Friday, January 01, 2016

2015 Holiday Spectacular

I moved back to New York in July 2012. Since then, my actual work (that is, for which I occasionally get paid) has increased and my blogging has decreased. Down to once a month, sometimes less now and I’m not really happy about that. But, as the kids say, and I include 80 year old kids – whatever. I’m going to try to do better next year because my extraordinary legion of loyal readers, whatever his name is, deserve better.

But, one thing I’m not doing is foregoing my holiday spectacular, one of which I do every year. It’s New Year’s Day and I feel as if this is my last chance to say I do one every holiday season, though I guess I failed because the post will say 2016. An arbitrary, self-imposed tradition surrounds it. I can’t know what I’m writing about when I sit down to write it. Why is that important? It’s not. But, as Tevye said – It’s a tradition.

Sometimes, I’ve written about Xmas stuff. But not always. And I don’t think this year. I’m going to start with the most important stuff – 

The NFL

We started out the year with NFL further embarrassing itself by suspending Tom Brady, which was overturned when it got to court. No one who argues with yet and claims Brady “cheated” (what my evalovin’ girlfriend, who has trouble telling the difference between football and baseball says). The supposedly independent finding (it turns out written in part by the NFL) said he was “generally aware” of the deflation. No evidence was given to support that at all. The arguments I hear from friends is that he had to know. If that is the standard, good luck to all of us. But, I’ve written about this before so I will just say what I really want to say to all those who rushed to judgment or made unsubstantiated claims about Brady – Nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh, nyeh.  If that is the level of the argument you bring to the table, so be it. You aren’t going to listen to rational argument anyway. But, I always say, I don’t know if he was aware. Some former QBs say he would have known grasping a slightly underinflated ball in freezing temperatures and others that he wouldn’t. How would I know? Maybe he did know. Maybe worse. But, if there isn’t evidence, there isn’t evidence. I’m leaving this topic. Bring your arguments in comments and I will demolish them there.

Instead, I’m going to rate the QBs this year, not for their all time greatness, but just for the year to date. Anything can happen in the last game, and frankly, I expect Brady will lose the slight lead he has in a number of categories. But, nevertheless. . .

1.     Tom Brady – I know I’m biased. I like Brady. Like/love – what’s the difference? It’s platonic. It doesn’t matter because at this point in season he is tops in so many categories it is hard to argue him out of the top two or three. And he did it with almost no starting receivers for much of the season, no reliable back for most of the season, once Dion Lewis got hurt (Blount was not the guy, even before he got hurt, though he was the best they had) and an all new and not so good line in front of him. In another words – the 12 or maybe 13 wins – without almost any real offensive help, Belichick and a pretty good defense. Though they had a very easy schedule, he was simply amazing. Brady might not win the TD title this year. Though in the lead, he has only Gronk as a constant threat and Bortles and Newton have been throwing them in bunches lately. But, he had only seven interceptions this year, by far the best TD/Interception ratio.

2.     Russell Wilson – Wilson, as good as he is rated, is almost always underrated. He is so slippery he is like a ghost to charging lineman. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen anyone as nimble in the backfield – no, not Tarkington or Flutie or Young or Cunningham or Cam Newton now. Though he’s been sacked a lot this season – it’s often because he extends the play beyond what anyone else can do. But, his Danger-Russ nickname is well earned, not just because of his running ability. It’s because he is also one of the most accurate long passers in the game. It’s one of the reasons his team can score within seconds of getting the ball.

3.     Carson Palmer - Finally did what everyone thought he could do. You could make the argument he is no. 1 this year. I don’t think so, but I wouldn’t laugh at you. Nevertheless, as his coach says, the numbers don’t lie. The Cards may be for real this year and he is a big part of the reason.

4.     Ben Roesthlisberger – Every year, so long as he is healthy, he is among the elite. Of course, it doesn’t hurt to have the offensive talent like Brown and Bell around, among others.

5.     Cam Newton – Some put him first, of course and I realize he will probably be the MVP. The second half of season is why he is here, but also because he is a running weapon too unlike few other quarterbacks. Yes, I’ve called him my nemesis, but that’s really because I felt he was overrated and I don’t like all that showy stuff. But, I have to admit he is entertaining and has style. I can’t put him higher because the Panthers had too easy a schedule. They played almost no hard games. Even when they were playing a good team – Seattle, Houston, it was when those teams were in the doldrums. As good as he is, I would like nothing better than to see another playoff team clean their clock.

