Friday, October 30, 2009

Those Crazy Taiwanese Guys

Embarrassing news for Yahoo! last week. No, their announced financials looked hearty, tripling quarterly profits year-over-year despite a fall in revenue. The embarrassing news came in the form of news that their corporate "Open Hack Day" in Taiwan featured Yahoo! software engineers getting lap dances from exotic dancers.

Yahoo! leaders and bloggers have roundly criticized and roundly blasted these events as being demeaning to women and inappropriate for a corporate venue - I wholeheartedly agree with both of these points. When I did a little deeper, it's interesting how this raised questions of cultural sensitivity and relativism.

One of the attendees cited in article, Simon Willison wrote in his blog:
I’ve heard arguments that this kind of thing is culturally acceptable in Taiwan—in fact it may even be expected for technology events, though I’d love to hear further confirmation. I don’t care. The technology industry has a serious, widely recognised problem attracting female talent. The ratio of male to female attendants at most conferences I attend is embarassing —An Event Apart last week in Chicago was a notable and commendable exception.
Let's just say for argument's sake that what Simon says is accurate - that Taiwanese trade shows and events feature scantily clad women and it's culturally accepted, but it's morally wrong, so it should cease. Or put another way "I don't care what the local cultural norms are, I'm going to impose my value system upon others because I'm clearly right and it's good for the industry. By the way, the 'civilized' people in the United States do these events right."

To be clear, I don't think Simon is being culturally insensitive (in fact, I agree with him 100%) but I think it's interesting how some of his sentiments, just used in a different context, can often be blasted as bigoted, Western-imperialist, arrogant, and culturally narrow.

Tough to do unless there's some sort of universal objective moral worldview, such as, let's say Christian ethics centered on a biblical foundation. But ironically, liberal-minded secularists who rightfully condemn sexist and women-objectifying acts would rather self-immolate themselves before submitting to a defined moral standard. I guess they'll have to settle for arbitrarily imposing their arbitrary values on people who don't agree with them. They've ironically become the people they think they hate most.

As for the Taiwanese, what concerns me is that they're being targeted unfairly as sex-crazed weirdos, or somehow more deviant than other cultures. The last time I visited the motherland in 1999, I vaguely recall passing by these weird roadside barber shop-looking things which were fronted by scantily-clad women (my father had trouble articulating what these were - maybe he just didn't know). But was this any worse than New York City, Tokyo, or Amsterdam? Seems to me that sex is prevalent all over. But to be fair, I haven't seen lap-dances at any recent conferences I've been to.

Maybe it's a techie thing.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Oh, How I Love This World Series Matchup

The World Series matchup of the New York Yankees versus the Philadelphia Phillies couldn't make me happier. This is admittedly what I was hoping for all along, to see two of my three favorite teams duke it out for the championship. Here are some musings:
  • This is clearly a matchup of the two best teams in the league. You can't really argue that there are any fluky "they just got hot at the right" time teams in this hunt, like the 2006 Cardinals and the 2007 Rockies.
  • Granted, the World Series game start times are, for the most part, reasonable regardless of geographical location (as opposed to the division series), but it's nice to know that there's absolutely no worry about having games that will start at 10pm EST to accommodate a West Coast team, which means the game ends at 2am and I'm completely useless at work the next day.
  • Scratch that, I'll probably be useless at work the next morning anyway, pouring over all the online recaps and analysis, including national and local news sites.
  • As I had Twittered when the Yankees clinched, this has to be a nightmare scenario for Mets fans, most notably those die-hards who absolutely detest both the Yankees and the Phillies. I'll repeat what I had said: Mets fans are rooting for blowouts for the visiting teams (thus making the home crowds miserable) and lots of career-ending injuries.
  • It must absolutely burn Cleveland Indians fans to see that the aces and Game 1 starters for the two World Series teams were both teammates on the Indians just two years ago. I'll have to needle Justin, a Ohio guy in our church: "You know what the Indians need? Starting pitching. You know, a C.C. Sabathia or Cliff Lee-type of pitcher."
  • The great thing about a Yankees vs. Phillies matchup, a.k.a. "The NJ Turnpike Series" is that there are so many friendships that clearly span such a small geographical area. For example, having gone to Penn and being one of many New York residents who went to that school, I look fondly back at hanging out with people with passionate loyalties for New York or Philadelphia teams. I had mentioned to a couple of college buddies that I'd pay big money to watch the Series with Vinnie Liu (big Yankees fan), Ashok Kurian (big Phillies fan) and Nathan Tsoi (no horse in this race, but he'll just irritate both of them for the fun of it) and hear them talk smack during the games. That might be as interesting as the games themselves.
  • The complexity of the Yankees and Phillies facing off is that while I like both teams, it sort of ends up lowering the angst and thus emotional factor - or the the stakes in the emotional gamble. For example, Yankees vs. Red Sox is emotionally a big-stakes game since I absolutely despise the Sox. If the Yankees beat the Red Sox (as in the 2003 ALCS), it's euphoria. If the Red Sox beat the Yankees (as in the 2004 ALCS), it's like getting kicked in the groin. I like both the Yankees and Phillies, so I'm not going to a lot of pleasure watching either of these teams lose. Oh well.
  • I'm interested in seeing what the mayoral wager will be between New York's Mike Bloomberg and Philadelphia's Michael Nutter. Cheesecake vs. Cheesesteaks? Even though he's the prohibitive favorite, does the bet get cancelled if Bloomberg somehow loses the mayoral election a week from now?
  • Yankees in six.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Emmanuel Classic - Week 7 Recap

