30 September 2010


Last night via email I found out that I have been accepted to the School of Information Resources and Library Science (SIRLS) at the University of Arizona in Tucson. As I wrote in my post, "Directions Pt. 2" on August 30, I intend to pursue my MA in IRLS beginning this December 20.

Because I've been fielding congratulatory emails and texts wondering when I'm moving to Tucson, I wish to clear up a couple things. First, thank you to everyone who has been supportive of my decision to go back to school - many of my friends and my family members were instrumental in my making the choice to continue my education, and without people like my folks and my close friends, I might not have done so alone.

I will not be moving to Tucson for this degree. I mean, I could, but I'm not. The degree is offered completely online, save for a 7-day face-to-face introductory course at the Tucson campus. I will for the foreseeable future be working from my home in the Phoenix area in order to save a little money on housing and such until I can get on my feet financially. That said, I do intend to start seriously job hunting in the Tucson area in case something pops up that would be beneficial to me.

Technically, I am still waiting right now to hear from the Graduate College whether I am formally accepted to the University of Arizona, but I expect that will not be a problem since I have now been admitted to the SIRLS program. After that, registration for classes takes place in November, followed by my SIRLS 504 Intro class December 20-January 11, 2011. The 7-day Tucson portion of that class is scheduled for January 2-8. After completion of that course, I start a 12 credit hour regimen of classes in information technologies, librarianship, resource management, etc for the next two to three years, again, all in online classes unless I choose to move to Tucson. Practically, for me this likely means two courses per semester for six academic semesters.

The "sub"-program I am going to be working on is the "Information Professional" program, which will prepare me for research, database management, and information management. It involves four "core" classes: the program intro in Tucson, Research Methods, Organization of Information, and Ethics, and then 8 more classes with titles such as Government Information, User Interface and Website Design, Database Development and Management, Digital Libraries, Business Information Resources, Information Seeking Behaviors, and Online Searching. I also have options to complete an internship for credits and to write a thesis for credits.

On a much more serious note, though, I've been trying to figure out how to support both Northern Arizona University (the Lumberjacks) and the University of Arizona (the Wildcats) at the same time.... I think I'm going to have to go with "LumberCat" because "WildJacks" just sounds silly...!

26 September 2010

Softball Games 5/6

Our lean, mean Green Machine team won both of our games this Saturday, edging out our opponents in close contests. Our first game was a two-run victory for us in which I went 2-for-3 with two singles and managed one play at the plate out of three or so chances. Our opponents matched up well with us, and it made for an exciting game - we were ahead, then behind, then ahead, then behind, and finally pulled ahead and closed out the game soundly for the W.

In game two, I played against a real major leaguer. No, seriously! Apparently Russ Ortiz, the former pitcher for the Arizona Diamondbacks (2005-2006) was playing shortstop for the other team. I didn't recognize him during the game, but afterwards was told that's who we were playing against. Ortiz was in the Major Leagues from 1998 until early this year, battling injuries since his time with the Diamondbacks and bounced around between a few clubs before deciding to finally retire from the Dodgers organization this year. How very cool to be able to say I played against a former MLB player! (And even cooler that our team won in a great game!)

Game two was all about our offense. I was able to go 3-for-4 with two singles and a triple (helped by a throwing error and a fielder's choice play at home) My other at bat was a strikeout via foul balls (in softball you get two strikes, and if you foul out on the third strike it counts as a strikeout). But I made good solid contact on my other hits and even laced one single nicely into left field over Ortiz's head. I didn't have a lot of work at the plate - no real plays to speak of, but I did hold a couple runners on third well enough that they didn't score. Going into the final frame, our team was up 17 to 5, with the other team needing 12 runs to tie. They ended up getting 6 runs in the bottom of that inning, but a nice pop fly to third base ended the game with our victory! Caleb, our left fielder, had everyone buzzing with his speed and defense out there, and our pair of first basemen made some excellent digs on solid throws from 2nd and shortstop.

Oh, and we all now also have nicknames from the movie "Top Gun." Maverick, Slider, Cougar, Ghost Rider, and the like. I'm Merlin.

