Wednesday, August 31, 2011

US Open Day 3: Oprandi

Curtain Call

Player: Romina Oprandi
Age: 25
Nation: Italy
Current Ranking: 131
Today's Result: loss to Flavia Pennetta (26th seed, Italy) in straight sets

Photo via

Oprandi went through qualifying to reach the main draw, then took out Melanie Oudin (USA) to reach the US Open second round for the first time in her career. She has only reached the second round of a Slam once before: Wimbledon 2010. She was born in Switzerland.

Golden Squid Update

Greta Arn
- The 32-year-old Arn missed Wimbledon due to injury but is back on court. Unfortunately, she was out in the first round of both the singles and doubles draws. In singles, she lost to Vania King (USA). In doubles, she teamed with Arantxa Rus (Netherlands) and they lost to Shu-Ying Hsieh (Chinese Taipei)/Galina Voskoboeva (Kazakhstan).

US Open Day 2: Huta Galung

Curtain Call

Player: Jesse Huta Galung
Age: 25
Nation: Netherlands
Current Ranking: 160
Today's Result: lost to James Blake (USA) in four sets

Photo via Forty Deuce

Huta Galung went through qualifying to reach his first-ever US Open main draw. Clay is his best surface. All five of his career titles at the Challenger level have been on the red dirt.

Monday, August 29, 2011

US Open Day 1: Knapp

Curtain Call

Player: Karin Knapp
Age: 24
Nation: Italy
Current Ranking: 193
Today's Result: loss to Annabel Medina Garrigues (30th seed, Spain) in three sets

Photo via Wikipedia

This is Knapp's third US Open main draw but her first since 2008. Her best results have been at Roland Garros where she has reached the third round twice. She went through qualifying to reach the main draw, only to be slotted with a seeded player in the first round.

Golden Squid Report

Tobias Kamke
- Kamke had the rotten luck of drawing the in-form Mardy Fish (8th, USA) in the first round and went down meekly in three. It's his second Slam in a row falling to the host nation's #1. He lost to Andy Murray at Wimbledon. I would love to see him make more noise at the smaller events so he could get the ranking up and avoid the seeds early in the Slams.

My Tennis Fantasy

I was very boring in my picks for the US Open, going with the top seven men's seeds. For the record, Djokovic is my favorite for the title, even with the nagging injury. Gael Monfils survived the day and, as I write this, Federer is up a set and a break in his first rounder.

12 Books in 12 Months: A Book by Someone with Your Same Initials

Title: In the Labyrinth
Author: Alain Robbe-Grillet

Image via Oneworld Classics

Scanning our shelves for AR options, I came up with a choice between Ayn Rand and Alain Robbe-Grillet. In the Labyrinth is significantly shorter than Atlas Shrugged so I went with the Frenchman. Those of you well versed in French literature will understand that even at 207 pages, I was in for a tough slog. For the rest of you, I offer the book in board game form...

Draw a card: "It is snowing. Lose your turn."

Draw a card: "Contemplate the film of dust on the game table. Go forward two spaces. It is still snowing."

Draw a card: "Move forward four spaces. Consider whether this is truly the right space rather than any of the other seemingly identical spaces on the board. Go back one. It has been snowing for a long time."

Draw a card: "Does this card rightfully belong to the player to your left? Hide it under the table, stagger around the room, then see if you can find it again. Ask everyone at the table if they've seen your card. Lose your turn. It will continue to snow for the foreseeable future."

Worst board game ever!

Seriously, for the first three quarters of the novel, virtually nothing happens. Then there's a rush of action at the end when all is revealed. Which is to say, nothing much at all is revealed. I didn't even realize until the end that the "end of fighting" didn't mean French liberation in 1944. It meant French surrender in 1940. No wonder it's so depressing!

Very strange book. I don't think Hasbro will go for the licensing deal.


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

Two friends of My Wife are also participating: TonTon via Facebook and The Hermitess via Goodreads.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

Family Adventures: The Village Cup

The end of August means the end of summer vacation. I went back for in-service last week. Students will return soon. My very generous parents are in town to help with child care before Our Girl goes back to school, too. My Wife and I took advantage of the opportunity for a weekend on our own - more on that later.

Photo via Vorse Construction

We did have time for one adventure together on Sunday afternoon during Irene's deluge: The Village Cup. I hadn't been before, but I was the only newbie in our party. My parents took us all out for brunch. I had a Belgian waffle, a side of bacon and coffee - most satisfactory. It's a very pleasant setting, with what would be a nice view of a ravine on a sunny day.

