Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Blast from the Past

My wife and I were driving behind a Honda Ridgeline recently.

She pointed out how visually it was very similar to another Japaneese "truck" from the 80's, the Subaru Brat:

Too funny, and too true!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

More Sports

Already one sports post this week, but there a couple of things I need to write about.

The Masters
Phil Mickelson is my favorite golfer, by far. I started liking him because he's a lefty golfer. I learned to golf in college, and I golf left-handed. I was always convinced that most courses were really designed for righties and that lefties were at a disadvantage. This is probably not true, but that got me rooting for Phil. Then I was always annoyed about how much criticism he took for not winning majors and for playing too risky on the golf course. One of my friends pointed me to a great article recently on ESPN, where one of the things discussed was why Tiger Woods is so much better than Phil. The theory was that Tiger worked harder than Phil because Tiger was not afraid to not have an excuse. Phil would not work as hard because he always needed to have an excuse ready. There was some insight in this theory, but it's wrong. Phil doesn't work as hard as Tiger because Phil has been married for many years and has young children. Tiger became the greatest ever while being single with no other obligations in his life but his golf. Tiger is often compared to Michael Jordan. Few will disagree that Jordan was the greatest basketball player ever, and perhaps the greatest pro athlete ever. However, the devotion to his arguably resulted in him being a terrible (and now divorced) husband and father. I digress. Way to go Phil. Two majors in a row!

I love opening week. I got this MLB Extra Innings package for free this week. It wound up being good timing as this weekend I was home alone. So I got to watch a few games I wouldn't have seen otherwise. This package is still not that great. There are games that aren't shown for no obvious reason. Last night there was a Houston-Washington game that wasn't shown. It wasn't on any of the other channels I get, so I have no idea why it wasn't shown. Also, these sports packages are a waste until they start being broadcast in hi-def. It's ridiculous if I'm paying $160 to get all these games but they're in standard defintion. This is especially true of NFL Sunday Ticket. If you're watching a game on Sunday Ticket, there is almost always going to be another game on your local network that's in hi-def. Anyways, it was nice to get to watch some extra baseball this weekend. I got to see Johann Santana pitch this morning and Alex Rodriguez take Bartolo Colon deep (yet again) this afternoon.

Gator Basketball
I was incredibly happy to see the announcement that Joakim Noah, Corey Brewer, and Al Horford are all staying for next year. Of course there's still time for them to change their mind, but I don't think they will. There's going to be a lot of pressure to repeat now, but that's a good kind of pressure.

Ricky Williams
For the first time in recent years, I've really got to root for Ricky as he goes before the NFL to appeal a violation of their drug policy. There's no official word, but a lot of people have said that his violation was not from marijuana, and that it is most likely some holistic-mecinal herb. That holistic medicine craziness has helped him kick his marijuana addiction, so hopefully the NFL will be understanding. Of course I am being selfish mostly. I think Miami's hot ending to last season and acquisition of Daunte Culpepper makes them one of the favorites to win the Super Bowl next year. Ronnie Brown is going to have a huge season, but Ricky is a great insurance policy and can step in at anytime and make big plays.

Brett Favre
Green Bay just needs to trade him or cut him. The guy wants to play, but not for Green Bay, but he's too classy to come out and say out. After all he's done for that franchise, don't they owe him that much? They're going to suck next year, with or without Favre. Why make your franchise's savior endure that at the end of his career. It would really scare me, but wouldn't Favre as a Bronco be scary? Or Favre as a Charger (I'm far from convinced on Rivers.) Or Favre as Buc (same thing with Simms.)

Mike @ developerWorks

I recently wrote an article for IBM's developerWorks. It was the first of two articles I've written for IBM. The second one should be online in another week or two. It was a fun experience working with their editors, and hopefully it won't be the last articles I write for IBM.

Both articles have to do with Apache's Geronimo application server. It's obvious to compare Geronimo with the "incumbent" open source Java application server, JBoss. I won't get too far into that. Their architectures are really quite similar. I would say that Geronimo is the more "crafted" of the two. It does less things than JBoss, and it's a little more "stick to the J2EE spec." However, I think when it comes to the standard app server features, it does them a little better than JBoss and it's code is more elegant. I think this is a direct result of it being more of a "true" open source project, where many different developers can contribute. JBoss is much more controlled. If you're not a JBoss employee, you're probably not going to contribute to JBoss.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

National Champions

I've been dying for three weeks now to write about the Florida Gators basketball team. I didn't want to jinx them. I've seen very good Gator teams lose to team they should beat far too many times. I knew this team was different, but I didn't want to tempt fate.

Now I don't have to worry about that. The season is over and The Gators are national champs! They've had such a great season. A lot of people didn't notice them too much until The Tournament. It's easy to forget they were undefeated in late January and ranked #1. Of course they promptly lost six of their next eleven games. They had finally shown their age. The Gators were unranked at the beginning of the season, mostly because they had lost their star players from the previous year and were incredibly inexperienced. They must have learned a lot from that tough stretch in February, and were unstoppable as soon as March arrived. They easily won the SEC tournament, avenging their two losses to South Carolina (who went on and won the NIT) in the finals. Only Georgetown challenged them in The Big Dance.

