Tuesday, October 30, 2007

World Series Disappointment - Part II

As promised, today I will finish (well, possibly just continue, but most likely finish) what I began in Part I yesterday. The World Series, in my opinion, didn't live up to my expectations on the field or in coverage. In Part I, I talked about the announcing duo of Joe Buck and the moronic Tim McCarver as well as the lack of parity between the American and National Leagues. Today, I will wrap this up by covering Fox's advertising and Manny Ramirez and why they made the World Series nearly unwatchable.

3) Advertisements are (mostly) annoying in general, hence the reason I have a satellite receiver with DVR. I find that commercials can be clever... if viewed only a handful of times, but once you've seen a spot 8,000 times, it gets a tad on the annoying side. I think that some advertisers have realized this and make two different versions of the same ad and have them played randomly so that the viewer isn't watching the exact same ad during every break. This allows the viewer to see an ad, maybe, 9,000 times before it gets annoying. However, there are certain ads that become annoying on the first viewing, these include advertisements that are poorly made or contain vital flaws. The best example of this is the Farmer's Helppoint advertisement (click here to view the ad on YouTube) explaining how their insurance company will help you get to work after you've had an accident. I find many problems with this ad - a) she is living in what appears to be a nice house, surely she can book a rental car without having to go to this extreme measure to get to work, b) if you are standing on top of a moving garbage truck, why in God's name would you jump to another moving vehicle going the same direction, let alone a cement truck, especially one that is spinning at the time, c/d) Farmer's appears to be advocating car theft when she tries to steal the convertible, but since it's out of gas, a mounted police officer decides to help her (the criminal for attempted grand theft auto) and take her the rest of the way to work, and finally e) she is no longer in possession of her briefcase that she had in the first shot of the ad, wouldn't she have to go back to get it? If they decided to wrap the commercial in a humorous way, like she realizes that she forgot it and has to do the same thing to get back - the ad might have recovered (somewhat), but the ad company wasn't that clever. My point is, the ad is absolutely ridiculous with more holes than an entire John Woo movie - and that's just in a 30 second spot. Fox decides to play ads like this one during every break in the action, and when the games last up to four hours with the extended times between innings for post season games, the viewers end up seeing the same ads 100+ times during a four game stretch. Some ads get played once per break, like the two brothers Taco Bell ad - always, always get chili on your Nachos Belgrande - uh, no thanks, that looks disgusting, sorry. Seriously, Fox, mix it up a little, there have to be more than six companies willing to hock their crap during your baseball game.

4) The time has finally come for me to gripe about the man(child) that represents all that is wrong with professional athletes in the United States - Manny Ramirez. If you pay attention to baseball, or ever catch SportsCenter on ESPN, you have inevitably heard the popular phrase - "that's just Manny being Manny". For those that haven't heard that phrase, I will be kind enough to translate for you - "that's just Manny being a *expletive* dumbass". As a professional athlete and major league baseball player, who makes more than $17 million per year (over $140 million+ in his career already, and he's probably not retiring anytime soon) on a consistently competitive and World Series winning franchise, you should be expected to be somewhat of a role model. Here is a simple description of Manny - he's probably 25 pounds overweight from his previous playing days, he hasn't cut his hair in 2+ years, he's slow, he doesn't even attempt run hard on plays, his defense is sloppy and inconsistent, he constantly showboats and when he talks to the media he is "misinterpreted" - meaning, his team has to have a press conference to correct what he said or come up with alternate explanations for what he might have meant. Basically, he is everything you would want your children in little league to not be. Look to him as an example, and do the opposite. On the playing field, here are two examples of "Manny being Manny". Manny hits amazing walk-off game winning home run in Game 2 of the first round of the playoffs. Manny flips his bat and poses and watches his ball fly all the way out of the stadium before he even starts heading to first. It was an impressive feat, an impressive home run, but if this was a first year player standing at the plate, the opposing team would be beaning him with 95+ mph pitches the entire next game in retaliation for showboating. Now go to Game 4 of the ALCS, Red Sox are down 7-2, bases are empty - Manny hits another long home run followed by the same standing and celebrating at the plate as if he just hit a 6-run home run to win the game. Congrats dipshit, you just made the game 7-3, you're still down by 4, why are you celebrating? Where's the team mentality? Yes it's impressive that you can hit long home runs, but in that situation, there was no reason to show off, the team comes first. The second example comes from the World Series. For some completely unknown reason, Manny decides that it is cool to flip his helmet off while he's running the bases. He consciously, while running "full" speed, has to lift his hand to his helmet and push it off his head. It's just another example of being "showy" and trying to be "different" or "cute" or "stupid", and, more accurately, not putting the team first. The helmet flip wasn't a one time occurrence, this was every time he was on the base paths. Luckily, it did end up costing him (and Boston) in Game 3. As he is rounding third, he flips is helmet and as it falls, it catches him on the leg and breaks his stride slightly and ends up getting thrown out at the plate on a close play by Matt Holliday in left. Had he not done his ridiculous helmet flip, the play likely would have gone his way. Manny looked like a jackass, but it was just "Manny being Manny". Enough Manny, quit screwing around, it's not cute and it's not funny - be a professional ball player and not a professional douchebag.

Well, this concludes my World Series rant. I'll talk more about baseball as events unfold during the off-season, but for now, I'll have to settle for the NFL. (Sigh) Go Chiefs! On a completely different note, I think I'm going to have some big news coming up that isn't work related, but I'll hold off on that for now until things are finalized.

Monday, October 29, 2007

World Series Disappointment - Part I

I didn't really enjoy the World Series this year, and it doesn't have that much to do with the fact that the team I pulled for barely put up a fight (What the hell Rockies?). I found the Series frustrating, and almost unwatchable (well, at least unlistenable - more on that later) at times. The Rockies were over-matched at every level, top to bottom, everything from scouting to managerial decisions to players keeping their heads in the game (with the exception being Manny Ramirez - more on him later also). My disappointment in this season's final series really came down to these things: 1) Tim McCarver, 2) Lack of anything resembling parity between leagues, 3) Fox advertising and finally, 4) Manny Ramirez.

1) I really do think that Fox announcer, Tim McCarver, is the worst color man in baseball and possibly the dumbest person on television (well, excluding day time television, and political pundits). The man adds nothing productive, whatsoever, to the games. He just blathers on inning after inning about worthless, unintelligible nonsense. I don't think that co-announcer and play-by-play man, Joe Buck, is an idiot himself, but McCarver manages to pull the broadcasts down so far with his moronic comments that Buck has to spend entirely too much time making corrections and covering for his partner's idiocy. Buck has be going crazy at this point and just happy that the series is over. How can he stand that for 3-4 hours (and who knows how long before and after broadcasts)? Normally, it would just be preferable to simply, turn off the sound and just watch the game in silence, but the sounds of baseball really make the game more enjoyable, the crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the sound enhances the feel of the game. One of the reasons that sports video games are so much fun is that if you don't like the announcer commentary, you can just shut it off. If it were possible, I would prefer that Fox cut off his microphone and let Buck do the broadcasts himself or even a commentary free feed of the broadcast than listen to McCarver for more than about eight seconds. I knew some people in KC that used to watch the TV broadcasts of the Chiefs games on mute and listen to the commentary from the radio - this doesn't really work in this situation - 1) there's a delay on satellite and it won't match up, and 2) ESPN radio has the same problem with their radio color guy - Joe Morgan - my second least favorite announcer. With Morgan, you can tell that he's an intelligent person and that he knows the game (he should because he played for quite a long time) but his commentary is dumbed down to such a low level you might think the average audience member is under the age of five. Baseball fans are not stupid, and I would appreciate an announcing team that doesn't pander to the least intelligent audience member.

2) Why does the National League appear to be so overmatched in comparison to the AL during World Series and All-Star Games and interleague series? It could have something to do with the salary discrepancy between teams in the non-salary cap style of management the league has adopted. Four of the top five teams in terms of salary are AL teams and six of the bottom seven teams are NL teams. In the World Series, the Red Sox combined player salary was 2.6 times (yeah, that's right, times) that of their counterpart's (Actually, the combined salaries of Manny, Ortiz, Schilling and Drew are more than the entire Rockies team). I wonder why the AL tends to win these games and the interleague games during the regular season. The Royals have a winning record in interleague games during the last two seasons and they finish well below .500 every season. Their team salary is greater than that of the Rockies by more than $10 million, but they have to face AL teams for nearly all of their games, hence the consistent losing record. If the Royals were in the NL, would they contend? Possibly, but I have no doubt that they'd have a much better chance. Anyway, the Rockies were probably overmatched on the field at so many positions most likely because the Red Sox will just buy the best available player to fill the position. They do have some home grown talent, but not like the small market teams. I foresee the Rockies improving with their young talent, but I would find it difficult to believe that any NL team can win a World Series, (without a salary cap) without spending their way to the top. So that would mean that the teams with the best chance of winning a World Series from the NL would be the clubs willing to shell out the big bucks. Teams like the Dodgers, Cubs and Mets, which happen to be teams that have been historically, consistently mismanaged or have been simply inept at winning when it matters. The NL will be facing the Red Sox or Yankees in just about every year for the next decade and there won't be anyone able to stop them.

I think that I'm going to take a break and cover the last two topics in tomorrow's post, so look for Part II then. As for now, my work day is now complete, so I'm going home. Consecutive day 36 is now in the books and the push for 40 continues. Good news though - I got a more positive result on the "side" project this morning and things are looking slightly more positive - it may be that the struggle will end soon. I will know on Wednesday if I get a free weekend, but I'm not holding my breath until I see a clear result. Oh yeah, and my weekend series - "The State of..." is being delayed until next weekend. I got a little behind in what I wanted to get done, but maybe that series will only appear on a bi-weekly basis. What the hell, it's my site, I'll put stuff up when I'm damn ready. Ha!

Friday, October 26, 2007


Unfortunately the title of this post does not pertain to work - as in fortune has turned my way and I will get my long deserved day(s) off (the verdict will be revealed later in the post because I don't know yet at this point in the day) - but actually is related to a fortune from a fortune cookie that I got on my last visit to Panda Express. I always liked Panda Express in the Memorial Union at ISU, but I was even happier when they started opening them up down in Kansas City. They have decent Chinese food and it's incredibly fast and not overpriced. There is one close to my current residence, and I picked up food from there after work the other day. Here is the amusing "fortune" that I received from my post meal cookie - "Only talented people get help from others". I'm not entirely sure what to make of this statement. Assuming that the grammar is correct, and that this was the intended message, then it can really only mean that people who are not talented refuse to ask others for help. But, the word talent, implies something that you are born with, something that comes from within. People with talent in something particular, shouldn't really need outside "help". My best guess is that something is lost in translation and it should read something like "All successful people get help from others". What happened to true fortune cookie fortunes anyway? At one time weren't fortune cookie fortunes a short glance into who or what you are or may become and not just some silly, possibly mistranslated statement?

Maybe the real questions should be - How did you manage to write this much crap about a seven word fortune? It's just an exercise in where my mind will take me given some kind of push. Today, the push was this fortune cookie, and I think I have amazed myself as to how much BS I can write about something so insignificant. Have I spent way too much time analyzing a stupid piece of paper from inside a not-so-good tasting cookie? The answer to that has to be a resounding... yes. But who cares? My brain is mush at this point, and I really don't want to think about work, so I'll waste my time on whatever I please. I should be finding out shortly if I will need to come in on the weekend to attempt to salvage this side project. But first, an amusing story...

Possibly the funniest thing I have ever seen in my life revolves around a fortune, and I feel that the story needs to be immortalized in permanent record. A few years ago, in what has to be the best Chinese restaurant that I have ever gone to - the North Dragon, in Gladstone (a KC suburb), I was eating dinner with the entire family (parents, brother and now sister in law) since everyone was in town. After the meal, they bring fortune cookies as most Chinese places do, and my sister in law (ilaxstudio.com) gets a fortune that she thinks is great. She's holding the fortune and talking about how she is going to keep it. Without any warning, my brother snatches the paper from her fingers and eats it. Yes, you read that, it's not a typo, he ate the fortune. For about a second everyone was just staring, processing what had just occurred, and then the laughing began and continued for the next five to ten minutes, constant, uproarious laughter - laughing so hard that you start crying and your stomach hurts, but you can't stop, so you're barely able to keep sitting on the restaurant chair, in pain, crying, trying to stop laughing, but cannot for the life of you just stop. That kind of laughing. I'm sure it was quite a sight for the other patrons of the restaurant. It is possible that I am lucky to be alive, surviving after laughing so hard for a long period of time. In fact to this day, just recounting that night in writing this post has made me laugh... out loud... during work. What possessed him to do that? Why would it even cross your mind to eat someone's fortune, not the cookie, the fortune? It really doesn't make any difference because it was damned funny (and it's probably better not knowing what actually goes on inside my brother's head).

