Three Recent Concerns Spanning Physics/Engineering, the MLB offseason, and the Social Contract

I’ve had three topics captivate my attention in the past three days.


The first concerns a simple question of engineering. I’ve been wondering what is the ideal way to suspend a fairly large drum (16″ wide by 14″ deep) is to preserve floorspace, maximize resonance, and place as little stress on the drum’s shell as a result of its weight.

The first way to set it up is the oldest: screw three legs onto the sides.

This approach is the most flexible, as you don’t have to have a stand to hold it up. But, it will restrict the shell’s vibration. In my experience, this way also allows the drum to wander from the spot I want it in, which quickly becomes annoying. It also makes it more difficult to vacuum underneath.

The other option I’ve been thinking about is this:

Here, the drum has lugs that have holes in the top and bottom. The mount screws into the bottom holes of four of the lugs along the top of the drum. What I’ve been using now is the same piece of metal, just on a drum that only has screwholes on the top of the lugs. There aren’t any new holes drilled, so the wood can vibrate freely. The drum can bounce, but it can’t really move anywhere. The problem I’ve had is that it goes out of tune faster, because the whole weight of the drum is pushing the top rim (metal ring on top of the drum) upwards. Even by using the two-holed lugs, though, it puts the whole weight of the drum on four pressure areas near the top.

The third option is something like this:

This holds the drum from the top and the bottom. It doesn’t touch the wooden shell, so it can vibrate all it wants. It also nicely distributes the load. My only complaint is that I either have to wait until someone decides to sell that part, or buy a whole kit from that company, since I cannot find something similar.

If anyone’s up to chip in their analysis as to which way would work best, I’d be quite interested.


The second matter at hand: the MLB offseason, specifically concerning the Boston Red Sox, who are supposed to be David to the New York Yankees’ Goliath.

Their actions this winter have left me thinking of a line from an old Pearl Jam song: “If you hate something, don’t you do it too”.

The NYY tend to make the fans of every other baseball team irate with their seemingly endless pile of money. Thus, if you have a great player on your team, hope and pray that the NYY have no interest in him when his contract is up, because they will always be able to offer more money. Baseball does not have a limit as to what an individual player can earn, or how much an individual team can spend.

So the strategy for Boston was to waive the white flag on trying to strengthen the team by hiring guys whose contracts had just run out from their other teams. The older they get, the more vulnerable these men are to injuries and declining ability. So, Boston decides to concentrate on finding the best young guys out there, and then let them mature in the minor leagues, where you can go to any of the farm teams and spend $5-$15 to get in. You can watch them rise through the ranks, and what fun it can be to support someone you’ve watched for a while when they make the jump to the big stage.

So to keep a long story short, Boston really has seven (or eight?) baseball teams, as does every other organization. The Red Sox are supposed to be the top of the class for those eight teams, as the NYY are of theirs, etc. So this past year, Boston used something like fifty players to get through the year, when there are only nine positions. So far this winter we’ve had to go to the player store and buy a new shortstop, third basemen, center fielder, a spare outfielder, a few extra relief pitchers, and paid over $80,000,000 over the next five years to a new starting pitcher.

Ticket prices also increased to Fenway park by something like five percent. It cost me over $80 for my girlfriend and I to go once to Fenway Park last year. I appreciate the intent of the organization to put the best product possible on the field, but to what end? I’m not spending over $100 for two to see a game I can watch on TV for a fraction. Even if I did, what motivation is there to buy a t-shirt with a player’s name if they are more than likely just a flavor of the week?

I have no qualms going to a Spring Training game down here for less than $20. But it makes me wonder just how much difference there can be between John Lackey, the $80,000,000 starting pitcher for the next five years, and Dustin Richardson, who got to pitch in a few games last year and would make $400,000. The cost has to get passed on to the spectators at some point, and rooting for a team of mercenaries isn’t very fun.


Lastly, some thoughts on the so-called “social contract”, or an individual’s obligation to society. I’ve been thinking of this recently as I’ve heard some fervent arguments about whether climate change is an accurate scientific assessment, or some sinister campaign of public misinformation.

