I’m Back! Almost

Faithful readers of this little corer of the blogosphere may perhaps have noted my absence for the last week or so. I was taken by ambulance to the emergency room last Tuesday afternoon for what turned out to be a very severe infection. After three days, I was transferred to a skilled nursing facility where I’ve spent the last four. I expect to be discharged this weekend and hopefully returning to whatever passes for normalcy in my life a few days thereafter.

Much appreciation to all who offered prayer and energy healing.

It is good to have survived another major health challenge.

Interesting List of Top 4 Candidates for Niners’ Head Coaching Job

Speculation is rampant, of course. It always is in situations like this where an NFL team fires its head coach right after the season ends, giving prognosticators lots and lots of time to offer suggestions and insights so top management of the teams can make the right choice for the next guy in the Hot Seat. It’s mostly fruitless but it’s still fun.

I’m working on my own list of top candidates. Meanwhile, I thought you’d find this list from Niners Nation columnist David Neumann interesting. It’s one of the better-thought-out lists I’ve seen in culling through dozens. Neumann offers the following four guys as his top picks for the Niners to focus on and he provides some interesting statistical support for his recommendations. You’ll enjoy hearing from him.

  • Hue Jackson
  • Chip Kelly
  • Josh McDaniels
  • Sean Payton

One notable name missing from his list is Mike Holmgren, who is rumored to have expressed serious interest already. Robert Klemko of Sports Illustrated’s Monday Morning Quarterback reported a few days ago that Holmgren was interested.

His list also excludes Mike Shanahan, who has reportedly already had one interview with the Niners’ management. (Please, God, let it not be Shanahan!)

Sacramento Bee Niners’ beat reporter Matt Barrows, who has pretty good sources and is considered one of the better guys covering the team full-time, adds to Neumann’s list Todd Haley, Adam Gase (who you’ll remember was on lots of pundits’ short lists before the 49ers stumbled over Tomsula), Vic Fangio, and David Shaw. He also mentioned Shanahan (Yikes!) and Holmgren.

Watch this space for my own prognostications in coming days.

 

Niners Can Tomsula

So the Ego in the Front Office wins again.

The Niners announced before the last fan had straggled out of the stadium today that Jim Tomsula, the sacrificial “head coach” (yeah, the quotation marks are back, for a different reason) they plugged in to fill the huge gap left by their idiotic decision to fire Jim Harbaugh last season.

No word on whether he’ll stay with the organization. I hope he doesn’t. Ownership and management showed no regard for him as a person or a coach either in promoting him to a job he wasn’t ready for or in releasing him with no dignity when he performed as could have been — and was — predicted.

This is a team headed in three directions to nowhere.

I say again. Fire Baalke or nothing gets stabilized for years.

Holmgren to Helm Niners?

Mike Holmgren, easily one of the best coaches in NFL history, is reportedly actively interested in the Niners’ head shed. He’d be a fine choice, to be sure.

But (you knew there had to be one, right?) but ONLY if he gets the GM job in the package. I still think Trent Baalke should be shown the door and Holmgren is one of the few men around who could take on the dual role and thrive in it.

 

How Can 80% of GOP Voters and 78% of Farmers Not Believe Climate Change is Real and Dangerous?

I know this attitude sounds elitist. I don’t intend it that way but it will be perceived that way by many who disagree with it. So be it.

How can 80% of Republicans (as found in a recent Pew Research Poll) and 78% of farmers (as found in a survey conducted by the online magazine AgWeb) declare that they do not think global climate change is important or dangerous? I just don’t understand how ignorance could be this widespread and what difference one’s political persuasion ought to make. I’m sorry; I just don’t get it.

A huge percentage (up to 97%) of scientists trained in the related fields say it is so. The subject has been covered so widely that it’s hard to attribute the disbelief to ignorance of facts. Climate is no respecter of persons, so a Republican non-believer’s grandchildren will suffer the same fate as mine, yet he or she seems unwilling even to consider the possibility that we are in the process of wiping out humanity from the planet. I just don’t get it.

climate_change_clock2Obviously, climate change is a tough issue to get people excited about. It’s not happening in any immediately visible way to most Americans and Europeans, who control most of the money and conduct most of the research. It seems like a can easily kicked down the road. And as with any future projections, there are bound to be disagreements among scientists about exactly the extent of the pending damage. But there is no disagreement that there will be damage, and that the damage will be extensive. We’re arguing about how extensive.

