Complete Set Chronicles
Take a look at some of the sets that I've completed. This is a (slow) work in progress - more sets will be added as time permits!
Sunday, July 27, 2008
(Disclaimer: I am a college instructor of mathematics.)
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 30 years, you probably know that professional athletes are well compensated for their time at work. You also probably know that teachers, as a whole, are not as well compensated (at least in comparison to the aforementioned athletes). My question is, why do athletes command such a premium salary while professors and teachers toil in relative poverty (slight exaggeration perhaps, yes).
There are a few basic arguments that people use to defend athletes’ high salaries. The most common argument is that professional sports bring in a lot of money, and therefore, the players deserve their fair share of the profit – which in turn, leads to the high salaries. Although that is true, that line of reasoning doesn’t hold up for any other profession, so why should it for sports? For instance, gas companies have made a killing lately, but that doesn’t mean that the guy who comes out in the rain to pump gas into your car for you is seeing any extra pay (after all, he’s part of the company, doesn’t he deserve his fair share?) In regards to education, many colleges have also made a killing recently. Harvard had assets worth $25.5 billion (yes, BILLION) in 2005, a 15% gain over the previous year. Shouldn’t the professors at Harvard see some of that money, after all, aren’t they part of the proverbial “team”?
The other common argument used to defend players’ salaries is that players are under the public microscope. That’s certainly true, players’ actions are videotaped and aired on SportsCenter. Their off field activities are also tracked and reported on by various tabloids and entertainment magazines. Certainly teachers don’t have that to worry about, correct?
False. Professors also have their actions tracked and reported for the public to see. Almost all professors are required to have public web pages which detail their work history, classes taught, research, etc. Besides that, today’s professors also have their own version of entertainment magazines and tabloids with sites like ratemyprofessor.com. Ratemyprofessor allows students (or anyone for that matter) to leave anonymous comments about a professor. Each professor is graded on ease, clarity, helpfulness and can even earn little “chili peppers” indicating how “hot” they are. I don’t have any problem with the site (I actually look at my own comments occasionally out of curiosity), but I also refuse the notion that professors don’t lead a public, sometimes unfairly judged life.
Finally, I hear that teachers get summers off and therefore don’t deserve any more money. For collegiate professors, that is often false. Many professors teach summer courses or work with students doing research all summer. In addition, professors work on their lessons, syllabi, exams, labs, research, meetings, etc during the summer months…much in the same way a professional ballplayer lifts weights, reads playbooks, etc during his or her offseason.
Now, the logical question is why aren’t professors better paid? Once again, it goes back to public perception (and, in many ways, back to historical prejudices). After all, it used to be that women were the main educators…which meant that teachers’ pay didn’t need to match up with the rest of society.
I am interested in hearing other peoples’ thoughts on the subject. I realize that most of us think we ought to be paid more for our time (that’s human nature I suppose)…but is the discrepancy between teacher pay and athlete pay good for our society? After all, it cannot be a good sign for society that whenever I tell people I am a teacher they usually respond with something like “why are you wasting your talents in the education field” or “you do know you could earn a lot more money doing mathematics in the business sector”. What do you think? Is this the beginning of the end for the American education system? (My personal research into mathematics education suggests that we are falling behind the world a lot quicker than many of our politicians would like us to believe.)
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
As a Reds fan, my team is a perennial "seller"...which, especially this time of year, begs the question: Who migt get traded?
Using my Reds for an example, they have the following talked about players:
P Bronson Arroyo
P Josh Fogg
OF Adam Dunn
OF Ken Griffey Jr.
C Javier Valentin
C David Ross
C Paul Bako
RP David Weathers
RP Francisco Cordero
Does it make sense for the Reds to trade any (or all) of these players before the deadline?
Arroyo and Fogg are both adequate starters. Arroyo was terrible earlier in the season, but has settled down. Fogg also began terrible but has since become passable. A playoff team would probably like to have one of the two to solidify that 5th rotation spot/long reliever spot on a playoff roster. If I were the Reds, I wouldn't mind parting with Fogg but I'd expect something decent in return for Arroyo.
Dunn and Griffey are the Reds "big bats"... However, neither of them hit for a high average anymore and both are considered liabilities in the field. If I were the Reds, I'd allow Griffey the option to be traded. If Ken Griffey wants to be traded to a contender I would attempt to do so. I wouldn't trade Dunn for anything short of a superstar (which won't happen).
Valentin, Ross, and Bako are all part of the Reds trio of catchers. None of them are particularly spectacular, but none of them are so terrible that they should be in AAA either. If I were the Reds, I'd be willing to trade any of the three. There's no reason why a team like the Reds should even have three catchers on the bench...trading one of them probably improves the strength of the bench (the old addition by subtraction conundrum).
