Stone of Remembrance

July 23, 2006

You

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 01:40

A few months ago we were subjected to the sight of millions of illegal aliens protesting for the granting of that which they haven’t earned, an idea that all good Wobblies and fellow-travelers encouraged actual citizens to endorse.

It was quite an event. Michael Graham, among other bomb-throwers on the right, asked (with some measure of validity, in fact) how it was we weren’t arresting rather than televising their antics. Meanwhile, President Bush favors a guest-worker solution, while others throw up their hands and support amnesty as the only reasonable solution . . . and then there are those that just muddy the issue with meaningless doubletalk.

As an American citizen, born in this country (and the son of a naturalized parent who went through the proper process to become one) I have this annoying tendency to believe that my citizenship is worth something. Immigrant support groups love to toss around the We are all immigrants straw man; how true, except for descendants of slaves, native Americans, and people who are born here, but that’s not the point either.

By emigrating to the United States and choosing to raise their right hands and pledge allegiance, forswearing any other nation in favor of our own, previous generations (including my mother) acknowledged that they wished to become Americans. People do that every day in this country: people of every race, creed and color, people from every other continent (well, perhaps not Antarctica. . .) take the oath of allegiance. Good for them. America is a greater country because of it. Should we allow more people to do so? Should we make it easier? Probably yes to both questions. But to surrender to mob mentality and grant amnesty to 12 million plus merely invites another wave, and another amnesty. We did it once in 1986. Will we do it again in 2026? Or 2016? Or sooner?

At least one group doesn’t believe we should do it at all. You Don’t Speak For Me states their position with accuracy and clarity:

We are Americans of Hispanic heritage who believe in America. We believe in the governmental institutions and laws that make this country the greatest in the world. It is because of this strong belief in the principles of freedom, individual liberties, the rule of law, and democracy that we formed You Don’t Speak for Me!: American Hispanic Voices Speaking Out Against Illegal Immigration.

Their principles, they say, are simple:

  1. All immigration should be legal
  2. Illegal aliens from any country should never be rewarded with benefits or privileges
  3. No amnesty – no way!
  4. Secure our borders now and fully enforce immigration laws
  5. Learn and speak English

These are not armchair liberals, gun totin’ isolationists, right wing bomb throwers, racists or race pimps. These are Americans of Hispanic ancestry who prize their citizenship as I do. They do not have a national platform or a huge membership, but they do have a clear and concise set of beliefs, a coherent message, and a respect and reverence for their status as American citizens. Go visit their site and read some of the testimonials and see if you don’t agree.

July 21, 2006

Mindless Statistics

Filed under: Baseball — admin @ 17:07

Just in case you didn’t realize how pointless some baseball statistics, there’s Michael Lazarus to remind you. His main point is a good one – Bob Wickman’s not going to help the Braves much. Probably true, though it likely won’t be any worse.

He writes:

Rankings are based on the last 30 days to better reflect recent performance.

The six statistics the rankings are based on:

  • ERA: Misleading for closers, but the good ones still have low ones.
  • Saves (ties broken by number of blown saves): Some are tougher than others but it’s still the main goal of each closer.
  • WHIP: Batters can’t score if they can’t get on base.
  • Opponents’ slugging percentage: Home runs and extra-base hits aren’t acceptable
  • Strikeout/walk ratio: A key indicator of continued success
  • Strikeouts/9 innings: It’s hard for inherited runners to score if the ball isn’t put into play

Fair enough, but the problem is that they’re all ranked equally. And since AL and NL are mixed together, it doesn’t reflect the different environments where teams perform. But that aside, I think he’s giving a traditional roto analysis as opposed to a true evaluation of ability.

The top ten puts Joe Nathan way ahead, with Mariano Rivera, J. J. Putz, and K-Rod grouped together followed by B.J. Ryan . . . and then we get Otsuka, Papelbon, Guardado, Borowski and Brian Meadows.

Sure. Sure we do. Let’s have a look at the numbers, shall we?

Elite Closers

PITCHER,TEAM      W- L    ERA    BA   G GS CG GF SH SV   IP    H   R  ER HR  BB  SO
Papelbon, BOS     2- 1   0.54  .154  44  0  0 38  0 29  50.0  27   3   3  2   9  50
Ryan, TOR         1- 0   1.13  .160  43  0  0 35  0 24  48.0  26   6   6  1  12  61
Nathan, MIN       6- 0   1.58  .181  36  0  0 35  0 18  40.0  26   7   7  2   5  58

The three best closers in baseball. They all have more Ks than IP and the league is hitting under .200 against them. They’ve given up 1 or 2 homers each. The save and W-L totals are a distraction.

