Saturday, March 31, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

Whew. What a Saturday.

I started working at 9am and finished at approximately 7:30

Here's what Mrs. Nasty and I have been doing:

  • We planted new flowers--mainly perennials.
  • I put new mulch in almost all of the flower beds at the homestead: the front/east side flower bed, the new flower bed by the fence that I created in the fall, the semicircular flower bed around the back patio, and the slim bed that has prairie grasses in the backyard. 
  • Sure, that might not sound impressive, but the mulching entailed 36 bags.
  • That's three trips to Rural King.
  • A bag of brown mulch costs $3.29 there.
  • I planted three bell pepper plants (red, orange, and green), four collard greens, a mess of potatoes, and dill weed.
This whole deal today has me thinking about my buddy Foz who is getting married soon. From what I hear, his bride is moving into his house in South City after they get hitched. Carnac sees lots of painting, yard work, and home improvement projects in his future. 

When we go on bike rides, toward the end when he's tired, my son likes to describe his tiredness in this way: "My legs are crying." My body is crying. 

After reading Scott Page's The Difference, I've been thinking a lot about how groups of people work or don't work effectively together. One specific concept I've been thinking about is "groupthink." That is dangerous stuff.

Related to groupthink, I read an article in the March issue of The Atlantic called "Why Companies Fail." It mainly focuses on GM. But these statements are food for thought:
  • "Even a dysfunctional culture, once well established, is astonishingly efficient at reproducing itself. The UCLA sociologist Gabriel Rossman told me, 'If new entrants assimilate to whatever is the majority at the time they enter, and if new entrants trickle in slowly, then the founding culture can persist over time, even if over the long run they make up a tiny minority.'"
  • "To paraphrase an old joke: 'How many experts does it take to turn around a big company? Only one--but the company has to really want to change.'"
This comic might be related. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Music Friday: "Don't Let It Bring You Down" Times Three

As many of my friends know, I'm a big fan of Neil Young. And the song featured today is on of my favorite albums of his, After the Gold Rush.

It's hard to beat the original, but I found the covers by Cowboy Junkies and Chris Cornell to be good renditions, so I'm sharing those too.

And if you're a fan of Cowboy Junkies, they released a new album on Tuesday. It's entitled Wilderness. From what I learned from Paste's review of the recent album, the new album is part four of the band's four-part Nomad Series. From the description of the four parts, I think I might have to pick up volume 3 because it's described as "the fuzzy, raucous one."

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Thoughts on the Cubs

Today a reporter from the Chicago Sun-Times related that both the Braves and Nationals have inquired about trading for centerfielder Marlon Byrd. He's under contract this year for $6.5 million but will be a free agent after this season. I doubt the Cubs' brass will be able to get much for Byrd, who is a decent third/fourth outfielder for a club.

However, when he gets dealt this season--and there's really no if related to that prospect--it should be interesting. Do they deal him now and plug in Campana, Mather, and Johnson while Brett Jackson waits to get called up? Or it's possible they wait a while to ship out Byrd, who seems like a stand-up guy by all accounts, later in the season if a contending club is more desperate due to injuries and/or underachievement. They're not going to get much for Byrd right now, I think, so I suspect they'll take their time.

Interestingly, the two teams that have inquired about Byrd is telling. Both of these NL East teams sense significant weakness from the Phillies with Utley having knee problems and Howard still out with his injury.

But back to the Cubs.

I wrote about the team's possible 2012 starting lineup previously.

But here's what I think it'll look like at the end of the season:
Starting Lineup:
1. Brett Jackson (CF)
2. David DeJesus (RF)
3. Starlin Castro (SS)
4. Anthony Rizzo (1B)
5. Geovany Soto (C)
6. Ian Stewart (3B)
7. Alfonso Soriano (LF)
8. Darwin Barney (2B)

Starting Rotation:
1. Matt Garza
2. Ryan Dempster
3. Paul Maholm
4. Chris Volstad
5. Jeff Samardzija

Closer: Kerry Wood
Set-Up Man: Some Dude
Set-Up Man: Some Dude

The two players who I'm tempted to take out of the lineup are Soriano and Garza. The Cubs openly fielded offers for Garza in the off-season, so it's a strong possibility they'll deal him if the prospects they get in return are worth it. 

As for Soriano, they obviously want to deal that albatross of a contract, but whether he leaves depends on how much the organization is willing to eat of the crazy-ass contract that clown Hendry inked him to. 

I'm also thinking the Cubs deal Marmol. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

Lately, I've been thinking that I need to go back through all of my posts over the years and label them like many other blogs do, but when confronted with that many posts, it's clear I need to have some kind of regimen to do this: labeling while watching baseball or while the kids watch some silly sit-com on the Disney channel. It'll take a while, so I've already started.

For part of last week, I spent time in downtown St. Louis for a conference. Even though the Nasty family (sans El Nino) spent five years in StL, I didn't spend much time downtown. I've visited many downtowns of metro areas over the years, and St. Louis showed itself pretty well. It's not New Orleans (one of my favorite big conference destinations), but we had good weather, and the city is a heck of a lot more affordable than conferences at Disney, San Francisco, NYC, and others.

On the flip side of the positives of St. Louis, my buddy woke to find the passenger side window of his car shattered and his cell phone stolen from his car on Saturday morning. Smash and grab crime, StL style.

I've been going to the aforementioned conference for so long that I recognize people I've seen multiple times even though I don't know them. Here's a sampling of my inner thoughts:
  • "There's the guy with an eye patch."
  • "Seriously lady, a beret?"
  • "Wow, he's lost weight."
  • "Here he comes. And watch the sucking up ensue."
  • "She's supposed to be so great, but every presentation I've gone to of hers is lackluster at best." 
  • "Don't notice me [I don't want to talk to him.]. Don't notice me [I don't want to talk to him.]. Just walk quietly."
  • "There he is: the grizzled ex-hippy dude from California." 
  • "She's really working that I'm originally from the West thang--the boots, the blouse, etc." 
I think my lawnmower is dying or perhaps even is dead. I spent most of yesterday outside. I mowed the front lawn for a short time. Then the mower sputtered out on me as I was cutting some high grass. It wouldn't start. I cleaned a filter. It wouldn't start. So I decided to whack weeds. I tried to start the lawnmower--repeatedly. It wouldn't start--repeatedly. I decided to check the spark plug. It looked nasty, so I went to Rural King and got a new one. I installed a new spark plug. It started. I cut the back yard, which is well fertilized by dog scat, on a high setting and then moved to my regular setting. I almost got the lawn done, but the lawnmower died. It wouldn't start. I threw my hat in disgust. My son laughed at me. Then I helped Mrs. Nasty and the kids weed and rake the front flower beds. The kids and I took the bags of leaves and sweet gum balls to the dump. We got back. I tried to start it again. I wouldn't start. We went for a bike ride and visited the park. We came back. I tried to start it. It wouldn't start. I finished the job with my old push and reel mower. 

Deep Thought: The grass is always greener on the other side, but that's just where the dogs shit.

One of my favorite lines from the new Todd Snider is this one from "Big Finish": "It ain't the despair that gets you. It's the hope." 

Friday, March 23, 2012

Music Friday: "Parted Ways" & "Got to Have Rock and Roll"

In Scott E. Page's fine book, The Difference: How the Power of Diversity Creates Better Groups, Firms, Schools, and Societies, he quotes Robert Wright's account of how two famous scientists (can't remember their names right now) with different perspectives did groundbreaking work. Wright's statement is that "here is a case where one plus one equals twelve."

In the case of the album Arrow by the Heartless Bastards, there's similar funny math going on with that work.

Have a good weekend, folks.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Music Friday: "If I Wanted Someone"

I wanted to provide a video of a Delta Spirit song off of the band's new album, but I didn't find any good ones that relate to the new album.

Instead, I offer a song from Dawes' latest album since Dawes is linked with Delta Spirit via Middle Brother.

The song by Dawes, recorded in an alley in Chicago, reminds me of Neil Young, who the band is influenced by.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Fantasy Red Herrings

Since I know some readers of this blog are my comrades who will draft players in our fantasy baseball league next Saturday, I thought I'd return to a post about players that GMs might want to target for the upcoming season.

But my fellow GMs might think this document is simply a list of red herrings.

Maybe players on it are.

Maybe players on it aren't.

Regardless, here are players to target or low risk/high reward players for 2012.

First Base: Edwin Encarnacion, Toronto Blue Jays
He was on the Fantasy Red Herrings post a year ago. You can't hold a good Edwin down. The Jays didn't acquire anyone to take his spot in the lineup in the off season, so he'll fill in at first base and play mostly DH. Oh, and by the way, he also qualifies at 3B.

Second Base: Aaron Hill, Arizona Diamondbacks
In 2009 he hit 36 home runs and had 108 rbi. Then there were steep declines in production in '10 and '11, and he got shipped off to the land of cacti and retirees. His numbers with the D'backs in '11 was the following: 33 games played, 23 runs, 2 home runs, 16 rbi, 5 stolen bases, and an OBP of .386. Getting out the AL East will certainly help him, and that OBP is very surprising. He won't sustain that number in '12, but it's plausible Hill reverts to his mediocre OBP from '09, .330.

