A little darker today

October 30, 2008

True, daylight savings is coming to an end this weekend, but that is not the reason today seems a little colder and darker than yesterday.

Baseball is over for another year.  The annual marathon of a season ended, and the world somehow seems emptier for it.  As I mentioned back at the beginning of the season, there is something very life affirming about the game, and its annual arrival in spring, and something that reminds you about the inevitability of decay, cold, and darkness when it leaves in the late days of October.

The Philadelphia Phillies have ended their 28 year drought ….. good for them.  It had been 25 years since the so-called City of Brotherly Love had much to celebrate.

Recapping since 2001:

2001 – the Arizona Diamondbacks, in their third season, win the World Series.

2002 – the Anaheim Angels win their first ever World Series after waiting 41 years since their 1961 inception.

2003 – The Florida Marlins celebrate ten years as a major league club by winning their second World Series.

2004 – The Boston Red Sawks end an 86 year wait for a World Series championship.

2005 – The Chicago White Sox end an 88 year wait for a World Series championship.

2006 – The Cardinals end a 24 year wait with a World Series winner;  that after an 83-78 year that saw them win with the worst record in history.

2007 – The Red Sox win their second World Series in 89 years (also their second in three years)

2008 – the losingest team in major league history, with over 12,000 losses, the Philadelphia Phillies become the last of the original 16 major league teams to win their second World Series; their first in 28 years.

It has been an amazing time for teams to win after long droughts, but long droughts remain:

The tough luck Pirates have now waited 30 years since their last World Series Championship ….. that was the Disco era “We are Fam-ah-lee” Pirates of Willie Stargell, and Dave “The Cobra” Parker.  Just as bad, they haven’t even been back since.  They are quickly approaching their team’s longest waits in history (33 years to get in, and 35 to win).

Despite great players, record smashing performances, and the antics of a moose that even Sarah Palin can’t shoot, the Mariners’ wait for their first World Series title now reaches 32 years.

The Rangers (48 years) and Astros (47 years) have never won the World Series since they opened for business a year apart.  The Brewers, Padres, and Nationals all mark 40 years of waiting for their first World Series win next year.

The Cleveland Indians have waited 61 years now for a World Series party.  Satchel Paige was a part of their last Series win in 1948.  As a matter of fact, while the entire city of Philadelphia ended a 25 year championship drought with the Phillies’ win, poor Cleveland has been without a championship since 1964 when the Browns won the NFL Championship.

The Giants have not won the big one since moving to the Bay.  Their last World Series win was 55 years ago, when they called the Polo Grounds and New York, home.

Then there is the team that, as of October 14, redefines “a long wait”.

Across there street from Wrigley Field, there is a sign which a fan long ago erected reading “Eamus Cauli” (Latin for “Go Cubs”) and the following numbers (as of last year): 006399.  These numbers respectively represented the years since the last division title (zero), the last National League pennant (63), and the last World Series title (99).  I wonder if, like McDonald’s, they will opt to keep the perpetual 99, or invest in a third digit.  October 14 was the 100th anniversary of the last World Series title for the Cubs, and a win next year will not prevent the 101st anniversary from passing first.

For some fans, the wait is long and painful, but they still come out and support the team.

Without baseball, the world is just that much darker;  even when you do have a long, nearly perpetual wait to deal with.


Update …..

October 26, 2008

Dad ….. sober and doing well. He is attending his meetings and is hoping to give back by volunteering as soon as he is sober long enough. Very hopeful.

Mom …… much happier that dad is sober.

Pepper …… has moved out of the house and is living with her devoted slave that she bosses around fiancé. June wedding is moving forward. The nest is finally empty.

Scott & family ….. my goddaughter is walking all over the place. Very cool.

Me ….. I just gave my first professional lecture at a conference this past week. I think it went well.

Corporate think and the marathon world

October 21, 2008


Arien O’Connell this week won the Nike Womens Marathon in San Francisco. Her time was 11 minutes faster than anyone else.

Arien O’Connell was not declared the winner. I know what you are thinking: she cheated …. hardly new in marathons. Or (it is San Francisco) she wasn’t a woman. Nope and nope. She ran a fair race, and is indeed all woman.

Arien opted to not enter the elite division, which left 10 minutes before the rest of the field. Thus, she did not reach the finish line first, and did not win the race, despite having a time 11 minutes under the first person to cross the finish line.

When this was pointed out to race organizers, they stuck to their guns: the trophies have been awarded, the winners have been declared. Because one runner didn’t know how good she really was, first place was taken from her.

The article notes that in other marathons, this has also happened. No matter your time, only racers in the elite division get to compete for first place.

You would think in this era of computer chips and such this wouldn’t be a big deal …. but it is.

Another example of the great individual being squashed by layers and layers of rules that do nothing but squash the little guy (or gal as the case may be).

1969 and 2008

October 21, 2008

eerie coincidences ……

1969 … the New York Mets a team that had known nothing but the worst record since joining major league baseball wins the League Championship Series, and advances to the World Series, defying the odds makers, the baseball community, and logic.

