Friday, June 29, 2007

Special Day

June 29 is the 1st Anniversary of the marriage of Scot and Tdec.

Some of you were there!

Congratulations to the partners.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Two Enviro-notes

Looks like the Michigan Senate has lost its mind. They've approved a bill which exempts large animal farms -- also known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) -- from most environmental legislation. There's even a Bay City "Democrat", Jim Barcia, supporting the bill. The Bay City Times reports:
"The state Department of Environmental Quality and environmental groups oppose the bills, saying the legislation would give CAFOs a license to pollute.
And the Flint Journal editorial page is against it.

CAFOs are warehouses for animals being grown for food. They don't see the sun much if at all, they are necessarily dirty, they overwhelm the ability of the land to process manure, and often require continuous doses of antibiotics be administered to the animals. Holding these places to environmental standards is a no-brainer. But they have $$$.

The other news is that blueberries are ready early this year in Michigan. As the Kalamazoo Gazette reports:
"The blueberries are ripening, almost two weeks ahead of schedule, as did the strawberries and cherries before them. As a result, cooks may have their pick of all three for July 4 pies."

Yeah, it could just be a one-year blip, a coincidence of favorable rain and warmth. But these blips are happening a lot more often lately.

If you're in MI, write -- no, call -- your representative on this one.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Great Pop Schlock

That Todd Rundgren song "Bang the Drum All Day" always makes me smile. Every time. I think it's the cheesy but exuberant Casio-keyboard-sythesizer sound. iTunes has a variety of remixes, and they all suck.

And yeah, I understand that Rundgren recorded deeper stuff than that. It's catchy, that's all.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The no-hitter: Corrections and further calculations

A comment on my previous post about the chances of throwing a no-hitter poses and excellent question:

"I wonder what percentage of MLB pitching outings turn out to be no-hitters. How close is it to 0.0004%?"

First of all, I made the cardinal error of confusing decimal numbers with percentages... Yikes! I should have said the chances of throwing a no-hitter are actually 0.04%, which is represented as a decimal as 0.0004. Proof I was a liberal-arts major. Mea Culpa. Nevertheless, that's a slim chance.

Anyhow, to answer the question, according to the page I linked to:

"Since 1900, a no-hitter has been pitched 7.5 times for every 10,000 games -- about the same as the probability of pitching a no-hitter against a team of .235 hitters."

There's no date given for the time of that statement, so the numbers might be slightly different now. But if that holds, that would be a 0.075% chance, almost double the quickie estimate based on all batters hitting .250. But the actual overall major-league batting average isn't .235 or even .250. According to Wikipedia, "the league batting average in Major League Baseball for 2004 was just higher than .266, and the all-time league average is between .260 and .275." (The whole Wikipedia article is worth checking out!)

So, let's take the .266 figure and run the calculations again. The chance of a no-hit at-bat would be 73.4%. A no-hit inning:

0.734 * 0.734 *0.734 = 0.3954 or 39.54%

The chance of 9 consecutive no-hit innings is then:

0.3954 to the 9th power = 0.00023 or .023%

Again no-hitters actually occur 0.075% of the time -- that's about three times the statistical probability!!! Why?

Our statistical exercise leaves out all the human factors such as strategy, nerves, mis-matched talent and other wrinkles. Here are some possible reasons why no-hitters, while rare, are more common than pure chance suggests.

-- No-hitters can only be thrown by starters, who are generally better-than-average pitchers.
-- Teams will often "pitch around" or intentionally walk better hitters in a lineup, thus reducing the chances of a hit without affecting the batting average.
-- If you presume that the team working on a no-hitter is in the lead, you can also presume they will play more defensively: Moving infielders back, substituting better fielders from the bench, etc.
-- Truly excellent pitchers can be hot or "on" at certain times. They're simply better than usual, and that extra margin of performance makes them virtually unhittable (as Verlander was on Tuesday). So averages hide "lumpiness" in the data.
-- You might think nerves and pressure would make no-hitters LESS likely to happen than statistical chance suggests... But it could be that batters also feel that pressure. By the 8th or 9th inning, perhaps they feel discouraged... Could the emotion and momentum in a possible no-hitter favor the pitcher?

Any other ideas?

Swinging Birches: "What Are They Thinking?"

Dad has a clever and deep post over at his new blog.

The package has landed

Our Australian branch has arrived safely in Mich. It's a rare thing to have them here two years in a row, but we've got them for a month. The sprouts grow quickly. It seems that they like June in these parts a great deal, except for the mosquites, or "mossies" as they say. But they say it so it rhymes with "Aussies", which they pronounce "Auzzies", so it sounds like "Mauzzies." The penchant for diminutives is a down-under thing. Don't even get me started on "beeries". But I digress...

Anyhow, they want to have about three months of fun in the four weeks they're here. They've already done the tour of Yosemite during their layover in California. I think in Australia, everyone gets 13 months of vacation a year, and is paid in gold bricks. They live 13,000 miles away and they've seen more of our country than I have.

