Talkin’ Baseball

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For the first time in nearly a decade, I’m starting the baseball season with optimism. I’m sure the Mets will find some way to make me regret that, but for now, here’s a distinction most baseball fans ignore:

When a batter hits a ball into fair territory, and the ball leaves the playing area, but does not do so on the fly (and at least 250 feet from home plate), the batter is awarded a double. See MLB Rule 6.09(e)-(h). The typical example of this is a ball bouncing over the outfield fence. Most fans would call this a “ground-rule double.” But it’s not. It’s an “automatic double.” A “ground-rule double” is one that is awarded based on the idiosyncratic rules of particular ballparks. Another summary is here.

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Spandrel

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A “spandrel” is an “evolutionary by-product.” It is an unrelated trait that travels with another trait, sometimes for totally unknown reasons. One possible example of this is the color of cats: certain fur patterns or colors are linked to higher levels of aggressiveness, but it is unclear why that would be true.

The word originally meant the space between two arches. It was adapted to cover the biological phenomenon by Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Lewontin, in a 1979 essay. The essay (which I haven’t had a chance to read) is here.

Wisdom and Knowledge

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An unsourced quote (or at least one I’ve never found a credible attribution for) that I’m fond of:

“Knowledge is knowing that Frankenstein is not the monster. Wisdom is knowing that Frankenstein is the monster.”

But see xkcd.

Skeuomorphs

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A “skeuomorph” is a type of vestigial design element, that refers to an older, no longer necessary, feature of an object. Look at your phone, there are probably a few right there. The Apple logo for the phone on an iPhone is one (the headset looks like an old phone), and the notes app resembles a legal pad. This is one of those things, like bad kerning, that you have trouble un-seeing.

Pittsburgh Rare

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“Pittsburgh Rare” is a term for a steak cooked so that the outside is seared (black) and the inside stays rare (blue). Alternatively referred to as “black and blue,” “Chicago-style Rare,” I have no idea where this term comes from. Wikipedia has an explanation, but without any citation, and some internet research doesn’t turn anything up.