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Avia S-199 in Israeli Air Force Service

Archive for September 2008

Ladies and gentlemen, your Irrational League champions

I won it this year with 58.5 points, finishing ahead of the flying Cavallaros by 4.5 and 8.5 points, with Frank in third. Since 2004, I’ve won outright twice, tied for first, tied for second, and finished seventh.

Remember my predictions? Let’s see how I did, team-wise first, before the individual players.

I have the team pegged for a .280 average and 265 HRs – probably good for third place. I expect to finish near first in RBIs. I’m below average in steals. I have four starting shortstops, which gives me some trade bait….

This staff will be near the top in wins (about 95), ERA (3.80), and WHIP (1.25). With one Proven Closer, I won’t be last in saves.

My actual team stats:

.2801 batting average (1st)
283 HR (tied 1st)
1021 RBI (1st)
135 SB (4th)
3.979 ERA (2nd)
1.260 WHIP (2nd)
72 wins (9th)
22 saves (8th)

I nailed that batting average, eh? Overall average was down, so mine was good enough to take the category, as were my RBIs, as predicted. I slightly underestimated the homers, thanks to Ryan Ludwick (37!) and pick-ups Russ Branyan and Casey Blake (9 apiece). Yes, you’re always going to have overperformers and underperformers, but these are extreme overperformers that put me up the extra 18 homers.

I finished fourth in steals because the season ended. I was losing ground quickly to the two teams behind me. Two more weeks and I could have landed in sixth.

I pretty much nailed the WHIP and the ERA should naturally follow that, but it’s not a constant. The biggest discrepancy was wins – I was off by 20+. Although I picked up Jamie Moyer in May and traded for Dave Bush soon after, their combined 24 wins (for me, not in life) could compensate for injuries to Chris Young (out three months), John Smoltz (out five months), Orlando Hernandez (out all year), and Pedro Martinez (a mere five wins in 19 starts).

Let’s segue into the pitchers (these are stats accumulated while active for my team, not in real life). The stats in brackets are my preseason predictions.

Dave Bush: 9 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.06 WHIP (acquired in May for Andy LaRoche)
Justin Germano: 0 W, 5.98 ERA, 1.53 WHIP (10 W, 4.05 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Derek Lowe: 14 W, 3.24 ERA, 1.13 WHIP (15 W, 3.90 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Greg Maddux: 8 W, 4.22 ERA, 1.21 WHIP (15 W, 3.60 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Pedro Martinez: 5 W, 5.45 ERA, 1.57 WHIP (a bench player originally, and terrible)
Jamie Moyer: 15 W, 3.66 ERA, 1.27 WHIP (picked up May 1 and compensated for Smoltz, essentially)
John Smoltz: 3 W, 2.57 ERA, 1.18 WHIP (15 W, 3.50 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Chris Young: 7 W, 3.96 ERA, 1.29 WHIP (15 W, 3.20 ERA, 1.15 WHIP)
Orlando Hernandez: did not play (10 W, 4.25 ERA, 1.35 WHIP)
Yusmeiro Petit: 0 W, 12.27 ERA, 2.45 WHIP (one bad week, then benched)
Jon Lieber: 2 W, 3.43 ERA, 1.37 WHIP (10 W, 4.75 ERA, 1.35 ERA)
Cla Meredith: 0 W, 4.09 ERA, 1.46 WHIP (5 W, 3.65 ERA, 1.20 WHIP)
Jon Rauch: 18 Sv, 4 W, 4.14 ERA, 1.19 WHIP (5 Sv, 5 W, 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)
Chris Sampson: 3 W, 2.54 ERA, 0.97 WHIP (picked up July 1)
Manny Corpas: 4 Sv, 2 W, 4.34 ERA, 1.43 WHIP (30 Sv, 5 W, 3.95 ERA, 1.25 WHIP)

I told the room when drafting Germano that I would regret it, and I do. Derek Lowe made up for the crappy pitching but not the wins. Maddux pitched about as well as expected, but couldn’t grab wins in front of a weak San Diego team. Lieber got one start, gave up four homers, and disappeared.

One thing I wrote in April was “Rauch is a wildcard and might become a full-time closer if Chad Cordero is traded or hurt worse than thought. I can dream, can’t I?” That dream came true, but Corpas lost his closer role, and then Rauch went to Arizona to help nail shut the coffin on that team’s playoff hope.

There were simply too many holes to fill, and Cla Meredith not gaining a single win in relief didn’t help. Had Young and Smoltz not been injured for a combined eight months, I could have added 20 missing wins easily – and 92 wins would have finished second.

The hitters?