I am not a meteorologist, nor do I work at NOAA. Odds are, you don’t either. However, we all depend on the earth for sustainance. Those assuming climate change to be a correct interpretation of long-term weather patterns have proposed, as far as I am aware, a few basic actions from us, the citizenry, and of industry.

From each of us, we are asked to:

-recycle used goods and reduce consumer waste
-limit the consumption of electricity
-reduce the use of products such as plastic bags
-carpool when possible
-when choosing a vehicle, strongly consider its fuel efficiency
-support local farmers and the larger local economy

From our governments, it has been asked that the energy infrastructure be updated, and alternative fuel sources to fossil fuels be developed and implemented.

Now, even if the doomsday scenarios about a lack of action fail to materialize (such as a dramatic rise in sea level, heightened occurance of severe weather events such as hurricanes), what harm do these changes posit?

Each action is both necessary and immediately beneficial.

-Recycling used goods is a more efficient means of handling consumer waste. Less waste means that existing landfills will serve longer, as they are being asked to cope with less.

-Limiting the consumption of electricity pays perhaps the most immediate dividends. The less electricity you use, the less your electric bill. Further, it also lessens the strain on America’s aging electrical infrastructure. One needs to merely look at the summer of 2003 for New York City or the fact that California must brown out certain areas.

That is, California must fairly, on a rotating basis, suspend electrical utility service to its residents as the current structure in place cannot handle consumer demand

-Reducing the use of plastic bags reduces the number of plastic bags that end up as litter on the side of the road. Take a drive in a semi-urban area if this isn’t already immediately obvious. Plus, the less plastic bags you use, the less they have to make. The cloth ones are stronger anyway, and I find I can fit much more into fewer bags, which is easier to lug into the house.

-Carpooling not only lessens emissions, but duh, it also thins out traffic, making the trip quicker the more people do it, and response times quicker for fire, police, and ambulances. Catching a ride with my friend means I don’t have to drive my car, which means I save the cost in gas. It also means less wear and tear on the roads, which means fewer taxes are needed for their upkeep.

-Taking fuel efficiency into consideration when buying a car saves you money and trips to the gas station. The less gasoline you use, the less we have to take out of the ground, and the less influence nations rich with oil will have to use against us if they so wish. If you’re buying oil from someone else, you’re going to have to keep them happy for them to continue to sell it to you.

-Buying local is a great idea for a variety of reasons. First, you do not have to pay to have it imported from another state or country. Second, it gives someone in your community, state, or country a livelihood. Third, should you have questions, you can go directly to the source. Anyone who’s had to deal with outsourced tech support empathizes. Fourth, especially with food, it ensures freshness. Lastly, it demonstrates pride in where you come from.

I like conspiracy theories. Some make very interesting arguments, and some offer supporting evidence.

I can see why there is so much widespread disbelief that Oswald acted alone- plenty would benefit, or had some sort of motive, to take down JFK.

The idea that the moon landing was staged makes use of video and camera footage. Plus, it also presents a group of individuals who would directly benefit- the US government, using it to boost national morale and competitive fire.

But really, the idea that global warming is willful, public deceit is clearly nonsense. Reducing carbon emissions is not in favor of industry, domestic or foreign; it is more regulations to craft and enforce.

Pursuing alternative energy also creates more work- if we can fuel industry with oil, why bother tinkering with something else? Because there simply is only so much to go around.

And asking the Western world to change their shopping and travel habits to use less resources? Even if it is to supposedly push reusable bags or hybrid cars, the people making the bags will have fewer overall sales and the people designing cars can certainly tell you it’s a lot of expense to literally strip a vehicle down to the drawing board.

Lastly, there’s the “what if?” factor. Unless you devote forty hours a week to studying weather patterns and computer projections, odds are you really can’t make an informed-enough decision to challenge their findings. Not that we should blindly accept information presented to us- critical thinking is to be encouraged. But to think critically on this matter, the changes we as a society are being asked to make carry plenty of benefits aside from potentially preventing a severe alteration of our environment.

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Filed under Baseball, Contemplative, Music, Open Questions

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