Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Beware of Exagerrated Mars Information!

The following excerpt is from an email I received today from a co-worker who wants to know if the details are true. Let's take a look at the unaltered original text...

Two moons on 27 August, 2007. 27th Aug the Whole World is waiting for... Planet Mars will be the brightest in the night sky starting August. It will look as large as the full moon to the naked eye. This will cultivate on Aug. 27, 2007 when Mars comes within 34.65M miles of earth. Be sure to watch the sky on Aug. 27, 12:30 am. It will look like the earth has 2 moons. The next time Mars may come this close is in 2287. Share this with your friends as NO ONE ALIVE TODAY will ever see it again.

Forgetting for a moment that the typist probably meant to use the word "culminate" rather than "cultivate", this message is, as my grandfather used to say "full of old shoes".

Mars is currently in Taurus, and is shining at magnitude +0.4 (which is brighter than all but eight of the brightest stars), but it is a mere 7.8 arc seconds wide. What the message refers to took place in August 2003 when Mars was shining at magnitude -2.9 and was 25 arc seconds wide, while moving through Capricornus.

However, the sender did get two things right, the first being that Mars, in August 2003, was as close as it has been, (and will be) in a long time, but it was nowhere near as large as the full Moon. The full Moon is roughly 2000 arc seconds wide, or 80 times the apparent size of Mars at its biggest and closest. For Mars to appear as large as the full Moon in our skies, it would be a mere 433,125 miles away (the Moon is 240,000 miles away) rather than the 34.65 million the sender gives (which was also correct).

I get messages like this from time to time because people know that astronomy is one of my hobbies, and I have gotten variations on this particular theme in the summer of 2005 as well, so I feel it is my duty to correct things as best I can from this humble vantage point. Feel free to pass this on to anyone else who could be potentially duped by this mis-information. And a tip of the hat to Jesse for sending me the message which got this ball rolling.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Celebrate Philip Lynott's Birthday

Today would have been Philip Lynott's 58th birthday. To celebrate the late Thin Lizzy leader's life, why not peruse this old piece I posted back in 2005 about the greatness of the man, and the band. I also plan to indulge in my Lizzy library, and take a tour of the Internets to see and hear the hidden treasures of the YouTube-a-verse (already found excellent live versions of Cold Sweat and The Sun Goes Down from 1983's Farewell Tour).


Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Bonds Hits Number 756 to Move Past Aaron. Lucky Fan from Queens Ends Up With the Ball.

By now, everybody has heard that Barry Bonds hit career homer number 756 last night as the Giants lost to the Washington Nationals at Lefty O'Doul Stadium. But this post is more about the lucky fan who caught the ball, and what he went through to keep it. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- With the crack of the bat a brief stillness settled over the right-center field bleachers at AT&T Park as Barry Bonds' record-breaking homer rocketed toward the crowd.

Then the scrum was on.

As the specially marked baseball landed a few rows up in the fifth inning Tuesday night, dozens of fans wrestled for it and the promise of riches it carried. Suddenly, the metal bleachers vibrated with energy. Grunts, cheers and the cries of frightened children broke the silence as parents sought to shield their youngsters from the chaos.

In the middle of it all was 22-year-old New Yorker Matt Murphy, who emerged from beneath the pile holding the ball Bonds hit for career home run No. 756. His face was bloodied and his clothes stretched and torn from his battle in the bleachers.

A team of San Francisco police officers moved in, extracted Murphy from the crowd, and quickly led him through a tunnel and into a secure room.

As he high-fived other fans, Murphy, wearing a New York Mets
jersey and cap, slid the ball into the back pocket of his plaid Bermuda shorts. Reporters screamed questions, but all he managed to say was, "I'm Matt Murphy from Queens, N.Y."

Murphy and a friend were en route to Australia and in San Francisco for a one-day layover, a Giants spokesman said. They purchased tickets just before the game. Murphy declined to make himself available to the media.

Baseball memorabilia experts have pegged the ball's value at $400,000 to $500,000. That's well below the $3.3 million fetched by Mark McGwire's 70th home run ball in 1998.

Unbelievable. How on earth were tickets still available for this game, and how much did these guys pay to purchase them? Hell, when the Giants were in town to play the Red Sox in mid-June everyone already knew that every ticket had been snatched up (Barry hit his 14th of the year, number 748 overall in the last game of the series), and some of those were going for $2,000.00! But if these guys can afford the air fare to Australia ($5,300, round-trip back in January 2005 for my trip), then a little extra cash to have a chance to see history being made was probably not an issue.

Congratulations to Mr. Murphy, and to Mr. Bonds. Barry, you are still 112 homers shy of the all-time professional home run leader, Sadaharu Oh who clubbed 868 for the Tokyo Giants from 1959-1980.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Glavine Notches 300th Win

Tom Glavine won his 300th major league game last night as the Mets beat the Cubs at Wrigley Field 8-3. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

CHICAGO - Tom Glavine knows exactly why his 300th win should be savored. "If I was the last one, I guess it would be pretty cool to be the last one to do something in the game," he said Sunday night after leading the New York Mets over the Chicago Cubs 8-3.

It was vintage Glavine, mixing pitches and fooling hitters, all the things that over the years made him one of baseball's best pitchers. With nervous family and friends looking on, Glavine left with a five-run lead after 6 1-3 innings, and New York's bullpen held on.

"It wasn't a dazzling performance in terms of striking people out. It was an exercise in hitting my spots and changing speeds and letting the guys behind me do their work," he said, a look of relief on his face.

Glavine (10-6) became the first 300-game winner since former Atlanta teammate Greg Maddux reached the milestone in 2004 while with the Cubs. "I think the feeling right now is probably relief," Glavine said. "At some point in time, I don't know when, the historic side of it will sink in. I know the company I'm in, and I'm as proud as can be to be in that company."

The club might be closed. Randy Johnson has 284 wins but back problems have plagued him and he turns 44 in September.

"I'm not saying I want to be the last one," Glavine said. "I would love for someone to have this feeling and this sense of accomplishment."

The 41-year-old Glavine, only the fifth lefty to win 300, capped a momentous weekend in baseball. On Saturday, Barry Bonds hit his 755th homer to tie Hank Aaron's career mark and Alex Rodriguez became the youngest player to reach 500 homers. Glavine said he spoke with baseball commissioner Bud Selig, who also spoke with A-Rod but didn't get in contact with Bonds.

In his first try for No. 300, Glavine left with a one-run lead at Milwaukee only to watch his bullpen blow it. Wife Christine Glavine, who had slumped in her seat at Miller Park, wiped tears from her eyes as Billy Wagner retired Mike Fontenot on a grounder for the final out at Wrigley Field.

Glavine appreciated the warm reception he received at Wrigley Field. Mets fans chanted his name after the game "Tom-mee Glavine!" as he met his family. "It was pretty special moment to be able to hug all those guys on Wrigley Field like I did tonight," he said. "There's no way I could express my gratitude for everything they've done."

Before a crowd of 41,599 on a muggy night, and with flashbulbs popping all over the old neighborhood park, Glavine allowed two runs and six hits, struck out one and walked one. He left after Angel Pagan doubled on his 102nd pitch, getting a high five from manager Willie Randolph on the mound and a standing ovation as he left the field.

Guillermo Mota came in and gave up a single to Jason Kendall, Pedro Feliciano then relieved and gave up an RBI grounder to pinch-hitter Jacque Jones. Fontenot's double made it a 5-3 game, bringing on Aaron Heilman, who retired Ryan Theirot on an inning-ending flyout.

Glavine was the third pitcher looking for his 300th win at Wrigley Field in the last five seasons. Roger Clemens (June 7, 2003) and Maddux (Aug. 1, 2004) both failed.

Glavine won his first game with the Braves on Aug. 22, 1987, was a five-time 20-game winner with the Braves and joined Maddux and John Smoltz to give Atlanta one of baseball's most formidable rotations. He captured the NL Cy Young Award in 1991 and 1998, was the MVP of the 1995 World Series and is a 10-time All-Star. He went to the Mets as a free agent after the 2002 season.

Before Glavine, no pitcher had won his 300th game in a Mets uniform, although some 300-game winners pitched with New York — Tom Seaver, Nolan Ryan and Warren Spahn, who won four games in 1965.

