Cheating in Baseball

I have a romantic view of baseball, and it is always startling when confronted with the reality that baseball is a business first, and the national pastime second. It is, after all, a game. Games have rules, and rules are to be followed. I’ll boo Sosa because he corked his bat. I’m not fond of pitchers who throw at batters. This is baseball, not hockey. Courtesy and sportsmanship are supposed to count for something.

In yesterday’s game between the Nationals and the Angels, Washington manager Frank Robinson called for the umpires to check Brendan Donnelly’s glove for foreign substances. Lo and behold, pine tar. Illegal. Against the rules. Section 8.02(a)2 “[the pitcher may not] Apply a foreign substance of any kind to the ball.” It’s a pretty clear rule. Pine tar is a foreign substance. Tossing pine tar balls is illegal.

What did Donnely have to say?

“It’s not like I’m using it to doctor the ball,” said Donnelly, who faces a possible suspension. His glove was sent to the Commissioner’s Office for further review. “I want to know that I have a good grip on the ball and I’m not going to kill people.”

Even though it is essentially illegal, Donnelly admits to using pine tar occasionally to control the pitch in cold or sweaty conditions, but not to cheat.

Uh, transferring pine tar to the ball is illegal. Having it on your person, illegal. It’s cheating.

Play by the rules, and don’t whine and make excuses when you don’t and get caught. Keep my idealism for the game alive.

Addendum: Marco Scutaro had a big hit with two out in the bottom of the 9th to break a 2-2 tie with Mets. Nicely done Marco!

A deal made in Washington? Bargaining to Restore Freedom?

Congressman Rick Boucher is a rare animal indeed: a man looks at the bigger picture of intellectual property and tries to determine the appropriate balance intended by the founding fathers in creating patents and copyrights. I first became aware of the Congressman when he guest blogged on Lawrence Lessig’s weblog, where he showed surprising sense. He has written a guest editorial for, where he suggests that in exchange for enacting the FCC’s Broadcast Flag rule, Congress should restore fair use rights which were destroyed by the DMCA.


I can’t help but think that this is a bargain with the devil. The DMCA should never have restricted the fair and unregulated uses of copyrighted material. It was a travesty: one that robbed the American people their rightful property. I’m not sure why Congressman Boucher thinks that we should pay for giving back a right which never should have been taken.

And make no mistake: the Broadcast Flag does nothing for consumers. In the page I linked above, Congressman Boucher claimed to fear a culture where everything was “pay per use”. That is precisely the kind of world that the Broadcast Flag is designed to create. The Broadcast Flag is an annoyance to consumers. It means that transferring your time shifted video from your TiVo to your PDA will be a hassle. That transferring it to your Unix box will be a bigger hassle.

When Mr. Glickman says:

“So why should I care about a so-called broadcast flag regulation? The answer is simple. I want to make certain that the American people will continue to have the opportunity to see our movies and television shows on free television in the digital age.”

First of all, just where is this “free television”? I live in the bottom of a valley, so over the air broadcasts are basically impossible. I pay $45 a month or so for my traditional analog cable from Comcast. I don’t have free television, and as time goes on, fewer and fewer Americans do.

Next, there is currently no broadcast flag, and yet there seems to be no shortage of programming. One could, of course, make claims as to its quality, but one presumes that there could be only a single reason for not having better programming: the almighty dollar.

Really, what Mr. Glickman is saying that “if we made more money, we could create more programming, and the Broadcast Flag will enable us to make more money.” Glickman expects us to sign off on this, and we will see this new programming as a result. It sort of reminds me of the ideas that were floated early in the early days of Cable TV. “Pay us, and you can have fewer commercials!” they said. Uh huh. We all know how that worked out.

Giving teeth to the FCC Broadcast Flag resolution in exchange for restored fair use is basically robbing Peter to pay Paul: it doesn’t really make any sense.

I recognize you are one of the “good guys”, Congressman Boucher, but I think you can come up with a better idea than this.

Although, perhaps no better compromise.

Gutenberg Gem: Occult Chemistry, by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater

Okay, okay, it’s not really a gem, except in the sense that it’s interesting to read an early example of utter and complete mumbo jumbo. Occult Chemistry, by Annie Besant and Charles W. Leadbeater is an extensive, detailed, and complete description of chemistry as revealed to the authors through clairvoyance. Published in 1919, the exact nature of elements was still fairly new: Rutherford had proposed his planetary model of the atom in 1911. Still, this had to have been considered craziness of the highest order, even in 1919.

A quote, just to give the flavor:

I remember the occasion vividly. Mr. Leadbeater was then staying at my house, and his clairvoyant faculties were frequently exercised for the benefit of myself, my wife and the theosophical friends around us. I had discovered that these faculties, exercised in the appropriate direction, were ultra-microscopic in their power. It occurred to me once to ask Mr. Leadbeater if he thought he could actually see a molecule of physical matter. He was quite willing to try, and I suggested a molecule of gold as one which he might try to observe. He made the appropriate effort, and emerged from it saying the molecule in question was far too elaborate a structure to be described. It evidently consisted of an enormous number of some smaller atoms, quite too many to count; quite too complicated in their arrangement to be comprehended. It struck me at once that this might be due to the fact that gold was a heavy metal of high atomic weight, and that observation might be more successful if directed to a body of low atomic weight, so I suggested an atom of hydrogen as possibly more manageable. Mr. Leadbeater accepted the suggestion and tried again. This time he found the atom of hydrogen to be far simpler than the other, so that the minor atoms constituting the hydrogen atom were countable. They were arranged on a definite plan, which will be rendered intelligible by diagrams later on, and were eighteen in number.

BSA disgusted with critiques of their inflammatory piracy loss methodology

Ars Technica points us at both an article from The Economist which questioned the accuracy and methology of the BSA in determining of piracy to businesses, and the terse and unresponsive reply from Beth Scott of the BSA.

Reproduced here in full:

Your article on software piracy was extreme, misleading and irresponsible ("BSA or just BS?", May 21st). The headline was particularly offensive. The implication that an industry would purposely inflate the rate of piracy and its impact to suit its political aims is ridiculous. The problem is real and needs no exaggeration.

Piracy probably is a problem for businesses. The question is: how much of a problem is it? In the BSA’s world, every pirated copy of software is a lost sale. They, like the MPAA and the RIAA, don’t realize that software, like movies and music, are incredibly elastic commodities. If faced with actually having to buy them for current market price, most people would simply do without rather than pay for them. In strictly economic sense, this severely limits the potential losses. It’s like saying that if you doubled tolls on the Bay Bridge, you’d make twice as much money. What really would happen would be that less people would travel over the Bay Bridge. Effects on actual revenue are considerably harder to predict.

I don’t support piracy, but the BSA is full of BS.

Anti-Spam Experiment

Yesterday I did some thinking bout how to prevent more of the spam that floods (or at least leaks into) my sight, and decided to give a whirl to SecureImage, a plugin that implements a CAPCHA (Completely Automated Public Turing Test to Tell Computers and Humans Apart) . You’ve seen these before: type in the mangled numbers and letters that you see in the box. I’m considering this a test: if you think it is a huge nuisance and I should take it down, leave a note here (okay, you’ll have to do it once) or send me an email at my usual mailbox.

Here’s to a spam free future. At least for now.