Rat in the Kitchen

They'll pass over the money without even thinking about it; for it is money they have and peace they lack.
  -James Earl Jones "Field of Dreams"
and don't go mistaking paradise for that home across the road
  -Bob Dylan "Ballad of Frankie Lee and Judas Priest"

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Not too late

Things look pretty bleak for the Arizona Diamondbacks. A talented team on paper, they are 20-31 so far in the season. Pitching is particularly poor. You can't call the bullpen erratic, they are consistently bad. They have an ERA of over 7. The worst complete season bullpen ERA ever was the 1953 Detroit Tigers who finished with 6 something. Looks like the DBacks will soon consider the season over with and start trading off good players to save money.

Is this their destiny? Maybe not, consider this:

On May 5, 2009, the Diamondbacks fired manager Bob Melvin, who had a 12-17 .414 record. They replaced him with front office man A.J. Hinch, who had no managerial or coaching experiencing at any level, and was one of the youngest managers in history. His 2010 record thus far is 20-31 .392, worse than Melvin's was. Hinch's hand picked coaching staff, particularly pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre, Jr. and hitting coach Jack Howell, cannot seem to coax any success out the players.

On May 29, 2009, the Colorado Rockies fired manager Clint Hurdle, whose 18-28 record was almost identical to Hinch's record today and replaced him, not with a no-name like Hinch, but with an experienced baseball man, Jim Tracy, who had previously managed the Dodgers and Pirates. At that time, the Rockies were in last place, worse off than the Diamondbacks.

The Diamondbacks finished the 2009 season where they are today, in last place. The Rockies won the National League Wild Card and nearly surpassed the Dodgers in the NL West.

It is not too late to do something similar. The Hinch experiment has been a huge disaster. There are plenty of options in the organization. Either bench coach Kirk Gibson or AAA Reno Aces manager Brett Butler comes to mind, as does, to a lesser extent because of his first year status in coaching, 1st base coach Matt Williams.

The real problem extends beyond the coaching staff, however. It was general manager Josh Byrnes who hired Hinch and it was on his watch that this horrendous crop of losers that they call a bullpen was assembled.

But let's clean house now and get rid of Hinch, Howell and Stottlemyre. An experienced baseball man like Butler or Gibson could demonstrate how the talented position players could be turned into a winning outfit with some leadership. The bullpen could be improved with a little luck and some investment. If that demonstrates what it should, and the Rockies' experience of last season suggests that it could, then the dumping of Byrnes can happen in the offseason.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

2009 MLB Division Series

The NLDS/ALDS are now done. There were 13 games played and the teams that I favored won 12 of them. Not too bad.

Dodgers/Cardinals - this one was hard for me. In the other three there were teams I do not like, but I would normally root for both of these. I was a Dodgers fan for a long time, listening to Vin Scully and Ross Porter on the radio long before Arizona had a team. Unlike a lot of people I have no problem with Manny Ramirez, finding him more or less entertaining. On the other hand, we have been Oakland A's fans for as long as we have followed the Dodgers. That allegiance went with Tony Larussa to St. Louis. I didn't know who I would root for until a couple of innings in when I realized I was cheering for the Dodgers. The way that they handled the excellent St. Louis starters was impressive. Meanwhile, I have never much liked Matt Holliday and very much enjoyed his Bill Buckner imitation in Game 2.

Angels/Red Sox - the national press forces you to take sides in the Yankees/Red Sox rivalry and I have always sided with the Yankees. Fond memories of Ted Williams and Carl Yastremski notwithstanding, the Sox in recent years have been populated with character I do not care for (Youkilis, Pedroia, Papelbon, Schilling). I think it all has its roots in my business trips to Boston in the 80s when I was exposed to local sports radios and got a very unflattering opinion of the fans. The Orange County Angels have long been a semi-favorite. We would go to games in Anaheim when we did summer trips to the beach, and their spring training facility became a favorite after Oakland made tickets harder to get in the early 90s. I like Mike Scioscia and have long rooted for Vladimir Guerrero. I really liked the way this series ended, with the Angels coming from behind in Game 3, getting the go-ahead runs off Papelbon and with Pedroia getting the final out.

Yankees/Twins - I hate the Twins. Let me repeat that. I hate the Twins. I hate their hankie-waving fans. I hate it that they abandoned DC after the 1960 season. I hate them for their 1987 championship year when they beat the Tigers 3-2 in the ALCS, winning all of their dome-games and none else. I hated the repeat performance in 1991 with Jack Morris. (Note that due to the rules of the day they had home-dome advantage in all series). I hate it that they won game 163 over the Tigers last week. The Yankees? Sure they spend too much money and have some obnoxious fans (not nearly as bad as the Mets tho). But they have some good players and a nifty logo. Our 2008 trip to Yankee Stadium didn't hurt. I would have rooted for anybody, even the Cubs or Giants, against the Twins, but I kind of like the Yankees.

