Thursday, February 28, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

I spent most of my work day writing and responding to emails and then had a meeting. They never told me about this @#$% in grad school.

My kids are really enjoying the Eels album Wonderful, Glorious, especially the tunes "Kinda Fuzzy" and "Open My Present." My five-year old enjoys the lyric of "I'm feeling kind of fuzzy, but you know I'm all right." And both of the kids like lip syncing to the whole second song, especially "I wanna open my present. Well, I'm a good boy. I behaved myself. I've been patient in waiting so long. Waiting any longer just feels wrong. I know it's great. I just can't wait. It's right in front of me. I can't stop thinking about it. What's the harm in letting me go no longer living without it?"

I'm looking forward to baseball season. March is here, and spring training is well underway. My Cubs, well, they have no shot at a playoff berth. Signing Edwin Jackson was a strange move from my perspective. I suspect Soriano will get moved sooner rather than later, and unless Garza is in the ball club's long-term plans, he might get traded. Heck, he almost got traded last off season. Regardless, I haven't been to Wrigley in a long time. This summer might be a good time to visit. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

I got the picture below from the InterWebs. I'm having a hard time interpreting the comma and what comes after the comma in the description of this sandwich:

I'm not a huge potato chip kind of guy, but the Sriracha flavored Lay's they're test marketing right now could persuade me to browse that aisle when I visit the grocery store. 

I've gotten back into watching episodes of The Simpsons again. I used to watch that show religiously. In the rerun episode I watched Sunday night, one of my favorite characters, Grandpa Simpson, related this bit of wisdom: "Unfortunately, like all true stories, this one has a crappy ending." Abe, you speak to my troubled soul. 

And then there's Krusty in the same episode as he's starting to tell a joke and then he realizes his audience is kids, "So, Lady Godiva gets a haircut, right ... KIDS!!!"

I plan to watch this new show The Americans, but I keep getting caught up in other programs and whatnot. Mrs. Nasty says it's really good, so the show has a good character reference so far. I might finally get to it this week. I like the concept -- Russian spies living in America during the 80s. I like some good historical fiction, especially if it's set in the 80s. I've been searching for a new drama to get caught up in.  

I watch Iron Chef America on a fairly regular basis, and many of these chefs use quail eggs. Where are they getting quail eggs? I've never had one. I've had quail a couple of times, but that was the natural effect of being around people who hunt. But these rich folks, they're crazy about the quail eggs. 

My Monday morning began with me accidentally breaking my wireless mouse as I tried to remember how to replace the battery. [sad trombone] Good times. 

Friday, February 22, 2013

Music Friday: "Lord Mr. Ford"

Last weekend, the Nasty family took a trek to the local megamart to buy something -- I don't remember exactly what. Nevertheless, in the bargain bins near the electronics section, there were two bins full of CDs offering them at five bucks apiece. 

I found a good one amongst the detritus of hits past. The CD is a greatest hits compilation from Jerry Reed. The title is simple: Country.

He just does that genre, not the other genre, which we all know is "Western." 

Anyway, the CD is fun. I know most of the songs, but I don't recall ever hearing "Lord Mr. Ford," Reed's social commentary on pollution and materialism. 

The video of the song below features Reed playing the song with his band and the obligatory dancing girls of the time period in a setting that looks like Hee Haw. 

Except I don't think it's Hee Haw. My parents and I watched Hee Haw when I was a kid, and that doesn't look like Hee Haw to me. It's a facsimile that aspires to the apex that is Hee Haw quality. Close ...  but no corncob pipe.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Fantasy Red Herrings

Here's the the third annual installment of my Fantasy Red Herrings post. Like I did in '12 and '11, I'm providing my usual intro before the good stuff...

Since I know some readers of this blog are my comrades who will draft players in our fantasy baseball league in March, I thought I'd 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 2013: 

First Base: What a loaded position. First base is usually the deepest position in fantasy baseball, and this season offers no exception. A lot fantasy pundits are puffing up the prospects of Goldschmidt, Rizzo, Freeman, and Edwin Encarnacion, a guy I picked two years in row for my Red Herring posts. I'm kickin' it old school with this pick: David Ortiz. That's right, Big Papi. He's not a first baseman by trade, but he qualifies as one. And that's all that matters. We can expect 30 HRs and an OBP around .380. He's a nice guy to select when your competitors have overlooked him because their draft magazines rank him low lower than they should have because he's a DH in reality, not fantasy. 

Second Base: It's not long ago that Chase Utley was a easy first round draft pick. He did everything well: high OBP, homers, rbi, runs, stolen bases. He's had a rough time of it the last few years, but last year's line drive rate of 21.4% and a .261 BABIP point toward a strong 2013 season if he stays healthy. If. A 20/20 season is probable.

