Saturday, July 20, 2013

Retired From Leading Prayer

Last night, I led my first, and last, Church League softball post-game prayer.  Traditionally, our team, as the only Catholic team in the league, defers to the other team for the post-game prayer.  The main reason for that is that most of the other teams have the Pastor, or a youth pastor or some elder on the team, whereas our priest and deacons do not play on the team (and most of the players on our team either aren't very religious or aren't even Catholic).  Plus, Catholics aren't well known for improvising prayers.  We're much better with the rote, memorized prayers.  But our reticence to pray has recently been altered.

A couple of games ago, our coach decided to lead the post-game prayer. As best as I can remember, here's his prayer:

         Lord, our judge, thank you for the gift of softball....and the camaraderie and for bringing us together this evening, Amen.

We hadn't walked 20 feet away from the prayer circle when one of my teammates started heckling him with, "Lord, our judge, thank you for the gift of softball?  What was that?"  Since then, we've been giving him a ton of crap about it.  Last week, we were having a cookout after the game, and we had a bunch of emails flying around giving each other shit.  I jumped in with a message saying the coach was working on our pre-meal prayer for the cookout:

        Lord, our judge, thank you for the gifts of softball, ground beef and processed pig snouts and anuses....

That got a few laughs.  Then, at the end of that game, coach put his brother-in-law in charge of the prayer.  He did a passable job, but the other team commented about it being short and sweet, like a prayer before a big meal. This week, however, was my turn, especially after I struck out swinging (with the excuse that I'd badly sprained my ankle the inning before).

I had already planned out two lines of the prayer.  Since it had been hotter than Hell this week, I started out, "Lord, thank you for this cool evening for us to come out and enjoy, and thank you for the heat this afternoon, to remind us of where we want to be for eternity....and thank you for the opportunity to come together and for the chance to be together on Sunday....Amen."

When I gave the line about eternity, one of my teammates started laughing.  Afterwards, the appropriateness of delivering one-liners in prayers was discussed, along with the fact that some of my teammates took that line to mean that I wanted to go to Hell, as opposed to the idea that the oppressive heat was a reminder to try to get to Heaven and avoid the fires of Hell.  it was also determined that I would no longer be charged with leading post-game prayers.


Seen for the first time:

The Dublin pitch-drop experiment was set up in 1944 at Trinity College Dublin to demonstrate the high viscosity or low fluidity of pitch — also known as bitumen or asphalt — a material that appears to be solid at room temperature, but is in fact flowing, albeit extremely slowly.
It is a younger and less well-known sibling of an experiment that has been running since 1927 at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, which Guinness World Records lists as the world’s longest-running laboratory experiment (see: Long-term research: Slow science). Physicist Thomas Parnell set it up because he wanted to illustrate that everyday materials can exhibit surprising properties. In the past 86 years that experiment has yielded eight drops, with the ninth drop now almost fully formed and about to fall.
I was fascinated with how that funnel jumped up after the drop fell off.

Mcdonald's Insult To Its Workers

Paul Campos talks about McDonald's sample budget for its low-paid workers:
I have seen secondhand (like most members of the pundit class, I am not personally poor) a woman feed herself and her three children on a $30 per week grocery budget, for months on end.  I’ve been amazed by her combination of discipline, creativity and self-sacrifice. (A commenter to Scalzi’s post writes: “Growing up poor means realizing twenty years later that Mommy was lying when she said, ‘it’s OK sweetie, I’ve already eaten.’”)
And although this may not be a particularly intellectually nuanced way of making the point, I am of the opinion that any person, corporate or otherwise, who want to “help” this woman by offering her a sample monthly budget is in dire need of a swift kick in the groin.
The great legal historian A.W.B. Simpson once said to me that “the problem of the poor is not that they’re oppressed, but rather that they have no money.”  Precisely.  The working poor generally work far harder than their well-intentioned upper-class advisers, but they have no money.
In other words, the poor don’t need financial advice; they need higher wages. Yet apparently The Market – our all-seeing, beneficent Market, which declares that it is right and just that some men should have billions, while others sleep under bridges – has decided that higher wages for the working poor are an offense against all that we hold sacred.
The comment about mom lying punched me in the gut.  I've never been there, but I can imagine the moms who go through that. The part about the working poor working far harder than their advisers I see every day.  There weren't too many office workers in our plant this week when it was oppressively hot, and when any of us were there, we didn't stick around too long.  Those guys on the floor were working 10 hour days in that crap.  I took off in the afternoon a couple of days to go try to kill myself, but I wouldn't have wanted to have been working 10 hours like those guys did.  And the thing is, so many folks in corporate America make so much money that they just can't understand what working class folks go through.  What's $50,000 to Lloyd Blankfein?  Not nearly enough to do God's Work, that's for sure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The Detroit Bus Company

On a day when the city filed for bankruptcy:

The Detroit Bus Company from Dark Rye on Vimeo.

