Revolutionary War – Part II

Posted June 13th, 2010 by Rob

Congratulations to Roger for getting married – what is he doing for his honeymoon? I already mentioned it, but I think Roger has made a great choice and a huge accomplishment in marrying a doctor. Now he can slack off and play videogames for the rest of his life and still live comfortably.

I saw the highlights of the U.S.-England soccer game. The goal England scored was a defensive breakdown by the U.S. for sure. But of course the most talked about play is the English goalkeeper’s tragic misplay. I’ve played lots of goal, and a mistake like that is heartbreaking – I can’t even imagine what it must feel like to do it during the World Cup. His confidence is probably totally shattered. I guess before the game there was some surprise that England had chosen to start that goalkeeper – I don’t think they’ll use him again but who knows. The U.S. had another great chance, with a deflected shot bouncing off the post later. All in all, this tie for the U.S. was just as good as a victory for a few reasons. First of all, whenever a soccer game ends in a tie, the team who scored last feels like they won. Also, England was expected to win, and since this was the hardest game of the group for the U.S. they now have a very good chance to make it out of the group into the next round. A lot of people, especially Americans, complain about how soccer games often end in ties, but I don’t think there’s anything wrong with ties.

Kohanski, the derby is now only approximately 2.5 months away and you have not joined a team or expressed your input on the event format. If you’re having different thoughts from what we already discussed, we really need to get your input soon so we can implement any changes while still allowing the participants adequate time to prepare.

There may only be one more blog post from Iraq, or this could even be the last one. Then I’ll be heading to Kuwait for a brief while, and on to Fort Dix with hopefully as few airports in between as possible. I should have my phone back on, with calling and texting ability, within a week.

Soccer Post! Plus: Worst World Cup Team?

Posted June 11th, 2010 by Rob

:::Note- If you haven’t already, please stop sending me mail of any kind since I won’t be here when it arrives. Thanks for your support:::

How did North Korea make it into the World Cup? Most repressed people in that hermit-state can only eat every other day. Maybe the government gives their soccer players the Kim Jong-Il treatment – spending what little money they have to shower them in luxury. Or, maybe they do what Iraq used to do to “motivate” its athletes – torture and kill them if they don’t play well. I would be very interested to see what kind of equipment and training facilities the North Korean soccer team has access to, especially in light of the trade embargos they’re saddled with, not to mention the gross disparity between the resources it takes to field a world-class sports team and the resources most North Koreans are forced live with. There is no foreign media (TV, internet, etc.) allowed in North Korea and 90% of the people don’t have TVs (the 10% who do had to buy them on the black market) so how will their citizens be able to watch the games? In any event, I predict that North Korea will be outscored 12-0 in its 3 World Cup games and that they will earn 3 red cards, since the bad teams almost always play dirty in these tournaments.

Thinking about that reminds me of the time I was given a yellow card in high school soccer. My senior year I was a field player. I think I was playing striker or outside midfield when the other team was awarded a direct kick maybe 30 yards away from our goal, near the corner of our box. Trying to do what our coach had instructed, I (as the forward-most player on that side of the field) rushed back to the site of the kick to direct my team’s wall positioning. The thinking was that directing this from the site of the kick would obstruct and delay the other team from kicking, giving us more time to get into position. Unfortunately, in my rush to get back to the spot of the kick, I accidentally kicked the ball after the ref had placed it, earning me a yellow card and much laughter from my teammates.

Some of my other favorite things to do as a field player were taking outlandish dives and trying to draw calls. Whenever I was challenged or lost control of the ball, since I’m not a great dribbler, I would dive or fall, shouting and pretending that the other team had fouled me. I would often try to land my face in the grass and get grass or dirt in my mouth to reinforce the severity of the fake foul. It worked pretty often and I earned my team lots of calls. I still do this in indoor soccer whenever I play in the field.

Do any other soccer players have stories they’d like to share?

