On the 2018 All Star Game

Well, another “Midsummer Classic” has come and gone, and will be forgotten in due time.

Much of what I said last year still holds. FOX using their robot football guy to introduce a baseball game, not showing the names of the players as they are being introduced….

I hope the people at the game got more information about the Medal of Honor recipients than we did. The announcers could have at least sent us to a website to learn more.

Anyway, while there are official regulations governing who is eligible for the award (they were finally put in writing in the early 60s), there are some unwritten, unofficial requirements:

* There must be at least two eyewitnesses to the incident. Got to have proof.
* You must put your life in danger. Fair enough.
* It must be something that if you didn’t do it, no one could blame you.

Go check out the official citations of the honorees, and hope that if you do find yourself in such a dangerous situation, you behave with even a fraction of their courage.

The game itself? A perfect example of baseball these days. Homeruns, strikeouts, and practically nothing else.

Total plate appearances: 90
Total home runs: 10
Total strikeouts: 25
Total walks: 9

Half the plate appearances didn’t need a fielder to do anything.

I get it’s an exhibition, so the pitchers are all throwing flames and the batters are all swinging for the seats. But good heavens, it’s dull viewing. Major League Baseball really needs to make some changes in the off season.

By the way, Nationals Stadium did have its traditional President’s Race in the middle of the fourth inning. This time, Theodore Roosevelt jumped out to an early lead, but was blindsided by a flying rabbit. George Washington dashed past the ensuing pile-up and won handily.

They had a couple of players hooked up with microphones for in-game conversations again. Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were rather dull (except for Trout’s in-game weather commentary). Thankfully, Francisco Lindor and Charlie “I check my hole for gloves” Blackmon made up for it. If they do it again, get talkative and fun players like those guys.

Speaking of weather, MLB must have contingency plans in case there’s a rain delay or a rainout. Right?

By the way, what’s the deal with those wild socks that some players were wearing? And do enough people (other than collectors) buy those silly special All Star Game caps to justify making them?

Advertisements

All Star Week

Next week is when baseball’s annual All Star Game is played. Major League Baseball tries to make a week-long festival out of it, but for some reason they schedule the game itself on Tuesday night, which means all the pre-game stuff gets compressed into two days, while there are two days after the game when there’s absolutely nothing going on.

That seems rather inefficient to me. I know the players want and deserve a couple of days off, but there should be a better way to do it.

Like moving the All Star Game to Wednesday.

Here’s what that would allow:

Continue reading

Not in the Mood

For the first time in as long as I can remember, I don’t really feel like celebrating Independence Day.

The country is in the grip of a pseudo-theocratic, proto-fascist regime. The leader is obviously corrupt to all but the willingly oblivious, and has turned his supporters into a cult. Members of the party he nominally belongs to are so afraid of retribution from this cult that they dare not do even the minimum to check his worst impulses.

“Dear Leader” himself lies almost hourly, has no consistent policies, and seems hell-bent on destroying our international reputation while sucking up to our most important geopolitical rival. Sadly, almost the only saving grace here is his incompetence.

A perfect example of just how far we’ve fallen is his border “policy” with our neighbor to the south. One cannot and should not sugar coat it. The Trump Regime kidnapped children, with the intent of scaring huddled masses yearning to breathe free away from immigrating or even applying for asylum. And there was no thought given to returning the hostages of his jingoism to their families, since after a court order to do so, it came out that there was no system to keep track of who was where. And in those few cases where they are able to reunite families, the parents find that they are required to pay ransom in the form of a transport fee. Or they are being given the choice of being deported with or without their children. Or stay in detention until the courts eventually get around to hearing their asylum case.

Is it any wonder that some writers are starting to think we may have been better off staying a part of Britain?

Thankfully, all is not lost.

Elections are coming up in a mere four months. You can vote Dear Leader’s accomplices out of office, and vote in people who will restore some dignity and honor to our country.

“Don’t waste time mourning – Organize!” – Joe Hill

Book Review: The Year of the Pitcher

The Year of the Pitcher: Bob Gibson, Denny McLain, and the End of Baseball’s Golden Age
by Sridhar Pappu
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
(c) 2017 by the author

1.12 and 31.

The two numbers that essentially defined the 1968 baseball season.

The former is Bob Gibson’s earned run average for the season (basically, he only gave up one run for every eight innings he pitched); the latter is the number of games won by Denny McLain – the most in over thirty years. These stats epitomize the low-scoring environment of baseball in the 1960s. But rather than focus on the actual games of that season, Pappu takes a much broader look.

Continue reading

The Places I Go

A lot of blogs will have over to the side a list of other blogs that they follow. I’m not an official “follower” of many blogs, but there are quite a few websites I visit regularly.

And because I’m rather stuck for a topic at the moment (I have a bunch of book reviews in draft format, but I’d rather not throw half a dozen books at you one after the other), I thought I’d waste spend some time sharing them with you.

Over at Forgotten New York, Kevin Walsh has been strolling the streets of the five boroughs, finding odd, unusual, interesting, and forgotten bits of the Greatest City in the World. He (well, with a little help from a few friends) has been posting something every day for nearly twenty years. If you want to know who that street is named for, or what’s the story behind that building, check him out!

Also worth checking out every day are the Astronomy Picture of the Day and Universe Today. They are how this old astronomer keeps up on the field.

When it comes to webcomics, there’s XKCD, Dinosaur Comics, and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal. Hey, I like some intelligence with my humor. And there’s Texts from Superheroes and The Worst Things for Sale. It’s also good to start the day laughing at other people’s stupidity and incompetence, as displayed at Not Always Right and Cake Wrecks. Surely we’d never do anything that would cause us to appear on those sites, right?

Speaking of humor, Cracked is worth a daily visit, too. And if you like your news commentary with a liberal slant and a healthy dose of snark, check out Wonkette. I visit a lot of news sites every day, but the only ones whom I give money to are the Washington Post and Mother Jones.

I get my movie tips from The B-Masters Cabal. It’s not your usual movie review site; they focus on old SF/fantasy/horror – not the sort of things you’d typically find. Liz “And You Call Yourself a Scientist” Kingsley, for example, is in the process of reviewing every “Amityville Horror” movie – there are nine so far. They don’t have as many active cabal members as they used to, but there’s almost twenty years of reviews archived there. Linked to, actually. The members maintain their own websites and just announce new reviews here. I’d apply for membership, but I don’t think my reviews are good enough – or frequent enough.

I’ve learned a good deal about residential architecture at McMansion Hell. The old role-playing gamer in me loves the essays on gaming and writing at Mythcreants.

The Art of Manliness isn’t just for men who want to be better at being, well, men. Anyone can enjoy their essays on philosophy and literature, and their many “how to” articles. Like fun things to keep the kids entertained and automotive tips.

I don’t care at all for podcasts; I can read faster than you can speak. Similarly, I don’t subscribe to any YouTube channels, but I always watch the new ones from Brady Haran (Periodic Videos, Numberphile, Deep Sky Videos, Objectivity, Sixty Symbols, et al.).

When it comes to music and online radio, the only “station” I listen to is WFMU. The best description I can give – which they themselves have provided – is “like college radio, but without the basketball games”. They are a freeform station, which means the DJs are free to play what they want (within FCC guidelines, of course). So there’s a polka hour, an hour of “old school” country, an interview show (aside from the frequent artist interviews), a reggae show, a gospel show…..all done by DJs who know and love their music.

OK, I’d better stop now before I dump my entire browser history at you.

Book Review – The Laundry Files

The Laundry Files series

by Charles Stross

The Atrocity Archives (2004)
The Jennifer Morgue (2006)
The Fuller Memorandum (2010)
The Apocalypse Codex (2012)
The Rhesus Chart (2014)
The Annihilation Score (2015)
The Nightmare Stacks (2016)
The Delirium Brief (2017)
The Labyrinth Index (to be published 2018)

It’s a mixed blessing for a fan of an author when that author has a really good series of stories that happens to be rather open-ended. There’s always the chance for another entry in the series, but you feel compelled to read them all. And there’s the problem that the stories might have a specific order in which they should be read. Miss one, and you lose a lot of background information in the next. Or the author has to keep adding annoying infodumps to fill the reader in.

With his “Laundry Files” stories (the above-mentioned novels, plus a handful of shorter works), Stross has managed to avoid those problems for the most part. While the order given is both the order of publication and the order in which the stories take place, they can be read and enjoyed separately. A couple of the later entries (Score, Stacks, Index) even center on side characters.

Speaking of which, the main character is Bob Howard, an office flunky in Britain’s secret government agency that deals with the “occult”. Thanks to being in the right place at the right time (though to Bob, it’s the wrong place and wrong time), he rises quickly through the ranks to become the de facto head of the agency.

Continue reading

Never Forget

It seems that every day, there’s another stupidity, outrage, or stupid outrage coming out of the Trump Administration.

Corruption in the Cabinet, bribery (anyone else notice that just a few days before Trump started making nice to China’s ZTE telecom firm, Chinese banks gave huge loans to a development project in Indonesia that just happened to include some Trump properties?), jingoistic displays, the headspinning lies coming from his various flacks and mouthpieces, the on again, off again of the Korea “meet and greet”, his tyrannical pronouncements that strongly imply that he really believes he is above the law, the utter inhumanity of his immigration policies….

It’s impossible to keep up. Each new one pushes the last one to the back.

So let’s take a step back, and look back on the most important one. Not only is it the formal cause of all the others, they all pale in comparison to it.

In 2016, Russia, our most important geopolitical rival, conducted a sophisticated campaign of information warfare on the US. This is a fact.

Their intent was to influence the presidential campaign in favor of Donald Trump. This is also unquestioned.

During the campaign, and also during the transition period, a number of key members of the Trump campaign and his staff had many suspicious contacts with known Russian agents. This is also demonstrably true.

After the inauguration, when the Russian interference was made known, the Trump administration refused to impose penalties on Russia. And they have also refused to take steps that could prevent it from happening again.

The Trump White House has also worked constantly to undermine and discredit the investigation into the connections between his campaign team and Russia.

And the Republicans in control of Congress are so scared of their constituents not re-electing them that they refuse to do anything about it.

If we were in a shooting war, they’d all be arrested for treason.

Starbucks

It’s been all over the news (at least the news I’ve been reading) this week how Starbucks closed everywhere for “anti-bias training”. This was prompted by an incident where two guests at a Philadelphia Starbucks were arrested for, apparently, loitering. It happened that those two gentlemen were African-American, so it quickly became yet another instance of being arrested simply for the color of one’s skin.

There’s been much commentary about how these sorts of training things are really ineffective. True, perhaps, but you have to give Starbucks credit for at least making the effort without prompting – unlike some other businesses one could mention.

And really, it wasn’t the corporation’s fault. *One* barista called the police. Starbucks could have just told them that their services were no longer needed, and they should seek employment elsewhere. And what about the two police officers? It should have been obvious that there was no reason to arrest anyone. Is the Philadelphia PD going to have more mandatory training on “How to Handle Situations Where an Arrest Is Not Clearly Warranted”?

Personally, I suspect some of people’s griping about Starbucks is residual – and irrational – hatred of the corporation itself. Starbucks was the first real coffee shop chain to go national (as far as I can recall), and all the hipsters and coffee snobs from the Pacific Northwest were jealous. They griped about how Starbucks was selling overpriced coffee and driving local coffee shops out of business. Funny how there didn’t seem to be any coffee shops of the Starbucks variety in the first place. Sure, you had luncheonettes and Dunkin Donuts. But they weren’t places where you could nurse a latte for an hour while working on your latest novel. And now, there actually are more independent coffee shops around.

Another common gripe (since that first one isn’t very relevant anymore) is that Starbucks over-roasts (i.e. “burns”) its coffee. I have two things to note about this. First, take a look at Starbucks’ menu. It’s all “lattes” and “cappuccinos” and “Americanos”. A latte is espresso and milk. An Americano is espresso and hot water. The vast majority of their menu is espresso-based drinks. And guess what? Espresso is the darkest, most roasted of coffee forms. It’s naturally going to taste “over-roasted”. Secondly, how many people order a “plain coffee” at Starbucks? They’ll always add in milk (of one sort or another) and flavorings. You need a strong, dark roast to cut through all that and give you some sense of coffee flavor.

Me? Yes, I’m a Starbucks regular. There’s one a half mile away from where I live. Across the street from that Starbucks there’s an independent coffee shop. There’s another one around the corner from that Starbucks. But they are both closed by 6 pm. The Starbucks is open to 9 pm. If I want an after dinner “dessert” coffee on a weekend, where else am I going to go?

Movie Review: The Paradise Makers (2017)

The Enterprise is at an unspecified starbase for a little R&R, and to pick up a few new crewmembers. The character development and backstory comes to a halt when new orders come in. The USS Bowfin, a scout ship, was sent off to do an anthropological survey, and they are well past their reporting deadline. Kirk and crew are dispatched to find out what happened.

The briefing en route fills in the details of the Bowfin’s mission. The planet they went to was pretty much uninhabited, except for a large tropical archipelago. Rather uninteresting, except for some oddities that warranted a closer look.

Looks like it’s pretty much a case of Mutiny on the Bowfin. But if that’s all there is, we wouldn’t have much of a story, would we.

Continue reading

Overrated – Underrated 3: Simpsons Guest Star

Assuming you haven’t been living under a rock somewhere, you probably have heard that The Simpsons recently became the longest running prime-time scripted TV series, beating out Gunsmoke for that honor.

Of course, real TV fans know that the honor simply refers to the number of episodes. Gunsmoke was a full hour show while The Simpsons is only half an hour. So it will be a good long time before the latter can produce the total amount of airtime that the previous has to its credit.

Over its many years since it began as a simple cartoon on The Tracy Ullman Show, a heck of a lot of celebrities have appeared on The Simpsons. Some provided the voices for characters (Kelsey Grammer as Sideshow Bob is one of the recurring appearances), others played themselves. With so many guest appearances, there have got to be some who are Overrated and others who are Underrated….

Continue reading