And now, the answers to the questions that are burning in everyone's minds - Will Dr. Skaff get to take a break this weekend and end his streak of 33 consecutive days worked? Will the new technique called the *sigh* Skaff Method have it's first successful test? Will this post ever end? Before the answers appear, I would like to say this - it's been a long week, I'm tired and I just wrote a long post about a fortune cookie. Actually, I'm just dragging this out for no particular reason but to see if this has actually built any drama. If this has worked, please let me know. So, without further ado... Oh yeah, and the weekend post "The State Of..." will continue with a careful look at the current state of the economy. It should be up by Sunday evening (I hope). And now... for the most humorous ending to the post I could come up with. No. No. Yes.

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Well, my Rockies/Red Sox prediction for Game 1 of the World Series was crap. For the Star Trek fans out there - "Dammit Jim, I'm a doctor, not a prognosticator". The Red Sox totally outplayed the Rockies in just about every category. Boston's hitters were pounding the ball to all fields. They weren't just getting hits, they were hammering the ball, and they just looked incredibly focused - even with the constant falling rain. Either the nine days of rest eliminated the momentum Colorado had, or Boston's momentum was just more powerful after finishing their tremendous comeback (after being down 3-1) in the ALCS. The thing that is most difficult to imagine is being one of the young Colorado pitchers with less than 50 innings of major league experience in their career and then facing Manny or Big Papi, in the World Series, the biggest stage of all for the baseball world. That has to be some pressure - possibly enough pressure to make you walk in three runs in one inning (Speier). So, do the Rockies have to win tonight to even have a chance in the series? No, but they will probably have to win all their games in Denver if they don't take Game 2. The playing field will be closer to level when the Sox have to bench one of their sluggers when the pitcher has to bat in the NL park, but right now, Boston just looks like a juggernaut. The pitching matchup for Game 2 doesn't look promising for Colorado. I still have my hopes up for Colorado, but they're going to have to score runs... and a lot of them. I will make a prediction today, but if I'm way off again, I'm going to stop. The Rockies will score some runs, but just not enough. I'm going to say that Boston will win 7-5... but I'm still pulling for the Rockies.

On the work front - the trip to KU was fine, I got done a little bit early and got to take care of some errands on the way back. That was nice. As I somewhat expected - the experiment that was being run back in my own lab was unsuccessful. Which means, I have tomorrow with a shot-in-the-dark, highly experimental, probably not going to work, but theoretically possible, experiment that would be a last ditch attempt to salvage the dream of a free weekend. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, but I really have my doubts. If my brain-child experiment works, I will take great joy in publishing the method along with the results. The technique would in all likelihood be named after me with a sarcastic sigh included in the title, as in "I used the*sigh* Skaff method" (accompanied with a bowed head), to which the reply would be simply a slow side to side head shake. Seriously, it will be laughed at by peers because it really is pushing the limits of plausibility. I would be proud to have that associated with me, that's the kind of thing that brings a smile to my face. Ah, humor.

Oh yeah... Go Rockies!

Wednesday, October 24, 2007


My boss seems to think that my explanation of what's going on with my side project is valid. Basically, I bought myself two days to validate my hypothesis - and I'm actually going to pass that work off to my "underling" and let him shoulder the burden. If I'm right, then the project will stay with him and I'll just return to my supervisory role on that project (for a couple weeks, before he goes on to another lab). If my hunch is not right, then I'm probably back to square one and most likely here for the weekend... again. This time, I actually think that I might be right, so it is possible that I will be able to break my consecutive days worked streak after Friday (which would be day 33 for those of you that are counting).

What would I do with a free weekend? I'm having difficulties remembering even what I used to do with free weekends? Maybe I shouldn't be getting my hopes up, since things in science can turn south extremely fast... and with someone else doing some of the work, it can sour even faster. I'll just keep my fingers crossed that he doesn't destroy the lab while I'm out at KU tomorrow. Oh the other hand - if the lab were to be destroyed... Honestly, I haven't met a single researcher that hasn't had that glorious image at least once. But since I'll be out at KU, I will have most of a day out of my lab. However, I will be in someone else's lab in another city, which is different, but it's still work. I do like the trip out to KU, probably just because it's abnormal compared to a typical day in the lab - but much better than changing a flat tire on the side of the interstate, which I did describe as being a "good" time a few posts ago.

Well, enough about work. I'm off to check out Game 1 of the World Series with some friends. My prediction - if the Rockies beat Beckett tonight - the Rockies sleepwalk through the series and make quick work of the Sox in a four game sweep. My prediction for tonight's game Rockies win 6-4. Go Colorado!

Bonus: I did see this article posted on Yahoo!'s main page this afternoon about the top 25 action heroes and it's worth checking out (http://www.ew.com/ew/gallery/0,,20153598,00.html). I definitely agree with the Number 1 choice. Great movie, great action.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Honored and Disgusted

This post will be about two very different topics, but I feel compelled to address both.

First off, I feel honored to have been mentioned and linked to in a post from my sister (in-law technically, but I consider her to be my sister anyway, especially because of how much crap as I've given her in the past), and I would like to welcome and thank those that followed the link from ilaxstudio.com to see what is going on over here. I can now officially say that my posts are "well written" and "thought provoking" because someone else has actually said those things in print. Without the quotes, it would just be bragging, right? My list of compliments on this site now include "well written" and "thought provoking", for anyone that's keeping score. However, I beg to differ with her comment that her site is not either of those statements. I very much enjoy reading what Kim has to say and she has actually inspired me to follow in her virtual footsteps. I'm sure that everyone agrees that you do a great job, Kim. Keep it up!

