Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Metrodome Magic

I'm not going to lie, this blog is most likely done after the advent of Facebook finding a way to snarkily update my life. So if I or you have to click on it in the near future, you can enjoy what was one of the greatest baseball games I have ever had the pleasure of viewing. Sadly it was from the comfort of home and not among the 55,000+ inside the Metrodome, but the feeling was nonetheless jubilant. Being a sports fan (especially a predominantly Cleveland sports fan) is filled with lots and lots (and lots) of downs that magnify those rare moments when your team succeeds. Last night was one of those triumphs and here are some of my personal favorite images from the team that won't let the Metrodome die.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Phenomenon of Facebook

This past weekend, I made the gigantic leap. I signed up for Facebook.

I never had an aversion to it the way some people fear technology in an attempt to sound cool; I just had never had the drive to sign up. Finally this past Sunday night, Becky made the jump and her peer pressure pushed me to do it (we then went out back and smoked before 7th period).

The initial process was a little overwhelming. There are links and pages out the whazoo and trying to figure out how the Facebook phenomenon worked was slightly intimidating. Not helping the situation was that on the second sign up page, the all-powerful, all-knowing computer listed pretty much everyone I've ever known complete with smiling picture.

Key to the whole process is having friends, which once both parties establish that they will in fact be friends, allows access to their personal pages. Seems simple enough, but at the same time seemed a little gym class-y. Who will pick whom? How exclusive are Facebook friends supposed to be? There are people who have thousands of friends (I think I might know 20 people in my whole life) and then there are people like my sister who have ratcheted up the security settings so high so that she can't be found that the director of the FBI wouldn't locate her.

I decided to throw out a few of those friend invitation thingies to people I was confident would accept, as I couldn't possibly handle rejection this early in the process. Blessed people accepted me into the community, and I was off and running. In fact, I was sprinting. Before I knew it, word of my signing up for Facebook had spread across a few people's pages and now I feared not sitting on-line by myself. The exclusivity issue had swung wildly in the other direction as acquaintances sought to be Facebook friends and that eventually continued into people I don't remember having a single meaningful conversation with asking for friendship to finally settling into someone I have never even heard of shooting me a friend invitation. I'm going to consult with Facebook experts to see if it's ok to reject them as friends being that it seems everyone accepts everyone in these parts.

In addition to offending these distant individuals come the inevitable clashing that is going to come with so many different friends from different walks of life coming together on the personal page. I've got two people I know don't like each other very much as friends. I've got hardcore Republicans and hardcore Democrats as friends. And this is to say nothing of the legions of you who don't pull for the Cleveland Indians.

The other oddball occurrence is the phrasing that, for example, JR and Drew are now friends! I've known JR for close to a decade but before that phrasing, our non-verbalized commitment to one another seemed incomplete. Now that he and I are Facebook friends, I feel as if we can take this to the next level - maybe hand holding. Ratcheting up the phrasing issue a notch, I was appreciative that the website reminded me that I was in fact married. Again, the sacred union Becky and I shared was lacking the firmness and long term committment of the updated Facebook profile. Not only was I married, I am now married to a Native American princess! Apparently married ladies on Facebook are known with the maiden name as their middle name on every post. Princess Bird Wolf is out seeking nuts and berries for dinner.

Probably the neatest aspect of this Facebook phenomenon is the ease with which pictures and other information are available and shared with individuals. I found out one former colleague is engaged to be married and saw photos of an individual I hadn't seen in years. As if e-mail weren't informal enough, Facebook provides an even easier medium to keep up with individuals that will make the trials and tribulations of the first day Facebook sign up worthwhile. Becky summarized well in saying that Facebook is the AOL Instant Messenger feature we all used so religiously in college souped up with pictures and other features. An evolution of AOL instant messenger, if you will, considering that Facebook has one of those direct chat things, too.

Overall, the general sentiment has been "welcome to the addiction." People tend to get caught up regularly checking their walls and their friends to see what everyone is up to. And honestly, I was checking the computer a little bit more frequently this first week of Facebook than I probably would have otherwise. That said, the content is going to be so vanilla that I can't believe that I would get permanently sucked up into a massive time warp. I don't know that I've seen a post more than two sentences, thereby limiting the depth of any post and certain topics are going to be off limits. I am not going to go on a "I hate work" rant because some employee or boss is likely to someday come across this page. Likewise, I will refrain from the "I went to a conservative radio talk show rally" last month for the reasons mentioned previously. Truly, the content will be light hearted, which will be fun and fine, though not altogether addictive.

So week one draws to a close on Facebook and it's a fun phenomenon. I kinda wish I knew who Brian Schwartz is and why he wants to be my friend, but it is nice to know that JR's first name is James.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The free money health care reform.

I preface this post by saying that I neither believe the claims that America must act right now to save the health care system nor do I believe that cost is so prohibitive that we shouldn't look at some legislation. In short, I strongly dislike soundbites that are so one sided and simple that the issue can be summarized by your political party leader of choice. My irritation with the current goings ons in Washington is the ignorance of those that this reform would most impact. Those that would be taxed to pay for it won't hear of benefiting their fellow man. Those that would benefit from it won't take a few minutes to educate themselves on what the programs would mean.

With all of this squabbling, I interact on a regular basis with those that this program would benefit at my place of employment. These individuals provide a small glimpse at what America sees and understands of the process.

In working retail with modest (at best) wage earners, many of my employees barely can afford to live paycheck to paycheck. The promise of free health insurance is incredibly appealing. Of course, it isn't free, but it's free to them, which I believe is one of the most telling communication issues of health care reform.

A couple of my employees were discussing the health care issue at work the other day with some having varying degrees of comprehension and apathy toward the scenario. One employee, a single mother, spoke very excitedly of a new government plan saying, "We'll be just like Canada where all health care is free! You don't pay anything!"