We spent our weekend away in the very charming town of Woodstock, Vermont. We stayed at the 1830 Shire Town Inn. The innkeeper is trying to sell the place so if you're in the market for a duplex in southeastern Vermont, get in touch. The highlight of our trip - and the reason we chose that area for our getaway - was the Harpoon Brewery in Windsor. As noted in previous posts, Harpoon is our favorite brand. For $5, we enjoyed a tour and a generous tasting. The Leviathan Imperial IPA was my preference, but drink responsibly as it is 10% alcohol.

Our Girl had a marvelous time being entertained by her grandparents while we were away. They took her to the Vermont International Children's Film Festival in Waitsfield. I have to admit that I'm sorry to have missed it ourselves. I hope they'll do it again in future years!

I am very grateful to be able to say that we were spared the worst of Irene at our place. Much of Vermont was hit pretty hard, including the area where we spent the weekend. Water is high throughout the state. I drove past thoroughly submerged cornfields today which was very upsetting. Maybe life will be fair and we'll get a mild winter in exchange.

My Baseball Fantasy: Kendrick

Private League: won, 8-1-1 (124-74-12 overall, 1st place out of 10, 6.5 games ahead)
Public League: 1st place out of 12, 11 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Howie Kendrick (Second Baseman/Left Fielder, Angels) with 4 home runs, 5 RBI, 9 runs, 1 stolen base and a .500 batting average

Photo via Reggie Cleveland Allstars

Just one week left in the regular season for the private league. Hopefully, I can get the top seed for the playoffs with a one-week bye. Kendrick is another player I grabbed for his versatility and he's had a great season: a bonafide 19th-round sleeper for me.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

RIP, Mike Flanagan

Mike Flanagan

Photo via FastpitchWest

My Tennis Fantasy: Isner

Current Overall Standing: 17th
My MVP for the Week: John Isner (USA) with $74,630, defeating Julien Benneteau (France) for the title at the Winston-Salem Open


The organizers in North Carolina very cleverly avoided Hurricane Irene by scheduling their final on Saturday!

Big Man Isner won his third career singles title yesterday. A winner's trophy is always nice but I'd still argue that he'd have been better served by a week off before the US Open. Alas, no one ever consults me about these things!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

State of the Blog 2011

It has been a year of evolution for The Armchair Squid. No longer merely a sports blog, the Squid has moved into the realms of literature and music. However, I believe that both sports and the arts are expressions of culture, reflecting different aspects of the human experience. A balanced life - that of an individual, a family, a community - should contain elements of both. In the coming year, the third in the life of the Squid, I shall continue to explore sports, literature and music. Further evolution in new directions is always likely. The Olympics are coming up next summer and that is certain to influence my posts.

Blogging Projects

Mock deserves full credit for getting me involved in blogging projects this past year. First, he tackled the 30 Comics in 30 Days challenge for his own blog, Stay on target... Then he discovered both the A to Z challenge and the 30 Songs in 30 Days challenge and encouraged me to try. Both were very positive experiences.

I definitely plan on doing A to Z again. I already have my theme ready to go. I have also designed my own challenge: 12 Books in 12 Months. I encourage you to join us for it. The details are here.


Image via The Guardian

Books have become the life blood of the Squid and I have a number of projects lined up for the coming year. One is the 12 Books challenge mentioned above. I also have set a goal of reading The Hobbit to my daughter before the Peter Jackson film comes out next December. Then there's DC Comics' New 52. Mock, a true aficionado, has been feeding me comics for about a year now. I didn't read them much at all as a kid, devoting myself to Star Wars and Dungeons & Dragons instead. As such, it's like a whole new world for me. I'm also a sucker for a good marketing campaign and thus cannot help being intrigued by DC's upcoming relaunch of 52 titles, including their most popular series. Justice League #1 is set for release on August 31st, the rest to follow in September.

Oh, I'm also trying to write a book. I've sort of hit a wall for the moment and could use some encouragement. It's a book based on my Orange Crush experience and youth soccer in general. I still think it's worth doing but I need to rethink the project a bit to make it work.

