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Retrospective, Part I

As you might know, I plan on graduating from the prestigious Case Western Reserve University on May 17. I’ve been here for the better part of four years, and I’ve had good experiences and bad experiences. In the next few days and weeks I’ll try to write what I thought of this place. I’ll start, today, with classes.

Favorite classes

  • EECS 290 – Introduction to game design/development. (And no, it’s not because my professor for this class is on Facebook and probably knows when I post stuff and thus probably reads this blog.) This class was a throw-in this semester, but it turned out to be a very good class for a few reasons.

    First, it was just plain fun. Being able to write in C#/XNA was a big part of the fun. XNA is a very well thought-out framework, and I’ve been using C# for almost four years, so it was incredibly intuitive to just dive in. The assignments for the class were fun to think about, fun to write and mess with while writing, and really fun to show to friends and family.

    Second, it was really informative. For the first time, I used inheritance intelligently, and was forced to come up with really good object-oriented designs, something I hadn’t run into yet. Also, while I used to look at a game and wonder how it was made, now I can look at a game and know what’s going on, at least on a conceptual level.

    In essence, 290 was a class I almost didn’t take, and I’m so glad I did. In a semester full of homework, projects and other stuff, this class had the assignments I looked forward to doing.

  • EECS 393 – Introduction to software engineering. As much as I complain about projects when I’m near the end of them and I’m running low on sleep and such, I really like project-oriented classes, and this one had the second biggest project I had during my time at Case – a web application and service which turned into my senior project. During lectures we discussed stuff like version control, development techniques, project management techniques and other stuff that was genuinely useful to know as I enter the workforce.
  • EECS 341 – Introduction to databases. Databases are one of my favorite topics in computer science, and the project for this class (really my first real project where we had some creative control) was really fun too. The professor for this class was hysterical (although I don’t think he meant to be). During lectures we covered really interesting topics, ranging from the high level topics like SQL to the low level topics like how databases are stored on hard disks.
  • Honorable mention: EECS 391 (Introduction to Artificial Intelligence), EECS 325 (Introduction to networking), POSC 370G (U.S. Intelligence and National Security)

Least favorite classes

  • PHIL 304 – Engineering ethics. Complete waste of time. We spent half the semester talking about medical ethics and the other half discussing what people thought in the 1400s. I think ethics are important, but it’s not worth having a class over.
  • ENGL 398 – Technical writing. We read some interesting books in this class that dealt with freedom of information, but the final project and some of the homeworks (resume updating, etc.) left much to be desired. Waking up at 8:30 on Mondays to go to that pointless lecture was not appreciated. (The highlight of those lectures: when my future game design professor talked about (what else) creating video games.)
  • EECS 314 – Computer architecture. I’m not sure why CSes are required to take this course, but it really wasn’t all that useful to me. It did help bump up my GPA though – the computer engineers sure know how to bring a curve down.
  • Honorable mention: EECS 233 (Introduction to data structures), MATH 224 (Differential equations), every SAGES class

Best professors

  • Chris Butler, MATH 122. This guy provided as easy of a transition from high school to college as anyone could ask for. Tests were challenging, but fair, and there was ample review time. Lectures were very entertaining and useful.
  • Marc Buchner, EECS 290. The best professors are the ones that are passionate about their subject and passionate about teaching. Professor Buchner was both – his laptop had Half Life 2, Flight Simulator and other games installed, but he also was good at explaining concepts in class that could have been difficult. He also did something no other professor did during my time at Case: a live suggestion session. Very brave.
  • Andy Podgurski, EECS 393. Professor Podgurski was really knowledgeable about the industry, and when teaching software engineering that’s pretty important. Also enjoyed his dry sense of humor – it always came when you weren’t expecting it.
  • Honorable mention: M. Cather Simpson, CHEM 111; Jiong Yang, EECS 341; Jing Li, EECS 340, EECS 343

What are some other lists you’d like to see? Let me know and I’ll try and post them.

The launchpad in New York

The big story that emerged out of baseball this weekend is that the new Yankee Stadium is a launchpad. Buster Olney, a guy who I normally agree with, wrote the article I linked, and he does give some pretty hard evidence that the new stadium is homer-friendly: in the first four official games, plus the first two unofficial games, there have been 28 home runs (the article was from yesterday morning, the Indians and Yankees totaled 3 home runs yesterday). For those of you keeping track at home, that’s more than four home runs a game. (To put this in perspective: in the 2007 season, 4,957 home runs were hit in Major League baseball games during the regular season. That’s 30 teams, playing 162 games, divided by two for overlap (someone correct me if my math is wrong, but I think I’m right) to total 2430 games. This means that in 2007, there was an average of just about two home runs per game.)

