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Sunday, January 29, 2006

more graf archaeology

new 19th @ mission - 1
Originally uploaded by shooGu.
One of the many things that I'd planned to do but haven't done in the new year is get around the city, check out some of the graf I've only seen on flickr, and take some photos.

Indeed, the last graf shots I took were nearly two months ago, and--like the majority of my shots--in our neighborhood.

Indeed, I already posted one of those shots here .

This is a wall that's among the handful on featured on, and soon after the grafarc proprietor commented that he'd posted the newest layer on the site. Take a look.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

a house mix

So many posts I've been meaning to do, and none of them done: a handful of finance-related ones, such as this WSJ article on Muni derivatives, or these Economist and Slate articles on the yield curve, or this Economist article on bond spreads in emerging markets--; updates on stuff I've been reading (finished "China Boy" and then "Mama Day"'; in the middle of Heilbronner's "Teachings from the Worldly Philosophy"; and since yesterday also into Vargas Llosa's "Feast of the Goat" and Bernstein's "Capital Ideas"); and also updates on what we've been doing in SF.

Now I'm back in TX for a longish weekend.  Maybe I'll get to some of those posts this weekend.

But for now, I'm listening right now to this mix, and wanted to share.  As I wrote some folks, I feel like I've been getting away from the music lately, esp house music.  This is a mix to get back into it.

It came via the 313 list.  The guy who posted it is a regular on there, and so I've listened to and loved some of the mixes he's got up on his site.  Take a look and listen.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Teleflip: text messages via e-mail

Since I got on Yahoo IM last fall, I've used it to occasionally to send text messages while sitting at the computer.

Here's a better solution for texting from your PC: Teleflip. I came across it via a TechCrunch entry titled, aptly, How did I not hear about Teleflip before now?. You can go there--TechCrunch is def worth poking around; it's the one tech blog I try to keep up with--but I'll just quote it in full:
Teleflip isn’t new but I had not heard about it until Noah Kagan at Facebook pinged me tonight to tell me about it. It is an incredibly simple way to send a text/sms message to any North American cell phone.
Teleflip™ started when the founder became increasingly frustrated at his inability to send text messages to friends’ cell phones from his PC. It was of course possible, but you had to know the cell phone provider, the correct domain name and the correct syntax for the email address. There had to be an easier way….Teleflip™ was born.
You do not even need to go to the site to use it. Simply email a message to [cellnumber] and the message is sent immediately (I received a test message in less than one minute). I will use this all the time. It is free and there is no advertising. If I were them I’d start adding advertising.
It is sort of odd that you don't need to even go to the site to use the service. I tested it by sending a txt to myself, and one to Anj. It works nicely.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

electric Miles / live jazz

I've finally emerged from the lull that set in soon after the New Year arrived, so look for some more posts. Just occurred to me today that one thing I should do with the next couple months--among the many other things I've planned--is to get up some of the entries I figured I'd do sooner or later, as well as post some of the links I've squirreled away here and there (primarily on, as of late).

In particular, look for some finance and economics posts, as I hopefully do some reading in those areas. Finally got that going yesterday, as I picked up a used copy of Heilbroner's Teachings from the Worldly Philosophy yesterday evening, and just now dropped by the public library to pick up another book by Heilbroner and Thurow, as well as a slim book by Chernow. Also, fortuitously ran into PK over at Berkeley yesterday afternoon, and he had a bunch more (and heavier) this. And also ordered the Bernstein boxed set this morning.

But for now, another music post--jazz this time. I was flipping through this week's SFWeekly over dinner, and came across this short column about a live recording of the electric Miles Davis quintet, called The Cellar Door Sessions 1970:
Most of us know Davis' fusion period from In a Silent Way or Bitches Brew, but this recording of four nights at a small D.C. club is a rawer experience: Funk, rock, Latin percussion, distorted trumpet, and extended, chaotic jams all plunge into the same volcano.
This reminded me of two things that came up recently. One, back in November we went to see a nice documentary at the Red Vic titled "Miles Electric - A different kind of Blue." Best part of it was seeing all the players interviewed and reminiscing. One of them was a revelation to me--cool sax man Gary Bartz, who's also on the The Cellar Door Sessions. The first I'd come across him was last year, after illegitimately downloading a collection of tracks compiled by 4 Hero. The burner among them was one called "Music is my sanctuary"...credited to Gary Bartz.

The other thing the Cellar Doors column reminded me of was the recent spate of live recorded jazz releases. There seemed to be a buzz in the jazz world with the release last year of two "new" sides: newly discovered recordings of Thelonious Monk with John Coltrane at Carnegie Hall from 1957, and of Coltrane's quartet at the Half Note from 1965.

There were two essays about those recording that caught my eye: one by Kaplan in Slate (how does the man know jazz as well as politics??), and another by Ratliff in the Times:

OK, enough for tonight, gotta roll.

Monday, January 09, 2006

music stuff: soul xmas mixtape, soul sides best of 2005, kelefa sanneh

Got away from doing any posts the past week.  Here are a handful of music links.

Anj and I spent part of the Friday before we left for Christmas vacation downtown shopping for some Christmas music. I didn't realize what a large subindustry that is. We ended up with something unpromisingly titled "Smooth Grooves: Sensual Christmas", but you can see that the tracklisting looks promising, and some of them were good.

It was only after Christmas that I checked in Mark Anthony Neal's blog and discovered that he had put together his own Soul Christmas Mix-Tape.

And it was after that that I checked in on Soul Sides, and found that he'd posted the mp3s: soul sides: THE SOUL CHRISTMAS MIXTAPE (A M.A.N./S.S. COLLABORATION) Unfort I didn't d/l them (for next year!) before he took them down.

I did grab some of his selections of the best tracks of 2005;
soul sides: BEST SONGS OF 2005 (#1-5) and soul sides: BEST SONGS OF 2005 (#6-10). Some of those tracks are still up, but not for much longer, I imagine.

A few of those tracks I'd heard during the year, and it nice to see them recognized: one of Common's tracks, the K-otix track, that remix of "1 Thing" that he put at #1.  But he also highlighted some tracks that I wouldn't have heard or at least recognized otherwise, like the Three 6 Mafia track or the Young Jeezy...just goes to show why Soul Sides is a regular stop for me. 

Speaking of Young Jeezy, that reminds me of a fascinating article by Kelefa Sanneh that ran a few months ago in the NYT: "Cracking The Code In Hip-Hop" .

You know you're somewhat removed from the streets when you're getting schooled on the latest in hip-hop semiotics via the Arts section of the NYT. But Sanneh's doing a good job bringing hip hop and R&B into the Times--it's why I always look for his byline.

BTW, Young Jeezy came in #1 on Sanneh's year-end list.

Monday, January 02, 2006

Michael Lewis takes on football

I was going to write something up about the weekend--our return to the Bay; NYE @ our place, Il Pirata, the 22-Fillmore, and the lounge; the trip earlier this evening to the Metreon to see "Casanova" (very much worth seeing, I thought!) But it's getting late, so I'm going to put all that off until tomorrow.

For now, just wanted to post the link to a long piece by Michael Lewis that ran in the NYT Mag one month ago:
Coach Leach Goes Deep, Very Deep
By MICHAEL LEWIS (NYT) 8821 words
Published: December 4, 2005

This came up in conversation with Gary while we were sitting on the patio at the Metreon, overlooking Yerba Buena Gardens. (An aside: it always amuses me to note that Yerba Buena translates to Good Herb.)

Michael Lewis came up because we were talking about Long-Term Capital Management, and Gary recalled that Lewis had written something about it.
This page mentions the article that Gary must have been referring to:
A New York Sunday Times article says the big trouble for LTCM started on July 17 when Salomon Smith Barney announced it was liquidating its dollar interest arbitrage positions: "For the rest of the that month, the fund dropped about 10% because Salomon Brothers was selling all the things that Long-Term owned." [The article was written by Michael Lewis, former Salomon bond trader and author of Liar's Poker. Lewis visited his former colleagues at LTCM after the crisis and describes some of the trades on the firm's books]
I've had "Liar's Poker" on the to-read list for the last few months. I might pick up "Moneyball" at some point also.

But back to the topic at hand: football. The "Coach Leach" article linked-to above is fascinating, and reveals that Lewis's next book is going to be about football. Not sure where I read that--perhaps in that issue of the Mag itself--where Lewis makes the point that football is perhaps the most complex sport ever invented, but there's little in the way of writing examining the game--as compared with baseball, in particular.

I needed to post this tonight, b/c I just checked tomorrow morning's TV schedule on Tivo, and Texas Tech's bowl game starts at 8am (PT). So consider reading through Lewis's article while you're watching Leach's off-the-hook offense at work. I might re-read it while doing so.

Lewis is an incredible writer--he not only makes the topic (football, specifically offense) interesting, he makes his hero to be quite a character.

Here's one excerpt with Leach's background (this is all after he became, and then quit being, a lawyer:

The last 20 years have been an odd journey, with coaching jobs at College of the Desert, Cal Poly, Iowa Wesleyan, Valdosta State and a European league team in Pori, Finland. His first year coaching Division 1 college football was 1997, at the University of Kentucky. He arrived from Valdosta State with the head coach, Hal Mumme, and turned the Kentucky offense from joke into juggernaut. The year before he arrived, Kentucky's quarterback passed for 967 yards. In Leach's first year, his quarterback, Tim Couch, threw for 3,884 yards; the year after that, Couch, who lasted for only a few disappointing years in the N.F.L., threw for 4,275 yards. After Kentucky, Leach moved to Oklahoma for a single season, 1999. That year Oklahoma went from 101st to 8th in the country in offensive scoring. Its quarterback, Josh Heupel, passed for 3,850 yards that season, which was 1,700 more than any quarterback in Oklahoma football history had thrown for in a season. The next year, running Leach's offense, Oklahoma won the national championship -- but by then Texas Tech had picked up the pattern and hired Leach to run its team. ''Mike was different,'' says Patty Ross, who has long served as an assistant to Texas Tech head football coaches and who didn't know what to make of this new one. ''We had always had West Texas guys. We always ran the ball here. The first time Mike's offense came out on the field everyone is like, Whoa. He has that play he calls the Ninja -- when they all line up on one end. I'm not sure anyone had ever seen the Ninja. It was just a shock effect. Mike's personality was like that, too."

Another excerpt, where Lewis describes some of Leach's offensive formations; it contains Lewis's thesis that Leach is changing the "geometry" of the game:
The big gaps between the linemen made the quarterback seem more vulnerable -- some defenders could seemingly run right between the blockers -- but he wasn't. Stretching out the offensive line stretched out the defensive line too, forcing the most ferocious pass rushers several yards farther from the quarterback. It also opened up wide passing lanes through which even a short quarterback could see the whole field clearly. Leach spread out his receivers and backs too. The look was more flag than tackle football: a truly fantastic number of players racing around trying to catch passes on every play, and a quarterback surprisingly able to keep an eye on all of them. This offense was, in effect, an argument for changing the geometry of the game.

I just recalled that after I read the Leach/Texas Tech piece, I looked up a previous NYT Mag Lewis piece, on Eli Manning:
The New York Times > Magazine > The Eli Experiment

Published: December 19, 2004
You have to love that the 2nd section of the essay is titled "Plato's Cave." Here's why:
The people, and the cameras, will follow every move Eli Manning makes. They will come away feeling as if they have achieved a fairly exact accounting of what Eli Manning did as a quarterback. And that is an interesting thing: an exact accounting is exactly what is not possible.

The millions of people watching the game on television -- the beneficiaries of 13 camera angles and endless commentary from smart people, many of whom played the game -- in a way have it the worst. The man who oversees the cameras, Richie Zyontz of Fox Sports, explains that ''the guys who work the cameras are trying to make a nice picture. The risk is always that it's too tight.'' Focusing on what grips a television audience -- facial expressions, violence, emotion, pretty women -- the camera will miss the subtleties of the game: the missed blocks, the badly run pass routes.

The naked eye, no matter how well trained, isn't much better. From the chaos on the field it isn't always obvious, even to official scorekeepers, who did what. The Indianapolis Star recently published an article showing that the statistics compiled by the Colts coaching staff -- from the tapes of the games -- were alarmingly different from the official records kept during the season. The scorekeepers, for instance, credited the Colts linebacker Cato June with 59 solo tackles and 15 assists; from tapes the Colts coaches know that Cato June had 49 solo tackles and 40 assists. If the human eye can miss something as central to the action as a tackle, how can it be expected to comprehend the dozens of things that occur away from the ball? Statistics -- the answer in other sports -- don't help all that much. Football statistics do not capture the performance of individual football players as cleanly as, say, baseball statistics capture the performance of individual baseball players. No player ever does anything on a football field that isn't dependent on some other player. The individual achievements of football players are often, in effect, hidden in plain sight.

But here's the other interesting thing: this hidden game can be seen, though not by the average viewer. Shot unceremoniously from two pillboxes on the stadium's upper rim, the videotape made by the Giants coaching staff frames all 22 players on the field. The view the coaches want is the view from the cheapest seat in the house. ''When former coaches get into the broadcast booth, that's the first thing they want to see, the all-22, the eye in the sky,'' Zyontz says. The coaches want to see that shot because they know it is the only shot that will enable them to figure out who did what -- and assign credit and blame -- on any given football play.

''After a game,'' Coughlin says, ''you obviously know what happened. But a lot of times you don't know why it happened.'' If even the coach, who, during a game, is privy to overhead still photos of the action and countless conversations with players, doesn't understand who did what, what hope is there for a mere spectator? In some strange way, until you see the tape, you haven't seen the game.

Giants Stadium, on this afternoon of Eli Manning's debut, is Plato's Cave. The millions of people watching the game are inside the cave, staring at shadows on the wall. The shadows are distortions of the reality outside the cave, treated, erroneously, as the thing itself. No matter how he plays, some part of Eli Manning's game, like his personality, will remain hidden from public understanding. It may be a trivial part; it may be the telling part -- the point is that no one can know for sure if the Giants have given their money to the right guy.