So what's next for The Gators? Well a lot of that depends on if Joakim Noah turns pro. On one hand, it's hard to imagine his stock going up anymore with another year. Anybody who blocks 29 shots in The Big Dance is going to be an NBA player. He should at least have Theo Ratliff or Ben Wallace potential, and that's enough to guarantee a high pick in the draft. However, I think Joakim has a lot more offensive potential than Ratliff or Wallace. He doesn't have a great outside shot, but he can get his own shot off, especially in the paint. He can handle the ball and is a good passer (even better than fellow future NBA-er Al Horford.) With another year of seasoning, it's not a stretch to imagine Joakim developing into an Alonzo Mourning kind of player. Just look at how much he improve his game via his incredible work ethic.

If Joakim stays, then I really think Horford and Corey Brewer will stay. I think they both have NBA millions in their future, but still might stay even if Joakim leaves. Of course if they all stay ... it's hard to imagine who is going to beat them next year. But let's not start jinxing next year already!

Who can blame them if they all turn pro? They've brought a championship to Florida. It's the first college basketball championship for any team from the state, but I don't think it will be the last. Florida has been a contender for a decade now, starting with Lon Kruger's 1993 team that lost in the Final Four against Grant Hill and Duke. FSU has been compettitive in the ACC for several years now. They had a good team in the 90s also, with Sam Casell and Bob Sura. Miami was also a dangerous team this year, and should be even more dangerous next year. It may be awhile before the state of Florida becomes more a basketball state than North Carolina, but don't be surprised if it happens. Look at all the talent the state produces and the great football and baseball teams from the big three colleges. It's just a matter of time before Dick Vitale is announcing Florida-FSU games on ESPN in primetime...

Monday, April 03, 2006


I intended to write today about how happy I am that baseball is back, and maybe even indulge in some "let them use steroids!" ranting. However, I read this little article on the BBC about the so-called "childfree-lifestyle." It caused me some mixed emotions, so I thought I'd write about it instead.

Childfree women are women who do not want to have children. Ever. Not surprisingly such people can be the brunt of criticism. Society has always put a premium on families. Some people would argue that this is just another example of religious and cultural conformity, but obviously there are underlying advantages. A society that doesn't procreate is a short lived society. Further, people with children are probably more likely to work, pay taxes, obey laws and have kids that do all those things, too. I'm sure there have been some kind of studies on these things, but I'm not quoting such things here. This just seems like common sense.

Family size in industrialized nations has been shrinking for a long time now. Thus it was inevitable to start seeing more people who don't have children at all. Personally that doesn't bother me at all. I know how difficult it is to raise children. It is draining physically, emotionally, and economically. I think it's better for people who can't handle such things to not have children. I'm not about to start telling anybody what to do on anything, especially such an important decision.

Now I have to admit that a part of me suspects that many people who chose not have children are actually quite capable -- at least from a physical, emotional, and economic perspective. So it's easy tempting to label such people as being selfish. I won't do that. They have no obligation to have children. Nobody should make them. I think there is a "natural" desire among people to procreate. Again, there are some obvious Darwinian advantages to such a desire. So it's probably a tough decision for people to chose to go against that.

Things don't stop there. Of course some of the no-kid-and-proud-of-it types start to get rude about the whole thing. Check out this quote from a British woman is happily childfree:
I think that people who have three children are encroaching on the planet's resources - I can't believe the amount of waste that children produce.
Like I said, rude. Maybe once Jane gets past her peak productivity years, somebody should euthanize her all in the name of conservation of resources.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. As mentioned earlier, societies have always placed a premium on families. Today that is reflected in tax-breaks, at least in the United States. Of course I think we're all taxed way too much anyways, so it's hard for me to be against any particular tax break. I can understand some people thinking it is unfair, but it is an inevitable consequence of progressive taxation.

Progressive taxation is based on the principal of taxing marginal utility. If you're rich you derive less additional utility for each extra dollar you make, than somebody who is poor. Why? Well the poor person is going to spend the money on something like food, clothing, basic shelter, etc. The rich person will spend it on something less essential, i.e. something with less utility. That's why it's "fair" to have higher tax brackets for rich people.

By the same token, a person with a child receives has more marginal utility from additional money than somebody with no child. Why? The person with the child will use that money to feed, clothe, etc. for the child, thus the higher utility.

So maybe if you did away with progressive taxation, then you could justify no tax breaks for families. I don't know if that's what these childfree advocates want or not, i.e. a flat tax. If not, then that would certainly be an inconsistency in their arguments and would suggest that their stance is purely motivated by self-interest (which is ok, but generally not a good enough reason to get the majority to agree with you.)

Now some of the other things being argued against is government guaranteed maternity/paternity benefits. We don't have much of those in the US, though they are more common in Canada and Europe (including Great Britain.) I would have to concur on this one. The government should not force an employer to give maternity or paternity benefits. It should be between the employer and the employees. A government mandate of it inevitably leads to the situation where an employer would hire an employee, but can't because of the potential cost from . So instead the employer does not hire the employee, who then goes unemployed.