The Invention of the Baseball Glove

The earliest gloves were simple leather work gloves, often with its finger removed to ensure that ball handling isn’t inhabited in any way. It’s hard to say exactly who wore the first glove, but some reports claim that catchers were wearing work gloves as early as 1860. A pitcher for the by the name of A.G. Spalding claims that it was New Haven first baseman Charles C. Waite who, in an 1875 game against Boston, first had the audacity (i.e. common sense) to take the field with a glove. Maybe “audacity” isn’t quite the right word. Though there were no rules against gloves, Waite tried to preserve his masculinity by wearing a tan, flesh-colored work glove, hoping no one would notice. People noticed. And Waite was ridiculed mercilessly by fans and players alike. Nonetheless, he persevered.
Spalding thought Waite might be on to something.
“I had for a good while felt the need of some sort of hand protection for myself. For several years I had pitched in every game played by the Boston team, and had developed severe bruises on the inside of my left hand. Therefore, I asked Waite about his glove. He confessed that he was a bit ashamed to wear it, but had it on to save his hand. He also admitted that he had chosen a color as inconspicuous as possible, because he didn’t care to attract attention….Meanwhile, my own hand continued to take its medicine with utmost regularity, occasionally being bored with a warm twister that hurt excruciatingly. Still, it was not until 1877 that I overcame my scruples against joining the ‘kid-glove aristocracy’ by donning a glove. I found that the glove, thin as it was, helped considerably, and inserted one pad after another until a good deal of relief was afforded. If anyone wore a padded glove before this date, I do not know it.”
The year after Waite’s debut, Spalding and his brothers started a sports equipment company and one of their first products, alongside the first official baseball, was a baseball glove –though Spalding wouldn’t wear one himself until 1877 when he started playing first base. Unlike Waite’s glove, Spaldings was made from dark, almost black leather. Spalding’s reputation kept away the ridicule and in fact, he may be responsible for helping to remove the stigma that came with wearing a glove.
My glove from high school was getting in pretty sad shape, but I dropped $25 on getting it relaced, and it is practically new.  It sure as hell isn't a softball glove (it is a second baseman's glove), but I'll retire before it does.

71 and Still Racing

Charlie Pierce reports on Morgan Shepherd:
At the end of his afternoon, Morgan Shepherd hung around in the cool precincts of the infield garage. He had not won, but he had not expected to win. He hadn't won a race on this circuit since he won in Atlanta in 1993. He did not run at the front of the field, but he had not expected to do that, either. He had not even finished 100 laps and, if he would tell you the truth, he also probably had not expected to finish that many at all. Not that he didn't sound like every other driver who didn't win Sunday. He lifted the brim of his battered cap, looked across the way at his car as they were packing it up, and he talked about the things that went wrong in just the same way that all the other drivers do.
"We had a great engine," Shepherd said. "But the front end of the car just got to bouncing up and down. There was just something off on the chassis and it made the car hard to turn. Of course, we didn't have a chance to test it on the track or anything."
But starting the race was his best moment. By starting the race, Morgan Shepherd won. He is 71 years old. He first raced on a NASCAR track at about quarter past the first Nixon administration. Sunday, as he roared past the starting line — and even the lowliest stock car roars the first time it comes around the grandstand — he became the oldest person ever to start a Sprint Cup race. When he began racing, NASCAR hadn't discovered yet that there were pockets of high-octane yeehawing all over the country. They didn't run races in Vegas or, heavens to Cale Yarborough, New (by God!) Hampshire. They ran on tracks like the Hickory Motor Speedway and the Asheville-Weaverville Speedway, and North Wilkesboro. "They had Daytona," said Shepherd, who also drives on the Nationwide circuit. "But the rest of them were places like that.
That is pretty impressive.  Back when grandpa hit 71, we didn't really want him driving, let alone in a NASCAR race. 

