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Of Man and Nectarines September 30, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in climate, food, football, transportation.
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I love nectarines. They’re delicious. Especially when they are just before ripe and the flesh breaks off the pit cleanly rather than making a sticky mess. I am not a big fan of peaches, however. It’s not the fuzz. It’s the taste. Something about it nauseates me. For a while, this nectarine/peach dichotomy didn’t bother me because I believed that they were two different species of fruit. Specifically, I thought that the nectarine was some hybrid of a peach and a plum. You know, like a pluot/plucot/plumcot/Dinosaur-egg is a hybrid of a plum and an apricot. As it turns out, the nectarine and the peach belong to the same species, with nectarines classified as a cultivar. The nectarine’s smooth skin is simply a recessive trait. Peach fuzz is dominant. To use a politically incorrect analogy—is there a better kind?—caucasians are nectarines, mongoloids are peaches, and peach fuzz is the epicanthal fold. The analogy breaks because I like mongoloids and caucasians equally well. But it works otherwise.

Nectarine season is over. The last batch I bought was crap and I couldn’t finish it. We have now officially entered the two-month dead zone between nectarine season and orange season—which is roughly equivalent to the two-month dead zone between the football and baseball season. To commemorate, I thought I would write a philosophical/environmental post about man and nectarines. You see, the parallel between humans and nectarines are downright creepy. Humans come in several cultivars—some fuzzy, some not—same for nectarines. Humans bruise easily, so do nectarines. Humans are delicious—probably—so are nectarines. Humans were not meant to fly. Neither were nectarines.

Segue alert!

If Darwin wanted humans to fly, he would have made us descendants of bats rather than apes. Mechanical flight is one of humanity’s greatest achievements and one of the true game-changers of the industrial age. It’s also one of the lynchpins of climate change. There is nothing that blasts out CO2 like flying. A round-trip from Washington, DC to Seattle emits about 2,000 kg of CO2 per passenger. That’s as much as the average non-hybrid passenger car emits in a year! Washington, DC to Chicago is 580 kg. Washington, DC to Paris is 4,140. Washington, DC to Wellington 9,800 kg! Visit atmosfair.de to find out how much CO2 your next plane trip will cost the world.

Now, I understand flying to Paris. Paris is probably amazing and you should definitely see it once or twice if you can—I haven’t yet, but I plan to. Same for Wellington. Chicago on the other hand is a different story. Chicago is cool, but the O’Hare Hilton is not. And I personally have done somewhere on the order of ten day trips from Philadelphia to a conference room in Chicago O’Hare. Ten day trips and 5,800 kg of CO2. Ten day trips and 5,800 kg of CO2 that could just as easily have been replaced with ten conference calls. Hmmm. I would never tell people to travel less for vacation or pleasure. Seeing different places is an incredible experience and one of the true benefits of our advanced civilization. But I have no problem telling people to travel less for business or quasi-business. Business travel is one of the banes of humanity.

Segway alert! Man, I am on an absolute roll when it comes to making jokes at the expense of deceased people. Anyways, from now on, the term segway will be used to describe a segue back to the original topic. Run with that.

The Whole Foods on River and Dorsey sells nectarines from three originations—from Pennsylvania for $1.99/lb, from Washington State for $2.99/lb, and from New Zealand also for $2.99/lb. I buy the ones from Pennsylvania. Because I am a cheap-elitist-bastard—a cheap-bastard shops at the Giant, a cheap-elitist-bastard is the kind of person who shops at Whole Foods but buys the cheapest stuff there, it’s an important distinction—and because it pains me to think of nectarines flying from Washington to Washington, much less Wellington to Washington. That’s a long way for a nectarine to fly. A good-sized nectarine weighs about four ounces. The average 180 lb. man is the weight equivalent of 720 nectarines. Using the same atmosfair calcluator, dividing by 720 and carrying the one, a one way trip from Wellington to Washington, DC spews out 7 kg of CO2 per nectarine. Emissions-wise, buying a nectarine from New Zealand is the same as driving a non-hybrid for day! Buying 720 nectarines from New Zealand is the equivalent of flying to New Zealand yourself or driving a non-hybrid car for two years! Now, I have bought at least 720 nectarines this summer. I may have bought 1,720. I said they’re delicious didn’t I? Happily, all but perhaps 20 of them were from Pennsylvania. Sadly, the ones from New Zealand are superior. Smaller, but with more tang. However, my atmosfair experiments have taught me a valuable lesson. Next time I am jonesing nectarines from down under, I should just fly there myself and eat them there.

P.S. What am I doing in a conference room at the O’Hare Hilton? Attending program committee meetings, of course. For the unwashed, a program committe meeting is a meeting held on a Saturday in a conference room at the O’Hare Hilton—or at the Hyatt if the Hilton is booked—in which 30 men and women gather to decide which 40 of 200 research papers submissions will appear in upcoming technical conference X. Physical program committee meetings—in which the committee is physically present in one room—are the biggest wastes of CO2 I can personally think of. Virtual program committee meetings—in which the committee is physically distributed and communicating by phone—are far better environmentally and likely result in technical programs of equal quality. Why are virtual program committee meetings not used more frequently? Is it because you have to flush them on context switches?

