Why I Love My Wife

The isn’t preseason baseball. It’s pre-preseason baseball! No one’s playing with a jersey number lower than 85.

I got an instant message earlier this evening. It was Helaine. The message was just a link, nothing more. I clicked and saw:

3/3/2010 Baseball at Philadelphia Phillies 7:00 PM Listen

It was the Florida State Seminoles site. They played the Phils tonight. Helaine was looking to listen.
The isn’t preseason baseball. It’s pre-preseason baseball! No one’s playing with a jersey number lower than 85.

And you wonder why I love her so?

I used this as an excuse to buy the yearly Major League Baseball video package. We get it every year and it is well used!

major league baseball blackout map.jpgIt’s a great idea, but talk about a purchase limited by small print! If anyone’s game is nationally telecast the Phillies game is blacked out. If the Phils are playing in New York or Boston the game is blacked out (though we do get those games on cable).

There has been some kvetching recently from folks who are blacked out though they’re hundreds of miles from the nearest team and on-air or cable telecasts aren’t available. That’s just wrong.

I scrolled down the MLB.TV page looking for dirty tricks. Sure enough well below ‘the fold’ there was a pre-checked space expressing my desire to automatically renew next March 1. I unchecked it, as I had last year. Persistent bastards, aren’t they?

I love baseball. It means spring is right around the corner.

Eric Bruntlett’s Triple Play: “Is There Some Kind Of Special Prize?”

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

It’s been well established the Fox Family watches and roots for the Phillies.

“They gave Utley the day off,” Helaine told me as we sat down to watch.

Chase Utley’s a great player. His replacement, Eric Bruntlett, is not. And yet there’s a reason teams play the games. You never know what’s going to happen.

It was, to say the least, an unusual game. The Phils scored six runs in the first. The Mets answered with two.

By the time the ninth inning arrived we’d seen Mets starter Oliver Perez removed in the middle of a batter, an inside-the-park home run made possible by the dubious interpretation of a ‘ground rule’ and a triple turned into an out after the umps reconsidered the original blown call on a spectacular catch.

The Phils were still up in the ninth as the troubled Brad Lidge came on. We were prepared for the worst. Lidge leads the league in blown saves!

The Phils defense collapsed in a series of embarrassing errors leaving the Mets with two on and no out. Now there was no getting around what was obviously ordained. The Phillies were about to suffer a crushing and ugly loss.

It didn’t work out that way!

“One moment I’m standing on third with what I thought was a triple and the next I end the game on a triple play. But there was a lot of stuff that happened in between.” – Eric Bruntlett on Comcast Sports Net

Jeff Francouer hit a line drive into an unassisted triple play. Eric Bruntlett, the fill-in who’d been called out on the faux triple and who’d contributed to the Phils ninth inning predicament was in the right place at the right time — unassisted triple play. Game over–only the second time a triple play ended a game in Major League Baseball’s well documented history.

Later, when informed on ESPN’s Baseball Tonight his play was today’s “Web Gem,” Bruntlett replied, “Is there some kind of special prize?”

Eric–fame is fleeting. Enjoy the ride. Tomorrow it’s back to the bench.

Oh… and on behalf of the Foxes, thanks.

Blogger’s note: There was originally video available for embedding, but MLB has removed it.

How I’d Change Baseball

I don’t think it’s good for the game… and by ‘the game’ I mean ‘the fans.’

mlb-logo.jpgIt’s the last day of July. It’s the Major League Baseball trading deadline. Two reasons not to like the day.

August has always been the lesser summer month to me. Not sure why. Maybe it’s the finality associated with it.

My objection to MLB’s deadline is a little more flushed out. I don’t think it’s good for the game… and by ‘the game’ I mean ‘the fans.’

Teams should work with whomever they had when the season began. They should be able to move players up-and-down from their farm system, but not team-to-team.

No more ringers–and isn’t that what trading to get Lee or Halladay really amounts to?

No–let me use a stronger term. They’re mercenaries.

Contending teams trading for stronger players and mortgaging their future for short term gains upsets the natural balance and chemistry a team has. Think Terrell Owens and the Eagles, but imagine it in mid-season!