Cordero and Weathers are two of the main cogs of the Reds bullpen. Cordero is being paid closer like money for a team that simply doesn't win much while Weathers bides his time as a set-up man after being the closer last year. CoCo hasn't been particularly lights out, but I still wouldn't trade him since he's only in his first season of his contract. Weathers, on the other hand, deserves a chance to play for someone else and could probably net the Reds a decent prospect in return.
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Upon entering my date of birth, I had to determine the name of my avatar. Instead of picking your own name, you essentially shuffle a random selection of names around until you get a goofy three word name. I suppose that’s Topps “clever” way of making sure no one has obscene user names since the site is designed for kids. I’ve got no issues with that, nor does Sir Bacon Meat, my new avatar.
Once signed up, you get a code for a freebie pack of cards. My virtual pack contained J.J. Putz, Jorge Posada, and Jake Peavy amongst the 8 cards (no Reds). My guess is that everyone gets the same first 8 cards, so I didn’t get too excited. The virtual cards were nice though, because you can enlarge them and “flip” them over for real-time statistics. At this point, I wondered if I could create a card collection of my Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball team and avoid paying the real-time statistics update fee that Yahoo charges (as it turned out, that’d be impossible given the limited player pool of the virtual cards).
As I entered the codes from my cards, I couldn’t help but get sick of the sound effects immediately. Topps, should you read this, make the option to disable the annoying lightening and clanging sound effects immediately! My second pack (not counting the freebie) yielded Adam Dunn, Derek Lee, and 6 players that I don’t even know why they bothered making fake virtual cards of. As I continued opening the packs, I managed to snag Josh Hamilton (pack 5), Russell Martin (packs 6 and 7-trade fodder!), Randy Johnson (pack 8), Jason Giambi (pack 9), Albert Pujols (pack 10), and finally Chase Utley in the last pack (pack 11).
A quick look at my virtual card binder shows that my 11 packs (plus the freebie) netted me 81 of the 203 cards. Topps claims that the idea is to use the cards to complete virtual trades. That’s great, except it appears to be impossible to sort out your “doubles”. If someone is serious about completing the set, they have to go through each page individually to figure out which cards they have duplicates of before heading off to the trading zone. Needless to say, I didn’t do that and instead quickly gave up on the prospect of completing a fake set.
Overall, if I were younger Topps Town would be kind of cool. There are some games you can play using the cards to improve your odds (use a power hitter card like Pujols for a hitting game, etc). I do question the inclusion of a “slot machine” for points. Since the site is designed for kids, is it wise on Topps part to have a “gambling” game? I suppose that buying packs of cards are another form of gambling, but it certainly seems less Vegas-y than a slot machine…
Finally, the virtual cards feature different pictures than the actual Topps cards (but the set is much smaller than the base set, and as such, the numbers do not line up between the “real” set and the “virtual” set, which is unfortunate). The site appears to be 100% safe, there’s no place to type anything that can be read by others, everything from the goofy avatars (essentially your username) to your trades are controlled by drop down menus and/or random selection. I give Topps credit for creating a free site that (from their perspective) will hopefully help to boost sport card trading, and ultimately, sport card sales. The site is clean, and despite the annoying sounds, probably quite appealing to the younger set they appear to be aiming at.
The Bottom Line:
Overall, I give Topps Town a 70/100 for anyone under 13 years of age and a 5/100 for anyone over 13. There is enough to keep younger kids occupied and the site is completely safe and clean, which is great. The bad news for younger kids is that the site is designed to trade cards, but the trading mechanism is clunky and inefficient at best. There’s a reason why people keep their doubles in a stack, they are easier to find that way. Topps Town doesn’t give you that option, which hurts its main goal. For anyone over the age of 13, Topps Town is a cute diversion for a few minutes but ultimately will not hold your attention, nor warrant a return visit. I suggest you give your codes to a younger kid living near you and introduce him or her to the hobby of collecting cards.
Sunday, July 13, 2008
The good news is blogger alows me to write an article then schedule it's posting at a later date, so I can say with certainty that I'll have at least one entry this week...though it's nothing spectacular (though is anything I do ever spectacular?)
Enjoy the remainder of the "peak" summer month, I'll stop by all your blogs as I'm able to...and I am quite honored that so many of you have stopped by my new blog over the last couple of weeks. I don't think I'll be able to retire off my writings yet, but it's been a blast so far.