P.P.S. There are many things to admire about professional athletes—their talent, the time they must have put in to work on their bodies and on their games. There are a few things to despise also—the fact that they can get away with vehicular homicide. Add another to list number two. As part of rookie hazing, Roy Williams of the Dallas Cowboys took the entire team out to a fancy dinner and left the bill with disrespectful rookie Dez Bryant. The total? 54 large. That’s right. $54,000. On dinner. There are 53 players on a football team. That’s $1,000 per person! Roy, you want to make a point without looking like an LEED silver a-hole? Donate $54,000 dollars to charity and stick Dez with that bill!

P.P.P.S. On second thought, this isn’t a reason to hate professional athletes, just the the Cowboys! E! A! G! L! E! S! EAGLES!

P.P.P.P.S. The Vegas line for Eagles-Redskins has moved from 7 points to 6 in the last two days. Still solid for a division game. 24-13 Eagles.

Hardy Har Har September 28, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in business, climate, economy, football, politics, society, taxes, transportation, war.
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The GOP is always good for a laugh. Regardless of how it’s pronounced, the party’s House leader spells his name Boehner. They gave us tea-bagging. And Sarah P. And wiccan-cum-Palin Christine O’Donnell. And now, just in time for the midterms, they’ve given us the Pledge To America. Yes America, congressional Republicans have an actual agenda other than filibustering Democratic legislation!

What is this agenda? Why are you asking me? Download and read it yourself! Don’t let the 10 MByte file size or 48 pages put you off. Text doesn’t take up much file space—one or two bytes per character—a 10 MByte document has to contain a large number of pictures. And in fact, PTA has 15 full pages of pictures! Of the Statue of Liberty, the Deepwater Horizon Rig, Mount Rushmore, Montcoal, the White House, Gitmo, the Capitol, K Street, House Minority Leader Boehner, Christine O’Donnell, main street USA, prison USA, a cowboy silhouetted against a sunset, Tony Romo, three old dudes at a supermarket beef counter, a CAFO, soldiers, caskets. Pictures that make you proud sick to be an American! There are also nine pages of content tables and titles like “Checks and Balances” and “Speak Out!” Plus two pages of figures for the sake of figures, including a nice one of Obama-spaghetti-care. That leaves you with only 22 pages of text. Still too much? Not to worry, the text itself is in large font, 1.5 spaced, and has huge margins. I banged it out on my iPhone between Tenleytown and Metro Center. And if this is still too long, there is the handy pocket card. Perfect for parties, or just around the water cooler! Alright, enough boilerplate and lace. Let’s briefly go over the “contents” of this bad boy, shall we?

Theme I: “shrink the government, reduce spending, and cut the Federal debt.” End TARP! Privatize the mortgage industry! Cancel the stimulus bill and reclaim all unspent Recovery Act funds! Return government spending to pre-bailout/pre-stimulus levels! Excuse me, but not even Sergey Brin is this rich! TARP was expensive, yes, but TARP also prevented a complete Wall Street meltdown and saved several US financial giants. The Fannie and Freddie bailouts were also expensive, but they did keep millions of American home “owners” temporarily afloat and the housing market from spiraling even more than it did. And yes, the unemployment was 7.7 before ARRA and 9.5 now, but what would it be now without the recovery act? And where would Philly Bluejay swim? Philly Bluejay currently swims at the sparkling Wilson Aquatic Center, proudly built using ARRA funds! But back to my point. All of these programs were and are expensive. And government spending was lower before they were enacted. But all of these programs were necessitated by Republican-led de-regulation of the financial and mortgage industries! And do you know which government programs were and are even more expensive? That’s right, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Strangely, no mention of canceling those in PTA. In fact, the only mention of Iraq and Afghanistan in PTA is in an item related to Iran. Which brings us to …