6.     Drew Brees – He’s often left out of the Brady/Manning/Rodgers conversation and probably he shouldn’t be.  It is not impossible that he has long been the best QB in football, often making a contender out of a mediocre team. I don’t think so, but I can see the argument.

7.     Phillip Rivers – Among the steady elites. So long as he is with San Diego, he will not be a household name but he’s been top ten pretty much since he came into the league.

8.     Kirk Cousins – Do you think he was named Kirk for the same reason I do? I’m not saying I’m right, just suspicious. Won the job and came into his own. How good can he be? I’m not sure, but he’s light years ahead of RGIII, who we doubt will ever play for the Redskins again. 

9.     Ryan Fitzpatrick – I always wanted to see him play for a decent team. Now he has one. He’s not a great QB. Probably too short and not as good of an arm. But he’s a very good QB given half a chance and I think a natural leader. No one doubts his toughness.

10.  Aaron Rodgers – Everyone knows that on any given day he is probably the best in the game. Lost his best weapon and the team really did not perform this year.

Runners up: Blake Bortles may be the real deal. Dalton would surely be in the top three if he didn’t miss the last few games. Tyrod Taylor is still the great unknown. Needs someone other than Watkins as a deep threat.

Three things the NFL has to fix for next year. First, obviously, obviously, what is a catch? When commentators and players agree – they don’t know, it is a problem. How many times are we going to hear – “It looks like a catch to me,” only to find it wasn’t.  Second, Goodell has left the league with a no credibility in its penalties, which seem to have no rhyme or reason other than to keep gadflies from criticizing them.  Third – I think it is also time they even it up a little more between receivers and cornerbacks. Give them another few yards to bump and make it clear that a hit on a receiving player a split second before the catch is permissible. I’d also make holding a more severe penalty. Some teams, it seems, hold every play. Maybe the answer is to increase the penalty by a yard with each call.

Politics

I wrote mostly about politics this year, so going to be brief. Trump, Trump, Trump. It’s the story. Here’s the skinny on what I have been saying. Trump is the reaction to political correctness and reverse racism. So, sure, lots of white males and sometimes conservative women are going to like him. I get it completely when it comes to people just wanting politicians to tell the truth whatever the consequences. Not that I think he does. He lies as much as the next guy, but he does tell the truth more and people find that wonderfully refreshing despite all of his faults.  I think the question is answered as to whether he can win the nomination. Maybe he won’t, but of course he can. The next question – can he win a general election. Now he will have the media pulling for Clinton, you have the historic possibility of a woman winning, which will appeal to many, and you have Trump’s unbelievably stupid statements facing real criticism – not just people who are afraid of him.

I know that people think we are going in the wrong direction in many ways. I know it seems like the world is going haywire.  A lot of that I believe is due to both the media and the fact that we lived such charmed, easy lives. ISIS is not new. There have always been countries and civilizations like that. It is the fact that the rest of us can now see it on a daily basis, that the new technology allows them to at least occasionally reach us and our humanity that makes it seem such a threat. Not that I mean we should just ignore it. I think the best thing for the world is an all out assault to destroy them regardless of the consequences afterwards. 

But, I leave that aside – I’m talking about Trump. Is he the answer to our foreign policy concerns? I sure don’t think so. He probably knows where Syria is, but I doubt he knows any of the players. I don’t want that insecure, obnoxious, egomaniac running the country. But, problem is – I don’t want Clinton either, as she has had to bathe in progressive propaganda to stay afloat. I usually say, I don’t want to vote for anyone who doesn’t understand that ISIS is not an existential threat, but what it represents and what it can become is. At the same time, I don’t want anyone who can’t say All Lives Matter, or can’t say, the number of people cops have killed who didn’t deserve it is a fraction of the number of cops who are killed each year and not every time a black person is killed by a police officer, is a federal investigation called for, or a prosecution. At the very same time, we should not need to be told we need police reform – we should always have real police reform so that they are not out there on a tight rope, but don’t feel the best way to solve a problem is to bury someone. We can do that. Frankly, policing has, like race relations, improved tremendously in my lifetime. But, there are lifetimes to go and it can never stop.

Neither the Democratic Party, the party of identity politics and unlimited spending, or the Republican Party, the party of religious supremacists and pseudo-anarchists, so rent by its own division it cannot pick a consensus candidate – are not the answer. The answer, as always, is somewhere in between. But, no, it’s still Christmas, and I will spare you another rant on moderation. But, no, it’s not Trump, the big story. And it’s not Clinton. And the Lord who rules in heaven who I don’t believe in KNOWS, it sure ain’t Bernie Sanders.

Favorite articles

I read a lot of articles and documents online. These are some of my favorites, with excerpts.
One recent one, from George Will on ludicrous things that happened in 2015: http://www.unionleader.com/George-Will-A-list-of-2015s-ludicrousness. Here’s an excerpt:
“A 9-year-old Florida fourth-grader was threatened with sexual harassment charges if he continued to write love notes telling the apple of his eye that her eyes sparkle “like diamonds.” A Texas 9-year-old was suspended for saying his magic ring could make people disappear. A young girl was sent home with a censorious note from her school because her Wonder Woman lunchbox violated the school ban on depictions of “violent characters.” An Oregon eighth-grader, whose brother served in Iraq, was suspended for wearing a T-shirt that depicted an empty pair of boots representing soldiers killed in action. The school said the shirt was “not appropriate.” A Tennessee boy was threatened with suspension from elementary school because he came to school with a military-style haircut like that of his stepbrother, a soldier. A government arbitrator prevented the firing of a New Jersey elementary school teacher who was late to school 111 times in two years.

A suburban Washington high school promoted self-esteem by naming 117 valedictorians out of a class of 457. Two Edina, Minn., elementary schools hired “recess consultants” to minimize “conflict” — children saying “Hey, you’re out!” rather than “Nice try!” The principal of a San Francisco middle school withheld the results of student elections that did not produce properly “diverse” results. When some deep thinkers in academia decided that yoga, like ethnic food, constitutes “cultural appropriation,” a clear thinker wondered whether offended cultures would send back our polio vaccines. The American Council of Trustees and Alumni reported that 48 of the top 52 liberal arts colleges and universities do not require English majors to take a Shakespeare course.”
I continue to lament that the “black community” has taken leaders such as Al Sharpton and those running Black Lives Matter as leaders rather than a host of intelligent leaders like Randall Kennedy, whose article -  http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1997/05/my-race-problem/376849/ I wish every person, of any color, would read. Here are two excerpts, which don’t do the article justice, but I can't copy the whole thing - go read it:

I ESCHEW racial pride because of my conception of what should properly be the object of pride for an individual: something that he or she has accomplished. I can feel pride in a good deed I have done or a good effort I have made. I cannot feel pride in some state of affairs that is independent of my contribution to it. The color of my skin, the width of my nose, the texture of my hair, and the various other signs that prompt people to label me black constitute such a state of affairs. I did not achieve my racial designation. It was something I inherited -- like my nationality and socio-economic starting place and sex -- and therefore something I should not feel proud of or be credited with. In taking this position I follow Frederick Douglass, the great nineteenth-century reformer, who declared that "the only excuse for pride in individuals. . . is in the fact of their own achievements." If the sun has created curled hair and tanned skin, Douglass observed, "let the sun be proud of its achievement."

First, it is a sociological fact that blacks and whites are differently situated in the American polity. But, again, a brute fact does not dictate the proper human response to it. That is a matter of choice -- constrained, to be sure, but a choice nonetheless. In choosing how to proceed in the face of all that they encounter, blacks should insist, as did Martin Luther King Jr., that acting with moral propriety is itself a glorious goal. In seeking to attain that goal, blacks should be attuned not only to the all too human cruelties and weaknesses of others but also to the all too human cruelties and weaknesses in themselves. A good place to start is with the recognition that unless inhibited, every person and group will tend toward beliefs and practices that are self-aggrandizing. This is certainly true of those who inherit a dominant status. But it is also true of those who inherit a subordinate status. Surely one of the most striking features of human dynamics is the alacrity with which those who have been oppressed will oppress whomever they can once the opportunity presents itself. Because this is so, it is not premature to worry about the possibility that blacks or other historically subordinated groups will abuse power to the detriment of others.”

I won’t quote from John McWhorter, a linguist who also writes on racial matters, but I recommend anything he writes, on either topic. You might want to try - http://www.wsj.com/articles/what-the-world-will-speak-in-2115-1420234648 on future language, which is, of course, really more about present language. You could also try http://www.wsj.com/articles/closed-minds-on-campus-1448634626, which is obviously, about the trend on campus for students to stop learning and close their minds to all but what they already believe.

Great technological developments

There are so many developments every year it’s hard to stop once you start looking. These caught my attention lately.

