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It’s often said that you can tell how good a baseball team will be by the quarter mark of the season, or after 40 games have been played. The Cleveland Indians are now 43 games into the season, and I already declared the season over on May 18th, when they were 15-21; as of the time of this writing (Tuesday night), they’re 16-27 (although, on a happier note, they’re winning tonight). (Note: as of Thursday night, they’re 17-28.)

It’s not like the Indians were off to a promising start and the recent six game losing streak killed their hope. But the fact is, the Indians being 15-21 was, all things considered, pretty good, and maybe better than we expected. But after losing their rising star shortstop and established center fielder, the Indians lack experience both on the field and in management.

Sounds like a great time for a quarter season report card, right? Read on, after the jump.

Born to run: a running diary of 24’s last hour

Jack Bauer's been saving the world for 190 hours. After tonight's final two hours, he's done...at least, until the feature film.

Jack Bauer's been saving the world for 190 hours. After tonight's final two hours, he's done...at least, until the feature film.

If you’re a fan of the show, you know that tonight, the revolutionary show 24‘s clock ticks its final two hours. I’ve already made my feelings clear regarding its cancelling, and during the last few weeks I haven’t been watching the show live every week; it’s been preempted by the fantastic Big Bang Theory, which, cruelly, also has its season finale tonight. However, Big Bang Theory is just starting its run and will be back next year; 24 will not. As the first show I really started following as a teenager (my parents didn’t love me enough to get cable when I was a kid), it deserves my attention on its final night. Does that mean I won’t do a running diary? Of course not! My running diary of the final hour of perhaps the greatest show of the 2000s is after the jump. (SPOILERS. If you don’t want to read spoilers, don’t click “Continue reading”.)

Drink up me hearties, yo ho: the case for piracy

The fact that I’m still referencing Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat three years after it was required reading in my ENGL 398 class means, unfortunately, that I was wrong: ENGL 398 wasn’t completely useless.

Zero to 1984 in just six years

There’s a passage in George Orwell’s 1949 classic Nineteen Eighty-Four which reads:

Then the face of Big Brother faded away again, and instead the three slogans of the Party stood out in bold capitals:




If you haven’t read the novel (and if you haven’t, you really should), these slogans are designed with a double meaning, with one meaning being something the citizens of Oceania could rally behind (fight a war for the promise of peace, being free isn’t really all that great and fascism is the way to go, and stay in line and do as you’re told and you’ll be good, respectively) and the other being something the Party, the all-powerful fascist government believes and practices (keep your nation at war and you’ll have domestic peace, give people the illusion of freedom and they’ll be your slaves, and keep people thinking they’re strong enough to remain ignorant, respectively).

You might wonder where I’m going with this, given that the image above this text is the Facebook logo. I was thinking about a way to address the latest Facebook controversy. Originally seeding from changes announced at Facebook’s F8, the controversy being that some of Facebook’s new features make it easier than ever to get your information everywhere on the web. This topic’s been covered by just about everyone else, it seems, including Mark Cuban. It’s even brought my colleague and company’s CTO out of blogosphere hiding.

Not wanting to steal anyone’s thunder, I thought long and hard (I originally wrote the joke but opted not to; if someone makes the joke in the comments I won’t hold it against them) about how to address a new angle of this controversy. Something reminded me of Nineteen Eighty-Four, my favorite novel, and I was reminded of those slogans. Now, it pains me to say that I didn’t remember all three off the top of my head (note to self: drop everything, reread Nineteen Eighty-Four this weekend), and interestingly, the one I didn’t remember was the one that was the most interesting to me: FREEDOM IS SLAVERY.

In the book, FREEDOM IS SLAVERY assumes that if someone believes they’re free in their current environment, they will do your bidding because there’s no reason for them to leave. Let’s look at Facebook by comparison: here’s a site that gives you your friends, your entertainment, your ability to communicate. A lot of times it seems like literally everyone is on Facebook: events are planned, photos are shared, conversations are conversed. If you’re on the outside of Facebook looking in (an experience I had from the fall of 2007 until the summer of 2008) it’s a struggle to coordinate with everyone else who isn’t on Facebook. Therefore, being on Facebook is the freedom to communicate and share with your friends.

But it comes at a price. When you sign up for Facebook, you agree to their terms of service and privacy policy, which state, more or less, that anything you post on Facebook becomes property of Facebook. In other words, your freedom isn’t really freedom; it’s slavery. Your freedom on Facebook is completely reliant on Facebook’s infrastructure and their desire to get you to stay on Facebook. That is, if Mark Zuckerberg got up tomorrow and said, “hey, you know what, I’m tired of Facebook, I’m shutting it down” tomorrow, you’d be out of luck. If he got up tomorrow and said, “MR. GORBACHEV, TEAR DOWN THIS WALL…of privacy” and made everything public, you’d be out of luck, unless you opted to remove your account.

Like the Party in Nineteen Eighty-Four, Facebook knows the power of a large group believing that they’re free, and that’s why they give you those granular privacy controls, all that help configuring them, and even the little previews that show you how everyone else sees your information. They know that the illusion of control is often powerful enough, if not more powerful, than control itself. (That’s not to say Facebook’s privacy controls don’t normally work; they do. Otherwise, the illusion of control would be over as soon as you hit the “Preview my profile as…” button.) And lastly, and most importantly, they know the strategic, monetary and intrinsic value of having all that information about you, your friends, and everyone else.

So when Facebook announced these new “Instant Personalization” features at F8, they may not have known that the backlash would be this severe. But they not only knew the value of getting a bunch of money from Microsoft, Yelp and Pandora; they knew how much those companies valued your information so they could engage you more effectively, and they knew that these sites would be gathering still more information. It’s not in Facebook’s best interest to guard your information zealously; rather, the best thing they should do is guard it enough so that you don’t know it’s being traded.

What does all that mean? It means that by signing up for a Facebook account, you are at their mercy for if and when they decide to alter their strategy. If that’s the sort of thing that bothers you immediately, delete your account permanently. However, if you trust Facebook even a smidgen that they’re not gearing up for a war with Eastasia, trust that while your information isn’t exactly static, thus far Facebook isn’t selling your e-mail address and phone number to spammers.

But as Jim said, the most surefire way to ensure something doesn’t end up on Facebook or with an affiliate is: never post it in the first place. Always always always think before you post, and if you choose to post controversial profanity-laden rants, risque pictures of the party last night, or complaints about your boss, consider putting them on a medium you control. (And no, that medium isn’t Twitter.)

Don’t say “it ain’t so”, you know the time is now

It’s just not their year.

The Indians lost a game to the Rays tonight in 11 innings, but worse and more importantly, they lost their starting shortstop to a broken right left forearm. My guess is, best case, Cabrera comes back around the All-Star Break.

What ended up ending Cabera’s night, week, month and half of the season was kind of a freak play. The Indians had the shift on for Hank Blalock, who hit a ground ball up the middle. As Cabrera, diving from the first base side of second base, and Peralta, diving from the third base side, the two collided. Peralta was shaken up but stayed in the game, while Cabrera had to be carted off the field.

A lot of fans are blaming Peralta for running into Cabrera. The problem is that fans also blame Peralta when he doesn’t dive for the ball. Ever since Aaron Boone left the Indians, Peralta has become the designated scapegoat for the Indians (unless you’re talking to those weirdos who think it was Casey Blake). But let’s look at the facts: over the last three years (since Boone left), Peralta’s numbers are .264/57/258. Granted, those aren’t exactly Pujolsian numbers, but Peralta hasn’t been the real problem, especially when you compare his numbers to Sizemore’s over that same time period: .262/75/245. Peralta hasn’t spent any time on the DL, and he went through a position change last season. Give the guy a break.

Despite that injury the Indians were able to take the lead thanks to some clutch hitting by Jhonny Peralta (see? SEE?), Luis Valbuena and Trevor Crowe. This is all ironic because the three scapegoats in this game are also the three Indians who managed to produce runs. Crowe’s moment came in the 8th, when a 2-out sinking line drive was hit his way in center field. Crowe came in, dove, caught the ball…and then dropped it. The tying run scored, opening the door for extra innings. Can’t really do much about that. While I don’t doubt Sizemore makes that play, there aren’t many starting center fielders besides Sizemore who DO make that play and Crowe made a solid effort, particularly indoors.

After Cabrera left, Luis Valbuena played shortstop the rest of the game. While he’s a defensive wizard at second base, he leaves a lot to be desired at shortstop and his continued play there is only hurting his already fragile confidence. The play of the game came in the eleventh, with the Rays batting in their last at-bat with one out. John Jaso hit a slow chopper to in the hole towards short. Valbuena took an awkward route to the ball, looking initially like he wasn’t hustling but really he just didn’t get a very good jump on it. After gloving it, he double clutched before unloading a seed to first. Jaso was called safe. While he was actually out by a hair, the play was closer than it should have been, closer than it would have been had Cabrera or even Peralta been playing short.

Two batters later, the Rays squeezed home the run when Jamey Wright was able to glove the bunt but chucked it over the head of Marson on a do-or-die play. Game over.

Look, I want the Indians to win just as bad as anyone. And losing hurts. But this isn’t the Indians of 1995. It’s not even the Indians of 2005 or 2007. These guys are learning every game (with the exception of Valbuena at short, I guess) and there’s no question that they’re trying. And there have been some bright spots on this season so far, including the return of Jake Westbrook and Fausto Carmona.

But for the Indians to win this year, everything had to go right. Injuries couldn’t hurt the Indians much (no pun intended), the starting pitching had to be good, the defense had to be lockdown and the offense had to be as good as or better than last year. So far, only the starting pitching has been good. The defense, while making among the fewest errors in the league, have given up more unearned runs than most other teams in the league. And the offense…well, let’s just say that when Russell Branyan teed off for the first time against Kansas City the other night, it was the Indians’ first home run by a first baseman, catcher or left fielder. Between them.

The 2010 Indians are young and inexperienced and it shows almost nightly. And really, what other options do the Indians have? Sure, there’s Lonnie Chisenhall knocking the cover off at AAA Columbus, but as we’ve seen particularly in the last couple years, AAA success does not translate into major league success. Sure, there’s high-priced or medium-priced veterans, but the Indians are on pace to draw less fans this year than any season in the Jacobs/Progressive Field era. Baseball is a business; something has to pay the bills.

I love baseball enough that despite the karma not falling the Indians’ way this season (I blame the Cavs for that Z trade – karma like that can cross the street), I’ll keep watching. But it’s not their year.

Maybe next year.

Our great computers fill the hallowed halls

It’s not often you’ll see me defend Apple on this blog. As a whole, Steve Jobs and his gang of merry men (here’s looking at you, Phil Schiller and Scott Forstall) are annoying in the way they create products, present those products, and immediately claim that those products are the greatest thing since sliced bread and that EVERYONE needs to get out and buy them. I’m not a huge fan of companies taking direct shots at other companies (with a few exceptions; see Verizon vs. AT&T) and the PC vs. Mac ads are a great example of classic Apple advertising: comical, but at the very least misleading and some just outright lies. (It should be noted, however, that those ads might work. I currently own an iPod 5G (with video), iPod Touch, iPod Shuffle and iPad, work every day on a MacBook pro, and have spent a small fortune on songs from the iTunes store. I’ll go stick my face in a food processor now.)

But the recent war of words and action between Apple and Adobe is a little different. A lot of the Internet is bemoaning the fact that Apple is not only blocking Flash on the iPhone OS devices, but it’s also using its admittedly Draconian App Store policy to block Flash-developed, Objective-C compiled apps because they use a third party API or SDK. I, however, am on the other side. More after the jump.

LeBron’s egg, potential parting shots and departure

It might have been his last game; he played like it was his first game.

LeBron: "Really wish I was at home watching Gilmore Girls right now instead of having to phone in this game..."

LeBron: "Really wish I was at home watching Gilmore Girls right now instead of having to phone in this game..."

LeBron James was, as Bill Simmons put it, perplexingly and indefensibly awful last night. 15 points, 7 assists, 6 rebounds betray how poorly he actually played, which was like it was his first playoff game ever and he was afraid of the moment. Perhaps the most telling sign of how bad he was: with time left in the fourth quarter, fans were walking out of what, let’s be honest, was most likely his last game in Cleveland this season and potentially (more so than ever) his last game as a Cleveland Cavalier.

After the game, LeBron had every right to be frustrated. Angry. Disappointed. Instead, after being asked about his game, he said, “Nah, I’m not disappointed. I’m never disappointed in my play. I feel like I could do more, but I’m not disappointed at all.”

No big deal. Easily the biggest game of the Cavs season in probably the most important season in the Cavs’ franchise, but hey, no big deal. He also added this gem:

I spoil a lot of people with my play. When you have a bad game here or there, you’ve had three bad games in a seven-year career, then it’s easy to point that out. So you got to be better.

I put a lot of pressure on myself to be out there and be the best player on the court, and when I’m not I feel bad for myself because I’m not going out there and doing the things I can do. But I don’t hang my head low or make any excuses about anything that may be going on, because that’s not the type of player or person I am.

A lot to digest here. First, it’s certainly been more than three bad games, but never on this stage and never because it seemed like he wasn’t even trying. Second, having a bad game is forgivable: everyone has bad nights. Putting in poor effort is never acceptable, and that’s what happened last night. (Back in 2007, the Indians had some bad nights in the playoffs, but I was never concerned with their effort like I am the Cavs’ or LeBron’s.)

(Sidenote: I’m currently watching a Rachel Nichols SportsCenter report about Cleveland’s “fragile state of mind” following that loss and anticipating a do-or-die game six. And game five was “no big deal.” Really?)

But the major implication here was that Cleveland fans are “spoiled”. Sure, I can see that. Here’s a franchise who’s never won a championship, whose intra-city sister franchises (the Indians and Browns) haven’t won since 1948 and 1964, respectively. But hey, LeBron’s been MVP twice in the last two years, right? The Cavs have put up 60-win seasons twice in the last two years, right? Isn’t that enough?

If you’re LeBron, all you have to say is “hey, I had a bad game”, or “hey, my elbow hurt”, or “someone switched my Nikes with REEBOKS!” Don’t blame the fans for expecting too much; don’t dismiss your poor play as no big deal.

Last year, the thing that got under my skin about this team is that there was this “One Goal” mantra where it always seemed like the players were thinking “which finger should I put my ring on? I know tradition is the ring finger, but I think it’d look sweet on my pinky” rather than “hey, Orlando’s making a lot of threes, maybe we should do something about — POINTER FINGER.” This year, the mantra is “All for One”, which I guess is supposed to mean that everyone on the team and in the city is working towards one goal. But what’s that goal really been: a championship or keeping LeBron happy?

If it ends up that the Cavs lose game 6, and LeBron leaves, it won’t just be another athlete in a long string of athletes to grow up in Cleveland, say how much they love it, become a superstar, and then promptly say “so long, Cleveland, it’s been real” before exiting. It’s kind of like how Packers fans must have felt last year when Favre signed with a division rival, only instead of leaving at the (what was supposed to be) the twilight of his career and completing his legacy, here’s a guy leaving in his prime after perhaps his worst game as a professional. It’s like if Obama was elected, then said “hahaha, I’m leaving for France, see you all on the flip.”

The best case scenario here is that LeBron and the Cavs win game 6 and 7, prolonging their existence in the playoffs, and making last night’s game just a minor blip on LeBron’s record. But let’s face it: after their showing last night, it’s an unlikely scenario.