Theme II: “make America secure at home and abroad.” Protect our borders! A stronger visa program! Don’t let anyone out of Gitmo! Clean troop funding bills! Tough sanctions against Iran! A fully-funded missile shield! Let’s put the borders/visa/hate-of-Mexico/love-of-waterboarding issue aside for a minute and focus on the last three points. “Clean troop funding bills” essentially means a blank check from Congress to the Pentagon. Yes, that will definitely help to decrease spending! Tough sanctions against Iran because … well … Iran hates us and they will have nuclear capability by 2015. Actually kids, Iran will go nuclear before Passover and “tough sanctions” have as much of a chance of getting Ahmadinejad to back down as a personal plea from Philly Bluejay. Please Mahmoud, please dismantle your nuclear program. I promise not to make fun of your height or use your name and Kim Jong Il’s in the same sentence any more! That work? No? Bummer. And so what will definitely work against mini-me—oops, I did it again—Korean mini-me, and any other vertically-challenged-head-of-nuclear-state-gone-wild is a missile shield! The same missile shield will also stop hijacked planes, bombs in the New York subway system, IEDs, cyberterrorism, and attacks on our energy and water infrastructure. And it won’t blow the budget. Much. And also, to defeat attacks from the sea, the US coast will be patrolled by ill-tempered seabass with frikking lasers! A missile shield? Seriously? Do you know what would be far more effective against Herve Villechaise and Nelson de la Rosa—shame on me, I’ve just made fun of three dead dwarves in the span of 100 words—and far cheaper than a missile shield? About 50 F-16 Falcons and 10 B-2 bombers! A missile shield? A missile shield? Why not just run on “We will build a Death Star?”

Theme III: “no more Federal funding for abortion.” Ah, the abortion card! Apparently, they are saving the stem cell card for later.

Theme IV: “increase access to domestic energy sources.” Does this mean offshore wind farms in the North Atlantic and solar in Arizona or lifting the offshore drilling ban and opening up Alaska? I’m confused. Actually, I’m not. Of all the ludicrous statements in PTA, this might be the worst. I guess the fact that DC was buried under three feet of snow this past winter proves that climate change is a hoax perpetrated by Liberal scientists and that an ice age is coming! Drill baby drill!

Theme V: Two items Philly Bluejay supports: “make the Bush tax cuts permanent … for all Americans” and “oppose any carbon ‘cap-and-trade’ system.” These are solid proposals. Payroll taxes should be reduced. Even tiered income tax systems discourage people from working while doing nothing to curb massive consumption at the top. Meanwhile, cap-and-trade is complicated, provides the government with uncertain income, and doesn’t cover a sufficient number of sectors. The US needs to gradually reduce payroll taxes and combine those with a gradually increasing economy-wide carbon tax—payroll taxes should decrease by 1% per year for the next 10 years and CO2 emissions should be taxed by an additional $10 per ton per year over the same period, maxing out at $100 a ton. Think that’s high? It’s actually pretty pathetic—only about $34 per barrel of oil or $0.80 a gallon. Either way, Philly Bluejay salutes you, GOP! These two planks alone are enough to make Philly Bluejay forget about the rest of your nonsense, move to Delaware, and vote for Christine O’Donnell!

P.S. Philly Bluejay’s temporary new employer, US DOE/EERE—United States Department of Energy/Energy Efficiency and Renewables Division for the TLA/TLA/FLA impaired—has some cool programs like CYES (California Youth Energy Services). Philly Bluejay is not personally involved with these programs. Philly Bluejay is only involved with double-secret (i.e., obscure) programs.

P.P.S. Philly Bluejay’s namesakes—the Philadelphia Phillies—just wrapped up their fourth consecutive division title as for all practical purposes the number one seed in the conference. Good job, men! Red October 2010! Woot!

P.P.P.S. More “baseball news.” A California jury found Andrew Gallo—the drunk driver who last summer killed Angels pitcher Nick Adenhart and two 20-something female friends—guilty of three counts of second-degree murder. Gallo could spend the next 50 years in prison. Gallo is no doubt a LEED Platium moron, but his biggest shortcoming is not being a NFL player! Less than a month before Gallo’s unfortunate accident, then Cleveland Browns wide receiver Donte Stallworth killed pedestrian Mario Reyes in a drunk driving accident in Miami Beach. Stallworth was convicted of second-degree manslaughter, spent 30 days in jail, another two years in house arrest, and came to an “undisclosed” financial settlement with the Reyes family. He was subsequently signed by the Baltimore Ravens! Oh, the hypocrisy! Philly Bluejay wonders what the sentence would have been had Stallworth killed Adenhart.

P.P.P.P.S. In other Philadelphia sporting/avian news—week 2 of the Michael Vick era and the Eagles sit atop the NFC East! This weekend, prodigal son and recent cast-off Donovan McNabb—just “recent cast-off” is not specific enough—returns to Philly. Oh, the drama! Opening line from Vegas? Eagles -7! Whowouldathunkit?

P.P.P.P.P.S. Still more football news. Philly Bluejay major icon and fellow Bethesda resident Gregg Easterbrook had absolutely nothing to say about the Andy Reid/Kevin Kolb/Michael Vick/Donovan McNabb love-hate quadrilateral in this week’s Tuesday Morning Quarterback. Although TMQ did have a funny piece about acronyms disowning their full-word namesakes. Perhaps Philly Bluejay will shoot Easterbrook a text and ask! Perhaps Philly Bluejay will also shoot Easterbrook a text to ask about licensing the name “Tuesday Morning Third-String Emergency Quarterback” or perhaps “Wednesday Afternoon Practice Squad Safety.” Although perhaps TMQ stands for nothing, in which case no text is necessary. Starting this weekend, Philly Bluejay will be known as WAPSS.

