Tuesday, June 17, 2008


Free Willie

Well, the Mets "freed" Willie Randolph from his job as manager.

Sometimes I wonder whether there's always an "inside story" of managers kind of like there is with married couples... when they get divorced I always say, "well, you never really know what goes on between two people."

Though maybe the better analogy is a wealthy playboy who changes his trophy girlfriend whenever he gets tired of the incumbent.

I liked Willie a lot. He didn't strike me as obnoxious and stupid like Dallas Green or hapless and ineffectual like Art Howe. He pulled the levers competently in games, and at least until last year's meltdown, it seemed as though he brought an ethos of hustle to the team.

Was it too much hustle that wore down Jose Reyes? Other than possibly that, I see no performance issues that can be laid on him. Carlos Delgado is aging out fairly normally and has reached a level where he's badly hurting the team, but we're stuck with him and his big contract for now. Carlos Beltran is very, very streaky, but I also think going through a natural age progression of a couple of so-so years after his career year (2006). He's in the trough between the two peaks of his "whale curve," and he'll have one more big year next year or the one after.

The starting pitching is playing at a very unsurprising par. John Maine and Oliver Perez are good but inconsistent #3 starters, Pedro is broken down, Mike Pelfry is figuring it out, and Johann Santana is steady but yields an ungodly number of solo homers -- his 15-13 season last year is probably closer to who he is now than his previous dominating years. It seems to me that the major problem since last year has been massive bullpen inconsistency. Had they blown three fewer saves last year the Mets would have comfortably made the playoffs, and four fewer this year they'd be in second place and 2.5 games out -- and Willie would still be the manager.

As to that, do you blame pitching coach Rick "I Can Fix Zambrano in 10 Minutes" Peterson? Or is it simply that an overperforming bullpen in 2006 and half of 2007 has returned to its statistical norm?

Friday, June 13, 2008


The evening tide

Leaving the high-water midwest for a road trip...

I love departing on a journey in the evening. I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it's the leisurely, rather than rushed, lead-up to the departure in contrast to crack-of-dawn start-outs. Maybe it's the connection to sailing ships, which would often set sail on the evening tide.


We packed the car and then hung out at Grandma Moses coffeehouse for an hour or so, waiting for traffic to die down. Then we headed east, with the sun at our backs. This is a road trip, so we didn't put a great distance behind us before turning in for the night. But sleeping in a strange bed and contemplating the miles before us was enough to make it feel like we'd gotten far away.

Maybe "tide" isn't the best metaphor, since by traveling east, we're leaving the Flooded Flyover States behind. Our area isn't flooded but the water is higher than usual. Those rocks below usually stick above the water by about 3 feet. And that short connecting section of the dock usually slopes sharply down.



Thursday, June 12, 2008


Marriage-saving crossword puzzle twist

B and I do the NYT Xword puzzle together most days, which usually means one of us reads clues and fills in the grid while the other sits across the table. As the reader-writer, when you know the answer immediately, it's sometimes tempting to just write it in rather than read it and give the other a moment to try to get the answer too. As the listener, you feel excluded when the reader-writer yields to that temptation.

The other day, B was the reader-writer, and I suggested that when she knew the answer immediately, she should just write it in, say the word out loud and, without reading off the clue... let me try to guess the clue!

It's a fun bit of reverse crosswordese, in which the game is to test your knowledge of NY Times cluing style.

Example: the answer was "TRANS." It could have been "__ Am" or "__ World Airways" or "Conversion from foreign lang." But my guess -- pretty darn close to exactly right -- was "__ fats."

Adds a little spice, no?

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Bye bye books

My computer literacy moves forward in fits and starts. I'm above average for my age group in some things. On the other hand, it was only yesterday that I first used the resource "Hein Online," a web-based archive with PDF images of something close to every page of every law review ever published.

Previously, I'd either used LEXIS or Westlaw, the two longstanding online legal databases. These are not always the best way to retrieve scholarly legal articles. Their html reformatting is not nearly as readable or visually pleasing as the original published formatting, and they don't reproduce charts and tables. Also, of course, I'd go to the actual books, though it has been some time since I got my butt out of my office and into the library stacks.