The second topic, about being disgusted, is work related. Today is consecutive day number 30 in the lab and was incredibly frustrating. My "side" project has taken up so much of my time that now on Tuesday, I've already put in almost 30 hours of work this week (that's if you count Sunday on this week). My brain is a little strained working on now two full projects and managing a "rookie" graduate student on little sleep and not much relief on the horizon. My guard has slipped a little from feeling worn out, and I'm not entirely sure, but I may have actually told my boss to "shut up" this afternoon. The statement was directed to my coworker who was on one side of the door making a comment under his breath to me, but my boss had just walked out the door (still open) but had made the last audible statement. Of course he heard me say "shut up", and gave me an odd glance, but heard me laugh and I think he assumed that I wasn't talking to him. I would never say that to my boss and I think he knows that, and he didn't act any differently towards me during rest of the day, so he must have dismissed it. But it did lead to a little tension in my day, then a bunch of jokes with my coworker for the rest of the day. After I reached the ten hour mark in the work day, I think that I realized why one experiment may have failed and has given me an idea of where to go from here. So it might be that I turned the corner - and might get to take the weekend off... I just hope that my hunch is right, and I can turn this feeling of disgust into relief.

Monday, October 22, 2007

More Baseball Please

Finally, the AL Championship Series is over so now we know who will be getting swept by the Colorado Rockies. It wasn't too surprising that the Red Sox managed to win once they sent the series back to Fenway. Of course, I wouldn't have guessed that the heroes of the last two games would be Dustin Pedroia and J.D. Drew. Now we just have to wait until Wednesday for the championship series to start. Normally, I favor the AL team in the World Series, but this year it's all Rockies. The Rockies (along with Tampa Bay) were part of the first expansion that happened in my lifetime, and I followed them from their inception. I've been to several games at Coors Fields and they've all been a blast, and I even have a Dante Bichette jersey around somewhere. I am interested to see how they will hold up against Boston in the Series especially after the eight day vacation they created for themselves by making quick work of the D-Backs. It will also be interesting to see what the media picks to talk about between these two teams, related to either on-field or off-field activities.

By far the best subplot of the Cleveland-Boston series was the story around the Indians hiring game five starter Josh Beckett's ex-girlfriend to sing the national anthem... during game five. The media ran with the story assuming that it was going to bother Beckett having his ex at the game singing the national anthem before the game and God Bless America during the 7th inning stretch. Best quote of the series: "I don't make those *expletive* decisions. Thanks for flying one of my friends to the game so she could watch it for free". For me it's funny for two reasons, one that he swore during the quote because it wasn't remotely necessary, and also because it is such a stupid idea that having her at the stadium would effect his performance. I'm sure that Beckett was mostly just tired of being asked about how it would effect his game but he showed that it made no difference, he came out, pitched great, almost started a fight and got another win (all hallmarks of a great start).

Anyway, the ALCS game seven from last night was about the only thing I got to watch this weekend because I spent the whole *expletive* weekend in the lab again. As you might have gathered, I'm getting somewhat burned out as today is consecutive day number 29... It's possible that after day 30 or so, the "*expletive*" will be replaced with the actual expletive. Most likely, no one would be offended, but I feel the need to censor myself a little bit. Plus I don't know who all is reading this for sure, and I wouldn't want someone to use foul language against me in a potential future political campaign or something. You never know.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

The State Of... The Kansas City Royals

Today will be the first of a weekend segment that will become a series on this site that will be titled "The State Of...". I will pick a topic and blah-blah on about it for however long I feel like it. Oh wait, isn't that how the rest of the posts are also? Well, yes, but this will diverge from me blah-blahing about my (mostly boring) life and force me to talk about something else. Even I need a break from me sometimes. I will be a pretend pundit on a variety of topics including politics, the stock market, sports, TV or whatever else I feel like I have an opinion on at the time. Actually, I think that if I am "publishing" these posts online, I'm afraid that I might actually be considered a "real" pundit, and not a "fake" pundit as I had claimed all of one sentence ago. That's something I can wrestle with later.

Today's topic is The State of... The Kansas City Royals - so on with the post.

On Friday, the Royals named Trey Hillman as their new manager. If you were like I am, the first thought had to have been "Who the hell is Trey Hillman?". After doing a little more reading about his managerial record and the fact that the New York Yankees named him on their short list of candidates to replace future Hall of Famer Joe Torre, I was sold. For a guy that has no major league experience at any level (playing or coaching), he really has me looking forward to next season. Hillman has experience working with young players - managing at the minor league level for 13 seasons winning two titles and manager of the year awards three times, as well as his most recent success story in managing in the Japanese baseball league. His Nippon Ham Fighters (great team name by the way, unfortunately, for the sake of humor, they are not fighters of ham, the company that owns the team is the Nippon Ham meat packing company, but it is still amusing), have gone from doormat before his tenure began to champions in four seasons. And in his fifth season they have returned to the series championship to defend their title.

His minor league record shows that he works well with young players and can get them to play well as a team. The Royals are a young team (a good deal of the players on the major league roster would be in the minors in just about any other organization). The team could benefit from having a young manager, someone who will hopefully be sticking around in KC for quite some time, and at 44, Hillman certainly fits the bill. Hillman's managerial record in Japan is also quite promising. Taking a challenge like moving to another country without speaking the language or knowing the culture shows a something about his character. Being able to turn the team from perennial losers to champion in four seasons while living in a foreign country with foreign players is rather impressive. Winning a championship is one thing, returning to the championship series in the following season is even better. It really means that he built a TEAM, and didn't just have the benefit of one season's worth of good play, or ownership purchasing a team ala the Florida Marlins from a few years back.

His main challenges in dealing with players in the majors now that he will be back in the U.S. will revolve around a different language barrier, Spanish instead of Japanese, and the seemingly poorer work ethic of American players. But, obviously, he's been exposed to this in the past working in the minors for 13 seasons, so the transition should not be that dramatic. The team he is inheriting in Kansas City has not been good in the past decade, with no playoff appearances since the 85 championship team, and only one winning season since the AL was reorganized following the expansion for the 1994 season. From the Royals fan perspective, the team seems to have turned the corner and rock bottom is now in the past... we all hope.

