Fun with maps

Since I’m on a “let’s play with U.S. maps kick,” here are a couple of fun ones circulating on the intertubes.

We know that Americans know nothing about where other countries are. Give them a map of the world with countries not marked, and they’ll put Syria in Australia.

So it’s good to know that others in the world have no idea where anything is. Like this Aussie who was given a map of the United States and asked to mark where the states were:


Good to know our most recognizable states are “Alaska,” “Hawaii,” “Washington,” “Wait, no Cailfornia,” “Texas, this is definitely Texas” and “Florida, aka penis gun freakyland.” But I love this guy’s concept of Virginia, all in the wrong places.

Another look at America is based on industry. What industry owns your state?


So I’ve had the pleasure of living in Health, Real Estate, Energy, Finance and Manufacturing.

And finally, let’s fit the U.S. in another continent:


Wow, Africa is a lot bigger than I expected.

(Maps courtesy of Know More at the Washington Post)

Louisville Cardinals rule Rupp Arena

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The NCAA Men’s Division 1 basketball championship goes into full dribble today as the round of 64 commences. Of course, I’m rooting for Louisville to go all the way. But some folks in Kentucky don’t feel the same way:

“You know how last year they said they hoped we’d win after they lost? UK fans don’t hope they win,” Kentucky fan Roby Thompson said, glumly, as he watched the Cardinals practice. “I don’t even hope they have a good practice today, to tell you the truth.”

And that’s why the Wildcats’ fans suck. Their team wasn’t that great this year, either. They were the No. 1 seed in the NIT tournament and got knocked out of the first round. Coming of the previous year’s national championship, that’s like the Mount Everest of suck.

The rivalry between Kentucky and Louisville is college basketball’s equivalent of a civil war. Only 70 miles separate the two schools, but they may as well be worlds apart for their pedigrees and locales. Kentucky is the winningest program in NCAA history, and its eight national titles second only to UCLA. Even with two national titles, Louisville will never be mistaken for a true hoops blue blood.

Kentucky’s campus is in the picturesque hill country, while Louisville sprawls across several blocks downtown.

OK, first of all, if it’s a Civil War, UofL is the Union and UK is the Confederacy. (Although there is an annoying monument to the confederacy in the middle of the road going through the Louisville campus. But there’s also a civil rights monument on Cardinal Boulevard, so it sort of evens out.)

I live six blocks from the UofL campus. I’ve been to the UK campus. UK is in Lexington, it’s not out in the woods. And Louisville isn’t the grand megalopolis that UK fans pretend it is. But UofL does have amazing athletic facilities. It’s too bad the men aren’t playing at the Yum Center, because that’s an NBA quality arena.

wbbbThe UofL women (pictured above) are there for the first round of their tournament, which begins Sunday. (Nice arena, huh?). In college basketball, the UofL women have the third highest attendance in the country behind Baylor and Connecticut. They’re a five seed in the Midwest Region this year.

But there is something rewarding about the men’s team going into Rupp Arena (the Wildcats’ home court) for their first round matchup. Winning there would just twist the knife a little more. And winning the entire tournament (Louisville is the No. 1 seed overall) would be like a chainsaw on the UK psyche.

(For a local look at the UofL men’s team go to

Baseball season begins with “42″

Major League Baseball’s 2013 season begins March 31 in Texas, with the Rangers taking on the Astros in Houston. Just one game that day, then everybody else hits the field on April 1.

But I’m looking forward to this bit of baseball memorabilia:

That’s Chadwick Boseman as Jackie Robinson and Harrison Ford as Brooklyn Dodgers owner Branch Rickey. Robinson died in 1972 at the age of 53. (Really? When he was my age, he had been dead for four years?) He played for the Brooklyn Dodgers from 1947 to 1956. And you can tell from the trailer that he put up with a lot of crap as the first African American in the Major Leagues.

I have to see this movie. Jackie Robinson is one of the transitional figure in American sports. And as far as I’m concerned, he marks the beginning of the modern baseball era. No MLB record counts if it happened before No. 42 went on the field for the Dodgers. Especially not the iconic baseball records: Babe Ruth’s 60 home run season and his 714 career home runs and Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak.

The reason: Some of the best baseball players in America weren’t allowed to play when those records were set. Ruth, DiMaggio and every other player who set a record in the sport were competing against top athletes in most cases, but they were also on the field with guys who would have been in the minor leagues if baseball had been integrated.

I watched the “42″ trailer and thought how edgy things felt. But then I remember the first Jackie Robinson movie.

That’s “The Jackie Robinson Story” from 1950 with Jackie Robinson and Ruby Dee. It explores his career up to his rookie year with the Dodgers, and it’s a pretty sanitized version of the times.

Yes there’s racism, but notice how there are no Southern accents in the movie. There’s rarely any indication of where the opposing teams are from, so as not to insult the 1950′s movie audiences from those regions. Branch Rickey refers to Robinson as “boy” an awful lot, which at the time wasn’t considered offensive, but today, really grates on you. Branch Rickey does an awful lot of the “baseball symbolizes the greatness of America” routine, but it would have been nice to note that he was a businessman, and his bottom line wasn’t racial equality, to win the pennant and get people into Ebbets Field.

And notice that there aren’t many shots of black people in the ballparks, which really is unusual because Jackie Robinson was an idol for black America at the time. There’s Ruby Dee being frightened off by a bunch of good old boys in the stands, and later in the movie, Jackie’s family shows up when the Dodgers win the pennant. In the latter scene, if you look close enough, there are two black people in the front row when the game is won. But black people lining up to get into the ballpark … it’s like it didn’t happen.

Robinson did put up with a lot of crap as a ballplayer, and the “turn the other cheek” limits Branch Rickey put on him must have pissed him off to no end. But he is a historic figure, and hopefully “42″ will get the story right.


The cost of doing business

Here’s a novel concept. If companies want skilled workers, they should pay a decent wage (from the New York Times):

Eric Isbister, the C.E.O. of GenMet, a metal-fabricating manufacturer outside Milwaukee, told me that he would hire as many skilled workers as show up at his door. Last year, he received 1,051 applications and found only 25 people who were qualified. He hired all of them, but soon had to fire 15. Part of Isbister’s pickiness, he says, comes from an avoidance of workers with experience in a “union-type job.” Isbister, after all, doesn’t abide by strict work rules and $30-an-hour salaries. At GenMet, the starting pay is $10 an hour. Those with an associate degree can make $15, which can rise to $18 an hour after several years of good performance. From what I understand, a new shift manager at a nearby McDonald’s can earn around $14 an hour.

The secret behind this skills gap is that it’s not a skills gap at all. I spoke to several other factory managers who also confessed that they had a hard time recruiting in-demand workers for $10-an-hour jobs. “It’s hard not to break out laughing,” says Mark Price, a labor economist at the Keystone Research Center, referring to manufacturers complaining about the shortage of skilled workers. “If there’s a skill shortage, there has to be rises in wages,” he says. “It’s basic economics.” After all, according to supply and demand, a shortage of workers with valuable skills should push wages up. Yet according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of skilled jobs has fallen and so have their wages.

We read about this constantly. Executives say they have plenty of jobs, but can’t find skilled workers. If they’re going to pay less than McDonalds, they’re not going to get skilled workers. Basic supply and demand. When supply is low and demand is high, costs rise.

Of course, paying people what they’re worth would take away from the CEO’s six- to seven-figure bonus. And that seems to be the mindset of corporate executives today. Just ask the workers at Hostess.


Alex Karras, NFL great (and Mongo), dies at 77

Alex Karras, who played tackle for the Detroit Lions for 12 seasons in the 1950s and ’60s, died yesterday in Los Angeles at the age of 77.

Though not a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was named by the Hall to the All Decade Team for the 1960s as defensive tackle.

Karras said that during his best year in the NFL, he made $9,000.

But Karras had another career that proved more lucrative than football.

That’s him as Mongo in “Blazing Saddles.” He also did pretty well in television, as one of the commentators for “Monday Night Football,” and as the adoptive father of Emanuel Lewis in the TV show “Webster.”

