October 30, 2002

Gone Fishing!

Yep, them catfish is bitin' somethin' fierce, so we're calling in sick for a few more days! Be sure to check this here space next Wednesday, when I promise to start trying again! It's gonna be a whole new era here at The Donk!

October 27, 2002

Great News! Arts & Letters Daily has been extracted from bankruptcy court and purchased by The Chronicle of Higher Education, and is now back to stay.

October 25, 2002

If any of you are hanging around Dutchess County any time soon, be sure to check out the best darn haunted house in the whole darn world!
That Sardonic Subversive Sonuvagun Matthew Sheren was nice enough to send along this interview with director of the Wisconsin Advertising Project Ken Goldstein, one of the countless Ken Goldsteins in this crazy world working hard to make it a better place.

Wow, while I was doing the above KGoogling I came something I wrote for a Russian video game developer a few years back. They had asked me to help them write the instructions, and I ended up writing a poem for each of the game's levels. It was a great game, released for the PC and Gameboy, but I don't think they ended up using my poems in the retail product.
Longtime fan and Friend of The Donk Emily Simon is in town this week, so how's about a big howdy-do to this California bigshot?

October 24, 2002

Yeah, more baseball. The situation: a ten-year Seattle Mariners icon with a year left on his contract requests a trade in order to be closer to his family in Florida. As it turns out, however, "closer" actually means something like 1000 miles away.

So my question is: do you think that the Mets attempts to get Piniella were doomed since the M's wanted to extract some measure of revenge for the Griffey debacle, with the idea being that they could tell Piniella; "Hey, you want to be closer to your family? Well, we found you a job right in your hometown, and we're gonna make damn sure you take it."

October 23, 2002

Pete Rose's 4,192nd hit is a more memorable moment than Kirk Gibson's homer?!?!?! And Bobby Thompson's Shot Heard `Round the World, Carlton Fisk's 1975 Series homer, and Bill Mazeroski's 1960 Series-ending, Yankee-beating homer don't even make the Top Ten?!?! I call BS on that, dumb fans!

October 22, 2002

Feelin' like a Tuesday roundup:
  1. This morning's Slate article "The Nigerian Nightmare" passes along the shocking news that those Nigerian "419" scam letters actually come from Nigeria, and that the whole shady enterprise brings in enough cash to place it among the country's top five industries.
  2. In all-important Google news, I have unfortunately fallen to #3 in both the "illuminated" and "Donkey" rankings, but have somehow become the #6 result for Harper's editor Lewis Lapham, which is especially odd considering that I haven't written anything about him for ten months. The Goog works in mysterious ways.
  3. Jim Treacher changed a couple of words in a Doonesbury strip about blogging and somehow let slip the dogs of nitpicking. Update: Mr. TFG somehow manages to keep track of the crossfire in one of his SIXTEEN FREAKING POSTS today.
  4. Mike Whybark shook hands with a blue-paint-covered naked supermodel.

October 21, 2002

Farewell, my beloved refineries. I need to be out of my swanky condo by the end of November, though I'd actually like to move around the 16th, if possible. I'm hoping to stay in Jersey City, though it's probably too much to ask for another apartment overlooking the Pulaski Skyway (sigh). Anyway, if anybody knows of any cool openings or situations, please drop me a line.
Scarlet Knights taking off their shoes and quietly sneaking out of the house... In his 2002 debut, Rutgers graduate and current Miami Dolphin Ray Lucas went 13-for-33 with four interceptions and a fumble in a 23-10 loss to the Bills.
"The way I played today was probably the worst a quarterback has ever played in the history of the NFL," Lucas said. "I don't think I've ever thrown four picks since I was born. I embarrassed myself. ... I probably won't sleep for the next three days."
Next up for Lucas: a visit to Green Bay with newly signed receiver Cris Carter.
Via Mike Whybark: Need a few extra bucks for upcoming holiday shopping? Don't feel like you're at the right point in your career? Or are you just looking to feel better about yourself and your life? Then put the amazing SalaryDoubler to work for you!
And now it's time for our latest edition of Our Nation's Sports Mascots in the War Against Terrorism! This episode comes to us from Joseph Lelyveld's "In Guantánamo," in the current New York Review of Books:
The fact is that [Guantánamo Bay holding camp] Camp Delta has become largely an Army Reserve and National Guard operation...with the called-up personnel changing every six months. [...] The major assigned to escort journalists was an actor from Queens, one of whose roles was at Shea stadium as Mr. Met, the prancing team mascot with a large baseball for a head and a goofy smile.
This has been another thrilling edition of Our Nation's Sports Mascots in the War Against Terrorism!

