Posted by: bkivey | 14 June 2010

Monday, Monday

Today is Flag Day, marking the 233rd anniversary of the adoption of the U.S. flag by the Second Continental Congress. If you live in Pennsylvania, this is a state holiday. There and everywhere else, it’s a time to reflect on what this national symbol has meant and still means to people the world over. The U.S. flag is the symbol of a country that has given more opportunity to more people than any society in the history of human experience. Period. People aren’t exactly busting down the gates to get into, say, the worker’s paradises in China and Cuba. Quite the opposite.

World Cup Action

For Saturday’s match between England and the U.S. the City of Portland set up a large-screen TV in a piazza downtown and I went and joined about 1500 people to watch the game on the first real summer day we’ve had. Given the energy of fans during Timbers games, particularly the Timbers Army, I was surprised how quiet the crowd was. Considering the importance of this match, I had expected the same non-stop chanting, singing, and general noise-making that accompanies soccer games in Portland. The crowd would cheer nice plays, groan at missed opportunities and there was some mayhem when the U.S. scored, but nothing like the noise explosion that takes place at PGE Park when the home side scores.

The lack of energy showed during half-time when Timbers owner Merritt Paulson unveiled the new MLS logo for the Timbers. I am in the old logo camp but understand the need to reflect the move to a new level of the sport and to say that there has been some apprehension on both sides over the new look would be an understatment. The actual unveiling started off with a short video on the Timbers history and then the new logo was unfurled from a man lift. The new logo keeps all the elements of the old look, just updated and rearranged a bit. I thought it was done about as well as it could be done but the unveiling was done to decidedly mixed reviews, including a really classless display by some fans who dropped the f-bomb in their chant, not considering that they were at a family event.

All that aside, I thought the match itself was engaging, and I am not a fan of watching soccer on TV. The U.S. put a lot of pressure on the ball and rallied well from an early goal by England, pretty much living in the English half of the field during the second half. The difference in the quality of goal-keeping was evident; painfully so for the English. Overall the effort by the American side gave me hope that we might make it out of Group play.

Finding New Ways to Lose

“Find a way to win” is a sports cliche, used by every coach I’ve ever had and a staple in player interviews. The Seattle Mariners seem intent this season on finding new ways to lose. On Friday closer David Aardsma entered the ninth with a one run lead and gave up two runs. After the game manager Don Wakamatsu said that Aardsma didn’t have command or location. That’s sort of the definition of pitching, isn’t it? During the game a graphic was displayed that showed that Aardsma had thrown 23 pitches in one game in seven days. If your boss only asks you to work one inning in seven days you’ve got to question your job situation.

It has been said that the key to calling a game is not to call pitches that the batter can’t hit, but ones that your pitcher can throw. If I’m catching Aardsma I’d be wondering if there were any pitches he can throw for strikes.

Saturday was perhaps the nadir for Mariner baseball this season. Against the Padres they had a bases loaded situation three times, once with only one out, and came away with nothing in a one-run game. It’s nice to put men on, but the point of the game is to bring them home. That was just painful to watch.

The M’s did win Sunday on another 9K 2 run performance over 8 2/3 from Felix Hernandez. Even though his pitch count reached 128 everything was working and Fernandez said after the game that he felt strong enough to go the distance. Aardsma was brought in to get the final out, causing breaths to catch in every fan’s throat. Wakamatsu said that he brought Aardsma in to “build his confidence.” Given his performance this year, maybe he could build his confidence in AAA.

The March of Progress

It’s a safe bet that anyone reading this is reading it on some sort of computer. Today in 1951 the first commercial computer, UNIVAC 1, was put into service with the Census Bureau, and in the first instance of IT upselling, the card-to-tape and tape-to-card converters, necessary to get data in to and out of the computer, were sold separately. The machine, exclusive of peripherals, power supply (125kW), and the space to house its 14.5 tons, sold for $159,000; about $1.3 million today.

A completely analog device, UNIVAC 1 featured a decimal operating system of 12 characters, and it could store 1000 of these 12 digit (11 characters plus sign) words. Clock speed was 2.25 MHz and 1,900 operations per second. This all appears rather humorous today, but at the time it was an amazing achievement.

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