Sunday, August 31, 2003

A virtual museum of typography-- This is one of those Pandora's boxes for question writers. Now if it just included Cooper Black-- Behind the Typeface.

Saturday, August 30, 2003

Random bits.

This is just further proof that shoplifting at Ray's Music Exchange is a bad idea.
This is just a bonus I could never write:
Name these backup and emergency catchers arrested in Pittsburgh's Strip District.
(Baseballprimer beats me to it (item 5).)
Evolution takes place in strange ways. The lesson drawn from this article: There are pirahnas are eating healthier than you. Either that or pirahnas are coming up with fusion cuisine. Human ceviche, anyone?

This just ticked me off, for several reasons. First it's a bad idea for a cover version. Second, the article just can't decide exactly who is narrating this. Finally, there's a fundamental problem with remaking this under these premises. I assume that if they've only done a new ending as this article says, a major point of this story becomes "Wolves will eat your friends (e.g. the duck, aka 'prey'), but because we're nice, we'll let him go so he can do natural predator things, like eat your other friends." Good luck getting your kids to sleep after they figure out that line of reasoning.

Okay, now that Craig has placed a couple teasers of the draft, I probably should explain. (For those of you who don't understand fantasy football's appeal, I would note this article. Especially item 4, which is surprisingly adaptable to quiz bowl.)

Round 1. Clinton Portis
I had the third pick, and I figured I was going to have the choice of one of four guys, Tomlinson, Ricky Williams, Priest Holmes or Portis. Of those I figured I'd have to choose between Holmes or Portis. Brian took Tomlinson, and JQ grabbed Priest, I hadn't figured on having the option of Williams, but I kinda liked Portis better anyway.

Round 2. Eddie George
Round 3. Plaxico Burress
Upon reflection, I botched these two picks. I had one goal for myself coming into the early rounds. I wanted to pick up Hines Ward. I picked him up in the 8th round last year, and between him and Marvin Harrison, they propelled me to the final game. So at the 26th pick, I thought about taking him. But I figured that he wasn't quite the fourth wideout available. I should have thought that, after all, I valued Hines and Plex about equal. The only real difference this, statwise, should be that Hines is going to pick up about 100 yards passing, and probably 2 or 3 two-point conversions (these count in our league). I thought I valued him higher than anyone else would. So I grabbed the next best running back available, figuring I'd get Hines at the 31st pick. Bad idea. If I had picked up Hines, George would have probably been available at 31. A small loss for me, but it ground on me for a couple rounds. Either way, I was sort of happy to get George, just so I could do the David Byrne huge suit jokes. (A staple of Sunday afternoon commentary. After getting his bell rung in a collision, Eddie George sits on the bench wearing a Titans jacket that ends up looking ridiculously huge on him. Joe begins "You may find yourself sitting in a shotgun formation. You may find yourself sitting on the bench, and you may find yourself in a large stadium, with a beautiful field, and a beautiful sky, and you may ask yourself 'How did I get here?'" Eddie's been marked for life by that. The fact that any Eddie George fumble can be followed with "and you may say to yourself 'my God, what have I done?'" doesn't hurt.)

Round 4. Keyshawn Johnson
Round 5. Jerry Porter
There was a hard, hard, run on wideouts at this point by the time it came back to me, and the good tight end options were also gone. Since there were still a lot of good QB's available (more good ones than people who hadn't drafted, I figured I could take the risk. I wasn't caring about the lesser positions (TE, K, D). I needed to nail down good performance at at least two of the big 3 positions, I had RB, and I thought I needed a better #3 WR than anyone else to nail that down. I was still pressing.

Round 6. Steve McNair
Round 7. Matt Hasselbeck
Good bet, Mr. Kidder. I was not expecting those two to be sitting there. I almost think that the Titans and Seahawks are like the Brewers in the late 80's, so inconspicuous you forget the teams are there. There were three available QB's that I didn't feel bad about having at that point. McNair I figured was the best of the three, and I figured I'd have a good shot at having my backup be Tommy Maddox. When Brian once again took a Steeler out from under me, I felt angry for a second, then realized, "Wait a sec, you had both McNair and Hasselbeck in your top 10, and you're angry? Schmuck."

At this point, I think I was half in the bag (of Reese's Pieces), I was not drafting according to my plan. Now that I had my starting positions in the big slots, I starting playing stupid, figuring I could pick and still get the ones I wanted.

Round 8. Todd Pinkston
Good value, I guess, but I was compensating for what I thought were weak wideout choices earlier. I should have gone tight end here.
Round 9. Mikhael Ricks
Best available TE on my board (10th), in those previous picks I think I lost the 9th, if I had waited I would have gotten the 17th or 18th.
Round 10. Moe Williams
Round 11. Garrison Hearst
I was sort of sitting there wondering if I had made a major coup or major mistake in both these cases, Since it looks like both will start initially, I guess it's a coup for now. Incidentally, to answer a question for those who read Craig's account, what keeps the Zweibels away? Hearst of San Francisco, of course.

Round 12. Jeff Wilkins
I needed a kicker.
Round 13. Drew Bennett
I'm just lousy thick with Titans this year. I suspect he will be the first cut on my team, especially if he ends up the 3rd reciever. And he is the long lost Jane Austen character. As I quoted for Craig: "It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a large vertical must be in want of a end zone." This was also about the point where we dispelled the notion from my previous post that Strong Bad might be a Steelers fan. Think about it: Evil, wears a mask. If he doesn't have season tickets for the Raiders, I don't know who else could. (Like I said, I was half in the bag of Reese's at that point.)

Round 14. NYG Defense.
When I typed this at first I wrote it as "NYG D", this became quite quickly "NYGD", then "NYGD Blue" If this hasn't been used by other people before, I think I need to set up some licensing agreements.
Round 15. Jay Riemersma
I needed another Steeler. I needed another TE. I needed a TE that didn't have that ominous NA superscript above their name in Yahoo.

So my lineup looks like this:
QB: McNair
RB: Portis, George
WR: Burress, Keyshawn, Porter
TE: Ricks
K : Wilkins

I like my theory of two big positions. I've got what I wanted on QB and RB, and I like my WR's though I think I've basically got a #1 and three very good #3s. I just get a bad vibe about Keyshawn. Is it good enough to win? I don't know. I think there are at least three teams that are better on paper in the league, but then again, last year I thought there were 5 better on paper.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

I was all set to give you my fantasy football draftm and corresponding thoughts on the upcoming season, but this afternoon, the Pirates traded away the team. I don't mean it literally, but removing Brian Giles from the equation of the team pretty much changes everything about the team. For years the experts have said how good Giles would be with a supporting cast. Well, San Diego will now find out, and Pittsburgh will find out how it doesn't even have a supporting cast.
As much as people like to say that Giles has been the most underrated player in baseball, I don't think they quite grasp the level of truth in that. If we take what people claim as the most useful stat (OPS), and take Giles career numbers, he ranks 11th all-time. Look at who he's above in that list, that's frightening. (Thanks, Joe, for pointing that out years ago.) More importantly for me, he's probably the best Pirate in the past 20 years. (I easily grant that Bonds has been a far superior player, but the majority of his career years were as a Giant.)
Do I think it was a good trade? It's hard to tell, because basically, there's no way to compensate a team adequately. Perez and Bay look like enough to make it a promising trade for 2004. The PTBNL will tell a great deal. The majority are projecting Corey Stewart, some are projecting Xavier Nady or Josh Barfield, which I'd prefer, but doubt. Nady could sit in at third, and we'd really have something. Right now I'm guessing the 2004 Bucs will look like this on the field.

C: Kendall, Humberto Cota
1B: Craig Wilson(finally given a regular position)
2B: Freddy Sanchez or Bobby Hill
SS: Sanchez or Jack Wilson
3B: No clue, hopefully Nady, possibly Hill
OF: Bay, Redman, Tony Alvarez, J. J. Davis, Matt Stairs (He's basically volunteered to be the veteran presence on the team for next year. The only other choice being Sanders, who is going to be a free agent, if not traded.)

I gotta admit it's a major rewrite of the lineup, and oddly, it sounds more promising than the opening lineup of several years past. However, they are going to a major learning curve, and it's going to hurt bad. The pitching will be less worrisome, we've got that coming through the pipeline in spades right now, and 2004 is supposed to be when the first batch of pitchers reaches the majors. So it's rebuilding again. We're used to it.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Two notes on football.

