Friday, April 28, 2006

Getting sloppy at the top

The Worldwide Leader™ is not having the best stretch this week.

Skip Bayless, for one, seems to enjoy taking a contrarian stand just for the hell of it. (Longtime readers know that I don't particularly care for his work.) His latest is that Reggie Bush should forfeit the Heisman Trophy because of perks offered to his family.

As Jason Whitlock points out in his own excellent column, the Heisman voters are required to choose someone who adheres to the NCAA guidelines. However, I'm trying to wrap my mind around Bayless' logic at the moment. On the one hand, he thought Barry Bonds' records should stand; yet it's certainly clear to me that Bonds' performance benefitted far more from the drugs than Bush's performance did from his mom's house. Would he have somehow run for fewer yards if the family had a third-floor walk-up in Sausalito? Even if he had known about the details (and why would he?), what possible on-the-field impact would this have?

Then, of course, there's the hockey. John Buccigross is still top-of-the-line, but otherwise I'm quite disappointed. Terry Frei, front and center - based on four games of the first round of the playoffs, you're speculating that goaltending isn't as vital to team success as it used to be.

Let's mention the very first flaw in your argument: "The point is, a week into the first postseason of the New NHL, definitive conclusions would be premature." That's from your own column. So naturally you caveat everything you say in the column to try to have it both ways - but your only evidence is the poor statistics from the Dallas-Colorado series.

Have you noticed that, without Dwayne Roloson (.929 save %, 2.49 goals-against), the Oilers would have probably been swept by Detroit, instead of level at two games each? Have you seen the difference that Cam Ward made instead of Martin Gerber in the Carolina nets?

Most of all, the point entirely left out of the column - goaltending is deeper now than ever before. You don't have the consolation of thinking, "It's only one game, we can come back and score five on that patsy tomorrow night." And even when a number-one guy goes down, through injury or poor play, the backup is still very sharp. All around the league it's the same thing - Ray Emery in Ottawa, Henrik Lundqvist for the Rangers (Kevin Weekes was their expected starter before the season began), Vesa Toskala in San Jose, Tim Thomas in Boston (who didn't make the playoffs)... With more scoring chances and the greater speed of the game, it becomes more important than ever to have a guy who can deflate the opponent with big saves, and there are more guys like that now than ever before.

Why, yes, I am a goaltender myself. Does that make me biased? Possibly. But even on my level I can see the difference between a guy who comes up big and keeps his team close vs. a guy who flubs his chance. No other major sport has quite the equivalent to a hot goalie, a guy who holds off incredible pressure for three, four, five minutes... A goalie can face a dozen tough shots, right after the other, and if he keeps the puck out, and his team comes right back and scores on the counterattack - you feel the whole rink just tilt in your favor. Even in a goal-line stand, you know the other guys are only getting four shots, max, and on the fourth they may just take the easy field goal.

I know I'm in the distinct minority here. Sports Guy refuses even to mention has foresworn the Lord's Own Hockey in his pages. But fair's fair - I'll leave basketball to him, and work my side of the rink.

UPDATE - he mentions the Joe Thornton trade today. But he also says:

But even though I loved hockey once upon a time... even though I have all these NHL memories from 1976-1994 that have been rendered pretty much useless, there came a point in my life where I had to make a decision: is it worth spending 400-500 hours every year caring about a franchise [Boston Bruins] that doesn't care about me, playing in a league that was becoming less interesting by the year? The answer was no.
I can dig it. The Mets nearly did that to me during the Dallas Green years - and I'd been a fan since their best player was Lee Mazzilli. With the Islanders, at least there was the false hope that we would start keeping some of the great young players we'd drafted, but those Mets teams were horrible: Bret Saberhagen, Bobby Bonilla, Vince Coleman, Eddie Murray... Even our good players, guys like Edgardo Alfonzo, Jeff Kent, and John Olerud, were joyless and mechanical.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Quick updates

* Regarding plagiarism - I've been going over the archives for a little while now, as part of a separate long-term project. Came across this post. The money quote: Now that’s marketing – infiltrate the dreams of potential customers and shake their hands.

Turns out, of course, that I'd "internalized" that concept from an early Futurama episode. I just thought that I'd blow the whistle now before I'm on 60 Minutes.

* My sports jinx powers are at their zenith. On Tuesday I had the all-nighter at the rink. I refereed three games and then played a fourth because the team was short many players. We lost. Better, about 45 seconds from the end I stepped on a stick blade and rolled my ankle. The doctor says that luckily I did nothing more than badly bruise my foot - nothing is broken and nothing appears to be torn. Needless to say, it's all Bush's fault.

* New stuff on the sidebar. I moved some stuff and added new, exciting links - Memeno Moron, the Cagey Mind, and Worship Naked. Click them and be happy.