Shortstop: Consider this profile. There's a strong player at a shallow position who plays half of his games in a hitter's ball park. He has speed. He can steal bases. As the position goes, his OBP is fine. And he's only 24. The only problem is that his manager continues to have him hit second in the order. Say hello to Elvis Andrus, everybody.  

Third Base: I'm a bargain hunter. I like finding good values. Mrs. Nasty calls me cheap, but I call myself frugal. Transition to fantasy baseball. I like finding good players on mediocre and bad and small market teams. If it would make sense, I'd love to have my roster full of Padres, Twins, Royals, Mariners, Mets, Cubs, Pirates, Marlins, Astros, Rockies, et al. Boy, my pitching staff would really stink, wouldn't it? But anyway, introducing Kyle Seager, the fellow who mans the hot corner for Seattle. He could produce 15 steals, 20some home runs, and decent rbi numbers this season. And he qualifies at second base. 

Outfielder: This one goes out to all the middle-aged men out there. Someone has to care about us. Like I still believe I can do the same things I did when I was in my twenties, I still believe in you, Ichiro. You may be 39. You may have lost a step. You may have an OBP that has plummeted over the last few years. But heck, dude, you hit .322 as a Yankee and .338 in Yankee Stadium last year. Runs scored and stolen bases were always your game. Expect at least mid-80s in runs and mid-30s in stolen bases this season. I still believe. 

Catcher: When I look at the choices at catcher this year, it's a surprisingly deep position. When Brian McCann, a guy in his walk year if I remember correctly, isn't even on most pre-draft top ten lists for catcher, something has changed. I have a hard time believing he's not going to have a good season this year. He's only 29 and will hit twentysome homers for your team. He's a nice pick if you're punting catcher to the later rounds on draft day. 

Starting Pitcher: If I could do it, I would stream every Padre starter when they start at Petco. I don't care if they're moving the fences in a bit. Take the case of Clayton Richard. Last season his ERA was 2.82 at home. His road ERA was 5.08.  

Closer: Picking a closer is like playing roulette. Even if you select a top tier dude, you never know. Bad odds. I'm picking Casey Janssen purely on the idea that the Blue Jays should be an improved ball club. Playing in the AL East will put them in close games, I think? But you have to be concerned about Sergio Santos happily lurking (below). If you pick Janssen, a handcuff is in order.  

Friday, February 15, 2013

Roster Tendencies

Just for the heck of it, I recently looked through the rosters of all of my fantasy baseball teams. I've been playing since '01, and it was interesting to remember what dudes I had representing my glorious franchise that started in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, moved to Valley Park, Missouri, moved again to South City, and now resides in Charleston, Illinois.

I noticed some patterns in my rosters. 

As much as some fantasy baseballers like to think they pick players based on projections and hard numbers, we all gravitate toward certain guys. Admit it. 

Of course, looking at the final rosters of all of my teams from '01 to '12 is a flawed methodology because it doesn't account for trades, who I actually drafted, etc., but going any deeper just seems like work. 

Regardless here are some patterns and tendencies I've observed. If the self-reflection is too much for you, then get your own blog, damn it. 

Here are guys I've had on my teams quite often:
  • Roy Halladay
  • Aramis Ramirez
  • Adam Dunn

The first guy has been arguably the best pitcher in baseball for the last twelve years, and I love strong starting pitchers. Even though Halladay's last season was forgettable, he has been consistent in providing strong ERA and WHIP metrics complemented by high numbers in Ks and Wins. What's not to like about that?

And then there's Aramis Ramirez. My league is full of St. Louis Cardinals fans, so Aramis was usually undervalued on draft days. I got him at good value because he played for the Cubs. 

Sure, Adam Dunn strikes out a lot. Don't matter. Sure, Adam Dunn typically has a pathetic batting average. Don't matter. My league goes by OBP. Besides the dumpster fire of his '11 season, he'll hit high thirtysome homers and provide strong RBI numbers each season. 

Here are some other players I've also had on my rosters quite often:
  • Brian Giles
  • John Lieber
  • Mike Mussina
  • Jose Reyes
  • John Smoltz
  • Frank Francisco
  • Matt Garza
  • Zack Greinke
  • Tommy Hanson

With Giles, he was great for a time when he played with the Pirates. He provided a strong OBP, and I had both Giles and Aramis in '01 when they batted third and fourth in that crappy order Pittsburgh rolled out. And both players earned rings, fantasy baseball rings that is. 

I always liked Lieber, and I could usually get him cheap on draft day. He didn't strike out a lot of people, but he provided solid WHIP numbers.

