On Pitcher’s Wins – II

With baseball season beginning next week, it’s going to be a great relief to have something other than politics to talk about in everyday conversation. Now I could use this opportunity to discuss my picks for the Divisional Champions (Nationals, Cubs, Dodgers, Red Sox, Indians, Astros), but I really haven’t been paying attention to how Spring Training has been going. There are a divisions where things should be interesting (AL and NL East, AL West), but it will probably come down to which team stays the healthiest over the season. And of course once the playoffs begin, it’s almost impossible to predict an outcome.

So what else is there to talk about?

Continue reading

The Worst Presidents

Another “Presidents’ Day”, and another couple of days of work for Washington and Lincoln impersonators. Usually, we only pay attention to the best presidents at this time; in addition to Washington and Lincoln, there might be some nods to Jefferson and both Roosevelts.

But I’ve been thinking a great deal lately about the presidents at the other end of the scale, at least accorrding to the people who rank them. Andrew Johnson (#17) only got the office after Lincoln’s assassination; he wasn’t elected to the job. And there was going to be a brutal fight over Reconstruction anyway. So we can give him a charitable nod and move on. George W. Bush (#43) often comes down near the bottom; I will be charitable as well and say that he’s too recent for us to have a proper historical perspective. And he did manage to serve two full terms…

That leaves Franklin Pierce (#14), James Buchanan (#15), and Warren G. Harding (#29). Why are they at the bottom of the list? What did they do – or fail to do – that lands them among the Worst Presidents?
Continue reading

The World Series MVP – Before the Award – II

Going back over all the World Series like this reveals a few fun bits of trivia. For example, from 1919 through 1921, baseball tried out a best-of-seven series. The Cardinals had a pretty good dynasty in the early 40s.

But picking a World Series MVP like this can also be a bit frustrating. Which stats are important? Runs batted in are downplayed these days, as being more the result of opportunity than of talent. But what about the World Series, where every run scoring opportunity takes on vital importance? What do you do when (as in 1950), it’s a short series and no player stands out? How about when the best player is on the losing side? In 1944, George McQuinn led everyone with a .438 average, seven walks, and five runs batted in – but for the losing St Louis Browns….

I guarantee if I do this list again in a few months, I’ll pick an entirely different set of MVPs.
Continue reading

The World Series MVP – Before the Award – I

It’s that time of year. After the Hall of Fame results have been announced, but well before Spring Training begins. There is practically nothing going on in the world of Baseball.

What’s a fan to do?

Back in 1995, SPORT magazine decided to give out an award to the player in the World Series who had the greatest impact on his team’s performance in the series. Johnny Podres won it that year, thanks to complete game wins in Games 2 and 7. It’s now decided by a group of broadcasters, sportswriters, and officials at the end of the last game, and the winner gets a new car in addition to the trophy.

But the World Series started in 1903. What if you went back and chose MVPs for all those earlier championships?

One could, thanks to the wonders of modern statistical analysis, simply choose the player with the greatest Win Probability Added, or some other goofy stat. That’s no fun at all. Here’s my entirely subjective list.

Continue reading

2016 in Review

Well, I managed to keep this thing going for another year!

Sixty-five posts in all for 2016 – still better than one per week.

There were a total of 1,434 page views from 817 visitors (and 65 “Likes”)

The Most Viewed posts in 2016 were:

Movie Review: A Chinese Ghost Story (1987) 80
Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
Movie Review: Russian Ark (Russia, 2002) 39
Book Review: Mars Girl by Jeff Garrity 28
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
A Holiday Message from Our Sponsor – 2015 23
Indiana Jones and the “Top Men” 20

If we just count the ones that I actually posted in 2016:

Expanding Major League Baseball – 2 75
A Christmas Mix for You – 2016 23
The Olympic Team to Root For 14
Movie Review: Killdozer (TV Movie, 1974) 13
Eurovision 2016 – The Predictions 12
On Donald Trump 10
Our Long National Nightmare 10
Book Review: The Book of the Dead 10

Of course, posts added late in the year (like “Our Long National Nightmare”) suffer a bit from not having enough time to collect views…..

The countries that got me the most visitors were:

United States 897
Brazil 131
Canada 74
Germany 59
United Kingdom 40
Italy 25
Australia 14
Indonesia
10

 

I have to wonder why I’m so popular in Brazil….

Can someone from that fine country leave a comment? Thanks!

Another Holiday Message from our Sponsor

It’s probably the most unusual version of “Deck the Halls” you will hear.

La Senza is a Canadian-based lingerie company. Back in 2010, they wanted to make it known that they had garments in the larger, hard-to-find sizes. Their ad agency noticed that there was a correlation between cup sizes and musical notes….

The campaign – a video and website – was launched in the beginning of December, 2010. The website not only linked to the store so you could purchase the featured items, but had an interactive app where you could “play” and even record your own tune.

The video is below the jump; it’s a lingerie ad (YouTube has it as “age restricted”), so it’s probably Not Really Safe For Work.

Unless you work someplace sexy.

In which case, can I send you my resume?

Continue reading

How Chemists Decorate a Christmas Tree

Back in 2007, Brady Haran was making short films on science for the BBC and the University of Nottingham. Some of the material – scientists talking about their work in an informal setting – was uploaded to YouTube under the name “Test Tube”. The next year, he teamed up with Professor Martyn Poliakoff to make short videos about each chemical element. The “Periodic Videos” YouTube channel branched out to discuss molecules and other chemistry-related topics, and has earned praise from scientists, educators, and the media. Haran has branched out; he now has over a dozen channels covering everything from word origins (Words of the World) to psychology (Psyfile) to the history of science (Objectivity).

The above video is from 2009.

I’d have put caffeine on the tree, myself…….

Christmas with Mr. Weebl

You’ll find a lot of people on YouTube these days who consider themselves celebrities. But none of them can hold a candle to Jonti Picking of the UK. An animator and musician, he uploaded his first video to the Web in June of 2002. It featured two egg-shaped beings called “Weebl” and “Bob”. Since then, he’s produced something like 200 videos, and has done some professional advertising work.

Over the years, Weebl and Bob have appeared in a number of Christmas-themed shorts. This one is #4:

In addition to Weebl and Bob, he’s done a few other series (with their own Christmas episodes):

“On the Moon” with the Toast King and Insanity Prawn Boy:

“Cat Face”, about a giant-headed floating cat:

For 2013 through 2015, he did “Advent Calendars” – one short animation per day for December, leading up to Christmas. Here are all the videos from 2014 in one convenient place:

Picking’s production seems to have tailed off recently. One can forgive him; fourteen years on the Internet is a very, very, VERY long time.

Well, if by chance you come across this, thanks for all the laughs, Mr. Picking, and a Merry Christmas to you and yours!

Some More Holiday Music For You

I goofed.

I was in such a rush to get out my annual Christmas Mix that I didn’t realize that I duplicated a tune from my very first collection in 2014. I also neglected to adjust the file names to a standard format – one where if you sorted them by file name in your media player, they would play in the order listed.

My apologies.

To make it up to you, allow me to share a couple of other mixes that I have in my collection.

These are from WFMU’s Rock and Soul Ichiban blog, and you can get them here:

http://wfmuichiban.blogspot.com/2014/12/merry-twistmas-from-ichiban.html

The blog post has links to three mixes; each over an hour long. And it has track lists, too. Since they are professionally made, the tracks are all properly balanced for volume and blend into each other with no gaps.

WFMU is the coolest radio station on the planet. Based in northern New Jersey, they are a completely independent freeform station. They get no advertising money; except for a few grants, all their money comes from listener donations. This means the DJs are free to play whatever they want (within the guidelines of the FCC and basic decency, of course).

Back in 2009, they launched a couple of 24/7/365 “Web Only” streams. Rock and Soul Ichiban was one of them. It features obscure and lesser hits from the 50s and 60s, mixed in with movie trailers and vintage commercials.

In addition to the blog, there’s also a Facebook group where you can follow all the goings-on with the stream.

So if you like what you hear in those holiday mixes, give the stream a listen!