Friday, September 29, 2006

Situation Critical

Not good.

After a rain delay of over 4 hours, the Phillies and Nationals finally started at 11:30 PM. It is now just after 2, and the Phillies have lost by 2 to go down by 2 to the Dodgers.

With only 3 to play.

On the plus side, the Dodgers play the Giants to finish out the season. Dodgers-Giants is a rivalry just as heated as the more famous Red Sox-Yankees rivalry, and the Giants would like nothing more than to ruin the Dodgers' year by knocking them around.

But what's disappointing is that just a few days ago, the Phillies controlled their own destiny. They had a chance to go a game up in the Wild Card race and blew it, and have been losing ground ever since.

What makes it even more frustrating is that no matter what, at this point the Phillies will not have improved from last year. In 2005 they finished the season with a record of 88-74. The best they can hope to finish for 2006 is 86-76 (which was their record in '03 AND '04, incidentally).

Oh yeah, and Jeff Conine went 0-4, continuing what has been a shockingly horrific stretch run. He is now 0-11 over the last two games.

Thursday, September 28, 2006



Not exactly what I'd call "random".

What was an experiment going reasonably well came completely unhinged last week with a dreadful performance by FAULTY that got only 2 games right.

On the bright side, one of those two was the Eagles game.

SO... after 3 weeks, FAULTY has posted a record of 20-26. Not so great, but one good week is all it will take to turn it around.

This, however, might not be that week.

With gems in there like the Jets over the Colts, I'm not too sure we won't see another horrendous week.

The things I do for completely flawed science.

By the way, this week FAULTY picks Green Bay over the Eagles. So far FAULTY is 3-0 on Eagles games. I find it unlikely the Eagles will lose to the Packers, so let's hope FAULTY's streak picking the Eagles comes to an ignominious end.

5 Hours Later

I'm not sure if I'm going to make it another 4 games.

Tonight, after just a shade under 5 hours (4 hours 53 minutes to be exact), the Phillies somehow, someway, managed to beat the Nationals 8-7 in 14 innings to stay 1 game behind the Dodgers for the Wild Card.

It was a game that featured a little bit of everything, and a whole lot of runners left on base. Both sides' lineups combined to leave a total of 53 men on base (that's per hitter, mind you), and Jeff Conine had just about the ugliest line you will ever see:

0-7, 2 K, 9 LOB

You saw that right. NINE FREAKIN' GUYS LEFT ON BASE. This has to be one of the worst games of his professional career.

What's funny is that for the first time in a long time, the Phillies actually put the lineup out there I had been hoping to see for the stretch playoff run: Burrell and Lieberthal were benched in favor of Dellucci and Coste. Now I'm not so sure I knew what I was talking about, as Dellucci continued his to put his newfound futility at the plate on display by going 0-4.

Coste on the other hand went 3-6 with a couple of big hits to raise his average to .332. If Lieberthal starts another game it will be a mistake. It's just that simple.

And get this: Fabio Castro got the save. FABIO CASTRO. Here's a guy who is at the absolute bottom of your pitching depth chart on an expanded 40-man roster. He was a first rounder in 2005... IN THE RULE 5 DRAFT.

The Phillies now lead the league in runs scored AND runners left on base. Will they cancel each other out? I don't know, but I DO know that those two stats add up to heart attacks and a lot of objects thrown at the television.

And by the way, Jimmy Rollins is pretty quietly having the best year of his major league career.

Just four more games... just four more games...

I sure hope there aren't just four more games.

Worst. Idea. Ever.

I don't know how I missed this, but the AFL decided on September 13th to institute a "free substition" rule change for next season.

What this means is the end of the 2-way style of play that made the league so interesting.

I can't even tell you how disappointing this is. When people ask me why I like Arena Football, the first answer that comes to mind has always been the 2-way players that play offense and defense. The substitution rules were a little complicated, but basically 6 guys on the 8 man side had to play both directions for an offensive and defensive series and then you could make some subs (it's more complicated than that, but for the purposes of this discussion it will suffice).

By eliminating this, Arena Football really just turns into the NFL in a box.

Worst. Rule change. EVER.