Trifecta September 24, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, clean energy, football, politics.
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It’s been a good six months. If you took the fossil fuel disaster three team teaser. What? Vegas doesn’t give odds on such things? Are we sure? Each of the big three fossil fuels has experienced a major US calamity in the past six months. April 4th, an explosion at the Massey Energy Upper Big Branch coal mine in aptly named Montcoal—that’s coal mountain for the Franco-unwashed—West Virginia kills 25 miners. April 20th, an explosion on the Beyond Petroleum/TransOcean/Halliburton Deepwater Horizon rig 50 miles southeast of the Mississippi delta in the Gulf of Mexico kills 11. September 9, a PG&E gas line in San Bruno, California ruptures starting a fire that kills six, including an acquaintance of an acquaintance and her eight year old daughter.

Shortly after the Deepwater Horizon disaster I posted that there are two costs associated with fossil fuels. There is the slow and certain, low-margin-but-high-probability, frog-in-a-boiling-pot-of-water cost of CO2 emissions. This cost is much talked about. But there is also the awful but random, high-margin-but-low-probability, shock-and-awe cost of disasters. This cost is usually much talked about in the immediate aftermath of the disaster—”if it burns, it earns”—but soon forgotten as the “cost of doing business” or the “price of progress.” And it is rarely if ever mentioned in the fossil vs. renewable fuel as a major point for renewables. And why not? Because of the rare and random nature of the disasters themselves and because blame is always assigned to the companies rather than to the fuel. It’s not coal’s fault, Massey Energy ignored safety regulations and preferred to appeal fines than to bring its mines up to code! It’s not oil’s fault, Beyond Petroleum didn’t install the acoustic blowout prevention valve and Halliburton used sub-standard concrete to seal the well! It’s not natural gas’ fault, PG&E didn’t properly inspect the pipes! Well, that may all be true but the deeper truth is that no company, however earnest and by-the-book can avoid disaster indefinitely. Disasters happen. Screws fall out all the time. The world is an imperfect place. And to the degree that molecules can be at fault, coal, oil, and natural gas are themselves the problem. The thing that makes fossil fuels useful is that they burn. But this same property is also responsible for disasters—sometimes they burn prematurely and spectacularly. And yes that is the cost of doing business … with fossil fuels. Perhaps it’s time we take our business elsewhere.

The same dichotomy plays out on the grander scale of climate change. The kind of climate change that gets the bulk of the press is the high-probability-but-low-impact kind—and here I am using the adjective low in the relative sense, specifically relative to the climate change not talked about. There is a one hundred percent chance that global average temperature will increase by one degree Celsius by mid-century. A one hundred percent chance that floods, droughts, heatwaves, hurricanes, and wildfires will increase substantially in both frequency, duration, and intensity. A one hundred percent chance that ocean levels will rise by about 20 inches displacing 500 million people and robbing the world of 20% of its food producing river deltas. A one hundred percent chance that we will lose between 10 and 20% of all plant and animal species on earth. A one hundred percent chance that climate change mitigation will eat as much as 3% of world economic output. That’s the climate change most Americans know about and the kind that frankly probably doesn’t sound that bad to most Americans who don’t live in Florida and Louisiana—8% of Florida’s land area and 24% of Louisiana’s is within 20 inches of sea level. But there’s the climate change almost no one talks about, the low-probability-but-high-impact kind. There is a one percent chance that global average temperature rises by five degrees Celsius by midcentury. A one percent chance that we lose all the ice in Greenland and Western Antarctica and sea level rises by 43 feet, displacing two billion people and robbing us of 60% of all arable land. A one percent chance that we lose as many as 50% of all plant and animal species including … maybe … humans. I made up the one percent number. I don’t know what the probability of climate disaster is. No one does. The earth’s physical, chemical, and biological systems have too many non-linear feedback loops. But the point is that this kind of climate change—climate disaster—is also part of the equation. The price of progress. The cost of doing business. And while there may be a way to rationalize the risk of the occasional mine explosion, oil spill, and gas main rupture, is there a way to rationalize this kind of risk?

P.S. The DC Metro vs. Philly Bluejay score is now 2-1 Metro. On vacation at my sister’s a few weeks ago and out of reading material, I borrowed her copy of David Sedaris’ “Naked.” I generally do not read fiction—one of my mottos is “real life is fiction enough”—but “Naked” is not really fiction. It’s autobiography. And it’s pretty funny. My favorite short was “A Plague of Tics” or any mention of David’s mother. I was about 20 pages from the end when I left “Naked” by the SmarTrip machine at Friendship Heights. When I returned that evening, it was gone. And so was my faith in mankind.

P.P.S. Speaking of DC Metro. Anyone else notice the geometrical theme of the stations? Federal Triangle. Judiciary Square. Pentagon. Dupont Circle. Ballston.

