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Monday, October 22, 2018

Best Bill Murray Films

Bill James tweeted unfavorably about Caddyshack, which led me to make a list of top Bill Murray films. I agree with him about Caddyshack and question our democracy when I see lists like this one.



That list was made quickly. I would rank all of those films above Caddyshack, but I might not put them in that order. Ghostbusters is perhaps too high. Groundhog Day is a personal all-time fave.


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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Canadian Thanksgiving

Last weekend was Thanksgiving weekend in Canada, creating a Monday holiday. That night, we went to the nearby Lieutenant's Pump pub and had a traditional turkey dinner with mashed potatoes, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and vegetables. There was some CFL football showing on one television, but I was more interested in the Dodger-Braves game on another. By the time the U.S. holiday rolls around, baseball is a distant memory.

My spouse and I took advantage of the long weekend by going for a hike in Gatineau Park, across the Ottawa River in Quebec. It is Fall Rhapsody season, so we were competing for tranquility with plenty of other tourists enjoying the seasonal changes. We ended up altering our destination on the fly as access to Pink Lake was limited on Monday. We ended up hiking around the MacKenzie-King estate.

This photo was taken after the hike at the Huron Lookout:


The far side of the river is Ontario, with Ottawa to the left.


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Monday, October 01, 2018

Trump and Canada

Though news reports suggest a new NAFTA deal is imminent, President Trump was tough on Canada again this week:
“We’re very unhappy with the negotiations and the negotiating style of Canada – we don’t like their representative very much,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday, in an apparent reference to Canada’s foreign minister, Chrystia Freeland.
Trump also claimed that he turned down a meeting [in NY at the UN] with Justin Trudeau to discuss the prospects of a deal “because [Trudeau’s] tariffs are too high and he doesn’t seem to want to move – and I told him: ‘Forget about it.’”
Canadian officials were quick to deny that Trudeau ever requested a meeting.
I'm posting this a little after midnight, so it is possible that there will be a new trade deal by the time you have read this piece.

In any event, living in Canada, there are strong signs that the feeling is mutual. This is a very strong sign: On Friday September 28, the Globe & Mail Washington columnist John Ibbitson published a piece in my morning paper entitled, "NAFTA nightmare is quickly becoming reality."

In that column (online version September 27), Ibbitson explained that "a resolute Prime Minister [Trudeau] and Foreign Affairs Minister [Freeland] refuse to be cowed by this bully of a president, this predator, this Mussolini wannabe."

I read those words over breakfast Friday!!

Saturday, my spouse and I strolled through the Byward Market on a sunny afternoon and came upon this photo in a bakery, where they were selling "Obama cookies" and playing a video of Obama's visit on a constant loop. Thus, the picture provides a parsimonious explanation of Trump's policy toward Canada:


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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Well, there's that other thing that I won't even say...

This seems an appropriate moment to listen to Todd Snider's "You Got Away with It."



Incidentally, this blog is now 15 years old. The teen years have been kind of quiet.
Sorry.

Obviously, the blog was most active during the Bush years. George W. is back in the news lately...

If you are interested in my opinions and web activity, you might try following my much more active professional or personal twitter feeds.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Louisville Sluggers: 2018A champions


I periodically blog about  my fantasy baseball teams -- mostly when they win a championship or make it to the World Series.

My Louisville Sluggers recently won the 2018 A season of the Original Bitnet Fantasy Baseball League. The league members play a long half season before the All Star break and a shorter half season afterwards. During the break, we make cuts and redraft teams to keep it interesting. This post will not cover my mid-season keepers or draft.

Here's the winning 28 man roster from 2018A (with retained players from 2017 in red):

C:   LuCroy OAK
1B: Votto     CIN
2B: Merrifield KC
3B: Arenado COL
SS: Russell CHC
OF: Benintendi BOS
OF: Peralta ARI
OF: Almora CHC
DH: Muncy LAD

SP: Greinke ARI
SP: Stripling LAD
SP: Bauer CLE
SP: Skaggs LAA
SP: E Rodriguez BOS
RP: Rondon HOU
RP: Bradley ARI
RP: Trivino OAK
RP: Williams MIL

We used daily transactions this season for the first time, so I had a number of substitutes that contributed during the week. Plus, I had a couple of good players who were injured during the playoffs. This was my bench:

C:   Flowers ATL
1B: Pearce BOS
2B: Wong STL
IF: Blandino CIN
OF: Buxton MIN
OF: Acuna ATL
SP: Archer TB
SP: Duffy KC
SP: Romano CIN
RP: Brault PIT

Pre-season, I had also retained OF Kevin Keirmaier TB, but I traded him as part of a deal for LuCroy and Stripling on June 4.

