Where did Jack go? I don't see where...

That's what Kent used to say when we played peekaboo. Well, daddy, not Jack, but you get the picture.

Sorry for the disappearing act mom. Oh, is someone else still out there? I apologize to you too. Here's a quick summary recap of what I've been neglecting to write about the past couple of months:

  • In September we found out that Beta is another boy, Dean Isaac. Kent's been getting ready to be a big brother and we think he'll take to it pretty well.
  • In October my fantasy baseball team won the league for the third straight year, and the fourth time in the last five. Someone introduced an amendment to the rules last year limiting the keepers for teams that win back to back (or back to back to back). Fortunately for me it did not pass. Fortunately for my league, I'll be very busy and sleep deprived this spring when we're drafting, so it'll probably be a down year.
  • In early November I took Exam C. Results will finally be available at the end of this week. I felt good about parts of the test at the time, but I wasn't sure I'd done well enough overall to pass. As the results date has gotten closer I've only gotten more pessimistic, and I won't be surprised if I have to take it again in April.
  • We traveled to Atlanta for Thanksgiving, and Kent and his cousin Emerson started a band. Next Thanksgiving they'll have another member for the group. I think in about 10 years we'll have a one-hit-wonder boy band. Stay tuned.
  • For Christmas we traveled to Ocean City and Baltimore in Maryland, where Kent got to see his cousins on the other side of the family—Nicholas, Travis, and seven-day-old Blythe, the first girl of her generation.

Right after we got back from Maryland we had a labor scare and went to the hospital. Everything was ok and they sent us home, but now we're in full out baby-preparedness mode. The infant car seat is in the trunk, and our hospital bag is packed. This past weekend we rearranged our bedroom so that we could set up the co-sleeper that my sister lent us. We also took the first real steps to getting the crib/toddler bed out of Kent's room and the daybed that was Erica's into his room so he can have a big boy bed and Dean can have a crib when he's ready for one. Thanks to Erica's mom we're setting up a new bed in the guest room so that we'll still have someplace for visitors to sleep, which is good since my mom and Erica's mom both plan to come down for several days after Dean is born. There are still a few things to do, but if Dean surprises us we're pretty much ready.

Finally, I wanted to follow up on last year's post, wherein I actually made two resolutions and even shared them with the world. I wanted to track our personal finances for a year, and I wanted to get out of credit card debt. The bad news is, like most resolutions, I didn't manage to do either. The good news is, I made progress and think we'll fulfill both this year.

Last year I tracked our finances for about two months before giving up. But, more recently Erica and I have been talking about trying to actually budget instead of using the loose "make sure you set aside enough to pay the bills and spend the rest however you want" method we've been using since I worked at the bookstore. So I've gotten the personal finance software set up again, and in the meantime several improvements have been made that should make it easier to keep up with. Having Erica actively involved will also help immensely.

As far as credit card debt goes, we did a good job of going after it until sometime this summer when we had a hiccup in our finances, and ever since then we've been kind of coasting. We've still been working away at it, but with less intensity. However, it's down to the point that our anticipated tax refund should pretty much cover the rest of it, so hopefully by the end of February we can bid it a very fond farewell.


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Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers back to back champs!

I'm pleased to announce that the Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers have won the QCFL for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons. Prior to this run the league had had six different winners in six years so there's usually someone new stepping it up each season.

In 2005 and 2007 I had really great drafts and I knew that I should be able to compete for the top spot in the league. In those seasons I opened large leads over the rest of the league pretty early and held on to a comfortable margin most of the year (though there was team with a late-season push in 2007 that nearly caught me).

This year was different. I had a good draft but there were definitely some question marks, and early in the season I was stuck far below the leaders in the standings. Like many seasons lately, a couple of teams, led by BJ's Charleston Chew, had a large lead over the rest of us and they didn't seem likely to come back to the pack. In June I was thinking that, like 2006, I would end up trading off productive players for extra picks next year; I would have to wait for 2009 to make another serious run at the title.

But before I started looking for trading partners I looked at the standings and realized my hitters were doing nearly as well as the first place team. It was pitching where I was suffering. I also noticed that the standings were packed tightly in the pitching categories, so if I could make some improvements I could make up some serious ground. Around the same time I read an article by a well known fantasy baseball expert who was having a bad season in a public league. He wrote about the need to stop the bleeding from his pitching staff. I took the words to heart. Just before the All-Star break I estimated that in the best case scenario I could get as high as 117 points, and in a worst case scenario for Charleston the team could drop to as low as 117 points. I love competing against BJ and the possibility of finishing the season tied and settling things in a post-season playoff was hard to pass up.

I kicked off the stop-the-bleeding campaign by dropping Ian Snell, a starting pitcher from Pittsburgh who had been a big contributor to my victory in 2007, but who couldn't seem to get it together this year. I also dropped Kevin Correia and Carlos Villanueva, two pitchers that I had picked up late in the draft as possible keepers for next year. I figured I could either spend the rest of the season playing for next year and hoping they'd pan out or get on to trying to improve this season—it helped that I more productive keeper options from the end of the draft that I was more likely to keep. I tried packaging two of my other end-of-draft keeper candidates for a decent starting pitcher, but I ended up passing on the only offer I received (I looked back at the end of the season and the players I was offered wouldn't have helped me any, so no big loss there).

Instead I focused on picking up free agents. I got some lucky breaks when Jesse Litsch and Yusmiero Petit were unowned after being demoted to the minors. They both pitched well down the stretch and helped me make up some ground. I also finally got some saves out of Dan Wheeler and had the good fortune to pick up Joey Devine, Chad Qualls, and Jensen Lewis right before they started getting saves. Finally, I stopped playing my pitchers in unfavorable matchups.

Between these improvements and some smaller gains in the hitting categories I managed to climb into a tie for first place with three weeks left in the season. I hadn't made it to 117 but the Chew had dropped a little more than I had thought possible. The last three weeks of the season I managed to solidify my gains, making it up to 123 and taking firm hold of the top spot.

BJ's team had done one favor by trading away three starting pitchers that had great seasons in 2008: Cliff Lee, Joe Saunders, and Edinson Volquez. But when the season was over I looked at their stats following the trade, and while they would have helped, they wouldn't have kept him in first place.

All in all it was a great season, and my most prized win so far. The first time I played fantasy baseball it was a match up against BJ, and after several years of getting my butt handed to me it has been great to do well the past few seasons. Hopefully we'll have many more seasons of fighting it out between first and second.






Is anyone still out there?

If so, you'll be happy to see that there's a new photo gallery on Kent's website, covering the span from mid November to the end of February. Kent is 8 months old now, believe it or not. Crazy eh?

Since I last wrote I took and passed an online course in applied statistics (the final exam was on my birthday). It wasn't as difficult as one of the actuarial exams, but there are three college course credits I have to get so it's nice to get one out of the way. I'll be trying to get another one, maybe two, done in May after my exam. I'll be headed to Atlanta for that seminar I mentioned in less than a month, so there's lots of studying to do between now and then so that I can soak up what's being said rather than trying to learn it on the fly.

And, it's spring, so hope returns along with baseball (and lawn mowing, which I haven't gotten to quite yet). We're about a third of the way through the draft for my actuary league, where I will try to better last year's middle of the pack finish. The Queen City Fantasy League starts drafting in a little over a week, and the Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers will have the pleasure of defending last year's title.

Finally, my sister has started her own blog and I have been enjoying it. I have quite the crafty sibling!


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Catching up with Jack

It's been a while since I talked about what's going on, so here's some disjoint discussion of what you've been missing out on:

I was mowing this morning with my electric mower, hopefully for the last time until February, when two kids about ten years old tentatively approached me. "Is that your lawn mower?" "Yes." (One to the other) "I told you so!" (To me) "Where did you get it?" "I had to order it online." Surprised looks. "It runs on batteries instead of gas." "OK." And then they walked off. It was really easy to mow most of our lawn this morning, partly because the weather is finally getting nicer (mid 80s, low humidity, a hint of fall when the breeze blows), and partly because the grass isn't growing as quickly these days.

I'm happy to report that the Abita Springs Turbodogs won the QCFL, marking my second victory in three years. The team changed names to the Baton Rouge Dirty Diapers mid-July for obvious reasons. Unlike the last time I won, this season I had several teams step up and challenge for the lead, including a big push at the end from BJ's Charleston Chew. However, when it was all said and done, our new mascot carried the team to another victory and bought himself a sling carrier with some of the earnings. Watch for photos of his new accoutrements coming soon to a gallery near you. In the actuary league I joined this year, I had a middle of the pack finish, but I will have the third overall draft pick next year, so maybe I can have a better showing in 2008.

The next actuarial exam is coming up in about two and a half weeks, so I've been trying to study a bit more. This past week I finally finished the study guide I got to help me prepare for the exam. I've been studying for this exam since around Christmas last year so it would be really nice to pass and move on to something else, but I feel like it's a toss-up right now. Maybe I'll be studying for six more months... There's still time to do a lot of practice problems and get the concepts solidified in my mind but I would have preferred to have more time between finishing the study guide and exam day to woodshed, but it's harder to study in the evenings than it used to be. We'll see what happens.

There are some non-exam requirements to becoming an actuary that most students now would be able to complete in college, but since I didn't know I wanted to do this back then (and they weren't requirements at the time regardless), I have to take online classes and the like to get the credits. I'm taking an applied statistics course starting after the exam in November so that I can get one of those out of the way. I'm looking forward to it, in large part because the class will include learning a new programming language. Yep, I'm a nerd.

Kent is awesome as always :) He is on the brink of rolling over and he likes to laugh all the time now, not just when he's subjected to the tickle monster treatment. He's got great neck control now and I've started carrying him around in a Superman pose. I don't know if he likes it yet, but he doesn't seem upset so I guess it can't be too terrible for him. He's not sitting up by himself yet but if we sit him up on the couch he'll stay there for a little bit, looking like a more grown up version of himself. Earlier this week I tried putting him up on my shoulders, which he seemed to like pretty well, but he grabbed fistfuls of my hair with both hands so it was hard to get him back down. There's a great photo that my dad took of us when I was little (though bigger than Kent is now) where I'm sitting on his shoulders and he's in front of a mirror with the camera. I'm looking forward to repeating that shot with Kent :)


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Opening Day!

At long last the boys of summer have taken the field for regular season baseball games, and I can't tell you how much fun it has been so far today. The Red Sox being upset by the lowly Royals, the oft-injured Baton Rouge native Ben Sheets throwing a 2 hitter for the Brewers, Braves short stop Edgar Renteria hitting two home runs, including the game-winner in the 10th inning. And of course, in the midst of all of this I have fantasy teams to keep up with :)

The Abita Springs Turbodogs are looking decent after the draft. I don't feel as good about the team as I did two years ago when I won the league, but I felt a lot better than last year, when a dismal season put me in the bottom half of the league for the first time since 2001. This morning I was in 8th place following last night's official opener between the Cardinals and the Mets. At the moment I am in third. In half an hour I might be first or fifth, and tomorrow I may be in 17th. The standings are so volatile in the first few weeks of the season wild swings are commonplace.

This year I also joined a head to head league with some actuaries. Whereas the Turbodogs compete against every team in the league all of the time, in a head to head league you only compete with one other team per week and earn wins, losses, and ties based on how you stack up against that other team at the end of the week. I like my team there but I'm getting my butt handed to me so far today. Since the competition changes week to week this one will continue to be volatile all season long. I have to say, Erica is not as enthusiastic about my being in two leagues this year, but I couldn't pass up the chance to play fantasy baseball against a group of actuaries.

At any rate, it's nearly time for another game to start. I've got to go! I hope opening day is as exciting for the rest of you :)






Tabasco Warriors Move to Abita Springs, Change Mascot

Turbodog LogoIn a surprise announcement today, Tabasco Warriors president Jack Angert told reporters he was moving the team 150 miles east to Abita Springs and changing the mascot to the Turbodogs, effective immediately. "Avery Island and Tabasco were good to us. We won a championship there. But, after last season we needed a change."

Angert denied allegations that the move was related to a recent incident where a McIlhenny executive called him "le petit baton rouge," referring to the little red stick that tabasco farmers use to determine whether a pepper is ripe to pick, when the team failed to make the playoffs last year. Following the incident last October Angert was publicly quoted as saying "Our commitment to Avery Island and the McIlhenny Company has never been stronger. I have complete confidence in their ability to support the team going forward. This is our home. Period."

A person close to the team, who asked not to be identified, remarked, "Last season they played like they were drunk all the time. We're just moving them closer to the source."

The same source revealed that Angert briefly considered a move to his home city and naming the team the Baton Rouge Crawfish Boils, but the name failed in focus group tests and the economic incentives to tie the team to another big name sponsor were too great a draw. When asked, Angert denied such a move was ever considered, saying "Our commitment to Abita Springs and the Abita Brewing Company has never been stronger. I have complete confidence in their ability to support the team going forward. This is our home. Period."