The View From Wisconsin
Just a random set of rants from a Sports Fan from Wisconsin.
Monday, June 30, 2008
It's a warm Thursday evening in late April. Your team is hosting an evening contest against a pretty decent ball club. They still have some components in their lineup from the team that just a few years prior had won the pennant. As the year goes on, they will be in the thick of things in the race for the pennant, only missing out in the final days of the season.
You, however, are just trying to hold on to your job. This is your third season at the helm of this team (admittedly, an expansion squad), and though your team won more games last year than your first year, they slipped in the standings. Your team has high hopes for the future, though – and it starts with the big ballpark that's going up in the parking lot outside your stadium. You'd love to manage your team there next year, but you have to get through this season first.
Your little ballpark tends to be very pitcher-friendly. Run scoring tends to be low, and tonight's game is proving that fact as both your pitcher (a soon-to-be 31-year-old right-hander) and your opponent's pitcher (a veteran 36-year-old lefty who's been in the majors for two decades) are engaged in a pitcher's duel.
Your starter has the upper hand, as he has gone eight full innings, striking out nine batters, walking two – and not allowing a single hit. However, the veteran lefty (who is getting the spot-start because of the Thursday game) has scattered four hits through seven innings, and hasn't allowed a single one of your players past second base. In fact, last inning was the first time you'd gotten a runner to second – and he was promptly eliminated on a strange shortstop-to-third-to-shortstop double play.
It's now the bottom of the eighth. Your lead-off batter, the left fielder who may end up as the future of the franchise, finally lines a double to center. Your center fielder, batting seventh, strikes out – only the fourth strike out victim on your side of the night. You're a bit tentative about asking your catcher to sacrifice bunt, as he's not very swift of foot (he will hit into 6 double plays this year, and get caught both times he attempts to steal) and he isn't very good about getting the bat down. He proves this by popping up to foul ground, where the first baseman nabs it for the second out.
So, it's decision time. Do you remove your pitcher for a pinch hitter, or do you let him hit?
Here's a few things to consider:
- Your pitcher is not a very good batter – surprise, surprise; he is a fireballer, though, and he is pretty much your ace pitcher. This is very likely the best outing of his career so far.
- You do have a decent pair of pitchers in the bullpen – a lefty who's more of your closer, and a righty who's more of a setup guy that you can use in long relief.
- The opposing pitcher is due up first to lead off the ninth, then two switch-hitters and a lefty.
- You don't have much on the bench in terms of pinch hitters, at least from the right side of the plate. Your best right-handed hitter (an outfielder, normally) will only bat .271 without a homer in 89 games for your this season.
- You do have a pair of veteran pinch-hitters on the bench – one who has some serious pop, and will end up taking over at first base by year's end. The other isn't quite as good, and is more of a contact hitter.
- You have a third lefty on the bench, but he's a fresh-faced 20-year-old rookie with an outrageous look and a wide-eyed attitude.
- Your opposing manager is a smart cookie, and isn't afraid to start pulling strings if you put in a new pitcher.
- As if you could forget, your starting pitcher is throwing a no-hitter. This could be a turning point for your team if he were to get it – and your team wins the game.
I would personally bet that 90% of all managers in the majors today would have pinch-hit for their starting pitcher – regardless of the situation.
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Yesterday, I stopped in at my local hobby shop to get a "jumbo" pack of Topps Series 2 Baseball cards, and happened to notice that he had for sale the complete set of the 1987 Topps Baseball set, in a binder, for $12.50. When I asked about it, he said it was part of an estate sale, and they were just seeking to get rid of some inventory.
So, along with the packs of this year's cards that I got, I walked out with the binder to finally complete my '87 set. But I didn't know until I got home what effect that had on my collection.
I did my usual updating of card sets, adding the '87 set to the main count and the new cards to the '08 set - in a turn of irony, the 2008 set is now my largest incomplete set, now that I have finally completed the '87 set. Yes, as you can probably guess, I use Excel spreadsheets to track them all. (I'm such a geek, I even track the cards I get via ToppsTown.com, the online-only cards that Topps is touting as a bonus for card collectors.)
When I added in all the cards I'd just received to the totals, I saw a very odd thing - I now have exactly 35,000 baseball cards (give or take a few that I may have missed). That's 72.6% of all 48,218 of the cards that I own.
Trying to put that in perspective: I could go over to Miller Park (capacity of 41,900), put one card on every seat in the stadium (that'd take a while, I'd suspect), and I'd STILL have over 6,000 cards left over. In fact, I could put all the cards that I own that were released since 1983 out there, then only take the duplicates from 1981-82... and I'd still have a few cards left over.
UPDATE: Wisconsin Avenue is finally open between the five corners (Main Street, Wisconsin, Park and Oakton Avenues) and the lakefront. The beachfront of Pewaukee Lake is still closed, however; when you're driving Northeast on Wisconsin Avenue, you can see that the lake level is about at the same level as the road, and the water is still almost up to the sidewalk on the beach side. The sandbags, though, are still in front of most establishments along the streets.
Sarah and I also went to downtown Waukesha, and the Fox River has subsided greatly. The water levels are pretty much back down to normal, and everything's pretty much back up and running. You can still see the after-effects of the flooding, though, if you look hard and long enough.
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
I did an overlay of where I saw the flooding on a Google aerial map of the city; I was shocked at how much it just looked like Pewaukee Lake was trying to increase its banks. I'd love to look back through some of the reports from when they decided to dredge the river, but I don't have any idea where to look. I've heard stories that the area that is now built-up by the lake was once very swampy and uninhabitable.
One thing that floored me when I was taking pictures of downtown: there, swimming in the water as it was flowing down Main Street in front of the North Shore Bank, was a school - a school, mind you - of what appeared to be trout or carp. They were swimming in a circular motion, almost as if to say, "What the hell is this? This isn't the normal lake bed. Where's the mud with all the yummy bugs and such in it?"
Monday, June 16, 2008
Those of you not from the SE Wisconsin area might not be familiar with how Pewaukee and Pewaukee Lake looks when it's not under water, I found some photos I took back in April and May:
This is looking southeast down Main Street/West Wisconsin Avenue along the Lakefront. Compare this to this photo of downtown.
This is looking back up from Main Street, a block down from the five-corners that is now under water. Where most of those cars are sitting is basically water now.
The intake shown here is where the Pewaukee River normally goes on its way through the Village of Pewaukee. Everything between the river and the condo building on the right is under water.
If I were able to go out onto this pier where I took this photo back in May (which I can't, since it's been blocked off by water and warning signs), you would see nothing but water. There is actually two plows and a salt truck sitting right now in the middle of this photo, acting as a temporary levee. The reason is that there's nothing preventing the water from going right into the flooded Pewaukee River.
An odd sight, which (unfortunately) the photos I took today don't show: the water going through the five-corners intersection (Main Street, Park Avenue, Oakton Avenue and East Wisconsin) had a school of pretty good-sized fish swimming through it. They looked rather confused, as they were swimming in circles.
And guess what the NWS says is in our forecast for today? 20% chance of showers, cloudy and cooler. Ouch.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
Evil Inc. - Brad Guigar's strip about the real "Evil Empire" of Evil Atom and his minions hasn't been stellar as of late, but he's right in the middle of a very interesting storyline about possible corporate espionage within the ranks. Evil Inc. is finding itself being challenged by Oculore and his new company, Villain Zone - and it appears that Oculore (a former employee of Evil Inc.) is getting "inside info" to thwart Atom's plans for world domination (and making the shareholders happy).
PvPonline.com - If you have been following this comic at all, you know three things have happened: first, Brent and Jade finally got married; second, Skull has left since his "job" to give Brent's life "meaning" was finally over; and third, Francis and Marcy (the two teenagers of the group) finally "got it on". Any other web comic that tried to do all that in the space of about a month of strips would probably self-destruct from readership not being able to follow things. Somehow, Scott Kurtz has not only made it work, but he's made it kick ass and take names. Now he's trying to deal with the aftermath of Skull's disappearance - which may or may not be permanent.
Sheldon Comics - When you can write comic strips that involve the Lord of the Rings, Lewis and Clark, "What's Eating Gilbert Grape?", horseshoes, SkyNet and Indiana Jones - all within the space of two weeks - you know you're dealing with a very diverse strip. Either that or an artist in desperate need of Ritalin. Dave Kellett isn't in need of Ritalin (as far as I know), but he has the most fun he can get out of his merry band of characters. In a strange way, Sheldon is more or less the Seinfeld of webcomics - a small main cast (Sheldon, Arthur, Gramps, Dante, Flaco and Oso) who just go about deconstructing modern society in an extremely funny way. And maybe Dave just needs his HobNobs instead of Ritalin.
Starslip Crisis - The War With The Future (tm) is over - for now. However, a certain curator for a certain Terran Astry ship is still looking for his beloved Jovia - and our man Vanderbeam has made the connection that the time suit of the defeated Katarakis may be the answer to his search. Never mind that Holliday's got a crush on him, Cutter (who is taking over the Fuseli) is still half in-the-bag and reluctant at his leaving, and Mr. Jinx is confused as to why Memnon wants to take over the SaiKan. It's a storyline you know is going to end in hilarity, but do remember that this is Kris Straub we're talking about. You know, the guy who wrote Checkerboard Nightmare, the webcomic that parodied webcomics.
Tux and Bunny - One panel, lots of fun. (Part of me wants to make the comment about "Not bad - for a girl - hell, that's not bad for Rambo!" here, but I don't think it'd be appropriate.) Our intrepid owner of stuffed animals has apparently switched fonts for her strip, but the punny humor is still there. As a Canuck, I should warn her that she's going to be getting a lot of five-minute majors for serial punning if she keeps this up.
Candi Comics - I'm gonna admit something to Ms. Hodge: as much as I recognize the perils of Spring Break (which has been going on for what, six months now?), I guess as an old fuddy-duddy 40-year-old, "damn kids get off my LAWN!" guy, I'm not connecting with some of the characters - and I'm also having trouble trying to remember/figure out who's who and with whom. I do feel for Candi, though; the unwritten Seventh Law of Applied Terror is definitely true here. (That would be, "The project that is 90% of your final grade will be due the day after you return from Spring Break.")
Girl Genius - While Agatha's running around trying to get "her" family castle back up and running, the rest of Agatha's troupe is running around in the cellars of Mechanicsburg, trying to help Gil get better after his little lightning show - and find a way of keeping the city from being Toast on a Stick, thanks to his dad's desire to eliminate The Other (who, conveniently, resides within Agatha). The Foglios continue to impress with their storytelling - and make no mistake, this is part of a larger story that's pretty much already written. One thing's for sure: there will be explosions. Oh, and blood, perhaps, too.
Girls With Slingshots by Danielle Corsetto - The latest storyline has Hazel getting dumped by her Object d'Affection, over her perverse sexual lust and his lack of willingness to go further than hand-holding. The amusing thing is that this strip is so based in sexual overtones (not that that's a bad thing, Danielle) that a character like Hazel's beau Zach is the fish out of water in this strip. How Haze is going to handle this is going to be fun to watch.
Pibgorn - I gave up trying to understand this strip years ago. I just read it more out of habit than anything. Oh, and I guess I harbor PSL for Drusilla.
Real Life Comics - Greg Dean is really playing up the "fish out of water" angle since he moved to Texas from the Bay Area. The people in his new home eye his strange ways (waiting in line for a new iPhone three weeks in advance) with the same look they give Okies from Muskogee. And Greg still hasn't comprehended the fact that it gets HOT in Texas during the summer. Which, by the way, goes from May through October.
Sequential Art - My only question about this comic is, how often does this guy believe in updating? The current storyline, involving Kat with one of her college GF's who is now a big-time gothic novelist, seems to have started... well, back in like February. I don't know if he actually updates his website once a week, once a month or... well, I'd just settle for a little plot devo.
Shortpacked! - I'll admit something: Willis just doesn't do it for me anymore. I like the forays into comic, pop culture and toy humor, but as a whole his universe is too complicated for me. He's a bit like the anti-Buckley (and anyone who reads the PVP forums knows that's not necessarily a good thing).
Times Like This - There are times when Tom makes me scratch my head, wondering WTF he is talking about. Of course, this is usually when he's referencing some obscure piece of 80's pop culture, like NOFX writing "Shut Up Already" (thanks to Cassie's sudden outburst at Matt). The rest of the time, though, it's comedy gold. Of course, I'm such a geek about this strip that I've not only made Cassie a "friend" on MySpace, but I've even written some fan fiction. (I'll save that for some other time - pardon the pun.)
XKCD - Not much you can say about a cartoon with stick figures; however, the gags are pretty much at the point where you have to understand the geekdom behind them. Which means, of course, that they're perfect for someone like me. My favorite part of the website is the random strip button. Don't like today's strip? Hit this puppy and you're bound to find one that'll have you LOL.
