Saturday, October 24, 2009

Read More (Please)

The Read more ⇒ link at the bottom of many front page posts is a Blogger feature that Liz Castro alerted me to. I'll let you go to her page to read all the gory details, but if you use a third-party template be sure to read all the way through to my comment, which tells you how to activate the feature in your blog.

If you want it. I'm not entirely convinced it's useful, at least for a blog like this. True, it lets the casual reader see more articles in less space, but as my click logger quickly shows, most people don't look at this blog every day for the Pulitzer quality prose — they directly click to a a specific post (or maybe this one) because a search engine told them help was at hand. Those people never see the link, since they automatically see the whole post.

So tell me, mythical reader of my every word, does that little Read more ⇒ link do anything for you?

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

RSS Feed Template

When we designed the new version of our church home page, we constructed a page where we collect sermons. It turns out that this page, and the associated sermons, gets hit a lot. I've been told that the hits match the biblical texts specified by the liturgical calendar for upcoming Sundays, which suggests that most of the traffic is pastors looking for sermon ideas.

Nevertheless, it's useful for a congregation to put its sermons on the web, because, let's face it, the sermon is the biggest chunk of time in a service, and is most likely to give you an idea of the church's, or at least the pastor's, theology. So we want to publicize the sermons as widely as possible.

One way to do this is to construct an RSS Feed. Once you have one, people can link to it as, say, a Live Bookmark, or with a feed aggregator. You can also export the feed to other sites. For example, we've set up a church newsletter blog, and you'll see the titles of the last few sermons on the right-hand side.

Setting up an RSS feed isn't all that hard. I was able to do it using the prescription in Elizabeth Castro's HTML, XHTML & CSS, with a few modifications needed to get the thing to properly validate. I'm putting a template for the feed reader here, as much for my use as anyone else's:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Doubly Bad Seasons

At the end of this season, the Washington Nationals finished as the worst team in baseball, with a record of 59-103 (0.364). To add insult to injury, the Baltimore Orioles finished as the worst team in the American League, 64-98 (0.395). So if you had the misfortune to watch all the Orioles and Nationals games on MASN, you saw a combined record of 123-201 (0.380).

This set me to wondering how bad this really is. In most two-team markets, when one team is up, the other one is down, right? Well, not always. I went looking through the season standings in Retrosheet, searching for two teams in the same market that finished at the bottom of the division.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Pretty Good Average

June 12, 2011: This post completely fraks up the calculation of David Smyth's Base Runs statistic. I've now fixed that, and added the data from 2009 and 2010. You can find all the updated tables here.

I'm a big fan of Sabermetrics, the use of statistical information to understand how baseball teams win games. Part of this is my love for the game, part my natural tilt toward numerical data, and part is that I've always enjoyed reading Bill James's work (full disclosure: he and I overlapped at KU, though we never met). Not to mention the fact that, from my desk, I can see several editions of both The Baseball Encyclopedia and Total Baseball.

But … in the old days, we judged batters by average (> 0.300 is good), home runs (> 30), and runs batted in (> 100). That was it. These stats have some problems: batting average doesn't tell you how many times a guy gets on base by walking, you can only bat in runs when your teammates are already on base, and as for home runs — well, OK, home runs are a pretty fair way to determine part of a players value.

The inadequacy of the traditional trio of AVG/HR/RBI led to the development of new measures for player performance: On-base percentage, slugging average, runs created, etc., etc. The problem is that off the top of my head I don't know what's a good number for any of these statistics. OK, a slugging percentage of 0.900 is better than 0.400, but is a player who slugs 0.500 a power hitter, or just Joe Shlabotnik?

Sunday, October 04, 2009

How to be a Computer Expert

I really should just bookmark all of xkcd: