Friday, December 14, 2007

The Mitchell Report: Murphspot Nation Barely Reacts

I've long ago abandoned the pretense that I will occasionally be blogging about the Pirates. For one, blogs that are actually devoted to the cause of trying to figure out what on earth my team is doing are much, much better at that (I read WHYGAVS and Bucs Dugout regularly, but there are like twenty others that are also awesome). More than that, it's just really hard to come up with something original and funny to say when you're constantly being stabbed in the face by bad decisions, poor management and lack of talent. Again, I commend those who can hang in there and write about it anyway.

And yet, here we are. A baseball post.

Yesterday, George Mitchell's report on use of performance enhancing drugs came out. Most of you have probably heard this by now. Some eighty-nine players are named, from Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte to Chuck Knoblauch and Nook Logan. There's been some controversy over how much evidence exists for each of these allegations and whether or not the report is exhaustive (it's emphatically not). It's what George Mitchell could find without being able to pressure most players into talking to him and relying, largely, on the evidence brought forth by former Mets clubhouse guy Kirk Radomski (who had cancelled checks from players who had him get them steroids and human growth hormone) and former Yankees trainer Brian McNamee (who claims to have injected Clemens and Pettitte.) I'm going to leave for right now the question of who the hell buys drugs illegally with a goddamn check. My reaction to the report's release was, of course, to check for Pirates on the list. The Post Gazette proudly proclaims that no current Pirates were on the list, though of course the list is not exhaustive (so there may indeed be current Pirates cheating) and, perhaps more importantly, if any current Pirates are on performance enhancing drugs, they're doing it wrong. Then again, the indominable Slaw-o tested positive, so it's possible to cheat and suck.

All of this to say that I'm not sure what to make of it. It's not exhaustive, as much as Bud Selig, the Players Association and MLB want to pretend it is and does not mark the "start of the post-steroid era." I'm not sure how to feel about the fact that there's no way to defend against the allegations except to sue for libel. What I am sure of, however, is that the Slate staff does a pretty good job of kicking it around for a while. Or, at least, they're coming at it from a position that's somewhat outside the typical sports-commentary/blogging perspective.

Give it a read, mostly because it occasionally contains gems like this:

(Josh) Levin: I guarantee that Batboy: The Rise and Fall of Kirk Radomski (or maybe The Unnatural) will be a major motion picture in the next two years. It's like Blow meets Almost Famous meets Major League.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Astronomy Cast

Ah. A geek post. How refreshing.

As you know if you read the header at the top of the page, I attempt to do science for a living. Chemistry. Mixing little bits of things with other little bits of things, then swirling it and drying it and putting it in water and heating it and trying to figure out what the hell is going on. It's fun. It wasn't what got me into the sciences, though.

The reason I'm interested in science and am trying to make a career out of it goes back to being in the fourth grade and checking a book about the solar system out of the library of my tiny Catholic school. Specifically, I remember it including instructions on how to grasp the scale of the solar system by using strings and a basketball and some pebbles. Or something. The point is that while what I do today involves things on a somewhat small scale and attempts to manipulate molecules and the structures they form into doing what I want them to do, what first got me interested in studying how everything works was astronomy. Recently, I've started to get back into paying attention to it, if only to have something pretty to look at in between banging my head against the wall trying to get my science to work.

Which is why you may, if you read this blog regularly and pay attention to it, have noticed the addition of the Bad Astronomy blog to my links on the side there. Actually, if you read this blog regularly and pay attention to it, I'd really like to have a talk with you, as your visits either indicate that you have nothing better to do, and so are clearly experiencing levels of boredom previously thought impossible by leading psychologists and should find your nearest university so that we can study how you've gotten this bored, or you're my mother. In which case, hello.

Phil Plait runs a terrific blog and has a book out and another coming up soon and keeps showing up on the skeptical podcasts I listen to, but the reason I thought to write this post is not to promote him. It's to promote Astronomy Cast. Astronomy-focused podcast run by Dr. Pamela Gay of Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville and Fraser Cain, the publisher of Universe Today and noted Canadian. It's worth a listen and, if somehow you're reading this and employed as a high-school teacher, are running a program through NASA in which you let them know you exist, they send you equipment to record your student's questions, then answer them for you. Which is pretty cool. Overall, very good at taking incomprehensible things and making so that I can at least start to understand them.

It makes me a little bit sad that I'm not able to actually see very much in the night sky anymore, but I suppose that's one of the trade-offs you make when you choose to live in the third largest city in the nation, but do so on a salary that doesn't permit a car, so that you can get the hell out of here or an awesome telescope. I have yet to work up a decent rig that would allow me to carry a very sensitive piece of equipment on my back while biking, and given my tendency to either be hit by cars or have old women jump in front of me, I don't think that's something that's going to happen for quite some time.