Short Nerd Chief

Archive for June, 2008

How to Force Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball Links to Open in New Tab

Posted by Fred on June 26, 2008

Here’s a fix for a very small but annoying problem. If you play Yahoo’s Fantasy Baseball, each player name is linked to their Y! Sports profile page.  The little news icons are also linked to this page. These links are done via Javascript with a target of “sports”. What this means is that Firefox will open the links in new windows, and not a new tab, which is very annoying.  The only way to fix it via FF preferences is to make all new windows open as tabs, even those that really should be popups (by setting browser.link.open_newwindow.restriction to 0 in about:config).  There is a better way. First, install Greasemonkey, if you haven’t already.  Then install this Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball URL Target Fixer script, which will change all the target=”sports” links to target=”_blank”, which Firefox will open in a new tab.

Now if someone would just write a script to get Michael Young out of his slump or Rafael Furcal off the DL…

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Stat(s) of the Day: NBA Performance of Top Draft Picks

Posted by Fred on June 26, 2008

The 2008 NBA draft is tonight, in which Memphis’ Derrick Rose and Kansas State’s Michael Beasley are widely expected to go 1-2 to the Chicago Bulls and Miami Heat.  Although it remains anybody’s guess whether Chicago will go with local point guard Rose or take forward Beasley instead (the current rumor predicts Rose to Chicago and Miami to trade down and take a guard later), both are considered “can’t miss” prospects that will make whatever team they play for better.  So I decided to take a look at the last 25 NBA drafts to see how the top pick performed.  I used points per game as a metric – a more robust look would account for assists and/or rebounds as well, but the assumption is that the overall #1 pick is going to be a scorer.

Top NBA Draft Picks 1983-2007
Year #1 Pick Team #2 Pick Team Top PPG
2007 Greg Oden Portland Kevin Durant Seattle Kevin Durant
2006 Andrea Bargnani Toronto LaMarcus Aldridge Chicago Brandon Roy (6, Minnesota)
2005 Andrew Bogut Milwaukee Marvin Williams Atlanta Chris Paul (4, New Orleans)
2004 Dwight Howard Orlando Emeka Okafor Charlotte Ben Gordon (3, Chicago)
2003 LeBron James Cleveland Darko Milicic Detroit LeBron James
2002 Yao Ming Houston Jay Williams Chicago Amare Stoudamire (9, Phoenix)
2001 Kwame Brown Washington Tyson Chandler LA Clippers Gilbert Arenas (30, Golden State)
2000 Kenyon Martin New Jersey Stromile Swift Vancouver Michael Redd (43, Milwaukee)
1999 Elton Brand Chicago Steve Francis Vancouver Elton Brand
1998 Michael Olowokandi LA Clippers Mike Bibby Vancouver Vince Carter (5, Golden State)
1997 Tim Duncan San Antonio Keith Van Horn Philadelphia Tracy McGrady (9, Toronto)
1996 Allen Iverson Philadelphia Marcus Camby Toronto Allen Iverson
1995 Joe Smith Golden State Antonio McDyess LA Clippers Kevin Garnett (5, Minnesota)
1994 Glenn Robinson Milwaukee Jason Kidd Dallas Glenn Robinson
1993 Chris Webber Orlando Shawn Bradley Philadelphia Chris Webber
1992 Shaquille O’Neal Orlando Alonzo Mourning Charlotte Shaquille O’Neal
1991 Larry Johnson Charlotte Kenny Anderson New Jersey Larry Johnson
1990 Derrick Coleman New Jersey Gary Payton Seattle Derrick Coleman
1989 Pervis Ellison Sacramento Danny Ferry LA Clippers Glen Rice (4, Miami)
1988 Danny Manning LA Clippers Rik Smits Indiana Mitch Richmond (5, Golden State)
1987 David Robinson San Antonio Armon Gilliam Phoenix David Robinson
1986 Brad Daugherty Cleveland Len Bias Boston Brad Daugherty
1985 Patrick Ewing New York Wayman Tisdale Indiana Karl Malone (13, Utah)
1984 Hakeem Olajuwon Houston Sam Bowie Portland Michael Jordan (3, Chicago)
1983 Ralph Sampson Houston Steve Stipanovich Indiana Clyde Drexler (14, Portland)

Of these 25 drafts, the top pick became the top scorer only 40% of the time. Since 1995, when Kevin Garnett was drafted 5th straight out of high school and which can be considered the start of the Skip College Era, only three of thirteen (23%) top picks topped the scoring chart (although most teams would still take Duncan over McGrady, PPG be damned).  So don’t be so sure that either Rose or Beasley will lead their team to the promised land.  In many ways, the NBA draft has taken on some of the characteristics of the MLB amateur draft, which also features prospects who have dominated against high school kids more likely to be in the beer line than the starting lineup at your local arena.

The 1984 draft, in which Portland took Kentucky’s Sam Bowie over North Carolina’s Michael Jordan, is probably the most infamous draft of all time. However, for my money, nothing beats the 2000 and 2001 drafts for futility, which led to the NBA’s current effort to force kids to college, at least for a year:

  2000 2001
Pick Player PPG Player PPG
1 Kenyon Martin 14.5 Kwame Brown 7.5
2 Stromile Swift 8.6 Tyson Chandler 8.2
3 Darius Miles 10.6 Pau Gasol 18.8
4 Marcus Fizer 9.6 Eddy Curry 13.5
5 Mike Miller 14.4 Jason Richardson 18.8
6 DerMarr Johnson 6.2 Shane Battier 10.3
7 Chris Mihm 7.7 Eddie Griffin 7.2
8 Jamal Crawford 14.6 DeSagana Diop 2.1
9 Joel Przybilla 4.0 Rodney White 7.1
10 Keyon Dooling 6.8 Joe Johnson 16.6
11 Jerome Moiso 2.7 Kedrick Brown 3.6
12 Etan Thomas 6.2 Vladimir Radmanovic 9.5

[All data via the invaluable Basketball Reference site]

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Four “New Classic” Graphic Novels

Posted by Fred on June 24, 2008

For its 1000th issue, Entertainment Weekly published several lists of “New Classics,” defined as works created since 1983. The full collection is online as the EW 1000.  EW has always treated comics with respect (Time Warner has a vested interest in the success of the form, of course), and the list of 100 New Classic books includes four graphic novels:

7. Maus, Art Spiegelman

The story of The Holocaust and the experiences of one family that survived it.  Spiegelman famously used animal heads on human bodies to portray the players: Jews are mice, Germans are cats, Poles are pigs, Americans are dogs, Frenchmen are frogs, and Swedes are reindeer.  Spiegelman was awarded a Pulitzer Prize for Maus in 1992.

13. Watchmen, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons

Without Watchmen, there probably would be no such thing as a graphic novel.  Moore and Gibbons’ masterwork, originally published as twelve single issues in 1986-1987, is set in an alternate 1985, in which costumed heroes are real and the Doomsday Clock is set at five minutes to midnight. Some familiarity with superhero archetypes is helpful for a full appreciation of the story, which nominally tells the tale of heroes without superpowers (with one glaringly notable exception), dealing with human failings, neuroses and ethical dilemmas.  A film version of Watchmen, directed by Zack Snyder, is due to be released in March 2009.  It will probably suck.

37. Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi

Drawing inevitable comparisons to Maus, Marjane Satrapi’s simple black-and-white panels are a heartbreaking memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution.  The two volumes depict the author’s experiences from age six to fourteen, a time which saw the overthrow of the Shah, the rise of the Islamic Revolution and war with Iraq.  Persepolis was recently released as an animated film, written and directed by Satrapi, with voices in the original by Chiara Mastroianni, Catherine Deneuve, Danielle Darrieux and Simon Abkarian.  In the US, the film was dubbed into English, and included Sean Penn, Iggy Pop and Gena Rowlands (in addition to Deneuve and Mastroianni).

46. Sandman, Neil Gaiman

With all due respect to Watchmen, I personally prefer Sandman.  Neil Gaiman’s 75-issue series, published by DC imprint Vertigo from 1989-1996, focuses on Morpheus, King of Dreams, and (to a lesser extent) his siblings that make up The Endless.  Gaiman summarizes the plot as “The Lord of Dreams learns one must change or die and then makes his decision.”  The best part of Sandman (in addition to Dave McKean’s great covers) was the wide-ranging exploration of mythology the series made possible, which Gaiman would return to in prose novels like American Gods.  Sandman is available in ten individual trade paperback editions, or the four-volume Absolute Sandman series, the final volume of which is to be released this November.  Although there has long been talk of a Sandman film, the closest we’re likely to get is a version of Death: The High Cost of Living, a 1993 three-issue miniseries focusing on Morpheus’ older sister, to be written and directed by Gaiman with Guillermo del Toro as executive producer.

There are other great graphic novels, of course (Warren Ellis’ Transmetropolitan and Planetary are personal favorites), but that’s a good list.

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Requiem for a Day Off

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

It’s a couple of years old, but I’ll always link anything using the Kronos Quartet’s amazing score for Requiem for a Dream.  That and John Williams’ score from Schindler’s List are the only ones I listen to on a regular basis.

