It takes a Silver Mine to make a Gold Mine.

Mexican Proverb

Taffy in the Window #1

On This Date: Photo taken 12/18/2002

This, folks, is the first photograph I ever took with a digital camera. It’s a bit over-exposed, but my first photos are rarely this good….

Fifteen years ago today I wandered into Best Buy to check out the digital camera selection. I took home an Olympus C-50. Can’t say how I decided to buy that specific camera, though the enormous 5 MP sensor was doubtless a consideration. So, probably, was the fact that the camera wasn’t fully automatic.

My expectations were low, but it turned out to be a pretty good camera–I took about 5000 pix with it. Like all my pocket cameras, it eventually broke; its last outing was to Lake Michigan in the spring of 2005.

Much of what I remember about the Best Buy trip is that a friend from work was also looking at cameras that day. His National Guard unit had just been notified that they’d soon be called up, and we talked about that while we shopped. Jeff expected he’d be maintaining the same sort of electronics networking equipment for the army that he’d been doing for us.

A few weeks later he was gone to the Gulf and we never saw him again. For all I know he’s still running an army computer network.

More often than not my first photograph with any camera is of Taffy. This is largely because I unbox the device in our living room, where Taf’s generally sitting in the picture window. She’s convenient, in good light, and photogenic. I frame the photo and snap a few frames.

Joan’s my next-most-common first-photo subject, for much the same reasons.

For the record: My first digital photograph was taken with a flip-phone. Photos taken with that “camera” seem not to have survived.

Number of pix taken on various December 18ths: 117
Year of oldest photo: 2002

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 31
  • 3 Stars: 66
  • 4 Stars: 15
  • 5 Stars: 5

I'll Be Home for Christmas

On This Date: Photo taken 12/15/1971

A bunch of G.I.s at Cam Ranh Bay, waiting for the plane that would take us home to the States. Most of us had had our tours cut short–mine by about 45 days–because the war was beginning to wind down. And because Uncle Sam likes to get folks home for the holidays. (Yes. Truly.)

Many of us would report to our next duty station in mid-January only to be told we’d be released from active duty within a week. That happened to me at Fort Dix; I was out of the army late in the month.

We boarded the plane and cheered when the wheels left the runway. But the real cheers came when we touched down in Seattle.

My Cam Ranh photos are the earliest I’m confident I can date. One (it’s of the parade ground) was taken on the 14th, four (more or less like this) were taken on the 15th, and three were shots taken through our airplane’s window of the sun rising over the Pacific on the 16th.

I’ve posted this photo before; it was the second image I posted to Flickr. It’s been 46 years and I still think this may be my best photograph.

Number of pix taken on various December 15ths: 613
Year of oldest photo: 1971

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 23
  • 2 Stars: 103
  • 3 Stars: 413
  • 4 Stars: 63
  • 5 Stars: 11


On This Date: Photo taken 11/11/2009

Dick loved that hat.

We picked up my brother in Kalamazoo and walked the South Haven beaches on this date in 2009.

This photo was taken at Van Buren State Park. We explored that beach for a while, then walked the beach in town. We likely ate at one of the downtown restaurants.

Joan and I generally get out and walk on Veterans Day weekend. Besides this South Haven excursion my photographs show multiple Baker Sanctuary trips, a few walks along the river in Grand Ledge, and a couple Port Huron outings.

Another version of the story is that I’ve been walking South Haven’s beaches my entire life. My family loved–and still loves–Lake Michigan’s shore. South Haven’s the closest shore to Kalamazoo, so that was our easiest destination.

Number of pix taken on various November 11ths: 172
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 5
  • 3 Stars: 103
  • 4 Stars: 52
  • 5 Stars: 12


On This Date: Photo taken 10/14/2005

Near Vermontville, on State Road. Or so my notes say; I’d have guessed this was Vermontville Highway on the other side of town.