Punch in the Face over Millburn Mustangs. So as the No Fun League commish, I asked Coach Lee to tone down the smack talk and do his talking on the field. And he did exactly to the tune of a 30 point thrashing. Hmm... maybe I should have asked him to turn up the smack talk and sit Tom Brady instead. The undefeated machine rolls on. Shades of the 2007 Patriots with the pressure of perfection toppling them at the end? The rest of the league can only hope. As for my Mustangs, does anybody have a decent running back to spare? In the beginning of the season, I had "depth" with Leon Washington, Willie Parker and Derrick Ward. Translation: my RB's either stink or are on crutches.

Beginner's Luck? over Don't Tread on Me. In a mild upset, Coach Kwon's 'Luck took down Coach Cummings' Don't Tread on Me with surprising ease. This is karma for Coach Cummings turning down and absolutely fair deal which would've (essentially) sent one of my then two stud TE's for Roddy White. Nah, it was a fair deal, but a fair turn down as well. Beginner's Luck just had it going with great games by Brandon Jacobs and Darren Sproles. Coach Kwon's 'Luck is now truly in the hunt for a playoff spot (along with five other 3-4 teams) - though he still mutters about Jonathan Broxton and his straight fastball underneath his breath.

ANSKY over Pablo. Coach Lee's one-loss ANSKY keeps plugging along, with a nice performance over Coach Huang's Pablo. You have to hand it to Coach Huang, he's not afraid to shake up his roster at head-spinning speeds. You have to hand it to Coach Lee, he's not afraid to post URL's to the the most bizarre YouTube clips. ANSKY solidifies it spot as the 2nd best team in the league and Pablo drops into the 3-4 team "are we good enough to make the playoffs?" herd.

Cooler than Baptists over Midgets. Coach Fehringer's squad continues to be the enigmatic team in the league - the one that explodes for points every now and then but somehow is still a game below .500. This is a team that nobody would want to play in the playoffs. Coach Kang's Midgets gave a hearty effort in a losing cause, putting up a good deal of points against a team that was not going to be defeated. As for Cooler than Baptists, this is the team that none of the better teams (Punch in the Face, ANSKY, Hamsters) wants to see in the first round of the playoffs.

HE HATE ME over Trail Mix. A tight game here, but it didn't have to be. Coach Yeoh inexplicably left WR and DL starting spots empty. Perhaps some confusion after a big trade in which he sent WR Greg Jennings and TE Dustin Keller to my Millburn Mustangs in exchange for TE Tony Gonzalez and WR Antonio Bryant. I think that's a fair deal. I clearly had an extra strong TE with Heath Miller and Tony Gonzalez, and I needed a top-notch WR badly (no, Calvin Johnson, Devin Hester and Roy Williams don't qualify).

Go Yankees over Team Singletary. If you happened to check Yahoo!'s live scoring feature on Sunday afternoon, you might have seen Coach Lin's Team Singletary jump out to an early lead, which made all the sense in the world given that the 49ers game was over by 4pm (they lost 24-21 to the Houston Texans). Of course, over the next 48 hours, it became abundantly clear that this would be yet another loss for the Team Singletary squad. For what it's worth, Vernon Davis looked good and we did have an Alex Smith sighting - the former 1st overall pick who is trying hard not to be the next David Carr / Heath Shuler / Tim Couch. As far as Go Yankees, they leap back into playoff contention with the win, adding to the aforementioned massive logjam of teams on the bubble of a playoff spot.

Hamsters over No Yankees. In a stange twist, Coach Cheng and Coach Tae swung a big trade of starting RB's before they were to face off against each other, with the Hamsters sending over DeAngelo Williams to No Yankees for Rashard Mendenhall. It's interesting, Williams is probably the better player, but the Panthers stink right now so they're probably not going to be running the ball quite as much playing from behind. On the other side, Mendenhall should get plenty of touches, but he might not be able to take the pounding after playing a shortened year last year. Time will tell.

Current standings (Top 8 teams after Week 13, not 12, make the playoffs):

1 Punch in the Face (Lee) 7-0-0
2 ANSKY (Lee) 6-1-0
3 Hamsters (Cheng) 5-2-0
4 No Yankees (Tae) 4-3-0
5 Don't Tread on Me (Cummings) 4-3-0
6 Cooler than Baptists (Fehringer) 3-4-0
7 Millburn Mustangs (Kuo) 3-4-0
8 Trail Mix (Yeoh) 3-4-0
9 Pablo (Huang) 3-4-0
10 Go Yankees (Beenken) 3-4-0
11 Beginner's Luck? (Kwon) 3-4-0
12 HE HATE ME (Song) 3-4-0
13 Midgets (Kang) 1-6-0
14 Team Singletary (Lin) 1-6-0

Monday, October 26, 2009

Journalism at its Best.... and Worst

Sarah and I recently watched the movie State of Play, a (sort of) film adaptation of the critically acclaimed BBC miniseries which underscores the important role that objective investigative journalism can play in a messy world where special interests are intertwined with other special interests and the truth is sometimes obscured by press releases and public relations spin. It's preachy at times, but entertaining enough with solid performances from a stellar ensemble cast, including Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, Rachel McAdams, Hellen Mirren, Robin Wright Penn, Jason Bateman and Jeff Daniels. It's worth a rental.

