Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Moving

Just moved to a new apartment and I'm having some difficulties with my internet connection at home. Posting will be rare until that is sorted out. That, and there's a lot of unpacking to do.

Thursday, November 18, 2004

K-Mart+Sears=???

I was so excited when I first caught wind of this story. K-Mart merging with Sears? Fans of the movie Army of Darkness will know why I experienced a frisson of joy. But then I heard more and found out that both sets of stores are going to retain their own names and brands or make a switch from one to the other. Despair. How could they miss the possibility? The perfect slogan awaits in the merging of their names:

"Shop Smart. Shop S-Mart."

O! What might have been!

Wednesday, November 17, 2004

BCS Confusion

I'm not a fan of the BCS. And more fodder for us detractors is that four, count 'em, four teams are still undefeated. USC, Oklahoma and Auburn all have only two games left and Utah only one. And while Utah isn't considered to be as good as the other three, another unbeaten team will help at least a little bit in fueling the fires of the BCS' demise. I think it's likely that at least three of the four will win out and there's a good chance all of them will.

USC isn't likely to lose to either Notre Dame or UCLA, both 6-4 right now. Oklahoma has a game with Baylor whose record is a mere 3-7 and then the winner of the North Division of the Big 12 where the top three teams are 5-4, 6-4 and 5-5. On the other hand, Oklahoma lost to Kansas State last year in a game they should have won. Auburn probably has the toughest road, but they have looked strongest all year. First up for them is 6-4 Alabama in a very big rivalry game and then 7-2 Tennessee, or if Tennessee improbably loses both of their last two conference games against cellar-dwelling Vanderbilt and Kentucky, 8-2 Georgia. Auburn has beaten both already, in convincing fashion, but both are solid teams that will be looking for revenge.

Good times.

3500 Years Of Experience!

Watching a triathlon on OLN, they interposed a short segment about a bicycle manufacturer. During it, the head man from the manufacturer that was being interviewed said that in the company's building were "3500 years of experience" collectively. That's so stupid. That doesn't mean anything. What if it's 350 people that average 10 years of experience. That's not that impressive. Or what if it's 700 people with an average of 5 years of experience? Then it might be better to go with a smaller company with "fewer" years of "collective experience". Good grief.

Colour me surprised.

So I was thinking that the season wasn't going to go well for the Sonics when they lost their first game by 30. And I suppose it still might not go well. But they've run off seven games in a row now, including a couple of impressive come-from-behind wins, and now own the best record in the NBA. I'm pleased, but not sanguine that it will last. Maybe they'll be the Pistons of this season, but I won't hold my breath.

The college basketball season is starting up, which should also be a lot of fun. The UW Huskies are ranked in both polls right now. Hopefully, my tourney picks come March will turn out better than last year.

Friday, November 12, 2004

Marvel at the stupidity

Today's PVP strip deals with the story here in USA Today. It seems that Marvel is suing over the ability of players of the City of Heroes game to create a hero that is strikingly similar to comic book heroes that Marvel has copyrighted. And this is the fault of NCSoft and Cryptic Studios (game makers of COH) how? As Kurtz points out in his comic, one might as well sue paper and pencil manufacturers for enabling people to infringe on the copyright of Marvel. Or art teachers for teaching kids to draw so then they can draw their favourite comic book heroes. Is it possible that Marvel doesn't realise that this will annoy and anger their base of fans? If you're a huge fan of the Hulk, and suddenly you can't play your Hulk-like character in COH because Marvel stopped you, will that make you more or less inclined to run out and buy a bunch more Marvel comics? Will having the purpose (to play a game as The Incredible Hulk) behind your spending $50 on a computer game and a $15 a month to play online thwarted make you more of a loyal consumer of Marvel products or less?

Wonderful Wodehouse Words

Steve links to a wonderful page where refreshing it provides one with random quotes from P.G. Wodehouse's books. Take the one below, for example, taken from the foreword to Summer Lightning.
A certain critic--for such men, I regret to say, do exist--made the nasty remark about my last novel that it contained 'all the old Wodehouse characters under different names.' He has probably by now been eaten by bears, like the children who made mock of the prophet Elisha: but if he still survives he will not be able to make a similar charge against Summer Lightning. With my superior intelligence, I have outgeneralled the man this time by putting in all the old Wodehouse characters under the same names. Pretty silly it will make him feel, I rather fancy.

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Books

Read two more books from the Aubrey-Maturin series, The Wine-Dark Sea and The Commodore. Both were pretty good, but the former was the better sailing story. The second was interesting in its development of the family life of Maturing, but it seemed to just meander and not really get anywhere from a nautical point of view.

Also read The Doorbell Rang and Homicide Trinity; both are Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. The second is a trifecta of short stories which are pretty good. The first is a novel in which Nero Wolfe takes on Hoover's FBI. Not too bad, and it's quite obvious that the author was not a fan.

Finally, I just finished up reading Applied Economics by Thomas Sowell. It wasn't bad, but one could probably be served just as well by simply reading Basic Economics.

A last book related note. I'm a huge fan of P.G. Wodehouse, and I found on the internet a nice date-ordered bibliography of his works. Lots of details.

The Evil that is Copy-Editors

Footling about on the internet and I ran across this article by Thomas Sowell on writing. It covers a lot of ground, and it's all pretty interesting and probably large swathes are useful for bloggers as well as writers of books. But what really struck me was the bit about copy-editors. Made me glad that I don't have to deal with one.
Then there are those copy-editors who are politically correct. They don't want you to use words like fireman or businessman or even to say that someone mastered a subject, because these are all words deriving from a male-dominated world instead of being "gender neutral." And of course you cannot refer to someone's having welshed on a deal or even say that he has a chink in his armor or that there is a nip in the air, because all of these terms are considered ethnically offensive, at least by politically correct copy-editors.

But these are just two kinds of absurdities from the rich spectrum of the absurdities of copy-editors. Where Shakespeare wrote, "To be or not to be, that is the question," a copy-editor would substitute: "The issue is one of existence versus non-existence." Where Lincoln said, "Fourscore and seven years ago," a copy-editor would change that to: "It has been 87 years since . . ." Where the Bible said, "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth," a copy-editor would run a blue pencil through the first three words as redundant.

Pedestrian uniformity and shriveled brevity are the holy grail of copy-editors, the bureaucrats of the publishing industry. Like other bureaucrats, copy-editors tend to have a dedication to rules and a tin ear for anything beyond the rules. Seldom is there even the pretense that their editorial tinkerings are going to make the writing easier for the reader to follow, more graceful, more enjoyable, or more memorable.

Self-justifying rules and job-justifying busy work are the only visible goals of copy-editors.

Veterans Day

Today is Veterans Day. If you know a vet, thank him. Meet one, thank him. And today, take a minute at 11:11am to think in silence about the sacrifices veterans have made. That is all.

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

Slam Dunk Idiocy

Am I the only one who is sick and tired of slam dunks being treated as the ultimate basketball highlight? Sure, when it was less common, when it hadn't been done to death and in every way possible, they were exciting. But not any more. Maybe I'm just getting old, but if highlights are going to be graded on difficulty, rarity and impressiveness, then threading a long pass or an acrobatic lay-up or off-balance shot should be given more attention than a mediocre power forward who gets a lucky-bounce short-rebound and then dunks the ball with an angry expression.

Incredible Movie

Okay, so I haven't seen it yet. (And it might be a while with my current situation.) But from reading several reviews, including this one from National Review Online, I can't wait. I was particularly touched by how Mathewes-Green outlined how Pixar movies model for children the way adults, and especially parents, are supposed to behave. It probably has something to do with the fact that my first child will be born (God willing) in March, but I still think it would make most people think. As kids' movies go, she's right Pixar is clearly the best. Not because they make movies that are childish, but because they make movies that model the world in a way children can understand.

Randy or Roger?

Randy Johnson got jobbed. He came in a distant second place to Roger Clemens in the Cy Young vote, and why? The only statistics that Roger Clemens had that were at all superior were Wins, Hits Allowed and Home Runs Allowed. The differences in Hits and HRs were so small (177-169 and 18-15) that the difference can be explained by the fact that Johnson started two more games than Clemens and pitched 31 more innings than Clemens. In other words, Johnson did more work each game and started more games than Clemens.

Wins are (once thought about) obviously one of the poorest measures of pitching ability. A pitcher, while instrumental in preventing the opposing team from scoring, is only one bat of nine for his own team's offense and no pitcher is expected to be a big contributor on offense. The Arizona Diamondbacks, Johnson's team, scored fewer runs in 2004 than any other team in either league. The Astros, while not the best, were considerably better being 13th of 30 teams and 5th in the National League. Roger Clemens received more support from his team throughout the year. In games that Clemens started, his team scored an average of 4.73 runs. In games Johnson started, his team scored an average of 3.53 runs.

When comparing stat lines that truly indicated a pitcher's ability, such as Earned Run Average (ERA), Opponent's Batting Average (BAA), Baserunners Allowed (WHIP), Strikeouts (K), Walks (BB), Complete Games (CG) and Shutouts (SHO), Johnson is obviously the better pitcher.

Statistics ERA / BAA / WHIP / K / BB / CG / SHO
Johnson 2.60 / .197 / 0.90 / 290 / 44 / 4 / 2
Clemens 2.98 / .217 / 1.16 / 218 / 79 / 0 / 0

Other circumstances taken into account may have been Clemens getting into the playoffs. But on the other hand, Johnson threw his second no-hitter, a perfect game (the oldest man to throw a perfect game). Clemens has never managed this feat. By just about any measure of pitching ability, Randy Johnson should have been the National League Cy Young winner. It's a shame that bigger flash won out over better performance.

Friday, November 05, 2004

Baby Kobe

Just finished watching the Spurs-Lakers game. Spurs won by a mere 9 points after leading by 18 partway through the third quarter. Lakers only got as close as 6 and the outcome never really felt in doubt. But what really impressed about this game, was Kobe's ineptness and petulance.

Sure, Kobe had 28 points, but he had 3 turnovers practically negate his 4 assists and he shot a mere 8 for 22. Beyond that, on a personal level, it seems the losing is getting to Kobe. Throughout the game he spent an inordinate amount of time yelling at referees about calls he thought should have happened but didn't, calls that happened that he didn't like and generally crying like a little girl. He even tried to pick a fight with Tim Duncan at one point. What has to hurt more than anything else, is that Kobe has no one but himself to blame for the break-up of the title contending team he was on last year.

Kobe, meet the bed you made. Bed, Kobe. Sleepy time.

Books

Been doing a spot of reading. Everything I've finished lately has been from the Discworld series. Read Feet of Clay, Jingo and The Fifth Elephant each of which was good, but Jingo was probably least good. Pratchett has been getting more and more preachy as the series has gone on.

When words go bad

Another article from October's First Things, this one on the sad demise of the perfectly good word "proselytise" and its variations. Some good thoughts about proselytism (or "evangelism", the word currently in vogue), but also an interesting article from a linguistic and social perspective.

Neighbors to the North

I don't often think about Canada and I suspect that most other Americans (who aren't right on the border) don't either. But in the past 6 months, they had a national election that shook up their political system. The Liberal party, in power since 1993, was dealt a setback by a united Conservative party (which had come together after being fractured for years) and by an enormous money scandal. An editorial from the October First Things analyses the Canadian political situation with particular emphasis on the contentious social issues of our time, namely homosexual marriage and abortion.

Grant: Hero

A book review in the latest New Criterion gives Victor Davis Hanson (odd how some people are always known by all of their names) a chance to expound a bit on the greatness that was Ulysses Grant. A hero of mine since reading a biography by Jean Edward Smith (there it is again) a year or so ago, VDH reinforces my belief that Grant was one of the greatest, if not the greatest, military man the US has produced. While VDH doesn't go into great detail, he does provide a general outline for the arc of the adult life of Grant. Lincoln could not have saved the Union and freed the slaves without Grant. Oh, and it sounds like it might not be a bad book, though I'd recommend Grant, by the aforementioned Jean Edward Smith.

Break out the peach baskets

It's that time of year again. What time, you ask? The time when both basketball and football are happening. It's the most wonderful time/of the year...? Okay, so that's pitching it a bit strong. Still. Fun times. Except the Sonics look to be the doormats of the NBA. Season opener against the LA Clippers last night. Result? Sonics lose by 30. Thirty! Three-zero. To the Clippers. Clip-pers. The Clips were worst in the West last year. And they clubbed the Sonics by 30. It's going to be a long year. Heard a comment on ESPN that the Sonics may have trouble winning 20 games.

On the positive side, Kobe and the Lakers had their lunch handed to them. Pummelled by the Utah Jazz by 26. It always makes me smile to see the Lakers lose. And, frankly, I laughed out loud when I saw they lost by so much. Am I a bad person? Other interesting scores were Shaq's Miami Heat beating up on the (Jason Kidd-less) Nets 100-77 and San Antonio knocked off Sacramento 101-85 handing the Kings their second blow-out loss. The Kings look to have dropped off this year, which isn't surprising. They've lost several players and haven't done much to make up for it. And Dallas picked up their second win of the year beating a New Orleans team that has gotten the shaft in the NBA re-alignment, which moved them from the East (where they could expect to have a chance at the play-offs) to the West (where they don't have a prayer).

Offensively, the NBA looks good so far, though whether it will pan out remains to be seen. 10 teams of 32 (some teams counted twice if they have played two games) scored more than 100 points in the first couple days (though, it did take two overtimes for Cleveland and Indiana to manage it).

Bush Wins Re-election

Not news to anyone by now, of course. I'm sure everyone knows that it was close, Ohio was decided by 136K some odd votes. Kerry was going to wait and see if the provisional ballots would put him over the top, but once the numbers got explained to him and it became apparent that it would take a statistical miracle for him to win, he did the gracious thing and conceded. I have to say, I'm heartened by the fact that Bush not only won, but became the first president since 1988 to win with more than 50% of the votes. I think this bodes well for the future of a free Iraq as well as the security of the US. There is still plenty I don't like about Bush (government spending, government growth, immigration policy, etc), but on the fundamental questions that matter most to me, I think he is right there. Pro-life, will aggressively defend the US at home and abroad, in favour of preserving marriage, etc. And, on every question, Bush had Kerry beat cold. As bad as Bush might be about spending my money, Kerry would have been worse. As bad as Bush might be about kow-towing to the illegal alie...? pardon me, undocumented immigrant lobbies, Kerry would have been worse. Tuesday was a good day.

Moderate? Yeah, moderately liberal!

An interesting post from Jonah Goldberg regarding how he thinks many moderates are just afraid of calling themselves liberals. I think this is true, but I don't think it's just fear. I think many liberals don't think of themselves as being liberal. To a lot of people who aren't very reflective about their politics, or not very informed, they sit right about in the middle of the spectrum. "Anyone to my right is conservative, anyone to my left is liberal. Obviously, I am the moderate middle, I am the norm." But I do think that this idea is easier for a liberal to hold even with a fair amount of political thought and information in our society since our institutions and the vast majority of the media tend to be on the liberal side of the scale. A liberal fish swimming in a liberal sea sees himself as being moderate, if you'll allow a rather inapt metaphor. Honestly, this is kinda how I think of Greg. I think he's a bit more liberal than he thinks, whereas he just believes he's more "moderate".

On the way home from work, I heard a girl interviewed on NPR saying how she doesn't think the Left exists in the US any more. She thinks it's just the Center and the Right. Which is both stupid and fits with what Jonah was saying.

Stupid Blogger!

I don't know what the problem has been (Blogger isn't very good about letting people know when they're having problems), but Blogger hasn't been working in the mornings for the past several days when I'm trying to post. If you're reading this, then apparently it's working again.