Donovan McNabb trade bait? Why?

All of a sudden there is a lot of NFL chatter about trading Donovan McNabb.  I can’t imagine why the Eagles would want to do that.  He’s one of the top quarterbacks.  he won’t get a Superbowl with his present supporting cast and would have a marginal shot with a top crew but he’s a consistent winner. Too consistent- he doesn’t have extra to give in the top playoff games. 
 
The obvious trade bait is Michael Vick.  He’s the #3 quarterback in Philidelphia and has or had the ability to be a starter somewhere.  He did some idiotic things and paid a price for that, and I can’t say that I’m a fan of the guy or believe that people really reform, but from a business decision point of view he could really help some of the worse off clubs.
 
Vick has been described as a star although his stats aren’t particularly spectacular, except for running.  He runs 1/4 to 1/3 of the plays and his results on the running end make up for any deficiency in passing ability.  A quarterback running over 1,000 yards in a season (2006) with yards per carry in some seasons coming close to 10?
 
A running quarterback could be especially helpful to a weaker team as he can make more happen on his own.    If the receivers quit on you there is only so much that a pass-only quarterback can do to fix it. 
 
The second stringer Kolb shows promise but I have to say that two starts in which he was quite successful don’t say much.  Not sure who those were against either.
 
A better approach if somebody is being groomed is to put them in more often, starting with games against weak teams and then you can pull them after a quarter if they are a shambles.   Work their way up to tougher challenges.
 
If two competing quarterbacks are close enough in skill level you can do something like, you win you play the next game, you lose and the other guy starts.
 
Gambling on the ability of a backup to handle real game pressure and media scrutiny is dangerous. 
 
Of course it does help if the backup has had a legend as a mentor, like Steve Young in San Fransisco or Rodgers in Green Bay.  (And somebody should pick up former star quarterbacks as quarterback coaches for the same reason)
 
Now, McNabb wants to stay in Philidelphia.  Even if they do ultimately trade him he’s going to be worth a hell of a lot more if his contract isn’t just about to expire.  Signing him for 5 years makes a lot more sense. 
 
And if they do trade him I wouldn’t take less than two pro-bowlers in other positions in compensation.  Draft picks???  Only an idiot trades somebody like McNabb for draft picks.   Even the first rounders turn out to be mediocre or busts most of the time. 
 
I also have to wonder if comments by his team have been taken out of context.  Sure, they said that if they received an offer they would look at it.  That’s a standard response. 
 
When  the only real problem with McNabb is that he hasn’t won a superbowl I have to say that a lot of teams would love to have Philadelphia’s problems. 
 
Michael Vick is worth a solid player in a trade with somebody.  Trading him just makes sense.  He may not be popular but some teams have empty stands anyways because they can’t win anything.    Have him donate to the local SPCA or something every year to mitigate his past stupidity. 
 
McNabb has been accused in the past for some reason of "playing the race card".   If he has I can’t say that I’m unsympathetic to his position.  It really is tough to imagine people rooting for a trade of a white quarterback with the same kind of career.  Last year was the first year that he lost in the first round of the playoffs.  Lots of quarterbacks with worse passer ratings get treated like heros. 
 
Either the whole business is just concocted by the press or Eagles management need to give their heads a shake.
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Issues of health tradeoffs in nature

I was reviewing alzheimers information online and found the interesting quirk that people with other kinds of dementia related to high blood pressure were less likely to get alzheimers. 
 
There is an issue of whether Alzheimers represents a difficult choice of natural selection and that choice may be connected with adverse health effects of high blood pressure.  Go one way, and you have one set of problems.  Go the other way, and you have another set of problems. 
 
I have an interest in seeing if there is some connection between osteoporosis and heart disease in women.  Calcium plays a role in developing plaques in arteries and calcium is important for bones so I would expect that there would be some relation between these diseases, probably a negative correlation. 
 
If calcium contributes to calcium deposits and heart disease and that is the most common killer of women, a system for dumping calcium out of the system might well be a defence mechanism. 
 
Of course a positive correlation is also possible for related reasons if the issue is mitigation rather than defence.  The body could be more likely to dump calcium from somebody with existing heart disease to prevent it from getting worse. 
 
The first thing to do is check the correlations, then try to test alternative hypotheses. 
 
Any time that two health issues have a given nutrient playing a major role, some relation should be suspected and the direction and the magnatude of the correlation can give information about how things work.

The true path to equality

I read this piece on continued women’s inequality and got seriously irked: http://www.newsweek.com/id/235220
 
Some of us were born to rich families, went to the right prep schools and went to Ivy League schools and direct from their MBA degrees into jobs with $200,000 starting wages and a corner office.
 
For most of us white male heterosexuals life has been a lot more complicated than that.  The most successful one percent of one percent may skew the average for the rest of us.
 
Apart from those lucky few who have life gift wrapped you will see ordinary white males having most or all of the same challenges that anybody else has to face.  We may not have to face discrimination based on gender, race or sexual orientation but those are hardly the only impediments to getting on in life. 
 
To understand what holds people back from being what they could be you have to look at both internal and external obstacles.  I think that in the present day internal obstacles to success are becoming more prominant. 
 
These types of obstacles are not just limited to the workplace.
 
Women are famous for complaining that they pay three times as much as men for the same kinds of things, such as clothes.  There is truth to that. 
 
It is also true that a purchase involves both a buyer and a seller.   If the buyer doesn’t like something they have liberty to go elsewhere.  Sellers are not omnipotent entities dictating from on high how the world will be.  They are limited by market realities and while they will charge what the market will bear they will go out of business if they charge more than the market will bear. 
 
So why do women’s things cost more?  Because women will pay it.   If retailers tried to charge us men the same we’d put them out of business.  Women go along with it and limit their rebellion to complaining. 
 
I would add that men for whom affectations are important are in the same position as women.  There are people that sell BMWs, Mercedes Benz, Cadillacs, etc., and that sell $1,000 suits.   The people for whom such things are important get fleeced.  I don’t see the point in spending $1,000 on a suit when you can get one for $150 that is just as good and I’ve never figured out why anybody will pay $20,000 for a hood ornament.    If somebody chooses to do that I don’t think they have a right to complain.
 
Then there is an issue of pursuing job advancement.   The best example of what women- and many men- do wrong was shown by the Leno and Letterman kafuffle over the Tonight Show when Johnny Carson left.  Letterman just assumed that he was going to get the job.  He didn’t tell anybody, he just assumed that he had earned the right.  NBC thought that because he wasn’t asking for it that he didn’t want it.  Meanwhile Leno was aggressively pursuing what he wanted. 
 
That is an important lesson, if you want something you ask for it.  You can ask for it politely.  But ask for it.  That doesn’t mean that you get it, but like Gretzky once said, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take. 
 
Men have to deal with rejection more than women, being the initiators in most relationships with women, and this probably sets us up for handling other things better.   The perspectives carry over into other areas.  Men realize that nothing will happen in their lives unless they make it happen.   They also expect to fail in getting ahead most of the time and that doesn’t matter too much if the odd success makes it all worthwhile.
 
Sometimes the bias in favor of aggressiveness (as opposed to maleness per se) goes awry such as with the stereotypical megalomanic CEO who leads his company to distruction.
 
In a lot of other cases however, the ability to be assertive and aggressive when appropriate is bona fide occupational requirement.
 
People in positions of responsibility are going to have to make tough decisions and take hard lines from time to time.  They may have to fire employees, sometimes for cause, which can be hard, and sometimes for economic reasons, which ought to be harder.    They may have to call out contractors who try to change the terms of deals.  They may have to negotiate with suppliers and distributors and take a hard nosed position so they don’t turn the company into a non-profit organization. 
 
If you can’t aggressively pursue your own interests it may send the message that you are too soft for a position with more authority. 
 
Here’s a training exercise for women- when buying item over $100, ask for a discount.  A lot of people would be surprised how often you can get one.  If you dont’ get at least 10% off, instead of giving in, walk out without buying. 
 
A corollary of this is to avoid typical womanisms that destroy bargain position.  If you say "I can’t believe how beautiful this is, I have to have it", your bargaining position is shot. 
 
Back on the issue of the article, it is also annoying to hear about women’s disillusionment as if it is something unique.   What did you think was going to happen with equality in the workplace, that it was going to be like a movie?  Before you start the sad violin mood music to lament your disillusionment, I’d just like to say, welcome to reality, a reality in which there are only 500 CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. 
 
That’s just math, right?
 
If somebody gave me a key to a CEO’s office at birth I must have misplaced it. 
 
Almost everybody has at one time or another had a boss that was a lunatic.  Almost everybody has worked in a disfunctional workplace.  The people that rise to the top are mostly schmoozers and sociopaths, typically with little talent. 
 
Talented white males find it as disheartening as everybody else does when some moronic troll with connections is put into a position of responsibility.  We do take any solace in the person’s skin color, genitals or sexual orientation and are as likely as anybody else to suffer from their abrasiveness and ineptitude.   The internal differences between an obnoxious idiot and the rest of us are greater than external differences of skin color and gender. 
 
And as for the rest of us white male heterosexuals that have never made it to the corner office- lots of us have been passed over for advancement, lots of us have health conditions or other problems that have held us back, all of us have had traumas and setbacks in our lives, all of us have had disillusionment. 
 
And if we do succeed in overcoming our own significant obstacles through pursuit of our own interests in spite of setbacks, perseverance is available to all, and is a more constructive use of energies than whining. 
 

How to research habitable planets elsewhere using our own solar system

Recent research into planets in other solar systems is fairly interesting but there will have to be a shift in focus at some point for the research to come up with something practically useful.
 
The key method used now for planet detection has the advantage of picking up potential planets quickly, but requires that the planet be close to a star in order for it to work.   The consequence is that most of the planets found in this way are extremely hot.
 
On the other hand waiting an earth year for a planet in an earth like orbit to cross the face of another star would be tedious and unless we can see the solar system in question edge on we might not see it at all using that method.
 
The task of finding an alternative method for spotting these is a scientific and engineering issue rather than a philosophical one and I can’t say that I’ve got any specific ideas in that direction.
 
I’m surprised that we haven’t seen more analysis of the geometry of our own system to think about what to look for.  The inner planets have a fairly consistent spacing with each successive planet, with Venus about 1.5 times further out than Mercury, Earth about 1.5 times further out than Venus, and Mars about 1.5 times further out than Earth.  The main asteroid belt begins about 1.5 times further out from Mars, and extends to about 1.5 times that.  Jupiter’s is about 1.5 times further out from the outer edge of the asteroid belt. 
 
With Saturn the spacing changes, probably something to do with considerations of gravity in the outer solar system, but there is a new kind of spacing.  Saturn, Uranus and Neptune are about 10 AU apart from one another. 
 
The asteroid belt does raise the interesting question of whether one or possibly two inner planets have been obliterated and the spacing would certainly be about right.  It is the most plausible hypothesis.  Not all of the mass involved would have necessarily stayed in the same orbit. 
 
While our attentions have been turned to Mars as the easiest of the closest planets to explore I think that Mars is not going to tell us a lot about the lessons that we need to think about for finding habitable planets elsewhere. 
 
The first thing that we should be looking for, if we find a way to look for it, is atmosphere, because that is what can tell us whether a surface is likely habitable.  That will probably be easier to determine than whether a given planet has oceans, which requires a closer look. 
 
Our own solar system teaches us a lot of lessons about atmosphere. 
 
We can’t get too Earth-entric in analysing how atmosphere works.
 
Titan, which is very small as a moon, with about 1/50 of Earth’s mass, has about 1.5 Earth atmospheres of pressure at the surface.
 
Uranus, which is somewhat misleadingly called a gas giant, is thought to have a solid core with a density of perhaps 9grams per cubic centimeter.  That would be interesting, because that is more dense than iron.
 
I am inclined to think that the idea of a "gas giant" is more an intellectual deficiency resulting from the discredited philosophical theory of phenominalism, the idea that only what we can see is real or exists.  We see gas, ergo it is a gas giant.  But that isn’t thinking like a scientist or thinking about how matter normally behaves. 
 
