December 14, 2007

Heros or Zeros?

A friend of mine who pitches for the Univeristy of Minnesota told me one day that Rodger Clemens runs five miles a day to train his legs for the beating they go under during a game of baseball. Being a competitive distance runner myself who didn't run five miles a day to train, this was very suprising. Well, now I have something suprising to tell him. Your hero did steroids and other performace enhancing drugs.

This is such a sticky subject. On one hand we have an athlete who has done everything he can to become the ubermench, a superman. Just because he has taken steroids doesn't mean that his five miles a day don't count, unfortunately it means that they count too much.

The Washington Post reported on the Mitchell Report, which names several big time players linked to steroid use. "Mitchell said during an afternoon news conference in New York that each major league team had at least one player linked to the use of performance-enhancing drugs during the period that he investigated." That is earth shattering.

Because of random drug testing started in 2002, the use of steroid, which can be detected in urine, has gone down. But, use of human growth hormone has risen because it is undetectable in urin samples.

Mitchell urged Bud Selig, the Commissioner of Baseball to let past offenders slide and make more proactive moves to cut down on substance abuse in the future, unless letting a player go would ruin the integrity of the game.

Frankly, a game with at least one cheater on every team has already lost its integrity. This is tantamount to someone saying that a homemade apple pie wasn't baked with a store bought crust. America shouldn't allow this.

December 12, 2007

Just a game, but so much more

The New York Times released an article about the use of poker as a learning tool, as a gimmick to assist children study math.

The Times reported that a Harvard study argues that poker, " which is probability-based and requires risk assessment, situational analysis and a gift for reading people, can be an effective teaching tool, whether for middle school math or in business and law classes."

How? Wouldn't all video games be considered risk assessing if a role-playing character is about to enter a life/death situation? Don't most video games force the player to analyze the pretend situations they are in?

Well, Andrew M. Woods, 24, a third-year law student said, "I see poker as one tool to develop the kind of cognitive abilities that a lot of people don’t seem to be developing on their own, whether because those skills aren’t taught effectively in school or because they’re not learning it from their parents.?

Arnold Barret, a professor of mathematics at MIT said, "I’m not saying poker should replace algebra, but you have problems to solve in poker, and for students to see how mathematics can help them in real-life situations seems a whole lot smarter than having them determine the volume of some strangely shaped object.?

That I can see. I hated math. I should have played poker instead. However, I'm still waiting for the injection that makes me math savvy. Get on it Harvard!

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/12/nyregion/12poker.html?ref=education

December 9, 2007

Getting wet is still a winter sport

Part of being MN nice is admitting when someone else has the upper hand. The Star Tribune did a feature on the different indoor waterparks in Wisconsin Dells. The waterpark capital of the world has some incredible hotel/waterpaks, including the largest indoor waterpark, and creative integration of adult and kid fun.

The Great Wolf lodge is definitely on the higher end of hotels in the Dells, But besides its lavish suites, conference rooms and gigantic outdoor waterpark, the GWL also boasts a very popular indoor waterpark.

Complete with a 12-level children's play area and "a water tower that dumps 1,000 gallons of water every few minutes on anyone below." Besides the 78,000 squarefoot indoor park, the GWL has an arcade for the kids and the Loose Moose restaurant and bar for the adults.

The Kalihari, also famous for its waterpark, integrates the adult watering hole with the kiddy pool. The Kalihari has fancy cafes, a large bar, and in-suite jacuzzi rooms, perfect for the kid with a credit card and a B mer. The Kalihari has the largest indoor waterpark in the United States, 125,000 square feet.

I recently stayed at the Kalihari and loved it. This feature really interested me, because the Strib wasn't biased toward waterparks in this area, but gave a good, news-true description.

http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/12213136.html
http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/travel/12213156.html

December 8, 2007

Hug it, or chop it?

Environmentalists are having difficulty determining the most enviro-friendly way to bring a tree into their homes. It has always been thought before that fake trees were better for the environment because then another tree is saved. However, this has been brought into question because these trees are made of plastic, which is petroleum based, and nonbiodegradable., according to the Star Tribune.

The Strib reported, "For every tree harvested, two or three are planted, according to the Minnesota Christmas Tree Association. The trees provide wildlife habitat and control soil erosion."
http://www.startribune.com/local/12269611.html

This debate is taken on every year as the University of Minnesota forestry club fundraises by chopping and selling their x-mas trees.

The Daily reported, '"Most tree farmers in general are very conservation-minded, and most replant more than they harvest,' Carl Vogt, an extension specialist for the University of Minnesota forestry club said."

'"Buying a natural Christmas tree is actually better for the environment than buying a fake tree, because most fake trees are petroleum-based,' Vogt said."

One acre of trees provides enough oxygen for 18 people each year, and the University of Minnesota forrestry club owns 25 acres, so they supply enough oxygen for 450 people a year.
http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2007/12/03/72164828

December 7, 2007

Venezuela, Chavez sour looser

The people of Venezuela went to the polls last week to decide if they would permit Chavez proposed referendums change the make-up of the presidency. The referendum would have made the president a lifetime position completely in control of the national bank, according to the BBC.
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/americas/7123365.stm

Simply put, he lost by a very close margin. The Washington Post reported several times as the votes were being counted electronically, and when the results came out three days late, they showed a 51% against the referendum, defeating Chavez proposal.

He is not happy about this.

Once again, Chavez says that he would shut down the opposition TV stations, just like he shut down RCTV, if those stations would continue to broadcast bias against his regime and try to create a front against him. He also warned opposition parties that this isn't the last that they will see of his referendums, because he plans on getting this one, or something like it, passed by the end of his current term in 2012, reported the Washington Post.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/05/AR2007120502607.html

Bonds, the champ goes to court

After court, Mr. Ruby told the mass of reporters, “Today, Barry Bonds is innocent. He has trust and faith in the justice system. He will defend these charges. He is confident of a good outcome.?
-New York Times

Yeah, right.

Since this is my blog, and not too serious a source of news, I can say that. Now I'm done. Time to be fair and just write the news.

Barry Bonds appeared in court today to plead not guilty to all six charges brought up against him. The New York Times says that he was accompanied by his wife Liz, and a team of five attorneys, who did most of the talking for the slugger.

The charges brought against the home run champion relate to him lying about taking performance enhancing drugs.

The Washington Post reported that Bonds' personal trainer, Greg Anderson, spent several months in jail for refusing to testify against Bonds before, and Bond's new team of lawyers believe he will go to jail again. This, and the BALKO incidenct, a factory which produced performance enhancing drugs for players and supplied Anderson, put Bonds in suspicious light.

December 4, 2007

Accomplice to a Crime

Sometimes the crime is severe, and sometimes it is inconsequential. The common thread, is that people need to be aware of the consequences of their actions at all times. This means that anything you posses, can and will be used against you if you have acquaintances that don't uphold the law.

A sad story, but a great example, the New York Times reported on a man who borrowed his car to a friend who drove to a house and killed a woman during a botched drug deal. The man who owned the car, because of a United States law, is held responsible for this murder. He is an accomplice.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/04/us/04felony.html?hp

This is serious. This Florida man will serve life for allowing a friend to borrow his car. Did he know that his friend would kill someone that night? No, and neither did the man who committed murder, but this doesn't clear either of their records.

On a less serious note, Youtube has foiled two other criminals in China who abused products at work and posted a video of their mishaps on the Internet video site. The camera man knew exactly what he was doing, and even premeditatedly put the video on the Internet where almost 50,000 people watched it, including the restaurant's owners. This smells of an accomplice to crime. The first case does not.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/12/04/AR2007120400360.html

This issue wares on me every weekend intertwining responsibility and partying. Because of U.S. statutes, I am responsible of the actions of anyone who I give alcohol to. Minors or adults, if someone gets a drink from me, I am responsible for the murders and suicides-on the more grave end-to the traffic violations they commit.

Who is at fault in these situations? Who is to blame?

That is a scary thought. I wo

December 3, 2007

Bus Lisences and C.A.R.

"More than 2,000 minivans and passenger vehicles carry special education and other students in Minnesota every year..." how did Jim Adams and Pam Louwagie at the Star Tribune find that out? One man, Glen Howatt, and a whole lot of number crunching. Howatt, the editor and computer assisted reporting specialist at the Strib wondered, just how many of Minnesota's children ride in these vans and whether they are under the same scrutiny as traditional school bus drivers.

Howatt found something shocking, "the only requirement for their drivers is to have a valid regular driver's license.

In a workshop, Howatt explained that he looked up the licenses that the state issued to these van drivers and he compared them to licenses required by the state to drive a school bus. Scanning through the drivers license database brought the issue to light, how accountable are the people driving our children to school?
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1551804.html

December 2, 2007

Cheesy Sports Writing

Do you want to be told that the Gophers let a storm loose on the Highlanders, or do you want to know exactly how the Minnesota Men's basketball team effectively re-energized their game and soundly defeated UC-Riverside 75-38 to extend their record to 4-1?

After reading William Zinsser's "On Writing Well" I agree with his description of bad sports writing, "The ego of the modern athlete has in turn rubbed off on the modern sportswritter. I'm struck by how many sportswriters now think they are the story, their thoughts are more interesting than the game they were sent to cover."1

The question I proposed above could be asked of the sports desk at the Star Tribune. The article covering the latest Gopher basketball game tries to integrate cute parallels between the excellent three-point shooting of the Gophers and the blizzard happening ou
tside of the arena. the piece's title is "On chilly day, Gophers heat up from outside" and the article later reports, "They kept the blizzard from the three-point line going well into the second half," and "The storm started early in the first half after a personnel change," in reference to the three-point shooting streak.

This is not reporting, this is compensating for not having reported.

In a more fresh and simple manner, the MN Daily wrote about the game in light of the Tuesday loss the Gophers suffered to Florida State, 75-61. The Daily reported, fter the senior trio of guard Lawrence McKenzie, forward Dan Coleman and center Spencer Tollackson went a combined 8-of-31 in the Gophers' 75-61 loss to Florida State on Tuesday, Minnesota's big three came to a mutual conclusion: "We must be more productive." The college newspaper later commented on a meeting in the locker room held by the players, and that this match-up between UC-Riverside and the Gophers was the first ever.

That is sports reporting. It gets to the point.

Though the story written for the Strib does exhibit the signs of good reporting, quotes, facts, etc., it relies on the weather to tell a sports story. The sports should be the news.

http://www.startribune.com/gophers/story/1585508.html

http://www.mndaily.com/articles/2007/11/30/72164789

William Zinsser, On Writing Well, p. 184. Harper-Collins, New York.

Snow is like armpits, everybody has a complaint

Both of these well-written stories focus on the consequences of heavy snowfall. The Star Tribune one is more of a public service anouncement about what the local government will be doing to keep the streets snow-free and the Journal-Sentinel article is more about the damage recap and the effects of heavy snowfall on the Milwaukee area.

The article from the Strib taps into state and local government agencies and gets information about road closings and which plows will be running when and where. This is very informative and helpful to the average reader, but very dry.
http://www.startribune.com/462/story/1586661.html

The JS article is completely different. Though the Milwaukee area got two less inches of snow than MN (six instead of MN's eight) the three reporters that worked on this story examined the storms effects at grocery counters, police headquarters and the General Mitchel airport. Though their story says little about specific government plans for shoveling or snow plowing, the article is extremely entertaining and captivates the reader who is sick of hearing about how many inches it snowed.
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=692167

Conditions in Iraq

The New York Times opens up its argument for Iraq corruption in the lead of its latest story on the country, "Jobless men pay $500 bribes to join the police. Families build houses illegally on government land, carwashers steal water from public pipes, and nearly everything the government buys or sells can now be found on the black market." These, and other crimes lead to Iraq being ranked 3rd most corrupt country in the world according to Transparency International, which is a group that publishes the corruption list annually.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/02/world/middleeast/02baghdad.html?hp

In northern Iraq things haven't gotten better under U.S. control either. Turkish troops recently killed 30 members of what they claimed were a terrorist organization. The BBC reports, "As many as 3,000 PKK members are believed to be based inside northern Iraq. Turkey has accused the local Kurdish authorities of supporting them, our correspondent says."

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/7122920.stm

Corruption reigns, and a war is being fought in the north: two pieces of bad news for the United States who originally came in to stop both.