Picking up players also removes certain strategic components of the game-within-the-game just as having a designated hitter does.

At the same time it’s disrespectful to the fans of the ‘donor’ team. Remember them?

Cleveland and Toronto I feel your pain even though, as a Phils fan, it’s my potential gain.

I’m A Little Overwhelmed

Today there are other small problems on top of that. None of them are major individually. It’s a cumulative thing.

I’m feeling a little overwhelmed at the moment. My hope is the feeling passes. It always has in the past.

Usually when snow is on the way (as it is tonight) I become more tightly wound. Today there are other small problems on top of that. None of them are major individually. It’s a cumulative thing.

We are never totally the master of our own fate. Sometimes it’s other people who hold the key. Other times it’s just random circumstances. Whatever the cause, frustration is the effect.

I could use an egg cream and a bag of Hydrox cookies–stat.

Baseball That Doesn’t Sound Right

I’m not sure what it is the Atlanta broadcasters have done, but every time the ball hits the bat, it sounds like a home run.

Helaine and I are watching the Phillies-Braves game on the computer. If we had our druthers, we’d be watching the Phillies play-by-play team. Major League Baseball doesn’t give you that option. We’ve got the “Peachtree TV” Atlanta oriented broadcast instead, as we had last night.

Baseball isn’t always action packed, so I’m doing other things on the computer, and bringing up the baseball window when warranted. The sound stays on 100%.

I’m not sure what it is the Atlanta broadcasters have done, but every time the ball hits the bat, it sounds like a home run. Crack!. Pop fly, grounder to second, line drive… It makes no difference. Crack!.

It is disconcerting, to say the least. Does the baseball experience really need to be hyped this way?

Speaking of sound. For the first time, play-by-play announcer Skip Caray sounds really old. There’s a weakness and quiver in his voice. I wonder if he’s not well?

Today’s Favorite Spam

“Nucklear!” Sometimes this stuff is just priceless.

Today was spam cleaning day. Over 2,500 pieces from my me@geofffox.com mailbox were waiting in my junk folder. I like to look and make sure nothing valuable gets ditched.

As it turned out, only one message had been improperly marked!

I got this one at least three times (safely in my spam box). The originator was separately listed as the New York Post, AOL and Washington Post. The content and message subject were exactly the same in all three:

CNN, San Clemente, CA – Major Problems have been occured at San Clemente Nucklear Power Station – 20-year old circuit breaker fails to close, creating a 4,000-volt arc and fire. Possible radiation leaks on 100miles area. Evacuation process has been started – View updated video

“Nucklear!” Sometimes this stuff is just priceless.

That last line, “View updated video,” was the link to the ‘real’ spam. It was an encoded link, so the receiving website could easily know which email elicited the click.

Obviously, when you write in English, but it’s terribly broken English, your scam isn’t going to be terribly successful. However, this has the potential to be the 21st Century version of yelling “FIRE” in a crowded theater.

I’m trying to figure out what this says about spamming? Has the ongoing battle against spammers diminished returns enough that techniques have been pushed to the edge?

It’s true, spam will only disappear when it’s no longer profitable.

The Antenna I Can’t Part With

The rumor was, the guy who designed the antenna, an MIT grad student whose name I won’t mention, was really working for the CIA. Having the ability to monitor local radio stations from afar… let’s say Albania from Turkey, for instance, was a valuable tool in the Cold War.

altazimuth_loop.jpgI was just up in the attic a few minutes ago. I was looking for something that was actually right next to me!

While there, I caught sight of the ‘thing’ in the photo to the left. As any fool can plainly see, it’s an NRC DIGFET Altazimuth loop&#185.

OK – what’s that? You’re entitled to know.

When I was growing up… in fact, until the early 70s, I was a BCB DXer. That’s a person who listens to distant stations on a plain AM radio.

I heard the easy ones easily. It was those stations between the stations, the really long hauls with weak signals, that interested me.

There was (actually there still is) a club for these dweeby shut-ins desperately trying to identify what they were hearing: the National Radio Club. Its DX News, published by volunteers pounding on manual typewriters, was my source of knowledge… albeit months old by the time it got to me.

The loop antenna made it possible to eliminate local stations, allowing the distant ones to come right in. I know it sounds impossible, but by turning the antenna to just the right angle, vector math nulled the strong signal.

The rumor was, the guy who designed the antenna, an MIT grad student whose name I won’t mention, was really working for the CIA. Having the ability to monitor local radio stations from afar… let’s say Albania from Turkey, for instance, was a valuable tool in the Cold War.

While working in Charlotte, NC at 50,000 watt WBT, I could turn the antenna to hear KFAB in Omaha. They were both on the same frequency, with KFAB purposely sending very little signal in my direction!

I used that antenna to listen to the Radio Dakar in Senegal on 764 kHz and the BBC on 1214 kHz from my dorm room at Emerson. The signals weren’t great and I didn’t really mind.

In Cleveland in the early 70s, I caught a station ID from KORL 650 kHz in Honolulu while WSM in Nashville was off-the-air for weekly transmitter maintenance. I only heard a few seconds, but they included a jingle for “People Power,” their talk format slogan at the time.

Since I wanted to be in radio, having this amazing antenna allowed me to listen to disk jockeys and radio stations not normally available.

The antenna still works. Until Major League Baseball began streaming games on the Internet, we used it to hear the Phillies on 1210 kHz, even though there’s a station here in Hamden on 1220 kHz!

I really have no use for my ugly antenna anymore. I do nearly no AM listening, and haven’t BCB DX’ed in years.

There’s not a chance I’ll throw it away. You might not understand why. I’m the only one who has to.

&#185 – NRC is National Radio Club. DIGFET is short for “dual inverted gate, field effect transistor.” It’s a low noise amplifier to increase the signal strength. Two were used in a push-pull configuration. Altazimuth referred to the antenna’s ability to turn and tilt in order to find the perfect spot to null out a station.

Freezecam Debuts

We’re watching ‘the’ game on TV – New England vs. Indianapolis on CBS. So far, this battle of undefeated teams, both led by charismatic quarterbacks, is everything promised.

Not a sports fan? Don’t stop reading up yet.

CBS added a new feature to today’s coverage – FreezeCam. Remember when two words actually had a space between them?

I’ve tried to find as much info as I could, but there’s really not much available.

FreezeCam manipulates a high resolution, wide angle image of the field. There are enough pixels to allow zooming into small areas without the image getting ratty. It looks spectacular, though it’s probably not as amazing as it seems. Even in high definition, a television screen has significantly less resolution than a cheap digital camera.

Still, this is a major breakthrough, allowing a view of quick events happening away from the action where a camera would not normally be looking.

FreezeCam comes from Sportvision, the company responsible for many of the best sports video innovations. They provide the virtual 1st down line in football games, car tracking in NASCAR and pitc trajectory in Major League Baseball games.

I think they also provide the technology for the virtual ads behind home plate you see during baseball games. I’m considering giving them a pass on that, all things considered.

These are my type of geeks!

I’ve only seen Freezecam used a few times so far, to isolate a runner’s feet in possible out-of-bounds plays. Very impressive. It’s a gadget with a real purpose and value.

In a few years, we’ll probably be as blas

My MLB Beef

I just sent the following to the Major League Baseball site. It was actually longer at first, but there’s a 500 character limit.

I subscribe to the MLB TV. This year you are running a commercial for MLB merchandise at Dick’s every half inning.

The commercial is much louder than the game audio. If I adjust for the game, I get blasted every half inning. If I adjust for the commercial, I can’t hear the game. It isn’t quite as easy as adjusting your car radio.

Please have a little more compassion for those of us who pay to watch the games. This is something under your control.

All the best,

Geoff Fox

I’ll let you know if anything develops.

MLB – I’m Talking To You

As part of her… uhh… 21st birthday, I gave Helaine a subscription to Major League Baseball’s video service. She watches the Phillies and I think the service is a good deal.