Phillies/Rockies - I found myself rooting for the Phillies in last year's World Series, my son John lives in NJ and roots for them, and they have some awfully good players. The Rockies are division rivals of the Diamondbacks. I know, the Dodgers are too but they at least have some traditions. I dislike some of the Rockies players (Helton, Tulowitzki, Giambi, Torrealba) nearly as much as I do the Red Sox. End of discussion. Really cool that both games 3 and 4 were 9th inning comebacks for the Phillies. Cooler yet that Tulo got the final out in both games.

As to the Championship Series, hard to pick between 4 teams I like. I suspect I will find myself rooting for the Dodgers and Yankees, which would set up a classic World Series. Dodger/Angels would be cool too, although Fox probably wouldn't like it. Phillies/Yankees would have a certain backyard appeal as well. Phillies/Angles would not appeal to anybody but their own fans I would think.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

War As They Knew It

I just finished reading War As They Knew It: Woody Hayes, Bo Schembechler, and America in a Time of Unrest by Michael Rosenberg. It was an interesting approach, taking the well-known 10 year war between the two great coaches and putting into the context of the politics of the time, what was going on on campus, etc. I am not sure that it really worked, it was sort of like over here we see Dan Dierdorf doing such and so while over here we see Bill Ayers doing this other thing. It never really tied it together very well. But for somebody who actually met these people, who had to decide whether to go to class during the Black Action Movement strike, etc., it was all very cool. Too bad that the author was not able to portray Dierdorf and his roommate Paul Staroba as the vicious bullies that they were, but that is to be expected I guess. Anyway, the main topic was Bo and Woody. Bo was exactly who I thought he was. Woody was more complex, more sympathetic and even more of a jerk than I had imagined. The relationship with Nixon (who spoke at the Old Man's funeral) was amazing. Anyway, if you are follower of Michigan football or one of that bloated agricultural institution to the south, you might find it interesting.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Facebook killed the blogger?

So a couple of weeks ago I started using facebook and haven't written anything in the blog since. Maybe this is just where things are going. For the meantime, I found a practical way to insure that blog posts get stuck on the wall on my facebook page.

I went to Tucson yesterday for a book festival where Elmore Leonard appeared.

I am taking tomorrow off and going to a Cactus League game, Dodgers/A's at Phoenix Muni, going to take the train. I see by today's paper that it is a split squad game for the Dodgers so it's not clear whether Manny et al will be there. Going walk over to the Metro and ride to the game.

Friday, February 06, 2009

Loose Ends

None of these things are worth a separate post but I don't want to lose track of them.

John sent a great article about how the web has changed how we read and think. Worth looking at if you haven't seen it. Is Google Making Us Stupid?

I spent about a week trying to figure out why the power management features on the new computer would not kick in. The PC is configured to, after 10 minute intervals of inactivity, first go to screensaver, then turn off the monitor, then put the computer to sleep. It would do that occasionally but usually it would not. I observed it going into the screensaver and then returning to the desktop on numerous occasions. I made 4 changes, one of which resolved the issue:

  1. in MSCONFIG, turned off the startup for itunes

  2. in MSCONFIG, turned off the startup for quicktime

  3. in MSCONFIG, turned off the startup for adobe

  4. removed the link for Logitech desktop messenger from the startup folder
I don't know which one did it but it is not worth debugging since I don't think any of them do anything useful, they just make the computer take longer to start up. The Logitech thingie is there because I have a Logitech webcam and because of the Harmony remote software. I think all that it did was check for new versions and try to sell me things. All of this crap was presumably on on the previous computer, but I guess it interacts differently with Vista.

I got really disgusted with my phone the other day. I realized that I was stuck with it for a while, since it had a two year contract and was purchased in July of last year. So... after making sure that I had copies of everything that was useful on it, I installed Windows Mobile 6.1 (which does a master reset of the phone, i.e. wipes out everything except what is on the storage card.) I also did NOT reinstall Good Messaging, decided to go back to ActiveSync for email/calendar/etc. So for I like it much better.

Among other things, I installed an application that interfaces with Netflix. You can view and update your queue, and also play trailers. I really like the ability to play the trailers.

Two nights ago, we were watching TV when we suddenly heard this voice in the next room, calmly announcing something or other. I got up, hit pause on the remote for the DVR and went in the room. By that time it (she it turned out) was done with the announcement. There were several suspect devices in the room.: two computers, two landline phones with speakers, and the recently upgraded cellphone. The likely culprits were the phone and the new computer, but the computer alleged to be sleeping (see above) and the phone was not lit up. No clue.

So last night it happened again. This time I did not stop to pause the TV. Both of us ran into the study and heard a British woman jabbering about Phoenix weather. The clock in the living room was chiming 9:00. Still nothing lit up but Susan thought it was coming from the cellphone. I unlocked it (stupid Motorola security) and noticed that the icon list at the top of the display was claiming that the most recent application to be used was WorldMate Live. That is a nifty application that does time, weather, currency conversion, flight status, you can access stored itineraries, etc. I have a "gold" subscription because of some arrangement that they have with Motorola. I had installed a newer version of it when I redid the phone stuff. The new one apparently has feature that causes this nice lady to read a weather forecast at a scheduled time. The default for this curious feature is ON and for it to occur at 9 pm. Needless to say she will no longer intrude. I can't imagine what the developers were thinking.

I have finished 3 books in the last couple of weeks. I mentioned When I Was Five I Killed Myself in the previous post. The other two books were Boom! by Tom Brokaw and Big Russ and Me by Tim Russert. Both of these books were written by people from NBC News and both were more or less historical pieces that covered years in my memory. The two books could not have been different. The Brokaw book was a treasure trove of historical information, a lot of it quite fascinating, some of it worth skipping. My favorite parts were personal notes concerning people I was familiar with. The two references to Hunter S. Thompson were great. The first concerned Brokaw's wife.

My wife, Meredith, once shared a cross-country flight with him during the closing days of the Nixon administration. They had a very pleasant visit, and as the plane began its descent into Los Angeles, Thompson leaned accross the seat almost apologetically and said to Meredith, "Look, I've only got one tab of acid, but I'd be willing to share it with you." She politely declined.
The other reference comes up in a discussion about ├╝ber-Conservative Pat Buchanan:

One of his unlikely occasional companions, when I knew him in Washington, was Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, the pill-popping, invective-spewing, hilarious godfather of gonzo journalism. Thompson would blow into Washington on an assignment for Rolling Stone magazine, call up Buchanan, and off they'd go on a beer-drinking all-nighter, arguing their respective views of the world in long verbal jousts that seldom were resolved.

Buchanan recounts these occasions happily, saying "I don't know how he did it. He must have had a case of beer, and yet he was swimming laps in the pool at my house." Thompson liked to call Buchanan, the "best right-wing propagandist since Goebbels," a description Buchanan often repeats with a big guffaw.
It was great book, but still, it was clear that Brokaw, who is 10 years older than me (and Russert) did not exerience the 60's in so much as he reported on them. You get this impression of him as a stuffy guy who wanted to seem cool but never quite got it. Of Woodstock, which he did not attend, he said
It was a mass of hippie humanity, glorying in the sky above and the mud below, cold and wet, with good grass and bad acid.
I have heard a lot about Woodstock but never that the acid was bad.

Russert, on the other hand, arrived at Woodstock on the first night. He and his buddies had 8 cases of beer stacked on their car and a banner for their favorite Buffalo radio station. They "paid eight bucks a piece for our tickets and got up close to the stage." They were wearing Buffalo Bills jerseys. Decidely un-cool or at least atypical but they were there and had a great time. He seems like the kind of person that you wish you knew. I wouldn't have much to say to Brokaw.

Russert's book, purportedly about his father and their relationship, is really an autobiography. There is a lot about the man that I do not relate to. He came from an ethnic, religious, blue collar family, none of which resonates much with me. It seems though, that his growing up in the same era, with many of the same experiences, makes him seem extremely relevant. His humanity, his humor, his feelings for his family all make a lot of sense. His death was very sad, this last year was a hugely enjoyable time from a political standpoint, the primary season was like nothing this country had seen before, and in the process we really got to know the man, and how much he loved politics, the process, the people. Just when it was getting good he was gone.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

When I Was Five I Killed Myself

When I was in college I knew a guy from Detroit. I had met him in freshman orientation and we kept in touch for a few years. At one point he dropped out of school and went to Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey clown school in Florida. (I suspect that this was AFTER the draft lottery that was held 12/1/69 during the first semester of our sophomore year.) He subsequently came back to school in Ann Arbor. We were not real close but I have several recollections of him. Other than occasionally using the "I knew a guy who dropped out and went to clown school" bit in conversation, I hadn't thought about him again until a few weeks ago when I got the idea to google his name.

Howard Buten lives in France, is a clinical pyschologist and is a recognized authority on autism. He is a performing artist known as Buffo the Clown and is well known in France. He has written several novels and received the Chevalier des Artes et Lettres in 1991. A novel that he wrote in English in 1981 was translated to French and has allegedly been read by 1 in 10 people in France, sort of a French Catcher in the Rye, according to the preface. It was re-released in the US in 2000 as "When I Was Five I Killed Myself" -- it was originally titled "Burt". It's about a 3rd grade boy who has emotional issues and is institutionalized. It is written convincingly in first person. I just finished reading it and recommend it highly.