Friday, February 22, 2013

swimsuit edition

As I was perusing the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue the other night in my recliner, I heard a voice behind me quip, "You enjoying reading those articles?"

Not much in the way of articles in this swimsuit edition of Sports Illustrated. Not much in the way of sports either. And, not much in the way of swimsuits.

What you have in the "swimsuit" issue is skin.. Nobody is playing tennis or volleyball or basketball.  Models decked out in next to nothing adorn the pages. And you don't need to be a sleuth to discern that many of the women are exposed in a way that would get them arrested in a public place.

This year the women are photographed in their "swimwear" on each of the continents.  For example, the magazine's cover features a woman in Antarctica.  She is wearing a bathing suit bottom and a parka over her naked top.  She hasn't zipped up the parka.   She's working on getting her hood on and in so doing has her elbows pushing in on her chest. You couldn't mistake her for Hank or Louie.

As I flipped through the magazine I saw that one out of two of the models really aren't wearing bathing suits at all, just threads over portions of their bottom and something sort of covering the top.  One model with a name right out of an adult film cast-Cyntia Dicker--has, in one photo, nothing sort of covering her top, and  judging by her pose and facial expression, is not contemplating NFL rule changes.

The ads are also revealing.  One features a bird banging his head against a tree.  The accompanying text:  "A Clean Pecker Always Taps It."  The product is something called Fresh and Sexy, Intimate Wipes.

Taylor Made Golf Clubs peddles a driver with two photos taken from reverse angles. The text, "Nice top. Even Nicer Bottom."  The ad is adjacent to the photo of a model who has pulled a transparent tube around her naked top.

Does this bother me?

No. The photos in SI do not bother me, nor the intimations of sex. I've written before that I think our society is an adolescent one as it relates to prurient activity. Sex between consenting partners is healthy, natural, and a physical drive that should be encouraged and not repressed.

What does bother me is the hypocrisy.

During the broadcast of the NCAA Division I phony baloney college championship game which means absolutely nothing for reasons I have expressed here before, Brent Musburger, the announcer, commented on the pulchritude of the girlfriend of the Alabama quarterback. The woman was in the stands and a camera person got her in the lens. Musburger remarked that she was a looker.

He was excoriated in the next day's media.

I am not a fan of Brent Musburger and his comments could be considered a bit sophomoric, but still how can agents of the press cite his comments as an abomination when Sports Illustrated, not Penthouse, is publishing the swimsuit issue.

Last Sunday night I turned on the set at 8 ready to watch the NBA all star game. When I did this, I did not see the athletes. I saw instead the pre game show.  A singer was doing something akin to singing while a group of women dressed provocatively were dancing in a way that was just a notch less suggestive than the women I observed at age 16 when I snuck in to see a burlesque show at the notorious Wayne County Fair.

This bothers me not because I am concerned with the innocents who were watching.  I'd much prefer that kids watch gyrations than movies where people get shot or blown up.  What bothers me is that the same people who screamed foul when there was a "wardrobe malfunction" in the superbowl, who yelp for abstinence, who squawk when a school district wants to have a substantive sex education curriculum and who want to ban novels from school curricula because there are, omygosh, references to intimacy in them, a percentage of these same people must be watching the NBA dancers and buying the current issue of Sports Illustrated.

Got to be the case, or else the SI issue wouldn't be so filled with ads, and the NBA would not present women in thongs.  The people who wrote, edited, and published the copy for "A Clean Pecker Always Taps It" should scream bloody murder whenever some self proclaimed preserver of morality gets on a soapbox moaning about what happened to the cultcha.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

constants and variables

Valentine's Day 2013.

Every Valentine's Day.

In math a constant refers to something that cannot vary.  A number, say 5, is a constant.  Unless you add to it, it's going to stay a 5.  Sometimes in algebraic notation, letters that are from the beginning of the alphabet stand for constants.  a, b, and c are constants.  x, y, and z are variables.

The quadratic formula is x= -b plus or minus the square root of b squared minus 4ac over 2a.  (I thought I had remembered this, but when I checked I was hopelessly off.  An indication of how I have used my four semesters of college Calculus).   In the quadratic, or any formula, the value of the variable, in this case x, depends on the constants and the other variables in the formula.