If you tell someone making 9 dollars an hour that the government is going to come in and take care of their health insurance, understandably they are excited that this burden is lifted from them. What they don't consider is the trickle down effect of those that are paying for their insurance. Those that are making money and employing them and paying these extra taxes now have one more expense that ultimately will influence the bottom line - the benefits they currently offer employees and the ability to employ the numbers they do. The political debate can come in and be wrestled with in Washington on whether it's more beneficial to have fewer employed but with insurance or to have more employed without insurance. That I'm not going to touch, but the perception that it's free is a terrible misnomer that should be and needs to be understood by all involved. I grow frustrated with the "it's good for me, be damned if I'm going to look at the bigger picture" mentality that government programs generate. I'm not anti-government, I just want people to slow down and take a look at the consequences of decisions rather than race to what's immediately best for them.

At the barber shop today, I was in a lull in between reexplaining for the nth time in five years my profession and a bad joke when a long time customer entered the shop. The man was a farmer and after some discussion said that he voted for our current president for the fact that he would receive a greater subsidy from one candidate than the other. He disagreed with this candidate on every other issue but because the government would give him something, he voted the way he did. To each his own, but the man readily admitted he was doing fine without the subsidy but that he was enjoying the "free" money. I take less offense at the vote than I do with the now repeated concept of "free money."

I wish I had some magic potion that Americans could take to see that nothing is free. Health care reform is not off limits because it costs money, but if everyone could just educate themselves on where the money will come from and what that means, then we could have a meaningful conversation on the pros and cons of such a plan. But we can't even get to that point because the top earners instantly clam up on any discussion of penalizing them for their success and the low earners won't look past the immediate gratification of what benefits them at the expense of others.

Another example, I have one employee who works to provide for her child, regularly looking for more hours. Over time, the store needed some extra help and I was able to accommodate her request for additional work. Her average hours per work increased to the point where she qualified as a full-time employee, which in turn qualified her for employee sponsored health care (full time employees are the only ones who qualify at work for health insurance). She wrestled with continuing work and signing up for health care insurance or reducing her hours to the point where she would once again become a part-time employee. Why do the latter? Because as a part-time employee who doesn't qualify for health insurance, the government would provide her with "free coverage."

Again, I am going to avoid the politics of we should go this way or that, but shouldn't we live in a society where people a.) understand that nothing the government does is free and b.) people should be willing to take a personal responsibility in what they do? I cringe at work at the barber shop, at work, and anywhere else when I hear talk of "free government" help. The government is there to help and should help, but can we all agree that all action requires money from somewhere? The discussion of whether the costs are worth it are a whole other world away - one that politicians are debating - while the rest of America wallows in self ignorance.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

This is one bullpen that absolutely blows (saves).

Just how many 7 run leads can one team blow in one season?

Greg Aquino boasts a WHIP of 1.75.

Kerry Wood (sulking above) blew his third save of the season and has a dominant 4.81 ERA.
(Editor note: I should update this to reflect Wood's fourth blown save - two in two days - and a new ERA of 5.47 after an outstanding line of 1/3 of an inning, 3 hits, 2 ER, and 1 wild pitch after Saturday's latest bullpen blowfest.)

Luis Vizcaino has walked more batters than has pitched innings.

Jensen Lewis is giving up a home run every 12.75 batters.

Joe Smith's ERA just crossed 6.

And perhaps the greatest gem of all is Rafael Perez as in 18 and 2/3 of an inning he has allowed 32 hits! The WHIP is over 2.4 and the ERA zoomed by 11!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Where are they now? Sandlot style.

Inspired by a recent ABC Family showing of The Sandlot, I thought it would be fun to take a look at what became of the child actors that made up one of my favorite baseball movies growing up. And from what I saw of the airing, it's still a fun show. And it will be, for-ev-er!

1.) Scotty Smalls

The lead character who totally rocked a huge fishing hat, had zero baseball skills, and developed into the coolest kid in the neighborhood was played by Tom Guiry. Guiry continues acting having earned roles in The Black Donnellys, Kings, CSI Miami, and the vastly underrated U-571. I personally don't remember him in any of these. As such I remember him still as the little kid and have a hard time with the fact that he fathered a child at the age of eighteen.

2.) Benny "The Jet" Rodriguez

The skilled back yarder was pretty much the equivalent of a lifetime AAA player who made one good play in one game. I mean who wouldn't order a steal of home with the game on the line? Nonetheless, the actor was Mike Vitar who ceased acting four years after the Sandlot. He went on to appear in The Mighty Ducks 2 and 3 as well as a couple of cameos on NYPD Blue and Chicago Hope. The older, grown up Benny Rodriguez was played by Mike Vitar's older brother Pablo P. Vitar who did this movie and literally nothing else before passing in 2008. At least he got to steal home!

3.) Hamilton "Ham" Porter

The slick hitting catcher catapulted his childhood fame into a list of impressive Hollywood credentials. Patrick Renna bounced around TV for awhile getting in an episode of Home Improvement, ER and one of my personal all time favorite series Boy Meets World. Other highlights include X-Files, National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze, and Boston Legal.

4.) Michael "Squints" Palledorous

Chauncey Leopardi was one of the few child actors who had a few appearances under his belt before The Sandlot came around. Back before he was faking death for some sweet tongue action with the cute lifeguard, Leopardi made an appearance in Father of the Bride as well as L.A. Law. His two most notable resume builders since The Sandlot are nine episodes of Freaks and Geeks and five episodes of Gilmore Girls.

5.) Alan "Yeah Yeah" McClennan

Yeah Yeah is also known as Marty York. Marty did what all child actors did at the time and appeared on Boy Meets World but also added a Saved By the Bell appearance, too. He hasn't acted since 1997 but did recently make some low wave TMZ headlines by getting arrested for domestic battery in an incident with his on again off again girlfriend.

6.) Kenny DeNunez

Kenny was the pitcher for the sandlot duo, and was another Sandlot-er who had some success before the movie. Brandon Quintin Adams did some work with Michael Jackson for Moonwalker. He teamed up with Benny and became two sport superstars leading the Mighty Ducks to great local and international fame in the Mighty Duck movies. And yes you can check off a Boy Meets World appearance too. IMDB still calls him active in the movie business but doesn't have a credit since 2005.

7.) Bertram Grover Weeks

Grant Gelt
played Bertram, the glasses wearing background player who had a relatively quiet role in this character heavy hit. Grant went on to do the popular thing, Saved by the Bell and Boy Meets World. His character in The Sandlot was teased to have gotten a little too involved in the 60s and no one ever heard from him again. He's done but one credited piece since 1995, and it appears that Grant disappeared much like Bertram (he's even barely visible on the movie poster cover).

8.) Wendy the Lifeguard

This dreamboat's other name is Marley Shelton. Shelton starred in such films as Pleasantville, Never Been Kissed, The Bachelor, and W. Shelton was scheduled to play Annabeth Schott in the West Wing but the role was moved on to Kristin Chenoweth for who knows why. Also, Shelton was #98 on Stuff's Magazine's Sexiest Women in the World. Squints thought the rating was low.

9.) Scotty's dad Bill

Dennis Leary has done lots since playing the tepid step-father with an affinity for the New York Yankees. He's played Tommy Gavin in 62 epsidoes of Rescue Me and is the voice of Diego in the upcoming Ice Age 3 mega-super-uber-huge blockbuster. Among others, credits include Loaded Weapon 1, Wag the Dog, A Bug's Life, The Thomas Crown Affair, and Recount. Interestingly enough, Leary is the cousin of new Tonight Show host Conan O'Brien and turned down the part Mark Wahlberg had in Oscar winning The Departed.

10.) Scotty's Mom

Karen Allen has a great many credits to her name my favorite of which is Marion Ravenwood of Indiana Jones fame. She also did Animal House, Scrooged, and The Perfect Storm among others. And yet her character had no name other than "Scotty's Mom" for The Sandlot.

11.) Mr. Mertle

James Earl Jones was the blind baseball talent that took care of the monster beast Hercules. Jones never amounted to anything after this movie and no one has ever heard of him. (171 credits).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

How do unearned runs work?

Last evening, I had the honor and privilege of watching the 2009 Cleveland Indians in person for the first and probably last time this season. They visited the Metrodome with their irritatingly underachieving roster, and promptly added another player to the DL two batters into the game. A couple runners left on base in clutch situations and poor defense made for a one run loss that should have been a victory.

It was this poor defense that raises the inquiry in this post's subject line. For David Huff, the Cleveland starter, had a monstrous ERA (above 10) that I was hoping would improve for the young man as he had one of those one bad outings that distorts stats for a good month or so without revealing the progress he had made. In the Twins' half of the third, the Tribe's defense was particularly poor, leading to an error, and leading me to believe that Huff's ERA would go unblemished. Upon reading the box score once I got home, I see that he was charged for all the runs during his appearance. Is this a whoops by the official scorer or do I not understand how unearned runs work? I suppose I always thought that once an error occurred, all runs there following were unearned. Is this not the case? Someone smarter than me care to balance the intelligence?

Order of events:

With two outs, Alexi Casilla doubles.
Denard Span follows with an RBI single (1 ER)
Huff then uses a beautiful pick off move to confuse Span who breaks for second.
First baseman Martinez airs it out, missing the shortstop entirely and allowing Span to move all the way to third.
Joe Mauer, who hits everything, singled home Span (2 ER)

Now I first contest that Span should be credited with a stolen base when the pick off attempt clearly had him out. But my bigger contention is that with 2 outs, a throwing error extends the inning and the following run is earned. How does this work?

On the plus side, in my all Cleveland attire, I was only dropped with one f bomb at the Dome, a far cry from the countless instances of harassment when I wore Browns attire to a Metrodome contest. Baseball fans are in fact classier than football fans.

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Harry Potter Series

Since "geek" is not a derogatory term from which I've fled in my life, I write here this day to announce my recent completion of the 7 book Harry Potter series. I took about 10 months to complete this task, and overall I enjoyed the series. I would stop short of saying they were the best books I have ever read or that I'm going to race out to movie premiers dressed as a wizard. But nonetheless, I enjoyed the series, the cast of characters, and the plot that befell the one and only Harry Potter.

The general gist of the series is that Harry Potter is an orphaned boy who through some curious magical friends discovers that as an infant survived an attack from the evil wizard Voldemort, an attack that took the lives of his parents. The framework of the series is that Potter learns more and more about his parents and the bad dude at Hogwarts, a school for wizards. The school has seven grades and the series has seven books, each book another year in the boy wizard's life. The overall series was at its best when the action took place at the school, rather than off its grounds, but the later books dictated that increasing amounts of action occur away from Hogwarts. In the end, the story comes full circle as Potter and Voldemort square off on school grounds.

1.) Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone

The first book was Becky's least favorite, and while I disagree, I can see why she thinks so. The series is what it is because of the great character development JK Rowling employs. However, at the very start, getting to know the hoards of people is burdensome. Additionally the reader, like Harry, is learning the rules of the wizarding world (brooms flying, sporting activities, etc.) which takes time to develop. In later books, the reader knows all of this in advance and it's like riding a bike, but the first go around can be a bit much. The plot is clever with a suspenseful ending, and the book is a serviceable framework for later chapters in the saga while still completing a story.

2.) Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets

As I began reading the second book, I was eager to jump back into Harry's life at Hogwarts and the new friends he met at said school. But in what would prove to be a reoccurring theme throughout the series, I had to persevere through nearly 100 pages of Harry in the non-wizarding world, agonizing as I was, when he would return. I found this to be Rowling's primary weakness in writing where it appeared to she wanted to stretch out books for no real reason. Nonetheless, the action picks up quickly once back at Hogwarts where Harry and his two best pals Hermione and Ron discover secrets at the school untouched for years. When Ron's youngest sister, Ginny, falls into trouble, Harry and pals race to save the day. An entertaining second effort.

3.) Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Having not been part of the Harry Potter craze from the get go, I wonder if the series took off on its spectacular popularity after book 2 as book 3 and those thereafter triple in length. While 1 and 2 might have been written in succession, book 3 elevates in complexity of story telling that required an extra skill level. The story here revolves around a mysterious new teacher, an escaped convict, and Potter's growing rivalry with the Potions Professor, Severus Snape. All three become critical characters in later installments, and for the first time, the series flashes back to establish the history (and eventual future) of these three crazy cats. Another quirky ending left me with a favorable rating with this being my second favorite book of the entire series.

