Thoughts of an unplanned but not necessarily random nature, because true randomness is impossible

– Really enjoying Tomb Raider (the remake from a year or two ago). I never played the original games, but the new one has a very “Uncharted” or “Last of Us” combat feel, combined with some very engaging puzzle solving.

– Assassin’s Creed Unity should be getting its fourth patch soon… just in time for me to leave for Limeyland. Of course.

– Finally got a chance to see Wrestlemania XXX (that’s thirty, pervert) last night. My favorite match on the card might have been Cena-Wyatt; amazing in-ring psychology. None of them were bad, lots of great moments and in-ring action. Only match I didn’t like was Brock-Undertaker. Yes, yes, the streak ended, but the match itself was subpar, probably because Taker got hurt. It is what it is, I guess.

– After three seasons of Madden NFL 15, I can safely conclude it’s one of my favorites in the series. Owner mode needs to be fleshed out (seriously). Let us make our own (horribly broken) plays again. I stand by what I said years ago: let Madden and NFL Head Coach make a sweet, sweet lovechild. I recommend endless clips of offensive linemen going out of bounds to set the mood. However, the good outweighs the game: apart from some brief stuttering, the game works flawlessly, no crashes. It plays a very reasonable game of football. There’s still some room for improvement on gameplay, but word on the street is that DB vs WR battles are going to be looked at next season, which will be a key improvement.

– My major professor liked chapter one of the dissertation! He had some criticisms, but they’re all fixable. Now, I have to write five more chapters at least as awesome.

– Mark Greaney has taken over for the late Tom Clancy in churning out books based on the Ryanverse. Greaney’s style isn’t as multi-layered as Clancy’s, but his action scenes are a little more exciting. I’ll keep reading them, but I wouldn’t say they’re must reads any more.

– Paul Heyman’s documentary on the WWE Network was epic. Without exaggeration, the best they’ve ever done. The Monday Night Wars series is a lot of fun too.

– I will have gotten to see the Browns three times this season with Sunday’s game against the Bengals. They are 1-1 in those games, but I blame Billy Cundiff. WE LOST BY ONE STINKIN’ POINT. Looking forward to the Johnny Football Era in Cleveland. He is totally awesome in Madden, FWIW.

– All packed and set up for the trip out to London. I’ll be AWOL (or perhaps AWL, since I do have leave) for two-ish weeks, so we’ll have to rely on Kevin to entertain you.

– Speaking of London, I think I like Peter Capaldi’s Twelfth Doctor in Doctor Who so far, and I like the development of Clara as his companion. It’s nice to see them not push the “I secretly love and/or want to bone my companions” angle.

– Other shows I’ve been watching and enjoy: Gotham, Arrow, The Flash, Bones (although their supposed “Hitchcockian” episode was at best meh), and The League (one of the most consistently funny comedies I’ve seen in a very long time).

– Whoever called Borderlands “Diablo with guns” needs a freakin’ medal. There has never been a better description of any game ever.

– Although I do enjoy teaching, I wish I could score one of those sweet “here’s a bag of cash [preferably with a $$ on it], write all day long” fellowships. Some days, I’m just too burned out to actually write. Some days I’m really productive; other days, it’s a struggle to get a paragraph done. Gotta keep on keepin’ on.

Going To FreeCon

I’m fortunate enough to be able to attend Brent Ozar Unlimited’s 2015 SQLPASS FreeCon.  I’m definitely looking forward to it, and have a few goals around it.

First, my immediate goal is to expand my network.  Being in a room with 50 other people for an entire day with this goal in mind is fantastic.

My secondary goal is to give me ideas of what to learn.  Right now, I’m moving in directions away from or orthogonal to SQL Server:  Hadoop, F#, BIML, and getting back into web development, for starters.  I find each of these valuable, but I’d really like to pick the brains of some very smart people and see what I am missing.

My tertiary goal is to expand my network further.  Yeah, this sounds like my immediate goal, but in this case, I mean something slightly different.  In the upcoming year, I want to get a lot more active in SQL Saturdays up and down the eastern seaboard, start presenting at more user groups (especially those outside of the Raleigh-Durham area), and try to develop some personal brand cache.  This is another opportunity for me to pick the brains of people who’ve made the leap from smart person to smart person who people have heard of.

There’s a lot I want to do over the next year to help me support these goals, and re-focusing my portion of this blog to more technical discussions is part of that.

What I’m Reading: Mastering Powershell

I’m going to start a new series in which I discuss books that I’m currently reading.  In most cases, these will be books that I haven’t yet finished, so don’t spoil them…

The first book on my list is Tobias Weltner’s Mastering Powershell.  It focuses on version 2 of Powershell and is a few years old at this point, but most of it remains relevant.  It provides a nice introduction to the topic and is a good starting point for people who want to get beyond the basics of Powershell copy-pasta.  I have a few other Powershell books on my tablet, and I recommend that if you’re going down this road, you get a few more as well—there are a number of things which have happened to Powershell over the past 5+ years, including improvements with asynchronous code, and so you’ll want to treat this more as a foundational work than the sum of all that is Powershell.  With that in mind, it’s an easy read and generally a good book.  Given that the price is right, I recommend it.

TriNUG Lightning Talks

I’m going to be presenting a lightning talk at the TriNUG main meeting tomorrow, December 10th, at the Microsoft building in Durham.

My topic of choice is a blog series by Kyle Kingsbury in which he sees what happens when you simulate partition failure on various open source data platforms.  It’s an extremely interesting and well-written series, and although I cannot do it justice in my five-minute time limit, I’m going to give it my best.

Math screws over Dick Allen and friends

Last time I posted, I wrote about the new Veterans Committee. Guess who got elected? Nobody. Joe Posnanski explains why.

Can we please take away HOF voting procedures away from the BBWAA? Please? I’m not saying that the HOF desperately needed all twelve men, or even four men. I’m saying that this constant rigging of voting procedures to produce no results so as to “protect” the “sanctity” of the Hall of “Fame” is bullshit. There are some seriously awful players in the HOF.

Two steps that will automatically fix a lot of the Hall’s problems.

– Remove the 10 candidate limit on the normal ballot; let people vote for 15 or even 20.

– If you send in a blank ballot, the BBWAA sends back a letter filled with profanity that kicks them out of the BBWAA.

To fix the Veterans’ Committee, it needs but a single step:

– Increase ballot sizes to at least half of the possible candidates.

A new Veterans committee approacheth

Jay Jaffe’s got the breakdown of 10 guys who will be eligible to go into the Hall from Baseball’s “Golden Age.” It’s a 16 man committee that makes the choice, 75% of the ballots get you. The players are Ken Boyer, Minnie Minoso, Gil Hodges, Tony Oliva, Luis Tiant, Dick Allen, Maury Wills, Jim Kaat, and Billy Pierce, while Bob Howsam is eligible for his work as an executive.

Here are my off the cuff remarks about them.

Ken Boyer — Third basemen are few and far between in the Hall of Fame. I’m not sure Ken Boyer should get in just because of that, though. He was offensively solid his entire career and won several Gold Gloves (although dWAR thinks he’s a touch overrated, perhaps). He’s the 14th best third baseman of all time (if we consider Edgar Martinez a third baseman.) Boyer wouldn’t be a bad choice, but not a good one either. Keep him out.

Minnie Minoso — An above average hitter every season of his career except the first and the last three. Unfortunately, he’s an outfielder who was usually terrible in the field and didn’t hit for a lot of power. In 1954, he was actually the best hitter in major league baseball, but finished fourth to Yogi Berra, Larry Doby, and Bobby Avila. He’s the 22nd best left fielder of all time. There are a handful of HOFers below him, but most of them are well above him. The question is how much you value his contributions to helping to integrate the majors. That would be enough to put him over the top in my opinion. Let him in.

Gil Hodges — He’s a first baseman who hit okay but not great and fielded okay. He’s the 34th best first baseman of all time, between Frank Chance and Carlos Delgado. Keep him out. 

Tony Oliva — A big part of his candidacy will be the sympathy vote, given the injuries that ended his career. He’s also seen as a very nice guy, which certainly helps. The dude could hit, no question. The fact he wasn’t MVP in 1965 is an enormous miscarriage of justice (Zoilo Versalles?) He was a terrible fielder, though, and his peak wasn’t nearly peak-y enough. Keep him out.

Luis Tiant — How much does a single year count? Tiant’s 1968 was a masterpiece of pitching awesomeness, good for a WAR over 8. Yaz had a WAR over 10, so Tiant was no real MVP, but very good. There are 51 starters in baseball history better than him, but there’s a slew of HOFers above and below him; to cherry pick a player, he’s ranked higher than John Smoltz. Let him in.

Dick Allen — The case against Dick Allen is his first name: he was a dick. He’s one of the very best right handed hitters to pick up a bat. His OPS+ for his career is tied with Frank Thomas and Willie Mays. Sounds good to me. Let him in. 

Maury Wills — He stole lots of bases. He also got caught a lot and sucked at getting on base. And he stole the MVP of 1962 from either Frank Robinson or Willie Mays. He was a decent shortstop, but nothing groundbreaking. Keep him out.

Billy Pierce — I’d never heard of him until I started this post. He’s 97th among all starting pitchers. He’s the second worst pitcher on this ballot. Keep him out.

Jim Kaat — A less good Don Sutton. Much less good. He’s got 283 wins — and 237 losses. I think he’ll get in because of that 283 (although Tommy John got 288 wins and never got a whiff of the Hall). I’d rather see John in the Hall because of his contributions to the game for volunteering for the surgery that bears his name. Let him in (so we can get TJ in).

Bob Howsam — Got baseball to expand from 16 to 20 teams with the Continental Baseball League and was the GM of the Big Red Machine. He also founded the AFL (American Football League, not Arizona Fall League). Just for the chance that he ends up in both Halls, a rarity, let him in.

According to Jaffe, the committee only gets four votes. I’ll take Minoso, Tiant, Allen, and Howsam. (Jaffe, if you care, chose Boyer instead of Tiant.)