The second and third paragraphs of the excerpt detail exactly the way Glavine has pitched his entire career. A "crafty" lefty, he threw just hard enough to set up his array of breaking pitches that, when he was doing well, could seemingly place anywhere he wanted.

A guy at my wage-slavery containment facility is a Mets fan, and when Glavine took the Mets millions after the 2002 season, I looked at their projected outfield of Cliff Floyd, Timo Perez, Jeromy Burnitz and Roger Cedeno and told this guy that the most uttered phrase out of Glavine's mouth would be "Andruw would have caught that" (refering to Andruw Jones and his impeccable defense in center field). As it turned out, I was right. Glavine went from 18 wins in 2002 to 9 in 2003 and with 14 losses had his first losing season since 1990. David Wright and Jose Reyes arrived in 2004, but were inexperienced, and the addition of Mike Cameron helped a little, but not much as Glavine went 11-14, then 13-13 in 2005. The improvements the Mets in the past couple of years have helped get Glavine's record back into line (15-7 in 2006 and 10-6 this season), but one cannot help but wonder if he'd have been able to acheive his milestone last year if he'd stayed in Atlanta.

In any event, 300 wins is a hell of an achievement, so congratulations to Tom Glavine, major league baseball's 23rd 300-game winner.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Barry Bonds hits 755th Career Homer to tie Henry Aaron. A-Rod hits 500th Career Homer.

Barry Bonds hit his 755th career home run yesterday to tie Henry Aaron's all-time major league record. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

SAN DIEGO - With a short swing, a half stare and an emphatic clap of his hands, Barry Bonds rounded the bases. After so many days and so many tries, he had finally caught Hammerin' Hank.

High above the field in a private box, baseball commissioner Bud Selig was a reluctant witness to history. Choosing to overlook the steroid allegations that have dogged the San Francisco slugger, Selig watched Bonds tie Hank Aaron's home run record — his mouth agape, hands stuffed in pockets and nary a cheer on his lips.

No. 755 was a strong shot for all the doubters, an opposite-field drive of 382 feet to left-center, moving Bonds within one swing of having baseball's pinnacle of power all to himself. It came on a 2-1, 91 mph fastball Saturday night.

"This is the hardest thing I've had to do in my entire career," he said. "I had rashes on my head, I felt like I was getting sick at times." And it was a long time coming.

It had been eight days and 28 plate appearances since Bonds hit his 754th home run, and he came out for early batting practice Saturday, hoping to break his slump. He did it quickly, leading off the second inning.

"No matter what anybody thinks of the controversy surrounding this event, Mr. Bonds' achievement is noteworthy and remarkable," Selig said in a statement. Selig said either he or a representative would attend the Giants' next few games "out of respect for the tradition of the game, the magnitude of the record and the fact that all citizens in this country are innocent until proven guilty."

Bonds said he hadn't spoken to Selig, but welcomed him anytime. Aaron was not in attendance. The Hall of Famer had previously said he would not follow the chase in person. "It's a little bit different than any other milestone I've ever gone through," Bonds said. "It's Hank Aaron. I can't explain the feeling of it, it's just Hank Aaron."

Bonds drew a mixed reaction from the crowd at Petco Park after he homered off Clay Hensley. Several fans held up asterisk signs and the San Francisco slugger was booed as he headed to left field at the end of the inning. Bonds walked his next three times up and left the game in the eighth for a pinch-runner. He raised his helmet with his left hand, then his right, and drew a standing ovation from many fans who chanted his name.

"I want to thank the fans. They have been outstanding," Bonds said. "It's been a fun ride. I really appreciate the way San Diego handled it and the way their fans handled it." The Padres won 3-2 in 12 innings.

Bonds said he would not start Sunday, which would give him a chance to break the record at home beginning Monday night.

As if Bonds tying Aaron wasn't enough, Alex Rodriguez hit his 500th career homer yesterday to become the youngest player to reach the milestone. Yahoo News AP wire excerpt:

NEW YORK - Alex Rodriguez leaned to his right and watched the ball as it sailed toward the foul pole in left. When it stayed true, he raised his hands in the air — the long wait for No. 500 was finally over.

Rodriguez became the youngest player in major league history to hit 500 home runs, connecting on the first pitch he saw Saturday to end a 10-day wait.

