June 27, 2009

A Thirteen-Story Apt Building in Shanghai Just Fell the Hell Over


Witnesses said the whole building started to fall down at about 5:30 am on Saturday and a 28-year-old worker surnamed Xiao from Anhui province was buried in the collapse and killed, the Xinhua news agency reported. No other casualties are reported.

Good thing my apartment building was 25 stories. Heh.

One More ... Non-TW though

This one's baseball related. I laughed my ass off when reading through it :-)
"I wish he'd have a little faith in me," [Jeremy] Guthrie said. "I don't like being picked up the night before my start and then simply dropped the next day. It wears on you as a player. And now I have to explain myself to my kids when they read in the papers that their daddy is a 'shit-for-brains asshole who can't even get five strikeouts when that's all we needed to win the category.'"

More Technical Writing Humor

I guess I'm a magnet for these sorts of things.

Copy Editor's Revenge Takes Form Of Unhyphenated Word

BOSTON—Bruce Huntoon, a copy editor at Pilot magazine, intentionally did not correct the copy of columnist Justin Mann Monday. "I am tired of that insufferable asshole's mean-spirited jokes," Huntoon said. "So, when he described the carburetor warmer as a 'twentieth century' invention, I decided to leave the copy untouched and let him deal with the consequences of his actions. The fucker." Huntoon said the unhyphenated compound modifier is the most extreme step he has ever taken, adding that he drafted a resignation notice that he will hand in should his superiors notice the omission.

June 25, 2009

This is Me

Friendly Note to Co-worker Undergoes Eight Revisions
WILMINGTON, DE—A brief note from United Family Insurance employee Martin Schatz to a coworker regarding storage-closet office supplies went through eight rewrites Monday. "I wrote it pretty quick and was about to drop it in [Al Miesner's] box when I noticed I used the word 'stapler' twice in the same line," Schatz reported after delivering the final version. "It read kind of weird, so I changed the second 'stapler' to 'it.' But then it read even worse, so I changed it back." Schatz also changed "Thanks!!!" to "Thanks..." fearing that the original punctuation was "a bit too much."

Cloud Strife, Cat Poop, and College Baseball

I'm downloading Final Fantasy VII for the PS3 right now. That game consumed my life when it came out in ... um ... I guess it was 1998 or so. I remember that it was released for the PC using the GLIDE API, which meant you could only play it in 3D with 3Dfx video cards (luckily I had one). Years later I'd try to reinstall and play it, only to be appalled at the software rendering (I had an ATI video card then -- Direct3D/OpenGL only). Stupid proprietary APIs -- everybody loses. Anyway, I know what I'm doing this weekend :-)

Texas lost to LSU last night ... 11-4. Losses are bad, but they are worse when you give up five runs in an inning on the back of a walk, two HBPs, and an error. That's just sloppy baseball. Maybe it was nerves? Whenever I watch a sidearm left-handed pitcher throw to a left-handed batter, I get nervous because, due to the camera angle over the pitcher's right shoulder, it seems the pitcher is throwing the ball behind the batter and it's going to hit him. And yeah that happened twice last night, haha.

The toilet training of the cat is going quite well. I was at the stage where the litter box was raised up high on a series of stacked books. That worked nicely until the books got above the level of the toilet -- then the stack became too flimsy to hold Bill, who apparently is a violent pooper. (Great mental image, ya'll!) Nah, actually it's a cat's instinct to cover up his mess, so after he pinches a loaf he will scoop litter over it to cover it up. When he does this, he rocks the litter box back and forth, so because the books are a) stacked high and b) not sturdy, the litter box sometimes falls over. This is bad because it scares him and teaches him that pooping = scariness, which we certainly don't want. Can you imagine if every time you went to cop a squat, someone jumped out and scared you? I imagine that's what this is like for him.


Instead of finding a more sturdy base, I accelerated his training by putting the litter box on top of the toilet seat (the lid is up), which, now that I write it out, is actually finding a more sturdy base :-) He can now jump from the side of the bath tub right into the box and go about his business. I came home from work yesterday and found some pee in there, which means he can get up there and take a leak by himself. Wonderful!

I'm going to leave this like it is for the next couple of days. Since I have off work on July 2nd-4th, I think that on July 1st I'll switch him to a metal bowl inside the toilet. I'm waiting for my off days because I need to be around to teach him how to squat over the bowl and to prevent him from tracking poo all over the house. I don't mind chilling by the bathroom all day as long as I've got Wifi :-)

Exciting times! I'll share pictures when I'm done :-)

June 18, 2009

Senators Talking Smack

Please, if you will, identify the author of these tweets:

Pres Obama you got nerve while u sightseeing in Paris to tell us 'time to deliver' on health care. We still on skedul/even workinWKEND.

Pres Obama while u sightseeing in Paris u said 'time to delivr on healthcare' When you are a 'hammer' u think evrything is NAIL I'm no NAIL.

Yessirree bob that's Sen. Chuck Grassley talkin' smack to Obama via Twitter.

It's all coming to pass ...

(Side note: "You got nerve" ??! WTF?! Is that like some upper-middle-class version of "You got served"?)

June 9, 2009


Sean West has exactly the attitude I would have if I were a pitcher:
""I try to throw a no-hitter every start," West said. "If a hit comes up, I try to throw a one-hitter. If two hits come up, I try to throw a two-hitter, and so on."
Yeah, I'm a perfectionist. But I accept that reality is not always perfect.

* * *

One of my favorite bloggers/writers (is there a difference?) is Joe Posnanski. He is a long-time Kansas City Royals beat reporter for the Kansas City Star. I voraciously read his blog (when I have the time; his posts are usually quite long) and have been doing so for over a year now. He is a phenomenal writer; insightful, interesting, intelligent and thought-provoking. He crafts beautiful prose and tells wonderful stories on his blog. I have recommended his blog to a couple friends of mine who also enjoy baseball.

What's interesting though is that I own his book and read it, and I really don't like it. The subject is Buck O'Neil, a 95-year old baseball enthusiast and former Negro Leagues player who was inexplicably passed over for induction into the Hall of Fame induction right before his death. Perhaps because of the subject matter, it feels manufactured and overly sentimental; although I know it was crafted with love, it feels like a "human interest story" on the evening news. The writing is a lot more clipped and formal; one of the things I love about Joe's blog is that he goes off on random tangents. You can really tell he is a stream-of-consciousness writer (gee -- wonder why I might identify with that trait), and I suppose that gets lost when you add an editor and publishing house into the equation. In the book it felt like he was trying too hard to tell a story. I'd rather him just extemporaneously tell it, and I get that on his blog.

He's got another book coming out in September; I will buy it because I love Joe and the subject (The 1975-76 Cincinnati Reds, nicknamed "The Big Red Machine" for their overpowering style of play and, um, the color of their uniforms), but I'm not expecting great things.

Anyway, I bring up Joe because of a blog post he made recently. In it, he extols the value of the walk as a very underrated offensive weapon a team has at its disposal. This is nothing new; he constantly writes about how the Royals players don't walk at all and how that hurts them in the win column. (In fact, that is the subject of his blog post.)

I agree with Joe completely; lots of fans and analysts seemingly dislike the walk because it doesn't advance a runner (unless there's a force at the lead base), and, well, there's no action -- no thwack of the bat, no heart-stopping rush to beat the throw to first, etc. But I think the walk is nothing to be sneezed at.

In the blog post Joe puts together a table to analyze how often teams win when they don't walk. It's easy to find this data with sites like BBRef and Retrosheet around to catalog every pitch of every game played since 1958 (I'm not joking; this is literally what they do. I often think baseball should be divided into two eras: BR (before Retrosheet) and AR (after Retrosheet)) and offer it to you sliced any way you want it. So Joe puts together the table and finds out that as the number of walks a team gets goes up, its winning percentage (e.g. the % of times it won that particular game) goes up. If a team doesn't walk at all in a game, it wins the game 30% of the time. If a team walks six times in a game, it wins the game 64% of the time. And so on.

So clearly if you walk a lot you have a better chance of winning a game -- right? Unfortunately, the real answer is "I dunno." Joe falls victim to the ol' correlation vs. causation trap. He has shown that lots of walks and a high winning percentage appear together pretty consistently (he ran the study over 5 years' worth of games and noticed no wild swings in the numbers) -- which is good to know, and I think intuitively it makes sense that the more times you get on base (via a walk, hit, whatever) the better chance you have to win that game. This is, after all, one of the premises underlying Moneyball (sheesh I still can't believe there's going to be a movie about that). But although he never claims to have found causation, he sort of leaves the issue twisting in the wind. I infer he meant to imply causation because the entire theme of his post is how great walks are -- so to me he is starting the post with an agenda and then finding data to support it.

I say all this not to denigrate Joe. He's an amazing writer and a really smart guy. I just had to vent a bit. It's so hard to get past that CvC trap!! I would have thought he would have acknowledged it in the post.

Talking about correlation and causation makes me think of this beautiful xkcd comic:

June 2, 2009

Baseball is Life, Life is Baseball

So I went to the doctor's today to get the results of my physical. Nothing was wrong, they just think everyone should have one every year or so. As we were going over my numbers, it struck me as amusing how similar the numerical analysis of peoples' health is to the numerical analysis of baseball players. You know, like, "Your LDL cholesterol is high, take some medicine" is kind of like saying "Your WHIP is too high, spend some time with the pitching coach."

We could each have trading cards with our vital stats, tracked from year to year, listed on the back. "Ooh, 2007 was a bad year for his white blood cell count, but he rebounded with a strong showing in 2008. Looks to be a lock for 9, maybe 10,000 cells per microliter in 2009 and beyond." The graph of my EKG could have been the graph of my BB/K ratio (exemplified here, for illustrative purposes only, by Barry Bonds's):

Hey, stranger things have happened.