[via Kottke]

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Google adds rainbow for Gay Pride

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

If you search for the word “gay” on Google, the search results and Sponsored Links will be separated by a rainbow, rather than the usual thin blue line. It’s a wonder the AFA hasn’t sent out one of their Action Alerts trumpeting another attempt by The Gays to advance their Agenda.  It’s only a matter of time; can’t allow gay people to search for stuff on the internet, after all.

On the plus side, the search provides another opportunity to find the almost-certainly-fake but still funny Gay Bands List.  There appear to be new parentheticals since the last time I looked at it – my favorite is “George Michael (texan).”

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AP claims web sites have to license 5-word quotations

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

Cory Doctorow notes the Associated Press’ claim that you should have to license 5-word quotations:

In the name of “defin[ing] clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt” the Associated Press is now selling “quotation licenses” that allow bloggers, journallers, and people who forward quotations from articles to co-workers to quote their articles. The licenses start at $12.50 for quotations of 5-25 words. The licensing system exhorts you to snitch on people who publish without paying the blood-money, offering up to $1 million in reward money (they also think that “fair use” — the right to copy without permission — means “Contact the owner of the work to be sure you are covered under fair use.”).

When attacked over the plan and its demand that The Drudge Retort remove some unlicensed excerpts, the AP backed down and is reconsidering its position:

After that, however, the news association convened a meeting of its executives at which it decided to suspend its efforts to challenge blogs until it creates a more thoughtful standard.

“We don’t want to cast a pall over the blogosphere by being heavy-handed, so we have to figure out a better and more positive way to do this,” Mr. Kennedy said.

That’s all well and good, but what is more worrisome is the claim in the NY Times article that

The A.P.’s effort to impose some guidelines on the free-wheeling blogosphere, where extensive quoting and even copying of entire news articles is common, may offer a prominent definition of the important but vague doctrine of “fair use,” which holds that copyright owners cannot ban others from using small bits of their works under some circumstances.

No, it won’t, because it can’t. Fair use is a legal doctrine, and the AP can no more redefine what it means than the Times can define libel to mean “a false and malicious publication printed for the purpose of defaming a living person, unless it is published by the New York Times.”

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100 Greatest Movie Posters of All Time

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

Via Kottke, one site’s opinion of the 100 greatest movie posters of all time (The Sin of Nora Moran, an obscure 1933 film featuring Zita Johann, better known for her role in the Boris Karloff version of The Mummy, is #1).  These sorts of posts/articles, of course, exist primarily to stir up controversy, but I’d have to agree with Jason that the entries on the poster list are questionable.

Here’s what TC Candler says the criteria are:

A great movie poster is a hard thing to find. Most posters are cut and paste jobs that don’t sell the movie very well at all. A great poster should intrigue, shock, inspire & excite. It should be aesthetically beautiful or original. Above all, it should be so memorable that a single glance will be instantly recognizable.

But is it the movie that makes the image memorable, or the image itself? Most of the iconic movie posters are for movies that are themselves memorable (Alien, Full Metal Jacket, Jaws) – would the images be iconic had the films been forgettable?  Although Hollywood likes to think it is a world unto itself, in the end a movie poster is an advertising vehicle, so the “best” movie poster may instead be the one that best accomplishes its mission.  Thus the teaser poster, become more important of late in service of the summer blockbuster, intended to build the buzz that feeds the blockbuster beast.  Based on that criterion, no single posters have been better at building buzz than these:

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Should Nintendo’s Wii plans target core gamers?

Posted by Fred on June 19, 2008

Joystiq says that Nintendo promises ‘core’ gamers will be happy with its upcoming announcements at E3. While new games are always welcome, this Wii owner certainly hopes they don’t expend too much effort competing for so-called core gamers. What would a core gamer strategy result in? yet another port of Grand Theft Auto or a slew of first-person shooters or a Halo knockoff? If Nintendo tries to compete for the hardcore gamer market, it will lose big-time. There are a lot of great things about the Wii, but it’s not a 360 or a PS3. Nintendo needs to focus on what differentiates its console from the other two. Here’s some of what I’d like to see:

  • Quality entries from some of the core franchises as yet unrepresented. Starfox would be great, or a good RPG.
  • Sports games other than Wii Sports that make appropriate use of the Wii controls. Madden 08 was adequate, but the baseball games are lacking. Not everything has to be accomplished by a gesture.
  • Accessible storage for downloaded games, but not a HDD. Eventually, the Wii’s motion controls will no longer be a differentiator, but the Wii will continue to compete on price. A $100 storage accessory would be a Really Bad Idea. Enabling use of the SD slot would be a good idea, as would allowing use of third-party USB drives.
  • More downloadable content. Not downloadable games per se, as they seem to be headed in the right direction there, but Nintendo hasn’t really done much with DLC. I don’t understand generally why the console MLB games don’t update stats frequently as the season progresses. It would certainly make things more fun.