October 16, 2002

Cracking good news! Thanks to your friend and mine, Mike Whybark, I not only have news of Soccamatic, the first new Wallace and Gromit film in six long years, I can see it right here on my computer! For Free! God, this is a glorious time to be alive!
Cindy Chaffin, the lovely wife of official Friend of the Donk The Fat Guy, has started up two blogs at once, kind of a Guns N' Roses Use Your Illusion 1 & 2 sort of thing. The blogs are Pinky's Passion (the personal one) and TexasGigsDotCom (the music-specific one). We here at The Donk have always encouraged the spouses and significant others of our favorite bloggers to start up tell-all blogs, and this is a strong step in that direction! Yay, Cindy!
Scarlet Knights in the House!!! Rutgers graduate and all-around Swankmeister Ray Lucas will start at QB for the Dolphins for at least four weeks while Jay Fielder's broken thumb heals. I've pulled my old Ray Lucas #6 Jets jersey from out of the closet, and I'll be rooting hard for the fish at least through October.

October 14, 2002

Tony LaRussa: Genius. After watching a visibly tired (at least to me) Matt Morris put three straight men on base (two singles and a HBP) before giving up the game-tying sac fly to Barry Bonds in the bottom of the 8th, LaRussa leaves Morris in to bat with one out in the ninth. Morris, of course, struck out. In the bottom of the inning, Morris got the first two outs in the ninth before giving up two singles (including one to Holy-Crap-Is-He-Still-Around Player of the Year Shawon Dunston, who broke into the bigs as part of a Cubs infield that included Ron Cey and Leon Durham), then was relieved by Steve Kline, who threw a fat, game-losing pitch to Kenny Lofton.

The early Donk line on the series: Anaheim over San Francisco in six, though that may change once I actually sit down and think about it. My prediction is based on the idea that Anaheim will be better equipped to take advantage of the numerous opportunities that the Cards let slip away, plus the pitching looks stronger.
From Aaron Haspel's God in the Machine, which normally wastes time on such trivial topics as "Is Objectivism a Foreign Policy?" and "Hate Speech in Canada," comes an incredibly useful and supercool searchable baseball database with custom queries. It's a lot easier to use than it is for me to explain, but Aaron's search engine lets you find individual seasons or careers based on the criteria you enter, in any of several dozen categories.

For example, I discovered that Dan Quisenberry's 1985 season was the only time a pitcher appeared in more than 80 games while walking less than 20, and that Dale Long was the only player since 1950 to hit more than 10 triples without stealing a single base. I also discovered that Zolio Versailles, only two years removed from his MVP season, holds the dubious distinction of having the most AB's while still batting below the Mendoza line. The search engine also makes it easy to determine single-season or career leaders for any stat, and lets you sort the results by the player names or in statistical order.

There's a ton of fun stuff like that just there for the finding, so go take a look, and be sure to let me know if you discover anything cool.
A Poker Lesson. Blogger and poker player Paul Frankenstein writes in to ask when the proper time would be to draw to an inside straight (Also known as a gutshot, an inside straight draw has four cards to a straight with only one possible way to complete it; for example: 8-9-J-Q, with a Ten needed. This is as opposed to an open-ended draw, such as 6-7-8-9, where two cards can complete the straight.) Always glad to help out, Paul!

Now, I'm sure a number of you are jumping out of your chairs to scream Never! "Never draw to an inside straight" is a rule of thumb repeated countless times by crusty old barkeeps and wizened uncles, but its renown has long outlasted its accuracy. The truth is that it is often the correct move to draw to an inside straight, but only if the pot odds are correct.

Simply put, pot odds are the odds of making your hand in comparison to the amount of money in the pot. Like any type of gambling, the better odds you get, the more money you're likely to win. In nearly all casino games (the exceptions being blackjack with an advanced card-counting strategy and certain types of video poker with good jackpot systems), you are getting paid anywhere from slightly to far less than what your actual odds of winning are. In American roulette, your odds of picking a winning number are 1/38, but you would get paid out as if the odds were 1/36 (the difference between these two figures is why Las Vegas is so darn big and shiny).

How this works in poker is if you have, say, a 1/10 chance of getting the card you need (based on how many of the card remain in the deck — much easier in a game like stud where you see many of your opponents cards — as opposed to the total number of remaining cards), and there is already $150 in the pot, then it would make sense to call a $10 bet. Conversely, if there was only $50 in the pot, you wouldn't be getting correct odds and shouldn't call the bet.

