Archive for Sports

Mixed Martial Arts

How, and more importantly why, has this sport over the last fifteen years become so popular that people wear tee shirts showing the splattered winner’s faces and set up viewing parties at home?  One answer that I’ve read explains that it all began in New York city with formation of the something called the UFC, Ultimate Fighting Championships.  But Wikipedia presents a slightly different explanation, one that may be related to the David Mamet film, Red Belt.  It claims it all started in So Cal with the famous Brazilian martial arts family, the Gracies in collaboration with film maker John Milius. 

Whatever its origins, I personally hold it started with the Romans and probably explains the popularity of such weak film fare as Gladiator.   1993 seems to be the beginning of the current phenomenon.  According to the history of the UFC, gathering enthusiastic competitors from all kinds of fighting sports, the spectacles quickly became competitive events fought in an arena shaped like an Octagon.

 

The octagonal competition mat and cage design are registered trademarks and/or trade dress of Zuffa, LLC and are symbolic of the highest quality mixed martial arts events brought to you under the Ultimate Fighting Championship® brand name.  In 1993, UFC events were the first to feature an eight-sided competition configuration which has become known worldwide as the UFC Octagon™
 
The UFC Octagon is unique from any other fighting arena because the octagonal shape and structure have become inherently associated with Zuffa and the UFC brand name among mixed martial arts consumers, other mixed martial arts organizations and the national media.  The UFC Octagon is regularly featured on UFC Pay-per-view events, UFC® Fight Night™ and The Ultimate Fighter® reality TV series.  The UFC Octagon creates a neutral arena to showcase the skills of UFC mixed martial arts athletes. The UFC organization has established a reputation for providing the maximum safety to the fighters with commission approved ring structures, canvas, and all safety padding and fences.  Zuffa makes major investments to ensure the safety of competitors in the UFC Octagon — as a result, when people see the Octagon they associate it with the reputation and quality delivered only by Zuffa at UFC events.  
Add Las Vegas, males aged 18-34 and their companions, to beer drinking, football loving, and bet craziness and real Americans have apparently found their match.  Fight clubbing, clamoring for more wars, as long as they don’t actually have to enlist, the current followers of this sport brook no interference to their “god-given” right to watch other people beat themselves into bloody unconsciousness.  And then they sit idly by, as Micheal Vick is sent to jail.
What is it in our psychological makeup that somehow does see this violence for what it is?  In this dissertation, I found the following to be of interest:
Ernest Becker is a psychologically oriented anthropologist who focuses on fear of physical death as the mainspring of human behavior. He sees himself as continuing to develop Jung’s idea of the projection of the shadow, but he very emphatically argues that this shadow that is projected is a rejected awareness of one’s mortality. Because human beings are animals, we are mortal. But we also have highly developed brains that give us an ability to be self-conscious and to anticipate the future. We can see that death is our eventual fate, but because we are animals who are basically narcissistic, we want to be immortal. This clash between what we want and what we know is coming overwhelms us. It disturbs us so much that we invent all sorts of personal and social lies in our efforts to somehow pretend that we are immortal. One of the lies we tell ourselves is that if we can triumph over our enemies, we can rise above the limitations of our condition. We can project the shadow, that awareness of our mortality that we have repressed into our unconscious, onto the enemies or the scapegoats we attack in an attempt to prove that they will die and we will not. At root, violence against others is an effort to avoid facing one’s own mortality with existential honesty and courage.
Which brings to mind the film Rollerball and the conflict between the Oligarchs who run/own the games (See Las Vegas) and the players like Jonathan E who enjoy the competition for its own sake.
Am I getting anywhere with all of this?  Will any of what I think change the yearly income of millions this pay-per-view event earns or shift the viewers to whom I appeal for rationality to another choice?  Probably not.  Do I wish someone would comment on my original question?  Most def.
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Our Gift from China

It is hard to buy a manufactured product these days that doesn’t come from China or some other sweat shop nation.  But that doesn’t mean much when you are out shopping.  Normally we buy what we need and take the product at face value.  News stories of product defects, of tainted materials used in the manufacturing process, are usually sloughed off by the everyday ordinariness of life.  That’s why it took me by surprise when the reality of the danger struck home.

Here’s the situation:  T and I had started working out in the pool by swimming laps using kick boards.  The weather had turned warm early and we both needed to get back in shape after a winter of stress and strain.  I had noticed though that T likes to float around in the pool after a workout while I get out to enjoy the sun.  So I went back to the store where we got the kick boards and picked up small size belly board that was small enough for pool use but large enough for her to float on.  So much for good intentions.  What’s that saying “No good deed goes unpunished.” 

Skip forward about two days.  T says “Look at this.”  She is pointing to a small row of pimples on her right side.  “And this.”  She turns so I can see a similar breakout across her chest.  I can tell from the way she is looking that she thinks this is more of the same weirdness that has happened to her body since the gall bladder surgery in February.  In another two days the breakout has spread to the backs of her knees and all across her abdomen.  “I don’t understand what could be causing this.” she tells me.  “I stopped using any medications over a week ago.”  So we go back to the doctor, who prescribes a steroid ointment, and then, either Benadryl or Zyrtec, whichever works since he really doesn’t know what the cause is but sees it as some sort of allergic reaction.

Meanwhile, I am still trying to figure out what could have caused this to happen.  Could it be more post surgery body stress?  Was it the sunshine, the pool water, the combination of both?  It didn’t make sense.  Then I looked at the belly board I bought for her to float on.  China, tainted lead-based paint, asbestos, flash across my mind and I suddenly realize that the pattern of the breakout actually matched the way she would lay on the board as she floated in the pool.  Shit.

“There are generally three types of product liability cases: negligence, strict liability and breach of warranty” say the folks at lawyers.com.

Strict Product Liability

If you can prove that a product is “unreasonably dangerous” – that it has a design or manufacturing defect – then you may be able to establish that the defendant is “strictly liable.” Unlike negligence cases, you may not have to prove the manufacturer knew about the danger, because even if they didn’t, they should have. (One of the main purposes of this provision is to hold manufacturers accountable for developing safe products). You still, however, have to prove that the product caused your damages.

Is this the case?  How can I even start to prove it?  Yes, the board was made in China, but how do I pursue a product liability case with so many other factors involved?  Maybe it wasn’t even mis-manufactured but just made with latex in the processing.  She is allergic to that.   The lawyer.com site recommends talking to several lawyers, and warns that the whole process of pursuing a claim will be extremely expensive.

No, for now I’m stuck with this.  Blogging about it in hopes that the blogosphere might have a response.  I’m also going to take this question over to JD’s getrichslowly forum and see what the folks there might suggest.

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New bet, the same old tax?

But first, that was just too easy.  Lakers over Spurs and the starters rest for most of the fourth quarter.  Hmmm.  Seems similar to the Spurs in New Orleans.  I’m just saying.

Anyway, perusing the LA Times OpEd page on Friday and came across this item about how the state and the gov think that the best solution to the current budget problem is to float a bond issue against future lotto revenues.  Here are a few factoids from the opinion:

  • a 1999 national study conducted by Duke University concluded that families making less than $25,000 a year spent roughly $1080 on lottery tickets.  10% of their income.
  • Families earning between $50,000 and $100,000 spent only $495.  1% of their income.
  • The state of California spent over $93 million the last three years in advertising the lotto.

As the writer, Michelle Steel – BOE member for the 3rd District, points out, “the governor’s plan to pay for the state’s irresponsible spending rests, ironically, on getting Californians to spend more irresponsibly.”   I really do love it when things get ironic.

Remember last summer when everyone in the personal finance blogs, well maybe not everyone, was posting about how to save on fuel while driving?  Drive slower, plan your trips so that you do more on each one, carpool, use public transportation, and go ahead, ride a bike to work.  Remember.  Well, one of the tips I remember had to do with going to the pump early in the morning or late in the evening because the day’s heat affects the gas by expanding it.  You get less gas more hot air in the middle of the day.  Well, yesterday it was reported that “a survey shows that Californians could be overpaying as much as $3.4 million a day as heat makes gas expand.”  More irony.  You moved to California for the hot weather only to find that the automobile state is costing more to live in because of it.

And then there is this.  A long time ago I read a novel by Calder Willingham called Eternal Fire.  It was a fine trashy, sexy novel about a sociopath and his love life in the New South.  Yes, I read it mostly for the sexy, trashy part.  But there is a section the story that chronicles how a court trial is rigged so that an innocent person is besmirched.  The scripted actions of the community leaders and the judge has always stuck in my mind and is frequently brought to the fore when I read things like the headline story about the Congress defying Bush by passing the Farm Subsidy Bill or the Military Spending Act.  Who are they kidding?  Bush who has favored these programs all through his two terms now gets to act all righteous while the bills still get passed and the Congress now run by the Dems gets to seem defiant.  Wow! What a script.  The bills still get passed though.  $630 billion for defense, $10 billion for not growing crops.  What’s ironic is that our media actually purports to be covering the real story.  Hah!

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The Wasteland revisited

Okay, before we get started today I need to say a couple of things about well . . . luck.  First, the Lakers 89-85 win over the Spurs was a dream come true.  Kobe played the way I have been hoping he would play since the very first time I saw him take a pass from Vlade (the old one) Divac and 360 a dunk.  In today’s LA Times, TJ Simers took his usual sardonic look at the game by recognizing the maturity of Lamar Odom but the truth is it has taken twelve long years for Kobe to teach himself how to use his superb talents to really play the game.  It was nothing short of great.

The second thing I want to note is the my old friend Serendipity is still watching out for me.  Yesterday’s post, titled Real Estate, the new wasteland, brought TS Eliot’s poem to mind.  So imagine my surprise and delight to open up my Times later in the day to web critic David Sarnov writing about the mystery of so many searches last week for TS Eliot.  Apparently though, people have been misusing the Google Hot Search program to route views to themselves so the big G has started punishing the abusers.  Wow!

 

Now to get on with it.  In my first post, I passed on my thoughts about some different ways that a person could look at the current real estate landscape.  Things are changing even as you read.  Congress may actually put a bail out bill on the President’s desk before Memorial Day.  I pointed out that even though 38% of the homes sold in SoCal in the first quarter had been through bankruptcy first a seller could avoid that fate by learning how to short sell the property.  A part of solving for this might be to get yourself a new appraisal from which point you could then decide whether to sell or figure out with your lender how to hold on.

Meanwhile, lets lead our horse to a look at the following:

  • Carry Back Loans– So you have decided to sell but with the market so depressed it is a hard decision you have to make about how much you are willing to cut your asking price.  Say you bought at $200,000 but a recent survey of homes sold in your area shows that your property now might be valued $150,000.  That is a hit to your equity that might be recoverable.  If you sell now, the carry back option may be the way to make it back.  In a typical carry back deal your home buyer might only qualify for a certain amount and thus might need to take a second loan out to handle the down payment, closing costs, and the difference between the sale price and what they can qualify for.   In the previous over-priced market, this type of owner-held loan was used to fascilitate a sale when the buyer couldn’t qualify for the whole price.  The owner carried back a portion of the loan at a lower interest rate which the buyer then paid of in monthly installments.  Any problems and the property comes back to the original owner to sell again.  But that was then.  Now in an upside down market, you need to sell, the property value has gone down, and you may have to take a loss.  But it need not be a permanent one.  By carrying back a part or even all if you’re lucky, you can be the bank that earns the interest.  On a $400,000 property where you originally put 20% down you have $80,000 that you can play with.  Drop your sale price to a market value that entices a buyer, say $350,000, and carry back $30,000 as a down payment.  You pay off your mortgage and your $30,000 at 6% earns $38,000 for the 30 years. 

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