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May 23, 2010

750 And Counting...

The first time I made aeblesciver, I used a traditional recipe, cut up an actual apple and put chunks in, and then fiddled around trying to turn them using forks.

This morning I did it the easy American style-- Bisquick pancake mix, leftover homemade applesauce, and fondue forks.

Wow, what a difference.

My wife and I couldn't taste too much difference in the sciver produced, they were simpler and faster to make, and the fondue forks allowed me to manipulate the cooking cake much more easily. Using the applesauce was actually much nicer than chunks of apple, as it was softer and easier to bite into but you still got the sweet, apple-y flavor.

Things to note:
  • The outside of the sciver cooks much faster with this recipe, so either reduce heat or stand very careful watch. If you don't, you'll have tougher outsides and uncooked, runny insides. On the original recipe mix I made before, I had the oven at a 4 setting. On this one, I started on a four and reduced it to a 2 by the final batch. Somewhere around 3 is likely okay if you let the pan heat up all the way.
  • The Bisquick mix is a bit stickier on the cast iron skillet, so use some PAM, oil, or something similar on each batch. The first batch I made I didn't do this and they stuck in the pan and I had to scrape them out.

May 19, 2010

Just Don't Say It

Yet another article I'm reading has one of the many permutations on the phrase, "The person, who wasn't authorized to discuss the changes publicly, spoke on condition of anonymity" (emphasis mine). I think this phrase is absolutely to blame for most of the reporting we see and most of the erroneous news we uncover.

I read a lot of sports pages. Any time that PED (Performance Enhancing Drugs) are discussed, that phrase is linked. 9 out of 10 times that a list of suspected users is leaked, it is from someone hiding behind this phrase, or a variant. Frankly, if you are not supposed to be talking about it, then DON'T. Honor your contract with your company, honor your position, do your job, and stay the hell out of it.

Nearly any time I see an article about some celebrity being arrested or accused of something, that phrase appears again. Almost every time, some smaller scandal about one or more police officers being reprimanded or dismissed due to them being the leak comes out a few weeks later. If any organization should understand that you do not leak or release sensitive data, especially if you are not cleared for that data or to release it, it should be a cop. Just do your job, respect the law, and SHUT UP if questioned.

How is it that sites like Ain't It Cool News and Drudge Report get divorce papers, police reports, and other sensitive and confidential information about stars and celebs so quickly? There's that phrase again. Instead of treating that information as sensitive and thinking about how little they would like it if their same information were leaked about their divorce, domestic abuse, or financial woes, the people want to earn a quick buck and become that anonymous source that tells all... for a price.

Now, I will grant you that whistle-blowers are needed in certain circumstances. When a business is doing something patently wrong, that harms people directly, and in conflict with the laws regulating their business or the rights of the people, then people need to step up and make it known. But do it correctly; go to a legitimate law enforcement office or a lawyer. Don't go to the nearest internet news site or contact Hard Copy, ET, your local TV, or whatever.

If I were running a business that had sensitive data (like tracking drug testing in sports, for example), I would use some sort of version control or similar software, plus physical procedures, to track each person who had access to and contact with the sensitive data. I would have a policy in place that stated any leak of that data while it was in your possession or checked out to you, regardless of whether YOU actually did it, would result in your immediate and summary expulsion from the company and criminal proceedings filed against you. In this way, the people who worked for me would know absolutely that I don't care if someone looks over their shoulder or uses their passwords/logins or whatever-- it is their responsibility to do everything that they can to keep this data private, or they can work elsewhere.

Freedom of the press is one of the many things that makes America, and most of the free world, great. However, in this day and age of instant news and scooping the other 1001 agencies, the press has forgotten that their right to report ends where the rights of the individual to privacy begin.

Matter of fact, that is a lesson that most of America seems to have forgotten or chooses to ignore; your rights end where my rights begin. Your freedom of speech doesn't trump my right to privacy and to defend myself from slander and libel. Your right to peaceably assemble ends where my rights to individual property ownership and safety begin. Your right to practice the religion of your choice ends where my right to practice the religion of my choice begins. Your right to protest against the practice of abortion ends where another's right to a safe, clean medical procedure begin. Etcetera. This is why the Supreme Court is supposed to do its damnedest to ensure that its rulings cover the biggest majority of opinions in this country, even if some of those covered by it don't like it.

