Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My early Kentucky Derby picks

Caveat Emptor. Well, heck, you're not buying anything so heck with the caveat.

I have not been following horse racing this year with my usual vigor. I can't help but be enthused about the Derby, though. I can't think of a single day sporting event I'd rather watch. So here's my thoughts on each of the horses with post position, my odds, the morning odds and finally, my potential wagers.

The horses from worst to first:
20: Mine That Bird, PP8, 99-1, 50-1
Hasn't won since David Cotey stopped training him. Slow front runner who will get eaten up in this race.

19: Join in the Dance PP9, 99-1, 50-1
Another front runner whose performance in the Tampa Derby rightfully did nothing to convince bettors in Blue Grass.

18: Hold Me Back PP5, 75-1, 15-1
Hard closer who has looked good in 2009 with a victory in the Lanes End and a place in the Blue Grass. One of my favorites, Kent Desormeaux, on the mount. I just think the maturation is too much too soon and I can't foresee another step forward. The pros think otherwise, apparently.

17: Advice PP4, 71-1, 30-1
Came out of nowhere to win the Lexington Stakes and earn enough to qualify for the Derby. Not going to happen again.

16: Summer Bird PP17, 57-1, 50-1
Took an incredibly tough route to take third in the Arkansas Derby, probably a winning effort most days. Looks to be an Oaklawn horse, though, as the only outing off of the track was a brutal six furlong training session at Churchill Downs last week. Really brutal. Like low-level claiming brutal.

15: Flying Private PP20, 56-1, 50-1
Horse with no heart. Four second places since his only victory in August, 2008. Also coming from way outside.

14: Nowhere to Hide PP18, 55-1, 50-1
Solid horse. Not Derby caliber.

13: Mr. Hot Stuff PP3, 48-1, 30-1
Don't know whether his connections can get Corey Nakatani on him since Square Eddie is out of the Derby picture. If Corey is on him, I'll include him at the back end of some exotics. Otherwise, pass.

12: Atomic Rain PP14, 44-1, 50-1
Only win was a maiden special race almost a year ago. Ugh.

11: Chocolate Candy PP11, 33-1, 20-1
Here is where the pretenders start. The nine horses above shouldn't even be in this race. The numbers on Chocolate Candy aren't Derby caliber but everything looks like a potential sleeper performance. Interesting potential. I like Mike Smith as a jockey, too.

10: Pioneerof the Nile PP16, 22-1, 4-1
Another one where I'm not on board with the pros. I, of course, like the Baffert horse. Would like to have seen him be successful somewhere other than Santa Anita.

9: Papa Clem PP7 21-1, 20-1
Lots of talent. Just think he's expended too much to get here.

8: Friesan Fire PP6, 17-1, 5-1
I'd like to see Larry Jones get his Derby victory. The pros like Friesan much more than I do. I'm really leery of the month and a half layoff. Running style bodes well. Possible but I won't like the odds. Seems like an underlay to me.

7: General Quarters PP12, 16-1, 20-1
Good horse. Due for a bounce, though.

6: Musket Man PP2, 13-1, 20-1
I'll have money on Musket Man somehow. Big time sleeper.

5: West Side Bernie PP1, 11-1, 30-1
I don't get this one at all. Six stakes races which is more stakes races than some of these horses have run, period. Stewart Elliott of Smarty Jones fame gets the mount. Closer who will be able to save ground from the pole. Again, money will be here.

4: Desert Party PP19, 10-1, 15-1
One of two shippers from overseas. I may be overvaluing them. I don't think I am. Godolphin shelled out two million dollars for this horse for this reason.

3: Regal Ransom PP10, 9-1, 30-1
Godolphin's cheap horse (only cost them $675,000). I know shippers don't fare well and the UAE Derby participants always seems to suffer. Look at the workout times for Regal and Desert Party and tell me they're suffering. Even though I think Regal is the better horse, I think he'll set the pace for Desert Party to stalk and finish strong.

2: I Want Revenge PP13, 8-1, 3-1
Trainer Jeff Mullins never comes up big in these races. Plus I won't be getting anything close to good odds. Staying away.

1: Dunkirk PP15, 5-1, 4-1
Show me when this horse has had a bad day. His March 14th workout wasn't awesome. Otherwise, the lightly raced Dunkirk has shown lots of speed. He's a grey horse, so I love him automatically. He's a Pletcher horse, so I like that, too (none of that factors into my odds, though). Would love to get better odds but that ain't going to happen. Without a doubt, the top horse.

I'll have money on the Godolphin horses in all likelihood. They seem like the best bet for overlays. I likely won't include I Want Revenge or Pioneerof the Nile in any bets.

Probably go with the Godolphins on top with Dunkirk, West Side Bernie, Musket Man, General Quarters and Chocolate Rain underneath in some sort of combination. That's the third of the field that seems to have good wagering potential.

Of course, being broke, I might steer clear and just root for Dunkirk.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Money laundering for survival and profit

The last two books I've finished have been about money laundering and there's a reason for this. I saw that Neil Strauss had released a book entitled Emergency about Strauss' preparations for the upcoming armageddon. I had thoroughly enjoyed his book on pickup artists, entitled The Game, reading it twice and I figured this would be good, also.

I read a number of excerpts online and one mentioned that Strauss had referenced a book called The Laundrymen by Jeffrey Robinson that was about, surprise, money laundering. The library system had that book but not Strauss' book so I started with it.

I've become more cynical about certain things as of late. One of those things is the belief that to make and keep money, you have to be dishonest. As I struggle to make ends meet while unemployed (well, employed part-time), people who have run businesses into the ground are being rewarded with bonuses and bailout money. This isn't a new concept, though. Robber barons, Ponzi schemes, fast food. People are always making money in a morally corrupt way.

Laundrymen, ostensibly, is about money laundering. What keeps it from being a great book is that it really is about drug dealing. That in itself would be fine but it's just too much. I don't need to know about every major international drug dealer and how they created their various shell companies and how they moved their money from country to country. I get the concept and the details, while interesting the first couple times, get tedious as it really become a matter of changing names.

It's not all about drug dealers, though, and those departures are fascinating. It is also immensely interesting to understand why different countries have different banking regulations and how and why these different situations are used by money launderers. Also interesting is how governments, particularly that of the U.S., break the law themselves to try and stop the drug trade. One of those instances of the ends justifying the means, at least in theory.

The Laundrymen is a good and informative read. A little tedious in its repetition of concepts but a great primer if you're interested in how and why money laundering works.

And why would you be interested in how money laundering works? For Neil Strauss it is because he makes my cynicism look tame. Emergency is about how Strauss came to feel that the United States was on the verge of a collapse and his preparations to deal with that upcoming collapse.

One of his concerns was what would happen to his money in the event of a financial collapse. So Strauss began exploring offshore banking which is tied into money laundering. Although Strauss didn't set up shell companies (his publishing company in St. Kitts is supposedly legitimate) he did explore how he could set up bank accounts in other countries. Much to his dismay, he discovered that other countries aren't too keen to work with Americans in opening bank accounts, at least not those with average net worths.

