Uncommon Sense

November 19, 2022

Hugh D.H. Soar (1926–2022)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:48 am

I posted this on my archery coaching blog site, but Hugh’s passing is such a loss to cultural knowledge that I thought I would post it here, also. Steve

* * *

I just got notification that Hugh Soar has died, which was not unexpected as he was closer to being 100 than 90, but still sad. While one could declare that Hugh was a big fish in a small pond, he was the pre-eminent archery historian of the Western Tradition in the world, in my opinion.

He wrote a slew of books on archery history, all written  in what I call a charming, somewhat archaic, style. I had the honor of editing his last book, The Young at Archery. Other titles included:

Straight and True: A Select History of the Arrow

The Crooked Stick: A History of the Longbow

The Romance of Archery: A Social History of the Longbow

Secrets of the English War Bow

How to Shoot the Longbow: A Guide from Historical and Applied Sources

Of Bowmen and Battles

Hugh was sought out for his expertise by television shows and other media, and his collection of more than 240 bows and other artifacts is among the finest in the world.

Hugh was a member of the Mary Rose Trust Committee. The Trust’s primary aims are to preserve, display and spread knowledge about the 16th century warship, Mary Rose, which sank in the Solent on 19 July 1545 and was salvaged by the Trust in October 1982. The sixteenth century in England was right in Hugh’s wheelhouse, and the ship contained many, many bow staves and bows and arrow shafts, broadheads, etc.

He received a number of honors in his life and he was a member of quite a few historical archery companies, such as the British Longbow Society, the Royal Toxophilite Society, of which he was General Secretary for eleven years, and he founded the Craft Guild of Traditional Bowyers and Fletchers.

He is survived by his wife, Veronica-Mae, whose writings also graced the pages of Archery Focus magazine, and several children and grandchildren.

I am honored to have gotten to work with him.

October 4, 2022

Why We Should Send Florida “Hopes and Prayers” and Nothing More

Because like famine aid to Africa back in the day, the bulk of the funds are siphoned off by corrupt politicians.

Did You Know . . . That On Friday, all 16 Florida U.S. House Republicans plus Rick Scott in the U.S. Senate voted against disaster relief for their own state just as Hurricane Ian was ripping through Florida. Marco Rubio blew off voting altogether as is his practice. Why would Republicans vote against disaster relief while a disaster was literally happening? Matt Gaetz said they did it because they weren’t willing to let Biden have a win.

Did You Know . . . The State of Florida has a 22 billion dollar surplus . . . . a $22,000,000,000 surplus!

And, Of Course, . . . After voting no on the $2 billion in disaster relief aid bill, Rick Scott bragged about fighting for federal aid for Florida after Biden had already sent it.

Can you spell corruption, boys and girls? You can’t justify paying off corrupt politicians by pleading “But what about the poor people who are damaged?” They get relief in neither case.

July 28, 2022

Steph Curry’s Secret

Filed under: Science,Sports,Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 12:42 pm
Tags: , , , ,

Steph Curry and his Golden State Warriors teammate, Klay Thompson, are two of the best long distance shooters of all time in the NBA. Klay is a classic jump shooter. Steph, acknowledged as the better shooter of the two, is . . . not. Steph’s secret is that he is a set shooter.

Oh, I know I am going to get pushback on this, but I have just watched quite a view YouTube videos showing the two shooting and I think I am right. Some of the pushback, I suggest, is going to come from people who remember or have seen what a set shot looked like in the 1950’s. A “classic” set shot looks a lot like a free throw, with the feet hardly leaving the floor. But no one has shot a classic set shot for decades in the NBA. A modern set shot is modeled on what a young child’s set shot was. If you think back to what kids did to be able to reach the hoop from distance, they launched themselves as well as the ball toward the basket (see the photo just below). That is not a jump shot. It is a set shot aided with additional propulsion from the shooter’s legs.

