24 June 2008


The decision is made, I'm headed to Wordpress.

Come join us at the Intellectual Thicket, version 2.0.

19 June 2008


I think this blog has reached a crossroads ...

Do I go on?
Do I move it to wordpress?
Do I start posting crazed diatribes about the usage of relief pitchers?

Who knows.

12 June 2008

Comcast, I thought we had a breakthrough ...

So, after all that drama over my chat with "Lotta", the online Live Chat Comcast Rep., I got an email from the company's customer service rescue team. Long story short, they said they would downgrade my cable without any fees or such for "installation" or "change of service fee" or whatever. All they had to do is find a day/time for a service person to come to my apartment - for unknown reasons? - to finish things up. My guess was so they could collect my digital cable box. That was last week. Since then I have not heard a peep from Comcast about when I might expect this downgrade to actually occur, and honestly, after emailing to remind them that they said they would get back to me and getting no response, I am just fed up. When I get a free moment, I'll pop the cable box in my car and drive down to the local office and get rid of Comcast cable once and for all. Comcast, you had your chance and you blew it. Back to thinking that Comcast and its customer service does indeed suck.

05 June 2008


Oddly enough, Philadelphia International Airport does not suck. I know, I know, it might suck when you're stuck in it for hours, but its customer service, at least from me was great. How so?

Well, after going through security, I had to walk down two gates to find a place to sit to put my shoes back on (OK, that was a demerit for PHL). Afterwards, being the idiot that I am, I left my camera bag with my new, $600 Nikon D40 DSLR with the accompanying zoom lens behind. I didn't realize I had been parted with the camera until my flight to Houston was boarding, so I rushed around trying to find it. Finally, I called the PHL Lost & Found and luckily for me, they had found my lost camera bag! At first, they asked when I'd be back in Philly (uh, never?) and then asked if I had time to go to the communications center (on the other side of security ... sorry, no), but neither of those options worked. So, much to my surprise, they offered to mail it to me in California.

Now, I wasn't holding my breath that it would (a) arrive and (b) in one piece. However, about a week after leaving the camera behind, it arrived in Davis, packed neatly in a box with bubblewrap and all. So, huzzah on PHL and its Lost & Found department. You are a gem in a field of abysmal Customer Service!

04 June 2008

The man for the country

Huzzah for Senator Obama!

On to the White House, says I!

03 June 2008

Why Comcast is terrible ...

I tried to downgrade my cable from Digital Cable to Limited Basic on Comcast tonight. Let me tell you, Comcast is terrible.

Here is the transcript. Note the bolded passages, where, among other things, they wanted to charge me a $25 installation fee TO CHANGE MY PLAN. Insanity, my friends, insanity.

Erik(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:24:02 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I would like to change my plan to Limited Basic

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:49:28 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Hello Erik_, Thank you for contacting Comcast Live Chat Support. My name is Lotta.24942. Please give me one moment to review your information.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:49:31 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I will be glad to assist you today.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:49:50 GMT-0700 (PDT))>May I ask why do you want to changer your cable plan to Limited Basic, Erik?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:50:24 GMT-0700 (PDT))> It is too expensive for what it is worth. We don't need it anymore.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:50:33 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I see.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:50:47 GMT-0700 (PDT))> May I have your account number please? So I can better assist you.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:51:20 GMT-0700 (PDT))> XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:51:19 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Thank you for that information.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:51:23 GMT-0700 (PDT))> How are you today?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:52:03 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I'm doing well, thank you.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:07 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Great to hear that you are doing well.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:08 GMT-0700 (PDT))> You are welcome.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:09 GMT-0700 (PDT))> For identification, could you please verify the last 4 digits of the Social Security Number listed on the account?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:52:30 GMT-0700 (PDT))> XXX

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:35 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Thank you for that information.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:41 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I am now going to process your order.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:52:45 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Please hold.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:54:37 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Thank you for waiting.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:54:55 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Your new monthly rate would be $11.70 before taxes and fees.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:55:20 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Alright

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:55:10 GMT-0700 (PDT))> There is also a one time installation fee of $25.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:55:15 GMT-0700 (PDT))>Okay.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:55:47 GMT-0700 (PDT))> There is a fee to change my plan?
Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:56:24 GMT-0700 (PDT))>We already have the cable installed here? Why is there another installation fee?

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:56:15 GMT-0700 (PDT))> What do you mean?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:56:55 GMT-0700 (PDT))> We have digital cable and we're trying to change the plan to limited basic
Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:57:06 GMT-0700 (PDT))> why would i have to pay another installation fee?

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:57:49 GMT-0700 (PDT))> It is because your Basic Cable is wired and has a different way of installing it.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 19:59:08 GMT-0700 (PDT))> That doesn't even make sense ... so if I change to non-digital cable I get charged for a new installation?

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 22:59:38 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I understand where you are coming from but yes, there is an installation fee.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:00:02 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Listen, if that is the case, then just cancel our service
Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:00:10 GMT-0700 (PDT))> This is rather ridiculous

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:00:10 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I am sorry to hear that, Erik.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:00:27 GMT-0700 (PDT))> If you want to cancel your service, you can contact your local office for the cancellation.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:00:38 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Do you know the contact details of your local office?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:00:49 GMT-0700 (PDT))> So I can;t cancel it here?

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:00:59 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Your local office is the only authorize to cancel services.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:01:17 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Wow.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:01:22 GMT-0700 (PDT))> If you want I can just give you a promo of our Digital Cable package.

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:01:34 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Yes, I know where it is ... and I will gladly cancel this service ... this is ridiculous
Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:01:41 GMT-0700 (PDT))> No thanks, this is insane

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:01:37 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Alright then.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:01:38 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Is there anything else I can help you with?

Erik_(Tue Jun 03 2008 20:02:02 GMT-0700 (PDT))> No, thanks.

Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:26 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Okay.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:27 GMT-0700 (PDT))> You are welcome.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:29 GMT-0700 (PDT))> It is my pleasure to assist you today.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:30 GMT-0700 (PDT))> I will appreciate your feedback about the service you experienced with me today. It is our priority to provide you the best customer service. Kindly answer the survey at the end of this chat so we will know how we can improve our service.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:31 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Thank you for contacting Comcast! We appreciate your business!
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:32 GMT-0700 (PDT))> If you need assistance in the future, please do not hesitate to contact us through Live Chat or E-Mail (available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week). Comcast also offers excellent FAQ and Help forums located at www.comcast.com to help you reach a resolution independently.
Lotta.24942(Tue Jun 03 2008 23:02:33 GMT-0700 (PDT))> Have a great evening!

30 May 2008

New (and not so new) Reviews ...

I haven't updated much in the way of new reviews lately, so here they are!

Born Ruffians - Red, Yellow & Blue
Why? - Alopecia
The Long Blondes - "Couples"
Common Market - Black Patch War
Clinic - Do It!

And sure, here is my iPod Top 10
1. Death to Los Campesinos! - Los Campesinos!
2. Throw It On Me - Timbaland & the Hives
3. Sophia - the Toothaches
4. The Gymnast, High Above the Ground - Colin Meloy
5. Trouble Is - Common Market
6. Einfach Sein - Die Fantastischen Vier
7. Threads - Portishead
8. Under Pressure - Xiu Xiu
9. Shopping Bag - Clinic
10. Holle - K.I.Z.

26 May 2008

Coolest ... thing ... ever!

Quite the snapshot!

No threepeat for the Beavs

The NCAA announced the bracket for the college baseball tournament today. 64 teams get to play on, but 2006-07 Champions Oregon State Beavers are not one of them.

However, my current home of UC Davis did make the tournament and will face off against the Stanford Cardinal. Go Aggies!

20 May 2008

Dusty Baker, the Village Idiot

These sorts of things make me mad.

Dusty Baker on Reds pitcher Edinson Volquez - a nice, young arm that Dusty would love to ruin:
Volquez pitched winter ball and there are questions about him running out of gas. Baker couldn't disagree more. "Bob Quinn (former Yankees, Reds and Giants GM) told me once that pitchers usually rust out before they wear out. Latins guys who I've seen play winter ball rarely have arm problems — Julian Tavarez, Luis Tiant played winter ball somewhere every year, Diego Segui. Japanese pitchers throw more."

Volquez is currently 7-1 with a 1.33 ERA and 1.27 WHIP, and 62K and 30BB to go with 54.3 IP.
His pitch count for the season so far:
95, 75, 112, 105, 104, 100, 118, 110, 111
The 118 pitch game was one where the Reds were sporting a 9-0 lead ... and Dusty still let Edinson pitch on.

This has got me a little frightened.

19 May 2008


Off to the east coast for a few days (but not Boston)...

However, congrats to Jon Lester for his no hitter!

01 May 2008

Portishead, Cylons and more music

For those of you who missed it, I love the new Portishead album.
If you want to know why, check out my review on TIG, especially if you like Cylons.

Portishead - Third

And here's a new iPod top 10
1. Under Pressure by Xiu Xiu
2. Death to Los Campesinos! by Los Campesinos!
3. Threads by Portishead
4. Rubicon by the Blistering Suns
5. Avantcore by Busdriver
6. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa by Vampire Weekend
7. These are the Daves I Know by Bruce McCullough
8. The Gymnast, High Above the Ground by Colin Meloy
9. Shake a Fist by Hot Chip
10. Allure by Jay-Z & Notorious B.I.G.

16 April 2008

Barry Zito

I'm going on record to say Barry Zito (SF Giants) will lose 20 games in 2008. Why?

Well, for one, he isn't the pitcher that won the Cy Young 5 years ago. Secondly, the Giants are terrible. Thirdly, he's their #1 starter and durable, so he'll make most if not all of his starts.

Now, I don't have the time right now to check, but how many Cy Young winners have also lost 20 games in a single season? Good question...

11 April 2008

Reviews Reviews and Reviews ... sort of ...

Busy week with traveling and labwork and such.

TIG has posted a bunch of new review ... actually they're part of a chopped up pile of reviews, thus their relative shortness.
Except the first one, which is the normal, overly wordy length:

Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster (excellent!)
Ghostland Observatory - Robotique Majestique (trainwreck!)
Club 8 - The Boy Who Wouldn't Stop Dreaming
Dylan Mondegreen - While I Walk You Home
Mini People in Coney Island - Nara Dreamland
Rafter - Sex Death Cassette
Wire - Read & Burn 03

Here is my current iPod Top 10:
1 Under Pressure - Xiu Xiu
2 Rubicon - The Blistering Suns
3 Avantcore - Busdriver
4 Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend
5 Shake a Fist - Hot Chip
6 Allure - Jay-Z & Notorious B.I.G.
7 Aspidistra - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
8 Death to Los Campesinos - Los Campesinos!
9 Snake Mistakes - Dan Deacon
10 Machine Gun - Portishead

Oh yes, and this weekend is the first Red Sox-Yankees series of the year. What fun!

08 April 2008

It's Opening Day at Fenway

The Red Sox get their 2007 World Series Champion rings today.

And if that is not cool enough, the Sox are exorcising their demons for good by having none other than Bill Buckner throw out the first pitch. Its good to see him agree to do it and I'm sure he'll get a very warm welcome at Fenway.

05 April 2008

Charlton Heston 1924-2008

Charlton Heston died today at the age of 84.

Heston might be one of the greatest science fiction actors of all time, starring in Planet of the Apes(as Taylor, left), Soylent Green and The Omega Man, the trifecta of classic sci-fi from the '70s. He was also politically active - and contrary to Michael Moore's portrayal, on both sides of the political spectrum. Yes, he was the president of the National Rifle Association, but he was also an active crusader for civil rights. He was one of the last of the "Golden Age" actors of Hollywood yesteryear.

Very few actors could talk to themselves and act barechested like Charlton.

Charlton with Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte on the Lincoln Memorial. (right)

30 March 2008

More Opening Day Baseball...

A few thoughts after watching Atlanta-Washington on Opening Day #2:

- Why are they playing "Sweet Caroline" in the 8th at Nationals Park? Are the Nats trying to grab some of that Red Sox mojo?
- And you wonder why it is referred to as the "Red Sox Nation".

Remember folks, the "Red Sox Nation" doesn't refer to fans not from New England who have jumped on the bandwagon. It does not refer to the Red Sox being "America's Team". It refers to all the expatriate New Englanders all over the U.S. who support the team. So there.
- Jon Rauch came into the game in the 9th to get the save for the Nationals ... even with Chad Cordero warming. What's the deal? Is Cordero hurt? Uh oh.
- It's fun to watch players figure out how the ball plays in a new park. Kearns played one poorly in the 9th and McCann got tagged out at 2nd earlier in the game thinking a single was a double.

ESPN "Experts" Picks: An Analysis

So, the team over at ESPN has made their picks for the 2008 MLB Season. Nothing too shocking in the results, but I thought I'd compile their picks and look at the results. Here it is for your amusement.

Playoff Probably/Division Win/Wild Card (in %; out of 19 analysts)
Chicago Cubs - 100/89/11
Boston Red Sox - 95/73/22
Detroit Tigers - 79/53/28
Cleveland Indians - 79/47/33
New York Mets - 68/47/21
Los Angeles Angels - 58/53/5
Atlanta Braves - 53/37/16
Arizona Diamondbacks - 53/42/11
Seattle Mariners - 47/47/0
Los Angeles Dodgers - 42/37/5
New York Yankees - 37/27/11
Philadelphia Phillies - 32/11/21
Milwaukee Brewers - 26/11/16
Colorado Rockies - 11/11/0
San Diego Padres - 11/11/0

*Note: There is 1 less AL Wild Card pick because Pedro Gomez picked the AL Wild Card to be the Cubs and the NL Wild Card to be the Mets. He also picked the Brewers to win the AL Centrals and the Tigers to win the NL Central. He's on the ball.

World Series Winners (%, out of 19)

Detroit Tigers - 32
Cleveland Indians - 16
Atlanta Braves - 11
Boston Red Sox - 11
Chicago Cubs - 11
New York Mets - 11
Los Angeles Dodgers - 5
Los Angeles Angels - 5

So it seems that ESPN likes the Detroit Tigers to win it all this year, and they are a worthy pick. Their bullpen is a little iffy, but bullpens are bullpens - they are hard to predict. The Cubs might be a mortal lock on the NL Central. The AL West looks like a battle between the Angels and the Mariners (and the Angels starters look shaky right now). The Red Sox look in good shape in the AL East while the NL East could be up for grabs between the Braves (who did better on this than I expected) and the Mets. Disappointments? Nary a mention of Cincinnati or Toronto and only 2 appearances by last year's postseason darlings, the Rockies. Sorry folks!

28 March 2008

New Reviews and Top 10

A couple of new TIG reviews and a top 10 for the weekend.

Remember, baseball starts (again) Sunday with Atlanta vs. Washington (in DC's shiny new ballpark!)

Kate Nash - Made of Bricks
Jack Penate - Matinee

Current iPod Top 10
1. Under Pressure - Xiu Xiu
2. Rubicon - the Blistering Suns
3. Avantcore - Busdriver
4. Shake a Fist - Hot Chip
5. Allure - Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G.
6. Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa - Vampire Weekend
7. Aspidistra - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir
8. Snake Mistakes - Dan Deacon
9. Gardenia - Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks
10. Down Boy - Yeah Yeah Yeahs

23 March 2008

Predictions, Part IV: The Playoffs and Awards

Here's what I've talked about so far:

- Total wins
- American League summary
- National League summary

Now, let's wrap things up...

The Playoffs
Based on finish and total wins, the matchups looks like ...

AL Division Series(with winner in bold and % wins in the first round in parentheses).
Detroit (21.1%) vs. Los Angeles (13.6%)
Boston (17.2%) vs. Cleveland (18.0%)
The surprise here is Cleveland, the wild card team, taking out Boston. It is real close (<1% difference), but hey, that is how it goes.
NL Division Series
New York (17.0%) vs. Chicago (13.8%)
Colorado (12.4%) vs. Atlanta (11.4%)
Colorado takes out Atlanta by a nose.

AL Championship Series(winners in bold, championship win % in parentheses.)
Detroit (13.0%) vs. Cleveland (7.0%)
New York (10.6%) vs. Colorado (6.0%)
The odd thing here is that Detroit might win more ALCS, but Cleveland actually wins more World Series (12.6 to 9.4%), so go figure, stats like this can be odd sometimes.

World Series (winner in bold, World Series win % in parentheses.)
Detroit (9.4%) vs. New York (15.6%)

Yes, meet your 2008 World Champion New York Mets. Even if Cleveland did make the World Series, New York would have a 3% advantage on them anyway.

Player Awards
My picks, based somewhat on the simulation results...

AL MVP: Miguel Cabrera (3B - Detroit)
NL MVP: David Wright (3B - New York)
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett (Boston)
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy (San Diego)
AL Rookie of the Year: Daric Barton (1B - Oakland)
NL Rookie of the Year: Kyosuke Fukudome (OF - Chicago)

And that's that. If you have any picks for winners/losers/awards, feel free to post them here!

Predictions, Part III: National League

Continuing on to the NL...

NL East
New York 91-71
Atlanta 88-74
Philadelphia 87-75
Washington 77-85
Florida 67-95

The top of the NL East is going to be a busy place. New York, Atlanta and Philly are separated by a mere 4 games. However, looks can be deceiving as New York won fully 47% of the division titles, with Atlanta and Philly sharing the rest (save for Washington's 1.6%) However, once New York gets to the playoffs, it becomes the favorite to win it all, with >15% of the World Series won (more on that later). Philadelphia wins more wild cards than Atlanta (17.4% to 16.8%) but Atlanta actually ends up on top for playoff appearances (44.6% to 40.6%). Atlanta's good showing surprised me, and I wonder if either BB Mogul favors Atlanta's veteran pitching staff or Philadelphia's park effect wreaks havoc on the Philly staff. Florida, however, is the only NL team to never win a division or wild card.

NL Central
Chicago 87-75
Houston 82-80
Milwaukee 80-82
Cincinnati 77-85
Pittsburgh 75-87
St. Louis 75-87

(* = BB Mogul does not divide the results of the NL Central to 5th and 6th place. Instead, they're just listed as "5th+")
Chicago looks to be the heavy favorite in the NL Central. They win 54.2% of the titles, followed by Houston's 20.4%. I'm a little baffled by Houston's showing, I pegged the 'Stros to be pretty terrible in 2008, but BB Mogul must like something, my guess it is the offense. Milwaukee does walk away with 14.6% of the titles as well. The NL Central does look like the weakest division in the NL again, with the division only accounting for 8% of all the wild cards. Note how quickly St. Louis has fallen to the cellar. Heck, even Pittsburgh (?!) won a World Series ... they get my "NL Surprise Team" label for 2008. I guess St. Louis' fall can be rationalized by any team hoping the likes of Braden Looper and Todd Wellemeyer belong in an MLB rotation. (Oh yeah, and Dusty Baker sucks.)

NL West
Colorado 87-75
San Diego 85-77
Los Angeles 85-77
Arizona 81-81
San Francisco 71-91

Colorado looks like 2007 was no fluke, coming out on top of the NL West for 2008. They grab the division in 41.4% of the simulations, while San Diego and LA duke it out for next best at 27.6% and 20.0% respectively. Of course, Arizona won the division in 2007, but the simulations predict a step backwards for the Diamondbacks, coming in at playoffs appearances 14% of the time. And for you Bay Area types wallowing in pity about your Giants and A's, yes, even the Giants win the NL West ... 0.4% of the time.

Playoff Picture
Here's the playoff percentages for the NL:
New York - 70.2%
Chicago - 57.0%
Colorado - 48.4%
Atlanta - 44.6%
Philadelphia - 40.6%
San Diego - 35.6%
Los Angeles - 30.4%
Houston - 24.4%
Milwaukee - 18.6%
Arizona - 14.0%
The Rest - <10%
Florida - 0%

My NL playoff teams: New York, Chicago, Colorado and Atlanta (wild card).
Up next, the playoffs and awards.

Predictions, Part II: The American League

So, let's get into the nitty-gritty of my simulations, first with the AL East

AL East
Predicted Finish
Boston 91-71
New York 87-75
Toronto 82-80
Baltimore 76-86
Tampa Bay 75-87

This is a bar graph showing each team's share of finishing 1st through 5th in the division. Note that the Red Sox have the lion's share of division wins (61%), but each team had at least one 1st place finish and one 5th place finish. I was most surprised by Tampa's poor showing, but I think the pitching for the Rays is still a year away from being truly competitive (and BB Mogul doesn't tend to shine upon young pitching). Toronto ended up winning 6 World Series, so I'm tempted to label them my surprise team of 2008.

AL Central
Detroit 92-70
Cleveland 89-73
Minnesota 80-82
Chicago 69-93
Kansas City 67-95

The AL Central is a little different. Only Detroit, Cleveland and Minnesota win the division, with the first two teams winning most of the time. Detroit ends up on top 17% more than Cleveland, but both teams make the playoffs in over 63% of the simulations. Heck, Cleveland actually wins more World Series than Detroit (12.6% to 9.4%), so go figure. And don't let Ozzie tell you differently: the White Sox are going to be baaad.

AL West
Los Angeles 88-74
Seattle 83-79
Texas 80-82
Oakland 78-84

Not surprisingly, Los Angeles dominates the division ... but not by as much as you might imagine. Sure, they win 56% of the time, but that means almost half of the simulations ended with someone other than LA on top. Seattle grabbed 25% of the division titles, but I'm most surprised by Oakland, that 8.4%. There was even a simulation I noticed that Oakland won 107 games?!. The other oddity might be that Texas wins more World Series (4) than Seattle (3), although with almost 15% fewer playoff appearances. More or less, the AL West looks like the most wide-open in the league.

Playoff Picture
Here's the playoff percentages for the AL:
Detroit - 76.0%
Boston - 69.6%
Cleveland - 63.8%
Los Angeles - 62.4%
New York - 41.0%
Seattle - 30.2%
Toronto - 16.0%
Texas - 14.8%
Minnesota - 10.8%
Oakland - 10%
The Rest - <10%
Chicago, Kansas City - 0%

Based on this, my picks for the playoffs are: Detroit, Boston, Los Angeles and Cleveland (wild card). I'll have my playoff/World Series odds in a later post. I'll have my NL predictions up next ...

21 March 2008

MLB 2008 Predictions, Part 1

With Opening Day around the corner, it is time to break out my official 2008 predictions for the MLB Season.

Methods: I used Baseball Mogul 2008 with a roster file I modified myself to account for all roster moves up to 3/20/2008. I then used the Baseball Prospectus Depth Charts to assign a batting order, rotation and bench for each time. With this roster file set, I simulated the 2008 season 500 times. The results were output to a text file.

I'll have a more indepth analysis of the results, but for your initial entertainment, here are the predicted wins for all teams based on these simulations. I added the PECOTA predictions from Baseball Prospectus as comparison.

More to come this weekend!

19 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, redux.

Sorry about the borderline unintelligible obit for Arthur C. Clarke yesterday.

To rectify that, I will try again.

Arthur C. Clarke was one of the greatest authors I've read. His short stories are wonderful, optimistic and clever endeavors that just left me captivated. I think of any author, I have read more Arthur C. Clarke books/stories than anyone. He is one of those 20th/21st century people who still have that enthusiasm towards humans, learning and science that died out at the end of the Victorian era. Humanity had limitless potential and the universe was there to discover. I still (sometimes) believe that, even though the current state of the world makes it hard to believe sometimes, both politically and economically. However, the visions of Sir Clarke can still bring hope to my heart and mind that we are only at the tip of the iceberg - culturally, scientifically - and that human will one day figure out that there are many more important things in the universe beyond our petty squabbling.

Oh yeah, and Sir Clarke also introduced me to my favorite idea for political leadership (and it is downright communist), where he envisioned a world where the global leader was picked at random from the entire population. The rationale? "People who want to be a leader aren't qualified to be one". Beautiful.

18 March 2008

Arthur C. Clarke, 1917-2008

Sir Arthur C. Clarke died today, which is quite sad news to me. He was one of the great minds of our time ... his legacy will live on as far into the future as his stories were set ... (sorry, that was convoluted, but I just got off a plane,

15 March 2008

New TIG Review

I'm off to the great wet north for a few days. Woo.

Here is a new TIG review ... a real gem.
Scotland Yard Gospel Choir - Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

12 March 2008

10,000 BC

So if you're the sort of person who lies awake at night wonder "Boy, wouldn't it be great if someone made a movie about a fictional history where the human timeline and the Stargate universe intersect!" I'd say to you, "Well, someone already did and its called Stargate" and you'd reply "No! I mean other than that!"

Well, your dream has come true in Roland Emmerich's latest "film" 10,000 BC.

I won't really get into any spoiler details, but considering my girlfriend is an anthropologist, it was a field day of wrongitude in cinema, including (but very much not limited to:)

- Horses. Domesticated about 5000 years after the movie is set.
- Iron cuffs. Again, not a lot of iron-working 12,000 years ago.
- Predatory birds. Huh? Are we in New Zealand? No, we're not (see below).
- Mammoths. I won't even go there, just needless to say they get hunted in all the wrong ways.
- Sabretooth cats. Apparently, in the long run, they're about as mean as my cat.
- Agriculture. Let's grow corn in the mountains. Wait, no, let's have agriculture way too early. Wait, no! Let's have new world plants in the old world!

Speaking of the world.

Can someone name me a continent where you can, in succession, travel southerly and go from high mountains, to tundra, to tropical, bamboo-filled jungle (with giant birds), to semi-arid deserts (with sabretooth cats!), to a vast desert, to a fertile crescent? Travelled all on foot. In probably less than a month or two. Yeah, me neither.

Needless to say, beyond the science, the storyline is pretty much "boy meets girl, boy hunts mammoth, girl is kidnapped by extras from Stargate Atlantis, boy goes to rescue her, boy fights feathered raptors, boy meets up with every stereotypical African tribe ever, boy throws a spear." You know, the typical love story of the ages.

If I were you, I'd flip back and forth between Sci-Fi channel reruns of Stargate SG-1 and Animal Planet and you should get the same effect.

10 March 2008

A few updates ...

I've been kind of slogged down with an illness for the past week, but it looks like it finally letting up. Just in time, too, as my two big fantasy baseball drafts are this week. More on those later, along with my 2008 MLB Predictions.

I do have a new TIG review up, specifically for Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks' Real Emotional Trash.

And to finish, here's an iPod top 10:
1 "Rubicon" by the Blistering Suns
2 "Under Pressure" by Xiu Xiu
3 "Avantcore" by Busdriver
4 "Shake a Fist" by Hot Chip
5 "Allure" by Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G.
6 "Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa" by Vampire Weekend
7 "In Der Nacht" by K.I.Z.
8 "Throw It On Me" by Timbaland & the Hives
9 "A-Punk" by Vampire Weekend"
10 "Aspidistra" by Scotland Yard Gospel Choir

03 March 2008

Fantasy ... Congress?!

Today I discovered a whole new realm of fantasy "sport", that being Fantasy Congress. You get to draft 10 members of Congress, divided into Upper and Lower Senator (based on seniority), along with Representatives divided into All-Stars (most senior), Supporting Lineup (middle) and Rookies. Then you get scored in categories like Legislation, Cosponsoring, Maverick, News and Attendance.

So, of course, I drafted a team. Here it is!
Upper Senators
Edward Kennedy (D-MA)
Olympia Snowe (R-ME)
Lower Senators
Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)
All Stars
Barney Frank (D-MA)
Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD)
Supporting Lineup
Ron Paul (R-TX)
James McGovern (D-MA)
Patrick Murphy (D-PA)
Raul Grijalva (D-AZ)

Awww yeah.

The State of the Nationals

Is this MLB or 40 and over Softball down at the Park?

Taking the Pitching or Hitting First Strategies to the Next Level

So, after posting about what sort of fantasy baseball teams you might construct if you pick all pitching or all hitting first, I along with a fellow baseball fan with too much free time decided to try this out over a full season. To that end, we snuck into an ESPN 5x5 10-team roto league and drafted one of each: Pitching-first (me) and Hitting-first (him). We laid out a few rules for the season: (1) no trades; (2) no adding/dropping active hitters or pitchers once the season starts unless the player is injured (on the DL) or demoted/released. That is about it, so with 8 control groups being the other folks who drafted in the league (unbeknownst of our tests), we shall see who's team ends up better at the end of the year. I'll post regular updates/analysis as the season progresses.

Here are the rosters:

Pitching-First (Me)
C G. Soto (CHC)
1B J. Loney (LAD)
2B A. Hill (TOR)
3B E. Longoria (TAM)
SS J. Peralta (CLE)
2B/SS M. Ellis (OAK)
1B/3B T. Glaus (STL)
OF B. Hawpe (COL)
OF J. Franceour (ATL)
OF J. Hamilton (TEX)
OF J. Hermida (FLA)
OF J. Ellsbury (BOS)
U C. Jackson (ARI)
SP J. Santana (NYM)
SP J. Peavy (SD)
SP B. Webb (ARI)
SP J. Beckett (BOS)
SP J. Smoltz (ATL)
SP F. Hernandez (SEA)
RP J. Putz (SEA)
RP F. Rodruguez (LAA)
RP T. Saito (LAD)
B S. Drew (SS - ARI)
B A. Jones (OF - BAL)
B R. Betancourt (RP - CLE)

Hitters-First (him)
C B. McCann (ATL)
1B Ad. Gonzalez (SD)
2B B. Upton (TAM)
3B A. Rodriguez (NYY)
SS C. Guillen (DET)
2B/SS R. Weeks (MIL)
1B/3B N. Swisher (CHW)
OF G. Sizemore (CLE)
OF C. Hart (MIL)
OF P. Burrell (PHI)
OF D. Young (MIN)
OF C. Young (ARI)
U T. Hafner (CLE)
SP M. Cain (SF)
RP B. Lyon (ARI)
RP C. Cordero (WAS)
RP B. Lidge (PHI)
RP B. Ryan (TOR)
RP E. Gagne (MIL)
RP C. Wilson (TEX)
RP K. Wood (CHC)
RP T. Percival (TAM)
B K. Gregg (FLA)
B. A. Iwamura (TAM)
B. M. Bourn (PHI)

Mega Spring Cleaning Review

TIG just posted my mega-"clean off my desk" blog review that includes Food for Animals, Cryptacize, Fishboy, Skeletons with Flesh on Them, Basia Bulat, Monade, the Fireflies, Ssion, Mohawk Lodge, Maserati and Carol Bui.

Yeah, I had a lot on my desk. And heck, a couple were actually pretty darn good.

28 February 2008

Fantasy Baseball Season!

Well, with February wrapping up tomorrow with a big LEAP DAY!
This also heralds the start of fantasy baseball draft season. So, today being mostly braindead, I've been doing a few mock drafts on ESPN where I either drafted all hitting first, and when I filled up all those slots, moved to the pitching and vice versa, just to see the rosters that would result. Here they are for your amusement:

Both are 10 team mixed leagues

HITTERS FIRST (round selected in parentheses) and I had the 8th pick overall.
C Russell Martin LAD (5)
1B Nick Swisher CHW (9)
2B BJ Upton TAM (3)
3B Ryan Braun MIL (1)
SS JJ Hardy MIL (12)
1B/3B Ryan Zimmerman WAS (7)
2B/SS Howie Kendrick LAA (10)
OF Carl Crawford TAM (2)
OF Nick Markakis BAL (4)
OF Brad Hawpe COL (6)
OF Jeff Francoeur ATL (8)
OF Josh Hamilton TEX (11)
U Kevin Youkilis BOS (13)
SP Chad Billingsley LAD (14)
RP Jason Isringhausen STL (15)
SP Ted Lilly CHC (16)
SP Joe Blanton OAK (17)
RP Eric Gagne MIL (18)
SP Jeff Francis COL (19)
RP Carlos Marmol CHC (20)
SP Jon Garland LAA (21)
SP Justin Duchscherer OAK (22)
B Connor Jackson ARI (23)
B Adam Jones BAL (24)
B Rafael Betancourt CLE (25)

PITCHERS FIRST and I had the 9th pick overall
C Kenji Johjima SEA (12)
1B Nick Swisher CHW (13)
2B Rickie Weeks MIL (14)
3B Troy Glaus STL (17)
SS Jhonny Peralta CLE (16)
1B/3B Joey Votto CIN (19)
2B/SS Mark Ellis OAK (20)
OF Brad Hawpe COL (10)
OF Andruw Jones LAD (11)
OF Pat Burrell PHI (15)
OF Jacoby Ellsbury BOS (18)
OF Travis Buck OAK (22)
U Evan Longoria TAM (21)
SP Jake Peavy SD (1)
SP Erik Bedard SEA (2)
SP Josh Beckett BOS (3)
SP Brandon Webb ARI (4)
RP Jonathan Papelbon BOS (5)
RP JJ Putz SEA (6)
RP Joe Nathan MIN (7)
SP Chris Young SD (8)
SP Javier Vazquez CHW (9)
B Micah Owings ARI (23)
B Kelly Johnson ATL (24)
B Jason Kubel MIN (25)

Overall, I like the makeup of the "Pitching first" roster over the "Hitting first". I think this is mostly thanks to the fact that most everyone focusing on hitting at the very beginning, so if you're picking up all the great pitchers in the first 7 rounds, you can collect all the aces/top closers. Hitters tend to be deep, so even though you might be stuck with high risk/high reward players like Votto and Longoria or potentially unexciting guys like Glaus or Johjima, overall it is still a solid lineup, minus the real big boppers.

I'll have some more draft thoughts later on ...

27 February 2008

Travel and Tunes

I've been busy criss-crossing the nation yet again (don't even get me started about O'Hare) ... but here's a little iPod update.

Current iPod Top 10
1 Rubicon by the Blistering Suns
2 Avantcore by Busdriver
3 Shake a Fist by Hot Chip
4 Under Pressure by Xiu Xiu
5 Allure by Jay-Z and Notorious B.I.G. (from Ratatat Remixes Vol. 2)
6 Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa by Vampire Weekend
7 In Der Nacht by K.I.Z.
8 Throw It On Me by Timbaland & the Hives
9 Sophia by the Toothaches
10 Down Boy by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

18 February 2008

The state of the airline industry

Recently, I flew to Bloomington, IL and back. It was supposed to be four flights: CA to O'Hare, O'Hare to Bloomington and back.

Well, of the 4 flights on United, 2 of the 3 I actually took where >1 hour late because of "crew issues" (i.e., the crew wasn't available). The 3rd late flight, from Bloomington to O'Hare, was late enough for me to miss my other flight. So, United rebooked me on American, adding an extra leg, going from O'Hare to Dallas, then Dallas back to CA, all on the next day. United put me up in one of the worst airport hotels I've been in with no free internet, a shower that barely worked, a turbofan-loud heater and maybe 5 cable channels. Then, I had to wait 4 hours in Dallas, including almost 2 hours in the MD-82 on the tarmac while we waited for the thunderstorm to pass ... during which American loaded more passengers and then delayed the flight more so they could add the latecomers baggage. And then had the gaul to try to hype the cheap-ass food they now sell on all flights (well, both United and American do this), only giving the coach class folks a single beverage on a 3.5 hour flight. The flight attendants were rude and flippant, especially Kay Cee (on AA Flight 1119), who yelled at a number of passengers (including me) who tried to use the bathroom when the seatbelt light was OFF - no explanation, just "Sir, return to your seat!". So, 4 of the 5 flights were VERY late, rude staff, and not even an offer of compensation. No apology. Not even a free bag of pretzels. And you wonder why the legacy carriers like United and American can't make money when they nickel and dime you and make it clear that they don't give a f&%k about their customers. I will gladly use a low-cost carrier in the future or Delta (who looks like they have their act together) than the mess that are United and American.

OK, I'm done with my rant. And of course, I get to fly back to the Midwest next week. On United. Bah!

08 February 2008

iPod Top 10 and two new reviews

Busy busy.

I've got my latest iPod Top 10 ...
1 Rubicon by the Blistering Suns
2 Avantcore by Busdriver
3 Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa by Vampire Weekend
4 Sophia by the Toothaches
5 A-Punk by Vampire Weekend
6 Under Pressure by Xiu Xiu
7 Ready for the Floor by Hot Chip
8 Allure by Jay-Z & Notorious B.I.G. (from the Ratatat Remixes, Vol. 2)
9 Throw It on Me by Timbaland & the Hives
10 Down Boy by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs

Here are two new TIG reviews:
Hot Chip - Made in the Dark
Future of the Left - Curses!

06 February 2008

Torchwood Season 2 and Super Duper Tuesday

So, I've decided to watch season two of Torchwood. I'm not entirely sure why as I wasn't entirely impressed with season one, but hey, you have to try to forgive and forget. I suppose season one did end relatively strong and the crossover (well, with Captain Jack) to the end of the brilliant end to season three of Doctor Who, I was hopeful.

Of course, the other draw for season two of Torchwoodwas the introduction of Captain John Hart, portrayed by none other than James Marsters. Yes, Spike has work again, which is great. OK, well, his work involves him playing more-or-less the same character on Torchwood as he did on BtVS minus the whole blood-sucking thing, but hey, thats is why we like Marsters faux-British characters: they're like the Billy Idol we wished existed (beyond the final scenes of The Wedding Singer).

Not to give too much away, Captain Jack and Captain John are both former Time Agents that worked together ("for two weeks" Captain Jack says, but they were caught in a time rift, so it was really 5 years). Beyond that, I won't get into it other than that Marsters is great and the chemistry between John Barrowman (Captain Jack) and Marsters is incredible (especially if you've always fantasized about Spike and Angel making out). However, what it did make me realize is the real reason Torchwood sort of sucks: Captain Jack's gang - the actors specifically - aren't very interesting or good. Sure, they're all adequate, but they are all so one-dimensional characters. When that is combined with the fact that none of the actors do anything to expand the characters (except that Yanto's character is a little more snarky in season two so far ... nice touch), I'm left with Captain Jack/John Barrowman trying to keep the whole series afloat, and as much as I love Barrowman, Captain Jack as a character just can't do it. Combine him with the Doctor, he's great. By himself, he needs someone to play off of, and Captain John/Marsters was exactly that. It is sad that I loved episode 1 of season two, but episode 2 left me getting bored again just like season 1 did. Well, at least Captain John makes multiple appearances this season!

In non-sci fi nerd news, I'm disappointed that Hillary Clinton won the California primary ... and by a decent margin. I'm still behind my man Barack, and the primaries in the mid-Atlantic states over the next few weeks will be telling.

That being said, Obama did put on quite a showing on Super Duper Tuesday, winning more states that Clinton and actually overtaking her in the delegate count, depending on the hypermath you use to calculate it ...

03 February 2008

Obamania! (Oh yeah, and too bad for the Pats)

Well, my Wes Welker mojo didn't work. Way to go Giants.

That being said, we're down to < 10 days until pitchers and catchers report!

And with a day until Super Tuesday, the Intellectual Thicket officially endorses Barack Obama for the Democratic Primary!

01 February 2008

Super Bowl!

Big Superbowl weekend. 18-0 Patriots versus some team for New York with some other Manning. They're like the Wayans of the NFL. OK, well, not really, but anyway, I'll work some mojo here.

Gotta love Wes Welker.

Anyway, here is a new TIG review:

And an updated iPod top 10
1 The Blistering Suns : Rubicon (Edit: Sure, change your name after I post this!)
2 Busdriver : Avantcore
3 The Toothaches : Sophia
4 Timbaland (with the Hives) : Throw It On Me
5 Vampire Weekend : A-Punk
6 Xiu Xiu : Under Pressure
7 Bloc Party : Hunting for Witches
8 Die Fantastischen Vier : Einfach Sein
9 Hot Chip: Shake a Fist
10 K.I.Z. : In Der Nacht

28 January 2008

Santana, Bedard and Roberts Trade Implications ... ?

There is a lot of chatter lately about three potentially big trades that might happen in the very near future, all somewhat dependent on one another. So, out of curiosity, I simulated (on Baseball Mogul 2008) the 2008 season with the current rosters and the three big trades in question (or the nearest I could approximate, plus some hand-in-hand signings) to see the effect on the 2008 season without the trades.

Here are the trades I made:
1. Seattle receives Eric Bedard (SP) from Baltimore for Adam Jones (OF), George Sherrill (RP), Chris Tillman (SP) and a 4th prospect (meaning a random Single A player, here being Matt Mangini (3B)). Seattle goes on to sign Brad Wilkerson (OF) to replace Adam Jones.
2. New York (N) receives Johan Santana from Minnesota for Ryan Church (OF), Carlos Gomez (OF), Mike Pelfrey (SP) and Aaron Heilman (RP).
3. Chicago (N) receives Brian Roberts (2B) from Baltimore for Sean Gallagher (SP), Felix Pie (OF) and a 3rd prospect (here being Single A pitcher Jose Ceda).
I fixed the rosters in question appropriately and ran both the season with trades and without the trades 20 times. Here are the results:
Team: w/o trades (postseason) - w/ trades (post season)  
Minnesota: 81.2-80.8 (1 AC, 3 DW, 1 WC) - 78.7-83.3 (1 WC)  
Difference: -2.5 Wins
Baltimore: 76-86 (none) - 70.7-91.3 (none)  
Difference: -5.3 Wins
Seattle: 81.4-80.6 (1 DW, 1 WC) - 85.8-76.2 (1 WS, 6 DW)  
Difference: +4.4 Wins
New York (N): 95.1-66.9 (5 WS, 15 DW, 2 WC) - 92.8-69.2 (5 WS, 10 DW, 5 WC)
Difference: -2.3 Wins
Chicago (N): 83.5-78.5 (3 NC, 5 DW, 1 WC ) - 87.9-74.1 (1 WS, 11 DW, 2 WC)
Difference: +4.4 Wins
(DW = Division Winner, WC = Wild Card, WS = World Series Winner, AC = AL Champion, NC = NL Champion)

Minnesota: Obviously, losing a pitcher like Santana will hurt any team ... a lot. Minnesota loses 2.5 Wins, and in the AL Central, that translates to missing 3 Division titles. However, it doesn't turn Minnesota into a true cellar-dweller.
Baltimore: Well, what can you say about the Orioles. Ship out their ace and their All-Star 2B and you get, well, an even worse team. The O's lose 5.3 Wins with the two trades, but they weren't going to the postseason anyway, so why not retool?
Seattle: Now, here's a team if ever I've seen one whose mantra should be "Win now!". Adding Bedard for the bounty of players added 4.4 Wins for the 'Ners, and that translates to a World Series win and 6 Division titles. That doesn't knock the Angels from their position as favorite, but it sure does make a dent.
New York (N): Normally, you'd think trading for Santana is a no-brainer, but here the Mets in fact lose 2.3 Wins after trading for Santana. The important thing is that Santana really does't raise the odds at World Series wins and postseason appearances. Given the big money contract involves, I'd say no, but hey, its New York, you have to upstage the Yankees somehow.
Chicago (N): All the Cubbies get from all this is Brian Roberts, a good 2B whose power may have been ... er ... enhanced. However, by adding Roberts and moving DeRosa back to the bench, The Cubbies go from sort-of favorites in the NL Central to hands-down favorites, even collected a (gasp!) World Series win. Here's a trade that should be made, too.

26 January 2008

The Joys of Finding a Faculty Position

I've been reading Love is a Mixtape by Rob Sheffield - a pretty good book, maybe a little depressing and less music oriented than I expected - but Sheffield did hit it with this quote about grad school. Specifically, he talks about the idea of going to grad school and getting a tenure-track faculty job ...
My friends and I assumed that we would soon be tenured professors, which is an excellent life goal - it's like planning to be Cher. You think, I'm going to wear beads and fringed gowns, sing "Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves" on the way to work every morning, and then one day, I'm going to get a call saying, "Congratulations! You're Cher! Can you make it to Vegas by showtime?"


25 January 2008

End of the Holocene

Apparently, the Holocene Epoch is over ... ?

California, get with the program

Not to harp on this point, but I've seen Dunkin' Donuts in the International Terminal in Santiago, Chile, in a pedestrian plaza in Cologne, Germany and, well, every-other-block back in Massachusetts. And now they're opening 100 stores in Shanghai!

Sure, I'm not thrilled to see Food Network hack Rachael Ray advertising for DD, but I am weary of the burned coffee taste of the supposed "dark roasts" they seem to love in California.

That being said, if you try to find any DD within 50 miles of, oh, I don't know, Sacramento, CA, what do you find?

Nothing, that's what.


23 January 2008

Early Early Early simulations

I've been a big slacker today, mostly because its my "big" 31, but hey.
With baseball season around the corner (well, OK, its a wide corner), I've been playing around with some BB Mogul 2008 simulations of the 2008 season. It is clearly not perfect as I've been updating rosters manually, but some points of interest.
After 322 simulations of 2008 ...

- The Red Sox are still the World Series favorites, winning 63 (with an average record of 92.8-69.2). Next up are the Mets with 45 World Series wins, followed by Cleveland (34), Los Angeles of Anaheim (33), Detroit (31) and Atlanta (22). Interestingly, Baltimore, Minnesota, Arizona and Cincinnati each won once while Pittsburgh (yes, that Pittsburgh) won 3 times, more than Milwaukee and the same as San Diego and St. Louis. 2007 World Series Runner-up Colorado won 15 times.

- In only one division did each team win at least 1 World Series: the NL Central. That might surprise some of you, but I think the division is so close in talent that almost any team has a chance to win it, and once the playoffs start, its anybody's game to win the whole thing.

- Only three teams failed to make the postseason after 322 runs: Kansas City (67.5-94.5), Oakland (sorry Louis, 68.1-93.9) and Florida (66.8-95.2). The Nationals made the playoffs 6 times as the Wild Card and San Francisco won the NL West 4 times.

- Early Division/Wild Card favorites:
NL East - New York Mets (189 times, next is Atlanta with 80)
NL Central - Chicago Cubs (116, next is Houston with 75)
NL West - Los Angeles Dodgers (119 times, a slight edge over Colorado with 115)
NL Wild Card - Philadelphia Phillies (70, next is Atlanta with 60 and New York with 53)
AL East - Boston Red Sox (233 times, next is New York with 64)
AL Central - Detroit Tigers (187 times, next is Cleveland with 119)
AL West - Los Angeles Angels (239 times, next is Texas with 48)
AL Wild Card - Cleveland Indians (80 times, followed by New York with 59 and Detroit with 57)

- And, for what its worth, potential MVP and Cy Youngs
AL MVP: David Ortiz (1B-BOS) at 200 times, followed by Alex Rodriguez (3B-NYY) at 50 times and Curtis Granderson (OF-DET) at 24 times. Interesting to note that Luke Scott (OF-BAL) won once, along with Garret Anderson (OF-LAA), and Carlos Pena (1B-TAM) won 8 times! Newly minted Tiger Miguel Cabrera won 15 times.
NL MVP: Matt Holliday (OF-COL) at 220 times, followed by Mark Teixiera (1B-ATL) at 25 times and Albert Pujols (1B-STL) at 19 times. Rick Ankiel (OF-STL) won once, while Brad Hawpe (OF-COL) somehow won 7 times (as long as he isn't facing AL pitching I guess).
AL Cy Young: Josh Beckett (BOS) won 85 times, followed by C.C. Sabathia (CLE) 44 times, Fausto Carmona (CLE) 41 times, Justin Verlander (DET) 34 times and John Lackey 30 times. Oddly, Eric Bedard (BAL) threw 22 no hitters in the simulations but only won the Cy Young 24 times, implying how anemic the Baltimore offense will be. Some fun 1-offs include James Shields, Dontrelle Willis, Carlos Silva, Jarrod Washburn, Jake Westbrook, Nate Robertson, Jered Weaver, Joba Chamberlain and Jeremy Guthrie. King Felix won 4 times and Dice-K won twice.
NL Cy Young: Jake Peavy (SD) won 70 times, Tim Hudson (ATL) won 55 times, John Smoltz (ATL) won 35 times, Brandon Webb (ARI) won 34 times and Roy Oswalt (HOU) won 18 times. The surprise for me was Shawn Hill (WAS) winning 8 times. Newly acquired Danny Haren (ARI) won 5 times and Dodger rookie Clayton Kershaw won 4 times. One-offs include Matt Morris, Tom Gorzelanny, Micah Owings, Wandy Rodriguez, Mike Pelfrey, Aaron Cook and Tim Lincecum. And the revivied Pedro Martinez (NYM) won 6 times!


Oh yes, and a new review:

18 January 2008

New Review Update

I have two more TIG reviews for your entertainment.

One album I liked a lot:

One album I liked less:

17 January 2008

Konono No.1

Normally I don't fall prey for the world music "Flavor of the Month", and I suppose that Konono No.1 is not a flavor of the month as such. However, I find this act remarkable. Apparently they made all their instruments and amplifiers from junk they found in their home country of Congo. The sound they make is amazing, sort of neither world nor electronic, but straddling both worlds. And with the African music revival we seem to be entering (see Jens Lekman's new album and Vampire Weekend), Konono No.1 are primed for it. Enjoy.
Konono No.1 - Lufuala Ndonga (sorry, Blogger seems not not let me link youtube video directly ... or I'm just dumb).

15 January 2008

TIG Update and a sort-of Top 10

Not much to say today beyond the feeling that I should have more enthusiasm towards seeing Bill Clinton speak in Davis tonight except (a) I have no intention of voting for his wife in the primary and (b) it will be a madhouse. Sorry, I think I might be a lazy, unpolitical American tonight.

Anyway, here is a new TIG review of one of my new favorite bands, the Toothaches from Jamaica Plain, MA. Good, cute stuff:
(And if you order it from the band, they will make it in their kitchen and package it with a bow and all!)

Now, over Christmas I had to wipe my iPod and reload everything, so I lost my playcount. So, my current new playcounts are a little odd, so my Top 10 is equally odd.
1 Avantcore by Busdriver
2 Sophia by the Toothaches
3 Heart It Races by Architecture in Helsinki
4 Over the Rainbow by Rufus Wainwright
5 Einfach Sein by Die Fantastischen Vier
6 Down Boy by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs
7 2AM by Thee More Shallows
8 Throw It On Me by Timbaland with the Hives
9 One More Night of This Shall Be the Death of Me by Dichotomy
10 Hunting for Witches by Bloc Party

I'm sure it will change a lot by the time I next post.

Oh yeah, and its less than a month until pitchers and catchers report. How exciting is that? Very, that's how.

10 January 2008

iMix of my "Best of 2007" CD

If you're interested in my Best of 2007 CD, I've made an iMix with the tracks that I could find on iTunes. Enjoy!

07 January 2008

Best of 2007 CD

I have one more copy of my "Best of 2007" CD and will send it to the first person who emails me. Shoot me your name & address to erik (at) threeimaginarygirls (dot) com and I'll send you the CD. It is nothing fancy package-wise but it is loaded with 23 of the best songs (in my opinion) from the year that was.

05 January 2008

2007 Red Sox Offense - Starters

Here's my review of the 2007 Red Sox Offensive Starters.
Stat set is AB/BA/OBP/HR/RBI/2B/SB.

Catcher - Jason Varitek (435/.255/.367/17/68/15/1)
I'm not sure any traditional analyses of Varitek, el Capitan, could do him justice. At this point of his career, his batting stats are merely passable - sure, he's not Brad Ausmus, but his days of being really productive at the plate are behind him. This leaves us to wonder about those intangibles and semi-intangibles like his ability to call games and his defensive prowess. He's never been a Howitzer when it comes to throwing out baserunners, so that is hard to judge. However, in watching the Sox run through the 2007 playoffs, I was struck with the fact that Varitek seems to call a lot of fastballs for all his pitchers in many situations. I can remember quite a few times when I would see Gagne, Delcarmen or Beckett pitching and screaming "throw a knee-buckler" only to get another fastball off the plate. Now, is that due to Varitek's game-calling, knowledge of the batter or just stubbornness of the pitcher? It is hard to tell. That being said, 'Tek is still probably marginally worth his money for 2008. Now as for an extension? I suppose its inevitable to keep 'Tek here for the rest of his career (especially with no apparent heir) and maybe beyond (can anyone say Francona's replacement?), but much worst catching situations exist out there.

First Base - Kevin Youkilis (528/.288/.390/16/83/35/4)
For a first basemen, Youkilis' numbers aren't all that exciting, but when you add the fact that he didn't commit a single error all season over 1094 inning at 1B, well, then we might be onto something. And before you say "well, maybe he has no range!", his range factor was 8.88, which isn't too shabby. Youkilis also gets points for looking like a rabid Viking throughout most of the season. I like the fact the Sox are willing to take a bit of a high production-wise at 1B to keep Youkilis in the lineup, but I suppose the production of Lowell and Ortiz make up for the lower run-production of the God of Walks.

Second Base - Dustin Pedroia (520/.317/.380/8/50/39/7)
How glad am I that Pedroia won Rookie of the Year? Sure, it helps that he's from right up the road from my current location, but even so, I've been a fan of his as he's worked his way up the Red Sox minor league ladder. He seems to be rather sure-handed defensively, at least based on the games I saw on TV - he seems to pull some rather tough balls out of the dirt. His offensive stats speak for themselves, with the .380 OBP and the fact he was rather tough to strike out, he looks like he could be a solid 2B for the Sox for years to come (and rather cheap for a few more years as well).

Third Base - Mike Lowell (589/.324/.378/21/120/37/3)
In a season where the two offensive juggernauts of the Red Sox - David Ortiz and Manny Ramirez - had less-than-stellar season (OK, well, Ortiz's was stellar, just not 50+ HR stellar), Mike Lowell might have been the team batting MVP. Not only did he set career highs in BA, OBP and RBI, but he was was consistent all-season, without his usual second-half swoon (or at least his perceived second-half swoon). Now, I'm not sure if his new contract for 3 more years will pay off overall, he will be 34 in 2008, but even if he hits at 80% of his 2007 numbers, something like .280/20/95, he should be a solid 3B for the Sox.

Shortstop - Julio Lugo (570/.237/.294/8/73/36/33)
And then there is Julio Lugo. I feel, sometimes, Theo Epstein is brought down by the man-crushes he has developed on certain players throughout the years, leading to signings like Renteria, Julio Lugo, J.D. Drew, Joel Piniero and other duds. The fact that Lugo made it as the starting SS for most of the season with an OBP under .300 and didn't get his defense together until late in the season speaks volumes for the Sox faith in their 4 year investment in Lugo. Hopefully Jed Lowrie will light a fire under Lugo because I'm sure the Sox won't have much problem with jettisoning Lugo the further into the deal current deal we get. I expect that Lugo will rebound some in 2008, at least to passable offensive numbers, maybe an OBP ~.330-.340, but I'm not holding my breath, either.

Right Field - J.D. Drew (466/.270/.373/11/64/30/4)
Another one of Theo's mancrushes, J.D. was well below expectations. Sure, he stayed mostly healthy and put up a .373 OBP, but beyond that, what did we get for the millions bestowed upon Mr. Drew? 64 RBI? 11 HR? Alright, he did put on a display in the playoffs, especially with his dagger-in-the-heart grand slam against Cleveland, but we expect a lot more from J.D. in 2008. Maybe he'll feel more comfortable in Boston now that he's had a year to get used to playing in the pressure cooker. Maybe there will be less attention on him. Who knows. All I know is I hope that he can at least crawl his way back to 20 HR and maybe 80-90 RBI to get a respectable, Trot Nixon like production out of RF.

Center Field - Coco Crisp (526/.268/.330/6/60/28/28)
You have to feel for Coco, to an extent. He tried to win the heart's of New England with his stellar defense and Arroyo-like cornrows, but with the wunderkin Jacoby Ellsbury waiting in the wings, he would have had to have had a stellar 2007 to keep our attention. Now, after Ellsbury wonderful run through the 2007 Playoffs solidifying him as the Sox #1 CF, you wonder how long Crisp has on this team. He is attractive to other teams thanks to his aforementioned defense and his relatively low cost, the question is whether any other teams will offer the Sox enough for Crisp that Theo will pull the trigger - he isn't going to just give away Crisp. Good luck to Coco no matter where he ends up.

Left Field - Manny Ramirez (483/.296/.388/20/88/33/0)
Well, the ride had to end sometime. Manny had his first true "off" season in 2007, falling well below his career averages in HR, 2B, and RBI. It didn't help that he spent a month on the DL, but he did at least come back refreshed for the postseason and seem to hit like the Manny we all know and love. In theory, 2008 could be Manny's last year with the Sox - the team holds options for 2009 and 2010 and could let him walk after the season, but my guess is that Manny has a few more top 10 hitting seasons left in the tank and strikes me as the sort of guy who will want to go out on top. Not counting for incidental injury, I'll guessing he'll bounce back to something around 30-35 HR and 120 RBI in 2008 and the Sox will pick up his options.

Designated Hitter - David Ortiz (549/.332/.445/35/111/52/3)
What can be said about Big Papi that hasn't already? Sure, he wasn't as dramatic as he was in 2003-2006, but for a guy playing on bad knees all season, he put up monstrous numbers. Sure, 35 HR was almost 20 fewer than 2006, but did anyone notice his 52 2Bs? 52 doubles. Yikes! Add some of his power back in 2008 after offseason knee surgery, and we could see Ortiz back in the 40+ HR range easily - and add a few more seasons like that, Papi could be looking at a Hall of Fame career. Not bad for a guy non-tendered by the Twins.

California, you fall to pieces so fast people get hit by the sharpnel.

My recent trip back to Boston over the holidays made me realize a few things:

(a) I like New England. I dislike most of California.
(b) I miss Dunkin' Donuts (quiet, Louis.)

A recent corollary to all this is the recent storm in California - some wind and rain - that has now knocked out power in my apartment for going on 36 hours. Now, mind you, some branches fell and what not, but if PG&E can't restore power to a 50K+ city after a wind/rain storm in less than 2 days, I can't imagine what would happen if a real disaster happened in California or if they got real weather like blizzards and hurricanes. I've tried calling the oh-so-helpful PG&E "Outage Status" hotline that has provided me this with information so far:

"We know. We have no idea when we'll fix it. F&%k you."

Thanks PG&E!

I feel sorry for California, considering how it falls to pieces after a storm. And how you're saddled with such a slip-shod power company like PG&E. Getting hexavalent Chromium in your water? Easy! Fixing your power outage? Call again later!

01 January 2008

Happy New Year

Happy 2008! 

I realized that I've only gotten through the pitching aspect of the 2007 Red Sox, so I think today I'll try to get to the hitters. Seems only fair.