Let’s Kill Hitler!

The opening scene of the Doctor Who episode “Let’s Kill Hitler” (Series 6, Episode 8) ends with a secondary character (Melody Pond) holding a handgun and saying to The Doctor, “I’ve got a gun, you’ve got a time machine. What the hell, let’s kill Hitler!”

Aaaaand instead of some serious contemplation of the ethics of killing a person – even someone like Hitler – or The Doctor lecturing on how “You can’t rewrite history! Not one line! Believe me, I know!”, they wind up converting the episode into “Let’s Quickly Shove Hitler Into a Closet, and Spend the Rest of the Episode Doing Character Development”.

It was a real disappointment.

One of the most popular “alternate histories” is that where Germany / The Nazis win the Second World War. It’s justifiable to remind us of the evils of Nazism / fascism, but it’s at the point of being so overdone it’s boring.

What would be more interesting to see would be how WWII or even the rise of Nazism could be avoided in the first place.

What if you could go back in time, and stop Hitler? Continue reading

Adventures in Car Buying

My 2012 Ford Fiesta never gave me any serious trouble. I bought it brand new – the dealership took care of regular maintenance, a local mechanic dealt with the few urgent matters that came up, and a regional chain of tire stores handled tire replacement. Other than tires, brakes, and a new battery, nothing needed replacement – or even tinkering.

So when the “Check Engine” light turned on this February, I was a little bit concerned. The car was getting on in years and miles, so…. I brought it to a nearby parts store that offered a free “Scan for the fault code” service. The report produced said it was something that didn’t make much sense to me (I forget exactly what it was). The car was still running well, so I figured I’d keep an eye on things until my next scheduled maintenance, which wasn’t too far off.

After a while, though, the light turned off. “Hooray!” I thought. “It was just a sensor glitch, or something equally innocuous.” After another week or so, it came back on. Then it turned off for a few days. Then it came back on – and this time, there was an obvious and major problem The car didn’t seem to be able to run in any gear other than “reverse” or “first” (or “low”). My local mechanic ran the diagnostic, and said the “transmission control module” was shot.

Time to call the dealer….

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Watching Baseball at the Office

Now, I really can’t watch any games. There’s no TV in the office, and even if I had a subscription or the like that let me watch them online, I doubt they’d let me get away with it – even if it wasn’t bothering my co-workers or interfering with my work.

Fortunately, there are at least two websites that effectively track games in real time, and display enough action so that it’s kind of like listening to a game on the radio. Sort of. A good enough equivalent, at any rate. Continue reading

And See Who Salutes

You probably missed it, but Utah has a new state flag, replacing its old cluttered and frankly ugly one:

Utah’s old flag


A good number of other states are considering redesigns as well, and not just to remove traces of the Confederacy or other things of “questionable” merit. It’s that most state flags are crap. Vexillalogists Vexillololiphiles Flag buffs describe most of them as “S.O.B.s”, meaning that they are nothing more than the state seal on a blue field. Which does very little towards making a flag distinctive, which is one of the most important things you want in a flag.

Anyone with a minimal design sense can slap together a decent flag, as long as you follow a few basic rules: Keep it simple, have no words or numbers, make it distinctive, and give it some connection to what it represents.

Since I have at least a minimal design sense, there’s nothing to stop me from having a go at the flags of the two states that I have called home. And as it happens, they’re both SOB’s that cry out for a redesign.

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Movies I’d Like to See – The Fantasy Series

Seems that these days, all the fantasy movies and series are based on Tolkien or similar epics, or some YA stories about wizard schools. They can be fine, but they get repetitive after a while.

As it happens, there’s a bunch of fantasy stories that, as far as I know, have never been adapted to a video medium. They deal with the adventures of two, well, “rogues” is what most would call them, but they aren’t anti-heroes or ne’er-do-wells or anything like that. They are just two great friends who travel their world looking for adventure and enough money to buy a round of drinks at the nearest tavern, and perhaps invite one or two of the ladies there up to their room. They are adult men, after all.

I’m referring to Fritz Leiber’s “Fahfrd and the Grey Mouser” stories. Continue reading

Negro Leagues Fantasy Draft

Seems that pretty much every time there’s a discussion about the Greatest Baseball Players of All Time, someone mentions that you can’t really judge the players from before the integration of Major League Baseball because they never got to face any of the players in the Negro Leagues.

To me, rather than making a useful observation on racism, the bias in the statistics, or to promote the skills of the Negro League players, it’s used instead to dismiss the talents of the white players.

But just how much of an effect could it have had? How often would Lefty Grove faced Josh Gibson, or Jimmie Foxx have come to bat against “Smokey” Joe Williams? No team or player would be facing the Negro League All-Stars every day, right?

There’s an easy way to test this. Continue reading

Forty Acres and a Mule

General William Sherman had a problem. As the military commander in charge of large areas of the South in the late stages of the Civil War, he had many thousands of Black refugees that he had to provide with food and shelter. A delegation of Black leaders had approached Sherman and offered a solution: give them some land they can settle on and work as their own.

On January 16, 1865, Sherman issued Special Field Orders No. 15, which designated a large amount of unclaimed and abandoned land in his remit to be divided into lots of roughly forty acres each to be given to the refugees for homesteading (Spare mules that the Army no longer needed were given out later).

There was a bit of a catch in the order, though.

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Scott Rolen

Scott Rolen just won election to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Playing third for the Phillies and Cardinals (with end of career stints with the Blue Jays and Reds), he made seven All Star teams and won eight Gold Glove awards for his fielding excellence over his seventeen seasons. He earned a World Series title with the Cardinals in 2006, but other than being named the NL Rookie of the Year in 1997, there’s not much else in the way of trophies.

His career numbers are unremarkable. A .281 batting average and 316 home runs is good, but not really exceptional. And you won’t find him leading the league in any offensive stats over the course of his career.

So what makes him a Hall of Famer?


Those eight Gold Glove awards are fourth all time for third basemen. Add that to his solid offense, and he comes in with a career Wins Above Replacement of 70.1 – which compares well with the average of 68.3 for the fifteen third basemen already in Cooperstown.

Compared to other positions, third base isn’t a position where defense can really stand out. You don’t see much of the range and “flash” of a shortstop or second baseman; nor does the speed and grace of an outfielder come to the fore. On tough plays at third, a fan’s attention quickly shifts to the first baseman, to see if the out is made. You have to pay attention to the “Hot Corner” to find exceptional glovework.

And Rolen had it in spades.

More than good enough for the bronze plaque in Cooperstown.

“I told him once, my happiest day would be if there’s a game where 27 ground balls get to third base. The way he plays that position, the way he runs the bases, the way he takes his at-bats, he is a complete player.” – Manager Tony LaRussa

2022 in Review

Well, that’s another year under the belt. Fifty two posts, and who knows how many words. Fewer visitors and views than in 2021, but more “views per visitor”.

The year’s most viewed NEW post was “On the Price of Gasoline” from back in March, which actually sits at #7 overall for the year; “Indiana Jones and the ‘Top Men’” is still the most viewed post in the history of this blog. With over five times as many views as the #2 post, it’s not likely to ever be dethroned.

I have to admit that I’m running out of steam. I know I’ve been saying that in each first post for the past few years, but this time it really does feel that this thing is starting to wind down.

I can’t think of much more to say about baseball, the Olympics, or Eurovision. In large part due to the polarization of the country at this point, political essays would be little more than rants. I’m not sure I can come up with another project (like reading the Kama Sutra) that I can stretch out over several posts, thereby padding my total.

I do have a few reviews and essays sitting in reserve, so I’m good for a while.

If I ever do start “reposting” things from the early days of this blog, or I break out that multi-part essay on The Crusades that I wrote for some reason that escapes me at the moment, then you’ll know I’m burnt out.

I hope I’ll at least have the sense to do a proper sign off and not leave you wondering if there’s going to be another post next week or month…

More Holiday Messages from Our Sponsors

I don’t know about you, but I quickly get tired of holiday TV ads telling people to buy their products or else Christmas will be a disaster. Or that the holiday season is not complete unless you give someone one of their products.

I wondered if this blatant hucksterism happened in other countries.

One of the first things I noticed was that holiday ads from Europe and Canada were more like short films, running for a few minutes instead of the 30 or 60 seconds that they do here in the US. Perhaps their TV scheduling rules are different. Or maybe it was just the ones I found when I went looking for “Best Christmas Commercials”.

I also noticed that they weren’t so much for products as they were for stores. Less “Buy this thing” and more “Shop here; we’ve got all you need for a great Christmas”.

Anyway, roll the clips!

Continue reading