I guess it comes down to this: your right to your 15 minutes (more like seconds, these days) of fame and a monetary payoff end where my right to privacy begin. Be accountable for your own self first and leave me to be accountable for me.

May 9, 2010

Musical Comebacks

I was speaking with my wife about artists whom we would like to see have a spontaneous comeback to relevance in the music world.

She makes a valid argument for Heart. This band has been around since the 70s and has had some fairly strong hits over the years, but hasn't really hit big since the late 80s or early 90s. I was never a big fan, but liked some of their music. Recently, the 101 (on DirecTV) had a Heart concert from 2003 on and they still had it. Ann could still hit most of the notes and definitely still had the power and (most of the) range that signified Heart's early career. Nancy still rocked the guitar as well as some other instruments. She also is a talented singer.

They played some songs I had never heard as well. Some from an album they were about to release at the time, which I found quite interesting and beautiful to listen to. I can completely understand my wife's desire to see them have a resurgence.

My main candidate for a resurgence is George Michael. Michael is an extremely talented musician and songwriter who has slipped into easy dance music trends, and is more known for his exploits in men's rooms and with marijuana than music these days. I would love to see him drop a new album (Listen Without Prejudice, Volume 2?) that would have relevant, strong songs that show his range and versatility. This is the man who did Careless Whisper, Last Christmas, Father Figure, Faith, I Want Your Sex, Freedom, Jesus to a Child, Soul Free, and Older (to name a few).

There was some small talk about him taking over the lead for Queen, which I still think is an incredible idea. The few times he's teamed with Queen have been magical collaborations, and I can only imagine what they could do together on a semi-permanent basis.

In the end, I'm looking for Michael to put out something as relevant and involving as either Faith or Listen Without Prejudice Vol. 1, or even as solid an effort as Older. I long to hear his music and his incredible voice doing something that I want to hear (dance music is okay, but not my cup of tea).

Another I'd like to see comeback is Axl Rose and Slash re-teaming as Guns N Roses and dropping a sick heavy metal album like Appetite for Destruction. Not only is metal currently in an ebb cycle, but Axl has gone off the deep end ans Slash can't seem to find a band or interest as vital and vibrant as his days with Guns N Roses. When the two were together, they created some incredible metal music that still resonates today. It would be incredible if they could get together and find some of that magic again.

What artist or band who either hasn't been heard from or has faded to the background would you like to see make a huge comeback or resurgence to popularity, if even for just one album?

May 1, 2010

Dear David

Dear David Stern,

I am a lifelong fan of the NBA and the Lakers in particular. My parents were Lakers fans when I was small and, even though now I live on the east coast of Canada and rarely get to see the Lakers play due to either scheduling or the time the games start, I am still a fan. I look forward to their getting into the playoffs, because it assures me a number of games I can watch (even if it is really late at night here).

But, Mr. Stern, you have a serious, serious problem. Most of my friends here are not big sports fans, but are willing to watch and learn. And many of them, my wife included, hate watching the NBA because of the *ahem* inconsistency of the refereeing.

Okay, I'm glossing that over and putting a shine to it: they, and I, HATE the reffing in your sport.

The NBA trumpeted how much better the refing would be when it added the third ref. All I saw was the number of bad calls go up by about a third. When watching a game, especially using my much-loved TiVo, I watch the replays or make my own and watch not nearly as often for whether a foul was actually commited, but rather which of the refs called it. And nine out of ten times, the ref who is completely blocked from seeing the play is the one who whistles the supposed foul. Now, in most cases, he has the body of the defender in his way and can't possibly see if that swipe made contact. Go ahead, Mr. Stern, watch ANY game and do this and you'll see that I'm right.

Next, while watching that game, listen to the announcers. With the exception of the horrible Jeff Van Gundy, most of your announcers and color men are very good. But, as we watch replays of the "fouls" committed and the color guys explain them, for the most part they are a) writing fiction and it is obvious they are trying to justify a call rather than truly explain it or b) they talk about how one player (almost always the offensive player) "draws" or "creates" contact by leaping into a defender. I've read the rules for your sport, Mr. Stern, and any time a player is the one creating contact HE is the one who should be whistled for the foul. The vast majority of charging calls and "and ones" in the NBA should be offensive turnovers or fouls on the offensive player -- but that is not how you want the games called, so you fine anyone who points it out.

I still shudder over Reggie Miller's most famous shots: he would leap into the air and kick out his legs and literally kick a defender in the chest, arms, or legs, which should be an offensive foul every single time, yet he ALWAYS got the call in his favor and got an and-one.

Some other rules that you should watch and see just how badly your refs call are:

1. The hand is part of the ball. So each of those times the fans watch a replay of an offensive player sweeping the ball through the defender's arms and getting slapped on the hand you have a) an offensive player committing a foul by initiating contact and b) a defender usually hitting the ball and hands, which are legal. Either way, it should either be a no-call or an offensive foul, yet it is always called on the defender.

2. A defender who holds his ground with his arms raised and/or who leaps straight up is following the rules for defenders. Yet about ninety percent of the time that defender is called for a foul against an offensive player who leaps directly into him. I was pleasantly surprised to see some nice no-calls in games 5 and 6 of the Lakers' series versus the Thunder, but that is not the norm by any means. In nearly all cases, the defender is whistled for the foul even though he stood his ground and did not initiate contact.

3. The act of shooting. This rule is designed so that, if the offensive player is in the act of shooting when the foul occurs, he gets the result of the shot plus a foul shot or he gets two foul shots if the shot is missed. However, we have refs allowing players to throw, flick, lob, etc. the ball vaguely in the direction of the basket, often well after the whistle has sounded, and get the "and-one." This needs to stop. If you are truly 'in the act of shooting,' great. But refs need to stop allowing foul shots after a pivot and a step and a flick of the ball generally in the direction of the basket (which just as easily could have been a pass).

I have some suggestions that can help the refs call a better, more consistent game:

1. Instruct them only to calls they actually SEE, as opposed to those they assume happen and are blocked off from seeing. If they don't actually see a foul, keep the whistle in your pocket and don't call anything. Allowing the game to be played is much more exciting and allows for more scoring than a whistle every time down the court for the stupidest, smallest, most ticky-tack of calls (I give you all of game 6 of the Jazz/Nuggets series).

2. Revisit the rules for defense and allow defenders to follow them without being called for fouls.

3. Instruct the refs to call the player who initiates contact with another player, regardless of if that is offensive or defensive.

4. Remind refs that, just because a player falls down doesn't mean that a foul was committed. Feet get tangled, wet spots on floors, even players paying too much attention to what their coach is screaming at them from the sidelines have all caused players to fall down... none of which is a foul according to your rules.

5. Replay. Have a booth official whose job is to review out of bounds, flagrant fouls, jump balls, last second shots, etc. to ensure that the right team has the ball, the right player(s) are jumping it, etc. No more than 10 seconds per review should be enough. Have this guy in charge of three-second calls, too, not the guys on the court.

6. Allow refs to overrule each other. If the ref who couldn't see a play calls a horrible foul, allow the ref(s) who didn't see and was in position to overrule the other.

Mr. Stern, I love basketball. It is fast-paced and exciting to watch. But the obvious biases shown by the refs for and against certain players and teams, the egregiously bad calls in any game, and the inconsistency of the rules followed by the refs make it hard to truly just sit back and enjoy the sport. It also makes it hard to grow your fan base and bring it to regions where another sport is king, as fans don't like fighting the refs. Bad calls will happen, of course, in any sport. But most sports work very hard to make sure that the refs stay in the background and don't decide games. Yet in the NBA many fans and a lot of new people think that the refs decide games. This image hurts your reputation as a sport and draws fans away from it.

No matter how much you fine players, coaches, and media personnel, the fact that you have had to go so draconian to keep these comments at bay indicates the level of problem you have with this aspect of your sport. It has to stop.

Hopefully, you will consider these ideas and make improvements in your sport. I really want to love watching basketball again, rather than sit fuming at the refs and arguing with friends over the bad calls made in every game.