His inability to open an account and his fear of being unable to get into other countries as an American if something should happen leads Strauss to explore dual citizenship. He eventually does become a citizen of the Caribbean island of St. Kitts.

Strauss realizes, though, that it doesn't do much good to be able to have somewhere to run to if you can't get out of the country. As a result he turns his attention to developing survival skills, both urban and wilderness. He learns how to avoid kidnappings, find food and a whole lot of other stuff you would and would not expect someone interested in survival to know. Nonetheless, Strauss' obsession with this gets to be a bit extreme and even cynical me thought he was going overboard.

Then something interesting happens. Strauss realizes that we're all mortal and that while he prepares himself to not get killed when the system collapses, he's still no less likely to die from car accident, old age, illness, etc. He also finds that a lot of his survival preparation training has value even without the end of the world a we know it. He gets certified as an EMT and joins his local emergency relief corps. Strauss finds it heartwarming to be able to contribute to those around him instead of being fearful of them in the event they come a'lootin' once lawlessness reigns.

I like Strauss' writings and his topics are far different from anything else you might read. I was a bit baffled by the library system's decision to classify this book with a humor call number. You'll find it right after David Sedaris and on the same shelf as Erma Bombeck and Dave Barry. I don't know why that decision was made as there isn't a whole lot funny about the book. It is a good read, though, and I'm putting it in my top 10 for the year.

Monday, April 27, 2009

We're going to cycle like it's 1885 or maybe 2008

I think hitting for the cycle is a cool thing. So much so that I actually track them and stuff. I hope to do more with this in the future (you know, with all my free time) but we shall see.

Hitting for the cycle in baseball, for those of you who don't know, is when a player hits for a single, double, triple and home run all in the same game. Part of the appeal of the cycle to me is the triple. Next to the stolen base, the triple is probably my favorite play in baseball. I like speed.

The cycle is actually about as rare in occurrence as a no-hitter. While I have yet to witness a no-hitter in person, I did get to see Matt Luke hit for the cycle when he played for Greensboro.

I'm writing about the cycle today because it's been happening quite a bit lately and there was some misreporting in the media outlets about the history of the event. Thought I'd try and clear some things up.

We've had three players hit for the cycle this season already: Orlando Hudson of the Dodgers, Ian Kinsler of the Rangers and Jason Kubel of the Twins. Kinsler's was the most covered because 1. He's Ian Kinsler and a bit of a star already and 2. He had six hits in the game for which he hit for the cycle.

For your edification, ten facts about the cycles so far:

1. Kinsler was far from being the first player to get six hits in a game in which he hit for the cycle although he was initially reported as being a rarity by many media outlets. Rondell White was the most recent player to get six hits in a cycle game (1995). Then we had Bobby Veach (1920), Sam Thompson (1894), Farmer Weaver (1890), John Reilly (1890, six days before Weaver), Larry Twitchell (1889), Dave Orr (1887) and Henry Larkin (1885). People seem to forget that there was professional baseball in the 1800's. Don't you make the same mistake kids. It's a bad habit to get into.

2. Kinsler was the first native of Arizona to hit for the cycle. Kubel was actually the second player born in South Dakota to hit for the cycle. Mark Ellis (2007) was the first.

3. Having the third cycle of a season happen in April is a first. Previously, the earliest a third cycle had been achieved in a season was May 7 in 1887. These are the only two seasons where the cycle had been achieved three times before June 1.

4. Three cycles in a five day span is not unique either. The above mentioned Dave Orr hit for the cycle twice. In addition to his six hit game in 1887, he hit for the cycle on June 12, 1885. George Wood hit for the cycle the next day and three days later Henry Larkin had his six hit cycle. You don't even have to go that far back. Last season Cristian Guzman cycled on August 28. Four days later Stephen Drew and Adrian Beltre both hit for the cycle.

5. Hudson's cycle was the first ever by a Dodger at Dodger Stadium.

6. Even though we're off to a good start this season, we're still a long way away from the record for most cycles in a season. In 1933, eight players hit for the cycle.

All for now. Hopefully I'll have some news on cycle research in the future.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Some wacked new music videos

Rather than struggle with defining whatever it is that Tinted Windows should be under as far as genre goes, I went and bought a new album, one that needs no definition of genre because they are the genre (or at least spawned it).

Like that favorite meal (which may have included bacon and eggs) or a nice bath, Depeche Mode's new album, Sounds of the Universe is comforting in its familiarity. Perhaps not as dark lyrically or musically - the synthesizers seem more sparse than in previous albums (and I might be imagining that)- but still very typical. Dave Gahan's voice is the same. A good album and one that should appeal to Depeche Mode fans.

If the music isn't as dark, they made up for it with the video for the song Wrong:
Depeche Mode - "Wrong" (official music video)

Kidnapping always makes a good story line for a music video. Uh....yeah.

Delta Spirit goes one better with their new video, including a murder.

La Blogotheque also did a takeaway show with Delta Spirit which was pretty cool. You can check that out here.
Fantastic set of performances and no one gets killed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009


For my good friend Transfixed Ingress, who obviously needs more bacon in his life, I have set up a parallel version of this website which provides a bacontastic bacon-enhanced experience.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Group of 79 Project - Wally Berger

The Group of 79 Project continues this week with Wally Berger.

Don't you hate it when you're all focused on the Deadball Era and then you get a player who doesn't belong in there too? You know what I mean, right? Like with Wally Berger. I keep trying to keep him straight from Cy Barger and Bill Bergen, both of whom played for Brooklyn and Wally has nothing to do with Brooklyn so I shouldn't get confused but I do. Bergen is the light hitting catcher. Barger is the pitcher/first baseman who attended Transylvania University and Berger is the Boston Brave outfielder from the 1930's.

Berger was one of the first free-swinging power hitters. He led the league in strikeouts in 1933 and was one of the top 5 whiffers of the league in seven of his seasons. Of course, this was back when 80 strikeouts was a lot. You didn't have the Mark Reynolds and Adam Dunns who approach 200 a year.

Berger also was in the top three in homers for six of his seasons, leading the league in 1935 with 34. He also set the record for home runs in a season by a rookie, slugging 38 in that great offensive year of 1930. That record would hold until 1987 when Mark McGwire hit 49.

This card is from the 1978 Grand Slam card set of which I know virtually nothing. 200 players but I'm not sure why the players in the set were chosen. The cards are smaller than your typical card. If you know anything about it and want to share, I welcome it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

I can almost do a trackstand

Inspired, indeed.

via Kottke.

Just once

In the wake of the Craigslist killer (and other killer stories), wouldn't it be a nice change if people saw it coming?

RANDOMTOWN, USA - Neighbors said that it wasn't much of a surprise that Bob "Psychokiller" Rushton, the alleged killer of three people at a Randomtown laundromat, was capable of murdering some strangers over the kind of fabric softener they used.

