Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

Copyright Notice

Everything that appears on this blog is the copyrighted property of somebody. Often, but not always, that somebody is me. For things that are not mine, I either have obtained permission, or claim fair use. Feel free to quote me, but attribute, please. My photos and poetry are dear to my heart, and may not be used without permission. Ditto, my other intellectual property, such as charts and graphs. I'm probably willing to share. Let's talk. Violators will be damned for all eternity to the circle of hell populated by Rosanne Barr, Mrs Miller [look her up], and trombonists who are unable play in tune. You cannot possibly imagine the agony. If you have a question, email me: jazzbumpa@gmail.com. I'll answer when I feel like it. Cheers!

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Thoughts on Game of Thrones S6E04 -- Book of the Stranger

I've fallen way behind Game of Thrones this year.  Just watched S6E04 this morning, and S6E07 airs tonight.   Spoilers ahead, in case anyone needs that warning at this late date.

In the "Inside the Episode" segment D and D talk about the theme of rebirth, a la both Jon Snow and Dany.  True enough, but what struck me is the recurring vignettes revealing the strength of the female characters juxtaposed against the weaknesses of their male counterparts.

First, the sisters vis-vis their brothers, with all these guys showing weakness in some way.

Sansa has become a seriously bad-ass character, and I suspect the best is yet to come for her.  She is now determined to take Winterfell back from Ramsay, and uses her strength to bolster Jon Snow's resolve.  [Yes we all "know" that they are cousins, not half siblings, but they don't know that - yet.]   Jon, highly confused at this point, is still coming to grips with his resurrection, and Sansa is giving him purpose and direction.  D and D reveal this is the first time they have been on screen together in 6 season, which only heightens the poignancy.

Margaery meets her brother Loras in the cells of The Faith Militant.  Loras, who we have not heard from in the books for a long time, is quite likely dead.  But on the show, he's alive, and, by means unspecified, about as badly broken as Theon.  Margaery is attempting to give Loras some of her strength and courage to carry on.  This  was a brief moment, and we don't know how it will play out.  But Margaery's strength and resolve are undeniable. 

And poor emasculated Theon, who will never get over his mutilation, but is slowly regaining his humanity, is still not back to himself enough to look his sister in the eye.  But he's gaining, and resolves to help her win the Iron Islands. Ironically, his weakness enhances her strength.

Now, the mother and child reunion, as Cersei once again bends King Tommen to her will.  Tommen is basically a good kid, but confused, wrapped around mommy's finger, and a horribly weak king. 

The contrasts -

First, the brief encounter between Davos and Melisandre.  She seems to have regained her faith, this time putting it in Jon Snow, but cannot face even the slightest questioning by Davos.

Then Osha, attempting to use all of her wiles against the Bastard Ramsay.  He was on to her, though.  They both went for the knife, the knife, the knife; they both went for the knife.  Sadly Ramsay won this round.  Alas, poor Osha.  You died a hero! 

And the best for last - both here and in the episode, as Daenerys Stormborn, Khaleesi, Mother of Dragons, Breaker of Chains, The Unburnt confronts the collected Khals of the Dothraki, who think they are passing judgment on her.  With absolutely nothing to lose, she sends their temple up in a blazing conflagration, thus reducing them to cinders, and again emerges miraculously unscathed from the inferno, reprising, in a much larger and more dramatic way, the conclusion of S1E10.

For some deeper analysis check out the always excellent Alt Shift X.

Just another Fry day in Vaes Dothrak.

Afterthought:  I disagree with Alt about Dany's character arc.  She is not going back to where she started.  She started as a frightened young girl, and has since been thrust into situations not of her making, and tried to do what she thought was right - kind of like Jon Snow, come to think of it.  In the process she has been running away from what she truly is a Fire and Blood Targeryan.  Alt zeros in on this possibility - that she will return to Westros as an invading conqueror, leading a wild Dothraki hoard from atop a fire-breathing dragon.  Well - that is what Khal Drogo intended 5 seasons back.  But now it would be Daenerys in the lead.   She has grown and changed a lot, and - as is hinted at the end of A Dance With Dragons - getting ready to unleash her dragons and savages on an unprepared world.