That's all for now. Class dis-missssssed!

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Plagiarism Redux

Much of blogdom has heard of the sorry tale of Ms. Kaavya Viswanathan, who has recently been busted for stealing many passages of her first novel, How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild and Got a Life, from other recent works by Megan McCafferty. She's been - well, not coming clean. More like sheepish and fawning, adhering to the growing standard society has been borrowing from its young (instead of sharply correcting). It was inadvertent. She "internalized" things she'd read.

(w/t to Sheila for link number one and Emily for link number two.)

She also had the services of a "book packager," so named because they stand behind-the-scenes and massage workable novels out of the rambles of authors. In other words, she couldn't even plagiarize somebody else's work on her own - she required help.

It's a small advance for society, I suppose, that Ms. Viswanathan didn't merely throw it all on the anonymous packager. And she did contribute some original material. She and her publisher have announced that future editions of her novel will offer more of it in place of the stolen bits. In software terms, that means that "Opal Mehta" was a beta version pawned off as a finished product, requiring patches and additional work that the consumer should have gotten in the first place. I was rather hoping that the practice wouldn't catch on elsewhere. (And I should know, since I ran a blog carnival that blew up in my face some months back. Yes, it was my fault.)

But if that wasn't enough fun, today I open to the funnies in the Star Ledger and find this from Vic Lee. And that sounded eerily familiar. I jogged upstairs and consulted the wall of a coworker and, sure enough, there it was.

That was a panel by Mike Twohy, originally running in the New Yorker on July 8, 2002. Ironically, his daily single-panel, That's Life, was replaced in the Ledger by Lee's "Pardon Our Planet" - in the same spot on the page, no less. I guess Lee promised them that some days, nobody would be able to tell the difference.

Hockey today, interesting stuff tomorrow

Some reflections on the NHL playoffs -

* The Islanders have been out for some time, but the next best thing is watching the Rangers and Flyers look like stooges. Four games, four losses: combined score of 21-6.

* Naturally, the Isles are not out of the news. Naturally, it's bad news. For those counting at home, this makes TWO Islander owners in the past ten years accused of fraud. (The first, John Spano, commited the fraud to try to buy the Isles.) My banner at work is flying half-mast.

* And in other news, Carolina, with former Isles coach Peter Laviolette, lost their first two playoff games, at home, to the seventh-seeded Canadiens. My all-sports jinx streak is intact. At this point, I could watch a replay of the 1980 Finals and Nystrom would hit the post.

* By the way, Laviolette has grown a goatee for the playoffs, and looks like an exceptionally grumpy Kevin Nealon.

* Closer to home, my deck hockey team is playing roller hockey for the very first time. None of us can really skate all that well. But in our second-ever game, we won - which conveniently coincided with my vacation last week. We used to have the "Fan Ban" because we'd lose big games when anyone came to watch - I may find myself in that situation...

Friday, April 21, 2006

To Oldly Go

One might hope that this was a gag, but Vulcans don't observe April Fool's. So, sci-fi fans get to lumber through another Star Trek movie, come 2008.

They have noticed that James Doohan and DeForest Kelly are dead, right? Or do we get an answer to the burning question - can you do Warp Two in a Hoveround?
Daily Variety said the action would center on the early days of "Star Trek" characters James T. Kirk and Mr. Spock, including their first meeting at Starfleet Academy and first outer-space mission.

Somehow, that doesn't make me feel any better. Nobody else can be Mr. Spock.
The as-yet-untitled "Star Trek" feature, the 11th since 1979, is aiming for a fall 2008 release through Paramount Pictures, the Viacom Inc. unit looking to restore its box-office luster under new management, the trade paper said.

By forcing out another installment of a dead franchise, like so much tapioca on Bingo Night? Listen, this isn't like Batman, where fans will accept a different talent under the mask. And how many Bond fans still think of Connery as THE James Bond? Anyone who tries to "do" Kirk will inevitably look like Zapp Branigan. Set phasers to kibosh, Mr. Chekov.

If you really want to do this right, you may want to see how people feel about a Deep Space Nine feature - you can get the genuine cast, you can try a different kind of story, roll the Cardassians out on the big screen for once. Admittedly, the series finale burned a lot of bridges, but that's never stopped anyone before. Or, by Roddenberry, you may try a NEW crew entirely. 179th Rule of Acquisition - Supply without demand is a waste of latinum.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Drove safe, having a great time

North Carolina is an interesting place.

* Back in New Jersey, nearly any two-lane country road you find is bound to run past a lot of new housing development. Down here, you can ride one of these for miles without passing another car, much less a house.

* The Target is HUGE. Ginormous, even. They have 32 checkouts and a beer and wine aisle.