Ronnie Belliard: 11 HR, 46 RBI, 3 SB, .287 (15 HR, 65 RBI, .280)
Carlos Beltran: 27 HR, 112 RBI, 25 SB, .284 (30 HR, 95 RBI, 20 SB, .275)
Lance Berkman: 29 HR, 106 RBI, 18 SB, .312 (30 HR, 100 RBI, 5 SB, .295)
Casey Blake: 9 HR, 21 RBI, 1 SB, .230 (picked up August 1)
Russ Branyan: 9 HR, 16 RBI, 1 SB, .241 (picked up June 1; I love those Ken Phelps/Rob Deer types)
Mike Cameron: 25 HR, 70 RBI, 17 SB, .243 (20 HR, 60 RBI, 15 SB, .260)
Jorge Cantu: 29 HR, 95 RBI, 6 SB, .277 (15 HR, 60 RBI, .260)
Rafael Furcal: 5 HR, 16 RBI, 8 SB, .357 (10 HR, 60 RBI, 30 SB, .285; hurt for five months)
Gabe Gross: 0 HR, 1 RBI, 2 SB, 0.176 (bench player dropped early)
J.J. Hardy: 24 HR, 74 RBI, 2 SB, .283 (25 HR, 90 RBI, .275)
Scott Hatteberg: 0 HR, 7 RBI, .173 (5 HR, 50 RBI, .290; I wasn’t expecting much, but still…)
Matt Kemp: 18 HR, 76 RBI, 35 SB, .290 (20 HR, 75 RBI, 25 SB, .290)
Ryan Ludwick: 37 HR, 113 RBI, 4 SB, .299 (bench player originally but active all year)
Bengie Molina: 16 HR, 95 RBI, .292 (20 HR, 80 RBI, .290)
Miguel Montero: 5 HR, 18 RBI, .255 (10 HR, 35 RBI, .275)
Wily Mo Pena: 2 HR, 10 RBI, .205 (20 HR, 60 RBI, .270 – blech)
Miguel Tejada: 13 HR, 66 RBI, 7 SB, .283 (20 HR, 85 RBI, .305)
Ty Wigginton: 23 HR, 58 RBI, 4 SB, .285 (25 HR, 80 RBI, .270)
Jack Wilson: 1 HR, 21 RBI, 2 SB, .280 (10 HR, 65 RBI, .280)

Berkman stole 18 bases? His previous career high was nine. That was even more unusual than Ryan Ludwick’s alleged breakout year – Ludwick has always had 30-homer power but not the playing time to show it. Cantu was another pleasant surprise.

Overall, I’m pleased with the accuracy. As noted above, the pleasant surprises compensated for the disappointments.

And for those of you who are bored by my baseball posts, you have six months ball-free, starting… now.

High-school reunion

Saturday, three enterprising women with whom I graduated high school 25 years and three months ago hosted a reunion of our class. I’m not sure exactly how many we were back in 1983, but the mean of the estimates I heard over the evening average is 91. Of that 91, about two thirds showed up Saturday night (plus Bram, who spent the last three years of high school in another school but is nonetheless one of us).

Our group was not a typical high-school class – the number of students is an immediate clue. Bialik was a small school. Another atypical characteristic is that we’re all Jews. Bialik is a Jewish school. You’ve seen one of us reporting for CTV (scroll down to Sherwin) and another in the endless Lasik MD ads in the Gazette. And I blog.

We had cliques here and there and some students were outsiders, but for the most part we were unified, especially the boys. A subset of the boys continue to play hockey together twice a year. Classmates came from San Diego, Florida, and Amsterdam for our get-together. Is it odd that our grade produced no intra-class marriages? I don’t think so, not for the size of our class and for our youth compared to everywhere else in North America (we in Quebec graduate high school in grade 11).

Most of us look about the same, if you overlook changes in style and amount of hair. I did not recognize only two people, both of whom grew up within two blocks of me (Elana and Randi).

The evening could not have gone better. Even the music worked. I picked up conversations with people as if we’d last seen each other last week. Jason, my old wargaming buddy, and I talked about wargaming, and how our sons seem to have inherited that same interest. I spoke more with some people than I had throughout the entire five years at Bialik. This may surprise you, but I can a bit introverted, often for decades at a time. The open bar helped.

The party took place in a room any bar would envy, a party room called Le Loft in St. Laurent. That preposition is important; the place was in St. Laurent, not on St. Laurent. Cutting edge inside, it was located east of the airport in the heart of the industrial nowhere land. Once the party closed at 1:00 a.m., a dozen of us decided to go get pizza at Tasty Foods, but that was closed so we crossed Decarie and went to Harvey’s.