I get it. The not so subtle preached point is: Journalism's important because it keeps people honest, and we should all collectively lament the death of the newspaper because people are more inclined to get free online real-time facts on Twitter and blogs as opposed to appreciating the hard, arduous, time-consuming and often expensive investigative analysis that is slowly dying out because it's not profitable enough for big media and news conglomerates.

At the same time, there are just days that I look at the news, and think man, this is drivel. For example, The New York Times recently had this article headline: "Christie May Have Gotten Improper Aid"

So if you're a New Jersey resident, you're inclined to think the guy has somehow been caught with his hand in a cookie jar, and you'll cast your vote for Corzine, who ironically just got endorsed by the Times. But what's with the ambiguity of the claim? Maybe he did, but maybe he didn't? If you have proof, report it definitively. If you don't, it's not news, just conjecture.

It reeks of what legendary publisher Walter Annenberg did when he wanted to marginalize Democrat gubernatorial candidate Milton Shapp, who was opposing a merger against Annenberg's business interests. As detailed in Wikipedia:
During a press conference, an Inquirer reporter asked Shapp if he had ever been a patient in a mental hospital. Having never been in one, Shapp simply said "no". The next day, a five-column front page Inquirer headline read, “Shapp Denies Mental Institution Stay.” Shapp and others have attributed his loss of the election to Annenberg's newspaper.
And that tradition continues today. Even on, articles are placed under the "Latest News" category but not explicitly labeled as partisan commentary until clicking on the article link are headlines such as: Borger: Republicans snipe instead of offering solutions. Is Borger a CNN reporter who was able to see the inner workings of a RNC strategy meeting or a political hack with an agenda? The context makes a big difference.

So the struggling world of journalism trudges forward, perhaps considering all measures, including Times columnist Maureen Dowd's idea to use vice (drinking, sex and gambling) to subsidize its survival.

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Death of Thoughtful Repentance

I had archived an article a while ago and recently dug it up. The article spoke of a rabbi who during the Jewish high holidays felt a need to tell people they shouldn't ask for forgiveness via Facebook. According to Rabbi Jason Miller of Congregation T'chiyah in Oak Park, Michigan, "We've lost the personal touch. There should be an effort, a little challenge to go up to another person and seek forgiveness, to admit our wrongdoing."

Now electronic apologies are even worse, but I think we all generally do a lousy job of asking for forgiveness, even verbally.

One of the more striking lessons that I took away from my years at InterVarsity in college was a striking talk from David Lamb about repentance and reconciliation from Matthew 5:24. To emphasize the vital importance of seeking reconciliation, there was a powerful anecdote shared of a man who stepped out of a ministry meeting realizing he had to go to Leavenworth, Kansas. When asked why he needed to go to Leavenworth, he replied, "I need to talk to and forgive the man who killed my wife."

The other think that stayed with me after this particular talk is David's recommendation that we distinctly and explicitly articulate a request for forgiveness instead of a generic apology. Or to be clear, don't simply say, "I'm sorry" - if you really have sinned against someone, look them in the eye, tell them what you've done and how you feel that has hurt them and ask them: "Will you forgive me?"

It makes all the sense in the world, but it's certainly not comfortable. It's an invitation to give the aggrieved person the power to say "yes" or "no". It's putting yourself, as the person who sinned, in the humbling position to be asking for something of the aggrieved. It's not natural, and it's far more uncomfortable than the quasi-apologies that we're probably used to giving, such as "I'm sorry if" and even non-apologies such as "I made a mistake". Asking someone directly if they will forgive you makes clear the acknowledgement of sin and makes clear that the sinner knows that they need to ask for it from the person they hurt.

I don't do this nearly enough. I should probably start doing this more.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Emmanuel Classic - Week 6 Recap

Hamsters over Millburn Mustangs. By Wednesday last week, it became evident that I was pretty much screwed. I had too many players on my roster who had bye-weeks and had three starters who did not have bye-weeks but were questionable from an injury perspective. So while I could put a bunch of players on waivers and hope that they weren't claimed by other teams, I decided just to take a whipping and left two starting spots unmanned. So the Hamsters kicked our tails. It would've happened anyway, given monster games by Randy Moss and DeAngelo Williams. In short, Coach Cheng just took me to the back of the woodshed, whipped off his belt and... eh, let's just move on, shall we?

ANSKY over Beginner's Luck? Coach Lee's ANSKY gets back to its winning ways with a solid win over Coach Kwon's squad, buoyed by Drew Brees' spanking of the Giants and a strong game by WR Larry Fitzgerald. It's been a tough beginning of the week for Coach Kwon. In a sideline interview on Sunday night, Coach Kwon lamented that Joe Torre left Hiroki Kuroda in the game too long, before realizing that he was being asked about his fantasy football team. On Monday night, when asked studio analyst Terry Bradshaw about why he started ineligible WR Matt Jones, Coach Kwon (in a near catatonic state) could only mumble something unintelligible about Jimmy Rollins.

Pablo over Midgets. Coach Huang's Pablo took out Coach Kang's Midget's behind the strength of a Ravens loss where they scored 31 points against the Vikings, giving Joe Flacco and Ray Rice some nice numbers. As for Coach Kang, we salute you, as you diligently set your roster and you obviously did what you could. It's not your fault that your players stunk. Coach Huang is also leading the category of "don't get to comfortable here, son" as he's picked up and waived a frightening number of players. Apparently, people don't join the Pablo squad for job stability. Heck, even Tom Brady got traded from that team.

Punch in the Face over Cooler than Baptists. Coach Lee's 'Face cruised against a Cooler than Baptists squad. Let's put it this way, when you have three players (Tom Brady, Hines Ward and Thomas Jones) that combine for 100 points, you're not going to lose many games. It's not as if Coach Fehringer put together a bad squad this week - the 1985 Chicago Bears couldn't have stopped the Laser Jets this week given Tom Brady's performance. And to echo a post that's going around in the Emmanuel Classic league, why is it that opposing teams curl up and die against Coach Lee's Punch in the Face? Is it the intimidating firepower by an offense which is relentless? Or is it a left-wing conspiracy? FOXNews. We report. You decide.

Don't Tread on Me over HE HATE ME. Give Coach Cummings and his squad their due, but hmm... Coach Song just doesn't seem to have the same brainpower in the front office since philthypanda left town in a contract dispute. Of course, we know that panda didn't leave in a contract dispute, but it could've been worse, like an ugly divorce or a situation where the head coach punched out another coach.

Trail Mix over Team Singletary. Okay, my Mustangs got their butt kicked, but Team Singletary got stomped in historical fashion 100 - 0. How much do you think the Millburn Mustangs, Beginner's Luck? and every other team that lost would've loved to have drawn Team Singletary this past week? Well, we called it before, and knew that the bye weeks were going to be problematic with these gimmick teams.

No Yankees over Go Yankees. In the battle of teams that have emotional ties with the Yankees one way or the other. Coach Tae's No Yankees beat Coach Beenken's Go Yankees despite a poor Giants performance but aided by poor performances by Coach Beenken's receivers (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, 3.40; Steve Smith, 0.40; Bo Scaife, 0.00). As for the Yankees, as irked as Coach Kwon is about his Dodgers, what's with all the over-managing by Joe Girardi in Game 3? David Robertson gets two quick outs in the 11th, and he turns it over to another right-handed reliever who promptly gives up the game. Sorry - back to football...

Updated standings (Top 8 go to playoffs after Week 12):

1 Punch in the Face (Lee) 6-0-0
2 ANSKY (Lee) 5-1-0
3 Hamsters (Cheng) 4-2-0
4 No Yankees (Tae) 4-2-0
5 Don't Tread on Me (Cummings) 4-2-0
6 Millburn Mustangs (Kuo) 3-3-0
7 Trail Mix (Yeoh) 3-3-0
8 Pablo (Huang) 3-3-0
9 Cooler than Baptists (Fehringer) 2-4-0
10 Go Yankees (Beenken) 2-4-0
11 Beginner's Luck? (Kwon) 2-4-0
12 HE HATE ME (Song) 2-4-0
13 Midgets (Kang) 1-5-0
14 Team Singletary (Lin) 1-5-0

Monday, October 19, 2009

Can I Take It Off My Resume for $435,678?

A recent Philadelphia Inquirer article reported that a federal court awarded a man $435,678 when a man who earned a "Executive Masters in Technology Management" from the University of Pennsylvania which dropped the Wharton tag off the certificate.

It seems a little petty, given that the the plaintiff, Frank Reynolds, already had stated that simply attending classes at the Wharton School had quickly proved its worth, having been recruited on campus by Siemens AG, the German technology conglomerate, and hired as its director of global business development. Reynolds makes clear that simply by being a student at Wharton (albeit a student in a program that didn't award a Wharton degree... confusing, I know), such opportunities were ripe for the taking.

It's not completely surprising that this a big deal. I know many alums who are strongly protective of the prestige of their alma mater, which they believe can be "diluted" by the "over-distribution" of that same degree in the form of part-time and Executive MBA programs, as well as certificate programs. I have friends who are graduates for NYU (Stern) who are particular sensitive to this, and have told me outright that there's a resentment that part-timers - who they feel are of lesser caliber than full-timers - are awarded with the same degree.

At the end of the day, schools are going to happily take people's money while trying to balance the anger of the alumni who have want their degree to maintain a certain aura, prestige and exclusivity. $435,678 is a big chunk of change. I just wonder if Wharton would hand me a check for $435,678 if pledged never to associate myself with the school.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Walking by Faith in a Maze of Hay

This past weekend, the family went on a little trip to the Bronx Zoo (free tickets for corporate weekend, yeah!) and were joined by a couple of friends and their baby daughter. The weather was perfect, and the kids enjoyed looking at birds, bison, tigers, giraffes, bears, wild dogs, assorted reptiles and seals. Daniel and Sarah also went on a short camel ride, bringing back memories of the very same ride that I had taken on a visit to the Bronx Zoo as a kindergardener.