So to take a simpler example, the y in y= 2ax, will vary depending on what the constant a is, and the variable x.  If a is 3, then when x is 2, y =12.  If  x is 5, y is then thirty.  The variable y depends on the constant a, and the independent variable x.

So what?

I have never had to apply this knowledge directly in my line of work.  However, I do think understanding certain principles like dependent and independent variables--and constants can help us.

In life, like in math, there are constants and there are variables. The variable of happiness is a function of other variables as well as constants.

How happy you are on a given day depends on variables that, well, vary from day to day.  Was it sunny, did you hit traffic on the way to work, did you eat well, exercise?  How was work? Did some knucklehead say something gratuitous that upset you? Did you get a thank you note that you had not expected from a colleague in another department?  All variables these.

But there can be constants.  If y = 2ax, then y can depend on the x, but maybe you can always count on the a--the constant.

Maybe you know, somewhere that you don't regularly tap, that you are loved, and love.  Maybe you know that you have family and friends, and romantic love that are all constants and will not vary no matter what.  If you have these kinds of constants you are very lucky indeed.  Then the x, the variables, will not matter that much.  
Maybe with love as a constant, the knucklehead at work, the bad meal, the lack of exercise, does not mean a whole lot, because your formula is rooted in a powerful constant that, like all constants, will never vary.

Happy Valentines Day.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book Review-Canada

So, something unthinkable happens to you when you are fifteen through no fault of your own.   And your sense of what is, regardless of how fragile that sense might have been, is unearthed by this blindsiding event.  You are essentially without coordinates and are thrust into another place that is, for you at least, strange. You need to get your bearings and make this new place work.  But then, something horrific happens in this new place. This time you may even be peripherally complicit.  Again, your sense of what is, and what is right, takes a devastating blow.

Two points are made in this beautifully written if very depressing book--at least there are two points that keep recurring as I consider the book now about 24 hours since I finished it.  The first is that regardless of how horrible we have it, or have had it, we have an opportunity to live fulfilled lives.  The second is that people, essentially good people, can take very very wrong turns while thinking that they are taking correct turns, and wind up jeopardizing their lives.  

The book-- and this is told up front so it is not giving away anything--is about a fifteen year old boy who has a twin sister.  He and his twin are reared by essentially decent parents who decide, inexplicably, that the way to solve a financial problem and protect the family is to rob a bank.

Canada is told in two parts that are discrete stories. (There is a third part but it is really just an epilogue).  The first part is the story of how the parents come to the point that they decide to rob a bank. The second part takes place afterwards when the boy is taken by a family friend to Canada to live and start again.

I laugh out loud when I read sections of books.  Not a yuk in the 418 pages.  Yet the book, particularly the first part, is so well written that a reader can clearly think that this is a tale told from the vantage point of how a fifteen year old would experience it. A criticism could be that the book, we find out early on, is the reminiscences of that 15 year old when he is 66.  Yet it reads in the first part like how a 15 year old would have experienced and relayed the events.

A meter for me when evaluating a book is how much that book sticks with me after I've read it.  I think Canada will stick for a spell. It may not last especially long because some of the events in the story are so preposterous and unlikely to have occurred without repercussions that in the story did not occur. Also, several episodes in the story were not even peripherally related to the novel and I found myself thinking what possible reason could there be for including this episode or that. 

Still, I am not sure we can be reminded too many times, that no matter what hardships we have experienced, there is a way out.  And that way out is a determination to be true to who you are, and to know that we have the opportunity, if not the obligation, to try and live fulfilling lives. No matter what, this life is the only shot we have.

Friday, February 8, 2013


The newscaster just announced that 190,000 homes are out of power in Massachusetts.

The predictions for this storm were that the strongest part for my area would begin after midnight.  I am not sure then what we've experienced these past six hours.  It looks pretty bad out there right now at 1022 pm.

People in these parts talk with something akin to reverence about the blizzard of 78.  I was not here then,  but did live in Buffalo during the blizzard of 77.  It was an experience.  I remember the three story home where I was hunkered down in the attic apartment for that weekend.  On the Friday when the storm began I felt the house shake.

The house here has not been shaking, but the lights have flickered twice, and a few glances out the window suggest that shovelling tomorrow at 1, when the storm is supposed to end, will eliminate any need for me to get on the elliptical this weekend.  The storm does remind of the blizzard of 77.  It is already difficult to see the cars in our driveway.