So this is not a circle back character arc, despite all the to go forward you must go back stuff she got from the mysterious Quaithe back in season 2.

I agree with his final statement, though, that Dany and Jon have vital roles to play in whatever the grand finale of this epic turns out to be.

2nd Afterthought:  In Vaes Dothrak I was really expecting a Drogon ex Machina moment, but instead  it was a Daenerys ex Machina moment, which I think is much more powerful.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Tigers First 10 Games

I came into this season with a lot of optimism.  Verlander, Victor, Miggy, and Sanchez are all healthy for the first time in three years.  Green had his hand problem repaired.  There is a credible relief staff for the first time in many years.  Last year the Tigers were close to first in batting average, but only 10th in runs scored.  This seems like an anomaly that couldn't be repeated.  J.D. is the real deal.  I'm looking for Castellanos to have a break out year.   Justin Upton is an upgrade in left field, and should add some punch.  Free Press sports writer Drew Sharp declared this a 3rd place team, but I think he is dumb.

After 10 games the Tigers are 7-3, a very good start. This would project to 113 wins over 162 games. I don't expect that to happen.  But there are a lot of good things going on.  Batting has been potent, and the runs have come with it.   Tigers and Orioles are leading the league in team batting average, tied at .291. In 11 games, the Orioles have scored 60 runs, to the Tigers 54 in 10.  Tigers are way behind in home runs though, 23 to 14.   So, naturally, the Orioles have the highest slugging percentage, a gonzo .540.  The Tigers are next at .461.  So the offense is working.  Despite getting shut out the other night, the Tigers are averaging 5.4 runs per game.  Baltimore is at 5.54.  Boston is 3rd at 5.3.

Here are the individual batting stats.

J.D. Martinez 39 0.385 0.444 0.538 0.983
Nick Castellanos 38 0.368 0.359 0.605 0.964
Ian Kinsler 45 0.333 0.354 0.556 0.91
Jose Iglesias 30 0.333 0.444 0.367 0.811
Miguel Cabrera 38 0.289 0.4 0.421 0.821
Justin Upton 46 0.261 0.277 0.391 0.668
Anthony Gose 29 0.241 0.313 0.345 0.657
Saltalamacchia 22 0.227 0.292 0.727 1.019

J.D. Martinez 6 15 3 0 1 5 0 0 5 8
Nick Castellanos 7 14 3 0 2 8 0 0 0 11
Ian Kinsler 10 15 1 0 3 8 1 1 2 7
Jose Iglesias 5 10 1 0 0 1 1 0 6 2
Miguel Cabrera 7 11 2 0 1 4 0 0 7 8
Justin Upton 6 12 3 0 1 2 0 0 1 18
Anthony Gose 4 7 0 0 1 2 0 1 3 10
Saltalamacchia 3 5 2 0 3 10 0 0 2 9

Neither Cabrera nor Upton has contributed much as yet.  When they get going, this offense should be terrorizing opposing pitchers.

Here is scoring by inning.

There is some success the first time through the line up.  Lack of 3rd inning scoring is mysterious. Big inning has been the 6th.  This is the 3rd time through the line up, so the batters are figuring out the starters.  Late scoring is encouraging, since the Tigers are getting to the relievers.

I think it's too early to say a lot about pitching.   Team ERA is 3.76.  Not horrible, but only 8th in the A. L.   Opponents batting average is .270, and that is awful.  J.V. is yet to find the stride he had at the end of last season.  His WHIP is 1.59, and ERA is a dismal 7.16.   Sanchez has been good, with a 1.31 WHIP and 3.38 ERA and 2 wins.  Shane Green is looking good with 0.857 WHIP and 2.57 ERA.  The real star has been Jordan Zimmerman, with 2 wins, 13 shutout innings pitched, a 1.00 WHIP and 0.00 ERA.

