Friday, March 28, 2008

Java Hosting Solutions

So, I am looking for a place to host a Tomcat-based application for testing. While it's incredibly easy to find about a million solutions for LAMP hosting that all fall under 10/mo, I can't for the life of me find a hosting company that does Java hosting for under 15/mo. Color me cheap, but that seems like a lot! I don't need a dedicated server or anything - just a mysql database and tomcat 5.5+. Does anyone have hosting suggestions? Post any ideas in the comments if you do. Also, if anyone has any experience with Verizon business DSL for your home and static IPs, please feel free to share...

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Play Ball!

Well, as I mentioned before, I love baseball. Love it. Love the Detroit Tigers, starting to come around on the Nationals now that they are putting a bit more of a compelling product on the field. A bit of background on my obsession:

When I was growing up, my father had this little beat up radio that he bought in Korea while he was in the Army. This radio didn't look like much, but every night, around 7:30-8pm during the summer, when the sun started setting, that little Zenith started picking up Detroit's WJR 760.

Each night, the familiar sounds of the ballpark would start to become audible over the interference, and that silky smooth voice that Tiger fans all over would recognize in a second would make your night. Ernie Harwell would tell us about what was happening in the game, describing the scene so that you could imagine yourself sitting in grimy old Tiger Stadium, telling stories. He was a magical announcer - it's no surprise that he's in the hall of fame. My father and I would sit at the table and listen to every game that we could get on the radio (sometimes when they played the Yankees, we'd cheat and listen to the 770 New York broadcast because that came in more clearly - sorry Ernie). It was a great time for me growing up - every son should have something like that - something they can always look back on and smile. I cherish those times every day.

The year after I started listening was the magical 1984 Tigertown team that fired out of the gates at 35-5 and never looked back, coasting through the ALCS and easily defeating an overmatched Padres team. That magical run - hearing Ernie describe the double play combination of Alan Trammell and Sweet Lou Whitaker, Chet Lemon patrolling the outfield, Jack Morris and Dan Petry pitching deep into the game, and Guillermo 'Willie' Hernandez closing games en route to the MVP and Cy Young awards - made me a huge fan of baseball, and ever since then, the day after the baseball season ends, I pine for Spring to return so it can begin all over again.

Well 1984 was the last year that the Tigers made it to the series until a couple years ago, and we Tigers fans would prefer to forget that week, as it was gut-wrenching and disappointing. Last year was an admirable showing, and who knows what might have been had some key players stayed healthy. As for the intervening 22 years between 1984 and 2006 - well, those were some tough years. Sure we had 1987, until those rotten Twins messed up the party and went on to win the World Championship. Have I mentioned that I hate the Twins? No? Well I do. I digress. After 1987, we had few bright spots (Travis Fryman, Cecil Fielder), some incredibly comical rosters (who can forget this team, with such luminaries as Bill Gullickson, Rob Deer, Pete Incaviglia, and Milt Cuyler??), and some historically bad teams. Now, we enter the start of the season hopeful once again, with such stars as Curtis Granderson, Placido Polanco, Magglio Ordonez, Ivan Rodriguez, and Justin Verlander back, and the new faces like Miguel Cabrera, Edgar Renteria, and Jacque Jones (still withholding judgement on Dontrelle Willis). I fully expect the Baseball Gods to reward my persistent fanhood with a World Series win. If not, at least I don't have to go to RFK for Nationals games anymore. Man that place sucked as a baseball stadium.

I leave you with this nugget related to baseball and new beginnings: It can't be a mistake that you can't say 'Hope Springs Eternal' without SPRING!

Politics....Aaaaghh...Not Awesome.

So I didn't vote in the DC primary that was held last month. It was a big important primary, right? Finally the mid-atlantic states would be involved in a vote that mattered. Usually everything has been decided by the time the primaries hit DC, Virginia and Maryland. So it was pretty exciting right? Not so much. I didn't vote. I didn't really honestly consider voting. I could say it's because I wasn't captivated by any of the candidates, but I like things about Hillary and Barack. No, the reason I didn't vote is because when I got my primary information in the mail from the District of Columbia, it told me that I needed to register as a Democrat or a Republican in order to vote in the primary. This bothered me. I consider myself something of a centrist, obviously (and probably because of the current state of the GOP) leaning towards the left on many issues, mostly social. I am okay with stating my preferences on policy, but why do I have to sign up as one or the other?

I can understand why I shouldn't be allowed to vote in both. There could be some rigging involved - I am an Obama supporter, and I read that he polls better against Smith instead of McCain, so I vote for Smith, hoping to set up the most favorable matchup. So I get it - you should only be able to vote in one primary. That, I am fine with. What I don't like is the voting authorities being lazy and pushing the party system that has become so engrained in our political lives.

From this post at
Its notable that the US is going in the opposite direction to some other countries where two-party systems are tending to break down. The degree of partisanship in the US, until recently far less than in other democracies, is now greater than in many.
If you look at a place like Germany, where I think we can agree that the government is not an abject failure of any sort, check out the distribution in their elected representative bodies:

CDU: 223
SPD: 222
FDP: 61
Left Party: 53
Alliance 90/The Greens: 51
Unattached: 2
Total Seats: 612

Now, without doing too much research, here's the breakdown for the US (from )

Democrats: 232
Republicans: 199
Independents: 0
Vacant Seats: 4
Total Seats: 435

Take note of the fact that there are more vacancies than Independents. Wow. What that says to me is that it's very very hard to get elected as an independent here. What it also says to me, when compared to the German Bundestag distribution is that it doesn't have to be that way.

The two party system is natural. Think about it. One-on-One or Team Sports. It's always one side against the other. Imagine a boxing match where one guy comes in and periodically punches one of the main contenders. The boxers are only concerned with each other, and not really this other guy, because he doesn't punch that hard. Now if the guy could punch harder, or could affect his ability to punch his main competitor harder, THAT would be a problem. But it's all pretty hard to imagine, right? This is because of a political brainwashing that has taken place over the years. It's been so long since a third party was really truly viable. Ross Perot got a lot of votes, but that was more disillusionment with the parties than it was any sort of legitimate bid, and why did he get that many votes? He was RICH.

The two party system in the US is about money. Elections are bought and sold by big donors and national committees. Advertising costs money, marketers need to be paid, consultants retained, pollsters contracted. This is all expensive, and there doesn't seem to be enough money to go around to support more than two parties.

At the municipal level, the issues are much less abstract, and much more concrete. I am for adding new lanes to the highway in our town. I am for school bonds. I am for decreasing the number of people who work for the county. You can identify with the issues, and they are not as tainted by the machinery that is national politics. The further up the chain you go, you are forced to vote along party lines, because those are the choices that are offered to you. For the most part, it's all or nothing, and even if your candidate has beliefs that transcend party lines, guess what? Doesn't matter, because they will vote with the party far more often than not.

Sadly, I am not sure how to fix this, which frustrates me, as one of my big rules is not to complain unless you have an alternative to suggest. The people who can fix this are the same people who are riding the very train that would need to be derailed. It is not in any Congress member's best interest to push the election reform bills that would be required. If anyone broke away, they would lose their support at the party level, and poof, they wouldn't be in office long enough to affect the very change they were interested in bringing about. So, it would have to be some sort of debacle that is beyond parties that would bring the change that is so drastically needed, and I don't see it happening.

So, go HillaBarackaMcCain! You support at least some of my interests, maybe, at least right now. I will vote for you, but only if I don't have to identify myself as a Democrat or Republican.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Spring! Sports. Baseball!

Well I haven't really used the blog to discuss one of my all-time favorite things. Anyone who knows me a little bit would know that would be baseball. It's Spring. That means baseball is back. Not a minute too soon. It's been a tough sports year - Michigan wasn't great at football (Appalachian St?), and terrible at basketball (must have faith in Beilein), the Redskins were their usual maddening selves, although they did make the playoffs. As an aside, how fast did that game turn sour against the Seahawks?? Blech. Syracuse basketball was at times maddening, at times awesome, and Jena and I are hoping that those fab frosh will stay for another year at her Alum, so we can hopefully go up and see them play together. While it was exciting to watch the close game against Georgetown and the not so close game with Michigan, the overall success of sports teams I follow has been lacking. Silver lining - Dean Keener resigned from James Madison after compiling a record of 4-2043 in his tenure (only a very slight exaggeration).

