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Thursday, January 29, 2004

Win 9x Hangs On

Fellow Quilogy employee Jon Box was quoted in eWEEK recently. Way to go Jon.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

TR's Hunting Trips of a Ranchman

One of the books I received this Christmas was Theodore Roosevelt's Hunting Trips of a Ranchman. This book was published in 1885 long before TR's presidency and includes his experiences hunting game in the Dakota and Wyoming territories when he owned a cattle ranch (that subsequently went under after the blizzard of 1886). The book proceeds from fowl to deer (white and black tail) to antelope, bighorn sheep, elk, buffalo, and finally bear with a chapter devoted to each one. TR dutifully goes through techniques for how to best hunt the various kinds of game from the selection of weapon to how to use or not use a horse when in pursuit to the typical behaviors of the animals when spotted or cornered. What I enjoyed most about the book was his vivid descriptions of the animals themselves, as well as the plains and mountains of the west from over 100 years ago. TR was a very good descriptive writer and many of his descriptions of camp life and "still hunting" deer and other game really make you feel like you were there. There is also a good dose of self deprecation in the tone that makes you believe the tales he tells.

Also interesting are TR's interspersed views on the Indians (terrible shots), the passing of the buffalo (sad but inevitable), sheep (the stupidest animal there is) and other topics. What also comes out is TR's zest for life and his ability to enjoy circumstances that to almost anyone else would seem unbearable. In one instance he recounts a buffalo hunting trip where he was variously thrown from his horse headlong, gashed in the head with his own rifle when a buffalo charged him and scared his horse, had his horse sunk in quicksand which took an entire morning to extricate with another horse, was rained on for 2 days, went without fresh water for a day, not finding any buffalo for 3 days with only soggy biscuits to eat, and having his horse run away in the middle in the night dragging the saddle for half a mile. Of course to TR this was all part of the sport and when he finally got his buffalo he was satisfied and it he makes you believe it was all worth it. Most people, including me, would have long given up before then.

Not being a hunter I'm sure there are other subleties I missed and would have likely enjoyed the book more if I could relate a little better. I certainly recommend the book to any hunter, lover of nature, and those interested in the old west. and the .NET Compact Framework

I recently downloaded the developer's kit from to take a look at how their web services are structured. I quickly discovered that it is quite simple to get an app up and running that queries the Amazon catalog. The SDK has some fairly complete documentation and includes several different samples to get you going.

Being familiar with the .NET Compact Framework created a VS .NET project in VB .NET to browse the catalog given a set of ISBNs. By creating a web reference to the Amazon web services WSDL doc ( VS .NET created the proxy and associated classes from the XSDs to work with the data returned by the web service - some 58 classes in all.

The primary class you use to search the catalog are the various request classes such as AsinRequest. Each request class encapsulates the parameters of the request which you pass to methods of the AmazonSearchService class. Types of requests include searching by Asin (Amazon standard item number, in this case ISBN), Author, Artist, Director, Keyword, ListMania, Marketplace, Seller, Wishlist etc. In my application I provided a list of Asins in a text file that the app reads at startup. The AsinRequest is then created as follows:

Dim ar As New

ar.asin = isbnList
ar.devtag = "D44NOTMYREALDEVTAG" 'per developer
ar.mode = "books"
ar.type = "heavy"
ar.tag = "webservices-20"

The properties determine how the request will be fullfilled. In this case my list is in a string variable isbnList, my developer tag assigned by Amazon when you register to download the SDK, the search mode (the kind of info returned, e.g. music, dvd), the type of search determining how much data is returned, and the tag which I believe represents the version.

To actually perform the search you simply need to instantiate the AmazonSearchService and pass the AsinRequest to the AsinSearchRequest method.

Dim s As New

Dim p As
Dim details() As

p = s.AsinSearchRequest(ar)
details = p.Details
MsgBox("Could not refresh the list.")
End Try

The ProductInfo class contains an array of Details objects that include the detail for each item. In my app I read the titles into a ComboBox and then present some of the data when the user selected a different item.
Dim d As

For Each d In details


lblISBN.Text = details(index).Isbn
lblAPrice.Text = details(index).OurPrice
lblUPrice.Text = details(index).UsedPrice
lblSRank.Text = details(index).SalesRank
If Not details(index).Reviews Is Nothing Then
lblReviews.Text = details(index).Reviews.TotalCustomerReviews
lblStars.Text = details(index).Reviews.AvgCustomerRating
lblReviews.Text = "0"
lblStars.Text = "N/A"
End If

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the application, however, is displaying the image for the book. The Details object includes three Urls for the small, medium, and large images. I wrote a small function to download the image on demand and place it in an ImageList control for later reference.

Private Function GetImage(ByVal url As String) As Boolean
If net.IsConnected Then
Dim wr As HttpWebRequest = HttpWebRequest.Create(url)
' Wait 4 seconds and then give up
wr.Timeout = 4000
Dim resp As HttpWebResponse = wr.GetResponse
Dim b As New Bitmap(resp.GetResponseStream)
Return True
Catch e As Exception
' Skip it
Return False
End Try
Return False
End If
End Function

In order to track if the image had already been downloaded I simply used an ArrayList (imageIndex) and searched on the Url when attempting to load the image.

Dim i As Integer
' See if its in the index
i = imageIndex.IndexOf(details(index).ImageUrlSmall)
If i = -1 Then
' Not so try and get it
End If
' Go get the index
i = imageIndex.IndexOf(details(index).ImageUrlSmall)
If i > -1 Then
' Load if there else ignore
pbBooks.Image = ImageList1.Images(i)
pbBooks.Image = Nothing
End If

The final application looks as follows.

I also wrote a small form to manage the list of ISBNs so the user would be able to add new ones.

Anyway, an interesting little exploration that could be used to write "just in time" style apps for booksellers and collectors as they browse used bookstores. Of course, you can also purchase through the web services interface as well as track your items if you're a seller.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Kauffman Park Effects

An email from Ron Hostetter inquired about the ballpark effect of Kauffman stadium because of a quote he saw in book on ballparks published in 1998. In essence the comment said: "The change from artificial turf to grass has changed baseball in this park. It is now a pitchers’ park. The number of hits, doubles and triples have been reduced significantly. Although the fences down the line and in the power alleys were brought in 10 feet in 1995, homering at the park remains more difficult than at a neutral park (about 15 percent more difficult). "

However, the last few seasons have seen the K act as a boon for hitters increasing run production by 30% for a ballpark factor of 130 as calculated in The Bill James Handbook 2004. I went back and pulled the numbers from and found the following;

	Home				Away			Index		

Games Royals Opp Opp%+ Games Royals Opp Opp%+ Royals Opp Overall
2003 80 433 512 18% 82 403 355 -12% 10% 48% 28%
2002 81 434 505 16% 81 303 386 27% 43% 31% 36%
2001 81 382 485 27% 81 347 373 7% 10% 30% 20%
2000 81 451 488 8% 81 428 442 3% 5% 10% 8%
1999 80 441 449 2% 81 415 472 14% 8% -4% 2%
1998 80 353 492 39% 81 461 407 -12% -22% 22% -1%
1997 80 387 434 12% 81 360 386 7% 9% 14% 11%
1996 80 372 369 -1% 81 374 417 11% 1% -10% -5%
1995 72 285 346 21% 72 344 345 0% -17% 0% -8%
1994 59 325 287 -12% 58 249 245 -2% 28% 15% 22%
1993 81 370 354 -4% 81 305 340 11% 21% 4% 12%
1992 81 314 346 10% 81 296 331 12% 6% 5% 5%
1991 81 344 378 10% 81 383 344 -10% -10% 10% -1%

91-94 302 1353 1365 1% 301 1233 1260 2% 9% 8% 9%
95-03 715 3538 4080 15% 721 3435 3583 4% 4% 15% 9%

Note: These stats include interleague games.

From the above chart it is interesting to note that in the 1991-1994 period (supposedly when the hitters had the advantage) the ballpark produced 9% more runs (a ballpark factor of 109) while from 1995-2003 when changes made it more amenable to pitchers it was also 109. For some reason the 1995 and 1996 numbers were much lower than in almost all the other years. One possible explanation is that weather patterns in Kansas City changed over the last few years producing hotter, sunnier, and breezier days than previously and so even though the changes in the 1994 offseason made the park more of a pitcher's park, the weather more than compensated in the last few years. Another possible explanation is that the data is too variable to say definitively how much of an advantage or disadvantage hitters have at the K. The standard deviation when all years are taken into consideration is .15 which seems pretty big to me.

Perhaps the bigger question is why in 7 of the last 9 years the Royals opponents have scored so many more runs proportionately at the K than the Royals have? The opponent's huge numbers at the K scoring 15% more run while the Royals score only 4% more have inflated the park factor. So why is it that the Royals seem to give up so many runs at home? Email me if you have any ideas.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

With fellow SABRites

I spent a nice afternoon yesterday at the winter meeting of the SABR chapter here in Kansas City. About 25 folks attended the meeting led by president Mike Webber. The two speakers were former Royal Brian McRae and author and minor league writer John Sickels.

McRae started by reviewing what he had done since retiring in the spring of 2000. Most interestingly, he talked about his radio venture with Jeff Montgomery (810 AM and 97.3 FM) and the Royals broadcasts, which will be simulcast on those stations this year. It appears that 97.3 will carry about half the games - most of those night games to increase the coverage area. McRae will also continue to work for broadcasting spring training games as well as pre and post game shows on the radio and the Royals TV network. He then fielded questions from the audience which included his views on the upcoming season, growing up around baseball, umpires and the value of managers, playing in New York, never wining a gold glove, Pete Rose, steroids and a few other topics. Although none of his answers were particularly suprising and most reflected a player's perspective, he appeared to be very honest and probably answered questions for almost an hour.

After a brief introduction John Sickels read two excerpts from his new book on Bob Feller before fielding some questions. I was quite impressed with his approach to Feller taking in the dichotomous nature of his character and judging him by the standards of his time and not ours. After browsing through the book I'm probably going to pick up a copy. I hadn't realized Feller operates a museum in Van Meter, IA about 12 miles west of Des Moines and so now I'll have to stop in the next time we travel north. Sickels also self publishes a book on prospects that you can order at his web site. He attends minor league games during the summer and this year's book profiles 985 prospects. A great resource if you're going to spring training I'm sure. After describing the book he fielded questions on it as well, including several on specific prospects and Royals prospects of course. One of his most interesting remarks is that perhaps we're starting to see the pendulum swing back towards pitching talent in the minors and away from hitting. He seems to think that there are more good young pitching prospects waiting in the wings than hitting prospects.

In other news, the chapter renamed itself to the Monarchs Chapter and several of the guys are looking to form an 1850s baseball (or would it be "base ball") team that plays under the old rules including "plugging" base runners by hitting them with the ball and recording outs by catching the ball on the first bounce.

All in all, a few hours well spent. I also this week received the SABR publication Deadball Stars of the National League. These two items alone would have made my SABR membership worth it for the year. If you love baseball, then SABR's the place for you.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Cubs Add 2005 Insurance

In an interesting move the Cubs signed Ryan Dempster to a one year deal with a club option for 2005. In 2004 he'll get $300K with a base of $2M in 2005 (he made over $3M in 2003 with the Reds). He's rehabing from Tommy John surgery so likely wouldn't pitch in 2004. He hasn't been at all effective since 2001 and has a history of control trouble. Not a bad risk although they better be pretty sure he's all the way back if they pick up the option in 2005.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

One More Go 'Round for Beltran

The Royals signed Carlos Beltran to a 1-year deal today avoiding arbitration. He'll get $9M, up from $6M from last year. I think its a great signing and shows, as expected, that the Royals are aiming at the division title in 2004. Of course, if he signs with another team after the season the Royals will get two draft picks. The Royals have also signed Mendy Lopez to fill the backup role. So here's the depth chart:

1B - Harvey, Stairs
2B - Relaford, Graffanino
SS - Berroa, Graffanino
3B - Randa, Graffanino
RF - Guiel, Stairs
CF - Beltran, Rich Thompson (obtained in the Rule 5 draft)
LF - Gonzales, Thompson
C - Santiago, Stinnet
DH - Sweeney, Harvey

UT - Lopez

SP - Anderson, May, Asencio, Appier, Snyder
RP - Affeldt, MacDougal, Leskanic, Grimsely, Sullivan, Carrasco

The Royals also signed Kris Wilson a while back although I'm not sure where he fits into the big picture.

Dream Job

Earlier this winter I had responded to a post on the SABR-L listserv regarding scorers ("stringers") needed by to feed their Gameday Flash app here in Kansas City. I'm a regular user of Gameday for both Cubs and Royals games and I had read about what goes on in the press box at every major league game in an arictle by Alan Schwarz published in the Major League Baseball 2003 guide titled "The Stat Keepers" (the article doesn't appear to be online anywhere). In the article Schwarz profiles scorers from STATS, Inc.,, and Sportsticker and discusses the software they use for capturing play-by-play data. It sounded fascinating and promised a new way to watch and interact with the game (in addition to getting paid for attending games of course). I've always scored the games I attend in a semi-serious manner (I usually track each pitch and like to add up the stats at the end of the game), a habit I acquired from many years of playing baseball simulation games such as Cadaco's All Star Baseball and Strat-O-Matic.

I admit I was a little daunted by the prospect of having to learn over 5,000 codes (according to Schwarz the number is closer to 5,600) to handle virtually any possible play on a baseball field. However, I love baseball and statistics and so I went ahead and applied. My wife dryly noted that all my previous work and interest have prepared me for this job. After a scoring quiz (with some interesting and a few tough questions), and a couple of very professional phone interviews with Hank Widmer and Cory Schwartz at (who assured me that help is only an IM away) - I got the call!

The responsibilities involve using's proprietary software package to enter game data including pitch location that feeds the Gameday system, and to synchronize the final box score with the official scorer. I'll be training on the software the next couple of months in preparation for the season. I'll likely be scoring 25 to 30 games this year and am very excited to get going. Play Ball!

Good Books

I thinking about the last post I wanted to put up a list of the books that have had the biggest impact on me in the last few years. In no particular order they are:

Guns, Germs, and Steel by Jarod Diamond
The Future of Freedom by Fareed Zakaria
The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis
The End of Racism by Danesh Dasuza
A History of the American People by Paul Johnson
John Adams by David McCullough
Theodore Rexby Edmund Morris
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Stephen J. Gould
Miracles by C.S. Lewis
The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
Divine Conspriacy by Dallas Willard
Business @ the Speed of Thought by Bill Gates

There are others but those are the ones that come to the top of my mind.

Monday, January 19, 2004

GGS 2003 and the fate of Iraq

In a previous post I discussed one of the books that has made the biggest impact on me in the last few years, Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jarod Diamond (GGS). I recently bought a new edition of the book partly because it contained a new afterword called "2003 Afterword: Guns, Germs, and Steel Today".

In the afterword, Diamond notes the acceptance of his book and how its basic arguments have stood the test of time, although with additional detail added to be sure. He then discusses four areas that people have brought to his attention that parallel the themes of GGS in a specific area of study. The fourth area he discusses caught my attention since it dovetails nicely with another book that impacted me and that I had discussed in reference to California and Gov. Arnold, Fareed Zakaria's The Future of Freedom: Illiberal Democracy at Home and Abroad and is of current concern because of our nation building efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Briefly, Diamond notes that economists are beginning to realize that the difference between rich and poor countries lies not only with the differences in their institutions but also in the origins of those institutions. Diamond says that

"it seems to me that, in the past, good institutions always arose because of a long chain of historical connections from ultimate causes rooted in geography to the proximate dependent variables of the institutions. We must understand that chain if we hope, now, to produce good institutions quickly in countries lacking them."

This reasoning echoes that of Zakaria who argues that one of the links in the chain to producing good institutions - those that promote stability, the rule of law, religous freedom, property rights, and ultimately liberty - are dependent on the development first of a capitalist system that requires the institutions and sets up a positive feedback loop for further strengthening both the economy and the institutions. He argues this point from economic studies that show that a country moving to democracy with a per capita income of over $6,000 in today's dollars will likely never revert to an autocratic form of government while those countries with incomes of under $1,500 last an average of only 8 years under democracy. He then surveys countries around the globe and notes the successes of this model including Mexico, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Taiwan, Chile, and South Korea, while looking forward to the democratization of China, which is fast progressing up the per capita income scale because of economic reforms carried out by its autocratic leaders. However, he excludes resource rich states like Saudia Arabia, Venezuela, and Egypt from this analysis because although they have a significant amount of wealth, he views them as "trust fund kids" in the sense that the government gets rich without the need to tax its citizens, and thereby provide services and institutions that promote stability.

If one goes back further than the recent past, Zakaria agrees with Diamond that the process that produced capitalism and liberal democracy in England and America was one with a long history rooted in geography and with a large role played by Christianity as a check on state power. However, now that the model has been established he seems to be saying that although you can't reproduce those contingent historical processes around the globe, you can attempt to produce the patterns, a burgeoning capitalist economy and the strengthening of institutions under what he calls a "liberal autocrat" - a ruler who can enact reforms to liberalize the economy while retaining control (e.g. Chile's Pinochet) - finally followed by a true liberal democracy. As a result, in Iraq he calls for at least 5 years of economic development and stabilization before democracy is instituted. Unfortunately, it appears that there is little patience on the part of the Iraqis for such a plan and the handover is set for June. I don't think Zakaria would be too suprised if the nascent democracy fails and becomes an illiberal democracy or slides back into a dictatorship as its people demand stability that the government cannot bring in short order.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Progress Paradox

Great column by George Will reviewing a new book called The Progress Paradox: How Life Gets Better While People Feel Worse. Essentially the book tries to explain why the increase in prosperity in America is not recognized and why Americans feel as if things are getting worse. I think the authors three most important explanations include:

  • "The tyranny of the small picture." Will notes that this "preference for bad news produces a focus on smaller remaining problems". A case in point here is the daily dose of "epidemics" that we're inundated with. I think we'd all agree that what the news media refers to as epidemics look pretty tame compared to the plauge. I would also add that a 24 hour news cycle creates a fixation on these "epidemics" complete with the "here-is-the-prototype-person-in-a-tough-fix" story that implies that you're next. It is for this reason that I don't watch local news (and becaue of all the silly banter and the overemphasis on weather that wastes 15 of the 30 minutes) or network news but stay informed through the web and radio reports which are more concise and typically don't have as a high an EQ (entertainment quotient). The news cycle also magnifies the seedy and unimportant (Scott Peterson and Michael Jackson to cite two recent examples), dragging everyone down.

  • "Catalogue-induced anxiety" and "latest model syndrome". Together these produce anxiety (the "tyranny of the unncessary") to keep up with the Joneses and a decreasing happiness with the things we do possess following the law of diminishing returns. Certainly TV exploiting human nature has played the biggest role here.

  • "The cultivation of victimhood" as practiced by politicians, lawyers, and the media. I would put this one pretty high on the list because it breeds a hateful attitude towards those who have supposedly wronged you. I think this one stems directly from the disease of democracy discussed by C.S. Lewis called "I'm as good as you".

  • To these I would add the "Myth of the Golden Age". Although the late 19th and early 20th centuries saw a decline in this overarching belief that humanity's best days were in the past, it may have once again asserted itself. Basically, this belief runs throughout cultures through history, most notably in the story of the Fall of Man itself. In smaller ways I think this myth leads people to be pessimistic about the future and yearn for when things were more pure, simpler, etc.

    Wednesday, January 14, 2004

    Going South for the Winter

    Ok, maybe not for the winter but at least for a few days in spring, as in Spring Training. That's right, me, my father-in-law Ed, my co-worker Ron, his son Joey, and his brother are all heading down to Phoenix in mid-March for three days of soaking in the sun with both the Cubs and Royals.

    We'll arrive on a Sunday morning and head straight to Scottsdale to catch the Cubs/Giants split-squad game that afternoon. The next day we'll be in Mesa for the Cubs/Royals game, and the following day in Suprise for the Royals/Rangers. I've been to Mesa one other time (in 1998) and enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere and the feeling of relative youth both at the ballpark and basically anywhere we went in Mesa. We plan to arrive at the complexes in Mesa and Suprise early and see some of the workouts before the 2nd and 3rd games. Great time of year to be thinking and talking baseball...hope springs eternal!

    Cubs-Maddux Redux?

    The Cubs appear to be interested in Greg Maddux as the 5th starter. He made $14.75M last year and so if the Cubs could get him for $3-4 million that would be OK. You can rely on him to eat up some innings, stay healthy, and keep in you in alot of ballgames.

    It would be nice for him to get his 300th win in Chicago where he got his first 95 and finish out his career in Chicago as well. I hope they do pick him up. He went 16-11/3.96 last year but gave up 225 hits in 218 innings. Only 33 walks of course which kept his runners down and his opponents OBA to .299. He also gave up more homeruns than ever before (24) resulting in an opponents slug of .420 so is there some substantial risk involved.

    Friday, January 09, 2004

    The Cubs and Moneyball

    While at my parent's house over Christmas I got a chance to read the latest Vine Line, the official publication of the Cubs. In an article titled "Scout's Honor", the author profiled Cubs midwest scout Stan Zielinski. Nice article but I was interested in the comments relating to Moneyball. In one of the most interesting sections of the book, Billy Beane revamps the scouting organization for the A's, firing longtime scouts and taking the direction that college players and statistics are better predictors of future success than the 5 tool evaluation and "makeup" of high schoolers.

    In the article the author notes that "the Cubs are skeptical of that philosphy" and that "the Cubs don't put too much stock in statistics, but they do agree with the A's in that building a strong pitching staff is the cornerstone of any ballclub's future." Finally Andy MacPhail, Cubs President and CEO scoffs at the use of statistics in the amateur ranks "because the spectrum of talent that you're going against is way too broad."

    In response I would argue that not putting too much stock in statistics is what has produced an offense that has had a lot of trouble putting runners on base over the past few years and overpaying for replacement-level players (or worse) like Alex Gonzales and more recently Jose Macias. I do agree that pitching is the cornerstone and both the A's and Cubs have drafted well. Prior, Zito, Mulder, and Hudson were all drafted out of college while Wood and Zambrano were drafted out of high school. In regards to the stats themselves, although you can't take them all at face value (for example homeruns since aluminum bats play a large role) one of the places where they would be good indicators is in the strike out to walk ratio, precisely where Beane et. al. concentrate.

    Thursday, January 08, 2004

    Charlie Hustle

    Great column on Pete Rose and the Hall of Fame by George Will. Will's position is that Rose should be banned forever because of his ongoing lies and "hustle" (in the negative sense). However, my take on it is that his gambling was done as a manager and that his playing career should be honored by him being in the HOF since I don't think that when he played he violated "the integrity of competition" (I've never heard allegations to that effect). But because he's demonstrated that he can't be trusted to tell the truth he shouldn't be allowed to be in uniform or working for a team. And certainly not managing where his conduct clearly violated the integrity clause.

    When talking about Rose I'm always reminded of the reasoning that says "well, if Cobb is in there..." Every time I think about Rose in the HOF I compare him to Cobb who had different vices (although he may have thrown games in 1919 with Tris Speaker) but character that was every bit as repulsive.

    Tough call. One thing's for sure, whichever way Selig goes he'll be criticized for it.

    DevDays 2004

    The DevDays 2004 site has been put up. No agenda as of yet but the schedule is posted. I'll be speaking at the St. Louis (3/3), Nashville (3/8), Memphis (3/9), and Kansas City (3/11) events in the Smart Client Track.

    I'll post more information when I have it.

    Wednesday, January 07, 2004

    Nice Reviews

    Two more nice reviews for the Compact Framework book:

    From Developer Central
    January 7, 2004 - Vol. 3 #8

    ARCHITECTURE AND BEST PRACTICES FOR MOBILE DEVELOPMENT, by Dan Fox and Jon Box (Addison-Wesley): The title's a mouthful, but the book is a good one for the experienced .NET developer trying to move on to the smaller platforms. It starts with a lot of excellent material that tries to sort out the confusing welter of platforms, development tools, protocols and so on that are unique to PDAs and other compact devices. The authors then go into some of the key architectural aspects of working with the .NET CF: ActiveSync, remote data access, using SQL Server CE, and so on.
    There are chapters on localization, security, and deployment issues, and a wrapup of "Developer Challenges" that points out some pitfalls and suggests solutions. It's not a behemoth of a book, but its focused information will be useful to many developers."

    From Know Dot Net (click the link to see the entire review)
    by William Ryan

    "If you've done much programming with Microsoft products, then you have probably know the names Jon Box and Dan Fox. If you aren't familiar with them, suffice to say that they are two of .NET's heaviest hitters and know their art as well as it can be known. When two guys like this write a book, it's a sure bet it will be excellent, and IMHO, it's superb....This book is pragmatic in the 'big picture' sense and really focuses on the 'why' type questions regarding the Compact Framework and then fills in the gaps with plenty of code examples.

    Including indexes, appendices and all that good stuff, the book is just under 370 pages hosting 9 Chapters. The first three chapters focus primarily on the background of the Compact Framework and what it can do for you. Personally, I've been developing with the compact framework for over a year now, help run a website covering mobile development exclusively and spend a good part of my time following the mobility scene. Normally, 'what is' type chapters are something I'd breeze over, but I found there coverage of it very interesting. They discussed the whole gamut of mobile devices, what you'd need to write applications for them and how the compact framework fits into all of this. Using real world anecdotes from their company and providing some first rate "Related Reading" links, the first three chapter can get someone totally clueless about mobility up and running very quickly.

    After this general discussion, things get much more targeted. When you think of mobile development, you don't have a whole lot of real estate and the whole environment is much different. As such, the major areas of concern for most developers will be, building a UI, Accessing Data under multiple scenarios (after all, you probably won't have network connectivity whenever its needed so working offline is just as important as working online) and security. These three areas are covered very well....

    Another important aspect of CF development that they do a great job on is Synchronization. After all, if your PDA only acts as a stand-alone island never communicating with other devices, it probably won't be of much use to you. Anyway, only about 20 pages are dedicated to Synchronization and 15 of those to ActiveSync but those 15 pages are so detailed and to the point that they are all most developers will probably need. If I've seen such a large topic discussed so succintly and effectively, I can't recall it.

    Next comes security and they really knocked the ball out of the park here...Well, they dedicate almost 25 pages to this subject and really do a nice job. It's nice to see that so much emphasis is put into such a dry yet critical subject...

    In summary, I think this is a first rate book by two first rate authors. The discussion of security alone justifies the price of the book but that's not to say that they didn't do a great job everywhere else. I also think that this book is particularly cool because of its emphasis on architectural considerations, which are easy to overlook and potentially devastating if not given the necessary attention. Overall, I think it's safe to say that if you buy this book, you'll consider it a great investment."

    Modeling and .NET

    To follow up on a previous post about modeling and the .NET Framework, here are a couple articles for thought:

    Modeling for .NET
    What's behind Microsoft's Whitehorse modeler?

    Gonzo Terms

    From the Royals site:

    "The 15-year veteran agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth $4.5 million. Gonzalez will receive $4 million next season, and the deal includes a mutual option for 2005 at $7 million. If the Royals decline the option, Gonzalez would receive a $500,000 buyout. In addition, he can earn $2 million in performance bonuses this year and $1.5 million in 2005."

    I assume this paragraph was supposed to say he "will receive $4.5 million next season". The Royals also had to expand their payroll a bit to get Gonzo in but hopefully it will be worth it. Here's some projected lineups I'd like to see against each side:

    LF Guiel
    CF Beltran
    DH Sweeney
    RF Gonzales
    1B Stairs
    SS Berroa
    3B Randa
    C Santiago
    2B Relaford

    LHP (everybody hits well!)
    2B Relaford
    3B Randa
    DH Sweeney
    CF Beltran
    1B Harvey
    RF Gonzales
    SS Berroa
    LF Guiel
    C Santiago

    Tuesday, January 06, 2004

    The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part V)

    The exciting conclusion of the The Case of the Excellent Typist...

    Back at Baker Street Holmes had thrown himself on the sofa and was chuckling to himself when I, becoming quite indignant, could not hold back any longer.

    "Are you going to tell me the meaning of these letters, their connection with Nigel Wilson, and man at the station this morning!"

    Holmes seemed momentarily startled and sat up on the couch motioning me to take a seat opposite him. "Forgive me, forgive me, my dear friend. Come and sit down. I have been quite rude in keeping you in the dark so long. Now, where should I begin. Ah, yes Miss Nordstrum."

    "A women’s intuition should never be underestimated I assure you. Ten to one that where loved ones are concerned a women’s intuition, although a concept opaque to us, is proven correct. And so almost as soon as she began her story I was convinced of Mr. Wilson’s involvement. This in addition to his strange behavior, especially her mention of the incident at her desk on Wednesday last, led me to believe that he was using his special relationship to her in this matter.

    "Finally, when she confided that young Nigel had a past he would rather not make public, it all fell into place. It was obvious that some person or persons had blackmailed Nigel with this information in exchange for inside information on particulars about robbing the bank."

    "The letters!" I exclaimed.

    "Precisely. The question then became, what did Miss Nordstrum unwittingly do to contribute to passing the information. Obviously, the information was being mailed out of the bank through one or more letters, likely in cipher so that no one unfamiliar with the code could understand their true contents."

    "But why go to the secrecy of a code when those responsible could simply have pressured Nigel to part with the information at some discrete time and place?" I questioned with a sense of pride in my observation.

    "Simply because," my friend began, "neither of the parties knew the identity of the other."

    "Really, Holmes you go too far." I sat back and took a drink of the port I had poured for both of us.

    "I thought as much and assumed that it would be your stumbling point in the case. Nevertheless, it is a standard method of practice for the man responsible for more crime in this city than all the other criminals put together." His eyes had a piercing look and his chin was rigid.

    "Who then is this criminal?" I cried.

    "I confess that I don’t know." He relaxed a bit in his chair and took a taste of his drink. "I have run across his doings several times in my investigations and up to this point I have been unable to uncover his identity. He is like a puppet master pulling the strings but always remaining behind the stage. One thing is clear. He knows the goings on of that dimly lit underworld better than most men can see actions in daylight. He won’t hesitate to use blackmail, extortion and murder to achieve his goals. In this case he gladly filed away a piece of information for a decade because he knew it would be useful to him eventually. Namely, the fact that a young man named Nigel Wilson was once involved in a petty burglary." Holmes expression had turned icy again and he stared forward into the fire.

    "Surely then we should have followed the man this morning. He may have led us to the mastermind himself." I couldn’t help feeling as if we’d left him get away.

    "Don’t excite yourself, Doctor. Rest assured that the small time criminal we gave to Lestrade this morning was only one link in a long and complex chain that would not lead us to his door but rather through a maze of underworld connections, none of which seem to be in the slightest connected to The Source."

    Feeling an air of desperation I turned my attention to Holmes reasoning. "Then tell me, how in the world did you arrive at the code and subsequently know that the small time criminal so called would be at the station this morning?"

    "Ah, yes. Our unknown enemy may be waging a mighty war but we have won the most recent battle. As you mentioned I had already determined that the letters were important. That is why I had you abscond with them during our visit at the bank. Incidentally, my observations at the bank only confirmed my suspicions. As you may have noticed there was no powder residue on the floor beside the safe and no marks where a crow bar or other instrument may have been used to force the door open. Therefore we must conclude that the burglars had another means of opening the safe.

    "Constable Rose heard the burglars arguing over something and I presumed it was in regards to opening the safe. In fact, I had already convinced myself that the burglars had in their possession the combination of the safe but that they had failed to open it and perhaps were arguing over the combination or the method needed to apply it. This hypothesis was only confirmed when I examined the letters." Holmes had finished his port and was now in the process of lighting his pipe and taking a long draw.

    "But then what was the meaning of the number ‘36’ you mentioned to Miss Nordstrum and which obviously brought Nigel Wilson to our door so quickly?"

    "Observation, Doctor." He flashed a quick smile between puffs. "After assuming that the would be thieves had the combination and had tried it, and after discovering that nothing had been disturbed by the constables, I simply noted that the dial on the combination lock was pointing to the number 36. I was confident that Nigel Wilson would recognize the clue and realize our position."

    "If the burglars had the combination then, why did they not open the safe and abscond with the contents?" My head was beginning to spin as I contemplated the subtleties of Holmes reasoning.

    "Simply because, and most fortunate for us and Mr. Wilson, the combination was in error." Before I had time to retort my friend continued. "I telegrammed the bank president shortly after deciphering the code and was assured that it was not the true combination. Of course, I advised him to have it changed today, which he agreed to without question."

    "But the code..." I interrupted again.

    "Yes, yes, the code. When I assumed that Nigel Wilson had been writing phony letters, most probably in cipher, and slipping them into Miss Nordstrum’s pile of correspondence I began looking for two characteristic in the letters. One, a phony or general address where the next puppet in the play could pick up the letters and two, the number 36.

    "If you recall both letters were addressed to ‘Belton Road Station to be left until called for’ a perfectly general address that could hardly be traced. And of course the second letter contains the number 36 in the last sentence. Having both my criteria met I quickly deciphered the true meaning of the letters. Have I ever mentioned, Watson, that I wrote a small monograph on the subject of ciphers?"

    By this time I was too amazed to speak.

    "In any event you’ll notice that if you take the first letter of every other word, starting with the first, and string them together a definite pattern emerges."

    I fumbled through the mess of papers on the table and finally found the two letters in question. I sat down again with a pen and did as Holmes described. From the first letter I had come up with the string, ‘leftright4216’ which when separated read ‘left right 42 16’.

    "Amazing!" I cried. I excitedly began work on the second letter which when deciphered read ‘right left 75 36’ . "Utterly amazing I do believe this has been among your finest work." I exclaimed.

    "There were one or two interesting points, I suppose. As you’ve already guessed no doubt, having found that the combination was in error, presumably due to Mr. Wilson’s inaccurate recording of it as he watched the safe being opened, I used the same code in an additional letter mailed by Mr. Wilson on Monday that I knew would reach the Belton Road Station this morning. No doubt, the fraudulent ‘Mr. Gibson’ regularly queries the postmaster for correspondence of his nefarious doings, this time in earshot of our young friend. Fortunately for us he is a criminal who is at least punctual." Holmes chuckled as he raised himself off the sofa. "In any event Lestrade, no doubt has his hands on one of both of them by now. If Rose identifies his assailant, then that will be that." He produced a piece of foolscap from his pocket and placed it on the table. "And so that Mr. Wilson could in no way be implicated, here is the letter I sent."

    "That young boy," I cried, "you gave him orders to steal it from the man with the brown suit!"

    "Street urchins such as the one I employed are quite clever at picking a man’s pockets." He demurred. "But you must promise me you’ll endeavor to bring out the scientific approach I’ve used in this case if you decide to include it in your collection." A small smile appeared on his lips as he took another long draw on his pipe.

    "There is one more particular which troubles me." I questioned. "Why let young Mr. Wilson off the hook? After all he did commit a crime in his youth he did not pay for and he was willing to betray his employer."

    "We must ask ourselves whether justice was done and what is in the best interests of our client, not whether the letter of the law was obeyed, as I am not an emissary of the law. In this case I deemed that Nigel Wilson is at this point a truthful and upstanding citizen. It would be of no use to society or to Miss Nordstrum to bring him shame. I have no doubt that the two of them will be quite happy and productive members of society."

    With that Holmes gathered up the three letters, the two from Nigel Wilson and the one he himself had written and placed them in a binder filed under "S" presumably for, The Source.

    Web Services Messaging Model

    I've been playing around with the Web Services Enhancements 2.0 (WSE) tech preview recently for an article I'm writing for Advisor. The feature that is the most pleasant suprise is the new messaging model to support the integration of Web services into more traditional applications. To support this paradigm, the WSE 2.0 programming model lets an application become either a "sender" of SOAP messages or a "receiver" or both. You do this using the SoapSender and SoapReceiver classes found in the Microsoft.Web.Services.Messaging namespace to encapsulate the process of communicating using SOAP using a URI.

    In addition, the SoapSender and SoapReceiver classes support sending and receiving messages over three transports: using an in-process mechanism that doesn't touch the network layer, TCP, or HTTP. Each protocol uses a specific URI format. For example, in order to send a message to a Web service you could use the SoapSender class to send a SoapEnvelope (simply a DOM document and found in the Microsoft.Web.Services namespace) like so:

    Dim e As New SoapEnvelope()
    e.Body.InnerXml = ""
    e.Context.Action = ""
    e.Context.ReplyTo = New _
    Dim sender As New SoapSender(New Uri("soap.tcp://localhost/rates"))

    Here's the resulting SOAP message that's sent:

    <q:GetConsultingRates xmlns:q='' />

    To receive this message an application would have to create a class that inherits from SoapReceiver and overrides the Receive method:

    Public Class RatesReceiver : Inherits SoapReceiver
    Protected Overrides Sub Receive(ByVal e As SoapEnvelope)
    'Extract the parts of the SOAP message using the DOM
    End Sub
    End Class

    The receiver class can use the SoapEnvelope.Context.Action to determine what action to take and parse the SOAP envelope to extract parameters. A receiving application must also register the URI to process messages for using the SoapReceivers class:

    Dim r As New Uri("soap.tcp://localhost/rates")
    Dim rates As New RatesReceiver()
    SoapReceivers.Add(r, rates)

    Of course, once the sender sends the message to the receiver, the roles are reversed and the receiving application must then become the sender by constructing a SOAP envelope and sending the response via the SoapSender class.

    The cool thing is that if an application registers both endpoints for this communication then WSE makes the calls entirely within the process and doesn't invoke the network layer.

    WSE 2.0 also includes SoapClient and SoapService classes to make the process of sending and receiving a little easier and these look forward to the classes in Indigo. Of course, in practice one would likely want to further abstract the invocation of the SoapClient class so the client doesn't have to work with the SoapEnvelope at all.

    I see alot of potential in this messaging model since it allows for the creation of true service-oriented applications by providing the underlying infrastructure on which you can build. For example, you could use this model to create a seamless application where the presentation layer communicates in-process with the domain layer when offline and uses HTTP when in a connected environment.

    Antiquarian Medical Books

    Received the following notice today. My wife and I viewed this book in the fall when we were in Iowa City and were amazed at the level of detail and of course the fact that "flap books" were this old and not only for children.

    The Hardin Library for the Health Sciences is pleased to announce the completion of its latest digitizing undertaking: Johann Remmelin’s Catoptrum Microcosmicum, the most extensive anatomical "flap book" of the 17th century. Published in 1619, the work consists of three large plates, each of which contains several multi-layered illustration of the human body. The digitizing project includes high-resolution photographs of the layered flaps of the illustrations and uses "Zoomify" technology (requiring a small plug-in) to allow varying levels of magnification. Catoptrum Microcosmicum is the third book in the John Martin Rare Book Room to be digitized, the others being Anatomia Universa (Mascagni) and Tabulae anatomicase by Da Cortona.

    You can view Catoptrum Microcosmicum at:

    All three works may be viewed by going to the John Martin Rare Book Room site

    Royals Get Gonzales

    Well, the Royals finally signed Juan Gonzales to a one year contract. I don't think terms of the deal were announced but he made $13M last year with the Rangers although I'm certain he'll make significantly less for the Royals. He's been injured more than he's played since 2001 but has still been productive hitting 31 homeruns in about 600 at bats. It'll be interesting to see how he hits in a larger Kauffman stadium.

    So the Royals depth chart looks a little better now.

    1B - Harvey, Stairs
    2B - Relaford, Graffanino
    SS - Berroa, Graffanino
    3B - Randa, Graffanino
    RF - Gonzales, Stairs
    CF - Beltran, Rich Thompson (obtained in the Rule 5 draft)
    LF - Guiel, DeJesus
    C - Santiago, Stinnet
    DH - Sweeney, Harvey

    SP - Anderson, May, Asencio, Appier, Snyder (maybe Affeldt)
    RP - Affeldt, MacDougal, Leskanic, Grimsely, Sullivan, Carrasco

    I have 26 players listed so I would doubt that Thompson would make the ballclub or one of the pitchers like Carrasco.

    Contextual versus Counting Statistics

    I was alerted to fellow SABR member Cyril Morong's analysis of game situation or contextual statistics such as Player Win Averages (PWA) and other similar stats spurred by the recent article in Business Week which I blogged about a while back.

    I don't disagree with Cyril's conclusion that measures of these sorts correlate very strongly with OPS, Runs Created, or other simpler and non-context related statistics. This is simply because the common sabermetric wisdom is that "clutch hitting" as defined in the popular mind doesn't exist and so the context dependent statistics will ultimately measure the same thing as the simple counting statistics given a large enough sample size. (I should mention that the authors of Curve Ball did find some evidence to suggest that hitting with runners on base may be linked to ability - "Although there is evidence that players differ in their ability to perform in the clutch, the evidence is relatively weak..." p108 of the 2003 revised edition).

    However, I do appreciate these kinds of stats since they put a player in the context of his team and give an actual measure of how valuable he was to the team in a particular season given the way he was used (where he batted, how often, when he pinch hit etc.) This is because there is certainly a correlation between batting order position and who hits in front and in back of him and these contextual stats. From that perspective, contextual stats are the best way to pick MVPs of each team and perhaps of the league if you want to normalize the contribution based on a percentage of the team's wins.

    No Patience

    I mentioned in a previous post that Cubs prospect Jason DuBois garnered AFL MVP honors. However, I didn't notice at the time that in 75 plate appearances he walked a exactly 1 time. He was a rule 5 player selected by the Blue Jays and then returned to the Cubs I believe. That may have something to do with it. I doubt we'll be hearing much from DuBois in the coming years.

    Sunday, January 04, 2004

    The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part IV)

    Part IV of "The Case of the Excellent Typist"...

    When we returned to Baker Street Holmes instantly demanded the papers I had been carrying that originated from the typist’s desk. He poured over each one in the stack, fifty-seven in all if memory serves, several times and finally had placed two aside after several hours worth of work - each time uttering a "Hah!" of delight. I had begun to be engrossed in a medical journal and an article that discussed innovative surgical techniques when he sprang from his seat and began to pace the room with the two letters in his hand.

    "In these are the proof of my theory, Watson. And with these we will lay our hands on the would-be burglars and ruffians who maliciously wounded Constable Rose." With that he tossed them on my lap on his way past my sitting chair by the fireplace. I picked up the notes and read each one carefully. The first, which was presumably posted on Wednesday of the previous week, read as follows:

    Mr. Charles K. Gibson
    Belton Road Station
    To be left until called for:

    Dear Mr. Gibson,
    Let us express our foremost regret to you regarding the insolvency of
    Gibson's Retail House of Trade. Noting your unpaid debt makes
    imperative back interest earned be repaid as scheduled:
    42 pounds 16 shillings.

    The second, posted on Friday, was similar and addressed to the same Mr. Gibson. The text of the correspondence, however, read thusly.

    Regarding the insolvency of Gibson's Retail House of Trade: The
    loans once earmarked for financing fail to suit a number of
    unrestrictive and modest, yet basic projected earnings.
    Loans rejected as submitted: 75 pounds and 36 pounds.

    While I was still reading Holmes grabbed his coat and with a wave of his hand explained that he was going out to mail some correspondence and would return promptly. Indeed, by the time I had finished examining the notes a satisfied Holmes had returned and threw himself into the chair opposite mine.

    "Well," he smiled. "Surely you can now see the matter clearly."

    "I confess that I am still somewhat in the dark. It is clear to me that Nigel Wilson was obviously involved as the inside man in the attempted robbery. I do not, however, see the relevance of these letters to Mr. Gibson aside from their somewhat labored grammar. I felt as I often did, as a person who was groping about blind in the presence of someone who saw everything clearly.

    "Consider", Holmes began, "the scene at the safe, the address of this Mr. Gibson, and the behavior of Mr. Wilson in the week prior to the incident and one explanation - my theory - will become obvious." He was now obviously enjoying my dullness while I was becoming increasingly irritable.

    "I just don’t see how..." I began but was immediately cut off by the sound of the door of our rooms being swung open by a clean shaven, well dressed and handsome young man in his mid twenties, out of breath and who looked harried by recent events.

    "Ah, Mr. Nigel Wilson I presume." My friend said calmly. "Please sit down and we will endeavor to help you." Holmes motioned to the chair by the window with a sweep of his hand.

    Obviously surprised, Nigel traversed the room and did sit down. He appeared to be at his wits end.

    "I have just three questions for you. First, what is the little indiscretion of your past which have not shared with Miss Nordstrum?"

    Clearly exasperated Nigel sighed and began. "You must understand it was more than a decade ago and that I was a young a foolish boy at the time. I had fallen in with a crowd of ruffians and participated in the burglary of a printing shop. I was so horrified by my own actions that I severed ties with those involved and have been on the right side of the law ever since."

    "Very well then, do you truly care for Miss Nordstrum?" Holmes sat expectantly.

    Again our visitor looked perplexed and answered. "Yes sir I do. She means the world to me and I can’t bear to cause her anymore pain in this matter."

    My friend nodded his head. "And finally, what are your plans regarding the young lady?"

    "Well sir, I planned on asking her to be my wife before this whole affair happened. Since you seem to know all about it, however, I’ll spare you the explanation. But I give you my word that I was determined to go to Scotland Yard and make a clean breast of it when Mary told me you might be able to help. And then when I heard her utter the number ‘36’ I knew that all was known already." The young man sat with his head in his hands.

    Sherlock Holmes sat for several minutes with his eyes closed. Finally, after what seemed like hours he rose and extended his hand to the young man.

    "You can be rest assured that I’ll do my best to protect your reputation." Holmes smiled. "You must however do one additional task for me."

    "Of course!" Nigel’s expression had changed from desperation to hope at Holmes’ offer.

    The detective walked over to the desk, pulled out a piece of foolscap and began writing. After a few sentences he handed the note to Nigel.

    "You obviously know what to do with this. We will take care of the rest. I now bid you good-bye and good luck."

    "Thank you Mr. Holmes. I am truly indebted to you." He shook both our hands and left a much different figure than the one who entered a short time ago. It was as if the weight of the entire world had been lifted from him. Holmes immediately drifted off to his experiments and was not in the mood to discuss the case for the remainder of the evening and the following day. One or two times I tried to press the matter but he simply waved me off and returned to his test tubes. I examined the letters several times during the course of the next day but was unable to see what my friend had obviously seen. He only left our rooms on one occasion for a short walk, he explained, but did receive two telegrams which he read hastily and then threw into the fire.

    I was beginning to fear that I would never understand the singular events of the past two days and that perhaps the case was concluded in his mind when he rushed out to breakfast on Tuesday morning shortly before 8 as I read the morning paper.

    "Come Watson, illumination awaits!" He beckoned as he handed me my coat and slipped his own on. I followed him as he streaked down the stairs and out to a waiting cab. I was surprised to find Inspector Lestrade, looking a bit annoyed, already seated in the cab with a young constable in plain clothes. We were off at once down Baker Street.

    "Well, good morning Inspector." I began. "I see Holmes has coaxed you to be part of this little adventure. And by the way," I turned to my friend who although facing the window, could not hide a smirk, "where are we off to in such a hurry?"

    "Indeed Mr. Holmes," Lestrade’s tone was anything but cheerful. "what’s the meaning of this telegram? And why have you asked me to bring this lad absent his uniform?" Lestrade was almost shaking as he held up a telegram Holmes had obviously sent him the previous day.

    Holmes now turned from the window and fixed his attention squarely on Lestrade. "Forgive my predilection for drama, Inspector, but am I correct in assuming that you would be interested in laying your hands on the men who wounded Constable Rose in that business on Hixton Road Saturday last?"

    "Indeed I would Mr. Holmes!" Lestrade began rubbing his hands together in delight.

    "Then you shall have your chance shortly. At least one of them will cross our path before the morning is out I assure you. Ah, our destination!" Holmes exclaimed pointing across the street to the Belton Road postal station. Our cab came to a halt almost directly across from the station.

    "From this vantage point gentlemen, we will await our quarry. A member of the Baker Street Irregulars, a band of street-wise youths which I occasionally employ, has been stationed inside the office. When our man arrives our ally will follow him out the door and tip his cap. When he does I suggest you dispatch this able-bodied man in pursuit. If you have the stomach for it you may wish to follow the man and eventually he will certainly lead you to his accomplice. That I leave to your discretion." The detective finished his explanation and began to look intently in the direction of the station across the street.

    We waited for some time at the station when finally a diminutive man with brown curls and a rather plain brown suit strode out of the station followed closely by a young boy who could only be described as rough looking. The youngster tipped his cap in our direction and at once the plain clothed constable and Lestrade were out of the cab and on foot in close pursuit.

    "Well, Doctor the case is at an end for us. I am certain that Lestrade can handle things from here. He may be a bit dull in the areas of detection but he’s as fierce as bulldog once you point him in the right direction."

    "‘Ere you are gov’ner". We were interrupted by the untidy young boy who had tipped his cap minutes before. He now stood at the window of the cab holding up a piece of paper with a smile on his freckled and dirty face. "I got it from ‘im just like you says." Holmes accepted the paper and flipped the boy a sovereign.

    "Well done. You have earned your pay today." My friend smiled and the boy was off down the street disappearing into the crowd no doubt on his way to spend his reward.

    Saturday, January 03, 2004

    The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part III)

    This is part III of the "The Case of the Excellent Typist"...

    The three of us hailed a cab that took us on the quarter hour’s journey to Hixton Road. On the way Holmes said nothing but started vacantly out the window, a certain sign that he was applying his considerable mental powers to the problem at hand. I tried to engage our client in conversation but I’m afraid I rambled on a bit about subjects Miss Nordstrum would rather not have heard, but her politeness forbade her from saying so. When we arrived, a police carriage was present as Holmes had surmised.

    "I think it would be best if you were to wait in the cab, unseen." Holmes cautioned the young lady. "We needn’t give the official force any cause for alarm or suspicion. Pray tell how are we to come by your desk?"

    "It is the third desk on the back right near the wall." She answered.

    We stepped out of the cab but just as Holmes was descending the step he gave a quick glance back at Miss Nordstrum. "And Mr. Wilson’s normal work area?"

    "Nigel is a teller and so he works behind the counter. His duties take him all over the bank and he seldom resides for long in any one place."

    With that Holmes strode quickly up to the steps of the bank where the sinewy figure of Inspector Lestrade was just beginning to descend.

    "Ah, Mr. Holmes, I didn’t expect that this business would interest you. It is quite an open and shut case I’m afraid. And thanks to the quick action of officer Rose the thieves were not successful. I have no doubt we’ll not see the likes of these ruffians again."

    "I am sure you are quite right as always Inspector but the account in this morning’s paper seemed to have several points of interest which I desired to see for myself. You have no objections then?" Holmes tried to disguise his condescending tone but to someone who knew him as well as I it was in vain.

    "Of course not." exclaimed Lestrade with a thin lipped smile. "Because you have aided my efforts in small ways in the past I am always willing to return the favor."

    "By the way, Inspector," Holmes turned as we were about to enter the door, "Have you gotten a statement from Rose as to the events of last night? I would very much like to hear them."

    "Indeed I have. I spoke with him myself at the hospital this morning."

    "Splendid. Tell me if you will, what caught the officer’s attention?"

    Lestrade glanced down at a small notebook he held in his left hand, "Let’s see, he says he was walking his nightly beat which takes him directly in front of the bank when he saw a dim light emanating from inside the bank. He crept up to the door and was surprised to see two men, their backs to him, crouched at the safe. Apparently they were engaged in some sort of heated discussion but Rose was unable to determine the topic. He burst into the building and ordered the men to be still. Before he could finish his statement one of them whirled and fired a pistol at him, wounding him in the leg. He remembers little thereafter save the two men running from the scene. Rest assured Rose would be able to identify his attacker although he did not get a clean look at the other fellow."

    "Thank you Lestrade, you have been very helpful."

    My friend flung open the door and proceeded to step into the bank. The Hixton Road branch of the Bank of London was one of the smaller branches and was arranged with teller stations on the left hand side of the big room and a series of desks where clerks and other employees attended to their duties on the right. The middle of the room was open and allowed for customers to walk freely. One could imagine that the offices of bank managers were located in the corridor that opened behind the teller stations. The immense, black safe was situated squarely behind the teller counter. As it was Sunday there was no one about save two constables who were presently examining the door of the safe.

    Holmes began by proceeding straight to the desk of our client and opening the drawer she had mentioned. In it was a stack of handwritten letters which Holmes snatched up and shoved in my direction.

    "If you would be so good as to conceal these Watson I would be much obliged." I quickly stored them beneath my overcoat in an inside pocket as Holmes was making a bee line for the safe.

    "Gentlemen," Holmes said politely as he approached the constables examining the safe. "if you would be so kind as to step away from the safe, I would like to inspect it." The two constables turned on their heels with a look of indignation. The look passed quickly, however, as they instantly recognized the famous detective. They backed away as Holmes was already down on his hands and knees examining the floor boards. He crawled on all fours back and forth in front of the safe for several minutes. The constables seemed as if they were enjoying the show, shooting amused glances to each other. Finally, Holmes rose and turned his attention to the safe itself, pulling his lens from his pocket to examine the combination lock as well as the very edge of the door. After this was concluded he uttered a short sigh and replaced his glass in his pocket.

    "Has anyone touched the safe since the excitement of last night?" He inquired.

    "No sir.", one of the constables reported filling his chest and standing almost at attention. "It was plain that the safe hadn’t been opened so we made sure that it wasn’t tampered with."

    "Thank you gentlemen, let me apologize for the inconvenience." He turned and headed for the door as I hurried to catch up.

    "Well?" I asked as we descended the stairs, once again in the chilly fall air.

    "It is a bad business Watson. Dark powers are at work here. It only remains to be seen whether a man’s reputation is worth preserving." His tone was dark but here in the bright sunshine I could see a gleam of excitement in my companion’s eye as we strode for the waiting carriage.

    "Now then, Miss Nordstrum," Holmes began, taking his seat and closing the carriage door. "I would very much like to speak with Mr. Nigel Wilson as soon as can be arranged. For his own safety," our young client looked startled at Holmes statement, "I suggest the meeting take place tonight." Holmes tapped the roof of the cab with his walking stick and we started down Hixton Road towards Miss Nordstrum’s flat.

    "As you wish Mr. Holmes, she assented. Do you think, then, that my poor Nigel is to blame in this affair?"

    "There can be little doubt that your friend is involved in the events that transpired here last night. I believe, however, that if he cooperates he will be dealt with fairly by the police if their intervention is required. That is all that I can promise. Tell him, however, that if he does not cooperate with me I shall have no choice but to enlighten the official force of all that I know. As proof of my sincerity simply utter the number ‘36’ to him and he will no doubt understand my meaning."

    The young lady was quite shaken with Holmes words and said little in the short journey to her lodgings. She bade us a hasty good-bye and promised to contact us when a meeting could be arranged. On the ride back to Baker Street I inquired, "So then you have a theory as to the involvement of Nigel Wilson and the identity of the burglars?"

    "A theory which fits all the data we currently possess, yes Doctor. It should not take long prove it correct."

    Friday, January 02, 2004

    Equality and Democracy

    While still pondering the ideas mentioned in my post on Nature vs. Nurture I ran across two related writings by C.S. Lewis.

    The first is an article published in Present Concerns simply titled "Equality" written in 1943. In that article Lewis makes the point that democracy is valuable because it is medicine for what ails mankind. In other words, equality before the law and representative government are necessary because man is fallen and so no man can be trusted with too much power over others as Lord Acton would agree. Contrarywise, many people defend democracy (e.g. Rousseau's concept of the "general will") on the grounds that everyone is wise and deserves a share in government. Lewis views this defense as dangerous because it is not true and that tyrants will take advantage of the fact. Lewis notes that "Aristotle said that some people were only fit to be slaves. I do not contradict him. But I reject slavery because I see no men fit to be masters."

    Although "egalitarian fiction" is necessary in the political realm and in the eyes of the law, Lewis views inequality as a real and necessary force in the world (in marriage, the church, in families, in business, and in education to name a few). To submit to the tabular rasa position that all people are intrinsically the same but for their environment breeds a stunted and envious mindset Lewis calls "I'm as good as you" and it is this "special disease of democracy" that seeks to cut everyone down to the same level, to lop off all the tall stalks so to speak. In fact, Lewis notes that there is a human craving for inequality (a joyful and loyal obedience or a noble acceptance of obedience) and that when men cannot honour a monarch or worse they will instead turn their allegience to athletes, film stars, and other celebrities.

    I think this relates to the previous post in that the "legal fiction" of equality of individuals necessary to prevent oppression (as evidenced by Nazi ideology) has been transposed or "writ large" in the western scientific community to the fiction that entire groups are equal in all their attributes. This is partly a reaction to the Holocaust but also the natural outworking of the "I'm as good as you" school of thought inherent in democracy. Other places where "I'm as good as you" rears its head is in the denegration of "dead white males" and the repudiation of "western thinking" on college campuses and the more strident forms of feminism.

    Lewis expands on this theme in the essay "Membership" published in The Weight of Glory which was originally given as a talk to a Christian audience in February 1945. In this essay he highlights the differences in individuals by attacking the modern notion of "the collective" and how it is precisely those differences that allow each Christian to take his proper place in the body of Christ on earth and eternity. However, his technique is not simply to attack collectivism, but also the opposite error of believing in the infinite worth of the individual. Here Lewis argues that although God died for all and so in one sense loved all equally, it is not because men are inherently worthy of love. In fact, Christianity teaches quite the opposite. It is only in receiving the love of God that men find their worth.

    The Case of the Excellent Typist (Part II)

    Here is part II of The Case of the Excellent Typist.

    With that Mrs. Hudson escorted a rather plain looking but neatly dressed young lady of not more than 26 or 27 into the room and announced her as Miss Mary Nordstrum. She wore an expression of nervousness and one could tell she had not slept well the previous night. She stood politely but resolutely in the doorway.

    "Ah, Miss Nordstrum, pray come in and seat yourself," my friend said calmly while referring to a nearby chair with a wave of his hand as he perched himself on the window sill opposite the chair. "Your note has certainly piqued our interest. Now what is it we can do for you?"

    She shot a questioning glance at me which was not lost on Holmes.

    "This is my friend and colleague Doctor Watson. I assure you that he is of invaluable service to me in these little matters and can be completely trusted."

    "As you say then." She acquiesced. "As my note indicated this matter is both delicate and urgent. Have you seen the morning edition today Mr. Holmes?"

    "So you are involved in some way with the Hixton Road case." Holmes replied with a satisfied smile. "I see then that you are employed by the bank as a typist and I may add a most excellent typist indeed."

    She looked momentarily startled and my friend quickly reassured her. "Your fingernails are quite short, indicative of someone who uses their fingers often such as a typist or pianist and you have a smudge of ink on your right index finger. Surely is it not obvious that you must be an excellent typist as only typists who are very fast occasionally have to pry two or more hammers apart after they collide?"

    "Everything is as you say Mr. Holmes." She agreed with a tone of awe in her voice. "You are even more impressive in person than in the accounts which I have read. I knew that if anyone could help me it would be you."

    "Well then, start from the beginning and tell us all that is troubling you." Holmes threw himself in his favorite chair and closed his eyes, still puffing on his pipe as was his custom. Miss Nordstrum shot me a questioning glance and I nodded my assurance that the great detective was indeed attentive. With that she began her narrative.

    "As you have said I am employed by the Bank of London, Hixton Road Branch as a typist. I work every Monday, Wednesday and Friday and each day when I come in a stack of handwritten correspondence is on my desk awaiting my arrival. I type the outgoing letters and notices for all of the bank’s departments and then a postman takes them out twice each day, once at noon and again in the afternoon before closing. It is not difficult work but occasionally it becomes dreary.

    "I have been employed there three months and have become close friends with a clerk who also works at the bank," She hesitated as if she was deciding whether or not to divulge any further information. "by the name of Nigel Wilson." she continued with a heavy sigh. "He and I have seen quite a lot of each other this month past and have begun to think seriously of our future.

    "In any case I really do care for the man and so I can’t bear to think he may have had something to do with last nights robbery attempt." She blurted out half crying.

    Holmes quickly opened his eyes and leaned forward to console the distressed lady. "There, there Miss Nordstrum you can rest assured that we will endeavor to get to the bottom of this affair, but you must compose yourself and relate the facts of your suspicion and how they relate to the events of last night."

    "Very well sir," she said with a sniff as she straightened up in her chair again. "I have noticed in the past week some strange behavior from Nigel. He has seemed distant and nervous when we were alone together, as if a great weight hung on his shoulders, not at all like I had known him before. By the close of the week on our walk together Friday evening he appeared simply exhausted by whatever the matter was. When I inquired as to the trouble he refused to speak of it saying only that I needn’t worry and that all would soon be right. On the contrary, when at the bank he seemed to me to be quite himself and even more friendly and at ease than is his custom. In fact, each morning this past week when I would come in he would greet me kindly and talk with me for a few moments at my desk as I prepared for my days work. On Wednesday I even found him straightening my days correspondence for me when I arrived."

    Sherlock Holmes opened his eyes again and a look of puzzlement crossed his face, "Quite remarkable indeed."

    "This difference in his manner when we were alone and at the bank coupled with his indication that something was soon to happen had me quite alarmed as you can imagine." She continued. "And now that this thievery has been attempted I can’t help but have the feeling that Nigel is hiding something and that perhaps my love may somehow be entangled in it. " Her voice trailed off and her head sunk to her breast.

    "And..", said Holmes in a leading tone of voice his eyes becoming wider.

    "And he has mentioned to me in confidence that as a youth he was involved in some indiscretion which is not common knowledge." She quickly added, "But I know in my heart of hearts that Nigel is a reformed man and that he would never wrong anyone by his own will. You must promise that this information I have just shared will remain a confidence between us." We both nodded our agreement and she continued.

    "You can understand then that if my suspicions prove to be unfounded I would certainly have regretted calling them to the attention of the police and yet I could not live with myself if I knew the man I loved had committed a crime and I had not done my duty. On the other hand if the police suspect that someone at the bank were involved, Nigel’s past may work against him unjustly. That is why I have called on your Mr. Holmes, to engage your services in the hope that you are able to arrive at the truth. Now you know all that I do about the matter." She signed with a look of helplessness as she looked from me to Holmes who stood and walked to the window, parting the curtains and studying the street below.

    "Would you mind answering a few questions to clarify one or two points?" Holmes asked with his face still to the window.

    "Of course not." She assented with a nod.

    "Very well then, tell me, how did you come to learn of the attempt last night and put the note upon or door so late?"

    "You see, I live in a flat by myself as I have no relatives living. My work at the bank supplements my small inheritance which was left me when my parents died some years ago. It is about a quarter mile from the bank on Hixton Road. I was just about to turn in last night around a half past ten when I heard the furious racing of a four wheeler on the street. When I looked out I saw two police carriages heading towards the Bank. I hurried downstairs quickly and watched while the carriages pulled up at the bank. The constables hurried inside and then came out carrying a body which they whisked away in one of the four wheelers. The excitement had me quite nervous because of Nigel’s behavior and I instantly feared that he was in danger. I determined to discover the nature of the event and so I ran for the bank where I inquired as to the situation.

    "When I learned that the body was that of a constable I was only partially relieved. I then hailed a cab and drove straight to your door hoping to find your rooms still lit. When I saw that they were dark, I jotted the note and slipped it under the door so I was sure to consult you this morning."

    "Of course". Holmes turned from the window and sat once again in his chair. "Tell me," he paused and took a long draw on his pipe, "this correspondence that you transcribe in your duties, do you keep the original handwritten notes?" Miss Nordstrum looked inquisitively at my friend who now had begun to puff on his pipe in earnest.

    "Why, yes, I always keep the previous day’s originals in my bottom left desk drawer until I am sure that they have been mailed. Each day I put in the garbage the originals from two day’s prior."

    "Well then, I think we may be in luck!" Holmes smiled and sprang from his seat. "We must go at once to the bank where I’m certain our friends from Scotland Yard are hard at work."