But it seemed like the most enjoyable part of the outing for Daniel and Sophia was running through a little maze of hay which was part of a number of "seasonalized" exhibits around the zoo. They were playing an impromptu game of hide and seek where Daniel and Sarah quickly scampered into the maze and Sophia, who isn't quite as fast, would scurry in their wake and look for them. The hay maze was uniformly around two feet high - just high enough so that Sophia couldn't see at all over the walls, Daniel could see a little over the walls, and I could survey the entire maze.

I stuck by Sophia, trying to keep up with her as she frantically looked for Sarah and Daniel. "Mommy? Mommy?" "Daniel? Daniel?" Her cries grew increasingly angst-ridden as she continued to desperately find them. She scampered back and forth from hay-corridor to hay-corridor in vain, growing more and more upset at not seeing the familiarity of her mother or brother. I tried to comfort her and assure her that they were close by, but only until she let me direct her through the maze to find them or picked her up to bring her to them was she at peace.

It dawned upon me that I had experienced a little spiritual parable here. I realized that we are all very much like Sophia - unable to see the forest from the trees and inclined to run anxiously to and fro in a desperate attempt to find what we're looking for. There are limits to our finite knowledge and perspective, and there is a temptation to despair at an uncertain future out of our control.

But if we only would set our eyes upon Jesus, our Good Shepherd, who sees the entire maze around us, and look to Him for direction and strength. We can rest upon Him and allow Him to carry us through the journey - a journey which He not only knows but has lovingly and carefully crafted. "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Here's where the analogy and parable diverges. Sophia will mature and as she grows taller, she'll be able to survey more and more of the maze around her, giving her a better sense of where to go. The spiritual truth is that if we are to truly mature in the faith, we'll realize more and more how utterly unable we are to do anything without God's leading and power, and look increasingly to Him.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Steppin' Up Public Health

Interesting article in New York Magazine, which has touted new city health commissioner Thomas Farley's plans to use city public health policy as a key means of improving the health of NYC residents and thus do their part to enact health reform. It's quite smart, actually. While much attention has been placed in terms of the cost of treatment, why not find ways to encourage (if not mandate) good fitness which can play a large part in keeping people from getting sick in the first place?

The article focuses on Farley's plan to get residents to walk the stairs more either by encouraging stairs from an aesthetic perspective, even providing some incentives through tax credits or zoning bonuses or perhaps have skip-stop elevators which only stop on every third floor. The benefits seem to be compelling:
  • Two additional minutes of stair-climbing per day (approximately three floors) can burn more than enough calories to eliminate the average adult’s annual weight gain.
  • The mortality rates between men who climbed more than 55 flights of stairs a week are 33% lower than those who didn’t.
At my workplace, I actually do a bit of stair-climbing, largely due to the fact that my office is on the 8th floor, and the people who I'm working with currently are largely on the 3rd floor, to which there is no direct elevator route (I'd have to take the elevator down the the 2nd floor and walk up on floor or take the elevator down the the lobby and take a different elevator up to the 2nd floor). The inclination to take the stairs is also aided by two of our eight elevators (at a time) being services in the past eight months, making waiting for a elevator long and agonizing - it's just faster to take the stairs.

Does it seem right, as Farley says, that “If we engineered physicality out of our lives, we can engineer it right back in”? Probably, but surely there are a lot of people, especially those who don't like walking stairs, that will resent government-enforced compulsion of a healthier lifestyle.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Emmanuel Classic - Week 5 Recap

Millburn Mustangs over Cooler than Baptists. Odd thing. My team had apparently beaten Pablo last week by the thinnest of margins - the standings reflected my win and Coach Huang's loss - but on Friday somehow I had lost two points and the game results subsequently changed. Still not sure what happened there, but the Mustangs ended up taking it out on Coach Fehringer's Cooler than Baptists squad, aided by killer performances by Donovan McNabb (welcome back) and Michael Turner. Coach Fehringer's started the wrong Cowboys running back (starting Marion Barber's 5 points over Tashard Choice's 16 points), but it looks like it would've hardly made a difference.

Beginner's Luck? over Midgets. Coach Kang ignored my trade request through the week, and Fantasy Foodball karma paid him back with a spanking at the hands of Coach Kwon's Beginner's Luck. Coach Kang did inexplicably leave a starting WR slot empty, though unless he played Randy Moss from 2007, it probably would've have put him over the top. Coach Kwon inexplicably started Chansi Stuckey, who scored as many points as the Midgets' blank WR slot. When sideline reporter asked Coach Kwon about the thrill of his win, Coach Kwon responded, "Fantasy football? Who cares? I'm just relieved that the Dodgers got past the Cardinals in the NLDS."

Punch in the Face over Pablo. Ah, the gift that keeps on giving. How did you enjoy your ex-players whipping your team, Coach Huang? Despite all the hub-bub on the message boards, how much do you think Coach Lee missed Joe Flacco and his 10 points? Probably not too much when you're starting Tom Brady and Anquan Boldin. The guilt will begin to eat away - just like in Poe's The Telltale Heart. Eh, all's fair in love and fantasy football, and Punch in the Face will gladly keep its undefeated record. But clearly Coach Lee would've traded this win for the ability for Jonathan Papelbon to hold a two run ALDS lead in Game 3.

HE HATE ME over ANSKY. Speaking of which, Coach Steve Lee's squad now stands atop the field as the only undefeated team after a controversial HE HATE ME win over ANSKY. Sick and tired of the hammering he was getting in this column and on WFAN, Coach Song plucked a co-manager who proceeded to make some shrewd free agent picks. I would've had more sympathy for Coach Lee and the tough loss if not for the fact that he left Adewale Ogunleye as the starter on his bye week. Why? In any case, call it the "Curse of Philthy Phil".

Don't Tread on Me over Team Singletary. In what was the butt-whippin' of the week, Coach Cummings' Don't Tread on Me pretty much doubled up Team Singletary thanks to great games by Peyton Manning, Andre Johnson and Roddy White. As for Team Singletary, when you're hopes are pinned on Glen Coffee, you're probably not looking too good. Hey, Coach Lin can always savor that victory over the Midgets.

No Yankees over Trail Mix. As the Giants keep on tickin', so to Coach Tae's No Yankees, who scored, I believe, a record number of points in their surprisingly easy win over Trail Mix. When Eli Manning plays less than a half and scores 19 points and Ahmad Bradshaw is plowing through with 28 points, you're doing pretty well.

Go Yankees over Hamsters. Not a huge surprise as I predicted this outcome, but a formerly reeling Go Yankees squad took out the third-place Hamsters as Coach Beenken was aided by strong performances by Matt Ryan and T.J. Housha... T.J. Houshaman ... that WR who used to be on the Bengals who now plays for the Seahawks. Coach Cheng, furious about his team's underperformance, put on a missing persons alert for DeSean Jackson (0.10 points), DeAngelo Williams (4.90 points) and Chris Cooley (0 points).

So here's the latest standings (Top 8 after Week 12 go to playoffs):

1 Punch in the Face 5-0-0
2 ANSKY 4-1-0
3 Hamsters 3-2-0
4 No Yankees 3-2-0
5 Millburn Mustangs 3-2-0
6 Don't Tread on Me 3-2-0
7 Cooler than Baptists 2-3-0
8 Trail Mix 2-3-0
9 Go Yankees 2-3-0
10 Pablo 2-3-0
11 Beginner's Luck? 2-3-0
12 HE HATE ME 2-3-0
13 Midgets 1-4-0
14 Team Singletary 1-4-09

Monday, October 12, 2009

But He Was So Good in Those Hertz Commercials

Here's something to put into the "Things that the French do that cause people to scratch their heads" file.

Film director Roman Polanski, who has for a long time been in exile from the United States, refusing to be sentenced to a conviction that he had drugged and raped a 13-year old girl in the 1970's, has recently been arrested in Switzerland and is now predictably fighting extradition. What perplexed me what the reaction of the French government.

The French culture and communications minister, Frederic Mitterrand, said "he wants to remind everyone that Roman Polanski benefits from great general esteem" and has "exceptional artistic creation and human qualities."

Uh... and this has exactly what relevance to his conviction that he drugged and had intercourse with a minor?

It's tantamount of seeing something like this during the O.J. Simpson trial's opening remarks:

Johnnie Cochran: Ladies and gentleman of the jury, I'd like to first remind all of you that Orenthal James Simpson is the only player to ever rush for more than 2,000 yards in a 14-game season. He has won the Heisman Trophy, the Maxwell Award, and the Walter Camp Award, and still holds the record for the Heisman's largest margin of victory.
Robert Shapiro: (interrupting) And he won the rushing title four times in the NFL...
Johnnie Cochran: Four times! Four times, ladies and gentleman. And did you see him in "The Naked Gun" film series with Leslie Nielsen?
Robert Shapiro: Hilarious!

Friday, October 9, 2009

The Roman Abramovich of the NBA?

There was some excitement from all twenty-six or so fans of the New Jersey Nets when news broke that Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov had reached an agreement to assume controlling interest of the New Jersey Nets, making him the first non-North American NBA owner. There's a couple of ways that this could play out:

1) Prokhorov could become the ethnically-proud-to-the-extreme sports owner, making every effort to populate his team as many former Soviet republic players as possible. Naturally, the danger is that this will cloud player personnel judgment such as a horrible trade of Brook Lopez and Devin Harris to the Bulls for Martynas Andriuskevicius and Viktor Khryapa. We could be seeing a starting lineup with Andrei Kirilenko, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Linas Kleiza, Zaza Pachulia and Sarunas Jasikevicius. Great for the Russian fans in Coney Island near where the Nets will be moving, but horrible for the play-by-play announcers. Oh, also bad for the fans who would be starved for wins.

2) The hope is that Prokhorov becomes the Roman Abramovich of the NBA. For those of you who aren't soccer fans, Abramovich bought the Chelsea football club in England and proceeded to buy legions of star players with his seemingly bottomless wallet. Fed by an immense ego (or euphemistically, a passion to win), Abramovich's heavy investments (€705 million) into the club which has since won two Premier League championships and a handful of other cups. Nets fans hope that Prokhorov and his ego won't let his sports team do any worse than Abramovich's, and finds a way, despite the NBA salary cap, to spend his way to bring a championship to New Jersey... uh, Brooklyn.

For what it's worth, it is Prokhorov, not Abramovich who is the richest man in Russia. Prokhorov has a fortune of $9.5 billion with Abramovich at a measly $8.5 billion. Too bad Abramovich has the far more storied and successful sports franchise.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

2009 Fall Classic Musings

A few musings as we enter my favorite sports-related event of the year - the MLB playoffs:
  • What an amazing play-in game that saw the Twins outlast the Tigers. As a Yankees fan, I'm relieved that we don't have to play the Tigers in a short series. The thought of having to face Justin Verlander twice in a short-series scared the heck out of me, and Rick Porcello and Edwin Jackson are darned good, too. Contrast that with the Twins, whose best starting pitcher is... who?
  • That being said, the Twins are dangerous - one of those teams that seem to play smart, fundamental baseball. They have the best player in baseball this side of Albert Pujols, and if they have a lead, their bullpen can be pretty lethal, especially with Joe Nathan shutting the door. In addition, there's the Metrodome "mystique" - the Twins are tough to play there, and I can see how slaying the mighty Yankees in its final baseball season would be fitting.
  • The Phillies look pretty good going into the playoffs with Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels slated to start the first two games, and also caught a break when 16-game winning presumptive Rockies' Game 3 starter Jorge De La Rosa was declared out for the NLDS. The Phils better hope that their offense behind Ryan Howard and Chase Utley provide fat leads going into the later innings, because that bullpen is looking less dependable than a 1980's American car.
  • I can't think of a team which does not have home-field advantage to be more favored than the Cardinals. They have the best player in baseball in Albert Pujols and the best 1-2 starting tandem in Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright. Well, at least Joe Torre is somewhat used to losing in the first round of the playoffs (not that I'm a bitter Yankee fan or anything).
  • Despite history not being on my side, I'm pleading for the Angels to knock out the Red Sox. Of course I'm pulling for the Yankees to win it all, but please, anyone but the Red Sox.
Here are my predictions (yeah, these don't jibe with my preseason picks, but leave me alone):

NL: Phillies over Rockies, Cardinals over Dodgers, Cardinals over Phillies
AL: Yankees over Twins, Red Sox over Angels, Yankees over Red Sox (gulp)
World Series: Yankees over Cardinals

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Emmanuel Classic - Week 4 Recap

Millburn Mustangs over Pablo. My Mustangs pulled this one out by the slimmest of margins, a measly 0.68 points: 129.52 - 128.84. It looked like Coach Huang's frenetic pace of making moves would finally pay off, as he held a slim lead going into Monday Night Football. The goat of the week for the Mustangs was almost Mark Sanchez, who got that rare negative score for his zero touchdown, three interception performance. Eh, he's a rookie, and he finally played like it. A measly 4.3 points from RB Chester Taylor barely got it done for me.

Punch in the Face over Beginner's Luck? Coach Lee's Punch in the Face romped to victory behind the strength of performances by Tom Brady (not surprising) and Matt Forte (somehat surprising). Seriously, though, if Punch in the Face ends up making a championship run, he ought to send a tin of butter cookies to Coach Huang who gift-wrapped Tom Brady and Anquan Boldin to his team. I can't believe the league didn't veto any of those deals. Undefeated Punch in the Face is going to get tested in the next couple of weeks by a resurgent Pablo squad and the always dangerous Cooler than Baptists.
Hamsters over Cooler than Baptists. This game, which I thought was the most compelling matchup of the week surprisingly was won quite handily by the Hamsters. Credit needs to go to Coach Cheng for his late pickup of WR Mike Sims-Walker who busted out for 21 points. Mike Sims-Walker? Across the board, the Hamsters met or did slightly better than projected, and Cooler than Baptists barely met or failed to meet their projections. Not surprisingly, the rodent won out.
Midgets over HE HATE ME. Go Coach Kang! The Midgets torpedoed the absolutely neglected HE HATE ME squad, who are allegedly no longer attending practices or the games under the complete apathetic gaze of Coach Song. That's not to take away anything from the Midgets for their gutsy win. It was good to see the Midgets roster filled with people who are actually playing in the NFL.
ANSKY over Team Singletary. Coach Lee's ANSKY continues their march to perfection, creaming Coach Lin's Team Singletary. Just five more weeks, and we might have a Week 10 showdown of (possibly perfect) ANSKY and Punch in the Face. It just dawned upon me that the current undefeated teams are both led by the coaches with the surname of Lee. There are some differences, however. Besides the coach of ANSKY not being Korean, he also doesn't have the audacity to propose ridiculously lopsided trades like Hines Ward for Randy Moss.
No Yankeees over Don't Tread on Me. You know, Coach Tae's "I'm going to stack my team with previously exclusively, now mostly Giants" thing has worked out okay for him, not surprising given that the Giants are undefeated and continue to rack up great individual stats for its stars. For Coach Cummings, the Houston Texans put 29 points on the board (which should mean good news), yet Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson were 12 fantasy points short from projections.
Trail Mix over Go Yankees. Coach Yeoh's Trail Mix put in a solid, yet unspectacular effort in dispatching Go Yankees. In fairness, Trail Mix was largely aided by Coach Beeken's negligence in adjusting his roster to the first bye week. Touch week in the lab, Coach Beenken? Apparently someone has some misadjusted priorities in curing cancer when there's fantasy football games to be won.