4.) Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

My overall favorite book would be this fourth one where Harry grows out of the child label and into the young man that the rest of the wizarding world would later rely on. It's kind of the Anakin Skywalker becoming Darth Vader, but fighting for good for those nerds out there that are getting these sci-fi references. The neighboring wizarding schools get together for the Tri-Wizard tournament that determines the best young wizard in the world. The plot revolves around three tasks for this tournament that increase in order of difficulty and danger until for the first time in three books - an achievement in delayed gratification - Potter deals with the Voldemort character for the first time. The setting and intensity of this meeting was my favorite part of the series, and the ending an incredible leap that left me eager for the rest of the series.

5.) Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix

Having really enjoyed book 3 and loving book 4, I can easily say that book 5 was a tremendous disappointment and my least favorite of all 7 books. This fifth installment was meant to be a call to arms in the war of good and evil. Rather than an action packed race to ready, the primary characters are confined to a single hideout, doing more hiding than anything. Chapter after chapter dealt with dark rooms, whispers, and a battle of media perception (think Spiderman - again, I am a dork and I am comfortable with this). The decrease in action from fighting overgrown snakes, body snatching bad guys, dragon slaying, and three headed dogs from books one through four are replaced by Harry trying to go on dates, which while a nice attempt into what a normal 15 year old might be doing are not Rowling's strong suit. Her strong suit are her finales, but this is her weakest one of the bunch. The good guys run around a blur of a setting that has weird surroundings for the sake of being weird and offer nothing to the overall conclusion other than to say the lack of attention to physics make the story hard to follow rather than uniquely magical. Compared to an alternate setting elsewhere in the series of a graveyard that clearly sets the tone and stakes at hand, the Ministry of Magic basement conclusion was sub-par. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix was a big time thumbs down for yours truly.

6.) Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince

I know of several people that have read the series that did not care for this installment of the book, but I maintain that it was necessary to build to the finale. In this chapter of the series, Potter spends a tremendous amount of time with his mysterious mentor, Albus Dumbledore. Now Dumbledore had made it habit in the first five books of showing up at the end to explain everything. He was a mysterious character who in the end, was always at the right place at the right time. A likable chap, Dumbledore takes center stage in this installment, shedding the shadows and leading Harry along. Rowling very cleverly manages to spend a significant portion of the book in flashback mode to offer some additional build up for the inevitable extreme good (Potter) versus extreme evil (Voldermort). The book gets very intense toward the end as the necessary passing of the torch sets up the finale in the series. But it is in the frantic endings where Rowling writes best, and she does well to finish up Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince.

7.) Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

Ah, the grand finale! I have been asked by several what I thought of the last book, and I answer truthfully in that I abhorred the first half and loved the last half. In the first four hundred pages, roughly one exciting thing happens (the flight from the Dursley residence). When the earlier plots occurred at Hogwarts, Rowling was able to throw in little nuances that made the build up for conclusion fun and whimsical. Taken out of Hogwarts, Harry Potter flees bad guys in the boringest of fashions. I had faith that the book would get better, and it did, but in answering whether a book is good or not, I feel the need to resist answering with the last taste in my mouth and instead consider the whole body of work.

What I did like about the finale, I really liked. Rowling does not hesitate to kill off characters, which while sounding demonic of me, was most enjoyable. For the ultimate climax of the series has to be built up in such a way where the reader feels the seriousness of the situation, and eliminating beloved but expendable characters does just that. Those characters who survive the book have well defined roles and excellent closure. The dramatic of reveal of the dark Severus Snape is among the best writing in the whole series as the sometimes good guy sometimes bad guy shows his true colors. The final chapter of years later wraps up the entire series and gives the reader a sense of finality.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The epic baseball disaster of May 15, 2009

While a little slow in finally getting around to make this post, I feel it still worthy to do for the simple fact that I like to wallow in my baseball misery. Cleveland fans typically wallow, for we do it better than any other fan that except for, of course, the common Cub fan. But on Friday, May 15, 2009, my sorrows spread from not just my beloved Indians but to a couple other teams as well.

All started well as I was in Kansas City, Kansas visiting some old colleagues and ready to take in baseball in a stadium I never had the pleasure of entering. The weather forecast was ominous with a touch of death expected by early afternoon. The good news was that trusty told us that by game time, the storms would taper off leaving us a lovely night of baseball. At 5:30pm, we left Kansas for the Missouri stadium. At 5:31pm, the heavens opened.

We arrived in Arrowhead Stadium's parking lot at approximately 6:20pm and illegally veered away from proper parking to reserved parking (criminals!) for fear of the rain. At 7pm, we were hardly surprised to learn that the game would not be starting on time as but 5 minutes from first pitch, the rain fell harder than ever. Lightning struck around us and Kaufman Stadium had some bizarre lighting and siren system that signaled the end times. Meanwhile, some PR goof with a microphone was allowed to roam the stadium asking Family Feud type questions which were shown on Kansas City's ultra-mega-super humongous scoreboard which was easily visible from the truck the four of us were waiting out the rain delay. He probably died in a lightning strike.

We, however, were listening to some sports talk radio, getting regular updates on the games in the other parts of the country where the world wasn't ending. Among the games of interest were my Cleveland Indians taking on the defending American League Champions, Tampa Bay Rays, and my adopted, very close second favorite team the Minnesota Twins in New York to play the Yankees. Both began marvelously as early leads for both Cleveland and Minnesota tempered the crabbiness that only accompanies sitting in the back of a pick-up truck with leg room measured in centimeters.

The local feed took over the sports talk station to give us an estimate of 8:30pm as being the new start time. 90 minutes. Well, it's not great, but at least they are trying to get the game in. Royals' ace Zack Greinke was to pitch and by all means, the home field advantage had Kansas City trying desperately to get him in on normal days rest. To further matters, Friday night happened to be fireworks night and some food promotion that in combination with Greinke managed to sell out a game in Kansas City, which to the best of my (limited) knowledge hasn't happened since 1964. With this in mind, all must wait every last minute in an attempt to get the game in!

8:30pm: Hurricane Hallmark was no closer to letting up. The lightning was as frequent and intense as ever and the rain was coming down like taking a shower. After over two hours of waiting, the group agreed to call it a night and hope to get a doubleheader in tomorrow.

9:00pm: After scurrying away from the epicenter of weather disaster, the group stumbled upon some local eatery in which we gobbled down some necessary sustenance after hours with nothing more than Doritos and Lays (of which I ate none, forever holding out that I'd be able redeem my Friday food voucher). Upon sitting down, we find that Minnesota has a 2-run lead heading into the 9th inning. Beautiful! Likewise, Cleveland is dominating Tampa with a 7-run lead. All is well and made even more well by peperoni pizza.

Shortly before 9:15, the evening's tone changed dramatically. The local joint had a band playing. A loud band for which there was a $5 cover charge that we avoided by simply going in a second entrance. One of the group decided to point out that an Asian man in the street was up to no good at just the moment the band stopped playing, leading to an uncomfortable moment in which all of us were thought to be racist. The god of Shin Soo Choo was not amused, and the baseball tables turned.

For immediately there following the Kansas City Royals and the Baltimore Orioles began playing baseball. Our tickets were worthless, our free food gone, and the fireworks fizzled out. No doubleheader, no Zach Greinke, and still no leg room. But hey, at least we had pizza, we had the Indians up 7, and the Twins had Joe Nathan. A sure lock for at least something positive.

1.) Some guy named Gardner triples.
2.) Mark Teixiera singles home a run.
3.) A-Rod walks.
4.) Matsui whiffs, one down.
5.) Swisher grounds out, two down.
6.) Intentionally walk Robinson Cano to get the force out.
7.) Melky Cabrera inexplicably singles to center, scoring two runs and winning a game against the steady hand of Joe Nathan.

Understandably, I'm the only individual in the local eatery upset about these seven batters and the outcome of this game. I'm probably a little more upset given that I just missed out on one of two baseball games I hopped on a plane to see, but hey at least Cleveland is thrashing the Rays by seven.

Final score:
Tampa Bay 8
Cleveland 7

Anthony Reyes given a massive lead couldn't get out of the 6th inning. Tony Sipp graced everyone with a six pitch walk, throwing a wild pitch for good measure. Jensen Lewis, in one inning of work, managed a WHIP of 3.00. Rafael Betancourt gave up a home run to a career .230 hitter. Luis Vzcaino made his Cleveland debut by failing to record an out and allowing BJ Upton (hitting .190 on the season) to walk off with a game winning home run. Since then, Cleveland has yet to win a game managing to lose by blowing a 3 run lead with their closer on the hill and a game in which a line-up snafu eliminated the designated hitter thereby allowing the pitcher to get in on the embarrassment with an RBI double.

And so concludes the epic baseball disaster of May 15, 2009. A typhoon wasting away Kansas City tickets, a closer gone astray in New York, and the laughable saga of the worse team in baseball pissing away a seven run lead all combined to an absolutely horrific baseball evening.

Friday, May 1, 2009

You may like this post. You may not like this post.

While checking my Yahoo e-mail just a few moments ago, I saw this non-committal headline:

Obama's high court choice could be Hispanic, woman (AP)

Also, his high court choice could be black, white, male, female, tall, short, fat, skinny, funny, serious, gay, straight, Norwegian, or a spider. Well, maybe not a spider.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Winter Scheduling

The great Cleveland snow storm from a couple years ago that wiped out an entire four game series was a logistics issue, and much debate ensued about what could be done about games at such cold weather locations in April. I don't know that I ever read about anything official being done to avoid the problem, but in glancing at the standings this morning I found that Cleveland has played the fewest home games of any team in the majors (3). Colorado also has played but 3 home games, which given the recent Denver snowstorm seems to have been a prudent scheduling decision. Even still, one has to wonder if this lopsided scheduling alters the fairness of the schedule. I wouldn't blame all of Cleveland's poor start on the road schedule, but it does put them in a hole. On the reverse side, if they had played decently during the stretch, then they would have a big homestand or two during the final weeks of the season. Eh, interesting.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Wang to 60 Day DL?

After three outings in which Chien-Ming Wang has pitched a grand total of 6 innings (23 ER), I would imagine we are about a week away from Wang heading to the 60 day disabled list. These types of bad outings are usually an indication of some terrible injury. While the Yankees haven't said much other than "slow to recover from off season surgery", one has to figure that a guy with a career ERA of 4 is pitching pathetically for some reason.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The rout and the rant

Cleveland Indians: 20
New York Yankees: 2
Bottom of the 5th Inning

I have tried very very hard to stay away from writing that "season is over in April" post that I so badly wanted to write after the Tribe started 1-7. Everything was going wrong, and I feared that the hope that shines so brightly during Spring Training was the proverbial on-coming headlights of a semi-truck.

My biggest concern for Cleveland has been the bizarre line-ups that manager Eric Wedge has taken a liking to. Don't get me wrong, I am pleased that he feels we have such a good group of players that tinkering with the starting order is the only way to get people at bats. But, could we please stop it with a different line-up every single night?

Trevor Crowe has played in six of the first eleven games. Why? He's hitting .211 with no home runs and a slugging percentage of .263. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a huge Ben Francisco guy, but Trevor Crowe?

I get that Travis Hafner may still be recovering from shoulder surgery, but he's actually hitting the ball. Why take him out? He's rested two games already, not to mention the day off in the middle of that always strange opening series schedule. The guy has 3 homers in those nine games and an OBP of .405.

Ryan Garko and Kelly Shoppach are pretty much a push offensively. I suppose I'd rather have Garko playing first than Victor Martinez, which means Shoppach is the odd man out. I'm sure there will be an injury soon enough that gets him in the line-up.

So with a batting order of

1.) Grady Sizemore
2.) Mark DeRosa
3.) Victor Martinez
4.) Travis Hafner
5.) Jhonny Peralta
6.) Shin Soo Choo
7.) Ryan Garko
8.) Ben Franscisco
9.) Asdrubal Cabrera

Cleveland put up 20 runs on the road against the Yankees. Mr. Wedge, could we please let these guys stay for awhile? Thanks.

Oh, please don't get me started with Carl Pavano.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Cleveland St. has a prestigious English program

Cleveland State pulled off the upset of the NCAA tournament on Friday night behind the strong play of J'Nathan Bullock. In his words after the win over Wake Forest:

"They thought we were going to be scared of their jersey name," said Bullock, "That's never the case with Cleveland State. We're not here to be no laughingstock."

Not no way.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

An old pleasure returns

(13-19, 7-11 Summit)
(16-15, 14-4 Summit)
  • Final - OT

Monday, March 2, 2009


At what point do we just pull the plug? We're up to $162.5 billion dollars in AIG bailout and economists don't see an improvement anytime soon. When a company loses $61.7 billion in a single quarter ($99 billion for the year), is there any financial reason to prop up the company to continue bleeding? Sure, the counter argument is that this would destabilize the financial sector to which I reply, "It isn't already?" Then there's the all the people out of work counter argument which is slightly better, for no one wants to throw the 116,000 that AIG employs out on the streets. But, if taxpayers are simply throwing money at the company that is so far away from turning a profit why not just throw it right into the employees' pocket via welfare or unemployment and bypass the facade of a company. Furthermore, if these stimulus packages are supposed to be creating job, wouldn't we just spend tax payer dollars in that direction instead of for a specific, horribly failing company? Pull the plug already.

"Some analysts have estimated that AIG could be in line for as much as $100 billion more in government aid at some point, putting the exposure of the American taxpayer to the insurer in the neighborhood of a quarter of a trillion dollars."

How much more time, effort, and most notably money can the government throw at a sunk company?

Friday, February 13, 2009

Classic Late Night

David Letterman at his finest.

Monday, February 2, 2009

The Superest Catch Ever

Immediately at the conclusion of last night's incredible Super Bowl (way better than those Redskins/49ers blow outs when I was a kid), I got into an argument with the Super Bowl party host as to what the greatest catch in Super Bowl history was. He maintained that it was David Tyree's catch that brought down the undefeated Patriots. I countered that that catch won nothing, but that Santonio Holmes' tip toe grab actually was the game winning grab. Thereby it should be deserving of greatest Super Bowl catch ever. Readers, your thoughts?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Miracle on the Hudson

Definitely the picture of the year if not the awesome news story of the year was the whole Miracle on the Hudson/US Airways plane crash debacle from last week. In all the coverage, the talking heads just kept going over all the variables that made this such a ridiculously crazy event. And so with a nod to The Trampoline Bear and its fun gimmick, I present the top ten variables from this disaster turned miracle.

1.) Birds!

So who knew that birds possessed such a threat to airplanes? I kinda figured planes would just zip through flocks and shred them to bits. Even if one did hit a plane, I wouldn't have thought that it would bring down a jet. We aren't talking experimental, wimpy aircraft here. This was a real plane! How many planes and how many birds share the skies on any given day? And today the elements came together to cause a crash.

2.) Decision

Quickly, the pilots knew of impending doom and quickly they made the decision to crash land in the Hudson River. That in of itself is a mighty tough decision to make. Yes, we have a plane full of people, and yes, we are making the conscious decision to crash it into a busy waterway. What a responsibility and what a responsibility knowing that an attempt at the nearest actual runway might endanger New Yorkers on the ground.

3.) The landing

I read something in the USA Today that said there had been something like four successful water landings in the modern jet era that would not qualify as a disaster. This type of landing, despite whatever training the pilot had had, is not well practiced at any level. Thrown into a real life situation with hundreds of lives at risk, those pilots made one heck of a landing.

4.) It floats

Much like the bird situation in point number one, I cannot say that I would have ever considered the possibility of the plane floating. As soon as that thing hit the water, I would have thought for sure that water would rush in and sink it in moments. Sure enough, the jetliner stayed up long enough for people to evacuate and leave safely.

5.) The back door

A Dateline report revealed a lesser known good break in the case in that a flight attendant, upon water landing, attempted to open the back door. Training had told them that exiting at the nearest door was the best option, but in this case opening said door would result in water rushing into the plane. After the jammed door would not open, flight attendants and passengers moved toward the front of the plane and left via doors that were not submerged.

6.) The picture

Truly one of the most amazing pictures ever. A crash landing in the Hudson River and survivors standing on the wing.

7.) Ferry help

The same Dateline report revealed that the pilots attempted to maneuver the aircraft toward the ferry terminals to maximize the amount of rescue help available. Sure enough, boats motored up to the aircraft in mere minutes after the touchdown. Boats of passengers made their way to shore, getting individuals to the safe and sound shore as quickly as possible.

8.) Calm and orderly

By all accounts, everyone involved was incredibly calm and made for an orderly evacuation. In a crisis such as this, I would not have thought it possible to have over a hundred calm passengers in a plane crash exit without pushing, shoving, and utter chaos. I go back to that picture of people lined up on the wing, patiently waiting for help to come. No sign of panic exists at all.

9.) Freezing

I have complained and will continue to complain about the arctic conditions here in Minnesota, but the weather in New York was no balmy afternoon. The cold air temperature and the frigid river waters surely would combine to cause some serious problems, wouldn't they? No major cases of hypothermia, no frost bite. The weather might as well have been 75 and sunny for the lack of damaging effect on the plane crash.

10.) Not a single fatality

But of all the events and all the factors, that there was not a single fatality is the most miraculous. In any other replay of all the factors that went into this event - birds taking out jet engines, a water landing, freezing river water - there is no way that everyone makes it out alive. What a blessing to all those involved that this disaster was salvaged into what is now called the Miracle on the Hudson.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The West Wing

This past weekend, Becky and I concluded our enjoyable quest that began over a year ago. Back in 2006, we decided that a nice Christmas present to one another would be a subscription to Netflix. For we believed that this medium would be a nice way to watch old TV series that we had never had the chance to see the first time around. Our schedules made renting discs full of episodes unfeasible, and we didn't want to commit to buying entire seasons of shows that we might decide weren't worth our time or money. And so we subscribed to Netflix with the full intent to try the West Wing.