When I did that yesterday, I learned that my institution has gotten rid of almost all back issues of legal periodicals predating 1990. (Not actually thrown away, thank goodness, but moved into offsite storage.) Hein Online made the books obsolete, in the library's view. I guess shelf space is too valuable to keep dusty ol' books around.

It's true that I can browse on line and then download and print stuff I "need" to have on paper -- I just don't read with as much comprehension on the computer, and I like to mark up the texts. The latter point meant that I needed to get photocopies of the old law reviews, and now I can just print out downloads much more conveniently (and at the cost of no more trees than photocopies).

But I have great nostalgia for my scholarly immersion experiences of sitting at a carrell deep in the library stacks surrounded by piles of old law reviews. That will never happen again -- not as long as I want to look at pre-1990 stuff, anyhow.

I wonder whether other libraries are actually getting rid of books -- throwing them away. That would be short-sighted. What if in the near future, our society undertakes major energy conservation measures, including placing restrictions on computing time?

I take consolation in thinking that, if the lights go out in a big way, then old legal scholarship won't be very important anyhow.

Monday, June 09, 2008


Flowers for Hillary

What's with all the metaphorical bouquets being thrown by the media at Hillary's feet as she takes her big exit curtain call? It's a little annoying. Usually, this is the winner's moment in the sun. That would be Obama.

Okay, it's an historic campaign where for the first time a woman was a serious presidential contender, she got more votes than "any previous loser," blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.

And it's weekend coverage, so what's the harm?

One problem is that we don't know for sure that Hillary is in fact bowing out gracefully. While she made a more-or-less gracious concession speech (I think -- I couldn't stand listening to much of it), can she in fact support Obama in some suitable way without making an issue of herself? Will an ugly, self-centered wish that Obama loses so that she can then become the 2012 "candidate of inevitability" sprout up through the cracks in her artificial smile? Only time will tell.

A quick review of the facts: Hillary lost my vote for her presidential campaign when, in 2002, she voted to authorize Bush to use force in Iraq and when she refused forever after to admit she made a mistake. Call me superficial, but I think that a voter's disapproval of a candidate's position on the most important issue of the decade is appropriately signaled by voting for someone else.

Not only was Hillary dead wrong in this position, but she also revealed herself as Bill Clinton redux -- an image-driven, poll-driven centrist pol, who will do or say whatever it takes to get into power and then, once there, forget that the whole point was to use that power to do good.

Ironically, Hillary's desperate effort to repackage herself as a tough, hawkish chief-executive-in-waiting -- again, signaled by that 2002 vote -- probably has not won her a single vote. The public perception of her as a liberal feminista -- a perception driving both the votes for and against her -- was probably immovable all along. Her best strategy would have been to stay true to the ideals of her youth.

And now we learn that her much touted "experience" was also hogwash. Her totally botched campaign was driven repeatedly and ultimately off the rails by a motley crew of (1) foxy, unscrupulous types who were not as smart as they think they are and (2) loyal friends who are incompetent political amateurs. Apparently, there was not one authoritative person among them who could tell Hillary the bad news when she needed to hear it. Her apparently terrible executive style did not bode well for the "candidate of experience" to run the White House.

Hillary's long run also symbolized the Democratic Party's self-destructive streak. This is the "perfect storm" for Republicans, the year they cannot possibly win -- they are responsible for (1) an unpopular and ill-conceived war that (2) has sent the economy hurtling into an impending crisis engineered by (3) a president with 25-28% approval ratings.

But Hillary would have been a weak candidate, for all she tried to spin her self-absorbed refusal to quit as toughness. With her unredeemed Iraq war vote and the stinky cloud of questionable financial dealings that trail her and her husband everywhere, she wouldn't have been able to hit hard enough on McCain's two biggest Achilles heels -- the War and his own involvement in the Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s (see the Keating Five), which resonates so powerfully with the current mortgage crisis.

