Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bicycle Snow Cover!

As we head towards the New Year, I give you this image of our neighbor's awesome bicycle cover!

It is snowing here in Boston again and the forecast promises that it will continue doing so for four days straight. So far, I have not exactly been a heroic winter cyclist, but in 2010, I hope to get increasingly more comfortable. Other cycling goals include: touring long distance, conquering drop bars, developing stronger upper body musculature for wielding the Pashley, learning more about bicycle components, and dare I say, wheel building? Yes, that may be in my future over the winter months. Stay tuned and have a Happy New Year!

The Fox-Cable Wars -- Sports Fans' Woes

In addition to sports law, I teach and write about communications law issues. With a new year approaching, a nasty access war between Fox and Time-Warner Cable, one of the nation's largest cable operators is simmering, which may wreck havoc on college football fans (and devotees of other Fox programs) once the new year begins.

Basically, it comes to a game of economic chicken. The 1992 Cable Act (and subsequent FCC regulations) gives over-the-air broadcasters a choice of carriage options: the first is known as "must-carry," meaning that in a given market served by a cable operator the over the air station must be carried on that cable system, but does not receive any compensation. However, a broadcaster may opt for an alternative, known as "retransmission consent," which involves a negotiated payment to that station for carriage on the cable system. Here, if the station elects this option, the cable operator may decline the request, and that station is off the cable system. If this occurs (and it has on rare occasions over the last 15 years), cable subscribers will be greatly inconvenienced, since they have to get an additional equipment (such as an antenna or converter box) to access that station.

The greatly majority of stations have opted for must-carry, but a few stations, sensing their economic power, have sought retransmission consent. Most of those disputes have been settled a few days after the station was blacked out. But this particular dispute may have far greater ramifications.

With dwindling audiences for network and over the air television in general, these stations are seeking greater revenue streams than just the advertising model of the past. Fox is seeking $1.00 per cable customer from Time-Warner in cities such as New York and Los Angeles. If not, Fox is prepared to let some major stations opt-out -- leaving sports fans without some marquis events, such as the Fiesta, Sugar and Orange Bowls in the next few days. If Time-Warner agrees, this would set a major precedent because other cash-strapped networks and stations could very well want the same thing. That could help the networks raise billions of dollars, but also result in higher fees for cable subscribers.

If indeed Fox makes good on its threat, look for Congress to hold hearings. Look for the sports entities (e.g. Major League Baseball) to be concerned and possibly recalculate rights fees if Fox's ratings drop. Look for some subscribers to ditch their cable operators for satellite (or for nothing at all). Something that has not been addressed involved the constitutionality of this schema. I think that if this problem festers, look for a legal challenge to the must-carry rules. In the 1990s, the Supreme Court upheld their constitutionality by narrow 5-4 votes, using an intermediate scrutiny standard, (see Turner Broadcasting v. FCC I and II), and a very elastic one at that. The majority opinions gave great deference to the FCC's reasons, but since then the composition of the court has changed to, arguable, a more sympathetic First Amendment court and the numbers of television options (including more cable channels, the advent of digital broadcasting and Internet streaming options) that may render this regulatory framework obsolete. If that happens, then the gloves can really come off. Stay tuned.

Why Movies Suck

The pinnacle decade for movies was the 1970's. My absolute top favorite films came out during that decade. Prior to that decade, movies were good. They got better and better each year. Hollywood turned out some great stuff like The Godfather, Apocalypse Now, and The Outlaw Josey Wales. Even B-movie material like Dirty Harry and Shaft were damn good. So, what happened? How did movies go from consistently good to being consistently bad?

The answer to that question is two words--Star Wars. Star Wars is a great movie with a great story, but Hollywood got the wrong message. They turned to special effects instead of story, and it has spiralled into the shit we endure today like Transformers, a movie that is pure eye candy.

There have been some good movies since that time, but they appear less and less now as producers opt for the sure thing. Story has taken a back seat to spectacle. Movies today employ scriptwriters to write stories around the scenes that producers have already decided to film. In this new world, story is subordinate to the scenery and not the other way around. The alternative are the indie films that are so damn quirky as to be unwatchable.

We look at paintings to find something beautiful. Instead, we get art that makes us want to puke. We listen to music to feel something. Instead, we get saccharine pop songs that fill the blank spaces. We watch movies to lose ourselves in a great story. Instead, we have the equivalent of animated wallpaper.

To make matters worse is that Hollywood milks it all to death with sequels, franchises, reboots, and the like. I can tell you that these milk jobs never live up to the original. You can only be original with something once. That is what makes it original.

The reason things have gotten like this is because they spend so much money on movies. Eye candy looks good in trailers and piques interest. Sequels and the like guarantee return on invested capital. Hollywood plays it safe, and the result is massive suckitude.

The best thing that could happen in Hollywood would be a decline in available funds for movies. Hollywood needs to go back to a time before the big budget movie when the story mattered. The internet may be the thing that does the trick. But I doubt it. 30 years of decline is hard to reverse. Today's moviegoers have been reared on shit and can't tell the difference.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Column on Mike Leach and Texas Tech Legal Battle: Was He Wrongfully Terminated?

I have a new column that looks at the Mike Leach firing from Texas Tech and the possibility of a wrongful termination lawsuit. Here's an excerpt:

* * *
Was Texas Tech legally entitled to fire Leach for cause? In addition to requiring Leach to follow Texas Tech procedures and polices and to provide responsible treatment of players' health, Leach's contract lists the circumstances under which Texas Tech could dismiss him for cause:

1) The commission of a major NCAA violation or an excessive accumulation of secondary violations by Leach.

2) Knowingly condoning NCAA violations by any staff member under his direct control.

3) Failure to take appropriate disciplinary action against any staff member committing NCAA violations.

4) Failure to take appropriate disciplinary action against football student-athletes.

5) Indictment for a felony criminal act.

6) A misdemeanor involving moral turpitude.

