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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Mailing It In

Voting by mail is all over the news these days. Rightfully seen as both a way to counter Republican efforts at vote suppression and the problems involved in conducting an election during a pandemic, it’s coming under fire recently, from people challenging its security to the president’s undermining of the Postal Service.

While nice if you need to do it, I don’t think it’s really the panacea that it’s made out to be. There are still issues of ballots being intercepted and delayed or lost, or damaged to the point of illegibility. And that assumes that people follow the instructions properly when filling them out and sending them back. I am aware that several states have been voting entirely by mail with no significant problems, but they’ve had years of practice. And they haven’t had chicanery at the scale we’re facing.

Yes, there are problems with the normal voting in person at a designated polling place, too. Machines can be hacked, and all that. But those flaws are known and anticipated, and any decent Election Commission is taking steps to be prepared.

One key advantage that in-person voting has is that the results are known extremely quickly, almost always the same day. With mailed ballots, you have to give time for them to be delivered and collected, and then counted. In any election that’s expected to be close, the longer you wait for results, the more opportunities there are for the prospective losing candidate to challenge them.

We can’t afford that this time around; the “worst case scenario” is Double Plus Ungood. It could be 1876 all over again, but, given the rabidity of the president’s “cultists”, with more violence.

The best option for the individual voter?

If you have the day off, go to your designated polling place and vote in person. Wear a mask and shower before and after with sanitizer if you have to.

If you don’t, but your designated polling place is close enough so that you can stop by before or after work, go there and vote in person. Wear a mask and use sanitizer.

If those aren’t possible, but you have “early voting” and can cast a vote at your Board of Elections a few days before Election Day, do that.

The fewer chances you give people to screw around with your vote, the better for everyone.

The Hiroshima Decision

Every August, you start seeing essays from professional and amateur journalists on the usage of the atomic bombs to end WWII. This month marks the 75th anniversary of that occasion, so you know there are going to be plenty more. And if this year is like all others, some of those essays will contain (or will have comments that contain) much wailing and gnashing of teeth about how we didn’t have to drop the bombs.

At least some of their reasoning involves post facto arguments, in that they use information that wasn’t available at the time. Or they rehash old, tired arguments that have been acknowledged and dismissed with justification.

What if we went back to the summer of 1945, and looked at the matter using only that information which was available at the time?

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This is Going to be Insane!

We’re finally getting some baseball! Hooray!

And it’s not going to look like anything we’ve ever seen before

The divisions are being mixed up. Everyone is using the DH. Extra innings will start with a runner on second. And that’s on top of the new rules for pitching substitutions.

The biggest change can be summed up in a single number:

2.7

With the season being reduced to just sixty games, every individual game will be worth 2.7 “regular” games (of a 162 game schedule). Every game will mean more in the standings, even with the expanded playoffs. With all the new rules in place, in-game strategy is going to be vital! And with rosters being much larger than usual, expect even more pitching changes than normal.

Then there’s the effect on “counting” stats. Adjust them accordingly, and 20 home runs for a hitter or 75 strikeouts for a pitcher will be phenomenal. With pitchers getting only twelve starts, do NOT expect anyone to get double digits in wins. “Rate” stats could be even more bizarre. If a player has a hot streak, it is within the realm of possibility for someone to hit .400 or have an ERA under 1.00….

And if there happens to be a localized outbreak of COVID-19, things could get even more wacky. Even this close to the start of the season, the Blue Jays don’t have a place to call “home”….

Given the abbreviated schedule, expect there to be ties in the final standings – with the resulting chaos for the playoffs.

The best thing for a fan is to not get caught up in the standings and pennant races, but to just sit back and be glad there are some actual meaningful games being played. It’s a heck of a lot better than following the season simulation at Strat-O-Matic…..