• People Talk and My Ear Bleeds


    from Twitter


    Thursday, March 29, 2007

    Define Anti-Semite

    How is this anti-Semetic:

    "They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great," Richardson told The Times Union on Tuesday. "I don't think there's nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they're run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they're run by Jewish. It's not a knock, but they are some crafty people."

    That's what Michael Ray Richardson, ex-NBA player and current CBA coach of the Albany Patroons, said to a newspaper. The result? The CBA suspended him.

    Now the beauty of MSM is that they never give you all the facts--no links to the original interview, etc., so we can never know how in- or out-of-context that quote is, but looking at it on face value, it seems pretty inocuous. Is "crafty" the word they're mad about? I've always taken it as a compliment to be crafty, but it could possibly be taken the other way.

    Otherwise, I don't see how his comments are anti-Semitic. If he replaced "Jewish" with "White" or even "American" in his statement, would he have been fined?

    I'm all for discouraging racial slurs -- I've grown up in the South and I've seen/heard them many a time. This one just seems a little overboard given the info at hand.

    Monday, March 19, 2007

    "Fixing" the NCAA March Madness Tournament

    Every year during March Madness, amid the amazing games, comes the reason we say
    "madness" in 'March Madness." Someone wants to change the system.

    Can't people just leave well enough alone?

    I think people are barking up the wrong tree. The tournament is fine as it is. Each team has 30-odd games to prove themselves, and a conference tournament. Eventually, there are 31 conference champions and 34 at large births. You have a committee of very well versed people that sit down, look at the whole body of work, and pick those 34 at large teams. Sure, sometimes they must split hairs, and occasionally they're going to make a mistake, but most of the time they're going to be pretty accurate. For those 2-3 teams on the cusp that get left out in a given year, here's my advice: Play better next year. Another win here, a harder scheduled opponent there and things would be different. Ultimately the onus falls on your shoulders to execute, and you didn't. Unless you go 30-0 and get left out, you have SOME blemish that is very real, and potentially very worthy of causing people to think you aren't among the best 34 non-conference champions in America.

    Can't people just leave well enough alone
    Those who want to change things (uhhhumm Jim Boeheim), typically point to those last cut teams as proof that things need to be expanded. Well, Syracuse, I might be inclined to agree that you're stronger than Alabama, but it was close. All you had to do was beat Notre Dame in your final game and you wouldn't have had that issue. Or maybe not let go of Villanova, when you lost 75-78. Or what was the loss to little ole' St. John's (60-64)?

    When I was a freshman in high school I had my heart set on playing on my high school's basketball team. I played basketball daily--loved it. Tryouts came around. I did the sprints. I shot the free throws. I ran the drills. Names were called and cut boys headed to the locker room. That was day one. I came back for day two, and day three.

    At the end of day three coach gathered all of us sweaty freshman around him. He had varsity full and put one of us on JV. That left 15 boys for 12 spots on the freshman team (yes, I was at a big high school that had three teams). One by one, twelve boys had their names called, until I and two others were left--cut.

    It hurt--sure it hurt--because those boys playing ball were the ones I played with every day after school at the park. It hurt because I felt he picked players he was more familiar with--those who played AAU. It hurt because I felt I was good enough to be out there with them, but I wasn't. However, I came to realize that I had nobody to blame but myself. Of course a coach is going to pick a known quantity over an unknown quantity (that's the same reason a medical school residency program will pick a medical student with lower grades from in house over a graduating student from another medical school). Moreover, if I wanted him to know I was a good basketball player, I could have run a little harder, shot a little better, practiced a little more at nights. If I had truly stood out, I wouldn't have had to worry about having experience with me, or sweating out the cuts. But I didn't take care of my end of the deal.

    So, Syracuse, do what my old girlfriend used to tell me:

    Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it.

    I mean, you wouldn't want a computer doing the picking would you (a la NCAA football)?

    Now that I've just pontificated about why things shouldn't be changed, I'm gonna give you my thoughts on how to change them (sounds dumb, huh?). The two main issues I see with the current tournament format are:

    1. Some good teams get left out because the tournament doesn't include more teams. These "cut" teams want an expanded tournament.

    2. Smaller conference champions get embarassed having to play the "play-in game" between seeds 64 and 65. The don't want to be in such a game since they took care of business and won their conference.

    My solution is so easy, that should the powers that be actually do the stupid thing and tweak the tournament, they'll never institute it. I propose that:

    • All conference regular season champions be issued automatic invites to the dance. They proved they were the best team from their conference over 16 games.