Worded literally, the six circumstances for cause might not cover Leach's alleged misbehavior. Leach has neither been charged with a felony nor a misdemeanor (Nos. 5 and 6), nor is there any indication that he will be. Even if Leach is eventually sued by James in a civil claim, such as for false imprisonment or intentional infliction of emotional distress, such a claim would not constitute a criminal charge. There is also no indication that Leach failed to take appropriate disciplinary action against football players in this situation (No. 4). Similarly, there are no allegations of major NCAA violations or accumulation of secondary violations (No. 1).

An arguable nexus between James' behavior and the "for cause" stipulations could emerge in Nos. 2 and 3. The NCAA has developed player safety rules that Leach arguably breached when he instructed staff members to isolate Leach. The NCAA is also considering new rules that would demand particularly safe care for players who have suffered concussions.

* * *

I hope you have a chance to read the rest of the column and also hope you read Howard's excellent piece on this topic from earlier today.

Update 12/31/09: I was interviewed by Scott Drake on the Legal Broadcast Network this afternoon to discuss the dispute:

Texas Tech coach fired: Updated and moved to top

Texas Tech has suspended football coach Mike Leach for its bowl game, because of Leach's alleged treatment of a player (receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James) who had suffered a concussion and was unable to practice. The James family alleges that Leach ordered the player to sit in an equipment closet or equipment bin (reports conflict) and was told that if he came out, he would be kicked off the team. Leach's attorney insists that Leach had James sit in a cooler, darker area than the practice field because it would be better for the player, given his sensitivity to light. The school has begun an internal investigation.

Two questions, not really going to the substance of anything.

First, is it me, or are we beginning to hear more complaints about, and challenges to, barbaric coaching methods? Are players (themselves or through their parents) beginning to stand up to what often can best be described as hazing, if not outright brutality by the adults in charge? Are players less fearful of complaining, knowing that the school might somewhat have their back? And are schools beginning to take player complaints seriously, perhaps out of fear of liability? Kansas' Mark Mangino lost his job amid reports of being verbally and physically abusive towards players. There was the initial story of South Florida Coach Jim Leavitt slapping a player (reported by the player's father), although that story quickly petered out. And now this. Maybe it's just a blip, but maybe it marks a sea change in the relative power relationships in college sports.

Second, an interesting twist in the Texas Tech story is that Craig James no longer will work the game for ESPN, because there now is a personal issue between James and the school that implicates his objectivity in announcing. But why was he scheduled to work the game in the first place? Didn't James already have a personal issue with Texas Tech simply because his son plays on the team? Was he really expected to be objective in a game his son (or his son's team) is playing in? I know sports broadcasters are not held to similar ethical standards as news journalists. But if ESPN is aware enough to make a change when there is a unique conflict (as now), why not when there is a unique affinity (as when a close family member is in the game)?


Leach has been fired "with cause effective immediately." Leach had filed suit in Texas state court seeking a TRO permitting him to coach in the bowl game and a hearing was scheduled for his morning. Texas Tech's lawyer handed Leach's lawyer the termination letter right before the beginning of the hearing; the hearing then was canceled, since the request for reinstatement had become moot. Expect Leach to file some sort of wrongful termination/breach-of-contract lawsuit soon, if for no other reason than to make sure he gets paid the balance of his contract (last February, Leach signed a contract extension through 2013). The whole issue of the "with cause" finding is to relieve the university of having to pay the balance due under the contract.

Letter from a Parent


I got a letter in the mail today from a SportsLeader coach in Oregon. His team made it to the State Championship final ...

In his letter he very aptly put:
"Lou, Thought you would enjoy some info on our season. Also ... our team got a big silver trophy ... I got this letter from a parent ...

I am not really sure how to say this... .l really want to tell you thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul!

I am not sure how much you know about JD's past, but let me start by saying it really was not the easiest of adolescent passages. He was physically struck by football "team mates", called "dirty Mexican, had his gear taken and broken, called "Radio" by coaches and team mates and much more.

Through all of this he defended these boys and coaches and made every attempt to fit in and be liked. He attended EVERY camp and extra practice. Unfortunately this never happened. He took this kind of abuse for years and it finally reached a point that he could take no more. I could see that he was about to loose it. He went to spend a weekend with his Uncle Marcos and Uncle Brad.

They spent time talking to him about what High School and sports meant to them. They didn't spend the time talking about the two football
championships they attended, but the lifelong friends and relationships they formed. Through lots of tears (mostly mine) we concluded that it was time to make a drastic change.

l knew that changing schools his junior year of High School would not be easy, but he was about to fail out of school and was reaching a deep depression. I tried talking with coaches and teachers to keep him focused. I was told that they didn't have time for one child because there were just too many others to worry about.

From day one everyone at JFK welcomed JD with such warmth. He grew not only in physical size (5' 9" to 6'), but I watched, as he became a great young man. A friend approached me one night to ask me, "what is up with JD?". She said that for years she would try to converse with him, but he would shyly look down and away as he spoke softly. She said that HE actually approached her to say hello looking her in the eye and shaking her hand!! She too noticed his physical change and obvious confidence.

I was so proud!! Some other changes he has made is his strength to stick up for the under dog. one day while watching Ty's baseball game, he pulled me aside and asked if he could have one of the boys over to work on some skills because he noticed he was struggling and he felt that he just needed someone to spend some extra time with him. Very proud moment.

His younger brother (who sports has come easily, he didn't lose a wrestling match for nearly two seasons) watched JD play at the Culver game. The Iook on his face was as if Walter Payton himself was playing on that field.

He said, "Wow, how does Jake do that, do you think I will ever be that good" ? Everyone in Silverton calls Ty the " Ben Roethlisberger" of Silverton, so I have attached a poem that Ben's college coach would read to him, as I found it very fitting and inspiring.

One afternoon Frank and I took some of the boys to lunch. As they finished and prepared to leave I nearly came to tears as I watched Ramon , JR, Daniel, and JD as they stood and hugged each other saying, "l love you man, see you tomorrow". That is a teammate, and those are the friends and relationships that Marcos and Brad talked about.

And at that moment all of those sleepless nights were worth every last tear.

JD is now passing his classes, and is looking at going to COLLEGE!!! I tell this story to as many people as will listen, and it still brings me to tears to realize just how far he has come. He never quit and for that he has become such a strong young man.