The good news about such storms is that they remind me of how good we have it on a regular basis.

Oh, a side note. This morning before the storm began I went out to take care of a few errands.  The traffic was heavy and frenzied. I went to the post office which is adjacent to a small cluster of stores.  There is a drugstore, a dunkin donuts, a dentist, and a liquor store.  Take a guess at which establishment was enjoying the most robust business at 955 a.m. this morning.

Monday, February 4, 2013

rule change

The last two super bowl games have been affected--and you could make a case that they may have been decided--because of a flaw in the rules that needs to be addressed.  I believe I blogged about this last year, but this year the situation was more glaring.

I would not have realized the issue yesterday had it not been for a note I received from my brother this morning.  After he wrote what he did, it made all the sense in the world, but I had not noticed it, nor had the announcers, or apparently the referees.

With eleven seconds left and up by 5 the Ravens faced a fourth down from near their end zone.  They could have punted and given the ball back to the 49ers in time for at least one heave into the end zone.  Instead the punter took the hike and ran around in the end zone until he had exhausted seven seconds, then stepped out of bounds. The result was a safety decreasing their advantage to three points.  This was irrelevant because it would take four seconds for any player to return the kickoff/punt after the safety.

Smart play.  But what was surprising to the announcers and me was how long it took the 49ers to reach the punter and force him out of bounds. The guy was doing the slow mambo in the endzone for seven seconds before he was forced out.

My brother pointed out that the Ravens had egregiously held the rushing 49ers making it difficult to get to the punter.

The penalty for holding in the end zone is a safety, which is what the Ravens were trying to do anyway.  So, so what.  They would gladly accept a truly meaningless penalty in exchange for eliminating seven seconds and the chances for the 49ers to have a shot at winning the game.

A "penalty" in this situation is actually to the advantage of the team being penalized.  And this is what needs to be changed.  If the 49ers had even so much as 6 seconds they might have been able to get in position to throw the ball into the end zone.

Last year a similar situation occurred. The Giants had taken a four point lead over the Patriots.  With the ball at the Patriots forty and only about a dozen seconds left, the Patriots threw a long pass toward the endzone.  The Giants had double teamed the receiver and were able to defend the pass.  However, the Giants had 12 players on the field.  It is relatively easy to defend with 12 players against 11.  The Giants were penalized, but only five yards, which meant nothing at that time.  The 12 players had successfully defended a potential scoring play. The penalty was insignificant. But moreover had exhausted six or seven seconds on the clock.  The Patriots not only lost the chance to score, but lost the time. They had time for one less play.

So, in two consecutive super bowls, plays that are supposed to be penalties, have been to the advantage of the miscreants and could have affected the championship

Two simple rule changes.  (1) In the last two minutes of a game or half, the team that is the victim of the penalty may choose to receive back any time lost during the play when they were victimized.  (2) Too many players on the field in the last minute of a game results in an extra minute of play added to the clock should the victimized team request that extra time.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Just Sayin'

It was a week ago when it was announced that Rajon Rondo would be lost to the Celtics for the year. This news was accompanied with a chorus of wailing from fans and pundits who all but said kaddish for the Celtics and, on one radio show, the entire National Basketball Association since both had lost such a star. No matter that the Celtics, prior to the injury, had lost six straight games--in one blowing a nearly thirty point lead and in another losing to the august Cleveland Cavaliers -a squad with a current winning percentage of .292. This, for the statistically challenged, means that the team that beat the Celtics with the great Rondo would win less than 30 times against all NBA opponents if it were to play 100 games.

I blogged last week, that you can't get worse than 0-6. You can't lose more than one time in one try against the mighty Cleveland Cavaliers.  Rajon Rondo is a spectacular showman.  Great talent with startling passes and sometimes remarkable shots.  However, he does not win.

Just saying that in the week since the apocalypse, the Celtics have played four games. One of these games was against the defending world champions, the Miami Heat. Another against the team in the 30 team league with the third best record of all, the LA Clippers.  The Celtics, sans Rondo, are 4-0.