"They didn't call him "Psychokiller" for nothing. Seriously, that was what we called him before this happened", said Harold Sinclair, 35, a resident of the neighborhood in which Rushton lived. "We would have neighborhood Christmas parties and everyone would be invited except for him. The guy was a lunatic".

Susan Washburn, another neighbor, added, "When Bob moved into the neighborhood with his wife, I baked them some cookies and brought them over. He told me that cookies, much like bacon grease, eggs and hard cheeses, are "foods of the devil". He then smiled that awful, sickeningly evil grin of his and told me that I better get five more dozen over to his place pronto and that "they better be oatmeal this time".

"We stopped seeing his wife around three months later. I asked him about her when I went out to get my paper one day and he told me she vanished because she asked too many questions. Then he said, "Go ahead and ask me what that means. It might put you over your daily limit, though"."

Steve Wyatt, some guy who lives a few states away, called WRDM and said "Dude, I even had heard how bad this guy was and I've never heard of Randomtown or anyone else who lives there".

Rushton was so notoriously bad, many are at a loss as to why he didn't commit more crimes before now. Detective Archimedes Papalopolous-Smith, of the Randomtown Police Department commented that "We'd check out Rushton for every crime that happened here in Randomtown. He probably did them. We were never able to pin anything concrete on him. Even that Halloween where he sat on the roof of his house with a witch's hat and a BB gun and shot at the kids saying "I'll get you and your little dog, too"....nothing. By the time we showed up, he was next door and the neighbors said he had been there all night bobbing for apples. You could tell by the fear in their eyes that he was putting them up to covering for him but what are you going to do?"

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My award for book I think I might have enjoyed but I'm not real sure

"No man should have to tell his son that his wife had an orgy with a nun and two groundsmen".

With lines like that, you'd expect How I Paid for College by Marc Acito, to be pretty funny, or at least unusual. And it was both. It was also irritating as all get out.

First, I should have read the dustjacket better. The dustjacket sold me on the book because it is one of the worst I've seen. Pink and yellow and green. The colors are absolutely hideous. If you went to buy a house with those colors, you'd ask them to knock a few thousand off the asking price because you'd be repainting the day after you made settlement.

In addition to the colors, there's a little picture of a Buddha next to the first line of the subtitle. The first line is "A novel of Sex". Buddha and a novel of sex? The rest of the subtitle reads "Theft, friendship & musical theater". Sounds promising, right?

If you read the dustjacket, which I didn't, the author is "Hailed as the gay-Dave Barry" and his first-person tone is likened to that of David Sedaris. Hmmmm, why Dave Sedaris, I wonder? Are they really the two guys known for their first-person tone? Or does the comparison maybe have to do with the fact that they're both gay? Gee, I wonder.

I hate that. Normally I'll put a book back when the book or the author is compared to someone else. If I want to read something like David Sedaris, I'll read Sedaris, thank you. And I'm not sure what would make a gay Dave Barry write differently from Dave Barry. I can't say I've ever read anything by David Barry where his sexual preference had anything to do with his writing.

Back to the book. There were a lot of irksome things about it. The main thing, to me, is that the book was set in Hoboken, New Jersey in 1984. Not somewhere you think of as progressive, but Hoboken, New Jersey. Home of Bon Jovi, the Boss, etc. Why is this a problem? Because every character in the book is either gay, lesbian or bisexual and semi-open about it. Really? In Hoboken in 1984? You're going to make a move on a football player, offering to go down on him while you're a high-schooler theatre guy in Hoboken in 1984. Uh huh.

The worst part of it is I don't really know why this had to be set in 1984. Well, outside of the fact that Acito was 18 in 1984. So maybe I'm wrong. Maybe he lived in a progressive area during the Reagan Era. I don't know.

As I looked up Acito's birthdate I discovered that this book was voted a top ten Young Adult book by the American Library Association in 2005. What the heck?!?! I need to finish a non-kid work of fiction.

I also didn't like Acito's endearing references to people. Someone will say or do something and the narrator will go "Paula". Or "Kathleen". Or "Doug". Just the person's name. Goofy and irritating. And incredibly, incredibly overdone.

Up to this point, you'd think I hated this. But I liked it. It was hard to put down. The chapter breaks were ideal in that Acito would end most chapters with something happening that made you have to start the next chapter. It was funny. I laughed out loud many times. But the whole thing was just incredibly uneven and quite far-fetched at times.

I still don't know whether or not I liked it. I guess I have to say I definitely sort of liked it and could possibly recommend it but probably wouldn't be likely to. Fair enough?

You know what? I didn't even mention what this was about. Theatre guy is talented, auditions for Julliard, gets in and is all jazzed to go. His Dad marries this crazed German photographer who prevents the Dad from paying for Julliard, largely because she's a golddigger. Theatre guy panics and tries to come up with ways for paying for it. These ways include theft, blackmail, embezzlement. Good times. In the end, new age Mom, who had been off in South America doing who knows what, returns and has the solution as to how to narrator should pay for it. Thus the title.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Tinted Windows album release

I wrote about the group Tinted Windows a little while back. Their debut album is to be released day after tomorrow. I'm thinking about it but I'm not entirely sure. I still have only heard the two songs. I like it but I'm not certain that they're anything but boy-band pop. Not that there's anything wrong with that. I don't have much of it in my collection of music. Just would like to hear something that makes me say, "Oh yeah, that's amazing (or different or incredible or something that makes me regard them highly outside of who the bandmembers are)". I'll probably hold off until I hear some more of them.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Food revisited

We had to get a birthday gift after an 11 AM soccer game today and decided to stop at Dude with the Food for lunch. I had written about it previously when I stopped for a pulled pork sandwich. Had their smoked beef hoagie today. My oldest had their buffalo wings and my youngest had a hot dog.

The hot dog was grilled which I like but he doesn't. I hate wings but tried one. They were tangy but not spicy. As for the beef, it was flavorful but very fatty. The food was lackluster today. But the service made it so I don't see myself eating there again. They were busy but the wait times were interminable. It took far too long for the food to be prepared.

We ate at one of the two picnic tables they had outside. Both were uneven. An older couple sat together on one side of their table and the table flipped over backward spilling them and their food. We helped them up and it didn't appear any hips or other parts were broken. The folks in the food cart saw them but did not respond in any way, shape or form. Color me silly but if I'm running a place where I'm serving food and I watch two of customers go flying over backward because my picnic table isn't level, I'm over there apologizing and seeing if they are OK and then I'm fixing the table so it doesn't happen again. Neither happened.

Given the average quality of food, the slightly too high prices and the lack of concern both in terms of safety and wait times, I'm not coming back.

I did come back to an old favorite tonight, though. I made myself this again. Man it's a good dish. I've got leftovers for tomorrow, too. Mmmmmm.....

Getting the kiddies to eat

My oldest son is pretty good about food. He likes most things. I think it may have something to do with my then wife and I eating a lot of Mexican when she was pregnant and in his first year of birth. Once he was born, when we would go to Mexican restaurants, the staff would just gush over him. With his size, blue eyes, pleasant demeanor and long eyelashes, it was easy to do. They would take him and carry him around the restaurant, showing him off and taking him back in the kitchen where I presume they fed him chile peppers. I presume this because he enjoys his spicy food.

His brother on the other hand, is of the mold of my parents. Only one spice is any good and that is salt. My youngest is extremely picky and it is a chore to come up with healthy meals that he'll eat.

I do have a staple, though, that works well for the both of them. It is a variation of pasta carbonara. My recipe is real easy but doing it how I do it takes some dishes which requires a little cleanup. It's not too bad, though.

First get some water boiling for noodles. Any noodle is fine. I tend to use whole wheat spaghetti.

Then get some bacon cooking in a frying pan. This is bacon we're talking about so the more the merrier. I think most carbonara recipes call for pancetta but we're cooking for kids here so save the high end meat more when you need to cook for a date or something.

Next get some broccoli cooking. I'll either steam or boil it.

Lastly, make the sauce. Whisk a cup of hard grated cheese (parmesan, romano, etc.) with four eggs.

Once the bacon is done, take out the bacon and drain most of the grease from the pan. Drain the noodles and put them in the frying pan with the reserved grease. Pour the sauce over the noodles. Drain the broccoli if necessary and put the broccoli on top. Add the bacon. Stir it all around. The residual heat from everything (pan, noodles, broccoli) will cook the egg of the sauce giving it this flaky, eggy, cheese that coats everything. Once the sauce is thoroughly cooked, plate and serve.

You have all your food groups. Can substitute other veggies as necessary. Best of all, it's a quick dish and can be thrown together after a practice or something. If you have kiddies, give it a shot.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Group of 79 Project - Mike Marshall

I liked Mike Marshall as kid. True Dodgers fans remember fondly the infield of Cey, Russell, Lopes and Garvey. Me? I enjoyed the infield of Guerrero, Duncan, Sax and Marshall. They certainly didn't have the staying power (or fielding prowess, which is largely why they didn't have the staying power) of the former group. They could hit, though.

Marshall recently signed a couple cards for me through the mail. He is president of the Yuma Scorpions of the Golden Baseball League. Independent baseball, baby!

Interestingly, Baseball Analysts recently did this study of the location of home run balls hit since the 1950's. Turns out Marshall had the highest percentage of home runs hit to centerfield of any player during that era (31.6%). Pretty cool if you ask me.

Could that have something to do with the criteria of the Group of 79? Hmmmmm.....Things get interesting now. What do these three guys have in common? All white first basemen. Might be something there. Or maybe not. Also, there's one name between Long and Marshall. Who could it be? Evan Longoria? Mickey Mantle? Kevin Maas? Steve Lyons? Shane Mack? Wow. It could be a lot of guys. I didn't even mention the possibilities of it being native Hawaiian Mike Lum or native Delawarean John Mabry. I wish it were Fred Luderus. I liked him. It's not, though. It is someone I liked. Just not Fred Luderus.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Not the Pinkwater of my youth

So I finished my second juvenile book in a row. Well, the first was technically "Young Adult" whereas The Yggyssey is classified as juvenile literature. Why am I reading kids' books?

As I mentioned in last weeks review, the Frankie Landau-Banks book was an accident. I didn't realize that it was geared for teenagers until I was well under way.

Yggyssey was different. I deliberately chose to read it and it all started thirty years ago.

Thirty years ago, the greatest book I ever read was Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy From Mars by Daniel Pinkwater. I loved, loved, loved it. I still love it to this day. Every three or four years, I sign it out and re-read it and still enjoy it. It's a great book and it was so enjoyable, my Blogger (and other places) alias, Mad Guru, comes from that book. The Mad Guru is an extremely minor character in Alan Mendelsohn. I always thought it was a great name.

I enjoyed lots of Pinkwater's books back in the day. More people know him nowadays as a commentator on National Public Radio. I was pleasantly surprised, however, to find out that a local elementary school teacher is having her students read Pinkwater's Lizard Music. That got me so excited, I decided to check out Yggyssey. In my excitement, I didn't realize that it is the second book in a series.

Didn't really make much difference. The first book is referenced so much that you know all about it. Alan Mendelsohn is also cited in an offhand way which I find sort of funny. Pinkwater's books are largely the same. Young kids get involved with really strange, possibly paranormal events. Unfazed, they want to become more a part of it and explore it. Things get weird, then mildly bad, then all is well and the book ends.

In The Yggyssey, a young girl, Yggdrasil Birnbaum and her two friends, Seamus and Ned (Ned is the topic of the first book in the series) discover that there is a major ghost celebration going on at some mountain. They find this out because Yggdrasil lives in a hotel haunted by ghosts. They also find out that the mountain is in another dimension. They get there, they attend the celebration, they come back.

The chapters are ridiculously short, 2-3 pages each and unlike Pinkwater's earlier books, I never really develop an interest or fondness for the characters.

Turns out, too, that this whole book is online. If you want to read it you can go here. I suggest reading Pinkwater's earlier books.

And if you really want to get into my good graces, snag me a copy of the first edition of Alan Mendelsohn in nice condition, not ex-lib, with dustjacket. It should only run you about five hundred bucks.

If you want to read Alan Mendelsohn, can't find it in a library, and don't want to buy two copies, one for me and one for you, you can pick up Pinkwater's book Five Novels which contains (can you guess?) five of Pinkwater's stories, including Alan Mendelsohn.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lost legend

Harry Kalas, the greatest broadcaster I ever heard, passed away today before the Phillies game. He did the announcing for more games that I heard and watched than I can remember.

Kalas started broadcasting for the Phillies a few weeks before I was born. He is best known for his home run call ("That ball is outta here") and his strike out call ("STRUCK him ouuuut") and for his voiceovers for NFL Films. But what I loved to hear him say more than anything else was "Ricky Bottalico". And "Michael Jack Schmidt". Shoot. Everything. There has never been a broadcaster like him. In an era of jokers with their "Are you kidding me" calls, I don't think there ever will be either. I'll certainly miss him.

Requested optimism

I received a request for optimistic outlooks for the 2009 season. So here you go. I feel you should get your money's worth when you come to this site. Without further ado, a team-by-team guide for why you should feel good about the upcoming season.

Phillies -
You are the defending World Champions. You've got former MVP's Ryan Howard and Jimmy Rollins and another candidate in Chase Utley. You've got Shane Victorino. You really don't need my help to be optimistic about this team.

Mets - You've got a new ballpark. Something good can come from that. Otherwise, I think Mets fans are overly optimistic already. I don't think this is a terribly good team. Sorry.

Marlins - Three players born in the 1970's. That's it. Two of them are just holding down the fort. You might not win this year but you should be following this team and learning who these guys are because this is a good team in a couple years.

Braves - This is a good team except for Jeff Francouer. For a couple of seasons some buddies and I would play the Horace Clarke Chase. Horace Clarke set the standard for outs in a season (where outs is identified as AB-H. We didn't double count double plays or add caught stealings like some places do) in 1970 with 514 (He had 732 plate appearances with an OBP of .286. At the start of the season we'd each pick a player who we thought could break Clarke's record. I always took Francouer and he was always in contention. The guy never walks. But you do have Jair Jurrjens. Chipper. McCann. Lots of talent here.

Nationals - You're about to get the best amateur player on the planet in Stephen Strasburg.

Cubs -
Someday the sun will burn out and we will all die and no one will care anymore about the World Series.

Brewers - Strangely, the Brewers are the only team I read about regularly online. There's a lot of good talent on this team. Yovani Gallardo has future Cy Young written all over him. Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder instill fear. Good team.

Astros - Ponce de Leon may have struck out on finding the Fountain of Youth because he didn't check out the drinking fountain in the Astros dugout at Minute Maid Park. IF the drinking fountain is the Fountain of Youth, the Astros will be in good shape with Darin Erstad, Pudge Rodriguez, Carlos Lee, Miguel Tejada and Mike Hampton. Five years ago they were good.

Cardinals - Three words: Tony-La-Russa. Not enough? OK, two more. Albert-Pujols. Still not enough? Colby Rasmus. No? The hell with you then, go root for the Cubs.

Reds - The Reds are scary close to being really good. Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, a decent pitching staff. I like the Reds, even without Adam Dunn.

Pirates - The Pirates will win more games than Pittsburgh's NBA team will this year. You could be a Cubs fan.

Dodgers -
You have Manny.

Diamondbacks - My pick to win the 2009 World Series. Boatloads of talent. Not that boats are of much use in Arizona.

Rockies - You were in the World Series two years ago. It could happen again.

Giants - Lincecum and Cain and pray for Justin Smoak to get to the majors soon.

Padres - You might get a lot of prospects in exchange for Jake Peavy in July.

Devil Rays -
Last year was not a fluke. This might even be a better team than last year.

Red Sox -Like the Yankees, you can buy your way into the playoffs.

Yankees -Like the Red Sox, you can buy your way into the playoffs.

Blue Jays - The American economy could collapse and then you can buy your way into the playoffs.

Orioles - Peter Angelos is really, really old and might die soon. You're still the best team in the BWI Airport metropolitan area.

White Sox -
Bud Selig may instill a new rule where a team gets an extra win for every profanity their manager uses in an interview.

Twins - My pick for the AL World Series representative. Ron Gardenhire is a brilliant and extremely underrated manager.

Indians - I've never heard of half of these guys and the ones I do know are way past their prime. Wait a minute, that's the wrong Cleveland Indians. This team has a lot of offense. They also play in the same division as the Royals.

Royals - Um.....Hmmmmm.....Joakim Soria. He might pitch 60 or so innings so that's good, right? And you aren't the Cubs so you have that going for you. Maybe Don Denkinger will be called out of retirement to ump your games.

Tigers - Remember last season and how it was a foregone conclusion that the Tigers would win the World Series before we even got games underway? Look how that turned out. So be optimistic that everyone is less optimistic about your chances this year.

Anaheim Angels of Anaheim -
Anyone can win the AL West so why not you?

Texas Rangers of Arlington - Anyone can win the AL West so why not you? Besides, we're going to be talking about your dynasty of the 2010's in the not too distant future so who really cares about 2009?

Oakland Athletics of Fresno - Anyone can win the AL West so why not you? It would be good, too, in that maybe people will stop saying that Billy Beane wrote Moneyball. That drives me nuts.

Washington Mariners of Seattle - Anyone can win the AL West so why not you? Just remember if it comes down to a one game playoff and you have to decide whether to pitch Felix Hernandez or Carlos Silva, choose Felix Hernandez. Do not call Venezuela's World Baseball Classic manager and ask him what he thinks. Heck, I just noticed that 24% of the Mariners roster is from Venezuela. That has to bode well, right?

There you have it. Something to look forward to for every team in the major leagues as well as those in the NL Central.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Fun with music

One of the things I love about the internet is it has opened up a lot of opportunities to create music that didn't exist before and in fun ways that even non-musicians or people who can't read music can still have fun making sounds. I'd like to share a trio of them with you today.

Auditorium is the most beautiful and challenging of the three. Change the location and size of the gravitational pulls to activate each portion of the composition.

Ball Droppings has a lot of potential if you want to take the time to fine tune it. Balls drop and you draw lines. When the ball hits a line, it plays a note corresponding to the amount of force it had when it struck the line.

My favorite, though, is Andre Michele's Tone Matrix. A very simple synthesizer but a complete blast to make music with.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Dude with the food

I failed to take into consideration during my discussion of my facial perfection that perhaps one of the reasons the ladies aren't knocking down my door is because of a different ratio. The ratio of my big ol' belly to, I don't know, a belly that isn't as big as mine. I have been fat, obese, maybe even morbidly obese at times. Right now I think I'm just overweight.

Here lies the rub. I loves me my food. Look at the tag index. What have I written about most on this blog? Food. Go figure. It outdoes baseball. Great Caesar's Ghost!

If I could get myself to control my lower urges, I'd be a much happier camper, let me tell you.

As it is, I had to run out to do a homework assignment yesterday. My sons are on spring break in Delaware so I had an opportunity to dine out affordably (which Blogger thinks is a misspelled word). I was in the mood for Chinese but the time I was out prevented lunch specials (do you see the problem? There should not be so much logic involved) and I really didn't want to be paying non-lunch prices for take out. On my way out to my assignment, I passed this catering truck that is at this intersection from time to time. They advertise pulled pork and barbecue chicken. As I said, I loves me my food, but I really loves me pulled pork. I decided I'd stop by on my way back and get a Q sandwich.

The caterer is called Dude with the Food and he supposedly is only there on weekend (although I swear I've seen him at other times). Had myself a sandwich and it was right tasty. Very moist. Very spicy which took me by surprise. Five bucks but the amount of meat was about right for that price. I'd eat there again although I think I'll give their beef sandwich a try when I do go.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Group of 79 Project - Dale Long

The new baseball card project is going well. I have added the gallery over on the left-hand side under "Things I Have Stashed Online". I'm going with the title "Group of 79" because it has a CIA feel to it or something. I don't know. In the Lee Stevens post, I mentioned there might be an 80th this year. I either lied to throw you off or was wrong. You can decide. Feel free to guess/solve what the common thread between these players is. I'm keeping it secret because I'm pursuing some other directions with this project and am waiting to see what I do with it before revealing.

Today's player is Dale Long. Long was one of the players listed among Lee Stevens' ten most comparable players. Long is probably most known for holding and then sharing the record for most consecutive games hitting a home run. In May of 1956, Long homered in eight consecutive games. This feat was eventually matched by Don Mattingly (who is not among the Group of 79).