Family Adventures

Photo via Bruce Fong's Blog

I've already told My Wife that I'm taking responsibility for winter enjoyment this year. The Vermont winter, while frequently beautiful, is long and arduous. It's all too easy to feel snowbound and not leave the house for weeks at a time except when you absolutely must. I think we need to be more deliberate in combating that feeling this year. In truth, winter isn't even the toughest part of the year. The transitional seasons in November and March are brutal, too. So, perhaps my project is better described as Weekend Enjoyment.

My vision is to get all of us out of the house once a weekend for a non-errand outing, even if just for a leisurely walk in the neighborhood. The ideal activity is one that appeals to all three of us, gets us outdoors and doesn't cost much. The first condition is essential, the other two negotiable. There will be weekends when the idea of being outside is not remotely appealing but getting out of the house will be necessary anyway. Also, there may be weekends when the one thing we all really want to do will cost a bit. There will, indeed, be weekends when dragging everyone out of our cozy hibernation den - self included - will be enough challenge in itself. But it is for those weekends in particular that I feel this is important.

As mentioned in my Squiddies post, I'd like to take and post more photos this year. We do truly live in a beautiful place. I think photography will help me to appreciate that more often.


Image via

It's been a fun year with baseball, only moderate tinkering required for Year 3. The Baltimore Orioles will continue to be my primary focus and I have a new look planned for their 2012 campaign. The Chicago Cubs will still serve as my glimpse into the National League. I certainly hope to go to more Vermont Lake Monsters games next season. My bold proposal experiment shall continue as long as it remains viable. The Milwaukee Brewers, though, are the most likely team to upset my apple cart and they're looking pretty strong indeed right now. As much as possible, I will explore baseball's connections to other elements of culture: music, books, film, poetry, etc. I now understand why baseball has long held such appeal for professional writers.


Photo via ullman211

This is a tricky one. Music is my job and I originally started the blog as something that would be completely separate from my daily work. But there's no denying the success of the 30 Songs in 30 Days experience for me so I'd like to find ways of incorporating music in future posts. To that end, I plan to explore the connections between the worlds of music and sport. Luckily, there are plenty.

Fantasy Sports

Image via Ghosts of Wayne Fontes

I shall continue posting my fantasies: baseball, football and tennis certainly. I also will be expanding my college football exploits (That sound you hear is My Wife groaning in despair. Don't worry, dear. This won't mean actually watching more games.) I intend to make a better showing in our college bowls group this year and as such, I will follow the regular season more closely. Care to join my pick 'em group? All are welcome...

Yahoo! Group #1978
Password: mockmock

Also, there is no stronger link in America between sports and music than that which exists in college football. Stay tuned.


Photo via Aww Dip

I will once again follow the World Championships but what I really want to do this year is get out on the ice myself. Mock has also convinced me to try broomball. Maybe mine could become the broom sports blog!


Photo via Free-Extras
I will continue to post my Curtain Calls for Slams and to follow my Golden Squid. Interestingly, tennis is the only sport I've mentioned so far which is still a Summer Olympic sport. However, the real fun of following the Olympics is the chance to see the sports that don't get much or any exposure otherwise. As such, I'm likely to focus more of my Olympic attention on those than on tennis.

Photo via Executive Chairs

As I said last year, if anyone enjoys reading The Armchair Squid half as much as I enjoy writing it, we're all doing pretty well. I'm looking forward to Year 3. I hope you'll join me.

For comparison, here's last year's State of the Blog.

Squiddies 2011

The Armchair Squid turns two years old today. As such, it's awards show time. And the Squiddy goes to...

Biggest Surprise: Steve Brewer

Photo via

Back in December, I wrote a review of Mr. Brewer's book End Run and posted links to the review on both Goodreads and Twitter, per usual. Just a few hours later, I got a comment on the post from the author himself! I was tickled pink.

So, be careful what you write, folks. You never know who might read it.

Honorable Mention: Sabermetrics, VCU Basketball, A to Z Blogging Challenge

Biggest Disappointment: The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation

Image via R4NT

This past television season, the CBC carried Men with Brooms, a show based on the curling-centered film of the same name. I had a great and glorious plan to post reviews for each episode of the show. While DirecTV, our satellite provider, does not carry the CBC, I had hopes of being able to watch the show via their Website. Denied! Episodes could not be streamed outside of Canada. I was able to watch the first few episodes by pirate streams but that got to be more trouble than it was worth. Hosers!