Another blog I wrote this week was about the father and son Hunters from Georgia State. After watching the first half of the Georgia State-Northeastern game, and watching the coach from Georgia State berate his players after nearly every possession, and thinking that no team could ever win with such relentless criticism, Georgia State won.  I was taken during that game not only by the coach, but also by a slim fellow for Georgia State who could rebound, handle the ball, and shoot like a combination of Jerry West and Oscar Robertson.  I found out later that the kid and the coach were a son and dad team.  I suggested I might be very wrong about the coach since he had the wisdom to recruit his son.  I thought that teams should watch out for RJ since he scored 27 against Northeastern.  Last night RJ scored 38 points against Old Dominion.

So just sayin that occasionally I have a small bit of wisdom.  This of course should be taken in light of the facts that I picked Atlanta and New England two weeks ago, and was certain in 1980 that Ronald Reagan would never win a majority.  

Friday, February 1, 2013

A Moment in Time

When I was in college a regular theme in the press was "the generation gap."  We young'uns felt like our parents did not get us. And our parents listened to our rhetoric and our music and could not relate. The Jefferson Airplane boomed "We are all outlaws in the eyes of America" and "feed your head."

A few hours ago I was having a conversation with the 20 year old woman who is a work study student in our office and a thirty something fellow who works in our Center for the Arts.  How it got there I am not sure, but I referred to some lyrics from the Jefferson Airplane.  They both looked at me  unknowingly.  I thought they were kidding me. I really did.  I said, "Cmon you must have heard of the Jefferson Airplane?"

They both squinted as if they were trying to help me out, but neither could honestly say they had.  I was incredulous, and said, "White Rabbit? You never heard of 'White Rabbit'"  The fellow took his hand and ran it over his scalp as if to say, "this is going right over my head."

"You never heard of White Rabbit?!" I exclaimed now older than the age of my parents when I said to them when I was a college student, "have you ever heard "White Rabbit?"  Neither this young hip man or the younger hip woman had ever heard of it.

I went to the computer, pulled up Youtube, and played "White Rabbit" with its very distinctive opening.

Neither one of them ever had heard it before.

Then the woman said, "I think my parents have listened to that."

Maybe I should have gone home right then.

Tomorrow morning I leave for my annual February jaunt to Albany to cavort with some college buddies at something called The Big Purple Growl.  (Our university colors were purple and gold. That is the purple part. We were the Great Danes, so I'm figuring that is where the Growl comes in).  I wonder if my buds will be surprised to learn that Grace Slick's tunes are no longer the anthems of youth., but of their parents' generation.  You can't trust anyone under 30.


On Wednesday night I decided to go watch my university's basketball team play Georgia State.  Northeastern, my school, had been undefeated in league play prior to the contest.  We had played on Sunday night on television and I was impressed with how easily we dispatched George Mason University--a team that often is very competitive.

I got to the arena a little late, but in no time I found myself focussing on two people in the arena.  The first one was the head coach for Georgia State.  We, Northeastern, got off to a strong start and the coach for Georgia State seemed exasperated after every play.  He threw his arms up in frustration whenever his team failed to prevent a Northeastern score. To me it seemed as if the guy could never be satisfied.  Even when his team did something well, he berated one player or another for not doing something else. I wondered how anyone could play for this guy.  And I just could not believe a team under such constant criticism could win.

They won.

In the second half Georgia State outplayed Northeastern.  A primary reason was the second person I had focussed on in the arena.  This fellow who had leg wraps on both of his legs was shooting like a professional.  In the second half he was so good that I was startled at how, seemingly effortlessly, he could get open despite the attention to keeping him guarded. The player, RJ Hunter, wound up with 27 points.  Tall, slim, and that night a shooting machine.  I figured, though, that eventually this guy would get fed up with the coach's histrionics.

Today, I discovered that this is unlikely. Curious as to who the coach was, I went to the Georgia State website to look him up.  I had to give the guy his due, in the second half, the team had responded both defensively and offensively.  And especially, this Hunter kid--a freshmen I found out later--was like Michael Jordan out there.

I look up the coach and his name is Ron Hunter.  He may be difficult to please, but he was able, I discovered, to recruit his son, RJ, to come and play for Georgia State.  And after the performance RJ displayed on Wednesday, I think his dad is pretty smart and a wise recruiter.   Georgia State is moving to another conference, the Sun Belt, next year.  Look out for the Hunters in the Sun Belt.