I got to bed at 3:00 – and woke up at 7:30 because our alumni hockey game was scheduled for 9:00 out in the West Island. I did not feel like playing at all, but I swallowed some ibuprofen and survived by pacing myself. I felt better after the game than I did before.

The reunion weekend had one last event to go, so I showered at the arena and headed to Tiffany’s for breakfast. (It’s your typical breakfast place – think Chez Cora with a menu expanded to less breakfasty fare.) The group I’d been led to believe I would be meeting was nowhere in sight and the place was crowded, so I went home. As I walked in the door, Bram called me – the group was gathering. I dumped my hockey equipment and headed back.

Breakfast was as entertaining as the evening before, more of the same – but without an open bar, I wasn’t as talkative. We spent nearly three hours at the table and upon leaving, I rushed home to ready Child Three for a 90-minute hockey practice. He needs a refresher in goaltending technique, but I was in no condition to take to the ice.

I fell asleep at 7:00 p.m. last night, woke at 2:00 a.m., fell asleep again at 4:30 and woke for good at 10:30 a.m. I feel human, even without an open bar.

Bonus wishes:

Happy New year y’all!

DRM follies

Did you buy music with embedded digital-rights management (DRM) from Wal-Mart? Unless you’ve obtained a basic level of computer geekery, you better listen to it enough to get sick of it by October 9.

Wal-Mart, which began selling DRM-free music exclusively this year, no longer has a financial incentive to maintain the DRM system that allows you to listen to the music you bought and will turn it off on that date.

In order to listen to that music past October 9, the company warns, you must burn the songs to a CD. No, Wal-Mart will not reimburse you for the cost of those blank CDs.

(A side note: Wal-Mart does not violate the DMCA in this case because a temporary exemption allows a party to break DRM if the DRM is obsolete. See item three here.)

Cory Doctorow has an awesomely sarcastic comment:

But don’t worry, this will never ever happen to all those other DRM companies — unlike little fly-by-night mom-and-pop operations like Wal*Mart, the DRM companies are rock-ribbed veterans of commerce and industry, sure to be here for a thousand years. So go on buying your Audible books, your iTunes DRM songs, your Zune media, your EA games… None of these companies will ever disappear, nor will the third-party DRM suppliers they use. They are as solid and permanent as Commodore, Atari, the Soviet Union, the American credit system and the Roman Empire.

I think I’ll stick to finding music on peer-to-peer networks, as long as Canada keeps it legal.

Baseball follies

Lance Berkman is a hoot, and I suspect that I would appreciate him just as much even had he not followed my example and attended Rice University. He had an awesome first half for the National League’s Houston Astros (and for my Irrational League’s Angels with Crystal Balls), but has tailed off since the all-star game.

Berkman explains in the Houston Chronicle:

“I was very pleased with May,” said Berkman, who hit .471 with nine homers and 22 RBIs in May.
Berkman has hit only seven homers since the end of June and has slumped in September. But Berkman’s overall numbers are still solid — .314 average, 29 homers and 104 RBIs entering Friday.

“The numbers look pretty good, but remember that scene in Vacation where Chevy Chase has his pants on his head and he’s staggering towards the filling station out in the desert?” he said. “That’s what I feel like right now. I’m staggering towards the finish line.”

He has a future in the booth.

There was more entertainment to be found in San Francisco Friday night. Check out the box score and see if you notice anything odd. I’ll wait.

Dum dum, de dee dum dum.

Done? Did you notice it?

Check out Bengie Molina’s line. (He’s another Angel with Crystal Balls.) He whacked a homer but scored no runs. How’d that happen? Molina hit a ball that was originally ruled a single off the top of the wall. His manager replaced him with a pinch runner, Emmanuel Burriss, and after that the hit was ruled a home run upon review. Burriss officially scored the run.

With two, maybe three, days to go in the season, my first-place Angels have a creaky four-point lead. A championship is no sure thing, but I’m more confident today than I was mid-week.


Child One’s friend found my keys smack dab in the middle of the front lawn.

Maybe I should mow more often.

Media notes


Let’s start with “Heroes”, the new season of which premiered Monday. A few people have told that the show lost them, and I can see why. It was… – well, dull. The show had to clean up after last year’s mess, a result of the writers’ strike.

Given an entire season to recover, the first order of business was to straighten out the story lines. Things had gotten muddied and it took an episode and a half to clear the waters.

The plot for this year was established with the jailbreak on Level 5 – unfortunately, that only came after an episode and a half of cleaning up last year’s mess.

And the “Sprint” line in the African desert was the best product-placement bit I’ve ever seen.

