Archive for September, 2008

Stranger Danger

I mentioned to a co-worker that I was leaving work to go pick up my child from school.  I also mentioned that they card you now, when you pick up a child from school.  You have to show photo ID and the name on the ID must match a name that has already been provided to the school as an approved picker-upper.

He said that was much improved from his days in school and it’s a lot safer, not having just anyone be able to come in and take a child.  I reminded him of the statistics though, that most abductions are by someone who is known to the child, not by strangers.

His response was that to improve child safety, schools should release children only to people they don’t know.  Statistically, that would be safer.

I had no response, other than to tacitly agree.  That’s the problem with statistics.

“A stranger they simply will not follow, but will flee from him, because they do not know the voice of strangers.”
– John 10:5

The Joys of Youth

Here are some random events from the past couple months of our lives:

Our younger child woke up early, about an hour before anybody else wanted to be awake.  I told him “Hey, you’re supposed to be asleep.”
His response: “But I’m not!

Is the sun setting?” my younger asked at 7:00 P.M.
“No,” I replied, “the sun sets in two hours.”
Ten seconds later: “Is it two hours yet?
“No, because the sun isn’t setting.”

I brought glasses of chocolate milk to dinner, at the request of both children.  The younger one looked at the glass of milk and exclaimed “It’s beautiful!

The kids were not behaving well with their drinks at lunch.  From the other room, I heard my wife say “No! You don’t put that in your glass.  Only straws can go in your glasses.”  And the older child added “and ice cubes too“.

One of our children was using the bathroom.  When he came out, I asked him if he flushed the potty and washed his hands.  He said he’d be right back.  I heard water running and then, when he came back, he said as he reached for me with not-quite-dry hands “Don’t smell my hands” before I had a chance to ask him anything.  So I, being the insightful parent that I am, immediately smelled his hands and told him to go back and wash with soap.  This next time when he came back, he told me to smell his hands.  And this time they smelled like soap.

“and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”
– John 8:32

Football Happiness, Part 2

I have updated the Football Happiness Calculator.  Now you can track NFL teams as well as college Division 1-A teams.

Also, due to popular demand, I have increased the number of college teams that you can track.  I left the pro football at 5 each, since there are only 32 teams.  But since college has over 100, I bumped them up to 10.

“So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
– Matthew 7:20

Football Happiness, Part 1

I was at work, thinking that my mood on Monday mornings varies by how certain football games went.  Especially if Ohio State had a bad week – that makes it easier to face the OSU fan at work.  The way Michigan has been playing (not competing, just playing) lately also makes it hard to face anyone who is not a Michigan fan.

Being an engineer, I thought there must be some way to quantify this effect.  So I made up a way to quantify it and the result is at the Happiness Calculator page.

“Sorrow is better than laughter, For when a face is sad a heart may be happy.”
– Ecclesiastes 7:3

I Can Hear Clearly Now

Digital TV is great for watching football, because I don’t see the announcers.  I have noticed one problem, since writing glowing reviews of digital TV, or reviews of digital TV glowing.  That is that most programs have noticeable sync problems between the audio and video.

It seems to be due to signal processing time – the audio is easier to process than the video, so it appears first.  Analog TV didn’t have this problem because there was no processing involved – the signals were converted straight to images by hardware, with no software needed.  I find it hard to believe that of all the people it took to create and approve the digital TV standard, not one of them actually saw a digital TV signal and noticed the lip lag.  It’s fairly obvious on most programs.  Most people are accustomed to a bit of audio lag – sound travels slower than light so it is common to see something happen and then hear the sound that goes with that.  But digital TV is the opposite – the sound appears first.  Video lag is so contrary to nature that it is more disconcerting to people than audio lag is.

All they had to do in the standard was have some sort of time stamp in the audio and video data so that they can be synchronized by the receiver.  Maybe they were expecting the receivers to be smarter than they are.  Maybe they noticed the lag but left it in due to heavy lobbying by the lip fixer manufacturers.

For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

Beware: Salesman Ahead

One fine evening, we went to the grocery store.  It was to be a normal trip, just buying some food.  We walked in the entrance, got a cart and were greeted by the resident greeter, and then headed to the back of the store to work our way forward.