20 September 2010

Winter Softball 2010

As some of you might know, I signed up to play softball this year for the winter league with my church group. I got the chance to play in a couple of games as a fill-in for missing players last year, and decided to sign up to play the whole season this time around. Because this is my blog and I like writing about it, I'll be posting weekly updates on our league and my personal stats in the hopes that I can build on them as the season progresses.

So far, we've played four games - two last weekend and two this past Saturday night. Frankly, the first two games we played we were really not very good. And by that I mean bad, and in part it was my fault. Sadly, to get a copy of the 2010 American Softball Association rules, by which our league plays, you have to be a dues-paying ASA member, so I'm not as read-up on all the rules as I should be. Those first two games, I did get three hits (two singles and a single/error that left me on second base). However, I didn't know that if I wasn't touching the base when the ball is pitched, I could be called out... so yeah, I kind of killed a rally there. Not a mistake I'll make again, though, that's for sure. In the second game that night, I was the third base coach with two on, no one out when our batter lined to second base (though I still believe that ball hit the ground) and both runners were doubled off their bases for a triple play... not easy to do in softball. Needless to say, we lost both games.

This past Saturday, our first game was a close contest for the first five innings, but we made a ton of late errors (mostly throwing errors when people tried turning double plays) and ended up losing by a much less close score than we should have. I had one opportunity to make a play at the plate when our shortstop threw the ball into me and I tagged the runner out by about a half-a-step, but the force of him running into my arm jarred the ball loose from my glove, and when I fell backwards, it popped out of my glove. (I tweaked my shoulder nicely on that one too!) Not really any blame to assign there other than I need to try my best to keep two hands on the ball. It was a hard play. I did go 1-for-3 that game with a single that turned into a double play with the next batter. In the other two at-bats I lined out to shortstop and grounded out in that direction.

The second game we played we won 17-3, and I went 2-for-4 with two singles and a run scored, grounding out in my other two plate appearances. We broke it open early with 7 runs scored in the first frame, and thanks to some good pitching and a lot of pop flies, we held the opponents to just one run over 4 innings. I made two plays in this game. The first was on a slow roller down the first base line which I quickly ran over and grabbed and threw to first. Thankfully, the runner slowed and never actually touched the first base bag, otherwise he was definitely safe. I think he assumed he was out. I'm not complaining. The second play was a relay from center field to shortstop to home plate in which the throw beat the runner home by three steps and I caught it cleanly. The runner stopped running and clearly thought about trying to get back to third, but he tried to dance around me instead when I ran up to tag him, and I got him cleanly in between third base and home. Our team's "fans" cheered when I nabbed him (which was really quite a nice feeling!) and I made sure to give the love back to our shortstop Caleb for the perfect relay throw!

I'm still a bit sore from the games, especially my shoulder from the collision at the plate and my back from being a tall overweight person, but it was definitely fun to win a game, so I'll live with it. We are now 1-3 on the season, and I'm 6-for-13 in hitting (a .462 average). If I were an objective scorekeeper I'd say I've made no errors yet. Still waiting on my first home run (ha ha)!

19 September 2010

Cubs' Colvin Impaled by Broken Bat

During the second inning of today's Cubs-Marlins game, the Chicago Cubs' Tyler Colvin - a very promising rookie outfielder - was impaled in the upper torso by a broken bat while he was running home from third base. I suppose "impaled" is a little melodramatic, but Colvin was struck in the chest just below his left collarbone, puncturing his skin and taking him out of the game to go to the hospital. There, doctors performed a "pneumothorax" procedure (a procedure to prevent air that has entered the chest wall from causing damage to the lungs and prevent a collapsed lung from occurring), and the Cubs have said that Colvin is done for the remainder of the season.

For video, check out this link to MLB.com: http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20100919&content_id=14847072&vkey=news_mlb&c_id=mlb

NOTE: There's no blood or anything, but this is still not a video for the squeamish... it looks like it hurt.

Obviously, baseball cannot completely prevent injuries from occurring to fans, players, umpires, or other people entirely - it comes with the territory of the game - but it does raise the debate over maple versus ash bats again in the sport. For the last few years, it has been conclusively shown that maple bats, when they break, tend to shatter and send pieces flying all over the field or into/near fan seating areas. Ash bats, on the other hand, being made of a softer wood, tend to crack, but not shatter. That said, many players prefer maple bats because the denser, harder wood has less "give" on the baseball when it is hit, and can produce more power and a farther hit ball.

Cubs catcher Wellington Castillo was using a maple bat to hit when it cracked at the handle and sent the javelin top half into Tyler Colvin, who didn't see it coming as he was watching the ball dump into left field. Over the last few years, the debate has raged about whether or not Major League Baseball and Commissioner Bud Selig should ban maple bats from being used to play, a campaign that Diamondbacks fans like me hear often whenever a maple bat shatters and sends shards onto the field from announcer Mark Grace. Opponents of such a ban can use stats to make a point, though: of the thousands and thousands of at-bats in which maple bats have been used, few have resulted in the type of explosion of wood that would cause injury, and far, far fewer have actually caused injury. Colvin's accident was just that: a freak accident. There's not really any need to overreact and start banning things because of one incident.

Frankly, with all the technology out there, I have heard of a company that was testing a material like a thin film (I guess somewhat akin to safety glass film for windows) that would wrap around the barrel of the bat down to the knob and help prevent a bat break which could result in splintering. MLB at one point was checking its effectiveness and testing to see if it would have an adverse effect on the game or the ball. If it works, that sounds like an effective compromise to me. Because while I agree that maple bats may indeed pose a risk that is unnecessary and detrimental to the game, we as fans - and those who make the decisions on this stuff - should also remember that this really was a freak accident and not go ballistic.

I'd love to hear from my readers on this: what do you think? Ban maple bats or let the game continue as is or something else?

16 September 2010

Jeter, Cheater, Pumpkin Eater?

Watch the following video of Derek Jeter selling a hit-by-pitch to the home plate umpire, even though the ball clearly hits his bat -not his elbow - in the replays:

A little extra hay against the New York Yankees shortstop is being made right now with this video about whether or not the shortstop cheated. Here's the situation: top of the 7th, no one on and one out. The first pitch by (former Arizona Diamondbacks closer) the Tampa Bay Rays' Chad Qualls comes in tight to Yankees shortstop Derek Jeter who (rightly) spins out away from the ball. The ball, according to replays, actually hit the know of the bat, square on the end, and as it connects, Jeter grabs at his elbow, drops his bat, and grimaces in mock pain. The umpire, convinced by this rather impressive acting, announces a hit by pitch and awards Jeter first base. The Yankees' trainers come out to check on Jeter (who sells it all the way to first) and Rays manager Maddon comes out to argue. To their credit, the umpires did huddle up at second base to confer on the call, but no one saw it as anything other than a hit batter.

Now, don't get me wrong: I dislike the Yankees just as much as the next true American patriot (sorry, Yankees fans!), but Jeter really didn't do anything wrong. Selling the hit-by-pitch is just as much a part of baseball as anything else. Seriously, what did you want the guy to do? Tell the umpire that the ball DIDN'T hit the bat and that he wanted another chance to strike out? When you look at the video in real time, it happens so fast that it's impossible to tell whether the ball strikes his bat or his arm - I can't blame the umps for missing it.

But all you fans out there who decry this as cheating... it's not. And it really wouldn't be such a big deal if Jeter's HBP didn't end up resulting in a 2-run homer that inning by a later batter. But considering the Rays won the game, it makes little difference now. Also, after the game, Jeter admitted that the ball didn't actually hit him - adding more fuel to the "he cheated!" speculators. I dunno about all of you, but I find it really hard to criticize a guy for doing what I would expact any member of my team to do in the same situation.

Good acting, Derek.... just don't do it against my Diamondbacks next time we meet!

14 September 2010

Races Heating Up

I love this time of the year when I get to talk about two types of interesting races, political and baseball, in competing posts! This post is about the baseball races, which looked pretty solid all of a couple weeks ago, but have started to really become tense for a few teams who stand on the cusp of making the playoffs.

Back on August 11th, I posted some analyses about the various NL and AL races. Here's an update:

10 September 2010

2010 Midterm Update

All throughout today, I've been having fun reading polling data in some of the Arizona races for the 2010 midterms in November. It's starting to get really interesting in a few different races, and I thought I'd share a few viewpoints with my loyal readers.

