Today's Baby Lesson

Faith No More's song Epic (which is from 20 years ago now... yikes...) takes on a whole different meaning when you're singing it to a three-month-old.

(Why am I singing this to him? Because he doesn't know what baby songs are, and if I'm going to sing to him, I'd rather it be not something that makes my brain fall out. Turns out, he likes one-hit-wonders. Especially "Come On Eileen", for some reason.)

So, for example..

"You want it all, but you can't have it" is eerily appropriate for a baby. And "It's in your face, but you can't grab it" also fits, because he hasn't quite mastered the art of grabbing for things that are in front of him. (Right now, it's sort of a semi-random flailing..)

Christmas Games

In what was a really cool Christmas surprise, the baby got more clothes than I did. So I got lots of stuff that I wanted, including two new games:

  1. Electric Football: (Actually, my game is called "vibrating football", don't know why they changed the name). This is a real nostalgia choice- I had it when I was a kid, and remember having a lot of fun with it, until my 2 year old sister stepped on the board, ruining it forever. It's not a great game (it's very hard to make everyone go straight), but it's fun to set the players up and turn them loose.

    I don't know if it's my memory being faulty, or me being old, but we had a lot of trouble following the ball when it was kicked or passed. So much so that we had to put our hand behind the player we were passing to, to see if we felt the ball hitting the area. I seem to remember being more able to follow the flight of the ball visually. Oh well.

  2. Le Havre One of the "hot new" games, by the guy who made Agricola, which is a game I like, for the most part. Le Havre is currently rated #7 on BoardGameGeek, and while you shouldn't take the ratings too seriously, it does mean that this game has a lot of people who really like it.

    It's very similar to Agricola- on your turn, resources get produced, and you can either take a batch of a resource, or you can "do something", which usually involves going into a building that gets you a special ability. Every so often, you have to feed your people, so worrying about that serves as a drag on your point-scoring efficiency.

    A big difference, though, is that Le Havre has tons of different resources (8, each with "normal" and "upgraded" sides), and the cards are more communal, so even if one person "owns" the card, it won't stop other people from being able to use the card's power for themselves (for a small fee). Compare that to Agricola, where each player gets a hand of cards that gives them individual powers when played, and if one player gets really powerful cards, or cards that form ridiculous combinations, well, they'll probably win.

    The other difference is the "flow" of the game- in Agricola, you're always feeling pressured to feed your people, and that pressure increases as the game goes on (and the feeding cycles come faster, and your family gets larger, so you need more food). In Le Havre, by the middle of the game, you have enough food for the rest of the game, and you can stop worrying. In fact, some players online take this to the extreme, and basically don't worry about food much at all and just concentrate on scoring points. That may be a little extreme, but I think I like the constant struggle of Agricola better regardless.

    Still, Le Havre is a pretty deep game, and one that I'd like to play again. I even spent dinner last night discussing strategy in the game with my wife, which is always a good thing :)

Commissioner for a Day

The baseball blog It's About the Money (stupid) is doing an offseason series that asks "If you were commissioner of baseball for one day, and could make one change, what would it be?"

I wrote a long rant on how we can (and should) use the pitch tracking software that already exists to see if a pitch was "really" a ball or strike, and use it in actual game situations.

It's pretty long, but he posted it today. So, cool!

Earl would call it karma..

On the way home from NY, I was caught in the blizzard over the weekend, and our dinky Long Island airport closed. Since I had to change in Baltimore, I ended up driving down with my sister and her husband, who live down there, to catch the (delayed) second half of my flight.

The place they put the gate was a giant space at the end of the hall- on one side was the gate for Columbus, and the other side was a gate for a (similarly delayed) flight to Louisville. I sat on the Louisville side, since it had a better place for me to plug in my computer, and I figured I'd hear them announce my flight anyway, since it was all sort of the same room.

I took out my computer, and started playing one of my stupid time-wasting games, when I feel someone watching me. It's a 7-year-old girl, looking shyly at me and watching what I was doing. I think she and her (teenage) brother were flying alone, because there were no parents in sight.

Anyway, I showed her the game ("These are the fire mages! They do splash damage!" "Crap! My sword dudes don't work against flyers."), and she was fascinated for a while. We talked strategy a little (she told me where to put my units). I even offered to let her play for a bit, but I think she was too shy.

It was actually fun, though I spent the time waiting for some adult to pull her away, accusing me of trying to molest her, or something (you don't talk to strangers!). Eventually, she asks me, "Are you going to Louisville with me?" I said that I wasn't, I was waiting for the Columbus plane on the other side. She said, "Aren't they getting on the plane?" I looked over, and sure enough, the gate is open, and people are jumping on the plane.

I quickly thanked her, packed up my stuff, and made it as one of the last people on the plane. I'm glad that girl wasn't afraid to talk to me, and I'm glad I wasn't the antisocial jerk I usually am, because being friendly with her was probably the reason I didn't miss my flight. I know people's walls are built much higher these days, when you see news stories about baby murders and kidnappings and stuff, but it's good to see that you can still be nice to strangers, and how it comes around and helps you too.