As I look at the political philosophies of the Republican and Democratic Parties, I can reach only one conclusion: GOP voters distrust the government so badly that they think it is lying to them about climate change. Their distrust is based, not on science or fact but on gut-level feelings about the trustworthiness of our political institutions. I see some glimmer of a sign of that in the fact that Catholics and the ‘religiously unaffiliated’ are significantly more likely than Protestants to be concerned about climate change. Given the attention Pope Francis has paid to the subject, the Catholic component of this result isn’t difficult to understand. And the unaffiliated folk tend to be more open to science as a complement to rather than a contradictor of religion and would tend naturally to see ties between human behavior and the state of Nature.

So if opposition to climate change research and policy management is going to be an ongoing barrier to accomplishing any semblance of salvation of the human race, we’d better figure out quickly how to communicate through and around those blocks to get the attention of those who willfully continue to hold a view that is contrary to every observable evidentiary fact.

Tick tock.

Another VR Sample Site With Source

I ran across another interesting VR site today that seemed worth sharing.

The content of these 14 VRs is pretty weak for the most part, but a few of them are quite nice. The main thing I found interesting was that each scene has source code available. You can copy and paste this source code into your own environment and use it as a starting point, tweaking parameters and observing their effects.

For someone interested in WebVR, this is clearly a great early-stage resource.

HINT

If you are using the Mattel Viewer, you can save a bunch of time running through these samples. When you finish with one, open the viewer and orient it vertically. This brings you back to the navigation menu where you can just tap on the “Next” arrow to bring up the next sample in the sequence. Given the relative difficulty of removing the phone from the viewer and/or constantly figuring out how to go back to the site, this helps a good bit.

 

Let’s Keep Tomsula, Fire Baalke

As you know, I’m not one of Jim Tomsula’s biggest fans. All season long as I’ve commented on the 49ers and his role in their utter collapse, I’ve put “head coach” in quotation marks to indicate my disdain for his ability. I was horrified that the Niners — in a fit of ego pique on the parts of GM Trent Baalke and owner Jed York — fired Jim Harbaugh at the end of last season in one of the worst coaching moves by any team in my NFL memory (which extends back more than 50 years).

jim_tomsulaBut now that the end of the season is upon us with the Niners playing their last game tomorrow, I’m loath to join the chorus of Johnny-come-latelys who have decided it’s time to dump the coach. Nope, after watching the Niners implode for the last 17 weeks, I’ve concluded that changing coaches right now isn’t the smartest move the team could make.

Instead, the Niners should fire Baalke. (I’d be advocating for York to go, too, but all those silly voices clamoring for that are apparently unfamiliar with the basic concept of “ownership”. You can’t force York to sell the team he owns. So why spend energy trying to make that happen?

So why don’t I still want Tomsula gone? Here are my main trains of thought:

Talent. The team overall talent level can only go up from here. Between injuries, early retirements, dumb trades and other weird happenings throughout the just-ending season, this is one of the thinnest Niners rosters in history. The good news is this gives the team great draft positioning. Properly utilized, the 2015 draft class could form the basis for a strong rebuilding process that won’t take many seasons to accomplish. Since talent isn’t and never was in Tomsula’s purview, we can hardly dock him for the problem.

Seasoning. Tomsula now has one very tough year as an NFL head coach under his belt. I can see some signs that he’s learning and growing into the job. He’s another season or two from respectability, probably, but the players — to a man as far as I can tell — love and respect him. If he manages to give his assistants and coordinators more leeway in guiding the team, particularly on offense, and plays the role of inspiration and steady hand at the tiller, he could be more of an asset than bringing in yet another new head coach. The non-verbals would also be powerful.

Fairness. This isn’t an angle I expect is very popular among Niners’ fans, or in management for that matter. But it’s going to count for something as this team staggers forward in the process of rebuilding over the next 2-3 seasons. If the 49ers fire Tomsula now, more veterans and second-tier guys are going to start listening for the footsteps in the dark, considering early retirement, and engaging in other behaviors pursued by folks who feel uncertain in their jobs. That won’t be helpful.

49ers General Manager Trent Baalke. Time to go.

49ers General Manager Trent Baalke. Time to go.

Firing Baalke, on the other hand, will send the current and immediate future players a clear message that management recognizes the awful mistakes — in drafts, in handling coaching changes, in dealing with the press, in motivating players, and in so many other ways — Baalke has made. He’s really a pretty mediocre GM as those jobs go in the NFL. From that position, a guy ought to be able to play a highly inspirational, motivational role for owners, players and fans alike. When’s the last time Baalke inspired in you anything but discouragement or boredom? Thought so.