We did not get very far though.  At the first aisle, the main intersection for people both coming and going, there was a roadblock.  Not an actual roadblock, but a table set to the side of the intersection with two well-dressed guys at it.  As we approached, one of them greeted us and held out a piece of paper.  He asked us about family pictures.  It was a trap!  They were salesmen going for the uninvited, unsolicited, unwelcome sale from people who weren’t expecting it.

One of the major rules about how to avoid scams is not to accept unsolicited offers.  So my wife said “No thanks” and kept going, with the kids and the cart.  But the guy asked a simple question, something like “When was the last time you had a family picture?”  And although I knew I should just say “No thanks” also and keep walking, I made the mistake of trying to be nice and answer the guy’s question.

So I answered the question, which was followed by another one: “How many kids do you have?” and another one: “If you were to get a family picture, would it be the kids or the parents and the kids?”  He was a very aggressive salesman.  All the questions were phrased “If you were to…” which was his attempt to be sneaky.  I answered most of the questions with “we are not going to get our pictures taken” but he would not take no for an answer.

Another question: “We are going to be back here on these three days.  Which one would work best for you?”  I gave him a day.  Then he wanted a time.  His sheet of appointments for that day, filled by people I assume were equally annoyed by him and just gave him a time so they could get away, was already filled around that time.  “Don’t worry,” he said, “we can fit you in.  Your sitting fee is $10 and you can pay that now.”

At that point, when I said “I am not paying now for something I’m not going to do later” that he finally understood that I did not want to get our pictures taken.  He handed me the sheet where he had written some information (the date and time of our “appointment”) and told me to bring it back to this store at this time for our pictures.  Okay, maybe he didn’t understand.

Answering questions seemed harmless, but when he wanted the money immediately, for an unsolicited service, that was the end.  I finally caught back up with my wife and kids and we finished shopping.  If you are ever in some store, and you are approached by representatives of another business, avoid them.  Okay, you can make exceptions for Girl Scout cookies or the Salvation Army, but those are charities not businesses.

If you ever have the chance to do business with United Studios of America from Massillon, OH, don’t do it.  I was offended by their tactics and their name.  If your business is going to use a name whose acronym is USA, you had better be a good business.  These guys were not worthy of using “USA” for their business.

“A people whom you do not know shall eat up the produce of your ground and all your labors, and you will never be anything but oppressed and crushed continually.”
– Deuteronomy 28:33

Blue Recap, Week 3

This was not the best week in college football, but it ended on a positive note.

As a Michigan fan, I was disappointed by the final score of the Michigan-Notre Dame game.  Michigan looked incompetent as they fumbled a few times and gave ND some free touchdowns. But there is hope, because if just a couple things had been different (the return man actually catches the ball and so ND does not score then), the score could have been much closer.  And it is even realistic to expect that those couple of things could change – catching kick-offs with a wet football is easily practiced.

An optimistic fan could even conceive a scenario in which Michigan had won the game: if Michigan didn’t give the ball to ND near the 10 yard line twice, then we could take away two touchdowns, so the final score would be 17-21. And if one of those Michigan possessions had been a touchdown for Michigan, the final score becomes 24-21. Go Blue!

As a Michigan fan, I was appointed (the opposite of disappointed) by the final score of the Southern California-Ohio State game. Ohio State didn’t look incompetent, just overmatched. Whereas Michigan’s game could have been different if you change two or three plays, the OSU game had really no chance of being any different.

It is interesting to contrast the opening ceremonies of the two teams in the USC-OSU. Which team do you take more seriously: the team who starts by stabbing midfield with a sword, or the team who starts by spelling “Ohio”?

I definitely don’t expect that Michigan would be able to do very well against USC either. But it is comforting to have one of Michigan’s rivals lose. It makes it a lot easier to meet an OSU fan on Monday morning when, although Michigan lost by 18, OSU lost by 32.

“All my enemies will be ashamed and greatly dismayed; They shall turn back, they will suddenly be ashamed.”
– Psalm 6:10