New iPhone and Strasburg Impressions

Posted June 9th, 2010 by Rob

The new iPhone was unveiled on the 7th by Apple. It will be available later this month with black and white bodies, 16 and 32 GB models. The fact that you can record and edit HD video on a tiny phone is incredible. The screen resolution increase should be good for gaming, and also for media – just be careful you don’t go over the new AT&T data caps. Video-chatting is another extremely cool feature, even though it’s only available through Wi-Fi. I’m pretty sure I’m going to go with the $25 2GB plan now. All in all, the phone doesn’t have any huge, amazing surprises or revolutionary advances – but it is still a big step forward and a must-have. The “surprise factor” wasn’t there in the unveiling, because of the previously leaked iPhone 4 prototypes, which is a reason why Apple’s stock didn’t bounce like during/after past unveilings. The stock should still rise over the next few months thanks to huge sales. It also looks like AT&T is allowing anyone with contracts that expire at any point in 2010 to upgrade to the new iPhone for the lowest available price ($199 or $299) right away, which is very good news.

Strasburg’s debut line was pretty impressive. Has anyone thrown 14 strikeouts yet this season? I would laugh if someone offered me Tommy Hanson for Strasburg, but I guess you can’t blame someone for trying. With Strasburg’s inning limit this season, it’s possible that Mike Stanton could be a more valuable fantasy player this season – but I think Strasburg is destined to be a special player and will be more valuable in the long run. Zak didn’t let anyone else draft him this season, but if he didn’t take him first overall I wonder where he would have gone.

We had our inspections for all of our containers with baggage and equipment yesterday, and now they’re sealed and waiting to be moved off the base. Some of us woke up at 3am to get ready for the inspection, so most of it could be done before the heat of the day. Everything went very smoothly. It’s a relief knowing that this big part of the process is done – now it’s mostly just paperwork to be taken care of from here on.

Subaru Shopping?

Posted June 7th, 2010 by Rob

The Subaru definitely looks like the best choice after doing more research. It’s less expensive than anything else I cound find with all of the key attributes I’m looking for (4-door, AWD, V6) and it has strong endorsements from key family members. It seems like retail prices for Subarus in our area run higher than the MSRPs, and it also seems like area dealers are flush with 4-cylinder models but don’t have many 6-cylinders, so I will have to overcome these obstacles. What are the good dealers around us? I have no plans or desire to learn to drive a manual. I really wanted to get an American car but I can’t justify spending thousands more dollars for it. Hopefully the Subaru will fit in my new garage – the 2010 model is 4 inches wider than the 2009 model. In any event, with a little luck I’ll be driving one around in less than a month.

My fantasy baseball team had a big 4-win performance yesterday, closing the gap on what had somehow been my worst category. My offense may be overperforming, but even a small amount of regression could be absorbed with what I believe will be improving win, ERA, and WHIP numbers. Gio Gonzalez and Javier Vazquez both had very promising starts last night – it’s definitely good to see my Gio trade paying off and good to see Javier rounding into form. I’m not sure what will happen with my roster when Nelson Cruz comes off the DL, since by then I’ll have already dropped Damon for Stanton. I don’t want to drop a pitcher to expand my bench hitters.

I turned in my rifle a few days ago since I won’t be going outside the base where I need it anymore. We’ve also turned in a lot of our other equipment that we’ve been carrying around for the last year. It’s a good feeling to get rid of all that stuff. We’ve loaded all of our containers that are being shipped home, and now we’re just waiting for the customs inspection. Sandstorms have been hampering travel within the country over the past couple days, so hopefully the weather will improve soon.

Impact of New AT&T Data Pricing

Posted June 5th, 2010 by Rob

Perrotti your stance on MLB umpires is a common one, but we know that the umpires’ union would never allow its members to be fired for missing calls. The umpires are under enough pressure already, having been mandated to speed up games and dealing with everything else they’ve been dealing with. We need to help them do a good job by giving them the tools umpires/refs in other sports have, not threaten them. Also, I wish Kohanski would address the Derby personally. What do you mean he wants fewer events? We already simplified the structure of this year’s Derby over last year’s. Making the Derby any shorter would render it an untrue test of athletic skill.

About the new AT&T data plans, I don’t know how much data I use, but it’s probably a good amount. I think I would start out on the $15 plan and if I get overages I would switch to the $25 one. It should be noted that the new plans are not very transparant. True, AT&T tells you how much data you are using, but how do you know that they’re accurate? Couldn’t they inflate their gauge, like a gas station giving you .99 gallons when you pay for a full gallon, or just add meaningless code to all files to make them larger? I don’t think they would do this, but “unlimited” seems a lot more honest. People are also wondering (perhaps justifiably) why AT&T offers rollover minutes but not rollover data. I am a shareholder in AT&T and Apple so that’s one reason why I have so much interest in this.

I wonder if this is the beginning of an eventual move toward consumption-based charges for regular and mobile internet use in the U.S., from our largely “unlimited” internet right now. Much of the rest of the world charges for internet on a per-kb/mb basis already, but it’s hard to see Americans embracing this model, especially at home. It makes me remember back in the mid 1990s when AOL accounts only had a set number of minutes per day that you were allowed to be online.

Mike Stanton is supposed to be called up by the Marlins next week and I plan on using my waiver pick to take him. He is the minor league home run leader. I’m surprised how well my team is doing in home runs (especially with Reyes, Bourn, and Damon getting significant playing time), and I need to maintain this strength. I think this could be the end of Johnny Damon on my team, even though he scores runs. Depending on how much potential Stanton shows, he could work his way into a keeper slot.

The Mother of all Blown Calls

Posted June 3rd, 2010 by Rob

First let’s talk about this blown call that cost Armando G. his perfect game. I only saw the still photograph of him with his foot on the bag, ball in glove, with the runner about a step away, but how could the umpire miss that, even in real time? Shouldn’t he have been paying extra-special-hyper-attention to everything, since a perfect game was on the line? Shouldn’t all of the other umpires’ opinions have been exhausted before settling on the safe call? I know umpires have a powerful union and strict rules of conduct, but this umpire should stand up, hold a press conference, and say “Bud Selig please give this pitcher his perfect game”. Maybe it would get him fired but it would be the right thing to do, and since he’s been an MLB umpire for about 20 years I’m sure he has enough of a retirement account to live out the rest of his life comfortably. Umpires are pampered, getting first-class flights all around the country and staying in the nicest hotels, and have all but a lifetime guarantee of a job. This umpire will probably feel like Bill Buckner for the rest of his life, but he at least can try to make it right. If the umpire doesn’t make a stand, there are still other ways. Sometimes official scorers change errors to hits or vice versa after a game is already over, and although this isn’t the official scorer’s call, MLB should follow the same principle here. I don’t know of any cases where such a big umpire decision was revised like this, but this would be the one best case where it should be. Like you said Carigs, I don’t think there’s any way Selig will change this but I would really like to see it made right. But how about 4 no-hitters/perfect games in less than half a season! What’s going on?

If you were trying to answer the question of “What in baseball could overshadow the retirement of Ken Griffey Jr. and his 630 home runs” I think we found the answer. Anyway, it was Griffey’s time to go, and thankfully he didn’t try to coast through the rest of the season. His decision saves the Mariners from the possible PR nightmare of releasing him (which I don’t think they would have done), and opens up a roster spot that they can hopefully get some use out of in the below-average AL West. There were no credible reports of Griffey using PEDs during his career which further adds to his legacy. If only he had stayed healthy in his 30s, who knows what his career stats would look like?

Welcome back Mr. Kohanski. I must say I was hoping for more out of you regarding your trip and the Derby. If me and Malone offered you a spot on our team, would you accept it? What are your feelings about using roughly the same event format as last year? Why do you feel that you are the number 1 competitor? Please elaborate.

Finally Canz, as I’m already on the record stating, www.therobsmith.com will continue in some form. I will look into changing the appearance/layout and will probably post less frequently. Will you continue to graciously host my website free of charge? I am also looking into submitting www.therobsmith.com to the United States Library of Congress, where it could find a spot beside the rough draft of the Declaration of Independence and the Gutenberg Bible.

So Much To Do, So Little Time

Posted June 1st, 2010 by Rob

Things have been pretty busy around here lately. Everything that we need to ship home has to be loaded into the containers, with lots of documentation and paperwork done – and it’s been over 110 degrees with no clouds the past few days so whoever is working out there is miserable. They need to be completely packed because our customs inspection is in a few days (everything going into the U.S. needs to be inspected by customs, even if the military is shipping it). Then we also need to turn in some other equipment that’s staying here for the next company. On top of that there are lots of administrative tasks we need to accomplish and some complicated planning to be done for how to get all of our people and equipment into and out of Fort Dix with as little hassle as possible. The whole company is together, but we are all in one building with limited phones and computers, so people are re-learning how to share and how to work with others. This is definitely one of the busiest weeks of the deployment. It’s also incredible to think that I only have 2 weeks left in this country after being here for such a long time.

I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do in terms of a car when I get home. Pretty much all I know is that I want to buy a car less than 3 years old, whether it’s new or used. I still like the CTS, but I would consider a Honda or something if it’s cheaper, or if I can get zero percent financing if I decide to not pay all up front. I should be able to drive my old Jetta around when I first get back, but I’ll have to make a fairly quick decision on what to get, so I hope I don’t end up regretting my decision. It’s definitely a big relief knowing I have somewhere to live though.

Married for 69 Years? Plus, Chicken Attack!

Posted May 29th, 2010 by Rob

It is a very busy news day here at www.therobsmith.com. First, I would like to wish a very happy 69th anniversary to my grandparents. I don’t know of anyone else who has been married for close to that long, so it’s pretty amazing.

Chicken Attack
I’d like everyone to read my mother’s account of yesterday’s chicken attack. As we search for answers in this time of uncertainty, in order to move forward we must know: what attacked the chickens? I personally favor the extermination of whatever killed the chicken, though Judy presents another viewpoint. In our pursuit of the suspect, all we have to go by right now is my mother’s eyewitness acount and the material evidence. Here is a breakdown of the suspects, with some insight, and my estimated probability that they are behind the murder.
Coyote: 65%. A coyote is by far the most likely suspect. They are well-known predators of small livestock and there are thousands of them in Connecticut, including a large population near our house. We also have eyewitness accounts of coyotes stalking the area that the chickens live. The scant details we do have about this incident are very typical of a coyote attack.
Neighbor’s Dogs: 15%. We need to do a little animal profiling here. An animal expert in my company says “domestic dogs only kill for fun, not for food, so they would have killed all of the chickens”. We know that the neighbor’s dogs are annoying and always enter our yard, barking at us and skirmishing with Cosmo, but killing a single chicken and removing its body does not fit with that behavior pattern. More evidence, such as a body, feathers, or blood in the neighbor’s yard would be needed to reasonably believe the neighbor’s dogs were behind the murder.
Other Dog: 10%. It’s possible that another neighborhood dog, or more likely a wild-stray, could have been the culprit. A neighborhood dog would be unlikely because they would have had to travel a great distance to make the attack. Slightly more likely would be a wild dog (almost with the traits of a wolf), with experience at stalking and hunting live prey, but these wild-strays aren’t common.
Cosmo: 5%. Cosmo used to be curious/aggressive around the chickens, but never harmed them. If our own beloved dog Cosmo had killed the chicken, where would he have dumped the body? No feathers or blood was noticed on his snout. He has existed peacefully with the chickens for over a year and seems to enjoy their companionship, so he’s an unlikely suspect. He has the access, but not the motive or the profile.
Unlikely Suspects: Fox/Bobcat/Wolf/Bear 4%. All of these animals do live in rural Connecticut, but don’t generally perform brazen attacks near humans. True, encroachment on their natural habitat in the form of new housing developments in Glastonbury has reduced their hunting range, so it is possible. A bear is omniverous, meaning it could get a much easier meal from many other sources, and they tend to be scavengers anyway. It wouldn’t hunt in the wide-open spaces near our house – and wouldn’t be able to negotiate the surrounding fences very well. A fox would be too diminuitive to take the fairly large chickens, as they too tend to be omnivorous scavengers. Wolves are extremely rare in Connecticut, and may not even live east of the river at all. A chicken would be a tasty treat but this time of year they would much rather stay away from humans and go after a young fawn. Bobcats are unlikely because along with being rare, they, maybe more than the other animals listed, avoid areas inhabited by humans. It should be noted that all of these animals are more scarce where coyotes are prevalent.
Highly Unlikely Suspects: Lion/Eagle/Crocodile/Other 1%. In today’s age of globalization, people keep some strange animals as pets. Maybe a Glastonbury yuppie bought his son a crocodile a few years ago, but then it grew too big and he had to release it. You can order anything on the internet these days. Or, an animal could have escaped from a zoo or the Lutz Children’s museum. We haven’t even discussed the animals not recognized by conventional science, like the Chupacabra. Who knows.

I am now even further convinced that UConn basketball won’t return to national prominence for a long time. Their window of opportunity is five years or less, depending on when Calhoun retires. With his shaky health that could be anytime. The NCAA violations could reduce their number of scholarships or bar them from postseason play, which certaintly wouldn’t help them. Furthermore, their recruiting has been poor, and who would want to play in a crappy location for a lame duck coach who’s going to retire soon? I see no signs of life in the program.

Almost to 2,000 Comments

Posted May 27th, 2010 by Rob

We still haven’t reached comment number 2,000 yet, even with the quasi-spam tactics of Canz. But, we are very close and it will certainly be reached today. I also received spam comment number 1,000 very recently – there has been a surge in spam lately with sometimes up to 30 spam comments daily, which I delete before they make it to the website.

Everything is going well with my new home purchase. My mom has been handling the bank, lawyer, and real estate agent (our family friend) and the closing is going to happen on June 15th. I am bracing for a staggering amount of money to be taken out of my bank account. Then after that my family will kindly move my things into the new place so I will be able to live there right away. Yesterday I was budgeting out all of the new expenses I’ll have from living on my own and it looks like I’ll be able to handle everything, which is good.

As we prepare to go home, we have to load several shipping containers with our baggage and equipment. Then we also have to ensure all of our vehicles and other equipment we’re turning over to the company that’s taking our place are servicable and clean. We don’t have the luxury of doing any of this indoors, so it’s all done outside in the hot sun. But everyone knows that it’s all necessary for us to go home, so there isn’t much complaining. I think that a few people from the company replacing us are already in Kuwait getting ready to come up here, so it’s exciting to know that we’re that close to going home.

When I traded Figgins to Carigs for Gio Gonzalez, I was just looking to dump the unproductive Figgins in order to free up a roster spot and improve my draft position, based on Figgins’ name recognition – I didn’t care who I got in return. I picked what appeared to be the lowliest pitcher on Carigs’ staff and did no research on him. But now Gio Gonzalez is possibly emerging as a strong young breakout candidate, so I think he will get more than a passing stay on my roster.

Comment 2,000? Plus Fantasy Outfield Focus

Posted May 25th, 2010 by Rob

We’re approaching reader comment number 2,000, which is a major milestone for www.therobsmith.com (not including spam comments). Since I never gave cousin Jen the autographed picture I promised to whoever made comment 1,000, I won’t even offer a prize for comment 2,000 – but we all know that the lucky writer of comment 2,000 will be forever enshrined in www.therobsmith.com lore for all eternity.

We had an awards ceremony for our Company here the other day. When a soldier engages or is engaged by the enemy, he or she earns the Combat Action Badge. A few dozen of our soldiers have been in convoys that were attacked during the deployment (with no injuries) so they all were awarded the CAB the other day by a General who was visiting us. I got to stand at a podium and narrate the ceremony and announce the soldiers’ names as they were getting awarded which was cool. We’ll have another larger ceremony at a later date when everyone will get their “end-of-tour” awards. An end-of-tour award is given to each soldier at the end of the deployment, based on their overall level of responsibility and performance throughout the entire deployment. A handful of soldiers who got in trouble for various reasons won’t be getting end-of-tour awards.

I’d have to say that my fantasy baseball outfield, which began the season as really sketchy, is turning out alright. Cruz is a fantasy star, I’m glad I kept him, and he looks healthy again. Alex Rios (9 HR, 14 SB) is performing up to his potential. It looks increasingly like Carigs (and the other owners) made a mistake in dropping Soriano early and allowing him to pass waivers, even though it was looking really bad for him for a while. These three are performing about as well as I could hope. Damon, Pence, and Bourn have done a passable job of rounding out my utility players, but there is still room to upgrade there.