Often, I go to the site MLB maintains for the Phillies and that’s where my complaint begins. The site loads and then a few seconds later, while you’re engaged in what you’re doing, a video commercial starts playing – LOUDLY.

I work in commercial TV. I understand commercials. But MLB offers no functionality to quiet this beast on its page. In fact, once the commercial starts playing, you’re stuck closing your web browser or suffering.

Again, I work in commercial TV. I understand the utility of commercials.

Here’s the problem. I will check the Phillies site while my wife is sleeping… or from the studio at work. If they’re going to play their commercial LOUDLY and give me no way to stop it, I’m going to stop coming.

MLB will tell you, there’s the ability to click on the player before the video starts, which stops the whole process – and that’s true. But, since the commercial loads after the rest of the page, that countdown to LOUD sneaks in while you’re looking elsewhere. And, again, there’s no way to stop it or quiet it once it begins.

A friend at work says the Minnesota Twins site does the same thing.

This is not a page from “How To Win Friends and Influence People.”

It Only Hurts When They Speak

From my Cousin Michael in sunny, crispy, Southern California:

According to Melissa, on KTLA radio this morning the announcer said that the switch to daylight savings time was good news regarding the Anaheim Hill fire, since there was now an extra hour of darkness when the fire was less likely to spead. Then the other announcers agreed. We live in a land of morons.

KTLA is a TV station. There’s no KTLA radio, so they’re off the hook.

That leaves us with three points here.

  1. The days of Edward R. Murrow are over
  2. Some listeners perceive news anchors as announcers – people who read and add no expertise to the situation.
  3. Some radio station needs a better name recognition campaign

As with Major League Baseball, is it possible we’ve expanded media to the point we’re thinned the herd a little too much?

Don’t Get My Hopes Up

One of the reasons I hadn’t bought a satellite radio yet had to do with the conflict between Major League Baseball on XM and NFL on Sirius (and, of course, my friend Rick on Sirius).

With the proposal of a merger, that seemed to no longer be a concern. After all, as Mel Karmazin said in Congressional testimony prices would not be raised and that listeners would benefit enormously by getting the best programming from both companies.

Wow – win, win!

This morning, in a count-your-fingers moment, the deal didn’t look as sweet. Here’s what the NY Times had to say, quoting FCC Chairman Kevin Martin:

But in separate conversations with two people after Mr. Karmazin

I Should Have Gone To Yale

If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know I really enjoy photography. As of tonight, “Clicky” has taken 24,123 shots. Obviously, I try and take pictures any time I can.

Tonight, I had my chance to shoot a basketball game. Yale was playing Columbia and I got a pass to sit on the baseline at the John J. Lee Amphitheater on the Yale Campus in New Haven.

It was Senior Night, which is nice. It was also the night of the Jones Brothers. Yale is coached by James Jones. Columbia is coached by his brother Joe.

I haven’t really shot a lot of sports. I’ve been to some Major League Baseball games, shooting from the stands, and stood on the sideline at the UCONN vs Army game a few years ago at Rentschler Field in Hartford. This was my first attempt at hoops. I am humbled.

Shooting basketball is much more difficult than I had imagined. it took about sixty seconds to come to that conclusion!

First, an observation I made after shooting the UCONN football game. Still photographers can get great shots, but they seldom get ‘the big play’ the way TV cameras do. Still photography doesn’t cover the field the same way. You often have to aim and wait for the play to get to you.

Basketball poses even more problems. It moves very quickly and is played in a relatively dimly lit gym. My lenses, fine lenses for an amateur like me, are just too ‘slow&#185’.

There were a few professional shooters at the game as well. I needed four to eight times as much light for the same shot!

I wanted to keep my shutter speed as fast as possible, so I compensated in other ways, which is why all the shots are very, very grainy. It might look like a nice artistic touch, but it wouldn’t be there if I had any choice.

In this game, Yale was blown out. Columbia was red hot. I haven’t seen the stats, but it seemed they just couldn’t miss a shot!

There was a a lot going on off the court. As with most colleges, Yale has a cheer squad They also have an unusual pep band, the Yale Precision Marching Band.

