April 13, 2007
Although he had 10 strikeouts, Johan Santana had one bad inning and lost the game tonight 4-2. The Twins are really struggling to score runs. The Tampa Bay lefthander, Scott Kazmir, is a good pitcher, but usually the Twins would be able to muster something, at least.
No worries. It is more normal for Santana to be shaky in April. And he wasn't really shaky. He just gave up a couple of hits in a row.
The talk of baseball right now is that the hitters are doing poorly everywhere. Several teams have abyssmal batting averages. It seems that every spring brings a baseball-wide phenomenon which causes concern and all kinds of hair pulling. Sometimes they think the ball is harder, thus more home runs. Or they think the ball is softer, thus fewer home runs. Or the seams on the ball are flatter, thus the curves don't curve and the hitters' average goes up.
I haven't heard any theories yet about the decrease in hitting thus far this year, but if it goes on for two more weeks, you can bet that Sports Illustrated
will do a feature.
SWAMP REPORT: The ice from the last spell of cold is gone. Two swans showed up yesterday for a while. I suspect they are the old pair who has nested here for 10 years. They left yesterday afternoon, but it is good to know that they haven't forgotten about the old swamp.
One wonders how the insect-eating birds like robins are surviving. I watched a pair of robins today. They skated on the thin ice from last night, slipping and sliding in comic fashion. Every now and then, they would peck what I assume was an insect of some sort out of the ice.
COLUMNISTS: I spent the day reading over 100 newspaper columns submitted by some 40 columnists at North Dakota high school newspapers. I volunteered to judge a contest. It is much like correcting papers.
Some of the kids wrote well. The ones who wrote well had experiences which brought out their good writing. One was an immigrant. Another had just lost a parent. Those were good columns.
Then there was the blonde bombshell who wrote an entire column about how freeing it was to swim topless in the Black Sea last summer.
She didn't win, but probably none of the columns did more to make the world a better place.
April 12, 2007
I returned home from giving the year's first seminar at the nursery to find the Twins leading Tampa Bay 2-0 with Carlos Silva cruising along in great form. Wow. I'll probably have to eat all the bad things I said about Silva.
As soon as I wrote that, Silva gave up a blistering double. In any case, Silva has proven that he's not completely finished as a major league pitcher. And what a relief that would be for the Twins. Their $4.5 million will not have been spent in vain.
The Twins absolutely must clean up on these lesser teams like Tampa Bay.
April 11, 2007
An odd week in that I had three speaking engagements in Clearbrook and none elsewhere. The people in Clearbrook are very familiar to me. It is almost a second home town.
The first one today was a potluck at the nursing home for residents and their relatives. It is a nice nursing home, built in 1962, but renovated into a comfy, carpeted space. I performed in the chapel. I can safely say it was the most responsive nursing home audience I have ever played for. They were right with me on every song.
I think it helped that one of the ladies laughed through the whole thing. I picked up on her laughing, and it encouraged me to ham it up even more. For all I know, she laughs all day and all night no matter what, but her laughing, no matter how compulsive, set the mood for everybody.
Then I moved over to the big Lutheran church in town for a Ladies Aid. Most of the ladies were familiar. Some men showed up as well. I chose a few columns to read, and I expanded upon them with some stories. The time went fast.
Several of you have written that you were intrigued by the article on Joshua Bell, one of the world's greatest violinists, who played as a busker at a subway station in Washington, D. C. just to see if anybody would stop.
The article was intriguing to me in many ways. I have always wondered what would be the result of such an experiment. I was an optimist. I assumed, as the writer of the article did, that traffic would be snarled. It sort of sobers me that people just walked by--one thousand people--without more than a half-a-dozen expressing any great interest.
I have passed many buskers in Europe, most of them worthless. However, there were some excellent ones. In fact, it isn't so unusual for good musicians in Europe to busk for a little beer money. In Cambridge, England, when I spent a summer there, I saw some members of the Cambridge College Choir, one of the elite choirs in the world, singing on the street. When they got enough money to finance a decent evening at the pub, they were done.
The experiment in the article not only featured a world-class musician, but world-class music. Bach's Chaconne for Violin is a great work. I have always had faith that Bach, done right, would be irresistible to the masses. That faith was shaken by the experiment. I would have been infuriated had I been present. I would have wanted to scream at the passer-by: "Don't you know what is going on here? Don't you know that this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience?"
It brings to mind an experience I had when I traveled to Washington D. C. once. I stayed a week with a college buddy of reasonable intelligence. I asked him to take me to a pipe organ concert at the National Cathedral. The pipe organ there is one of the great instruments in the nation, and one of the world's premier organists was at the keyboard.
The concert was top notch. The last piece was over-the-top fantastic, one of those peak musical experiences where chills run up the spine and the vision clouds. As the echoes of the last notes faded and I came back to earth, I looked over at my college buddy to see if he had understood. He had not. He said, "So, was it any good?" as if he hadn't heard a thing. To me it was obvious that the concert was an earthshaking event. And yet, it had been completely lost on the person sitting next to me.
April 10, 2007
is a winner. It is not only a good piece of writing, but it details a most fascinating experiment!
April 09, 2007
Lance and I went out shooting photos Saturday evening. I took about 120, but when I got home, sorting through pictures of ice was sort of demoralizing, especially in April. The only one I really found interesting was the one above which happened to catch part of the review mirror. And one of the Sandhill River
caught my eye.
Of the three retread pitchers on the Twins, Sidney Ponson has been the biggest disaster so far. He gave up 8 runs to the Yanks tonight. If one of the three retreads flops, and we can only hope it is just one of the three, Matt Garza will be up from Rochester and back in the rotation in a minute. Right now, I say give Ponson two more shots and then release him.
DARK PICTURES: My apologies for the dark pictures. My laptop screen has been set at a different brightness lately, and if it isn't at just the right angle, the darkness of the photos doesn't come out right. That is my excuse. I was shocked to take a look at the pictures on my other computer and find that they were barely visible. We are having technical difficulties. We thank you for your patience.
Easter dinner coincided with the Twins game, so I didn't get much chance to watch Johan do his thing yesterday. But he did his thing. One hit in seven innings in 35 degree weather--not bad for somebody from Venezuela. To be fair, Johan is from a mountain village where the temperatures aren't always warm.
Tonight is a big night. Sidney Ponson gets his first start. He was let go by the Yanks last year after a brief stint. He takes such things personally, so he might be quite steamed up tonight. I won't get to watch, since I am teaching a class in Clearbrook, but will listen on the way home.
Easter dinner was held at my house yesterday. We had a nice bunch on hand. Front row, left to right: Lance, myself, Dad, Aunt Olla, Renato and Enrique. Back row, left to right: Joe, Josa, Irma and Mom.
Renato is a Brazilian who just started work at the nursery two weeks ago. He is a friend of Leo's. Leo was our Brazilian worker last year. Leo is now working in Minneapolis, which allows him to be closer to his sweetheart Bruna.
Renato is also going to school at UMC, and he brought two Brazilian friends, Josa and Enrique, as well as a friend from Panama, Irma for Easter dinner. Josa and Enrique worked in the citrus fields in Florida until December, when they came to UMC for school. They are leaving in a couple of weeks to work in California. So, they spent January through a cold April in Minnesota. They asked to see pictures of what this place looks like in summer, as they haven't seen it and likely never will.
Aunt Olla came strolling in, went right down the steps into the living room where there is thick carpet, something she isn't used to after the tile floors at the Fertile Hilton. When we were looking the other way, she fell and hit her head. Uff da. Mom sat her in a chair and we got some ice and she had a little lump, but you know, after a bit, she think she actually felt better after
hitting her head than before.
"You know, I think it knocked some sense into me!" she said. One can only hope, I said. Olla was a big hit with the Brazilian guys. When we were playing some music later, it was fun to see Olla in her element, with a Brazilian on either side of her on the couch.