Until next time, keep readin'
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
According to ThinkQuest.org, there are 6 current generations living. (Quick aside: depending on your source, the date of births vary slightly.) There’s the GIs (born 1901 – 1924, known as high achieving, fearless, but not particularly patriotic or morally conscious). Following the GIs were the Silents (born 1925 – 1942, known as cautious, unadventurous, and for being without a cause). After the Silent Generation came the Baby Boomers (born 1943 – 1960, known for their high self-esteem and high self-indulgence). The Boomers gave way to the Generation Xers (born 1961 – 1981, known to be irresponsible, reckless, and to care only about one’s self). Next came the Millennials/Generation Yers (born 1982 – 2003, known simply as the generation of hope). Finally, the Futuristics (born 2004 – now…mostly known for crying and pooping in diapers currently…also looking for a better name since Futuristics will be a bit outdated in 2075).
Now, according to the ThinkQuest dates (and confirmed by Wikipedia, because if it is on there, you know it’s true…and yes, that was a direct jab at the site, and no, you’ll never, ever find me using Wikipedia as a source for anything other than laughs), I’m just barely a Generational Y (or Millennial). Using the typical checklist found on many sites, I certainly appear to fit many of the “defining” characteristics (ie, I author my own blog, I own a computer, I own a cell phone, and I use the web as my primary source of news). So, according to the sources, I ought to feel connected to my generation, right?
It certainly would seem so. After all, there are entire websites devoted to dealing with the differences between generations, essentially suggesting each generation is a different slab of meat – needing a different cooking temperature for different altitudes but that’s about it. I disagree.
If anything, I would argue that Generation Y/the Millennials is a myth. As a whole, my generation has no coherent vision, only cynicism. In fact, we might as well be called the Jaded Generation. We’ve watched our sports heroes turn into criminals (OJ, Michael Vick, etc), we’ve watched our elected politicians be impeached (Clinton) and shoot their friends in the face (Cheney), we’ve watched our cities tumble (New York), our “generational brothers” shot (Columbine, Virginia Tech), and witnessed countless atrocities at home and abroad (suicide bombers, the Iraq Wars, Afghanistan). We’ve had entire sports shaken to their core (baseball and cycling with steroids, basketball with gambling) and politicians lie to us and get many of our fellow gen Yers killed (Iraq). We’ve watched social figures fall from grace (Martha Stewart) and we’ve seen the Doomsday Clock get closer to midnight than ever before. We’ve lost tax money to pay for Social Security that most of our elders tell us we’ll have no chance to see when we retire. We’ve paid thousands of dollars more for schooling than any previous generation, but our student loan payments don’t go down as the cost of living goes up and the job market shrinks. Finally, we’ll vote 97.5 million times for American Idol because we think our vote counts but we will barely bother with national elections and wouldn’t know a local politician if they punched us in the nose.
Given the social, political, and world instability, it should be no surprise that my generation wanders aimlessly. Politicians try to court us during election season, they get angry when enough of us don’t show up to vote on Election Day, and finally they ignore us for another 4 years. We’ve grown up in a country that constantly tells us “we’re the best country in the world” and then proves during the 6 o’clock news nightly why we aren’t. In fact, if we say we are going overseas on vacation the older generations tell us to “wear a Canadian flag pin” because no one likes us since we are Americans.
We, as a generation, are confused. We value our privacy, yet post everything about our lives on Facebook and blogs. We carry our phones with us everywhere, but only to send text messages and pictures. We jump though the hoops required by Title IX, yet see racial profiling by “officials” on a daily basis. Nothing we see makes sense if we think too hard about it, so we end up multitasking and contemplating little on the larger issues. We know a little about a lot of things, but there are few things we know a lot about (and almost none of those things occur outside our political borders).
My generation is a generation in name only. We’ll never have a coherent identity because we don’t have any coherent plans ourselves. (For instance, the biggest Ron Paul supporter in my generation that I know in my generation moved to Korea.) I don’t feel like I belong to my generation because my generation doesn’t feel like it belongs anywhere.
Perhaps, twenty years down the road, I’ll look back and say something different. Perhaps my generation will be affected by something in such a way to unite as a group (much like the Vietnam War did to Generation X). Perhaps we’ll escape the cynicism and unite to improve our towns, states, countries, and world. Perhaps we’ll harness our multitasking tendencies long enough to improve the welfare of our country’s citizens. Perhaps we’ll contribute to the greater good in unforeseen ways. Perhaps, just perhaps, we’ll live up to our moniker as the generation of hope. Of course, being a generation of cynics, we kind of doubt it…
Monday, July 07, 2008
As we approach the final week before the All-Star break, it’s safe to say that there have been quite a few surprises (both good and bad). The Rays are this year’s small market team poster child, while the Indians are this year’s biggest disappointment (narrowly edging out the Rockies) so far. Of course, there’s still a little less than half a season to play, so a lot can happen before October rolls around.
