Thursday, June 28, 2007

Big day today with the NBA draft about to start in an hour. The Cavs are not in the draft at all, but there is word that they are trying to get in to draft Jared Dudley. This makes me happy, as the Wages of Wins metric has Dudley near the top of his class. Seeing as how he's predicted to go in the bottom of the first round, this would be a tremendous steal for the Cavs. Huge. Between him and Shannon Brown we might just have something at SG in the future. My Dad reports that the Ohio papers are admitting the Hughes experiment is over. This bodes well...

Yesterday's Europe post has me itching to go back. Today's the last day for the ridiculous plane ticket deal...

After the draft I'm going to post some predictions for next year. Of course, there will/should also be major trade shakedowns that will happen in the months to come that will change things. Basically I want to make predictions based on Win Score that will (hopefully) help prove the value of statistical analysis. This will be a difficult undertaking, but I accept the mantle.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

If you are even remotely thinking of maybe going to Europe sometime soon, make your mind up right now. You have until tomorrow to buy round-trip tickets to Dusseldorf, Germany (via Detroit) for $615 from Northwest Airlines. I almost feel obligated to go, even though I'm already heading to China in a month. That's the deal of the year for sure.

Ironically, Dusseldorf is where we flew into last September. From there we bought a train ticket to Amsterdam, and a couple days later we started our rail pass and circled through Europe hitting Bruges, Barcelona, Arles, Vernazza, Venice, Constance, Munich, Interlaken, Bern, the Rhineland and Cologne. Absolutely the best-spent $2200 of my life. If you haven't taken a big trip like that, I really can't recommend it enough. As Mark Twain said:

"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime."
--Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad (1869)

I may have posted that quote sometime earlier.

A quick recap of our stops:

Amsterdam - It wouldn't take much for me to live here. Everyone is on bikes - I mean everyone - so it's basically the antithesis of LA, where people hose off sidewalks instead of using a broom, because hey, we're in a desert and all.

Bruges - A small medieval town center is the perfect day stop if you can get to it. Huge clock tower, great brewery tour and Belgian frites (fries) with mayonnaise.

Barcelona - Mildly disappointing, probably because after the first muggy afternoon at the beach we had a monsoon to contend with. Definitely the most near-death experience as we desperately searched for a metro station for over an hour in a raging thunderstorm (turns out on the map the 'M's with a square around them mean 'museum', not 'metro'). We passed a group of people standing under metal scaffolding and seconds after turning the next corner we saw a mega-flash and heard an ear-splitting crack of thunder.

While trying to leave Spain we saw the track in front of our train get washed away by a torrent of water. This led to the day-long 'get out of Spain' game in which we spent a night on a train parked at a station. On the plus side, we teamed up with reps from the entire English-speaking world - Aussies, Brits and South Africans.

Arles - Still rainy, but a blast. We only had two days everywhere we went so small towns like this ended up being perfect. You can walk around the whole center in a day and feel like you really know the place the following day. Plus we lucked into the best hotel room of the trip with a cafe-scene view from the balcony.

Vernazza - Five tiny cliff hugging ocean towns and the high point for Mona. Nothing I say can add to the vast resources Rick Steves has compiled in his books, shows and website. If you are anywhere near Northwestern Italy on your trip, do not pass up Vernazza (and the rest of the Cinque Terre).

Venice - Duh, Venice was cool. You can take a picture of anything and it will come out good. It's fun to just walk around looking at stuff like a tourist and wishing you could stay for more than 9 hours.

Constance - I was lucky to have a high school friend (exchange student) living here that we got to stay with. He and his girlfriend drove us to...

Munich - We were here during Oktoberfest. I've had my fair share of puke sessions from drinking too much, and every time it's happened I've been hugely regretful. Well, not during Oktoberfest. We were at a table full of non-English speaking Germans, but by the third stein it didn't matter; we were best friends.

Interlaken/Switzerland - Hands down my favorite country. Just look at some pictures and imagine it being way better than you think, cause it is. Not only would I live here, I think at some point I actually will.

Rhineland - took a quick paddleboat ride down the Rhine on our last day in Europe. It's packed full of old castles and cool little riverfront towns. We had a crappy hotel in Cologne for our last night, but we were really only in it for like 4 hours.

Here's a tip - take the blankets from the plane ride with you. They were invaluable as picnic surfaces, dirty sheet covers, impromptu pillows and even as blankets on trains. Then we just left them at the last hotel.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

I have become exceedingly lax in my posting dutues as of late. I blame the Cavs' loss in the NBA Finals ('loss' being a euphemism for 'strangulation') as well as my successful posting of five new songs. That and laziness.

I found an intereting new blog site called Make Your Nut. Strange name, but it's primarily a how-to site for personal finance, although it's written by a guy whose knowledge seems to come as much from his own mistakes as from theoretical practices. But it's interesting and he also posts about his first forays into gardening and on the financial benefit of travelling independently through Europe. And he has a 'finance haiku' contest going on right now - I submitted one called 'special credit card offers' (his title) and if I receive enough votes I win $10. Dead serious. Vote now.

I thought his post on European travel was a little thin; I went to Europe last year and did a tremendous amount of research before going, so I think I'm going to post about my travels for anyone else who may be interested in going. Not now, but I'll start tomorrow probably.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Before all remaining hope is shattered into a thousand fragments of plantar fascia, I wanted to post the picture above. It's the wallpaper on my computer here at work. Even after the stark reality of the past two games I still can't believe this moment happened. What a great photo. I wish I had been there.

So we're going to see a lot of boobie tonight. It's about time.

If he is as good as he could be next year, and if we can bring in a decent guard (I don't know how we'll be able to do this unless we get rid of Hughes' contract), the Cavs will become a great team. If not, they'll have trouble beating the Bulls to reach the Finals again.

But we're in the Finals now, and tonight's a big game.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Why yes, that is a new EP over there to the left. Hope you like it.

There are 12 more coming. Songs that is.

That was an unequivocal disaster. I'm both embarrassed and saddened. This could be it. I saw the Indians in the world series twice in the 90s, and they had one of the best teams in baseball for a few years. This Cavs team, unfortunately, is lucky to be in the finals. If they don't make any significant changes in the offseason I think it's very, very unlikely that they'll be back next year. And then on top of all this I have to sit through game 2.

I can't really blame anyone for this loss. The Spurs are the better team, this was known going in, and they're proving it. Despite this, the Cavs did have a chance to win, they just needed everything to work - they needed to be firing on all cylinders. The best players needed to be out there at all times. This, of course, didn't happen.

I like Larry Hughes. He seems like a nice guy. But we paid what, $60 million for him? Remember when we expected him to be LeBron's running mate? Now we feel lucky when he makes a three in the first quarter, like we're gambling and we should take our chips and go home now that we're up on the house.

Daniel Gibson is making $400,000, the league minimum. But he's one of our best guards. The other is Eric Snow. Yes, Eric Snow. Guess what? When he doesn't shoot, which everyone harps on, that means someone else does shoot - if the plays called ensure that this is Z, Gooden or LeBron, then the Cavs are taking a high percentage shot. Snow doesn't turn the ball over much (far less than Hughes), he gets more assists and is by all accounts a fantastic defender (ironically, Hughes was supposed to be one too, primarily because he led the league in steals the year before joining the Cavs).

Yet somehow, Mike Brown almost NEVER plays Snow and Gibson side by side. That's just terrible - Gibson is clearly (even to just observers of the game) a better shooter than Hughes and a better 'slasher' than Sasha, and Snow is a more valuable point guard than Hughes. Let Snow bring the ball up and make the first pass to Gibson, not LeBron, and let LeBron run off picks or otherwise finish plays after either setting up a mismatch or just avoiding a double team. Why, you could even have LeBron post up. Yes, revolutionary, I know.

I just learned this the other day - LeBron has gotten worse as a player, overall, the past two seasons. His best season was his second, his third was slightly worse, and this season was significantly worse. Keep in mind that even this season he was a fantastic player. But still... is Mike Brown's reliance on him as a scorer to blame? Most players aren't better in their second year than their fourth, especially when they were only 19 their second year. This should be a big deal to Clevelanders. It seems obvious that LeBron's strengths are not being utilized to their fullest. I realize I am not backing up this statement with any statistical analysis. But it is a theory for the proven degradation of his play.