One day after practice JD came to the car with food once again. I asked him where he got it, and he said, " From coach Randy, because he loves me" . I asked how he knew that and he said, "Because he told me".

Yes, there were tears in my eyes AGAIN. I am forever indebted for the compassion that you have shown to my son. He came to you a very troubled boy, and Ieaves a respectable young man. What is most amazing is that my son isn't special, and he isn't the only boy on this team who feels as if he IS special. But he felt it every day on and off of the field.

JD made a goal during the summer to become Tri-River Conference defensive lineman of the year. He didn't accomplish that goal, but I know as I watched him play with hamstring pulls, fractures, and pneumonia he played to the best of his ability every game, ond he NEVER QUIT!


'Don't Quit'

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will, When the road you're trudging seems all up hill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high, And you want to smile, but you have to sigh, when care is pressing you down a bit, Rest! if you must; but don't you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns, As everyone of us sometimes learns, And many a failure turns about when he might have won had he stuck it out

Don't give up, though the pace seems slow; You might succeed with another blow.

Often the goal is nearer than It seems to a faint and faltering man, Often the struggler has given up When he might have captured the victor's cup.

And he learned too late, when the night slipped down, How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out; The silver tint of the clouds of doubt

And you never can tell how close you are, It may be near when it seems afar;

So stick to the fight when you're hardest hit; It's when things seem worst that you mustn't quit.


Chance Encounters and Boston Vintage Bikes

Taking advantage of the mild temperatures a couple of days ago, we went for another ride along the Charles River Trail, this time a nice long one. We were taking a break to photograph the bikes (a totally normal part of any day, right?), when I heard a very polite yet excited voice from the trail. Was I by chance the person from Lovely Bicycle? I guess of all the girls out there riding loop-frame bicycles with enormous red bows on the basket, I must be especially recognisable? I attribute it to my unique facial features.

We invited the gentleman to join us on the dock, and a fest of bicycle photography and discussion ensued.

Apparently, he collects photos of people photographing him. So this is my picture of him, taking a picture of me taking a picture of him.

And this is his picture of me, taking a picture of him taking a picture of me taking a... Really, the philosophical implications are staggering. You can see this and many other bicycle related pictures on verdammelt's photostream on flickr.

Here is a shot showing off his bicycle better (admittedly posed in what Steve A. calls my "Lenin in Finland" stance). The bicycle is a vintage BSA 3-speed step-through, which he found abandoned, rescued, restored back to health, and now uses as a winter bike.

Here is a somewhat blurry close-up. Our new acquaintance is proof of how common these rare vintage bicycles are in Boston. A BSA randomly left abandoned on the streets? Yup. It is a pretty cerulean-blue colour with nice lugs and a beautiful fork crown. You can't see them here, but the bike also has shimmery red grips on the handlebars that set off the blue frame quite nicely.

And I love the unusual saddle. It is sprung pleather, with the look and feel of an old leather jacket - not the texture one normally sees on saddles. Overall, this is an excellent rescue, and the owner seems to care about bicycle and to like riding them very much. We enjoyed meeting him and thank him for posing for these photos!

The NFL's Brief in American Needle v. NFL

For those who have been waiting to read the brief filed by the NFL in the upcoming American Needle v. NFL case, it is now available to be downloaded. Meanwhile, a complete collection of all the briefs filed with the Supreme Court in the case can be accessed here.


Snatch 16kg: 10/10
Snatch 20kg: 5/5, 43/43, 5/5
Snatch 24kg: 5/5, 20/20
Snatch 16kg: 10/10

Inget speciellt att säga om detta.

VM i Oslo i Oktober verkar spikat. Ska försöka tävla som veteran i lc. Annars drar jag upp och bara är GS-fan.

Warren Buffett vs. Index Funds

Warren Buffett is the greatest investor of all time. No one disputes this. He has a long track record of beating the markets in investment returns. He has many emulators, but though he is often imitated, he has yet to be duplicated. For some strange reason, the Warren Buffett magic is non-transferrable. Why is this?

I know a lot about Buffett's strategy. Here are the basics:

-Buy stocks when they are cheap.

-Buy stocks only in businesses you understand.

-Hold them forever.

The result of this strategy is pretty straightforward. You reduce costs. You can duplicate Buffett's investing strategy by dollar cost averaging and holding index funds. There is only one part you can't duplicate. This is buying stocks in businesses you understand. This is why Buffett counsels the rest of us to buy index funds. This is good advice because most of the people trying to be the next Warren Buffett fail. So, why does Buffett succeed?

I think stockpicking is a waste of time. People who win at this do so primarily as a consequence of luck. I think Warren Buffett is a lucky coin flipper. Buffett would disagree with me and cite his wealth and track record as evidence. But there have been winners of the lottery that won it more than once. One woman won it five times playing scratch off tickets. These stories abound.

The fact is Warren Buffett has made some horrible investing decisions. The worst one would be not loading up on Wal-Mart stock. How could someone with his investing acumen miss a business that fits everything he loves about a business? Yet, Buffett blew that one by his own admission. Why? The reality is that he can't see the future any better than anyone else. So, why has he done so well?

The biggest aspect of Buffett's strategy isn't his selection of stocks and company's to own but when he buys them. He buys them cheap relative to assets and future earnings. This affords him two advantages. He is automatically going to earn extra because he bought at or near the bottom. The other aspect is that it limits his losses. In a worst case scenario, Buffett will buy a company that must cease operation. It will be bought out by some other company that will break it up or whatnot. It's like buying from a thrift store. If you pay $1 for some pants that end up not fitting, what have you lost? And if you can resell them for 75 cents, it is less of a loss. You can't go wrong with this approach.

Value index funds outperform over the long term. If you had a long term investing horizon, buying shares in these funds would give you a better overall return than either a total sock market fund or a growth oriented fund. The downside is that you will not outperform every year. Neither does Buffett. The reality is that there are years when Buffett does not beat the market. Buffett doesn't care since his overall return trounces the S&P 500.

