As the Season Winds Down

With less than three weeks left to play, we can pretty much see how everything is going to shake out in the baseball season. The Dodgers, Braves, Astros, and Yankees are all (barring epic collapses) going to make the playoffs. Only the AL Central still has something resembling a pennant race, with the Indians just a few games back of the Twins. In the NL Central, the Cubs are four games behind the Cardinals, with the Brewers another game behind them. Technically, there’s still a race there, but it’s pretty much a given at this point that neither team really has a chance to knock of the Cardinals.

There are still the Wild Card races, with three teams in the AL and five (or six) in the NL fighting for the chance to appear in the “play-in” game. But those are as exciting as they seem – which is not much.

So, what’s a fan to do? I’ve read an article recently bemoaning the lack of pennant races. I went and did some research, and you know what? This year is an anomaly.

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Movie Review: The Secret of Kells (Ireland et al., 2009)

Any other year.

Any other year, and it could have easily won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. But at the 2010 Oscars, it was nominated with Up, Coraline, The Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Princess and the Frog. One of the best set of nominees since they added the category in 2001. Heck, even the animated short films that year were all awesome!*

Any other year, and it should have won. But when one of the other nominees (Up) was also nominated for Best Picture, what chance did it have?

And a foreign film, too!

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Expanding Major League Baseball – 3

A while back I mused on what major league baseball might look if two teams were added. One in each league, to make it four divisions with four teams in each league. I picked Portland for the AL team, and Montreal for the NL. The playoffs would be between the division winners – no “wild cards”.

As we are heading into the thick of the pennant races, I asked myself, “What would the standings and pennant races look like in my four team – four division system?”

Obviously, there’s no way to know what the actual won-lost records would be for the teams. I decided to take the records for the real teams as of the start of play today (August 27, 2019), and assume that Portland and Montreal would have .500 records. That makes it easy to minimize their effect on the other team’s records.

Here’s what the hypothetical standings would be:

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A Montreal Quickie – 2

The other place for strolling and shopping and people watching is the “Old Port” area. It’s the oldest part of the city – short and narrow streets, architecture in the Second Empire style… The place is loaded with souvenir shops and boutiques and assorted food shops. With all the French signage, you can almost imagine yourself to strolling around some arrondissement during “La Belle Epoque”.

Except, naturally, when you get to the actual shoreline with its repurposed docks and the one single train track (which may or may not still be active) separating the “main drag” from the riverside park.

There are a few items of interest to check out in this part of town; I visited two of them this time.

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A Montreal Quickie – 1

It’s been a pretty stressful summer at work for me so far. It came to pass that I needed to get away from everything for a few days – and staying at home for a long weekend wasn’t going to cut it. I was going stir crazy, and just had to get out and go somewhere.

But where? Where was far enough to make traveling there a worthwhile break, but close enough so I could do it in a few days?

Why not drive up to Montreal? I’d been there before (a couple of years ago), so I knew what it took. A seven hour drive (with rest stops and the border crossing), so it could be done in one day, and you don’t need much in the way of special preparations….

Since I was just there for two days and three nights, I’m not going to have that much to say about the place. But I did hit a few museums, and get in a pair of walking tours.

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On the Campaign Trail – 1

I haven’t been paying that much attention to the Democratic Presidential Campaign. It’s way too early, and there are far too many candidates. The need for the Democrats to not only unseat El Presidente but retake the Senate and keep the House is too important to worry about who wins the eventual nomination – especially when any one of them is good enough to win. There’s strong reasoning behind the “Vote Blue – No Matter Who” slogan.

Of course, that’s not going to stop me from having opinions.

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MOVIE REVIEW: Fehérlófia (Hungary, 1981)

Director: Marcell Jankovics
Writers: László György, Marcell Jankovics
Music by: István Vajda

Start by collecting bits and pieces of local folk tales and legends. In this case, that means Hungarian, Avar, and others from the peoples that came and went through that part of southeast Europe.

Assemble them into a fairly standard “Hero’s Journey” tale.

Decide to animate the result.

Take some mild hallucinogens to give you inspiration for your design aesthetic….

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BOOK REVIEW: Decoding the Heavens

Decoding the Heavens
A 2000-Year Old Computer – And the Century Long Search to Discover its Secrets
Jo Marchant
Da Capo Press
(c) 2009 by the author

I suppose that anyone interested in the history of science in the years BCE or archaeological oddities has heard of the Antikythera Mechanism. Found in a shipwreck off the coast of a Greek island, the box of gears and dials has been a puzzle and a marvel (a puzzling marvel?) for decades.

Marchant has dredged up the history of the device, from its collection off the Aegean seabed up through the first decade of the twenty-first century. Well, to be honest, the object itself hasn’t done much. It sat in storage in the National Museum of Athens for years before anyone decided to take a look at it. The museum – and the divers that worked on the wreck – were more interested in the statues and other objects of obvious value.

The Mechanism turned out to be a specialized device for computing the many lunar cycles – and possibly some dials that compute planetary positions as well (parts are still missing). Marchant doesn’t spend much time on the astronomy or mathematics behind it; she’s far more interested in the archaeology and personalities in its story.

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Burying the Lede

I did not watch Mueller’s testimony yesterday, but I did read about it – even following a liveblog. I was not expecting much, since all the information was already out there. And, being a professional and as bipartisan as he could be, Mueller wasn’t going to be tricked into saying anything damning (that wasn’t already covered in his report).

Even so, there were still things that need to be mentioned. Unfortunately, the press is far more concerned with the “optics” of the hearings (the tone of the questions, Mueller’s uncertainty and reticence) and picking winners and losers than discussing the content.

So instead of headlines like “Six Takeaways from the Hearings” and the usual “Dems Disappointed”, I would have gone with something completely different if I had any front page editorial control:

MUELLER CONFIRMS TRUMP NOT EXONERATED

* Says Trump lied to cover up his involvment
* Trump can be indicted once out of office
* Schiff calls Trump “Disloyal”
* Russia still trying to interfere in our elections

See? It’s not hard.

One might come across some of these (or similar points from the hearings) buried deep in the later paragraphs of a story. To bury the lede like that is a colossal failure of journalism. I cannot tell what is in the minds of the mainstream press. Perhaps they are trying to maintain a sort of bipartisan neutrality in the matter, and not come down on one side or another. Or maybe they want to milk any “controversy” for as long as they can in order to keep readers. Or worse, they just don’t care. It can’t be that they are afraid of any pushback from daring to criticize El Presidente, can it….

Thankfully, there are still a handful of journalists (and the places that publish their work) who know what their proper role is.

A US election was hijacked. Trump stood by as it happened and profited from it. And ever since he has attempted to cover up this original sin of his presidency. At the hearing, Mueller did not rail about Trump’s serious misconduct. But in the quiet way of an institutionalist who respects norms and rules, Mueller made it clear: Trump engaged in treachery. This is not news. But it remains a defining element of the Trump presidency that deserves constant attention.

David Corn, Mother Jones

The “failure” is not of a prosecutor who found the facts but might be ill equipped to make the political case, but instead, of a country that won’t read his report and a media obsessed with scoring contests rather than focusing on the damning facts at issue.

Jennifer Rubin, Washington Post

What should be important to all of us is that the world heard (again) that the Russians continue to undermine our democracy, that the Trump campaign was not averse to accepting Russian help in the 2016 presidential election and actively sought to cover up its actions, and that there was convincing evidence the president of the United States obstructed justice. And those are just some of the things that were discussed at the hearings….

But when folks follow [Trump’s] lead and focus on performance and visuals rather than the substance, they’re playing Trump’s game on Trump’s turf. And when that happens, Trump wins. So if you’re playing that game and still wondering how Trump always seems to get away with the outrageous and the unconscionable, you should just look in the mirror.

Jonathan Capehart, Washington Post

If only we were paying attention……

The Apollo Missions

This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of many important milestones. The Mets won the World Series. There was a music festival on a farm in New York.

Oh, and human beings walked on the moon.

Ask the average person about the Apollo Program, and they will know that it was Apollo 11 that landed the first people on the moon. Apollo 13 was the one that they made that movie about. More educated people might know that Apollo 8 was the one with that “Earthrise” photo, and Apollo 1 was the one with the fire that killed the astronauts.

Even more educated people will know that Apollo 7 through 10 were various manned flights, and that 12 and 14 through 17 actually took people to the moon.

But what about the other numbers? What about 2 through 6, and anything over 17?

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