Wapsi Square by Paul Taylor - If I say anything bad about this comic, I'm just plain lying. I mean, I like this strip so much I wrote fanfic about it (look around in the archives of this blog for that). Yeah, the story's about a bunch of babes, but c'mon - it beats watching Lost. There's been a brief lull in the storyline, as the "magical tapestry" has suddenly become a full-body tattoo on Shelly. Still, you can't live on worrying about the calendar machine 24/7 (there's another pun in there somewhere), so who cares when we suddenly see Bud and Brandi soaking up the rays on Lake Calhoun's beach? I'm just jealous that they still HAVE a beach, of course.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Here in Wisconsin, we have a distinct way of telling when a natural disaster is serious: when the Interstates are closed, it's a disaster.
We've officially reached that point in southeastern Wisconsin. Interstate 94 west of state Highway 83 is completely closed, due to flooding in several different lakes in the area (Nagawicka, Nemahbin, Nashotah and Silver). What's truly shocking is where WIDOT has had to route traffic to get around the flooding. Because the most logical choice, state Highway 16 to the north, is also having flooding issues, they have routed the detour down Highway 83 into Mukwonago (which, by the way, is also having flooding issues), then over to I-43 South.
The rest of the detour? Let me quote the report on WIDOT's Incident Alert webpage: "I-43 SB (southbound) to I-39/90 NB (northbound) to Madison." For those of you who aren't familiar with the state, I-43 and I-39/90 intersect just outside of Beloit, Wisconsin – which is about two miles north of the Illinois state line.
That might not sound like much, but consider that I-43 is 15 miles south of I-94 on Highway 83, and that the 83 exit in Mukwonago is 43 miles from the intersection of 43 and 39/90. And, as if THAT wasn't enough, the Beloit Interchange with I-43 is 47 miles South of the Badger Interchange outside Madison, where I-90 and I-39 meet up with I-94.
That is, conservatively, a 105-mile detour to go 47 miles, because of flooding.
And that, my friends, is the definition of a natural disaster.
Monday, June 09, 2008
Yes, I did end up going into my basement on Saturday night. No, there was no apparent funnel cloud that hit in our immediate area.
Yes, the street in front of my house turned into a river for about 15 minutes or so. Yes, there is a crapload of flooding around my area. In fact, downtown Pewaukee is closed right now, because Pewaukee Lake has essentially overflowed and covered its beaches.
The Pewaukee River (which is only a couple of blocks away from me) has overflowed its banks, but I'm on slightly higher ground. It'd take another nine-10 inches of rainfall for the river to get that high - and if it did, pretty much ALL of Pewaukee would be underwater.
So far (knock wood), there hasn't been any issues with flooding in my basement. My dehumidifier has been running constantly, though.
I am slightly fearful as to what I'm walking back into at work tonight, as the tornado warning on Saturday affected my workplace; the tracking of the storm blew right over EAS. I have a feeling that there's going to be a lot of worked up/frightened kids tonight.
What's been going on around here is just amazing. Lake Delton, which was a huge vacation area spot for many in the Wisconsin Dells area in middle Wisconsin, is... no more. The dam that held the water in broke, which basically emptied it entirely into the Wisconsin River. There's nothing but mud and muck, with a whole bunch of houses located on the shoreline collapsing into what used to be the Lake.
Anyways, I'm high and dry (for now).
Friday, June 06, 2008
So, when I finally found one on eBay, I had to bid on it. Behold, my "new" car:
What, you thought I was buying a working model?
And on a second front: way back in the day, I created a comic character straight out of the 1960's, a beach-bum like guy who I named Johnny Surf (aka Johnathan Surfazio). I had a few notebooks that I drew up of him, and all that. For the life of me, I have no idea where those notebooks are right now. However, since I started using my Intuous tablet with my iBook again, I decided to whip out this little sketch:
Monday, June 02, 2008
Or is it?
See, the building happens to be the home of The Planet, a web server company. Their servers are all housed in this building, and when the fire disrupts power to the servers... oops.
Now, it shouldn't be too difficult for things to recover, right? Normally, this would be the case. However, this happened on a Saturday night. Getting people in to try to get power restored and get the servers back up and running is a long and tiring task.
So what in the heck does this have to do with you, me or that plant in the next cubicle? Well, The Planet happens to be a pretty wide-ranging "server farm"; they host a lot of different websites and portals in their stacks.
Including one for a certain webcomic portal known as Blank Label Comics. The entire BLC website and forums have been mostly off-line since Saturday. They anticipate being back up by today (Monday), but who knows what kind of condition the servers will be in once they're back up.
One piece of faulty wiring leading to a web-based catastrophe. Almost as ridiculous as a butterfly's wings causing Hurricane Katrina.