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Wagstaff’s Picks: Weekend of November 26, 2016 November 25, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Football, Horse Racing.
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mattel-footballboxIs anyone making money following my advice?  You could be, I guess.  Especially last week, where I was a mere half point away from running the table and going 8-0.  Perfection eluded me, but I improved my totals: 22-15-1 in college, 16-10 in the pros, for a grand total of 38-25-1.

I’m taking a bigger chance this week, picking favorites to cover only. I’d like to think the push for better bowl bids will drive a lot of the college picks, but who the hell knows? I’m going with teams I think will want to score big in the college games, and teams I think will simply win outright in the pros. It’s not an exact science.

The idea of “exact science” in sports handicapping always fascinates me, however. It’s what attracts me to the horse races as well. And in a BIG THRIFT STORE SCORE this week, it turned out that some fellow degenerate gambler donated a stock of horse handicapping books to Goodwill, just waiting for me to find them.

Well, three out of the four, anyway. I already had a copy of Ainslie’s Complete Guide to Thoroughbred Racing

But I did not have On Track/Off Track by James Quinn, a collection of short pieces on various aspects of horse betting that, perfect for me, focuses mostly on Santa Anita racetrack. I also picked up a copy of Steven Davidowitz’ Betting Thoroughbreds, and a copy of Thoroughbred Handicapping, State of the Art by William Quirin.

Well, state of the art for the mid 1990s, when all these books were published, which makes them a little out of date in terms of what sorts of information is readily available nowadays as opposed to calculating stuff on your own (like pace figures and such), but the general advice & strategies are still sound.

Each book was only two bucks!

I love poring through outdated sports betting books from the days of scratch sheets and people programming their Bowmar calculators to figure point spreads. There’s something about digging through all the outdated technical and computer instructions to get at the fundamental algorithms in making the picks, and then applying them to the current technologies and data available.  This is what I did when reading the long out of print Sports Betting by Jim Jasper. You have to wade through all sorts of instructions about what numbers to punch into the pocket calculator to figure baseball and football odds, but once translated into modern available data, a lot of Jasper’s overriding ideas are good ones.

Whatever. It provided me some nice reading material during my week off.

Oh yeah, my picks….

In the college games, I’ll stick with Temple to cover 21 over East Carolina, Penn State by 11 over Michigan State, Colorado by 9 over Utah, and USC to cover 17 1/2 over Notre Dame.

In the NFL, I like the Chargers coming off a bye by 1 over the Texans, the surging Dolphins by 7 1/2 over the Forty Niners, and the strengthening Seahawks by 6 over the Buccaneers.

And now, back to goofing off….

 

 

The Fates Drive Me To A Yardsale August 27, 2016

Posted by Jim Berkin in Art, Baseball, Books.
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dome-of-the-cathedral-1420-1436The only reason I saw the neon green sign pointing towards a local sale was because I took a right turn and not a left, since a car was heading towards me and I didn’t feel like stopping and waiting. I figured I’d take the equidistant alternate route to get to my first errand stop, Home Depot.

That’s right… Home Depot, on a Saturday. All part of being the manly man I am.

Anyway, I saw the sign and figured why-the-hell-not, and drove the extra block to where I saw a driveway lined with assorted chazerei.

And then the actions of the fates became more clear.

I looked through the sole box of books sitting in the driveway and found a couple of big illustrated kid books about boats & sailing I earmarked for my nephew. I noticed the ENTIRE box of books centered around boating, the sea, or Captain Horatio Hornblower.

I asked the price, and the guy told me he had more books they were planning to sell next week, and he let me take a look. Turns out it was all his father-in-law’s stuff and they were selling it all off.

More books on the sea and boating. A box of Louis L’Amour novels.

But then a box of hardcover anthologies of old comics – Li’l Abner, Dick Tracy, Superman, etc. I chatted with the guy and told him he ought to look some of them up to see if they worth more than a couple of bucks. Then I found what looked like one of the old Collier series of Hemingway from the late 30s or whatever, as well as some old book of Civil War Songs published in 1889.

Nope, did NOT buy them for 25 cents a pop & flip them for thousands on ebay, I told the guy he ought to look up what they’re actually worth, and THAT little bit of charm got me some major discounting on the sailing books and two books on Renaissance Architecture I’m looking forward to, Brunellschi’s Dome and The Feud That Sparked The Renaissance, about Brunelleschi’s rivalry with Ghiberti.  I loved visiting Florence some years ago. Maybe these two volumes will take me back there for a while, for fifty cents a pop.

