Wednesday, August 31, 2011

The Folly Of "Green Jobs" Spending

In March of 2009 Spanish economist Gabriel Calzada released a study that showed that  every “Green Job” created by the Spanish Government consumed enough resources to create 2.2 jobs in the private sector. Calzada concluded, 
"Green jobs were economic losers, destroyers of wealth and productivity.” 
Beyond that, he found that better than 70% percent were short-lived installation positions, rather than the long-term jobs that the Government promised. Currently, as much as 11% of Spain’s GDP is being “invested” (spent/wasted) on subsidies for renewable energy technologies. With Spain's unemployment in excess of 20% and rising and it’s economic health in serious question one cannot help but conclude that at best, the program isn’t working and given Calzada’s study it’s not a stretch to think it may be making things worse.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A reality check for San Francisco Giants fans…..

At some point we, as Giants fans, need to realize that there is an element of truth to the criticisms of Phillies fans regarding the San Francisco Giants storybook 2010 season. It was, as they say, “Lightning in a Bottle” and the 2010 Giants really weren’t all that good. Heck, deep into August and even into September of last year people were calling for Brian Sabean’s head based on his fifteen years in service with a mere four playoff appearances. Admit it, you didn’t see 2010 coming and neither did I.

If you look at the career numbers of any major league player there are down years and up years. For whatever reason you might espouse to, this is normal and the simple truth is that in 2010 you had the better part of 25 guys playing well beyond the stats on the back of their baseball cards. I mean seriously, if the Giants played 98 more games against Roy Halladay there is not a chance in hell that Cody Ross repeats his NLCS performance. It just won’t happen, he’s not that good. For Pete’s sake, Pablo Sandoval was benched for a significant portion of the stretch run and playoffs and he was hitting .268. If he had his 2010 numbers right now he’d have the 4th best batting average on the current 25-man roster….and the best OPS on the team.

Conversely, in 2011 we are seeing the better part of 25 guys playing at or below the stats on the back of their cards. It happens. Yes, we’ve lost Posey & Sanchez and that sucks, but the performance of the rest of the team is within the range of the players career averages or slightly below. Normal deviations and not the fault of Bruce Bochy or Hensley Mulens. Neither of those men can take a career .260 hitter (Ross) and make him into a .290 hitter. If a guy like Ross is struggling at the plate, a coach can look at the film and tell him that he’s opening his front shoulder too much…but he cannot make him correct it.

2010 was a confluence of a bunch of great performances by a bunch of average players combined with great pitching and a healthy dose of luck. 2011 isn’t. Let’s be realistic here. It’s not as if the Giants of the last 20 years are the Atlanta Braves of the same period. The team hasn’t been a perennial contender prior to this year. Heck, they hadn’t finished better than 3rd in the NL west since 2004 and only finished in 2nd or better 10 out of the last 20 years.

IF….and that’s a big if, the Giants turn things around over the next few weeks and drag themselves back into the playoffs it’ll be because the average players on the team are able to cobble together a few weeks of above average performance. I seriously doubt this will happen and so should you. They aren’t good enough. Brandon Belt is not going to turn into Buster Posey in the next couple of weeks…and even if he did, there will only be one of him and that won’t be enough. Further, it’s a fools errand to believe that September call-ups are going to turn things around. Gary Brown is not going to hop in his car and drive from San Jose to San Francisco and carry this team to the promised land…..Brett Pill won’t either.

The 2011 Giants aren’t THAT different from the 2010 Giants. You have great pitching and hodge-podge of 2nd and 3rd tier position players with one or two 1st tier players. In most seasons, for most teams, that combination is not enough to win consistently. Last year was an aberration, this year isn’t.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

New York State Of Mind - Tuthilltown Distillery at Scratch Restaurant, Mountain View, CA

The blog has been a little dark lately which is reflective of how things have been going. In dire need of a distraction a group of close friends and I hooked up at my favorite local eatery for another whiskey tasting meal last week. The folks at Scratch are really beginning to endear themselves to Mountain View. I’m in there usually once a week at least and I’ve noticed that the bar is consistently very active and the dinning room is as well.

This whiskey tasting was hosted by Tuthilltown Spirits of Gardiner, NY. This small, Hudson Valley distillery produces the first distilled spirits made in NY State since the ratification of the 21st Amendment. They produce a variety of small batch, “artisan” aged and un-aged whiskeys and two different apple based Vodka’s. They operate out of a 220 year old Gristmill and now as in the past the material brought to the mill is local. All of the grains used in Tuthilltown’s whiskeys are sourced from farms within a 10mi radius of the mill/distillery which contributes a terroir to the whiskey that is exclusive to their offerings. It’s worthy of note to state that the “heirloom” grain varieties that they use have roughly 30% of the yield of modern, genetically engineered “McGrain’s” that some distillers use. It would be more cost effective for them to use commercial seed from Monsanto or similar, but the contribution to flavor would be diminished and the practice would be far less sustainable as these commercial grains tend to strip nutrient from the soil at a higher rate requiring more chemical soil enhancement. Not something I’d like to have in my whiskey.

Just like the previous tasting (chronicled here) Sean Eastwood, Scratch’s Executive Chef, paired each of the whiskeys with an original creation not found on their daily menu.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Saying Goodbye

In the spring of 2003 I had to put down Dutch, my 14yr old English Pointer due to Lymphoma. By the fall I felt that I’d significantly recovered from that enough to consider getting another dog. Over the previous few years I’d developed an affinity for Mastiff breeds and after doing some exhaustive research, attending a number of dog shows to speak with owners I decided that I would look for a Bullmastiff. The Bullmastiff is a relatively new breed of dog, first appearing in England in the mid-1800’s. The breed was created to serve the needs of estate gamekeepers who needed a quiet, agile, powerful and fearless guard dog for the purpose of guarding game on private estates against poachers. They were trained to track an intruder, use their formidable strength and weight to bring an offender to ground until the gamekeeper caught up to place the offender into custody.

In contrast to the fearsome working function of the dogs they are also very docile around their families, intelligent, intuitive and accepting of strangers who are welcomed by owners. It’s argued by many that they were the first guard breed designed to work exclusively with a handler in the same fashion that the Belgian Malinois and German Shepard are used as police and military dogs with a single “partner”.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Public vs. Private Funding For Sports Stadiums

I had a somewhat bizarre exchange last night on Twitter between myself, Keith Law and Jeff Fletcher. Both of whom are well respected sports journalists. Keith is a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America, a former front-office guy for the Toronto Blue Jays, used to write for Baseball Prospectus and is currently a senior writer at ESPN. Jeff Fletcher has covered the A’s & Giants for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, spent a few years at AOL Fanhouse, has a Baseball Hall of Fame vote and currently writes for both the A’s & Giants official magazines.

The topic of the discussion was public funding of professional sports stadiums. Mr. Law and I both oppose the premise on the grounds that there is no proof of economic benefit to the area’s in which publicly funded stadiums are built (except to the owners of the teams). Further, I object to the practice on the grounds that the Government should not tax the public where the beneficiary of said tax is a private entity.

Jeff Fletcher disagrees and made the following points to support his point of view: