Thursday, July 31, 2008
While I wasn't surprised, I'm a little disappointed that the Twins didn't try a little harder for one of the infielders that hey had been rumored to be in taks for. Adrian Beltre would have been a huge pickup, and one more strong shutdown reliever would have been nice to get (though trades for relievers often turn out poorly). If Alexi Casilla is truly done for the season (and I sincerely hope he isn't), we'll be trotting a lineup with at least 3 of the following players every game: Nick Punto, Brian Buscher, Brendan Harris, Mike Lamb, or Adam Everett.
* Buscher's really playing well, but he's really a replacement level player, and he needs to be platooned against lefties.
* Punto's redeemed himself after his abysmal 2007 season, but even the most optimistic fan has to realize that his stats will level off to some extent (my bet is that it'll happen faster, now that he'll be batting second with Casilla out).
* Harris is an okay hitter (I stress okay), but he's an anchor in the field. With him playing shortstop for the foreseeable future, Twins fans can get ready to hear "just missed the double play" a lot.
* Lamb has been a tremendous disappointment, both in the field and at bat. He's wayunder replacement value, and is looking like he's losing motivation rapidly.
* Everett was touted as an mazing defenseman, but injuries, an awful record at the plate, and even some extremely shaky defense had him almost DFA'd (until Casilla's injury). Who knows how much time he'll get to play.
Casilla's injury hurts the Twins drastically. If a trade for an infilder was important before, it became crucial once Casilla made that ill-fated headfirst slide into second. The Twins stood pat, and while I still think they can make some waves, and possibly win the division, any lineup that has to feature 3 of the aforementioned group is on shaky feet.
Gardy has to fill out just such a lineup card pretty much every game for the rest of the year if Casilla's injury is as bad as advertised.
On to brighter news. Thursday's game against the Sox was a joy to watch. Scott Baker had an abnormally rough outing, but still struck out 8 in 6 innings and kept the Twins close. Morneau hit a 3-run homer to bring us within one, setting the stage for one of the wildest innings I've seen in some tme.
Denard Span led off the 7th inning, and during a bunt attempt, he pulled his bat back (as replays showed) very much in time to avoid commiting to the pitch, which ended up hitting him. As he trotted down the line, suddenly the home plate umpire called him back, saying that he had gone too far. A horribly missed call, which Gardenhire immeadiately came out to argue. Gardy was ejected almost instantly, which sent him into a fury. After giving up on the umpire, he vented some frustration by dropkicking his cap. Unfortunately, doing this prompted the already agitated home crowd to start throwing their caps onto the field (a poor choice... those things are expensive), and when they ran out of caps, they started throwing whatever else they could get their hands on. Ozzie Guillen (rightfully) got his players off the field, and (bizzarely) got into a shouting match with a couple fans above the visiting dugout. The dome announcer threatened that if everyone didn't stop, the Twins would have to forfeit, but eventually, order was restored. Span came back to bat and ended up coaxing a great walk, then took second on a wild pitch, and scored the tying run on a hard ground ball which Orlando Cabrera wasn't quite able to snag. Jason Kubel tacked on a 3-run homer later in the inning. The Sox got a couple back in the 8th, but the Twins picked up 3 more in the bottom of that inning, securing a win.
Overall, it was a hard fought game against our biggest rival (a game which happened to bring us to 1/2 game back of said rival in the central division standings). It was the type of game that reminds a person why baseball is sch a great game...
It seems there's a new search engine in town. Cuil¹ is made by a few of the folks who brought you Google. I like Google, it does what I need it to do without giving me too much garbage or sponsored nonsense. Cuil would have had to impress me quite a bit to make me think about looking elsewhere for my web-searching needs, anyway, but I figured I'd give it a shot (new and cool things, and whatnot).
I started trying to get to the site when I heard that it had publicly launched on Monday. I had planned on writing up a quick 'first impressions' blog about it that evening (by which time I would have hopefully had a taste of what Cuil was capable of). As it turns out, if I would have written that post, it would have been empty. I tried 10-15 times to access the site that day, succeeding in getting to the main page twice, and succeeding in searching for anything zero times. I tried my name once, figured that might be a bit obscure, then tried 'Descent', both times it slowed to beyond crawling, then eventually just spit up a blank page.
I've been trying the site off and on all week, both from home and work, with no success. Most of the time, I can't get the main page to come up, and when I can, searching hasn't worked for me. Not once. Sometimes, it will bring up something resembling a search results page, but it will invariably be empty.
So, in the end, here's what I do know about Cuil.
* It has a very pretty front page.
* It has a very lofty opinion of itself (noting that it's index is 3 times larger than any of its competitors - which may or may not be true)
* When it does work, it's slow & kind of buggy (I'm not the only one who has noted this)
* It requires exact spelling when it does work.(that alone means I'll be using Google)
Eventually, I figure that I'll be able to use Cuil to its full potential, but even then, it looks as if that full potential might be mostly smoke and mirrors compared to the 'Google-killer' status that was bestowed upon it. It's not a Google-killer... not even a little bit. It's a heavily overhyped, underwhelming search engine that pretty much exemplifies the dot-com era of the late-90's.
¹ - The Gaelic word the search engine's name is based off is pronounced 'que-ill', not quite 'cool', like other websites are saying, making the pun in today's title a little more unforgivable.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Windows Vista has actually managed to work pretty well for me thus far. With one or two exceptions, I'd say it's pretty solid, and in my experience with it, I haven't found it deserving of the "buggy mess" label a lot of folks seem to have pinned on it.
One thing I can't figure out, however, is why they decided to integrate Windows Defender into the operating system. Don't get me wrong, Defender is decent software (if a bit unremarkable, I use it more for detection that actual removal, since I haven't seen it remove all that many things that Spybot, Adaware, or HiJackThis weren't able to root out), but streamlining it into the system has the disastrous side effect of making it:
a) Impossible to remove, should you not want to use it
b) Extremely difficult to troubleshoot or repair, should there ever be a problem with it
I recently had to use System Restore, due to a poorly created MSI file I decided to test on my machine. Once the process had completed, Windows Defender has broken itself. Upon system startup, I would receive an error message reading "Application failed to initialize: 0x80070006. The Handle is invalid". Most of the methods of troubleshooting Defender that I've seen on the Internet require the user to be able to open Defender in the first place. The program files are all there, it seems as though Defender should work, but there's no 'Windows Defender' service listed under Windows services, and there's no way to open the program.
Luckily, after doing some research (and calling Microsoft, but that was an exercise in futility), I've found the answer to my problem.
The problem lies in corrupted registry settings for the program. If you have a similar problem to mine (Defender in Vista seemingly installed, but getting a "can't initialize" error), try the following (originally posted here by cdninja)
Step 1: Back up Registry ==================
1. Click Start, type "regedit" (without quotation marks) in the search bar and press Enter.
2. In the Registry Editor, click File menu, and click Export.
3. In the Save In list, select the folder where you want to save the backup. 4. In the File Name box, and type a name for your backup file, such as "Options" or "Backup".
5. Click Save.
Step 2: Create and Run the Registry File ==================
1. Click Start, type "notepad C:\register.reg" (without quotation marks) in the Search bar, and then click OK. Choose Yes when you are prompted to create a new file.
2. Copy the following texts between the star marks and then paste them into the opened Notepad window:
Windows Registry Editor Version 5.00
3. After you paste the above commands, please close the Notepad window. Choose Yes when you are prompted to save the file.
4. Save the file as a REG file of any type (defenderfix.reg was what I called the file, but any name will do, just make sure the file is a REG file, and not a TXT file)
5. next double click on the new file.
6. When you receive a message box asking "Are you sure you want to add the information in the REG file to the registry", choose "Yes"
7. You will receive another message box saying "Information in the REG file has been successfully entered into the registry", please click "OK" to confirm.
8. Restart the computer.
The process worked for me. Let me know if it works for you.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
The song (off their fantastic 2002 release You Forgot It In People) is one of the more straight-forward rock songs that the band has created, and has a fantastic interplay between singers Kevin Drew and Leslie Feist (more recently, of '1234' fame). The video keys in on this, with nothing but silhouettes rocking out for the duration of the video.
Most BSS videos are great to watch (and all of Feist's videos are marves of timing and choreography), but this one just rocks out and is so insanely fun to watch that it merits special note.
Monday, July 21, 2008
Twins general manager Bill Smith, on Livan Hernandez, who improved to 10-6 with a 5.29 earned-run average with Saturday's victory over Texas: "I'll take the (10) wins. Who do you want, a guy who's 10-15 with a 2.80 ERA or a guy who's 16-8 with a 7.00 ERA? I'll take the 16-8."