If you watch Klay Thompson shoot, he displays a classic jump shot. He jumps and then at his peak he shoots. Klay is not the most athletic guy, but since he is 6´6˝, his jump shot allows him to get above smaller players. Steph Curry, on the other hand, isn’t small but he is only 6´2˝ and shoots jump shots usually only closer in to the basket (where the bigger defenders are). Steph’s advantage from distance is what is called a “quick release,” which means he takes very little time to get his shot off, giving the defender very little time to get a contesting hand in his face or even blocking the shot. To do this Steph shoots a modern set shot, which means he is jumping as the ball is being shot. There is no delay at the top of his shot as there would be if he were to be using a jump shot.

The advantages to shooting a modern set shot are that it is quicker and that much of the force needed to propel the ball comes from the legs instead of the arms and shoulders. Those muscles can be used for mostly guidance and just partly for propulsion.

So here is Klay Thompson’s classic jump shot form, in which the ball is yet to be launched and he is near his jump peak.

And here is an excellent montage made by ESPN dissecting Step Curry’s “jump shot.”

You will notice that Steph is nowhere near his jump peak when the shot begins (frame #2 from the left) and that he is at his jump peak in the next to the last frame, when the shot is basically off, not just beginning. He is shooting on the way up, as in a modern set shot.

In other words, Steph shoots like girl and he is transforming the NBA doing so.

June 21, 2022

Is Shaq On Your Top Ten All-Time NBA Player List?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 9:34 pm

With the even higher ascendance of Steph Curry, many talking heads have been arguing about whether Steph belongs on the top ten all-time NBA player list.

I won’t argue that point, but I will address something else. Many people included Shaquille O’Neal on their lists. I do not.

When Shaq first entered the league, he weighed in at 294 pounds but in his heyday he was between 350 and 400 pounds. Now, Mr. O’Neal was allowed to do things other people were not. When Shaq got the ball down on the block, he would attempt to run straight through his opponent—whump! The collision would knock the opponent guarding him back several feet. Then Shaq would do it again—whump, whump, whump, and then shoot a two foot shot or dunk the ball in the basket.

This is a violation of the rules. That is called a “charge,” the term derived from one player charging into the space occupied by another. As long as the defender displays good defensive posture, this foul is called even today (being, with moving screens, the most commonly called “offensive foul”). When Shaq did it, however, it was allowed and when officials were asked to call the rules, the players were told to resist more. (An Aside—this is not unique. Allen Iverson was informed by NBA officials that his signature move, a cross-over dribble, was illegal (aka “carrying the ball”) before he played his first NBA game, and would be called as such. Iverson responded with: “go ahead and try” and the officials swallowed their whistles in front of hostile Philadelphia crowds.)

If Shaq’s charges were called for the fouls they were, I am sure Shaq would have still been a great center. Just as Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul Jabbar) adapted when the NCAA outlawed dunking, I am sure Shaq would have adopted other strategies, but since that was unnecessary—whump, whump, whump, dunk was a persistent pattern in his game.

I have three centers on top of my all-time list: Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Russell, and Kareem Abdul Jabbar. I consider Wilt and Bill to be a 1A/1B pair (basically a tie) and Kareem a close second. Many people pick Bill above Wilt because Bill has 11 championship rings, but basketball is a team game and there are a lot of other people involved in winning a championship. My test is: if you were to switch Wilt and Bill, would the results still be the same? I think they would. Wilt showed that he could do everything that Bill could do defensively and Bill was gifted as a center, But Wilt and the Celtics would still win a ton of championships and Bill on the teams Wilt played for would win maybe a couple.

Shaq was good, but not all-time good.

Shaq is 15th all-time in rebounding, having played 19 years. Do you know who is #1? Wilt, who played only 14 years and amassed 23,924 rebounds to Shaq’s 13,099. Of course, Bill was #2 at 21,620 in his 13 year career. Kareem was at 17,440 over his 20 year career.

Shaq had 3,026 assists, Wilt had 4,643. Shaq amassed 28,596 points in his 19 years, Wilt totaled 31,419 in his 14 years.

