Seems that these days, all the fantasy movies and series are based on Tolkien or similar epics, or some YA stories about wizard schools. They can be fine, but they get repetitive after a while.
As it happens, there’s a bunch of fantasy stories that, as far as I know, have never been adapted to a video medium. They deal with the adventures of two, well, “rogues” is what most would call them, but they aren’t anti-heroes or ne’er-do-wells or anything like that. They are just two great friends who travel their world looking for adventure and enough money to buy a round of drinks at the nearest tavern, and perhaps invite one or two of the ladies there up to their room. They are adult men, after all.
For a set of exhibition games, it’s a lot of fun. Teams and players from all over the world showing off their skills, at a time when fans in the US are starved for real games. Thanks to fairly loose rules, MLB players can join the team from a nation where they have some connection. So Lars Nootbaar of the St. Louis Cardinals can suit up for Japan….
One cannot help but notice that lately, some members of one particular political party are all in conniptions about other people who don’t perfectly fit into the gender stereotypes that they’d prefer. They are even trying to pass laws against anything that they imagine could possibly be considered as promoting or aiding such “deviant” behavior, as if it is somehow an existential threat to the safety of their children.
There’s a LOT to unpack in their delusion; more than I have the time or space or energy for.
But I have tried to get my mind around the whole matter, and I’ve come up with a “working model” that allows me to go about my life unthreatened by other people who, though they may not fit into the usual gender boxes, just want to go about their lives without being threatened, too.Continue reading →
Drunk: How We Sipped, Danced, and Stumbled Our Way to Civilization Edward Slingerland Little, Brown Spark Copyright 2021 by the author
We’re so confused when it comes to alcohol. It’s the cause of, and solution to, all of Life’s problems, according to a noted contemporary philosopher. We can’t seem to decide if its good or bad for you. “Red wine has antioxidants, which are good for you!” “Alcohol damages your liver! All of it is bad!” Some alcohol in moderation is fine!” It’s enough to drive one to drink!
You can find someone to support whatever viewpoint you want. But Slingerland steps back from all of that, and asks another, probably more important question:
Seems that pretty much every time there’s a discussion about the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time, someone mentions that you can’t really judge the players from before the integration of Major League Baseball because they never got to face any of the players in the Negro Leagues.
To me, rather than making a useful observation on racism, the bias in the statistics, or to promote the skills of the Negro League players, it’s used instead to dismiss the talents of the white players.
But just how much of an effect could it have had? How often would Lefty Grove faced Josh Gibson, or Jimmie Foxx have come to bat against “Smokey” Joe Williams? No team or player would be facing the Negro League All-Stars every day, right?
General William Sherman had a problem. As the military commander in charge of large areas of the South in the late stages of the Civil War, he had many thousands of Black refugees that he had to provide with food and shelter. A delegation of Black leaders had approached Sherman and offered a solution: give them some land they can settle on and work as their own.
On January 16, 1865, Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 15, which designated a large amount of unclaimed and abandoned land in his remit to be divided into lots of roughly forty acres each to be given to the refugees for homesteading (Spare mules that the Army no longer needed were given out later).
The Bald Eagle: The Improbable History of America’s Bird Jack E. Davis Liveright Publishing Company Copyright 2022 by the author
I’ve seen three so far. The first while on a bridge across the Hudson River at Albany, during a road trip with a friend. I was surprised to see one, in part because it was an urban environment. Didn’t think they’d like cities. The second was in southern Westchester County NY, on my way to work one morning. It was perched atop a pine tree at the side of the road, minding its own business. Again, it was a surprise, since it was another “semi-urban” environment. I suppose the golf course in the neighborhood made for prime squirrel and rabbit hunting grounds. The most recent was at a nature preserve on Long Island Sound. I spotted it flying off into the distance. This was a more natural environment for it; plenty of fish in the waters – and ospreys to steal from. I suppose I’ll be seeing more in the future.
In the meantime, Davis has penned a wonderful history of the bald eagle, based on its relationship with America and Americans. Both a “natural history” of Haliaeetus leucocephalus, and the actual history of how it became our national symbol.
Scott Rolen just won election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Playing third for the Phillies and Cardinals (with end of career stints with the Blue Jays and Reds), he made seven All Star teams and won eight Gold Glove awards for his fielding excellence over his seventeen seasons. He earned a World Series title with the Cardinals in 2006, but other than being named the NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, there’s not much else in the way of trophies.
His career numbers are unremarkable. A .281 batting average and 316 home runs is good, but not really exceptional. And you won’t find him leading the league in any offensive stats over the course of his career.
So what makes him a Hall of Famer?
Those eight Gold Glove awards are fourth all time for third basemen. Add that to his solid offense, and he comes in with a career Wins Above Replacement of 70.1 – which compares well with the average of 68.3 for the fifteen third basemen already in Cooperstown.
Compared to other positions, third base isn’t a position where defense can really stand out. You don’t see much of the range and “flash” of a shortstop or second baseman; nor does the speed and grace of an outfielder come to the fore. On tough plays at third, a fan’s attention quickly shifts to the first baseman, to see if the out is made. You have to pay attention to the “Hot Corner” to find exceptional glovework.
And Rolen had it in spades.
More than good enough for the bronze plaque in Cooperstown.
“I told him once, my happiest day would be if there’s a game where 27 ground balls get to third base. The way he plays that position, the way he runs the bases, the way he takes his at-bats, he is a complete player.” – Manager Tony LaRussa
The fairly simple rule set and even simpler board made it rather obvious that computer programs would be written that could challenge humans. Eventually computing power grew to the point where a computer program could equal or even surpass the best human players. Those are more of “expert systems” than true AIs, since they can do one thing very well, but not create anything new.
Then there were some simple “psychologist” programs, that picked up on words you typed and returned some standard responses that got you to elaborate on what you’d written. Nothing really advanced, but it got people talking and thinking about artificial intelligence.
Music was probably next. Mathematically analyze the works of a composer, and have a program “write” a piece in their style. An amusing little experiment, and nothing that could threaten any contemporary composer.
For years, artificial intelligence was a novelty; something discussed in theory by computer scientists and the like.
It would seem the simplest of things to have the World’s Greatest Fictional Detective come up against one of the most notorious real world serial killers – especially since Sherlock Holmes and Jack the Ripper were “contemporaries”. It wasn’t until the 1960s that a film company created by the Conan Doyle estate decided to actually pair up the two in a serious production.
Obviously, one can’t have the two match wits directly. The known history wouldn’t allow it. And it wouldn’t do to have Holmes fail to solve the case. But you could present Holmes with a puzzle that brings him into the world of Whitechapel around the time of Jack’s bloody reign of terror, and have him “solve” the case that way.Continue reading →