The Answer Guy Online

Providing information to unwitting victims on a "don't-need-to-know" basis since 1974.

Monday, June 30, 2003

No Crying In Baseball

It was weird watching part of the Red Sox’ 25-8 slaughtering of the Marlins at Fenway Friday night. They scored 14 runs in the first inning, 10 of them before a single out was even recorded.

The funny part reading this was Marlins skipper Jack McKeon criticizing the Red Sox for running up the score. “I didn’t realize your pitching was that bad…that you would try to add to a 16-run lead in the seventh inning,” he said.

As if that wasn’t bad enough, some fool writing for the Boston Herald - but I repeat myself – more or less agreed with McKeon.

Let the record show that McKeon’s team won the following game after trailing in the 8th inning 9-2. Let the record also include this. And this. And this too.

If any team is built to go out to a massive lead and then blow it, it’s the Red Sox this season. If any team can be built to outscore its opponents by twenty runs in a three-game series and yet still find a way to lose one of those games, it’s the Red Sox.

The record should also reflect the fact that the Red Sox found a way to surrender 25 runs in a three-game series to what is, at least on paper, a fairly weak offensive ballclub that owes its modest success at run-scoring to several position players having career years.

I suppose it’s one thing if we’re dealing with children, with fragile senses of self-worth. “Mercy” rules are common in Little League and other children’s games.

The Florida Marlins players, however, are not children. They are professional baseball players. Professional baseball players should not be crying for a “mercy” rule. As members of that profession, it is their job to prevent their opponents from scoring runs. It is not the job of the opponents to limit their own run total.

Especially if you consider that Doug Mirabelli pinch hit for Manny Ramirez in the fourth inning. And that a fresh-from-the-minors rookie replaced Nomar Garciaparra in the fifth inning. And the Marlins got take their cuts against some of the lousiest relievers that Major League Baseball has to offer. Did McKeon want the Red Sox to play the loudmouthed drunk in the bleachers (there’s always at least one) in right field or something?

In general I find a lot of this line of thinking suspect. I remember that managers go ballistic when players try to bunt for base hits to break up a no-hitter. In my view, if you’re not playing a game as if you are at least trying to win it, you are at some level undermining its integrity.

Baseball has no clock. There is, in theory at least, nothing to stop a team from coming back from any deficit during a game, no matter how large. You can score an infinite number of runs every inning. Compare with other major team sports, where the clock limits game time. You can only score so many points in, say, nine minutes of a basketball game.

Not only that, but the gap between the most talented player and least talented player in a given Major League Baseball game is, from the standpoint of the universe, minimal. If the worst team in baseball plays a three-game series with the best team in baseball, said worst team will win at least one game more often than not. Even the Detroit Tigers or Tampa Bay Devil Rays are perfectly capable, at the game-to-game level, of giving the New York Yankees or Oakland Athletics a run for their money.

ObMovieReference: The enemy deserves no mercy. Mercy is for the weak.

I got this issue a lot in competitive quiz bowl too. Late in my career I got good enough, and had high enough levels of support, to lead my team to some fairly lopsided wins. (And, in turn, there were teams good enough to clean the clock of the teams I played for, even in my later years.)

The position I tended to take was the following: it wouldn’t make me feel any better during a big loss to get points if I knew that the main reason I was getting points was that the other team no longer took me seriously enough to play their best against me.

There were times – College Bowl matches against first-time teams that had never done this sort of thing before – when I backed off a little bit. But usually, I felt it would be a little dishonorable to do anything but play the best I could.

Sunday, June 29, 2003

This Was The Week That Was

Bar Trivia Update -
Took third at Fado – looks like we’re turning into the Boston Red Sox of Monday night bar trivia. This time we were done in by one of the theme rounds being all sports (the competition is fierce enough that I probably shouldn’t be the universal sports point man on the team, just like at trash tournaments) and the final round being full of strange stuff we just didn’t happen to know. The picture round was nasty as usual, but it didn’t kill us this time.

Team Grand Slam took Showdown Tuesday night on NTN in a tune up for July’s Ultimate Trivia Challenge. Making up for dropping a few questions in the Countdown round, we ran the table on the Pyramid and Lightning rounds and Guy and Rick nailed the Final Question on Gustave Corbet.

The team I played on at J.J. Muldoon’s in Gaithersburg (Shady Grove Road) got DQ’d for having too many people. Which is a shame, since I was looking forward to taking my share of the bonus money; we were lapping the field Friday night. Although only half of us really contributed much or were even paying attention, the eleventh person walked in and accidentally struck up a conversation with a player. Or something like that. I didn’t see anything. I don’t think I’ll be going back there, mostly because I expect to be working again soon and Shady Grove is a long way for someone with no car. If I lived closer to there, I think I’d get my own team together and we could cause some serious damage. The competition at Fado is much tougher in terms of questions and in terms of competition.

Miscellaneous –
Finally, summer is here. It’s about time, after all the rain we’ve been having. Now how long can I avoid complaining about the hazy, hot, and humid days ahead? We’ll just have to find out…

Thursday, June 26, 2003

In a civil rights victory, for, well, everybody, the Supreme Court has just overturned Bowers v. Hardwick.

For those of you who aren't lawyers, the 6-3 decision means that states are severely constrained from enacting laws against sexual acts between consenting adults, straight as well as gay.

More later.

Tuesday, June 24, 2003

Another web quiz!

My Bloginality is INTP!!!

For what it's worth, on Meyers-Briggs tests, I tend to come out as ENTP, although only moderately extroverted.

Dead Man Walking

In what promises to be an annual ritual of dread, I strolled down to the Department of Health building downtown this morning.

After waiting almost an hour for my appointment, I wondered about the people in front of me. I would have been annoyed but I started to imagine that maybe one or more of the people in front of me were getting "the talk." About their future, about what they have to look forward to, about how not to give up, etc.

I began to wonder how I would handle "the talk" if I got it.

Though I felt a slight sense of panic when the counselor went through my file three different times to make sure that the client folder was mine....negative. Not really much of a surprise (the last year not being an especially likely one for me to have changed status.)

Saturday, June 21, 2003

I Got The News

Wow, lots to report in the week since this poor blog was last attended to…

Cleveland looks a lot better in June than in November. The summer sun seems to stay in the sky all night long, and not even the butt-ugly modern statues that seem to dot the area can dim it. I highly recommend strolling along Mayfield Road in Little Italy, right off the Case Western campus in eastern Cleveland. I do not, however, recommend the McDonalds at Euclid and Mayfield.

I was there to help out staffing the PACE National Scholastics Championship, a high school quizbowl national championship. I spent the whole time thinking “Damn, these kids are smart. I was smart in high school, but the stuff some of these people know at this age….” Even the weakest teams I saw there were more than respectable.

Sadly, in between here and Cleveland is [cue ominous music] the Pennsylvania Turnpike. It’s under construction. But it’s never, as far as I know, not been under construction. That means long stretches of two lanes with no shoulder in either side. And now that Bud Shuster’s not in Congress anymore, expect the road to continue to suck rocks. Although given the road’s history, Shuster didn’t seem to help that road all that much – his main legacy is the badly-named Interstate 99, which runs from nowhere in particular to Altoona, which itself is almost nowhere in particular.

Bar trivia update – This week was not kind to the Answer Guy, as both myself and my fellow panelists were stumped by the meaning of the world that won the National Spelling Bee, since, unlike many people, I am repulsed by the sight of little kids under that kind of pressure. Which is also why I refuse to watch “American Juniors” or any of those other shows that involves children. Thus Team Grand Slam, with the Answer Guy filling in for Fearless Leader once again, plummeted to #31 from a surprise showing of #2 last week. At Fado, our ever growing squad of crack QB veterans was once again undone by the picture round – although at least we got half of them right this time. We weren’t even able to take runner up this time.

I spent all day Friday at a CLE (Continuing Legal Education) seminar out in “conveniently located” Tysons Corner. For those of us in Washington without cars, Tysons Corner is a haul – bus to train to bus, followed by a possible long walk on streets that may or may not have sidewalks that sometimes disappear for no reasons, crossing ten-lane roads that have no crosswalks to the weird looks of passing motorists not used to seeing anyone walking around.

After 13 hours of lectures on corporate governance, real estate, Internet law, and health care law came karaoke night.
* Drunks inflicting “Wanted: Dead Or Alive” on my poor ears not once, but twice.
* Intoxicated white girl trying to rap “O.P.P.” but most of the song sounded like it was in a foreign language, possibly Basque.
*If you’ve ever thought that Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse Of The Heart” would sound better sung by two men with less range than me with copious f-bombs inserted, well, you should have been there.
* Edmund’s voice died about halfway thru Duran Duran’s “Rio,” an idea I had pegged as “fraught” from the time I first saw it written on that slip of paper, in no small part due to its five minute length, which tries the patience of listeners at karaoke night – unless it’s “American Pie” of course. I tried to cover for him by yelling the words as loudly as I could along with him.
* I went up there following two women singing “Sweet Caroline,” which is the hanging John Wasdin curveball of karaoke. It’s one of the easiest songs to sing in the karaoke canon, and everyone knows the words, so even if you suck, the crowd doesn’t notice. Plus it helped that the girls were stacked.
*So I did a mediocre (by my standards) rendition of Billy Joel’s “You May Be Right.” Easy, inoffensive, and, well, a classic. It went over pretty well.
* Props to Tricia, who went after Aretha Franklin’s “Givin’ Him Something He Can Feel” (better known to Gen X in its En Vogue version) and pulled it off reasonably well, getting all the girls singing along with her.

Excuse me while I find a rock to throw at the windshield of the car whose beeping car alarm has now gone off for the third time in front of my house….

Thursday, June 12, 2003

Before The Deluge

I made it into the house literally seconds before the skies opened over Northwest DC. I thought about running around in the rain until a booming thunderclap indicating that lightning had struck a little close to home sounded.

We're now settling into the familiar Washington summer pattern of oppressive daytime humidity giving way to torrents of rain in the late afternoon as the temperature drops.

For a while it looked like summer was never going to come at all, as the temperatures stayed in the 60s if not the 50s, the skies stayed overcast all day, and for all the sun I saw it might as well have been February.

From the Ellington bridge I looked down at Rock Creek, which looks vital for once, like a mighty flowing river that could have carved the ravine in which it sits, rather than the lazy brook I'm used to.

It reminds you that in geologic time, there's precious little difference between us and a mayfly.

Now let's say if that little homage to nature will get all of those banner ads I don't endorse off of there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

One More Thing

If it's not obvious, I don't necessarily endorse the links that appear on the banner ads.

I'm not about to endorse a book on "Why The Left Hates America," because it's my belief that most of the people the author would call "The Left" don't in fact hate America.

I also don't endorse Randy What's-His-Name for Congress from the 19th Congressional District of Texas. With apologizes to at least one person who reads this site, I am in general very glad that I do not live in the 19th District of Texas. I looked at his website, and, yeah, typical arch-right Texas Republican. The race is to replace Larry Combest (R-TX) who for some reason is retiring. I'd feel more guilt about having a Republican candidate's name above my website if it weren't for the fact that the 19th - based around Midland, Odessa, and Lubbock - is pretty much hopeless for Democrats or even anything other than the most reactionary elements of the Republican Party.

I would also like to announce that I do not recommend Crosswalk-Christian News, which bills itself as "Conservative news and commentary from a Christian worldview," although I suppose that's obvious too.

Don't Know Much

Random observations from bar trivia -

Weird quote: "The funniest word in this entire paper is 'monkeypox.' " - Rick G., on trying to select a topical team name for Monday night bar trivia at Fado.

Second place on Monday night, done in by those "what number am I thinking of?" types of questions that are a staple of any bar trivia, and the bane of any quizbowl match. And the "picture round," which threw us for a loop for the second straight week. (I always dreaded visual boni.)

I'm getting better at NTN - I can handle two boards at once much better now. Though I'm not quite the NTN team captain that our incumbent is, but I'm working on it. We took second in the nation at Showdown, despite a shorthanded crew, and one of my identities had the top score of all players. Woohoo!

Saturday, June 07, 2003

You’re On The Air

I wrote my rambling piece on the subject of media concentration and the FCC vote a few days ago – not my best work – and I wanted to give it a crack, in part because Hayden disagrees (shocker!) with me:

…no constitutional guarantee that the number of sitar music-based bands have to have the same number of millionaires as Top 40-based bands - or that well-reviewed bands or bands that take unpopular political positions have any right to get their songs played on the radio station they want. What the FCC seems to have done is allow capitalism to take its merry course (oh, and Adam Smith and the Invisible Hands would be a cool name for a band).

Again, I reiterate – the airwaves are a public resource. Or at least they should be.

If they are going to cease to be a public resource – if we’re going to sell (or lease) the airwaves to the highest bidder and “let capitalism run its merry course” - then at least the public ought to be getting a better deal for this resource than it is getting at present. If the rights of the owners are to become more absolute – a trend the FCC has been moving towards in the last few decades even before this particular vote – the owners ought to be paying the king’s ransom for these licenses that they most assuredly are worth.

But until that day…

Whose right it is to decide what gets heard on public resources? In a democracy, it should be everyone’s.

I could go on and on here, but I only want to mention one issue that nothing to do with “sitar-based music bands” or even “unpopular political positions.” That issue is local news; National chains routinely take over local stations and, to cut costs, don’t do local news anymore.

Mind you, I am not at all saying it would be a good thing if the government itself actively took a role in what got broadcast and what did not. In fact, I’m fairly sure the end result would be at least as bad as what we have now.

What I am saying is that it fast becoming the case that a smaller and smaller handful of corporate entities are assuming for themselves the role a Communist country would have the state play. As fewer and fewer people get to decide what gets exposure, the distinction between public and private censorship becomes less and less useful. When there enough actors in the marketplace, this is not terribly worrisome.

I might also add that the flow of information is the most essential prong to a well-functioning democracy. Without it, the populace cannot truly govern themselves.