    • All conferences should hold a conference tournament and the winner, if not the same as the regular season champion, should be invited to the tournament. Each regular season champ still plays in the tourney because they want a good seeding by the committee. In most smaller conferences, the regular season champ and tourney champ are often the same team, and the benefit for a regular season champ of winning the conference (seeding) will outweigh tanking to guarantee the conference two bids, so those "one-bid" conferences will--in all probability--stay so. In stronger conferences, the regular season champion is less assured of winning, and it effectively gives the conference a second automatic bid--up for grabs for the teams like Syracuse.

    • All remaining at-large teams, from 34 to 3 (if no regular season champ won their tourney), would be selected by the committee and seeded as usual. This is not far different from now, because most sportswriters admit that there really are only 5 or 6 bubble spots truly available after the conference tourneys are over.

    • Make the "play-in" game between the two lowest seeded at-large teams. This allows for a potentially more enjoyable game, because the at large teams could be playing for a 14 or 13 seed, and rewards those teams who won conferences/tourneys to bypass the indignity of being forced to play another game.

    Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it
    These suggestions will effectively turn the conference tournaments into the extension of the NCAA tournament that people wish for. With potentially two automatic bids up for grabs in each conference, you have double the reason to perform during the season or go for broke in the conference tourney, and half the reason to gripe. Also, the change in the play-in game can happen regardless of the other changes and still bring the benefit outlined.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Sunday, March 18, 2007

    The First Yahoo 360 Blog Highlight: Susan

    While in Vietnam I met many people who touched my life forever. Many of my students taught me almost as much (or more) as I taught them. For good reason, this girl's blog is my first blog to highlight. She is one of the students I grew closest to, possibly because we have such similar dreams.

    And, she's only 15. Man, I wish I was so forward thinking when I was 15.

    Her post on February 25 highlights the direction I desire Vietnamese blogging to go. It's title: "Top 10. Good or Bad." In it she points out some very salient things. The blog is in Vietnamese, and I won't attempt to translate it, but I will paraphrase some things. She says
    Viet Nam dung thu nhi the gioi ve san xuat lua gao. Dieu nay di nhien la tot, no chung to rang nuoc ta co nen nong nghiep vung chac.

    ...Viet Nam dung trong 10 nuoc tren the gioi ve viec an hoi lo nhieu nhat. Good or bad?"

    She, like many of the youth in Vietnam, goes on to express displeasure in the bribery and corruption rampant in Vietnam because they have such pride and patriotism. Her blog is well written, and in her short time blogging, has covered a variety of topics personal to her.

    My hope is that people -- especially China -- will stand up and take notice. These youth like Susan are proving that you don't have to keep your people in the dark. Vietnam has taken the lead in Southeast Asia by being open about corruption within and without the government, and trying to clean it up. It's also let people discuss it. The result is the realization that Vietnam has succeeded where China has failed. The Vietnamese youth can be incredibly patriotic and loyal to Vietnam, while expressing displeasure about something specific in the system. They are not mutually exclusive.

    Her most recent post is called "Cay Tao." It's a Vietnamese translation of the parable of the child and the apple tree. I don't remember who first wrote it. You know the one--child eats apples, young man sells apples, adult cuts down tree, elderly man sits on stump--to teach us about serving. It's interesting to see her Vietnamese take on it's meaning.
    Cay tao ay chinh la hien than cua cha me chung ta. ...

    So, check out Susan's blog.

    Thursday, March 15, 2007

    BYU Woes and Shady Refs

    I'm gonna start the conspiracy theories now -- the NCAA puts a little extra $$$ in the pockets of the refs if they can stack the cards in Xavier's favor. Because, hey, a Xavier-Ohio St. matchup (old romp of Matta vs. new) will bring more ratings than BYU v. Ohio St.

    What really happened?? A superior BYU team got handcuffed by refs that put them in the bonus with over 14 minutes to go. Xavier didn't hit the bonus until 7 minutes. Yes, a full seven minutes of free points. Xavier ended 23-29 from the line while BYU was 10-13 from the line. 13 free points? BYU lost by 2? Hmmm, sounds like an 11 point swing to me.

    Whatever the nefarious reason really was, it was clear that the refs were calling the game tight at one end and loose at the other. They called it clean--no phantom fouls--but ticky-tack. On the other hand, Xavier was doing the same thing at their defensive end and getting away with it.