Airport experiences

I guess I haven't flown in a while, but I am today. A couple of things that struck me:

  1. The security line is actually 2 lines. One for "expert travelers" who know the procedures, and one for troublemakers like me who have laptops and forget to take off their shoes. The volume, and rate of passage, is much higher on the "expert" line, like you'd expect. But what's interesting is the number of people who clearly shouldn't be on the expert line (because they're herding several small children, say) who go on it anyway, because they think it's faster. As a result, there were hardly any people on the "loser" line, and I went right through.

    Columbus is a pretty small airport, but I bet this is true in general- the fast line gets way more people than it can handle, and the slow line moves almost as fast. (Unless and until you get that one person who holds everything up for a long time. You probably won't get him on the expert line). I don't know enough queuing theory to know if this is the case, but I'm betting the TSA people don't either. Or maybe they don't care, and it's just a way to seem like they're being accommodating, when they really just want 2 lines. It's not like there are any consequences for being a slow person on the fast line.

    Regardless, while I still hate lots of the pointless security theater that goes on, I have to admit that they've gotten much better at handling security and making it flow. Remember how it was around 2002? With infants being pulled from the line for "extra security screening"?

    2) Wireless is free here, and it got me thinking about how that seems to be the case almost everywhere now (at least in Ohio.) The "pay to use wireless in a public place" business model seems to have died off for the most part, and wireless is the sort of thing people expect to be free in a large public place (and even places like hotels- I don't even ask when I'm in a hotel now, I just assume they have it). It's kind of cool that things have changed so quickly, and in such a positive (for the regular person who gets an extra benefit for free) way.

    Wow, I'm remarkably optimistic for someone who got up at the ungodly hour of 6 AM today. It can't last :)

How you know you've married the right person

Her: "Honey, can you watch the baby for a while?"

Me: "Sure, but I'm in the middle of a game, and would like to get to a save point first. It may be a half hour".

Her: "Ok, no problem."

I love that "I need to play my video game for a while" counts as a valid excuse.. The sad thing is that it is a real excuse for me. I know I could leave the game on and not save, but then I'm paranoid about accidentally shutting it off, and also, most games have a "this is how many hours you've played" counter, and I feel guilty watching it tick upwards without me doing anything about it.

Yeah, I'm crazy.. now let me go find a save point.

Baseball from another time

My parents have the MLB network, and one of the cool things about it is that they show "classic" old games. It's cool to see the players play so differently- choking up on the bat, not wandering away from the plate for 5 minutes between pitches, pitchers going longer into games.

Tonight's game was game one of the 1970 World Series (Orioles vs Reds), and the way the pitchers were used was really interesting. The Orioles were up 4-3 in the top of the ninth, and Jim Palmer, the starting pitcher, was up to bat. I don't know how many pitches he threw, but he only had one strikeout, and had let up 3 runs. In today's game, he'd probably be long gone. Anyway, the Orioles had runners on first and second with 2 outs, and Palmer was due to bat. I figured this was a no-brainer pinch-hitting opportunity. But they let Palmer bat! And the announcers didn't seem like it was a big deal! I guess the assumption in those days was that a pitcher would throw a complete game unless there was a real reason not to.

It didn't end up mattering- Palmer grounded out, and then got 2 outs in the ninth, walked the third batter (Pete Rose), and got taken out with 2 outs in the ninth. The relief pitcher got the last out and finished the game.

Nowadays, with teams having defined "closers", managers would be falling over themselves to have the reliever start the ninth inning- and complete games are few and far between. Contrast that to 1970, when Palmer had complete games in 17 of his 39 starts.

Sometimes, I wonder if we are a little too scared with pitchers (I'm especially thinking of the way we handle young pitchers- stuff like the "Joba Rules"), and don't train them to go deep in games. Since middle relief is such a weak point for so many teams, you'd think that some small-market team could try something different and train starting pitchers to go deeper into games, and have one less hole to cover.

Or maybe I'm just getting crotchety in my old age. Though I can't say "In my day" about 1970, since I wasn't born yet :)

Oh No! A Bear!

Being a parent has filled my brain with lots of information that I wouldn't have expected to need to know previously.

For example, the preponderance of bears on children's clothing. They're cute and all, but don't bears, like, maul people?

I guess you can make anything cute by giving it a big head in relation to its body (and yes, it looks like I'm right, having done a google image search for "Cute Cthulhu" . But I still wonder why bears got the cute treatment, and not, say, Vultures. ("Cute Vulture" doesn't do nearly as well in the image search)

Maybe it's the "Teddy Bear" thing, but I'm not sure whether that's a cause or an effect.

How to tell me you'd like to fail my class

This actually hasn't happened in a while, but I thought of it today since I'm giving a lot of tests this week.

Sometimes, usually in my lower-level/non-majors classes, when I give a test, someone walks in who I usually don't see in class very often. They usually look disheveled, as if they've just woken up (even in afternoon classes), and ask me "I don't have a pen to take the test with. Can I borrow one?"

So, here's someone, who either knew there was a test and didn't bring the ONE thing they needed, or didn't know there was a test, luckily came to class anyway, and was.. what? Expecting to sit through an hour-long (sometimes two hours long) class without taking a single note? Really?

I give them the pen, but I mentally say to myself "The drop deadline is in 2 weeks. See you then." Usually, I'm right.