Inside Tesla's Robotic Factory

From Wired:

Wow. Those robots are amazing.

A Busy Week

Man, I've been getting my ass kicked all week.  I tried baling on Monday, and it just so happened that everything I did leading up to it had been the wrong thing to do.  I started by mowing late Friday afternoon, so I didn't get much drying time then.  I let it lay on Saturday, instead of tedding it.  Probably should have tedded it. Then Sunday, I figured that since it was second cutting I'd double windrow it.  I failed to take into account the 5 weeks between mowings, and the 6+ inches of rain it received.  So the windrows were huge, and I'd moved the rows of wheels together so my double windrow would fit in the baler.  So that caused it to kick clumps and crooked windrows.  When I tried baling it late Sunday, it was way too wet. 

So on Monday, I left work at 11:30 and rolled the hay over.  I thought I was doing a pretty good job, but the wet stuff would roll on top of the dry, and the weight and momentum would carry it right back down to the bottom.  So when we started baling, I had huge, clumpy crooked windrows with wet stuff on the bottom.  The first load took a lot out of me.  The bales were coming faster than I could move them, they weighed a ton, and it was hotter than Billy Hell.  By the time I got to the front tier, I really needed a break.  Then we started the second load and I was really dragging.  Luckily (not really, except for the break), The baler broke a string, and we went and got another bundle of twine, then had to feed through 5 busted bales.  After we got going a little while, a shear bolt gave way, and I got another break.  We wrapped that wagon up, and it was on to the third one.  By halfway through this one, I knew I wasn't going to get it finished.  When I got to the front tier, I called it quits.  Dad pulled the wagon to the edge of the field, and I creeped off and laid down in the shade of the wagon.  I had never felt so exhausted in my life.   Dad asked what was next, and I said, "break."  I laid there for 15 or 20 minutes before I felt good enough to get moving.  So we started moving the wagons over to the other farm where I could put them away.  After we did that, we ate, and I finally felt good enough to unload a wagon so I could finish the field on Tuesday. 

We managed to load the last wagon on Tuesday, and then I took off the rest of the evening to visit with my friend who was celebrating his birthday.  But yesterday, the crew baling the straw had managed to load all the big square bales up, so it was finally time (not really, we just didn't know what else to do with the seed) to plant the double crop beans.  So right after work, I moved the seed wagon and planter up there, and started planting.  I was having some issues with a row sensor, and ended up just ignoring it.  I was almost done with that when Dad, who I'd had go feed my cows, told me the one cow who was really, really late on calving was in labor.  As soon as I finished the field, I ran home, got the pulling chains and a flashlight, and headed over.  Sure enough, she was in labor, and I could see one very big hoof and a tongue.  I went back up to the barn and got the chains and some gloves and came back.  After about 20 minutes of messing around, and a lot of bellowing from the cow, I managed to help her get the calf out.  After that, I was pretty beat. 

Today, I'm taking it pretty easy.

Working To Bring Back Anti-Sodomy Laws

Virginia's attorney general and GOP candidate for governor:
Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP's 2013 gubernatorial candidate, filed a petition Tuesday with the U.S. Supreme Court seeking to uphold Virginia's anti-sodomy law.
Cuccinelli wants the court to reconsider a March 2013 decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit striking down the state's "crimes against nature" statute. The 4th Circuit ruled that the law did not pass muster in light of the Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas decision, which struck down the latter state's anti-sodomy law as an unconstitutional criminalization of Americans' sexual conduct. The Virginia law, however, remained on the books.
The 4th Circuit ruled in favor of William Scott McDonald, who was convicted in 2005 at age 47 under the Virginia statute for soliciting a 17-year-old girl to commit sodomy. That law broadly makes oral and anal sex a Class 6 felony. While such laws historically targeted gay men, they have also been used against heterosexual activity.
The three-judge panel ruled that an unconstitutional law could not be used to convict McDonald. It added that the Virginia Legislature could pass another law to criminalize sexual conduct specifically between a minor and an adult. The Lawrence ruling applied only to consensual adult conduct.
Cuccinelli's petition argues that given the Lawrence decision's application only to consenting adults, the Virginia law can stand as applied to contact between minors and adults.
The attorney general had previously tried to persuade the full appeals court to reconsider the panel's decision. The court denied that petition in April.
Apparently, the state's age of consent is 15, so they couldn't get the guy for having sex with a minor.  Instead, they charged him with violating the anti-sodomy law.  I'm not sure, but I don't think banning blow jobs will win any votes from people under, what, 70?  Now, seriously, wouldn't this upset the supposedly not tiny libertarian wing of the Republican party?  It seems like a government that shouldn't regulate environmental pollution shouldn't tell two adults what they can do with their bodies for the most part.  But the Republicans have never been known for being consistent on governmental power.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Orthodox Jewish Boxer

