Monday, June 30, 2014

Tommy John

You are all aware of my fascination with baseball, and I happened to hear an interview between Dan Patrick and Tommy John. While they talked a lot about "Tommy John" surgery, other subjects surfaced, like what were Billy Martin and Tommy Lasorda like? He played for both.

It is pretty well documented, but John reinforced the idea that Billy Martin was a bigot and "not a nice person." Tales of his and Mickey Mantle's drunken womanizing have been told before, but he pointed out that he was a successful manager despite the anxiety he created in the clubhouse.

Lasorda, on the other hand, was described by Tommy John as the best motivator of people he had ever known. Lasorda also said he was glad that Billy Grabarkewitz wasn't the one who had the surgery.

They didn't repeat it, but one of my favorite quotes is when Tommy John was interviewed after the surgery that fixed his elbow and has become so common among young pitchers these days. He said, ""When they operated on my arm, I asked them to put in a Koufax fastball. They did, but it turned out to be Mrs. Koufax." - Tommy John (1979)

Wish he would get somebody to listen when he talks about the epidemic of arm trouble with youngsters these days. They need to pitch for a short while, play basketball for a while, football for awhile--not pitch 12 months out of the year when they are 12 years old.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Walmart vs NYT

As most of you know or may suspect, I am not fan of Walmart. Their treatment of vendors has been such that I have been in a Walmart store perhaps twice in the last 10 years, and then it was because it was the only game in town.

Walmart is pretty candid about who they are and their intentions--they really make no apology for ruining every business in a small downtown. Just the facts. The New York Times, on the other hand, pretends to be an unbiased reporter of the news. The liberal do-gooders claim that NYT, unlike Fox News, doesn't spin. They just go on in their arrogance.

If you want to go wallow in the mud with the NYT, have at it. Disgusting. And the libs know no different. Shut up and drink the Kool-Aid.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Malcolm Gladwell and 10,000 hours

I was excited to visit son, Matt, and his family and knew that the newest granddaughter, Penelope, would be the featured attraction. He recommended a book while I was here in Rochester, Malcolm Gladwell's Outliers, The Story of Success that was an unexpected treat.

Grandfathers going on and on about their grandchildren has been done, so I will only say that she is a wonderful person and I am so looking forward to knowing her as she grows up. The discovery that I will be 80 when she is 12 gives me some perspective and appreciation for each moment.

The book is worthy of consideration--as one review says, "It's hard to resist." And another, "Gladwell tears down the myth of individual merit to explore how culture, circumstance, timing, birth and luck account for success."

The stories are compelling, he is an accomplished storyteller who has a readable, wide-eyed amazement at the stories he is telling. For instance, the story of success at hockey and soccer. Not until the mid-1980's had anyone discovered that Canadian hockey players, at all levels including the National Hockey League, were overwhelmingly born in the early part of the year. Same with soccer. In fact, a psychologist, Roger Barnsley attended a game with his wife.

"Roger," she said, "do you know when these young men were born?"

Barnsley said, yes. "They're all between sixteen and twenty, so they'd be born in the late sixties."

"No, no, ' Paula went on. "What month."

"I thought she was crazy, " Barnsley remembers. "But I looked through it, and what she was saying just jumped out at me. For some reason, there were an incredible number of January, February and March birth dates."

He did some research, concluded that there was an "Iron Law of Canadian elite hockey." Of the very best of the best, 40% are born in January-March, 30% April-June, 20% July-September and 10% October-December.

Once it is pointed out, the mystery disappears because the Canadian system differentiates by age and the cut off is January 1. A ten year old whose birthday is January 2 could be playing next to a boy who will not turn 10 until December, and at that age, a year makes a lot of difference. Who will the coaches choose to play on the "star" teams? Who will get the best coaches? The most ice time? There are a number of conclusions, but these stick out for me:
  • By the time these players are in their twenties, the differences should have disappeared, but the January birthdays have received all the benefits so they excel to the ability of their talents. The others have not developed their skills or have dropped out.
  • The same holds true for soccer, and it is international.
  • Hockey-crazy places, like Canada and Czechoslovakia are wasting half the talent of their population because of this process.
These systems are difficult to break, and the examples he gives are teams whose birthdays are in the late 1980's playing after 2000, more than twenty years after this phenomenon had been discovered.

He goes on to talk about the combination of luck and talent in the emergence of Bill Gates. Gates, Bill Joy, and the Beatles enjoyed being in the right place at the right time so they could develop their talents. Bill Joy was unfamiliar to me, but he is largely responsible for UNIX, the operating language of millions of computers, much of the software that created the Internet and he rewrote Java into what we use today. He was co-founder of Sun Microsystems and is a legend in the computing world.

What did Joy, Gates and the Beatles have in common? Take the Beatles. Largely by accident, a talent scout ended up in Liverpool instead of London and hired the Beatles to play in Hamburg. They played seven days a week, eight hours a night. Several different times. This grueling schedule polished their talent into something different, something professional. Gladwell calls this the "10,000 hour rule," and tells about how Joy, Gates and the Beatles were "lucky" enough to spend this huge amount of concentrated time. It separated them from others who may have been equally talented or in the "genius" category.

The book turns a lot of the "self-made man" and "overnight success" myths on their respective heads. One chapter was particularly poignant, about a man named Chris Langan who Gladwell says might be the smartest man in the world. We have never heard from him. Why? Because Langan has never done anything that is remarkable enough to bring him to our attention. This is a story of a man who spent many years as a bouncer in a bar. Maybe a story of "non-success" rather than failure. His Montana rough-neck culture and single-parent, alcohol-influenced history prevented him from overcoming setbacks that others overcame. For instance, Langan dropped out of college because he lost his scholarship. He did not have the social knowledge to navigate complex and daunting bureaucracies, and he did not trust or like authority, so he gave up.

Compare Langan with Robert Oppenheimer, often called the father of the Atomic Bomb. Both of them were brilliant, but Oppenheimer also had social savvy. As an example of how he could navigate the world to get what he wanted, he actually tried to murder his tutor at Cambridge and was given "probation." For attempted murder?

How about the reason that Asian children are good at math? You will have to read the book, see why the "rice paddy economy" over thousands of years led to Asian children doing well at math today.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Persistent Incompetence

The Bergdahl thing just tires me out. Hope they had a vet put a chip in those guys so we can keep up with their mischief. They did it to my dog, but doubt if they thought of it with those villains.

For example, Susan Rice seems to have no filter--she says whatever pops in her head or what she is told to do. The latest? Her comment that Bergdahl "served with distinction and honor."

Not my phrase, but it fits: persistent incompetence. Starts at the top. But the whole batch of them, and that is a tragedy for the nation. Two more years. Scary.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Un-popularity polls

The headline says, "Donald Sterling is the most hated man in America." According to a poll.

Seriously? After all, he is in his 80's, has apparently been a jerk for a long time and has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's. Not all there, as evidenced by hanging out with V. Whassername.

His comments on Magic Johnson are not exactly factual (Johnson has amassed a net worth of hundreds of millions, the story goes), but Magic was not really a model of good citizenship when he had sex with multiple partners all over the US. Wonder how many of those partners contracted HIV from him? Owning a bunch of theaters and assembling an ownership group to buy the Dodgers plus working as a commentator for sporting events is not a ticket to sainthood.

It would seem to me that there ought to be greater evil afoot in America than a rich, bigoted Jewish man with a girlfriend who also makes racist comments.

Wanna see who else made the list?

Donald Sterling, 92 percent
Bernard Madoff, 90 percent
O.J. Simpson, 88 percent
Conrad Murray, 88 percent
Justin Bieber, 86 percent
Phil Spector, 83 percent
Aaron Hernandez, 81 percent
Michael Lohan, 76 percent
Eliot Spitzer, 73 percent
Jon Gosselin, 71 percent

A number of these would fall into my "pathetic-beyond-belief" category, but deserving of hate? Phil Spector? Yes, he was convicted of second-degree murder, but deserving of hatred? We have really "lost that lovin' feeling."

Conrad Murray? Michael Jackson's death may or may not have been the direct result of his actions, but I don't know if he deserves the tag of "hated," either.

In the pathetic category, we have a number of others--Justin Bieber, Michael Lohan (blamed for his goofy daughter? and for being accused of not paying either $3,800 (the court) or $20,000 (the wife) in child support), Eliot Spitzer (come on, man, that's piling on) and Jon Gosselin.

Methinks we might not want to believe everything we see in a poll.

OK, I'm not really into "hating," but let's see if I can come up with a few who I think ought to be removed from the limelight because of poor character:

1.    Kwame Kilpatrick

2. and 3.    Tie, and I agree: Justin Bieber, O. J. Simpson with a dishonorable mention to Bernie

4.    Rod Blagojevic (a major deduct for style points due to unpronounceable name)

5.    Most of the rest of the governors of Illinois and mayors of Detroit (except Dave Bing)

6.    John Phillips? I'm not sure whether to knight him for writing and producing some of those great songs (Kokomo comes to mind for the Beach Boys), or despise him for drugs and (unsubstantiated) a sexual relationship with his daughter.

7.    Speaking of wife-daughters, Woody Allen?

Taking recommendations since I am down to politicians off the top of my head.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit

..."Obama asserted that in their first year in effect, the rules will prevent up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks. In fact, scientists have said there's no direct connection between greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide and asthma attacks or other respiratory illnesses. But coal-fired power plants that emit high levels of greenhouse gases also pump other pollutants into the air that do affect health."...

Baloney Detection Kit

Warning signs that suggest deception. Based on the book by Carl Sagan, The Demon Haunted World. The following are suggested as tools for testing arguments and detecting fallacious or fraudulent arguments:

·         Wherever possible there must be independent confirmation of the facts.

·         Encourage substantive debate on the evidence by knowledgeable proponents of all points of view.

·         Arguments from authority carry little weight (in science there are no "authorities").

·         Spin more than one hypothesis - don't simply run with the first idea that caught your fancy.

·         Try not to get overly attached to a hypothesis just because it's yours.

·         Quantify, wherever possible.

·         If there is a chain of argument every link in the chain must work.

·         Occam's razor - if there are two hypotheses that explain the data equally well choose the simpler.

·         Ask whether the hypothesis can, at least in principle, be falsified (shown to be false by some unambiguous test). In other words, it is testable? Can others duplicate the experiment and get the same result?

Additional issues are:

·         Conduct control experiments - especially "double blind" experiments where the person taking measurements is not aware of the test and control subjects.

·         Check for confounding factors - separate the variables.

·         Common fallacies of logic and rhetoric

·         Ad hominem - attacking the arguer and not the argument.

·         Argument from "authority".

·         Argument from adverse consequences (putting pressure on the decision maker by pointing out dire consequences of an "unfavorable" decision).

·         Appeal to ignorance (absence of evidence is not evidence of absence).

·         Special pleading (typically referring to god's will).

·         Begging the question (assuming an answer in the way the question is phrased).

·         Observational selection (counting the hits and forgetting the misses).

·         Statistics of small numbers (such as drawing conclusions from inadequate sample sizes).

·         Misunderstanding the nature of statistics (President Eisenhower expressing astonishment and alarm on discovering that fully half of all Americans have below average intelligence!)

·         Inconsistency (e.g. military expenditures based on worst case scenarios but scientific projections on environmental dangers thriftily ignored because they are not "proved").

·         Non sequitur - "it does not follow" - the logic falls down.

·         Post hoc, ergo propter hoc - "it happened after so it was caused by" - confusion of cause and effect.

·         Meaningless question ("what happens when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?).

·         Excluded middle - considering only the two extremes in a range of possibilities (making the "other side" look worse than it really is).

·         Short-term v. long-term - a subset of excluded middle ("why pursue fundamental science when we have so huge a budget deficit?").

·         Slippery slope - a subset of excluded middle - unwarranted extrapolation of the effects (give an inch and they will take a mile).

·         Confusion of correlation and causation.

·         Caricaturing (or stereotyping) a position to make it easier to attack.

·         Suppressed evidence or half-truths.

·         Weasel words - for example, use of euphemisms for war such as "police action" to get around limitations on Presidential powers. "An important art of politicians is to find new names for institutions which under old names have become odious to the public"

(excerpted from The Planetary Society Australian Volunteer Coordinators Prepared by Michael Paine )