First, nationally speaking, if the election were to be held today, most of the spreads I've seen have the Senate split 49-49 with 2 too close to determine, and have the House split 218-217 in favor of the Democrats. This represents a major shift in public perception of politics and of Congress (and, further, of the President) over just the last two years. Consider for a moment that in 2006 the Democrats took overwhelming control of the House and Senate, and in 2008 completed the trifecta by winning the White House. In fact, the Democratic Party had a 59-40-1 supermajority (with the one Independent caucusing with the Democrats) in the Senate just two years back. Now, projections indicate that they will lose at least 8 seats. In the House, the Democratic Party currently holds a 255-178 advantage with 2 vacancies, but Republicans are being projected to gain around 35 seats this year to even the score.

Why the shift? I believe it is a combination of the anti-incumbency movement sweeping the nation combined with a distaste for the recent policies pushed forth by the Democratic Congress. A failing economy combined with a massive, flawed stimulus has left a very bitter taste in the mouths of the Independents who voted anti-Republican in 2006 and who got swept up in Obamania in '08.

For me, it's very evident in Arizona, where four of the top contested races in the country are going on right now: Arizona's 1st, 3rd, 5th, and 8th congressional districts.

CD-01 pits first-term Democrat Ann Kirkpatrick against challenger Dr. Paul Gosar, a northern Arizona dentist and Arizona Dental Association leader in governmental affairs. The most recent poll done for this race was completed back on August 29, 11 days ago, and shows Gosar leading Kirkpatrick 47% to 41%, despite 54% of respondents saying that they had never heard of Gosar. Considering all the attention that the Kirkpatrick campaign gave to Rusty Bowers in the primary election even though Bowers wasn't likely to win the nomination, Gosar stands a decent chance to unseat Kirkpatrick this cycle.

CD-03 is closely watched this election because it's the seat being vacated this year by Republican John Shadegg. Even though I haven't read any polls on the matchup of Republican Ben Quayle, son of former VP Dan Quayle, versus Democrat John Hulburd, most places expect the seat to remain solidly in the GOP column after November 2nd.

CD-05 intrigues me most of all the Arizona races right now because David Schweikert (R) is currently polling ahead of Harry Mitchell (D) 50-44% according to an American Action Forum/Ayers poll I found on http://www.realclearpolitics.com/. The 400-likely-voter sample of people in the Tempe, Scottsdale, and Fountain Hills areas seems to indicate both that the economy/unemployment/jobs is far and away the #1 issue in the district (as opposed to 7% answering illegal immigration and healthcare) and that voters in CD-5 distrust Mitchell to be able to lead in fixing that problem. Indeed Mitchell's favorable/unfavorable rating is 42%/46% - within the margin of error by 0.9% but also not exactly good for him.

CD-08 also lists good numbers for the Republican candidate Jesse Kelly over incumbent Gabrielle Giffords - a deadlock 46-46%. As in CD-5, voters listed the economy as their #1 issue and have unfavorable opinions of Giffords and her politics.

There is a good possibility that the GOP could gain all four of these seats back (okay, in the case of CD-3 it'd be a hold) during this election cycle and return the state to a 6 Republican, 2 Democrat red state again (currently we sit as a 3 Republican, 5 Democrat blue/purple state since 2006). A lot of that probably has to do with the popular SB1070 immigration law, which many Republican candidates this year have been very quick to support and defend against the Obama administration lawsuits and Democratic "boycotts" which have been threatening the Arizona economy. Combine the bad economy with the stupid lawsuit from Obama and a multi-billion-dollar "stimulus" package that hasn't done much of anything yet, and it's not hard to see why anyone would vote in favor of the Democratic status quo this year.

The other interesting polling data I saw today was on the Arizona gubernatorial race - Brewer vs. Goddard - in which Brewer leads Goddard by 60% to 38%, up from 57-38 two weeks ago, and which has continued rising since the last poll showing Goddard ahead was conducted back in early May, 2010. Again, this one is no surprise: it's all because Brewer is riding the SB1070 wave, and even despite her, shall we say, pitiable debate performance against the current Attorney General she's projected to cruise to victory in the next 8 weeks.