Hillary was the one Democratic candidate that cannot win -- if her campaign mismanagement didn't kill us, her unusually high negatives would have. And we came within a hair's breadth of nominating her! I may not be right about her unelectability -- but thank goodness we'll never know for sure.

Sunday, June 08, 2008


"That information would be useless even if they had tried to get it scientifically"

What my friend DT said in response to the SNY (Mets broadcast station) "In Game Fan Phone-in Poll," which asked: "Do you think Oliver Perez will pitch a good game? (a) yes (b) no."

Saturday, June 07, 2008


Good guess!

I'm trying to book a flight to Denver on United.com. I typed in "Denber" -- note that the "v" and "b" are adjacent on the keyboard.

The web site supposed that I meant: "Dnepropetrovsk Airport, Ukraine."

Friday, June 06, 2008


How much time have you spent handling a Rubik's Cube?

The other day I made up this simile in a conversation about teaching. I was trying to make the point that any teaching problem could be solved.

For example, anything worth teaching in a law school class could be made more interesting and important than in that moment than a game of computer solitaire. Various obstacles to deploying a law school's teaching resources in a way that improves learning -- often viewed as insuperable -- can in fact be overcome.

It's a sort of faith in the existence of a solution, at the outset of tackling a problem. "It's like a Rubik's Cube," I said. "You know there's an answer even if you can't see how to get there. It takes determination and persisitence."

Having said that, I have to admit that I found the Rubik's Cube itself so boring (a tedious process to a very unsatisfying goal) that I estimate I've spent less than 5 minutes of my life handling one.

Thursday, June 05, 2008


I'm badly mismanaging my Netflix queue

This morning, in conversation, I confused my "Saturn return" with "Mercury retrograde." I'm not even sure that I get a Saturn return. How dumb is that?

What I meant to say is that I'm badly mismanaging my Netflix queue.

Last week I got a copy of The Ten, a star-studded collection of vignettes based on the 10 commandments. It was truly awful -- essentially, sketch comedy that was not good enough for SCTV. At least I think so -- I couldn't watch past a minute into the second sketch. How they ever got the likes of Winona Ryder and Liev Schreiber to act in it I don't know.

But the point is: I don't remember ever putting that movie in my queue! Before that, I wound up getting two musical star biopics, Ray and Walk the Line -- have to see 'em because they were well reviewed, but expect to be bored senseless -- in the same shipment! And today, I received Six Feet Under: Season 1, disc 4. That's well enough in its way, except that what I wanted was Season 4, Disc 1!

Is Netflix taking their "based on your interest in __" recommendations a step further than I realized?

Tuesday, June 03, 2008


Wish I'd thought of that one

The Comeback Id. Sweet!

If I had thought that one up, it would be the title to this blog post. But I guess Todd Purdum has put it to better use.

The Clinton campaign's response to the story -- which portrays Bill Clinton as a larger-than-life womanizer who loves jetting around with skanky rich guys between bouts of his explosive temper -- was weirdly, ironically right on the money:
A tawdry, anonymous quote-filled attack piece, published in this month's Vanity Fair magazine regarding former President Bill Clinton repeats many past attacks on him, ignores much prior positive coverage, includes numerous errors, and ultimately breaks no new ground," he added.
Breaks no new ground... we already knew that Clinton was like this!

Frankly, I might be sympathetic to the desire of a man of humble beginnings, who has devoted most of his adult life to public service and is now a late-middle-aged heart-surgery survivor, to kick up some dust before it's too late. True, the conduct is somewhat unseemly in a former president. But what drains away my sympathy is the aspect of his palling around with sleazy businessman political donors while still trying, in some sense, to run the country.

In one way, the Clinton's ongoing political partnership -- he really does want her to have her shot at the White House, it seems -- is kind of touching. I wonder if they'll stay together when her campaign ends?

By the way, isn't there something icky and incestuous about the fact that Purdum is married to Clinton's former press secretary Dee Dee Meyers? (Do you think he's the Tim Busfield character from the West Wing?)

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