single database, intimate details of the lives of countless Americans, and information is power.

Once again, we're faced with having to decide whether the Administration intended for something to happen or whether a failure was due to some form of incapacity or ineptitude. This Administration, despite being replete with highly educated "experts," has generally chosen the latter to explain away its foibles and fumbles. Do highly educated people admit mistakes that readily? Would they be more inclined to if there were some "higher good" to be attained? Is all of this really the result of some incapacity on the part of some low-level, faceless software developers? Or, is it due to the intent of members of the Administration? Haven't we heard this before?

JAB hurries this one in from the Doublewide:

You've got to see this to believe this.

Like.... Wow. The White House held a contest and...a bunch of young folks submitted entries. Proving that there really are bunches of young folks with TOO MUCH TIME ON THEIR HANDS.

The "best" song was this whiny, folksy tune just reeking of patchouli. But, hey, she did manage to make it rhyme: "we just wanna make it more fair, with affordable health care...."

I'm going to have to put my Kerosene Hat cd in and crank some Cracker. "What the World needs now is another folk singer, like I need a hole in my head."

Although I do kinda like the "Nobody's Invincible" guy getting SMACKED by the car, and then announcing from his hospital bed that "adult children" can stay on their parents' insurance. Perhaps the head injury made him oblivious to obvious oxymorons?

Disbelieving in the Doublewide,

JAB

Island Dweller replies with thoughts of his own regarding snitching:

Most illustrious majesty

The news media again provides reason to your humble minion for nausea and unpleasant recollections. I refer to the stories that have appeared in several websites today relating to the alleged undercover operation conducted by the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI) which surfaced drug sales and use, sexual assaults, and various and sundry other crimes reported to be occurring among the Corps of Cadets at the AF Academy at Colorado Springs, CO. The operation was reportedly conducted using what the media termed "snitches" (another rather endearing little term is "smurf"), slang for informant, or source.

If you want to call the honor system a system of snitches, then so be it. The service academies are supposed to be places where a certain honor code, an elevated culture, is inculcated in young men (and now women) that places them above - well above - the mores of the balance of society. This happens because they will somewhere along the line be holding the fates of many of their fellow human beings, hundreds of millions of dollars' worth of property, or perhaps the nation, in their hands. It is further assumed in those conditions they will make the hard decisions that have to be made and, more importantly, imbue that spirit of devotion and self-sacrifice into their subordinates by their example. Honor in such an environment is absolutely essential - not a tagline in a story. The "snitch" system should be seldom, if ever, exercised if the moral character of the attendees is of the requisite standard. Apparently it isn't any more.

ID

And MC rounds us out with his ideas:

Media starting to get some traction on someone with greater access helping Snowden finally?
The evidence surrounding the case of former NSA contractor Edward Snowden suggests he did not act alone when he downloaded some 200,000 documents, according to the Republican head of the House Intelligence Committee.

"We know he did some things capability-wise that was beyond his capabilities. Which means he used someone else's help to try and steal things from the United States, the people of the United States. Classified information, information we use to keep America safe," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told Fox News.
Of course, Snowden and his pimp Glenn Greenwald are denying it, sort of:
An e-mail from Greenwald to Fox News reads in part: "Until he offers actual evidence, rather than his empty assertions, everyone should treat this claim as the unreliable and unconfirmed propaganda that it is."
Note the qualifier "until he offers actual evidence." Obviously he's not excluding the possibility that Snowden was helped, he just wants Rogers to show the evidence. Probably so that Greenwald and Snowden can gauge when/how to threaten to release his "doomsday cache" of additional stolen secrets, or the identities of the people that helped him.

Wasn’t that easier?