It is my belief that what has made Buffett so successful as an investor is not his skill at picking stocks but his discipline as an investor which you and I can duplicate. Basically, you should invest in index funds by dollar cost averaging with a weighting towards value and hold for the long term. You don't need to be a genius to do that. As for Buffett, he has made some colossal errors in his picks. They call him the Oracle but to listen to him talk about his picks suggests a nervous gambler. This is why Taleb includes Buffett among those fooled by randomness. For the greatest investor of all time, Buffett exhibits a high degree of self-doubt and humility. This is why he eschews tech and sticks with old economy type businesses. He is afraid of innovative industries because he has no clue about the future. What he does know is that the future does not change as wildly as predicted. Things like furniture and Coca-Cola endure no matter what the internet does. But his stake in the Washington Post may turn out to be a loser because of the internet.

For me, the key to talent or a successful strategy is repeatability. Though Buffett has shown a remarkable track record, few of his disciples have managed to pull off the same trick. The difference between Warren Buffett and some charlatan peddling a get-rich-quick scheme is that Buffett has a proven track record where the charlatan does not. But like the charlatan, the followers of his advice end up nowhere. Compare this to the followers of John Bogle who have done exactly as Bogle has predicted. They have captured the market's return beating a majority of active investors. The best advice Buffett gives is to follow Bogle's advice.

Critics of my criticism will point out that followers of Buffett's philosophy committed errors that can't be blamed on Buffett. Well, I hear the same thing with the charlatans. "You didn't do it right." Basically, the charlatan reaps the credit while everyone else takes the blame. It reminds me of religion. Buffett and his band of disciples are no different. Invest like Buffett and win, and Buffett gets the credit. Invest like Buffett and lose, and you will be shown how you didn't invest like Buffett. That is a neat trick.

Repeatability is the test. Anyone should be able to do it. With indexing, this is repeatable, and Buffett agrees. He even made a famous bet that hedge funds would underperform the S&P 500. We will have to see how this plays out, but it is obvious to me that Buffett believes in indexing even if he derides indexers as "know-nothing investors."

If there is one thing I have learned about randomness, it is to not be fooled by lucky coin flippers. They are bait for the trap regardless if they are aware if they are bait or not. Buffett does not consider himself to be a coin flipper, but what he fails to realize is that his performance is not beyond the realm of possibility. As I have pointed out, people can repeat success in purely random things like the lottery and will. But the fact that most people lose the lottery only shows that it is random. If you want to underperform the market, try to be like Buffett.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reilly gets a makeover

I could stand it no longer so today I got busy and tidied the boy up. He had about 15cm lopped off his tail (which was on the ground *blush*) and I pulled his mane to a much more respectable length. He still has some weight to gain and was knocked for six last week when, after recovering from his gelding so well, he developed a lymphatic infection and had to have a course of antibiotics and anti-inflammatories. He has come through it well and is now ready to go back to work. I have been lunging him in preparation for his return to work which will hopefully be underway next week.


The Aroldis Chapman Sports Law Saga Continues

A couple of weeks ago, Ed and I discussed an interesting lawsuit filed in a Massachusetts state court by the former agents of 21-year-old Cuban defector Aroldis Chapman against his new agents for "stealing" Chapman as a client. The lawsuit -- Athletes Premier International v. Hendricks Sports Management -- is based on a tortius interference claim, which Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press has discussed. Chapman, a lefthander who can reportedly throw 100 miles per hour, remains a free agent, having turned down a $15 million (guaranteed) offer from the Red Sox. He apparently seeks a deal that will guarantee him $30 million, which will be harder to obtain when 2010 arrives because of federal laws which tax signing bonuses when a person works in the U.S. but not when the person does not work in the U.S. (see below).

David Frank of Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly has a new and extensive story (subscription only) on the agency commission that will be owed when Champan signs with a team. Frank interviews the allegedly aggrieved agent, Edwin L. Mejia (a 2001 graduate of Boston University School of Law whose agency is based in White Plains, New York and who is being represented by Gary Greenberg of Greenberg Trauig in the litigation) and me for the story. Here are some excerpts:

* * *
Chapman, a 21-year-old member of the Cuban national team, signed a contract in July naming Mejia as his exclusive representative . . . From that point on, Mejia, who heads up Athletes Premier International, says he spent the summer in Europe helping guide Chapman through the complicated legal process of being declared eligible to play ball in the majors.

"It's tough to quantify how much time went into all of this, but we met on July 2, and from then until [Chapman] arrived in the U.S. in mid-October, I spent virtually the entire time with him," Mejia says. "I did everything from make breakfast for him to deal with the legal and procedural stuff. "

With Chapman's 100 mile-per-hour fastball wowing teams, including the Red Sox, it was clear that some big bucks were headed his way - a percentage of which would land in Mejia's bank account. "I was negotiating with a couple of clubs and knew several other teams were also interested," he says . . .

Then, on Nov. 16, Chapman suddenly disappeared. "I didn't know where he was, which was very odd because he and I talked every day," he says. "We did some research and found out, in part through cell phone records, that he had been contacted by representatives from [Hendricks Sports Management]. Subsequent to notifying [Hendricks] that we knew they were talking to [Chapman], we received documentation that indicated he had allegedly fired me. "

* * *

Although representatives from Hendricks Sports did not return calls from Lawyers Weekly, the agency issued a written statement to the Associated Press . . .

* * *

While the concept of tortious interference clearly covers attempts to interfere with another's business relationship, Michael A. McCann, a Vermont Law School professor who writes for Sports Illustrated, says Mejia is facing an uphill battle.

"There is a deference by the courts to the competitive nature of sports agents, and the reality is that, while the behavior isn't praise-worthy, it is very much a part of the industry," McCann says. "It would truly be a ground-breaking decision if a court were to find that poaching players constitutes tortious interference. "
* * *

There's another angle to the story, though, that I think is very interesting: the tax implications of Chapman still not being signed as 2010 approaches. Basically, by waiting until 2010, Chapman will cost himself millions of dollars in taxes and its not clear if any of his agents were aware of that.

Jorge Aranguré Jr. of ESPN Insider (subscription only) has the details:

* * *
By signing in 2010, Chapman's bonus will now be eligible to be taxed by the U.S. government. "Signing bonuses that are received outside the U.S., by a non-U.S. resident, and in a tax year in which the person did not work in the U.S., are not subject to U.S. taxation," wrote agent Joe Kehoskie, who has represented Cuban players for several years, in an email. "As far as I'm aware, neither the Hendricks brothers nor Rodney Fernandez (who represent Chapman) have ever completed a contract for a foreign free agent, so I bet this issue flew right under their radar.