P.P.P.S. I wasn’t planning on running my streak of sports related items to whatever it is now—four straight posts? five?—but I feel that I have to comment about the situation currently going on with the Philadelphia Eagles. Six months ago, head coach Andy Reid jettisoned 11-year quarterback Donovan McNabb to division rival Washington, largely on the strength of two spot starts by backup Kevin Kolb. This despite repeated proclamations that Donovan would be the Eagles quarterback in 2010. The move was seen as a slap in the face to McNabb—who along with late defensive coordinator Jim Johnson “made” Reid—but not as knee-jerk, or self-serving. After all, Donnie 5 had ample opportunity to get the Eagles a Lombardi trophy. Now, two quarters into the Kevin Kolb era Reid has effectively jettisoned Kolb, largely on the strength of two spot appearances by backup Michael Vick. This despite repeated proclamations that Kolb would be the Eagles quarterback in 2010. This move is a slap in the face to both Kolb and a slap in the face to McNabb and knee-jerk and self-serving. Not to mention self-destructive. Will Kevin Kolb ever be a starter in the NFL? I hope so. He deserves a shot. Can he ever play for Andy Reid? I don’t think so. Would you ever play for someone who threw you under the Liebherr T282B? For that matter, will anyone play for Andy Reid having seen what he’s done to McNabb and Kolb in the span of six months? Andy, this better work or this year will probably be your last coaching in the NFL. Mike Kafka, get your helmet ready!

P.P.P.P.S. Kolb/Vick-gate happened late Tuesday night. Too late for TMQ to weigh in. Tune in next week.

P.P.P.P.P.S. Rumors are flying that Philly Bluejay icon and White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel may be stepping down after the elections to run for mayor of Chicago. Who will replace him? What about moi? I’m Israeli. I’m a ballbuster. I will cut off my finger if I have to!

Nuclear Football September 20, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in football, politics, transportation, war, weird.
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It’s football season. And I couldn’t be happier. Well, until the Eagles lost their opener plus four starters to injury anyways. But hey, Dallas lost also! Football is a game of war metaphors. Football players are “warriors.” Quarterbacks are “field generals.” Linemen play in the “trenches.” Quarterbacks get “sacked.” Running backs get “blown up.” “Bombs” get “intercepted.” It’s like the Middle East! With cheerleaders!

Three weeks ago, Israeli Prime Minister Bibi “Benjamin” Netanyahu met with Fatah leader Mahmoud “The Tall One” Abbas in POTUS Lightning “Barry” Obama’s house for what was described as a hopeful opening round of peace talks. They met again this past week in Egypt accompanied by SOS Clinton. And they will continue to meet every two weeks thereafter. Until either a two state solution emerges. Or until next spring when when Mahmoud “Napoleon cum beard” Ahmadinejad wipes them both off the map with a nuclear warhead.

Most experts agree that Iran is about six months away from joining the nuclear club. The recent freeing of hiker/alleged-spy Sarah Shourd does not mean that Mahmoud suddenly gives a pigeon’s ass about what the West thinks. If it did, her male companions would be freed as well. It doesn’t even mean he has respect for women. If he did, there wouldn’t be this. Ahmadinejad sees twin openings in the Middle East/Central Asia and in the world of Islam and he is ready to pounce on both simultaneously. From a geopolitical standpoint, he is determined to make Iran a major world player—on par with the US, Russia, China, and the European Union, most of whom he repeatedly and deliberately thumbs his moustache at. From a religious standpoint, he sees an opportunity to leapfrog Saudi Arabia and to make Shiites the dominant Muslim sect. Nuclear armament is a quicker path to the first goal than social and economic reform. And it’s a quicker path to the second than decades of brainwashing-by-madrasah in Pakistan. And what a grander entrance to the world stage, holier ascension to the throne of Islam, and more absolute show of force and the will to use it than to eradicate the enemy of Islam—to finish off what the Holocaust couldn’t. It’s as if he’s trying to recreate the scene from Episode IV where Darth Vader forces Leia to watch as he tests the Death Star on her home planet—”Now witness the power of this fully armed and operational battle station!” Actually, given that it’s Ahmadinejad, it would be more like Dark Helmet from Space Balls, but the fate of Alderaan would be the same. Ahmadinejad is six months away from the Muslim nutbag end zone. He’s at the 35. 30. He’s in the clear and he’s starting to high step it. 25. 20. He’s looking at the Jumbotron and holding the nuclear football over his head. 15. 10.

Some experts believe that Israel has a good tackling angle on Iran. That it is ready to take out Iran’s nuclear facilities the same way it took out Syria’s in 2007 and Iraq’s in 1981. Israel—itself unofficially nuclear for at least 35 years—has never let an Arab neighbor get to the end zone. And they are about to go Don Beebe all over Iran’s Leon Lett. The Atlantic’s Jeff Goldberg’s has literally kept a running column/blog about this. It will happen. The world has enough problems without a nuclear Iran. The US is probably not going to take military action on its own—there may be a limit on the number of Arab countries that can be attacked in one decade—although it should. The world will applaud. And Israel’s other Arab neighbors will not protest. Saudi Arabia knows that once Iran is done with Israel, Riadh is next.

Which brings us back to the biweekly—bimonthly?—Israel/Fatah talks. Long term, an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank is a necessary component of any stable configuration in the region. Israel cannot keep barricading and illegally settling the West Bank indefinitely nor will it accept 2.5 million Muslims into what is at core a Jewish state. But until the Iran situation is resolved, Palestine 2.0 is a distraction. Peace with Fatah will not significantly change Israel’s security situation. Fatah is already not a security threat to Israel proper—as opposed to Israel improper, the Jewish settlements within the West Bank—neutralized partly by the wall and partly by its leadership. Hamas to the south and Hezbollah to the north operate independently of Fatah and will remain intermittent threats whether a West Bank Palestinian state is established or not. And so perhaps this is a misdirection play—Israel making the world look in the backfield while it sends fifty F-16s deep. Then again, if recent Israel has anything in common with Iran it’s that it doesn’t seem to care much for world opinion. Perhaps this is all political cover for POTUS Lightning. Israel needs to make nice with Lightning—it can’t wait until 2012 and hope that a militant pro-Israel anti-Arab Republican lands in the White House.

Disclaimer. Most of Philly Bluejay’s readers already know this, but I started out as Petah Tikva Starling—there are no Bluejays in Petah Tikva, but plenty of starlings. From what I can remember. This—and cousins—gives me more skin in this issue than the typical American bird, not to mention more cred. Ahem. Of course, I became Philly Bluejay at the age of eleven, never served in the Israeli army, and never lived in Israel as an adult during wartime or Intifada—I spent May-August 2000 in Haifa and the Second Intifada started that September. This gives me significantly less skin and cred than anyone who had actually spent significant time in the .il as an adult. My general stance is pro-Israel, but pro-Israel is not the primary criterion by which I judge US or other non-Israeli political figures. I’m glad we clarified this.

P.S. Sherley, you must be joking! I’m dead serious, and don’t call me Sherley!

P.P.S. Ummmmm … wow!

P.P.P.S. I love the DC Metro—never more than a three minute wait, never less than 80% full. Apparently, the feeling is not mutual. At approximately 8:50am this past Friday, at the Metro Center station, the Orange Line to New Carrolton grabbed me by the right ankle and refused to let go! Isn’t the door supposed to open automatically if it feels an obstruction? Fellow passengers tried to pry the door open but failed. Isn’t the door supposed to release if it feels people pulling on it? I was about to channel Aron Ralston, but I didn’t have my trusty Leatherman with me as it will not go through DOE metal detectors. Instead, I slipped off my shoe, used it to brace the doors while pulling my foot free, then turned it 90 degrees and pulled it through. Next station, Federal Triangle! Philly Bluejay 1-Orange Line 0! This morning, the Orange line to New Carrolton was waiting with doors open as I was heading down the escalator. Rather than run and risk another incident—why don’t train doors have the same countdown timers that most streetlights have these days?—I let the train go and waited three minutes for the next one. Buck, buck, brawwwck! Philly Bluejay 1-Orange Line 1.

P.P.P.P.S. Pastor Jones, how about this for a compromise? You call off the Koran burning and return James Hetfield’s moustache, and we move the planned Cordoba House mosque from Ground Zero to the Dove World parking lot. Haven’t you done enough damage?

P.P.P.P.P.S. What’s the first thing you learn in baseball? No, not “There’s no crying in baseball”—that’s the second thing you learn. It’s “When you get into a fight with a drunk, you don’t hit him with your pitching hand!”!

Baseball Tidbits September 6, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in sports, war.
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Philly Bluejay is not a sports blog per se—a quick look shows that only four of 61 posts so far have had sports as the primary topic—but I did want to comment a few generally interesting—and strangely inter-related—stories from the world of baseball. Bear with me.

First story. Lou Gehrig is one of the most iconic figures in baseball history. One of the best players of the pre-war era. The man who “protected” Babe Ruth in the “Murderers Row” Yankees lineup of the 1920s and 30s. The “Iron Horse” who held the consecutive games played record before Cal Ripken broke it so ceremoniously about ten years ago. The man who gave the reverberating “Today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the earth” retirement speech even as he was dying. The man who eponymously gave Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) its nom de guerre and Curt Schilling’s son his name. Now it turns out that Lou Gehrig may not have had Lou Gehrig’s disease after all! Instead he may have had chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a buildup of protein in the brain due to repeated concussions. Lou played in the pre-helmet baseball era and reportedly kept playing after numerous “beanings.” It is now well known that concussions are like ligament sprains—once you have one you become more susceptible to having another one, especially in the weeks immediately following. The study in the NYT article says that professional football players are diagnosed with ALS eight times more frequently than the general population. Eight times! Former eagles fullback/battering-ram Kevin Turner was recently diagnosed with ALS. It is possible, even likely, that many of them have CTE instead. Brian Westbrook, I hope you’re reading Philly Bluejay. Aren’t two concussions in the span of a month enough? Do you really want to spend your a shortened post-football life a la Stephen Hawking? In the mean time, maybe SNL can do a third Lou Gehrig-themed skit—in this one the doctor tells him that he doesn’t in fact have Lou Gehrig’s disease! By the way, I did not mean to offend Stephen Hawking or sufferers of ALS or their families and friends—I actually have a friend whose mother died from ALS a few years ago.

