Stick it to the Daily Quickie

ESPN.com: The Daily Quickie: "
Speaking of sports films, I have no qualms fessing I'm excited to see 'Stick It,' given 'Bring It On' is one of my top Guilty Pleasure movies."


Pricing projects in the service industry

I came across an article from a manager at a design firm, discussing pricing projects. My comment is down the list (look for the time stamp of 4/27/06 06:39 am) discussing the standard approach in my industry, environmental consulting. To me the article (specifically, the approach it proposes) is simply common sense. Reading the comments, though, I realized that the transparency and disclosure in my industry certainly doesn't carry over to other industries.

Pricing a Project - Blue Flavor: "I believe these days are gone. In the Information Age the consumer is in control, with the ability to discover exactly how much a thing costs, honesty and transparency must be at the heart of how you price a project."

Maybe it's because environmental consulting is a tight market, or that we're all engineers and scientists working for engineers and scientists, but I can't imagine the approaches some of the commentators espouse flying in my world.


Marketplace: Petroleum 101

Marketplace: Petroleum 101: "We did that [SS: relaxing environmental requirements on gasoline to lower prices] right after Katrina, and the people in St. Louis noticed brown skies and more pollution. So the tradeoff you'd make is 50 cents at retail, and putting up with some brown skies."

It seems to me the hangup with gas and environmental regs is not that they (regs & requirements) exist; it's that they vary from region to region, eliminating flexibility for suppliers to react to localized shortages. This reflects the overall environmental regulatory environment (pardon the pun) in which so much of the burden stems from inconsistent requirements state-by-state, not the actual requirements themselves.

Remember, anything leaving a plant as pollution is something that either came in as a raw material and is not being sold for a profit or was generated as a byproduct at an energy or efficiency cost to the manufacturer. It's been my experience most industry recognizes this, and recognizes it's in their own best financial interests to minimize pollution. Consistent requirements would certainly help. Instead, you get a system that changes with each state, with a tendency towards EPA and state agencies adopting bad cop/good cop roles, respectively.

Sorry for the tangential rant, it's just that I see this all the time at work, where environmentally-beneficial and berueacratically-efficient solutions are, unfortunately, often at odds.

Don't pitch to Bonds: A real Superman

Don't pitch to Bonds: A real Superman: "It is impossible to fairly compare players of different eras with one another. With the advances in equipment, training, nutrition, travel, not to mention the evolution of the game’s eligibility rules or strategy, it is impossible to imagine how a player plucked from 1916 would have performed in 2006 and just as difficult to imagine how a player from 2006 would have fared in 1926. What one can easily do however is to look at how players compared to their contemporaries."

See, this bugs me, a lot. Yes, Ruth had fantastic numbers. Mind-numbingly fantastic. More-homers-by-himself-than-the-rest-of-the-league type ridiculousness. It's commonly accepted that comparing raw numbers in baseball is difficult across eras, so Ruth's greatness is often presented by comparing his numbers' to his peers'. But, and this is where I get annoyed, what about the sizable block of the population excluded from being his peers? Would that 1920 stat line with 54 homers have been as impressive if, say, Josh Gibson had 42 homers that year? Not to mention would he have lost a homer or two if Satchel Paige, instead of John "Scrub" Doe, were filling the a rotation slot for the Orioles?

It would be ludicrous to argue that Ruth might have appeared simply good in that context. No doubt in my mind exists that he still would be considered an all-time great. But near-universal recognition as the all-time greatest? I think he'd definitely slide a few notches lower.

When (if) Barry Bonds passes Ruth, expect to see a little more Ruth-glorification, coupled with righteous indignation towards Bonds, and even calls for silliness like asterisks. Just note the event, and remember the mitigating circumstances in each one's circumstances, and that both were simply operating under the accepted practices of baseball at their times. Then, go remember and celebrate Hank Aaron, Jackie Robinson, Branch Rickey, etc. as more appropriate heroes.


Testing the Bounds of MySpace - Los Angeles Times

An interesting perspective on MySpace... Though I'm still closer in age to the typical user than the typical parent, I guess I'm already becoming a dinosaur.

Speaking of which, I saw Dinosaur Jr. two nights ago... man, it's now taking me a couple days to recover from staying out 'til nearly 1 am on a work night.

Testing the Bounds of MySpace - Los Angeles Times


Opening Day Player Payroll: Inside the Numbers -- The Hardball Times

A nice review of Opening Day baseball salary numbers over at the Hardball Times. The Braves are interesting: they have a modest $4M increase in the total roster payroll, and sit in the upper third of the league in total payroll. However, the median salary for the Braves' roster is $462,500 - 4th lowest in the league! It's pretty easy to see how this dichotomy arose: combine aging All-Star/potential Hall-of-Famers (Andruw, Chipper, Smoltz) plus a boatload of young (read: ineligible for arbitration) talent (McCann, Langerhans, Francour, the bullpen) and you get a total payroll dominated by a few heavy contracts.

What I wonder is if this is sustainable position for the franchise: obviously, the salaries of the yound players can go nowhere but up. In fact, if the Braves are to maintain their success of the past 15 years, they'll need several of the youngsters to make the jump to the all-star level, meaning an even bigger hike in total payroll. While there are a few albatross contracts (Hampton) that skew the totals, you can see the Braves only have a finite number of slots for high-cost talent. Which of the current Baby Braves will be the first casualty of arbitration- and free-agency-driven inflation? Guess we have to wait and see...

