Monday, December 31, 2012

To End The Year

“Time interval is a strange and contradictory matter in the mind. It would be reasonable to suppose that a routine time or an eventless time would seem interminable. It should be so, but it is not. It is the dull eventless times that have no duration whatever. A time splashed with interest, wounded with tragedy, crevassed with joy - that's the time that seems long in the memory. And this is right when you think about it. Eventlessness has no posts to drape duration on. From nothing to nothing is no time at all.”

 John Steinbeck, East of Eden

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Thumbs Down

"On average each team loses 15% of the players 
from the opening day roster."

I am not a football fan. I don't follow team sports at all anymore. Sure I did when I was young, even played a few myself, but no more. But as the regular NFL season in the U.S. winds down and the playoffs loom, I want to relate a little sports item/research I did recently.

On a Sunday earlier this fall I was visiting some friends; the man of the house, his son and two boys from the neighborhood were watching the NFL on the big screen in the den. I spent time drinking some excellent Napa Valley cabernet, talking with the rest of the gathering who also were not sports fans.

Twice I walked into the den to chat up the boyz with a little football talk. Both times the screen was showing a player on a stretcher, sure just a coincidence, in fact I thought the second time was a replay but the boys pointed out it was another player from a different game.

This made me wonder how many cannon fodder players were injured in the NFL each week. I knew the rules for reporting injuries were codified by the league so I thought the research would be easy - not so much. You see the "injury reports" have categories, deadlines during the week and incentives both for reporting and not reporting the full extent of the injuries. On paper the NFL is 110% opposed to gambling on it's product but does everything it can to facilitate betting which boosts attendance and fan loyalty by an incalculable measure. To set a good betting line requires knowledge of who is playing, who is injured and if injured are they out for the week? two games? the rest of the season? Is it permanent, day-to-day, a 'game time decision'?

There is actually a category called PUP - 'physically unable to perform'. Rules on when you can come back to the active roster depends on whether you were on the preseason PUP or the regular PUP. And then there is the relatively new concussion protocols the league has humanely instituted after more than 1500 former players have joined a class action lawsuit alleging the league knew about the dangers of repetitive concussions but did nothing to protect the players for over fifty years.

But to the numbers. The NFL has 32 teams each with a 53 player active roster. So each week of play begins with 1696 players in uniform. It is very difficult to figure out when a player is injured and reported on the weekly injury report just how long he will be out, except in the case of players who undergo immediate surgery or are taken off the roster with a 'season ending' event. Here are the numbers for the week in question and the average for the month (October).

None of the 32 teams reported an injury free week. On average 16 teams reported a player lost for the year each week of the month. Over the course of the year that would mean 256 players out of the 1696 roster spots would end their season with an injury. Now it's true a week 16 injury could easily be much less severe than a week 1 season ender. But on average each team loses 15% of the players from the opening day roster. This does not take into consideration players who miss one or more games during the season and then return to play again. Clearly carnage is part of the NFL weekly expectation. Gladiators indeed.

Just to balance all the lost cartilage and torn muscles. The average NFL salary is $1.9 million dollars a year.

So my point? Throwing them to the lions does not necessarily mean they are playing Detroit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Avian Advent

25 December 2012 - Lake Shastina, California

I often spend Christmas in solitude. In recent years this has meant house/cat-sitting for friends in Northern California while they were off visiting relatives in Oklahoma. Christmas day morning, I was happily ensconced at my laptop working on a scene for my novel when I glanced up to see a dozen robins in the yard. I have noticed small flocks of robins in previous visits to this area. My childhood memories, however, are of single or pairs of Robin Red-Breasts, I didn't remember small groupings or flocks of robins at all back in Michigan.

Much too easily distracted from my writing I googled 'flocks of robins' and discovered that during the spring and summer robins are very territorial because of breeding season and then raising the youngsters. Flocks of robins are common in the late fall and winter but there are fewer reports of such occurrences because the flocks often take to the deep woods and other areas uninhabited by humans and their pets. The majority of robins also migrate to southern climes.

Interesting, I looked up to see a much larger gathering of robins and noticed they seemed to be flying in from the north of the property and flying out to the south. I headed for the far side of the house to discover that area full of robins as well. By now my estimate was of well over a hundred birds. 

Back to google. 'How big do robin flocks get?' I queried. Turns out that robins may migrate as a single or in flocks that can number in the thousands. Also males often do not migrate and flocks that do head south will stop much further north in a mild winter. Robins do not have a destination winter ground like so many other birds and butterflies.

The birds seemed to be congregating in and under fir trees that had not been lollipoped (lower branches cut off for aesthetic purposes). By now the sheer number had my interest  so I pulled on the parka and took a walk around the neighborhood.

My friends live on the fringe of a long ago failed golf resort development. Over the years the neighborhood has added new homes but still at least half of the lots are undeveloped and filled with trees. Apparently trees full of pine nuts, grubs and other yummy treats.

The full Hitchcockian invasion covered a quarter mile square with my friend's house for some reason the nexus of the feeding frenzy. My semi-scientific estimate is that between 2,000 and 3,000 robins in all make up this flock.

I eventually got back to my writing but kept looking up the rest of the day, the band of birds stayed around for over four hours devouring whatever morsels had brought them by for their holiday visit.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Holiday Treats

Some visual and audio treats for your holiday pleasure, they are not necessarily connected to anything seasonal or religious but to just the human spirit.

Hallelujah (alternative)

Sit back, relax, take a moment to enjoy.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ain't Love Grand

"You can maximize your probability of finding the best spouse if you date about 37 percent of the available candidates in your life, and then choose to stay with the next candidate who is better than all previous ones."

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Flu Season

Personally I have dodged the crud that cycles around the globe each year. Did you know that "the flu" is only slightly more likely to strike a given population in the winter as opposed to warmer seasons. We tend to associate flu outbreaks with the winter because K-12 schools are such fertile breeding grounds for mass exposure to communicable pathogens.

Want to see how your part of the world is fairing today in the flu wars? Here is a link to one of the many Google tracking maps. This one the Flu Trend.

Why Google?

They have found that certain search terms are good indicators of flu activity. Google Flu Trends uses aggregated Google search data to estimate current flu activity around the world in near real-time. So if you consult via Google on 'treatments for the flu' or 'symptoms of flu' you add to the cumulative Flu Trend database.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Golden Gate

San Francisco Skyline in a foggy sunset

A reader mentioned the other day that I haven't posted any photographs of my glorious view in awhile. With the caveat that I still have shooting with a pocket size camera. Here are a few shots from the last six months or so.

(click any photo for larger view)

Twin Spires of the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Strait is the entrance to the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean.  The strait is approximately three-miles long by one-mile wide.  It is generally accepted that the strait was named "Chrysopylae", or Golden Gate, by John C. Fremont, Captain, topographical Engineers of the U.S. Army circa 1846.  It reminded him of a harbor in Istanbul named Chrysoceras or Golden Horn. The Golden Gate bridge came many years later but, of course, took on the name of the strait. 

Five Minutes Later

The two photos above are from my window out through the Golden Gate about ten miles to the West. The golden one just at sunset, the blue a few minutes later.

Nice view huh. Don't tell my landlady, she might want to live here herself.

Golden Fog
The infamous San Francisco summer fog with an August sunset glowing through.

Thursday, December 06, 2012


Four months ago today NASA landed the Curiosity vehicle on Mars, a planet about 60 million miles from Earth right now. The distance between the Earth and Mars varies between about 35 million and 250 million miles, which makes landing something on the red planet a tricky bit of astronomic calculation. I believe the feat is best described  with the phrase - "This is rocket science."

Here is a video of landing, not an artist rendition or a computer simulation but actual video footage from the spacecraft as it descends to the Martian surface.

And, of course, we have the NASA website with up-to-date photographs, videos from Curiosity on the surface of Mars. So it's been four months, have you taken a look recently? Do you have a sense of the significance of such scientific endeavors, yes even in the face of all the problems we have back here on this planet.