And then, as my conversation with the guy went from Florence to art to history to where I’m from, we somehow found ourselves in baseball, and I got the entire biography of the yardsaler, who turned out to be a former pro baseball player who got bottled up in the Orioles organization of the early ’70s since they were overloaded with pitchers already. He had the bad luck to land in the farm system of a team with FOUR twenty game winners on their starting staff. Oy!

He recounted some stories from his minor league days, his later coaching days and so forth, but what stuck with me turned out to be something I’d almost expect from any former pro athlete.

He could recite all of his stats from more than 40 years ago.

His walk to strikeout ratio, his innings pitched, the then-future major leaguers he defeated in Class A and Class AA games in 1972, what the score was each time, you name it. I’m sure he could have told me the pitch sequence to every batter he faced if I’d asked.

We talked a bit about how the game had changed, especially for pitchers.  He told me how be blew out his rotator cuff and back before they figured out how to fix Tommy John and how it basically ended his baseball career.  It was an entertaining chat with another guy who misses playing actual hardball a lot more than I do, which is saying something.

And then Home Depot beckoned. The new a/c unit at Castle Wagstaff takes a different filter size than its predecessor. It will provide respite from the triple digit temps outside while I read my books on Florence and drink wine, perhaps. Maybe then I won’t miss playing baseball as much.

Another Scintillating Online Interview From Yours Truly June 16, 2013

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Cut_To_Wagstaff_Cover_for_Kindle

A while back, I did an interview with the Dan O’Brien Project which can be found here.

Mostly I talk about the Wagstaff novel, a little about some upcoming book releases, and some other stuff.

I’ll be getting on those other book projects now that I’m FINALLY settled into the spankin’ NEW chateau du Wagstaff and have gotten (somewhat) organized.

The kitchen is set up. The cat has explored and found some favorite spots instead of hiding most of the day (this was extremely important), and I’ve begun to organize the tons of books I originally shelved by size only. Art, science, graphic novels, cooking, music, movies, bible and all things JEW have been all sectioned very nicely! History, economics, politics, miscellany and all fiction still need a lot of sorting. But I’ll get there.

Today I fixed a leaking sprinkler head on my front lawn all my widdle self. I must be a real suburbanite now. Either that or I’ll be the reason Home Depot & Lowe’s stocks soar, considering how much crap I’ve been having to get from them lately.

I’m glad I made the move, however… as much as a chore as it was to pack up what seemed like an overwhelming amount of crap I’ve accumulated over the 18 years I spent at my last abode, I’ve got more space now, more privacy, and more peace & quiet, especially after chasing those kids off my lawn with my sawed off shot gun,

Well, not ALL the kids. Did I mention that all the girls in this area all look like budding porn stars? I must be in heaven!

But that’s a blog for another time.

Anyway, enjoy the interview! Here’s the link again!

(Truly) Random Baseball Card Of The Day: 1989 Fleer Rick Sutcliffe October 13, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in 1980s, Baseball, Baseball Cards, Books.
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The true randomness comes from where this card turned up – face up, next to my car as I got out in a Trader Joe’s parking lot.

For a moment, I wondered how it got there. Did someone drop it out of their car after visiting some yardsales? Did the wind, or magical cardboard messenger birds or some other mysterious force of nature carry it to that spot after lifting it out of someone’s collection put to the trash curb by mom?

It’s funny how I find interesting things in grocery store parking lots. Some years back, I headed back to my car and discovered a brand new pair of Ray-Bans sitting next to it.

On another occasion, I found a near-mint copy of the paperback photonovel of “The City On The Edge of Forever” from Star Trek after nearly running it over when I pulled into the space.

And yet another time, I found a brand new Ferrari that someone left behind. I hung around for a little while to see if they’d return to get it, but then I gave up, hotwired it, and drove it home. Finders keepers!

Today, the magical forces of fate brought me to Rick Sutcliffe. I guess if I really did believe in synchronicities like my alter-ego in Cut To Wagstaff, I’d have found some sort of significant thing about Sutcliffe in 1989 that would have determined my actions for the rest of the day & I would have found myself on some sort of off-the-wall mysterious adventure. But my life really doesn’t work that way. I put the cheap wine & TJ’s knock-off cereals into my car, drove home, played with the cat, and watched the Yankees tragedy unfold.

