More Birdwatching Notes

Way back when I was first starting this blog, one of my posts was an essay about birdwatching from my living room window. I still live in the same place, and although the apartment complex management cut down some of the trees (the ones just outside the window, naturally) and installed some new LED floodlights for the parking area (which are SO BRIGHT I need an eyemask to sleep), there are still plenty of birds to see.

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Life under COVID-19

Things are very strange…. Well, I can’t come up with a proper word to describe it. But I doubt anyone can. We are living in Interesting Times, as the Chinese curse has it. Personally, I’m doing OK. I work for the county government, so I’m an “essential employee” in one aspect, and even though I only go into the office once or twice a week (there’s a lot of mail that still needs to be dealt with), my union is making sure I get paid. The days I’m not in the office, I’m “working from home” for payroll purposes.

I have been unemployed for some long periods before, so I’m used to doing very little. Unlike those times when I could go places and do things but I didn’t have the money, now I have the money, but there’s no place to go. I walk around the neighborhood a lot and visit the nature centers in my area for a hike when the weather cooperates. Have to get exercise somehow.

Keeping a routine is worthwhile. A bit of reading and housework in the morning, goofing off on the computer in the afternoon, a break for more reading and a walk before dinner, then more computer at night. One needs to keep a sound mind in a sound body. I feel a bit disappointed in myself that I’m not really using the time for self-betterment.

Shopping is odd. I live within a few minutes walk of two supermarkets, so there’s no reason to not pop over to one when I need something. I’ve got my mask (a bandana-type one that I hacked out of an old bedsheet), and I’m paying attention to the Six Foot Rule of Social Distancing. The real odd feeling is the internal debate I occasionally have. “Hmm. I know I’m running low on bar soap. Should I get the only package on the shelves – of a brand that I never get because it’s so darned expensive compared to other brands – or wait and hope another shipment comes in before I run out completely?”

I really wish a few other stores would open up, though. A hike through the woods is great, but my hiking boots (well, the right one at any rate) are coming apart. The upper is separating from the sole, so I dare not go out when the ground is muddy or soft. I’ve tried glue, but it doesn’t last. I do know that it’s possible to but things online, but my feet are of an odd size. I have to actually try on a pair of shoes before I buy them (the last time I got new shoes, I had to try on three pairs – all labeled with the same size – before finding a pair that fit).

Free e-books from The Gutenberg Project and Feedbooks are nice. Though I do wish there was an easy way to tell the length of an e-book. It’s annoying to curl up with my reader and settle in for a novel – only to find out it’s really a short story. Maybe I’m just not looking closely enough at the descriptions.

I have a few little panic attacks. “Uh-oh! I’m feeling hot and sweaty all of a sudden! Am I coming down with it?” Then I remember that I just had some hot soup….so….. Yeah, I’m going to be sweating a little. Let’s hope that’s all it is.

I wonder how much I’m racking up in overdue fines from library books that were supposed to have been returned six weeks ago.

Analyzing my Writing

My usual subjects are in short supply these days. The libraries are closed, so I can’t get any new books. Baseball is shut down, so there’s nothing there to talk about. Politics is too depressing.

What’s this blogger to do?

A while back I started wondering about my style of writing. Am I too wordy, too complex, or too simple? I found that there are a bunch of “text analyzer tools” out there online, so I figured I’d run a few posts through one of those and see what came out.

Yes, I’m bored.

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Eurovision 2020

Among the many events that have become “casualties” of the coronavirus is this year’s Eurovision Song Contest. With the pandemic raging across Europe, it was decided that it just wouldn’t be safe to have an event bringing thousands of people into Rotterdam for an international “battle of the bands”. When the announcement of the cancellation was made, there was no small amount of wailing and gnashing of teeth from fans, expressing dismay that their favorite artists and songs would be forgotten.

As it happens, all the participants and their songs had been announced prior to the cancellation. So one could easily support their favorites by purchasing their music – even the official CD compilation. Also, Eurovision officials have stated that while this year’s songs will NOT be eligible next year, there’s nothing to prevent any of this year’s performers from being chosen to represent their countries next year in Rotterdam (the host city this year, and the presumptive host next year).

As far as the Grand Final show is concerned, organizers are working on a special concert in lieu of the finals.

And if you miss the voting and drama (such as it is), the people behind the “My Eurovision Scoreboard” app have set up a polling among their users to pick a winner. It’s being done along the same lines as the real competition, with two semi-finals and a Grand Final. They’ve already done their voting for the First Semi-Final:

I can’t tell if that’s some careful editing or if they actually did manage to get two real Eurovision hosts to announce their winners. If it’s the latter, you have to give some real applause to them.

I wonder who they will announce as their winner…..

Rookies of the Year

A while back, I noted that the Mets and Astros were both going to wind up with the Cy Young Award winners and the Rookies of the Year in their respective leagues. This led to a nice (in my opinion) essay on how often that happened in the past. While doing the research for that essay, I naturally had to go over the list of Rookies of the Year. I kept seeing all-time greats, solid players whose names made me go “oh, yeah, that guy!”, and players where I went “Huh?”

I started musing. Whatever happened to the Rookies of the Year?

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Sign Stealing

It just won’t go away. In 2017, the Houston Astros came up with a scheme to tip their batters off as to what sort of pitch was on the way. Major League Baseball found out about it, and then everything went bonkers.

The team was heavily fined, people lost their jobs, other teams are implicated in similar schemes, no one knows what or who to believe. Commissioner Manfred fumbled the PR response; so did the Astros. Fans are outraged; some even calling for the team to have its World Series win that year vacated (whether the Dodgers get to be called World Champions is not mentioned). Many players are openly expressing their anger. There’s been talk of some sort of on-field retribution against certain suspect players.

But there’s one big question that very few people are asking.

Just how much does it help you to know what type of pitch is coming?

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The Gallifrey Conundrum

Anyone who’s more than a passing fan of Doctor Who knows that The Doctor is a Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey. Over the decades, a substantial body of continuity has built up around them. When the new series was being launched, showrunner Russell T. Davies made it pretty clear that he wanted a completely fresh start, unburdened by all of that lore. He came up with the idea of a “Time War”, where the Time Lords and the Daleks, The Doctor’s greatest enemies, would have had a war so vast that they wound up destroying each other completely.

It didn’t work.

The Daleks quickly made an appearance, followed by Gallifrey. Things kept changing – Gallifrey was destroyed, then saved, then invaded and virtually destroyed, then saved again, then destroyed again. I’ve actually lost track…. And it’s not like we’re seeing the effects of the Time War as “reality” (as far as the series is concerned) changes around us.

It’s more like they cannot decide what to do with Gallifrey and the Time Lords.

Maybe if they stepped back a bit and first asked themselves “What do the Time Lords actually do, anyway?”

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My 2020 Hall of Fame Ballot

Not that I have one, of course, but as a baseball fan (you can tell from how many posts I have here on the sport), I’m not going to let the chance go by to pretend I had a say in the matter.

Derek Jeter is obvious. Even if you believe he is overrated, you cannot deny that he belongs in the Hall. The only question here is if he’ll be a unanimous selection. He probably will be, but if a voter or three has someone else on the ballot that they’d prefer to give a vote to, that’s fine. Nowhere in the Hall (the gallery with the plaques) does it actually mention how the voting went for the honorees. It. Doesn’t. Matter. Jeter gets a vote from me.

This year is Larry Walker’s last time on the regular ballot. I do not believe that any supposed advantage he may have gotten from playing his home games in Denver should affect how we treat him. Before we even knew how to quantify “park effects”, did we penalize players for playing in quirky stadiums? No, of course not. So Walker gets a vote from me.

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2019 in Review

Another year of blogging under the belt. That makes six. I honestly had no idea I’d be able to keep it going this long, I figured I’d get bored with it sometime in Year 4…..

Anyway, I managed 58 posts – down two from 2018. Still more than one a week (vacations help!). There were 2,729 visitors and 3,859 page views (both of which are HUGE increases over 2018). Over two-thirds of those views came from the US. The United Kingdom, Canada, and France were next. People from a total of 69 countries (as defined by WordPress) stopped by (Hello Kazakhstan!). There were 136 “likes” – also a huge increase over 2018. Well, there are a lot more posts overall – their number isn’t going down. “Indiana Jones and the Top Men” is still my most popular post by a long shot – and I haven’t even been promoting it. It must show up on a lot of search engines.

Instead of the “most viewed” posts for 2019, I thought I’d plug the ones I personally liked the most (well, at least at this time of writing).

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Christmas at WFMU

If you’re like me (and I know I am), you get tired of the same old holiday songs being played on the radio by the second week of December – if not sooner. Fortunately, there is a radio station that doesn’t play by the rules. WFMU (91.1 FM) broadcasts from northern New Jersey, and is what is known as a “freeform” station. The DJs play whatever they want, subject only to FCC regulations. All but the tiniest fraction of their income is from listener donations, so they are beholden to no one. Think of it as a college radio station – but without the basketball games.

Around ten years ago, they started archiving their shows on their website – so you can listen in regardless of the constraints of time or space.

Most of their DJs have holiday specials of some sort – tune in over the next week to hear what they’ve come up with. Here are last year’s (mostly) holiday shows from my favorite programs for your “streaming” pleasure. You are definitely going to hear things you’ve never heard before. The descriptions are the DJ’s own….

Enjoy! And don’t say you weren’t warned…..

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