I didn’t see them march, though after the game they did play while crawling on their knees!

The YPMB also featured one guy wearing a “Harvard Sucks” t-shirt. At Yale, that sentiment is not an idle boast.

I felt very comfortable in these surroundings. It’s a shame I was so awful as a student growing up, because I would have fit well at Yale. And, my guess it’s, it’s much more prestigious to be thrown out of Yale than it was to be thrown out of Emerson College!

None of the shots from tonight will be printed. On the other hand, there is a little artistic merit there. I put a few of them in my gallery, if you’d like to take a look.

&#185 – When a photographer talks about a slow lens, it’s a lens that needs more light. The name comes from what you must do to compensate – slow down the shutter. The slower the shutter, the less sharp the action will be. It’s a vicious cycle.

They’re Doing It Again

Charlie Walsh from the Connecticut Post called a while ago. He wanted my reaction to AccuWeather’s latest pronouncement:

WINTER TO COME “WITH A VENGEANCE”

Prolonged Period of Cold and Stormy Weather Appears on the Way

Quickly, I went to Google and found one of their earlier predictions.

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast

AccuWeather.com Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

Sure – there’s the chance of a hurricane hitting the Northeast any year. Of course, there was none this year.

Then, in October, AccuWeather said:

Unlike the National Weather Service forecast, Bastardi does not see this winter being warmer than normal across the vast majority of the country. Overall, the AccuWeather.com Winter 2006

What Hath AccuWeather Wrought

I was scrutinizing Drudge last night when I saw the headline.

I began to get upset. Then, I read AccuWeather’s release, which was headlined:

Threat of Major Hurricane Strike Grows for Northeast

AccuWeather.com Warns That “Weather Disaster of Historic Proportions” Could Strike as Early as This Year

The release went on to quote Joe Bastardi, one of AccuWeather’s meteorologists as saying:

“The Northeast coast is long overdue for a powerful hurricane.

That’s like saying a slot machine is overdue because it hasn’t paid out in a while. In statistics, the likelihood of a 100 year event doesn’t increase just because you’ve gone 99 years without seeing one.

I went to the weather bulletin board where I sometimes post and left this:

I read the AccuWeather release and my blood boiled. As far as I know, there’s no such thing as “overdue” in statistics. I’m assuming all their meteorologists, including Joe Bastardi, took statistics courses.

When people come up to me in the supermarket and say we hype the weather – they’re talking about stuff like this.

What AccuWeather missed – the real story – is, a Hurricane of ’38 scenario would create a civil catastrophe before it struck! Though they mention Providence as the storm’s focal point, the center actually struck nearly 100 miles west, in Milford, Connecticut.

The biggest damage was that far east because it was no longer a classic tropical system. First, it was moving at better than 60 mph (I’m doing this off the top of my head – allow a little leeway). It had also been over colder water and was probably transitioning to extratropical.

How would we warn for a storm which went from the Bahamas to New England in about a day, and whose damage would be so far east of the center? Hurricane Warnings from Atlantic City, NJ to Portland, ME? It boggles the mind.

Would we evacuate all of New England? Could we? Where would they go?

As it is, on a Sunday evening the Mass Pike backs up for miles at the I-84 exit. I-95 through most of Eastern Connecticut is 2-lanes in each direction, and the area just east of New Haven will be under construction for much of the next decade. That’s without all of Boston and Providence heading west.

But, back to AccuWeather. Is this like yelling fire in a crowded theater? I don’t know. I certainly wouldn’t have put out the statement they put out, but that’s their choice to make.

I believe they’re honorable people. Joel Meyers certainly has a long and storied reputation and has been honored for his contributions to the public’s well being and safety.

I know folks at AccuWeather read this. I would like to see Joel personally revisit this particular statement. If this is how he really feels, fine.

My hope is, he’ll provide more specifics and less hyperbole.

So, there you have it. Yes – New England is vulnerable, but no more vulnerable today than it was last year at this time.

We need solid action to prepare, not hyperbole and scare tactics.