Long began his streak on May 19th with an eighth inning home run off Jim Davis of the Cubs. The Pirates won 7-4, pulling them to up to a .500 record for the season.

The next day, the Pirates took on the Milwaukee Braves in a doubleheader. In the fifth inning of the first game, Long went deep off of Ray Crone with a three-run shot, part of a six-run inning that gave the Pirates the victory. Long started the second game of the doubleheader with a two-run homer off of future Hall of Famer Warren Spahn. Ron Kline blanked the Braves as the Pirates won 5-0.

The Cardinals came to town for a pair of games and Long hit solo homers in both of them. Herm Wehmeier and Lindy McDaniel served them up but the Pirates could only earn a victory in one of the games.

The Pirates traveled to Philadelphia for a pair of victories and then returned to Pittsburgh where Long hit a homer in his eighth straight game, this time against the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Pirates also took that game, making them 7-1 during Long's streak and moving them into third place in the standings, a game and a half behind the Braves and Cardinals.

The next day one run ended and another began. Long went homerless as the Pirates lost to the Dodgers 10-1. Brooklyn, who had been hovering at the .500 mark up until this point, would go on to have the best record over the course of the rest of the season. From this victory on, they went 76-46, edging the Braves for the National League pennant. The Pirates went a league worst 47-74 but still finished ahead of the Cubs. From a game and a half behind the leaders, the Pirates faded to 27 games back.

Long hit a career high 27 homers for the season which sounds pretty good but 14 of those came before Memorial day. He went homerless from June 9 until July 11.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Can I date the Golden Ratio?

From a quantitative standpoint, I am an attractive man. So says the website Moonjee. I plugged in the above photo and it told me that I had a Golden Index of 91.4%. Moonjee supposedly applies the Golden Ratio to a picture of your face to determine how close to mathematical perfection your face is.
Shape 95.4%
Eyes 94.6%
Nose 91.8%
Lips 83.9%

Now this is nonsense. First of all, my best facial feature is, and always has been my lips. I have got some serious smoochy lips. From a Golden Ratio standpoint, we're looking B-. My nose is 91.8%. The question on whether the crook in it from being broken increased or decreased my score. My eye color is nice. Shape....I don't know.

All right, I'll be truthful. It is hard damn work looking as good as I do. I like to get together with Clive Owen and George Clooney and we just like to bitch and moan over how the ladies are always ogling us. We want to be respected for our minds, not our stunning good looks.

Seriously, I have had as many women compliment me on my handsome face as the Pittsburgh Pirates have won World Championships. The last time it happened was probably less recent than a Bucs title.

So I'm chalking this up to nonsense, or at least another example of math theory not being applicable in practice. While I'm on the site, though, I figure I'll go to the personality section of the face scan and see what Moonjee can read from my beauty:

"He is good-natured and hard-working. A known procrastinator, he often leaves things until tomorrow because it may take him a while to come to a decision."

Lucky guess. I'm on your website at 3 o'clock on a weekday. Doesn't scream dedication to my job. But yeah, that's pretty correct.

"The man is pretty conservative in his views; he likes a traditional, established lifestyle."

I don't know what this means but I don't think it's right.

"This man is talented and truly gifted, but may not be as lucky in love. In love he can have a high sex drive but tends to cheat on his loved one, seeking affairs outside of his relationships."

Being as I'm complaining about the lack of feminine interest in me, and I am pretty damn talented and gifted, I think we can establish the first sentence as correct. As to the second, I am a guy and I did enter my age which is under 110 so by definition, I have a high sex drive. As to the cheating, I don't want to discourage potential suitors perusing this website (or their sisters and best friends).

"The man is an aesthete. He likes and appreciates beautiful things around him: a river, mountain, ocean, even a painting. He trusts his feelings."

OK. Now I may be starting to believe a bit. If it said, he likes his Sunday football, a cold beer and a sofa, we could chalk this thing up to being like most mind-reading things. Make some broad generalizations and let everyone ooh and aah. But to break out the aesthete comment....there might be something going on here.

"In personal relationships he may be choosy, but his devoted friendships last a lifetime - even if he can only hold deep intimate relationships with few in his life."

This is starting to get spooky.

"He tends to be intelligent, truthful, decisive and determined."

We have officially entered the Spooky Zone.

"He can't go by a mirror without looking at his appearance."

And it all goes for naught as this one misses wider than a Scott Norwood field goal attempt (I know football, I just don't like (or watch) football).

"The man tends to be somewhat insecure or unsure of himself, but tries to raise his self-esteem by weighing his own knowledge and experience against other people's knowledge and experience."

Completely true until my mid to late twenties when I realized comparisons to others are useless. I'm still completely insecure and unsure of myself. If I had any ideas on how to raise my self-esteem, I wouldn't be insecure and unsure of myself, would I?

"Before completing a task or project, he thinks and plans things out carefully."

This is the technical term for procrastination.

I don't know. It'd be one thing if I had women knocking down my door (I'd probably believe it more if it were women mathematicians knocking down my door).

All right. Enough speculation. I'm going to put it to the test. The sexiest man alive is Clive Owen. I will not debate this. Let's see how he matches up. I'm going with this photo:

Shape 92.7%
Eyes 91.5%
Lips 83.9%
Nose 90.7%
Golden Index 89.7%

See. Utter nonsense. Clive should have a Golden Index of 1,013.4%.

Just in case, though....If you're an attractive woman, a movie producer, or someone else who appreciates my stunning good looks (and all the other tremendous aspects about me), feel free to drop me a line.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

A kid book and a baseball book

It was really slow on Thursday at work and I was browsing the new fiction (I needed a break from repairing children's board books which is what I had been doing during the lack of patron attendance). I came across the book The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart and picked it up. I read the back cover and laughed. I read the left dustjacket flap and laughed some more. So I signed it out and took it home.

Started reading it (it's a miracle I finish any books because I do crap like this. I'm already in the middle of three books (not to mention my readings for school) and I go and sign another book out) and thought, "This should probably be a Young Adult book". Look at the spine and there's a young adult sticker. Oh well. I'm digging the book and I keep reading it. I couldn't put it down and eventually just went ahead and finished it.

The book is about a teenage girl who attends a boarding school in Massachusetts. Her father had gone there when it was an all-male school and was part of a secret society called The Loyal Order of the Basset Hounds, who use and maintain their Old Boy network connections well into adulthood. The girl, the Frankie of the title, discovers that the secret society still exists but is still exclusively male and has become pretty lame over the years. Frankie finds a way to take control of the group and restore the image of the Basset Hounds.

I have a hard time writing reviews. I don't want to tell you the story. You should read it. It's a good look at the trials and tribulations of teenagers. The boarding school setting is nice in that it has a collegiate feel about it but isn't as mature as a college setting would be. I had started to subscribe to the Bill Simmons (an ESPN writer) theory that losing your virginity before college wasn't a big thing anymore, whether or not you had been in a threesome was. Media will do that to you.

It's also about the importance of not underestimating people, especially on the basis of gender. I really liked it and I admit I had underestimated how good young adult writing can be.

Adult writing can be pretty good, too. Especially that of Bill James. His Gold Mine book is sort of a 21st century Bill James Abstract in that it is organized by team, contains all sorts of unusual stats, and some good essays. It differs in that there are a lot of prose blurbs rather than essays for each team. I find that good and bad. I like James's writing and enjoy reading his essays. The blurbs are fun but I'd rather see more indepth pieces.

The structure of the book really prevents it from being something you read to cover to cover. I did it anyway. I don't think the editors of the book did. The book is rife with misprints but my favorite error(s) involve "Houdinis", a term James uses for a pitcher who loads the bases but then gets out of the inning without allowing any runs. Check out these citations:

p. 79 - "Six times last year, Indians opponents performed a Houdini...That level of failed promise led the majors - the Rockies and the Giants each did it five times".
p. 92 - "The Rockies pray that they don't get fooled again...They fell for the Houdini trick more than all but one other National League team. The opposition magician left the Rockies gasping six times, tying them with the Giants".

Stuff like this really bugs me in quantitative and/or reference works. It leads to the whole work being cast in doubt. If you can't tell me with certainty that a particular event happened five or six times, why should I believe that Ricky Nolasco allowed 4 of 42 batters he walked to score. Maybe it was six. Maybe he walked 44 guys. You say it was the lowest percentage in the league, but was it?

I realize that it is impossible to have a book of such magnitude error free (I know that Going for the Fences, the book I edited, is bound to have some mistakes). There's so much room for error, from collection of the data, to entering it, to publishing it. Lots of numbers and lots of ways to make mistakes. It's just painful to have them be so obvious. I still enjoyed the book immensely and will likely get the 2010 edition when it comes out next year.

Monday, April 6, 2009

World Baseball Classic Final

I know it's been a couple of weeks but I wanted to write about the final game of the World Baseball Classic. I had been hoping for a really good game for the final as the two semifinal games hadn't been close and had been decided by misplays. I got what I was rooting for.

Like the previous games, Jason and I tried to predict the winners and score. I had picked the winners of the semi-finals correctly and was calling for a Korea victory against Japan. For all the baseball games I've attended during my lifetime, I had never encountered such a supportive crowd as those of the Koreans against Venezuela. Especially on a "neutral" field, I just felt that the Korean crowd would help lift them to victory in the finals.

In the early going, it seemed as if the game would become another blowout. The two pitchers - Jung Keun Bong for Korea and Hisashi Iwakuma for Japan - were having quite different experiences out there. Bong gave up an opening single to Ichiro and also issued a walk before getting out of the first inning. He also gave up a walk and single in the second. The third inning was his worst yet as he allowed a trio of singles and Korea made an error. Despite all the runners, though, he was keeping the ball down and got tons of groundouts including a huge double play to end the third. Somehow, perhaps in part due to the crowd, he managed to just allow a single run in the first three innings.

Iwakuma, on the other hand, was magnificent. He hardly threw any pitches. He was perfect through the first eleven batters he faced and believe me, I knew it. I was feeling the perfect game. I often jest about a guy throwing a no-hitter, especially if he's looking ugly. A pitcher might walk the first two batters before the next batter hits a deep fly that is caught on the warning track which will make me say "26 more outs for the no-hitter". That night, though, I wasn't saying a word. Iwakuma looked flawless and the biggest question to me was whether he would hit the pitch limit the WBC has before he could complete the perfect game.

The asshat a couple rows behind me had different ideas. After batter eleven went down he looked at the school board and said "Hey, he's got a no-hitter going". I turn around and glare at him for putting the kibosh on Iwakuma. You don't talk about no-hitters when they're happening. Sure enough, I turn back around and a single is lined to center. Damn asshat ruined the perfect game for me.

Shin-Soo Choo led off the fifth inning with a monstrous homer off Iwakuma to tie the game at one. I knew that was the turning point right there and that victory would soon be Korea's. Iwakuma continued his dominance of Korea's bats and Japan opened the seventh off reliever Hyun Wook Jong with three straight singles which gave them a 2-1 lead. Korea got another double play, their third of the game, to escape the inning without further damage.

Both teams manufactured a run in the eighth and Korea shut down Japan in the top of the ninth. Much to my excitement, Japan brought in Yu Darvish to close out the game.

As Darvish walked to the mound I turned to Jason and said "If you didn't look at the scoreboard, you would never know Korea is three outs away from losing this thing". Despite being a run down in the bottom of the ninth and facing one of the best young pitchers in the world, the Korean fans were still chanting and clapping and drumming and everything else as if they were winning by ten runs. It was amazing.

Speaking of amazing, Yu Darvish is amazing. I've seen some dominating pitches in my lifetime. Tom Gordon, in his prime, had the greatest curveball I've ever seen. The ball curved so much it seemed to defy physics. Number two was the Orioles closer Gregg Olson. Darryl Kile, when he was with the Astros, had a fantastic 12-6 curveball. In college I got to witness Billy Wagner's fastball first hand which I'm sure was just as good in the majors but against overmatched college kids looked like it was probably traveling 150 miles per hour.

Yu Darvish's slider is right there with those pitches. Darvish is a hard thrower, hitting the mid-nineties with his fastball. His slider also comes in ridiculously fast, around the mid-eighties. In other words, not too much different than an average pitcher's fastball. So you have this pitch coming at you looking like a "typical" fastball and then it just breaks insanely on you.

Darvish used it perfection on the first batter, getting him to miss the slider for the third strike. He then lost control of the pitch and walked the next two batters before getting Choo swinging. But Bum Ho Lee got a hold of a pitch and ripped it to center for a single to tie the game. Darvish then struck out his third batter of the inning swinging to end the inning.

Needless to say, the fans were going nuts. Unfortunately for them, one of the most baffling mismanagements of an inning I've seen in my life was about to take place.

Japan opened the 10th with a single, sacrificed the runner to second and then stopped the runner at third on a single to left. With runners at the corners and one out, things were looking bleak for the Korea nine. Japan brought in a pinch-hitter who hit a popout for the second out. This brought up Ichiro.

The pitcher ran a 1-2 count on Ichiro at which point I commented to Jason "They're not holding the runner on first". The runner took off but Ichiro fouled off the pitch. I figured Korea would remedy this error but sure enough, next pitch, the first baseman was off the bag and the runner took second uncontested.

Here's where my griping about the managing differs widely from the complaints in the media. Everything I heard or read after the game involved people saying "You had first base open, why would you pitch to Ichiro?". My question is why aren't you holding the runner. As I said to Jason at the time, you CANNOT let two runners be in scoring position, especially with Ichiro at the plate. A single now plates two runs. If you hold the runner at first a single just gets one run across. If you're behind with just three outs to go, do you want to make up a one-run or two-run deficit.

Even more baffling to me is why you would do that with Ichiro up. If it were some lefty pull hitter, sure, you can explain the move because having the first baseman away from the bag to cover more territory makes more sense. But against Ichiro? Ichiro doesn't pull the ball and he's not definitely not going to with a 1-2 count even if he were a pull hitter. He's going to be protecting the plate with two strikes. So just a completely inexplicable decision.

Needless to say, Ichiro singled in the two runs and then he took second on the throw home. Why was there a throw home? Because the runner on second, who was on first not too long ago, was coming around to score. So not only are you now two runs behind, you have another running in scoring position.

After one pitch, Ichiro waltzed into third for the second defensive indifference of the inning. The batter was hit by a pitch. He then went into second for the third defensive indifference of the inning. At this point I was beginning to think they could just walk on home that, by golly, Korea was going to get the batter at the plate out and the hell with who gets on base and what they do when they get there. Korea finally ended the misery with a strikeout.

Japan sent Darvish back out in the tenth and he was still looking iffy and dominant. He walked the leadoff batter, struck the next guy out swinging, induced a fly out and then got the third out on a swinging strike to give Japan the victory. Six outs, five of them strikeouts swinging.

Amazingly, the crowd noise from Japan winning was far less than that of Korea during the game. Well, maybe not so amazing. On the way to the ballpark, we heard on the radio that the only city in the world with more Koreans than Los Angeles was Seoul. It was quite an experience and I'm glad that I took the opportunity to catch the games. I hope the World Baseball Classic continues so that folks can get to see more of the world's players compete.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

You know what I really like? The cello.

I do. I really like the cello. It has such a unique sound and you can do so many things with it.

You can make pretty music:

You can play something that a lot of people wouldn't think is pretty:

You can use it for comedy:

You can rock:

You can get a bunch of your cello buddies and really rock:

But you can also take things to far with your cello buddies and play something you probably shouldn't:

You can do lullabies with a group of other musicians:

You can do television theme songs:

You can tango:

You can be so damn amazing yet no one has ever heard of you (Pawel Walerowski (wearing ballcap)):

Sorry. I'm digressing. I just think Pawel should be as regarded as Yo-Yo Ma. More of him:

And some more (sound clip).

See? Pawel? Awesome. Cello? Awesome. Hope you enjoy as much as I do.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Bringing the heat

I have a Suzanne Goins cookbook that has a lot of good recipes in it. The only problem is that the recipes either take a lot of time or take some fancy schmancy ingredients. I had it in mind that I was going to fix a recipe using chuck steak. Once I got around to fixing it, though, I found that it both took a lot of time and needed more ingredients than I had on hand.

I looked for something else online and came across a chili recipe that used the chuck steak and some poblanos. I loves me my poblanos but I do tend to forget how spicy they make stuff in which they simmer.

Easy enough recipe. Cut up the meat (about three pounds worth), coat it in about a tablespoon of chili powder and brown the meat in a Dutch oven. Heat an oven to 325. Put two cups of liquid (I used water) in with the meat and stick the whole thing in the oven until the meat is cooked (about an hour and a half). Take the Dutch oven out and put it on a stove burner. Get it simmering and add two chopped poblanos, two cans of diced tomatoes (I used tomatoes with chipotle) and some chopped onion, another two cups of liquid and 1.5 cups of rice. Cook until the rice is done.

It had some kick which was tempered nicely by adding some grated farmer's cheese to it. A different take on chili by using rice instead of beans. Pretty nice dish and a good use of poblanos.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Don't call it a comeback

I was torn between this reference and an "I can't quit you" one. I think L.L. Cool J is more appropriate.

I'm not giving up on cards yet. I just had to find something that appealed to me and was within my financial means. For the most part I think I found that.

However, what I'm doing is a secret. Well, the reasons why are.

Seventy-nine players in professional baseball history have accomplished a certain feat. An eightieth should do it this year. My objective is to have an autographed card of all those players. I'm going to put up a photo gallery in the "Things I Have Stashed Online" section over on the left sidebar (probably won't be until next week when there will be more than one photo). For the most part, I'm going to try and acquire the autographs through the mail (TTM). Unfortunately, about a third of the players are deceased so those I will have to get in some other fashion. There are two Hall of Famers in the group, one deceased.

The first player is Lee Stevens. Mr. Stevens signed a couple cards for me through the mail a couple of years ago and answered some questions for me and by doing so exposed my ignorance. I had commented that the Angels were a bunch of buffoons for selling him and Bobby Rose (one of my all-time favorite players (and not a member of this group)) to Japan. Stevens commented that it was his choice to go to Japan for the opportunity to play.

Stevens was the first round pick of the Angels back in 1986. He was drafted out of Lawrence High School in Kansas, Lawrence also being where the previously mentioned baseball analyst Bill James lives. Stevens blew through the Angels farm system and reached the majors at age 22 but couldn't keep a regular job. The Angels traded him to the Montreal Expos during the winter of the 1993 season. The Expos released him right before opening day and the Blue Jays picked him up. Stevens spent the 1993 season in Syracuse.

Teams couldn't quit Lee. A free agent after the 1993 season, the Angels welcomed back into the fold...for three weeks. He was then sold to the Kintetsu Buffaloes where he played for two seasons. He had a pair of 20 home run seasons overseas but returned to the United States in 1996 to join the Texas Rangers. He had a cup of coffee with the big league club that year but then became a regular at first base and designated hitter. The Expos came calling again in 2000 with a swap of first basemen. The Expos sent Brad Fullmer to the Blue Jays, the Jays moved David Segui to the Rangers and Stevens went to Montreal.

In 2002, Stevens was part of a blockbuster trade. The Expos, in the midst of a pennant race, acquired the Cleveland Indians stud pitcher Bartolo Colon who came over to Montreal with young pitcher Tim Drew for Stevens, and prospects Cliff Lee, Brandon Phillips and Grady Sizemore. Stevens, who had been struggling, did not improve upon switching leagues. He caught on with the Brewers and played at Indianapolis in 2003 before being released at age 35.

Interestingly, of Stevens's top ten comparable players, three of them are among the group of 79.

I'm not real happy with what I wrote. I'm trying to figure out a way to present info without tipping my hand as to what I'm doing.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

I'm getting married!!!

I got a terrific piece of news in the mail today. I'm getting married! Granted, I've never met the woman before in my life and don't know the first thing about her but we are getting married this October.

I found out when I received an envelope addressed to myself and my wife-to-be. When I opened it, there was information from a wedding photographer congratulating us on our upcoming wedding and asking us to contact her if we'd like her to do our wedding photos.

Of course, what happened (and a quick Google search bore this out) is that the photographer scanned the engagement listings of the local paper, saw some guy with my name getting married and mailed off her marketing package to me instead of him.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

April Fool's

What's that on your shirt? Made you look! April Fool's!

That's the extent of my pranking for today. I'll enjoy other folks' work.