Honorable Mention: DirecTV's Sports Pack Fake Out, NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Final

Best Match: Roland Garros Men's Semifinal: Djokovic v. Federer

Federer's uncharacteristic reaction at the end of the match said it all. This victory was about a lot more than one match, one opponent, one tournament. The message was pretty clear to Djokovic, and to all of us: "I'm not done just yet." The final was great, too, astonishing in the genius-level of play Fed and Nadal nearly always bring to their rivalry, but the semifinal was the one that really mattered in the arc of the season. Note: that was one of only two matches Djokovic has lost so far in 2011.

Honorable Mention: Roland Garros Men's Final, Patriot League Men's Basketball Tournament Semifinal: Lafayette v. American

Best Story:
The Rise of Djokovic

Photo via Fanpop

It would be cheating to say "men's tennis" but one certainly could. The current narratives of Nadal, Federer, Murray, Fish, del Potro, Tsonga and many others have added up to an absolutely marvelous season. But what can you even say about a man who has done what Djokovic has done over the past twelve months? He has only lost eight matches during that time (interestingly, four of them to Federer) and won ten titles, two of them Slams, plus the Davis Cup for Serbia. He is the undisputed World #1. His ascent has been anticipated for a long time. But who could have foreseen that it would look like this?

Honorable Mention: Butler Basketball, VCU Basketball, Roland Garros

Best Read, First-Time Read Category: Moneyball: The Art of Winning an Unfair Game by Michael Lewis

Image via

I will not pretend that Mr. Lewis or any of the authors I've read this year is better than Shakespeare. They aren't. Nobody is. But no book this year has had a greater impact on my blogging than Moneyball. Sabermetrics absolutely blew my mind and has forever changed the way I watch baseball.
Moneyball should be required reading for any fan of the game. Even Englishman Nick Hornby raved about the book in The Polysyllabic Spree, though he admitted to not understanding most of it.

Honorable Mention: The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America by Joe Posnanski,
Committed: Confessions of a Fantasy Football Junkie by Mark St. Amant

Best Read, Re-Read Category: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
by Roald Dahl

Image via wikia

Charlie was my only re-read for the blog this year but it seems unfair to compare the other books I read with one of my all-time favorites. No, Roald Dahl isn't Shakespeare, either. But I'm betting Charlie will still be read 400 years from now.

Athlete of the Year: Na Li

Photo via All World Sports Stars Wallpapers

Once again, Roland Garros produced a surprise women's champion. Li was a Curtain Call for me at the Australian Open where she became the first Chinese player to make a Slam singles final. Then, after a miserable spring season, she surprised absolutely everyone by claiming the title in Paris. With all of the moaning about tennis being on the decline in the US, the sport is booming worldwide, nowhere more so than in Asia. Will her RG title prove the watershed moment for the sport as so many believe? Only time will tell. In the meantime, she deserves full credit for her astonishing achievement.

Honorable Mention: Josh Hamilton, Jurgen Melzer, Novak Djokovic

Post with Most Unexpected Consequences: Baseball Tunes: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

My first music-centered post had one most unexpected result: My Wife's first - and so far, only - comment on my blog! I can't complain too much as she is one of my two most faithful readers but I couldn't help celebrating the moment. If you haven't checked out her blog, you should: Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail.

Honarable Mention: On the Coffee Table: Steve Brewer

Best Family Adventure: The Philosopher's Island

It really was just about the perfect family holiday. We all love the place. We can be equally happy doing things or doing nothing. Cost is minimal. The scenery is stunning. One could hardly ask for more. More photos here, here and here.

Honorable Mention: Side-to-Side Project, Long Trail Project

Best Unexpected Benefit of Blogging: Renewed Appreciation for Photography

The A-to-Z challenge was great for a lot of reasons but perhaps best of all for exposing me to all of the excellent photo blogs out there. They have inspired me to take more of my own and post them. Here are my favorites:

Ben and Carrie Tracks
Oak Lawn Images

Honorable Mention: Networking with Other Bloggers

Just in case you're curious, last year's awards:

Squiddies 2010

Monday, August 22, 2011

My Baseball Fantasy: Zobrist Again

Private League: won, 7-2-1 (116-73-11 overall, 1st place out of 10 teams, 2 games ahead)
Public League: 1st place out of 12 teams, 13 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Ben Zobrist (Second Baseman/Right Fielder, Rays) with 4 RBI, 4 runs, 3 stolen bases and a .500 batting average

Photo via wikia

I've clinched a playoff spot in the private league with two weeks to go in the regular season. The next step is securing a first-round bye - possible but unlikely this week. I'm only 6.5 games ahead of the guy in third place.

