Friday, December 28, 2007

Seeing with Your Tongue

The Seeing Tongue: Science News Online

Researchers at the University of Wisconsin­, Madison are developing this tongue-stimulating system, which translates images detected by a camera into a pattern of electric pulses that trigger touch receptors. The scientists say that volunteers testing the prototype soon lose awareness of on-the-tongue sensations. They then perceive the stimulation as shapes and features in space. Their tongue becomes a surrogate eye.

That is extremely cool. (hat tip to Freakonomics)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Farewell Dan Haren

The Oakland A's traded Dan Haren to the Diamondbacks last night. (Story on SFGate)

Now that we know the A's are rebuilding, what other moves make sense? Should they deal Blanton too? Probably. But what about Harden, Street, Swisher, Ellis, Crosby and Chavez. If we're going to rebuild, let's not mess around with a half-assed effort. As GM Billy Beane said, "We finally know where we're going and we're going to go full bore." It will be tough to watch the A's struggle through their 2008 season, but I am excited about rebuilding. Bring on the changes.

As for Haren, he gave the A's 660 innings with an ERA of 3.64 over three years. That's pretty darn good pitching, especially when you consider the alternative. Since the Haren-Mulder trade, Mark Mulder pitched 300 innings with a 5.00 ERA. Beane definitely got the better end of that deal (even before you factor in Daric Barton), and I'm optmistic about this latest trade as well.

So, what did the A's get for Haren?
The prospects coming to Oakland are left-handed pitchers Brett Anderson, Dana Eveland and Greg Smith, infielder Chris Carter, and outfielders Aaron Cunningham and Carlos Gonzalez. -A's Official Site

David PInto over at Baseball Musings has some thoughts on five of the newest Athletics:
All five players sent to the Athletics are prospects. Brett Anderson will be 20 in 2008 and had an outstanding season at A ball. Dana Eveland hasn't translated his low minor league walk numbers to the majors yet. Greg Smith also posts good walk and strikeout numbers in the minors. Aaron Cunningham is developing power as he rises through the minors. Carlos Gonzalez is the least impressive one of the group, but he's only 21 and already at AAA. Basically, the Athletics restocked their system with five good players.

Well, I don't own an Athletics Nation t-shirt with "In Billy We Trust" on the back for nothing...

Mitchell Report Falls Short

I've glanced through the "REPORT TO THE COMMISSIONER OF BASEBALL OF AN INDEPENDENT INVESTIGATION INTO THE ILLEGAL USE OF STEROIDS AND OTHER PERFORMANCE ENHANCING SUBSTANCES BY PLAYERS IN MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL." My impression was that George Mitchell and crew were really only able to get a couple people to really talk. They were then able to follow the new leads from the first interviews to unravel what you might call a steroid ring. But I have a hard time believing this is the only group of ballplayers to use steroids. In fact, the first page of the report admits as much:

We identify some of the players who were caught up in the drive to gain a competitive advantage through the illegal use of these substances. Other investigations will no doubt turn up more names and fill in more details...

I, like many others, had somehow expected a comprehensive list of people using performance enhancing drugs, so I am disappointed that the report listed so few people. There are certainly players named in the report whose careers will be judged differently now, but besmirching Roger Clemens' legacy isn't enough. I still want to know the full list of players on steroids and when they took them.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Good News, Bad News

Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis going to the Tigers is both good news and bad news for the A's. The bad news is that they're moving into the AL, but the good news is that the Angels didn't get them.

So far this offseason, the Angels have been mentioned as potential suitors for every significant trade and high-end free agent. It's been great news for the A's that nothing has worked out for them yet. I'm curious to see what the rest of the offseason holds. Will the A's deal Haren? Blanton? Anyone?

Recognition for the Boss

Marc Cenedella, CEO of TheLadders, was named #21 in the Silicon Alley 100. Kudos, Marc!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bonds Indicted

Over at Athletics Nation, Blez nails it in his post on this topic, Bonds Indicted: "...perhaps this takes a lot of options for the Angels off the table."

The A's offseason plans seemed to be resting on the Angels. If the Angels got Bonds and/or A-Rod, the A's would unload major leaguers for prospects and rebuild. If the Angels got neither, a possibility which is looking more and more likely, the A's would re-load, hope for a healthy 2008 and make another run at the AL West.

With Bonds out of the picture (as either a convict or a pariah) and A-Rod likely re-signing with the Yankees, things are shaping up for the A's to have a decent chance at the division title. With a little old-fashioned Billy Beane magic, an improved training regimen to keep players healthy and a little luck, the A's could be a frisky team next year.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

What is the Piedmont A-11 Offense?

My high old school's football team unveiled a new offense this season called the Piedmont A-11 Offense. The idea is to have 11 potentially eligible receivers on the field.

Here's how it works:
-Three guys line up wide left
-Three guys line up wide right
-Three guys line up in the middle
-Two guys available to receive the snap behind the middle three
-Everyone reports as an eligible receiver
-Players shift up or back to have the seven players required on the line.

By spreading the potentially eligible receivers across the entire field, it forces the defense to account for every possible receiver on each play. Of course, on any given play, only 5 of those players can go downfield to catch a pass, and the rest remain ineligible to catch a downfield pass on that particular play.

I love this innovation. I only wish the coaches had come up with it 15 years ago. I would have had a blast playing in this system.

How about results? The team lost its first two games this year before running off seven straight wins. They ended up losing in a league championship game last Friday, but they made the California Interscholastic Federation (CIF) NCS - 2A East Bay playoffs anyway. They play Las Lomas this weekend. Go Highlanders!

UPDATE: Piedmont lost to Las Lomas on 11/16. Maybe another year of experience in the system will make the team that much better next year...

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Venture Capital History

Fred Wilson's got an interesting series going over at A VC, covering the history of venture capital fund performance. First, a look at VC returns from the late sixties through 1997. And this morning he's included the last ten years of data as well.

He's "surprised that the 2001, 2002, and 2003 vintage years aren't showing better numbers." So am I. After the big drop in the very late 90's, VC's should have been able to buy low and earn better returns than they're showing. Fred's probably right when he argues that the "chart will look at lot differently in three or four years".

I'm looking forward to his next installment.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Facebook - World's Most Expensive Pet Rock?

Microsoft to Pay $240 Million for Stake in Facebook - New York Times

The two companies said on Wednesday that Microsoft would invest $240 million for a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook. The investment values the three-year-old Facebook, which will bring in about $150 million in revenue this year, at $15 billion.


Mark Zuckerberg, the 23-year-old Facebook founder who dropped out of Harvard to build the company, owns a 20 percent share which is now valued at $3 billion. Accel Partners, the venture capital firm that invested $12.7 million in May 2005 and owns 11 percent of Facebook, now holds stock worth $1.65 billion.

Yipes! That is a lot of money.

By the way, didn't Steve Ballmer (CEO of Microsoft) call Facebook a "fad" two weeks ago? Yes, he did. Well, that's one expensive pet rock you got there, Steve-o.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Great Advice from Marc Andreesen

I was catching up on my blogs over lunch this afternoon and came across Marc Andreesen's three-part series on Career Planning. Wow! It is a must read for young folks starting college, just graduating or early in their careers. I've only been out of school for a few years, but his advice is spot on as far as I'm concerned.

In fact, I'm lucky to have gotten some of that same advice either directly from or by watching my mentor, friend and boss.

Here are the three posts:
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 1: Opportunity
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 2: Skills and education
The Pmarca Guide to Career Planning, part 3: Where to go and why

p.s. If I'm six years out of school, can I still reasonably say that it's only been "a few years"?
p.p.s. If you're reading this and don't know who Marc is, start here.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Excel Isn't Infallible?

mrshafrir emailed me this link: Microsoft Excel Fails Math Test

It turns out that Excel isn't perfect after all. I feel like I've been betrayed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Dreaming in Excel

I have been using Microsoft Excel for a long time, but before last night, I don't think I ever had visions of sugar plum spreadsheets dancing in my head. I guess there's a first for everything, but what does it mean?

People say you truly understand a foreign language when you start speaking and hearing it in your dreams. So, does this mean I'm fluent in excel now? Has anyone else experienced this?

Well, it turns out, I'm not totally alone. Google has 10 matches for "dream in excel" or "dreaming in excel":

I think this must mean I'm one of the 11 biggest Excel nerds in the world. I'm not sure whether I should be proud or concerned. Probably concerned.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Don't Get Ahead of Yourself

Over at 6-4-2, they're celebrating the Angel's division title, and looking ahead to an admittedly bright future. But as a bitter A's fan, I take issue with the idea that Angels fans have seen "a division winner, year after (mostly) year."

The Angels have won the AL West three of the last four years, but before that, they hadn't won their division since 1986. And they won the 2004 division title by only a single measly game over the A's. Flip one game in the 2004 standings and the A's and Angels have split the last four division titles. Even without any revisionist history, the A's and Angels have each won the AL West three times in the last six years. That's hardly "a division winner, year after ... year."

And while the Angels do have an admirable farm system and quality young talent in their organization, success is no gimme. I say we hold off on crowning the Angels as AL West champions through 2015...

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Yes, It's Too Late

Over at Baseball Musings, Pinto asks if the A's are Improving Too Late?

