Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A's Owners want to move to San Jose? Run my Oakland Baseball Sim first

The Oakland Athletics baseball team owners, specifically Lew Wolff, are on record as wanting to move the Oakland A's to San Jose and specifically a new stadium downtown. There are a lot of reasons why this will not work, many of them legal. There are also some reasons why the deal could work, and they are financial.

But the one fact is the Oakland A's owners are - as is common for that group - flying blind without the use of an appropriate tool to help them as they determine what the best steps for the organization are.

I have one tool that they, and you, can use: my Oakland Baseball Simworld.

I created the 2,936-variable, 956-equation simulation in 2002 and based on a system dynamics simulation I created to help John Keriotis, then a limited partner with the Sacramento Kings, see how the Athletics or a professional baseball team in Oakland would perform fiscally in the future.

At the time - 1997 - I was Economic Adviser to Elihu Harris when he was Oakland's Mayor. Mayor Harris assigned me to Coliseum issues and one of those was the possible sale of the Athletics. I helped assemble three "teams" of possible groups, and got one to merge consisting of Frank Robinson and Magic Johnson. Eventually, the sale did not take place but out of it, for me, came a simple 56-variable model of the Oakland Athletics.

After I left the City of Oakland in 2001, I learned a system dynamics simulation programming language called Forio Macro Language (FML), the creation of Forio Business Simulations in San Francisco. FML allows for the development of online sims.

With FML, and Forio's advice, I worked to create two sims: the XFL Simworld, which is still operational, and the Oakland Baseball Simworld, which was delayed for almost a year because I could not figure out an elegant equation model for player contracts.

I finally did that in 2002. I finished the simulation on October 22, 2002 at 6:30 AM (the Tuesday of the week the San Francisco Giants were in The World Series). It received some media notice, both in the Oakland Tribune and in the Sportsbusiness Daily, as well as on the TV show Inside Silicon Valley Business.

Later, I met University of San Francisco sports economics professor Dr. Dan Rascher and together with our Simulation Advisory Board updated the new Oakland Sim.

The idea of the simulation is to have the user understand "baseball business dynamics" and how such actions as building a stadium impact the team's fiscal behavior. It consists of every possible financial combination one may employ to build a stadium. And all of the numbers are "real" and based on information I had to work with at the City of Oakland, then updated annually as the years progressed.

Both sims, and a new beta sim I created called "Buffi The Gym Girl" are the basis of Sports Business Simulations and are used in college classrooms around the country from Memphis to Old Dominion, as I write this. Once students are finished using the Oakland Sim, I'm going to redesign it to specifically include a "San Jose Scenario."

Really, it's already there but encapsulated in a "Move the Team" option called "In Bay Area." But unlike the other options (you can even build a downtown stadium in Oakland)  that one doesn't have the stadium costs or public politics entirely built in it. (I'm not going to remove the downtown Oakland option, either.) 

There's now enough good information for me to quickly install a set of equations and codes within part of a day and have the sim up and running. I will also update the Oakland Coliseum stadium alternative and other scenarios.

The sim target date: November 30, 2009 at 5 PM.

The sim will have a three-day free trial setting so you can try it yourself.

Do I expect the A's owners to pay attention?

No. Frankly, I'd be surprised if they did; this is for the common people who want to know what is or isn't possible in this whole discussion. In 2006, I personally offered Wolff the opportunity to use a specially designed version of my Oakland sim for free and he never followed up on it, but he did say "Free? I like free."

Interview with an expert: The healthcare reform bill - who wins? who loses? what does it mean for you?

[This post was originally published on the City Brights section of SFGate. You can find more of DocGurley's writing at www.docgurley.com]

DoctorPundit (aka Dr. Michael Douglas) is a full-time practicing physician, MBA, and the creator of the nationally-noted, oft-quoted site, "Get Your Health Policy On @ www.doctorpundit.com." He's an up-to-the-minute wonk, and health-geek extraordinaire, and he graciously agreed to peel himself away from C-Span for a few moments (it was painful, but he did it) to give us the inside dirt on the current state of healthcare reform, and what it means to you. As a physician, his approach to covering healthcare reform is one of, as he describes it, "neutrality - keeping the patient and doctor relationship out of the politics as much as possible." Check it out, as Doc Gurley goes toe-to-toe with Doctor Pundit on the reality behind healthcare reform as it stands now:

1) Mammogram Guideline Changes Kickstart Healthcare Politicking:
2) Life Expectancy Milestone Reached:
3) Obama's Speech: What's an Internist To Do?:
4) Hospitals and Debt Collectors: Two Extremes:
5) FDA Finally Cleaning House?:

DocGurl: So, Dr. Pundit, most people know that Congress passed something that's being called "healthcare reform," but lots of us - particularly those people without insurance, or those people watching their COBRA payments eat up all their unemployment benefits - are wondering, specifically, what's in it for me? If the devil is in the details, we're hoping you're here to exorcise (exercise?) that devil for us. You're an oft-quoted expert, but this behemoth legislation-passing has been a tortured process, with millions of lives, mega-money, and even bigger egos at stake. Are you feeling up to the challenge of explaining it in a nutshell?