The team went 142-76-22 in the regular season. Remember, this is a 24 team head-to-head league with 2 points possible per category. We use 10 categories including these 5 for hitting: HR, SBs, batting average, plate appearances, and runs produced ((R+RBI-HR)/at bats). For pitching, we use these 5 categories: innings pitched, wins, saves, ERA and WHIP. For ties, each team gets one points.

For winning percentage, figure the Sluggers went 153-87, or 0.637. Or the equivalent of 77-44 if that makes it easier.

In the first round of the playoffs, my team beat the Loaded Basses, a young and talented team that was 146-80-14 in the regular season, or 153-87. The Basses roster included stars Mookie Betts, Javy Baez, Alex Bregman, Christian Yelich, Yoan Moncada, Juan Soto, and Garrett Cole. The Sluggers and Basses were the 2nd and 3rd seeded teams in the playoffs with identical records.

Sluggers won that matchup 14-6.

In the World Series, the Sluggers beat the top-seeded Tennessee Valley Authority, a very strong pitching-rich team featuring Trea Turner, Justin Upton, Carlos Carrasco, Chris Sale, Luis Severino, and Craig Kimbrel. TVA was 150-76-14 during the regular season, or 157-83 (0.654). 

This was the Sluggers 9th World Series championship in 12 appearances in the final. TVA fell to 6-2 in the Series. The league has now had 55 seasons of history.


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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Oh Canada



If you've been following the news the past month, you know that Canada hosted the annual G7 meeting and it ended with President Donald Trump bashing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau after watching a speech on Air Force One. Trump called Trudeau "dishonest and weak."

Going into the meeting, Trump had already levied new tariffs against Canadian steel and aluminum. In order to justify the use of presidential power to apply the tariffs, Trump had to label Canada a threat to national security.  Remember, the US Constitution gives Congress the power "To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations."

Canadians were surprised, puzzled, and perhaps even angered by the justification for these tariffs, so the meeting was bound to be somewhat tense. Canadian Foreign Minister Chyrstia Freeland called the tariffs "absurd," "unjustified" and "illegal." Canada has imposed retaliatory tariffs that went into effect on July 1. Items now facing higher import taxes include beer kegs, whisky, orange juice, and various metals. 

Last week, I flew to DC to attend a workshop at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) on Canada-US relations. Scholars at Carleton University in Canada annually produce a volume for a series called "Canada Among Nations."  The theme for the newest volume is Canada-US relations and I've been asked to contribute a chapter. Many Canadian scholars were there, including a number of faculty from Carleton, and a few other Americans.

My presentation was on the morning's initial panel: "'America First' and US-Canadian Relations." As you might suspect given my past research and writing on Trump's foreign policies, I argue that the Trump agenda is a threat to multilateralism, alliances (including NATO), and the liberal world order. Canada values all of those institutions, as has the US most of the time since World War II.

Indeed, last September, I proposed this precise research topic for a Fulbright position in Canada...and I got it! This fall, I will be Fulbright Canada Research Chair in Canada-US Relations at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa.


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Wednesday, June 27, 2018

May travel

In late May, I attended an academic workshop on "Non-Nuclear Peace" at University of Antwerp in Belgium. My paper was well-received and I look forward to the volume that emerges. More on that later.

My spouse and I visited Dublin the weekend prior to the workshop and then remained in Antwerp for the long Memorial  Day weekend afterwards.

In Dublin, we visited a park near one of Oscar Wilde's homes. It has an interesting and unusual statue of the writer. Some of the public art in Dublin more solemnly acknowledges the history of famine in the country:


We also visited the Kilmainham Gaol (across the street from our Hilton) and took in some other nearby local culture:





Peter Paul Rubens is the most famous artist from Antwerp. We visited his former home, which is now a museum hosting a collection of his art. The statue is nearby, but outdoors:



Belgium, of course, is also known for its beers. The Bier Central bar across the street from the hotel near the train station featured this 120 page catalog of beers on offer. I think all were local. The Hopus was actually my final beer at the Brussels airport. Each beer seemed to have its own glass:



Incidentally, prior to traveling to Dublin, we attended my youngest daughter's college graduation, which was held in Yankee Stadium.


Do you recognize the featured speaker?