Solid Closers

PITCHER,TEAM      W- L    ERA    BA   G GS CG GF SH SV   IP    H   R  ER HR  BB  SO
Rivera, NYY       4- 5   2.10  .228  42  0  0 41  0 22  51.1  42  13  12  1   9  38
Putz, SEA         1- 0   2.38  .184  43  0  0 30  0 18  45.1  30  12  12  1   7  60
Saito, LAD        3- 2   2.15  .170  41  0  0 22  0  8  46.0  27  11  11  3  14  61
Jenks, CHS        2- 1   3.12  .222  42  0  0 37  0 26  43.1  35  15  15  3  15  52
Gordon, PHI       3- 3   2.06  .207  40  0  0 38  0 22  39.1  30   9   9  4  11  49
Wagner, NYM       3- 1   2.47  .190  41  0  0 31  0 19  43.2  30  16  12  4  18  55
Rodriguez, LAA    0- 2   2.79  .222  36  0  0 30  0 23  38.2  32  14  12  6  10  49
Street, OAK       3- 3   2.98  .192  42  0  0 32  0 20  42.1  30  16  14  4   9  39
Otsuka, TEX       2- 3   1.98  .214  43  0  0 31  0 20  41.0  31  10   9  2   6  30
Gonzalez, PIT     3- 3   2.38  .231  41  0  0 36  0 16  41.2  36  11  11  1  26  45
Hoffman, SD       0- 2   2.21  .210  38  0  0 29  0 25  36.2  29  10   9  1   8  27

This is a solid group of pitchers, in some sort of rough order, but all of them are pretty good. Most have good strikeout totals and few homers surrendered. Batting average against is low. I don’t really care how many doubles or triples they gave up; inherited runners would be a good stat to have, but I didn’t look it up. Guardado? Borowski? Meadows? Don’t think so. Also no sign of Todd Jones (17th on Lazarus’ list) or Brad Lidge (20th). On the other hand, Trevor Hoffman comes in at 18th on his list, Billy Wagner at number 21, and Tom Gordon at 27.

Competent

PITCHER,TEAM      W- L    ERA    BA   G GS CG GF SH SV   IP    H   R  ER HR  BB  SO
Julio, ARZ        1- 3   3.30  .195  40  0  0 31  0 11  43.2  32  20  16  6  19  58
Isringhausen, STL 3- 4   3.16  .203  41  0  0 33  0 26  42.2  30  17  15  7  30  42
Ray, BAL          1- 2   2.95  .200  38  0  0 36  0 23  39.2  28  14  13  6  14  38
Benitez, SF       4- 1   1.82  .261  24  0  0 22  0 12  24.2  24   5   5  2  13  19

Chris Ray is 12th on Lazarus’ list. Benitez is 15th. Julio is 19th. Isringhausen is 22nd.

Closers are the guys you trust to go out and get the job done. Saves don’t matter; like “quality starts,” it’s a stat that says nothing in particular. It’s a function of the team’s competence at winning. Does Mike Gonzalez’ low save total mean anything? No, but his 26 walks in 41.2 innings does. He makes the list, though, because he strikes people out and has surrendered one home run so far.

I know this is highly debatable, but the article just struck me as the parroting of mindless statistics.

July 20, 2006

Battleship Google Earth

Filed under: Games — admin @ 23:50

For people with too much time and too many cell minutes on their hands: it’s MB’s Battleship, using sophisticated mobile phones and Google Earth. The whole description is here.

One person places their ships using Google Earth and the other person goes out in the normal world with a mobile phone, a GPS connected to the mobile phone. The phone has a small Python script on it that reads the GPS and sends the data to the game engine, which then updates the Google Earth KML model showing the current state of the game grid. When the player who’s trying to sink the ships wants to try for a hit, they call into the game engine and say “drop”. The game reads back the coordinates at which the “peg” was dropped and shortly thereafter, the other player will see the peg appear at the coordinate it was dropped. If the peg hits one of the ships, it’s a Hit, otherwise it’s a miss.

Huh. There’s a story in here somewhere, but I’ve got too many projects in the air already.

July 18, 2006

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 09:27


The flag of the only democratic nation in the Middle East.

A UN delegation is even now trying to broker a cease-fire in the Middle East. Israel believes that it’s too soon to talk about that. I agree.

This isn’t a fight between two sovereign nations – say, for example, Israel and Lebanon. This is between a sovereign nation and a murdering, vicious extranational society bent on the destruction of its enemy. Hezbollah is being credited with having “freed” Lebanon from the Israeli “invader”. Au contraire, ma cherie. Israel withdrew unilaterally. Hizbollah has been lobbing Qassam rockets ever since.

Hizbollah must be disarmed and dismembered. Some argue that doing so will cause three more to spring, hydra-like, from its corpse. Maybe, but it’ll take some time for them to gather some momentum and ordnance, and their backers in Syria and Iran will have to come out from under their respective rocks and show the world that they’re behind it.

For a declaration of Israel’s feelings on this subject, be sure to read this article. A brief excerpt (from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s speech to the Knesset):

Israel did not seek these confrontations. On the contrary. We have done a lot to prevent them. We returned to the borders of the State of Israel, recognized by the entire international community. There were those who misconstrued our desire for peace – for us and our neighbors – as a sign of frailty. Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness.

They were wrong! Madam Speaker, Members of Knesset, The State of Israel has no territorial conflict, neither on our southern border nor on our northern one.

In these two areas, we are sitting on the recognized international border – both vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon. We have no intention of interfering in their internal affairs. On the contrary, stability and tranquility in Lebanon, free of the rule of foreign powers, and in the Palestinian Authority, are in Israel’s interest. We yearn for the day when peace will prevail between us, for the mutual benefit of our peoples from both sides of our common border.

President Bush is right. Get Syria to stop Hizbollah from doing this s**t and it’ll be over. But since that won’t happen, Israel will have to do the work itself.

And meanwhile, Palestinians are dancing in the streets, like they did on 9/11. They’ve come down on the wrong side of this. Again.

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 09:27


The flag of the only democratic nation in the Middle East.

A UN delegation is even now trying to broker a cease-fire in the Middle East. Israel believes that it’s too soon to talk about that. I agree.

This isn’t a fight between two sovereign nations – say, for example, Israel and Lebanon. This is between a sovereign nation and a murdering, vicious extranational society bent on the destruction of its enemy. Hezbollah is being credited with having “freed” Lebanon from the Israeli “invader”. Au contraire, ma cherie. Israel withdrew unilaterally. Hizbollah has been lobbing Qassam rockets ever since.

Hizbollah must be disarmed and dismembered. Some argue that doing so will cause three more to spring, hydra-like, from its corpse. Maybe, but it’ll take some time for them to gather some momentum and ordnance, and their backers in Syria and Iran will have to come out from under their respective rocks and show the world that they’re behind it.

For a declaration of Israel’s feelings on this subject, be sure to read this article. A brief excerpt (from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s speech to the Knesset):

Israel did not seek these confrontations. On the contrary. We have done a lot to prevent them. We returned to the borders of the State of Israel, recognized by the entire international community. There were those who misconstrued our desire for peace – for us and our neighbors – as a sign of frailty. Our enemies misinterpreted our willingness to exercise restraint as a sign of weakness.

They were wrong! Madam Speaker, Members of Knesset, The State of Israel has no territorial conflict, neither on our southern border nor on our northern one.

In these two areas, we are sitting on the recognized international border – both vis-à-vis the Palestinian Authority in the Gaza Strip, and in Lebanon. We have no intention of interfering in their internal affairs. On the contrary, stability and tranquility in Lebanon, free of the rule of foreign powers, and in the Palestinian Authority, are in Israel’s interest. We yearn for the day when peace will prevail between us, for the mutual benefit of our peoples from both sides of our common border.

President Bush is right. Get Syria to stop Hizbollah from doing this s**t and it’ll be over. But since that won’t happen, Israel will have to do the work itself.

And meanwhile, Palestinians are dancing in the streets, like they did on 9/11. They’ve come down on the wrong side of this. Again.

July 17, 2006

Spiel des Jahres 2006

Filed under: Games — admin @ 11:51

As reported here, Thurn & Taxis has won the prestigious annual award, Spiel des Jahres. Thurn & Taxis defeated four other finalists to take the award.

The game was designed by Karen and Andreas Seyfarth; Seyfarth’s best (and best-known) design, Puerto Rico, was a 2002 finalist (the dexterity game Villa Paletti won for reasons that surpass understanding. This is Seyfarth’s second SdJ; he won for Manhattan in 1994.

It’s a very good game, with a mix of strategy and luck; it plays in 45 minutes and (despite comments to the contrary) doesn’t seem to have one absolute winning strategy. It also scales nicely between two and four players.

Congratulations to Hans Im Glück for its award-winning design.

Words, words, words

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 10:11

I haven’t had much time to update the blog, what with Readercon and L’s birthday, but I picked up a link to this entertaining site. (Tip o’ the hat to The Nonist.)

July 12, 2006

Jacksonian Response

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 21:11

I have been trying to crystallize my thoughts on the recent events in India, in the Middle East, in Somalia, in Iraq, in North Korea and on the Iran nuclear matter, and can’t quite get my head around it all. But New Sisyphus has (see the post labeled “War Never Changes”).

Since the beginning of the Islamic Terror age and especially since the attacks of 9.11 there has been a huge debate in the West on how best to win the war and deliver safety and security to our people. On the one side, the majority, are those who view the matter as a political question to be resolved through negotiated settlements on contentious issues combined with a law-enforcement approach to stem the worst of the terrorist backlash until those issues are resolved.

On the other side, the Bush minority, the matter is viewed as a question of war, but a limited one designed to inject into the terrorist-supporting polity a dose of liberty and democracy that will, over time, open up enough space to allow an alternative vision of Islamic development which addresses Muslim grievances to develop.

And, a tiny minority, but growing, and heretofore almost completely shut out of the debate is the American Jacksonians whose view it is that ruthless, pitiless war must be waged until the Muslim ummah loses the will to fight. After that, we can talk.

Of the three approaches, which do you think is most likely to correctly anticipate what the next step in the conflict will be? Setting aside emotion and what we wish were true, which comes closer to a real understanding of the enemy? What is likely to give a man like Nasrallah pause? A negotiated two-state solution? The fact that he has to run for re-election every two years? Or the likelihood that if he wages war against Israel he, his family and everything he loves will be ruthlessly wiped from the face of the earth? Is this really a tough question?

No. It’s not. I see acknowledged terrorists holding news conferences crowing about kidnappings and about violating international borders, then hear Mr. Kofi Annan refer to Israel’s attacks into Gaza as terrorism. I see Moslems killing Moslems in the streets because of sectarian differences, old grudges, perceived violation of sharia law, or pretty much for no reason at all. I simply can’t understand a culture that values human life so little, regardless of their supposed moral turpitude.

Do I think we’ve made mistakes, and lots of them, in the conduct of the war on terror? Yes. Do I have absolute confidence in my government’s position, and do I support every act performed in the service of this war? I do not. But this is the United States, and I can hold those opinions if I choose; if I lived in North Korea (or Iran, or a number of other places) could I (or my wife, for that matter) express those opinions? No, we couldn’t.

So yes, I’m still in favor of option number three. And no, it’s not a tough question to answer.

Ticket to Ride Expansion

Filed under: Games — admin @ 17:50

Alan Moon’s ridiculously popular SdJ winner Ticket to Ride will have a new expansion at Essen. According to this article, it’ll replace the original small train cards, among other things:

USA 1910 (MSRP $15) consists of 181 new large format cards (the same size as the cards in Ticket to Ride Europe and Marklin) including 35 new “Destination Tickets,” a new “GlobeTrotter” bonus card for completing the most tickets, plus a complete replacement deck for all the cards from the original game deck.

The USA 1910 Expansion, which comes in a small metal box, also includes a new rulebook that gives players three new ways to play the game including 1910 rules. Players can choose to use only the new “Destination Tickets,” or play a “Mega Game” featuring all the tickets, or just a “Big Cities” version, which uses only tickets to certain large cities.

I’ll certainly want it. Another hit for the Days of Wonder lads. (No announcement of this product is available at their newly-redesigned website, but they have announced an expansion to be released at Essen.

Sawyer Wins Campbell

Filed under: Commentary — admin @ 09:53


Yes, those are his actual teeth.

My good friend and colleague Rob Sawyer has won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for his novel Mindscan. The John W. Campbell Memorial Award was created to honor Campbell, who is often called the father of modern science fiction. Writers Harry Harrison and Brian W. Aldiss established the award in 1973 as a way of continuing his efforts to encourage writers to produce their best possible work. (Cribbed from Rob’s excellent site.)

Rob is a talented writer, insightful and knowledgeable, and also a hell of a nice guy. He wrote my first cover quote and has offered advice and friendship since I entered the pro ranks five years ago. I kid him that everything of consequence in Sawyer novels happens in Canada, but regardless of setting they’re always page turners (and have an honored place on our shelf).

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