Shaq won four NBA championships, three with Kobe Bryant, one of the all-time greats and one not paired with Kobe Bryant. Not exactly dominant as an individual

Bill was surrounded by almost a dozen fall of fame players during his championship run (including  Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Sam Jones, Frank Ramsey, and John Havlicek, plus he played for a hall of fame coach, Red Auerbach). Wilt’s first championship happened when he finally got a supporting cast of stars, including Hall Greer, Billy Cunningham (a rookie), and Chet Walker. Rather than reload, the Sixers traded away Wilt and didn’t see the playoffs for quite some time thereafter. Wilt’s second championship came after a stint with the SF Warriors (in which he played in the NBA Finals, one game of which I saw in person) when he was traded to the LA Lakers. In that championship run, the Lakers first such, Wilt had a supporting cast including Jerry West and Elgin Baylor, two other all-time greats. (The two were great but couldn’t beat the Celtics . . . until they acquired Wilt.) The supporting cast to “the stars” is the most important factor in winning a championship.

June 2, 2022

WTF? Biblical Interpretations—Why?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 1:59 pm

I just saw a link to a presentation that would show me a new way to interpret the Book of Job in the Bible. I didn’t bother because I always take a step back before taking a step forward.

People claim that the Holy Bible is “holy” because its authors (dozens of them) were inspired by God to write what they wrote. Some go so far as to say that every word written was, in effect, written by God.

So, why would an all-knowing and all-powerful god inspire someone to write down a story that would then require some other guy to explain to me what it meant. In many cases, there is more than one guy claiming to have the “correct” interpretation.

I believe this is called a failure to communicate.

May 3, 2022

Why Most Prices Will Never Come Back Down

I ran into a blog post with the title above. The answer they came up with is off the mark, however.

Prices and costs are two different things. Prices go up and continue to go up because that is the way we designed the system. If we were to have designed it differently, we could have had prices that always went down or even stayed the same.

So, why do prices go up? It is obvious that they do. I remember buying whole loaves of bread for 25 cents, even 10 cents when killer sales took place. I also bought gas for my car at 25 cents per gallon when the price wars raged. Now whole loaves of bread cost $2-6 but the pricier breads are way better than the schlock breads we had available way back when. (Our grocery was in a WW2 surplus Quonset hut.) And gas prices are spiking way up now, but were in the high $2 to low $3 range before the most recent round of price gouging began.

But, when bread was 25 cents per loaf, the minimum wage was less than $2 per hour. In other words cents then were different from cents now. I got into the habit of always bending over to pick up pennies on the floor or sidewalk; I no longer bother doing this (isn’t worth the effort).

You see, the system adjusts. The average American income is about $55,000 now. When I was a child, that income would have made you one of the “rich.” That was back when $10,000 bought you a very nice house, indeed. If you made enough in a year to buy a house in those days, well, you were doing pretty well. The average (median) house price sold around here is now $325,000. As a college professor, I never made more than $75,000 per year (corrected for inflation, that would be about $120-150,000 now, so a college professor now makes enough in a year to buy half a house.

If you go back in time, the buying power of people’s wages held fairly constant from WW2 to roughly 1980. Then the wage suppression efforts of the conservative/wealthy types kicked in and real wage increases stalled from that point onward.

It used to be the case that as price increases occurred there was pressure to raise wages. I remember when wage increases were broken down into two parts: one was for “inflation” (aka price increases) and the other was above and beyond that, aka a real increase. This was because people figured out that if their salaries were increased only enough to deal with price increases, then their “raise” was not a real raise, as their buying power was unchanged.

What is shocking to me is that the wealthy folks continue their efforts, some quite underhanded, to increase their wealth, when that “extra wealth” doesn’t affect anything other than their egos. They already have enough income, enough houses, cars, vacations, etc. Piling another billion on top of what is already in their Money Bins doesn’t change their lives in any ways, but actually . . .

Their wealth hoarding is a transfer of wealth, real wealth, not inflated wealth, from the rest of us to them. They don’t feel their increase but we feel our decrease. As our lives become more and more diminished, the lives of the wealthy become more and more precarious. Since we do not have the money to buy the goods the factories of the fat cats are making, they move their sales over seas. But those markets aren’t as favorable as our rigged markets (rigged for our wealthy, that is). China is notorious for accepting factories of American corporations, then within a few short years, there is a native Chinese production facility in competition with them, and not just in competition with yours in China but in Europe and other places as well. China backs active espionage of “intellectual properties,” and protects startups from predation as they build up speed and capacity. (Hey, don’t get snooty, we did the same to Great Britain after our Revolutionary War.)

And the fat cats can’t fall back on the American domestic market (which used to be huge) because we Americans do not have the disposable funds we used to have. What we do have is debt. It is debt that enslaves us. At least we don’t have to go to work houses anymore, but our jobs have become much like those workhouses. We work and we work and we work and we don’t get ahead.

And, of course, the conservatives (and their political party, the GOP) are Social Darwinists. That they are wealthy is an indicator of their superiority on all fronts (business, political, religious, moral, etc.). That we are poor and massively in debt is an indicator of our inferiority on all of those same fronts. And they are not inclined to serve you via our government. You are not worthy.

So, prices will continue to go up, that is the way the system works. Unfortunately, your ability to pay those prices will shrink and shrink, and shrink. The system worked somewhat better in the past, but when the plutocrats bought our governments they no longer work for us, they only work for them.

If you do not believe me, look up what the 1960’s minimum wage would be worth today if it had been corrected just for inflation. Compare that with what the minimum wage is today.

The irony, of course, is that the plutocrats do not understand that if they hadn’t transferred all that unnecessary (to them wealth) out of our pockets, we would still be buying all the things they are selling, and they could continue to be “players” in “the game.” As it is is, they seem intent on destroying the game and most of us in the process.

Afterword The people on their side of the fence believe that there are only four things that can reverse wealth inequality: mass warfare, violent revolution, lethal pandemics, or state collapses. And those aren’t guarantees! The collapse of the Soviet Union (with meddling by U.S. by the way) caused a great deal of new wealth inequality. But World War 2 wiped out a great many monarchies and fortunes of the then rich and famous.

I am not fond of any of these but if they don’t listen to common sense advice, maybe a violent revolution is a quick fix. Or maybe someone will figure out how to target the uber-wealthy with a virus.

April 18, 2022

If It Worked for the Transcontinental Railroad . . .

In this country the first east-west transcontinental railway was staged as somewhat of a contest. One team started building the railroad on the west coast and the other on the east (not really either coast, but you get the idea). Incentives were provided and Bang! they were off, hopefully to meet in the middle of the country somewhere!

So, let’s settle the Ukraine dispute similarly. First all combat stops. Then a construction team financed by the western nations, begins at the westernmost point of destruction in Ukraine. Another team, paid for by Russia starts at the easternmost extent of the destruction from this war. When the starter signals, the teams work to reconstruct Ukraine, repairing all of the damage done during the war. The Ukrainians will have a team of inspectors who will either sign off on the work done or not as to whether it meets their own standards.

The contest ends when the two teams meet. And the amount of restoration determines the influence zones those outer forces have in the Ukraine. The West will acknowledge Russia’s primacy in their “influence zone” and Russia will acknowledge the West’s primacy in their “influence zone.”

At a bare minimum, Ukraine receives help restoring its infrastructure. And Russia may receive recognition of how bankrupt they actually are.

Instead of nations flexing their military muscles and beating their military chests, why not have them do feats of engineering or projects offsetting climate change to prove their international cojones are bigger than others?