As always, analysis is based on the metrics developed by the fine folks at the Wages of Wins.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

The Great Ape Trust in Iowa is a research facility where scientists are teaching all four great ape species (gorilla, chimpanzee, bonobo and orangutan) to communicate via lexigrams (symbols, not unlike Asian language characters, that respresent an object or concept). They are also teaching them to comprehend human speech. The most amazing part - when researchers were trying to teach an adult female bonobo, who just wasn't getting it. One day she was gone, and her young son, Kanzi (who wasn't being taught at all), suddenly started using the lexigrams to communicate with the researchers. In other words, he learned passively, by being exposed to the language, just like human babies. Apparently this happened over a decade ago and Kanzi is an adult and understands hundreds of human speech words and can use the lexigrams to create new word combinations - like 'candy' and 'coffee' to represent a carmel macchiato from starbucks.

Here's my idea: teach the apes to play the wii. You could do this at the LA zoo, then set up an exhibit and allow the general public to play wii tennis vs the apes. If this wouldn't get picked up by every local newscast and result in an exponential attendance increase, then I'm a moron.

Here is a new song. Well, not really, it's actually really old, I just found it yesterday. It's a demo, I had forgotten that it existed, but I kind of like it. Don't expect it on the album or anything.

I'm still done with the EP, but the owner of the netlabel has been traveling and isn't able to release it yet. Frustrating. Maybe I'll release it myself first...

want you to know

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Yesterday I saw the biggest, most fantastic and awe-inspiring mullet of all time.

I was taking a brief walk around Glendale on break from work. I swear, there are mountain lions in California, but you'd never expect to see one walking the streets of Glendale; a bustling city of around 800,000 residents, a large bacterial blob in the Petri dish that is Los Angeles. My reaction to seeing this mullet was the same as if it were a large cat dexterously crossing Wilson Ave:

'Wait, is that...?'

'Holy shit!'

'I wish I had my camera.'

(Awestruck silence).

The guy was like 40 years old. He was short, and his body was shaped strangely - he had big thighs, accentuated by his ass-tight black pants. He had a lame metal band black t-shirt, and a Craig Ferguson-esque face. And then his hair...

The top alone was a work of art; a thick nest of loose, dark curls that could only be described as a fro. It really looked like a wig, and it took a couple seconds for me to determine that it was genuine. Somehow the 'party in the rear' aspect was nearly straight, deftly juxtaposing with the curly goodness above - like a cloud showering life-giving mullet rain down onto his lower back. It was, frankly, one of the most transcendent moments of my life, like that scene in 'Stand By Me' where the kid is all alone and a deer walks by, mere feet from where he stood. Unlike that scene, I have not decided to keep the memory for myself. Truly a mullet for the ages.

I am comforted by the knowledge that even as I sit here in my office in Glendale, the mullet roams free somewhere in this city.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

The Cavs are in the NBA finals.

It still hasn't hit me. I'm in shock. I've been following the team very, very closely for a few years now - and none more closely than this season. I can't believe it finally paid off.

The Daniel Gibson draft pick could end up being the move of the decade for the Cavs. It's still too early to tell, but it's possible. If Shannon Brown pans out then the 2006 draft could pale only slightly to the 2003 draft in terms of Cleveland's future fortunes.

The Hughes signing is clearly the mistake of the decade. Then again, you can't really fault Danny Ferry. Well, you can, but as a new GM he simply HAD to make a significant acquisition and Hughes was the only one left. Too bad he's not a quality player.

Wait, why am I complaining? The Cavs are in the finals. The Finals. See, it clearly hasn't sunk in yet, but then again I'm skeptical of our chances vs the Spurs. Who isn't? But I was skeptical of our chances vs the Pistons, and I thought (and still think) the Bulls are the best team in the East. Thank god for the 7-game series. Anything is possible.

But we might be lucky to have gotten this far. In fact I'm sure of it. And Varejao is still a restricted free agent this offseason. And we still have Hughes' massive contract. Ferry should try really, really hard to ship that off. I would withhold all criticism of Ferry for one year if he can pull that off in the offseason, without giving up any other significant assets in the trade. Good luck, Ferry.

Seriously, I should shut up. Now is a time for celebration and optimism. This season is already better than it should have been, same as last season. From here on out it's all icing on the cake.