The "never draw to an inside straight" rule dates back to an era of five-card draw and stud, where there would almost never be enough in the pot to justify the long odds of drawing to an inside straight; in today's more common games of Texas Hold `Em and seven-card stud, this is not always the case, and it can be profitable to draw to the forbidden inside straight. While actually being able to calculate these odds on the fly is pretty hard, you should keep this general idea in mind when determining whether or not to continue with a hand.

So good luck to you, Paul, except when you're playing me!

Update: here's a Card Player Magazine article about gutshots, with some Hold `Em examples.

October 11, 2002

I have a new theme song!

And a new promotional video!

October 10, 2002

Oh, dear Lord, no. Via Instapundit, it's a site featuring every single brain-numbingly dumb Hostess comic book ad, with commentary, interviews, parodies, and plenty of tasty, crime-foiling pies.
Somebody has apparently screwed the best damn blogger on the Upper West Side out of a cushy Hong Kong gig, so why not head on over to Paul Frankenstein Light Industries & Manufacturing and pick up a "Friends don't let friends blog drunk" or "I am a Z-List Blogger" item at a ridiculously reduced price? It's the perfect garment for your next blogbash, and he'll probably end up giving you your money back on a busted straight draw anyway!
Okay, I'm feeling a little better now.

October 09, 2002

More and more baseball. Via the Boy of Summer, a link to Only Baseball Matters, which is doing a running commentary on the NLCS games, and who led me to huge Twins fan Aaron Gleeman, who is doing the same thing for the AL on his baseball blog. (Note: the "huge" refers only to the amount of his Twins-fannedness; as far as I know he is of normal girth.)

Update: well, John at OBM didn't get enough hits to keep doing the commentary (something about a 14-month old daughter — where are your priorities, man?!). I hope you're all happy.
Thanks a frigging lot, Mike and Allan. Now I can't stop playing that scrambled word game Bookworm! I do have stuff to do, ya know.
Damning Evidence of Incompetence. Joel Mowbray analyzes the visa-application forms of 15 of the 19 September 11 terrorists and concludes that all of them should have been rejected.
On June 18, 2001, Abdulaziz Alomari filled out a simple, two-page application for a visa to come to the United States. Alomari was not exactly the ideal candidate for a visa. He claimed to be a student, though he left blank the space for the name and address of his school. He checked the box claiming he was married, yet he left blank the area where he should have put the name of his spouse. Although he claimed to be a student, he marked on his form that he would self-finance a two-month stay at the "JKK Whyndham Hotel" — and provided no proof, as required under law, that he could actually do so.

Despite the legal requirement that a visa applicant show strong roots in his home country (to give him or her a reason to come back from America), Alomari listed his home address as the "ALQUDOS HTL JED" (a hotel in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia). Alomari didn't even bother filling in the fields asking for his nationality and gender, apparently realizing that he didn't need to list much more than his name to get a visa to the United States. As it turns out, he didn't. He got his visa.

When he arrived in the United States, he connected with his friend, Mohammed Atta. And less than three months later — on September 11 — he and Atta helped crash American Airlines Flight 11 into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
The National Review articles also features annotated copies of six of the forms.
In Salon, Keith Olbermann practically drools all over the screen reminiscing about the glorious madman that was pre-Torre George Steinbrenner (to recap: Houk-Virdon-Martin-Howser-Lemon-Martin-Howser-Michael-Lemon-Michael-King-Martin-Berra-Martin-Piniella-Martin-Piniella-Green-Dent-Merrill-Showalter), predicting — nay, praying — that a return of Evil George is already on its way.

Olbermann points out that the Yanks have lost two consecutive playoff series for the first time since 1980-81, adds a few in-house reports (George yelled at midlevel managers for not shaving well! He screamed "Jesus Christ Almighty!" — in Olbermann's presence!! — after watching Jeff Weaver get smacked around by Toronto in his first inning as a Yankee.), throws in every beloved memory of a quarter-century of George's craziness, and uses that to conclude that it's only a matter of time before GM Cashman and Torre are booted to the curb, replaced by Buck Showalter II.

The reasoning is actually pretty comical. Olbermann writes that while firing Torre would be too much of a PR disaster at this point, "the likeliest threat to Torre is a slow on-field start in 2003 (Steinbrenner used that excuse on Lemon in 1982, then promised never to do it again, then did it again to Yogi Berra in 1985)." Um...anybody want to make a little wager that Torre won't be fired even if the Yanks start off next year 6-8 like Lemon's team in 1982? Olbermann also wants us to think that Steinbrenner, even while getting fitted for yet another World Series ring, has been pining away for Buck Showlater, to the point where if the Mets start to show interest in Buck for their managerial opening, George might just go nuts.
Serious interest in Showalter from his hated cross-town rivals could be the nudge that pushes George to revisit his Robespierre days. Imagine your sexy ex suddenly dating your lifelong rival, or worse, your nerdy cousin. Whether it would be logical or suicidal, serious or fleeting, you might think of upping the ante and immediately proposing marriage. Remember, at all times, that George Steinbrenner is not the kind of man to sit around and act rationally when a situation calls for panic. He's the one in a million of us who wouldn't just think it; he'd pick up the phone and book the cathedral.

There's a whiff of sadness to the article, as though Olbermann can't help but remember a time when the fallout from a bad series loss like the Anaheim one would have provided him with a month of stories that wrote themselves, insane middle-of-the-night rantings from a man who changed his roster and managers like other men changed socks (I may have stolen that from Bill James, I can't remember). So on the rare occasions when the Yankees perform poorly, sportswriters look towards the front office, waiting for George's latest outburst, hoping that he'll trade Nick Johnson and Juan Rivera for Scitt Erickson then fire Torre and dig up Billy Martin. While I have to admit I'd enjoy seeing that, I also have to think that Steinbrenner may have noticed the unequaled success (on-field and in-wallet) he's enjoyed for the past seven seasons, and may not want to throw that all away what he may have done to Yogi Berra 17 years ago.
My head is a giant, red, stuffy balloon, blocking out the light of the sun, bringing sorrow and catastrophe to all those who dwell in this fourth-floor corner of the Brunswick Towers, and the wailing and gnashing of teeth could be heard on the Pulaski Skyway, even above the endless sirens and honking of horns.

In other words, I'm sick. And whiny.
Oh, Acme Hour on the Cartoon Network, you are truly my only friend at 4:30 in the morning.

October 07, 2002

I'm not saying that I feel this way (heck, I had tickets for last night's not-necessary Game 5), but as a service to those readers who may be so inclined, I present ESPN.com's Ten Greatest Moments in Yankee-Hating History.
The Death of Edgar Allan Poe: An account by Hervey Allen, August 1927.
[Poe] traveled by steamer to Baltimore and arrived there on September twentyninth. Exactly what happened to him in that city cannot now be ascertained. An election was in progress, and the preponderance of evidence points to the fact that he began to drink and fell into the hands of a gang of repeaters who probably gave him drugged liquor and voted him. On October third he was found by Dr. James E. Snodgrass, an old friend, in a horrible condition at a low tavern in Lombard Street. Summoning a relative of Poe, Dr. Snodgrass had the now unconscious and dying poet taken in a carriage to the Washington Hospital and put into the care of Dr. J. J. Moran, the resident physician. Several days of delirium ensued with only a few intervals of partial consciousness. He called repeatedly for one "Reynolds," and gave vent to every indication of utter despair. Finally on Sunday morning, October 7, 1849, "He became quiet and seemed to rest for a short time. Then, gently, moving his head, he said, 'Lord help my poor soul.'" As he had lived so he died — in great misery and tragedy.

Dammit, one of my favorite msites, Arts & Letters Daily, is disappearing into the ether.

Update: Or maybe it's just over here now, in an assuringly similar form, but with cool extras like polls!

October 06, 2002

I'm back from a lovely weekend up north to see the aforementioned and still extremely rocking Jason "Jake" Loewenstein (a bizarre, free show in a roomful of 19-year-old hippie Richie Riches and Mayda Munnies, the vast majority of whom had never heard of him but were still dancing up a storm) to find a comments box filled with lovely congratulations on my first anniversary. Gosh, thanks y'all. If any of you are in Jersey City stop by for some sharp cheddar and maple syrup.

[Speaking of my trip, I did discover that the Yaddo Artists' Sanctuary, which I had always imagined as a quiet, isolated outpost, is actually adjacent to both a major interstate and the Saratoga Springs racetrack.]

But on a more important note: I have already defeated puny upstarts Mike Whybark, Scott Chaffin, and Paul Frankenstein in Mike's newly formed World Blogger Federation, based on that hot new sensation, Googlefight. Who shall be the next victim! In the consolation round, Mike Whybark was soundly thrashed by a wet paper bag, though he did cover the spread.

Oh, and Justin Slotman is alive! Now, don't everybody rush over to Blogistan at once, or we'll frighten him into hiding again.

October 04, 2002

The Donk celebrates its first anniversary today! Ah, I look back on those first few posts...can it be that it was all so simple then, or has time rewritten every post? Sniff. In honor of those early days, I'm going to relink to the first site I ever linked to: yep, the traditional first-anniversary gift for a blog is a gaggle of monkeys!
Okay, everybody's already written about Stan Jones, the Montana Libertarian candidate for Senate who turned blue after taking collodial silver, but has anybody else noticed his sly attempt to draw attention away from his unusual skin tone by wearing a suit that exactly matches it?
This U.S. Has No Right to Invade Iraq, Canada Says
OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada on Wednesday noticeably hardened its line against the idea of a unilateral U.S. strike on Iraq, saying Washington had no right to take action that could destabilize large parts of the world.

Ottawa — whose foreign policy is based on multilateral diplomacy — has consistently stressed the Iraq crisis should be handled through the United Nations and is showing increasing signs of alarm about the damage the world body could suffer.
Now, what could motivate Canada into taking such a hardline position against U.S. action? Could it be, as stated, a respect for the international community and a fear of repercussions? Perhaps the reason is more self-interested, with fears of what international instability could do to their oil exports. Or maybe, just maybe, a pair of Canadian heroes have their own fiendish plan for luring Saddam out of Iraq and facilitating a regime change!
He traveled with Walter Mondale and senior citizens still don't know his name! Courtesy of the Washington Post, Robert Torricelli's farewell tribute to himself.

October 02, 2002

Democrats Win N.J. Senate Case
Democratic Party hopes of retaining the seat of Sen. Robert Torricelli and control of the Senate got a boost Wednesday night when the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the state party can replace Torricelli on the Nov. 5 ballot with former Sen. Frank Lautenberg, even though the legal deadline passed two weeks ago.

[...] Democratic Party lawyer Angelo Genova told the justices that the Democrats were seeking to protect “voters’ right to participate in a competitive election” and asked the court to interpret state law broadly, despite the lapsed deadline.
Court Rules in Iowa Senate Race
DES MOINES, IA (AP) Citing New Jersey's precedent-setting "Competitive Balance" ruling of 2002, the Iowa Supreme Court today announced that Democratic Senate candidate Scott Scoglio, leading Republican Patty Moore by 15 points in recent polls, must reverse his long-standing support of the death penalty in order to "give Moore a fighting chance."

In the majority ruling, Chief Justice Zach Robinson wrote "Scoglio's 'tough-on-crime' stance has struck a chord with Iowa voters, leading to a race that has been, frankly, not that much fun. By instigating this shocking flipflop on a major issue, we're hoping to give Moore at least a seven-point boost in the polls." The ruling later went on to say that if Moore failed to close the gap over the next two weeks, Robinson would be required to appear on television with his arm around two convicted murderers and announce, "These are the kinds of fine fellows I'm trying to get back on the streets as soon as possible." Robinson is expected to appeal the decision.

This is the third recent application of the Competitive Balance ruling, following last month's ruling requiring Maine Democratic Congressional candidate Paul Silvera to wear ill-fitting suits, and the ongoing mandatory extra-marital affair of Nevada frontrunner Christine Woolley.

This month's award for the best of example of why you shouldn't snottily dismiss an all-time great in a magazine with a two-month lead-time: Andrew Corsello, in his terrible profile of Pete Sampras in this month's GQ, "Curse of the Succubus." (not available online, but I was able to find this lovely poem of the same name)
How sad it is for a tennis fan to write [...] about Sampras's glorious zonedness and notice only upon their completion how they gravitate towards the past tense. Sad but appropriate. For Sampras is not coming back. He may play another year or two, but he will not come close to winning another Grand Slam, and he will not break the top five.
The whole article is relentlessly awful, not too surprising for a subject that rarely inspires great writing. My personally favorite is David Foster Wallace's Esquire article "The String Theory," which I can't find online but is available in his universally discounted "A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again."
I'm rested like Troy Percival. Well, I needed a few days away from the keyboard, enjoying the cultural treasures of Manhattan, the sunny skies and autumnal delights of New York State, and the Bacchanalian pleasures of Paul Frankenstein's stately pleasure dome. But I'm back now and ready to blog it up old school!

So let's get October (or Rocktober, as all the cool kids are calling it) started off right with a visit from our old favorite Juliette Aiyana, who you may remember from The Illuminated D'Lish celebration in this space two weeks back.

As I'm sure you'll remember, Jewels is a licensed acupuncturist who has studied Chinese dietary therapy. In the current Pulse of Oriental Medicine magazine, she enlightens us all on the many medicinal qualities of pumpkins, along with links to some recipes (including pie, though that was really last month's theme) for these crazy gourds. And if you just hate pumpkins, you can head out to the Punkin Chunkin World Championship and shoot them out of a big-ass cannon!

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