Archive - 2013

April 12th

Scully

As the Twins lose badly to the New York Mets tonight, I am reminded why baseball is such a great game: We still have the opportunity to see Joe Mauer ply his trade every couple of innings at the bat. What a pleasure. Mauer is one of the great hitters of all time, and watching his every at-bat is a worthwhile endeavor no matter how out of reach the game. 

Last night, the Dodgers and the Padres had a brawl. Zach Greinke, the Dodgers' $140 million pitcher, broke his collarbone in the altercation. But what most people are enjoying is the rendition of the incident by legendary broadcaster Vin Scully, 84 years of age. Watch as he makes sense of a senseless situation as only Vin Scully could. 

Scully is a national treasure. What a joy to watch him get credit for his excellence while he is still plying his trade. I preferred our own Herb Carneal, of course. Home town favorite. More Minnesotan, despite his Virginia drawl. But that Scully's old school excellence is recognized for what it is warms my heart. 

Forty-seven years ago, Vin Scully called a perfect game pitched by the equally great, equally legendary Sandy Koufax. Here is Scully's poetry describing the event as it occurred. It is a legendary passage in broadcast history. As you get into the broadcast, Scully starts time stamping the event. At the end of the tape, Scully finally explains why.

Dodger players report that transitor radios of Vin Scully calling the games are so prevalent at Dodger Stadium that they hear him calling the game as they play it. 

UPDATE: If you skip the other recordings, do listen to this one of Scully's tribute to UCLA coach John Wooden. 

 

April 11th

Playing it safe

After viewing the weather for an hour and finding the conditions on I-94 less than optimal, I decided to get a hotel room. Bonanza! The Hilton had a room for $68. So, I have been toodling around downtown Minneapolis today. I ate at my favorite restaurant downtown, Zelo, and am now enjoying my 15th floor view of the snow removal operations in the city. I do like to be around the activity. Spent the afternoon at Barnes and Noble on Nicollet and had the pleasure of watching an 80-year-old woman tear into a young cell phone user who was disturbing the entire second floor of the store. "You are rude!" she said. "You have no manners!" She was right. And the young man shut up in shame, as he should have. Nice suit nonwithstanding, he was being a jerk. He blushed as she tore into him, so at least he had some shame. 

Slush bound

After two days in the Twin Cities, I was to drive home this afternoon. However, things look nasty in central Minnesota, and I have no desire to push things. I might just stay over. Like a cat, if I am in, I want out, if I am out, I want in: I thought about staying down here a bit, but now that it is forced upon me, I find I want to forge my way home. Stupid impulses. 

This morning was a slush fest as I struggled to a meeting. Got there 1/2 hour late. Then found a Tibetan restaurant on Nicollet Ave. with a parking space out front. Ordered some pork noodle soup, which was outstanding. Fresh veggies in a broth with strips of grilled pork. Very healthy, I am allowing myself to imagine.

Last night, met my cousin and her partner at a Thai place in the Seward neighborhood. We said hot, and they spiced it up! I think it cleared my chest, which was still rattling.

Earlier in the day, I dropped of a friend in the Bryn Mawr neighborhood. I had never been there, either. So many little neighborhoods to explore in the Cities. 

Traffic has been bearable. I think the Minneapolis freeway system is engineered a little funny: I don't know anywhere else where you compete with traffic merging onto the freeway for a hundred yards as you try to exit the freeway. It gets stressful. 

This morning, I cleared the snow of the car, got on the freeway and immediately pulled all the way to the left because I knew I would be on that route for quite a while. However, when it came time to slide right, I found out I hadn't cleaned off the right rear-view mirror. I couldn't see a thing to my right. So, I just signalled and waited for a horn to honk.

One hour on the streets this morning. That's enough for now. I am drinking coffee at the Dunn Bros. coffee shop on N. Washington, trying to decide where to go next. 

 

April 7th

New pope, good old ideas

While a cardinal, the new pope co-wrote a book with a rabbi. Here are just a few excerpts. Cardinal Bergoglio's thoughts are refreshing, especially his views on athiesm and fundamentalism. His co-author states what I have always believed: Agnosticism is the only tenable position, even if one tends towards belief or disbelief. People who dogmatically state that they know there is a god are usually pretty sure that said god agrees with them on everything from women's rights to taxes to gun control. 

On another matter, fundamentalist biblical literalists love to throw around Old Testament pronouncements on homosexuality, but when it comes to passages like the below, suddenly they sing a different tune:

Leviticus 25: 44 Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

Clearly, we have here an endorsement of human trafficking and slavery. Clear and simple. The Bible says it, and I believe it. Case closed!

While lobbing around Old Testament verses, biblical fundamentalists value only those verses which they can use as a weapon against those they hate. I suspect the new pope, of all people, would abhor this practice. 

UPDATE: Later in the morning, I stumble across this, from the recently deceased pope of film. 

April 4th

Pro-violence

Sean Hannity defends the ousted Rutgers basketball coach, who hit his players and threw balls at them. I knew it was a matter of time before some right-winger would defend the use of violence by those in authority against those beneath them. It is one of the great right-wing beliefs: The little guy needs beating every now and then just to keep him in line. Kids? Spare the rod, spoil the child. Weirdos? A little bullying goes a long way. Gay kid? Whip him at the right time and all will be well. World problems? Invade countries one-twentieth our size and kill a couple hundred thousand civilians. If it doesn't work to solve the crisis, (which it hasn't) at least it will make us feel better. Criminals? We need more guns so we can have one big shoot-out between the good guys and the bad guys in the school hallway! That'll solve it! 

When right-winger's advocate violence, it is never on a even playing field. It is always the powerful having license to inflict pain on the weak for the good of the weak. It is sadistic. However, when there is the potential for violence and the outcome is in doubt, the right-wing cowards head for the hills. 

Cost of Alzheimer's

Here is confirmation of what should be obvious: Alzhieimer's disease is not only costly, it costs more than heart disease or cancer. 

I worry that we'll just look away. 

The Democratic-led Minnesota House and Senate are proposing $150 million in cuts to heath and human services. For nursing homes, costs go up but reimbursement goes down. Who will suffer? Not just the employees, who haven't had a raise in years, but the residents are going to feel the impact of lower staffing levels and lower morale amongst staff. 

Sadly, I think we are entering grim times in eldercare, particularly for those who are going to enter eldercare instutitions. There is no will whatsoever, even in areas you would usually find the will, to take care of those in need. None. The "all government is evil" mantra has so hynotized politicians (and many citizens) that anybody who brings up the actual pain caused by cuts in services is ignored in the name of fiscal belt-tightening. The tight-wads have won. I don't buy that they are simply looking at fiscal reality. These people who look down at the ground as soon as you bring up human suffering use fiscal matters as an excuse for human coldness, which is what really gives them joy: The opportunity to be cold and mean and have it seem noble and necessary. Some people live for that.

The belt-tightening will fall hardest on those who don't have voice to protest. Alzheimer's patients have no voice. They will suffer most. Other nursing home patients are next. Then come those who work in nursing homes, who have no organization and are generally on the edge of poverty themselves. 

Is it a radical notion that people who do the hard work in a nursing home should be paid well enough to have no problem buying a car, buying a home and taking an occasional vacation? That's the way it was thirty years ago! But no more.

 

April 1st

Tigers 4 Twins 2

Thus starts what promises to be a long, excruciating season for Twins fans. Tigers' starting pitcher Justin Verlander was his ornery self. The Twins' attempt to mount a rally against the Tigers' relievers after Verlander was removed was thrwarted when Chris Parmelee swung and missed two fastballs in the dirt. I can understand swinging at curveballs in the dirt, as you might have been led to believe that they were going to stay elevated. But low fastballs? They start low and aren't going to get any higher. Swinging at them indicates you made up your mind to swing at anything before pitch left the pitcher's hand. And that is not a sound baseball decision, especially with the bases loaded and the count in your favor. The Twins could have walked their way back into the game, but Parmelee's eagerness prevented that. 

Joe Mauer had two nice hits and a third, a squibber, which might have been called a hit but was ruled an error. Everybody else looked pretty shabby, including rookie center fielder Aaron Hicks, who probably won't start hitting until the Twins get to hit against weaker pitchers. He was overmatched against the excellent Verlander. 

Watching the MLB network, I get this feeling that the Twins have been left behind. I hope I am wrong. But there are so many hot-shot pitchers out there throwing flames. Every team seems to have a couple––except for the Twins, who have nobody. 

Grim. 

Another complaint, while I am at it: There is no reason for the baseball season to open in Minnesota. Put the Twins on the road for two weeks until the weather gets better. The fans were freezing today. 

On the positive side, I did think Worley did pretty well in his Twins' debut. I look forward to seeing him pitch this year. He's not a flame-thrower, but he has a fighter's approach, which alone separates him from Blackburn, Liriano, Slowey, Baker, Capps and the rest of the the unlamented departed uninspired mediocrities.  

March 31st

Innovators

Thomas Friedman publishes a great column this morning on what people need to survive in today's economy. There are great opportunities, but they don't lie in getting a job, but in creating your own job. However, the education system is still preparing people to enter a traditional job. Traditional jobs are vanishing. The people who thrive are on their own. The skills to be on your own are the skills which need to be taught. I would argue this has always been true, but it is even more true now. 

As the article points out, the number one problem we all must tackle to survive today: motivation. You are no longer going to be able to show up at a job, go through the motions with a modicum of competence, and collect a check. You are going to have to have the creativity, but most of all the motivation, to package and sell your own talents, not just to get a single job, but to get many little jobs. Not only do you need the motivation to sell your talents, but you then have to learn to charge enough for those talents to pay the bills. 

 

March 28th

Cold

The weather is warming here in Minnesota, if only slightly. Meanwhile, the usual "welcome home" cold hit me this week. Miserable. I think the weather change causes it. I know very well that if I were in Arizona enjoying the 85 degree weather until mid-April, I would not have such issues as lethargy and coughs.  

On the upside, the Twins season starts only four days from now. I do not think the Twins have much chance this season, especially given the precarious state of their starting pitching. But I am going to enjoy watching, and try to watch without getting to involved with whether they win or lose. 

Speaking of which, the Twins just lost to the Red Sox. However, it was good to watch baseball. 

A few nights ago, I attended a town hall in Ada, MN with our MN Rep. Paul Marquart and Sen. Kent Eken. I was impressed with how both handled the issues. It seems things are on a rational footing again. No games with state tax cuts which only force local governments to raise property taxes, which is what you get from the Republicans when then get their grimy hands on the levers of power. 

One intolerable know-it-all showed up and was spewing Tea Party doctrine, including "the more guns out there, the safer we are," which is demonstrably false. He also figured we have to cut teacher's salaries. And he went on and on, a pompous know it all, making references to the Ayn Rand novel "Atlas Shrugged," which is really nothing more than a teenage "I am omnipotent" fantasy, not a book meant for serious consumption. Of course, the Tea Party lapped it up and uses it as a philosophical justification for no shared burdens whatsoever. All government is bad. All regulation is bad. 

Then, a man asked about gay marriage. He was a supporter. Neither Eken nor Marquart has made up their mind yet. I suspect they are watching the national winds, which would seem to indicate that they will not be punished at the polls for a vote in favor. During the discussion, the table of big Tea Partiers snickered and acted generally immature. 

No empathy. Complete self-pity. That's what the Tea Party and most of the Republican party are all about. Senator Chambliss of GA: I am not gay, so I am not going to have a gay marriage. So, I am against it! Oh! So that's the level of your interest in the issue? If it doesn't effect you personally, you aren't interested in finding out more? 

Not impressed. 

Right-wing movements throughout  our history have always been ignoble. Name one which looks good in the light of history! They are always wrong, always suspicious, always subscribing to fantasy over reality, always paranoid, always impatient with people of different backgrounds. Slavery? They were for it. Civil rights? They were against it. Women's rights? Against. Child labor in factories? All for it. Five-day work week? Against. Mixed marriage? Against. Daylight Savings Time? Against. It was a communist plot, as was flouridation of water. 

Right-wing religion is as bad as their politics. Focusing solely on pharisaical personal piety and petty personal morality, perverting prayer into a means to browbeat the diety into getting their way, they have no general concern for the poor, other than to toss the heathens a bread crumb every now and then. Their only concern is that people get converted, after which, presumably, the hungry new convert will pick up the virtue of hard work and not be hungry any more. There is almost nothing about the Gospels of the New Testament that is reflected in the right-wing attitude or behavior. Nothing. Yet, they view themselves as the most Christian. And oh, how they suffer! Yes, they have to put up with all these people who are different than them. What really should happen, they wish in their hearts, is that people who are different should be forced, bullied, sermonized, whatever it takes, into conforming, not with the New Testament, but with a male authority cult which worships the 1950s ideal of Dad in the living room reading the paper, Mom in the kitchen cooking macaroni and cheese.

There is an undercurrent of coercion and meanness in these people. And rage. It disturbs me when it rears its ugly head. 

Thank goodness for the epic election of 2012, which has shut most of the Tea baggers up most of the time. I listened to Rush the other day. He sounds beaten. He was lying about gay marriage, saying it has been defeated at the polls 30 times and has never been approved. Of course that was true before the election, but no longer. It was a bald-faced lie, but it came from somebody who is losing his audience to attrition and who is relying on an obsolete formula to whip up his remaining rump of uneducated rubes. 

March 24th

Twins

I haven't been watching the Twins progress in spring training too closely, as it usually has no bearing on their regular season. However, it is fun to see that Aaron Hicks stepped up to take the center field position. He has more native talent than either Ben Revere or Denard Span, who were traded for pitching last winter. Hicks looks like a winner. He has power. You really need to have a center fielder with power these days. He also has an arm. And he gets on base. 

In the end, it comes down to starting pitching, and there is no assurance that the Twins have improved in that department over last year. They stocked up on prospects, but those prospects are still a couple of years away. They must get through this season. The three three veterans they signed, Harden, Pelfrey and Corriea, haven't shown much hope. I think Terry Ryan's entire focus should be on building up the number of strong pitching arms in the organization. To that end, I would advocate trading Morneau and Willingham as soon as possible for pitching. Pitching, pitching, pitching. No such thing as too much. 

I also think managers who stick around too long get stagnant. Baseball teams can benefit from new managers with a new approach. I think George Steinbrenner was correct: Fire managers early and often. 

I would make an exception for Tom Kelly, Jim Leyland, Joe Torre, Sparky Anderson, Joe Maddon, Earl Weaver and maybe a few others.