Sutcliffe certainly had an up and down career. There’s really no other way to describe a guy who wins the comeback player of the year award TWICE, once in each league, after winning Rookie of the Year and a Cy Young. Sutcliffe has been a mainstay at ESPN for the past several years, as well as MLB network.

I’m still not sure why a 23 year old card, beat up pretty badly, should be waiting for me while I ran some weekend errands. I had even made a small detour to a yardsale earlier – and it was being run by a couple of toy collectors cleaning out their stash. They had some old board games and tons of Barbies and Hot Wheels, all e-bay priced which made it nearly a total waste of time – I was saved by finding this compendium cookbook of chicken recipes for only a dollar.

But no baseball cards. I guess you have to troll Trader Joe’s parking lot for that, although the other day I coughed up serious thrift store bucks (meaning more than singles) to get the 40th Anniversary Topps Baseball Card picture book.  Granted, having the actual cards is always better, but the book has been fun to browse through, and I can even see all the ones that got away.

Excerpt From Cut To Wagstaff On Frontrowlit August 24, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Frontrowlit, the book blog for FrontRow Monthly magazine, has an excerpt from my novel Cut To Wagstaff posted.

If you want a peek at a lot of Chapter 2, go check it out on Frontrowlit here!

Most of Chapter 1 is available as sneak preview on the Amazon page, by the way.

My Guest Blog, Over At Omnimystery News! August 14, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Blogroll, Books, Writing.
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I wrote a little entry on some recent encounters with the kind of pop culture synchronicities that inspired the plot engine of Cut To Wagstaff for a blog devoted to all things mystery.
Click on this link to check it out!

Cut To Wagstaff Review & Jim Berkin Interview on The Indie Bookshelf August 10, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Blogroll, Books, Writing.
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The review & interview are here!

It looks like my interview answers went up unedited too… yay!

Cut To Wagstaff Gets Thumbs Up From Kirkus Reviews! July 30, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Ah, critical approval! We all want the professional critics to love us (Well, except for all those times Pauline Kael rang my phone at 3AM expecting booty call. I tried to tell her… “I WORK for a living, baby! I gotta get up in the morning!” But she just didn’t listen…)

Noted book review outfit Kirkus Reviews gave my novel a pretty positive write up – you can read it all here.

It’ll be interesting to see what this is actually worth once it hits my Amazon page in a few days.

I thought the last couple of lines from the review were good enough to put on my back cover:

Berkin pulls out all the stops; no big screen moment is lost in this tale. A quirky conglomeration of popular culture that’s worth the price of admission.

I can live with that. I also like when they refer to the main character as “possibly insane” since I based him on me.  At least they “got it.” The big fear of any comedian is that the jokes simply fly over the heads of the audience. That might be fun when I’m insulting someone in real life (especially if they’re bigger than me) but when my aim is to entertain and keep people turnin’ those pages, those jokes better be burning solid fuel.

So what are you still doing here? Go buy the book!

If You’re Here, Please Go Like Me On Facebook July 27, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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I started a Facebook page for my writing & books. Most of my blog posts here will be publicized on it, so if you’re on Facebook & you like the page, you’ll get updates in your good ol’ newsfeed whenever I add something here.

Click here to go to my Facebook author page

I’ll be putting other stuff on the Facebook page as well, and getting more likes provides me with the illusion of no longer being a leper. So help out! You’ll be glad you did. Thanky!

Check Me Out On Goodreads.com & Read My Boatload Of Book Reviews There! July 24, 2012

Posted by Jim Berkin in Books, Writing.
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Now that I’m out flogging my novel Cut To Wagstaff (I’m kinky that way), I’ve set up an author’s page on Goodreads which you can link to here:

http://www.goodreads.com/JimBerkin

If you’re not already a member of Goodreads, sign up! It’s sort of a Facebook for books where you can read reviews & get recommendations based on the books you’ve rated. I added a ton of reviews of a bunch of books and tested the recommendations algorithm, and it gave me some nice results.

And think of all the work I’m saving the boys in the black helicopters who are building that dossier on me – now they know all the books I’ve read! I love being helpful.

Also, once you’re on Goodreads, add a review of Cut To Wagstaff! Eventually I’ll set up some Q&A forums and other stuff on there… I’m still learning its potential. I keep looking for “World Domination” in the menus but can’t find it. I’ll check the FAQ.