Don’t give up on this new season yet.

The other premiere I caught was “House”, which maintained its standard of excellence.


When the BBC’s Les Ross interviews Hardeep Singh Kohli without conducting due research, he gets what he deserves, almost. The Guardian has a brief description and, even better, an audio file of the disaster.


The Genius function of iTunes 8 is genius. I signed up for primarily for the music recommendations, but those are hit or miss and are tedious to work with. The 30-second clips of Genius just work in an easy interface. It’s so Apple. A dozen songs in, I have a list of 100 songs to get.


I spent most of yesterday looking for my keys in the house and I doubt they’re here. I remember taking them from their hook and it must have been when I was either picking up Child Two from a friend or Elvi from Alex’s. I took Elvi’s van, though, and used her keys. I might have put my keys in her car or left them at Alex’s, but they’re not showing up in those places either.

Pardon me

Has anyone seen my keys? They may be recognized by the non-functional green LED flashlight on the keyring.

Shooting trouble

I spent a good part of the last 24 hours troubleshooting and solving (mostly) problems with Alex’s home network.

Much of it was standard wireless fiddling, with some odd crunchy bits here and there.

I’m proudest, however, of getting the Xbox 360 updated.

I figured out that the Xbox won’t work with a WPA network, and that the firmware was sufficiently up to date. I set up a WEP network and got the Xbox online to the point where a test of the Xbox Live connection requested permission to perform an update.

I got to that point about a dozen times. Every time I asked the box to download the update, it would flash to a gray blade (I think that’s the jargon – it’s like a large tab on one side of the screen) on the left, then return to a gray blade on the right that told me, “Update Failed”. That happened every time.

Now, here I write for the Googling masses who are looking for help with the same problem. Us old guys used to call that “posterity”.

What I did was shuffle a few blades left from the System blade, where you play with all the settings, and try to join Xbox Live from another blade called Xbox Live (see image at right). Once you try to join, that blade too warns you that you need to download an update, only from that blade it works!

Stupid Microsoft.

Bonus pain of the week:

Just as all traces of rib pain were fading, my lumbar muscles got jealous and have started to spasm. It first happened on teh drive home from Alex’s yesterday. The excruciating spasm itself only lasted five seconds or so, but I had medium-grade pain the rest of the night. I took some ibuprofen to get to sleep. The soreness had been getting better until I started this bonus text – another spasm pulled my chest down to my desk for a few minutes. It really hurts and I can’t straighten my back completely without severe pain.

That sucks. Novice hockey practices start tonight and there are four sessions between now and Saturday. I play hockey Friday night and Sunday morning this week. And I have a high-school reunion Saturday night.


Y’know what day it is, today, don’t ye? If ye be needin’ a little reminderrr, take a gander at yonder tubes:


Even Google gets on the bandwagon – er, bandsloop. Barquewagon? Bandgalleon?

I did not lecture in Piratespeak in class today, but I should’ve.

Concordia limits Facebook

My school has throttled Facebook on the internal Ethernet LAN. Wow, that’s jargon. If you plug in on campus, you don’t get Facebook. If you’re wireless, you can hit Facebook all day.

Privacy/intellectual-property advocate Michael Geist, who’s coincidentally speaking at Concordia this week, thinks “this sends the wrong message to students.”

Facebook is more than just a popular social network. It can be a tool for advocacy and education as well as a mechanism for student groups to connect. Even if it wasn’t useful, this would still be wrong. Simply put, universities should not be in the business of blocking access to legitimate, legal websites.

First of all, it’s “Web sites” and I’ll go to my grave advocating that.

Secondly, Facebook is one of three nemeses in the computer lab in which I teach. The real wrong message for students is “don’t pay attention in class when you can chat and visit Facebook instead.” Concordia needs to ban instant messaging, too. Other than the fact that the student gets less out of class time, it’s just plain rude.

E-mail is an important tool of communication, and I bear no grudges toward that. Checking your e-mail during class is also rude, though. So is a cell phone going off.

Geist is right and wrong about Facebook’s utility for students. He’s right about the utility – rather, the potential utility, but he doesn’t consider immediacy in his criticism. Nothing appears on Facebook that a student can’t put off a few hours until at home.

In an ideal world, Concordia wouldn’t have to block access to Facebook on its computers. Nor would it have to use anti-virus software. And students would come to class to learn.

My agreement for blocking Facebook doesn’t exactly mesh with Concordia’s reasons for blocking it, but agree I do. The biggest downside to Concordia’s action is that now I can’t go to the 24 computers in my lab and tour the pages of those students who don’t sign out of Facebook.

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