Private sector, unaccountable power is at least as dangerous as public sector, unaccountable power.

It’s as if conservatives and libertarians don’t believe in private power, and have this construct of “freedom” that deliberately ties everything to property.

And, by the way, “Adam Smith and the Invisible Hand” would make an awful name for a band.

Thursday, June 05, 2003

Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here

I've issued my first casting call for nominations for Worst Song Ever. I'm going to go in a series of categories so I can get a dialogue going about each genre.

The first category will be '90s Rap, Dance, and Techno.

Join the fun. Heh, heh.

Wednesday, June 04, 2003

Feeding Frenzy

We all own the air. Remember this. It's so easy to forget sometimes.

Airwaves are public property. When the people that the citizenry entrust with the public property allow it to be monopolized by a small, chosen few to crowd out everyone else, there should be hell to pay. That there likely won't be only makes me more fatalistic about our viability as a democratic and pluralistic society.

I haven't discussed the recent FCC vote to allow a handful of huge media conglomerates to further limit the diversity of media sources available to citizens by buying more and more media outlets of different varieties, though it's shown up in the comments widget and in the blogs of some of my friends. We are slowly but surely backsliding into a situation where very few corporate entities own all major media outlers, except without the old Fairness Doctrine holding them in check.

The Commission, as to be expected, more or less ignored the half-million people who sent in e-mails, phone calls, or letters, opposing the regulation changes.

There may be new forms of information transmittal out there, but it doesn't really matter if there are a lot of different ways to get your information if a handful of entities own all of them.

However, there is one thing they got right - they refused to further deregulate radio, which was the guinea pig for that latest round of deregulation in other mass media. Radio deregulation was, from the perspective of the public interest, a disaster, in part because the biggest beneficiary, Clear Channel Communications, is more or less pure evil.
1 2 3 4 5 Not only are they trying to use their market power to squelch artists (Dixie Chicks) who express their disapproval of the politics they favor, they are trying to drive out independent radio content providers of any sort, whether left, right, center, or completely unrelated to politics. There are a number of reasons that commercial radio is such a wasteland, but Clear Channel is probably #1 among them.

If it weren't for the headline, I would have had to read this article closely to figure out that it was a joke. I wish I could laugh.

By and large, "our" government does what the small number of individuals and corporations who feed it money tell it to do. Sometimes the public is lucky and there are vested interests on both sides of an issue to carry the debate. Sometimes, we're not so lucky.

Sunday, June 01, 2003

True To The Game

Appropos of nothing, four rules of good music...

1. The "Wang Chung" Rule:
It is generally a bad idea to name check oneself, or one's band or crew during a song. In addition to the titular example ("Everybody Have Fun Tonight" by Wang Chung, infamously containing the line "Everybody have fun tonight/ Everybody Wang Chung tonight," as famously recited on an episode of "Cheers" by Frasier Crane.) This rule may be sufficient to explain why most 90s rap sucks, since most of them can't stop referring to themselves.

2. The "Geographical Locations" Rule:
Don't name a band after a piece of land, particularly a large one. The larger the piece of real estate, the more you will suck. There's Boston and Chicago, and then Kansas and Alabama, which suck more. Then there's America, Europe, and, worst of all, Asia. (I can't take credit for this one; I got this from an observation by Victoria during Craig's "Best Bands Ever" tournament.

3. The "Rich and Famous" Rule:
With the exception of a handful of solo artists whose desire to create new art is probably so strong that they do it out of compulsion, almost no great pop or rock music is made by someone who already both rich and famous. Rock music is for the young, the lean, and the hungry. Stay in the game long enough, and you'll embarass youself, either by singing teenage lust ditties when you're closer to Medicare than to the Junior Prom, by trying to put across anthems of struggling to get by when your immediate perspective is closer to Corporate CEO than to Starving Musician, or by trying to sing about anything real when your chief concern is making sure that the correct kind of champagne is in your dressing room. You can safely ignore any product by most established artists over 40.

4. The "No Ringers" Rule:
Rock bands should generally not resort to "professional songwriters." While pop idols almost always do nothing but rely on such writers, rock is a different form, one that puts a premium on the fact that the singer and musicians believe in what they are trying to convey. When that material comes not from the artists themselves, nor in the form of a cover of a song they either hope to recast or satirize, but from professional songwriters more used to being in the mindset of vapid pop idols, it's a sign that the musicians have nothing left to say. This fact has deep-sixed the quality of more bands than you realize, from pop-rock outfits like REO Speedwagon and Cheap Trick to former rock heavyweights Aerosmith and Pink Floyd. If you're so out of things to say that you can't write songs anymore, that's a strong sign you should hang it up. Heck, as the Ramones, AC/DC, and some other bands have found out, your fans might not even mind terribly much that you keep rewriting the same song(s) over again.

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