A Trip to Amsterdam – II

Well, now that I’m arrived and settled in, it’s time to check out the sights.

It’s always good to get out of the city and visit the countryside (such as it may be). The Netherlands is (Are?) one of the more densely populated countries in the world, so there isn’t really that much “countryside” to speak of. And what there is, is flat and damp.

However, there’s still a good deal of “countryside” to see.

I booked a tour at Experience Waterland (through Trip Advisor) to see the windmills of Zaanse Schans, a “cheese farm” and wooden shoe maker, and the villages of Volendam and Broek in Waterland. It was a small group tour, and turned out to be even smaller when half of the people who signed up for it didn’t show. Their loss.

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A Trip to Amsterdam – I

It was time once again to flee from work and most other responsibilities, and journey away to strange and distant lands. I realized I hadn’t used my passport in ages, so I felt it was time to blow the dust off it and head off to someplace interesting.

I asked around a little: Which place is more fun for a single adult male – London, Paris, or Amsterdam? The answer was clear, and given the title of this post, you should be able to figure out which city won.

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Movie Review: The Changeling (1980)

The Old Haunted House movie has changed quite a bit over the recent decades. One cannot have a simple haunting by a lone spirit who needs to have his (or her) soul put to rest anymore; one has to have a portal to hell on the property, some sort of demonic possession, or the scene of some horrible atrocity with dozens of victims in order to attract an audience.

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with a movie like that, but it’s too easy for a filmmaker to fall into the trap of using blood and gore as a replacement for a good, honest scare. For an “old school” spooky haunting, you’ve got to go back quite a ways.

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Chuck Schumer’s Dilemma

I’m not saying we should feel sorry for the Senate Minority Leader. But he’s got no really good options when it comes to the matter of confirming Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court.

Not only does the GOP have all the good cards, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is making up the rules.

Let’s say Schumer holds the line and fights the confirmation tooth and nail like the left wing of the Democrats wants him to do. He rallies every single Democratic and Independent senator to the “No” side, and manages to convince one or two Republicans to join in.

Is the next nominee going to be any better? What about the Democratic senators from “red” states that are up for re-election? Fight too hard, and there’s a significant chance you’ll hurt their chances at re-election – and then taking control of the Senate.

Put up just enough of a protest to save face, tell the Red State Senators to do whatever they need to do to get re-elected, and you’ll face the incandescent wrath of the Far Left, with no guarantee that the Democrats will get control of the Senate from the Mid-Terms.

Stall, and hope that there’s something in the vast pile of documents that you want to have released that could sink Kavanaugh’s nomination? McConnell is going to fight and delay that every step of the way, deliberately interfering with the Mid-Term Campaign Season. And the group mind of the GOP isn’t likely to be deterred by anything that could come up. And again, who’s next on the list?

Whatever path Schumer takes, there are going to be risks.

None of this is easy. The rabid Far Left, with its insistence on fighting to the death in every battle, isn’t helping. Schumer is not in control of the Senate, and he has limited political capital to spend. He has to pick and choose his fights carefully, keeping his eye on the future (the good possibility that the Democrats take control of the Senate as well as the House). What good is winning this particular battle if you lose the war?

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?

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:

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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.

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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.