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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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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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.

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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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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Site Maintenance – 1

Just a little note to announce there’s a new “page” tab thing up at the top: a quick index for all my book reviews posted here. There are more than I thought I had! I wonder if I should bother adding a note or symbol to indicate the general category of the books: Baseball, History, Science, Science Fiction…. Perhaps later….

BOOK REVIEW: Danubia

Danubia: A Personal History of Habsburg Europe
Simon Winder
Farrar, Straus, and Giroux
Copyright 2013 by the author

Like his earlier Germania, this is not your typical political or military history of a nation. Nor is it a religious or cultural history – even though Winder does discuss those subjects. It’s not even a “People’s History” of the sort that Howard Zinn might have written. Instead, it’s what you might get if a good friend of yours spent months traveling across a large part of Europe, visiting a bunch of odd and out-of-the way sites of historical interest, then decided to weave all the stories of his visits into one fun and interesting narrative.

Winder lets you know almost from the start that the tale is going to be gloomier than the one in Germania, his history of Germany. Here, with the Habsburg Empire (to be later known as the Austrian Empire and then the Austro-Hunugarian Empire), the story is one of a long, slow decline with very few moments of glory. The inbreeding of the royal line had a good deal to do with that; the most noticeable result was the infamous “Habsburg Chin” defect. His ever-present wit and occasional light snark cannot fully hide that. You can only adjust a portrait of the Emperor so much before it loses all resemblance….

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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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