Second story. Washington Nationals rookie-phenom/100-mph-flamethrower/50-million-dollar-man/face-of-the-franchise Stephen Strasburg will miss the rest of the year—and ostensibly a good part of next year as well—after undergoing ulnar collateral ligament reconstruction aka “Tommy John surgery.” Other than time lost, this is not terrible news. Tens if not hundreds of pitchers have undergone Tommy John surgery and the large majority—at least of recent patients—have come back as good if not better. Former Phillie/Diamondback/RedSock and father-of-Gehrig Curt Schilling came back from Tommy John throwing harder! Evidently the procedure tightened up something in his elbow and gave his arm better “whip.” Who knows perhaps Strasburg comes back from the operation throwing 105! As fast as Cincinnati-Red-callup/105-mile-per-hour-blowtorch/future-face-of-the-franchise/Tommy-John-surgery-waiting-to-happen Aroldis Chapman! But then again, after his own Tommy John operation, perhaps Chapman comes back throwing 110! Oy vey! With the remarkable success of Tommy John, Philly Bluejay 20816 wonders whether future prospects will have elective Tommy John surgery to improve their stock! Why wait for injury? Just have a second ligament put in there and fire away! One final thought about Tommy John, it is fortunate the the first pitcher to successfully undergo the operation had a name as singsong as TJ. “Dan Schatzeder surgery” doesn’t roll off the tongue nearly as well. One final final thought about Tommy John, what if several years from now research will show that Tommy John didn’t in fact have Tommy John surgery after all?

Third story. About 6% of major league baseball players are switch hitters—hit either left handed or right handed depending on whether they are facing a right handed or left handed pitcher, respectively, what did you think I meant? No one in major league history has been a switch thrower or more specifically a switch pitcher—supposedly, Boston RedSox catcher Victor Martinez is completely ambidextrous and can throw 80 mph with either hand—but we may be getting close. Yankees switch-pitching “prospect” Pat Venditte is now in AA ball! The ESPN piece claims that this may be as far as he gets because Venditte’s “fastball” is not “major league”—only 88 from the right side and 85 from the left! But so what? Wouldn’t that be overcome by the fact that he could have a builtin advantage against every hitter he faces? Not to mention the fact that if he blew out one arm and had to get Tommy John surgery, he wouldn’t have to go on the disabled list. He could just pitch with the other hand! Imagine the possibilities and logistics if Pat ever made it to the majors? Would he be forced to choose which hand he threw with in a given appearance or would he be allowed to change? How often would he be allowed to change? Once? Every inning? Every hitter? Every pitch? What would happen if he faced a switch hitter? How would he keep two arms warmed up? At the beginning of every inning, would he get eight warmup pitches per arm or eight pitches total? Where would he keep his other glove? The mind boggles.

Fourth story. Brian Cole was a star outfield prospect for the Mets about ten years ago. Along with Torii Hunter, and Jose Reyes he was supposed to form the core of the Mets lineup. Unfortunately, Cole died in a single vehicle accident in 2001. He was leaving a spring training event, going 80 mph when he veered off the road, turned the steering wheel 295 degrees, and rolled his Ford Explorer three times. Cole was not wearing a seatbelt. He was thrown from the car and died. A passenger who was wearing a belt walked away. Last week, Cole’s family won a 131,000,000 dollar judgement against Ford. Huh? Presumably the judgment reflects Cole’s projected lifetime earnings profile. One can only assume that if Cole was a middle school teacher the judgement would have been for 1,300,000 dollars. Or there would have been no judgement at all. After all, there would have been no collective dreams of the entire Cole clan to be dashed on the asphalt. Philly Bluejay is cynical, but not callous. I do not mean to exploit another family’s suffering for readership such as it is. At the same time, I do not feel that I am exploiting this unfortunate episode any more than the Cole family itself is. As for Ford, what exactly have they done to deserve this? Say “no thanks” to government bailouts? Perhaps the judgement would have come down differently if Ford had taken bailout money. Perhaps the court would have been more reluctant to hand over taxpayer money to the Coles rather than corporate money.

