Defending Earth from Asteroids

Phil Plait is one of my favorite bloggers. He writes about science, and debunking stupidity, on Bad Astronomy. He was also on Discovery Channel’s How the Universe Works. He’s a very smart guy and I highly recommend you nerds read his stuff.

In his TEDx talk from this past September, Plait scares the crap out of us about the possibility of an asteroid hitting the Earth. But then he makes it all better with a look at what we could do about it.

InLight Richmond. Henry Dances.

Erin and I went to InLight Richmond1 to see my bud Henry dance with the rva dance collective. Henry2 was awesome in the performace. Seriously awesome.

There were some really great art installations but, of course, the photos I took of most of them were awful because of it being night and all. But here are a few of the ones that came out ok.

The event took place at historical Tredegar Iron Works.


The kids’ Light Parade:



Henry performs:



We didn’t even know about InLight until Henry posted something about it on facebook. I am very glad we went. I highly recommend it and we will be going again next year…

  1. Two weeks ago. I am very behind with my photos…

  2. A bio of Henry can be found here. Strangely it does not mention his skills at making Jungle Juice or getting me to drink way too much of said Jungle Juice.

The Hobbit in 3D

Peter Jackson is using forty-eight (!!) Red Epic high definition cameras on The Hobbit. 48! In case you aren’t up on the latest in cinema tech, the Red Epic retails for… $58,000. Each. Without a lens1.

The latest behind-the-scenes video is a little long but well worth it for the look behind the scenes at the production of The Hobbit. This might be the the first 3D movie I actually want to see in 3D.

  1. The cheapest Red lens, the Pro Prime 18mm T1.8 is $3,000. So…  ↩

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs has died. I learned about his passing via the internet on my iPhone. The significance of that didn’t register with me until I read President Obama’s words: ‘[T]here may be no greater tribute to Steve’s success than the fact that much of the world learned of his passing on a device he invented.’

On the face of it I feel a bit silly for mourning the loss of a businessman I never met. I mean, would I have mourned the passing of Edison or Carnegie? Many figures have had great, if not greater, impact on the world than Steve Jobs.

But Steve didn’t just change his world. He, through his vision and products, changed the way we all look at our world. He touched our hearts by showing us what is possible—anything and everything.

Steve Jobs told us it was ok to Think Different. That’s where progress is. That’s were fun is.

I look around my house as I write this and it is full of the results of Steve’s vision and dedication. Mac Mini, iPad, iPhone, Apple TV. There all here. And that isn’t so much an indication of dogmatic fanboy-ism as it is the fact that Steve gave us products that we enjoy. Products that we love to use.

Take a look at the site this morning:

Screen Shot 2011-10-06 at 11.06.35 AM

Notice not only what is not there—all the stuff at the bottom of the page. Notice what is there. The powerful photo of the thinking Steve. And above him: His legacy. Those things he created for us. Apple itself. The Apple Store. The Mac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, and iTunes. Every single one of those things changed the world in some way. But they are still above him. Because as important as Steve was to all of us who loved and used his products, what was important to Steve was executing the vision. Doing the work. Making something beautiful, and well-designed, and useful. I think this is exactly the image of Steve that he would be most proud of.

While we will be sad to live in a world without Steve Jobs, we can celebrate the fact that we got to live in a world with Steve Jobs. A world changed by Steve.

Please take the time to read the words of some other admirers of Steve Jobs:

From Andy Ihnatko, Steve Jobs

From Marco Arment, Steve Jobs: 1955–2011

From John Gruber, Universe Dented, Grass Underfoot

More Thoughts on the Red Sox

A few more thoughts on the Collapse of the 2011 Boston Red Sox and where blame needs to be laid.

Their “playoffs” were a best of three at Camden Yards against the Woes. And when asked to rise to the challenge against the least of the east, the Sox couldn’t execute well enough.
I do believe that the Sox abysmal start directly resulted from a lackadaisical spring training where the team believed their talent level would allow them to “turn it on” when the bright lights came on. That diminishes the credit that teams deserve who beat the Sox. The early season wipeout in Texas foretold the problems the Sox would have later.

Although I was very happy when the 2–10 start gave way to a winning Summer, the writing was on the wall. Sure, the Rangers that beat up on the Sox early in the year ended strong and are in the playoffs, but that awful start is nothing if not telling about the kind of team that took the field this year.

The team that believes they don’t need to put in the work is the team that will disappoint the most. Ask Dustin Pedroia if it gets easier…

I would go so far as to float the idea that the incredibly-talented-in-Tampa Carl Crawford had a hard time getting comfortable this year due, at least in part, to the clubhouse problems that have come to light. I certainly doubt that the team that he and Adrian Gonzalez thought they were joining is the one they found when they got to Fenway on game day.

I certainly can’t wait for that late February morning when pitchers and catchers report and we get to revisit this epic collapse with the losers who polluted the final weeks of the baseball season.

We get to ask all the returning starting pitchers if they were drinking during games. We get to ask Adrian Gonzalez why he was complaining about playing so many Sunday night games and telling us that it was God’s will that the Sox not make the playoffs. We get to ask Jason Varitek (if he’s back) and Dustin Pedroia where the leadership was.

We get to ask Josh Beckett and Jon Lester if they are embarrassed that they were able to win only two games in September. We get to ask Beckett if it’s true he gained 20 pounds during the 2011 season.

Maybe some leaders will emerge from this chaotic clubhouse. Maybe a new manager will get these guys in line. Maybe. Perhaps the Collapse and the resultant shake-up is exactly what the players need to realize that they have to actually show up and play.

2011 Red Sox: The Postmortem

I almost don’t know where to even begin this post. So much has happened over the past week surrounding the Red Sox that it is difficult to wrap my head around it all.

Last week this time the Red Sox were a baseball club struggling to get to the post-season, but there was light at the end of the tunnel. They had to get through a series at Yankee Stadium before heading to Baltimore for what most considered to be the series that would propel them into October baseball. The Rays were going to be playing the Yankees that last series and with even the small lead the Sox had in the Wild Card it seemed improbable that the Sox wouldn’t get themselves out of the downward spiral of September and grab the last AL playoff spot.

The last six days of the 2011 regular season would prove very different from what Red Sox Nation wanted. The Friday game rained out, they had to play two on Sunday. Lester was downright awful on Saturday night and the Sunday day game wasn’t much better. With four games left—and three of those against the Orioles—hope was still very much alive. And Sunday night the Red Sox won a thrilling extra innings game off of the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury. The game meant very little for the Yankees, but I thought it was exactly what the Sox needed to break out of their downturn and go on a tear against the O’s. The Wild Card lead over the Rays was at one game. And hope was high for the first time in weeks.

Monday Night

Robert Andino tears around the bases for an inside-the-park home run that the Sox couldn’t recover from. Josh Beckett looks pretty mediocre. The Rays beat the Yankees and the Wild Card race is tied. But, hey, there are two games left. If you were tied for the Wild Card wouldn’t you rather be playing against the 2011 Orioles than the 2011 Yankees?

Tuesday Night

Tuesday’s game is a bright spot. Ellsbury and Scutaro hit big homers and rookie Ryan Lavarnway seals the deal with two home runs in his first start filling in for the injured Varitek-Saltalamacchia platoon. The Rays win again so there’s one game left to break the tie. Surely the Rays can’t sweep? And even if they do, a win on Wednesday puts the Sox into a playoff tie against the Rays.

Wednesday Night

Let’s go straight to the bottom of the ninth. The Red Sox are up 3–2 and Papelbon—who has been one of the Sox bright spots in 2011, in contrast to his 2009 and 2010 seasons—comes out to seal it up. Pap strikes out Adam Jones and Mark Reynolds in fine style. With one out left I thought the win was all sewn up. The Rays had battled back to tie the Yankees and were playing in extra innings, but I didn’t care. Just win our game. It’s all we can do…

Then Chris Davis doubles on a shot down the right side line. Ok. Don’t panic. Pap is in control.

Nolan Reimold comes to the plate and Pap gets him to 2–2. Two swinging strikes and we’re only a pitch away from the win. On the fifth pitch Reimold jacks a shot into the gap that hops over the wall for a ground-rule double. Kyle Hudson (who had replaced Davis at second) scores and now we’re thinking about extra innings. Who’s coming up in the tenth? Who’s Tito gonna bring out to pitch?

Andino comes to the plate. Andino who hit that inside-the-park homer on Monday night. He watches the first two pitches go by before hitting a soft shot to left. Carl Crawford drops the ball. The catch that would have sent the game to extras and kept hope alive didn’t happen. Crawford did try to throw to home to get Reimold, but it was late and off line.

Game over. Hopes crushed. The Orioles players swarmed the field in a celebration that, although I hated watching it, I completely understood. The last place team in the AL East had just beaten up on the team that had dominated the division for most of the year.

The smallest glimmer of hope flickered still, though. I flipped over to the MLB Network to see what was going on in St. Pete. If the Rays lost then there would be a playoff on Thursday. B.J. Upton was at the plate when the crowd saw the final score of the Sox game. They went nuts. Upton struck out and Longoria came to the plate. MLB Network cut back to the game just before Longoria got the sixth pitch. The one he shot over the left field wall to win the game and send the Red Sox not only back to Boston, but into a drama that no one outside the Fenway clubhouse saw coming…


Instead of playing the Rays for a spot in the postseason, the Sox players went home and Terry Francona and Theo Epstein had a press conference. Before that presser, I fully expected to see much the same team show up to Ft. Meyers for Spring Training. But a disturbingly non-committal answer was given to the question of Francona returning to manage in 2012:

"Theo [Epstein] and I talked today a little bit. I think we’ll continue to talk tomorrow. Maybe it’s best today to stay with where we’re at,” Francona said. “It’s still pretty fresh and pretty raw. It’s a fair question.”

Not exactly, “Well sure I would.”

It was a fair question, but a non-answer would only lead to more speculation, especially in Boston. Epstein told the press that he and the owners would sit down with Tito in the next couple of days to ‘discuss the future’. That sounded a lot like, ‘We aren’t firing him… Yet.’


There’s a morning meeting at Fenway with Theo, Tito, and the owners. The Boston sports press go nuts with guessing what’s going on. By that afternoon, however, it was all done. Francona was leaving the team.

Many, many sports writers are going back and forth about who’s to blame for the September Collapse and whether or not the team’s decision not to pick up Francona’s option for 2012 was mutual, but in the end the only analysis that is productive is that which can help move the team forward…


Facts are facts. Terry Francona, who won two World Series with the Boston Red Sox, is no longer the manager. The players are not the same mix of guys that Tito won those rings with. He was no longer willing, or able, to corral them anymore. Maybe it was the players’ fault, maybe it was Francona’s. Most likely it was a healthy mixture of high-paid player entitlement and a manager who had just run his course with the team. Either way, the inmates began running the asylum:

While Francona was no longer an effective messenger for the clubhouse, it also appears that the players did not effectively police themselves. To the contrary, the idea that pitchers were not merely drinking during games (a practice that is more prevalent in the game than most would care to admit) but doing so the point where it became a factionalizing clubhouse issue suggests that there was a far-reaching leadership void.

The Red Sox clubhouse isn’t the Idiots anymore. It’s a group of big personalities, and paychecks, and egos, and they need to be lead. I applaud Terry Francona for his ‘I trust my players to play’ style. I think he’s a great guy and many of his players absolutely adore him. But the Collapse has brought to light that he isn’t the leader that this group needs.

And, to be fair some of his in-game management has been, let’s say, questionable. All year long he’s left pitchers in too long. That cost the team a lot of losses, especially in September. And while baserunning may not be the Manager’s direct responsibility, if I had been the manager, I would have fired Tim Bogar a long time ago. Just ask Marco Scutaro about getting waved home rounding third.

So, let’s move on. There are three parties responsible for the team’s performance and all three have let us down. The management has been lacking in leadership and has made poor decisions on the field. The owner’s have made bad deals (John Lackey! Carl Crawford! Dice-K!) and not prioritized well. The players, with the notable exceptions of Pedroia, Ellsbury, and Scutaro (in the second half of 2011, at least), have just not performed. Ortiz did have a pretty good year, this year. But the pitching has been awful and they just don’t seem to care. I think the Crawford deal will turn out well in the end, but that’s been really hard to watch this year.

It is a tall order, but if the new manager, whoever that ends up being, can be a leader and, you know, manage the game… If the players can learn from this Collapse and rededicate themselves to conditioning and performance… If the ownership can refocus on the perennial need for good pitching and stop going after big names just to keep them from the Yankees…

If those things happen, you just might see a very different Boston Red Sox next Spring. I’m actually optimistic. Maybe the Collapse and the resulting shake-up is exactly what the team needs to get back on track.

Ask me again next October.

Playing to Win

John Gruber, Yankees fan, writing for American McCarver

Winning should never get old. Never. Winning should make fans hungry for more winning.

The Yankees have lost many painful games in my lifetime, but one of the absolute worst was game seven of the 2001 World Series. The fact that the Yankees had won the three previous titles didn’t make the 2001 Series loss less painful — it made it worse. Good fans don’t think Well, we did win three in row. No, they think We should have won four in a row.

Though I am a Red Sox fan, I am not a ‘life-long’ Red Sox fan. I didn’t really start following the team until just before I got married in the Summer of 2004. I really haven’t known the ‘Cursed’ Red Sox. I have known the Red Sox as winners. And this Spring Training they looked like the winningest Red Sox yet.

Then the season started and the Best Team in Baseball lost their first six and eight of the first ten. By June everything was again right with the world, and they fought the Yankees back and forth all Summer for first place in the AL East. The only other team winning like the Sox and Yanks was the Phillies1.

Now reality has caught up with the Red Sox. Poor mid-season trades, injured and/or sub-par pitching, and just plain bad play has dropped them into a desperate struggle to even make the post-season, let alone make any sort of playoff run. Sure, these things happen. But in the history the Red Sox this seems to be the rule, rather than the exception.

The thing is, it seems like the Red Sox win despite themselves. From the top of the organization down, it just feels like they want to play the underdog. Instead of focusing on winning, and doing whatever has to be done to win, they rest on their laurels and rely on aging and injured bats to overcome poor decisions and poor pitching. It worked for a while this year, but Dustin Pedroia and Adrian Gonzalez can only swing hot bats for so long.

