What is it About Halloween?

Why do we love Halloween so much? It’s the second biggest – in terms of “stuff” that happens around it – holiday after Christmas. All the decorations, TV specials, food and drink (and candy!) that only comes out in October…. What is it about this one day that has no significant “reason” to exist (like Independence Day) or “cause” behind it (like the spring festival of Easter) that brings out all the Jack-O-Lanterns and Haunted Houses?

Perhaps it’s that the occasion is so attractive to so many people for so many reasons.

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Kittens!

If you’re like me, you’ve been running at an above average level of stress for the entire year. I’ve found some relief by hiking around nearby nature centers and birdwatching. I can’t have pets in my apartment, so observing wildlife is the best I can do.

But what about at night, or in bad weather, or when I’m at work?

Webcams to the rescue!

I’m an unrepentant cat lover (take a hike, dog people! (grin)), and thankfully, there are a couple of cat rescue places that have hooked up webcams so people like me can watch kittens napping 24/7.

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Book Review – Columbus: The Four Voyages

Columbus: The Four Voyages
Laurence Bergreen
Viking Penguin Press
Copyright 2011 by the author

What with theongoing hubbub over Columbus popping up again in the news this summer as his statues were defaced and knocked down and there were calls to rename the things we’ve named in his honor, I thought it would be a good time to read another biography of him, and perhaps cut through both the hagiography and the demonization to get to know him a bit better. And perhaps be able to counter the arguments used for and against him. In any case, it ought to be a fascinating read for a history buff like me.

Bergreen is a historian and biographer whose previous works followed Magellan (Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, 2003) and Marco Polo (Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, 2007). This work is (presumably) in the same mode; more of a chronicle of Columbus’ voyages rather than a complete biography. He uses Columbus’ own journals, logs, and letters, along with the many personal journals and letters of those who accompanied him on his voyages, to assemble as good an account of those trips as you are likely to get.

Along the way, he shows that pretty much everything you knew about Columbus is, well, complicated.

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We Made It

Whew. Big sigh of relief. I can easily recall the worry from this summer when Major League Baseball announced it was going to go with a short 60 game season. A good number of people were in a tizzy, wondering how they could do anything in the middle of a pandemic. Wasn’t everyone going to get sick and die? One has to wonder how those people manage to get out of bed in the morning…. It turned out that MLB’s protocols for a very large part worked. There were a few “outbreaks”, but those seemed to have been entirely the result of players and staff violating the protocols. And, thankfully, there were no serious cases.

The season was one big experiment with rules designed to speed up the games given the limited time available before the playoffs. Hopefully the only new rule that will be kept is the DH in the National League. It’s coming eventually; one might as well get used to it. But seven inning doubleheaders and that “runner on base in extra innings” had better be dumped into the trash bin.

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Halloween in the Time of COVID

So the latest word that I’m hearing from the CDC is that kids should not be allowed to Trick-or-Treat this year. Apparently, the concern is that groups of kids going from house to house is an ideal way to spread the virus.

I am afraid I must differ with them. Not that I am one of those nutcases who thinks the disease is a hoax or not as bad as it is, but for other reasons.

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Options

With Mitch McConnell determined to ram through a vote if not a confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice in spite of his saying back in 2016 that “the people should decide”, the Democrats are readying their weapons should he actually go through with this. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has said they have “many arrows in their quiver”, and Senate Minority Leader has said that if the Republicans go through with it, then when – as is likely – the Democrats take control of the Senate, “nothing is off the table”.

What does that mean? There are quite a few things the Democrats can do in response.

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The 2020 Pennant Races

There are just about three weeks left in the baseball season, but for obvious reasons, it doesn’t feel like we’re in the heart of a pennant race. Everything this season has been weird – but at least we’re getting something. With eight teams in each league getting to the playoffs, all you need is a winning record to have a chance. Heck, it’s even possible that a team with a losing record could sneak in. The teams that miss out can grumble over the winter that sixty games wasn’t a true test of their abilities – heck, there’s going to be a ton of thought (with very good reason) that this entire season shouldn’t count….much.

The playoffs are going to be strange, to put it mildly. To reduce travel and COVID exposure, there is a great deal of talk about doing them in a “bubble”. Places where a couple of Major League stadia are within a short bus ride of each other are under consideration. That means Los Angeles – Anaheim – San Diego, Chicago – Milwaukee, New York City, and DC – Baltimore – Philadelphia. One must also take weather into account; baseball cannot afford postponements. That means Southern California, which will be great for the Dodgers and Padres….

As long as MLB treats this as a one-off format due to the exceptional circumstances and doesn’t try and make it the normal thing from now on…. Same with the seven inning doubleheaders and runners on second in extra innings.

The usual awards will be given out, but no matter how deserving the recipients might be, there’s still going to be the “short season stigma” associated with them. Hopefully, we’ll get over that. The awards will probably go to whoever produces the most in what’s left of the season. “Recency bias” does play a natural part, but there’s also the possibility for one bad outing or a brief slump to mean the difference in a close “race” (e.g. the NL Cy Young, where the difference between Yu Darvish and Jacob deGrom currently comes down to one “quality start”).

As of 9/8

Starts

W

L

ERA

IP

Hits

ER

HR

BB

K

WHIP

Yu Darvish

8

7

1

1.44

50

36

8

3

8

63

0.88

Jacob deGrom

8

3

1

1.69

48

31

9

4

11

70

0.88

The nice surprises are that the Chicago White Sox and San Diego Padres are exceeding expectations, “arriving” in contention at least a year before anyone thought they would. I’d actually LOVE to see both the Padres and A’s in the World Series, simply because having their colorful uniforms there would be awesome!

Brown and Green! Come on!

I figure we should just continue to enjoy the games as a pleasant and welcome diversion from everything else that is going on.

Lord knows we need one.

MOVIE REVIEW: The Stuff (1985)

A new dessert sensation is taking the country by storm. Something like a cross between whipped cream and marshmallow sauce, “The Stuff” tastes great and is low in calories. Needless to say, a consortium of business owners want to find out exactly what it is so they can come up with their own version. After all their attempts at analyzing it fail, they hire David “Mo” Rutherford (Michael Moriarty), a former FBI agent, to do some industrial espionage.

Mo meets up with a young boy, Jason (Scott Bloom) whose family has been acting very strangely after he saw a glob of The Stuff moving of its own accord, and Nicole (Andrea Marcovicci), an ad agency executive who created the initial ad campaign for it.

It’s off to Virginia and then Georgia to unravel the mystery. The Stuff is more than what it appears to be; and the trio’s lives are increasingly in danger as they get closer to the source….

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In Case You Were Wondering

The “Roll Call” turned out to be the highlight of the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Viewers, even those who don’t intend to vote Democratic, got to see the amazing diversity and beauty of our nation (and a bit of Prague).

But who were all those people in the clips announcing the votes?

I dug up about half of them before I thought of going to the DNC’s own website, where they had a nice convenient list.

Sigh.

Anyway, if you’re interested…..(my comments included)

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BOOK REVIEW: The Night Land

The Night Land
by William Hope Hodgson
Published in 1912
https://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/10662

Hodgson was one of the numerous writers of the Late Victorian – Edwardian Era who wrote in that genre that would eventually become known as Science Fiction. Although in his case, there’s little “science” in his stories. And while there are some horror tropes, his work doesn’t fit well in there, either. Perhaps “Weird Fiction” is the best way to classify it. There’s a little science, some fantasy, and enough creepiness but not enough scares to be called horror.

This work was his last published novel; he died at the Fourth Battle of Ypres in 1918, after actually re-enlisting to fight in the Great War. It’s not certain when he actually wrote it; it’s been surmised that his novels were published in the inverse order of writing. His first-published novel, The Boats of the “Glen Carrig”, has a more mature and accessible style than The Night Land.

Be that as it may, The Night Land is either loved or hated by most contemporary readers….

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