    I hate that.

    Well, good luck Xavier. I hope Ohio St kills you by 50. Long live Texas A&M and Georgetown, Kansas and Florida. That's the final four.

    Thursday, March 08, 2007

    The New Generation of Viet Bloggers: Yahoo 360

    Since the inception of the Bleeding Ear, we have joined with others in looking for Vietnamese blogs. Previously, I listed a couple blogs I found off of Noodlepie, and some reasons why I wished blogging among the Vietnamese would blossom.

    How Yahoo became the exclusive purveyor of chatting in Vietnam, I don't know
    My first foray into the "Vietblogosphere" found a wide variety of expat blogs but only a few blogs written by Viets.

    Yet over the last year, things have started to change. I'm not sure how noticeable this is from America, but I have seen it personally. You see, Yahoo and Google get a lot of flak for bowing to communists and censoring search results--as well they should. But Vietnam is showing China that things can be done differently. The internet is slowly opening--not closing--in Vietnam, and the presence of Yahoo and Google, if neutered, has had profound blessings.

    What blessings?? Well, Vietnamese youth waste hours a day chatting on Yahoo messenger. My first day as an English teacher in Vietnam was a lesson in the power of Yahoo. It was in Go Vap district, in Ho Chi Minh City, with VATC--Vietnamese American Training College. I arrived to the skinny, three-story concrete building as the sun was setting, and walked inside the front doors, found the manager, and received my lesson materials. After a quick planning session, I was escorted to my first class--PET3. PET classes are pre-teenage classes. My class was full of 25 boys and girls all about 12-14 years old, with moderate English skill.

    These pages mix the allure of Myspace with the chatting of Yahoo Messenger
    My teaching was nothing memorable that first day, with most of it spent answering personal questions from the students. But every class has a ten minute break, and when the bell rang, my class emptied so fast, I almost believed the previous 45 minutes had been a dream.

    Eager to find out where my students were running to, I walked downstairs. I passed one or two talking on the staircase. Then I reached the first floor and found the computer room. Every VATC has a room for students' use that contains about 10 computers. This room was packed--standing room only--with about three students per computer. Every student was doing two things--playing flash games and chatting on Yahoo.

    How Yahoo became the exclusive purveyor of chatting in Vietnam, I don't know. But unlike America, where everyone is broken into AIM, Yahoo, GoogleTalk, and MSN circles, there is only one large circle in Vietnam--Yahoo. Children and teenagers squeeze every minute they can chatting with friends--10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, an hour before school here, an hour at night before bed there. Internet cafes are chalk full of them at almost all hours of the day, and it has become a nearly unregulated way of mass communication and relationship building.

    At that moment, seeing all those students chatting, I wondered if they would ever jump to blogging. They were so close--talking to friends about school, what to do the next day, the game they're playing--all over the internet. I shouldn't have wondered.

    Thanks again to Yahoo comes the next generation of Vietnamese youth. Yahoo 360 has finally taken off. I have seen most of my chatting students set up personal Yahoo 360 pages within the last year. These pages mix the allure of Myspace with the chatting of Yahoo Messenger. You have a home page where you see new blog posts or messages from friends in your network, a blog page, and picture albums like Myspace.

    All of this thinking about Vietnamese blogging and Yahoo 360 happened when I read a student's post that came nearest to an American blog post that I have ever seen. Over the next couple weeks I hope to highlight her and some of my other students' pages because they are the next generation--no, the first true generation--of Vietnamese bloggers. As they get used to writing their feelings online, I think it will be wonderful to follow their maturity, and see how their discussions of weather and music turn to school and love and even politics.

    It's an exciting time to be growing up in Vietnam. Yahoo 360 just adds another dimension to that statement.

    [+/-] read/hide the rest of this post

    Wednesday, March 07, 2007

    AMPAC Regional Campaign Workshop

    I just returned from attending a political campaign workshop in Austin, Texas. What an interesting experience. Truth be told, I wasn't expecting to go. Another student from UT-Houston's TMA/AMA chapter was assigned to go and bailed at the last minute, so I took his place. So many stories from two days!

    Wow, I feel all warm and fuzzy about our democracy ... Goodbye warm-fuzzies
    Many of you who know me, have heard me ruminate about possibly running for office someday. Unfortunately, I'm an idealist and a family man. I know in my heart of hearts that politics is dirty, but I want to "help the world." I also want to provide for my family, and often politics doesn't allow that. This workshop allowed me to see more in-depth the makings of a campaign, the strategy behind one, and weigh whether or not I really want to do that in the future.

    AMPAC is the American Medical Association Political Action Committee, basically the political wing of the American Medical Association. American laws are all screwed up, and election laws are no different. As I learned on Monday, American politics are supposed to be pure, unadulterated, bereft of corporate or other special interests. To such end, laws prohibit corporations, unions, or professional organizations (like the TMA and AMA) from making direct contributions to a candidate or campaign.

    Wow, I feel all warm and fuzzy about our democracy.

    BUT, they allow any of the above entities to sponsor political action committees (PACs)made up of employees, run by employees, and --obviously-- espousing the ideals of the "parent" organization.

    Goodbye warm-fuzzies.

    Actually, the pragmatist in me doesn't see any real problem with this. It allows people interested in the survival of HMOs to tell their point of view and those who want them gone to share theirs. Ultimately, the people vote (via candidates and party platforms) for whose ideas they support more.

    So, the AMPAC (and TEXPAC...Texas Political Action Committee) is made of members of the AMA (and TMA, respectively) who feel strong enough about their feelings to make monetary and time donations to the candidates and parties that they feel will support and protect the profession of medicine.

    the average age of a person who responds to mailers is 67
    AMPAC sponsored this workshop, and brought in two political campaign strategists to teach us about fundraising, advertising, employees/volunteers needed, strategy, etc. Heck, who better to protect medicine than a DOCTOR in office, right?

    The AMA (and AMPAC) is a nonpartisan organization, so they brought in one Republican campaign strategist--Carlyle Gregory (without the mustache)--and one Democratic strategist--Gary Nordlinger. Both were very good. Some things I learned from their presentations:

    1. 80% of voters have their mind made up regardless of what you do to persuade them. They're either Democrat or Republican, or care about some issue so much that their minds are made up in the beginning. 5-8% are "hyperinformative" voters, because they weigh everything up until the last minute and make up their minds on who to vote for while on the way to the polls (yours truly). The remaining 12-15% of voters are considered "low information" voters. These people are those who pay little attention to a campaign until the last two weeks. Then, they see a couple adds, gain little information, and make a decision on who to vote for. They are typically able to change their minds many times up until about 5 days before the election.

    It's these "low info" voters that most TV ads are targeted to, so if you wonder why sometimes TV ads have so little substance, now you know. (This was from Gary Nordlinger)

    2. Evidently direct mailers are the most statistically researched of all advertising techniques. Everyone knows that when you send out a mailer asking for donations, you will receive 50% of your money in the first 5 days. It's like gospel. Also, the average age of a person who responds to mailers is 67. The stats experts have also shown that the longer the letter (contrary to logic), the more likely someone is of reading it and responding. (This was from Carlyle Gregory)

    I suppose this is because as you get older, you get less and less mail, so any seemingly personal but really impersonal letter one receives from a candidate will allow he or she to delude herself with the joy of receiving correspondence.

    All in all there was too much information to put down here and not bore everyone to death. Yesterday we lobbied at the capital, and then came home--but that is another post.

    Sunday, March 04, 2007

    Engine Troubles ... Blogger Style

    Now that I have a little free time, I'm trying to bring this blog into the 21st century. Or how should I say, bring this blog into the year 2007.

    Blogger has gone and revamped everything, and while this is old news for most everybody, it's new to me because I've had my head stuck in a book for the last billion years (it feels like).

    Now, I love my layout. TBE version 2.0. I worked long and hard with my meager HTML skills to put that together...and I mean meager skills. But I feel the need to be on the new platform--give in to the man, so to speak. I have some great additions to my blog, things under the hood, like my categories and such, that require user scripts through greasemonkey on firefox for optimal use.

    I love greasemonkey, and everything about it, but there is one problem: my new life at medical school has me using many different computers throughout the day. Most are not my own (school labs and such), meaning they do not run greasemonkey, or often firefox at all. That leaves me a list of things to fix when I get home--provided I post at school--or not do at all.

    A switch to the new blogger would smooth some of the multiple computer issues, but i fear I don't have the talent or time to transfer my design to the new system.

    Grrrr...engine troubles again. Can anyone point me in the direction of a really good tutorial or to that explains the new layout system, writing for it, or transfering designs to it (not counting actual blogger pages, seeing as how I've read all them)? I could really use pics. Blogger gives code and some explanations, but i like to see pics to tie with the code.