The Royals 2007 team has shown more promise and instilled a fair amount of hope in Kansas Citians. The transition began in the hiring of Dayton Moore as general manager in the middle of the 2006 season. The previous GM, Allard Baird, was possibly the worst GM in the history of baseball, so it's not too much of a stretch to say that Moore would have to be better. Moore made the big free agent signing, took some heat for it, then laughed in the doubter's faces as Meche had a great season (in terms of ERA and strikeouts, despite being given no run support all season). With the over priced salaries of constant disabled list members Mike Sweeney and Odalis Perez off the books for the next season, it will be interesting to see what Moore does with the available money. Will it be another big off-season free agent move to complement last season's acquisition of Gil Meche? The Royals are expected to be "busy" in the off season, but many of the "big name" players that will be available likely won't even think about coming to KC.

The Royals don't really have that many holes to fill with Gordon, Gruzielanek, Pena and Buck returning in the infield that only leaves first base open. Whether the Royals resign Shealy or Gload, or try to convert Butler from DH to first, they've got everything covered without having to touch the free agent market. DeJesus, Brown, Tehean and Gathright, are expected to return from the outfield as well. There are talks of sending DeJesus away through trade with only one year left on his contract. The bullpen is pretty much set with young talent and the starting rotation is 3/5 set with Meche, Bannister and Greinke. The other two spots will likely be filled after a fight between Kyle Davies, Luke Hochevar, Billy Buckner, Jorge De La Rosa, Leo Nunez and Luke Hudson (if he's healthy). Whomever doesn't win a spot in the rotation will likely fill out the bullpen. Realistically, the Royals don't "need" any new free agents, they just need their current young team to mature, but if there is a big time player out there that wants to come to KC, I'm sure the fans will support him. Seriously, A-Rod can hit as many meaningless home runs in KC as he wants, the fans won't boo him (I know that A-Rod would never come to KC, but a Royals fan can dream, right?) .

Additionally, with the renovations to Kaufman Stadium, including the gigantic new HD screen being installed this offseason, there's even more reason for fans to support the Royals next season. A new manager, developing talent and an improving environment in which to enjoy the games should lead to an interesting season in KC. At this point in the year I'm looking forward to next season more than I have been in any of the past six or seven seasons. It should be a turning point in Kansas City baseball and I'm glad to be back to witness it.

Friday, October 19, 2007


Today marks three meaningful events in this simple blog's history. This happens to be the 25th post, meaning that I have been more diligent in writing than I had anticipated when I created it. Additionally, the blog has a second official reader that is willing to make comments... Thanks Mike! (I know you've been reading, but thanks for commenting) And it also is the first time that I have scrapped an entire post because I didn't like the direction that it took. Sometimes I have a tendency to get a little to the sarcastic side and the post that I had originally written this afternoon was so overdone that I couldn't even bear to publish it. I actually felt bad after writing it, what the hell? Anyway, I'm glad that I started it over.

I really don't know where these posts are going when I write them... I start with some idea then just start writing and I just let it go where it goes. Sometimes I end up rewriting parts or rearranging, but this is the first that I have actually just wiped and started over. It may be possible that I am not in the best mood at this time. This afternoon I realized that this is my 26th straight day of work without a full day off (and that includes, somewhere in the middle of the streak, my birthday - I have not really enjoyed the last month). I really don't want to be here (I say as I am still in the lab - 10 pm on a Friday night) - but the streak will continue until at least next weekend - this weekend is pretty much a guarantee as it is now. This will push the streak to probably 33 days, which, just might break my grad school record. As you can probably tell... I have no life. This sucks! I need more friends, a girlfriend - or at least some good reason to get the hell out of the lab.

Yesterday - Rehashed

This is really a different topic, but I don't really want to make a whole post out of it for some reason. A couple people have commented to me about how my day yesterday "sucked". Actually, it wasn't that bad because I wasn't in the lab for the entire day. The post "highs and lows" from a few weeks ago pretty much describes the day pretty well. It is rather unusual for me to go through an entire cycle in a single day - but I sometimes impress myself. The morning wasn't so great, and blowing out a tire on the highway was actually not that bad because it was unexpected (sad isn't it, changing a tire on an interstate can be considered "good" because it was unplanned, haha). I worked for a while, then went bowling with a friend in the evening. (On the topic of bowling - I used to bowl a lot through high school, then stopped when I went to college and just started a little again a few weeks ago. The series I had yesterday was one of my best ever - all three games over 200 and only three open frames in the whole series! I should have gone pro... yeah right.) After bowling I had a nice dinner with friends... then unfortunately, went back to the lab, got results that were incredibly poor, then got home about about midnight. Long day - yes - but really had the full cycle, but I really can't say that it was a "bad" or "crappy" day.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Dr. Skaff Goes to Court

Well, it's official - I am once again single. Today was the hearing to finalize the divorce. In most cases, the "hearing" is waived and the lawyer schedules a time to just file the paperwork. But apparently, certain judges require that an actual hearing take place to finalize a divorce. However, only one party is required to be present for the hearing making it into, more or less, a formality. Formality it was - and total waste of time. Here is the time-line of events for my morning, then spilling into the rest of the day. Remember yesterday's "Lull" post - today was quite the opposite.

9:35 Show up at courthouse and find where hearing will be taking place.
9:45 My lawyer shows up and takes me through what the hearing will entail - I am informed that the most difficult question that I will have to answer will be "Would you please state your full legal name?".
9:55 My lawyer goes into the completely empty courtroom and into the back to inform the judge that we were there.
9:57 Hearing begins - My lawyer asks the most difficult question - I manage to answer correctly (not so tough), then asks a series of questions pertaining to the document that I had signed three weeks ago - (all of the answers are yes, by the way)
9:59 Judge grants the divorce and tells me that I am not allowed to remarry for the next 30 days with the exception of remarrying my ex - my response - "That won't be a problem". If you know me, then you know that that statement was dripping with sarcasm. I wonder how a court reporter would have recorded that. I'll never know the answer to that though since there wasn't one present. It was literally myself, my lawyer and the judge in the fairly decent sized courtroom.
10:02 I'm back in my car and on to my next errand - getting the car tags renewed.
10:15 Blow back passenger side tire out on the highway while traveling 65 mph.
10:30 Back on the road after changing the tire and, if I might add, without getting anything on my white dress shirt - yeah that's right, you should be impressed.
10:50 Finish at DMV.
11:30-2:00 Wait for car to be finished getting new tires. Talk about slowing a day down.

I don't actually start my work day until after 2pm. It's only going to get slower, right? Yeah, probably. How long will this day be? I don't know, but I'm guessing long. You might think that I'd be somewhat hyper after an eventful morning - but you'd be wrong... Going back to my post about contingency planning last week - when that tire blew out - I got nothing - no adrenaline dump into my system, no panic, no "what the hell do I do?" - it was down to business. Pull over, change tire, get back on the road. Don't you have AAA? Yes, I do. But why wait for someone to change a tire when I can do it without too much hassle? Just get it done and move on to the next problem. I think that I may be becoming a machine.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007


It's turning out to be a very slow day in the lab today. That's not necessarily a bad thing, but the day is just dragging on. It's the type of day where I will do one thing that takes ten minutes, then has to sit for three hours... Then I have one more thing to do that takes 15 minutes, then sits for another two hours. Since the data analysis from last week's experiment was completed yesterday afternoon, I have a lot of down time and not much to do. Unfortunately, I'm apparently not in the mood to write either, so it's just been a very slow day. I'm sure tomorrow will be more interesting - more on that later.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Since I started graduate school seven years ago, the only writing that I have been doing has been scientific writing. Let me just say that it is rather bland. After finally deciding to write this blog a month ago, I think that my creativity has started to return. A long time ago... back in high school, I used to do a fair amount of creative writing - mostly associated with classes, but a little just for the fun of it. My brother suggested that if I were to write some stories, I could post them, or parts of them, on this site. Actually, I think that the idea is a pretty decent one, and I just might do that. I actually have two ideas that I'm working on in my head at this very moment. Maybe in a couple weeks I will post excerpts, or the entire thing if they aren't too long.

Without giving too much away, the first story is about a reporter that uncovers a conspiracy related to an event from the ML baseball playoffs. There will be a science twist in this story just to see how well I can blend things together that I find interesting... It will also have a character that will recur in probably all of the stories, to some extent - Dr. Frank Wesfad. The second story will be about an amnesiac, but I'm not sure where this one will be going. I'm also not sure if Dr. Frank will be the amnesiac, or just appear in the story. The amnesia story is so weak right now that I don't know that much about it, but we'll see where I end up taking it.

Out of curiosity, what do the reader(s?) of this blog think of having stories, or parts of stories appear here? Anyone? What the hell kind of name is Wesfad? Is it possible for me to become any more of a nerd?

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Contingency Planning

Working in the sciences, if nothing else, will provide the valuable life skill of contingency planning. There is always a plan of action, always a method to get the answers to questions, but rarely, if ever, is the path direct. No matter how ingenious, every plan, every experiment, every technique requires some amount of modification. I believe that this is true, not just in science, but in being an evil mastermind and possibly some other professions as well. Nothing in science seems to go according to plan and quick thinking is a necessity.

Applying the art of contingency planning to life outside of science is something that I consider to be very important. Very rarely will anyone see me freak out about changes in plans. I pretty much assume that every time I have a schedule or plan for anything, that something will come up and I will have to rearrange some part of just about every day. It's not a big deal, nothing is too important, that's every day life. What's the point in getting upset? Things happen and you deal with them.

I seem to handle difficult situations pretty well, and it may be due to training in science - or, maybe I am well suited to be a scientist because I am good with dealing with problems. Either way, I'm pretty sure that I have chosen the correct career path. But what if I don't particularly want to be a scientist for my entire life? I really don't have a strong desire to work with toxic carcinogens for my entire career. Where will I go from here? An even more stressful field, like politics... or something like business.... or did someone mention evil mastermind? How did that get in there?

Saturday, October 13, 2007


Today was a dark, rainy day in KC, and it's made me feel extremely tired all day. I just don't want to do anything. With all the extra hours I've been working (by the way, I'm in the lab now), I may actually be too lethargic to even play video games when I get to go home... whenever that might be. Weekends aren't supposed to be like this.

Friday, October 12, 2007


Being the life-long baseball fan that I am, the transition into not having up to fifteen games to follow every day is becoming difficult. Now that the playoffs are into the second round, there are at most two games in a single day. Within another week, there will be only one... then... none... that is - until April when it starts all over again. So, why is baseball season the best time of year? Statistics. Along with the fifteen games to follow every day, there are fifteen box scores to scan through and scads of statistics to catch up on. You will find that most true baseball fans are obsessed with statistics. Now, I'm not talking about the people that keep track of the hometown team, or watch the weekly or daily highlights on Sportscenter, or go to one game a year and call themselves fans - I'm talking about the true fans of baseball - the fans that can name players on every team past and present, the fans that know and understand the differences between the American and National Leagues, the fans that can be interested in watching a minor league team play because they'd know about players that have potential before they even make it to the majors. True fans of baseball love statistics and they can bury themselves in them (www.baseball-reference.com is a great site, by the way - literally every stat you could imagine).

And let's be honest, football season is great and fun to watch, but the pros have 16 games in a week, and that just doesn't cut it in terms of what really matters and that's massive amounts of data. Since the baseball season coming to a close, I'll just have to settle for the scores of data that I collected yesterday and will be collecting in the near future. Not that pouring through data as part of my job will be personally fulfilling or as interesting as baseball stats, but it'll hold me over for now. Oddly enough, this project that I'm working that is producing this ridiculous amount of data will likely be finishing up sometime just before the next baseball season starts... Was that planned? Not intentionally, it just happened that way. So, does enjoying baseball statistics make me a nerd? Maybe, but by stating that baseball statistics can be personally fulfilling most likely does. I have accepted what I am, and I'm OK with that.

Thursday, October 11, 2007


The advancement in technology in the sciences always amazes me. The work that I completed today using an automated system out at KU would have taken me 14 straight days of work (and that's continuous work) if I were to collect data one sample at a time in my regular lab. The total amount of time that it actually took to collect all of that data today...... 45 minutes. WTF? And this was just a short test to make sure that the automation was working properly. For the next trip to KU, I will be doing four times the number of samples. If you're doing the quick math, that would be two months of continuous work condensed into just part of one day... PART OF ONE DAY! You have to appreciate technology when it makes things easier.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Stock Market

Another interest of mine is the stock market. I am aware that this sounds pretty nerdy, (but anyone that knows me or reads this blog likely already has been informed that I am kind of a dork) but I have been interested in investing since I was in middle school. Back in the building that could pass for a penitentiary called Eastgate, they had a short after school thing called the Stock Market Game. Basically, each group of participants would be given a set amount of "money" to "buy" and "sell" "stocks" over a certain amount of time. You had to track actual stocks and make "trades" based on closing prices from the morning newspaper, and at the end the group with the most "money" would win.

What's with all the quotes? Obviously, the money and transactions weren't real, it was just a tool to get kids interested in following the market from a relatively early age. For me, the program worked and I started investing in high school. In college, I became aware of the possibilities of trading stocks without a broker over the internet. It was a hell of a lot cheaper than through a bank and I didn't have to be "pitched" any financial ideas from some moron trying to get a kickback from a company if he sells shares of their mutual funds. I'm glad that I decided to go into investing on my own and I think I've done rather well.

By no means am I saying that I have been tremendously successful but I've been happy with what I have picked up. I've made my share of mistakes and I think that I have learned from them. Just as with gambling, there is a fair amount of risk involved, but some times it pays off. This week has been pretty nice, two small companies that have modest amounts of stock in had some interesting news. Yesterday, a nanotech company, Altair, announced that, in conjunction with a couple other partners, had successfully demonstrated a fast-charge all-electric vehicle in Norway (http://biz.yahoo.com/bw/071009/20071009005594.html?.v=1). Exciting news, you say? You better believe it and as the added benefit for the shareholders - the stock jumped over 30% in one day because of it. This I like to hear. Then today, another company (InterNAP) was named one of "Five Stocks Approaching Greatness" by the Motley Fool (http://www.fool.com/investing/small-cap/2007/10/10/5-stocks-approaching-greatness.aspx).
InterNAP didn't move 30% today, but 6.5% is pretty respectable. It's days like these that remind me why I like investing. I'm sure some report will be released that will turn everything sour shortly, so I have to enjoy them while I can.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

World Baseball Tour

A few months ago, a group of my college friends decided to start a group that would tour the major league baseball parks. The idea behind the World Baseball Tour, as it is now being called, (by the way - it can be called a world tour since there is one MLB park in Canada) is simple - witness one game in every major league baseball park. The four founding members will be deciding on the trip for the year, then anyone else that would like to attend will be welcomed. Mostly, it's just a reason for the group of friends to get together once a year to stay in contact, but since we're all baseball fans, getting to see a game is an added bonus.

I think that we will be trying to group some of the stadiums together to make the total tour take less than the thirty years it would take to complete at a one-per-year pace. Based on a rough schedule that I just made up, it will end up taking 19 years to complete the tour. I think then, for a 20th year, the group will have to visit Cooperstown in New York to see the Hall of Fame - that's the appropriate completion of the tour. Of course, we'll have to decide on what to do when teams decide to build new stadiums or move to a new city, or if there is another expansion and new teams are created. This could go on forever... if we so choose.

This summer we had our first outing, traveling all the way to Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City to watch the local Royals take on the Toronto Blue Jays. I'm not exactly sure yet if this actually counted as WBT: Year 1, or not though, since one of the founding members decided that he was too important to drive down to KC for the game. He's been to games in KC before and he grew up here, blah, blah... Maybe we'll just call 2007, WBT: Year 0 and it will be the unofficial start to the tour. KC is the easiest of the stadiums to arrange though, since it's pretty much in the center of where everyone is right now. Twenty years from now, though, who knows where everyone will be?

For the KC trip we had seven people and I expect it to be the smallest gathering. Next year, the unofficial concept is to hit two stadiums - Wrigley Field in Chicago and Miller Park in Milwaukee. However, there will be a bonus trip for those that can make it - the final year of historic Yankee Stadium. Since the Yankees are building a brand new $1 billion (yes billion) stadium that opens in 2009, this will be the last chance for everyone to see the "House the Ruth Built" before it becomes a parking lot.

I'm sure that I'll be talking more about the World Baseball Tour in the future. It's going to be a blast!

Sunday, October 7, 2007


Disclaimer: I apologize in advance because, again, I am talking about work. Unfortunately, my life is currently dominated by work, so apparently, that's what's on my mind.

Normally, I'm not a very superstitious person. However, when it comes to molecular biology, I totally am. It really does seem that when someone is having problems getting a particular technique that falls into the realm of molecular biology, that the experimenter's mood/attitude or just the alignment of the stars seems to end up having a larger factor in success than anything else. In science, it's not supposed to be this way, but for certain techniques, a "routine" is developed. Whether the routine involves orienting your sample in a particular manner during incubation times, or not talking with anyone about your experiments until they have progressed beyond the point of most likely failure, or simply saying the proper blessings before you go home for the evening, is entirely dependent on the scientist. I prefer the isolationist mentality, having people making suggestions or watching me while I'm prepping samples or having someone else check on my samples (with or without my knowledge), really seems to drive me crazy.

This past week has been very difficult. I currently have a "shadow" right now - I'm training a new graduate student. So, I am being followed around while I work. Additionally, the amount of freedom I seem to have in this particular lab, is rather low. Coming from lab at ISU with thirteen grad students/post docs and now being in a group of three, results in a greatly increased amount of time the boss has for each researcher. From what I've mentioned earlier in this post, you might see how the superstitious person could have difficulties with work while someone is constantly watching over your shoulder or being constantly asked about how your work is progressing.

To satisfy my superstitious side, I worked several hours on both days of the weekend to have "relative" peace and quiet. Saturday ended without success - possibly because I didn't really get peace and quiet, my shadow, for whatever reason, appeared unexpectedly and was unwilling to just vanish. However, Sunday provided the appropriate scenario (isolation, silence) and, lo and behold, the cloud of the previous week's worth of continuous failure lifted and the *expletive* thing worked. So, here's what I have to say to the people that looked at me oddly when I talked with them about being superstitious in science - "eat it".

Stick with what works for you and any one that says otherwise can shove it.

Friday, October 5, 2007


After working 22 hours in two days, I would take about any escape route to get out of the lab. This morning I got a message from some one that I'm working with out at KU. They were having a meeting that I was invited to attend about how data was going to be analyzed for one of my projects. Sounds exciting right? Yeah, not really. I assumed that meeting wouldn't be that worthwhile, but I decided to go because it was going to mean that I wouldn't have to spend the entire day in the lab. So, I drove for two hours (one hour each way) for a less-than-one-hour meeting. But what the hell, I wasn't in the lab for three straight hours - it was worth it. But now I'm back in the lab and I'll be back around another ten hour day... and will have to come in tomorrow... and possibly Sunday. When can I have a real job?

Thursday, October 4, 2007


Right now I am in the banging my head against the wall phase that I described in the "Biochemistry" post a few days ago. Things at work are a real struggle... why do I even bother coming in to work some days? It is pretty disheartening to spend a 12 hour day in the lab (yesterday) with nothing positive to show for it. But again, that's science and it's the career path I have chosen.

Somehow though, the current struggles at work haven't effected my general mood - maybe it's because I just don't care about this series of experiments. I can tell that my boss isn't exactly happy with the current results, but the success of this project isn't entirely tied to me alone, there is... another. The boss knows that I've been working diligently on this project (while maintaining my own project) and he knows that it has me incredibly frustrated so I think he's just giving me some space to get things taken care of. This has to be close to finished so I can move on back into my own research and away from this side project. I will be free from it soon enough... one way or another. Then I can start banging my head against the wall on some other project.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007


I am going to come out and say that I was actually looking forward to the new comedy series called Cavemen based on the Geico commercials. The commercials themselves are pretty funny, but how could they adapt a 30 second spot into not just a 30 minute sitcom, but a whole series? I wasn't expecting that much from the show, especially since they've been on a constant promo rampage in preparation for the airing. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that they had managed to make a show about cavemen more high brow (can it be high brow if they have a ridged brow?) than some of the shows that are clearly supposed to be catered to a more intelligent audience (Big Bang Theory and that other new one with Kelsey Grammer - both of which were almost unwatchable).

The concept of the show was to place cavemen in current society and have them deal with life and trying to fit in. All of the cavemen characters dress like everyone else, have jobs and one is even working on his dissertation. It was enjoyable to watch the show on different levels. The dialog was constantly amusing, but watching cavemen play squash wearing white shorts and white sweaters or grunting like primates while playing a Nintendo Wii boxing game was pure comic genius. Simply giving the cavemen names like Andy, Nick, Joel and Maurice was humorous. Having the characters deal with interspecies relationships was the main story line for the first aired episode where one of the characters reveals that he is dating a "sape". Hilarious. One more reason the show worked for me - no laugh track. I will be watching this show again.

Best line from the first episode: "Keep your penis in your genus."


For those of you that know me, you may have noticed that I don't really like talking about my job. This is mostly because, and I'm not trying to sound arrogant, the average person doesn't have a clue what a biochemist does or even what laboratory research means, nor do they seem to care after being given a quick synopsis. Additionally, there is a certain degree of secrecy that goes along with doing primary research. In some regards, scientists are trained to be quiet in talking about specific projects for fear of having ideas taken by colleagues or peers. In most cases, this is irrational, but there is a certain amount of discretion that must be used at all times. Some laboratories are more competitive than others, but free flowing information is extremely rare.

A great majority of my friends and acquaintances aren't associated with science. There is a good reason for this - scientists tend to be ass holes. I will say that I have been quite lucky in being placed with people that have been fantastic. The rule of thumb does hold, I just consider myself to have been lucky... so far. So, should I be worried about talking about my job with friends outside of science? The answer is clearly no. But, how much information am I supposed to give? My current approach is to start with an incredibly basic response and then if whoever I'm talking to seems interested then go more in depth. I have made the mistake of going too deep early in a conversation in the past, it gets pretty awkward, so I usually start very small. This has been working, so I'm going to stick with this method until I come up with something better.

At one point in graduate school I actually boiled down what I was doing to mixing multiple colorless liquids together in a plastic tube, then placing it into a machine and watching a computer monitor for a small line to be drawn as time progressed. After this, I would remove the tube and continue with the next sample and repeat for an afternoon. Obviously, there's much more to being a biochemist, but after many long days of enzyme kinetics, this is how it feels. In actuality, Being a scientist comes down to asking a question, doing an experiment that should answer the question, then figuring out why the experiment didn't work, then doing it again with different conditions until it does work, then verifying that it will continue to work by repeating it over and over, then you can develop the next question to continue the cycle. It's kind of like banging your head against a wall until something happens. That's science and it's what I do.

Monday, October 1, 2007


After writing a few posts, I decided to let a few people know of the existence of this blog. Of course, one resourceful person actually found it before I had even written the second post. Anyway, now I have become a little self conscious of what I have written. Have I said too much? Is this too personal to publish on the web for all to see? I'm not exactly sure yet, but, although I do feel pretty exposed, I do feel liberated in some way. I think that it is pretty difficult to learn that much about people in general conversation. Using the reunion as a pretty decent example - the typical conversation had these questions: What do you do? Where do you live? Do you have any kids? Then it is on to the next person and asking the same series of questions. Obviously, in this setting, there isn't that much time to converse since there are many people that you haven't seen in ages and just getting a few minutes with each person can be difficult.

My personal dislike for being in a large group is not related to being anti-social, I very much do like interacting with people... just in smaller groups. But I would much rather get to know someone than know about them. You just can't learn much about a person with a few superficial questions in three minutes. I think, in general, many of the people that I know may know a lot about me, but may not truly know me. I guess in some ways this blog will be a chance for whoever happens to read this to actually get to know me. Whether or not anyone really wants to know me that well is a question for another day. What, no quote from some song today that ties in to what this post has been about? Sorry, they're not all like that. Maybe at some point, they will be.