In Israel the cheapest and most efficient desalination plant ever built is running. I believe the technology will be exported all over the world. It might require some Muslim nations to do business with Israel – trade can bring peace.

Pay digitally – well we can do that for a long time, but Apple has combined technologies (I don’t think invented them) and made Apple Pay. I’m mostly not an Apple guy so I don’t have one, but I understand if you can pay at a place through Apple Pay. Here’s why it is so seductive. No getting out your credit card, no pin numbers, no signature. Just wave your phone like a wand over a terminal, press your thumb to avoid identification and it is far more secure than a credit card – codes being created just for your transaction, like the one time pads spies used to use. Someday some of us will not even need to hold the phone. The chip in our head will just do all the same things. But not yet.

Those are new technologies. But there are more basic scientific discoveries which may someday result in technologies that change us either more. Iranian scientists created a biodiesel fuel that eliminates many types of pollution. Anglo-American scientists have mapped the genome of the bowhead whale and located the genes explaining why it can live – 200 years! Uh oh. British scientists also managed to create a system to change the shape of photons and change the speed of light. The Brits have also found a way to make babies from the genes of three people. Three? How long before 100?

I’ll stop there. It’s a holiday spectacular, not an encyclopedia. There are terrible things in the world, but scientific exploration may outpace them all. Let’s hope so.

Best pop song of 2015

Fight Song by Rachel Platten. You know – “This is my fight song . . .”  Last night, New Year’s Eve, I was so happy that when she came on the screen I knew she had written and sung that song. Because I never heard of any of the many other people who performed with the exception of Jimmy Buffet.
So, the fact that it is my choice for best pop song of the year may have to be qualified by the fact that it is the only one I know.  Then again, maybe it’s the only one I know because it’s the only one I like.

Best public moment of 2015

I’ve said for years that the happiest public moment, that is the happiest I’ve been at something that was made known to the public, of what I hope is the middle stage of my life, was when Pres. Obama announced the killing of bin Laden. I didn’t believe a lot of what we were told, but, I believed he was dead and that made me happy. I was alone in Va. at the moment, and I did realize I was rejoicing at someone’s death, but it is true. But, for this year, it was not something as important. It was a game, one moment, in the Super Bowl, my team ahead, but the other team in the red zone about to score – and then Sam Butler stepped in front of Russell Wilson’s pass and intercepted the ball. That was in NY with a number of other people in some friends’ basement, and there is a picture of me with my hands over my mouth – unbelieving. Great moment.

Best private moment of 2015

That’s tougher. There’s a lot of good stuff that has happened this year. I have two candidates and I don’t think I can choose between them.

The first was in March. I had had a long spell of sickness in my blood that had pretty much rendered me unable to exert myself much for lack of oxygen or suffer the consequences, which I learned when I went to the city one day for work and barely made it home. This went on for a few months until I had treatment, which lasted about a week. The treatment, chemo, wasn’t any fun, and made me sick with a fever for about a week. There was no hair loss or any of that kind of stuff and I can’t say it is the worst thing I’ve gone through, but I was physically depleted and it is the longest illness I’ve ever had.  I always felt confident I would eventually get better, but my blood wasn’t coming back very fast according to my doctor. So, after a few days she decided to give me a blood transfusion. I went to the hospital and they hooked me up. It lasted six hours, and wasn’t at all unpleasant. But, the best moment? When it was done, and I stood up, I felt my old decrepit self again. I’d say like Popeye after he eats spinach, but I was not that energetic to begin with. Still, after months, it was a wonderful feeling of vigor. Whoever gave that blood – thanks. It's good stuff.

The second is more social, one of life’s milestones. In December my daughter got engaged. She was totally surprised. I was totally surprised. And even though football was on, I managed to wrest myself from it and visit for a few hours. I’m not going to go on a bend about having kids and why it is special. It just is and if you have a kid, you understand it. If you don’t and want one you understand too. I never expected to have a kid, nor did anyone I know think I was capable of being a father. But when I learned her mother was pregnant I never doubted I would love the child, which I only learned was a girl at her birth, or that I would be perfectly capable of it. It’s tiring, but much easier than people make out for the most part.  And I’ve been a very lucky parent with almost no drama for 28 years. And I know that engagement and marriage doesn’t make a person happy unless they are generally happy, but she is. And there is something about knowing your kid is moving on in her life that is very rewarding, maybe in a social way, may be in a chemical or biological way we can’t even explain. It’s just really nice.

Best insult of 2015

I think I’ve posted here before about my online commenting. I spend much too much time reading articles and then stating my opinion in 1500 characters or less. I’m glad they limit it, because if they gave 10,000 characters, I probably would do that. In any event, many of the topics are controversial and emotional. I’m not a troll, that is, I don’t just insult people because they disagree with me. I used to write mostly on a conservative site, townhall.com, because they had the best format to allow you to argue back and forth almost in real time. And that was a rough place. I got insulted a lot, because I must not a conservative, and they could be crude and mean. I used to keep a Word file for a while of all the insults I’d received, which I took as a badge of honor. Some really crazy found a way to literally usurp other people’s screen names and started writing horrible stuff in other people’s name, and at least for a while, it destroyed the site, though I’m sure they are still there. 

But, the last few years I’ve mostly commented on the New York Times’ site. The articles and the commenters were as liberal as townhall’s were conservative. And because I’m not a liberal, I don’t get a lot of recommends (sort of as “like” is on facebook). I might get a handful, and sometimes some dozens, but some people get hundreds, usually for saying something like they hate Bush or Obama/Obamacare is great, guns suck, etc. That’s fine. As I explained to someone on townhall once who asked me why I bothered, I explained I do it because I enjoy expressing myself in writing and I like to think once in a while I can persuade someone, however rare, but a troll probably never will.
Anyway, the commenters on the Times site tend to be more educated and generally politer than they are on townhall. And you can’t go back and forth in real time, though you can reply to each other. So, I don’t get so many insults, but I do sometimes get a lot of people replying to my comment, all disparaging it. But, recently, I commented on an article on arbitration. It’s a legal topic and I’ve found reporters often understand near nothing about legal topics, which isn’t a great surprise. The article had disparaged companies for using arbitration for the nefarious purposes of getting judgments against people who couldn’t then fight them in court. It was all wrong. I explained (in under 1500 words) that if they were taken to arbitration, it was because they had agreed to it. And they had to be served just as in court and could challenge it if they weren’t. I also added something about why is it so terrible for companies to want to get judgments for money they were owed (and probably would never collect). Well, you would have thought I wrote that Obama had cooties and Bush should be our new Fuhrer. It garnered some indignant reply comments. But, my favorite was this:

You’re the type of lawyer who gives the legal profession a bad name. Like most people, I’ve had experiences with attorneys who are incompetent and unpleasant, but I also know lawyers I like and respect. I’ve only once had to deal with an attorney as slimy as you. . . From your point of view he was probably just doing his job, but that’s a very poor excuse for such unethical and egregious behavior.”

Time had elapsed to reply so I just had to suck it up. But, it made me smile. Slimy. I guess. Another person wrote that I was the kind of person who only trusted money. I did reply to him that my gf would say “I wish” when I told her what he wrote.

Speaking of word limits, I’ve pretty much come to my self-imposed limit for posts so as to not unduly punish anyone who is reading this (“Anyone there – Hello? Hello?”). Another holiday spectacular wrapped up.

I do have a New Year’s resolution to get back to blogging more often and to return to subjects other than politics, like history and science, but it is hard in an election year.

Happy holidays. Happy New Year. See you (I hope) in a week or so.




2 comments:

  1. A slimy, money grabbing lawyer? Since I know you, I almost fell off my chair when I read that. My best laugh in a long time. People take all this stuff with way too seriously.
    .

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Such are the dangers of online commenting. Made me laugh too.

      Delete

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I started this blog in September, 2006. Mostly, it is where I can talk about things that interest me, which I otherwise don't get to do all that much, about some remarkable people who should not be forgotten, philosophy and theories (like Don Foster's on who wrote A Visit From St. Nicholas and my own on whether Santa is mostly derived from a Norse god) and analysis of issues that concern me. Often it is about books. I try to quote accurately and to say when I am paraphrasing (more and more). Sometimes I blow the first name of even very famous people, often entertainers. I'm much better at history, but once in a while I see I have written something I later learned was not true. Sometimes I fix them, sometimes not. My worst mistake was writing that Beethoven went blind, when he actually went deaf. Feel free to point out an error. I either leave in the mistake, or, if I clean it up, the comment pointing it out. From time to time I do clean up grammar in old posts as, over time I have become more conventional in my grammar, and I very often write these when I am falling asleep and just make dumb mistakes. It be nice to have an editor, but . . . .