Sunday, July 31, 2005

The biggest missing story in baseball

In 2000 Jason Giambi won the MVP award for the American League; his OPS was 1.123. In 2001, he had a career high OPS of 1.137 but was robbed of the MVP, the voters being more interested in the flash of Ichiro and his 0.838 OPS than a slow-footed slugger who walked a lot. In 2002 he signed with the Yankees; that year and in 03 he had less Ruthian numbers but still played well. In 2004, he had knee and vision problems, an intestinal parasite, a pituitary tumor, and an 0.720 OPS in 80 games, not even making the post-season roster. That winter his testimony before the BALCO grand jury was (illegally) leaked, revealing his admission that he had used anabolic steroids and other drugs between 2001 and 2003. Since January 2005 steroids have been controlled substances, but at the time they were not condoned but not prohibited by MLB, and Giambi's NYY contract did not contain language against using them (said language having been removed at his agents' request). The Yankees hypocritically looked into dumping Giambi's contract, figuring he was done, but with no legal case and four years left on his $120 million contract, they had no choice but to play him. He apologized to everyone for an unspecified offense and otherwise kept quiet as people questioned his emotional makeup and determination. In the spring he had poor at-bats, but still managed to get enough walks and hit-by-pitches to achieve a reasonable on-base percentage, attracting a good deal of scorn even from Yankees fans for his don't-make-me-swing-the-bat-please approach. He refused a request by the team to accept a minor-league assignment. At the end of May his OPS was 0.723; at the end of June, 0.783 with an excellent 0.409 OBP but just 5 home runs on the year. Then this month he hit 14 HRs and raised his OPS to 0.993, essentially tied for second in the league just behind A-Rod.

That a former star then disgraced user and near write-off is again a top slugger without drugs is one of the most interesting stories in baseball, but I've hardly seen an article about it. I wonder when the sport will get over its simplitic moral posture and realize what a wonderful example of redemption it has.

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Two words on the new Harry Potter

0. It's much better written than the last, with a few very funny dry subtle comments, at least one scene of affecting horror, and a much tighter development; but after the opening chapters I got where it was going and the rest seemed for the most part like an exercise, one which Harry isn't smart enough to figure out. For those who've read the book, here's a brilliant if overenthused explication of what I thought was so obvious but which (it turns out) smart people (see recommended links) don't even agree on.

1. The existence of a potion described in the book makes the action in the entire series nonsense, and the implications of which for the ending of this book make my annoyance at the main character's (s') dimness given word 0 even stronger.

I still stand by this, incidentally.


Saturday, July 30, 2005

The Zoomquilt

One of the coolest things I've ever seen on the web: The Zoomquilt (I think "The Zoom Quilt" would be better but oh well) , via Crooked Timber. Hopefully you're not watching it with a fever, which I guess intensifies the experience.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Jared Diamond's complete the Easter Islander quote contest

I've seen many references in the blogosphere to a question a student of Jared Diamond asked about the man who cut down the last tree on Easter Island: what did he say as he did so?

A party-like-it's-1999 friend of mine's take:
The E.I. folks knew the writing was on the wall, and they might as well use available resources for the current generation. In this case, deferring consumption was not an option, and the "obviously disastrous decision" was not a particularly complex question at all.

"Ok, we're all-in. Now the gods will listen."

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Like a long-legged fly, Bush's mind

Monday, July 18, 2005

Sick, work piling up

I'm more careful when I code with a fever - not sure how that works out.

Reduced blogging ahead.

Digby asks if it's safe

Certainly getting the truth out of the Cheney admin is like pulling teeth.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mark Kleiman and Mark Haddon

I just read the curious incident of the dog in the night-time (capitalization a lá the clever but busy cover), a novel by Mark Haddon. The narrator and protagonist is autistic, in the Temple Grandin sense - i.e., very smart and observant but not able to intuit normal human expression or behavior. Christopher is a young fan of Sherlock Holmes, himself possibly autistic, and the book is in part a mystery novel - the mystery being both a particular incident and the different ways of being human. The novel is somewhere between Motherless Brooklyn and Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha, two of my favorite books - less exciting and dazzlingly verbal than the former, less perfect and heartbreaking than the latter, but in any case a funny, insightful, finally heroic book.

Anyway, the main character can't understand religion at all - he thinks literally, can't see any place in the physical universe for the supernatural, and can't participate in the numinous. He doesn't understand or even accept metaphors. Religious belief to him is (if he thought about it) something people's brains or programming makes them believe. In short, he has an intellectual stance rather like mine on the subject.

Reading the passing mention of the above in the book, I thought, as I've thought before, "I have no access at all to what Mark Kleiman's view of religion is." Maybe it's me thinking clearly, maybe it's me missing something important. I certainly doubt the latter, but see above.