Planets have gravity.  Gravity attracts objects.   The only way that a large gas object won’t have a solid core is if the core is sufficiently hot that it melts any space junk that comes into it- and that includes the sun, which is really just a special type of gas giant.
 
There could be a nearly pure gas giant in theory I suppose, which would then over time collect stray asteroids and comets, but also note that it would be easiest for a gas giant to begin forming around a kernal, some solid thing with gravity that was already there.  Where would such an object come from? Anywhere.  There’s lots of stray junk in space, millions of objects, some small, some large.  There’s no reason to suppose that the solar system had some virgin birth with nothing else around.  Even the whacko big bang theorists have the solar system as much younger than the universe. 
 
If Uranus is a gas giant then we might call Venus a "gas midget".   Venus is the same size of earth, but the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 90 earth atmospheres. 
 
That is a finding that should give us pause.  The atmosphere on Venus so far has crumpled up probes that were sent there to take measurements. 
 
The atmospheric pressure at the solid surface of Uranus is thought to be ridiculously high. 
 
Venus is also noted for the lack of impact craters observed on it.  It has had a relatively charmed life and has retained a heavy atmosphere.  I have to wonder if there may be a correlation. 
 
Something that I have wondered about: before the asteroid that apparently wiped out the dinosaurs, is that  I recall seeing a report once that before the asteroid the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere was twice as much.  I don’t know how that was determined, but if true it branches to another thought, whether serious asteroid hits can strip or blow off atmosphere.  As in, was oxygen just a higher proportion of the atmosphere, or was there more atmosphere?
 
Atmospheres may also become replenished over time.  One of the problems with our understanding of "space" is that the term itself is an assumption in the form of a conclusion so entrenched that it is built into the language.  There are particles in space as well as rocks in varying sizes.  If the solar system passes a cloud of stuff it will sweep it in and it will go somewhere, whether to the planets or to the sun. 
 
In terms of the balance of the solar system I would expect outer planets to get first dibs on gases that the solar system would encounter.  In areas outside Pluto that might not show much, as they could freeze at the surface.  But to my thinking, put a simple rock in an orbit where it can have elements that are gases in a gas form and give it a few billion years and it will probably accummulate enough to have a gas giant.
 
The universe shouldn’t be seen as a static system because I don’t see any foundation for that.  If you think about matter performing exactly as you would expect it to, you can get some interesting ideas about what to look for. 
 
It is interesting that water has been observed on many of the planets and moons in the solar system, with even some on our moon.  It doesn’t look to be particularly rare in this end of the universe. 
 
There is an issue of the nature of orphaned particles floating around in our solar system that are not yet attached to any particular planet.  Do any have a static orbit? Asteroids can have static orbits.  No reason why a particle cloud couldn’t have an orbit as well.  There then is an issue of how to determine if any such clouds are native as opposed to picked up in our solar system’s travels. 
 
If we can find a way to read the very faint haze of particles in our solar system, including particles that have escaped from planets, if we can find a way to make out a chemical signature that might be picked out from a distant solar system, that could help narrow down which other solar systems of the billions out there to look at more carefully for signs of a habitable planet. 
 
It would be nice to know if some of the deep space probes sent to the outer reaches of the solar system have taken pictures back towards the sun, that could then be examined to see if there is any haze effect that changes the light coming from the sun, say by reducing certain wavelengths.   If we know what our solar system looks like from the outside it may help give an idea what a similar solar system looks like from the outside. 
 
The ideal spacing for a planet to have life is probably somewhere between the orbits of Venus and Mars, in terms of the amount of sunlight absorbed.  Mars is a little too cold, but a planet at that distance with some nice greenhouse gasses might be workable for life. 
 
Venus is too hot, but that is at least in part a function of its’ atmosphere. 
 
You need to be looking between those ranges, adjusted for the star’s output, to find a useful planet.   Planets that circle a star every three days are an interesting novelty but too hot to occupy.
 
Some planets could be habitable through internal heat but it would seem less likely that advanced life could arise in such conditions.
 