And when they're not here, they're living in Queensland, "where the weather is beautiful one day and perfect the next," as they're proud to tell everyone else. Except that it hardly ever rains there. Which is just a quibble, I suppose.

I'm not jealous or anything.

The No-hitter: A series of unlikely events

The Internet is full of wonderful information. And as everybody knows, all of it is true. That's why I have almost no hesitation to bring you this factoid I found via "":

The statistical chances of a pitcher throwing a no-hitter against a team full of hitters with a .250 average is 0.0004%.

That's based on the premise that a pitcher has a 75% chance of getting each batter out. That works out to a 42% chance of throwing a no-hit inning. Multiply .42 nine times, and you get about 0.0004%. I even checked the math on my own calculator.

It really gives me a new appreciation for Justin Verlander's feat on Tuesday, and explains why these things happen to a team once in a generation. But there's no explanation for why Virgil Trucks threw two no-hitters for the Tigers in 1952 -- he only had 5 wins all year!!!

This calculation doesn't work for perfect games, of course, because batting averages exclude a number of events, such as being hit by a pitch, walks, errors, sacrifice flies, etc.

I got this from a page that appears to be lecture notes from a course syllabus on probabilities, and it includes some interesting factiods on poker, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

I was there

It's still hard to believe, but we were there last night. In person.

Tdec called me about 2:00 yesterday afternoon, and the topic was what to do with our evening. Maybe a movie, we thought, but decided the weather was too nice. Could we squeeze a Tiger game into the budget? Well, if we don't hit the concessions too hard, sure, we thought. Beautiful day for a game, we figured, and surely there would be tickets for a Tuesday-nighter. About 5, we hit the road for Motown.

We debated buying more expensive tickets, but at the Comerica Park box office, we opted for $20 seats in the upper deck behind home plate. We had plenty of time to mill through the crowds, poke into a couple of souvenir shops, and take our seats. Second-to-last row, the way it worked out. We could see every inch of the field and into the home dugout, and even got a bonus breeze sitting so high. Justin's first pitch at 7:05 sharp came under a mostly sunny sky on a breezy 79-degree day.

We downed a couple of mediocre hot dogs and split a big Pepsi. As the game started, it felt like a great slice of Americana -- the perfect day to be there. The first few innings flew by; people were still showing up in the third. It was actually sort of boring until Inge's bullpen-busting homer in the bottom of the third. Verlander looked good, but nobody's thinking "no-hitter" forty minutes into the game.

I started feeling something special in the fifth. The Brewers still couldn't find Verlander's pitches. They were missing wildly, and a lot of their swings looked like they were fishing -- or maybe just trying to slow the ball down. In the sixth, Trase turned to me as if experiencing an epiphany and said, "He's pitching a no-hitter." SHHHHHHH!!!!!! I said. You're probably the only person in the stadium who said it out loud, I teased. "I didn't say nothing," she declared. I guess she got the cat back into the bag, as it were.

The crowd was definitely aware. The buzz continued to build. The 33,555 in attendance were cheering routine grounders like they were Willie Mays basket catches. A woman one section over made a valiant try to get the wave going, but the crowd didn't take her up. She seemed to think we didn't have enough spirit, but the fact was, everyone was too riveted on every pitch to participate in a contrived cheer.

In the ninth, the crowd gave Verlander a long, riotous ovation through his warmup pitches, and stood for every pitch. The clapping and screaming ebbed after each delivery, only to build a little bit more for the next. Somewhere in the middle of the second batter, my heart started really thumping as I dared to believe this might really happen. I remembered Milt Wilcox losing his perfect game with two outs in the ninth. Hell, I just saw a U of M pitcher give up an RBI single in the collegiate Super-Regionals after 8 2/3 innings of no-hit pitching -- going from near-perfection to a loss in the span of three heartbeats. So you start to sort of expect the spell to be broken.

The spell wasn't broken last night. Verlander was unhittable, with a little help from Magglio Ordonez, Sean Casey and yes, even Neifi Perez. The crowd literally went nuts for five minutes. Trase held her face and squealed. People clapped and screamed. Strangers hugged. Folks cried. I started shaking and teared up. It couldn't have happened to a better guy, to a better team. We called my parents, who had no idea we were going to be at the game. They were almost as excited as we were.

We went down to the team store and bought a replica Verlander jersey. Had to do it, even it was $145. Who cares, right? We'll have that forever.

This morning, I've been soaking up the coverage. I'm still jazzed about the whole thing. I've been listening to sports talk, and ESPN, and reading all the papers when I get a chance. There's a good wrap-up of coverage over at Mlive's "Cutoff Man" blog.

They're replaying the game at noon on Fox Sports Detroit. I've got to go now so I can see it again...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

SYCMU: Egg found inside egg

What I really love is the folksy but not condescending tone used by the writer of this story.

Saginaw News: Egg found inside egg

It was more than incredible and edible. Norma E. Bell's egg was multiple.

On Saturday morning, the Thomas Township resident found the beginnings of another shelled egg within her scrambled eggs.

"I started eating and then said, 'What's this?' " said Bell, 81.

Indeed, there was a second egg inside, to the astonishment of Bell and her 82-year-old boyfriend.

The remains of the second egg are now sitting in a cup covered in plastic wrap in Bell's refrigerator. She said she is not sure what she is going to do with it.

It's quite a conundrum, no doubt.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Gardening thoughts

It's getting late to start a vegetable garden, and it would cost some dough, so I think I'll skip it this year. I'll do some work: I need to get rid of the seed bank in our garden plot which springs up so many weeds, so I'll be tilling and pulling in order to get "clean" soil for next year's garden. I'll also tend to my raspberries and apple trees, and I think I'll plant a bunch of asparagus roots to get those established.

Instead of veggies this year, I'm going to focus on my perennials and landscaping. We have inherited some hollyhocks and lilacs, as well as some white pine seedlings.

I have a big spruce which has been topped by storms twice, and I'm inclined to think that's a sign of disease. When the top is broken off, upper branches bend upward to "fill" the spot, but the tree now looks like it's wearing a horned helmet. I think I'll cut down the spruce and put in some nice beds there.

I also want to plant some native trees -- hickory, maple, walnut and oak, as well as those white pines. I want to landscape with native plants mostly, but I intend the area in front of the house to be more "tamed" and ornamental.

Why don't all plants at the nursery have information on where the plant is found natively? That would be great to know.

Surrender Donkeys, revisited

In a comment in reply to the first post, Jon trenchantly asks:

"So, what would you have the Congress do? Continue to pass bills that the President would veto and they don't have the votes to override? Constitutionally, that's a dead end. Eventually you have to pay for the bullets and the helicopter gas."

In short, yes, that's exactly what I would do. Make him veto it three times. Keep the issue front-and-center. Give him three different versions of the same idea. Keep the issue in the headlines, keep the heat on Bush, keep the conversation on Iraq and fight for the principles that people sent you to Washington to uphold. Make the damned GOP vote for this debacle a thousand times. Force Republican Senators to vote to uphold the veto. Hang it from their neck like a fetid albatross.

The Democrats' efforts to end the Iraqqupation end up looking like a formality -- going through the motions of objecting without changing anything. After the veto, they fell all over themselves to strip out the language offensive to Bush, and rush a no-strings appropriation back to his desk in the blink of an eye. They had weeks and weeks to spare. They didn't even make Bush sweat.

How many more Freidmans are we supposed to wait for something to happen? Kick at the darkness 'til it bleeds daylight, as they say. Make your point, underline it and circle it.

The point is that this is a Democracy, and the President is not nor ever shall be a temporary king. He is not Imperator Americanus, and despite being the "Commander in Chief," Congress has a great deal of power. In the hands of the Republican patsies for the past six years, they have bent over (forwards) to surrender that branh's power to the Bushies, and this would have been a good time to ebb that flow. It's not just about war and peace; it's also an issue of checks and balances.

If a war roundly rejected by the American people cannot be ended via the plebiscite embodied by the last Congressional election, how then can we hope to end it?

Democracy is in danger.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Jail Bait

Best story line for today? Very brief:

'GOOD !!!!

(Let's face it, our readers do have some dignity and respectability, although not necessarily all of you, so we certainly wouldn't want to belabor this story.) However:

"Don't let the steel doors hit you in the ass!"

*co-posted at SWINGING BIRCHES

Saturday, June 02, 2007

America's Team Reminder


US Men's Soccer vs. China
Saturday, Jun.2
8 pm. ESPN2

Friday, June 01, 2007

Folksy Stuff from the Arboretum

Our good friend Marsha from Carolina says that she has gotten tickets to the King Tut display in Philadelphia this month, so we'll be going there soon. We also want to see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and Sly Stallone.

Felix reports that he has an indigo bunting in his yard. Mrs. Bud says that he's a snot. He just says stuff like that because he wants to make her jealous. Felix lives in a part of the world where there are huge storms, tornados, airplanes falling from thew sky, rednecks rampaging, almost monthly flooding, and all kinds of stuff, but they never bother him.

Dashman is on jury duty and cannot talk about what he does every day, and hasn't spilled a word even to me, his oldest friend (I mean, of longest standing) but he says he can hardly wait to have it over so he can tell people about it. In fact, he says he will write an essay. He says he has a growing faith in the machinery of justice including trial by jury.

Bill from WNNCO has been visiting a friend in a medical care facility and he promises that he will never have to go to one. What do you suppose that means? Meanwhile he's been running his Go-Karts at high speeds and winning races. Wait! Maybe that's what he means.

We're all glad to have TDec home from the north woods where she may have caught a fishing addiction, because she says, the "pike are "beautiful."

*(co-posted at Swinging Birches)