In a word: Yes

One of my favorite pages on the "internets" is the playoff odds report from Baseball Prospectus, which (sadly) shows the A's have a 0.732% chance of making the postseason as of 8/22/07. While I would LOVE to see the A's somehow pull it off, it's just not going to happen.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Great Baseball Tale

Brad Ziegler, a minor leaguer in the Oakland A's farm system, has been blogging over on AthleticsNation all season. In his most recent post, he pointed to a post from another minor leaguer: Minors: Non-Prospect Diary: Dirk Hayhurst. It's a well-written post about how trivial baseball is and at the same time, how it can mean so much. Definitely worth the read.

I still can't explain why people treat us so special for putting on a baseball uniform. But in those few moments together, it didn't really matter--in those few moments, baseball made perfect sense.

Monday, August 13, 2007

Bronx Zoo

My sister (who's currently blogging her trip through China and Southeast Asia) went to the Bronx Zoo a few years ago when she was in Teach for America training. She had a great time and recommended I make the journey (to the Bronx, not to China). Well, this weekend, I finally trekked up to 180th street in the Bronx to see the zoo. It was quite the time. The Congo Gorilla Forest was the highlight, with baby gorillas wrestling each other and looking just too darn cute.

I neglected to bring my camera, so we'll have to settle for someone else's pictures on Flickr. Here, then, is a slide show of pictures with the tags "Bronx Zoo Gorilla". Enjoy!

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Kendall to the Cubbies

From Gregg:
A’s Fan #1: Guess what? We traded Jason Kendall.
A’s Fan #2: Great trade. Who’d we get?

I enjoyed some aspects of the Jason Kendall era: tagging out Michael Young at homeplate to end the game and scoring the winning run from third when K-Rod dropped a throw from the catcher. And to be fair, the pitching staff seemed to do well with him behind the plate.

Kendall's cERA with Oakland (2005-07): 3.81
Total ERA for Oakland (2005-07): 3.90

But, I can't say I enjoyed the 482 AB/HR or the .658 OPS. In fact, Kendall's OPS so far this year is .538, worst amongst all MLB batters that qualify for the batting title (3.1 plate appearances per team game). It didn't help that the A's were paying him $11mm/yr. Anyway, I don't think this trade means the A's are throwing in the towel. I'm still holding out hope...

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Things are Looking Grim for the A's

Well, the A's have lost nine straight games and fallen 12 games behind the AL West leading Angels and 11.5 games behind the wild card leading Indians. Oddly, I haven't given up hope. I somehow still believe the A's can put together a run at the playoffs. If Rich Harden, Huston Street and Mike Piazza can get healthy and return to form, I think the A's still have an outside shot at making things interesting.

But things do indeed look bad. Here's a look at 10-game rolling averages for the A's runs scored for and runs scored against:


Basically, you want the blue line to be above the pink line, and that really hasn't been the case since mid-June. Since beating the Cardinals 14-3 on June 15, the A's have averaged 3.8 runs per game, while allowing an average of 5.75 runs. With a run differential like that, you'd expect a team to win only 30% of its games, and sure enough, the A's have gone 7-21, playing .250 baseball. Things aren't looking pretty, and we're quickly approaching the point where we're forced to "Wait Till Next Year."

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Curt Schilling - Not Quite Perfect

Loud groans from the Red Sox fans in the office this afternoon as Shannon Stewart spoiled Curt Schilling's no-hit bid. It's nice to make them miserable even when we let them win the occasional game.

Too bad Blanton didn't get any offensive support. His 7.1 innings of 4-hit ball weren't too shabby.

I got a kick out of the Games Notes from Yahoo!'s box score:







Sunday, June 3, 2007

TheLadders in the New York Times

Well, the New York Times is publishing an article about the high end job search Monday morning:Listing Top Jobs but Charging Candidates to Seek Them - New York Times

It's extremely gratifying to see TheLadders getting some recognition from the Times for our new approach to the job search.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Good Signs for Rich Harden

Inside Bay Area - Harden fast: Debut a gas

The A's projected ace was lights-out in his Cactus League debut, striking out five of the last six hitters he faced and tossing two scoreless innings in his team's 4-3 win over the San Diego Padres at Peoria Sports Complex. Harden surrendered only a two-out double to Adrian Gonzalez in the third inning, and second baseman Marcus Giles was the only other Padre to make contact against him.
Harden said he'll mix in his curveball and slider as the exhibition season continues.

So, at this point in the spring, Harden is throwing only fastballs and changeups -- and he's dominating. Gotta love that.

(Hat tip to Baseball Musings)

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

There's Still Hope

Baseball Musings: Mixed Media Message

David Pinto points us towards a report that the MLB_DirecTV deal may not be exclusive after all. I hope that ends up being the case - and I hope Time Warner Cable doesn't screw me on this one the way they have with the NFL Network.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Baseball Crank Updates EWSL

I've long admired the work Baseball Crank has done on EWSL - Established Win Shares Level. I think it's a great way to take a look at the upcoming year using Win Shares. The basic idea is to look at a players Win Shares from the past three years to determine their Established Level, and then project their performance for the next year based on their age.

