Monday, November 30, 2009

Sports and Suffering

I am, I must admit, a Minnesota Timberwolves fan. It won't bother me if you don't know that the T-Wolves play professional basketball in the NBA, because year after year they have scrapped the bottom of the barrel. Every season begins not with the chance at championship glory, but only the hope that we can improve and make playoffs. Even in our glory days with Kevin Garnett, I just wanted the team to make it out of the first round of the playoffs.

Our suffering is supreme. We've had idiotic GMs who've traded away prospects for men with old news and signed journeymen players to exorbitant contracts. We can't even cheat. In an not uncommon practice we talked to (and agreed with) Joe Smith about signing with us even though no talks were suppose to be had. Though illegal, it is a common practice, unfortunately we were the stupid team to put it in writing, which cost 4 1st round picks and crippled the franchise. And to top it all off, you probably don't even know what Joe Smith is? ARRRRGGGHHHH!!! I get frustrated just writing this post.

Anyway (deep breath) the T-Wolves stink once again. 2 wins, 15 losses. Yet, once again I'll read the box score every day, just hoping for a ray of light. Go Timberwolves.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Air Travel

Our trip to Vietnam, to build houses with the Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project in partnership with Habitat for Humanity International, involved a fair amount of air travel through a total of 6 airports and three airlines. A few observations:
  • Incheon International Airport outside of Seoul, South Korea is a fantastic airport. The shops are magnificent (especially if you have money), the Traditional Korean Experience Center is very Korean, the food better than expected, and the in-airport hotel quite comfortable (and great for minimizing jetlag). 
  • LAX (Los Angles Airport) is crap. Really, really, crappy. 
  • Asiana Airlines (the 2nd Korean Airline) is wonderful. The flight attendants are kind and attentive. The food is fairly delicious. And most importantly the legroom is spacious. 
  • Denver ain’t that bad with a fantastic Crocs kiosk (where I was chastised for assuming that Crocs had gone bankrupt: “what a horrible rumor”). 
  • SFO (San Francisco Airport) is snobby. Through nice, there are absolutely no McDonalds or any other fast food joints, just overpriced coffee stores and fish places. Absolutely fits the stereotype. 
  • Hanoi International Airport is getting better. Once a dump, its now less dumpy. Better than LAX, which is a true dump.

Back in the U. S. A.

Well, the mission was a success. Cobra, though not dead, has been dealt a serious blow. Storm Shadow felt my fists of fury. And a few houses were built in Vietnam.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Away for some days...

Sorry about the light blogging over the last week or so, but I've been preparing for a secret mission that you can only guess at...

Monday, November 9, 2009


Statistics are a strange and wonderful thing. Much maligned and often misused, statistics provide a powerful insights into the world we live in. I still remember my first lesson in stats class. We all rolled dice for about 2 minutes and then reported our findings. Individually our dice numbers were all over the map, but we combined our totals (i.e., increased our sample size) lo and behold out came a normal distribution curve. Wowzers.

For some reason this graphic from the New York Times made me think of that first class. The graph has been much blogged about today as it details the US national employment rate, breaking it down by race, sex, age, and education. It points to a simple fact, often overlooked, that statistics are the compilation of much data. For example, in the graph the national unemployment rate is 8.9 percent (as of Sept). Not good, but not utterly horrible. However, if you happen to be a white man, age 15-24, with a high school degree your rate of unemployment is 15.5%, compared to an unemployment rate of 9.8% for a white woman with the same characteristics. Stats, then, often hide as much as they show.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bear News

I’ve always had an interest in, and affinity to, bears. They are wonderful creatures, sort-of dumb, but always happy with a full stomach. I like it that they are fairly harmless if you don't mess with them, but if you do bother them...well, you ain't that smart. With that in mind I found this bit of news rather interesting:

A bear killed two militants after discovering them in its den in Indian-administered Kashmir, police say.
Two other militants escaped, one of them badly wounded, after the attack in Kulgam district, south of Srinagar.

 That reminds me of one of my favorite Bible passages from  2 Kings 2:23-25:
He went up from there to Bethel; and while he was going up on the way, some small boys came out of the city and jeered at him, saying, ‘Go away, baldhead! Go away, baldhead!’ When he turned round and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the Lord. Then two she-bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the boys. From there he went on to Mount Carmel, and then returned to Samaria.
Bears and the Bible are awesome and crazy.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The West

With Rapid arguably marking the beginning of the West, I wonder what are the defining characteristics of the West? All geographic distinctions are inherently nebulous, full of caveats and counter-examples. This is particularly true of the West because it encompasses so much territory with much divergent history. For example, does Arizona and New Mexico belong to the West or how about Alaska? Seattle is firmly ensconced in Washington state but sure seems different than Spokane.

Nevertheless, certain features of the West do exist. Here is my partial list: physicality, emptiness, ranching and mining, and attitude.

What defines the West?

Rapid and the West

Rapid City, South Dakota, my current place of residence, is an interesting town. Attached to a state that is firmly Midwest, Rapid City belongs to the West. On the right bank of the bisecting Missouri you find healthy farms harvesting corn and soybeans, with towns spaced every 10 miles or so apart, and a city that has more in common with Des Moines than Cheyenne. Flatness and the accompanying wind defines the right bank. Rapid, and its left bank neighbors ranch rolling hills and dried out high plains. Towns are less plentiful. The Black Hills and the scraggly badlands act as warning beacons to would-be travelers--visible signs of a difficult and dangerous land.