February 28, 2006


I agree with Gilliard on this one--Buck O'Neill should be in the Hall of Fame. Maybe not so much for his playing career, but for his contributions to the game since. The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum might not exist without him. If you saw Ken Burns' Baseball, you know O'Neill should be declared a national treasure.

My Buck O'Neill story: I flew to St. Louis to see my man Otis, and we drove across the state to Kansas City. We went to the NLBM, ate some ribs, and then went to the Big K. Otis brought his copy of O'Neill's book; he had heard Buck sits right behind home plate, so he was hoping to score an autograph during batting practice. He also wore his #22 Kansas City Monarchs jersey (22 being O'Neill's old number). We got there and made our way down toward home plate; Buck was signing something for a little kid, but an usher tried to chase us away. Buck saw Otis' jersey, and motioned for him to come down. I have a picture of the two of them on my home computer, and will post it later.

(The Royals beat the O's 9-5, stealing something like 800 bases in the process. After we'd been told over and over again how lousy attendance was in KC, we were a little surprised to be part of a crowd of 35,000. But it was T-shirt day. I wore my Orioles jersey like a true ass, but caught little flak from the home crowd.)

Posted by Carl at 10:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 27, 2006

All this poker... for NOTHING

Saturday was the quarterly NPPL regional tournament for NoVA, and since I won a ticket a few months ago with a second-place finish, I trooped on out. The top two finishers were to play online against other regional qualifiers, and the top two finishers in that were to receive a trip to Vegas and a $1500 buy-in to an early WSOP event (not the Main Event, obviously). Long odds, yes, but probably better chances than winning the PowerBall.

I hauled ass down to Woodbridge, and got there five minutes before the start time to find that all 500 seats were filled and there was a line for alternates. They ended up seating us stragglers as people busted out, and with this being a free game that meant we were all seated relatively quickly. I dominated the first table I played at, taking out maybe four players and winning a couple other big pots. Win or lose, I tell you what, this feels pretty damn good:

"How much you got left?"
[counts out chips... THUNK.]

After a couple hours there, I got moved to a second table, where I held my own--didn't take anyone out, but made some money. Then I got moved a third time, and my luck ran out. I folded a couple times when I shouldn't have and generally stopped catching cards.

After five hours at this smoky friggin' pool hall, and a 30-minute break for a color-up, were were down to 10 tables, so somewhere between 70 and 90 players out of the original 534. I had a mid-sized stack; I was getting tired and frustrated. Here comes another one of those "did I make the right play?" questions, so anyone who plays poker please answer in comments.

Blinds were 1K and 2K. I get A6 clubs. A guy bets 6K; I call as do two other players. Two clubs come on the flop. The first guy goes all-in for 19K. I have 21K, so I can cover him, but I'm all but dead if I do and lose.

Now, if this was a cash tournament where, say, 50 places paid out, I wouldn't have called. Hell, I wouldn't have called his 6K pre-flop bet; I'd have tightened up to make sure I finished in the money, then I'd go for the crazy bets. But I'm thinking, the top TWO finishers get prizes here. That means playing another three hours, at least. The pot odds are there, and if I'm actually going to win this thing, I have to win hands like this. And I'm getting kind of sick of this; I'd rather take the chance on winning this massive pot and putting myself in a great position, than to fold and sit here nickel and diming for another 90 minutes.

So I called, everyone else folded, and the guy turned over pocket queens. I got neither a club nor an ace. I did quadruple my remaining 2K on the very next hand, but I was out soon thereafter.

Anybody got an opinion? When the pot odds are favorable but it means going all-in or close to it, is it still a good bet? Does the answer to that question change based on how many players are left and how many places pay?

It was a decent tournament; I appreciated the challenge and the practice. But I doubt I will play in another one of these. The low number of prizes paid don't justify the time. If I was single, sure, but I had to spend a certain amount of "Husband Points" to waste my whole Saturday on poker, and all things considered I'd rather spend my spousal capital on Nats games and such.