The 32-year-old Rodriguez stood at home plate for a second after his first-inning drive off Kyle Davies, waiting to see where it would land. "I haven't hit one in so long I didn't know if it was going to be foul," he said. "Where that ball started, last week that ball would've hooked foul probably about 20 feet."

A-Rod spoke with Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and commissioner Bud Selig after the game. Selig was in San Diego and watched Barry Bonds tie Hank Aaron's career home run record with a second-inning shot off Padres starter Clay Hensley.

Rodriguez homered eight days after his birthday and surpassed Jimmie Foxx (32 years, 338 days) as the youngest player to reach 500. A-Rod is the 22nd player to reach the mark, the second this season behind Frank Thomas — Manny Ramirez and Jim Thome might get there this year, too.

Analysis: I'm not going to touch the steroid issue. At 6-foot-6 and 170 pounds I know as much about body-building as George W. Bush knows about diplomacy. All I know is that Ted Williams said that the most difficult thing to do in sports was to hit a baseball. He was right, and Barry and A-Rod are two of the best at this and should be proud of their accomplishments (provided that they were achieved honestly, for which we must await proof).

Bonds haters will simply have to wait until late 2014 or early 2015 for A-Rod to pass him (but then what do we do about the A-Rod haters?). Let's do some projecting: Give A-Rod 15 more homers by the end of this season. 515. To get to 800, which is a real possibility, he needs 285, or 40.7 a year for the next seven seasons. Barring injury, or a sharp decline in production, that would make him the all-time home run king at age 39 or 40.

To sum up, I offer my humble congratulations to these men. The Bonds watch continues.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Judge Rules About That Which Valerie Plame Can/Cannot Write in Memoir

In yet another example of up being down, left being right and petty douchebaggery being called noble, a district judge has ruled that Valerie Plame cannot reveal the dates she worked for the CIA because that information was never declassified. Yahoo News Reuters excerpt:

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The ex-spy whose unmasking led to the conviction of Vice President Dick Cheney's top aide cannot disclose the dates she worked for the CIA because the details were never declassified, a federal judge has ruled.

The decision, made public on Friday by U.S. District Judge Barbara Jones, was a victory for the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, which sought to block former agent Valerie Plame Wilson from including the dates in her upcoming memoir, "Fair Game."

Plame, along with publisher Simon & Schuster, filed a lawsuit in May against Mike McConnell, the U.S. director of national intelligence, and CIA Director Michael Hayden, seeking to stop the CIA from interfering with publication of her book.

"The information at issue was properly classified, was never declassified, and has not been officially acknowledged by the CIA," the judge said.

Plame's cover as a CIA agent was blown when her identity was leaked to reporters and appeared in a newspaper column in 2003, shortly after her husband, former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, emerged as an Iraq war critic.

Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was convicted of lying and obstruction of justice in the investigation of the leak. President George W. Bush commuted Libby's 2 1/2-year prison sentence last month.

Plame's suit argued that the CIA released her dates of service in an unclassified letter sent to her in 2006 by the agency, and that the agency "now purports to classify or reclassify Ms. Wilson's pre-2002 federal service dates" so it cannot be published in her memoir.

CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield said the letter had been "an administrative error" because it contained classified information.

Adam Rothberg, a spokesman for Simon & Schuster, said the company was considering all available legal options and is moving forward with the publication of the memoir.

You've gotta love that nonsense about the unclassified letter being an "administrative error" as justification for the CIA's effort to stop this book from being published. How convenient. Through sheer incompetence they led Plame to believe that this information was not classified, but now they ask for a do-over, and an apparently Bush-friendly judge has given them what they want.

Okay, let me get this straight: Bob Novak, Judith Miller and Tim Russert, among others, helped publicize Plame's status as a covert operative, such information having been given directly and indirectly by Scooter Libby, yet Plame herself cannot discuss such matters on her own terms? Can you say "bullshit"? The immortal words of Elvis Costello come to mind: "I used to be disgusted, now I try to be amused..." Well, the amusement at what this joke of an administration continues to get away with is long gone, since it is clear that Bush, Cheney and the rest of these criminals will never be held accountable for anything they do. I wish January 20th 2009 would hurry up and get here...