Shortstop: Jason Bartlett, San Diego Padres
See Aaron Hill's story above. Well, sort of. Bartlett had a solid '09 campaign, a wretched '10 season, and rebounded a bit in '11 with the Fathers. He's a decent pick in the late rounds if you didn't get a solid SS earlier in the draft.

Third Base: Chone Figgins, Seattle Mariners
This little fellow has .215 BABIP last year when the average BABIP in MLB was somewhere around .290 or so. Since Ichiro hit leadoff, they asked Figgins to hit in a spot in the lineup he's not comfortable with. This year Ichiro will hit in the three spot for the first time in his career with Figgins going back to leading off. That bodes well. 

Catcher: Russell Martin, New York Yankees
For the first time in a while, I had a Yankee on my team last year, and it was a guy who had a career year, Curtis Granderson. It's not that I have a prejudice against drafting Yankees, it's just that usually the ones I want are taken before I can select them. Martin, if I remember right, is a free agent after this year, and he plays half of his games in Yankee Stadium. Sounds like a career year to me. Remember how Jose Reyes did in his walk year? 

Outfield: Carlos Quentin, San Diego Padres
I know. I know. He's going to play half of his games in Petco where power hitters go to get psyched out. All of the other GMs know this, so they don't want to select him. You select him in a late round, he stays healthy for most of the year, and knocks maybe 20 home runs over the season for a paltry draft investment. Best case scenario, yes. But you never know.

Starting Pitcher: Ryan Dempster, Chicago Cubs
The projections I'm using predict these numbers for him for '12: 187Ks, 4.08 ERA, 1.36 WHIP. Whoever had him on their teams last year got abused by some of those horrible, horrible outings. Just brutal really. But the guy still provides solid K numbers as he has throughout his career. 

Relief Pitcher: Sean Marshall, Cincinnati Reds
To this day, I think Marshall never got a fair shot at being a starting pitcher with the Cubs. My hypothesis is that he slept with or insulted Piniella's wife early in his career in Chicago. Nevertheless, he has turned out to be a solid relief pitcher and could slip into the closer's job if Madson implodes. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Random Notes from a Crank

We're down here in Florida for spring break. On Monday we were at Disney. We took in Hollywood Studios and a bit of the alleged Magic Kingdom. The highlight of that day was my son and daughter being part of the Padawan training associated with the Star Wars part of Hollywood Studios park. They got trained to be Jedi warriors and then took on Darth Vader.

My daughter was up first. She did the moves as instructed. My son, on the other hand, "freestyled" as his trainer described it.  He must really hate Darth. He went after him. 

After about three hours into our time at the Magic Kingdom, the kids were tired. So were we. They wanted to go back to the condo and swim instead of deal with all those people at Disney during spring break. I concurred. Concur I did. Verily.

I'm worried about my garden. On Friday I planted two rows of shallots (one from seed, the other from sets), a row of spinach, a row buttercrunch lettuce, and a row or red Romaine. From what I gather from the InterWebTube, it's been unseasonably warm in central IL. That wouldn't be a big deal, but I'm not there to keep the newly planted seeds moist. Sure hope there's been rain. 

This season I tested whether I could keep my flat leaf parsley in the ground and have it come back in the spring just like my chives do. The parsley did fine. I could go pick some now if I were there. 

I have a hunger for raw oysters. I will satiate it soon.

After finishing Kevin Young's Ardency a while back, I started into Sherman Alexie's old collection, The Business of Fancydancing, but didn't bring it with me, unfortunately. But I've got plenty of other stuff I need to read anyway.

I'm gearing up for my fantasy baseball draft next Saturday. Projected WHIP, K rates, OBP, homeruns, and RBI along with last year's BABIP, these are on my mind every once in a while. 

Maybe I'll do another Fantasy Red Herrings post for the schmohawks out there.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Music Friday: "D.B. Cooper" & "Precious Little Miracles"

This Tuesday Todd Snider's new album, Agnostic Hymns & Stoner Fables, came out. I'm sure it'll be good. His stuff always is.

To commemorate the release of the new work, I offer one of my favorite songs of his, "D.B. Cooper," which is on the Happy To Be Here album.

And then here's a song off the new album.

His interview in Salon is worth a read too.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Music Friday: "Get On The Bus"

Lean Forward by The Bottle Rockets is one heck of a straightforward rock-n-roll album. There isn't a bad song on it.

Leave it to these fellows to do an ode to public transportation.

I've never seen these guys play live yet, but I need to.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Stay Positive: Words and Phrases of Note

To sort of mimic "My Favorite Things," below is a list of some of my favorite words and phrases.

Many are everyday words. Some are not. Others are important concepts.

If you'd like to share some of your favorites on the list or ones not on it, please do so in the comments section.

The List
Ars est celare artem.
Internal Motivation
Minnesota Summer
Soul Butter
Uff da
Work Ethic