Posted by Carl at 10:32 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2006

Linking Fool Friday

OK, it's late; what've we got? We've got Wolcott and Dennis the Peasant on how dehumanizing Muslims is counterproductive, in the grand scheme of things. We've got Belle Waring on gun control, a subject near and dear to my heart, and how it plays into Dick Cheney's hunting mishap. And we've got Jane Hamsher on in vitro fertilization, a subject anti-choice activists somehow skip over.

Then there's that stupid port deal. "Just trust me on this one" ain't gonna cut it, not with this administration. See Gilliard and Digby/Kos.

Here's an amusing item on how modern college students use e-mail to communicate ineffectively. I fully agree with that advice to not dash off an e-mail when you're pissed off--calm down first and it'll come out much better. Also, there's a follow-up on students using their own, non-university e-mail addresses, some of which aren't entirely appropriate for deailng with professors or potential employers. Good stuff in the comment thread there.

Teh funny: Bad News Hughes visits the RenFaire. And if you can't get enough of ice dancing cheesiness, you need to watch this video.

Posted by Carl at 05:00 PM | Comments (0)

February 22, 2006

There's a joke in here somewhere

I just installed iTunes on my office computer. It rummaged through my MP3 files, and at the top of the library list was "Track01" by N'Sync.

Th' hell? Play it.

Turned out to be King Missile's "Detachable Penis."

Posted by Carl at 03:50 PM | Comments (2)

February 21, 2006

Stop! Hockey time

US-Russia is still going on, but the quarterfinals are set. My predictions were pretty much spot-on, aside from Switzerland finishing second in its group rather than fourth. Props to the Italians for pulling off a couple of ties.

The US looks thoroughly doomed, having been unable to score much, and going up against undefeated Finland. I watched the better part of Finland's 2-0 win over Canadia this weekend, and man do the Finns look tough right now. But anything can still happen, especially if a goalie has the game of his life at the right moment.

You've also got Russia-Canada in the quarters, which should be worth setting the TiVo for. Slovakia-Czech Republic is a nice matchup; I think the Slovaks have been playing over their heads, and the Czechs not up to potential. Plus that whole "We used to be one country" rivalry.

And then there's Sweden vs. Switzerland, which is interesting only because Sweden's coach openly mused about losing to Slovakia, so the Swedes would draw the Swiss, rather than the Czechs, in the quarterfinals. The hockey federation said they'd be watching this game closely to make sure Sweden was actually trying. Sure enough, Slovakia won 3-0; no word yet on whether the Swedes threw the game. Slovakia has been pretty tough in this Olympics, so the outcome is by no means impossible.

Further predictions? Finland looks to have the easiest route to the gold medal game, though I'd imagine a Finland-Sweden semifinal would have some intensity. The other side of the bracket is wide open; any of those teams has a shot. I like the way the Russians are playing right now, and I think they'll only get better as they march to a gold medal. Sweden over Slovakia for the bronze.

Judging from my referrer logs, there's quite a market for live streaming video of Olympic hockey. Get on it, NBC.

UPDATE 2/22: NBC has changed the bracket since yesterday; now they have the Russia-Canada winner meeting Finland, whereas of yesterday it was the Switzerland-Sweden winner. I don't know who to believe now. Fine, make my predictions Russia over Sweden for the gold, Finland over Slovakia for the bronze.

Posted by Carl at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)

February 17, 2006

Linking Fool Friday

After last week's edition was four days late, you wouldn't think I'd have too many links to dump. Ah, but there you'd be wrong.

There's been much talk around Olde Blogge Town about Paul Hackett dropping out of the Ohio Senate race. There are plenty of opinions stating that it's all for the best, and Hackett is being a whiny douche about it. There may be something to those, but in general I think this is why we have primaries. Maybe have some sort of gentlemen's agreement to cap spending, if you're all worried about saving campaign money for the general election, but c'mon, let the voters decide. Yay democracy.

Greatest hits of the blogosphere: Greenwald convinces prominent conservatives to condemn Ann Coulter. And here's one that's making the rounds in a hurry: right-wing pundit tells kids not to bother studying math. They're well on their way to wrecking science, why not math too? Are we the stupidest society on the planet yet? If not, we'll keep trying.

Anything else happen this week? Oh yeah, the vice-president shot an old guy in the face. But, you know, not really his fault.

Behold, a major lefty blog says something about mascots. Nothing earth-shattering here, but still, mascots, w00t.

Posted by Carl at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

February 16, 2006

Friday Random Ten

Winamp sure does love the Roots lately. Close to 1000 tracks to pick from, and the Roots come up over and over again.

The Legends, "Trouble Loves Me"
Crash Test Dummies, "Superman Song"
The Roots, "Rolling With Heat"
Gomez, "Revolutionary Kind"
My Morning Jacket, "Steam Engine"
Bloc Party, "Compliments"
Feist, "One Evening"
Iron & Wine, "Muddy Hymnal"
Broken Social Scene, "Major Label Debut"
Soulwax, "Compute"

Posted by Carl at 08:56 PM | Comments (0)

February 15, 2006

This can't wait for Linking Fool Friday

Seriously. Go. Now. Before I shoot you in the face.

Posted by Carl at 09:07 PM | Comments (0)

Olympic attendance: blah

Via Gilliard: crowds at some Olympic events kind of thin.

I have to wonder how much these tickets cost, if they've priced themselves too high and thus attendance is down. The article says they have sold some tickets on the cheap to try to fill up some venues, but it's a fraction of the total. Quotes from scalpers at the end of the article do say that ticket prices were over the top.

I once had dreams of going to SLC in 2002 and watching Olympic hockey, but when the event actually rolled around, tickets were obscenely expensive. A package with the women's gold medal game, men's gold medal game, closing ceremonies: $1,560 EACH. One US men's game, a men's semifinal game, closing ceremonies: $1,260 and up. To make matters worse, the USOC was actually selling some tickets on eBay--not scalpers or ticket agencies reselling them, but the organizer itself auctioning off tickets to the highest bidder. Pairs of tickets to U.S. men's games were a minimum of $600. (I posted about this on a message board at the time and was able to find the archived post, so I'm sure these figures are accurate.)

A friend who lived in Utah at the time said it was a bone of contention locally--they'd been told for years how great the Olympics were going to be, but then the event tickets were too expensive for regular Utahns to afford them. Having the games in North America, there was no shortage of obnoxious rich people to buy up the tickets anyway. It may not be playing out that way in Europe. Yay capitalism and all, but pricing these events so that only the rich can attend seems a little contrary to that famous Olympic spirit.

Posted by Carl at 04:22 PM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2006

The Big Fool becomes a frothing American patriot

There are only two things that induce this condition in me: World Cup soccer and Olympic hockey. Something is annoying me tremendously, though: while there are ample previews of the men's tournament, and a game-by-game schedule on NBC's site, I am altogether unable to find simple tables of who's in what group. Will NBC provide standings of the groups as they go along? Somehow I doubt it.

So here, for the world's benefit, are the two groups in this Olympics. If necessary, I will compose tables as the Games go along, at least until NBC and the International Olympic Committee sue my ass.

Group A: Canada, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Italy, Switzerland.
The Canadians, Czechs, and Finns should get through to the second round easily, and the Germans and Swiss will battle it out for the fourth spot. If the women's team is any indication, the Italians will be lucky to win a game (but did you see that the Italian women finally scored a goal? Bet it brought the house down).
Note to Andrew F.: I suggest you set up the TiVo to record Canada vs. the Czechs. That might be a good game.

Group B: Kazakhstan, Latvia, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, USA.
I could be wrong, but this group seems pretty clear-cut. Apologies to all my Latvian and Kazakh readers.

UPDATE: NBC saves me the trouble of providing hockey updates to the world by finally adding a page with group standings. US-Latvia at 3 ET today; I guess live streaming video is too much to ask?

Posted by Carl at 11:23 AM | Comments (0)

Poker, one week later

A follow-up to last week's bad beat story: last night I started at the same table as 7-5 guy. He went all-in on the first hand and lost (not to me, though).

Unfortunately, your humble narrator didn't fare so well either, busting out relatively early and ending my streak of final tables at two. It's interesting how the games change as you get to know the players: Last night a guy put me all-in with an inside straight draw on the board; I had top pair. I'd played against him before, and I knew he had a habit of pushing around a big stack and trying to muscle people out of hands. So I thought, "He doesn't have it," and I called. He had it.

Posted by Carl at 10:53 AM | Comments (0)

Linking Fool Friday (Tuesday edition)

Damn this work stuff, getting in the way of my blogging. I really need to win the $300 million PowerBall jackpot, so nothing will ever interfere with Linking Fool Friday again. I could pay someone else to do it if I have to.

So we're really late to the table with pols who just won't learn that you look stupid when you dress up like a pilot, and sensible comments on the Danish cartoon flap, and a recap of that Big Bang Theory NASA intern douchebag. But you'll enjoy reading them just the same.

I am generally not fond of stories that end "...and he sat in stunned silence, bewildered by the simple truth of his opponent's argument." 99.9% of the time it ain't that simple. But I enjoyed this one. Mr. Tomorrow has spent a lot of time pointing out the logical inconsistencies in people's positions lately; it's a shame our mainstream journamlists can't do so as well. Digby is good at that too.

Everyone remember Ben Bagdikian's The Media Monopoly? I sure do.

Yet more: MyDD on what the ownershp society threatens to bring us, and if that's what we really want. More fantastic support of our troops (but in a nice follow-up, folks donated money to cover this, including some from one of those soldier-hatin' crazy angry liberal blogs).

Finally, baseball... it's getting hard to really like the Nats these days, mostly because our dumbass GM makes moves for the sake of making moves, and as a result the roster is wildly incoherent. Basil breaks it down.

Posted by Carl at 10:46 AM | Comments (0)

February 07, 2006

A poker tale

For the two-thirds of my readers who could give a crap about poker, go read Slate or something. For the half of that third who are sick of bad-beat stories, maybe you should go read Guinness and Poker.

Anyone still with me? OK. Here's my sad story from last night's NPPL game. I played solid poker, called out a couple people at the right time, got lucky once or twice, and made it to the final table in the middle of the pack.

Second or third hand at the final table. Blinds are 1K and 2K. I'm in middle position and get A-10 suited. Girl across the table goes all-in with 5K.

Next up is the table's big stack. He plays with his chips, smiles foolishly, and lays out 20K, about half his stack. He had just bought the previous pot; combined with his goofy grin, I knew he was full of it. I go all-in with 14K. Then another guy goes all-in with 17K. Everyone else folds.

We sort out the chips and show. I have the best hand; the other two all-ins are K-J and Q-J off-suit. Big stack guy turns over 7-5 off-suit. The whole table says "Dude, you're a moron," as he grins sheepishly and shrugs.

What an awful play. I could live with covering the 5K; if you have a big stack, it's often worth it to take a small flyer to try to eliminate another player. But risking half his stack at that point? What's his objective? Trying to ward off other players? If anything, I'd think you want a few more people to cover the 5K to increase the chances of knocking someone out (had he not bet so large, I'd have just called the 5K). (Of course, this is a free game, so "awful play" is somewhat mitigated.)

But you've already guessed where this is going. An ace comes out on the flop, so I'm looking good, but a 7 was on the flop as well. Sure enough, the jackass catches a 5 on the river to take out all three of us.

It's a free game, so I can only get so upset. And yeah, that's poker; that guy got lucky this time, but if he continues to play like that he'll get killed over the long term. Plus, this is my second straight final table--nothing earth-shattering in a game that has 30 to 45 players weekly, but pleasing nonetheless.

Still: ASS. I wish you ill.

Posted by Carl at 12:34 PM | Comments (1)

February 06, 2006

Super Bowl: the morning after

This game had its moments, but I was a bit disappointed by the questionable officiating and the sloppy play (too many penalties and dropped passes). By my count, there were four iffy calls, none spectacularly awful, but they did all go against the Seahawks:

  • The offensive pass interference that took a TD away from the Seahawks early on. Pass interference is one of those hard-to-call things. Yeah, he put his hand on the defender and used that to gain separation, so I guess it's a good call. Not like he knocked the defender on his ass or anything though.

  • The Roethlisberger TD. I don't think he scored, but it's hard to say, and with the way the rules are written the ref was right to uphold the call on the field. If that had happened on first down, you go "Well, the Steelers have two more shots from the one-inch line, they'd punch it in anyway." But that was a third down play, so you have to wonder what they'd have done on fourth and goal from that spot.

  • The holding call that took the Seahawks from first and goal at the one back to first and 20 at the 29. That drive started at the Seahawks' 2, with a zillion Steeler fans screaming their heads off at that end of the stadium, but Hasselbeck took them down in the field like he was taking a walk in the park. I seriously thought we were watching one of the great drives in Super Bowl history. But then the penalty, and two plays later the interception. Holding is another tough thing to call; I'm not sure what exactly the O-lineman did wrong on that play. If the refs called holding strictly by the book, we'd see a holding call or a sack on just about every play.

  • The Hasselbeck chop-block call on that same interception. A lame call, but not earth-shattering...though it did give the Steelers the proper field position to run the sweeeeeeeet WR pass.

Still, enough other things went wrong for the Seahawks--dropped passes, poor clock management, missed field goals, and punts that went for touchbacks--that you can't pin it on the refs.

In our house, there has to be chili on Super Bowl Sunday. I made "Seattle Coffee Chili," the Washington state recipe from Chili Nation, which is basically chicken with pasilla chiles and coffee. Quite good, actually. Does this mean the team whose state chili I make loses every time? If so, I obviously should have made Massachusetts chili last year. We will revisit this experiment next year.

The ads were mostly lame. I did like the Full Throttle energy drink ad, for successfully becoming more over-the-top with every passing second. I still ain't buying any.

Posted by Carl at 10:06 AM | Comments (0)

February 05, 2006

Super Bowl pre-game thought

Nothing against Norah Jones and whoever the hell the rest of those people were. But how exactly does their presence improve things, versus just having Stevie Wonder do his songs?

By the way... I can't believe I've never mentioned in this space that the Super Bowl is my "alternate birthday." I was born the day of Super Bowl IV, making me XXXVI years old today.

Posted by Carl at 08:44 PM | Comments (1)

Kids TV is bad for you: Mysteries of the universe solved

We were in Barnes & Noble yesterday, and while rummaging the kids' section, I learned the answer to one of the most perplexing questions of our time: how the hell different species are supposed to be related. Turns out the non-spider bugs were orphans, and adopted by the spider family. Now we know.

Also: Charlie the crocodile is apparently a special-needs student. Dora's Abuela is a little touched in the head, too.

Posted by Carl at 07:50 AM | Comments (0)

February 03, 2006

Death penalty: still sucks

Meant to put this in LFF and forgot: Cory Maye's cause was passed around last month, but despite the attention, Mississippi officials haven't budged. The man is still on death row for doing what the NRA celebrates as a fundamental American right. An online petition has been started asking that his case be reviewed; please give it a look.

Posted by Carl at 04:28 PM | Comments (0)

Baseball Book Club: The Glory of Their Times/The IBC

My off-season reading binge has slowed down somewhat, but I did recently finish Lawrence Ritter's The Glory of Their Times. In Allen Hye's book, he fleetingly refers to Glory as, according to some, "the greatest baseball book ever written," and that same endorsement appears on the cover, attributed to Red Barber.

I don't know that I'd go that far--it doesn't quite beat out Ball Four, but it's right up there. Ritter wrote this book in the 60's by tracking down old ballplayers, from the 1900's to the 1940's, and asking them to tell their own stories. If you're a fan of the game's history, you should go find this book immediately, both for guys you may have heard of (Bill Wambsganss, Hank Greenberg, Joe Wood) and those you probably haven't (Specs Torporcer, Hans Lobert). It a testimonial to the glory of baseball before World War II, and a testiment to the power and weight of our memories.

I would have liked Ritter to fill in a few more details of each player's life and career--he lets the players do all the talking, which is good in its way, but I'm sure there's relevant bits in the record books that they didn't cover. And I very much wish he'd have tracked down a few Negro League old-timers to give them the same treatment (maybe there's another book out there that does that). Beyond that, I can't recommend this book strongly enough.

Up next: In the Shadow of the Senators, which I picked up at Nasty Nats' recommendation.

Then there's the matter of The Iowa Baseball Confederacy, and the interblog discussion that I dropped like Alfonso Soriano butchering a bad-hop grounder. Recap: my original review, my first discussion post, and Mediocre Fred's reply. My long-overdue response is below the fold, what with its being spoiler-riffic. If you haven't read the book, go read it now. We'll wait. Then come back and add your comments.

Fred wants to know what I think is the book's greatest weakness. Is it the ending, as I questioned earlier? Is it the book's sprawling scope? Is it something else?

The book's scope didn't bother me. I did find bringing Leanardo da Vinci in to be a bit silly, but not altogether derailing. Kinsella had obviously thought "Baseball is so perfect, a genius like da Vinci must have invented it. I gotta find a way to work that into a book." And this was it. A bit clunky, yeah, but whatever. Having Teddy Roosevelt show up was also a bit unnecessary, but not unforgiveable. As far as weaving baseball, religion, the struggle between native Americans and white settlers... hey, that's what made this book good.

I'd say my biggest complaint isn't the ending per se, but the overall inconsistent use of magical power throughout the book. Yeah, that's like being a dorky Star Wars or Harry Potter fan and complaining about some minor inconsistency--one just needs to suspend disbelief for the duration and be done with it. But still... if the Grandfathers can rebuild the town after the flood, and delete the IBC from everyone's memory, including Chicago newspapers and the President of the United States... couldn't they have done something about the white man's encroachment on their territory? The calm with which everyone accepts the flood, the endless game, and players being swallowed up by cracks in the Earth was a little odd too.

That only took six weeks. I'm sure Fred will post a reply by Monday and make me look like the slacker I am.

Posted by Carl at 01:17 PM | Comments (2)

Linking Fool Friday

Just a few today. This overheard in DC item is teh funny.

As we all know, "Support the Troops" is code for "Don't criticize the President or the war." Proof: the Army withholding injured soldiers' pay when they've been found to have mistakenly received more combat pay than they should. Not discussing it with them, not working out a plan--just yanking their whole frickin' paycheck. Billions of dollars going over there, but they can't buy our soldiers body armor or treat them decently after they've been injured in combat. If Congress and the administration all cared about our troops as much as they say they do, they'd fix this to give these guys a fair shake.

Best moment of the SOTU: Bush caught by surprise as Democrats go nuts for "failing to save Social Security".

Uh, that's it. Oh wait, here's some good songs I listened to today:
Clearlake, "No Kind of Life"
American Analog Set, "Born on the Cusp"

Posted by Carl at 12:45 PM | Comments (0)

Things you learn from the World Baseball Classic rosters

That would be these right here.

Former Potomac Cannoon, St. Louis Cardinal, and All-Name Team outfielder Stubby Clapp is playing in an independent league. And he's Canadian. Braves' utilityman Pete Orr is also Canadian; the Braves really need to trade him to a team I like so I can buy his jersey.

There's a Chinese baseball league?! Damn. A billion people over there, there's bound to be a few guys who can throw a good fastball.

Ain't no major league players going for Cuba. Imagine that. You mean Fidel isn't going to let Livan and El Duque suit up for their country?

The DR's team is freakin' stacked.

There's an Italian baseball league?!??!? There's a few familiar names on that roster, but I wonder how many of those guys are Americans of Italian extraction, pulling the move foreign yet American players used to pull at the World Cup--not good enough to make your true home country's squad? Call yourself an American and go play for their crappy team!

Posted by Carl at 12:26 PM | Comments (0)