Right now, it's shaping up as a $3 million (or more) loss for Chapman."Unless Chapman signs for well over $20 million, he'll net less money than if he had simply signed with Boston for $15 million when that offer was presented."
* * *
For a guy who still hasn't signed with an MLB team, let alone thrown a pitch for one, Aroldis Chapman has certainly generated a lot of controversy.

The Earthquake vs. Weather Trick

It has become common of late to observe that the number of weather-related disasters has increased faster than the number of earthquake-related disasters, and imply directly or indirectly that the different must be due to greenhouse gas induced climate changes. The image above comes from UNEP. Or consider this excerpt from a news article out today quoting Munich Re:
Munich Re AG, one of the world's largest reinsurers, Tuesday said economic and insured losses caused by climate change will continue to grow, and called for a near-term deal to ensure a substantial reduction in global greenhouse-gas emissions.

"We need as soon as possible an agreement that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions because the climate reacts slowly and what we fail to do now will have a bearing for decades to come," said management board member Torsten Jeworrek.

"In the light of these facts, it is very disappointing that no breakthrough was achieved at the Copenhagen climate summit in December 2009," Mr. Jeworrek said, pointing to the marked increase--more or less tripling--in major global weather-related natural disasters since 1950. . .

"In particular, the trend toward an increase in weather-related catastrophes continues, while there has fundamentally been no change in the risk of geophysical events such as earthquakes," said Peter Hoeppe, who heads Munich Re's Geo Risks Research unit.
The problem with such statements is that everywhere that scholars have looked with respect to weather related disasters no greenhouse gas signal has been seen, including in the peer reviewed work published by Munich Re (e.g., here and here). If a signal of GHG-driven disasters can't be seen in the weather-related events alone, then adding a comparison to earthquakes won't add much to the analysis.

What then might be going on then to explain the disparity in earthquake and weather-related events? The answer should be obvious.

The data in the graph above above are compiled by CRED in Belgium with the assistance of Munich Re. Here are the criteria for an event to be included in the dataset:

For a disaster to be entered into the database at least one of the following criteria must be fulfilled:

• Ten (10) or more people reported killed.
• Hundred (100) or more people reported affected.
• Declaration of a state of emergency.
• Call for international assistance.
Obviously any trends in reporting of events over a long time period will effect the aggregate totals.

My hypothesis is that since 1980, which is the time period for which claims are most often made regarding the weather-earthquake divergence, very few large earthquakes are missed in the CRED database, because earthquakes are relatively rare and their effects are widespread. By contrast weather events, such as floods, are very common and can have very localized impacts that might not be reported or easily added to the CRED database. So the difference between earthquake and weather disasters reflects a relative increase in the report of small sized weather events I have emailed CRED to ask for comprehensive data that will allow me to explore this hypothesis more systematically.

Meantime, I performed the following test. I picked a random region in the CRED EM-DAT database and searched for all flood events in West Africa (Benin; Burkina Faso; Cape Verde Is; Cote d'Ivoire; Gambia The; Ghana; Guinea; Guinea Bissau; Liberia; Mali; Mauritania; Niger; Nigeria; Senegal; Sierra Leone; St Helena; Togo) in the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s. Here is what that data look like:

One response to this graphic might be to conclude that an increase in GHG-driven floods are responsible for the 3-fold increase in flood disasters with 10 to 60 people in Western Africa. Another would be to note the obvious -- only 5 events in a decade with a loss of 10 to 60 people is certainly an underestimate in a region with 300 million people, many who are very vulnerable to disasters, subject to frequent flooding and where reporting is probably not very systematic. In fact, the events in the 1990s and 2000s are also probably underestimated by some significant but unknown degree. In any case, to use such data to say anything about human influences on climate is unwise.

The bottom line here is that if you want to look for a signal of GHG-driven climate change, look at quality data systematically collected in particular regions for specific phenomena. If you cannot see a signal in that data, then going to less precise and more aggregated data will not add much value. A comparison of trends in weather and earthquake disasters sheds no light on the attribution of disasters to GHG emissions.

The "Consistent With" Fallacy: How Not to Compare Predictions and Observations

Over at Real Climate there is a misleading post up about IPCC global temperature projections as compared with actual temperature observations, suggesting success where caution and uncertainty is a more warranted conclusion.

The scientists at Real Climate explain that to compare a prediction with observations one must assess whether the observations fall within a range defined as 95% of model realizations. In other words, if you run a model, or a set of models, 100 times, you would take the average of the 100 runs and plot the 95 individual runs closest to that average, and define that range as an "envelope" of projections. If observations fall within this envelope, they you would declare the projection to be a predictive success.

Imagine if a weather forecaster said that he ran a model 100 times and it showed that tomorrow's temperature was going to be between 25 and 75 degrees, with 95% confidence, with a "best estimate" of 50 degrees. If the temperature came in at 30 degrees you might compare it to the "best estimate" and say that it was a pretty poor forecast. If the weather forecast explained that the temperature was perfectly "consistent with" his forecast, you'd probably look for another forecaster. If the true uncertainty was actually between 25 and 75 degrees, then one might question the use of issuing a "best estimate."