He's been looking back at the last few years of data and working to update the model. Here's his three part series:

Part I: 2006 EWSL Wrapup By Team
Part II: EWSL Rookie Adjustments
Part II: Age and EWSL, 2004-06

The whole series is worth a read. For A's fans in particular, it's interesting to look at Part I. Huston Street, Antonio Perez and Rich Harden are listed as the "Worst" 2006 performers for the Athletics. They under-performed relative to their age-adjusted EWSL. Why? For Harden, it was clearly the injuries. For Huston Street, it was probably nagging injuries as well. As for Antonio Perez, I think EWSL simply over-estimated his value.

But regardless of those shortcomings, the A's ended up doing slightly better than the EWSL model predicted. Frank Thomas was undoubtedly a big part of that, but the A's played pretty well last year across the board. It's encouraging to think about what the A's might be able to do this year with a healthy Bobby Crosby and a healthy Rich Harden. There are certainly unanswered questions swirling around the A's (Piazza's production, for example), but as an A's fan, I can't help but be optimistic.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Love the Customer

Here at TheLadders, we are very focused on loving the customer. Our CEO, Marc Cenedella, used to do a lot of business in Japan, and he brought back this phrase: "Okyaku-sama wa kami-sama desu", which means "The Customer is God." We try to keep that in mind for everything we do.

The most visible way to see that is to interact with our fantastic Community group, as Rob O'Regan discovered this week:

The Right Way To Do Customer Service

Proactive, friendly customer service. No muss, no fuss. What a concept! I will certainly use their service again, and I will recommend to my friends and colleagues. This is customer service done right.

Thanks for the kudos, Rob!

Monday, February 12, 2007

CSFBL - In Limbo

Astonishingly few people even know about CSFBL - Computer Simulated Fantasy Baseball League - but those of us that do know love it. The basic idea is that you create or adopt a fictional baseball franchise and manage it season after season - leagues vary from 2 games/day to 8 games/day.

You have control over your 25-man major league roster, a roster in the high-minors and a third roster of up-and-comers in the low-minors. You can adjust your lineup, your pitching rotation, your managerial style, your spending on scouts, training, development and you draft new players each year. After each game, you can check the box scores, and check the compiled stats for the year, of for all time. It's not quite as polished as and the feature set isn't as rich - but it's free. For someone like me that can only check it for a few minutes a week, it's the perfect baseball fix for the offseason. You only need to invest as much or as little time as you'd like...

Nerdy? Or course.
Fun? Absolutely.

So, why is it in limbo? The site has been down since 1/22, the server has moved from an ISP to the proprieter's basement and there's really no telling when things will be back up and running. Their outage blog suggests that they'll be up by Monday, but this is a hobby, rather than a business. There's no guarantee there.

So, what's next? If CSFBL is going to survive, they need to make a business out of this. Much like whatifsports has done with simulated baseball, like has done with personals and like we've done with executive job search over at, they need to offer a simple basic version that gives people a taste of the product and encourages people to upgrade to a paid version for full access, features, etc.

Whatifsports has proven that the business model can work for sports, and it's really not that different from the fantasy sports behemoths - CBS Sportsline, ESPN and Yahoo. The revenue from the run-of-network ads on CSFBL wasn't enough to make the site anything more than a hobby, and the donations through's Honor System haven't done the trick either. As sad as it will be for us freeloaders, it's time for CSFBL to get serious and try to make some money off the quality engine they've built.

They've hinted at the idea a bit in a blog post, suggesting (in a FAQ format) that the level of donations by a particular league might determine whether or not they get migrated to the new, improved version of the site. But it's not going to be enough. I guess I just don't understand why they're so reluctant to turn their baby into even a small business. It's a no-brainer.

UPDATE: In the few brief hours since I posted this, the CSFBL site has been revived!

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

MLB Just Spoiled My Day

I find this news extremely aggravating:
If you don't have DirectTV this year (or for the next seven years), you're not going to be able to order the MLB Extra Innings package, because DirectTV just paid $700 million for exclusive rights over the next seven years. It will also be the exclusive home to a 24-hour baseball channel.

In Case You Had Any Doubt, MLB Doesn't Care About You At All - Deadspin

I guess those of us who cannot possibly get DirecTV will be stuck staring at a low-res video feed on our computers for the duration of the baseball season. I used to be able to work on the computer while I was watching A's games, but I'm not sure how I'm going to be able to handle this. Do I have to get another laptop that I can connect to the TV? This whole thing is just miserable. Damn you, MLB!

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

Fascinating Click Survey/Study

Thanks to Josh Levine for the link:

My favorite is the chart for the rectangle that says "Don't Click Here". That's probably the most-clicked area in the entire survey! Crazy web contrarians.