1. People have asked me: "Hey, dipstick! My non-local sports team sucks! Could I become a Steeler fan?" After I contemplate answering them using the voice of Strong Bad, I say "You know, while we encourage Steeler fandom, we realize it won't be for everybody. And so, many tests and challenges will be placed before you." And when they ask what is their first test, I will point them to this website. You must listen to the holy voice of Myron, for it is the voice of the Steelers. (Okay, even we don't believe he did a version of Copacabana. And yet, here it is.)

2. I hate jumping off the Maurice Clarett fraught call, but it's pretty much run its course, and I'll quit while I'm ahead there. However, a new choice must be made. And between Duce Staley's impending trade and James Thrash's injury, I really have a bad feeling about this. So a two part question to you all:

Am I Fraught or Not: The 2003 Philadelphia Eagles?
and alternatively, since both were on the roster of my fantasy team last year, but it wasn't a keeper league.
Am I Fraught or Not: The 2003 Bridgeville Trolls?

Sunday, August 24, 2003

I was at the second of two weddings in three weeks today. I left wondering a couple things.

1. Since I hadn't been to a wedding in a couple years, when did we move from playing music from the Wedding Singer ironically, to doing it unironically? We need to mark that point for later musical stratigraphers. It can't be done ironically any more, after the first wedding this month used the Vice City soundtrack, displacing Mr. Sandler on the irony scale.

2. I'd like to assume there's something extraordinary about the Pittsburgh area, in that we can have the segue from The Steelers Polka to Kool and the Gang, and no one even blinks.

3. Sometime when I wasn't looking, the phenomenon of the music by which the new couple enters the reception, began to morph into the couple's own wrestling-style entrance music. (It's not quite there yet, but the two I've heard lately, The theme from Rocky, and Rock and Roll Part 2, clearly are on the path to that.) I'm just noting this, I'm not opposed to the idea of wrestling elements osmoting into other fields (witness my repeated support for incorporating the idea of the heel turn into other sports.)

4. If any of you who had a betting line at home: (See the Bill Simmons article.)
The cake won, the cake always wins, taking the toast is like taking the wind. Bouquet failed, the attractive cousin parlay failed, we passed 8:45, no crying groom, no puking, no Clapton, oh yeah fat guys, and no nasty couple fight.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Candy Not Everybody Wants

Two interesting bits on the theme of "Don't you marketing people realize you don't screw with a good notion?"

1. The folks at Life Savers have decided they don't need my money any more. They've decided to trample on history and kick out three of the Five Flavors, not coincidentally the three flavors I really like out of a roll. (The loss of lime is especially bad, because it's the best artificial lime flavor out there, I get a metallic taste from a lot of other ones, but lime Life Savers had it.) I guess I'm down to scouring the crappier vending machines for the Beech-Nut knockoffs. What galls me about this especially is the fact that the replacement flavors, Raspberry, Blackberry and Watermelon, effectively change this from Five Flavors to the old Fancy Fruit assortment. I think they got rid of Fancy Fruits because it wasn't hip enough, and now, it's back. And finally, did we really need both Blackberry and Raspberry, since between them and Cherry, the Watermelon appears to have been forced out of its natural red-pink position and into serving as the green flavor? Just ain't right, people.

2. Hollywood has decided that it's time to remake Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. On the surface, this would be incredibly bad. The second layer of this everlasting gobstopper is a little better, once you contemplate Tim Burton directing Johnny Depp doing this, that at least has a certain perverse charm to it. But ultimately the article takes a very bitter turn. They were actually contemplating Christopher Walken as Wonka... Now that would have been the stroke of mad genius this film needs. Yes, it's stunt casting of the highest order, but just contemplate putting your favorite Walken character tics into that movie. It works, doesn't it? The movie could have been utter crap, but you know Christopher Walken would have utterly riveting to watch doing that role. Someone in Hollywood actually had a touch of genius, and they mess it up. So close, and so far.

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

I doubt I'll post anything else today, so if you'll excuse me, I'm blinking, gotta run.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

It's late in the season, and we're out of the running.

I'm listening to the Pirate game, and Lanny Frattare (Pirate announcer) is speaking on how moving it is to have the pirate ship animation on Jumbotron (the one I mocked for the phrase "there be squirrels ahead") backed by the music of Carmina Burana. Never noticed that before. Then Lanny says "let's listen."