It's a big night: my first fantasy football draft of the season! I'm commissioner in both of my leagues this year and I may have to resort to tyrannically moving tonight's draft if Wild Turkey should go into labor - a distinct possibility.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

My Tennis Fantasy: Fish

Current Overall Standing: 18th
My MVP for the Week: Mardy Fish (USA) with $113,725 losing to Andy Murray (UK) in the semifinals of the Western and Southern Financial Group Masters

Photo via World Amazing Sports Players

With all of the great stories coursing through men's tennis these days, it would be easy to overlook the tale of Mardy Fish. Yet here he is, staring at his 30th birthday in December and he's just attained his career-high ranking of #7. He is, shockingly, the highest ranked American in men's tennis. Apparently improved physical fitness has been the key to his late-career surge. He's never been past the quarters at the US Open but he's in top form right now. This could be his last good shot at a deeper run.

Friday, August 19, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: A Book for Which You Have Not Already Seen the Movie

Title: A Clockwork Orange
Author: Anthony Burgess

Image via The Book Mark

I've seen other Kubrick films - Spartacus, Dr. Strangelove, 2001: A Space Odyssey and Eyes Wide Shut - but have managed to avoid A Clockwork Orange. I've always assumed that I wouldn't have the stomach for the violence and the book did little to ease my misgivings. I've long had a plan to read Brave New World, A Clockwork Orange and 1984 together but now that I'm two thirds of the way through the dystopian trilogy, I don't think I'm up for a re-read of the Orwell novel. While I wrote in my review of the Huxley work that Brave New World is not as dark as 1984, A Clockwork Orange is thoroughly grotesque.

A Clockwork Orange reminds me of Irvine Welsh's Trainspotting in many ways: a frequently violent book about disenfranchised youth written in vernacular. Of course, in Burgess's case, it's an invented vernacular but the reader's task of figuring out what half the words mean is comparable. Burgess very helpfully supplied a glossary for his book. I think Welsh's approach was more clever - using the same word in context several times in proximity so the non-Scot can derive its meaning. There are other important differences, of course. Welsh's heroin-addicted protagonist, Mark Renton, is surprisingly likable while Burgess's Alex is a thoroughly psychopathic monster.

A Clockwork Orange is certainly well-written and pulls no punches in making its sociopolitical points. I'm glad to have read it for my own cultural enrichment but it would be a stretch to say I enjoyed reading it. For me, it was the reading equivalent of rubber-necking on the highway. The story is heinous but I just...can't...look...away...


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here. My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar. Other blogs currently participating:

My Wife - Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail
Mrs. Mock - Exclamation Point (!)

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Field Trip: Scrappers Scrapped

It was Boys' Night at the Ballpark for Lake Monsters vs. the Mahoning Valley Scrappers, a Cleveland Indians affiliate. Our guys won 7-6 and remain in first place in their division. I have to admit, though, that the game was a bit of an afterthought this evening. We all head back to work next week: in-service starts Wednesday, students come back September 1st. So, there was lots of gossip to catch up on before we head back to the mines. Summer's slipping away. Sigh...

Image via Vermont Living Magazine

This was probably my last Monsters game for the year. Games at the park have definitely added a lot to what has really been an excellent summer all-around. I'm looking forward to more next year.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Checking in with the Cubs: Castro to Barney to Pena

While my Orioles are floundering of late, the Cubs have been on a tear. Not only have they won three of the four games I've watched over the past week but if they beat the Astros today, they'll have won five consecutive series. Not bad at all for a team that looked like it was packing it in for the season in late July.

Castro photo via Bleacher Nation

My good friend Mock, a learned man, commented on my last Cubs post with a very famous poem:
Baseball's Sad Lexicon by Franklin Pierce Adams

These are the saddest of possible words:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Trio of bear cubs, and fleeter than birds,
Tinker and Evers and Chance.
Ruthlessly pricking our gonfalon bubble,
Making a Giant hit into a double –
Words that are heavy with nothing but trouble:
"Tinker to Evers to Chance."
Shortstop Joe Tinker, second baseman Johnny Evers and first baseman Frank Chance all played for what was the most recent Cubs dynasty, the last North Side team to win the World Series, in both 1907 and 1908. Probably thanks in large part to the poem, all three men are in the Hall of Fame. As an interesting historical note, these three players forever immortalized in tandem couldn't stand each other personally.