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Saturday, April 28, 2018

Mavericks

Last night, my wife and I went to the Mavericks show at the Iroquois Amphitheater. The 9-piece band sounded terrific and it was a beautiful night for outdoor music. The band included not only standard guitarist, drummers, and keyboard musicians, but also men who played the accordion, sax, upright bass, and two trumpets. Two!



Singer Raul Malo is very talented. Back in the day, he could have replaced the lead singer of virtually any given Americana or alt-country band -- and improved their sound.

Strangely, despite these strengths, the entire top section of the venue was nearly empty. This could have been because Louisville is a week out from the Kentucky Derby and there are many competing events all over town.  Yet, I suspect the Maverick's history and set list played a part.

The band was at its peak in the 1990s, so their fans are starting to age out of concerts. The crowd was definitely old for a rock show and few people were singing along with the songs -- very different from how the crowd behaved at the Old Crow Medicine Show performance we attended last year in the same venue. Granted, OCMS was performing Bob Dylan's Blonde on Blonde, but the crowd knew the band's songs too when they eventually played some hits.

Trampoline, which may be the Maverick's best recording, was released 20 years ago. Within a few years of that recording, the band took a hiatus for about 7 years. Raul Malo had a solo career and sang as part of Los Super Seven. Oh, yes, I have their fantastic Heard it on the X CD -- but all these facts likely made it tough for the Mavericks to sustain a fan base.

The band's set list was kind of strange as well. They apparently had some top 40 (country) hits back in their heyday, but I'm not sure they had a specific single that everyone knows and associates with the band. I recognized most of the songs last night, but I have three of their CDs and am a fan.

The crowd did know (and sing along with) the handful of covers the Mavericks played -- including songs written or made famous by Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Neil Young, the BeeGees and the Drifters. See this, this, this, this, and this. These songs tended to highlight Malo's voice and some were played acoustically with minimal backing from the rest of the band.

Prior to the show, I talked to a number of people who were unfamiliar with the Maverick's music, so I started thinking about how to describe their eclectic sound. I finally ended up with Roy Orbison meets the Buena Vista Social Club. Los Lobos might have sounded like the Mavericks if they had been from Miami instead of LA.

So, about those empty seats: What a Crying Shame! 


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Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

University of Kansas basketball fans (me included, of course) are excited that this year's team has made the Final Four of the NCAA tournament. For KU, this is a familiar spot. Per Wikipedia, Kansas has previously participated in the Final Four in these years: 1940, 1952, 1953, 1957, 1971, 1974, 1986, 1988, 1991, 1993, 2002, 2003, 2008, and 2012. I started watching Kansas basketball around 1970, which means they've made the Final Four about once every five years during my lifetime as a fan. None of those appearances occured during my four years at Kansas, 1979-1983.

Kansas won the NCAA tournament in 1952, 1988, and 2008, but the school also claims two "mythical" championships from the era prior to the NCAA tournament: 1922 and 1923 (the "Helms championship"). Since the Jayhawk is a mythical bird, rest assured that many other schools count mythical championships awarded by the Helms Athletic Foundation, including Purdue and Stanford.

Meanwhile, University of Kansas students also have a strong history participating in the intercollegiate National Debate Tournament (NDT). Indeed, late Monday March26, the team of seniors Quaram Robinson and Will Katz won the 2018 national championship. This was the sixth time a team from Kansas had achieved this feat, having previously won the NDT in 1954, 1970, 1976, 1983, and 2009. Yes, I was on campus for the 1983 title.

Here's a picture of the latest winners:



Congratulations to these students!! I attended the 2017 NDT in Kansas City last year and met both of them during a reunion hosted by KU. Their accomplishment is truly impressive and undoubtedly reflects a tremendous amount of hard work. Congrats also to coach Scott Harris!

Incidentally, this was the 16th time a Kansas team had been in the Final Four of the NDT: 1948, 1954, 1959, 1970 (2 teams*), 1971, 1973, 1976, 1977, 1979, 1983, 1994, 1999, 2009, 2016, and 2018. The NDT allowed 2 teams per school for many years. It now allows three.

So, it appears 1971 was the only other year Kansas had teams in the Final Four of both basketball and debate. It's a rarity that should be celebrated. More on 1971 below.

Even more rare would be a double victory. The NDT has been won 15 times by Northwestern, 7 times by Harvard, and 6 times by Dartmouth. Neither Northwestern nor Harvard has ever appeared in the NCAA Final Four. Dartmouth did twice, in 1942 and 1944, but lost in the championship game both times. Those appearances occurred before the NDT existed.