According to the New York Times, he suffered from kidney disease, heart disease stomach cancer and dementia. The dementia was a result of his NFL career.

According to the Washington Post:

In April, he became the lead plaintiff in a suit filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia. He is among about 3,500 retired football players who accuse the league of not protecting them better from head injuries.

Mongo just a pawn in the game of life. But Karras’s life was surely fascinating.

The evil of religious fanatics

GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney attacked President Obama for sympathizing with Islamic extremists after a mob in Libya killed the U.S. ambassador over a movie trailer that was deemed offensive to Muslims.

There are so many things wrong with the preceding paragraph.

1) The movie was some amateur job done by a scumbag in California who turns out to not be who he says he is. In fact, the full movie may not even exist.

In a telephone interview with The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, a man identifying himself as a 52-year-old real-estate developer in California, Sam Bacile, said he had made the film. Saying he was an Israeli-American who had created the film with the backing of Jewish donors, he described Islam as a “cancer.” One of the video clip’s promoters provided the name and contact details for a Sam Bacile, a name that matched the one on the account used to post the clip in July to Google Inc.’s YouTube.

Since that article was published, questions have emerged about the identity of the purported filmmaker. The Journal was unable to reach the man calling himself Mr. Bacile for further comment and as of Wednesday, the telephone number had been disconnected.

A records search turned up no references to any men in the U.S. by the name Sam Bacile. Israeli officials in the U.S. and Israel said they haven’t found any records of an Israeli by the name of Bacile.

2) Islamic extremists are crazy enough to kill people over a movie trailer. There is an ugliness to the core of religious fanatics that is a threat to every living person on the planet. (From John Cole):

The victory in the Libyan elections of nationalist rather than fundamentalist forces, and the rise to power in Egypt of the relatively moderate Muslim Brotherhood has marginalized the militant strain of Muslim activism, known coloquially as ‘jihadis’ because of their emphasis on vigilante violence. The vigilante fundamentalists were small but dangerous groups in Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya and in Hosni Mubarak’s Egypt, and both governments reacted by attacking them and arbitrarily imprisoning them.

The vigilante fundamentalists typically reject elections and democracy, as inauthentic Western imports, and they are headline whores, plotting out attention-grabbing mob actions. These jihadis are tiny groups in Egypt and Libya, though sometimes well-armed and well-trained.

You could make an analogy to the Ku Klux Klan in the United States, which just has perhaps 5,000 active members. But people like Wade Michael Page, who had applied for Klan membership, can make a media splash by simply shooting down people at e.g. a Sikh Temple.

3) President Obama never sympathized with the mob. That was a Romney lie. Mitt Romney made the statement after the murders occurred, though the statement he referred to came from one of the two U.S. embassies under siege before the mob attacked. The Embassy was trying to calm the crowd before it turned ugly, and Romney used that defensive move to score political points.

The reaction against Romney has been scathing (From Buzz Feed):

“They were just trying to score a cheap news cycle hit based on the embassy statement and now it’s just completely blown up,” said a very senior Republican foreign policy hand, who called the statement an “utter disaster” and a “Lehman moment” — a parallel to the moment when John McCain, amid the 2008 financial crisis, failed to come across as a steady leader.

He and other members of both parties cited the Romney campaign‘s recent dismissals of foreign policy’s relevance. One adviser dismissed the subject to BuzzFeed as a “shiny object,” while another told Politico that the subject was the “president’s turf,” drawing a rebuke from Weekly Standard editor Bill Kristol.

“I guess we see now that it is because they’re incompetent at talking effectively about foreign policy,” said the Republican. “This is just unbelievable — when they decide to play on it they completely bungle it.”

Romney has not backed off the response — “It’s never too early for the United States government to condemn attacks on Americans and to defend our values,” he said Wednesday — but his campaign faces a near consensus in Republican foreign policy circles that, whatever the sentiment, Romney faltered badly.

Yes, you read that right. The criticisms are coming from Republicans. This was a massive screw up by Romney. He really doesn’t want to win this race.