Saturday, September 19, 2009

Game 147: Finland!

So I'm running out of titles.

Trailing 3-2 after 5, Boston put a hurting on the Oriole bullpen tonight, scoring 1 in the sixth, 3 in the seventh, and 5 in the 8th to bury Baltimore, 11-5.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Wouldn't Join A Group That Would Have Me As A Member

...except I just did.

The Internet Baseball Writers Association of America is either desperate enough, or has standards low enough, to allow me to join their ranks. They already include writers like Gabriel Schechter and Peter Golenbock, who are, like, good, so I'm not sure what I'm doing there. But there you go. Here is the temporary website. Expect other self congratulatory prose about this in the days to come.

Game 146: Nursed back to health by the Baltimores

Cowboy Clay Buchholz pitched 6 innings of one run ball, handing off to Danny Ocean, the Okey Doke, and the Lord of the Dance, while Jason Bay hit homer number 34 in the fourth to push Boston into a 2-1 lead that they would widen into a 3-1 win.


Matthew Berry, none other than the Talented Mr. Roto from ESPN, saw fit to open his column with my letter this week.

Charlie Pierce on Healthcare

"Last week, through serendipitous circumstance, I found myself staring down the very nasty gun-barrel of the despicable way we do "healthcare" in this country. The details are unimportant, but I can say that it had something very much to do with this Kaiser Foundation study that Ezra Klein limns here. This concentrated my mind wonderfully on the current dilemma. I came to the not unreasonable conclusion that most of the politicians involved in this business--up to and including the lemon in the White House--don't care about the simple fact that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else. Period. Everything else is dumbshow, a WWE card covered by people engaged in a really bad form of sportswriting--people, I might add, who could care less themselves that this country is going to allow people to sicken and die because they can't afford to do anything else. "

And now, from the department of "Really?"

Vikram Pandit, Citigroup CEO, admits that $100 million is too much for a bank employee to earn, given the fact that Citigroup currently has $45 billion dollars of our money.


And now a word from the Master...

"Delusions are often functional. A mother's opinions about her children's beauty, intelligence, goodness, et cetera ad nauseam, keep her from drowning them at birth."

-Robert A. Heinlein

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Interesting Letter

In the October 2009 Atlantic, on page 14, I read one of the most interesting descriptions of feminism I have ever seen.

A letter writer notes, "The empowerment born of the movement was not the ability to do everything well, but the ability to choose one's priorities without ostracism or marginalization."

Exactly. A point I have come slowly to over nearly 40 years. You can't do it all. There aren't enough hours in the day, or money in the bank, to make it all happen. You have to take your best shot, and that is it. That's all you get.

Now if I could just begin to believe that.

Game 144: Duck Snort's Revenge

The Red Sox took an early 3-1 lead on those Los Angeles Angles, but the Angels came right back, scoring once in the seventh to tie the game at 3, and then finally gaining a lead in the ninth on the same sort of cheap, soft bloop single that the Red Sox used to beat them yesterday. The Bostons could not manage any late inning magic this time, though, so it goes into the books as a 4-3 loss.

David Foster Wallace on the Self and Selfishness

This is a transcript of the late David Foster Wallace's commencement address to Kenyon College, May 2005.

The part that gets me is the following:

"Here is just one example of the total wrongness of something I tend to be automatically sure of: everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realist, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it's so socially repulsive. But it's pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people's thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real."

This is obviously true. Then, after describing the monotony of day to day adult life, with its checkout lines and traffic jams and errands to be run, he continues:

"...I can choose to force myself to consider the likelihood that everyone else in the supermarket's checkout line is just as bored and frustrated as I am, and that some of these people probably have harder, more tedious and painful lives than I do.
Again, please don't think that I'm giving you moral advice, or that I'm saying you are supposed to think this way, or that anyone expects you to just automatically do it. Because it's hard. It takes will and effort, and if you are like me, some days you won't be able to do it, or you just flat out won't want to.
But most days, if you're aware enough to give yourself a choice, you can choose to look differently at this fat, dead-eyed, over-made-up lady who just screamed at her kid in the checkout line. Maybe she's not usually like this. Maybe she's been up three straight nights holding the hand of a husband who is dying of bone cancer. Or maybe this very lady is the low-wage clerk at the motor vehicle department, who just yesterday helped your spouse resolve a horrific, infuriating, red-tape problem through some small act of bureaucratic kindness. Of course, none of this is likely, but it's also not impossible. It just depends what you what to consider. If you're automatically sure that you know what reality is, and you are operating on your default setting, then you, like me, probably won't consider possibilities that aren't annoying and miserable. But if you really learn how to pay attention, then you will know there are other options. It will actually be within your power to experience a crowded, hot, slow, consumer-hell type situation as not only meaningful, but sacred, on fire with the same force that made the stars: love, fellowship, the mystical oneness of all things deep down.
Not that that mystical stuff is necessarily true. The only thing that's capital-T True is that you get to decide how you're gonna try to see it.
This, I submit, is the freedom of a real education, of learning how to be well-adjusted. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn't. You get to decide what to worship."