What followed was a delightful viewing of what I consider to be the finest television drama ever produced. Many a wonderfully boring Friday night was spent at the Wolf household watching the adventures of the Jed Bartlett White House and those who made the fictional government go round. This past weekend, we watched the final episode of the series and with it a bit of sadness as characters we had come to know and love concluded their existence.

What made the show special was an ability to create fascinating characters and place them in unique settings. Furthermore, over an eight year Presidency, one would expect people to shift roles and have different responsibilities, which is exactly what the West Wing gives the viewer. For just the President stays in the same position throughout the entire series, and in the last episode only when a new President is inaugurated does the show conclude. The reworking of different people in different roles rejuvenated the show, keeping story lines fresh for the seven seasons the program aired. A few new characters entered the West Wing, and while none of them were as memorable as the original crew, they did a nice job of mixing in and relating to the old characters.

What I enjoyed most was the witty, quick moving banter. In a day and age of "lowest common denominator" humor trying to appeal to the masses, I greatly appreciated the effort to slip in intelligent comedy. Aaron Sorkin gets a good deal of the credit here as the West Wing was his brainchild. While I would have loved to have had Sorkin write the entire duration of the show, those seasons after his departure still had value if not a little off pace from the killer early shows.

The series finale was a nice mix of nostalgia, wrapping up story lines, and even a bit of drama as the President waits until the very closing seconds of his Presidency on whether to issue a Presidential pardon. I was pleased with the last West Wing effort, which given some other disappointing series finales, was something I feared might happen. But alas, I walk away from the West Wing pleased and satisfied, wishing the show would continue yet longer.

And so I say goodbye to President and Mrs. Barlett, Toby, Josh, Sam, CJ, Leo, Charlie (who had the best closing scene of them all), Donna, Mrs. Landingham, Santos, and Vinnick. May readers of Wolfden V find your adventurers as delightfully wonderful as I did.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Walk the plank, matey

The lead CNN story this morning concerned a Saudi tanker being freed after ransom was paid to its Somali pirates. This incident being one of dozens of pirate stories that have originated from the region in the past few months. While horrible and terrible for the crew and devastating to the commerce of the area, I am having a difficult time coming to terms with why this isn't more preventable.

The general idea, from what I have read, is to throw a whole bunch of good guy war ships in the area to patrol for the bad guys and keep them at bay. Sure fine, good start, whatever. The area is massive and is akin to throwing a grain of rice in a bathtub and expecting it to cover all this terrain. Simply, it's not feasible, and I get that.

But, how is it that we are able to pinpoint parachute a million bucks on to the deck of the captured ship, take pictures of it, and then let everyone get away clean? We aren't talking Harry Potter invisibility cloak here. How about following them? How about capturing them as they reenter home base? How about using a pinpoint parachute technique to bomb them (less ideal but you get the point)?

Is it a matter of international waters and no one taking responsibility here? If that's the case, I think the terrorized business and countries harmed in these piracy attacks would find it in their best interests to work something out. After all, so long as pirates are going to continue to be rewarded and left to sail away unharmed, they are going to keep doing it. Figure it out.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

We have a coach!

Continuing in the fine and proud tradition of Chris Palmer, Butch Davis, and Romeo Crennel, the Cleveland Browns enter 2009 with a muppet at the helm.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Satellite Radio

I was a slow believer in satellite radio. In fact, I still hold some reservations on the idea. After all, as a radio broadcasting major, I appreciate and enjoy the art of the human disc jockey, which is pretty much absent from satellite radio. The local feel of terrestrial radio is another plus as weather, traffic, and news for specific towns is better than listening to CNN on the radio, which you can in fact do with XM/Sirius.

The debate between the two was never especially relevant as I didn't have a drive or really a feasible medium to try XM/Sirius. That changed when I bought my new Malibu this past fall. Part of the enticement of purchasing the vehicle was a temporary subscription to XM/Sirius. Early on, my favorite part was being able to enjoy Cleveland Indians baseball at all times, which despite the team's pathetic showing in 2008, was still a plus. The radio stations were a plus, too, as there were three or four that I could flip around and find a splendid tune to hum along with.

In all, I still think that there is a place for traditional radio, but on the way home today, I became convinced that despite XM/Sirius bleeding money the concept will succeed. Why?

Play list for XM Lithium:
Stone Temple Pilots: Plush
Our Lady Peace: Clumsy
Foo Fighters: Stacked Actors
Counting Crows: Round Here

I might as well have been listening to a Violent Rhythmic Cadence rock block. Blessed 90s rock! Can't beat that stack of songs, and I definitely wouldn't find it on any Minnesota station.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The 2008 election will never end! Behold Minnesota's Senate race.

I thought Election 2008 would be long over come the first weeks of January, but us Minnesotans have managed to stretch out the process an additional two months. I'm pretty sure that this whole campaign started back in the 1900s sometime, but I digress.

Yes, we've stretched out this election process because of our stupidly close Senate race which has pitted incumbent Norm Coleman up against Al Franken. The vote was so close that we triggered an automatic recount because the final tally at the end of election day was something like one tenth of one one hundredth of one millionth percent. Like I said, stupidly close.

After the original count, Coleman claimed victory with a couple thousand votes narrowly separating himself from the SNL alum. Then the recount began. I never had put much thought or interest in a recount since nothing I had ever voted in was that close that a recount was necessary. Here in Minnesota we have those optical scan ballots (think elementary school scantron), which really eliminates the subjective nature of voting that marred the 2000 Florida recount with those hanging, poking, touched, looked at chads that officials had to guess as to the true nature of the voter. I figured that we Minnesotans and our technology savvy optical scan ballots would avoid the potential problems. I was wrong.