March 18, 2022

Time Travel and the Grandfather Paradox

As a wannabe science fiction/fantasy author I read a lot and often enough encounter time travel and its glorious weirdness. Some scientists say time travel is impossible because of the paradoxes involved, the Grandfather Paradox being one of the most commonly cited. If one were to go back into the past and locate one’s grandfather, what would happen if you were to kill Grandpa? If you managed to pull it off, the paradox occurs. If your grandfather died before your parents were born, then you would never have been born, travel in time, and be able to kill your grandfather.

These complications are easily escaped by creative authors, who project that when you kill your grandfather, the timeline in which he and you existed separates off and is disconnected from the current time line (both of which toddle off nicely). You are still alive because you are a visitor from that other time line, but can no longer go back as you can time travel but not timeline travel.

Another approach is you pull the trigger and kill grandpa and you immediately disappear and history adjusts, automatically tying up all loose ends . . . except in rare cases in which and our intrepid hero can find the clues and, and. . . . And the mechanisms for these things to happen physically seem way too magical.

Other authors have time fighting back. You pull the trigger on the gun and the gun jams. You fix the gun and pull the trigger again and the bullet misfires, etc. In other words time fights back. You can’t kill Grandpa because the Universe Abhors Paradoxes, don’t you know.

I like the one where you kill Grandpa and then just disappear, with the wrinkle that you end up back in the timeline in which Grandpa lived. This can be great fun as repeated trips into the past can result in trivial actions causing our hero to spring back (remember the butterfly in Brazil, flapping its wings and causing a hurricane in Japan) over and over and over, thus creating so many time lines that the time overlords investigate and take action against him, and so on, etc., usw.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is also involved in these stories. In one, a time traveler goes back in time to find out of the Jesus story was real (guess who ended up nailed to a cross). (I think that was Behold the Man by Michael Moorcock, but I am working from memory and that was a long time ago.) Or a time traveler goes back in history and executes Hitler as a youth, only to find that someone far, far worse was waiting in the wings but who had gotten pruned out by Hitler and so was unknown to us.

Fun, isn’t it.

It is not so much fun for the scientists trying to determine the differences between possibilities and probabilities when it comes to this topic. Sadly, only a few people are actually working on such problems. More are working on real problems, one of which perplexes me. It is the case that quantum mechanics and Einstein’s General Relativity theories do not seem to be compatible, that is neither fits nicely within the other, nor is there some fusion that seems to work to combine them. Actually, I wonder why this is a problem. General relativity comes up when you study gigantic objects, like planets, starts, galaxies, etc. and quantum mechanics comes up when you investigate things smaller than atoms. Expecting the theories in those two realms to play nice is a bit like wondering why the biology of frogs in the Amazon basin doesn’t inform us about the formation of diamonds deep below the surface of South Africa. Where does the expectation that the two big physics theories should be compatible come from? I suspect it comes from a desire to see the world around us as a relatively simple machine. (I do not.) It is a bit like Rodney King’s appeal “Can’t we all just get along?” It sounds nice, but there is absolutely nothing indicating that it should or even could come about.

January 30, 2022

The Repair Shop

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 8:27 am

I have been binge watching episodes of the BBC’s series “The Repair Shop.” In this show, set in a homey setting in England, Brits bring their family treasures to a very talented crew of restorers for restoration. If you haven’t noticed, I am a flaming Anglophile. “Hi, Steve!” (Ignore them, those are members of my 12-Step group.)

I relish, however seeing hordes of “my people” on the show. Then tend to around my age, painfully white, and are quite typically British: bad hair, worse teeth, tremendously sentimental, and emotional about their “treasures.” They seem to be both surprised and somewhat embarrassed by their emotions. They also seem to be having an ongoing battle with the letter H. They pronounce the H, for example, in words like heirloom (hair-loom”), but we do not (“air-loom”). Yet they drop H’s from a great many words, e.g. “ow’re you doing?) I wonder what H did to them? Hmm.

And they give names to almost everything (toys, musical instruments, pieces of furniture, etc.). When I was growing up, our cars and many other possessions had names, just like the Brits did and still do. (My father was of Spanish heritage, my mother of mostly British heritage.)