We live in incredibly interesting times, why not take a peek?

Monday, December 03, 2012

San Francisco in Jello

Jello Art by Liz Hickok, above a dessert size rendition of San Francisco. On her website also see Scottsdale, Wilmington and the Jello White House. Don't miss the videos: Telegraph Hill Earthquake and the brilliant Godzilla Eats Scottsdale.

The infamous SF Painted Ladies in Jello of course.

...and the San Francisco Palace of Fine Arts. Thanks to Rayna for the original jello shot.

Saturday, December 01, 2012

For Sheldon

I understand if contemporary cultural references aren't your thing. I don't get so many of them anymore myself.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Medical Marijuana Update

"A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever."

I know we should show compassion for those who have yet to see the way to the truth but . . .

I just love the scene where the arch-enemy of medical marijuana lies in the hospital bed and the doctor says: "We have a cure for your fatal disease Senator, but your moral opposition to it has meant suffering to thousands of patients in the past, so I guess in all fairness you can't have the drug either. Enjoy the next couple of centuries in purgatory."

Full article on the medical issue not the revenge.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Year End Full of Posts

Today's post is #245 for 2012. Making this the most productive year for this little grey blog ever. For the past several years I have taken a break from blogging as the days fade towards the new year.

Not this time!

All the political noise that occupied this grey space during the American presidential campaign pushed my other mental meanderings into the future. I find myself with lots to discuss with you, so December will be full of stuff and we shall go wordily into the new year.

You may anticipate a medical marijuana update, some amazing jello art and a visual & vocal homage to the holidays.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Oh Canada

Last month the movie Argo was  released. Purportedly the movie depicted the smuggling of six Americans out of Iran by the Canadian government and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. 

I use the term purportedly because as the star of the film Ben Affleck has noted, "Because we say it's based on a true story, rather than this is a true story, we’re allowed to take some dramatic license. There’s a spirit of truth."

I'm not going to quibble about how true to life the motion picture is, I mention it only because I had my own personal experience with the events of January 28-29, 1980 and that is the story of today's blog. 

Back on  November 4th of 1979 a group of Islamist militants took the the U.S. embassy in Tehran, Iran taking 52 Americans hostage who would remain captives for 444 days. During the initial attack six embassy staffers escaped to the Canadian embassy and were later smuggled out of Iran by the Canadians. For the nearly factual details of the "Canadian Caper" see the movie or try Wikipedia.

My story takes place in Los Angles on the day after the daring escape/rescue. I found myself with three tickets to the Los Angles Kings hockey game that Sunday evening and all of my usual hockey friends otherwise engaged. 

I called one of my buddies girlfriend who I knew was a hockey fan and asked if she wanted to go to the game and if she had anyone else who would want the third ticket. She laughed and told me that her best friend has just shown up at her front door with three hits of acid and two questions:

"What are we going to do?" and "Know anyone who would enjoy the third hit."

We all decided it was too serendipitous to ignore so we dropped the acid on the way to the Forum, where the L.A. Kings played in those days. We were coming on to the acid as we got to the stadium and managed to find our seats despite the mental alterations. Sixteen thousand fans had turned out that evening to see the Kings take on the visiting Montreal Canadiens.

As is the tradition in most NHL arenas when Canadian teams visit U.S. cities and visa versa, both national anthems are played. So we began the festivities with a rendition of 'Oh Canada.' What happened next is why we have a story to tell.

As the final refrain of the anthem died out the Forum erupted with cheers and a prolonged standing ovation. All the Sunday papers had led with the events in Iran the day before. Everyone in the house knew the Canadian embassy staff had risked their own lives to smuggle the six Americans out of Iran to safety. The moment was electric, particularly to my electrified brain. The organist at the Forum waited and held the playing of the American National Anthem until the tribute had died down.

It can be hard in these times to feel outpourings of spontaneous patriotism, it helps to have neighbors like Canada.