Thus, my quick perusal of the list of past winners of these tournaments yields these findings:

In 1962, Ohio State won the NDT, but lost the NCAA tournament championship game.
In 1989, Michigan won the NCAA tournament, but finished 2nd at the NDT.
In 2000, Michigan State won the NCAA tournament, but finished 2nd at the NDT.

Based on my quick perusal, it appears UCLA in 1971 is the only school to win both tournaments in the same year.

Kansas has an opportunity to duplicate that feat this weekend. Rock Chalk!



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Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Snow day

The region was socked with about 7 inches of snow last night. The public schools and University of Louisville were both closed. This morning, I tweeted this photo of our back deck -- look at the depth of the snow piled on the railing:


This afternoon, I tweeted a picture of Jim Patterson Stadium as it never is on March 21:


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Monday, March 12, 2018

Robey

In December 2016, our dog Robey (nickname for Darrowby), was diagnosed with bladder cancer. The veterinarian noted that he was in good spirits and fairly good health, but that the prognosis was likely 6 to 18 months of remaining life. Given his age and the nature of the disease, surgery or other potential treatments did not seem like good options.

It's been 15 months since that initial diagnosis and Robey's health has definitely declined. He's much thinner now -- partly a result of the flu bug he and his sister Paddy contracted last summer at the kennel. There was a particularly horrible day in the first week of their quarantine when I feared he would not survive the flu. However, an emergency trip to the veterinary hospital provided an infusion of fluids and drugs that helped him turn the corner and recover much of his strength. His sister recovered much more quickly from the illness and is now far more energetic and healthy.

For the last few months, we've battled his occasional mild incontinence with a male doggie wrap lined with baby diapers. His mood has been good and I think he really enjoyed recent visits from our two daughters.

Sadly, the last two weeks, Robey has shown much less enthusiasm for his daily walk. About 10 to 12 days ago, he walked very slowly several steps behind me as his sister Paddy charged ahead as she almost always does. He has repeated that lethargic behavior on several other walks since then. Yesterday, my wife cut the walk short for him and I took his sister for a longer stroll around the neighborhood. He was walking so slowly that we caught up before they made it back home.

Robey has also stopped eating regularly -- effectively skipping breakfast on most mornings the last week or so and sometimes barely touching dinner. Twice in the last few days we have served him canned dog food at night, which he really enjoys and he has quickly consumed it mixed with the typical dry food. The past few days, however, he has had trouble keeping any food he consumes down. This morning, he vomited his medicines and it was obvious that last night's dinner had not been digested.

Twice over the weekend, he remained indoors behind the dog door when I parked the car in the garage in the alley and entered the backyard from there. Paddy was outside at the garage door to greet me, as she always is, but her brother clearly decided to continue resting indoors on the floor 75 feet away.

In sum, Robey is ticking all the boxes for a dog near the end of his life. He has been a great dog and we're going to miss him very much when he's gone. This is a photo from this morning -- after a freak March snow shower in Louisville last night:




Update: Robey stopped going on walks and stopped eating. RIP old friend.
~ July 4, 2005 to March 16, 2018.


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Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Trump on War: Korea edition

I'm compiling some statements and tweets from President Donald Trump concerning various alleged threats to US (or international) security.

This post focuses on North Korea. I may add to it as I find additional material. Note: I'm not currently compiling all the stories based on leaked reports, which claim the administration has seriously considered war with North Korea. The administration withdrew its choice for ambassador to South Korea, reportedly, because he was opposed to so-called "bloody nose" strikes against North Korea.

This is from Trump's remarks prior to a briefing on the Opioid crisis, August 8, 2017:
Q    Any comment on the reports about North Korea’s nuclear capabilities? 
THE PRESIDENT:  North Korea best not make any more threats to the United States.  They will be met with fire and fury like the world has never seen.  He has been very threatening beyond a normal state.  And as I said, they will be met with fire, fury, and, frankly, power, the likes of which this world has never seen before.