I enjoy each and every episode as nice stuff gets restored. I like to repair things, although I am not in their class. It is interesting, also, how attached we get to our physical possessions. Possibly that is because emotionally we control both ends of the relationship, so such are not as messy as the human-human relationships in our lives.

This show is on the Discovery Channel currently although I was already aware of it, so some episodes had already been shown on some other channel some time ago. I find myself even rewatching episodes I had already seen as “good” is always being done by and for nice people. The BBC doesn’t charge for the restorations, so some of these gifts are quite lavish.

Lovely people, lovely things, how can you go wrong?

January 28, 2022

Just What Does That Mean?

Filed under: Uncategorized — Steve Ruis @ 10:35 am

The most quoted Bible passage in the U.S., at least at football games, is John 3:16, to wit:

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16, translations vary).

This seems to be an important saying to evangelical Christians but what does it mean? I understand the basic premise, but what exactly does “whoever believes in him” mean?

I understand “whoever believes him” as a phrase, but what does “whoever believes ‘in’ him” mean?

Another common phrase used by evangelicals is “you must accept Jesus in your heart as your Lord and Master.” Now that sounds far too slavish for me, walking around calling Jesus the Christ “masser.” Yes, Masser Jesus, no Masser Jesus . . . sounds too demeaning (to us both) to me. Why would an exalted spiritual being desire to own slaves?

So, that is out, but to “believe in him” is a possibility, if I only knew what it meant.

And it sounds like too much of a bargain. Believe “in” this guy, that he exists and you get to live forever. Sounds like a trick. Maybe living forever is a torment. I am already having trouble remembering things. Add a few thousand years and I won’t remember my own parents.

The entire quotation is fraught with strangeness. God loves the world? Doesn’t he love all his creation? Otherwise there are some parts he loves and other parts, well, not so much. But it is all his creation, no? And he declared it all good, right? Maybe that declaration was premature because when he caused the Great Flood, he admitted he regretted creating humanity (and apparently all of the other plants and animals that were wiped out). And this means that this god is not omniscient, or he would have seen at all coming. Actually Genesis, the first book in most Bibles tells us that he is neither omniscient nor omnipresent. For example, if he had been omnipresent, he would have been there when the serpent was tempting Adam and Eve and could have nipped it in the bud, or been there when Eve plucked the fruit, etc. So John is just reinforcing what we already know from reading Genesis.

Actually most of this confusion can be laid at the feet of the Apostle Paul, who completely distorted Jesus message, actually replaced it with one of his own. Jesus’s message was simple: repent, admit your sins, then love God with all of your heart and obey his commandments. He added that time was short, so there was some urgency, although he admitted he didn’t know when the curtain was to close upon this age. So, according to Jesus, you had to repent, give up your sinful ways (by following God’s commandments) and you shall be judged by what you do, by your acts, aka deeds or works. He said nothing about believing in himself, although he said some things mysterious, such as the only way to the Father was through the Son, but these “recordings” of what Jesus said were written by either Paul himself or Paul’s followers, so we do not “know” anything Jesus actually said, we only know what these writers claimed Jesus said and there are enough contradictions to bring their authenticity into question.

Paul made up this cockamamie idea that the path to salvation was through faith, alone, faith in Jesus, no “works” were necessary. Now faith can be translated as “trust,” so this could mean you have to trust Jesus, but I think that misses the point. What Paul was selling was an easier path to “salvation,” because it only required “faith,” which cannot be examined, instead of “works” which can be. The required faith was small, but the “works” were great. So Paul was in the business of selling salvation cheaply.

Now why Paul did this, we do not know. Maybe he had a mental breakdown and believed all that he said. Or maybe he was a con man looking to built a power base to establish his worth in his world. But it is clear that Paul won the battle and Christianity has almost nothing to do with what Jesus seems to have preached, at least according to scripture, and everything to do with what Paul and his followers preached. Including John 3:16, whatever that means.

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