Blasphemy finishes in Second Place

Well, the NFL-Idaho season ended about 2 weeks ago and I ended up in second place. Juggernuts just kept rolling and my team kept underperforming at the end of the year (or were they overperforming earlier?). At least the trading of Brees didn’t make any difference as, down the stretch, Vince Young played as well as Brees did.
I still have a good team going into next year, so I have a good shot at the championship next year. But, it’s again “Wait til next year.”

Now, it’s playoff time. We have a playoff in our league, but it isn’t as exciting, to me, as the regular season. The NFL playoffs, though, are going well for me so far. I like Indy and Seattle, who made it past their first round games and Indy beat the Ravens to get to the championship game. And I like San Diego too. No teams I really hate (except New England and maybe Chicago…)

My Championship for a 4th Round Pick?

There are only two weeks left in our Fantasy Football season, counting this week.  Last week was the last chance to trade players.  Each year we get to hold some players for the next year while the rest we put back into the pool for next year’s draft.  I had both Peyton Manning and Drew Brees, the two top-scoring QBs in our league.  What luck!  Brees has been hotter than hell, second to only LT in points.  So, not wanting to just give him to the pool and gaining nothing for him (Peyton, for better or worse, is my keeper), I decided to trade Brees away for a 4th round pick next year.  The following day, he has his best game of the season, lighting up the Dallas D for something like 5 TDs and over 300 yards.  Ugh!  What’s worse is that I had a fairly comfortable lead over the second-place Juggernaut for first place in the league championship.  My lead is now razor thin and if Juggernaut out performs me either of the two weeks coming up, my shot for the championship might be over.

I may have gotten too greedy, thinking I absolutely needed something for Brees (something beyond the league championship).  I may have learned a valuable lesson this year.  I still have a shot at winning, but the way my other “stars” are playing (i.e. Shaun Alexander), I may not get there.

All for want of a 4th Round Pick.

Summer Wind?

Lisa and I visited our parents over the Thanksgiving holiday. It is amazing how fast the Boise area is changing. Just driving from Boise through Caldwell via Highway 20/26 to Homedale, there are subdivisions after subdivisions. They are starting to crop up around Homedale itself, which is about the only growth the area has seen since I was born.

While driving between Boise and Homedale over and over, I decided to take one of the back roads, Ustick, which actually goes all the way between the two places (a straight shot of over 40 miles, probably, though there are stop lights). There is a new subdivision going up on Ustick just outside of Homedale, one of the many in the area. There is nothing special about that. But, as with all of these new subdivisions, this one has it’s own name and the name they gave this one is Summer Wind.

What kind of name is Summer Wind? It is so generic. So bland. What, is that the only place in the area that gets a Summer Wind? Can’t they think of anything better? And aren’t there probably a million Summer Winds out there? I know that there is an elementary school in Meridian that has the same name.

Why can’t they use some of the local history to name these places? I’m sure that the land they are building this subdivision on has some history to it. It belong to some farmer/rancher and before that probably some Native American tribes lived in the area. Why not call it something like McNally’s Bluff or the Basque Outpost or something of the sort? I mean, I’d rather live in a place called Dead Horse Point than Summer Wind.

It looks like I’m not the only one annoyed with these names. I just found this site — random subdivision name generator — which shows how banal some of these names can be. I just generated 5 names and got Cedar Point, Country Forest, Elm Island, Maple Landing and Spruce Colonial Brook. Sound pretty typical to me.

I recently heard a story on NPR on how our words for geography are starting to fade, that words that were once common place to describe locations are being lost as we start to use more generic words. And words that once meant something, like glade, dale, etc, don’t mean much anymore as they are used so often in these subdivision names. These words are used in names of subdivisions without regard to what they really mean, just how they sound.

I’m sure that this is all marketing, as most things seem to be these days. But, it also makes things so damn bland. I mean, there are already lots of cool names in the area that could be used as inspiration for new names, names such as Horseshoe Bend, Bengoechea Place, Telegraph Hill, Deadhorse Crossing, Bernard’s Bedground and Wagon Box Basin. I’m sure that the land of Summer Wind had one or more names associated with it before it became a subdivision. Why not honor that history and use those names? Names that will likely be lost forever within another generation.