This is what happens when your method for getting a solid crowd is to bring the Milwaukee sausages come over to race the pierogies for Friday night, then the next day, trade sausage batterer Randall "Corndog with a stick" Simon.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Last night, I took a look at a book in the bookstore: Schott's Original Miscellany. It's small book that's gotten, to my mind, a surprising amount of publicity. (NPR and Entertainment Weekly both covered it in the past week, which is how I heard about it.) Apparently it did brisk business in Britain and then has done a decent deal here (It's in amazon's top 10). It's not bad, it's certainly got interesting material. Though I cringe when I see an entry that's labeled "Some..." or just one flag being described (the feeling of "why that or those, but not these?"), I did pick up a few things I hadn't known before, which really is the whole point of the book.
I think the interesting thing about it is that, when I was finished leafing through it, I immediately had the thought: "You know, if I were to list all the things that people have ever drummed out of quiz bowl, on the grounds that 'that's not quiz bowl', I'd basically have that book written." I'm not sure whether that's a credit to the book (in that it's covering things that are interesting, without being part of stuff we cover) or an indictment of what we do. The sales figures would indicate that there's an interested body of people, who enjoy this sort of thing. That tells me that those who bought this could just as easily be interested in quiz bowl, and integrated into the circuit in some fashion.
I see two approaches that could be taken. The first would be the obvious, take this as something to include in packets. While I think that would be fine when dealing outside of the currently established circuit(say building up bar trivia or the like in the quiz bowl format,) the moment you tried to bring that to the established circuit, it would set you up for flak. The second tack would be the notion that we could just as easily construct a similar book, based on what is the established "known in quiz bowl circles". There's plenty of material that would be interesting to a wider audience, and could be just as eclectic as Schott's work is lauded for. Now, if that's too much work, it could be done in a smaller size... Hey, don't we compile interesting information into convenient packet size?
It's up to us to make the opportunities we are presented with count. This book's popularity is an opportunity, it is highlighting a group of people who could enjoy this game. We may not quite know how to reach them yet, but it's important to know they are out there.

Monday, August 11, 2003

I'm going to thieve from Craig's page with this, but since it managed to combine so many things so perfectly. I am actually shocked, shocked I tell you, to find gambling going on in this establishment. Not that it really surprises me, when I think about it. It's pretty much the only restaurant in that area of Washington (ironically, next to the county courthouse), and it is the kind of thing that bars in the area do, since the state went hard after video poker in the 80s and 90s, and after the numbers rackets in the 60's and 70's. Obviously, given those trends, that means that sports betting will be available from the state around 2015. (After the numbers were shut down, state releases Daily Number, after the video poker crackdown, we're getting racetrack slots.)

Speaking of racetrack slots, I did my part to corrupt the youth of We did the Adios again this year. (My uncle's dealership does a promotional car giveaway for it, and dinner's free for us as a result.) As part of the festivities, we got three generations of the family on Fox Sports Pittsburgh, as cousin Austin made his TV debut (I was not on air, so don't mine your TiVo.) Austin also made his mark by drooling on my copy of the program. Lacking a better method, I took his advice and we dropped $2 on the horse upon whose entry he dripped. Given this was the only hit of the day for me (and it was a 38-1 hit) we'll take it.

Just go read Carey's bit on Arnold. I simply lost it on the second list.

Pop Culture Junk Mail points out that it's really easy to get a mondegreen out of Blitzkrieg Bop. I've attempted, on occasion to prove the opposite, that basically any lyric you want can be fit into the structure of Blitzkrieg Bop without compromising the song at all. It doesn't even have to make logical sense, just make sure the lines rhyme and jam the words in.

The example I always use for this is:
"Vaccinate a yeti,
Staple-ing a kitty,
PETA doesn't like me,
Blitzkrieg Bop."

(Open line again, fit the most random junk possible into Blitzkrieg Bop.)

This seemed like a good lead for what was a mother of all mondegreens for me. I had picked up a used CD of Dire Straits Brothers in Arms a week ago, and finally heard "Your Latest Trick" done outside of the live version. Suffice it to say, I really didn't have the lyrics down at all. Admittedly it's not the most coherent song, but somehow, what I thought was being said makes even less sense, but only upon reflection. To wit:

Not the Lyrics to Your Latest Trick

All the late night bottles have been struck
Between the Sitting Bulls and their beds
Prehistoric garbage trucks
have the city to themelves
They're calling out all dinosaurs
They're all doing the monster mash
Taxis down the hall
Are only taking calls for cash.

[Chorus is clear enough I know what's going on.]

Now my door is standing open
Security has laid back at last
It was only my heart you got open
must have had a passkey made out of glass
and there were rubbery insoles
and I played the blues (12 bars) down the Lover's lane
Never had the intelligence to use
twelve keys hanging off of my chain

Now it's past last call for alcohol
Last streetcar's been here and gone.
Landlord finally paid us off
Sitting jazz makin' anything at all
And we're standing outside of this one bar
Abusing a brick
Seems I finally come to understand,
Bottle's empty, man, there's nothing left.

I'm pretty sure some interesting psychological profiling can come out of this. Like how the heck I thought "rubbery insoles" actually fit in a song. And as for "abusing a brick"... I really don't know, and I really don't want to know.

Friday, August 08, 2003

Mike took the notion from yesterday and ran with it. Nice to know I have my own forum goons.

Beverage alert: According to the folks at Money, Vanilla Pepsi is slated to debut tomorrow. I am very much amused by the next to last paragraph of this article:

DeCesso isn't saying whether the company will hire a new pop star as spokesperson for the brand, but it's a possibility. "I can't comment on that. You'll just have to wait." he said.

Watch this. This ought to be amusing. Knowing how carefully managed any sort of product release or advertising campaign is, the celebrity who takes this ad will be special. It means that they had to be told (perhaps in not such uncertain terms) that when the Pepsi target demographic thinks "vanilla," they were exactly what came to mind. (Okay folks, open line time, what celebrity would be the choice of a vanilla generation?)

Thursday, August 07, 2003

X gets the state

Okay, read this. The whole thing. I'll wait.

I hope I wasn't the only one to notice this but: If you lay out Arnold, Darrell Issa, Larry Flynt, Arianna Huffington, Peter Ueberroth, Gary Coleman, D. L. Hughley, Angelyne, and Gallagher, doesn't this less resemble a political race than a really bad week on Hollywood Squares?

I'm half inclined to think that, with the number of candidates fighting for recognition, this would be the most effective method of processing them all: nine at a time. Everybody can do their little shtick for the voters: "Whatcha' talkin about, Willis", "Protected by VIPER", smashing a melon painted to look like the State House Rotunda... They then get their question and the voting public gets to agree or disagree.

At this point, I think we've officially reached the point where a candidate from the Official Monster Raving Loony Party would be seen reasonable.

Meanwhile, the budget crisis in Pennsylvania just got more tragicomic. If you remember me mentioning Mike Fisher's campaign suggestion that he'd lock the legislators in to force them to pass a budget (if not, here's me mentioning it.) Well, yesterday, Ed Rendell took a page from Fisher's playbook and suggested this as a method he'd like to try. Ah, bipartisanship.

[Update: Okay, Issa's out, so I don't get to use the Protected by viper joke.]

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

I have been quiet, haven't I?

It has been by choice, but not really by design. Rather, I've had a lot of things happen since I got back that have been a drag on my urge to do anything. If I had taken them by themselves I think I would have been able to give them back as good as I could, but combine them in one continuous blast, and well, it laid me out. So, yeah, I've been down. Not depressed, and not any worse off, just lacking the will to document where the toes were stubbed.

Short form:
Too much work in the day job coming back from vacation, to make deadlines, which were immediately followed by firings (not me, but people adjacent). The night job just sucked up the remaining free time. The Pirates then made a series of very depressing trades, and then I had to attend a wedding.

I may go through parts of it in detail later, but not right now.

Two happy bits:
1. A completely unexpected arrival has come to my neighborhood. While leaving for work this morning I saw a family of wild turkeys walking along the edge of the woods next to my apartment. I had not expected that at all. I've become fond of the gang of turkeys at the parents' homestead, and knowing there are young (whatever young turkeys are called... turklings?) means I'll probably have a little flock to watch for the next year.
2. A got an early 30th birthday present. I can now remove Logan's Run from my Amazon wish list.

More later, this entry is really just a placeholder to let you all know I'm still working at it.