Wednesday, February 01, 2017

LA Galaxy off-season

Post started on November 17, 2016 and will update as more news comes in.

Who is going to stay and who is going to go?

Here are team stats at the LA Galaxy web page and below are the players with significant minutes and would be in the conversation about who is staying and going:

Contracted exercised and on roster (updated 12/12/16)
* Protected from expansion draft (updated 12/12/16)
DeLaGarza* - going to Houston
Van Damme* - LAG looking to re-sign the veteran defender - his has signed as a DP.
Lletget* - contract extended
Jamieson IV*
McBean* - returns from loan
Dos Santos*

Out of contract:
Leonardo - goes to Houston via re-entry draft
De Jong - released mid-season
Gerrard - has confirmed he is moving on
Donovan - plans to retire; rumors of RSL interest
Larentowicz - signed with Atlanta
Keane - has confirmed he is moving on
Magee - has announced he will retire

Other situations:
Jones - LA Galaxy has traded draft pick for rights but will he sign with LAG? YES.
Jonathan Dos Santos - rumored interest from LAG for the Villareal midfielder and brother of Gio Dos Santos.
Joao Pedro - LAG has signed the Portuguese midfielder
Alessandrini - signed on as a DP from France's top league

Monday, January 23, 2017

Politics: Emoluments Clause

There is a lot of talk about the "Emoluments Clause."

Here are a few items you could check out about this matter:
Here is an item from giving the history of how the clause has been complied with over the years
WaPo legal opinion/analysis item from Volokh Conspiracy legal affairs blog
WaPo item from their news section giving a rundown of the lawsuit that has been filed

Am not a Constitutional scholar nor do I play one in the movies but my gut reaction is that the lawsuit will probably fail for the reasons mentioned in some of the above articles:
Standing issues - the plaintiff has to be harmed in some way to have standing for a lawsuit.
Non-applicability - routine business activity may not be covered under the clause.

Ultimately, the goal for Trump critics is to use the clause as a way to initiate impeachment and/or force a resignation. However, impeachment is not lightly undertaken. In the history of the US, only two Presidents (Andrew Johnson and Bill Clinton) were impeached by the House and both acquitted in subsequent Senate trial. Richard Nixon would have been impeached and convicted but he resigned.

Down the road, I suppose if it can be showed that foreign governments vastly overpay for the services of the Trump hotels, then the claim could be made that those overpayments constitute attempts to influence. At that point, it would be up to the House to decide if they view those attempts to influence to be so serious as to initiate impeachment proceedings. It would have to be shown that the financial benefits had the effect of causing treasonous activity by the President that is injurious to US national interests or were a form of bribery such that the giver receives benefit from the President.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Politics: Trump Inaugural Address

I heard the speech on radio so I can't comment on the "optics" of the speech.

In no particular order, these were my impressions I scribbled after the speech. I have expanded on the initial thoughts for this blog post.

1. Vintage Trump - for better and for worse. Sounded very much like his campaign sales pitch. Very direct prose with just a few moments of poetry. In the past, we have come to expect "poetry" from Presidents in big moments. Even Bush 43 who was not known as a great orator would rise to the occasion. Trump, in the speech, was very much "the guy at the bar telling it like it is." I understand he has to be true to his own style and that is proper. However, he is now president of the whole country and will need to adjust his speaking style in big moments to include some "poetry." In big moments, POTUS needs to evoke some sense of the historical context of the moment, extend olive branches to the people who didn't vote for you, and assure a watching world. On all three of these fronts, the speech was somewhat weak.

2. Instead, he largely played to his base of support with his populist and nationalist rhetoric. The 54% of the country that did not vote for him (including me) needed something from him and they got very little.

3. On the positive side, his direct prose and keeping it short was a welcome change to 8 years of President Obama speaking on and on and on ....... One should not under-estimate how much this stylistic aspect of the Trump persona contributed to his success. People are tired of politicians doing "politician-speak" and President Obama was one of its most polished practitioners.

4. However, there is plain-speaking and there is bleak-speaking. Yes, America has problems, however, excessively highlighting this was counter-productive. FDR took over during a depression and called forth "only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Instead, we got this from Trump:

But for too many of our citizens, a different reality exists: Mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities; rusted-out factories scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation; an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of knowledge; and the crime and gangs and drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential. This American carnage stops right here and stops right now.

5. Many Obama critics mocked his "messianic" statements like: "rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal," and "We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek." Trump's can-do optimism to "make America great again" has been a selling point. However, it runs the risk of Obama "messianic" over-promising over-stating what can actually be done. Nonetheless, it lays down a marker for accountability. How voters answer for themselves the question, "Do I think America is great again?" will affect their vote accordingly in the mid-terms in 2018 and in the Presidential race of 2020.

6. "America First" language. On one hand, there is a historical meaning of the phrase that calls back a pacifist and isolationist foreign policy mindset of the era after World War I and before World War II. That was my first reaction to hearing it. The notion of American total withdrawal from world affairs would be problematic. However, upon looking at the speech more closely, I don't think that is what Trump is thinking of when he uses the phrase. He used the phrase and then launched into a passage on economics:

We will bring back our jobs. We will bring back our borders. We will bring back our wealth. And we will bring back our dreams. We will build new roads, and highways, and bridges, and airports, and tunnels, and railways all across our wonderful nation. We will get our people off of welfare and back to work -- rebuilding our country with American hands and American labor. We will follow two simple rules: Buy American and hire American.

Of course, raising trade barriers and engaging in trade wars would be counter-productive foreign and economic policy. Whether that is what will happen remains to be seen. After this part, he gave a short statement of principles of his foreign policy:

We will seek friendship and goodwill with the nations of the world -- but we do so with the understanding that it is the right of all nations to put their own interests first. We do not seek to impose our way of life on anyone, but rather to let it shine as an example for everyone to follow. We will reinforce old alliances and form new ones -- and unite the civilized world against radical Islamic terrorism, which we will eradicate completely from the face of the Earth. 

Thus, it would appear his "America First" meaning is not the historical pacifist and isolationist foreign policy of post-World War I. However, to what extent the Trump administration plans to pull back from world affairs is unclear.

7. The one section that rose to the occasion was his closing and was the heart of his campaign:

The time for empty talk is over. Now arrives the hour of action. Do not let anyone tell you it cannot be done. No challenge can match the heart and fight and spirit of America. We will not fail. Our country will thrive and prosper again. We stand at the birth of a new millennium, ready to unlock the mysteries of space, to free the Earth from the miseries of disease, and to harness the energies, industries and technologies of tomorrow. A new national pride will stir our souls, lift our sights, and heal our divisions. It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: that whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag. And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams, and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator. So to all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean, hear these words: You will never be ignored again. Your voice, your hopes, and your dreams will define our American destiny. And your courage and goodness and love will forever guide us along the way. Together, We will make America strong again. We will make wealthy again. We will make America proud again. We will make America safe again. And yes, together, we will make America great again. Thank you. God bless you. And God bless America.

This passage standing alone by itself is inspirational and aspirational. However, it was all the other "stuff" around Trump during the wild and woolly campaign that has spurred visceral opposition to his candidacy and now his presidency. As is often the case, the strength of a leader that draws supporters is often the trait that repels others into opposition.

Politics: Trying to Understand Trump

I've been trying to get my head around the Trump phenomena and I found listening to these two podcasts to be helpful.

Robert Costa (currently a reporter at the Washington Post) was one of the first reporters to start covering Trump and recognized he was a serious candidate during a little covered Trump visit to Iowa very early in the campaign process in 2013. In this interview, Costa shared many anecdotes that illustrates the traits of Trump that voters were drawn to. Costa has a plaque at his office that says, "Assume Nothing" that allowed him to observe and report on Trump without dismissing him like many other typical political reporters.

After seeing this episode, I looked for more episodes in the "Uncommon Knowledge" series and found this item about J.D. Vance and his memoir, "Hillbilly Elegy." Vance grew up in the "rustbelt" where some of the "rural white working class" live and that Trump often talked about and championed. I had heard Vance in a shorter interview on NPR in 2016 and he commented he understood Trump's appeal to "his people" but he himself was not a Trump supporter.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Politics: By the numbers Presidential popular votes

The electoral college is the official Constitutional body that votes for the President of the United States.

The national popular vote tallies gives us a window into how divided the nation was around the time of the election. Suffice to say, in most elections, the national popular vote reveals division among the voters.

For what it is worth, by the numbers, the percent of voters who did NOT vote for the elected President since 1980.

49% voted for candidates other than Reagan in 1980
41% voted for candidates other than Reagan in 1984
47% voted for candidates other than Bush in 1988
57% voted for candidates other than Clinton in 1992
51% voted for candidates other than Clinton in 1996
52% voted for candidates other than Bush in 2000
49% voted for candidates other than Bush in 2004
47% voted for candidates other than Obama in 2008
49% voted for candidates other than Obama in 2012
54% voted for candidates other than Trump in 2016

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Health: My Story of Male Osteoporosis

The TV ads would suggest osteoporosis is a women's health issue.

However, men get osteoporosis also.

My diagnosis occurred by accident. Recently, had an episode of frozen shoulder. In order to be sure it wasn't something else, the orthopedic MD ordered an x-ray. It confirmed there was no overt structural problem in my shoulder. However, the radiologist commented on osteopenia.

The ball was thrown over to my primary care doctor (PCP) who then ordered a bone density scan.

The scan showed I had osteoporosis thus the PCP referred me over to the geriatrics department where I got blood tests for secondary osteoporosis. All of those tests came back negative and so the geriatrics MD recommended zoledronic acid by intravenous route. This medication is in the bisphosphonate class that is a very common approach to addressing osteoporosis.

Went to the infusion center on a Friday afternoon and got hooked up to an IV and the meds were delivered uneventfully. I was told that some percentage of patients experience flu-like symptoms. There is also a rare complication called osteonecrosis of the jaw.

Shortly after midnight, I felt some muscle aches. The pain grew more intense as Saturday wore on and eventually included a splitting headache. Could barely walk and with the splitting headache could not sleep. By midnight, the pain began to recede. All told the episode lasted about 24 hours.

I reported this to the geriatrics doctor and was told it seems to occur more often in male patients and the second dose is usually better tolerated. However, some patients switch to the oral form of the medication which can cause reflux and other GI distress so either way, there may be issues. I was told there are other medications but they are generally reserved for more serious cases and at this point there isn't warrant to go in that direction. My bone density scan is going to be repeated 2+ years after my first one and my situation will be re-assessed at that time. For now, the recommendation is to stick with zoledronic acid with a decision regarding route to be made later this year.

For more reading:
Data from HORIZON clinical trial of zoledronic acid shown to me by my geriatrics doctor. I was assured by the doctor that other studies show the medication works on men also. Here are some examples: study of the medication on male patients and a review item.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

The Battle of the Burgers

Posted started on March 3, 2016 and will be updated periodically.

Like many people, I've reduced my red meat intake for health reasons. And am also making some effort to source conscientiously any meat item (poultry and fish included) at the market when I do. Am by no means hard core (i.e. not vegan/vegetarian) and can't afford to always buy stuff at Whole Paycheck (i.e. Whole Foods). Having said all that, I confess I still go for the occasional burger. With the reduced intake of meat products, my system really can't handle a big steak any more. But a nice burger is still a treat.

I confess I am a fan of In-and-Out Burgers. When on a road trip, I'll often make a note of where they are along the route and if it makes sense to take a lunch or dinner break at one of their outlets, I'll almost certainly stop there. So in my rating system, In-and-Out gets the A rating.

But what about other burgers out there?

Here is my highly subjective views on burgers at other places.

Denny's (B-). Sorry, I have tried the burger there and realized I should stick to having the breakfast items at the venerable chain diner.

Marie Callender's (B-). Meh, just didn't seem that appetizing.

Five Guys (B+). I have to say I'm surprised at the solid fan base. Definitely, they do have a lot of options in terms of fixings to the burgers so hats off for that. But the burger itself? Not sure how come it has gained such a cult following. Don't get me wrong, I think it is a decent burger and deserves a solid B+ rating. A+ though on the fried potatoes!

Carl's Junior (A-). I think their all natural burger is their best. The others ones are okay but slip into the B/B+ range.

Apple Pan (A+). Going to the Apple Pan is like stepping into a time machine. Wonder how long that kind of store can survive and how many other places like that still exist in the 21st Century!

McDonalds (B-). Haven't had many in recent years. Now, if I stop here at all, I just get the breakfast items at the famous old chain that started the mega-chains. In foreign countries, I may visit one when I need to see something familiar!

Jack-in-the Box (B-). Haven't had many in recent years. I just get the breakfast items if I ever enter their stores or swing by the drive through. In fact, their top seller are tacos!

Fatburger (A). Great burger. Give the edge on the fries to competitors In-and-Out and Five Guys. But the burger is competitive. A Los Angeles institution founded by Lovie Yancey. Eventually, the chain was sold but the formula remains the same in terms of how the burgers are made. The current investor group has opened stores in unusual locations world wide.

Mooyah (A). Great Turkey Burger! Hope to eventually try one of their beef burgers. Also, loved their fries.

Burger Lounge (A+). Conscientious turkey (free-range) and beef (grass-fed) burgers. Enjoyed it very much! Loved their fries too. Does this qualify as a "snooty" burger place?

There are plenty of "snooty" burgers these days in addition to chain ones. I'll be updating this page now and then as I visit some more places.