Mass Produced Eggnog

‘Tis the season for celebrating humankind’s goodness towards one another, at least if you are Christian (though, I imagine, other religions, if they can get past the glitz, can also appreciate the sentiment behind the Christmas story). It is also the season for holiday traditions, both good and bad, one of which is eggnog. Mmmm, eggnog.

It seems that these days everyone is bashing mass produced, commercial eggnog. I don’t understand it myself. I actually really like the stuff that comes in a carton. I know it’s not traditional, probably with more sugar and less booze than the home-made variety. People think you are a freak if you really like the commercialized version. But, I have to admit, I love the stuff. It just tastes so damn good! I can drink a whole cartoon in 15 minutes, if given the opportunity.

And it’s not just eggnog. I’m the same with pecan pie. When I was a kid, they had these little personal-sized pecan pies at the grocery store that came in a little tin pie plate. Those were so good. I like home-made pecan pies too, but it’s the store pies that really hit the spot for me. But, again, they seem to get a bad rap for some reason I don’t understand.

Maybe it’s just what I grew up with so there is some nostalgia buried in there. Or maybe my palate is just too unsophisticated. But, I really like the mass-produced versions of these treats.

Great Physicists

Over Thanksgiving vacation, I finished reading Great Physicists bt William H. Cropper. In this book, Cropper introduces us to 30 of the greatest physicists of all time, starting with Galileo and ending with Stephen Hawking. Even though many of these physicists made seminal contributions to multiple fields of physics, Cropper groups the scientists into nine sections, defined by sub-fields of physics. This presentation also lets him present the scientists in a rough chronological order that mirrors the development of physics. These sections include mechanics, statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, and nuclear physics, among others.Each chapter introduces one scientist, describes their early history, goes into their contributions to physics, and ends with the tale of each scientist’s later years. Cropper’s description of the contributions of these scientists does not skimp on the math. While complex integrals are not presented, the seminal equations along with their meaning are described. Their importance for physics are also discussed.I found this book to be marvelously interesting. Cropper does a great job with each scientist, not only describing the importance of his or her work, but putting it in the context of the development of physics as well as the state of the world during that scientist’s life. He describes how these scientists interacted, including the feuds amongst them. He also goes into the unique challenges each scientist encountered in growing up, trying to do their work, and in their later years.

I learned a great deal in reading this book. First, I was a bit dismayed by how much of my physics I have lost since school. While in the middle of graduate school I may have been more familiar with the science presented in this book, now, as I don’t use most of it on a daily basis, I am not as crisp with most of it as I would like. For that alone, this book is a nice primer or refresher of the basics of physics, covering all of the key fields.

As interesting are the lives of these men and women. Most of them were very unique personalities and most also went through a great deal in their pursuit of science. Many were very dedicated, almost obsessed, people. Many had some kind of mental issue, often in the form of depression. I was particularly captivated by the lives of Gibbs and Boltzmann, two of the most interesting but more unknown of the figures presented in this book.

I was struck, in reading this book, by how little most of us know of these great figures who have transformed our lives more than probably any other set of people. Not only did the people presented here radically transform our view of the world, from the development of Newtonian physics and the view of the world as a sophisticated clock to quantum mechanics and its revelation of the world as indeterminate and “fuzzy”, but their work led to the incredible technological advances science has afforded us. In my view, these people deserve greater recognition by society. They should be our celebrities, our rock stars.

I highly recommend this book to anyone who is considering any kind of life in science, especially students in the midst of studying science. The amazing work of the people Cropper presents is an inspiration. The achievements of these physicists are also daunting as they seem so incredible, especially considering the state of science at the time they were made and the world conditions they were made in. The science that these people developed was amazing, and is difficult to understand even with the advantage of the further development and testing we now enjoy.

More treatments such as this book would be welcome for other fields. The format was great, with each chapter not overly long, but giving enough detail to give a basic understanding of each scientist. I would be interested in such an approach for historical figures, including say explorers of the US west or pirates, or mathematicians, etc.

Blah, blah, blah… I've got the blahs.

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