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July 2001 Archives

Links were checked and verified as active only in the month the Eucalyptus entry was published. Links outside the silverscreentest domain may be inactive from this archive.

July 31

Perhaps I spoke too soon. The computer system is running off a backup server rather than the primary server. As a result, everyone's work runs slow. Our liaison is slowly fraying as he resorts to circuitous insults and veiled sarcasm to maintain his sanity. In addition to helping folks figure out the new computer system, I've also been asked to stand in for the Pope, Billy Graham, the Dalai Lama, and Dr. Joyce Brothers.

July 30

Our new computer system cut over today. Some people complained because their training said to do things differently from the more efficient methods. The system operates more slowly, but few users have complained much and some actually complimented the new system. The programmers did most of the work, but it also required managers who didn't just ramrod an unusable product on the users. The test users also deserve credit for complaining loud and long until they got a functional system.

July 29

Today's Washington Post Magazine has an article on Madalyn Murray O'Hair and the organized atheists. For most atheists I know, their belief is very personal. As the article states, American Atheists seem just like the fundamentalist Christians, just with a different belief. You also frequently find clergy in groups supporting the separation of church and state. These clergy do not believe any less, but just don't want the government supressing their faith and promoting another.

July 28

Finished watching The Mists of Avalon. I'd give it a 6 or 7 on a 1-10 scale. It was obviously created to showcase headliners Anjelica Huston, Julianna Margulies and Joan Allen, with the male characters drifting to the background. I've never seen a vaguely anti-Christian, pro-Pagan program before. I'm surprised there wasn't a concerted effort on the part of the Christian right to protest it. Not to mention the Arthurian threesome. Given its low ratings, it probably wasn't worth their effort.

July 27

The only movie I ever walked out of was Straw Dogs, a Peckinpah film that took forever to get to the action. It's not the worst movie I've ever seen, but those others I continued to watch in the manner of a gruesome traffic accident you can't help but look at. I was bored, but not in the way that I just slept through the other films I was bored with. I was merely annoyed with boredom, and the film was not soporiphic enough to put me to sleep.

July 26

Sandy Alderson of Major League Baseball's Commissioner's office got into trouble for e-mails he sent to various umpires encouraging them to find strikes when they called behind the plate. With more strikes, batters would put the ball in play and games would shorten. Alderson particularly harped on an umpire's game pitch count.

I believe Alderson went about his task the wrong way. What MLB should do is release statistics when umpires are behind the plate. They will be in the newspapers, in USA Today Baseball Weekly, and Suddenly, umpires can come under the same kind of statistical scrutiny as players. Reporters can ask pointed questions of the statistical outliers. Perhaps such scrutiny will cause the outliers to move towards the mean, making umpiring more consistent. In addition, it gives writers and broadcasters something new to talk about. One could take a guess about the outcome of the game given the weather conditions, the starting pitchers, and the umpire behind the plate.

So there was never any need for paternalistic e-mails. Just shine some light on the facts, and let disclosure take care of the problem.

July 25

Jaromir Jagr Christmas ornamentThe Hallmark will release a Jaromir Jagr Christmas ornament this year. Their web site shows him in a Penguins jersey. It's probably too late to make it with a Capitals jersey. I think they'll just go ahead and sell it that way or pull it from sale.

July 24

In 1990, the Chicago White Sox produced the first "Turn Back the Clock" promotion. As the last year of the old Comiskey Park, the team honored the 1917 Chisox, Chicago's last World Series winner. The White Sox wore the uniforms of that team and the public address announcer used a megaphone, but the visiting Milwaukee Brewers wore their current uniforms. Since then, many teams have honored their past with their team's old uniform, or that of the local Negro League team. Now, of course, both teams wear the old jerseys. In newly expanded areas, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays wore the uniform of the St. Petersburg Saints. Relocated teams have worn jerseys from their pasts in another city. The Rangers and Brewers played one game where they could have donned the duds of the Dallas Eagles or Fort Worth Panthers and the minor league Milwaukee Brewers. However, they wore some generic 1920s-lloking uniforms with T's and M's on them.

In 1998, the Seattle Mariners hosted the Kansas City Royals in the first "Turn Forward the Clock" night. Many of the Mariners wore their caps backwards in the field. The Seattle batting helmets were silver, like the Seattle Seahawks, while the Royals were gold, like Notre Dame. The sleeves were cut short with no colored undersweater. In 1999, Century 21 sponsored "Turn Forward the Clock" days and nights in nearly all the stadiums. They followed the same template of sleeveless jerseys to show off the players' biceps. The uniform designs just blew a logo to massive proportions on the shirt, which sometimes had a totally different background color. The numbers and player name were in the same font as the account number on your check, with the player name displayed sideways.

It's time for a new promotion: Alternate Universe Night. Change the past and celebrate a new present. The first that came to mind after the first "Turn Forward the Clock" night, was an Alternate Universe night in 1999 with the same two teams. The Seattle Pilots would celebrate their 30th anniversary and the Kansas City Athletics their 45th season in KC. The uniforms would be in the current style. Here's some other celebrations that could be done:

2001-The Boston Red Sox celebrate the 15th anniversary of their 1986 World Championship. Bill Buckner throws out thr first pitch.
2001-The Oakland Athletics play the Minnesota Twins as the Philadelphia Athletics and the Washington Senators and celebrate their charter membership in the American League.

July 23

On Sunday, John Cooper and I discussed Icehouse. He knows I don't like the game and he described it as a low-level sport. He defines a sport as a game which requires some skilled physical act by a person and cannot be played remotely. Since Icehouse is not turn-based, a computer probably could not properly play it. We didn't even address the athletic aspects like some people who don't think auto racing and golf are sports. Taking this definition, sport also has a dimension of subjectivity, which requires a judge or referee. At one end of the spectrum, there's figure skating, a very athletic event, with great subjectivity. On this end, one could conceive of competitive artwork. Give contestants a regulated amount of paints, brushes, canvas, and time. Judges decide who created the best painting. Along the objectivity scale, there's diving. Next come sports where judgment in officiating can affect the outcome, such as soccer, basketball, and football. Decrease the subjectivity a little more, you get to baseball, then tennis. Probably, the most objective is a race like the hundred-yard dash. Technology has effectively taken care of the judging from false starts to the order of finish.

July 22

The Anaheim Angels beat the Baltimore Orioles 9-4 in the first game of a doubleheader. The Orioles pitching did them in, but their defense also lacked crispness. Melvin Mora lost a couple of balls in the sun in centerfield although neither were charged as errors since he never touched the ball.

John Cooper and I reminisced about some of the old traditions of our Zen Pirates gaming group. For Junta, a game of revolution in a banana republic, the player deposed in a revolution would be stood up against the wall and shot by the new junta with toy projectile guns. In Kremlin, a game of governing the old Soviet Union, annual die rolls would be taken determining the health of the members of the Politburo. One of our regular players, Rick Dutton, an anesthesiologist, would take these rolls, and we would call him Dr. Death. I'm sure his patients would have been comforted to know they were going under with the friendly assistance of Dr. Death. When a Soviet leader died, everyone stood up and hummed a little dirge. It was important that we each sing a different dirge.

July 21

This weekend, ESPN Classic is featuring Classic Ohio with great games by Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Ohio State teams. I happened to zap onto the last inning of Game 6 of the 1997 American League Championship Series. I sat in the second row of the outfield bleachers at Camden Yards, right next to the out-of-town scoreboard. When Tony Fernandez hit his game-winning home run, I caught myself in my yellow down coat, turning to watch the ball sail over the wall. On the replay, I was just a yellow blur I knew to watch for, again looking to see where the drive would land. I've been on game shows as both contestant, host and judge. I've been on the background of a news broadcast, mindlessly feeding my face, and interviewed for Japanese television. This may be my most surreal moment on television, although it's really Tony Fernandez' moment. Maybe it's my slow-motion head-turn. It may continue to be shown on visual media well into the far future.

I'll just finish off this babble by mentioning that the builders have added some bushes and a tree to our new house.

July 20

Rob Neyer discussed this week the possibility of Mike Piazza and Jason Kendall moving from behind the plate to less stressful positions. At their current ages, I'd just wait until injuries force them to stop catching. I never considered their ages before, but Piazza first became a regular at 25. This means that unlike Bench, barring serious injury, Mike ought to play into his 40s and acquire the best hitting numbers of any catcher. Generally, catchers who pile up serious inning crouching before age 25, succumb to injuries and have shorter careers than backstops who don't become a regular quite so early. Therefore, I'd expect Pudge Rodriguez to break down before Piazza. Kendall came up at about age 23, so I'd expect a slightly shorter career than Piazza.

July 19

Here's an interesting evaluation method I stumbled across. This comes from and uses similarity scores. Bill James introduced the method in the mid-1980s. Briefly, if two players are identical, they will have similarity scores of 1000. Each difference in statistic reduces the similarity score. Players with scores of 850-900 are similar. Players with scores of 900 are even more similar. Players with lower scores are not similar at all. Great players have unique statistics and very few players are similar to them. More ordinary players, such as borderline Hall of Famers, have more players similar to them. Here's a list of great players and the median similarity score of the 3rd and 4th most similar players. The higher the score, the more ordinary the player, the lower the score, the greater the player. Choosing the median of the 3rd and 4th is arbitrary, but I just didn't want a freakish most similar player to skew the numbers.

Player         Median Score of 3rd and 4th Most Similar
Pete Rose      608.0
Ty Cobb        635.5
Hank Aaron     656.0
Babe Ruth      699.5
Lou Gehrig     736.0
Stan Musial    739.5
Rogers Horsnby 754.0
Honus Wagner   755.0
Willie Mays    762.0
Ted Williams   790.5
Jimmie Foxx    818.0
Tony Gwynn     849.5

Uniqueness is similar to greatness, but not equivalent to it. You must still use your mind to evaluate the numbers. Pete Rose is not the greatest player in history, just the most unique batter. Babe Ruth would still be the most unique for his pitching. Pete Rose's uniqueness stems from that while similar players such as Lou Brock and Al Kaline retired when they couldn't play, Pete was a manager who could continue to stick himself in the lineup in pursuit of Ty Cobb's hits record. On the other side of this purely arbitrary list is Tony Gwynn. Many writers tout his batting average statistics and compare him favorably with Ted Williams. However, Gwynn can't draw walks or hit with power like Williams, so he more correctly belongs with the other great slap hitter of his time like Wade Boggs or Rod Carew. I also wouldn't put Aaron ahead of Ruth and Mays. Henry's great home run burst at the end of his career is directly attributable to moving to the favorable Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium. But putting Mays ahead is just splitting hairs.

July 18

Went on our initial walk-through. This means we inspected it with a fine-toothed comb, with the help of our own inspector. The builder has completed most of the house. We parked our car in the driveway. Only the gas hasn't been turned on. Also, the sod hasn't been put in yet.

July 17

Finally saw all of Gormenghast. Among a crowd I hang out with, the original Mervyn Peake stands out as one of the most overrated, unreadable, mega-volume fantasies in history. I was more than willing to give this BBC Production the benefit of the doubt. The opening sequence features a castrati singing a tune with Peake's characteristic opaqueness. Overall, I found most of the characters pathetic. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers starred as Steerpike, a vengeful kitchen boy who rises up the servant ranks of Gormenghast to threaten the society itself. Steerpike makes an unlikeable villain, unlike the British MP played by co-star Ian Richardson in House of Cards. So it was pretty difficult to watch, but my favorite character was Dr. Prunesquallor, portrayed by John Sessions. In an episode of Whose Line Is It Anyway, he sang a Tolkeinesque English folk song. The tune ended with,"living in an England that never really existed." Mary and I found this to be a handy cliche. Most folks with a boatload of money buy a house out in the country amid several acres of land, fancying themselves as English Lords. Walk down Main Street, USA in Disneyland and Walt Disney World experiencing small town America that never really existed. Northern Reflection lives in a Minnesota or Canada that never really existed. Anyway, you have my permission to use that expression whenever you find it useful as long as you give me credit.

July 16

Miranda with Victoria at Kidzone on Miranda's birthdaySome of us at work who wish the grand old days of space travel were still around celebrate the launch of Apollo 11 on this day annually. Here's a site for those of you who think the moon landing never happened. I leave you with a picture of Miranda with my niece Victoria, playing at Kidzone on Miranda's birthday.

July 15

Congratulations to my friends John Cooper, Dave Choat, and Andy Looney. Dave was nominated for his miniatures rules, John won for the Icehouse game and Andy won for both Icehouse and Chrononauts at Origins. John recounts the thrill of having his name read at Ginohn News. You can see the physical statues at the Wunderland site.

July 14

Subcontractors putting on sidingSome subcontractors are finishing the siding in this picture. I got a bit of a halo from the sun.

DC United got a rare 3-1 road victory tonight from the New England Revolution. We got a new bed, about 5 inches thicker than our old bed. The previous mattress will go into our guest room.

July 13

I love the Capitals getting Jaromir Jagr, but in the back of my mind I remember the 1986 trade of Moses Malone to the Bullets. Washington robbed the Sixers blind that time, yet he didn't take Abe Pollin to the promised land. Granted, Jagr, at 29, has plenty of hockey left in him. Just remember this moment of doubt five years from now.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer got zero Emmy nominations while Voyager got nine. Obviously the Emmy voters don't know what they're doing. Marg Helgenberger of CSI got a nomination. While I love that show, it succeeds on its clever plot twists, not on its characters. As a matter of fact, CSI gets all its characters from central casting with no originality whatsoever. Marg can't hold a candle to Sarah Michelle Gellar. Ain't It Cool News has posted some spoilers for the upcoming season.

July 12

The Capitals finally acquired the big scorer they've been searching for, sending Kris Beech, Michal Sivek and Ross Lupaschuk to Pittsburgh for Frantisek Kucera and Jaromir Jagr. I just never realized Meathead played hockey.

Last night, I saw the AAA All-Star game from Victory Field in Indianapolis. I agree with Baseball America's contention that it's the most beautiful stadium in AAA. It wouldn't take much to convert the stadium for the majors. Amazingly, Juan Thomas still plays. He currently has an OPS of .902 for Tacoma, but only a .348 OBA. I first saw him in Prince William (now Potomac) in 1995. He's a big African-American DH, listed at 6-4, 265 on the Rainiers web site. At that time the Cannons were the High A stop on the road to Comiskey Park. As a first baseman then, sporting #35, you'd have to make an effort not to think of Frank Thomas. He couldn't walk then, as that OBA expresses, but you could see Juan was trying to sell himself as the second coming of the Big Hurt. The locals called him Hurt Jr., but I preferred Baby Hurt. He was 23, but with that low walk total, I didn't see much of a future for him in the majors. Last year he played for New Haven and reached the AA All-Star Game in Bowie. Thomas had become a New Haven fixture, the way a long-time minor leaguer sometime does in a small town. They called him The Large Human. Now he's 29 in Tacoma. I wouldn't have bet on it six years ago, but I think he has a chance to have that cup of coffee one day.

July 11

Last night's game was a lovefest for Cal. I'm sorry I missed Pasta Man getting hit by a broken bat shard.

You'd think that maybe MLB fixed this storybook ending. These guys can't even put a revenue sharing plan together.

I strongly believe that I saw a purposely thrown gopher ball in 1990. On the last game of the season, the Blue Jays were hoping for a Bosox loss and a victory on their own over Baltimore. In the top of the 9th, Toronto tied the score on this cold October night. As they took the field for the bottom of the inning, the Diamondvision scoreboard showed Boston winning the game and the division. So what were they playing for in the cold? Tom Henke served up a season-ending fastball that Mickey Tettleton parked in the right field seats.

Maybe Bud Lite just slipped Chan Ho Park some cash last night.

July 10

I'm going to bed before the All-Star Game is over. Fox decided to stay with a commercial while "O Canada" was sung. That's real international of them. A-Rod moved over to third to let Ripken play short in the first inning. Cal worried about handling a ball at the 6, but I wondered whether A-Rod ever played third. Ripken should have just left the game after his home run. Talking to the managers during the game was another stupid Fox innovation. Well, other than the selections, the game doesn't really matter so I shouldn't get too worked up. Oh, no, Bud Lite is making a presentation. Turn off the TV quick. 'Night guys.

July 9

Scene from Miranda's birthday party Here's a birthday party shot from a couple of weeks ago. Miranda blows a tooter beneath Powerpuff Girls balloons. My sister Bea sits with her two children Ian and Victoria.

July 8

Last night we went to an undisclosed location to celebrate the birthday of an unidentified person. I did learn that James Dinan, who came home with zero from Who Want's to Be a Millionaire, but later won $64,000 on a special Losers Edition, was inundated with collar stays on his return to work.

Today, on my way to the Orioles game against the Phillies, I saw a man in purple, black, grey and white camouflage shorts. Of what use is that pattern? Hunting in a flock of Barneys?

The Orioles drew their largest regular season crowd last night, 49,072, although with a substantial assist from visiting Phillies fans. Philadelphia fans must really hate the Vet. They drew 45,207 a week ago Saturday for the Marlins, but only six other scattered 30,000+ crowds for a first place team. But they'll come down to Baltimore and fill up the stadium.