* Dillard's! Sheetz! Food Lion! What brave new world, that has such regional brands in it!

* It's almost worth the extra 15 cents a gallon to pump my own gasoline.

The best part, hands down, is the hospitality. I'm not talking about the fabled "Welcome, Yankee, glad you could visit!" sort of general friendliness, though I'm glad to say that it's alive and well. In specific, we're being put up for the week by two of the Ladybug's best friends from college. They have four children and a dog are still finding room for us.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Blog goes on without me

For the next week, there will be less noise than usual in this space. I've gone on vacation with the Ladybug. Anyone in Norf Cackalackie should wave as we scroll down mighty Route One. I'll be checking in from time to time while I'm away, though, so stop in and say hi. Limericks welcome!

Thursday, April 13, 2006

When you say "Blog" then boy you've said it all

And if not, others will say it for you.

Part of me just wants to say, "Blogging is dead," and retire. Then the rest of me laughs at my pretensions. That's the point I get from it, anyway - the reminder not to be cynical and just to enjoy talking about hockey, culture, faith, more hockey, obscure video games, and what-not.

If I beat a few more pop-cult references into the ground while I'm at it, well, eh. Nobody will remember it next week, anyway, so I may as well accept the total deflation of ego and the loss of the dumb-assed expectation that I will be universally admired as the Paragon of All Things Blog. Post some quizzes, take it seriously until the thread dies, and then laugh and buy each other beers.

(w/t to Sheila)

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Coming soon to the Android's Dungeon

WunderKraut is out of hiatus for a little while, and picking up where he left off with the good stuff. He reminds me of my own geekedness growing up. (Warning - I have not yet grown up.)

For the sports geeks it was Stratomatic Basbeall. And for poor sports geeks in high school with few friends and no hobbies, it was homemade strat-ball using two 6d and two 8d.

I actually did pretty well - it was realistic and decently balanced. I never quite got the hang of pitcher fatigue, but it had injuries and errors. It would take about a half-hour per game. In about 400 games, there was a pretty good spread of outcomes, too. I keenly remember one of my pitchers taking a perfect game into the ninth, just putting on a clinic - ground ball, pop-out, strikeout - and then giving up the fatal single with two outs.

It's as close as anyone ever got in the "It's Just Dice" League. And I can't tell you, after all the games I'd played, how tempting it was to simply call that first single a walk and give him a shot for the no-hitter - I sat there for ten minutes (rain delay!) thinking about it and finally decided that, even in pen and paper, you have to earn it. And after that the ball started flying around the yard and I actually had to go get him and have the closer end the game. Final line:

Walker (w)8.211308
Soeczak (s)0.100001

Yes, I do remember it that well. I may even have the scorecard somewhere in the basement.

Then Video Killed the Role-Playing Star. I eagerly scored a copy of Tony LaRussa's Ultimate Baseball, on two (!) 3.5" floppies, for your IBM-compatible PC running DOS. I translated my team over there (because who needed the Montreal Expos?), and even took the time to get enough stats to recreate many of the actual big-leaguers of the mid-90s. (They didn't have a players license, but they did have all-time teams.) Some of the folks who eventually worked on the High Heat series for 3do helped program this game, and it was very good - down to small details, such as having to pull a pitcher at the second mound visit.

Pity that 3do is gone now, but they brought it on themselves by failing to follow HH2001 with anything approaching its quality. The last edition didn't even offer mouse support and did away with the historic ballparks. Still, some things come full circle.


Via Lileks, we now know what Summers has been doing in his spare time.

Monday, April 10, 2006


My first spam! Sunday, 4:27 pm, a credit rehab dealio. They thoughtfully included the long list of credit-like terms designed to let search engines find the page and tell their spambot buddies. Alas, it is now deleted, but "Yahitsi," thanks for playing. Nobody goes away empty-handed. For being the first spammer to breach the Hive defenses, you win a ban and a special parting gift.

I hope he can see this, because I'm doing it as hard as I can
updated, April 11, 10 am - thanks for the support, guys.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Random mutterings

* Still working on the background thing, folks. Whatever I did to make it better before isn't happening now. My Firefoxers can't read half the posts I write, and Prussian Tiger and Sluggo are wondering why I've entered a blue period. I may need that drunken road trip to Norf Cackalackie. Maybe Easter week... 'Sader, do you live anywhere near Raleigh?

* Speaking of NC - a citizen thereof became the Coalition's 50,000 visitor earlier this afternoon. Congrats to the Swillers. And of course, I was 50,001. I missed by less than three minutes. Blast! (Why did I take late lunch today?)

* Many personal projects are finally moving again; in particular, one large boondoggle has finally crossed the finish line. All that's left is the mailing.

* I saw most of this game. The second period was as bad as I've seen since the Fishstick days. The Rangers pretty much moved the puck at will and created excellent chances nearly every shift. The Isles' only solid stretch came on the power play - and they hit the post twice. And in other league news, a new businessman has joined the bidding for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He says he may move them to Hartford. It was a shame when the Whalers moved to Carolina (and we lost a top-five logo, too); I wonder if the league (and owner Peter Karmanos) would let the Penguins take over the Whaler name, the way the NFL created the new Cleveland Browns?

* And that's that. Back to the grind.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Speaking of white backgrounds

At 11:03 am, I was on our loading dock. It was SNOWING.

Yeah, I know it won't stick and won't last, but did New Jersey need that last kick in the nads from Old Man Winter? Is this Buffalo or something?

Oh well. Time to fight winter with winter - I'm playing the Christmas mix. No, bag that. Do not go gently into that snowy night. 20cc's of the Beach Boys, stat!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

This may cause trouble

One thing about dating is having your eyes opened to new things. I'd been to one theater show in my whole life as of my last birthday, but have now gotten to see four shows since, with the motive power being my more-sophisticated city-loving Jersey Girl.

I'll have to go back and let you know how the other three went, but the most recent visit to the theatuh was a
local company production of "Urinetown" held at the Jersey Shore Arts Center. It used to be the Neptune High School, circa 1896, but had been abandoned for some time until JSAC took possession and began renovation. It's good news, too - this building is gorgeous. I've been in plenty of schools, and most were 60's or 70's cookie-cutter boxes with bad lighting, and cramped rooms, and questionable choices in architecture and layout.

Now picture a high school with 14-foot ceilings... and a main entrance that opens on a grand staircase which sweeps up toward the second floor, and classes with doors with honest-to-goodness knobs and not levers or handles... and above the doors, single-pane hinged windows for ventilation... a building so old that it was probably built without electric wiring...

Sheila is an arts nut; I am a nostalgist. The hallways filled with chattering people visiting the gift shop and waiting for admission, and I painted them in high collars and jackets, with long dresses for the lasses, books strapped together with belts, inkwells and nib pens waiting quietly on each desk for the next lesson.

Oh, yeah, and there was a show too! I got a last little twinge of remember when as we all entered the auditorium: the JSAC restored the original row seating, wooden folding chairs on a long, curved, wrought-iron framework. Many veterans in the audience had brought cushions from home.

And then the show started, and I got in trouble. (If you want to see the play sometime, you may want to skip ahead a little. I'm careful about spoilers, but it happens.)

It's simple enough - for me, a little peek through the fourth wall goes a long way. This play had no fourth wall whatsoever. Later the Ladybug explained that it was the whole point, and it was unlike typical Broadway because of it. I got in worse trouble by saying that sort of proved my point.

Hey, if you want to have ironic fun at the conventions of a musical, have at 'em - but to announce as much to the audience? Indeed, to start with a number called "Too Much Exposition"? I enjoyed the second act much more because there was much less of that sort of thing. It may be that I'm a curmudgeon about it and others absolutely love it; I think that it shows weakness on the part of the authors not to be able to wink at the audience without a sledgehammer. Isn't it enough to have the running gag where the cast reacts in surprise to a plot twist, all in unison? (Well-done and very funny, I might add.)

The cast was fine, though - in a few cases much better than fine. Little Sally and Officer Lockstep were quite well done. A couple of the numbers were sung in counterpoint and I couldn't make out what either group was saying, and there was a ragged moment for one actress early in the second act, but since she'd spent the last fifteen minutes gagged it was most understandable. She came through beautifully otherwise. Great band, good stage design (especially considering the extreme small size).

My dear, I'm sorry if you were irked at me at intermission. I wasn't pooh-poohing. To give you a compare and contrast,
this is pooh-poohing. Don't tell your dad, and I won't either.

Monday, April 03, 2006

New look, new problems

This is a bummer. I did a little fine-tuning and I got rid of a dark hunk of blue across the bottom of the sidebar. Apparently that didn't help, and non-IE users are still having difficulties reading in here. As near as I can guess the faint light blue background turns into a darker blue in Firefox.

I'll post in a larger text size, which should also help; and hopefully I can figure out how to turn the text color from navy blue to black, to improve the contrast. Failing that, I can try to change the background to straight white.

Wish me luck...

updated, 9:50 pm - Well, I hope this looks better. There's more contrast (at least as far as IE can tell me) though I still can't figure out how to make the post background white. Due credit to ColorMatch for the proper hexidecimal codes. They provide five complimentary colors for homemade palette work, too - a great little utility.

update again, 12:29 am - son of a gun. Now the background IS white. Folks, you'll have to let me know how it looks to you...