The Dord of Darien

Musings from the Mayor of the Internet

The thing about Alaska

Funny thing is it’s real big, but national companies don’t always seem to grasp that. Like there’s this radio ad playing lately about a new Pier 1 that just opened in Fairbanks. Which is fine and all, except that Fairbanks is four hundred miles away. I do not recall hearing radio ads when I lived in Massachusetts about new stores that just opened in Pittsburgh.

December 13th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

This happened

A conversation I swear I really had today at work:

Her: What kind of movies do you like?

Me: I really don’t.

Her: Oh. Well, there’s this kids’ movie out called Wreck-It Ralph–

Me: ! Wait! I’ve seen that! That’s the one movie I’ve seen.

I don’t know what she was actually getting at because I murdered the conversation.

December 10th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

It’s the movies

It started a week or so ago, as the wife was carping at me about movies. "Darien," she sez, "why don’t you take some time off from your busy schedule of being an international hero and sex symbol and stare at movies with it instead?” So I explained to her again that movies just aren’t very interesting to me, and I’d prefer to spend my time on other pursuits, such as playing video games, making video games, swearing about video games, and saving your life in the future. "But," I fatefully intoned, "there is one movie I’m interested in."

So the next thing I know I’m being carted off through the gale-force winds of downtown Wasilla — which was used as the model for that Chrono Trigger level where you have to hide behind the trees or else the wind will murder you — to a damn movie theatre.

Now, I haven’t been to the movies since my honeymoon. In 2001. And that was a specalised old-tymey theatre; it’s been even longer since I’ve been to the normal movies. So I’m not equipped to say if this is an especially nice theatre or if they’ve just gotten better o’er these many years, but I actually didn’t hate the experience. See, the trouble is, I’m a mayor. As such, I have the typical mayor body type. Theatre seats — like airplane seats — are very much too narrow for my Bigfootesque shoulders, and tend to be very uncomfortable. The movie was pretty good, too; I saw Wreck-It Ralph, which, as a cartoon about video games, was right up my alley. Probably I’ll write more about it later; Amazon just pushed a Kindle Fire update that included this obnoxious Swype bullshit I can’t figure out how to get rid of, and typing has become a tremendous chore. Send help.

December 9th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments

I am not a racialist! But!

Over at Baseball: Past and Present, they did a thing. Isn’t that interesting? But wait, there’s more! Said thing was a project to collect the best potential sandlot team of players of all time. A few hundred votes were solicited from ballplayers, sports bloggers, and interested onlookers, and they were tallied, and the results are here, complete with pretty pictures and nice little blurbs. Interesting stuff; you should check it out.

But that’s as may be. What I’m here to talk about is racism, or, as they call it on the internet: RACISM!!! If you’re a bit sharp — and if you actually read the thing back when I told you to — you’ve likely noticed the long sad-sack rant entitled "a note on the absence of black players." Long story short: eight of the nine players chosen are white, this is because all of us fuckhead voters are racist assholes, and so they asked the president of the Negro League Museum to please forgive us for being such horrible people. Let’s talk about why this is stupid.

First off, here’s the all-time dream team, as selected by a bunch of awful racists like me:

P — Walter Johnson
C — Johnny Bench
1B — Lou Gehrig
2B — Rogers Hornsby
3B — Mike Schmidt
SS — Honus Wagner
LF — Ted Williams
CF — Willie Mays
RF — Babe Ruth

You’ll forgive me if I fail to see which of these horrible white guys is hopelessly out of place on this list. And that’s the rub, innit? You can’t say that this list should have more black players without saying it should have fewer white players. No black player deserves to be on this list unless one of those white players doesn’t. So which one is it? Let’s take a look, shall we?

First of all, I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of any great black catchers or third basemen. Well, okay, Roy Campanella was pretty good, but had half of Johnny Bench’s career rWAR — 36.2 to 71.3. Not really in the same category of "greatness," and that’s even before you consider the many ways in which Johnny Bench changed the way his position is played. Which I guess you really shouldn’t for a list like this. So never mind that part.