Travis Lee won the game with a dramatic 3-run homer with 2 out in the top of the 9th. The callers in Baltimore blamed Buddy Groom and the rest of the bullpen. However, the Phillies scored their 5 runs on 11 hits and 2 Baltimore errors, stranding 11 runners. Baltimore got their four runs on 5 hits. The Phillies outhit the Orioles the entire game, but just never managed to put enough runners across. Baltimore just lucked out having the lead. Their luck just ran out before the game ended. Some fine fielding plays by Brady Anderson, David Segui, Jerry Hairston and Chad Paronto stemmed rallies. On the other side, Travis Lee made one just one brilliant fielding play, catching a liner off his shoe tops. When the Phillies were in the field, luck didn't go their way. Marlon Anderson was caught flat-footed trying to cover second base just as the ball smashed through the hole he left unoccupied in a perfectly executed hit-and-run. Jimmy Rollins dropped a foul pop that kept David Segui's at-bat alive.

Naval Academy plebes occupied the seats high near the left field fair pole. Back in Memorial Stadium, they would sit in the left field bleachers.

July 7

The book "The Callahan Touch" by Spider Robinson featured atrocious puns sung to a verse of "That's Amore". Here are some of those choice cuts:

When you swim in the sea
And an eel bites your knee
That's a moray

He's a clown, he's a ham
His last name's Amsterdam
That's a Morey

If 'King Kong' has gone flat
Rent the flick
Vampire Bat
That's some more Wray."

A New Zealander man
With a permanent tan
That's a Maori

I have been recently possessed to write two more:

On the moon, there's a nose
That are old lava flows
That's a mare

Telemaco relieves
And the Phillies believe
That's Amaury

Aussie Valley is neat
Where they grow sheep and wheat
That's the Murray

Bucky Edgett had the same idea.

July 6

George W. Bush with the Phillie Phanatic

This week, George W. Bush nominated an FBI director.

July 5

In the wake of the 4th of July I thought I'd repeat my Independence Day stories. When I appeared on Jeopardy, although they taped in February, my episode would show on July 4th. They asked us to relate favorite 4th of July stories. One year, Whitlock lived in a high-rise condominium in Alexandria. On Independence Day, some of the tenants went on the roof and watched fireworks from four different locations including the Mall and Oxon Hill. We could watch the fireworks at the Montgomery County Fairgrounds from one of the bedroom windows of our old townhouse. When she was only 11 days old, Miranda saw her first fireworks display, although she was probably not too cognizant of what she saw. Last year, she stood on the windowsill of her bedroom, fulling comprehending the colors and patterns. This year, she was too tired stay up that late and we got a drenching rain.

July 4

The radio talk shows were filled with founding father topics. David McCullough promoted his John Adams book. He believed there should be statues of Adams in Washington, near Independence Hall, at the Naval Academy and on Boston Common. A couple of other guys defended the role of the common man as opposed to the leaders. I find it ridiculous that people feel a need to pin revolutions on leaders or the common people. Leaders cannot foment revolutions without people to support them, and the people need leaders to coalesce around.

July 3

The Washington Post had a huge article claiming that the Founding Fathers had everything over Tom Brokaw's "Greatest Generation". Slate discusses a new interest in those early figures. Joseph J. Ellis in Passionate Sage and Founding Brothers and David McCullough in John Adams praise the second President, the first to have a son follow him into the White House. But comparing the founding fathers to citizen soldiers is an apples/oranges comparison. Contrast Jefferson and Washington with FDR. I haven't known many of these depression and World War II folks well, except for former National Academic Championship judge Carl Papai. The depression affected their value of material objects, but not so differently from those of other eras born to deprived means. Perhaps it instilled a sense of duty at a time when there was nothing much else to be dedicated to. While Americans devoted themselves to fighting fascism around the world, young Germans, Italians and Japanese fought for fascism.

July 2

Miranda at BalticonMiranda at Balticon again

Risa and Sandy took these pictures of Miranda at Balticon.

July 1

Risa and Sandy, people I can talk about, gave Miranda a beautiful needlepoint plaque for her birthday. We took them to our new house under construction. Our front steps are finished. Miranda preferred to come inside that way, while Risa was too scared to even come out on the porch without the railing. The builders have installed all the non-carpeted floors. Afterwards, we had dinner at Old Shanghai.

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Last revised July 31, 2001
© 2001 B. Barrientos