More from Trump's speech to the UN on September 19, 2017:
North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles threatens the entire world with unthinkable loss of human life. 
It is an outrage that some nations would not only trade with such a regime, but would arm, supply, and financially support a country that imperils the world with nuclear conflict.  No nation on earth has an interest in seeing this band of criminals arm itself with nuclear weapons and missiles. 
The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.  Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.  The United States is ready, willing and able, but hopefully this will not be necessary.  That’s what the United Nations is all about; that’s what the United Nations is for.  Let’s see how they do 
It is time for North Korea to realize that the denuclearization is its only acceptable future.  The United Nations Security Council recently held two unanimous 15-0 votes adopting hard-hitting resolutions against North Korea, and I want to thank China and Russia for joining the vote to impose sanctions, along with all of the other members of the Security Council.  Thank you to all involved. 
But we must do much more.  It is time for all nations to work together to isolate the Kim regime until it ceases its hostile behavior.
The President spoke in Seoul, South Korea on November 7, 2017. The speech sounded much like the ones George W. Bush used to give about Iraq back in 2002. This is a long excerpt, but it is telling:
The North Korean regime has pursued its nuclear and ballistic missile programs in defiance of every assurance, agreement, and commitment it has made to the United States and its allies. It’s broken all of those commitments. After promising to freeze its plutonium program in 1994, it repeated [reaped] the benefits of the deal and then — and then immediately continued its illicit nuclear activities. 
In 2005, after years of diplomacy, the dictatorship agreed to ultimately abandon its nuclear programs and return to the Treaty on Non-Proliferation. But it never did. And worse, it tested the very weapons it said it was going to give up. In 2009, the United States gave negotiations yet another chance, and offered North Korea the open hand of engagement. The regime responded by sinking a South Korean Navy ship, killing 46 Korean sailors. To this day, it continues to launch missiles over the sovereign territory of Japan and all other neighbors, test nuclear devices, and develop ICBMs to threaten the United States itself. The regime has interpreted America’s past restraint as weakness. This would be a fatal miscalculation. This is a very different administration than the United States has had in the past. 
Today, I hope I speak not only for our countries, but for all civilized nations, when I say to the North: Do not underestimate us, and do not try us. We will defend our common security, our shared prosperity, and our sacred liberty. 
We did not choose to draw here, on this peninsula — (applause) — this magnificent peninsula — the thin line of civilization that runs around the world and down through time. But here it was drawn, and here it remains to this day. It is the line between peace and war, between decency and depravity, between law and tyranny, between hope and total despair. It is a line that has been drawn many times, in many places, throughout history. To hold that line is a choice free nations have always had to make. We have learned together the high cost of weakness and the high stakes of its defense.
America’s men and women in uniform have given their lives in the fight against Nazism, imperialism, Communism and terrorism. 
America does not seek conflict or confrontation, but we will never run from it. History is filled with discarded regimes that have foolishly tested America’s resolve. 
Anyone who doubts the strength or determination of the United States should look to our past, and you will doubt it no longer. We will not permit America or our allies to be blackmailed or attacked. We will not allow American cities to be threatened with destruction. We will not be intimidated. And we will not let the worst atrocities in history be repeated here, on this ground, we fought and died so hard to secure. (Applause.) 
That is why I have come here, to the heart of a free and flourishing Korea, with a message for the peace-loving nations of the world: The time for excuses is over. Now is the time for strength. If you want peace, you must stand strong at all times. (Applause.) The world cannot tolerate the menace of a rogue regime that threatens with nuclear devastation. 
All responsible nations must join forces to isolate the brutal regime of North Korea — to deny it and any form — any form of it. You cannot support, you cannot supply, you cannot accept. We call on every nation, including China and Russia, to fully implement U.N. Security Council resolutions, downgrade diplomatic relations with the regime, and sever all ties of trade and technology. 
It is our responsibility and our duty to confront this danger together — because the longer we wait, the greater the danger grows, and the fewer the options become. (Applause.) And to those nations that choose to ignore this threat, or, worse still, to enable it, the weight of this crisis is on your conscience. 
I also have come here to this peninsula to deliver a message directly to the leader of the North Korean dictatorship: The weapons you are acquiring are not making you safer. They are putting your regime in grave danger. Every step you take down this dark path increases the peril you face.
And Trump's State of the Union address on January 30, 2018:
North Korea’s reckless pursuit of nuclear missiles could very soon threaten our homeland.
We are waging a campaign of maximum pressure to prevent that from happening.
Past experience has taught us that complacency and concessions only invite aggression and provocation.  I will not repeat the mistakes of past administrations that got us into this dangerous position.
We need only look at the depraved character of the North Korean regime to understand the nature of the nuclear threat it could pose to America and our allies.
Otto Warmbier was a hardworking student at the University of Virginia.  On his way to study abroad in Asia, Otto joined a tour to North Korea.  At its conclusion, this wonderful young man was arrested and charged with crimes against the state.  After a shameful trial, the dictatorship sentenced Otto to 15 years of hard labor, before returning him to America last June — horribly injured and on the verge of death.  He passed away just days after his return. 
Otto’s Parents, Fred and Cindy Warmbier, are with us tonight — along with Otto’s brother and sister, Austin and Greta.  You are powerful witnesses to a menace that threatens our world, and your strength inspires us all.  Tonight, we pledge to honor Otto’s memory with American resolve.
Some key tweets, arranged chronologically:





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Friday, March 02, 2018

Oscars for 2017 Films

Rialto Theatre, Edmonton
Source: Provincial Archives of Alberta
The Academy Award ceremonies are Sunday night and my wife and I have again been spending some of our leisure time viewing nominated films and acting performances. Regular readers may recall that we actually managed to see three of the films nominated for best picture during the 2017 calendar year. That was partly because two nominees were out in the summer and were not year-end releases. Still, thanks to various bad weather days in January, we saw six of the nine best picture films prior to the announcement of the Oscars -- all of them in the theater except for one of the early-year movies!

Even though I have seen a fairly good sample of the films and performances, I will as usual update this post as we watch more of these films. Note for future readers: Films and performances shaded in yellow below will indicate additions/edits after the Oscars are awarded (and the original blog posting).

Moreover, as I do each year, I'm going to rank-order the films and acting performances. Obviously, this is my completely subjective perspective -- and hardly an ideal way to think about art. Plus, obviously, I can only rank the performances I watched.

Keep in mind that these are not my predictions about winners in each category. Go to the Hollywood Stock Exchange or other sites if you want predictions based upon betting markets. Spoiler Alert: The Shape of Water is a slight favorite for Best Picture and its director (Guillermo Del Toro) seems to be one of the biggest favorites in a major category.  In other categories, Darkest Hour star Gary Oldman and Three Billboards star Frances McDormand are strongly favored to pick up best acting awards. Sam Rockwell (Three Billboards) and Allison Janney (I, Tonya) are also now highly favored in the supporting roles.


Best picture

The Shape of Water **
Lady Bird **
The Post **
Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri **
Dunkirk **
Get Out
Darkest Hour **

Call Me by Your Name
Phantom Thread

Comment: I would have put "I, Tonya" in this category as it was an excellent film. My oldest daughter saw "Call Me By Your Name" and really liked it. My spouse and I think "Phantom Thread" looks like a rental at home.

Best director

I saw four of these films prior to the Oscar announcements:

“Dunkirk,” Christopher Nolan **
“Get Out,” Jordan Peele
“Lady Bird,” Greta Gerwig **
“The Shape of Water,” Guillermo del Toro **

“Phantom Thread,” Paul Thomas Anderson

Best actor in a Leading Role

Gary Oldman, “Darkest Hour” **
Daniel Kaluuya, “Get Out”

Timothée Chalamet, “Call Me by Your Name”
Daniel Day-Lewis, “Phantom Thread”
Denzel Washington, “Roman J. Israel, Esq.”

Comment: This actually seems like a weak crop compared to the women. Day-Lewis and Washington are frequent contenders in this category, but neither of their 2017 films made a big splash. Washington's film is on DVD, but we watched "The Florida Project" and "Mudbound" when facing the choice recently.

Best actress in a Leading Role

Remarkable, especially when compared to last year, I also all of these performances prior to the Oscar announcements! This is one tough category as I could see a case for any of these women:

Sally Hawkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Frances McDormand, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Saoirse Ronan, “Lady Bird” **
Margot Robbie, “I, Tonya” **
Meryl Streep, “The Post” **

I'd probably vote for Hawkins because she gave a remarkable and fearless performance that included very little dialogue. Yet, I knew exactly what she was communicating at all times.  McDormand was very good, even excellent, but she's virtually always very good. She won an Oscar for "Fargo" in 1996.

Best Actor in a Supporting Role

Sam Rockwell, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Richard Jenkins, “The Shape of Water” **
Woody Harrelson, “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” **
Willem Dafoe, “The Florida Project”

Christopher Plummer, “All the Money in the World”

I'm not sure about how well Rockwell's character was written, but he was excellent in his performance. Harrelson and Jenkins were also very good, as was Dafoe. This is a strong category.

Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Allison Janney, “I, Tonya” **
Laurie Metcalf, “Lady Bird” **
Octavia Spencer, “The Shape of Water” **
Mary J. Blige, “Mudbound”

Lesley Manville, “Phantom Thread”

Both Janney and Metcalf were fantastic playing mothers of young women coming-of-age. After seeing "Lady Bird," I was convinced Metcalf was a lock for this award. Then, I saw "I, Tonya." Wow.

