Sunday, July 4, 2010

Hot Dog Days Of Summer

You can't mention Joe Frazier in the history books without Muhammad Ali.  John McEnroe would never have risen to his greatness without Jimmy Connors.  Skeletor sure as hell needed He-Man, and just as American and Britain are forever linked by breaking apart on this day 234 years ago, Joey Chestnut needs Takeru Kobayashi.
He didn't compete for the hot dog eating title this year, but he did cause a scene at the contest.

Takeru Kobayashi was arrested at Coney Island after his rival, Joey Chestnut, won the annual Nathan's International Hot Dog Eating Contest.

The six-time champion of the contest was trying to make his way on stage after this year's event, according to a representative for Kobayashi and a New York police officer at the Brooklyn precinct booking desk.

This year's competition had already caused a stir after word that Kobayashi -- who took home the title every year from 2001 to 2006 -- would not be participating because of a contract dispute with Major League Eating. He watched from the stands.

Kobayashi was trying to prove he was better than other competitors, said Yuki James, one of Kobayashi's handlers.

Chestnut won by consuming 54 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. The win -- Chestnut's fourth straight -- was short of his 68-hot dog record set last year.

The police officer said Kobayashi faces charges of resisting arrest, interfering with a police officer and disorderly conduct. Kobayashi was being held at the Brooklyn jail, the officer said.

In the days leading up to the event, Kobayashi said he loves the contest and he wanted to participate, but that the contract was too restrictive. Speaking through a Japanese interpreter, he said that all his income is earned through competitive eating. He said the new contract required by the competition would bar him from competing elsewhere in the United States or Canada for a year.

Both sides said contract negotiations went on until Saturday morning.

MLE chairman George Shea called Kobayashi's arrest "unfortunate."

"It makes you wonder what his thinking was," Shea said.

"Major League Eating made an enormous effort to get him into the contest," he added. "We wanted him there. Nathan's wanted him there. The fans wanted him there."
Have a safe and happy 4th, folks.  Have a hot dog while you're at it.

The Situation Is Beyond Our Controller

I talked about The Governator's plan to knock some 200,000+ California state workers down to minimum wage due to there being no 2011 budget on Friday.

Turns out that California's paymaster, State Controller John Chiang, has said that retooling the state's 1970's-era payroll system to handle the Governor's orders will take a little time.  Like, October, 2012.
Chiang cited Friday's ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which said "unfeasibility" would excuse him from complying with Schwarzenegger's minimum wage order. He said a fix to the state's computerized payroll system won't be ready until October 2012.

Meanwhile, more than 200,000 state workers remain in limbo about the size of their July paychecks while Chiang asks the court for guidance on how to proceed. If wages are indeed cut to $7.25 an hour, employees will be reimbursed once a budget is signed.

John Harrigan, who served as a division chief for the state's payroll services from 1980 to 2006, said upgrading the system would be complicated, time-consuming and expensive. He said it could be done, but not without violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and substantially altering the payroll process.

"It's not something that you can take lightly and do overnight," said Harrigan, who also served as chief deputy controller from 2000 to 2002. "You have all the collective bargaining for civil servants and (state universities) that have to be taken into consideration. ... It's very complicated. It would take considerable effort."

The state's payroll system was designed more than 60 years ago and was last revamped in 1970, Hallye Jordan, state controller's office spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

A report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office said an overhaul of the state's computerized payroll system was proposed by the controller's office in 2004. A year later, the Legislature approved $130 million for the effort, called the 21st Century Project.

Work to complete the project has been postponed by the controller's office repeatedly over the past several years, said Lynelle Jolley, spokeswoman for the governor's Department of Personnel Administration.

"They had various setbacks that only they can explain," she said.

Harrigan said he was involved with the 21st Century Project when it was conceived in the late 1990s. He said the state fired the vendor executing the project in 2008 because the company went bankrupt.
In other words, it may cost more money to fix California's ancient payroll system than cutting state workers' pay would save on a temp basis, considering they would have to pay the workers the lost wages anyway.

California is pretty much deep into failed state status at this point.

That Whole Independence Thing

And as we celebrate America's birthday, let's keep in mind the details as to why we have a day off.
Every Fourth of July, Americans gather to celebrate the country's declaration of independence from ... um, what country was that again?
If you answered the above question with the word "England" or "Britain," you would be obviously correct. But a new Marist poll finds that more than a quarter -- 26 percent -- of Americans polled couldn't bring to mind the name of the country from whom the original 13 colonies gained independence.
Results were especially poor among the young: Of respondents aged 18 to 29, only 60 percent correctly identified Great Britain. A full one-third were unsure.
Maybe history class was too long ago. Or maybe, as the New York Daily News would have it, Americans are "pretty dumb."
Overall, 20 percent of the population answered "not sure" to the question, while six percent declared it to be a country other than Great Britain. "Among the countries mentioned are France, China, Japan, Mexico, and Spain," Marist reports.
Given the state of our economy, China may actually be a quasi-acceptable answer if we ever do get free of them.  But France?  Really?

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