For the first few years I lived in the Lansing area I didn’t own a car, so I’d bicycle between my apartment in (or near) Lansing and my parents’ home in Kalamazoo a couple times a month. I’d leave from work on Friday evening, spend the weekend, and return on Sunday afternoon. Most of these trips took about 5 hours; if I hurried I could do the 75 miles or so in four.

I used a variety of routes, but most took me through Vermontville. I got to know the roads in that area quite well.

Vermontville was also about the farthest point I’d reach on my daily rides out of the Lansing area. Most evening rides were in the hour to 90 minute range, which wouldn’t reach that far, but if I wanted to stretch my legs after work I’d generally find my way to Vermontville Highway and head west, usually catching a snack at the Jones store where Mulliken Road crossed V-Ville Hwy. I’d ride a tailwind home and be back to my apartment by dark.

A side effect of those many backroads trips is that I sometimes take the same routes by automobile. While they’re slower than the highways I generally follow, they’re more interesting. This photo was taken on one such trip, a dozen years ago.

The colors were coming along nicely, I’d say. The outbuildings needed some work.

Number of pix taken on various October 14ths: 162 [includes two by my brother]
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 20(!)
  • 2 Stars: 34
  • 3 Stars: 73
  • 4 Stars: 30
  • 5 Stars: 5

Lake Michigan, with dunes

On This Date: Photo taken 9/22/2012

Five years ago we headed north for our usual Traverse City vacation to celebrate Joan’s birthday. It occurred to me that I didn’t remember making a reservation, so I got on the horn with Pointes North. Found I was right; hadn’t reserved a room. They could accommodate us starting tomorrow….

Made that reservation, then after a bit of discussion found us a Ludington hotel for the night. We told TomTom about our changed destination (discovering thereby that it calls the town “LOOdington”), followed its directions to the hotel, and found this view at the beach.

Pretty much justified the confusion. We had a good evening, and a good weekend.

I’ve told this story before.

Not doing TC this year. We’ll tell you about our plans presently, I’m sure.

Number of pix taken on various September 22nds: 493 [315 were of a single sunflower, with 15 more of another, from 2014]
Year of oldest photo: 2003

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 5
  • 2 Stars: 10
  • 3 Stars: 376
  • 4 Stars: 93
  • 5 Stars: 9

5 photos from Dick’s 2008 vacation, too; he and Debbie went to Mall of America.


On This Date: Photo taken 7/20/2004

Babcock State Park’s a pretty place in West Virginia’s New River Gorge where Joan and I have often vacationed. On various trips we’ve camped in a tent, camped in a popup trailer, and stayed in cabins. Obviously we enjoy the place.

The park’s mostly a rather steep wilderness on the side of the gorge, but its most famous feature is Glade Creek Mill. This is that mill, as the sign testifies, but it’s none of the usual pictures. I’ve taken those photographs, too, but….

This is the only digital photograph surviving from that vacation. I’ve film pix from that week, but I can’t confidently date those.

I’d bought my first digital camera in late 2002, and while I was still predominantly a film SLR photographer it was clear by the summer of 2004 that I needed to back up my digital images. So I began burning the pix to CDs. After a false start or two I came up with the system I still use, though it’s been augmented over the years. I began with the oldest digital pix and worked through 2003. At that point I took a break.

Then my laptop’s drive failed. The only digital pix that survived that failure were duplicated, for one reason or another, and stored away from that computer. This photo was one of those. But the larger reality is that I lost most digital images I took between Christmas of 2003 and October 2, 2004.

There’s a lesson in there….

And a new camera note: One year ago today I bought my D500. It’s been fun, but I’m still figuring it out….

Number of pix taken on various July 20ths: 1266
Year of oldest photo: 2004

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 0
  • 2 Stars: 91
  • 3 Stars: 934
  • 4 Stars: 206
  • 5 Stars: 35

The Broken Maple

On This Date: Photo taken 6/8/2003

June 8, 2003, was a Saturday. We worked in the yard and I photographed some flowers with my digital point-n-shoot. Then we went out to dinner. While we were away a storm blew through; it sounded pretty impressive in the restaurant.

Got home; found the neighbors out in the streets. Seems a twister’d hit Mulliken. A quick survey of our yard showed three young trees ruined, a wee bit of damage to our garage, and a bunch of knocked down flowers. We were fortunate.

The whole town was fortunate. Except for two large trees downed a bit north of us, no serious damage was done. But ’twas certainly a thrill.

Photographing that sort of damage is really quite difficult. When you think of a tornado you think of broken buildings; what our town had was mostly broken trees. My pix show pieces of trees here and there around the yard, the damage to our siding, and the flattened flower beds. Totally unimpressive.

This photo was taken with my film point-n-shoot and scanned from a negative.

Number of pix taken on various June 8ths: 637
Year of oldest photo: 1994

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 2
  • 2 Stars: 53
  • 3 Stars: 524
  • 4 Stars: 53
  • 5 Stars: 5

The Last Tulip

On This Date: Photo taken 4/25/2012

I like Tulips.

A year or so after buying this house I planted a lot of flowers in a bed behind the garage. A few years later we converted the plot into Joan’s veggie garden, and the flowers mostly went elsewhere–some to other locations in our yard; others to a neighbor’s place.

A few stubborn plants refused to move. This was the last; the photo was taken nearly two decades after I made the original plantings.

Over the past couple days the Tulips we moved elsewhere in the yard have begun to open. They’re quite lovely, delivering color as the Daffodils and Windflowers fade.

There’s another, somewhat different, remnant of the original set. One bulb somehow migrated under the neighboring Forsythia, and flourishes still. We root for it, and relish its stiff-necked survival.

Number of pix taken on various April 25ths: 511
Year of oldest photo: 2005

How I Rated the Date’s Photographs:

  • 1 Star: 3
  • 2 Stars: 68
  • 3 Stars: 368
  • 4 Stars: 62
  • 5 Stars: 10

This post begins with a fifty-year-old memory. While I’m certain I’ve got things essentially right, I’m nearly as sure there’s some detail that’s wrong. That’s OK; the main point is the memory.

My first baseball glove had originally been my father’s. Since Dad was a kid in the 1930s, you can imagine what that was like: An uncomfortable pancake thing which didn’t appreciably improve my (negligible, to be sure) fielding prowess. Dad eventually bought me a better glove: A Ted Williams model, probably a late Wilson model before he became part of the Sears empire. Teddy Ballgame not being known as a particularly good fielder, the packaging talked mostly about his accomplishments with a bat. This is where I first encountered On Base Percentage, as the summary of his 1941 season mentioned his .553 OBP.

"What," I asked my father, "is this mystery statistic?" Dad actually had a response, which I don’t recall in detail but was certainly along the lines of "It’s what his batting average would be if you included his walks." In retrospect, that Dad knew what OBP meant is probably as delightful as the glove. Of course, I didn’t recognize that at the time.

Fact is, when I was twelve I didn’t know much about Williams. I knew he (had) played with Boston, and that Topps seemed to think he was the best ballplayer of his generation (evidence was awarding him the #1 card in 1957 & 1958, which certainly seemed like an endorsement). I discounted that endorsement as ignorant bias. Nowadays, like everyone else, I’m certain they likely had it right. The Splinter was Splendid.

But today’s essay’s about Sabermetrics, not about old ballplayers. I’ve been rereading Baseball Between the Numbers by the Baseball Prospectus staff, which was published a few years back. It’s set me to thinking about The March of On-Base Percentage (as Alan Schwarz titled a chapter in his book The Numbers Game), and about other things sabermetric.

I was slightly aware of Bill James some years before he became famous, I think because I devoured The Sporting News. When Bill’s Ballantine-published 1982 Baseball Abstract hit the newsstands, I immediately purchased and devoured that. I’ve have been collecting similar books ever since. My library now contains nearly everything James has published, all of the recognized Sabermetric classics, complete or nearly-complete runs of most James-influenced publications, and other books which resemble those. The quality’s quite variable, and there’s no book I fully agree with. But I’m definitely part of the sabermetric camp.

Anyway, the thing which strikes me about Baseball Between the Numbers is that it’s largely grown obsolete in just a half-decade. For almost 20 years, baseball management largely resisted serious statistical analysis. Management largely consisted of former players, and few were inclined to take outside analysis seriously. This was partly willful blindness–“He never played the game”–and partly statistical ignorance. But a generation later, baseball’s management’s (unexpectedly) become more businesslike, and a newer generation of baseball players–and coaches and field managers–includes a sprinkling of folks who grew up reading James, Pete Palmer, or authors influenced by James and Palmer. Some of those players have moved to front office jobs. And while fans still have blind spots, they’re generally more aware that many numbers are influenced by ballpark and batting order, and that there are legitimate reasons to debate baseball’s accepted wisdom.

The result is a new baseball culture. While people still argue about the value of statistical analysis vis-a-vis other forms of baseball knowledge, basically everyone agrees with the fundamental tenets which have driven sabermetric analysis and many managers, announcers, and fans are comfortable using some of the sabermetric toolkit. OPS and SLG are commonly understood. In the front office, it’s clear that many teams’ decisions are informed, if not driven, by Runs Created-like formulas and more realistic analyses of the context and consequences of their options. The result’s better baseball on the field, and better decision-making at all levels.

There’s no calling in life which isn’t influenced by fashion. Baseball’s new sabermetric fashion is, on the whole, a good thing, and benefits all of us who care about the game.

OK, back to Baseball Between the Numbers. Reading it has been a bit frustrating. Because I’ve followed these discussions for many years, much of what’s covered here seems pretty basic. The book has some good research, but on the whole I’m clearly not–and never was–the target audience.

There’s another thing, too. Things have moved beyond the issues discussed in this book. The cutting edge research nowadays is based on play-by-play, and even pitch-by-pitch, data. While the authors make some reference to play-by-play, on the whole the book’s based on summary statistics. So there’s a sense that they were summarizing the state of the art just as the research practice moved somewhere else. That was certainly worth doing, but clearly more valuable to a new reader than to someone who’s been following the discussion.

March 30th addition: BP’s recently published a two-volume "Best Of" book, drawn from their website; it’s heavily weighted toward recent work, so likely they’re in agreement about this. They’re also apparently working on a successor to Between the Numbers. I’m looking forward to it.

(I wrote this essay last July, filed it, and forgot it. Posting it now, with slight editing, because it seems worthwhile….)

The cover story on the latest edition of Macalester Today, Mac’s alumni magazine, features Jim Dunn and Sam Ernst, executive producers and writers of SyFy Channel’s Haven. They’d previously written for The Dead Zone, which led to their current gig. All in all this is your typical alumni magazine success story, of course, but it’s always nice to know someone made good.

It says here that “they first met as computer-assigned roommates at Macalester in 1984…”–well, that caught my eye. I’ve written elsewhere today about the summer of 1981, but that note didn’t mention my summer job. After our little excursion to Fayette and other Upper Michigan places, my sister dropped me off in Saint Paul, where I spent the summer assigning freshmen to rooms. Since those rooms were shared, I made some effort to match folks by interest. I was afforded some slight help by preference cards, on which they may or may not have indicated favorite books, faith, musical interests, hobbies, expected major, home town, and similar information. Not much to go on, but I was double-checked by the admissions office, who occasionally vetoed a pairing. A few roomies later sought me out to thank me; no one cursed me to my face. All in all it was a fun summer. I’ve always claimed this was my favorite job.

Three years later, I gather, I’d been replaced by a computer. Hmmm.