So here are the current standings (Top 8 teams after Week 12 go to playoffs):

1 ANSKY (Lee) 4-0-0
2 Punch in the Face (Lee) 4-0-0
3 Hamsters (Cheng) 3-1-0
4 Millburn Mustangs (Kuo) 3-1-0
5 Cooler than Baptists (Fehringer) 2-2-0
6 Trail Mix (Yeoh) 2-2-0
7 No Yankees (Tae) 2-2-0
8 Don't Tread on Me (Cummings) 2-2-0
9 Pablo (Huang) 1-3-0
10 Go Yankees (Beenken) 1-3-0
11 Beginner's Luck? (Kwon) 1-3-0
12 Midgets (Kang) 1-3-0
13 HE HATE ME (Song) 1-3-0
14 Team Singletary (Lin) 1-3-0

Monday, October 5, 2009

The Arts Gets Shafted... Again

My wife and I have had more than one tense discussion around the value of the arts, as I had mentioned in a previous post. Some of these disagreements came in the form of how churches values the skills and expertise of musicians, often manifested in questions such as "Should we offer to pay professional musicians for their playing during Sunday service?" or "What sort of arts-supporting programs, such as paid opportunities to play, should we provide musicians and dancers?" along with "Is there are reason on principle why we should do this for artists and not for any other vocation?"

Something that my wife will tell me is that "Europeans appreciate the arts much more than Americans do," which I've contested. In Italy, we agreed to test her hypothesis. In Florence, we were going to ask a random European person if they knew who Kurt Masur was (Sarah's hypothesis was "Everyone in Europe knows Kurt Masur!"). Kurt Masur, for those of you who don't know (especially you uncultured Americans) is a world-class conductor who has led both the New York Philharmonic and London Philharmonic. Sarah and I happen to be friends with Kurt's son and daughter-in-law (Sarah's maid of honor), and to Sarah, this is a cool fact akin to us being buddies with Chelsea Clinton. So here's how our little experiment went:

Me: Excuse me, my wife and I were wondering... do you know who Kurt Masur is?
Hotel Concierge in Florence: Who?
Me: You know, Kurt Masur. I believe he's quite well known in Europe.
Hotel Concierge: No, I'm sorry. I don't know him.
Me: Do you know who (German soccer coach and former player) Franz Beckenbauer is?
Hotel Concierge: Of course.

Now the other learning from this (besides debunking Sarah's theory that love of classical music pours out of the public's ears in Europe) is that sports is still the king, and it's broader appeal to the public is not just an American outlier. The sense that Americans uncultured yahoos who eschew the arts because they'd rather sit in front of the plasma television with a Coors light and watch Sunday Night Football, while Europeans are much more likely to choose a night at the symphony over a sporting event is just not true.

To be clear, I'm not making any value judgments around this phenomena. It's just the reality of supply and demand. More people leading to more purchasing power gravitate towards sports as opposed to the arts, which in turn creates greater demand leading to more jobs and increased wages for musicians and artists.

But to be fair, there are stories such as the recent one in the Philadelphia Inquirer which make me shake my head. Reading the article is sure to raise the ire of artists and musicians, and I certainly share in their chagrin. It seems that the state senate of Pennsylvania has decided it would extend sales taxes to arts and cultural performances and venues - but not to movies or sports events in an attempt to balance Pennsylvania's $28 billion budget.

The fact that the tax will likely hurt a number of already struggling orchestras, performance centers and art galleries is one thing. The fact that the tax will exempt a booming sports business in pouring salt in the wound, especially given some already existing bitterness that some musicians hold towards the popularity of sports.

Even if the tax is used to fund a state "arts fund", the short-term effect on tickets will likely be adverse, given the recession and audiences who are already struggling to spend tightening disposable income. And then there's the question of how the arts fund will be administrated - a potentially political hot potato when funds are diverted towards arts pork-barrel projects as political favors as opposed to a reflection of where the tax revenues were collected in the first place.

At the end of the day, the arts will survive. I do believe that there will always be a market for the very best quality music and art - that people will be willing to pay to hear world-class music and see world-class art, even if regional and local arts struggle. The only question is how many seats (for viable arts centers and sufficiently-paid artists) there are when the (pardon the ironic expression) music stops playing. Hey, the North American Soccer League (NASL), United States Football League (USFL) and XFL folded, too.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Fast Times at Millburn High

In my township, there's been a little bit of buzz around drama in our high school. Millburn High, which serves as the public school for residents of both Millburn and Short Hills, became the focus of probably a little unwanted attention when it ended up in the New York Times around the hazing of freshmen girls.

The hazing, which includes being shoved into a locker (I suppose girls don't have typical guy-type hazing like Ben Gay in the underwear and swallowing backwashed soda and such) and the distribution of a "slut list" which to my amazement, some girls become distraught because of their omission from the list. Let me repeat that: there are girls who are upset that they did not make the "slut list". Wow, I know it's not necessarily cool to be on the honor roll, but I shudder at the thought of my daughter running up to me twelve years in tears devastated because she "just missed the cut".

The article mentions Millburn High's top ranking in New Jersey, and I'm wondering what the relationship there is between the academic competitiveness of the school and this seamy social undercurrent. Maybe it's the "Gossip Girl" syndrome, only the public school version. Some privileged kids who seemingly have their entire lives mapped ahead of them break out and do dumb things - partially out of boredom, maybe even out of rebellion for the empty opulence of their lives. To be fair, it's likely just a small fraction of the overwhelmingly (relatively) well-adjusted kids in the school.

That being said... home-schooling, anyone?