Thursday, November 18, 2010

A Friendly Reminder

Dear Mr. & Mrs. Sensitive: The right to not be offended does not appear in the Constitution, Bill of Laws or Declaration of Independence. So there.

End of story.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This Site is Big, I Tell You

4 comments since June.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Northwest Profile #12: Chicken Little Food Fear Monger*

Roughly 2, maybe 3 times a year, I get the following near-dizzy-with-lust call from My Bestest Friend in the Whole Wide World:

"Dude. Friday night. Steak. Beer. MLB 2010. I'm coming over."

I swear I hear the saliva seeping from the corners of his mouth over the phone.

What's transpiring is this: His strict-vegetarian wife is going out of town for X days and he's about to free himself from his Vegetarian Concentration Camp world, if ever so briefly.

I laugh every time!

Now I think the world of my Bestest Friend's wife. She's a fantastic, well-read and gregarious woman who has raised two beautiful and intelligent and really awesome kids. We got along quite well, too. She's just a little, well, nuts when it comes to meat.

I've had time to let this braise in my brain, and it's come down to this: She's been sucked into the rhetorical vortex by the Chicken Little Food Fear Monger.

The Chicken Little Food Fear Monger is easier spot than an expiration date. Fast Food Nation? Read it. Multiple times. Super Size Me? Better than Citizen Kane. Jamie Oliver? The Second Coming of Christ. Facebook posts? "(Blank) just had the most wonderful Hummus Pot Pie" or links to articles and declaring that The Smiths' "Meat is Murder!" is at the top of their Desert Island Discs.

But I got to thinking, what is it about this fear of meats like ground beef and chicken and pseudo-meats like McNuggets that bothers me? Luckily, I was able to figure it out.

Chicken Little Food Fear Mongers are hijacking the minds of intelligent and thoughtful people who are being duped and scared into believing this "science" based on the misrepresentation and distortion of facts and specious, unscientific connections to elements that appear in our foods (ex: “That McNugget has the same element in it as Silly Putty!”). Logic and common sense are also put on the back burner.

Now it’s one thing to object to the eating of animals—some people, like my Bestest Friend's wife, really don’t dig the idea and I get that, and that’s perfectly fine. (Hey, more juicy T-bones for me!) But it’s quite another to base one’s culinary aversions based on misrepresentations, misinformation (or is it disinformation?), distortions and fear mongering. And to complete Chicken Little's Recipe 'O Fear, we might as well add a dash of anti-corporate propaganda and rhetoric in there, too.

Now if I were Penn Gillette, right now I would be saying into the camera, "And it's all bullshit!" So pardon me if I get a little Penn from here on out with the language.

Here's an example: “Oh my god! Have you seen the way they make and what goes into ground beef? I’ll never eat it!”

True, store-bought ground beef is generally made from many parts of the cow—skeletal tissue (not bones), blood vessels, nerve tissue, etc., none of which sounds terribly appetizing. So the fuck what? Why is this bad? Are we not supposed to use the whole animal as to not waste it? Yes. It would make Sitting Bull and other Native Americans very fucking happy. Again, it’s a little gross to think about, and I would certainly rather eat ground chuck (aka: steak meat), but that shit is expensive and Joe Average Income likes to feed his family, so let's provide him with some food that he can afford too. How fucking careless and thoughtless of us. Again, is there any thing wrong in eating those things? No, there's not.

Then there’s “mad cow” disease and other animal-related illnesses like e.coli, salmonella, etc.—really awful stuff if you were to catch any of it. And I do mean fucking if (from US News *& World Reports):

“According to the Centers for Disease Control , in 2006 there were 27,634 people who fell victim to food borne disease outbreaks, and 11 deaths from those outbreaks. Only a fraction of those outbreaks were caused by beef—in fact, it's not even in the top three causes, surpassed by poultry, leafy vegetables, and fruits and nuts.”

Of the millions pounds of ground beef and chicken consumed by the ground-beef and chicken-eatin’ public, those who got sick is less than one half of one percent, if that. And of that figure, those who died is practically immeasurable. Fuck.

“Well, I don’t want to take that chance. Do you want to take that chance with your child!?”

Sure, why the fuck not. God forbid, he has a better chance of being hit walking out to my car. Or crossing the street. Or, hopefully, winning the lottery. Fuck it, I should just lock the little guy in the basement and hope he doesn't get hit by a meteor while am I am it. Nonsense.

And over what? Over one or two elements like tertiary butylhydroquinone and dimethylpolysilicone that appear in trace—trace!—levels in Chicken McNugets and that have been deemed safe by the FDA and European Health Administration, and that have tested and deemed safe by the World Health Organization and that, well, do not pose one iota of a health threat to humans. But let's be scared about it anyway. After all, long words are scary!

Using logic and reason, let's ask a simple and honest question: Of what benefit would it be to the raisers and sellers of beef to knowingly poisoning their target market? Ah, it’s for profit and to meet (pun!) demand, so the rhetorical argument goes. I see. Poisoning your target market is good for business. I bet they don't teach that at Harvard. So why pump (supposedly bad) hormones into chickens and cattle just to make a profit? To feed an increasingly hungry world faster? Oh the humanity. Are the levels of those hormones harmful? Potentially, yes. If they were put in by the fucking vat, which doesn't fucking happen.

Look, it’s good to raise question about what goes into our food supply. The problem is too many uneducated (aka: NOT experts) are chiming in and spreading misinformation faster than a rotting McDonald’s Happy Meal cheeseburger** about how bad ground beef, chicken, etc. are. They provide little context based in science and make too many assumptive and, ultimately wrong, conclusions. Truth is, they’re the epitome of what happens a lot in this Golden Age of the Internet: “a little knowledge in the wrong hands can be a dangerous thing”. Thus, they end up needlessly scaring the living McNugget shit out of a lot of people.

And if you see or hear Chicken Little Food Fear Monger bemoaning that the sky is falling because X ingredient appears in your KFC Double Down and might cause you to grow a golden retriever head off your neck, break out the meat tenderizer, flatten him between two sheets of wax paper with common sense then deep-fry 'em at 350º for 30 minutes.

Me? I'm going home and having a steak.

*With apologies to PEMCO's great ad campaign.

**The latest bullshit internet "experiment."

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Negative Capability

Here it is.

My big moment.

The chains are off. No agendas to meet, not a one.

Do as I imagine. Do as I think we could be.

I can blow it all up and re-create it.

So why not!

And I will.

What's the answer?

There's the middle of the river.

Calm. Meandering.

Ripple free.

Never, ever reaching one shore or the other

And being in content that there are waters without answer.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Moderately Representin'?

Let me be clear about something: The hateful rhetoric runs both ways. It's maddening, discouraging, distasteful and juvenile.

In viewing the recent video made by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer that appears on YouTube, I decided to read through the comments. The more I read, the more aghast I became. The comments were of the most vile and despicable in nature. NC-17 stuff, honestly.

Two things started to pop out at me as I read. One, the majority of hate speech was running decidedly in favor of those coming from—wait for it—leftists. (This can't make reasonable and fair-minded liberals proud. But the right-wingers shouldn't be puffing their chests, either.)

And two, not one moderate voice from either side step in and denounced. That, to me, is the more disturbing part. More on that after I subject you to NC-17 comments.*

"why cant she just die... i mean i dont really wish death on anyone but if i did, you know... just die!"

"30 miles from the Capital??/ What capital is 30 miles from the border...this WORTHLESS CUNT NEEDS TO BE DEPORTED TO SWEDEN...FUCKING DUMB BLONDE."

"fuck u hoe racist bitch"

"This imbecile's popularity is based soley on being anti-Mexican, so her being a drugged out zombie is ok... pathetic"

"She is mad, cuz her crack pipe she looks a real crackhead hooker..she looks like freddy krueger. Go Play Bingo Stop on Hate.KKK,Nazi Bicth"

Racist Bitch!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! coming from an immigrant family her self....DO I SEE A NEXT HITLER......I THINK I DO!!!!!!! THATS WHY ARIZONA IS AS BROKE AS IT IS....lame ass governer who doesnt know SHIT!!!!

And from the right:

"go take back your own country shitass.....where in a depression, we don't need your sorry ass here!!!"

"Fuck you chicken shit! You ILLEGAL? Watch and see how BIG she wins in Nov you Fucking Pocho!"

I honestly believe what needs to be done—and it matters not a whit whether you're a right-winger, left-winger or in between—is to denounce people like this. (Or, in the case of Muslims, denounce and openly call for an end to the violence that blasphemes their religion.)

The idiots from above are easy to spot. Yet it's people who we think are smart, like the WaPo's Eugene Robinson or NYT's Paul Krugman, that subtly cast and brand those who oppose the current party in power as 'racists'. They are more dangerous because they wield such tremendous influence due to their medium. The same can be said Fox's Glenn Beck who called Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor a "racist" and accused Obama being a "racist." Really? Seriously?

Look, people like this are sharp impediments on the road to truth. They flatten the tires on the issue(s) and make it impossible to get anywhere near a solution or to engage in rational and studied disagreement and debate.

The solution? Kick them out of the road every time you see it, moderates. And then maybe, just maybe, we might get back Reasonable Discourse-ville. If we were ever there at all.

*The thread was hijacked by about 4 rather bizarre individuals flaming one another, so I kept my selections apart from them.

Monday, August 23, 2010

What I Owe


Some are bigger than others.



I cannot repay except in prayer.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Losing Choices Isn't Losing Liberty?

Oops! Headline missing a key word.

At the height of the health care debate, an old colleague of mine and me were discussing the issue. I asserted that there would economic consequences to gov't undercutting private insurers and forcing them to take on high-risk clients. I argued that this would force small-to-medium insurers out of business, thus shrinking the insurance provider market place, resulting in fewer choices, eventually forcing people to go with the least expensive option—Obamacare. This, I said, is a loss of liberties.

I was dumbfounded by his reply and didn't know how to answer:

I'm also not quite sure how fewer choices equals losing liberty. Choice is not the same thing as liberty. If Skippy goes out of business and I can only choose between Jiff and Safeway brand, have I lost liberty?

Now I do. Mostly because I don't know want to reach through the screen and punch him in the face for being so patently smarmy and ignorant.

First, I'm glad he inadvertently acknowledged that insurance is a private commodity, which has been one of my arguments: the federal government cannot fine or tax you for not buying a private commodity, which health insurance is and ObamaCare does fine/tax. It is a clear violation of the 10th Amendment. Obamacare tries to sneak around that by allowing insurers to compete across state lines, which is good, but there's a big problem:

His example is flawed, however, because he failed to acknowledge that the State is one of competitors—and one that is arbitrarily and artificially setting and capping the market price for insurance. This will drive many insurers out of business, thus resulting in fewer choices, not because a product or service naturally failed in the marketplace.

Eventually, as large insurers will be forced to take on greater and deeper risk pools, they will be forced to drive up prices just to remain solvent. Then, instead of people making insurers compete for business, one will be forced to go with ObamaCare because it's the most affordable. (Wouldn't you go with the lower price too if you weren't wealthy? I would.)

What happens? Only the wealthy and elite will be able to afford private insurance, with millions of Americans forced to pay for the only one available: ObamaCare.

Being forced by the government to take a government service? If that ain't a loss of liberty, brother, than I don't know what is.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

One Hand

The tournament at Roxy's has changed slightly since the last time I played back in January. Now it's a $40 buy-in and 10,000 in chips with blinds starting at 100/200, making for an ever slightly faster paced game where aggression is rewarded in the right spot.

Like with my first hand last night.

There are 8 players at my table (16 total) and I'm in the big blind (BB).

The second player to act puts in a minimum raise of 400 (minimum raises are a tell tale sign of a a weak player who doesn't understand proper bet sizing). The small blind calls for 300. I look down at Kh-Qh. A good hand, but not exactly one I want to raise with out of the BB, especially when I have no reads on my opponents. Better off just calling and taking the flop, I think. I call.

The pot: 1200.

The flops comes: Qc-10h-8h.

This is a really, really good flop for my hand, so I want to be aggressive with it to disguise its strength. And why is it strong? For a simple reason: outs. And what is an "out?" It's any unseen card that could potentially improve my hand and is likely to win. So here are my outs (and I can do this really quickly in my head before betting):

9 hearts to a flush (there are 13 in the deck and we know about 4)
3 kings for two pair*
2 queens for trips
3 tens to make 2 pair
3 eights to make 2 pair

Total: 20 outs, or cards that will improve my hand. Using the Rule of 4 and 2, I multiply the number of outs x 4 on the flop. (On the turn you multiply by 2.), which gives me a roughly 80% chance of winning this hand. There's a little dance going on in my head.

Now of course I don't know what cards my opponents are holding, but there's one way to find out: bet.

So I bet 1000. The 2nd player pops it to 2500, a good and slightly fishy raise indicating a couple of things: a) He's protecting AQ, b.) he has a set of 10s or 8s, c.), he has AA or KK or d.) he has a straight draw he's protecting (like KJ). I plan on calling, but let's see what the SB does.

Pot count: 4700

SB re-pops it 5000. Whoa, I didn't expect that! Very interesting.

Now it's on me.

Pot: 9700

My pots odds are roughly: 2.5:1. Expressed as a percentage, 30%, if I call. (13,700 divided by 4000 I'd have to call=29%)

Since the expected value of my hand is on the positive (I'm 2.8:1 favorite against any pair and the pot is laying me 2.5:1) When the odds of drawing a card that wins the pot are higher than the pot odds, it's a near instant call. If I'm up against 2 pair, I'll lose at least 5 outs, making it 15 outs, or 60%.

I really think the SB has either a.) flopped two pair or b.) he flopped a straight (highly unlikely). AQ isn't likely, but possible and would be a slight underdog against my draw.

Calling isn't an option here really as it will cost me more than half of my stack, thus committing to make a call to see the river no matter what card comes on the turn.

"This is a really, really good hand," I say to the SB. "And I'm fairly certain I know what you have." I look at the original raiser, I'm not sure about you, but I have an idea, I think to myself.

"There's really only one right move here, and folding isn't one of them. I'm all in," I say, pushing my chips into the middle and show my Kh-Qh. The original raiser calls. Hmm, I wasn't expecting that. He shows Kc-Jc giving him only 6 "clean" outs (the Ah and 9h are "dirty" outs for him). The SB shows Qd-10c, and has only 4 outs; his hand takes away 8 of my outs (the 10s, 8s and Qs=8), leaving me with 12 outs, or 48%.

I'm in good shape despite the SB's two pair as we're a virtually coin flip for a huge pot. Then:

Turn: 6s

River: 2d

One hand.

I'm out.

"You gotta be kidding me," I mutter to myself. "12 outs and I miss every one. Fucking standard."

No regrets, though. It was unquestionably the right play in every way, mathematically and strategically.

Funny thing is, I don't know it yet, but my night's about to get a whole lot worse.

Friday, July 23, 2010

One Tired-Ass (and Heartless) Meme

Meme.: A concept that spreads swiftly via the Internet.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

And I'll emphatically add: a concept that, more often than not, ain't necessarily true the deeper one looks.

Take for example this recent meme: "Heartless and hateful Republicans don't want to extend unemployment benefits! Bastards!" If not those exact words, pretty darn close.

A liberal friend, who happens to be unemployed, said to me recently, "it scares me that so many republican politicians carelessly brush aside our (at this point) absolute dependence on unemployment money." That's quote for quote.

This bothered me.

So, I asked my heartless self: Was I a member of the heartless party heartlessly denying hearty unemployment insurance (UI) extension to millions of hearty Americans.

Turns out, um, no, not really.

The then-proposed UI extension, some $34 billion, was a part of a larger $200 billion stimulus (Swindle Us) bill, per the WaPo:

The extension was first introduced in a nearly $200 billion package of economic measures sought by the Obama administration, including fresh aid to state governments and extended health insurance subsidies for the unemployed.

$200 billion? Shoot, that means that not even 1/4 of the money was going to go to UI. So, naturally....

Republicans blasted the spending plan, and conservative Democrats revolted, demanding that the package be scaled back.

So it was:

Democratic leaders spent the next two months tossing various items overboard until nothing was left but the least controversial bit of spending: income support for unemployed workers. Democrats downsized even that program, dropping a $25-a-week bonus for all jobless workers* that had been enacted under last year's stimulus package.

Two months. (Or, if you're unemployed, that's better said, "Two fucking months!")

Yet, our dear President made strong allusions to it being all the GOP's fault, saying that it was just partisan tactics "that unconscionably held up unemployment insurance."

On really?

If extending UI was such an "emergency" as was argued by liberals, why didn't the Democrat-controlled Congress propose a straight-as-an-arrow UI bill?

Well, first of all, UI extensions have been a part of stimulus packages before, so that's no surprise. And it's no surprise that there was opposition to the first version wanting an additional $166 billion in spending—particularly in light of the $800 billion in TARP that isn't working as advertised. Basically, what the GOP said was, "Hey, we're fine (sort of**) with extending UI bennies, but you've got to cut the rest of this crap out of here. And explain how we'll pay for this while you're at it."

That took 2 months. The ball was in their court for 2 months.

Yes, "Those heartless and hateful Republicans!" "brushing aside" the unemployed.

Grab your hip waders, the memes are deep and plentiful. On both sides.

*What? What is this?
** Another $34 billion borrowed from our Chinese buddies. Oye. And yes, with a vote 272 to 152 there was still GOP opposition to the bill. For good reason.***
***At 99 weeks, when do the extensions end? At 9% unemployment? 8%? 6%? At some point, there has to be a cutoff. Having the political cajones to do so, is another question

Friday, July 16, 2010

OP's Summer of New

Last summer, I purchased new golf clubs for the first time in 12 years. Up until 6 weeks ago, I loved them! (I still love them; I'm just deflecting responsibility for my shitty swing on to them because, as we all know, it's the clubs' fault, stupid.)

Anyway, this summer is featuring even more new goodness for me!

Recently, I purchased my first-ever pair of prescription sunglasses, plus a new pair of regular old glasses. (I look sharp in them, too.) I also got a stylish and sinister looking PokerStars hoodie after cashing in some bonus points. (Look out fish!) Then I received a new set of fake teeth. (Sigh.) And, finally, this past Monday, I purchased my first-ever—insert drum roll, please—iPhone!

The 4, to be exact. The one with the antenna issue. Oye gavult.

Leave it to me to finally succumb to technology's siren song only to be thwarted by a glitch. Temporarily, anyway.

Now the sunglasses are pretty awesome as I can drive in bring sunlight without squinting like a 85-year old at the poker table trying to figure out if that's a diamond or a heart on his hole cards. But it's the iPhone that I preordered that's got me jazzed.

The thing is, I'm about as tech savvy as I am handy around the house, so I hope I can make the darn thing work to the best of its ability. I'm sure I will. Hell, it is made by Apple, only the world's most tech-friendly company, I should be fine!

Now watch me end up downloading the "Human-Ending Plague" app, accidentally pressing "Send Plague Now" and being solely accountable for the end of mankind.*

Just thought I should warn you.

*This is why the world is the way it is in Cormac McCarthy's "The Road." App user malfunction. And here you thought his post-apocalyptic world was because of a limited nuclear war or global warming.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

My Unmanly Confession

My poor wife. She did not marry a handy man. She married a Guy Who Can Do Some Things, Just Don't Give Him a Nail Gun or Miter Saw for Christmas kind of guy.

Projects where manual labor is required (ex: rebuilding the back on our fence or rerouting the spouts for the gutters) or a job where a particular skill set needs to be involved (ex: replacing a light fixture in our guest bedroom) or where patience is required (ex: hanging new closet doors) around my house usually go undone for months. And in some cases years. Is it laziness? Lack of skill? Lack of time? Lack of tools?

While it's true that I don't have the skills or the tools to do these projects, I have to say this: I'm not interested in trying to tackle them in the first place. Really, I'm not interested. At all. In fact, I have about as much interest in talking about projects and how to do them as I do in listening to Stephen Hawking give a lecture in quantum physics. Or listening "How to Macrame" on NPR.

Part of the lack of interest stems from losing my Dad when I was 17. Man, he could build stuff. He built my sister's doll house. He also built my wickedly cool train set that folded out from the wall like a Murphy bed. We also completed our walkway and retaining wall shortly before he died. However, he never showed me how to lay down bricks or how to measure posts and so on. Not his fault entirely as I don't recall asking to learn how to do them. But I also remember not being interested in the first place.

This causes me some embarrassing and uncomfortable moments when socializing with my fellow dudes. When they get talking about doing X, Y and Z to their houses, I just nod politely and try to maintain interest. This is problematic as it can cement my feet in to a conversation for untold minutes. (Good thing beer is usually on hand to get me through such conversations.) For example, I know a guy who's worked on his house going on 2+ years now. He's remodeled the kitchen and all of the rooms, plus done all the wiring on the house. It looks great! But to hear him talk about it all I keep thinking is, "You've spent 2+ years of your life doing this? Holy hell, you missed a lot of sunny golf days." And then I try to finish my beer so I can slink off for a new one.

Part of my lack of interest lies in patience, mostly because I lack it—particularly when things don't go as planned as projects have a way of doing.

To me, spending an entire Sunday installing a door like my friend Andy did over at Dipso Chronicles just doesn't sound like a hootenanny. Yet that's what he did. By about the second or third hour I would've turned to my wife and said, "Honey, I hope you're okay without a front door for the next couple of nights because, fuck it, I'm fucking done with this shit right fucking now." Then I would have kicked the pile of shit door for not cooperating then stormed off to find the nearest beer.

And I'm not kidding about that level of frustration either.

Hell, you should have seen me try to put a new spool of cord on to my Weedwacker recently. The wacker is still spool-less. A door? You gotta be kidding me. Why bother.

Yet there's always been this little Tim The Toolman inside me who wants to get out and at least try.

My friend, Sean, made himself a poker table once—padded rails, velvet top, and he even put his own funky logo in the middle of the table. Fantastic piece of manly man that he built. I wanted one too. So I asked him how he did it. He said it was easy, all he did was blah, blah, blah, did blah, blah, blah, then did blah, blah, blah afterhe did blah, blah, blah, but he had trouble with blah, blah, blah when blah, blah, blah didn't attach to blah, blah, blah so he blah, blah, blah and was done.

He was the teacher in Peanuts to me. I couldn't relate. I asked him how much it cost. He said about $350 for all the materials.

I wanted to double it to $700 to cover his cost in labor for building me one as well.

Also, when we first bought our house, I had interest and verve in doing various projects. I gladly engaged in painting, installing a lock on the front door, patching holes. putting up the mailbox and so on.I even bought a Home Depot book on how to do every imaginable house project. Then I remembered who brought the toolkit into our family unit: my wife.

I even did one major house project that required a great deal of help: Building our fence. I'm glad we hired Matt otherwise our fence would have been as useful as the Maginot Line in keeping the then-alive dog in the yard and unwanted critters and people out.

I feel sorry for my son in all this, too. Daddy's never going to teach him how to build a deck, or lay a walk way, or tile the bathroom, or fix a pipe, and so on. If he's interested in learning, well, that's why there are technical courses at the local junior colleges. And I'll be happy to pay for them too.

These days, my wife now knows that if she wants to get something done that we'll need to hire some one. New doors? New can lights in living room? New tile on the fireplace? If you can do those things, buddy, you're hired.

Look, in the end, I get the whole pride in doing it yourself idea, or that feeling accomplishment. Or that doing projects is a way of relaxing and so on. I get all that. Those are all well and good, and bully for you!

Me? It's "No, Lowe's, let's not build something together. You do it. I've got better things to do." Like play golf. Or take a nap. Anything but measuring or pounding and remeasuring and repounding.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

I Approve This Message

From David Boze's blog at KTTH.

More Poking Fun at Soccer

So, an old friend on Facebook was "looking for suggestions on where to watch the USA-Algeria match* tomorrow."

I replied: "On Sportscenter, skipping the 89:55 minutes of inaction?"**

This is too easy. And far too fun!

*Even soccer fans dare not call it a "game."
** To my friend's credit, he replied, "That's how I watch golf."

Monday, June 21, 2010

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Three Keys to Shaving Strokes in Golf

There is one big way to shoot low score in golf: avoid blow-up holes. That means no double or triple bogeys, and definitely no snowmen.

By no means am I there yet. I took a 9 on the par 5, 525-yard 4th hole on my home course; and a double at the second. I took a triple on a 435-yard par 4 last Saturday to go with two doubles. The former—if I had just bogeyed each hole—prevented me from shooting a 77; the latter cost me money.

So these tips are as much for me as they are you!

The Most Dreaded Shot in Golf

Last Saturday, on a 310-yard, uphill par 4, my playing partner Sanders and I hit our drives right next to each other—literally just 3 feet apart. We were both looking at an uphill 55-yard pitch shot.

"I hate this shot," he grumbled as we came up to our shots, expressing a sentiment of many golfers.
I was first to hit and knocked mine right of the hole, but pin high to 14 feet (yeah, I walk off my putts). Sanders hit his shot, yanking it long and left and leaving himself a good 30-footer for birdie. I liked my chances at birdie. His? Not so much. (Sanders made a slippery 4 footer for par. Me? My bird finished 2 inches to the right. Damn.)

While I'm no Tiger Woods at an 8.3 handicap, I know why golfers like Sanders hate these pitch shots: They don't practice them enough, if at all! (Sanders negativity didn't help, either.)

How important is this shot to average to above average player?*
Guess how many times I faced shots in that 55-105-yard range last week? 9. My previous round, 6. The round before that, 8. The round before that, 7.

Clearly the 55-105 shot has to be in my bag if I want to score low, so I make sure it is. That's why when I go to the range, my first 15-20 shots are with my 52º and 56º wedges. I also end my session with 7-10 of these shots.

The more I practice it, the more comfortable I am with it. (This is not to say that I've mastered these shots, I'm just less intimidated by them.)
Here's my tip: The next time you go to the range, get a small bucket of roughly 50 balls and use the entire bucket to hit shots in the 50-110 yard range. Yup, leave the driver and irons in the bag and use the entire bucket for these shots.

"But that's wasting balls!" my friend Natalie protested the other day.

"Would you rather "waste" range balls or strokes on the course, Nat?"

"Shut up."

That's what I thought. Enough said.

Laying Up: When to Recognize Trouble and Eliminate a Big Score

A couple of times a week I pass my home course's difficult 13th hole. It's par 3 that plays 182 to 191 yards (depending on where the tees are) over a ravine and is ever so slightly downhill. There's a bunker short and right of the green; and another long and back left. To the right is a grove of tall pines with low-hanging branches, and a chain-link fence next to the road. Short and to the left of the hole is wide open. The green slopes from back to front and has a false front. And the hardest part of the hole is prevailing wind, which is either coming straight at you or from the left, thus adding more yards to the hole. Par is a great score; bogey, while obviously not ideal, is acceptable. Here's a view of the hole (though this is shot considerably "up" in front of the tees.):

So how do I approach this hole? First, I identify the trouble. Right is obviously no good. The less obvious trouble is long; it'll be hard to get it close with the green sloping away from me. Left is fine (look at all that room!), but it leaves me with a long and more difficult pitch shot that has to carry the false front. Then I consider my club yardage. I hit my 5-iron off a tee anywhere from 180-190 yards. My 22º 3 hybrid I hit 200-215. So, I'm between clubs.

My strategy is clear then: Aim for the blue spruce, take a 5-iron and play for a lay up.

What? Lay up on a par 3?

Absolutely, and for several reasons. With a good chip, I can get up and down for par—and, at worst, 2-putt for bogey. Two, I virtually eliminate double or even triple bogey from the scorecard. Three, thinking "lay up" puts less pressure on me to make a perfect swing, thus relaxing my muscles and allowing me to make a better swing. (What I'm doing here is fooling my body a bit. I know darn well that I can put it dead center on the green, but putting artificial pressure on myself to do so usually results in a hurried swing with a less-than-ideal result.)

How has this approach worked out? 5 out of the last 7 times I've parred the hole! The other two were bogeys. A fella can really fall in love with those results.

The lay up is a powerful shot; and it can be used in numerous situations around a course with a positive effect on your scorecard. There are just a couple of rules to follow.