How famous is this poem? I first learned of it from my grandmother. Like most of my family, my grandma found my fascination with sports baffling. She was, however, an Illinois native and a lover of words. One day as I was surely prattling on endlessly about baseball, she gave me a playful look and said simply "Tinker to Evers to Chance" and told me about the poem.

The current Cubs infield boasts my recently-discovered favorite Cub: rookie Darwin Barney. I love a scrappy second baseman and I love a scrappy #2 hitter. Barney is both. Do the Cubs have their own Dustin Pedroia in training? Sure, why not? I don't know if I have a favorite Oriole. Forced to choose, I guess I'd go with center fielder Adam Jones.

Barney photo via

Watching pitchers attempt bunts pretty much every time they come up with a runner on, I couldn't help wondering about the sabermetric considerations. One of the central tenants of sabermetric philosophy is that sacrifices aren't sensible - an out for a base is not a worthy trade for the offense. But with a weak-hitting pitcher at the plate, shouldn't the team get something for the out he's likely to produce? Predictably, there's plenty of healthy debate on this very subject on the Web. Even many of the most devoted sabermetricians seem willing to concede that bunts are occasionally okay and pitcher bunts are likely to fit that category.

Baseball's a funny game to watch as a fan. It's a team game but more than with other sports, I find myself occasionally pulling for an individual player on the opposing squad. For instance, it's hard to root against a hitting streak like the one Dan Uggla (2B, Braves) recently had going. It finally came to an end against the Cubs on Sunday at 33 consecutive games. Of course, as the contest was heading into the late innings with the streak hanging in the balance, I did hope that Uggla's hit would come as a single with no one on base.

It's also difficult not to pull for a career minor-leaguer suddenly lighting up the Majors, as is the case for current Braves' left fielder Jose Constanza. Or Braves closer Craig Kimbrel whose help I really could have used in fantasy baseball on Sunday. Or Astros pinch hitter Brian Bogusevic who, with just his second Major League homer, crushed a walk-off grand slam against the Cubs last night. Of course, it's easier to be charitable when the Cubs are playing well.

Pena photo via The Ballad of Brian Wilson

I leave you with a sad story - a tale of cruelty, betrayal and woe. On Saturday, we got a lovely note from DirecTV, thanking us for being loyal customers and rewarding us with three free months of their Sports Pack. I actually laughed maniacally in the car as I pondered being able to watch the rest of the Orioles' season at my leisure. But alas, no! Out of market games are blacked out! It makes sense, I realize. They don't want you to circumvent the need to buy the MLB Extra Innings package on top of the Sports Pack. Still, it was brutally disappointing. Oh well, I was concerned that it would cut into my reading time - a worthy exchange, mind you!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mrs. Mock Joins the Fun

I call her Mrs. Mock because that is what she (jokingly, I think) told me to call her when we first met. If she'd prefer another pseudonym, I hope she'll tell me. In the meantime, she has posted her first 12 Books in 12 Months book!

The link:

12 Books in 12 Months: A book you have re-read more than once...and just read again

My own list and books read by others shall be maintained on the pages list on my sidebar.

My Baseball Fantasy: Howard

Private League: lost 3-6-1 (109-71-10 overall; 2nd place out of 10; behind on tiebreaker #8, highest winning percentage in Week 19)
Public League: 1st place out of 12, 11 points ahead
My Player of the Week: Ryan Howard (First Baseman, Phillies) with 2 home runs, 8 RBI, 6 runs and a .400 batting average

Photo via

It's been an eventful week. My matchup in the private league was against one of my strongest rivals, a guy making a late surge who has now taken over the top spot from me. We've only got three regular season weeks left. I'm hoping to clinch a playoff spot this week.

Meanwhile, all is going swimmingly in the public league. The trade deadline was yesterday for both leagues so it's time to start thinking about my roster differently. I acquired Howard via trade earlier in the season. I made the move mostly for pitching but Howard's been a major part of my surge as well. Sadly for me, I can't claim to have much in common with Mr. Howard, a surefire Hall-of-Famer at the rate he's going. However, we did both play the trombone in high school.

Hey, come join my college pick'em group!

Yahoo! Group #1978
Password: mockmock

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Tennis Fantasy: He Speaks of the Pompetous of Love

Current Overall Standing: 17th
My MVP for the Week: Novak Djokovic (Serbia) with $443,500, defeating Mardy Fish (USA) for the title at the Rogers Cup

Photo via Indyposted

There are only so many ways to say it. Clearly, this is Novak's year. He is the first player ever to win five Masters titles in a single year. All that remains to be seen is if he can ride the wave all the way to the US Open title. I say yes.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Wife Links

My Wife has posted her first 12 Books in 12 Months book! The link:

12-Books-in-12-Months Challenge: A Book from a Genre You Don't Normally Read

In addition to my own list, I'm going to maintain a list of the books other people read on my side bar. After all, part of the idea here is to share book ideas with one another.

She also had a nice post about our Massachusetts trip:

Vacation, The Seaside

Images via Wikes! Hikes on the Long Trail

Friday, August 12, 2011

12 Books in 12 Months: A Book That Has Been Banned

Book: Brave New World
Author: Aldous Huxley

Image via

Is it not the saddest of jokes when a book about the suppression of independent thought is itself suppressed? Not that it's particularly surprising with this book. There's plenty there to make the timid blush: drugs, sex, violence, atheism, the works. Ultimately, though, the narrative is a defense of the democratic, free market establishment as communism and fascism were breathing down western European necks in 1932 - not exactly subversive.

Somehow, I got through nearly two decades of formal education without ever being assigned to read this book. I've been meaning to read it for years and even started a few times but couldn't get into it. Once I got going, though, it was a surprisingly quick read.

Brave New World is an amazing book, prophesying the sociopolitical conflicts which have plagued the world ever since. Shakespeare figures prominently in the narrative, an interesting motif for my list thus far. I'd say it's not as dark as 1984, partly because the more recent explorations in genetic engineering make the book's basic premise less shocking. The social engineering portrayed in the book is also pretty tame compared with the all-too-real nightmares that were just about to unfold.

A quick note about the calendar used in the book. 2011 AD would be the same as 103 A.F. (After Ford) in the book. 1908 was the year Henry Ford introduced the Model-T, thus qualifying as year zero in Brave New World. 1908 is significant to me personally for a couple of other reasons. Most importantly, it was the year my maternal grandmother was born. It was also the last year the Cubs won the World Series.


I hope that you, too, will join the 12 Books in 12 Months challenge. Details are here.

If you'd care to join the challenge, please let me know by commenting below or e-mailing me at Also, please tell me how and where I can follow your posts. Don't be shy about suggesting other categories, either. It is my intention to compile a new list of 12 once this one is completed. My only parameter is that no one should have to buy anything in order to complete the challenge - nothing beyond a library card required.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Let's Talk Baseball: Bold Proposal Mid-August Standings

We are in the midst of the fifth month of Season 2. For those new to the program, here is my original post for the idea and here is how things shook out at the end of last season, setting up the two divisions I'll be using for the 2011 season.

Photo via Vaccine71

The current standings are as follows:

First Division

1. Phillies (unchanged from early July)
Red Sox (+1)
3. Yankees (-1)
4. Braves (unchanged)
Rangers (+3)
Angels (+2)
7. Giants (-2)
8. Cardinals (+1)

9. Rays (-3)
9. Tigers (-1)

11. White Sox (unchanged)
12. Reds (-1)
12. Marlins (+3)
14. Rockies (-1)
15. Twins (+1)
16. Padres (-2)

Second Division

1. Brewers (+2)
2. Diamondbacks (unchanged)
3. Indians (-2)
3. Mets (+2)

3. Blue Jays (+5)
6. Nationals (unchanged)

7. Pirates (-3)
8. A's (+1)
8. Dodgers (+3)
10. Mariners (-3)
11. Cubs (+1)
11. Royals (+2)
13. Orioles (-3)
14. Astros (unchanged)

Biggest rise: Blue Jays
Biggest fall: Rays, Pirates, Mariners, Orioles

The teams in italics are the six different teams to win the past six World Series titles. I am hoping that trend will continue and yet a different team will win this year.

We're down to one real world division leader in my second division: the Brewers. As noted previously, if any of my second division teams win the World Series, I will consider this experiment a failure.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Family Adventures: Massachusetts Island Photos

As promised, more photos from our Massachusetts trip are posted below. My original post is here.

From the garden:

From the house: