What’s going on

October 26, 2013

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I’m not writing nearly as much as I have in the past.  That’s because life has been really busy lately, mostly with work (no, I don’t get overtime pay).  I’ll try to write more regularly.

I got an early Christmas present on Wednesday.  My favorite author, Lawrence Block, announced that he has a new book, The Burglar Who Counted The Spoons, due out on Christmas day.  Fifteen minutes later, I received an email from his PR person, asking if I would like an advance review copy.  Do I want a free copy of my favorite author’s new book, two months before it goes on sale?  Absolutely.  The $10 I save is nothing compared to to joy of getting the book early.  This is the third time in a row that I’ve received a free copy of a Block book.  He or his peole have always offered – I’ve never needed to sweet talk anyone.  I’ve reviewed several Block books on this site in the past, and also profiled him.  Sometimes people take notice when you show an appreciation for their work.

My 2nd and 3rd favorites teams are facing off in the World Series.  That’s pretty cool.  I wore my Cardinals Matt Holliday shirt over the weekend and received several compliments.  I don’t actually have any Red Sox apparel.

The Dominican Winter League is also kicking off.  I was attempting to learn some Spanish prior to the start of the season, but that plan flopped due to lack of time (see paragraph 1).  After a couple attempts to stream Licey’s game from their web site, I realized that for whatever reason, it wasn’t working on my iPhone 3GS, despite the fact that it worked on my Mac.  I paid $1.99 to download the Lidom Movil app, and eventually figured out to “Click acqui” to get the live streaming.  By then, I was only able to catch the final inning of the game, which Los Tigres won.  If you’re a baseball junkie, consider following the DWL.  The experience is probably a lot better if you understand more than a dozen words of Spanish, but even with that limitation, it should be fun for me.

I’m fairly active on Twitter these days.  I’m always a bit surprised at the people who seem to take great joy in bashing a well-known person every chance they get.  It seems very weird that someone would follow a person that they don’t even like.  There are a number of baseball announcers that I dislike, but I don’t Twitter-stalk Joe Buck.


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Monday topics: Sandy, Baseball, Football

October 29, 2012

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Hurricane Sandy

Many in the northeast don’t have to go to work or school today.  But that’s not a good thing.  it’s because Hurricane Sandy is about to come ashore and could hammer the region for several days.  Early estimates of damage are in the neighborhood of $50 billion – and those estimates may end up being conservative, based on the path of the storm.  Sandy is a slow-moving storm, which is a horrible thing for a hurricane, and it means that the storm will dump rain on the region for a long period of time.

New Jersey governor Chris Christie put it best when he gave this succinct advice:

Don’t be stupid. Get out!

The Election

The timing of the storm also comes just a week before election day.  President Obama’s performance in some battleground states – notably Virginia and North Carolina – could depend on how he handles reaction to the storm.  There’s really not much Romney can do in this case, other than volunteer to fill sandbags somewhere.  At this stage, he’s a private citizen and has no authority over emergency response.

For reasons that elude me, people continue to report on the national polling numbers.  Maybe there’s more national interest in these numbers, but they are completely irrelevant.  Large majorities in some states will make a candidate look good in the national polls, but doesn’t help them in the electoral college.  The game is all about winning the battleground states.  What the candidates do in Texas and California does absolutely nothing to move the needle. 

World Series

Late Sunday night, the Giants finished off the Tigers in extra innings.  This capped an incredible post-season run by the Giants.  They are a hated rival of mine, but I applaud their ability to overcome a myriad of obstacles and win their second World Series in three years.  Marco Scutaro drove in an ecstatically sliding Ryan Theriot with the winning run.

College Football

A notable story in college football this year is the poor performance by the Big 10 conference.  In the latest BCS rankings, just a single Big 10 team made the rankings.  (To avoid kicking my Big 10 friends while they are down, I won’t point out how many Big 12 teams are in the rankings.  But it’s easy to find out.)

One wrinkle in the BCS is that a team from a non-automatic qualifier conference earns an automatic berth is they finish in the top 16 and also finish above the champion of any of the automatic qualifier conferences.  (I think only one team can take advantage of this per year).  Here are where some teams currently fit in the BCS standings:

  • 19) Boise State
  • 20) Nebraska (highest ranked Big 10 team)
  • 25) Louisiana Tech

I like Boise State well enough, but I’m pulling for Louisiana Tech to crash the BCS party this year.

I’m also hoping for Notre Dame and Alabama to lose in the coming weeks.  Maybe have a nice batch of losses for the SEC and end up with an LSU-Louisiana Tech BCS game …

The big injury news on Saturday was standout South Carolina running back Marcus Lattimore, who dislocated his knee and suffered ligament damage in the game against Tennessee.  On the positive side, Lattimore did not break any bones.  He could possibly sit out 2013 as a redshirt year and then return to the field for the Gamecocks in 2014.


Reigning sixth man of year James Harden was traded from the Thunder to the Rockets.  Several picks and a few players were involved, but I’m not enough of an NBA fan to break down all the details.  However, I find it interesting that Harden left Oklahoma City because of money.  He’ll get a “max deal” of $60 million over four years from the Rockets.  Harden was offered $55.5 million over 4 years from the Thunder?

Wouldn’t you take a few less dollar for the opportunity to chase some titles with Kevin Durant.  (I guess I shouldn’t tell them that I like Durant – Durant!”)

Are The Giants A Team Of Destiny?

October 24, 2012

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Tim Lincecum

Tim Lincecum has been freaskishly bad in 2012.

Before the season began, the Giants knew they would be without Brian Wilson, their effective – and more importantly, quirky – closer.

Then the calendar flipped to April.  Tim Lincecum, a two time Cy Young award winner who should be in the heart of his peak years, began pitching like utter crap, and finished the season with an ERA above 5.00.

Outfielder Melky Cabrera provided a spark early in the year, racing toward a batting title.  Then Melky got popped for performance enhancing drugs and was banned 50 games.  He’d be eligible to return in the middle of the playoffs, but the Giants opted not to add him to the roster.  This decision was probably partially due to not wanting the stench of PEDs to waft over the team’s post-season success, but also because it would mean Cabrera would be having to re-acclimate himself to Major League pitching during the playoffs – not a good thing.

Then the playoffs began, and the Giants quickly lost two games to the Reds.  Then they had to go on the road and try to win the next three games.  Which they did.

Then they faced off against the Cardinals.  They got down three games to one, and once again faced elimination three games in a row – and won all three games to win the series four games to three.  Italian-bred and Venezuelan-born infield Marco “Polo” Scutaro arose from the ashes of a hard Matt Holliday slide in game two to be named the NLCS MVP, recording a record-tying 14 hits in the series.

Now the Giants, after just one day off, face the well-rested Detroit Tigers in the World Series.  The Tigers have Justin Verlander on the mound, and the Giants match him with … Barry Zito.  The much-maligned and overpaid Zito is forced into the role because the Giants had to use Matt Cain in the NLCS game 7 on Monday.

On paper, this is a huge advantage for the Tigers.  They can start Verlander in games 1 and 5 and should have a great shot at winning both those games.  Win just one of the other three games and they’d have a 3-2 lead after five games.  Get some well place rain that causes extra off days and it’s possible Verlander could pitch games 1, 4, and 7.  Or manager Jim Leyland might just pitch Verlander on short rest and run him out in games 4 and 7 anyway.  On paper, that’s a huge advantage for the Tigers.

But baseball isn’t played on paper, and the Giants seem to be a team of destiny.  My prediction: Giants win, with Barry Zito the World Series MVP.  Zito will pick up wins in games 1 and 5, and pitch the 14th inning of game 7 for the save.  Zito’s stats for the World Series: 5 and 1 run in 16 innings, for a 0.56 ERA.


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Friday Roundup

October 21, 2011

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No new episode of Treasure Hunt today.  My creative energies have been diverted elsewhere this week.  A secret project is underway – more about that next week (hopefully).

If you’re thinking of buying a Kindle, check out my review from a couple of weeks ago.  I touch on the pros and cons of each model.  What’s great for you might not be a good fit for someone else.  If you like the article and decided to take the plunge, consider buying through the links on the site – we’ll earn a small commission on the sale.

You can now check out Kindle books at many public libraries.  Check out this feature!  I’ve been making slow progress on the print edition of The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest and downloaded the Kindle version from my library.  You can’t use 3G to download, needing instead to use either WiFi or USB to transfer the book.  Nonetheless, a cool feature.

This is article 1002 for The Soap Boxers.  Want to see them all?  Explore the archives.

The World Series is underway.  It’s currently tied at one game apiece, with the Cardinals taking game one and the Rangers game two.  A huge play in game two occurred when Elvis Andrus moved to second base on  slightly errand throw.  Albert Pujols touched the throw from the outfield ever so slightly, slowing its path to catcher Yadier Molina and making it impossible for Molina to cut down Andrus as he tried to advance.  As a result, the double play was no longer in order.  Making the situation even worse for the Cardinals, Andrus moved to third on a the run-scoring sacrifice fly by Josh Hamilton.  Had he been at first base when Hamilton came to bat, he would have been unable to advance on the fly, and the throw from right field to second base is much shorter than the throw to third.

Last Saturday, Chad Dawson scored a controversial TKO in a boxing match against light heavyweight champion Bernard Hopkins.  The key sequence in the match involved Dawson lifting Hopkins into the air and throwing him to the canvas.  An injured Hopkins was unable to continues and the bout was called.  On Tuesday, the WBC declared the match a technical draw and reinstated Hopkins as the champion (the reigning champion must LOSE in order to lose his belt; he retains the title in the case of a draw).  This is an interesting – and seemingly correct – decision.  I’m not much of a boxing fan, but find it interesting to see the result of a contest changed after the fact.  This simply doesn’t happen in team sports.

As a lover of Tigers, I was saddened by the shooting of 49 animals – including 18 Bengal tigers – after their owner opened their cages and committed suicide.  I fully understand the decisions that authorities were faced with, and can’t fault them for their choice.  I place the blame on the owner, Terry Thompson, who put the animals in danger by released them.  Thompson had been convicted of animal cruelty in the past.  While the Bengal Tiger is the most common of the Tiger subspecies, there are fewer than 2500 of them in the world, and the death of 18 in one event is a blow to conservation efforts.

On Thursday, we heard reports that Libyan leader Gadhafi (Qaddafi) was killed in a crossfire between his troops and those of the National Transitional Council.  His death ends a 42 year reign over the African country.  Observers wonder if this will embolden rebels in other countries, such as in Yemen, where rebels have called for the resignation of president Ali Abdullah Saleh.  For some interesting insights into Libyan/American relations, I’d suggest Nelson DeMille’s novel, The Lion’s Game.  It’s fiction, of course, so you can’t treat it like a history book (although many of those books indeed contain fiction), but it’s an entertaining introduction to the culture.

The World Series Begins Today!

October 19, 2011

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If you’ve been paying attention over the past few years, you might realize that I’m a baseball fan.  I love the playoffs and World Series, even when my team isn’t in it (sadly the case this year).  The World Series is my Super Bowl (times seven!)

This year’s matchup pits the St. Louis Cardinals from the good league versus the Texas Rangers from the inferior league.  The Cardinals are my second favorite team, so I’m naturally pulling for them.  It’s been a strange journey for the Cardinals, who had to make a miracle run in September just to get into the playoffs.  Early in the month, I commented to Bob Inferapels that while that Phillies had an insurmountable lead over the Braves, the Braves likewise had an insurmountable lead in the wild card.  Well, the Cardinals surmounted it.

This is a team that lost co-ace Adam Wainwright in the spring, had Matt Holliday knocked out early with an appendectomy (and other various injuries during the year), and lost Albert Pujols for a while due to an injury.  They did catch a couple of small breaks when Holliday and Pujols returned earlier than expected, but for much of the year it was guys like David Freese carrying the load.

A few years ago, many critics said that Matt Holliday was simply a product of Coors Field and would flop anywhere else.  While he hasn’t been able to duplicated the crazy numbers he put up for the Rockies (not even I expected him to), his numbers the past three seasons (OPS of .909, .922, and .912) still place him along the elite hitters in baseball.

The Rangers road the bat of Nelson Cruz into the series, returning to complete the unfinished business from last year.  They lost Cliff Lee as a free agent in the off-season, and very nearly traded away an at-the-time disgrunted Michael Young in the spring, but put those events in the rear view mirror early in the season and roared to a 96 win season.

Some of the Rangers players have faced a lot of struggles in their lives.  The most notable, of course, is Josh Hamilton.  The former #1 pick was always an elite talent, but his struggles with drugs and alcohol nearly cost him his career.  This season, Hamilton faced a tragedy when a fan fell to his death trying to catch a ball Hamilton had tossed to him.  It’s very common for outfielders to toss a ball to fan in the stands.  Shannon Stone was simply the unfortunate victim of a freak occurrence.  It would be nice for Hamilton to finish the season on a high note.

Pitcher Alexi Ogando had been invited to Spring Training in 2005.  However, when he arrived in the US that year, he was taken into custody for his role in a human trafficking ring.  The gist of the operation was that young baseball players were marrying women who had been denied visas, in order to allow the women to gain entrance into the country.  Ogando was banned from entering the United State for five years, derailing his Major League career.  Ogando started the season strong and cooled in the second half (likely due to a large increase in innings pitched), but still finished with a 13-8 record and a 3.51 ERA.

Even if the east coast media market doesn’t like this matchup, it should be a great World Series!