Best Documentary Feature

I failed to see any of these before the Oscars:

Abacus: Small Enough to Jail
Faces Places
Icarus
Last Men in Aleppo
Strong Island

Comment: Netflix had Icarus, Last Men in Aleppo, and Strong Island available to stream prior to the Oscars and Abacus is on Amazon Prime. This is a category that I should have given more attention weeks ago.

Best Foreign Language Film

And I haven't seen these and none seem to be streaming for free on Netflix, Hulu, or Prime:

“A Fantastic Woman” (Chile)
“The Insult” (Lebanon)
“Loveless” (Russia)
“On Body and Soul (Hungary)
“The Square” (Sweden)


** I saw these films or performances in the theater.



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Monday, February 12, 2018

Senator Schumer at UofL

I went to the campus talk by NY Senator Chuck Schumer this morning. I was not sitting very close, so my photos didn't turn out very well. I posted a Twitter thread about the event:








The Department Twitter account posted a photo of the Senators with our new department chair Jasmine Farrier:



Did I mention that my term as chair ended and I'm on sabbatical through 2018?

Oh, I snapped this shot from my seat prior to the event (sorry it is blurry, but you were warned above):







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Saturday, February 10, 2018

More on Athletic Salaries at Louisville

University of Louisville Interim Athletic Director Vince Tyra cut his own salary this past week -- from $1.2 million a year to "only" $850,000. Sports columnist Tim Sullivan notes that this might make him more likely to land the permanent AD job. Readers may remember I commented about the $1.2 million salary already.

In any case, that first linked story above included Tyra's reasoning for slicing his own salary to $850K:
Tyra said that in examining the athletic department's costs, he looked up the salaries of the other athletic directors in the ACC and averaged the top three, which generated $854,000. As a result, he said he asked to have his salary lowered from $1.2 million to $850,000.
Today, I had a back-and-forth discussion with Sullivan on twitter concerning Tyra's status and pay:
When the University was increasing faculty salaries a couple of years ago, no one was paid a new salary obtained by averaging the three highest paid comparable position salaries in the ACC. For one thing, UofL salaries were far under baseline school comparisons and the increase only resulted in salaries that were slightly better than before. Faculty in Arts and Sciences are still paid well below their peers -- especially compared to the highest paid ACC faculty, which tend to be at the private schools. And of course those were the last raises faculty received unless they were promoted in rank -- or managed to get a competing job offer.

Sullivan also pointed out that my thinking didn't account for Tyra's business experience. He asked, via twitter, "If Bill Gates wanted the job, would you pay him as an entry level employee?"

I replied:

Sullivan replied to my first question by linking to a 2010 NY Times article noting that a number of schools have hired ADs from business.

As for the market value of the ADs, I found this:
So $850,000 per year for a novice AD still seems outrageous to me. I know the data is 4+ years old, but consider this quote from the article: "many of them are paid like CEOs, with many making salaries in the high six figures. A handful even make more than $1 million a year."

Again: Many paid like CEOs. Many in high 6 figures. A handful over a million.

Yet, that has been Vince Tyra's starting salary level.

College Sports at UofL remain broken.


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Saturday, January 27, 2018

Dynasty baseball

Jim Thome's election into the National Baseball Hall of Fame has me reminiscing about my dynasty-league fantasy baseball championship teams of the late 1990s.

In a 24 team league, the Louisville Sluggers lost in the World Series in the 1996 B season. The OBFLB divides the season every year at the All-Star break. The Sluggers won its first championship with Thome at third base in 1997 A. The team repeated in 1998 A, 1999 A, 2000 A, 2002 B, and 2003 B. There was also a runner-up finish in 1999 B. That made 6 championships and 8 World Series appearances in 8 years, covering 15 possible World Series. There were some playoff losses in there too: I found a file for 2000 B, but seem to be missing other data from the early 2000s.

The team has had some success since then, but not as sustained as that dynasty.