Gavin Schmidt explains how this works in the context of the current "pause" (his words) in the increase in global average surface temperatures over the past 11 years (emphasis added):
The trend in the annual mean HadCRUT3v data from 1998-2009 (assuming the year-to-date is a good estimate of the eventual value) is 0.06+/-0.14 ºC/dec (note this is positive!). If you want a negative (albeit non-significant) trend, then you could pick 2002-2009 in the GISTEMP record which is -0.04+/-0.23 ºC/dec. The range of trends in the model simulations for these two time periods are [-0.08,0.51] and [-0.14, 0.55], and in each case there are multiple model runs that have a lower trend than observed (5 simulations in both cases). Thus ‘a model’ did show a trend consistent with the current ‘pause’. However, that these models showed it, is just coincidence and one shouldn’t assume that these models are better than the others. Had the real world ‘pause’ happened at another time, different models would have had the closest match.
Think about the logic of "consistent with" as used in this context. It means that the larger the model spread, the larger the envelope of projections, and the greater the chance that whatever is observed will in fact fall within that envelope. An alert reader points this out to Gavin in the comments:
I can claim I’m very accurate because my models predict a temperature between absolute zero and the surface temperature of the sun, but that error range is so large, it means I’m not really predicting anything.
Gavin says he agrees with this, which seems contrary to what he wrote in the post about 11-year trends. Elsewhere Gavin says such statistics are meaningful only for 15 years and longer. If so, then discussing them in terms of "consistency with" the model spread just illustrates how this methodology can retrieve a misleading signal from noise.

About 18 months ago I engaged in a series of exchanges with some in the climate modeling community on this same topic. The debate was frustrating because many of the climate scientists thought hat we were debating statistical methods, but from my perspective we were debating the methodology of forecast verification.

At that time I tried to illustrate the "consistent with" fallacy in the context of IPCC projections using the following graph. The blue curve shows a curve fit to 8-year surface temperature trends from 55 realizations from models used by IPCC (the fact that it was 8 years is irrelevant to this example). With the red curve I added 55 additional "realizations" produced from a random number generator. The blue dot shows the observations. Obviously, the observations are more "consistent with" the red curve than the blue curve. We can improve consistency by making worse predictions. There is obviously something wrong with this approach to comparing models and observations.

What should be done instead?

1. A specific prediction has to be identified when it is being made. A prediction in this case should be defined as the occurrence of some event in the future, that is to say, after the prediction is made. For the IPCC AR4 this might generously be defined as starting in 2001.

2. Pick a quantity to be forecast. This might be global average surface temperature as represented by GISS or CRU, the satellite lower tropospheric records, both or something else. But pick a quantity.

3. Decide in advance how you are going to define the uncertainty in your forecast. For instance, the IPCC presented an uncertainty range in its forecast in a manner differently than does Real Climate. Defining uncertainty is of critical importance.

For instance, eyeballing the Real Climate IPCC Figure one might be surprised to learn that had there been no temperature change from 1980 to 2010, this too would have been "consistent with" the model realization "envelope." While such uncertainty may in fact be an accurate representation of our knowledge of climate, it is certainly not how many climate scientists typically represent the certainty of their knowledge.

If any of 1, 2 or 3 above is allowed to vary and be selected in post-hoc fashion it sets the stage for selections of convenience that allow the evaluator to make choices that pretty much show whatever he wants to show.

4. A good place to start is simply with IPCC "best estimate" One can ask if observations fall above or below that value. Real Climate's post suggest that actual temperatures fall below that "best estimate."

5. You can then ask if falling below or above that value has any particular meaning with respect to the knowledge used to generate the forecast. To perform such an evaluation, you need a naive forecast, some baseline expectation against which you can compare your sophisticated forecast. In the case of global climate it might be a prediction of no temperature change or some linear fit to past trends. If the sophisticated method doesn't improve upon the naive baseline, you are not getting much value from that approach.

The bottom line is that with respect to #4 Real Climate shows that actual temperatures are running below a central estimate from the IPCC AR4 as well as below the various scenarios presented by Jim Hansen in 1988. What does this mean? Probably not much. But at the same time it should be obvious that this data should not be used as evidence to announce the successes of climate predictions, as Real Climate does: "the matches to observations are still pretty good, and we are getting to the point where a better winnowing of models dependent on their skill may soon be possible." Such over-hyping of the capabilities of climate science serves neither science nor policy particularly well. The reality is that while the human influence on the climate system is real and significant, predicting its effects for coming years and decades remains a speculative enterprise fraught with uncertainties and ignorance.

Texas Tech coach suspended--some questions

Texas Tech has suspended football coach Mike Leach for its bowl game, because of Leach's alleged treatment of a player (receiver Adam James, the son of ESPN college football analyst Craig James) who had suffered a concussion and was unable to practice. The James family alleges that Leach ordered the player to sit in an equipment closet or equipment bin (reports conflict) and was told that if he came out, he would be kicked off the team. Leach's attorney insists that Leach had James sit in a cooler, darker area than the practice field because it would be better for the player, given his sensitivity to light. The school has begun an internal investigation.

Two questions, not really going to the substance of anything.

First, is it me, or are we beginning to hear more complaints about, and challenges to, barbaric coaching methods? Are players (themselves or through their parents) beginning to stand up to what often can best be described as hazing, if not outright brutality by the adults in charge? Are players less fearful of complaining, knowing that the school might somewhat have their back? And are schools beginning to take player complaints seriously, perhaps out of fear of liability? Kansas' Mark Mangino lost his job amid reports of being verbally and physically abusive towards players. There was the initial story of South Florida Coach Jim Leavitt slapping a player (reported by the player's father), although that story quickly petered out. And now this. Maybe it's just a blip, but maybe it marks a sea change in the relative power relationships in college sports.

Second, an interesting twist in the Texas Tech story is that Craig James no longer will work the game for ESPN, because there now is a personal issue between James and the school that implicates his objectivity in announcing. But why was he scheduled to work the game in the first place? Didn't James already have a personal issue with Texas Tech simply because his son plays on the team? Was he really expected to be objective in a game his son (or his son's team) is playing in? I know sports broadcasters are not held to similar ethical standards as news journalists. But if ESPN is aware enough to make a change when there is a unique conflict (as now), why not when there is a unique affinity (as when a close family member is in the game)?

Making hay while the sun shines ...

Well hopefully we will be! It's that time of the year again and we are patiently awaiting a visit from our hay man to inspect the paddocks and start the annual hay harvest. Thankfully this year we have had an awesome growing season and the paddocks are looking as good as they ever have. After last season's disappointingly low yield, I locked up a couple of extra paddocks this year so, hopefully, we will have enough this year to be able to help a few friends out as well as fill our own shed.

Whilst on the subject of sheds, with my recent lucky win and the sale of our beautiful Robbie, my dream of a decent farm shed is to become a reality and we are in the process of pricing up various kitset pole sheds - Very exciting for me!