Mussina was a player I always liked to watch pitch, so when I got the chance, I tried to get him on my team. If I remember right, he had a pitch he called a "knuckle-curve." How awesome is that. 

I went through a couple of years ('05 and '06) where I had the SS position nailed down with Reyes there. That is an aberration for me because I usually run through shortstops on my teams because I tend to draft them late. For example, Pete Kozma earned a ring in '12. 

I had Smoltz on my team two or three times, and I remember a couple of drafts where people drafted him right before I wanted to. Solid and consistent, Smoltz was a great pitcher. 

I've had Francisco on my team a number of times, most vividly when he was a set-up man for Texas and when he played for Toronto. I believe in that dude for reason. 

I might as well lump Greinke, Garza, and Hanson together because they're starting pitchers. The first two typically go deep into games and have emotional issues. Hanson, on the other hand, has tremendous stuff but has had injury problems. I keep putting him on my team and thinking, "This is going to be the year." 

Music Friday: "Bombs Away" & "Peach Blossom"

Probably the best new album I've purchased this year is Wonderful, Glorious by the Eels. 

I've featured this band before, and if you've followed their recent work, before the current release, they created a trilogy of albums that is quite good. Each album has a theme:

  • Hombre Lobo ~ Desire
  • End Times ~ Loss
  • Tomorrow Morning ~ Redemption

Below are videos of two songs on the new album. Both connect to my moods this afternoon. 

I went into the office this morning after dropping off the kids to do some work. I was finished by 11 and went home to install the cabinet above the toilet in our half-bath we just remodeled. 

Days ago when I first tried to install it, I had trouble with the wall anchors and screws. It was frustrating. This morning I tried it again, and they did the same damn thing they did previously ~ anchors not staying in the wall correctly, which makes the mounting bracket not be secure. 

I tried it again. Same deal. Madness. 

Curse words yelled at inanimate objects, invective lobbed at the manufacturer of the product, these were the sounds inside my house around 11:20 am. 

I went to the hardware store again to get bigger anchors to see if those will work. I returned home and tried it all again ~ curse words yelled at inanimate objects, invective lobbed at the manufacturer, the dog scared and hiding out in my son's room. 

I returned to the hardware store yet again to find a solution. A gentleman who works at Ace asked if I needed any help. I responded with an emphatic yes and told him the situation. I showed him the manufacturer's anchor and screw, and he asked a great question about the weight of the cabinet. He then directed me toward the same anchor I had used before, which initially raised ire inside me, but then he said the manufacturer should have provided a fatter screw. 

I bought the new-old anchors and the new screws, went home, and installed the damn thing with no problems. Kudos to you Ace worker. Kudos. 

So below are "Bombs Away" & "Peach Blossom" that signify part of my day so far. 

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Worst Contracts in MLB

As the dead season of sports rolls on for me, I'm of course doing research for my fantasy baseball draft. But I heard about a column about the worst MLB contracts on Chicago sports radio today when I was taking the kids to school. The talk show host mentioned it, but I had to get to work before I could hear what they had to say. 

Here it is, "The Worst 15 Contracts in Baseball" by Jonah Keri. 

And here are some my favorite snippets from the article: 

  • On Marmol: "Even teams who believe in the mystique of the Proven Closer probably wouldn't touch Marmol at this point."
  • On Soriano: "If Jason Kubel is available for $7.5 million a year (and not exactly attracting an army of suitors), what chance does Soriano have at two and a half times that number?"
  • On Pujols: "He was a four-win player in 2012, and even in this pumped-up market, you don't pay someone $25 million a year until a player's early 40s when you're starting at that level. Sure, the Dodgers could always trade for Pujols and make him their new shortstop/no. 3 starter/clubhouse attendant. More likely, he'll be the Angels' burden to bear, a still-very-good but basically unmovable player who'll put a strain on one of the hardest-to-strain team revenue streams in baseball."
  • On Dunn: "If you're going to pay an offense-only player $15 million a year in that climate, he'd better be Babe Ruth crossed with Rickey Henderson crossed with a St. Bernard puppy who brings you neck-barrels of Cristal."
  • On Uribe: "Dodger no. 3. We said that we wouldn't pick on the Greg Dobbses of the league for this list, and you could argue that Dobbs might actually offer more value to a major league club as a lefty pinch-hitter and occasional spot starter than Uribe does with … whatever it is that he does."
  •  On Wells: "Someday, hundreds of years from now, our highly evolved, gigawatt-obsessed successors will occupy their daily lives trying to answer the one unanswerable question of the universe: What could have possibly possessed Tony Reagins to trade Mike Napoli for $84 million worth of Vernon Wells?"

Friday, February 8, 2013

Music Friday: "Midnight on the Interstate," "Alone," & "Walt Whitman"

In possibly what has become a foolish consistency, here goes another Music Friday that features an  album on my Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2012 post.

That album is Stars and Satellites by Trampled By Turtles.  

Here's the opening track on the album.

And now a video of the second song on the album, "Alone."

And to close, here's the third song on the album, "Walt Whitman." It was filmed at the studios of the St. Louis community radio station KDHX.

There are eight other songs on Stars and Satellites. Check it out.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Random Notes from a Crank

What you see above is our half-bath off of our bedroom. Over the past couple of weekends, Mrs. Nasty and I renovated it. We have a pretty good process. She reads the directions, and we both do stuff with me doing a fair bit of the grunt work, which is perfectly fine. If something goes wrong, guess who didn't follow directions? 

As usual with home improvement, ripping out the old crud is fun. We took out the old sink and vanity and got rid of inefficient toilet. The first part of the process was laying the flooring, which was really quite easy. We used Allure flooring that looks like wood. We had a whole box of it left over from when we had a guy lay it in our kitchen and dining room. The main tool you need is a good utility knife. And patience. We put in a new toilet. Mrs. Nasty painted the walls a chocolate brown, which I like referring to as "sexual chocolate" if you get that reference from Coming to America. Then it came time install trim and quarter round, which was a new experience for us. I got to use a miter saw, and Mrs. Nasty is particularly good at using a coping saw for corners. We bought the sink and vanity at Home Depot for a good deal back in mid-January, so we had that already. Mrs. Nasty installed the faucet, and we got that ready this past weekend. We had originally thought we could connect the supply lines and p-valve below the sink, but after lining everything up to where the pipes and supply lines should connect, we obviously needed longer supply lines since the new vanity is taller than the old one. In addition, I looked at the plumbing parts we purchased. We looked at what was below the sink. Then we thought, "Why don't we just pay a professional to do that?" So today the plumber came and hooked it all up correctly. Victory. Now it's on to new flooring, trim, and a new vanity and sink in the main bath. 

Last week I reread the graphic novel Watchmen, a damn fine work that really exemplifies the nuclear paranoia during the Cold War. I'm pretty sure I read it back when it came out. And it's just a good story -- with superheroes. A few years back, I overheard some folks talking about the movie made from the novel, and they were dogging on the film. Now that I've read the book again and having recently watched the film, I thought the movie adaptation was quite good. Whenever something moves to film, there are aspects of the original that will get cut, but the film is pretty true to the book. 

Delving back into a graphic novel from the 80s got my mind wandering though...

I wonder what Donna Rice is up to?

It sure isn't "monkey business." 

And what about Fawn Hall

One of my favorite new stories of that era is the fact she shredded documents and took them out of North's office in her dress. Those acts seem like appropriate images for the Reagan administration. 

Can you tell I was an adolescent male in the 80s and I followed political affairs?  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Stay Positive: Reshoring Part II

Last April I did a Stay Positive post about an AP article that details a furniture company bringing jobs back to America. 

A while back in The Atlantic, Charles Fishman wrote about the same phenomenon in his article "The Insourcing Boom." 

Fishman provides the example of GE's appliance plant in Louisville. 

Here are some causes that are significant:

  • Fuel costs for cargo ships are high and are likely to remain expensive.
  • Natural gas costs are "four times as much" in Asia as they are in the U.S.
  • Wages in China are rising.
  • Unions are ready to negotiate lower starting wages than they used to be.
  • "U.S. labor productivity has continued its long march upward, meaning that labor costs have become a smaller and smaller proportion of the total cost of finished goods. You simply can't save much money chasing wages anymore." 

As an MIT-trained engineer notes in the article, "The way we see it, about 60 percent of the companies that offshored manufacturing didn't really do the math. They looked only at the labor rate--they didn't look at the hidden costs." 

And apparently it's not just GE. Fishman notes that Whirlpool brought jobs back to Ohio, Otis reshored elevator production to South Carolina, among others. Hopefully many more will follow. 

What I find additionally interesting is that GE is using input from their front line assembly workers to make the line work more efficiently. Unlike the assembly line gulag Henry Ford established in his River Rouge factory (if you've watched the recent PBS documentary on Ford recently), management is taking input from workers and working with them to make a lean assembly line work smoothly. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Music Friday: "Open," "Patron Saint," & "All the Rowboats"

I ranked Regina Spektor's What We Saw From the Cheap Seats in my Top Ten/Twenty Albums of 2012, but I've never featured her on a Music Friday post. 

So here goes. 

All of the videos are from The Live Room, which are quality performances.