Here is opponents scoring, on the same scale as the Tigers'.

Starters are having early problems.  Relievers have been decent.

On the defensive side, Tigers lead the A. L. with 1.7 double plays per game - a stat that has been enhanced by 5 turned in the last two games at Houston.

So far so good.  But the White Sox and Royals are both 8-3.  So the Tigers actually are in 3rd place.

Hmmmm  .  .  .

Sunday, February 28, 2016

Undead in A Song of Ice and Fire

I count five distinct varieties up to now, not all of whom have made it into the TV series..

Ice zombies - Wights, malevolent reanimated corpses, controlled by The Others.

Fire zombies - Beric Dondarrion, Lady Stone Heart, possibly Melisandre - Reanimated people who retain some or most of their human characteristics, depending on how many times they've been reanimated, and their physical condition as it is performed.   This is accomplished by certain followers of the Red God, R'hllor, by means of its power.   UPDATE -  As this reddit comment points out, Beric and LSH are probably resurrected, rather than merely reanimated.  Clearly, they are quite different from the other types listed here.

Cthulhu zombie - Patchface, whose coded predictions of the future come eerily true.

Bloodraven zombie - Coldhands an apparently intelligent and benign character who is vital in Bran's journey to meet the Three-Eyed-Crow.

Frankenzombie -  Gregor Clegane, aka The Mountain, reanimated as Robert Strong by Qyburn.

Further, it's close to certain that Jon Snow - unless he somehow survived the attack by his murderous Night Watch brothers* - will be brought back, possibly by Melisandre, though perhaps by some other agent.  Bloodraven is a possibility, but I think Val, the Wilding Princess, whose grey eyes mysteriously turned blue, might have a part to play as well.

Did I miss any?

* Which seems to be a lot more definitively fatal in the series than in the book.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Alas, Little Walder - Long Live the Cup Bearer

It seems to be pretty much taken for granted that this is the case, since BW is blood spattered, and Ser Hosteen Frey, who carried the boy's body into the great hall is not. The body was frozen when he recovered it. There's a lot of speculation as to BW's motives. But he is only a 9 year old kid. Not that murder by a pre-teen is unprecedented in Westeros - we have Arya in the first book as an example; but the Walders are first cousins, and even Freys, including one as obviously smart and ambitious as BW, wouldn't take kin slaying lightly.

LW's blood had frozen and he was discovered half buried in a snow bank, under the ruined keep with the old gargoyls. I'm not quite 100% certain that this is near the entrance to the crypts, but I strongly suspect that it is.

Which suggests an alternate theory, at least as a possibility.   

Thursday, January 14, 2016

State of the Union

President Obama's final State of the Union address has received generally high marks - at least from people who think with their brains and not the nether reaches of their alimentary canals.  But there were a couple things in it that troubled me.

One was his enthusiasm for the TPP.  Undoubtedly, it has some good features.  But it's features were kept secret far too long; and it was never adequately explained to the American people.   Especially troubling is the prospect of foreign corporations being able to sue the U.S. for lost profits due to our internal decisions and rule making.  TransCanada is already using NAFTA provision to sue us for lost profits due to our refusal to let the Keystone XL pipeline go through.   Who knows how much more liability we might face under TPP, and what types of courts or tribunals might make those decisions

Do the proposed benefits of TPP outweigh the potential downsides, which might include direct challenges to U. S. sovereignty? Does TPP benefit U. S. workers, or trans-national mega-corporations? How can anyone decide these question intelligently?

The second was his moment of abject humility over his alleged failure to bridge the partisan gap with the Republicans - as if they hadn't met on the night of his first inauguration and mapped out a strategy to make him fail.  This crystalized for me as I listened to Thom Hartmann while driving home last night. Obama has spoken repeatedly about Dolores Kearns Goodwin's book 'Team of Rivals," which tells the story of the opposition members Lincoln installed in his cabinet. This seems to have influenced him since he said that a greater president, like Lincoln or FDR, would have been able to unite the differing parties.

This is not only false, it is so wrong it makes me sad.  Evidently Obama is still operating under the delusion that the Republicans will work with him to achieve anything.  They've already been blocking the appointment of new ambassadors for well over a year, have slow-walked judicial nominations for as long as they've had the majority, and now will approve no more during Obama's term in office.

When Obama spoke those words on Tuesday, I turned to my lovely wife and said, "For the thousandth time Obama extends an olive branch across the aisle, and for the thousandth time it's dashed to the ground and stomped into splinters."

Lincoln might have worked with members of the opposition, but it was an outspoken opposition sympathizer and anti-abolitionist who murdered him.

FDR, on the other hand, had no regard for bipartisanship.  In a 1936 campaign speech he famously said, "I welcome their hatred."  Then he went on about his business.

I don't know what Obama was thinking.  Maybe this is one more move in his game of 11 dimensional chess.  Certainly he is savvy and far more intelligent than the Republicans who oppose him.

But it looks to me that the time for conciliation is several years past its expiration date; and Obama needs to start educating the American people who their real enemies are.

That would make him a whole lot more like FDR.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Movie Review - Star Wars, Episode VII The Force Awakens

We saw The Force Awakens Tuesday night, guests of my step son Doug.  So thanks to him for the treat, and to my lovely wife for reminding me to take my ear plugs so I could survive the mayhem of the previews of coming destructions with my hearing still more or less intact. 

I’ve never been a fan of the Star Wars series, and went in fully prepared to hate this installment, but was relieved when that didn’t happen.  I assume everyone who cares has seen the movie, perhaps multiple times by now, so I shouldn’t be too concerned with spoilers.  But if I’m wrong, and that would bother you, then don't read beyond the fold.

To me, Star Wars has always been a series of mediocre check-your-brain-at-the door action-adventure stories filled with tropes that were banal centuries ago, wrapped up in mediocre plotting and truly dismal science fiction. This is the sort of stuff that writing school would tell you to avoid like the plague.  That it has become a multi-billion dollar franchise spanning decades and generations of die hard fans tells you exactly why you don’t ever want me in your focus group.

That said, I enjoyed the movie quite a bit - rather more than I actually liked it; and no, I’m not quite sure what that means.  The story has a lot of little treats packed in it for fans - cameo appearances by the ever annoying C3PO and a comatose R2D2, a trash compacter reference, and I’m sure lots of other echoes of earlier entries and tidbits that flew past me.

I walked out of it feeling that I had just rewatched Guardians of the Galaxy.  [I’ll leave the compare and contrast exercise to the interested reader.  Hint 1- there is no Groot analog that I am aware of.  Hint 2 - the Andy Serkis character.]  The plot was a herd of rabbits drawn from hats, and it seems that Abrams, et al, have a firm grasp of Dan Brown’s first law of success via bad story telling - keep the action moving at lightning speed and the audience won’t have a chance to fall through the plot holes.

Nits first, big complaints later -
  • Storm troopers still cannot hit any target - moving or stationary, despite their intense training from early childhood
  • Their armor still provides absolutely no protection beyond anonymity
  • Sound and flames still carry and burn in the vacuum of outer space - still and always unforgivable

Monday, January 4, 2016

Detroit Lions - A Tale of Two Seasons

Not two separate seasons, but the Lions' season before and after their week 9 bye.   The differences are stark.   In the first 8 games, the Lions went 1-7.  The 8th game was played in London, against a Chiefs team that at that time was 2-5.   This winnable game proved to be the low point of the Lions' season, as they not only lost, but got blown out 45 - 10.   [It was also the turning point for the Chiefs who went on to win all the rest of their games.]  This was the first game with the Lions' trio of new assistant offensive coaches.  Their predecessors had been fired just before the team boarded their trans-Atlantic flight, so their opportunities were limited.   The team looked to be in disarray.

Mercifully, the next week was a bye.  And the Lions did more than lick their wounds with the time off.  Owner Martha Ford sacked team president Tom Lewand and general manager Martin Mayhew.
This couldn't have effected the play on the field very much. I'd like to say that promoting Jim Bob Cooter to offensive coordinator was they key to the Lions' second half success, as the Lions averaged 18.6 points per game through game 8, and 26.1 from game 9 on. But that might be less than half story.

Here are the results of the Lions' games this season.

Game Lions Opponent W – L
1 28 33 L
2 16 26 L
3 12 24 L
4 10 13 L
5 17 42 L
6 37 34 W
7 19 28 L
8 10 45 L
9 18 16 W
10 18 13 W
11 45 18 W
12 23 27 L
13 14 21 L
14 35 27 W
15 32 17 W
16 24 20 W

Graph 1 shows the production of the Lions' offense in points per game.  Also shown are a 4-game average, and season average to date.

Graph 1 - Lions Points

The first game was not bad for the offense, as they scored 28 points, but they lost anyway as the defense gave up 33 to the Chargers.  Week 6 was by far the best game of the first half of the season. Stafford threw for 405 yds. - 166 of them to Calvin Johnson - as the Lions eked out a 37-34 O/T win at home vs the Bears.   The rest of the first half was close to an offensive drought as the Lions' next highest score was only 19.

They remained stuck on 18 in games 9 and 10, then exploded for 45 against the Eagles in game 11. That's when the new offensive presence made itself known; and the Lions went on to score at least 23 points in all the remaining games, except for a 21-14 loss to St. Louis in game 13.   The Rams finished the season number 13 in point prevention, allowing 20.6 per game.

The red line gives a rolling 4-game average, significantly higher in the 2nd half of the season, and still climbing at the end.  The yellow line is season average to date.  This perked up in game 11, and continued a slow climb from there to the end of the season.

I didn't realize this until I took a look at the numbers, but the 2nd half improvement in the defense was even more impressive.  In games 5 and 8 they gave up 42 and 45 points, respectively. In only one of those first 8 games did they hold their opponent under 24 points - and that was a 13-10 loss to Seattle where they got stiffed by the Zebras, who somehow neglected to give them a first down at the Seattle 1 yard line with 1:45 left in the game.

After the bye week, no opponent scored more than 27 points - a total reached twice.  The first time was the result of a heroic hail Mary completion by Aaron Rogers following yet another horrendous gaffe by the the Zebras, who gave Green Bay a free play with no time on the clock, following a phantom face mask call by an official who was approximately 3 miles from the action.  The second was against the Saints in game 14, but the Lions scored 35 to secure the win.

Graph 2 shows the opponent's scoring, same color and detail as in graph 1.

Graph 2 - Opponents Points

The defense did pretty well in games 2, 3 and 4, but was dismal the rest of the first half.  After the bye week, they did much better, knocking 16 points off the 4 game average from game 8 to game 16. Both the 4-game average and the average to date peaked at the game 8 debacle in London.  After that, the defensive turn around was stunning.   The Lions finished the season 23rd in point prevention, allowing 25.0 per game.  The first half average was 30.6 points, while the 2nd half average was 19.9.

None of this takes into consideration the quality of the opposition - something I might [or might not] take up an a follow-up post.  But the turn-around after mid season gives me hope for the future. The fact that the team improved dramatically in both offense and defense is very encouraging.

The Lions finished the season 7-9.  But this should have been no worse than 8-8, and almost certainly 9-7, but for the inexcusable ineptness of NFL officiating.    Matt Stafford is probably not a top 5 QB under any circumstances.  But he was excellent in the season's final few games.  With him and a few other skill players in key position I think the Lions can become a play-off team again next year.

Addendum:  The Lions played one of the toughest schedules in the NFL this year, facing 8 teams that made the playoffs - including Minnesota and Green Bay, who they each played twice.  Next year they have 4 games with teams from the NFC East and AFC South, this year's weakest divisions.   This is just more good news.


Saturday, October 3, 2015

The Chronicle of Death

Here it is from the Guardian - 994 mass shootings in 1004 days.

This includes all incidents in which 4 or more people were shot, irrespective of whether there were any fatalities.

The link.

Monday, September 28, 2015

The Heard - Detroit

On Saturday, Chicago based sculptor, dancer and performance artist Nick Cave brought his raffia soundsuit creation THE HEARD to Detroit.

The event took place at Milliken State Park in downtown Detroit, right by the river walk.

We captured video of it in 4 segments.  The first is the entrance, the second is just horsing around, the third is the choreographed portion, and the fourth is the exit.

Granddaughter Amanda was the lead part of the lead horse in the entrance, red in front and black and white behind.

Videos follow.

Part 1 - Entrance

Part 2 - Horsing Around

Part 3 - Dancing and Prancing

Part 4 Finale and Exit

An unusual event, to be sure.

Blood Moon

Some pics of last night's event.

Half way to total eclipse.

Within a minute the clouds rolled in.

During the time it was total, the clouds opened up again for a clear view.

Almost there.


Afterward, it clouded up again so I couldn't get any pics on the way out.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Household Debt Service vs GDP Growth

In conversation at Art's we wondered about the relationship between household debt service payments as a percentage of disposable personal income and YoY GDP growth.  A scatterplot of the quarterly data from FRED, covering Q1, 1980 to Q1, 2015 looks like this.

Graph 1 - FRED Plot

There's a broad hint of an overall negative slope.  But if you lop off a few points on the right and the left, the remaining central cluster is relatively shapeless.   But, there does seem to be some negative slope to at least certain line segments, so that might mean something.

My first cut at figuring this out was to download the FRED data and make a new plot - Graph 2 - with line segments separated in what I hope is a coherent fashion.  I did this by eyeball, then labeled the segments according to the dates they include.   In the process I inadvertently reversed the axes, but this shouldn't change whatever conclusions might be drawn.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Tigers and the Slough of Despond - 2015 Edition

Latest rumor I've heard is the Tigers dumping Brad at the end of the season, and hiring Ron Gardenhire, an over the hill manager with a mediocre track record.   Early in his managing career at Minnesota, Gardenhire did well with a low payroll team.  But from 2011 through '14, his best record was 70-92 (.432)

I suppose a disappointing season might generate a knee jerk reaction. If it were to be this, I see very little merit in the action.

Let's take a look at the Tigers season and see if we can identify problems.

Tigers have given up 5.06 runs per game. That's a run differential of -102, as of today. Only Colorado and Philadelphia are worse. They've actually exceeded their Pythagorean win expectation by 5 games. By the BaseRuns metric, they're exactly where they should be.

It comes down to pitching, not Brad.

One criticism is he leaves his pitchers in too long.

Brad's dilemma is - if you take a starter out, who are you going to replace him with? Hardy (57 Innings Pitched, 1.26 WHIP) and Wilson (65.1, 1.06) are the only decent relievers in the stable, and they can't go out every day. Next best is Verhagen (15.1, 1.37) but his sample size is small. League Average WHIP is 1.3 to 1.4. By this metric, everybody else is from below average to Awful. Also, per WHIP, the only decent starters are JV and Norris, but Norris is on the DL.

It's pitching, not Brad.

In games decided by 1 or 2 runs, the Tigers are 31-31. In games decided by 4 runs, they're 8-11. In games decided by 5 or more runs, they're 17-27. I would expect that if managing is gong to make a difference, it would be in close games. They're dead even there. The story of this season is giving up tons of runs, and getting blown out.

It's pitching, not Brad.

Tigers are tied for the highest batting avg in MLB with KC, at .271; 4th in OBP at .326; 4th in slugging at .427; but 11th in runs scored, 159 behind No 1 Toronto. Baseball statisticians do not believe that clutch hitting is a thing. All this hitting with a lower than expected scoring rate actually comes down to bad luck.

I don't see any rational reason for dumping Brad.