Saturday, August 14, 2010

On Perseids

When Beth and I were living in Boston, we were broke. The most economical vacation there is a camping trip. Note to future couples: when getting married consider a gift registry at a camping store. Our wedding gifts (lantern, cooking stove, collapsible water jug etc.) came in very handy. For us, the weekend meant to a road trip to the White Mountains or to Mt. Greylocke in the Berkshires. Vacations meant the Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec, Acadia National Park or Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. These were were great vacations. They had down time, alone time, great books, scenery and memories galore.

Camping in mid-August was a requirement. We needed to be away from the light pollution of the big city so that we could view Perseid's meteor showers in north end of the sky sans telescope. A cloudy weekend was a tragedy. A clear weekend, a victory for geekdom. Now that we live in Vermont, it is only a matter of pulling out a blanket, turning off all the lights and going out in the yard. Our local public radio station throws a star party just for this occasion. Peak time was over last night but you can still catch some if you are patient. I suggest watching the skies tonight, if you are the northern hemisphere, and listen to this show if you can, just follow the link.

Perseid is named for the constellation, Perseus, which it appears near in the sky. It is nowhere near these stars, obviously, because it is passing close to the Earth. The meteors that we see are only tiny stones that are the remnants from a huge comet, the Swift-Tuttle. Some of the meteors, also called shooting stars by some, are as small as sand pebbles on the beach. It is hard to believe something so small can be seen from six miles away on the Earth. When it enters the atmosphere it burns up. We are seeing that burning explosion of gases.

Swift-Tuttle was named for two astronomers that first identified the comet separately in 1862, Americans Lewis Swift and Horace Tuttle. They identified it, independently, three days apart. Pisser that they had to share the naming rights. It is an estimated to be close to 17 miles across and almost twice as large as the comet that we believe contributed to the extinction of the dinosaurs. This is one bad-ass comet.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Rangers' Financial Woes

Does it surprise you that a baseball team that was once run by this man is now filing for bankruptcy?

Not only are the Texas Rangers in financial dire straits but this man couldn't even make money when he ran oil companies (Arbusto Energy and Spectrum 7 Energy Corp). It is obvious that he brought his "business sense" to his presidency. As president of the US he started two foreighn wars but neglected to come up with any reasonable way to pay for them. Our first MBA president ran our country the same way he ran his businesses, by increasing spending even though revenues were decreasing. The big difference here is that the decreased revenues for our government was his own making by cutting the taxes of the wealthy. This is old news.

The financial problems of the Texas Rangers are not new either. Some of the decisions that were made back in the 1990's are really hurting them now. A lot of the team's fans blame the current leadership of the franchise (sound familiar?) but a lot of it can be traced back to the 1990's.

For example, they are still paying Mickey Tettleton $1.4 million a year. Who is Tettleton? He is an average player that retired in 1997. Paying a player into their retirement isn't that odd. What is odd is that the Rangers gave him this contract in 1996 when he was 36 which pretty old for a baseball player. If he were a knuckleballer, it might make sense, but he's a catcher. Paying an aging catcher $1.4 million for the next 13 years ... what were you thinking? This is just poor business. Sounds like whoever made this decision might be stupid enough to give one of his golf buddies a job as head of FEMA!

I am not a big fan of the Texas Rangers, but they are one of those underdog teams that I do like to see win. Filing for Chapter 11 may make them more appealing to potential buyers (Nolan Ryan is one that I have heard). Their top unsecured debtors had to be made public. The top six are all players:

Alex Rodriguez – $24.8 million
Kevin Millwood – $12.9 million
Michael Young – $3.8 million
Vicente Padilla - $1.6 million
Mickey Tettleton – $1.4 million
Mark McLemore – $970K

The top four of these are current players, only one of which is currently on the Rangers (Young). The highest on the list, is New York Yankee Alex Rodriguez. ARod is suing to stop the bankruptcy. This might just be the only thing that Bush has ever do that makes me happy. ARod
could lose close to $25 million if it happens.