Opening Day Player Payroll: Inside the Numbers -- The Hardball Times: "Opening Day Player Payroll: Inside the Numbers"

How to recycle your computer | Salon.com News

Another post more for my own future use... I've got a shipping label from Dell, courtesy of the PC I recently bought, and have an old PC I'd like to recycle. I've just been held back by a lack of packaging, and laziness.

How to recycle your computer | Salon.com News: "How to recycle your computer"


My Deadspin Entry for Flawed Merchandise

In response to the Deadspin "Amazon.com Has Your Potentially Flawed Merchandise" post - I have a classic Losing Team Championship shirt. I found a faded "St Louis Cardinals - 1985 World Series Champions" t-shirt in an Atlanta thrift store 6 or 7 years ago. Since the Cards were the first baseball team I ever loved, I snatched up that memento, and have stubbornly hung on to it, in case Don Denkinger admits his folly and I start shooting heroin and lose the 50 pounds needed to actually fit the size small t-shirt on my 6'1" 210# frame.

Also, the shirt was a great litmus test - my then-girlfriend, upon seeing a ratty, faded, lying t-shirt on a hanger, questioned it, naturally. Upon relation of the story, though, she did not roll her eyes or mutter something about "that's following your paisley couch and bowling shirts out to the curb" - rather, she suggested it should be in a more prominent display than the back of my closet. 5 years of marriage later, she still feels the same way.

Joe Biden Article in GQ

The recent GQ has a long interview with Joe Biden, the senior senator (Democrat) from Delaware. Ignoring the Wayne's World flashback that accompanies any reference to Delaware, it's a pretty good read. He sounds like an intelligent, principled guy, who could represent the party well in 2008.

JOE BIDEN CAN’T SHUT UP…: GQ Features on men.style.com: "JOE BIDEN CAN’T SHUT UP…
…About Bush, the Democrats, the mess in Iraq. About his chances in 2008 and how he’s going to explain his past screwups. About his near-death experiences. About Republican hypocrisy. Yes, if presidential elections were decided on an ability to speak in great, unfiltered, often inspiring bursts, the senior senator from Delaware would win in a landslide. Now, let him talk By Robert Draper"

What's frustrating, to me, though, is how well every politician comes across individually compared to how inept they all appear in the context of Washington DC partisanship. I don't know how independent this profile is, and I should do some due diligence before getting excited about him as a candidate, but it is encouraging, though.

He seems rather principled, and likely to uphold a consistent progressive ideology as a nice counterexample to the Republican hodgepodge of ideas chosen to maximize voter turnout. To me that has to be one of the must infuriating aspects of the current Republican party: the rejection of an overall theory of small-government and the adoption of a la carte beliefs.

In my youth, oddly, I associated much more so with the Republican party, as it seemed more fundamentally "fair" to empower individuals with their futures, rather than ask a bloated government to adminster job training, health care, retirement security, etc. Trickle-down economics, as I understood it, seemed to make sense. I guess I was more Libertarian, and voted that way the first couple times I could, but I certainly identified the least with the Democrats.

Now, I'm quite the opposite. The libertarian in me has left, as I feel that there remain too many artificial inequities, legacies of past wrongs (racism, sexism, etc), for me to deny the responsibility of a government to level the playing field, so to speak. My inner republican has in turn been outraged by what I perceive to be the abandonment of small-government principles. If Republican positions on individual privacy matters such as abortion and gay rights aren't an obvious enough illustration, simply consider the exorbitant growth in the US budget over the past 6 years. [Foxnews: Federal Budget Grows Massively Under Bush], [Factcheck.org: Spending Growth]

I'll wrap this post up, as I've rambled a bit. If I can do a little background checking on the Biden article, and if he seems like a good candidate, I will try to write a letter to him in support, which I will certainly duplicate here.


Happy Cooler Day

From Brian Murphy's ESPN Page 2 column (which seems to have disappeared lately; at least, it doesn't regularly appear anymore).

ESPN.com: Page 2 : Happy Cooler Day: "realization that the first Monday in April represented not just the ultimate 'Cooler Day,' but also the 'Greatest Day in American Sports.'"

For those too lazy to click, Cooler Day is the fortuitous intersection of the NCAA Men's Tournament Final Game, Opening Day for Major League Baseball, and the first day of practice at the Masters.

What I Do

The EPA press release below illustrates what I do, for y'all's information. Basically, I work to help my clients avoid this kind of thing. Mostly engineering with a little legal added to the mix.

Note: I have never worked at the facility mentioned below, and know nothing about the specifics mentioned therein. I just picked it semi-randomnly because it has big numbers, in an effort to make myself seem more important.

Environmental Protection Agency - EPA Press Release: Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. Faces Fine for Ozone Violations in Stratford, Conn.: "(Boston, Mass. - Mar. 31, 2006) - A fine of more than $325,000 may be levied under an EPA complaint against the Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation for violations of the federal stratospheric ozone protection regulations and two federal hazardous air pollutant standards. The complaint follows up on administrative orders issued to Sikorsky in both 2004 and 2005, and is EPA’s third case in three months against New England companies for violations of the ozone protection program. "