Fast forward. Put all those other sports out of your mind. The don't matter anymore. Welcome back, Spring. Welcome back, baseball. Welcome back, warm weather, long days, barbecues. Welcome back, kayak.

I got suckered into buying a 20 game package at the new Nationals Park. Nosebleed seats, only $10/ticket. Jena and I had tickets for the first couple of years of the Nationals, but RFK was a really awful place to watch a baseball game, so we let the seats lapse last year. I still ended up going to probably 10 or so games (including all three of the games during the Tigers interleague sweep...awesome). This year we will be heading down to the new park at the Navy Yard, hoping for better food, better starting pitching, better sightlines, wider concourses, and less grumpy ushers. Seriously, RFK had the grumpiest nastiest ushers. There were something like 94 people at some of the games I went to in August, and they would check every ticket to make sure people weren't sneaking into the 500s??? So strange. Anyway, still angling for some opening day seats, but hopefully something will come through - note to MLB ticket website designers, those captcha tricks obviously don't work that well considering stubhub was selling opening day seats about 95 seconds after single game seats went on sale, while I couldn't get a single seat. So, if you find yourself somewhere near the top of the stadium in left field, come check us out.

In other news, the Tigers look to be a dynamic offense, patently incapable of providing any decent relief pitching, so those games I watch on will likely be lasting until 12-1 am every night. I am okay with that =).

Welcome back, Spring. See you at the ballpark.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

NWA Was Right

Begin Rant

Last night, I got a ticket from one of DC's finest, a Metropolitan Police Department officer on a bicycle in Eastern Market. This ticket was for obstructing a crosswalk. I was waiting for Jena to get a donut from Dunkin Donuts, and this sneaky guy rolled up on me and asked for my license and registration. The conversation went like so:

"Why do you need my license and registration?"

"Sir, are you familiar with DC's crosswalk law?"

"Yes, as far as it says I shouldn't be in a crosswalk. Sorry - I will move."

"No sir, don't move, just wait there."

"But what about the crosswalk? Are you seriously going to write me a ticket for sitting in a crosswalk for one minute?"

The policeman walks away, and comes back later with a ticket for a 'moving violation'. I told him "Thank you, the citizens of our city will sleep better knowing that this crosswalk is safe". Jena said something slightly less printable. This incident has raised numerous questions in my mind. Questions like:

"Why is it okay for police to park on the f**king sidewalk to eat at Dunkin Donuts thus obstructing pedestrian walkways (can't spell sideWALK without WALK), but it's not okay for me to be sitting in a running car, ready to move the car if I see someone?"

"Why isn't this a**hole looking for my stolen bike, or the damned crackhead who stole it?"

"Why was I issued a moving violation, when the entire premise of the violation was that I was sitting still?"

"Why couldn't he just ask me to move my car, instead of writing me a ticket?"

"Why do I want to live in a city that is so hellbent on making it hard to live in that city?"

My plan is to walk over to Eastern Market this weekend, to buy some flowers and some delicious foodstuffs from the market, then go take a picture of the sh**head cops parked on the sidewalk eating their donuts while they should be catching crackhead bike thieves (or perhaps even the serious criminals, of which there is no shortage in this city). I am going to mail in a copy of this picture with my dispute notification. I will still end up paying the ticket. Of this I am almost certain. At least they will have to, for a brief moment, acknowledge the ridiculousness of it all. People move to DC, bringing their tax dollars, and the government seems to be a bit greedy. That, and it's not even consistent. If you really want money, come ticket the churchgoers from MARYLAND, who flock to the church next to my house, parking illegally, double parking, etc. Honestly.

End Rant