First, recognize where potential trouble lurks on a hole. Second, keep your ego in check. (Can I really make this shot? If no, pick a club that gets you to wedge yardage or a spot where you'll be comfortable.) Finally, as I pointed out in my above example, be creative. Defy conventional wisdom. Maybe on a long 450-yard par 4 you lay up your second shot

Keep Your Penis in the Bag and Take More Club

The penis. It costs golfers more shots than any other club in the bag—and that includes women. Nowhere does the penis play a more sinister role than on approaches.

The thinking goes something like this, "Hmm, okay. I have 135 yards to the hole. That's a 9-iron for me, so 9-iron it is." And they end up 10-15 yards short of the hole.

Thank you very much, Mr. Penis.

Had the golfer put the clubhead cover on Mr. Penis and gone with a smooth 8, they would be pin high and tight.

Case in point. A guy I'm playing with, carrying the exact same handicap as me (8.3), steps up to his shot. He has 132-yards to the hole that plays steeply uphill. He breaks out his range finder.

"Well, 132 yards. That's my 9."

We had become friendly during the round, but not so much that I felt like dispensing advice. Take one more club or you'll never get there, sport.

Guess who ended up short. If you said Mr. Penis, you win a dozen Pro V1s.

Meanwhile, just prior to that, yours truly put the clubhead cover on Mr. Penis, broke out the 7-iron—a club I normally hit 148-155 yards+—and from 141 yards put my shot 12 feet above the cup. Par for me**, bogey for him.

The trouble here is that golfers are counting on making their best shot. A good positive state of mind, for sure, but it puts too much pressure on you and your swing to make a perfect shot.

Look, golf isn't about "I hit that 7-iron 165 yards" and then failing to tell everyone that you bogeyed the hole; it's about making accurate shots to give yourself a chance at par or better.

There's no dishonor in clubbing up, so do it.

Do those three things and I guarantee you'll lower your scores for sure!

Here endth the lesson.

*The average golfer is an 18 handicap!
** Damn, I need to start making these. Missed four from within 15 ft for birdie last week.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

M.Y.O.F.B., Part 2

Just a little while ago in a galaxy very close to home....

Again, I go to the kitchen to pour out the last inch of warm and flat Diet Coke so I can deposit it in the recycle bin. This time, another female co-worker is just finishing up washing a dish.

"May I?" I ask, pointing to the sink and the bottle.

"Oh yeah, sure, sure," she says quickly. "Go right ahead."

I begin pouring.

"I can't drink that stuff. All those bad preservatives. I don't know how you do it." she chortles.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Again? Really?

"See this word here?" I quickly reply, smiling and pointing to the last ingredient of caffeine. "That's why I drink it." I gloss over my real reason: I like the stuff. So fuck you.

"Uh, yeah, it still has those preservatives. So bad for you," she again chortles.

Just shut up, OP. Don't say a word. You've gotten in enough trouble with your mouth lately. Dump your bottle and walk away.

"I'm sorry, I shouldn't be a busy body....I do that."

No, you shouldn't. But you couldn't help your sanctimonious eco-weenie liberal self, could you, you....

"No problem...."

I really need to do a recon mission next time. Nah, screw that. Next time, I make a spectacle of dumping it out. And I'm gonna smile when I do it too. I swear.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Flirting During a Disaster

On April 20, BP and Transocean wanted their deepwater rig to explode and sink and send 11 workers to meet their maker.

Now BP wants to take their own sweet time stopping and cleaning up the disaster. Yes, those Earth-hating, greedy bastards really enjoy losing hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue and sales, spending billions in clean up, while accumulating hundreds of millions more (likely) in fines. Most of all, they really enjoy losing untold billions in negative PR. And worse, if BP doesn't hurry up and stop the leak, the government, with neither the means or know how, is going to "push them out of the way appropriately" and really fix the problem.

If you're waiting for the punchline, grab a seat, it's going to be a while. That's not a joke.

There are people out there, including friends of mine, who actually believe this present line of horse hockey. Worse, the Obama Administration is toting this line too. And the more bluster and bloviation the Administration spouts and touts, the worse and more desperate they appear as the days go by.

It's "Nice job, Brownie" idiocy, only strung over weeks instead of a soundbite. And all they're trying to do is distance themselves from their recent endorsement of increasing off-shore drilling.

It's all political grandstanding and kow towing to one's base. During an on-going disaster that is to sink to the lowest of new lows. The truth is, nobody in the Obama Administration, including Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, has the first fucking clue of how to stop the leak. Instead, they think the next best thing they can do is to stand on the sidelines criticizing and admonishing BP and making empty rhetorical threats so they can look good in the eyes of their anti-corporate, hate-Big-Oil base.

Well, gee, that's helpful. Thank you very fucking much.

For all the admonishing liberals do to conservatives when they pander to their base on issues, they're utterly oblivious when they're engaging in shameless pandering themselves.

Look, there is only one appropriate and winning response that should be coming from the government and the Obama Administration: Shut up, step up and help out where one can. Point fingers—Obama being the World Fingerpointing Champ, especially toward the previous administration—have investigations, call for regulations and hearings and sub-committees of sub-committees, do it all. Just do it all later.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Now That's Grocery Store Customer Service! (Sort Of.)

Lately at my local grocery shopping establishment, a new phrase has replaced the "I'm not really interested but I'm forced to ask 'How are you today?" policy.

It's "Did you find everything you were looking for today?".

Normally these types of pleasant but ultimately disinterested customer phrases pass by us like a fly. We duck and dodge it with equally pleasant yet ultimately disinterested responses of "Good" or "Great, how about you?", with neither of us really giving a shit about the other.

This one stopped me, though.

Did I find everything? Hmm....

I didn't know how to respond. Should I say how I couldn't find the creme fraiche? After all, I didn't. I could respond with a flat "no", embarrassing her (and myself), but that seemed mean. Or, I could be kind and lie by replying yes. Or, I could just laugh it off and say, "Well, I was looking for Mickey Mantle's '52 rookie card, but you didn't have it. What gives?"

Yet given the honest nature of the question, I decided to respond in kind.

"Well, no, actually. I couldn't find creme fraiche."

She seemed slightly stunned that I was actually answering her. She gracefully recovered, however, and replied, "I'm sorry to hear that. It wasn't with the fine cheeses?"

Fine cheeses? It's really more of a dairy product, closely related to sour cream, cottage cheese, etc. Shouldn't it be the milk portion of dairy?

"I didn't think to look there. I was looking in the dairy section." I turned to head to the fine cheeses before she stopped me.

"That's okay, we'll get it for you. How many do you want?"

"Um, just one. Thanks."

With that, she sent the young bagger who hustled off and hurried back with creme fraiche in hand.

Of all the feigned-interest customer phrases thrown at us throughout our lives from "Can I help you?" ("I don't know, can you?") to "How are you doing today?" ("My day was positively fucked, hence the 12-pack.") to "Will that be all?" ("No, I forgot about 22 things. Can you hold my place in line while I get them?"), this one works because there's at least a half measure of genuine interest in delivering customer service and providing items that I want or need.

I felt happy. I felt like an important customer as she handed my change back to me.