I found an old file with my mid-year roster of retained players from 1997. Below, I've highlighted in yellow the players subsequently elected to the Hall of Fame:

Louisville Sluggers 
15 (14 + 1 DL) Players

 C:Mike Sweeney         R 97    (KCR AL)
2B:Roberto Alomar       R 91    (Bal AL) 
3B:Jim Thome            R 93    (Cle AL) 
3B:Kevin Orie           D1897   (ChC NL)
IF:Edgar Alfonzo        D1797   (NYM NL)
OF:Rich Becker          R 97    (Min AL)
OF:Shawn Green          Rm95    (Tor AL)
OF:Darin Erstad         Rm95    (Ana AL)
OF:Jeromy Burnitz       D1997   (Mil AL)
SP:Pedro Astacio        Rm96    (LAD NL)
SP:Greg Maddux          R 91    (Atl NL) 
SP:Pedro Martinez       R 94    (Mon NL) 
SP:Shane Reynolds       Rm94    (Hou NL)          DL
RP:Mike Fetters         Rm94    (Mil AL)
RP:Mariano Rivera       R 97    (NYY AL)

The following off-season, in February 1998, I traded Mariano Rivera and Kevin Orie for SS Derek Jeter (plus "TPs," which are points used as cash). Jeter will one day be in the HoF. 

The R or Rm designations reflect when a player was first retained in the league (D## indicates drafted round and year). I inherited Greg Maddux when I received my team in 1992. Pedro Martinez was a trade acquisition prior to the 1994 season. According to one of my old files, I got him for two guys who together had over 30 saves in 1993 -- P Jerry DiPoto (Cle) and P Gene Harris (SD)! Martinez himself had been a relief pitcher in LA prior to that 1994 season in Montreal.

Jim Thome was probably  also a trade acquisition, though a year earlier -- after the 1992 season. He had hit 3 HR in a small number of plate appearances prior to his 1993 season as a Slugger. I cannot find the details. 

A few moments searching reveals that I traded Jeff Cirillo and Marc Newfield for Robbie Alomar in February of 1997. He was not a member of the 2002 and 2003 teams, though I cannot find the  details explaining why.  

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

Anyone want a job paying at least $100K per month?

Today, the Louisville Courier Journal tweeted this story:

From my personal twitter account, I replied:

That sort of set me off...but I started replying from my professional account:



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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Truth Decay

By Master Steve Rapport (Tax March SF) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Some highly respected scholars are warning that the public sphere is under serious threat -- from the shallow nature of social media, intentional foreign misinformation campaigns, lack of public agreement about basic facts and information, the blurring of the lines between opinion and fact -- and the persistent lying of Donald Trump.

Indeed, the Rand Corporation recently released a report warning that "truth decay," the term they adopt, "poses a direct threat to democracy." Rand authors assert that truth decay can cause "the erosion of political and civil discourse, political paralysis at the federal and state level, and increased risk of individual disengagement from political and civic life."

Next, consider the points recently made by Tom Nichols of the Naval War College, author of The Death of Expertise: The Campaign Against Established Knowledge and Why it Matters. Among other concerns, he sees real trouble in the rise of social media and state actor (especially Russianbots:
“There is always a market for conspiracy theories, and social media reduces the barrier to entry for people who want to peddle them to near zero,” Tom Nichols, a professor at the U.S. Naval War College and author of The Death of Expertise, told ThinkProgress. “Twitter, especially, is amenable to this, because you can mimic expertise in short bursts, and pretend to know things you could not possibly know, in a way you would never be able to sustain — or that would reveal the utter ludicrousness of your argument — if you had to make your points at greater lengths in a coherent, single article.... 
The negative effect here is that cynicism about information sources will increase as each of these waves [of conspiracy theorists] passes through,” Nichols said. “I think that’s actually the goal of some of the state actors dumping misinformation on the net: to exhaust the readers into paralysis, so that they believe nothing.”
Additionally, consider the following claims from Allan Lichtman, an American University History Professor who earned a measure of fame in fall 2016 for predicting that Donald Trump would win the presidency. In 2016, even as he was making his prediction, Lichtman warned that Trump posed a danger to America (and potentially to the accuracy of his prediction system):
[Trump]'s a bit of a maverick, and nobody knows where he stands on policy, because he's constantly shifting. I defy anyone to say what his immigration policy is, what his policy is on banning Muslims, or whoever, from entering the United States, that's certainly a factor. But it's more his history in Trump University, the Trump Institute, his bankruptcies, the charitable foundation, of enriching himself at the expense of others, and all of the lies and dangerous things he's said in this campaign, that could make him a precedent-shattering candidate.
Lichtman noted at the time that "the two candidates have been repeatedly fact-checked by independent sources, and his lies vastly outnumber hers [Hillary Clinton's]." Indeed, Lichtman predicted at the time that Trump would be impeached in office. He has subsequently authored a book The Case for Impeachment outlining 8 possible reasons for Trump's impeachment.

More recently, the scholar has extended his critique: “He [Trump] has shattered reality itself,” said Lichtman, the American University professor. “There is no such thing as reality in the world of Trump.”


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