The sweet spot for life like life as we know it would have to be adjusted for the power output of the local star.  The energy received will be inversely proportionate to the square of the distance so if the star has four times the power output you have to be twice as far away and if it has a quarter the power output you have to be twice as close to have the same energy yields for a subject planet. 

Twilight movies- fiends with benefits?

There’s something a little off about the attraction women sometimes have for dangerous men.   I suppose from back in caveman days when the head of a tribe was probably the most vicious thug there might have been a natural selection advantage to it.  These days if such a person doesn’t get in trouble with the law he’ll usually wind  up in some blue collar occupation working with his hands and if such a person does get a position of authority he’ll wreak nothing but havoc.
 
At the extreme end you see women who are writing to axe murderers in prison.  I’ll never figure out what that is about. 
 
There is something unsettling about monster movies and books written by women because there seems to be too much of a softening of the image, as if there is no such thing as a true predator.  There are true predators.
 
Personally I like "30 days of night" a lot more.   Too many vampire movies these days are written by what you might call "vampire apologists".  In 30 days of night the vampires are pure predators, like a pack of wolves.  No frilly 17th century costumes, angst or affectations, just exactly what you would expect from predators with vampire drives and constraints.
 
Of course men occasionally suffer from the same kind of problem.  Look at the real life situation with Sandra Bullock and Jesse James.   Sandra Bullock is vanilla girl.  Jesse James’ last wife was a porn star.  He went from one end of the spectrum to the other.   No doubt the melodrama and personality disorders that one would expect from somebody in that kind of industry were too much.
 
Sometimes too much vanilla can be too much to handle as well.   I don’t think I’ve ever been able to watch a Sandra Bullock movie from start to finish and I think the only Meryl Streep movie that I’ve been able to see from start to finish was Kramer v. Kramer (which was carried by Dustin Hoffman’s acting).  And the movies are where people are put in positions that are more exciting.  
 
Meanwhile there is nothing that seems vanilla about Jesse James.   You could cast him in a remake of Rosemary’s Baby. 
 
My guess is that after years of vanilla he starts looking for other flavours.  He goes to somebody at the other end of the extreme, some neo-nazi type that sounds like a bit of a whack-job. 
 
Then there is the issue of whether anybody is ever really vanilla or if that is just a front.  Everybody would have thought that Tiger Woods was the most vanilla, boring personality six months ago.   I think that sometimes having to be vanilla is too suffocating and when people rebel against the pressure to be insufferably bland they sometimes go too far in the other direction.   Once the inhibition gets busted it sometimes is busted completely. 
 
It is probably better to have a bit of an edge, at least some area where you pursue what you want and don’t compromise, without letting down obligations to others.  If you don’t defend that boundary a) you can become so drab, boring and spineless that whoever you want to be with you loses interest and b) if you try to be too perfect, the frustration of living a boring, drab and awful life will build up and be released in one or both of two ways, either by becoming a deranged harpy that criticizes everybody for minor perceived faults or by losing self control and doing something stupid. 
 
A certain amount of vanilla is necessary for any kind of stability.  Somebody has to take out the garbage, earn money to put a roof over the family’s heads and buy groceries, take the kids to soccer practice, etc. 
 
A certain amount of selfishness is necessary too.  If you don’t have some area of life that is yours, where you pursue something just because it brings joy to your life, you will fail in your duties to others.    Further, to the extent that you might succeed in being bland, you may find that contrary to your expectations that is not what others actually want. 
 
The moral of this story?  Some vanilla is necessary and ok, but it is better to be neopolitan.

Academic Awards or Academy Awards?

The academic awards have become traditionally a venue for advancing social issues and so I think that those who have gone a little over the top with that during past ceremonies should be forgiven.   They missed the bit about how the academy awards are supposed to be about advancing social issues while obstensibly being about best movies and best actors, and to make the real purpose explicit is considered gauche.
 
The academy has been wondering why it is that the ratings are dropping for their annual awards show.  The answer would be that with each passing year it becomes increasingly irrelevant whether a movie or an actor is any good. 
 
It is something like the reaction that you would get if Jake Delhomme were nominated for the NFL M.V.P. award on the basis of his work in the community.
 