"You saved $6.43. Thank you, Mr. Fish....Feis...Fizz..."

And to think, before you started butchering my last name here, you were actually winning.

"That's okay," I smiled, stopping her. "You have a great day!"

Friday, May 7, 2010


Me emptying out two, half-empty and stale Diet Coke containers in the sink.

Co-worker standing at microwave watching me, "Tsk, tak. So wasteful!"

Me: "Yeah, yeah, here we are. I'm pained."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Can I Get a Witness in the Eco-Congregation Here?

Roy Spenser is a climatologist and former NASA scientist:

I have to wonder: Is Earth Day being used to teach our children the way the natural world works, or is it being used to indoctrinate them into performing rituals that will help absolve them of their eco-sins?

I am not opposed to cleaning things up. If there are things we can do that help reduce our impact on the environment without causing human suffering, then I am all for it. But it is that human-suffering part that those of us in more prosperous countries tend to forget about. For instance, there are no economically viable — or even practical — replacements for carbon-based fuels that can be deployed on a sufficient scale to substantially reduce our CO2 emissions. It will likely be decades before we do have such technology. And when we force people to use energy sources that are more expensive, it is the world’s poor who are hit the hardest.


Friday, April 9, 2010

A Time of Hyper Gratitude

I have a friend and former coworker with a couple of kids, one whom happens to be just a month or so younger than my son. She's vivacious, athletic, incredibly funny, humble and self-effacing, whip smart, and a gifted writer. She's one of those people who was 632 friends on Facebook and knows something intimate and/or funny about each one. Heck, she'd even "friend you up" if she half liked you.

She's also the last person, at age 35, that you'd expect to have stage 4 colon cancer.

Now her disease makes it easy for anyone to call into account her own mortality and to be grateful for life. Yet I contest that that state of 'being there' is momentary and fleeting for most, particularly for the healthy or those who have never walked down that path with Death. This is not to say that the healthy don't appreciate their lives, no, they most certainly do! Yet there is a hyper state of awareness or consciousness that my friend is experiencing that I too have experienced, and it's nearly indescribable. But let me try.

Ever paid attention to every little ache in your chest? ("Was that from working out, or is something happening?") Have you ever been conscious of your moment-to-moment breathing? ("Is it normal to be winded going up this hill or 3 flights of stairs?" "How long should it take to catch my breath?") Ever wake up with your shoulder noticeably stiff? ("Is that from sleeping wrong, or worse?") Who will take care of the dog?

Lights and colors are intense. Sleep seems unnecessary. You listen intently. Heck, one time on the way to work, I started crying on the bus because the morning light was so beautiful and bright and jaw-dropping brilliant as it streamed through buildings that I couldn’t. I got to work, tears still in my eyes, and I just sat at my desk and sobbed because I was so overwhelmingly grateful. (I felt foolish when a co-worker asked what was wrong, so I lied and made up some BS about being mean to folks.)

Today, my friend is going through the same thoughts and experiences. Every word on her blog is filled with a deep sense of appreciation and hyper awareness, dusted with her brand of slightly dark but lighthearted sense of humor.

Then I think about my health compared to my friend's.

My cholesterol is fantastic. A recent nuclear stress test revealed no blockages. And my Berkeley Heart Labs came back better than they were 2 years ago. I could stand to lose 10-15 pounds of extra blubber around the belly to bring down the glucose levels, sure, but God's renewed my lease for the time being. Unless a bus comes along, or a pack of pit bulls attacks whilst I'm mowing the lawn, I'm going to be A-okay for a while!

The word "grateful" falls woefully short.

Of course, the natural, guilt-laden reaction is, "that's not fair" and "what did she do to deserve this?” as if we all have some cosmic comeuppance coming to us for own perceived transgressions against God.

But I've grown to ask a better question, one that's helped me to cope with these times in life: "What's God trying to teach me here? What lesson does He want me to learn?" For now, the answer is simple and clear: ‘Be grateful for the life I've given you. Love me, and take care of yourself.’ I’m sure there’s more, but for now this is all I hear.

So I've been swimming in that deep pool of hyper awareness again. I look at my son and see how intimately he takes in every little thing, the joy he derives from every little touch (even the stuff he's not supposed to touch). I breathe in his hair and hold it in deep. I cherish his breathing as he falls asleep in my arms, and how he slurps on his thumb. Even his poop smells great! (Okay, sort of.) I look at my wife and feel overwhelming blessed to have fooled someone into loving me! I have a house! I have new golf clubs! Oh sure, I get lost in the trivial and mundane and I let small, stupid stuff bother me still (like hooking the damn golf ball!), but it’s only temporary and fleeting and I let them go. *

God's opened my eyes (again), this time through a very sick friend. I don't know what he wants me to do next, but I'm doing my best to listen. And I hope He's hearing my prayers for my friend. I'm certain He is. After all, He's heard them before.

*Mostly. Hitless hitters in fantasy baseball drive me nuts!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Look, My Fellow Americans! No Grandpa Jeans!

Many props for donning the White Sox cap! Very funny!

But Jimney Christmas, learn to throw less like a 10-year old girl and more like the president of the country where baseball was born, will ya? Sheesh.

A Few More Thoughts (and a Correction) on the 2010 Mariners

Correction first.

1. The M's record as 85-77 in '09, not 82-80 as I had said. But I still stand by my prediction of 82-80.

2. The M's were an incredible 35-20 in 1-run games in '09, which was by far the best in the AL. I don't see a repeat of that.

3. The most recent issue of ESPN cited how great the M's defense is and how that will translate into a post-season run. I don't have the issue in front of me but the stat they cited was something along the lines that 7-8 teams in recent years that lept into the top 1/3 in defense rankings ended up in the post season, and they cited the '08 Tampa Bay Rays as a prime example of that. Great! However, they failed to mention that the bats of Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, BJ Upton, Carlos Pena. The M's do not have that kind of pop in their lineup.

4. Ryan Rowland-Smith and Justin Vargas have had good springs. While I didn't state his '09 ERA, I thought Rowland-Smith's was worse than what it was (3.96). I thought it was in the high 4s.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Why Couldn't I Have Said It This Way?

From a letter in today's Washington Post regarding Tea Partiers and the accusations of racism:

If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, then racism is the first charge of the intellectually lazy. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly liberal columnists scream "racism" at those challenging their beliefs. It is an easy way to avoid the merits of arguments they oppose and inadvertently dilutes legitimate charges of racism. We as a nation will never reach a point of civil discourse if this highly charged accusation continues to be recklessly thrown about.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Your 2010 Seattle "Iffy" Mariners!

Let me get this out of the way, so there's no confusion: I'm genuinely excited to see the 2010 M's at the Safe this year. After seeing the team up close and personal in my first-ever Cactus League visit, there was a cool buzz around the players and an upbeat vibe coming from the fans.

Heck, even baseball pundits are raving about their rotation and potential to be a contending team.

Um, yeah. I don't get it. Do they see the same team I do?

I know what you're thinking: Here comes Mr. Gloomy Gus.

No, no! I'm excited to see the M's, all right, but the expectations on this team to contend are out of proportion to the one that's going to take the field.

Every team comes with ifs this time of year, of course, but the M's have quite a few—and a lot more than the average Mariners fan is willing to admit, I'm afraid. Given that, and that everyone is ready to hand Jack Z. the keys to the city for the moves he made over the winter, I think an honest assessment is in order.

The good thing is that Jack Z has set the M's up to win even if they fail. So that's a very, very good thing for the future. If the M's falter to before the break, they'll get great prospects/players for Lee and deepen the franchise's talent pool in the minors—something former shit-for-brains GM Bill Bavasi managed to fuck up beyond reproach.

Let's look at the key areas where the iffy issues arise.

The Rotation:
Remember "Spahn and Sain and pray for rain"? Well, nothing weather related rhymes with Felix Hernandez and Cliff Lee, and The Safe has a retractable roof, but the concept holds: The M's have suspect and inconsistent starters after these two.

The 3, 4 and 5 starters are going to have to chew up some innings to keep the 'pen from getting worn down. If Ryan Rowland-Smith and Ian Snell can post .500 records or just below, and keep the ERA in the low-to-mid 4s, then this team will compete. But I don't see it. Rowland-Smith is a serviceable #4 starter, but his stuff isn't dazzling and he wears down after 5 innings. Snell has a great arm, and all kinds of talent. If he can get his head straight and apply himself while coming off an injury, then he's a semi-breakout candidate. That's a big if, though.

After that, and like most teams, the struggle is to find a starter from the pool of Justin Vargas, Doug Fister (love the last name, not the game), Luke French (pitching like a Frenchmen this spring, all right—Jacques Pepin, to be precise) and Oriole-castoff Garrett Olson. And waiting in the wings is the oft-broken Eric Bedard (commonly referred to around these parts as Erica), who might back in June after he recovers from shoulder surgery.

This is not good news. The argument goes that this team is built around speed and defense. Being that, the pitching must play a significant role in keeping the score close. These back-end starters will keep the bullpen busy, likely too busy. This will put additional pressure on Felix and Lee to go deep into their games just to give the 'pen some rest. If those two can do that (and that's now an even bigger if now with Lee starting the season on the DL), then the wear and tear on the 'pen is slightly mitigated.

The Key Trio:
First base, third base and left field are the traditional power positions in baseball. At the very minimum, teams want 70 HRs from these 3 positions. Projecting Milton Bradley in LF, Chone Figgins at 3B and Casey Kotchman at 1b, and using their career highs in HR, they'll produce just 44, if we're lucky. Ouch. Not good.

True, the HR isn't the end all be all stat. So, if we have rabbits like Ichiro or Figgins on base, or both, and with The Safe's spacious and deep power alleys, then what the M's need are hitters with gap power. Kotchman and Bradley have that kind of power. Trouble is, both of them have only surpassed 30+ doubles in a season three times between the two of them. The rest of the time, both averaged under 25 two baggers during their careers, and there's nothing to suggest these two will produce bigger numbers. If they do, the lack of HR power is less of a concern.

One of the key pieces of the offense is Franklin Gutierrez. If Gutierrez, at the breakout age of 27, can produce a season along the lines of .298/25HR/93RBI/302B/20SB, then this minimizes the lack of power. However, if Gutierrez's numbers are on par with last year's (as fine as they were), the offensive production will be slightly worse than last year. Yes, worse.

This team produced just 640 runs while giving up 692. Without Russell Branyan's 31 HRs, and given Kotchman's career high of 14, that's already 17 runs less—at least. Figgins will be lucky to hit 6 HR. Bradley might be able to make up for that loss, if he can't keep his head straight and stay healthy. (The Mother of All Ifs.) So, the onus is on Guti to show some pop. If he can do that, then they'll repeat 640, which, honestly, ain't that great if you're spotting all your opponents at least 52 runs over the '10 season like they did in '09.

This is why I was disappointed with the M's failing to sign Jason Bay. Putting up numbers around .280/34/110, Bay would have put huge pressure on opposing pitchers to keep Ichiro and Figgins off base. Now, without that legit 3-hole power threat, not nearly as much.

To me, the additions of Bradley, Byrnes and Mike Sweeney, is like taking a handful of darts, putting on a blindfold, being spun around and then chucking them at a wall. Bay was a near bull's eye. We won't rue the day or anything, but it sure would've been nice to have Bay's bat in the 3-hole. But I digress....

The Bullpen:
I really, really like what's been done here. Bullpens are like offensive lines in football—thankless, unheralded but absolutely essential for winning games and contending. The addition of Brandon League is very solid as a 6th and 7th inning reliever. I really like Mark Lowe and David Aardsma to close games. They can both deal heat with great movement. I urge caution in thinking Aardsma can produce like he did in '09 because he's never had that kind of success before, but let's call him good with 35 saves. If not, there's Mark Lowe to close. And Kanekoa Texeiria is having an excellent spring. If he continues as he has, then the 'pen is one of the best in the AL.

I'm less enthused by Sean White, Shawn Kelley, Jesus Colome and Chad Cordero. If 2 of these 4 can have solid years, then I'm more optimistic. For now, I'm less so, and I won't be disappointed if they disappoint.

Again, I caution that the back end of the starting rotation will potentially cause each of these middle relievers to be in 45 games+ each. That's too many, and it doesn't bode well for keeping games close.

Jose Lopez:
Why do people in Seattle hate on Jose Lopez? Because he lacks range on defense? Who cares. He plays 2B. Oh wait, the M's are shifting him to 3B. Hmm, okay, maybe I do care a bit more. Sort of. I'm no sabermatician, nor do I care to be one, but dollars to doughnuts says Lopey wins more games with his bat than he loses with his glove.

He's the Mariners only near-guaranteed threat to hit 20, and possibly 25+HRs. However, Lopez has a glaring weaknesses at the plate: an utter lack discipline, best displayed by just 24 BB in 653 plate appearances. That's horrific. (Which didn't scare me from drafting him because I'm an idiot.) But aside from Ichiro, he's the M's best and most dangerous hitter.

Yet the Mariners and their fans would like to see him go in a trade. Trade a power-hitting, 26-year old second baseman? Sorry, I don't get it.

If Lopey hits in the three hole, and he's not too distracted by his new duties at 3B and starts off quick, he'll be key in keeping the M's a contender before the July deadline.

As for the rest of 'em....:

Junior: Oh please, only overly sentimental Mariner ideologues thought he should come back. He'll be lucky to hit .210 with 13 HRs.

Eric Byrnes: If he can come close to producing like his '07 season, it'll be the happy end of Milton Bradley.

Ryan Garko: If he can hit lefties while coming off the bench, he'll be a valuable asset. Just don't count on it. The one-time blue chipper has underachieved throughout his career.

Matt Tuisasosopo: Very intriguing to see if he'll make the club, which is looking better and better each day. Tremendous potential. If Bradley or Byrnes fails to produce, the M's could shift Figgins to left, put Lopez back at 2B and start Tui at 3B. And don't be surprised if that happens, perhaps as early as late May.

Catcher: There is no "if" here, just pure suckage, offensively speaking. Defensively, they're passable.

Okay, so what do I predict? 82-80. Or 78-84. Somewhere in there, anyway.

Yup, no better, but no worse, either. Just probably not what M's fans are expecting given their breathless adoration for Jack Z.'s moves.