The lovely and statistically-sophisticated Mrs. R. (see the footnote to this apropos Tbogg post) read my entries on Kleiman's view and said I seemed to be being very harsh on someone whose opinions I quote with respect. Was I doing so the way Christopher hates people saying things that aren't true, or the way he hates eating yellow food? Either way, mockery and anger wasn't a good reaction, so my apologies, Mark.

Do we have a season underway?

The Yankees are within a half game of the Red Sox. For a long while the Yankees were playing badly enough to end up in the left tail of this distribution. And with four starting pitchers, including their rookie ace, on the disabled list, they may end up there anyway. But for now it's a race.

(Note - I started writing this in the bottom of the ninth when Rivera came on with no outs and a man on first in a 5-2 game. After a blown easy double play and a couple of singles [at least one a bloop] the bases were loaded with no one out. But this time he got a tough double play and a groundout for the save and the finished post. [So happy that's not my job.] Hat tip to Al Leiter, who pitched a great game after being picked up the DFA midden heap.)


Love be the burning ember

Today's Opus is sharp and funny for once. And if you don't get the Sunday comics in paper form you can read the strip here in a few weeks.

Googlezon can't take over too quickly. (via Dan Drezner).

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Unarmed in partisan argument

... and already Winston Smith is having doubts. Like Ted Barlow, he's a reasonable guy in an unreasonable dispute. Matt Yglesias has the advantage of a bit less balance and a lot more clarity on how the CounterRoveation is being waged. But to really understand the dynamic at play, you have to read The Poor Man. Bonus discussion on Bob Somerby's latest swerve from cranky bulldogged metareporting to being a "yes the Rebpublicans are worse but the liberals are blah" crank again, only worse. (Latter link via Azael in WS's comments.) More on the subject of Wilson's veracity from Josh Marshall - apparently Cheney's office ought to have gotten the report, but they weren't interested in info challenging their assumptions.

Ceci n'est pas une peinture

This is not a painting.

See here for more pictures of mammatus clouds. Via Balloon Juice.


Friday, July 15, 2005

Dust in the Subaru

Heard the oddest commercial this morning on AM 960, the Air America station in the Bay Area.

Cue "Dust in the Wind", the classic and slightly cliché Kansas song (from the beautiful _Point of Know Return_, my copy of which melted in the trunk of a friend's car back in the '80s).
Lyrics:"Dust in the wind/All we are is dust in the wind."
Voice 0 says, 'Hey, "DitW" on vinyl'.
V1: 'Yeah, and there's a cool message if you play it backwards'.
V2: 'Blah blah Subaru something-or-other blah blah.'
V0: 'That song was really ahead of its time.'
Lyrics:"Nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky./It slips away/And all your money won't another minute buy..."

(Actually, they don't play the second lyric, just back to "Dust in the wind" - that was just in my head.) A deeply loopy ad, selling cars using a song about the impermanence of man and man's creation aside.

Update: slightly more here.

RilkeBlog reads the new Harry Potter so you don't have to

Well, it's pretty dark. Following the tradition that someone important gets killed in each book, this time it's Harry Potter himself.

I assume the final book will describe the attempted overthrow of Voldemort by the rag-tag group of kids trained by Harry. Probably there's some clue in Harry's last words to Hermione ("You are the white gold") that will prove important in the final volume, assuming there is one.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Winston Smith is shrill

About to boil...





For those who don't follow the low-volume but excellent Philosoraptor blog, Winston Smith's typical political post has been of the form, "However dumb the Democrats are (and God knows they're dumb), this latest bit of Republican stupidity is worse".

Thank you, Karl Rove, for turning another moderate into a full-voiced liberal (or anyway an anti-Republican, which will do for now.)

Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Zen propaganda panda

In case you haven't ever seen the above phrase (and google thinks you haven't), here's your chance.

At the same link, a review of the latest DWJ novel, and a review noting that George Foreman has five sons, all named George.

Americablog's frogmarch countup

Well, sort of counting. Points 3) and 3) are what I'm wondering about.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Howl's Moving Castle

The book by Diana Wynne Jones is an excellent, complex fantasy for (I guess) adolescents and adults, with fully-drawn characters, a clever plot, graceful and nimble prose and dialogue, many colorful and stirrring episodes, and an appearance by a poem by John Donne.