2008 … the Tampa Bay Rays a team that had known nothing but the worst record since joining major league baseball wins the League Championship Series, and advances to the World Series, defying the odds makers, the baseball community, and logic.

1969 … most of the Mets’ fan base were native New Yorkers, born during the Baby Boom.

2008 … most of the Rays’ fan base are native New Yorkers, born during the Baby Boom.

1969 … U.S. is involved in unpopular war in southeast Asia.

2008 … U.S. is involved in unpopular war in southwest Asia.

1969 … president of the U.S. was labeled a criminal for covering up evidence in Watergate.

2008 … president of the U.S. is labeled as “almost certainly guilty of war crimes” by the Red Cross.

1969 … The New York Mets were 61-101 two years ago (in 1967).

2008 … The Tampa Bay Rays were 61-101 two years ago (in 2006).

1969 … the Mets defeated the Braves, formerly of Boston, in the League Championship Series.

2008 … the Rays defeated the Red Sox, currently of Boston, in the League Championship Series.

1969 … two East Coast teams met in the World Series.

2008 … two East Coast teams are meeting in the World Series.

1969 … Vin Scully was calling Dodgers games.

2008 … Vin Scully is still calling Dodgers games.

1969 … the U.S. lands the first men on the moon.

2008 … China conducts its first space walk.

1969 … the Mets conduct their spring training at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

2008 … the Rays conduct their spring training at Al Lang Field in St. Petersburg, Florida.

1969 … Cubs fans are devastated when their Cubs choke and do not advance to the League Championship Series, despite having a bonafide “sure thing”.

2004 … Some things just never change.

Ireland calls it for Obama

October 16, 2008


A large bookie in Ireland with a history of taking bets on political races, and getting publicity for early payouts, has called the U.S. election over, and has started paying out on anyone holding an Obama ticket.

Of course, they also authorized an early payout on Ireland voting for the EU treaty last year, and ended up paying off on both.

How close is a close election?

October 5, 2008


This is a link out of Michigan State University that looks at past U.S. presidential elections based on how close they were.

Specifically, they look at each losing candidate, and the popular vote difference in the states they lost. Based on the number of electoral votes they were behind, this study determines the minimum number of popular votes, and in which states they would have had to have occurred in to change the outcome.

No shock: of the 43 elections under analysis, the 2000 was the closest. A mere 270 switched votes in one state (I forget which one, but I think it was in the southeast) would have changed the outcome. By comparison, 2004 was a runaway: a little under 60,000 votes in three states (New Mexico, Iowa, and Colorado) would have had to change the outcome.

Three outcomes shocked me: I never realized that Gerald Ford came so close to winning an election outright: a change of under 10,000 votes in Ohio and Hawaii would have denied Jimmy Carter the White House.

The biggest blowout in terms of number of voters needed to change, and 41st in terms of a percentage of the electorate was the Nixon-McGovern election of 1972. Despite Watergate starting up, McGovern would have needed over 3.1 million votes in 26 states to change hands to dethrone Nixon.

I was always under the impression that Daley and his machine politics delivered Illinois at the last minute to give Kennedy the 1960 election. It looks like Nixon needed more than that, but not that much: less than 12,000 votes spread over Hawaii, New Mexico, Nevada, Illinois, and Missouri would have swung the election (forget Illinois, Hawaii was only 58 votes away from going Nixon! …. Illinois needed a change of over 4400 out of over 4.7 million votes cast).

All in all it was an interesting look at how close some losing candidates got to being elected, and how others never stood a chance.

if you scroll down on that website, it there is more analysis, of which the most interesting: how often does a particular state hang in that purple zone: where the popular outcome was close enough that it was one of the closest state in the election that it could have helped swing the results. New Mexico, despite having few electoral votes, and only having been in 24 elections through 2004, has been in this zone 17 times, a higher percentage than any other state.

Is this the first crest of the next Great Depression?

October 1, 2008


Far be it from me to take financial advice from an engineer, but my good friend Tom has studied up on economics a lot more than I have.

This New York Times article is a bit of a history lesson, applied to today’s financial crisis, and I think does a good job explaining not only what is going on, but explains what is likely to happen if things don’t get straightened out. In short: while a lot of people are making champaign toasts to the collapse of a bunch of rich people in New York, they forget that in this modern economy, their livelihood is intimately linked to what those people do. Ultimately, if the Wall Street crowd goes down, the end of the anchor line is the American economy (and a sizable chunk of the world economy) as a whole. The great irony is that there is political agreement to do nothing for all the wrong reasons: Democrats won’t free up a lot of the money unless certain guarantees are made, and Republicans don’t want it because of the necessary strings that are attached that will result in interference with commerce and business. For now: the economy slides down the slope.

In the end, the $700 billion shot in the arm is painful, but may be very necessary to save the economy over the long haul.