Gorgeous. So hard to do, but so right. "Everybody else" , the people who seem to be "in your way", are just people trying to get through their day, too. And YOU are in THEIR way.

So try a little compassion. It won't kill you, I promise.

Wanna Make A Million Dollars?

In short, make it easier for people to spend their money.

Today, I was pleased to be exposed to two brilliant examples of customer service in action.

My good lady wife, having put up with my sorry butt for nearly 15 long years (our anniversary is next month), and I proceeded into our local Apple Store to get her an anniversary present, the new IPod Nanos being her gift of choice. We were greeted by a chipper Apple dude, to whom we explained we were IPod people, and pretty sure we knew what we wanted.

He got a different breed of associate, who explained a few features to us, scooted into the back, got the product, rang up the sale WITH A HANDHELD DEVICE-no register, no waiting, no BS-and we were DONE. Warranty added on automatically, no muss, no fuss.

Brilliant. It's simple, really-just focus your energy on separating your customers from their money. Make it EASY.

We then went to PF Chang's for lunch, and were simply blown away by the quality of their service as well. Seating? Instant? Waiters? Solicitous, kind, and right there-the drink doesn't hit the table before they are there to refill it. The food was amazing-I would have to say the best Chinese I have ever had. Everything just went swimmingly, and although the prices were a bit largish, it was well worth it because it was just such a pure pleasure to be there. Very highly recommended.

If it's this easy to satisfy people, why aren't all companies doing it?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Game 144: No Youk? No VMart? No Paps? No Problem!

With VMart attending to some personal business, and Kevin Youkilis and Jonathan Papelbon suffering from back woes, the undermanned Red Sox beat the Angels once again at Fenway, 9-8. Trailing 3-0 after 5 1/2 innings, the Red Sox scored five in the sixth, 2 more in the seventh to tie the game at 7, and then, after Danny Ocean gave up a two out single to Bobby Abreu to give LA a 8-7 lead, Boston came up with its own 2 out rally, two walks, a pinch hit single from Farmer Jed, a run scoring walk to tie the game from forgotten Nick Green, Infielder Without Portfolio, and a final, concluding crescendo of Alex Gonzalez, flicking a single into short left field to bring home JD Drew with the winning run.

Do You Know?

8 living people have earned a Emmy, a Grammy, a Tony, and an Oscar. Do you know who they are?

Barbra Streisand, Mike Nichols, Marvin Hamlisch, Mel Brooks, Liza Minelli, Whoopi Goldberg, Rita Moreno, and Jonathan Tunick.

Who is Jonathan Tunick? An orchestrator, musical director and composer for films like Blazing Saddles and musicals like Sweeney Todd.

(courtesy Newsweek)

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Game 143: The Return of Kaibatsu

Daisuke Matsuzaka, who has not been seen since approximately the end of school, threw 6 frames of fine, 3 hit, 3 walk, 6 strikeout ball at the Angles, and the Large Father brought home two runs on a homer and an RBI single to help power a 4-1 win.

Yes, We Are All Going To Die, After All

This is an interesting piece by the always provocative Megan McArdle. The paragraphs that got my attention:

"Maybe Obama will "bend the curve". Maybe he will raise taxes on the middle class, and really spike them up on the wealthy. Maybe aliens from the Horsehead Nebula will invade, and we'll have bigger things to worry about than the US budget. But based on the actual information we have now, Obama will leave the United States in much worse fiscal shape than his predecessor.

This is not because George Bush made him do it, or screwed up the economy for him. It's mostly because Medicare is about to turn into the sucking chest wound of the Federal budget, and Obama is the chap lucky enough to be there as the hemorrhaging really gets going. It's not really his fault (other than in the sense that he chose to run for office in an unpropitious sort of year). But it doesn't matter whose fault it is, because the answer is "every single president since Coolidge". He's the guy who has to figure out to close the budget gap that was bequeathed to him by Lyndon Johnson and FDR, and which his predecessors--Democrat and Republican--have been punting on for decades. Rather than embrace that responsibility, or even eye it warily, he's decided to ignore it in favor of his personal policy priorities. That's entirely understandable, and hardly unique. But it hardly puts him on a higher plane than George Bush."

In light of the "It's Obama's Fault", "No, it's Bush's Fault" back and forth that DMarks and I tend to engage in, I found this passage very intriguing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Patrick Swayze

Actor Patrick Swayze has died after a long battle with cancer. I don't have the deep emotional attachment to him that many (predominantly women) have-in accordance with applicable law, I took women to see "Dirty Dancing" and "Ghost" when they were in theaters, of course, but I don't have an emotional attachment to either film at this point.

Swayze, for all the fun people had at his expense, seemed to be able to laugh at himself, a quality I admire. This is a link to one of the funniest SNL skits I have ever seen, a Chippendales dance off between Swayze and the late Chris Farley.

RIP, Patrick Swayze.

What makes a good blog?

Merlin Mann (via @guykawasaki) on what makes a good blog.

Abbey Road (2009 Remastered Edition)

Buy the CDs here.

Yeah, I did it. So sue me. I went ahead and bought Abbey Road again. If you include my father's purchases as a young man, this makes the seventh or eighth time my family has handed the Fab Four money for some of these songs.

I'm not enough of an audio guy to tell you what the difference is. I think there is one, but I may be engaged in wishful thinking. The sound seems a little cleaner and richer, like there is more texture to it. Supposedly this is the first mix to take advantage of the full array of technical wizardry of the modern age, but I'm not smart enough to be able to tell.

The packaging, however, is gorgeous. It looks like a record, and the cases are lovely.

Will I buy more? Yeah.

Am I stupid? Almost certainly yes.

Jon Katz' "Running To The Mountain"

Buy the book here.

Jon Katz is a novelist, columnist, and former TV producer who, against all odds, all common sense, and the wishes of his family, bought a rundown cabin in upper New York State to try and find himself. The book is the story of the purchase, the extensive work it took to make it habitable, and the growth it forced on him.

I read this book some time ago, I believe after hearing the author interviewed on the radio. Having dealt with my father's recent passing, and now that I'm approaching forty myself, the book means a lot more to me now than it did upon first reading. Other reviewers have criticized Katz as being whiny-who among us wouldn't want to be living the high life as a TV producer? Who among us wouldn't want to buy a rural getaway and leave the soccer games and grocery store trips to our spouse? All that is true, and, as Katz would probably admit, fair.

But the book is more than that-Katz pretty frankly admits that, according to nearly anyone's standards, he's got it made. But life is lived subjectively-and each of us has to find our own truth-our own equilibrium point to allow us to go on living. This is a beautiful book, (even if the references to a dial up modem seem dusty at this point, only 10 years or so after writing) and well worth your time, if you're struggling to keep your head above water.

Bastard out of Carolina

Phil Nugent on the Republican Party, 2009:

"Now, in keeping with a party whose official policy is that Americans have so concern for one another and so little stake in a shared quality of living that that government should serve no purpose beyond military defense, they are a performance art troupe, with no ideas or goals not connected to stirring up shit to prevent any possible improvements on what we kindly refer to as the status quo, even in times of emergency. They are a people whose view of life and their fellow human beings is unremittingly black and apocalyptic, and who react to any suggestion that some things might be made better by indignantly denouncing the unpatriotic notion that things aren't already glorious almost to the point of exceeding our ability to give thanks for it all."

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Games 140, 141, and 142: How Sweep It Is...

After an off day and a rainout, Boston packed three games worth of winning into two days this weekend. On Saturday, Josh Beckett dominated a rain shortened 9-1 win, while on Sunday, the nooner featured an 8th inning homer from Our Man DP to break a 1-1 tie, leading to a 3-1 Boston win, while the double dip was Big Jon Lester going all Christy Mathewson on the Rays in a 4-0 shutdown special.

Boston has another day off, then welcomes in those pesky Angles on Tuesday.

Shame on the AP

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates has criticized the AP's publication of a soldier's photo over the family's objections.

AP's rationale,as far as I can tell, according to "On The Media" anyway, is that the photograph helps show the brutality of war. My answer to that would be, first of all, that any thinking person should be aware of the reality of war, and second of all, if we're not aware of the reality of war, you're the mother flipping AP! Show us, for heaven's sake!

I've never entirely bought the argument that the media only delivers to us what we want. I don't think they have any idea what we want-if they did, they wouldn't be in such trouble-and even if they did, they have a higher responsibility to tell us what we need to know. It takes work to make it entertaining, but that's, you know, your job.