DocPund: Wow, that's a pretty loaded question, and one that I feel is probably most appropriately handled by many and not just via the pontifications of one geeky health policy wonk. I'll take a stab at it, though.

Essentially, the bill just passed in the House of Representatives is a referendum of sorts -- meaning, no matter which side of the political aisle your beliefs lie, there's one thing all Americans can agree on. The increasing numbers (we're on the brink of 50 million) of uninsured in this country have served as a wakeup call to all politicians and lawmakers that healthcare access and affordability are under siege by statistics like these, and that something has to be done. Hence, we are witnessing the passage of a bill whose seeds of reason and debate are at least 35 years in the making. That there has to be a debate on this is the easy part; getting a solution to which Republicans and Democrats can agree -- well, that's a different beast altogether. The Senate will soon get its chance.

DocGurl: Is this really healthcare reform? In other words, what monster-by-committee did our Congressional Dr. Frankensteins make?

DocPund: Many times, policyspeak comes down to semantics. I think that is what's going on here is that the art behind getting an initiative passed has much to do with perceptions. Since we all know that lawmakers and their staffs are usually loathe to read entire bills (in this case upwards of 2000 pages), framing a party's ideology in terms their constituencies are willing to accept makes the process a whole lot easier.

DocGurl: Has this legislation pissed off absolutely everybody? Or does it just seem that way?

DocPund: I think that ongoing media coverage has added fuel to the proverbial fire. The overwhelming attention the reform debate attained just prior to the end-of-summer recess in the Congress was reflected in the various healthcare townhalls all across the country. Talk about a good idea gone very badly. I don't think anyone could have predicted the media circus revolving around these events billed as ostensible constructive dialogue. With passage of the HR 3962 bill, I don't think that either ideological side really has traded converts -- people are waiting to see what the Senate does with this.

DocGurl: Who's getting the shaft the most, in your opinion - the passionate progressives who went hard for Obama because he was going to represent REAL change, or the right wing for the vast new deficit-busting this legislation represents to them?

DocPund: With regard to health reform, labels given to the process are just as predictable in their origins as the parties that manufacture them. For many, if not all, Republicans, true reform involves overhauling the healthcare system if taxes aren't raised or imposed to get it done. For Democrats, on the other hand, those critical of the Republicans' motives are terming this "insurance reform" (as opposed to "health reform"), a nod to the corporate back-scratching the latter are famous for in implementing fiscal policy. So, is this really reform of healthcare? Depends on whom you ask.

DocGurl: So then who's doing a secret happy-dance? The progressives, because they got something done to loosen insurance companies' stranglehold on health, or the right, because of the Starkey abortion-banning amendment?

DocPund: Right now, I really don't think either side is claiming victory...in the truest sense of the word. We are definitely in a holding pattern with regard to this legislation. In fact, there is the real possibility that the Senate will not take up serious debate until January 2010, as Majority Leader Harry Reid -- seen by many (even in his own party) as possessing anything but strong leadership qualities -- is taking his own sweet time tweaking the bill, making sure that the Congressional Budget Office estimates square with President Obama's fiscal goals prior to putting forth the motion for the Senate to proceed.

DocGurl: If we ban funding for abortion nationally, does this mean we can now elect a woman-dominated panel to legislate restrictions on impotence and prostate treatment? Why not?

DocPund: Doc, as long we live in a male dominated legislative political "society", don't look for any concessions that can affect their, um, potency as voting body. I will say that threat to a woman's right to choose, while a backdrop to the House structure of the bill to attain passage, will -- while heavily politicized -- be modified to strike such a provision from entering Senate passage, ultimately becoming law, and heading down the slippery slope toward repeal of Rowe v Wade.

DocGurl: That's the politics - now the important stuff. As with all crimes, so the saying goes, follow the money. Who won out, financially? How much are we talking about? After all, once we're talking more than fifty bucks, most of us can't imagine it any more.

DocPund: I think that the fiscal issue before us is what is often termed as the "cost curve" by the Obama administration. He and his team of economic advisers are essentially getting behind a measure that will pass the muster of the arbiter of cost of all bills passed by the legislature: the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO. With the recent vote of 60-39 to allow senate debate to occur, at the very least, the scored pricetag assumed by the CBO is somewhere in the neighborhood of $850 billion over ten years -- all while predicting a reduction in the U.S. deficit by about $130 billion over that time frame.

DocGurl: Seems like the bill, as it stands, allows states to worsen healthcare coverage, but bans them from improving it - true or false? Isn't this a blow to the states-rights folks?

DocPund: It seems the further along we go on watching this bill meander its way through both houses of Congress, the only thing that seems certain is that the language present in its current incarnation will not be there once President Obama places his pen to paper for its signature. Although, among other things, the bill sets out to expand Medicaid programs and eliminate the use of insurance companies' provisions of pre-existing claims denials, one can assume that this bill's final form will probably be more of a benefit to Big Insurance and not the individual patient, ultimately really doing little to increase healthcare access on a sweeping level.

DocGurl: When can the average American sign up for insurance he/she couldn't get before? How much will it cost?

DocPund: These changes to healthcare coverage will be fashioned out in a gradual manner. There really is not a set date to "sign up" for plans and programs. For instance, individual states would have to determine when to implement an enrollment period when federally matched funds are available for Medicaid programs over the next three to five years.

DocGurl: Bottom line - should I hold my breath? And if I do, will I just pass out and then start breathing again, thereby demonstrating the futility of waiting for real change?

DocPund: This last question really piggybacks off the previous one. Whatever initiatives are begun as a result of whatever form the reform bill takes once Obama signs it will depend on many factors. These factors, in turn, will affect what is offered to patients-as-healthcare-consumers. Although no one can really predict when reform changes will infiltrate the healthcare marketplace, one can bet that they will be at the benefit of the marketplace itself and not the individual patient. So, holding your breath in this case would not only be an exercise in futility but also would result in death by asphyxiation -- something which no amount of health reform would benefit.

What do you think? Is this the bill that makes ALL of America angry? Or will it make a positive difference to your life? Share in the comments section and keep up on the latest health issues in the news, and healthcare reform insanity/hilarity by signing up for a Doc Gurley RSS feed with the tiny orange button at the top. Do you want to be on the inside, fast track of news and tips? Get on the Twitter bandwagon and follow Doc Gurley! Also check out Doc Gurley's Joy Habit twitter feed - and get fun, effective tips on how to de-stress for the holidays, right to your smartphone (hurry, before Black Friday hits!).

Got a thingie on your doohickey? Or are you pondering how to tell your doctor he's a jerk? Send your burning healthcare questions to Doc Gurley by emailing docgurleyatgmaildotcom. Doc Gurley cannot answer every question, and she cannot practice medicine through a keyboard (not even with her stethoscope pressed firmly against the monitor) but be assured - your questions will be kept strictly confidential and identifying traits are changed.

The Big Game: Cal 34, Stanford 28 - Cal alumns storm the field!

This is but the first of a set of videos from Big Game Weekend to come. I figured I'd get the storming of the field at Stanford Stadium out of the way as it capped what was one of the greatest games in Cal Football History, The Big Game: Cal 34, Stanford 28. Yes, I write that as a proper noun because college football's place as such a vital part of our American Culture is too often ignored.

That game - Cal's 34 to 28 Big Game win over Stanford - will never be forgotten by anyone who has long suffered - both Cal fans and Cal Alums - through major losses over the years.

And as I wrote before it serves to remind us that a simple thing like a sports event can help ease the pain of university threats to raise tuition and it may even just cause the University of California's executives to rethink what they're doing.

Look, one can dream, OK?

But for the moment captured on video, we were all one big giant family. Some were walking around just basking in the moment. Others were joining in a reminder to Stanford alums that Stanford Stadium was Bear Territory (and would be for another two years). Still others were singing along with the Cal Band to such classic Cal works as Psalms of Victory (in the video, and here as well.) It was a glorious moment, forever locked in time here for us to repeat again and again and again...

Until we return to Stanford Stadium in 2011 and win again.


Battlestar Galactica's Katee Sackhoff in Big Bang Theory: Internet hit

Katie Sackhoff suds it up with Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg)

The super-hot Katee Sackhoff , star of the remade and cult-level popular Battlestar Galactica Sci-fi series (and who also has a very cool blog), is steaming up the Internet after appearing on the CBS show The Big Bang Theory - which, truth be told, I saw for the first time on the United Airlines flight from San Francisco to Chicago - and burned up the episode with this steamy (for that show) scene in a bath tub:

I still believe one reason Bionic Woman didn't last beyond the first half of season one in 2007 was the lack of focus on, and eventual jettisoning of, Katee Sackhoff's character "Sarah Corvus". Sarah Corvus was an excellent, if off-kilter, sidekick to Michelle Ryan's "Jamie Sommers" in the show. That's one series I'd love to write for, but I digress; it's gone.

Here's Katee talking about her character in Bionic Woman:

Battlestar Galactica's season's coming to an end as well as Katee's five-year long role as the mythical "Starbuck". Her blog has an excellent video Q and A where she answers fans questions about her Battlestar Galactica work:

On January 10th, 2010, Katee will return to weekly television with her regular appearance on 24, playing a character named "Dana Walsh".

For an excellent deconstruction of Battlestar Galactica, read SF Chronicle Television Columnist Tim Goodman's March 22, 2009 take here.

Marc Shaiman is Music Director for 82nd Academy Awards

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences reports that Marc Shaiman was named Music Director for the 82nd Annual Academy Awards.

Marc Shaiman

Marc Shaiman is a five-time Oscar nominated composer nominated three times for Original Score on The American President (1995), The First Wives Club (1996) and Patch Adams (1998), and for Original Song: A Wink and a Smile from “Sleepless in Seattle” (1993) and for the hilarious Blame Canada from South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut (1999).

This is Robin Williams performing “Blame Canada”:

And the same song as it was presented in South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut:

Ok. I just had to get that out of the way before one of you asked for the videos!

Marc Shaiman is also an an Emmy winner with a wicked sense of humor. He won for co-writing Billy Crystal's "Oscar Medley" for the 64th Annual Academy Awards in 1992. More recently, he was the composer for The Bucket List (2008)

In 2007 he was honored at the ASCAP (The American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers ) Awards:

With Marc Shaiman creating music for Oscar hosts Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin, the 82nd Academy Awards promises to be a classic event.

Whoopi Goldberg on The View says "African-American Berry". What's that?

Whoopi Goldberg

I just watched the talk show "The View" which is a guilty pleasure of mine and a great way to get the pop culture news pulse of the day, when I heard show host and comedian Whoopi Goldberg say to Joy Behar, "Your African-American Berry is OK." Or words to that effect.

A bit of backstory.

Earlier in the show one could hear what sounded like a cell phone saving a voice mail message - the kind of sound a Blackberry generally makes. Then as the show was ending, the sound came on again. This time Whoopi Goldberg was on the spot: she said "Did someone break wind!" Then she looked at Behar and asked if that was her. Behar said it was her cell phone and Goldberg responded, saying "I'm glad your African-American Berry is OK."

OK. For the record, I'm not complaining about this so much as I just find it strange, so I looked up the term.

The only listing I found was in something called "The Urban Dictionary" where it refers to "President Obama's Blackberry" and says that's the politically correct definition of a Blackberry cellphone.

Well, that's stupid and not politically correct.

The Blackberry has been around for years but just because we have an African American President who uses one - for the first time in POTUS history - someone has to give a racially-based name to the device. Why?

It's another way of American society essentially marginalizing blacks - and yes, blacks like Whoopi Goldberg are doing this. It says "Ok, now that someone Black's using a Blackberry we have to somehow give another name or designation for the cellphone."

OK. When I started writing this blog post, I was curious; but now at the end I'm just plain mad. I will be happy to see the day when African Americans like Whoopi Goldberg don't feel so out of mainstream American society that they have to "color" life in the way they do.

As far as I'm concerned it's a Blackberry and it has nothing to do with my skin color, and yes, I use one.


Jimmy Clausen punched; Notre Dame QB in bar fight

According to ESPN, Notre Dame Quarterback Jimmy Clausen was "sucker-punched" by an angry, sociopathic so-called fan Sunday morning in South Bend, Indiana.

But that's not the right report; it's not what happened at all.  Clausen was not "sucker-punched."

The South Bend Tribune reports that the place where it all took place was a bar and restaurant called "C.J.'s Pub", and that Clausen had left initially without incident, but his female friend left her purse in the establishment, and as she went to get it at 2 AM with Clausen, she was pushed by a man outside the bar.

Then words were exchanged between Clausen and the man. The QB pushed him away placing his hand to the man's neck; the man punched Clausen in the eye and the two started to wrestle on the ground before the fight was broken up.  

(Reads like the man may have been a jealous ex-boyfriend of Clausen's female friend or something.) 

Police were called to the place, and reportedly in part because of the Clausen fight but also because other "skirmishes" were going on.

What kind of place is "C.J.'s Pub"? The Golden Domers must go there to fight after a home loss. As of this writing, Notre Dame Head Coach Charlie Weis has no comment (but the press conference is later this week; just wait.)

As of presstime Clausen will play against the Stanford Cardinal this Saturday. However, if Clausen cannot go, the job would fall to fifth-year senior Evan Sharpley, who has not thrown a pass yet this season.

Clausen brings a 156.45 passer rating to Stanford Saturday; he's thrown for 3,382 yards and 23 touchdowns and four interceptions.