"Snooty" burgers

Umami Burger (A). It's hip and the burger I had there was pretty good.

Blue Cow Kitchen (A). Trendy DTLA (downtown LA) location. We ordered from the Happy Hour menu and split the House Burger, Al Pastor Shrimp Tacos, and Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Argh - Powerpoint fail - lost narration after export to movie

One can record narration into a Microsoft Power Point for MAC presentation.

However, if you export the file into movie format so that it could be played on computers with no Powerpoint, the narration is lost.

Just discovered this while trying to do just that. As a result, am now conducting google searches to see if there is a work-around. But the first thing I found was this item in Microsoft Office that says exactly what I didn't want to read: Narration is not saved when you save a presentation as a movie.

UPDATE: Could not find any solutions on the internet. Fortunately, the project I was working on was fairly short and simple. I wound up doing everything in Keynote and that exports to movie with no problem.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Ranking the Star Wars movies

I'm one of those who likes both Star Trek and Star Wars. As a blogger, I had to have a list ranking the Star Trek movies. Now, it is time to rank the Star Wars movies.

Episode 5 - The Empire Strikes Back
Episode 4 - A New Hope
Episode 6 - Return of the Jedi
Episode 7 - The Force Awakens
Episode 3 - Revenge of the Sith
Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace
Episode 2 - Attack of the Clones

As a cultural moment, one can't beat Episode 4 - A New Hope. At the time, in 1977, the film was simply Star Wars. It was only because of its unbelievable box office success that the other films were made. For strength of story telling, I have to give the top prize to episode 5. The franchise was so strong that even though Episodes 1 and 2 were panned by critics and fans alike, the Star Wars property persevered.

In the years ahead, the films will expand to include a set of films Episodes 7-8-9, the newly released Rogue One that I haven't seen yet, and a set of films around Han Solo. Who know what else they have planned for what appears to be a cash cow for Disney!

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2016 Exit Polling - the third party perspective

Political pundits are pouring over the exit polls. Understandably, the focus is on who was supporting Clinton and who was supporting Trump.

But what about the approximately five percent of voters who voted for Johnson (~ 3%), Stein (~ 1%), and others (~ 1%)? What can we say about them?

The biggest question that is always asked is what would have happened if there was only two candidates on the ballot? Did the minor party candidates cost Clinton the election?

I think the exit poll page has the most data of the major news sites. If you scroll all the way down, I think the screen capture of one of the items in the exit poll addresses that question.

This would suggest that if the 5% who went minor party, 63% would not vote on the POTUS if there were only two choices. Of the 37% who would make a choice, a slightly larger number would vote for Trump (21%) compared to Clinton (16%). Thus, the argument that Clinton was harmed by the presence of third party voters may not hold up. However, there is one big caveat: how was this question answered in specific swing states. Unfortunately, I don't have access to exit polling data of that specificity. 

What else could be said about the minor party votes in 2016?

Demographically, younger voters (18 to 39) were two-times more likely to vote for a minor party.  This demographic also supported Clinton while those 40 and older supported Trump.

We can speculate why this age divide occurred: perhaps some younger voters are less willing to accept the binary nature of presidential elections but as voters get older this changes.

Independents are also three times more likely to vote for a candidate from a minor party compared to those with a party identification. This is not surprising since they have opted out in terms of party registration. Trump won the independents 46% to 42%.

The 2016 voter totals for alternative party candidates was the highest since 1996 when Perot got 8% and the combined remaining other party candidates got almost 2%. Does this bode well for the future of alternatives to the Democratic and Republican parties? I suspect the high numbers reflects the historic unpopularity of the two main party candidates and not a trend toward greater support of third parties. 

In the CNN exit poll charts, there were many variations on questions of the qualities of the candidates (temperament, qualified, honest, favorable/unfavorable). Of these, the one shown below was striking. Only 2% of voters surveyed viewed both candidates favorably. If the voter had a favorable view of the candidate, they inevitably voted for that candidate. Of the 18% that held unfavorable views of both candidates, more went to Trump (47% vs. 30%) and 23% of these voters opted to vote for a minor party candidate.

Finally, late deciding voters (within the final month) tended to go to Trump but a certain percentage decided to support minor party candidates. 

In 2012, Johnson ran as Libertarian and Stein ran as Green and they combined to get 1.4% of the vote. In 2016, both improved on their 2012 numbers. However, one suspects that some of that increase is of a "protest" nature rather than outright support for them. Though there is an abstract desire for more options, even with historic levels of unpopularity for the two major candidates, 95% of voters still voted for one or the other.