P.S. Philly Bluejay has recently become obsessed with Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic “Saving Private Ryan”—perhaps the all time leader in on-screen body count. SPR was on TNT a few nights ago—stretched to four hours by the commercials—Philly Bluejay was there. He then rewatched the first 20 minutes or so—the opening of Dog Green sector on Omaha Beach—on YouTube. If you aren’t already convinced that war is hell … Anyways, throughout SPR, Ranger Charlie Company Captain John Miller—Tom Hanks’ character—has uncontrollable shaking in his right hand. A telltale sign of the onset of ALS? Is it possible that Miller was so chill throughout the action—except for the time he broke down after medic Wade was killed about two thirds of the way through—because he knew he had only six months to live anyway?

P.P.S. Philly-Bluejay-hero/ESPN-TMQ-boss/now-fellow-Bethesdian Gregg Easterbrook has a new blog. This one on Reuters. As if Philly Bluejay needs more ways to waste time! Thanks Gregg!

Just What Environmentalism Didn’t Need September 2, 2010

Posted by Amir Roth in books, climate, crime, environment.
Tags: , , ,
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For the next year, Philly Bluejay will be multi-casting from the home office in Bethesda, MD. Bethesda Bluejay … Philly Terrapin … Philly Bluejay 20816 … is on hiatus from the glass and red-brick ivory tower and spending the year working for Uncle Sam. Both figuratively—I am working at the Department of Energy’s Building Techologies Program. And literally—my boss’ name is Sam, and he is certainly old enough to be an uncle.

Philly Bluejay saving the world one building at a time—just what environmentalism didn’t need? Well the road to hell is paved with good intentions, but the title refers to something that happened just a few zip codes over at One Discovery Place, Silver Spring, MD 20910—Philly Bluejay wanted to live in either the 20910 or 20915 zip codes for the sole purpose of playing on 90120 or 90125 but alack, 20816 is closer to Mrs. Bluejay’s work. Yesterday morning, one James Lee walked into Discovery Communications Headquarters carrying a rifle, shells, and two pipe bombs. He allegedly fired a shot into the air before taking three hostages, making a list of demands, and negotiating with police for over four hours. He was finally shot and killed by a sniper when he pointed his weapon at one of the hostages. Mr. Lee claimed to be willing to die for his views. And he did. I am sure that he regretted that he had only one life—and 15 minutes of fame—to give.

Mr. Lee did have some valid aims—we do in fact need to find a way to stop global warming. Although his ways and means were less than practical—all human procreation and agriculture must cease immediately! And while some of his programming suggestions were good—enough with Kate+boobjob+eight and with the Duggars and their 19 children—others were just loony—can we really have enough shows about little people, the morbidly obese, or conjoined twins? I say no! But in the end, he was a nutball, peeved that Discovery Communications could not find a place for his television show in its lineup of stations—Discovery, TLC, Sc, PlanetGreen, Animal Planet, and the Military Channel to name six. Really, could we not get an hour of Mr. Lee rather than the umpteenth rerun of Shark Week or that insufferable Bryan Cox on Wonders of the Solar System?

The problem with nutballs is that they give legitimate causes a bad name and opponents of those causes ammunition. Is it bold to predict that in the coming days Beck/Hannity/Limbaugh or some TEA Partier will paint Mr. Lee as the face of the environmental movement? Environmentalists are nutballs! Drill baby drill! Kate Gosselin for congress! And nutballs never advance their chosen cause in any real way. Did the goofs at ELF (Earth Liberation Front)—the outfit that set a Seattle subdivision on fire several years back to protest over-development—stop northwest exurbia? Did this freak actually save any animals? Now, nutballs with their own ships are something else completely. If you have your own ship, you can do something! If you are a nutball with your own ship, Discovery Communications will beat a path to your door and put you on prime time! Mr. Lee, your biggest mistake was not plowing into headquarters with a ship!

But nutballs for good causes are not as harmful as respected critics of the same. There is a particularly good example in this case—the late Dr. Michael Crichton of of Jurassic Park, Rising Sun, and Disclosure fame. Bright, articulate, and successful as he was, Dr. Crichton was one of the most visible deniers of anthropogenic climate change and argued vociferously that we should spend our monies and energies on one hundred more important pursuits and problems before we turn to carbon dioxide. He even wrote a book called “State of Fear” about a band of environmental terrorists and the protagonists who foil them, presumably with the aim of calming down what he viewed as environmental hysteria. I’m not sure how much impact his writing and speaking had, but it’s fair to assume that he had some. He was a visible dude with the ear of important people. If only he were alive to see the shit that is going down today. In “State of Fear” the eco-terrorists try to set off strategic explosions in Antarctica in order to detach an ice sheet. Detaching ice sheets? Now that’s fiction.

My suggestion to would-be eco-nutballs? Forget about whales and squirrels and the red-bearded monkey and the four-assed monkey—but not the bluejay, no no—start protesting the fact that gas is still 2.73!

P.S. No P.S.’s today.

P.P.S. Oops!