Here’s a list from Fangraphs of all catchers ever, sorted by career fWAR. Whose name is on top? Oh. Is it particularly close? Oh. Does the top of that list look very heavy on black players? I guess not, huh. How did the balloting turn out, I hear you wondering? Johnny Bench’s closest competitor was Josh Gibson, who got 123 votes, beat out Yogi Berra and Mike Piazza, and never ever actually played in the Majors. That’s right, food friends: a Negro League catcher finished second in balloting, and we’re all racist fucks because a white guy who actually played in the Majors beat him.

Okay, so never mind catcher. What about my rash claim that there aren’t many great black third basemen? Knock yourself out. You have to go all the way down to, what, Adrian Beltre to find a black player? And he’s from the Dominican Republic, and we all know what Torii Hunter thinks about those people. For pity’s sake, there weren’t even any black players on the list we picked from during balloting. So maybe we can get a pass on third base too.

What about pitchers? Surely there have been some great black pitchers. What about Pedro Martinez? I mean, he finished third in the balloting. Or Bob Gibson? He finished fourth. Hell, Satchel Paige made the top ten, and he only pitched 476 innings in his entire career! All three of these men finished higher than Roger Clemens, Warren Spahn, Christy Matthewson, and even Jack Morris (thank you so much, troll who wrote Morris in).

At first base, honestly, Gehrig and Pujols are so great that they got almost all the votes between just the two of them. Is that where we went wrong? Willie McCovey, Frank Thomas, and Hank Greenberg are all obviously better players than, um, Albert Pujols and Lou Gehrig, and we just didn’t pick them because we’re shitheads? By fWAR:

Lou Gehrig: 125.9
Albert Pujols: 87.7 (not retired or killed yet)
Willie McCovey: 75.8
Frank Thomas: 76.2
Hank Greenberg: 68.2

The injustice is what now? We should have ignored the huge difference in value and voted for the black guy? Hmm.

Second base is where you have the best shot at claiming funny business. Not because Rogers Hornsby wasn’t all-time great — because he was — but because one Joseph Leonard Morgan was also made of liquid brilliance. Fangraphs gives a big lead to Hornsby, though, with 134.9 career fWAR to Morgan’s 108. BR has a smaller gap, but still puts Hornsby in front. Bill James picked Morgan over Hornsby. The point is: they’re both great. And, to be sure, they finished 1-2 at the top of the pack. Where’s the racism? It’s not like Morgan finished behind Darwin Barney.

Shortstops. Let’s get this out of the way: the best black shortstop of all time is Derek Jeter. Sorry, fans of not being fans of Derek Jeter; it’s just the case. But even Captain Baseball has a problem, which is: the unreasonable complete dominance of the game of baseball exhibited by Honus Wagner. Jeter is in the "best shortstops ever" discussion, no problem. But Wagner makes the list of "best three or four baseball players ever, at all, ever." He has 149.8 fWAR. That’s a silly, cartoon number. It is, thanks to God having a sense of humour even as regards His son Derek, exactly twice Derek Jeter’s career fWAR. So if you platooned a second Derek Jeter right next to the first one — maybe like a mirror image, so that one could get stuff to his left — you’d have Honus Wagner. But think how black he would be!

Yeah, okay, you can make an argument for Barry Bonds over Ted Williams. I agree. I’d probably even agree with you (I voted for Bonds). Fangraphs has Bonds ahead of Williams by almost thirty WAR — 168.2 to 139.8. So: racism, then? Or can you think of some other reason why Barry Bonds might miss out on votes? Hmm. Hmmmmm. Further research: Roger Clemens got only 23 votes. I’m assuming that’s because he was black also.

Right field: you’re having a laugh. Yes, I agree, Hank Aaron was crazy great. But you’re still having a laugh.

So where is the racial prejudice, then? Which of those selections is a horrible injustice? You can’t just say we need more black people on the list without excluding some of those white players who, based on objective data, appear to be better. Oh, and, incidentally? Ty Cobb beats Willie Mays in both fWAR and rWAR. What do you suppose the reaction would be if I wrote an article complaining that only racism could explain why this list isn’t 100% white guys?

This knee-jerk calling of racism is not only intellectually lazy, it’s also exactly in opposition to what we profess to believe in when we claim to be in support of statistical analysis. Given all the time we spend telling people that, no, Brandon Inge’s hustle and determination are not enough — Miguel Cabrera is the better player, how can we just turn around and say, hey, clearly this whole policy of evaluating results dispassionately is bullshit since it didn’t put the players on top who we wanted to see on top? That’s awful. Awful thinking. The fact is, to the best of our ability to judge, reality has refused to conform to the politically-correct narrative. It just so happens that the very very best players at each position have, to date, predominantly been white. To refuse to recognise that because it doesn’t fit our prearranged conclusion is to betray the entire sabermetric ideal, and also pretty goddamn racist itself if you think about it for ten goddamn seconds.

I have enough respect for the 600-or-so voters on this project that I won’t just assume they all looked at these lists and said GET THESE GODDAMN DARKIES OUT OF MY BASEBALL ALREADY! Does the guy who wrote this really not agree? He really thinks we all just hate black people, and that’s why we think Babe Ruth is good? We need to get beyond this insane collectivist fantasy. You can’t say this list was influenced by racism without saying that the people who voted made their judgments based on race. They are joined at the hip. Another way in which collectivism has ruined your brain: if you assume that there should be equal representation of whites and blacks on this list, you’re mad. Baseball is not played by collectivist abstractions; it’s played by individuals with different skillsets. There’s no reason to believe that, in such a tiny, tiny sample, you’ll have some type of racial homogeneity, especially when you consider how we actually evaluate players.

All sophisticated methods of player evaluation evaluate players relative to their peers. So when we say that Babe Ruth was worth 177.7 wins above replacement, what is "replacement?" Replacement is, in this context, the value contributed by the player Ruth would have been replaced with if he suddenly got eaten by a terrifying bog monster. In a modern context, that would mean the average value of a AAA player at the proper position; in the olden days, the structure was less formal, but the concept holds. So what are we not saying? We’re not saying that if Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds were both suddenly sucked out of time and forced to play a one-on-one game against each other (assuming there were such a thing), Ruth would be the clear winner. We don’t know that. Can’t know that.
There’s no way to separate their achievements from context.

Why does this matter? Because baseball has grown substantially. We now know a lot more about how to become a good baseball player, and about how to select good baseball players for teams. Major League teams are no longer full of dudes who were picked up playing on sandlots in Iowa and then handed a ball and told to go start the game. In other words: the playing field is a lot more level these days, which means — and this is important! — it is much harder to be way, way better than your peers than it was a hundred years ago. So it should be no surprise that the majority of the best numbers come from ancient times, when the average level of play was much lower than it is now.

And no black players were allowed in the league back then. So no black players had the chance to put up the same kind of gaudy numbers relative to such a low standard. This doesn’t require either analysts or math to be horribly racist and awful; it’s just the logical consequence of what actually happened in history. Trying to pretend it is otherwise doesn’t make you look like a really with-it, racially-tolerant dude; it makes you look like a complete goofball.

Oh, and. I’m not finished yet. Is it to anybody’s credit to perpetuate this stupid, simplistic, white-black view of race? Honus Wagner wasn’t called the Dutchman because he wasn’t Dutch, after all. Lou Gehrig was the son of German immigrants. But they’re just exactly the same, right? And so are all the others? And this is progress. I see.

April 18th, 2012 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | no comments

Non-ALF post


How do people figure "3G radiation" works again? Like your iPad spits out a terrifying 3G death beam that can only be blocked by a millimeter of vinyl?


Bet you wish you had this case, sucker.

February 29th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit | one comment

On the morality of exchange

I posted a throwaway snark earlier on the Tweeter that’s earned me some questions. Part of the trouble (most of the trouble, probably) is the data I had to elide to get it into 140 characters, so I’m going to expand it (with context, yet) here. And because I want to, I’m going to delve into the idea a bit. Not my standard bill of fare on this blog, but, hey, if you’re not interested, here’s a very round cat you can pass the time with instead.

Let’s define some terms. A "transaction" refers to any exchange made between two (or more) people, whether successful or not. If I give you a dollar for your widget, that’s a transaction. If I just give you a dollar, that’s a transaction. If I offer you a dollar for your widget and you tell me to get bent, that’s a transaction. If I punch you in the face and take your widget, that’s a transaction.

We then define "violence" as the intentional violation of another person’s natural rights without that person’s consent. Therefore, for our purposes, if I punch you and take your widget, I have used violence against you. However, in these terms, a boxer punching his opponent during a boxing match would not be construed as violence, since both boxers have agreed to accept being punched as a condition of the match. (If you would like me to define "natural rights," I’m willing to do so, but a thorough exploration of the concept really demands its own blog post rather than an aside here.)

Now, it is intuitively obvious to most people that there are some transactions that are wrong. Very few people, I’ll wager, would disagree that it’s wrong to kill someone and take his wallet. So clearly there must be some quality that separates the "wrong" transactions from the "non-wrong" transactions. Can we identify that quality? I say we can: that quality is violence. Any transaction involving violence is wrong, and that includes not only violence done (such as punching you and taking your widget) but also violence threatened (such as telling you to give me your widget or else I’ll punch you). Those are the "wrong" transactions. Everything else is in the "not wrong" transaction pile.

This seems simple, but is made complicated because many people do not want to believe that violence is always wrong. There is significant impetus (some natural, some conditioned) to accept that, sometimes, doing violence is okay; that, in the right circumstances, it is okay to harm another human being.* These people cannot accept that violence is itself the problem — that violence is what separates right from wrong — but they still recognise that some transactions are wrong. So they end up inventing arbitrary categories to place transactions in; we’re told that "exploitative" or "unfair" transactions are wrong, but neither of these qualities is objectively obvious. They’re really just synonyms for "wrong," and the whole argument becomes circular.

The impetus for my tweet was seeing a tweet by another person (who shall remain nameless; this is not an "attack" on that person, so his identity is unimportant) claiming that the "freemium" business model is exploitative, and thus morally wrong. I contend that this is absurd. No maker of a freemium product has ever committed violence against me — not even the subtle violence of fraud. They offer me a set of products or services at a stated range of prices, and I am free to purchase any, all, or none of them at my discretion. How is this "wrong?"

Aren’t you all proud of me? I wrote this whole post without using the words "state," "taxation," or "conscription" even one time!

Self-defense is a complicated issue, and one on which there is significant disagreement among thinkers greater than myself. I’ve come to believe that self-defense is permissible in a certain set of narrowly-defined circumstances because the initiator of violence, by initiating violence, tacitly accepts that the transaction will be conducted with violence (much as in the example of the boxers above, except that the agreement is rarely mutual). As such, one has the right to defend onesself, or to come to the aid of others, in the following circumstances:

  • There must be an actual threat of violence. It is not legitimate to "defend yourself" against inconvenience or disadvantage. You cannot use violence to defend yourself against not getting a seat on the bus, or against other people not giving you something you want, or against people not buying your product.
  • The threat must be imminent. If I get into a fight with a co-worker, and I’m sitting in a bar stewing about it after work, and I’m saying to a buddy "I should just kick that guy’s ass," there is no imminent threat, and no violent response is justified. Similarly, if I punched you in the face last week, there’s no justification for you to attack me today, since the threat is long past.
  • The force employed must be proportionate to the threat. If the threat is that a jilted lover will slap you, shooting her is not justified. If she’s trying to knife you, that’s a different story.
  • The use of violence must end when the threat ends. If I break into your house, and you shoot me in the leg, and I’m down and no longer a threat, there is no justification for you to execute me.

In those limited circumstances I believe self-defense to be permissible. I am hardly the guru on the mountain, however, and there are far more capable thinkers than I who disagree.

February 9th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit | 6 comments

If this is Wednesday I must be famous

I assume you’ve all heard about this SOPA brouhaha. The entire internet is shut down because of it! But you know me — I’m a notorious capitalist after all, so what’s the use of a protest if I can’t make a quick buck off of it? So here’s my plan: today, while the whole rest of the internet is shut down, I have updated my blog! The way I figure it, since there are no other web sites anymore, I’ll get 100% of all the traffic and become rich due to the multiplier. No, that’s how it works. I checked.

This may not seem like much of a blog post. In fact, the more astute among you may regard this as a useless "filler" post. There’s a story there. See, this was meant to be an erudite discussion of Curt Schilling’s new game "Kingdoms of Amalur: Reckoning," but it won’t run on my computer due to not supporting 1024×768. What the fucking fuck, Curt? I guess millionaire baseball players can afford to get a new monitor every ten years, but this one still works just fine thank you! Besides, if 1024×768 was good enough for the Lord God to create the World of Warcraft in, it’s good enough for anybody.

So I can’t review the game, but you know what I can review? The title. It’s pretty goddamn generic. "Kingdoms," generic fantasy name that at least doesn’t contain an apostrophe or a Y, colon, scary word that implies murder. That title could have been shat out of the Official Fantasy Game Title Shitter-Outter without using enough processing time to put a dent in Bioware’s shipping schedule. Here’s a better title for you: Curtis of Schillingforth: Sock Warrior. At least then not playing your game because of unstoppably weird system requirements would be 15% more fun!

Edit: Curt Schilling responded to this post, and he didn’t even swear at me even though I’m a complete asshole. I guess I really am famous!

January 18th, 2012 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | no comments

Les Carpenter still sucks

Perhaps it’s the government’s misfortune to have this case tried in a city that doesn’t care much about baseball. If Clemens was in federal court in Manhattan, Pettitte would be the easy bridge to conviction – a longtime New York Yankee considered trustworthy compared to the explosive and elusive Clemens.

You see, Les, this is exactly why the case isn’t being tried in New York. It would be near as dammit to impossible to find impartial jurors there. Same reason why, when I get sent to compulsory government servitude on some punishment board, they make me drive out to the next county over. That’s never happened to you?

No one truly knows why prosecutors allowed the jury to hear a tape of Congressman Elijah Cummings reading an affidavit from Pettitte’s wife, Laura, saying her husband told her Clemens told him he used steroids. They were ordered by Judge Reggie Walton to keep Pettitte’s wife out of the trial, that anything she said was circumstantial.

It wasn’t circumstantial, dummy; it was hearsay. "Circumstantial" isn’t just a long, legal-ish word meaning "bad."

Whatever a new trial costs, it won’t be cheap. And while the money isn’t coming from some government slush fund, the image of all those millions going into proving Roger Clemens lied in a building where congressmen bend the truth every day will further irritate a public that believes this a fruitless pursuit.

So where, then, is this money coming from? I think you’ll find it’s coming from a government slush fund, Les.

You guys, I’m starting to think Les Carpenter doesn’t know anything about anything.

September 3rd, 2011 Posted by | Baseball, Bullshit | 2 comments

Game is you, komrades!

I realise I’ve been quiet this month. I’ve been working on a veritable shitload of projects all at the same time. One of which is now revealed to the public: Konzortium Kollectiv, world’s greatest gaming transmedia kommunity with old Soviet Union theme! Da, komrades, is for real! Bless his honoured fur!

July 24th, 2011 Posted by | Bullshit, Games | one comment

This is the worst article I’ve ever seen

Now, don’t get me wrong. It’s not as crazy stupid as some of the other articles I’ve done — it doesn’t touch on baseball stats at all, much less use them incorrectly — but this article impresses me nonetheless, because I cannot for the life of me determine why anybody would bother to write it. I’m serious. Does that article serve any purpose at all? It’s not interesting. It’s not insightful. It’s not funny. It’s not even engagingly mean-spirited or spiteful. It’s just a completely uninteresting story about how crowded downtown DC is and how long Roger Clemens had to wait for his chauffeur, complete with absolutely no insight or analysis whatsoever, and all topped off with this absolute gem:

"Can’t get down this street," Hardin repeated as the door shut and the Tahoe slowly inched around the corner and onto 3rd, which being D.C. at 5 p.m. had all the fluidity of maple syrup.

Speaking as a man who has a passing familiarity with stuff, I can assure you that maple syrup is quite fluid. The viscosity is 150 cps, which seems really high (water is 1), but then consider that honey — probably a better choice for your awful metaphor — is 3000 cps. Fucking ketchup is 50k cps, and most people would still consider that relatively fluid.

Seriously, Les. Spend two seconds thinking before you submit this shit. Maple syrup?

July 6th, 2011 Posted by | Bullshit | no comments