Without further ado, here’s this week’s Power Rankings:
1. Tampa Bay Rays (55 – 32)
2. Chicago White Sox (51 – 37)
3. Los Angeles Angels (53 – 35)
4. Chicago Cubs (55 – 36)
5. Minnesota Twins (50 – 38 )
6. Boston Red Sox (52 – 39)
7. Philadelphia Phillies (48 – 41)
8. Milwaukee Brewers (49 – 39)
9. St. Louis Cardinals (50 – 40)
10. Texas Rangers (46 – 43)
11. Oakland Athletics (47 – 41)
12. New York Yankees (47 – 42)
13. Florida Marlins (45 – 43)
14. New York Mets (44 – 44)
15. Detroit Tigers (44 – 44)
16. Baltimore Orioles (44 – 43)
17. Los Angeles Dodgers (43 – 45)
18. Arizona Diamondbacks (44 – 45)
19. Cincinnati Reds (43 – 47)
20. Toronto Blue Jays (42 – 47)
21. Atlanta Braves (42 – 47)
22. Pittsburgh Pirates (40 – 47)
23. Houston Astros (41 – 48)
24. San Francisco Giants (39 – 50)
25. Colorado Rockies (37 – 52)
26. Seattle Mariners (35 – 53)
27. Kansas City Royals (39 – 50)
28. Cleveland Indians (37 – 51)
29. San Diego Padres (35 – 54)
30. Washington Nationals (34 – 56)
Once again, the National League West is atrocious, with the highest ranked team at #17. The National League Central, on the other hand, has 3 of the top 10 teams. The most interesting portion of the rankings (this time of year) is the middle third. Some of those teams will decide to “go for it” and be active buyers before the trading deadline, while others will decide they can’t win and be active sellers. Who will choose what, we’ll have to wait and see!
Until next time, keep readin’
Friday, July 04, 2008
This year, the 4th is a bit harder for me because he is no longer with us. Some of my favorite summertime memories involve him taking me out on his boat to watch the fireworks over the lake. Although his health deteriorated over the past few years, he never lost his love for the water - nor for his family or country. He was a strong man whose spirit never ceased to amaze me.
I wish all of you a happy and safe 4th of July, and may you all remember your own special friends and family who helped make America the country that it is. And to my grandpa, I hope you have a great view of the lake and fireworks this year - I miss you.
Wednesday, July 02, 2008
For my first recipe on my new blog, I’d like to present my version of a Corn Salsa that I had at a picnic a few years ago. The salsa is exceedingly easy to make (so long as you can operate a knife I guess) – and is sure to disappear at your next family picnic.
2-3 Large Tomatoes (about 1.5 lbs), chopped
1 Jalapeño pepper, chopped
1/3 cup red onion, chopped
1 cup cooked corn kernels
½ teaspoon of parsley
¼ cup Italian dressing
Combine all the ingredients (except the Italian dressing) in a large bowl. Add the dressing and mix lightly. I usually serve Tostitos scoops or Wheat Thins with the salsa. Enjoy!
You can use 2 ears of grilled corn instead of the 1 cup of cooked corn to create a salsa with a more “outdoorsy” taste. If you want a spicier salsa, use 2 jalapeño peppers. You can use fresh parsley, but I’m not ambitious enough to grow my own so you are on your own if you do that!
Tuesday, July 01, 2008
1. Tampa Bay Rays (50 – 32) (Last week: #5): The Rays climbed to the top of the MLB Power Rankings for the first time ever! The Rays are looking more like a legitimate contender with every series they play.
2. Los Angeles Angels (49 – 33) (Last week: #2): The Angels are playing (almost) .600 baseball. With that type of solid play, the Angels will be tough to catch in the upcoming months for the other NL West teams.
3. Chicago White Sox (47 – 35) (Last week: #10): The White Sox managed to jump a whopping 7 spots in the Power Rankings…and they passed the crosstown Cubs in the process. Which do you think White Sox fans are happier with?
4. Chicago Cubs (49 – 33) (Last week: #1): The mighty have fallen. The Cubs, thanks to a 4 game losing streak, fall out of the top spot…and now sit behind three other teams.
5. St. Louis Cardinals (48 – 36) (Last week: #6): I’ll fully admit I’ve been waiting for the wheels to fall off of the Cardinal bus all season long…yet it hasn’t happened. I’m still not convinced they are for real (based on their pitching staff mostly), but I won’t hold my bias against them as they slowly inch up the rankings.
6. Boston Red Sox (50 – 35) (Last week: #3): Losers of three straight, the Red Sox are now being advertised on ESPN as the “weaker” team compared to the Rays. My Power Rankings agree with that assessment (for this week anyhow)…
7. Minnesota Twins (45 – 38 ) (Last week: #9): The Twins have won 8 of their last 10 games, which has put them on the cusp of a top 5 position in the weekly Power Rankings.
8. Milwaukee Brewers (44 – 37) (Last week: #4): The Brewers have won 6 of their last 10 games, yet they have been outscored on the season by 2 runs. That type of run differential suggests the Brewers are overachieving currently; will this week’s slide be the beginning of the end for the Brewers?
9. Oakland Athletics (44 – 37) (Last week: #8 ): Oakland has outscored their opponents by 59 runs…but I’m not sure anyone (outside of California perhaps) has any idea how.
10. Detroit Tigers (42 – 40) (Last week: #18 ): Winners of 6 straight, the Tigers have begun “prowling” up the standings…of course, they are still 9 positions behind the spot where most of the pundits assumed they’d be at this point in the season.
11. New York Yankees (44 – 39) (Last week: #7): The Yankees have lost 2 in a row…and sit behind two other AL East teams in the standings. Oh yeah, they also don’t like their pitchers running the bases.
12. Florida Marlins (43 – 39) (Last week: #11): The Marlins are hanging around still, which means that it’s July and baseball is still relevant for BOTH Florida baseball teams. Who would have imagined that at the beginning of the season?
13. Philadelphia Phillies (44 – 39) (Last week: #12): The Phillies have only won twice in the last 10 games, which has dropped them considerably in the rankings. Perhaps a return to National League ball will help the Phillies.
14. Texas Rangers (43 – 41) (Last week: #15): I picked the Rangers as my surprise team, and thus far they haven’t completely debunked the validity of my pick.
15. Baltimore Orioles (41 – 40) (Last week: #13): The Orioles fell to one game over .500 this week, which is only good enough to keep them ahead of the Blue Jays in the tough American League East.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks (41 – 41) (Last week: #14): The Diamondbacks lead their division by three games, yet they are in the bottom half of ALL Major League teams. If this were European Soccer, the entire NL West would be demoted to second tier status.
17. Houston Astros (40 – 43) (Last week: #25): The Astros jumped up 10 spots in the rankings, thanks mostly to a three game winning streak (and by winning 7 out of their last 10 games overall).
18. New York Mets (40 – 42) (Last week: #17): The Mets are 3.5 games behind the division leading Phillies, but they are already 10 games behind the Rays for the best record in baseball…
19. Cincinnati Reds (39 – 45) (Last week: #24): The Reds managed to climb out of the NL Central basement on the last day of June. Ken Griffey Jr. has now hit 603 homeruns.
20. Toronto Blue Jays (40 – 43) (Last week: #20): Most teams don’t strive for consistency when they are ranked #20, but that’s where the Blue Jays find themselves.
21. Atlanta Braves (40 – 43) (Last week: #16): The Braves are currently in fourth place in the NL East, which may make them the most surprising underachiever so far this year (especially now that the Tigers are playing better ball).
22. Kansas City Royals (38 – 45) (Last week: #23): The Royals eeked up another spot, thanks to a sweep of helpless Colorado earlier this week.
23. Pittsburgh Pirates (38 – 44) (Last week: #22): The Pirates fell into last place with their most recent loss to the Reds…but they would be in second place if they were in the NL West. Take that for what it’s worth.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers (38 – 44) (Last week: #21): The Dodgers have scored exactly as many runs as they’ve given up, which suggests they are (slightly) better than their record indicates.
25. San Francisco Giants (36 – 46) (Last week: #27): The Giants played .500 ball over their previous 10 games, which “catapulted” them up two spaces…such is the life for low-level Power Ranked teams.
26. Cleveland Indians (37 – 46) (Last week: #19): The Indians were outscored by 10 runs over the past week…and managed to drop 7 spots at the same time. Coincidence?
27. Seattle Mariners (31 – 50) (Last week: #30): The Mariners are still better than the NL West…
28. Washington Nationals (33 – 51) (Last week: #29): The Nationals have been outscored by 115 runs on the season!
29. Colorado Rockies (32 – 50) (Last week: #26): The NL West is lousy (see #30).
30. San Diego Padres (32 – 51) (Last week: 28 ): The NL West is lousy…and the Padres and Rockies are on a combined 15 game LOSING streak going into their titanic clash this week.
So there you have it, another edition of my MLB Power Rankings. As always, let me know what you think.
Until next time, keep readin’