Of course it is part of the entertainment value of films that they present us with a fake alternative reality in which reason and justice prevail, which is necessary escapism in a world dominated by politicians, bureaucrats, huge corporations and pseudo-experts.   On the otherhand presenting a simplistic view of justice with a sledgehammer and preaching puts movie makers in the same irritating category as the politicians, bureaucrats, huge corporations and pseudo-experts who bray about the world only being saved through their simple minded vision without considering subtleties or dissent.
 
On the other hand movies that are too preachy can be tedious.  Among other things having the injustice of the world put to you with a sledgehammer isn’t really escapist. 
 
There is also the element of familiarity.  Award nominations tend to be skewed towards existing players, probably out of laziness. 
 
I sometimes wonder of Meryl Streep sometimes gets nominations by default if there is a weak field or in a cynical attempt to improve ratings for the awards show. 
 
Avatar vs. Hurt Locker?  I did think that Hurt Locker was a powerful and underrated movie.  It was solid and the ending in which the hero feels completely out of place in regular society is particularly well done.   The viewer can feel what a jarring change that would have to be.
 
Avatar should get the best animated feature award although I don’t think it is nominated for that.  Best picture?  You’ve got to be kidding.  Take out the special effects and the movie is a 5 out of 10 at best.   It’s overdone and the whole thing is a political manifesto disguised as a movie. 
 
Up In The Air at least has an innovative karmic twist in it.  The Clooney character has spent his career firing people and so the sledgehammer moralists would have had him become redundant and be fired summarily after all of his years of service.  
 
Instead his punishment may be worse- at the end he gets to keep the lifestyle that he wanted to keep, but he doesn’t really want it anymore.  His punishment is to carry on what he was doing after he has realized that his life didn’t have much meaning or purpose and the things that mattered had passed him by.  He lost by winning.   Meanwhile some of the people that he terminated, after the initial shock and trauma, have gotten by and even improved their lives in some ways. 
 
The best of the lot though is District 9, which is probably the most original movie of the year.   It is the antithesis of the typical alien movie in so many ways and that is a relief.  It also blurs the lines of who is a villian and who is the hero, with the protagonist starting in effect as the head villian with his oblivious callousness to the aliens. 
 
There ought to be a bias against giving Best Picture awards to schlock formula pictures and towards people for coming up with new ideas. 
 
As things stand now, here’s a formula to get an academy award nomination regardless of who is acting and whether they can act:
 
Tell the story of a wheelchair bound, half jewish black lesbian orphan fighting addiction and poverty, who overcomes her challenges to win a gold medal in the para-olympics and a nobel peace prize and goes on to become the first black lesbian parapalegic in space. 
 
I’m saying this and I’m a liberal.   I’m just not convinced that filling films with progressive ideas to the point where they are crossing over into self-parody advances anybody.   We’ve had parodies like "Scary Movie", "Dance Flick" and "Meet the Spartans", now it is seriously time for something like "Sad Movie".
 
A good movie message is incidental to the movie rather than being the equivalent of somebody sitting in front of you in the theatre with a tall hat. 
 
Here’s one that ought to be considered for next year: Brooklyn’s Finest. 
 
A problem with too many films is that they promote the ideas of good and evil.  The result of this is anti-progressive.  For true good and evil in real life you get it, it’s like the car running out of gas, nobody has to explain it to you.  Sending a message that the whole world is black and white though promotes absolutism as a way of thinking.   A message that life is messy and complicated is a little more constructive.  There aren’t that many people who think along the lines of "I am doing this or taking this position because it is evil".  Even if what a person is doing is evil, most people have to rationalize why what they are doing is ok.   If a person is evil and doesn’t care, calling their attention to that isn’t going to change anything, and if a person is rationalizing then calling him evil is not likely to lead to a rational debate. 
 
If you want to send a message that will promote world peace, racial harmony and all the rest of that, the message that needs to be spread first and foremost is that if you had another person’s gene’s, background and problems, there is a really decent chance that you wouldn’t be any different.  True evil and true good, without mixed motives, are exceedingly rare.   Like what is said in the opening sequence from Brooklyn’s Finest, some situations aren’t so much about right and wrong as they are about righter and wronger.