Dmitriy Salita:
  “Since there are not a lot of Jewish athletes, I definitely feel pressure,” Dmitriy Salita says. “It's irresponsible to say that you don’t feel pressure.” Salita, a professional boxer with a record of 35-1-1, immigrated to New York from Ukraine in 1991. Upon arrival in America, he was stunned to see entire streets of Jewish communities, and he quickly combined two devotions: Judaism and boxing. Salita says religion and community have given him the drive to succeed both inside and outside the ring. “Boxing is a spiritual experience,” Salita says. “I think a boxing gym, more than anywhere else, attracts different persons of different personalities. It really helped me learn American culture.”

A Comedy Genius

The NYT profiles SNL's Deep Thoughts creator Jack Handey:
“Deep Thoughts” made its debut on Jan. 19, 1991, in an episode hosted by Sting. It was this gem: “To me, clowns aren’t funny. In fact, they’re kinda scary. I’ve wondered where this started, and I think it goes back to the time when I went to the circus and a clown killed my dad.”
“Deep Thoughts” wound up being the perfect distillation of Handey’s comedic temperament. He was no longer constrained by the format of the sketch — he was free to create koans, tiny polished gems of comedy. Like: “If a kid asks where rain comes from, I think a cute thing to tell him is ‘God is crying.’ And if he asks why God is crying, another cute thing to tell him is ‘Probably because of something you did.’ ”
“There’s a high attrition rate,” he said. “For each one that works, I throw away 10. I find that easier than rewriting. I’d rather just scrap it and start over.
This was my favorite Deep Thought:
One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my little nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. “Oh, no,” I said, “Disneyland burned down.” He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.
He was also behind Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer and Toonces the Driving Cat.  Those right there were some of my all-time favorite skits.  Handey has a novel coming out, "The Stench of Honolulu."  I may have to check it out.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Ammo Cross-sections

You pull the trigger; the trigger releases the hammer; the hammer slaps the cartridge, and out the bullet fires. But what’s going on inside each of those cartridges? That’s what you can see here. “Ammo,” by Sabine Pearlman, is a series of photos of perfectly bisected projectiles. All have some sort of recognizable silhouette–either the short, stubby shape of a 9 mm cartridge, the chunky rectangular body of a shotgun shell, or the long menacing lines of higher-powered ammunition–but inside, we see, each has its own unique architecture.
Pearlman happened upon the cleaved ammo last autumn, when she was touring a Swiss military bunker set deep in a mountainside in the Alps. There were 900 different types of ammunition in all. “I instantly wanted to photograph them,” Pearlman says. She convinced the munitions expert there–the one who had actually cut the bullets in half–to let her document them, and returned shortly thereafter to see it through...At the bottom of each is a primer–the place where the hammer strikes the cartridge. Above that we find a chamber of propellant, in most cases gunpowder. Move up another step, however, and we start to see the range of the ammo manifest itself. Some of the cartridges carry simple slugs, others buckshot. Some are packed with tiny ball bearings; some have miniature, armor-piercing arrows sheathed inside.
Those are pretty awesome photos.

NASA Photo of the Day


The Pillars of Eagle Castle
Image Credit & Copyright: Emanuele Colognato & Jim Wood
Explanation: What lights up this castle of star formation? The familiar Eagle Nebula glows bright in many colors at once. The above image is a composite of three of these glowing gas colors. Pillars of dark dust nicely outline some of the denser towers of star formation. Energetic light from young massive stars causes the gas to glow and effectively boils away part of the dust and gas from its birth pillar. Many of these stars will explode after several million years, returning most of their elements back to the nebula which formed them. This process is forming an open cluster of stars known as M16.

A Non-productive Day

I mowed my hay on Friday evening and tried to rake it and bale it today, but it was still too green, so I spent a bunch of time raking and very little time baling.  Looks like I'll be waiting until tomorrow.  That kind of screws up the town job, but they'll manage.