Today we have photos of grass, what else?! Haha!

Knee deep in clover!

The beautiful lillies my friend Jane brought over today - In memory of my darling Kruger, found dead in the neighbour's paddock on Boxing Day - RIP darling cuddlepusski

Monday, December 28, 2009

Five Rivendell Fork Crowns

We were at Harris Cyclery the other day and I took the opportunity to photograph the fork crowns of the Rivendell frames that were hanging in the shop. Enjoy the colourburst!

the Atlantis

the original green Sam Hillborne

the orange Sam Hillborne

the A. Homer Hilsen

the Betty Foy

Nice, aren't they? I think the "curly-cue" design that's on the Betty Foy, the A. Homer Hilsen, and the orange Sam Hillborne tend to be most people's favourites. But as a girl of simple tastes, I prefer the one on the original green Hillborne.

Feeling Slow? A Simple Explanation

It's funny that no matter how much cycling experience we gain, we remain susceptible to those silly mistakes and those "duh!" moments. I am sure I have many, but the most recent one really had me smacking my forehead.

For the past month I had been favouring my vintage Raleigh and not riding the Pashley as much. When I finally did take out the Pashley last week, I noticed that it felt more sluggish than I remembered. I thought this was strange, but chalked it up to my having gotten out of shape and the vintage Raleigh being easier to ride. But the sluggish feeling kept growing worse, and neither of us could figure it out. Until finally, cycling behind me, the Co-Habitant realised what was wrong: My tires were nearly flat! There were no punctures; they were just low on pressure and neither of us had noticed.

I know it's absurd to overlook such an obvious thing as tire pressure; it is the equivalent of wondering why your computer is not working only to realise that it is not plugged into the wall. We do usually top up the air in our tires at reasonable intervals, but my Pashley slipped through the cracks. I wonder whether the cold temperatures played a role in it as well? Now that my tires are re-inflated, the Pashley flies again (really, the difference in speed and handling is amazing). However, I do think that I will replace its native Marathon Plus tires with Delta Cruisers come springtime; the latter just feel livelier and more enjoyable to me. In the meantime: If your bike is feeling slow, do check your tire pressure before looking for more complicated or sinister explanations!


Oajerks 20kg: 5/5
Lccj 2x20kg: 5, 60(10min), 5
Lccj 2x24kg: 5, 12

10-minuters-setet: Jag har svårt att hålla räkningen just vid lc. Det beror nog på att det är två moment inblandade. Därför brukar jag alltid filma mina lc-set. De första minuterna låg jag på i alla fall 7rpm. Och jag tyckte att jag höll ett högt tempo setet igenom - kändes som att jag aldrig vilade. Jag trodde nånstans att jag nått de efterlängtade 64 repsen (ranktabell-länk). Dock, filmen visade att det bara var 60 reps - visade också att jag visst vilade :-). Nåja, det ger sig.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Why You Should Eat at Chick-fil-a

Why Atheists Shouldn't Eat at Chick-Fil-A

This is a stupid article. Chick-fil-a was founded by Truett Cathy who is a well known Biblethumper. So, what? They have some good food and the finest service I have ever received at a fast food restaurant. My only criticism of the chain is that it is damn aggravating when I want a chicken sandwich on a Sunday, and they are closed.

Boycotting products and services is a leftard tactic and a stupid one. I am reminded of leftards boycotting Whole Foods over the John Mackey editorial in the WSJ on free market alternatives to healthcare. Why not boycott all capitalist enterprises? I would love to watch leftards starve to death or have to turn to growing their own food. The reality is that these flurries of stupidity last a short time, and then they go back to the same consuming behavior. The most notorious example would be the anti-fur people who went back to wearing fur.

I make it a point to not let my politics interfere with my consumption of goods and services and this includes government goods and services. I still use the postal service to mail a letter even though I would like to see the USPS privatized and an end to their monopoly on first class mail. I still drive on public roads. I could be principled on this, but I would only be hurting myself.

The problem with boycotting any company's goods and services is that there really is no end to it. Why not ask if the local merchant is politically correct? It would probably surprise leftards to learn that most local merchants watch Fox News, listen to Rush Limbaugh, and attend church. If we take this fool's opinions to heart, we'd have to just cease all buying and selling because somewhere along the line we would have to do business with people who disagreed with us on other issues.

The beauty of the free market is that it promotes civility and peace because we have to leave our prejudices, opinions, and whatnot at the door for the sake of commerce. This is a good thing. I know of racist businessmen who still do business with blacks and Jews because they have to. They may not like it, but they manage to get over their prejudice because they need something or want to make a dollar.

Chick-fil-a is an outstanding place to eat, and if Christianity is the reason behind this, so be it. I just know they have good food and good service. I'm not going to let my atheism get in the way of me enjoying these fine sandwiches. Plus, those waffle fries are the shit.

Multitasking is Bullshit

When I drive down the road, I see a common sight. The car ahead of me is driving slowly and swerving. I pass the car, and it is someone at the wheel texting or yammering on their cellphone. This is multitasking, and it doesn't work.

I have been reading study after study on multitasking, and the evidence is overwhelming. Multitasking is bullshit. You can't do more than one thing at a time except walk and chew gum. Anyone who says they can pull this shit off is lying.

I have been doing the multitasking thing for years now, and I can tell you that I get nothing done because of it. I am neither faster nor more productive. The best I can manage is to talk on the phone while driving, but I have since ceased this activity. One day, your luck runs out, and you rear end a car.

At work, I know this guy who praises multitasking. When I tell him it is bullshit, he vehemently disagrees with me. Yet, everyone I work with agrees that Mr. Multitasker can't even singletask because he is an utter dipshit. The stupid fucker is merely spouting off corporatespeak and slurping slobber over the balls of some superior telling them shit they want to hear. What boss doesn't want to hear that you can accomplish ten things at one time? But in the long run, the truth emerges. When you overpromise and underdeliver on a consistent basis, people recognize you for being a dipshit.