So I’m changing my tune vis a vis the 49ers Head Coach (no quotation marks…for now). Let’s give a rebuilding team some continuity of leadership with a players’ coach, get rid of the nimrod who’s been calling too many shots wrong for too long, and take a deep breath. In two, three maybe four years, we’ll have a powerhouse on our hands again.

Or at least a respectable team.

Where Doe Medium Fit?

I’ve spent some time in the last few days poking around on Medium. I haven’t been paying a lot of attention recently to online blogging and publishing technologies so my own writing life has settled into a well-worn groove. Today, I set up an IFTTT recipe to auto-post my blog entries from here on Medium, just to see how that works.

Medium is a strange but interesting place/idea. In one of their own blog entries, I ran across this summary of their (apparent) benefits: “a fully hosted writing platform, distribution of stories to a community of engaged and thoughtful readers, the clean aesthetic for which Medium is known, and innovative features like Text Shots.”

It seems like the first three points are the big draw, particularly the idea of easy distribution of stories within the Medium community. In this respect, it’s sort of like WordPress’ hosted platform which provides tools for the sharing and discovery of other peoples’ blogs you might find interesting. Having spent some (but not a lot of) time with Medium, it does feel like the level of discourse is above that at hosted WordPress, but I don’t know the relative size/reach of each of them. WordPress clearly has tons of features that are missing from Medium, which, after all, claims simplicity as one of its primary features.

In any event, this will be my first cross-posted article to appear on Medium as a result of the IFTTT recipe I created. It will be interesting to see what, if anything, happens as a result. I’m expecting nothing so I know I won’t be disappointed. 😀

Since When Did the U.S. Take Ownership of Space?

In a largely overlooked bit of news with potentially massive implications, President Barack Obama signed a law in late November authorizing companies to claim legal ownership of any resources or minerals they are able to claim from space.

space_exploration_RoadmapFrankly, I’m astonished. As I read reports of this development, the questions tumbled out and over one another.

What gives the United States any jurisdiction over extraterrestrial object ownership?

I thought that stuff belonged to God or the Universe or to all of humanity?

Wait, not even humanity. If there are other races out there, don’t they get a say?

What makes us so arrogant to think that only earthlings…only earthlings in America…only earthlings in America who happen to be artificial people…can or should even have a say in this?

Just in general, WTF?

I mean, seriously? Perhaps the President should familiarize himself with the nearly 50-year-old United Nations Outer Space Treaty, which the U.S. ratified in 1967. The UN’s Office for Outer Space Affairs (UNOOSA) has published a significant number of documents describing that treaty and other matters involving space exploration and exploitation which obligate the United States to follow some rules.

Here are some of the basic principles of that treaty. (The full list can be found here.)

  • States shall be responsible for national space activities whether carried out by governmental or non-governmental entities;
  • the exploration and use of outer space shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries and shall be the province of all mankind;
  • outer space shall be free for exploration and use by all States;
  • outer space is not subject to national appropriation by claim of sovereignty, by means of use or occupation, or by any other means;

So where does this attempted new law get off? Someone with more clout than me (and that includes just about everyone) needs to call BS on this one!

Dave Winer’s Right, Elon Musk Wrong About Mars

I’ve always respected Dave Winer, even — maybe particularly — when we’ve disagreed. He’s a Big Picture guy who generally exhibits clear thinking and crisp writing on a broad range of subjects. I’ve recently begun paying closer attention to what he’s saying.

In a post today on his blog, Scripting News, he makes the salient point that Elon Musk, one of the brightest inventors and futurists of our time, is wrong-headed when he argues forcefully for the establishment of a million-member society of Earthlings on Mars. Musk, founder and leader of SpaceX, a civilian space exploration company with an already impressive track record of accomplishments, sees a Mars colony as the best hope for mankind’s survival in the wake of the destruction of our home planet’s environment.

Winer quite properly points out that the fatal flaw in this notion is that, “if you think you have an escape hatch, what’s the incentive to make it work here on the only planet that humans inhabit, or can inhabit, that we know of?”

I’ve been making this point for years to my Evangelical Christian friends who pin their future hopes and dreams on a non-physical Heaven. If you believe Planet Earth is essentially a corrupt place filled with Original Sinners and you despair of it ever being redeemable, you are not incentivized to expend great effort to keep it from deteriorating.

Like Dave, I’m a huge booster and fan of interplanetary exploration and I’m certainly not opposed to the idea of creating Earth colonies on other planets we find that might be inhabitable. But to see those settlements as last desperate outposts of humanity in need of cosmic rescue is clearly a mistake.

(Winer also points out another aspect of the fallacy: what makes us think that if we establish a rescue outpost on Mars, or anywhere else, we won’t destroy that location just as we have this one?)