The movie by Miyazaki is, well, I enjoyed a lot of it, especially the parts without Billy Crystal. The castle itself is marvelous, and the women's roles are blessed with talented actresses's voices. But after about ten magical minutes the movie loses its way. Mrs. R. was alternately bored and incensed by the liberties taken in the screenplay, which makes no sense. The last few minutes are incomprehensible, even for those who have read the book (which ends with a series of fascinating revelations), and completely fail to explain what had gone before. Rent _Spirited Away_ instead - that's a deeply successful film.

On hating sheep

I hate sheep. When I was a grad student at CERN, I had an office in a trailer beside a grassy knoll. When the grass got a bit long, a flock of sheep would be deposited on it. Sheep are, following millennia of human selection, just a smidge smarter than lawnmowers, and are an adequate automated substitute if you don't mind them walking into the side of your building headfirst and baaing in surprise. Over and over again, stinking the whole time.

Here's a sour little (believe it or not) love poem I wrote then:

Spring, Frühling, Printemps, Primavera

The sheep outside my window gnaw the grass down to the dirt.
Some of them wear cowbells; the others surely don't wonder
What they are saying to each other.
Sometimes they baa without inflection, their simple vocabulary
Well-matched to their lack of anything to say
Or ability to comprehend.
The songbirds blurt their programmed monologues -
The male birds, having absorbed and regrown the cells
In which they store their shrill spring come-ons.

I've been studying Italian, you know some - with English,
French, and German that's four languages we could talk in -
Your French is better, and my German, but in any case
We don't, or little - our border is clearly drawn,
We've little commerce and nothing to declare.
By treaty I will continue not telling you
What you know already, what you mean to me,
In four languages simultaneously.

So anyway, I'm able to set aside my love for the natural world in cases where humans have screwed species up and so take Schadenfreude from this updated link (this report is stale) about 3 gross of suicidal (I'd write "lemminglike" if that wasn't an urban [orban?] legend) sheep, via Billmon, who puts his usual english on it.


Friday, July 08, 2005

Friday baby sea lion blogging

baby sea lion Posted by Picasa


Wednesday, July 06, 2005


In geometry - the radial distance from the center of a chord of a circle to the closer curve - aka the radius minus the apothem. Presumably it looks like an arrow on a bow.

In astronomy - the above for a spherical mirror. Also, a constellation, the arrow.

Arrowworms - genus Sagitta.

Our boat on our Galapagos tour. Not exactly swift as an arrow, but definitely more comfy.

Billmon wrestles his better angels

Not entirely sure who'll win in the long run, but the angels take this round.

(For the title, see here and here. The latter, like the King James version, is very weird to me. Here's the more familiar version as a beautiful image.)

Monday, July 04, 2005

Shower in the dark day

4th of July

Shower in the dark day
Clean sparks diving down
Cool in the waterway
Where the baptized drown
Naked in the cold sun
Breathing life like fire
Thought I was the only one
But that was just a lie

Cause I heard it in the wind
And I saw it in the sky
And I thought it was the end
And I thought it was the 4th of July

Read the whole thing; go buy the album; crank it up.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Wedding pics

On the off-chance you're looking for wedding pictures, you can go to this site and select
event Deborah
password weddings

This won't be up forever. You can order prints online or (for a small discount apparently) by contacting us.


Here's John Cornyn saying something not insane. He's wrong - partisanly or stupidly so - when he says that Bush's controversial nominees enjoy "bipartisan majority support" (if so, they couldn't be blocked by a minority of a minority party) - or engaging in sophistry (the majority of the majority + 1 minority [where the above is a majority] is a "bipartisan majority"). But that's par for the course, and it's nice to get him on record opposing litmus tests for the day President Clark's first nominee to the SCOTUS (Laurence Tribe?) comes up for confirmation.

All of which is uninteresting; I'm linking because I've said less than entirely scathing things about the much-derided Senator in the past and because I came across the article through this DailyKos post by Hunter, who identifies him as (R-Galapagos)...

Friday, July 01, 2005

The Yankees should call up Lucy

Time for a youth movement.

SG at the Replacement Level Yankee Blog writes in fine cutting fashion:
It also doesn't make sense on a team that has no one who is capable of playing average defense in the outfield, to only carry 2 legitimate outfielders. Bernie is not an OF as long as he is being trotted out to center, Womack is not an outfielder, and Sierra is not an outfielder. They can put on gloves and stand out there, but they're not outfielders.
And Larry says:
The Yankees have suffered through a lot of lousy players, far more than a team of their resources ever should. And yet it is likely that no single player has been more damaging to the Yankees than Tony Womack. Certainly in the past decade, perhaps ever. Perhaps no player has ever been more damaging to any team in history.

Apparently Lucy plays RF or CF. I don't recognize the names of Charlie Brown's other fielders, so I guess they're career minor leaguers.


Friday beach blogging

equatorial sun Posted by Picasa