The Sledgehammer – Version 2.0

December 15, 2007

(Not So) Juicy Reading: The Mitchell Report

Filed under: Sports — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 2:44 am

If you follow sports at all, by now you’ve probably heard a lot more than you really care to about the Mitchell Report (Note: the link goes to a PDF of the full report.)  Over the course of the last couple of days, many a barrel of pixels has been spilled over the report and its contents, so I’ll leave the analysis of the contents of the report to the professionals.  Instead, I’d like to take a look at the report itself.  Over the course of the past couple of days, I have managed to read through most of the 409 pages of the report (with the exceptions of the appendices and other administrivia) and only fell asleep once while doing so.  Based on that, I think I can pretty much sum up the whole thing here:

  •  Yeah, steroids are bad for you;
  • This isn’t the first time we’ve had druggies playing baseball;
  • Donald Fehr is still a jerk (a fact that most baseball fans figured out 13 years ago);
  • Those BALCO guys juiced up a bunch of ballplayers;
  • Kirk Radomski juiced up even more of ’em but he got busted, so he named names;
  • Apparently people do actually buy stuff from Internet spammers.  Some of them happen to be baseball players;
  • MLB should probably do something about this.

Of course, we already knew most of this stuff before the report came out.  For a document that’s caused as much uproar as the Mitchell Report has, it sure doesn’t read that way.  The overall appearance of the report itself makes the whole thing look something like an overgrown research paper from a High School English class, and at times, the writing can be a bit sloppy (especially toward the end.)  After beginning with some dryly presented background info on the effects of the various supplements discussed, the current situation and some of the earlier drug and steroid issues,  the report moves into a discussion of each of the players implicated in the BALCO investigation, by Kirk Radomski, and those alleged to have purchased performance enhancing drugs over the Internet.  For what is purported to be one of the most damaging exposs in recent memory, it sure doesn’t read like one.  The report plays it straight as it rattles through the laundry list of Kirk Radomski’s clients, outlining the means by which they were put in touch with him, their purchases and (where available) the checks they wrote to make the purchases.  All in all, you begin to suspect that more scandalous prose has been used in describing trips to the grocery store.  For those people who may not be familiar with the steroids involved, ESPN presents this page describing them.  Unfortunately, the descriptions it provides make it seem to give it more  of a “hey kids!  Look at all the fun you can have with Steroids!” tone than anything, almost as if someone cut-and-pasted it off a steroid users’ FAQ or something similar.

Granted, the subject matter doesn’t exactly lend itself to much embellishment, but this type of thing isn’t going to do much of anything to keep people off the juice.  Sure, there’s a bit of background info at the front of the report that tries to make the point that steroids have bad side effects, but you hear virtually nothing of any ill effects to any of the players who used it, aside from a couple of injuries here and there which may or may not be related to steroid use.  You get the feeling that a couple of strategically placed anecdotes of shrunken genitalia or exploding biceps (Video link, somewhat graphic) would have gone a long way to get the message across, but about the worst thing the report manages to find are steroids being mixed up in bathtubs and sinks on drug raids.  Given the relative lack of sources available to Mr. Mitchell this is understandable, but for all the hyperbole in the press about the “devestating” impact of the report, there’s not really a lot besides a few of the names that came from Kirk Radomski that we didn’t already know.  Incidentally, my picks in the Mitchell Report Juicer Fantasy Draft were all pretty much busts.  Maybe I’ll have better luck with the next scandal…

None of this is intended to trivialize the impact of the Mitchell Report, but as a summary of whatever information the MLBPA wasn’t able to keep out of Mr. Mitchell’s hands, the report works reasonably well, even if it is a bit dry and clunky at times. As an exposé of the rampant use of performance enhancing drugs in baseball, it’s OK, but since much of this is hyperbole generated by the assorted punditry, it probably gets more credit than it deserves.  As a work of literature on which to spend your precious reading time, I’d probably suggest looking elsewhere.

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December 13, 2007

How to Become a Food Snob in Five Easy Steps

Filed under: Cooking, Culture, Food — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:44 am

As you can see over in my Blogroll, one of the message boards I have listed is chowhound.com.  Although that particular site can be a valuable source of information cooking and food, there’s just one slight problem:  The place is absolutely crawling with food snobs.  To the sites credit, of the websites I read and participate at on a regular basis, the discussion at Chowhound is usually kept far more civil than that found virtually anywhere else I read.  I haven’t ever been able to figure out whether this was the product of dilligent moderation, or the fact that most of the troublemakers on the Internet haven’t ever managed to advance their cooking skills beyond the microwave and the speed dial button on the phone for pizza delivery.  Nonetheless, on a fair number of threads at Chowhound, the snobbery gets so thick there that you’re not sure why you bother with reading the boards there in the first place.  Maybe it’s just because you haven’t got the refined tastes of the usual crowd there, but more often than not, you just haven’t taken the proper steps necessary to fit in.  After the jump, a handy guide to joining the elite ranks of the food snobs in five easy steps.

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December 10, 2007

Promotional Pricing Gone Awry

Filed under: Food, Random Stuff, shopping — Tags: , , — Brian Lutz @ 11:48 pm

A few weeks ago over at buzz.mn, there was a discussion about supermarket promotions, and the phenomenon of “nine-for-fourteen dollar sales” and other such promotions confused to sell items by confusing customers.  Around here, the most common form of this is probably the “10 for $10” sale, which is easy enough to figure out, but it isn’t uncommon to see some more convoluted versions like 3 for $7, or 4 for $11 on some items.  The theory behind this is that if you advertise something as being 3 for $5 (or something to that effect,) people will buy 3 of that item, rather than try to figure out the indivifual cost of each one, counting on the fact that people will assume that less than three of the item would be regular price.  This is rarely the case, and if it was, the sign would reflect this fact.  Since being single doesn’t makes stocking up on things impractical a lot of the time, I just buy however many I need and let the cash register figure it out for me, After all, isn’t that what the things were designed for?

 While doing some late-night shopping at the local QFC (one of the two local permutations of the Vast Kroger Empire found in the Seattle area) a couple of evenings ago, I came across what may be the most ridiculous example of this type of pricing that I’ve seen:


 

So let me get this straight.  If you buy 1 bottle of this stuff, you can get a $2 rebate by mail.  Buy 2 bottles, you can get $4 back, and so on.  Of course, how many people are going to go through the trouble of filling out the form, getting whatever proof of purchase is required off the bottle and sending the whole thing in just to get $2 back per bottle?

On the other hand, the fine folks at Gnarly Head provide a bonus incentive here.  For those who are willing to buy in bulk, you can get a $30 rebate from a dozen bottles, which is an amount someone might actually go through all that effort for.  Of course, to get that $30 back, that means you have to buy 12 bottles of the stuff all at once.  At the listed price of $10.99 a bottle, that means that you’re going to be spending $131.88 (plus tax), which to most people is a pretty significant chunk of change, not to mention the fact that unless you were planning on either a big party or a really wild bender, you’re going to have to store all of that stuff somewhere.  Of course, you can get $30 of that back in 4-6 weeks, but when all is said and done, you can either save $2 per bottle (if you’re willing to actually send in the rebate,) or you can spend a whole bunch of money on the stuff at once and save $2.50 per bottle, or a total of $6.  Seems like a whole lot of hassle, doesn’t it? 

I hope you all took notes, there will be a quiz on this later.  Oh, and by the way, you might want to be careful about that particular brand of wine, as it seems that drinking it apparently comes with a slight risk of eternal damnation

 (Note:  This is a crosspost from an item I originally posted at buzz.mn, with some additional comments added.)

December 9, 2007

It’s a World! of Fun! For the Whole Family!

Filed under: Random Stuff — Tags: , , , — Brian Lutz @ 7:35 pm

With the Holiday season comes holiday decorating, and at Wal-Mart, whoever got the assignment to design the decorations for the toy department this year must have been really excited about it, if the results are any indication: 

Welcome! to Toyland! with Wally! and Marty!

It’s not just a few aisles of shelves for toys, it’s Toyland! with your hosts Wally! and Marty! (who, are apparently supposed to be elves, but look suspiciously like first-draft CG rejects from that new Alvin and the Chipmunks movie set to destroy another precious childhood memory sometime next week.)  If anyone in the Wal-Mart corporate office happens to read this, you might want to check to see if anyone over in the design department is hoarding leftover halloween candy…

(I probably would have sent this one over to  the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks, but it doesn’t appear to be in their “department”.)

December 7, 2007

You’d fall for it too

Filed under: Design, Food — Tags: , — Brian Lutz @ 2:29 am

At a Papa Murphy’s Take and Bake pizza near here the other day, I found this bit of decoration on the floor:

Of course, the point they’re trying to get across with this is pretty clear, and even if it wasn’t, they’ve conveniently provided a sign to explain it.  Let’s try to figure this whole thing out:

  •  Apparently the floor of this particular establishment is unable to bear the weight of an average person when it is combined with the weight of one of the pizzas which is sold here.  This leads to one of two conclusions:  Either the floor of this establishment is woefully inadequate for the purpose it was designed for (in which case, a building inspector would probably have a field day with all the code violations they could presumably find here) or the mass of the pizza in question exceeds the load bearing capacity of the floor.  Although the impression that they would like to present suggests the latter, the nature of the damage to the floor, combined with the unusually wide spacing between the floor joists seems to suggest the former scenario is far more likely.
  • In spite of the fact that I have never seen one of these places in anything besides a single-story building, it seems that this particular location happens to have an unfinished basement underneath it, unbeknownst to any of the customers until one of them found himself crashing through the floor in a freak pizza-hauling accident. 
  • Speaking of our hapless victim, through some miracle he appears to have emerged from this ordeal surprisingly unscathed, as has the product he was carrying at the time of the accident in question.  Given the fact that the figure depicted on the warning sign placed next to the hole (where it does absolutely nothing to prevent an unwary passerby from falling in) has apparently been flattened by one of these freakishly huge pizzas, this is especially miraculous.
  • Finally, in spite of all this, nobody in this particular establishment seems to have bothered doing anything to either assist him in getting out of the hole or contacing emergency services.  For all we know, he’ll be stuck down there for days, trying in vain to get someone to bring a ladder and surviving on unbaked Chicago Style Stuffed Crust pizza.

Anyone care to count how many potential lawsuits this little vignette contains?

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