But here’s a thought: ever considered the fact that the Yankees pitching (and the Indians pitching, to a lesser extent, for that matter) is just bad? Remember the Indians of the late 90s? Albert Belle, Manny Ramirez, Jim Thome, Eddie Murray, Matt Williams and others led the Indians to winning seasons because of their offense. The pitchers consisted of starters like past-his-prime Orel Hershiser, flash-in-the-pan Jaret Wright, that-guy-from-Geneva Brian Anderson, past-his-prime-part-deux Dennis Martinez and others. (Oh yeah, I almost forgot not-even-steroids-can-save-you-now Jason Grimsley.) In the bullpen, Paul Assenmacher (probably the best of the bunch), Eric “Ker” Plunk…and the biggest goat of them all, Jose Mesa.

Anyone noticing a trend here? In the 90s, Jacobs Field was a hitters park because the Indians lineup had at least two Hall-of-Famers, probably three. The guys I mentioned above have over 2000 home runs between them. They know how to hit.

But what happened in the 2000s? The Indians got some pitching! CC Sabathia, Cliff Lee, Jake Westbrook, Bartolo Colon, and others forced opposing offenses to manufacture runs the old fashioned way, because you weren’t going to hit many home runs off of these guys. On the other side, since the Indians could no longer afford Hall of Fame power, they settled for the likes of Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez, Travis Hafner, etc. Grady Sizemore is the only one out of that group who might hit 500 home runs in his career, and he isn’t even a power hitter! With good pitching on that side of the ball, and back-to-earth hitting on the other, Jacobs Progressive Field has become a pitchers park.

Now back to Yankee Stadium. First of all, it’s early. This stadium will probably be standing in the Bronx for another fifty years. That’s 8100 4050 games, assuming the Yankees never make the playoffs. You can’t judge how the ball jumps off the bat based on four games. The wind might have been weird for that series, space aliens might have taken an interest, who knows. The point is, the sample size is too small to make such generalizations.

Secondly, I know this might be hard for Yankees fans to believe, but it’s possible that your pitching just isn’t that good. On Saturday, during the Indians’ 22-4 drubbing of the Yankees, Indians hitters teed off against Wang (whose sinker is completely flat), Claggett (who was making his major league debut), Ramirez and Veras. Of the six home runs, three of them went to right field, and three of them went to left field. If the ball carries so much to right field, why did the Indians have no problem hitting them to left? (The hitters that hit them to left were DeRosa, Choo and Hafner. Choo and Hafner are left-handed, so they hit the ball the other way, and Choo hit his to left-center, a longer shot.) And if the ball was carrying in both directions, why didn’t the Yankees hit six home runs and score 22 runs?

Occam’s razor suggests that the solution to this problem is that the Yankees pitching was just worse than the Indians on Saturday. Before we go jumping to the conclusions “it’s the park, it’s the park! There’s no way they could spend $300 million on free agents and still stink! Who are they, the Mets?”, just remember that we’re four games in, and the new Yankee Stadium has a lot more games left to be played.

EDIT: Math correction.

National holiday

If there’s one day that I think should be set aside and remembered, it’s today. And no, I don’t mean Tax Day.

The reason today should be remembered is because today, 62 years ago, one man changed the world.

What Jackie Robinson did for baseball is well-known – baseball already has a holiday dedicated to him. Every year, on April 15, tributes are held in ballparks all across the major leagues. The last few years, players have worn #42 as a tribute. On every day that’s not April 15, #42 is retired all across baseball and isn’t worn by anyone (except Mariano Rivera, who wore it before the number was retired and is allowed to wear it thanks to a Grandfather Clause).

Let’s not forget though, that Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier 16 years before Martin Luther King, Jr. marched on Washington, 20 years before Thurgood Marshall became a Supreme Court justice, 20 years before an African-American was elected Mayor of a major city (Cleveland, oddly enough), and 61 years before the first African-American President.

Baseball is America’s game because after the color barrier was broken in baseball, the rest of the country followed. Jackie Robinson made it that way, because he was the first step in making it accessible to everyone. He was a hero not only because of the way he played (a .311 career hitter; 1518 hits in just ten years; 19 steals of home in his career, all of them straight steals; the first African-American elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame), but because of the way he carried himself on and off the field. With fans shouting racial slurs, the media scrutinizing his every move and the entire world waiting for him to mess up, he made it impossible to find anything to dislike about him. In a world of today’s high-paid, high-arrogance, high-maintenance athletes like Terrell Owens, Chad Johnson, Milton Bradley, Alex Rodriguez, etc., Jackie Robinson seems like a saint.

There aren’t many people who could have done what he did. Not only did he have a great career on and off the field, he had to have a great career on and off the field. If he hadn’t, the “experiment” would have been over as quickly as it started.

It’s for all those reasons that Jackie Robinson is my favorite baseball player of all time. He wasn’t only a great player; he was a great father, a great statesman, and a great man. He paved the way for African-Americans to play baseball, basketball, and football; he paved the way for other African-Americans to have equal rights in the United States; he paved the way for other African-Americans to lead our country. If that doesn’t deserve a national holiday, I don’t know what does.

As a final note, there’s a quote at the new Citi Field, by Jackie Robinson. (He was a Brooklyn Dodger to start, which roughly translates into the New York Mets of today.) The quote is as follows, and in my opinion, is exactly the type of life we should strive to lead and the type of life he led:

A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.

It’s the end of the world and we know it

As you might have heard, the Indians are 0-3. While I’m not happy about it, as many of you are, I had some observations about the opening series that weren’t all bad.

  • Don’t panic. The Indians have lost three in a row before, and they’ll lose three in a row again. The only difference is that here, we’re starting the season with three losses.
  • The Indians pitching is inconsistent at best, but anything happens in Texas. That’s a home-run friendly park, with an outstanding offense, with Indians pitchers that may not quite have found their form.
  • Travis Hafner looks orders of magnitude better than last year. He doesn’t quite have the results yet in terms of hits (only three in three games), but he hasn’t struck out very much (once, if I’m not mistaken), and he is having some decent at-bats. He’s coming along.
  • No errors so far. The Indians haven’t made any errors in the first few games, which to me is a good sign.
  • I’ve liked what I’ve seen so far from Ben Francisco and Shin-Soo Choo, and Trevor Crowe more confident than a timid little rookie at the plate.

I’m headed to the home opener here in about twenty minutes, so I’ll try to bring in a win. Until next time, go Tribe!

Opening day live blog

Just a heads-up that I plan on live-blogging today’s game vs. the Texas Rangers. Check back here shortly after the game for my full report. Below is my full report.

Show the blog

Opening night

Right now, I’m sitting on my couch in my apartment, waiting for the TV to switch from SportsCenter to Baseball Tonight to the very first pitch of the season. It’s the Phillies vs. the Braves, which isn’t a matchup I have much interest in, but baseball is baseball, and watching tonight’s game will get me three hours closer to tomorrow afternoon.

The expert picks are in at ESPN, and it seems the trendy picks are the Rays in the AL and the Phillies in the NL. While I think the Rays are a good team, I’m expecting a bit of a letdown there – not only is the entire division around the Rays stronger this year, but you don’t get years like the ones the Rays had in 2008 every year. Boston made some minor acquisitions, including John Smoltz, but have largely stood pat. They’ll be relying on Mike Lowell to make a full comeback, David Ortiz to shed a few years and become the David Ortiz of old (not likely) and Dustin Pedroia to keep hitting like he’s NOT 5’9″. We’ll see.

The Yankees are certainly the team that’s most improved, and as long as they don’t stumble too hard out of the gate it’s hard to see them not making the playoffs and once there, winning it all. That said, I thoroughly look forward to Grady Sizemore hitting the first ever home run in the new Yankee Stadium off of CC Sabathia, on the way to a 15-0 Indians win.

As for the Indians, I think they had a good camp with no major injury setbacks and have a chance to have a good season and surprise some people in October. I think it’ll be crucial to get off to a good start (i.e. a winning month in April), and while there are a lot of factors and things that could go wrong, the Indians have a lot of depth available at AAA Columbus. The important thing will be for the Indians to know when to use it.

In the national league, I think its more wide open. The Phillies are being picked by a lot of experts as repeats, but I think its unrealistic to jump to that conclusion, especially with Cole Hamels’ injury. Even though I picked them to repeat as NL champions in January, Cole Hamels’ injury changes a lot, and it’ll be important for the Phillies to get off to a decent start and hold their own until their ace gets back.

In just 36 hours, though, every team will have played at least once and we will have began to watch this speculation turn into results. Here’s to a great season!