Saturday, September 28, 2013

The boys of summer

Tomorrow, September 29 is the last day of the MLB Regular Season. 

The wild card games are scheduled for Tuesday the 1st (NL) and Wednesday the 2nd (AL.)

NL wild card winner plays top NL division winner; AL wild card winner plays top AL division winner.

As of first thing this morning, here's who's in, who's out, and who needs to get the pine tar on the bat...

BOS 97, AL East
OAK 95, AL West
DET 93, AL Central

TB 90
CLE 90
TEX 89

ATL 95, NL East
STL 95, NL Central
LA 92, NL West

PIT 92, NL Wild Card
CIN 90, NL Wild Card

The Royals made a run of it, but couldn't get into the wild card this year.  For the first time since 2003, they're above .500

This will be their second-best season since the WS win in '85.

'89 92 wins

'13 85+Saturday+Sunday

'88 84 wins
'93 84 wins

'87 83 wins
'03 83 wins

'91 82 wins


The October Surprise of the 2012 Presidential Campaign occured in the middle of September, when remarks made by Republican candidate Mitt Romney at a fundraiser were released.  Governor Romney, in the recorded remarks, conceded the 47% of Americans who don't pay income tax as votes for the Democratic Party. 

An American's tax burden is seen in more places than just the 1040 form.  An American pays taxes when he makes purchases - sales tax.  When he receives his paycheck - the withholdings.  When he owns property - the property tax. 

But, just to make life simple, I borrowed an online tax calculator and did some plug-and-play.  For a family of 6, how much would I have to make to owe $1 in federal income tax.

With all the deductions, child tax credit, etc. .. I would have to make $67,167 to owe any federal income tax.

I may be part of Romney's "47%", but I didn't vote for President Obama...or Governor Romney.

the Internet is forever

Someday I'll understand that I'm just not that interesting.
@Romans_837, Aug 6 2013

Phineas: Enjoy it while it lasts, Candace. Fame is fleeting.
Ferb: But the Internet is forever.
Lights, Candace, Action

Honestly, it's an irrational fear.  I know how insanely low my hit-counter is.  I know that almost nobody reads my blogs.  But I self-censor.  I don't say everything.  I'm vague about half the stuff I go through, and 15% of it will never never make the blog.

If I said it all, it would look like this.
* I was lucky.  I had [blank].  My kids...not so much.
* The noodle incident.  I don't forget.
* I want more [blank] and less [blank].
* I used to give [blank] to [blank] every [blank] because [blank] said so. 
When [blank] is over, [blank] won't happen until hell freezes over.  Or at least Election Day '16.
* I wonder if [blank] ever knew how bad it was.
* What happened in [blank] - the [blank] - should've happened years ago.  It would've been reasonable back then.
* May God bless and keep [blank] ... far away from us!

Saturday, September 21, 2013

William R. Pratt

William “Bill” Pratt 57, the world’s foremost authority on grilling and holiday dinners, died on September 16, 2013. He passed away in his sleep at home in Lenexa, after surviving world travels as an army brat, reckless sled rides in Fort Leavenworth, canoe trips down the Current River, twenty-five years of service at Lansing Correctional Facility, and raising ten children.

A Leavenworth High School graduate, he is survived by sisters Marilynn Helm of Hays, Nancy Bruhn of Chico, California, brothers Jim Pratt of California and John Pratt of Nevada, by his children Steven and Ivy Pratt of Severance, Robert and Stephanie Pratt of Lenexa, Bethany Pratt of Beaverton, Oregon, Richard and Leah Pratt of Lansing, and Jonathan, Melinda, Wyatt, Kimberly, Lincoln, and Olivia Pratt of Lansing, and grandchildren Molly, Noah, Zach, Olivia D., Karen, and Daniel. Bill is preceded in death by his parents Lt. Colonel James R. Pratt and Ruby Pratt, and his brother Bobby. An army brat, Bill travelled all over the world as a child, and chose to stay in Leavenworth with his parents after they retired. Bill worked 25 years at the Lansing Correctional Facility and 10 years with Food4Less. Thru the years, he also provided for his family as a co-owner of Veteran’s Cab, and working security at Cushing Hospital and Lakeview Village in Lenexa.

His kids will continue his traditions of sledding on post, Yorkshire pudding on holidays, mushroom hunting on government property, and camping in the Ozarks. His children and six grandchildren will miss being the recipients of his wisdom and culinary genius.

In no particular order
  • "Yes, the Navy Yard shooting was a tragedy, but I've got a death of my own to deal with." - member of my family.
  • By distance, I am officially the 9th closest child of my father. 
  • Due to my father's passing, I moved most blog posts ahead a week.  A particularly downer post, typed before 9/16, got moved several months ahead.  I don't want to cause more concern to my readers (who I can count on one hand).  I did move Constitution Day to 9/17 because, this Saturday, again, there will only be one post.
  • The death of a relative gives one a meaningful opportunity to contemplate life.  Including your own life expectancy, family relationships, end-of-life questions, etc.
  • Dad loved us.  I'm going to miss him.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013


The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.
--Article V, US Constitution

Various groups, usually interested in limiting the power of the federal government, have looked towards Article V of the US Constitution, specifically the part in which 34 states can theoretically force Congress to call a convention for proposing amendments to the Constitution.

Over the decades, they've sought various remedy, various amendment.  From the popular election of Senators, to term limits, to a balanced federal budget.  In over 200 years, there hasn't been a convention called yet, although it sounds like the drums are beating just a little louder for something.

Can you get 34 states to call for one, in a single voice, in an unignorable voice?  I doubt it.  I don't see a reason strong enough to get 34 states - 67 or 68 state legislative bodies (depending on whether Nebraska gets in on the fun) to call for an Article V, at the same time, in the same voice, with the same resolute demand that would be required to get Congress to listen.  War?  Nope.  Corporate power?  Nope.  Income inequality?  Nope.  Moral issues?  Nope.  Feds spying on my e-mail?  Nope.  Patient Protection & Affordable Care Act?  Nope.  Marijuana?  Nope. 

And...even if you did.  Even if you got 34 states to, in a single voice, in a near simultaneous show of fraternity, demand an Article V Convention...I see a different set of problems.  1) Getting the conventioneers to agree on amendments to submit to the states.  2) Getting anyone to give a damn.  All we need is one celebrity with her hypno-butt, and even Fox News will be all over the shaking rear, instead of Philadelphia II.  Besides, no one watches C-SPAN.

Finally, if an amendment made it out, you'd need 38 states to ratify it.  HA!  You don't have 38 states that agree on weed, presidential candidate, or even same-sex marriage. 

IF an amendment that comes from an Article V convention is ratified by 38 states before my 40th birthday, I'll print out this blog entry, put ketchup on it, eat it, and post it on Youtube.

Happy Constitution Day. (9/17)

Saturday, September 14, 2013

For You are with me

I don't claim to understand everything about the faith I cling to.  About the God I worship.  About the Jesus who I read about and believe in.

But one thing I understand.
And one thing I don't understand.

I've recently used the phrase "Life is treating me like a dog treats his chew-toy."
I'm not ok.  Things are not going well.
Doghouse, this is Beagle, and I feel like I'm facing the trials of Job. all of this, God is still there.
I can feel the comfort.  I can almost feel Him there.
And He has not forsaken me.

I understand...and I don't understand...but...I know. 

Psa 37:23-24)  The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, And He delights in his way.
{24} Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; For the Lord upholds him with His hand.
Rom 8:37-39)  Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. {38} For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, {39} nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Hey, devil...
Do not rejoice over me, my enemy; When I fall, I will arise; When I sit in darkness, The Lord will be a light to me. - Micah 7:8

Chalkboards in Agenstein

That last year at Western, there were two chalkboards I wish I could've gotten a picture of.

In Computer Graphics, either fall '99 or spring '00, my brother had a corner seat.  Chalkboards on three sides (front, side farthest from door, back.)  After about a week or two of the teacher using a particular catchphrase, Robert decided that he was going to keep a tally of it.  So, each time Mr. Pickett said "Now here's the deal", I heard the sound (because I was listening for it) of my brother marking a tally mark on the chalkboard by his seat.  No one in the other classes disturbed it, and by the end of the semester, there were quite a few tallies.  To anyone who cares, it was the same classroom that we discussed the finer points of baked and broiled possums in statistics.  Would've loved to get a picture of those tally marks.

The other chalkboard was in concurrent programming, last semester (Spring 2000).  My brother and I were two of about students in the advanced computer science class, and one of our classmates had taken time to draw a detailed (fictional diagram) about the way the brains of the Pratt Bros.™ worked.  I don't remember the finer points of it, but it did reasonably correctly mention how quickly we could come up with an answer...and how long it took for us to explain it in non-hyper-genius-Pratt-ese.  My wife's brother still jokes that my wife has to "interpretate" for me.

Ab Uno Disce Omnes

I think.

I don't know, but I think.

I think our national news is too person-oriented.

Sixteen thousand murdered in a year, and we hear about (maybe) five cases.  Is it because they were famous? Or because they were in Florida, where you can get cameras in the courtroom?  Or because they were young?  Perhaps it makes good television, but...

Our reaction to the death of Trayvon should be different if he is one of a thousand 'self-defense-gone-wrong white kills black' vs if he is the only one.  But I'm not the one to say who the greatest threat to the American black male.
* Although Moynihan was right.

The President keeps using Aurora, Sandy Hook, etc. to argue for gun control.  Why?  Because they made the news?  Because it got the news for weeks?  What about the other homicides on those days?  What about the other folks shot dead on a busy news day?  And what about the inconvenient fact that for every two homicides, we have five suicides? 

At time of writing, we're hearing of a celebrity's bizarre behavior.  (By now, we're probably on to another celebrity.)  What makes it so newsworthy?  Is it because we're such a quiet world that we need five minutes per hour in a 24 hour news cycle to discuss it?  Like the media, news makes news.

I risk the danger of the three types of lies, but I don't believe in the anecdotal as much as I believe in the statistic.  And, although "When one man dies it is a tragedy, when thousands die it's statistics." ... National news, and world news should be about the bigger picture.

Another thing...forgetting for a minute the bold headlines.  And, going against everything Han Solo said...
for my sister, how dangerous would (a trip to India) / (service in US military) / (time in college) / boring life in suburbia ?

Ab Uno Disce Omnes, from one learn all.  Specific incident, general truth.

I dissent.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Under the hood

My wife complains about the open panel on the dekstop computer.  She says it looks...messy.  Maybe it does.  But I've concluded that I need it open to maintain a suitable temperature.

If my pc goes over 105°C, it will shutdown immediately.  Usually that happens when Ivy or I are playing Candy Crush or Angry Birds.  Or when I'm playing Age of Empires & cranking Spotify.  Or if I'm running a dosbox w/QBasic simulating hundreds of runs of a sports league. 

So, I've got a number in my system tray.  Right next to the outside temp in °F (according to the Weather Channel) is the core temp.  Popup warning at 90°C or 95°C. 

That's one of the reasons I'm thinking about upgrading the desktop next year.  Of course, I have to make sure that it'll run certain apps, needs to be PC, 1 GHz, 1GB Ram, and capable of booting on a Linux CD.  (Probably about 95% of PCs in the computer store qualify...if anyone's selling desktops anymore - all I see anymore are all-in-ones, tablets, and laptops.)

Montana, Moon, Astrodome

January 16, 1994.
Days after Kerrigan's knee became front page news.
Months before (perhaps) the most famous strike in sports.
And the last time the Chiefs won a playoff game.

Nineteen seasons have passed since the Chiefs won in Houston, advancing to the AFC Championship game.  It's ugly.
Lost @ WC game (Joe Montana's last game, at Miami)
Lost hosting 2nd Round Game (Lin Elliott)
Missed Playoffs
Lost hosting 2nd Round Game (losing to eventual SB winners Denver)
Missed Playoffs x 5!
Lost hosting 2nd Round Game (When Indy doesn't punt...they don't lose)

In the ten years from 1994 to 2003, the Chiefs went 94-66, ranging from 6 to 13 wins, but lost 4 playoff games.
Then the wheels fell off.

Missed Playoffs x 2
Lost @ WC Game (Another loss to Indy, a game my dad and two brothers went to)
Missed Playoffs x 3
Lost hosting WC Game (Baltimore beats the stuffing out of Kansas City)
Missed Playoffs x 2

In the last nine years, the Chiefs have been 55-89, ranging from 2 to 10 wins.

In the last few years, teams that have sucked this badly (2 or fewer wins) typically rebound and end up going 6-10.  Which would be about average for the Chiefs (2004-2012).

So, because I don't feel confident enough to try a fantasy football league this year, I'm in a survivor league (pick 1 winner a week, can't pick the same team twice in a season, one strike you're out.)

Here's my tentative picks for the first eight! weeks of the season.  (Thanks Jeff Sagarin)

Week 1    WASH def PHI
Week 2    NE def NYJ
Week 3    DEN def OAK
Week 4    NYG def KC
Week 5    ATL def NYJ
Week 6    SEA def TEN
Week 7    SF def TEN
Week 8    CIN def NYJ

The name's the thing

As a twin, I got used to being called the wrong name.  Part of the territory.  It stopped happening after '01, when I got married, moved 40 miles north, and began collecting a different set of friends acquaintances, in-laws, and co-workers.  However, I still joke "Steve or Steven, just don't call me late for dinner."

When my twin was a toddler, my mother decided she didn't like his birth name, and so de facto changed his name to Tristan.  By the time I was old enough to care, just about everyone called him Tristan (I think one of the aunts would occasionally call him Robert.)  This lasted until we started going to college.  Something about college forms being sticklers for legal names.  And so, Mom sat us down and told us that when we went to college, he would be Robert, sharing a name with my dad's brother who died too soon.  So, outside of Leavenworth, he was Robert.  At the community college.  At Western.  Honestly, by the time we started at Western 3 years later, only folks from the church and the occasional throwback at home would call him Tristan.  He's on my phone as Robert, and when I e-mail him, I type "RJ" - the first letters of his e-mail address and his first and middle initial.

Every year, we have the school musical.  (Two of them, actually, the winter and the spring.)  And, after the first time, it's a ritual.  Collect the program, and see if Molly is listed as Molly Pratt, Molly (birth name), or Molly (birth name misspelled).  So far, it's been a random draw on it.