Friday, May 13, 2011

Sharing a nice piece on Edward Tufte

Came across this article today on Edward Tufte and wanted to share it. It's been a while since I wrote about Tufte but his work never strays far from my thoughts. My presentation at the Hall and my personal research project (which with any luck I can begin to make public in the fall) are both greatly influenced by him. Enjoy.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

You know you have a memorabilia problem when....

My oldest son poured himself a bowl of Cocoa Krispies this morning which prompted me to (you'll never guess) break into song.

Jingles obviously don't work.

Needless to say, my son refused to believe that such a song could have existed. After he was done eating I told him to Google the Cocoa Krispies elephant (I was working on tonight's dinner (which does not involve Cocoa Krispies)). This led him down a path of online cereal history exploration (the apple doesn't fall far from the tree with that one). He proceeded to inform me of all the variations of Cap'n Crunch cereal that ever existed including Home Run Crunch.

Home Run Crunch? Never heard of that. I wonder if I can pick myself up a box on eBay. You know, as a baseball collector's item.

You can. With multiple box variations no less.

No, I didn't buy any of them. I don't have a memorabilia problem....any more....I have a book problem. Which isn't a problem really, outside of finding places to shelve them, because they're books and that's perfectly fine. But that's another story.

In the upcoming days, I do hope to put up a new favorite things post from when I did have a memorabilia problem.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Training update

You might have noticed a lack of training updates on the site since my half-marathon. There is a reason for this...A lack of training. I thought that after doing my half-marathon, doing the other half would be a peace of cake, a simple task of getting my mind to push my body onward for another hour and a half.

Maybe I can still do that. I could not today. I set out to do my marathon and stopped after 20%. My body was stiff and sore. There was no fluidity. It was a miserable experience pretty much from the get go. I spent a good deal of time yesterday either sitting at a Little League game or working in the yard so I was stiff, sore and sunburned from that.

I've been trying to figure out where I want to be going post-marathon. Unlike in my youth, say my cycling days, I have no desire to go beyond the marathon. It's a one-time thing. I'm not going to be shooting for 50K rows or 100K rows or faster marathons.

Despite my desire to shoot for endurance at the moment, I'm built for power. I want to continue to use my body in powerful ways while I still can. There's a reason why there are no sixty-year old professional athletes, Julio Franco excepted.

So I've been giving this a lot of thought, a lot more thought than action. My first objective is to take more action. Deliberate practice, working hard towards a set goal.

What will that goal (or goals be)? I need to lose weight. And frankly, it seems inane that I think I have the willpower to row a marathon but not lose weight. What are the benefits of eating cookies (as an example)? They taste good. But do they really? Especially packaged crap? No. And there are no benefits beyond the taste. They make me fat, they take years off my body, they contribute to disease. Pro/con list is very unbalanced. Reworking my eating is number one on the goal list.
I'd like to get down to 250. From there I want to be able to squat and deadlift twice my bodyweight. I think it is very doable with a deliberate plan.

Lastly, I want to get back into martial arts. Study capoeira, get my second degree black belt in karate, or both. Until I'm in a better place from a time/finance standpoint to be getting formal instruction, I can be working out on my own. I'm not Ralph Macchio with his library book doing stretch kicks in his living room. I know what I'm doing. Again, just need to do it.

And of course I'll be writing about it here. I checked my stats and saw that my post complaining about my brain is my most viewed post ever! That really interested people! Oh wait...what's this? Search keywords...."two different colored eyes", "max scherzer eyes", "different colored eyes". So people weren't reading my post because they were interested in me? Well, that's just ego deflating (not really).

I will in all likelihood set something up for me to monitor what I'm doing. In all likelihood I will share it at some point. But outside of my announcement of my successfully rowing a marathon next week, on this blog I'll be returning to my regular theme of book reviews and whatever pops up in my head.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Have a happy non-mother's day!

There are many women out there who have not had, can not have, will not have, opted not to have, are too young or too old to have, etc. children. Yet many of these women exemplify the characteristics of good mothers to children who aren't theirs. Maybe they are aunts or teachers or neighbors or just really kind and sweet people. Whatever the title, they are caring individuals who in a different situation would likely be a good mother.

Likewise, there are many "mothers" whose children would be better off not having them as mothers. While having a child is a difficult undertaking, raising a child is a zillion times harder and more important.

I just want to recognize the wonderful work that non-mothers do. There's not a day for them but they are just as important to the upbringing of children. Thanks, non-mothers! And have a happy non-mother's day!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Quick Derby note

Not really on top of horse racing at this point of the year. But the Derby is the Derby so I figure I need to say something.

Right now it looks like rain. If this is the case, I'm avoiding the race if for no other reason than every time it rains in a big race friggin Calvin Borel wins and I can't bear to wager my money on him. But there's prediction one. Wet track, Twice the Appeal takes the Derby.

On a dry track, I'm going with Comma to the Top. I like Dialed In a little better but he'll be bet down as the favorite. Comma to the Top should offer tremendous value.

This is one of the worst Derby lineups I can recall. Uncle Moe was clearly the star of the field, by a margin. In a sense it's a shame he got scratched but kudos to his connections for making the call. It's nice to see someone concerned for the horse.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Assassination Vacation

I'm on a great run of books lately, mostly non-fiction. This is another in that run.

I kept coming across reviews of Sarah Vowell's new book, Unfamiliar Fishes, and it looks mighty good. It's a history of Hawaii, which, despite my operating, isn't a topic in and of itself that I would want to read a book about.

Then again, I wouldn't really want to read a book about presidential assassinations. Nonetheless, I did.

Sarah Vowell is weird. I like that about her. Her writing reminded me a lot of another weird woman writer, Mary Roach. You have to be weird to be researching the killings of presidents. And not only researching, but visiting all the pertinent places. Not just where the killings took place, but the homes of the presidents and the killers. And museums that have fragments of body parts from those involved.

What sets apart the book from your typical delving into dead presidents is that Vowell has fun. And she definitely seems like someone who isn't going to enjoy something on her own so she drags along/tricks friends and relatives to accompany her to all the places. Her trips with her nephew are especially entertaining.

I like her writing, too. It is very conversational. I don't like her overuse of the word "lousy" to mean abundant, as in "This place is lousy with tourists". She is also very zealous in her politics which could kill a lot of people's interest in the book. But she's honest and doesn't care who knows.

The book itself is broken into four chapters. The longest and first covers Lincoln's assassination. That is followed by Garfield and McKinley and then the final chapter wraps things up with a semi-focus on angel of presidential death, Robert Todd Lincoln. His father was killed, he saw Garfield be shot and he supposedly on the scene where McKinley was shot soon after the attack.

This was a fun book and I expect I'll read more of Vowell somewhere down the road.

Baseball Book Draft Wrap-up

I want to thank Jason and Mark for taking part in the draft. We had a lot of fun and got a nice little reading list out of it. There were a lot of good books selected. I asked them both for some honorable mention candidates and a book that they haven't read that they have wanted to but haven't gotten around to yet. Here are those choices:

Honorable mention:
You Know Me Al by Ring Lardner
Golem's Mighty Swing by James Sturm

To read:
Willie's Time: Baseball's Golden Age by Charles Einstein

Honorable mention:
Diamond Ruby: A Novel by Joseph Wallace
Brushing Back Jim Crow by Bruce Adelson
Negro League Baseball by Neil Lanctot
Wild and Outside by Stefan Fatsis

To read:
The Catcher was a Spy by Nicholas Dawidoff
The Only Game in Town by Robert M. Garrow
SOB: Southwestern Outlaw Baseball by Chuck Pederson

Honorable mention:
If I Never Get Back by Darryl Brock
Pure Baseball by Keith Hernandez
A Tale of Four Cities: Nineteenth Century Baseball's Most Exciting Season; in Contemporary Accounts by Jean-Pierre Caillault

To read:
The Pitch that Killed by Mike Sowell

For those who followed along, I hope you enjoyed it and got some good books out of it.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Baseball Book Draft - Final Round

Jon - Baseball Fever: Early Baseball in Michigan by Peter Morris: I'm beginning to see a trend in my picks. Old timey baseball, great research. Peter Morris is an amazing researcher. Most of the work he does goes unsung, things like birthplaces for one game guys who played in 1883, for example. So when he puts out a book, it's a real treat because he can write pretty well, too. This book is impressive in that it looks at baseball before the Civil War, in Michigan of all places, and the aspects of the game in that era: the arrival of the game in Michigan, development of rules, derision of players for spending time playing a kids game, etc. A really fun, different, book.

Mark - Luke Goes to Bat by Rachel Isadora: It was Brooklyn.
It was summer.
It was baseball.

This is how Rachel Isadora's children's book, Luke Goes to Bat, opens.

This delightful book tells the story of a young boy, Luke, and how he wants to play baseball with his brother's friends. He is often told that he is too small and not good enough. With the encouragement of his grandmother and a visit from his hero, Jackie Robinson, he learns that he should never give up.

The game in this story is based on the September 30, 1951 match-up between the visiting Dodgers and the hosting Phillies.

The artwork is very pleasing and it is the one of my daughter's favorite books.

Jason - Willie's Time: Baseball's Golden Age by Charles Einstein: Yes, it probably helps that the author was the half-brother of Albert Brooks and Super Dave Osbourne. However, since I am still working on reading "Babe" by Robert Creamer as we speak, I'll default the "Mr. Irrelevant" pick to arguably the other best player of all-time and his stories.

Next post I'll wrap up with some honorable mentions and baseball books we have meant to read but haven't gotten to yet.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Baseball Book Draft - Round 7

Jason - October 1964 by David Halberstam: As a Cardinals fan, I feel I should grab a book that is Cardinals-centric. I don't think I'm that interested in worshiping at the altar of LaRussa, so that rules out Three Nights in August (he's fine as a manager though) and instead I'll go with October 1964 by David Halberstam. Halberstam knows a good narrative and his book from the year notorious for the Phillies collapse is a great look at some of the best Cardinals and Yankees players of all time in the lights of the World Series.

Mark - Sandy Koufax: A Lefthander's Legacy by Jane Leavy: The book alternates chapters between a biography and an inning by inning recap of Koufax's perfect game on September 9, 1965. Leavy does a nice job letting us see what she learned about the pitcher and drawing us into the description of the game. He's a tough one to understand, seemingly aloof, but always a gentleman.

She taps teammates, opponents, reporters, players that were still in elementary school when he retired, and more for stories and insights. Her writing style is relaxed, but with a purpose. The one thing that did jump out at me is the use of some words that didn't quite seem to fit in a baseball biography. An example is the word denouement. It is used four times in the book. A bit of a speedbump while driving the reading car. But that is a minor quibble on my part.

Go to the library and check it out. Better yet, go buy a copy. You'll want to share this with your baseball buddies and probably will want to reread it in a few years.

Jon - The Hidden Game of Baseball by Pete Palmer and John Thorn: Where would our understanding of baseball be without Palmer, Thorn and this book? I read it in high school and it played a big part in my joining SABR. If for some reason you enjoy baseball statistics and have not read this book, you really owe it to yourself to find a copy and read it.

Baseball Book Draft - Round 6

Jon - Blackguards and Red Stockings by William Ryczyk: This is another book that really opened my eyes to what was possible in the realm of baseball and non-fiction. It is a really good history of the National Association, the first professional baseball league. Pretty fascinating to see the troubles and chaos and compare it to the money-making machine that baseball is today.

Mark - The Last Nine Innings by Charles Euchner, Jr.: I thought that George Will's Men At Work took you inside baseball. Not like this one does. The things I learned. I can't recite them off the top of my head, but the author goes into detail about the forces behind pitching a ball. The strain on the body. He lays out with restrained minutia, but in terms that a layman can follow, statistics on the probability of a win, based on the events in the game (walk, hit by pitch, groundout, etc). He writes about the emergence of Latino players into the National Game. Reading it has made me watch baseball in a whole different light. Euchner does all this with the framework of game seven of the 2001 World Series, in which the Diamondbacks beat the Yankees. That setting is just the icing on the cake.

Jason - Baseball's Golden Age: The Photographs of Charles M. Conlon by Neal and Constance McCabe. Yes, it is a book of photos, but what glorious photos they are. The detail is so rich, you can see the pores on people's faces. For whimsy, you have Babe Ruth and Wally Pipp both posing with pieces of gum on the tops of their caps. But, the best pictures are the side by side looks at Charlie Gehringer nine years apart, with the same expression and you could swear that "The Mechanical Man" has not aged a day.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Baseball Book Draft - Round 5

Jason - Moneyball by Michael Lewis: Next, keeping with more modern times, I'll go with one of my favorite non-fiction authors of the past twenty years Michael Lewis, who along with Jon Krakauer knows how to create a great narrative, and his "Moneyball." Furthermore, I want to use the platform of this draft to reiterate the stance of Ken Tremendous and urge those that criticize the book to actually read it first. It may not be perfect, but it is enthralling to see the inner workings of a small market baseball team. Does everything work for the A's? No. Does everything work regarding player development for every team in baseball? Of course not. Should you keep trying new things, hoping to hit on an innovation to exploit? Of course.

Mark - Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress by Harry Katz, Frank Ceresi, Phil Michel, and Susan Reyburn: I'm really surprised that the other drafters haven't picked a memorabilia book yet. Reading is nice, but looking at pictures can be pleasant also. The quartet of authors have selected wonderful images and objects and presented them in a lush fashion. The Library of Congress has a deep treasure chest from which to draw. I would love to see what was left out. A very nice companion to either Stephen Wong's Smithsonian Baseball: Inside the World's Finest Private Collections or Burt Sugar's Baseball Hall of Fame: A Living History of America's Greatest Game. All three are great coffee table books, but you can read any of them without being a coffee drinker.

Jon - Baseball (1845-1881): From the Newspaper Accounts by Preston Orem: This has always been one of my favorite books and one I desired early on when I was building my library. During the 1950's, Orem went through old newspapers (this is before microfilm) and took notes from them and compiled them into a really nice history of early baseball. He published subsequent volumes in a spiral bound format which are very hard to find. I think it's a wonderful and overlooked history of the early days of baseball.

Baseball Book Draft - Round 4

Jon - Prophet of the Sandlots by Mark Winegardner: Sticking with the scouting theme, we'll go with this book about legendary scout Tony Lucadello. Lucadello scouted and signed numerous major leaguers including Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and Ferguson Jenkins. Winegardner, more noted as the successor of The Godfather series, traveled and spent time with Lucadello during Lucadello's last year of his life and learned a lot about scouting and development of young players. This might be my most frequently read baseball book and is one of the saddest I've read as well.

Mark - The Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract by Bill James: You can almost add the word New into that title. I've read, perhaps not every word, the 'original' version that came out in 1985 and I'm re-reading the New version on my Kindle.

A collection of history, little known facts, ranking of players, and keen insights. Good for an afternoon of reading or a quick perusal over lunch. The decade by decade history of the game and players allows a good overview prompting me to search out more detailed information. A cornucopia of baseball stuff.

Jason - The Bullpen Gospels by Dick Hayhurst: So, on the heels of the selection of "Ball Four," (my planned next selection) knowing I want to get another personal tale of life in baseball, I'm going with "The Bullpen Gospels" by Dirk Hayhurst. It was such a good book, I probably finished it within a few days and now I'm happy to be following @TheGarfoose and his further adventures on Twitter. Like Bouton, Hayhurst had a sense of humor of his position and conveyed it so well, you laugh along with him as you read a very personal tale of what life is like in the minor leagues.