I thought that recounts would be honest and quick. What would be so wrong with double checking the ballots and making sure the right guy won? In short, a lotta stuff.

Subjectivity reentered the picture with election crews determining whether an X through one circle was really a vote or was retracting that vote, whether duplicate ballots had been counted, whether absentee ballots should be allowed or not, whether the moon was waxing or waning. It's insane the amount of effort people put into screwing up an election. There is no massive conspiracy here, but for heaven's sake, it's a damn bubble. Fill it in or don't. There shouldn't be gray area here.

As the legal challenges mounted, ballots were found, others disallowed and the recount entering its ninth week, Minnesota is edging closer to having a senator. The margin of difference varies daily, but it looks like Al Franken will represent this fine state as he somehow made hundreds of votes appear after the election that weren't there upon the November 3rd count. I shall restate that I don't think that there was some conspiracy, but I will say that the noble thought of an election recount is forever tarnished after having seen the unbelievable amount of subjectivity that has entered the picture and ultimately reshaped the election.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

A University of Phoenix grad reflects

As alluded to in an earlier post with forgotten songs from forgotten bands, I have indeed completed my time with The University of Phoenix's on-line MBA program. Some pros and some cons with this booming new educational forum, and what better forum than Wolfden V to reflect on this experience?


1.) Length of Time

With each class lasting six weeks and there being ten classes, I was done in just over a year. Granted I did have three classes from Valpo that carried over and counted for credit, but even still a year is a neat and tidy amount of time to obtain a degree.

2.) Topics Covered

The classes are diverse and practical. I took theory based classes on strategy and implementation as well as hard hitting numerical classes steeped in business statistics. Human resources, business law, and other diverse offerings made for a nice ten course make-up of the MBA program.

3.) Convenience

No doubt this has to be the number one pro. The on-line forum allowed me to continue working while receiving an education. Working retail, I could do the work at inconsistent times and hours. I never had to drive anywhere for class, and I didn't miss a single deadline at work or school because of the program's flexibility.

4.) Freedom of Direction

A little discussed benefit of the on-line forum is that the message board, classroom participation provides a depth of knowledge and shared experience that made logging into the University of Phoenix enjoyable. Message board discussions can go any number of directions and reveal stories, experiences, and ideas that highlight the primary message of the class in a way that a textbook cannot begin to approach.

5.) Research Tools

The University of Phoenix offers a University Library with multiple academic search engines. I don't remember specifically, but I would guess that there were no fewer than 15 different ones for students to try out. I fell in love with EBSCOhost and used that more often than not to find articles for my papers, but there were many other search engines focusing in different areas of expertise readily accessible.

6.) Advisers

The University of Phoenix is a for-profit organization, which in itself holds lots of pros and cons. But the pro is that they want to retain you as a customer and to do so, they roll out an elite fleet of advisers. From finance, to enrollment, to academics I had a team of people at my disposal trained for prompt and profession response to minimize issue that might cause me to waver in my commitment to the program.


1.) Teamwork

At the conclusion of every class, the student has the opportunity to fill out a feedback form. In every class I wrote some variation of the following:

"As a learning institution designed for working professional who work long and uneven hours, I do not understand why the University of Phoenix places continued importance on coordinating a group of students around a single project. While teamwork is no doubt an important part of any workplace environment, the continued requirement of forcing busy individuals in different time zones into a project better suited to individual performance threatens the effectiveness of the class and the entire MBA program."

2.) Variation in expectations

I realize that variation in expectations is a part of any learning experience at any level of schooling. What one teacher finds important another finds trivial and vice-versa. That said, the MBA program is of a largely a cookie-cutter course structure. While the topics varied, I could expect to write an individual reflection in weeks 1 and 4, a lengthy team paper in 2 and 5, and a massive research paper in weeks 3 and 6. One comes to expect a certain regularity with such a standard in scheduling and even so, the professors' expectations varied wildly with some putting importance on personal experience, others on drawing conclusions, others on research, and yet others (not enough) on basic paper writing ability.

3.) Write or bust

I understand that in writing a blog it will sound narcissistic to say that I had an inherent writing advantage over my colleagues, but my background in high school and college would have backed that up anyway. Virtually every meaningful evaluation of student came from paper writing ability which as alluded to, I do fairly well. I didn't take a single test, and I wasn't required to memorize a single thing. If one can write, one can pass the University of Phoenix MBA program. While writing is certainly an important medium in the workforce, I think it silly to place such an overwhelming importance on just this single way of learning as not all workplaces or learning ability is defined in the written word.

4.) Retention of knowledge

Piggybacking on what I just wrote, I compare much of what I learned to be comparable to reading a newspaper. Some is interesting, some facts register, and lots is glanced over. Since I could pick and choose what I found to be important themes in my papers, I could (and did) left vast sections of information untouched that might have been more important if a professor said, "You need to know this idea for a test." While no one is going to remember every aspect of a class, I probably would have remembered more today if instead of picking and choosing parts for my paper, a professor objectively picked the most important pieces of a class and forced students to learn them.

5.) Quality of Professor

Professor quality varied tremendously is perhaps the scariest aspect of the MBA program. Some professor are incredibly knowledgeable, very engaged, and offer valuable feedback. But in the ten course program I had probably three that shouldn't be teaching a class. Much like the students, these on-line professors are not full-time teachers. Rather, they hold a full-time job in the real world and understandably are not 110% committed at all times, as they have other pressing concerns. This dilemma, though, is not as bad as those who are less than experts in their field, show little interest in classroom discussion, and don't offer feedback in a timely manner that in a rapid paced 6-week course can cripple the ability of the student to adjust and react.

6.) That guilty feeling

Also a part of probably any educational experience, the guilty feeling that one should be doing work for a class instead of something fun is always lingering. I tried to stay ahead of the class as inevitably real world things would cause my ability to keep up with the class to fall behind. But even when I was all even with where I should be, I always felt like I should be reading or writing something to prepare for the next week. The school only takes one vacation - a break for Christmas or New Years - which puts the student in a constant state of worry with lots of work right before him or her.