In the end, of course, none of this matters that much. The Wii is a cash cow, and will continue to be so for the indefinite future.

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Is the Kozinski story less than it seems?

Posted by Fred on June 13, 2008

By now everyone knows the story of Alex Kozinski, Chief Judge of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, who recently suspended an obscenity trial due to some issues of his own:

A closely watched obscenity trial in Los Angeles federal court was suspended Wednesday after the judge acknowledged maintaining his own publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos.

Alex Kozinski, chief judge of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, granted a 48-hour stay in the obscenity trial of a Hollywood adult filmmaker after the prosecutor requested time to explore “a potential conflict of interest concerning the court having a . . . sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial here.”

That’s a story bound to attract attention, what with the sex and the alleged hypocrisy.  Prof. Lessig, however, says all is not as it appears to be:

What I mean by “the Kozinski mess” is the total inability of the media — including we, the media, bloggers — to get the basic facts right, and keep the reality in perspective. The real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel – and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage.

Here are the facts as I’ve been able to tell: For at least a month, a disgruntled litigant, angry at Judge Kozinski (and the Ninth Circuit) has been talking to the media to try to smear Kozinski. Kozinski had sent a link to a file (unrelated to the stuff being reported about) that was stored on a file server maintained by Kozinski’s son, Yale. From that link (and a mistake in how the server was configured), it was possible to determine the directory structure for the server. From that directory structure, it was possible to see likely interesting places to peer. The disgruntled sort did that, and shopped some of what he found to the news sources that are now spreading it.

Cyberspace is weird and obscure to many people. So let’s translate all this a bit: Imagine the Kozinski’s have a den in their house. In the den is a bunch of stuff deposited by anyone in the family — pictures, books, videos, whatever. And imagine the den has a window, with a lock. But imagine finally the lock is badly installed, so anyone with 30 seconds of jiggling could open the window, climb into the den, and see what the judge keeps in his house. Now imagine finally some disgruntled litigant jiggers the lock, climbs into the window, and starts going through the family’s stuff. He finds some stuff that he knows the local puritans won’t like. He takes it, and then starts shopping it around to newspapers and the like: “Hey look,” he says, “look at the sort of stuff the judge keeps in his house.”

This analogy, I submit, fits perfectly the alleged scandal around Kozinski. His son set up a server to make it easy for friends and family to share stuff — family pictures, documents he wanted to share, videos, etc. Nothing alleged to have been on this server violates any law. (There’s some ridiculous claim about “bestiality.” But the video is not bestiality. It lives today on YouTube — a funny (to some) short of a man defecating in a field, and then being chased by a donkey. If there was malicious intent in this video, it was the donkey’s. And in any case, nothing sexual is shown in that video at all.) No one can know who uploaded what, or for whom. The site was not “on the web” in the sense of a site open and inviting anyone to come in. It had a robots.txt file to indicate its contents were not to be indexed. That someone got in is testimony to the fact that security — everywhere — is imperfect. But this was a private file server, like a private room, hacked by a litigant with a vendetta. Decent people — and publications — should say shame on the person violating the privacy here, and not feed the violation by forcing a judge to defend his humor to a nosy world.

According to Jesse Walker (linking to conservative pundit Patterico), the lawyer with a grudge who outed Kozinski was Cyrus Sanai.

I don’t think the professor’s analogy is entirely apt – the server in question was accessible to the world at http://alex.kozinski.com, although the index page just provided a message telling a visitor to go away.  That’s not really private, and blocking the Google spider via a robots.txt file doesn’t make it private either.  It could have been private with a password or other security, but it wasn’t.  So it’s not really the same as Judge Kozinski’s house.  But it’s not a “publicly accessible website featuring sexually explicit photos and videos” either.  Nor is the material revealed to date a “sexually explicit website with similar material to what is on trial” before the Judge.  It appears to be far more akin to the sort of mildly offensive viral email that would have gotten Kozinski in trouble had he forwarded it from work.

None of this should bar Judge Kozinski from presiding over this trial, of course.  Who is really aggrieved by any of this?  This offended lawyer with a grudge, to be sure.  People who hate judges generally or the 9th Circuit in particular.  People who think pornography should be excised from society by any means necessary and are afraid Judge Kozinski won’t put this particular smut-peddler in jail where he belongs, even if he didn’t actually break any laws.  That’s not necessarily a huge group, but it is a loud one, so this story isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, truth be damned.

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ESPN MLB Scoreboard

Posted by Fred on June 13, 2008

ESPN has added a bunch of new widgets that you can add to iGoogle, Facebook, blogs, etc. I’d love to add this scoreboard widget to Google Gadgets for Linux, but there is no current ability to add iGoogle gadgets to the Linux sidebar.

ESPN MLB Scoreboard

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