Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The process of writing a book

I've just read two great articles about the process of writing multiple-discipline books. One was penned by Steven Johnson, a six-time author who writes books about multiple disciplines and traces patterns over many different topics. This seems a lot like the kind of book I would like to someday write.

He mentions a writing tool named Devonthink which sounds incredible. My blog has been a sort of extended memory for myself. It allows me to write down tidbits of information; small pieces of a larger puzzle. I hope to someday connect them into a cohesive form that pierces the darkness of confusion and ignorance that I confront when I look at the future.

Thats essentially what this is about: predicting the future with greater accuracy.

But I'm digressing; this article mentioned a great tool where the author can put any sort of text file or snippet from online and dump in into this program which keeps track of everything. Then he can sort it or let the program do it for him. Lastly, it can compile all the text into one giant document.

I thought that was really cool. Right now with my blog all I can do is write down ideas and categorize them. This takes it one step further. Or two or three. But it also gave me hope for someday writing a book or novel that brings together all sorts of different concepts in a fiction form.

One idea I was just exploring is the concept of obsession, how people can spiral out of control and focus on one thing to the exclusion of all others and how that manifests itself. Also how competition drives people.

The Emperor from the movie Gladiator is protrayed as a bad guy. He has pride, passion, etc., and is possibly malicious. I'd like to focus on a story from his perspective. How he starts out trying his harding and wanting to do his best to please people but is consistently villainized and placed lower and lower. He is belittled despite his best efforts and a favorite son who is sort of a James Bond/Hero type succeeds with little apparent effort.

And while JB is succeeding easily, the hero is working very, very hard. And when he still fails it twists him and embitters him to where he just wants to hurt those around him. And the whole focus is on how he wanted to do well but kept failing and placed so much pressure on himself that he self destructed and emerged a totally different person.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Dead Zone

We're in the deadzone for sports. There is no Olympic basketball, no qualifying basketbal, no football (Pro or college) and no NBA. What is there to do?

I haven't been studying economics or heuristics. I haven't been doing much of anything these last few months. Besides blogging and writing the occasional B/R article, I've been playing Halo and golfing.

Why did I begin this blog? To categorize things; to remember things; to do some writing. And I want to continue but there simply isn't that much to write about.

When I think about making a prediction, I typically think about doing the opposite of what my gut tells me. That seems like it is more likely to be right. When I'm right it feels good but when I'm wrong it seems like more details emerge. We know everything relevant about a team; in a football game or a seven game basketball series we already know all the stats, the information, everyone is a known quantity.

So why is it so tough to determine the outcome? And more importantly, to be right when everyone else is wrong. To go against the crowd. That is where the money lies. Where the value is. Is it valuable to be a contrarian? To expose onself to black swans? Black swans that can benefit rather than harm?

Something that is 10,000 to 1 odds is inaccurately listed. We get sloppy. Our minds shrink in the face of large numbers. Is the underdog not so much of an underdog?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I don't know if I ever will. So much is unknown, cloudy.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

NBA Finals final thoughts and questions

The Lakers won the championship in five games and Kobe Bryant was named Finals MVP. Its pretty impressive what he has done the last two years: a deep playoff run in 2008, regular season MVP, Olympic Gold Medal play during the 2008 summer, another great season in 2009, followed by a playoff run culminating in a championship. And he apparently hasn't missed a single game due to injury.

Thats damn impressive for a thirty year old.

But there are more things going on. The questions this blog has been trying to answer remain the same. When do teams take a night off? Why did the Lakers lock it on and become one of the elite teams that wins a championship on the road? Did it have something to do with the Pacers/Lakers Game 5 debacle nine years ago?

Can a game nine years ago effect a game played now?

Why did the Magic give up? The fight they showed to rally from big deficits against Cleveland was not seen against LA. Was it just emotion or did they try and get thwarted by LA? When Kobe grabbed Dwight Howard and pulled him to the ground to stop his dunk attempt, was that the play of the series?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Lakers Defense Key to Champsionship

These NBA Finals have been quite unusual through four games. The first game was a complete blowout by the Lakers. The second game the Orlando Magic were winning but the Lakers tied it to go into overtime; in overtime they dominated and won. Game three the Magic set an NBA Finals record with 62.5% shooting but barely won. Game four Orlando led late but the Lakers tied at the buzzer. In overtime, the Lakers dominated again.

We've seen two overtime periods. Two five minute stretches with the teams starting tied and beginning with a center court jump ball. And both times the Lakers have dominated the OT.
The Lakers won OT1 by a score of 13-8 and OT2 by a score of 12-4. The score of OT1 looks close but if not for a meaningless three at the end by the Magic it would have been much worse.

And the thing I remember most is how stifling the Lakers defense has been in the overtime periods. It wasn't pretty getting to OT (the Lakers needed big rallies and some missed free throws) but one certainly has to credit their defense for the championship. Their pressure offense hasn't been to amazing, essentially letting Kobe play 1-5. But their defense in OT has been incredible. They let the Magic get four points in five minutes of play AT HOME. Thats amazing.

Also their fourth quarter rallies wouldn't have been possible without great defense. They simply have the ability to lock down the Magic when they want to. They played tough defense in Game 1 and held the Orlando Magic to 29.9% shooting for the game. That is spirited defense.
Everyone focuses on the margin of victory and 100 points scored by LA. But 100 points isn't that many points at all. They put 119 on Denver in game 6. Thats an offensive outburst. But 100 points?

Its the Defense.

I don't think they will win game 5 simply because the defensive effort won't be there. Game 6, however, should see the Lakers energized and locking down the Magic. The spread for game five is Magic by three.

What will the spread be for game 6?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Lakers Magic Game 4

I was thinking about how well the Magic had to shoot (62.5 percent, an NBA Finals Record) to eke out a win in Game 3. I also thought about how a player who starts shooting well will struggle later in the game (and shoot more shots), and think that it will happen on a team wide level for this game.

Plus, the Lakers are a better team anyways.

And they just lost, so the onus is on them.

So thats my prediction: Magic have a bad night shooting, Lakers win handily.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Kobe was outplayed by Hedo Turkoglu

Kobe was outplayed at the end of regulation.  He had his shot blocked from behind and stolen by Hedo.  Then Hedo made a great pass to Courtney Lee but it was missed .  Also Kobe passed up open teammates to take the shot.  It was a bad ending and the Lakers are truly lucky to be up 2-0.  
Its too bad Jameer Nelson isn't playing at full speed as he would definitely give the Lakers problems.  

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Halftime thoughts on Game 2

My general prediction for games this series is: Lakers Win, Lakers Win, Magic Win, Lakers Win, Magic Win, Lakers Win.  

Jeff Van Gundy is a very sharp commentator.  He had a smart comment about something which I can't remember!  Haha, I guess that means I'm dumb.  

I think he was mentioning that you have to have team-mentality when coming off the bench.  You can't as a player complain about rhythm or feel, and he contrasted Rafer Alston to Shannon Brown.  
I'd really like to do some analysis on the past ten years of NBA playoff series' and the patterns that they took.  

Also I thought about my Martingale-Expectation system and didn't learn what I was hoping to prove, but it did show a strong correlation between season to season total wins improvement and percentage of spreads covered.  

Also the Cavs had the highest winning percentage and were the hardest working and biggest hustling team.  The Clippers, despite having talented players, were terrible against the spread because of poor effort.  

So I learned from that research that one should bet on whichever team is trying harder.  

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Lakers Magic Preview

My 3/5 method used to preview the Finals:

Point Guard:  Alston slightly better (approx. tie?)

Shooting Guard:  Kobe better than Courtney Lee

Shooting Forward: Turkoglu better than Ariza

Power Forward: Gasol better than Rashard Lewis

Center: Howard better than Bynum

6th Man: Odom better than Pietrus

So Lakers win 3-2 with one tie.  Coach?  Van Gundy better than Jackson.

I think whoever wins the first game will win the series.  It will force the other team to adjust.  

There are a bunch of mismatches on the offensive/defensive ends.  Its about who can force the other team to adjust.  I.e. who can outscore the other and force the other team to make adjustments and get out of their preferred set.  

The Finals are here...finally!

The NBA Finals are here.  Its the Magic vs. the Lakers.  Later today I'll do a more detailed approach to the game.  But first here are some general thoughts I've been having.  My first thought is that whoever wins tonight will win the series.  Its that simple.  

However I've been thinking about my series pattern theory.  And whoever wins game 1 forces the other team to adjust in game 2.  Then if the adjustments work then in game three the original winner has to adjust to changes, and so forth, until someone reaches four wins.  

Getting that first win is important. 

Also, I haven't gone on Bleacher Report to mock the people who slandered me, who ridiculed me, and generally called me nasty names.  They all thought my reasons for the Cavs losing were wrong, that the Cavs would win the championship hands down.  How wrong they were!  Even after the Cavs swept their first two opponents I stuck to my guns. 

Their defeat merely supports one of my main principles: that effort gives a team extra wins during the regular season but doesn't help during the playoffs.  Everyone is playing hard during the playoffs.  There is no effort bonus in the playoffs.  

And Varejao sucks.  He is terrible.  

I really want to do some analysis on playoff post-season series and the patterns that emerge.  Also, the real  lesson for me from the Cavs article is that I'm usually right, my thinking is correct, but I will always have people trying to insult me, wrong me, humiliate me, and convince me I'm wrong.  

I have to ignore them.