I already paid for my season tickets, so I'm locked in for next year with the Soul. We'll see how this goes over, but right now I'm really, really disappointed.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

What a Week of Baseball

There are only 2 things better than the baseball season when it comes to excellent sporting events: 1) the last 2 weeks of the baseball regular season and 2) baseball playoffs.

In case you haven't been paying attention, the Dodgers comeback against the Padres on the 18th started off the week with a bang. In case you've been living under a rock (or just don't watch baseball), the Dodgers hit back-to-back-to-back-to-back home runs (that's 4 straight) in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game, then Nomar hit a 2 run dinger in the bottom of the 10th to give them the win and help them keep pace with the Phillies and Padres in the 3 team race for 2 playoff spots.

I remember there was a time when Nomar would be mentioned in the same sentence as guys like Jeter and Tejada in discussions about the best shortstop in baseball. Clearly he's not (he doesn't even play shortstop anymore), but it is nice to see him really resurrect his career in LA.

The Phillies actually took the lead in the Wild Card race by half a game over those same Dodgers, boosted in large part by a sweep of the Marlins, which included a small comeback of their own with a 7 run third inning today. This was a great game, and the Phils really appear to be firing on all cylinders down the stretch right now with only a week left to play.

Not to be undone in drama though, the Padres beat the Pirates today with the help of Trevor Hoffman's record breaking 479th save. I actually got chills watching him run out onto the field for the 9th inning with AC/DC's "Hell's Bells" playing, even though I was rooting for him to lose. Particularly sweet was that he got the third out against Freddy Sanchez, the guy who will probably win the National League batting title.

Finally, I also watched Nomar do it again for the Dodgers today with a walk off grand slam in the bottom of the 9th against the Diamondbacks.

So as the dust settles, the Phils still rest 1/2 game ahead of the Dodgers in the Wild Card race, and the Padres stay a game and a half ahead of the Dodgers for the NL West division crown.

Oh yeah, and on another sports related note, I am told that FAULTY had a terrible week this week. Apparently something to do with the lesser sport of American rules football.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


After going 10-6 last week, FAULTY now has an overall record of 18-14. I'm hoping a couple of the picks this week (like Cleveland over Baltimore, for example) will result in a losing week that will bring us back to perfect parity, but we'll see.

So far it FAULTY is 2-0 picking the Eagles, incidentally. Philly fans will be pleased to know that the power of atmospheric noise with skew correction is with them this week against San Francisco.

I promise the next post will NOT be football related.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006


Okay, so the first week of FAULTY could have gone better. 8-8 is not really a very impressive total... or is it?

In fact, it looks to be exactly random. So from that perspective, this first week was a resounding success, lending more evidence to my hypothesis that NFL results are completely random.

Yes, I know there is a logical disconnect there. In the words of the Pope, "Too bad."

At least, I'm pretty sure the Pope has said that at some point.

Anyway, here are the picks for Week 2. Will we see another week of perfect parity?

Monday, September 11, 2006

Gaming Addiction?

I must admit, when I first read this article, which claims that 40% of World of Warcraft players are addicted, I thought it was pretty silly. Sounded to me like just an attempt at grabbing headlines by Dr. Maressa Orzack by throwing out some exhorbitant number. Perhaps, I thought, she was hoping to scare parents enough to grow her customer base.

Now I'm not so sure. Since then, the good doctor has backed off a bit on that original number, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that I exhibited the same type of behavior when playing WoW as when smoking.

Perhaps the biggest indicator was when it began to seem like most people you meet that play this game, as soon as they find out you don't play, start backpedalling about just how much they play. Very few people are willing to be completely truthful about the amount of time they spend playing the game, and that's a little creepy.

I can't blame them, I used to do the exact same thing. It wasn't until I actually used a command in the game to check my total playtime that I realized I had flushed a good chunk of life into this thing... in that amount of time I could've been well along on a novel or a number of other far more constructive activities.

I still disagree with the doctor's claim that games are somehow at fault here.. I think the player is far more culpable. But I also think that the biggest step for folks playing this game would be to look honestly at just how much they play the game. When you look at the sum total of time spent, it's an ugly, ugly figure now matter how you justify it.

I don't think people should stop playing the game... after all, it's a REALLY cool game. I just think they should be honest with themselves about how much time they spend playing it. Most of my WoW-playing friends have found ways to strike a good balance with the game (I think), and I think they could provide some very helpful advice on keeping things in perspective much better than I did during my days in Azeroth.

And now, I present to you the Top 10 most depressing things I saw on WoW Detox, a site where people post reasons to stop playing (these are actual testimonials from the site, I cannot attest to their validity):

10) I grew a cyst the size of a melon on my neck due to little movement for the course of a year and a half. Thanks blizzard.

9) i went broke, i gained 300 lbs, my wife left me and stuck me with the kids. i walk with crutches now because my leg muscles are so deteriorated.

8) There is no way to balance a real life and a WoW life. The game is simply ridiculous. The reason to play is to improve a character as much possible. This means extensive and crippling playtime because of the massive timesinks incorporated in the game... I asked myself why should i care about some purple item in a game i despise but deep down inside still want to cling onto it... Some people may have a strong willpower and can balance and minimize playtime, but the game is so damn addicting those are few and far between.Anything ive had going for me in life has pretty much vanished because of this game and life feels pretty damn dull and pathetic and that is a justified reason to quit. I have encountered and experienced alot of addicting things in my life of all natures, but none as destructive as WoW.

7) My friend came over to my graduation party and left early to go raid Molten Core.

6) I have tried quitting many times, not so many as serious as now, I have had to sign over my account to my friend, make him promise never to let me use it, break my cds, uninstall the game, everything, hopefully I do well in school this year, because I bombed last year because of this piece of shit game.

5) Ever heard of 'thrombosis'? I hadn't, until a couple days ago. I write this from the hospital, friends dropped off my laptop.
Basically, sitting in my chair for hours at a time, 5-gallon Sparkletts pee-jar next to me, I developed a clot in the vein of my leg, which moved to my heart and caused a heart-attack that I barely survived. Doctors orders, no more WOW, much more walking and exercise. I just cancelled my account. I want to live to see 30.

4) If you bought WOW when it was released (Nov 23, 2004 - USA) and played continuously until now (Aug 23, 2006), here's an estimation of how much it has cost you: (21 months x $14.99/month) $49.99 for the game = $364.78. Did you ever think you'd pay almost $400 for 1 game?

3) My brother stopped playing it because i shoved a pen through the screen of his lap top after finding out that the reason for him not taking my dying dog to the vet was because of that dumb game.

2) Because my four year old said When are you gonna be off the game?

1) I lost my wife to WoW.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

FAULTY Week 1 Picks

Info on FAULTY here.


Every year I enter an NFL pick 'em league. It's a lot of fun, even when I don't watch any football at all, just because of the characters in the league. It works on a head to head format: there are 32 teams, one for each team in the NFL. Your schedule mimics the team you represent.

For several years now, I have been the Falcon. Or, more precisely, the "Faulty" Falcon, in that I have the unerring ability to turn the most obvious game of the week into the upset of the week by virtue of my picking them. It got so bad one year that I started writing a column now and again, putting my "lock of the week" on display only to see it come crashing down week in and week out.

This year, however, a number of factors have conspired to keep me from paying enough to attention to the NFL to make educated picks of any kind. I've been watching a lot of soccer since the World Cup, plus the Phils are in the playoff hunt, and I like both of those sports better than the NFL.

So since my picking ability seems pretty random anyway, why not make it as truly random as possible?

Now, random number theory is interesting stuff as it relates to computers. Obviously, computers aren't any good whatsoever at producing random results. In fact, they're designed to do exactly the opposite. So in order to produce near random results, mathematicians have come up with some interesting algorithms that computers can use.

However, these algorithms all rely on a seed number to produce their results... a starting point for the rest of the equation to work with. If you use the same seed number twice, you'll get the same "random" number. So a random number algorithm is only as good as the method by which you obtain your seed number.

In most cases, programmers will just use something like the system clock, since it is going to be different every time. Although good enough for government work, this is not a real great way to do things because the time is predictable, making your "random" results predictable.

So people have come up with all kinds of weird ways to produce "entropy", the unordered stuff from which precious randomness can be gleaned. People have done some neat stuff using things like lava lamps to produce entropy.

In my case, I decided to go with, which uses the following approach (from website):

A radio is tuned into a frequency where nobody is broadcasting. The atmospheric noise picked up by the receiver is fed into a Sun SPARC workstation through the microphone port where it is sampled by a program as an eight bit mono signal at a frequency of 8KHz. The upper seven bits of each sample are discarded immediately and the remaining bits are gathered and turned into a stream of bits with a high content of entropy. Skew correction is performed on the bit stream, in order to ensure that there is an approximately even distribution of 0s and 1s.

Yeah. Whatever, sounds pretty random to me.

Using a quick little .NET script, I make repeated HTTP requests to, getting some seed numbers, all in the eventual pursuit of a 1 or a 2 (or, more accurately, up to 16 ones and twos) to make my picks.

I call the little app "F.A.U.L.T.Y.", or the "Falcon's Automated and Unnecessarily Lengthy Teaminator for Yeager" (props to my coworker for the assist on the acronym).

Ah yes, technology and the NFL. What could possibly go wrong?

Edit: I've actually added a simple XML config file, which can contain a schedule of play. You can enter what week you want to get the picks for and it will spit them out in a nice format. Hmm... I probably should stop wasting time on this.

Monday, September 04, 2006

US Open

With my fiance's mom in town, we made plans to go the US Open in Flushing, New York yesterday.

Let me start off by saying that the experience was pretty fun, overall.
Let me follow that up by saying I am unlikely to ever do it again.

First off, you can't actually drive and park at the US Open. The place is a private tennis club most of the year, and only has enough parking for a few hundred people. So when the US Open rolls around, you've really got no choice but to take mass transit.

NYC is a hike on mass transit if you live in Wilmington and don't want to take the Accela (which you usually don't unless work is paying for it). So it took us about 4 hours each way to make it there by driving to Trenton, taking the much cheaper Northeast Corridor train on NJ Transit, and then hopping on the 7.

Well, the NYC transit system is pretty good, but even it was having trouble accommodating the sheer volume of people going to not just the US Open, but a parade happening at the same time.

When we got there, we had to get right back into another line because you could not bring a backpack onto the grounds. I am told that this is stated clearly on the website, but I don't see it even after the fact. So it's right into another hour long line to check our backpack. So much for that bright idea.

At around noon now, with the coveted Agassi match already an hour old, I am finally out of that line with my bag claim ticket and ready to enter. Meanwhile, Julie and her mom have been standing in ANOTHER line because they have purses, which also need to be searched.

We finally sit down at 12:30, a full HOUR AND A HALF after we arrived at the place. It has taken us a full five and a half hours to actually see tennis.

So anyway, I got a sunburn and saw Agassi's somewhat... uh... "soft" retirement speech, and also saw Roddick win. As the evening rolled around I was excited about seeing Serena, but as I looked around I realized that the stadium was really only half full.

One of the things they do is split the matches into "morning" and "evening" sessions. Now because of the last two days of rain, we got to see an extra match. But 38,000 people were standing outside waiting to get in starting at 7 PM for the evening session, while Serena is playing to a half empty crowd in Arthur Ashe. But no, they stubbornly wait until the match is over at about 7:30, and then ask everyone to exit so they can clean the stadium before the "evening" matches begin (it looked pretty dark to me during the Serena match).

At any rate, when we finally got out of there (after waiting in ANOTHER line to get the backpack), it was about 8 PM and there were 38,000 people STILL waiting to get in. It was quickly turning ugly.

It was altogether the most poorly organized professional sporting event I have ever seen.

I understand that they had a lot of matches to play, and it was probably a logistical nightmare trying to accommodate people who had tickets the previous two days, but altogether I'm just not sure this facility should be hosting an event as big as the US Open. It's probably just as good or better than Wimbledon or any of the other major hosts, but still, it was a mess.

In the end I had fun (despite almost passing out early on due to heat), but the whole thing smacked of New York City-syndrome to me: "you'll put up with this shit because we're New York dammit, and we're better than you."