Singletasking or unitasking is the way to go. This is where you underpromise and overdeliver. The unitasker will get more shit done than the multitasker and will also get it done faster. But this involves not answering emails or picking up the phone. It means saying no to certain things. This will make you very unpopular in the short run. No one wants to be denied or ignored. But to get shit done, you have to become The Abominable No-Man. But in the long run, they will love you. This is because you will produce while everyone else is bullshitting.

I am a unitasker now. I focus on one thing at a time and get it done. What I have found is that the secret to getting things done is to not start multiple projects and leave them unfinished but to do one thing at a time and never stop. This leads to a chain of completed tasks. I focus and lose myself in the task. Doing one thing at a time beats the overload of the multitasker.

Multitaskers are world class bullshitters. They exaggerate what they are able to accomplish with their ADD tactics. But when you inspect their results, they are lacking. They confuse motion with action. They are a flurry of activity but no progress. When they complete a task, it is shitty and often has to be redone. And at least one to two of their multitasks involves bullshitting on the phone or surfing websites that are not work related.

The successful unitasker will shut out the distractions and eliminate the unnecessary. Focus is the key. The results of unitasking will speak for themselves.

The Days Ahead

The pre-Christmas blizzard has come and gone, leaving in its wake a patchy landscape of snow, slush, ice, and mud. Yesterday the weather was mostly good and we went for a ride along the Charles River Trail - our first real ride together in weeks. In the afternoon everything looked lilac and utterly beautiful; it was a wonderful ride.

The previous night it had rained and much of the snow had washed away. Though the river bank was snowy and the river was iced over, the trail itself was mostly clear, save for a few stretches. What surprised me was how utterly impossible it was to cycle through those stretches.

Having ventured out in the blizzard last week, I thought that I "knew" snow - and with that thought, I proceeded to cycle straight through a snowy patch. As a result, I almost took a spill - twice. Apparently, the fresh, evenly distributed powder through which I rode last week was nothing compared to the lumpy mess of slush, ice, and crusty snow of varying density through which I now attempted to pass. Let's just say, the Marathon Plus tires said "No". And I don't think studded tires would have helped in this kind of snow either - though feel free to correct me if you disagree.

The Co-Habitant checks my tires whilst enjoying the view of Boston across the river. I love this picture, because it captures the feeling of living in this area in a way I can't quite explain verbally. And I have a funny story about my tires, but will hold off on that till the next post.

After yesterday's ride, I think the realities of winter have finally hit me: My God, I won't be able to cycle "normally" again for the next 3 months! Sure, on good days I may feel safe enough to cautiously ride from Point A to Point B. But I can pretty much forget those fast long rides I have grown used to over the Summer and Fall. During the warmer months, I probably averaged around 100 miles per week on the bike, over 80% of them recreational. It should come as no surprise then, that the comparatively minimal cycling I am doing now leaves me wanting more. So what do I do, get a trainer? That's not the same as "real" cycling, and I just can't see myself getting into it. Instead, I think I simply need to accept the limitations of winter, and to stay positive by planning for the next season. Since I enjoy long rides so much, perhaps I should try to develop my endurance and challenge myself - set some goals, devise a training schedule, think of some local destinations I would like to cycle to, and so on.

A year ago, I could not have imagined that I would ever develop an interest in the "athletic" aspect of cycling - but there you have it. Those are my thoughts on cycling as we head towards the New Year. What are yours?

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Enya - 'TF Celtic Moon' - Registered ISH Filly

June 2012 UPDATED for sale listing

Enya - Poetry in Motion
Foaled Spring 2009 - Leggy, beautiful and elegant, Enya has a very bright and exciting future as a competitive sport horse. Her bloodlines suggest immense potential as an event horse but we don't think this should deter any would-be dressage or show queens from considering this filly. Her correct conformation, balanced and uphill paces and athleticism are sure to serve her well in both the saddle hunter and dressage arenas. She has an EMH of 16HH+.

Enya's Irish Sport Horse dam (Kingsway Diamond X Sovereign's Charm/Sovereign Path/Grey Sovereign) was a handy show jumper, saddle hunter and eventer before injury sidelined her to the broodmare paddock where she has stayed (even though she has been sound for many years) and has produced us such exceptional progeny as Enya's full sister Aine (TF Summer Solstice) and the three brothers, TF Malteser, TF Rafferty and TF Liath (need to update photos) and most recently a full sister to the 3 Hamish boys, Aisling. Maude is a 1988 foal now and still fit and well and breeding. She stands 16.2HH.

Enya's sire, 'TF Life O'Reilly' (and here, doing XC) is a (now gelded) son of Grand Prix SJ/4* Eventing horse Mighty Heights - this breeding means that Enya carries the blood of both very influential Irish Draught Sire's that stood in NZ in the 1980's and 90's, Laughtons Legend and Kingsway Diamond. Check out the breeding of many of the top Eventing horses of today and the past few decades and you will see that a huge percentage of these horses have Irish blood running through their veins, indeed there are far too many to list! Enya is essentially 2/3 TB and 1/3 RID.

Reilly's dam-sire was Light Spirits who has sired a number of very good jumping and smart moving horses. Reilly himself is a sane and sensible sweet-natured horse who has taken the greatest care of his doting & nervous rider owner and breeder. He has a temperament that really is second-to-none. His dam, What a Lark was full sister to Day Light who was exported to the UK as an event horse by Jen Kneale.

Enya is a smart, sensitive and attractive filly and is priced to sell at $3,000 NEG. Whilst a competitive home is preferred, a home that will love and care for her is our top priority. Enya can be wintered here for a nominal grazing fee She wears a rug, is good to catch, leads well and stands quietly to have her feet done - she has been drenched regularly since birth although is not a huge fan.

We believe that Enya will be every bit as competitive as her warmblood counterparts so dio not let her lack of WB breeding put you off! Enya will be ready to back this Spring/Summer so is a blank canvas.

For more information, please feel free to contact me on - Videos below. More photos: HERE

I will try and get some more up to date photos soon however given the time of the year, she's a little hairy and muddy!

16 February 2010

8 January 2010

4 January 2010

Who me? (Photo taken early December)
Nearside (Aged 1 month - all photos that follow taken 28 Dec)
With her dam
With her dam
Demonstrating her ground covering paces

First Foot Trim