Oh no Bill, not cool... I guess the saying goes 'I'd rather be lucky than good', but as a GM wouldn't you rather draft good, seeing as how it's a little bit more repeatable?
Let's put it this way. If I were to pitch in the major leagues, I'd understandably have a complete inability to get anyone out. I'd give up 96 runs in the first inning, and I'd only start people out when their arms were literally too tired to swing the bat. However, for the sake of this hypothesis, let's also say that my younger brother is toeing the rubber against me. He give up his 342 runs and then he starts walking people. The result is a thrilling 956-872 game, and I end up winning.
Now let's say that the very next day this happens. Scott Baker goes out and gives up 2 hits, one of which happens to be an unlucky home run. He loses because of his offense's innate disability to score runs behind him (this is actually the THIRD time he's lost 1-0 in this not-at-all-hypothetical-all-too-real world).
Who pitched a better game??
Exactly. Wins are overrated. A pitcher can pitch the game of his life, but unless the strikes out every single hitter, he's not in complete control of the outcome - and even then he still has to get some hitting behind him. Seeing how no one has ever done that, (not even Ron Necciai, though that one game was one of the greatest feats anyone has ever accomplished in sports), there has not been a single instance where a pitcher has won a game all by himself. A win is supposed to be a nice indicator of which pitcher pitched better on a given day, but it's a horribly flawed stat. I fear for the Twins, who seemingly have a GM who doesn't grasp that concept at all.
Coincidentally, Livan earns his own tag with this post. I'm kind of shocked he didn't already have one. His name has also been added to my computer's dictionary. Truly we live in harrowing times.
Friday, July 18, 2008
Fire Joe Buck, Part 2
Jester has joined the cause (look in the second half of his All-Star blog, all of which is a pretty good read). While Buck's calling of the all-star game wasn't quite as insipid as his calling of the Super Bowl, or as flat out nonsensically wrong as the guy sitting next to him (seriously, Mr. McCarver, what are you doing?? Stop now, preferably before the playoffs), it was still worthy of some anger. How this pair continues to get the privilege of calling the big games is absolutely a mystery to me.
Get John Gordon in there, that way every weak popup can be a home run, and every fielding play can be a fantastic one. Or get Dick'n'Bert in there, so that everything can be completely nonsensical and wrong without having to listen to Joe Buck be a douche.
Still Staying Positive
'Stay Positive', the 4th album from The Hold Steady came out on Tuesday, and as I hinted at last week, the result is a very solid CD. Retaining the same energy and wit from 'Boys and Girls in America', and adding a couple of new elements (harpsichord, Cars-style synthesizers, etc). There's not a weak track that I've heard after 5 or 6 listens. Sequestered in Memphis is catchy as song can be, and Slapped Actress might be the best closing song I've heard all year (dare you to not get the chills in the final minute). I'll say it again, it you like rock music, buy 'Stay Positive'.
Because This Post Needed the "Cockflickery" Tag
Congratulations to Justin Morneau for winning the Home Run Derby. Shame on ESPN for the worst coverage of an event in the history of space and time. We get it, Josh Hamilton was a great story, good for him. Plus, what he did in the first round of the derby was unbelievable. I saw a replay of the derby on Wednesday, and it still gave me the same chill. Truly an amazing achievement, but ESPN's coverage of the event was asinine. First Rick "Biggest Ego in Sports Journalism" Reilly was pissing and moaning about Morneau even being in the event. Fine. I suppose most people would've rather seen A-Rod, whatever (it does sort of make him look like an idiot, though).
Flash forward to after Hamilton loses the event. Morneau walks over to congratulate Hamilton, and the reporter walks up and right by the guy who just won the event. That's kind of cold, but Hamilton did just defy the laws of physics repeatedly with his home run shots, I guess he'd be the guy most would want to talk to. Then, the ceremony comes, where they clearly make a mistake and call Justin "Jason" (what, you can't remember the name of the guy who won AL MVP two years ago??) then comes the interview, where Morneau, being a class act, talks about how great Hamilton's night was, which is lucky, because that's all the reporter wanted to talk about, anyway. After about 30 seconds, the interview ends, and it's back up to the booth to whine about how Hamilton got slighted. I agree, the rules should be maneuvered a bit, and Hamilton probably should have won, but this was ridiculous. If you were to embark on a 26 mile marathon, and run the first mile in 4 minutes, no one would be all that sorry for you when you collapsed around the 3 mile mark. Hamilton tried to sprint when he should've paced himself. He was the story of the night, but ESPN made the thing out to be some sort of Greek tragedy.
Congratulations, ESPN staff (Rick Reilly in particular), you have all engaged in cockflickery of the highest caliber.
A few months ago, Pitchfork had 'Buriedfed' on its venerable Forkcast. It's a great song - one of the best of the year, really - that builds from a simple strummed guitar all the way into a cacaphony of slightly off-kilter voices and crashing drums. It's also depressing as hell, but the lyrics are good to the point where it's not TOO much of a downer. After hearing a similarly good song called 'The Debtor', I was excited for a full-length release from MBAR (as people are seemingly calling him these days).
The full length is here, and I'm really not sure what to think. The two songs I really enjoyed are the first two song on the CD, and they're really the only two that follow the stripped down, folky singer-songwriter vibe. Almost all the other songs run with hazy guitar (think Grizzly Bear) wandering around through them. The atmosphere is a crushing one, and combined with his slightly off-kilter voice, things sort of feel like a druggy nightmare.
Then there's the lyrics. Dark, hopeless, depressing lyrics are not something that any listener of music in general (and indie music in particular) are unfamiliar with, but these are a special batch. Mr. Robinson has gone through a rough stretch, it seems, and he exorcizes a lot of demons here. There's not a lot of light to be had at the end of any of these tunnels. Lest I sound like a Plugged In reviewer, 'Buriedfed' uses some of the most hopeless imagery on the disc, and it's my favorite song of the bunch, it's just that SOMETHING needs to click with the listener. I'm admitedly not a large fan of the hazy soundscapes that Grizzly Bear comes out with, a lot of the lyrics are hard to identify with, and the vocals are hard to get into without the emotion behind them. When it comes to it, that's a large part of the problem, when MBAR sings, it feels like it's over, there's no fight left - there's a shocking number of things one can overlook in music when it feels like there's some fire behind them, as there is in Buriedfed.
I still greatly enjoy Buriedfed and The Debtor, but after multiple listens to the rest of Miles Benjamin Anthony Robinson, there's nothing else for me to grab onto. It's soul-baring is admirable, but not necessarily something I want to listen to.
Monday, July 14, 2008
The steps for fixing this problem are lined out in this link (ignore the page title, the important thing is the registering of the DLL file, not what broke it in the first place).
Since I'm tired of having to hunt down the locations of the DLL file and whatnot, I'm simply going to put the instructions here (copied from http://support.microsoft.com/kb/943144)
1. Stop the Automatic Updates service. To do this, follow these steps:
a. Click Start, click Run, type cmd, and then click OK.
b. At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
net stop wuauserv
2. Register the Wups2.dll file. To do this, follow these steps:
a. At the command prompt, type the following command, and then press ENTER:
Note For a computer that is running Windows XP Professional x64 Edition, type the
following command, and then press ENTER:
b. Click OK on each verification message that you receive.
3. Start the Automatic Updates service. To do this, type the following command at the command prompt, and then press ENTER: net start wuauserv
4. Exit the command prompt. To do this type exit, and then press ENTER.
These steps have worked pretty well for me thus far, and it's not that complicated of a fix, but wouldn't it just be easier if there was something written into the service pack itself to re-register the DLL?? I'll often stick up for Microsoft against my better judgement, but this is pretty ridiculous.
Monday, July 7, 2008
5) Which AL player least deserves to be starting?
24.9% David Ortiz, Red Sox (voted to start, but will sit because of injury)
21.9% Derek Jeter, Yankees
11.9% Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox
11.0% Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
8.3% All deserve to start
8.0% Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
7.7% Manny Ramirez, Red Sox
3.4% Alex Rodriguez, Yankees
1.5% Josh Hamilton, Rangers
1.4% Joe Mauer, Twins
Now, obviously this poll is about as scientific as astrology, but the results are still dead on. Mauer is the best catcher in the American League, and it's nice to see public opinion verify that for once.
Sunday, July 6, 2008
- My keyboard is currently giving me fits. Occasionally, I'll type a letter, and it simply won't show up. I'm trying to triple-check the spelling on all of this, but I'm sure things will occasionally slip through, and if they do, I can't say I'm altogether concerned about it.
- In Pete news, I was out at Linds' family's cabin for the weekend of the 4th. I got in all the requisite lakeside activities in, such as fishing, cleaning fish, smelling like fish, and getting sunburned. I believe cards were played as well. Fun was had by all.
- While I was at the cabin, I got to hear the Twins play some very exciting baseball, as the Twins swept Cleveland. I really don't want to get ahead of myself, and there's way too much baseball left to be saying this, but I'd like to think that this series (in addition to the series Cleveland played against the White Sox) really crushed their chances of making the playoffs. Meanwhile, the Twins have been playing above their heads for about a month straight now, and as a realistic Twins fan, I realize that shoes will probably be dropping on our heads at some point, but this has been a LOT of fun to watch.
- The Hold Steady's new CD 'Stay Positive' comes out July 14th. Just as a quick spoiler, it's quite good, so I'd encourage anyone who liked their previous stuff to check it out. I would also obviously encourage anyone who doesn't know what I'm talking about to check out 'Boys and Girls in America', their 2006 release. It's just really good, no frills attached, straight-up rock. Besides, Craig Finn is a Twins fan, and really... Twins fans who rock should be given the benefit of the doubt, even if they really never need for it.
- Sigur Rós' new CD, annoyingly titled 'Með suð í eyrum við spilum endalaust' (roughly translated, it means 'With a Buzz in Our Ears We Play Endlessly') has been out for a bit now. I haven't really had a chance to listen to it enough to come up with a final judgement on it, but for now, I'll say that I really enjoy the first half of the CD, when they're all experimenting with their signature sound (they have some real interesting songs that sound like Animal Collective and Funeral-era Arcade Fire), and only kind of enjoy the second half of the CD. The second half feels like the same stuff we've heard from them for a good many years now, only not quite as memorable. The stuff on the first half is just so interesting and engaging, it sort of makes the second half a letdown. Ah well... I'll keep listening.
- You'll remember that I voiced my displeasure at Universal Records' censorship of Be Your Own Pet's 'Get Awkward' CD. Importing the UK release is still the only option if you want the full package put together as the band intended, with the 3 songs in their original slots (and that has a way of being... expensive). Luckily enough, however, if you desire the 3 culled song in physical format and still desire to have money left over to fuel your car, the band has released the songs on an EP. Get Damaged contains the 3 songs in question, and nothing else; it's also inexpensive enough to actually almost merit picking up.
Universal Records still sucks, though...
Barry Bonds has been vilified to no end for his (still alleged) steroid use, but when the quarterback of one of the most revered football dynasties of all time acknowledges that he was 'roiding during the very stretch that made him legendary... what exactly happens? Near as I can tell, it's been explained away, covered up, and largely ignored. If you had slipped into a coma for a week, I'm not sure you'd ever know once you woke up. Shawne Merriman has been using, and he gets to keep his job.
It's all very bizzare to me.
Note: I've been a fan of Dayn's writing from Fox Sports (even if he did rain on Twins Fans' parade a bit on the whole Justin Morneau MVP thing, which I still don't necessarily agree with him about). He seems to be one of the few sportswriters in any major capacity who understands that wins, RBIs, and batting average aren't the dead on indicators of baseball awesome that everyone seems to think they are. His blog is a lot less stat-heavy, and delves more into the ways Sports and Politics merge (thus the name, I would assume...). It's very recommended reading.
Case in point: Livan Hernandez is, by nearly every metric available, the worst starting pitcher on the Twins' staff (5.18 ERA, on pace to give up over 300 hits, and a mind numbing 3+ strikeouts per 9 innings), but because he's 9-5, he's considered to be the 'ace' of the staff. Dick and Bert, however, aren't satisfied to give him credit for his ridiculous luck, they're happy to attribute everyone else's (much better) pitching to his 'veteran presence' and even when he gives up 7 runs in 4 innings, he's "showing the other pitchers" how to grind through lousy starts (he certainly has the practice). If the Twins were able to make a trade and get a low level third string A-ball catcher who rolls the ball back to the pitcher, I would happily take it.
By contrast, Johan Santana is 7-7 this year, and while I seriously doubt/hope that no one would call Livan Hernandez a better pitcher than Johan Santana, I did overhear some true baseball genius saying just the other day how losing Santana didn't hurt the Twins, because they've got Livan, and he's got 9 wins, whereas Johan only has a 7-7 record. He's not as brutally dominant as he was in his 04-06, and his strikeout rates down a touch, but he's still one of the best pitchers in major league baseball, and to see him in the same paragraph as Livan irks me a bit.
It's this line of reasoning that's keeping Bert Blyleven out of the Hall of Fame, and it's unacceptable and ridiculous.