The hated2 Yankees, and the Phillies, don’t see winning as a temporary state. They see each win as a spring board for the next win. Winning the World Series isn’t a miracle. It’s credit to get what you need to win the next one. Winning begets winning. And the Yankees are focused completely on winning.

Historic Yankee Stadium? Tear it down. Build a new one. We are winners. Jorge Posada? Play him into the ground like the Sox did Mike Lowell and are doing to Jason Varitek? Nope. Bench him if he can’t hit. We are winners. Nothing gets in the way of winning. From the management to the players to the grounds crew you do everything you have to do to win.

Don’t even get me started about Carl Crawford sitting out two games for a ‘stiff neck’.

I love the Sox. I don’t want to tear down Fenway. I think Tito is doing a good job. But I sure would like to see the organization re-focus on winning—from the top down—and do what it takes to win. Make the decisions and the moves to get what you need to win. We’ve got bats3, what we need is strong, durable, winning pitching. Let’s do that, ok? And let’s keep that focus on perpetual winning, not just winning for a short while.

The Phillies weren’t always so focused on winning but they sure as hell are now. It’s high time for the Red Sox to refocus on what actually matters. Winning the damn game.

  1. The Phillies are a team alone. As of this writing they are the only team with a real chance of winning 100 games. Their only NL East competition, the Braves, are ten games back with six to play, and three of those are against the Phillies.

  2. I’m a Dodgers and a Red Sox fan. Hatred of the Yankees is in the blood.

  3. Why in the hell would you pay that kind of money for Carl Crawford when you just signed Adrian Gonzalez? Insurance? That money would have bought a fair amount of the now-much-needed pitching.

Star Wars Changes

I have been doing some thinking about what George Lucas has been doing to the Star Wars trilogy. And I say 'Trilogy' because I do not care one bit what he does to Episodes I-III. For a good discussion of this travishamockery, check out Episode 59 of The Talk Show in which Dan and John have a good cry about it (start at minute 97:00 to hear the Star Wars bit).

Ok, let's step back from Star Wars for a sec. In 1971 a young George Lucas turned his film school project into a feature-length film, THX-1138. It's a good film. Kind of a cult film in that not a whole lot of people have seen it. The theatrical cut of that movie is eighty-one minutes long and can be a little confusing to follow at times. This is partly because he had a very small budget ($777,777.77 according to Wikipedia) and couldn't pull off any serious special effects. In 2004, Lucas released a 'Director's Cut' of the film on DVD which runs 88 minutes and has many improvements/additions a la Star Wars. Here is what was changed in the 2004 edition (Many spoilers there if you haven't seen the film).

I won't go into all of the changes, but I will say that I don't 'disagree' with any of them. Often the changes make the story easier to follow or make it more obvious what a character is doing in a particular scene. A lot of backgrounds have been cleaned up or enhanced. The description of one of the changes gives a good idea of how effective they were:

SEN gets lost in the crowd, which looks more believable in the DVD version.

Things look more believable. But the essence and the feel and the mood of the film are essentially unaltered. You don't watch an updated scene and think, 'Hey, wait! That doesn't make sense now.'

In contrast, the changes made to Episodes IV-VI often make me scratch my head and wonder what the point was. John Gruber points out in The Talk Show episode that making Mos Eisley look like a bustling city ruins that feel of an outpost way out in the desert. Why would all those (supposedly cold-blooded?) reptiles be just hanging out in the hot-ass streets? And all those new droids running all over the place? Who in the shit-hole of Mos Eisley can afford them? They aren't even allowed in the Cantina!

The thing about the changes to Star Wars, versus the changes to THX-1138 is that they, with few exceptions (cleaning up the matte lines on the TIE fighters is something we can all agree on) do not improve the films. In fact, they make them worse for those of us who know what it is supposed to be like. Obi-Wan's yell in Ep IV is supposed to be the call of a Krayt dragon, not the wail of a man who accidentally stepped on a Lego. Darth Vader does not yell, 'NO!' at the end of Jedi. Ewoks do not blink.

Why isn't anyone up in arms about the changes to THX-1138 like this? Because no one grew up with THX as an important piece of their childhood like Star Wars. No one dressed up as THX or SEN for Halloween. Star Wars (at least Star Wars as it was) is culturally important. We care about these films.

As Gruber said in the podcast—if someone screwed with Star Wars against the wishes of George Lucas, we would literally be up in arms. When it's Lucas himself, we are all saddened.

Please stop, George. Or at least admit that there is a significant number of us who want to see the movies as you made them thirty years ago. Release those movies on Blu-Ray and I will pay you whatever you ask. Until then, not another dime.

Somebody find me a working VCR.