Super...bug?

The CDC recently published a study on the MRSA super staph bacteria that was found growing in the vaginae of pregnant women. According to the Star Tribune, this infection was first blamed by the tampon that these women were using, which resulted in the products being taken off shelves immediately, but this was not the case. The truth is that a staph infection had evolved and started growing in side of these women, This infection was lethal in small doses, but these woman were treated before the infection spread throughout their bodies.
http://www.statribune.com/1244/story/1584744.html

This infection is one of the "superbugs" that leading physicians are trying to battle with new drugs. According to the New York Times MRSA and all staff infections spread by skin contact and enter the body though cuts. Young children and contact-sport athletes are warned to constantly keep their cuts clean and bandaged.
http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/27/nyregion/27mrsa.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

One of the reasons that MRSA has mutated from a regular staph infection to become lethal is because people don't consume their medication properly. When an individual takes their medication until their symptoms vanish and not the prescribed time given by their doctors, the bacteria has a chance to mutate and evolve to fight the antibodies that would have originally killed it.

November 30, 2007

Putin speech prompts impromptu Kasparof press conference

Chess grand champion Gary Kasparov was released today after a week in jail. An event that was overshadowed by a well-timed President Valdmir Putin speech.

Putin urged the public to stand behind United Russian, his party that is expected to dominate the upcoming election based on the progress that Russia has made under his term as president.

Kasparov and others from his Other Russia party were imprisoned when the "coalition tried to deliver a letter to federal election officials contending that the parliamentary election this Sunday is biased toward Mr. Putin’s party, United Russia

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/11/30/world/europe/30russia.html?_r=1&ref=world&oref=slogin

According to the Washington Post, Putin said, ""We cannot allow the return to power of those who once tried but failed to rule the country." This speech came just two hours before Kasparov was released.
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/29/AR2007112900460.html

November 25, 2007

The big comeback

Prezident Musharaf's biggest rival-the man he ousted and exiled-Nawaz Sharif made a sucessful comeback from exile today amid cheers of supporters.

THe BBC reported, "Supporters clapped and danced and waved the green flags of Mr Sharif's party. They shouted slogans such as 'Long live Sharif' and 'Go, Musharraf, go'". Sharif said that the police state was not conducive to free elections.

THe New York Times reported that two months ago Sharif had tried to enter the country but Musharaf had deported him from Pakistan within hours of his arival. This time, thousands of police officers protected his motorcade and kept the peace while Sharif gave a speech.
http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-pakistan-sharif-newsmaker.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

The Times further reported, "Sharif's reappearance could trigger large-scale defections from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League, made up of politicians who have backed General Musharraf's rule. Intelligence agencies assembled the PML from the remnants of Sharif's party."

The BBC noted that the people also seem to like him because, "a surge of supporters at Lahore airport who carried Mr Sharif on their shoulders."
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/south_asia/7111679.stm



Homeownership and renting in todays rollercoaster market

THe Washington Post reports that owning a home used to be cheaper than renting an apartment, but this has now changed. "Ten years ago, according to Moody's Economy.com, the average annual cost of owning a home -- including mortgages, taxes and maintenance costs -- was $10,231 nationally, compared with $13,090 for renting."

The Post later reports, " the average annual cost of owning a home was $17,707, compared with $15,721 for renting."
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/23/AR2007112301911_2.html?sub=AR

The Post said that this is due to several reasons, owners buying more house than they could afford, government organizations that aided homeowners loosing steam, and variable mortgages that are put under strain in our falling ecconomy. But, the Star Tribune has another reason why owning a home is getting more and more expensive.

In MN, the government created legislature in 2001 to help foster homeownership through cheaper taxes on homes. Now that the legislation is fading out, as it was intended to do before 2009, homeowners are paying more taxes on their homes as the values decrease in the bear market.
http://www.startribune.com/587/story/1571103.html

As reported by the Strib, "The city cited one home where the market value declined from $217,200 to $209,000, but the taxable value jumped from $189,300 to $209,000. "

It looks like the American Dream might become a penthouse appartment instead of the white picket fense. But, I think we'll still keep apple pie and baseball.