This summer should be fun, entertaining and put some butts in the stands—mine included.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

So If i'm Presently a Card-Carrying Member of "The Party of No"....

....I guess that means the Democrats/liberals were "The Party of No" from 2000-2008, too.

My, my, my. What short little memories have if we're buying this demonization attempt.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Cactus League Sights

"This field, this game: it's a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh... people will come Ray. People will most definitely come."

I'm getting all tingly for baseball again. Must have something to do with my first-ever Cactus League Spring Training trip with my close friend, Aaron.

Junior and Ichiro. (Dear Friends, you were right. Ichiro does have the ability to hit 15-20 homers every year. Now only if he would.)

King Felix (looking at the devilishly handsome cameraman, no doubt). And trailing behind him? King TradeBait. Better known as Cliff Lee.

Ocuh, always ouch.

Milton Bradley, perplexed by his bat and what to do with it. Ugh. Watching him play makes you miss Carlos Silva. Double ugh.

Crazy kids living a crazy dream. Lucky bastards.

Traditional Brewers Weiner race! Sweet! (I rooted for the chorizo in the hat.)

That's right, Mariners fans. It's John Halama-LaLa-DingDong!

Creepy Obama Idolarity, Or Oddball Sense of Humor?

Help me out here.

This is the picture one of my coworkers has up as his screensaver at the moment. The portrait has been around since the '08 campaign, and I've never quite known whether or not to take it seriously, or as an intended joke. Given my place of employment and the predominant ideological leanings of my coworkers, I'm inclined to say the former. On the other hand, the latter is entirely possible too—mainly because the portrait is so over-the-top tacky and cheeky. (The white horse behind Obama is hilarious!)

I'm really split: I so want to say some quippy remark in passing (ex: point at the screen and say "Now that's funny!"); but this is work, and work and politics should never mingle.

I think I'll go with the latter.

I really believe he's got it up as a joke, but I'm so tempted to find out!

Lead me not into temptation, Lord....pardon, Obama.*

*I'm sure people are wondering why I'm chuckling at my desk, but they'll just have to keep wondering. :)

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Pelosi Channels Jim Jones

Flashback, November, 18, 1978, Jonestown, Guyana: 'Drink the mixtue, children. We're doing something special. I'll tell you what's in it later.'

Subjection to power. It's a dangerous thing. Yet, in a soundbite, that is precisely what Speaker Pelosi wants when it comes to the health care bill: 'Just pass the plan, we'll tell what's in it later.'

Yes, Madame Speaker, pass it to me now.
Gulp, gulp, gulp! Ahhhhhh!

Good God.

May I remind my dear 2.5 Readers that this is from a prepared speech. Not off the cuff. Not a slip of the old windbag's tongue. A prepared speech. And she's deadly serious.

Since I'm not big on soundbites as a means of formulating one's world view or opinions or, possibly worse, partaking in "shitty shorthand," here's her shitty speech in its entirety*.

Finally, if Sarah Palin said this—and it's entirely possible she could say something so demonstrably stupid—the entire op-ed page of the NY Times, as well as DailyKos, HuffingtonPost, Democratic Underground and every other liberal editorial board in the country would be all over this in a bitch-like heat.

What do we get instead? Unquestioning and accepting silence. No words of denouncement. Not even so much as a peep.

Gulp, gulp, gulp, gulp......

*Oh, and it is truly a shitty speech. Here's another doozy: "Health insurance reform is about jobs. This legislation alone will create 4 million jobs, about 400,000 jobs very soon." But only if we nod our heads and say "Yes, we can."....

Thursday, March 4, 2010

MLB The Show: 2010—Quick Review

What better way to kick off my first ever trip to the Cactus League than by picking up "MLB The Show 2010" yesterday!

After taking the annoying 20-25 minutes to update my PS3 software and upload the game's data, I got to play a game—Indians vs. Twins. And here are a couple of things that immediately stood out, graphically and in the play.

Graphically, it's a sweet upgrade from the '09 version. Players move more fluidly; player faces more closely resemble those of that player (Justin Morneau is spot on good); shadows are more ambient and defined, as are dirt stains; and players don't "go through" each other with as much frequency.

One very cool thing was this: I played under partly cloudy conditions, and throughout the game cloud shadows would fade in and out of field of play—some parts of the field would have shadows, others not. It really gives the feeling of playing under those conditions. A very sweet, subtle touch.

Also, from about the 7th inning on, shadows from the stands started to creep across home plate and over the third base line. Another nice touch.

You can also see when a pitcher is getting tired and winded as his shoulders move up and down.

Oh, the fans aren't "repeated" nearly as often—in fact, it's darn hard to find the same fan doing the same gesture in the same section.

On to the play.

So much better! Far more realistic. Infielders no longer seem to have incredible ranges, and their Hoover-esque like ability to snare any ball in their vicinity seems to be gone as well—as is the ability to make off-balance or deep-in-the-hole throws. Example: I hit a ball to short with Nick Punto that the SS had to backhand and I was able to make it first.

The speed of the players more closely matched their real-time speed. Example: I drag bunted twice. With Denard Span, I was able to put one down short and to the left of the mound and beat it out. (No silly-great jumps off the mound by the pitcher and then firing a pea over to first like the '09 version.) On the second drag bunt, I laid one down up the 1B line and was able to beat that out as well.

Double plays are also harder to turn for the computer—and for the player as well.

It was easier to make errors, too. I made an error with Mauer on a steal attempt by the CPU when I overthrew it and the ball skipped into center. I made a second error when I needlessly fired the ball to second with my cutoff man. (This is good. You shouldn't be able to just will-nilly throw the ball wherever.)

Outfielder ranges more closely resemble those of the real player. Example: Jason Kubel is slow to the ball. In the '09 version, Kubel's fat ass could catch balls headed to the alley or he could sprint back to the ball. Not now. Grady Sizemore put one over his head for a triple.

Of note: Games are actually sponsored by real-time businesses, I think. As announcers were doing the pre-game, they said 'today's game sponsored by State Farm Insurance'. Product placement in video games? An interesting tact. As a marketer, I kind of like the idea.

While playing one game doth not a review make, there were a lot of noticeable and excellent upgrades and you'll be very happy with your purchase!

P.S. On a real-time baseball note, just what in the Sam hell was the city of Minneapolis thinking in building an open-air stadium? April and October—and hell, even more so late October—have the potential to be bitterly cold, worse than even Colorado. And while I've never been to the Twin Cities, I get the impression that the summers are sickly hot, ungodly humid and rampant with bugs—especially mosquitoes. Then again, I guess I shouldn't be too surprised about the questionable decision to have an open-air stadium since this is the same state that elected Jesse Ventura for Governor and Al Franken to the House.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

I'm a Racist (Part 3 or 7 or 8 or...Oh Hell, I've Lost Count)

Sorry for the continuous updates. It was late when I wrote this and wanted to refine it a bit. Not that anybody reads this site. Sigh.

I'd say I'm speechless, but I'm not.

Leonard Pitts' column is so shitastic that we must take it paragraph by paragraph, and sentence by sentence if necessary.

A few words on the meaning of tea.

They are occasioned by a recent commentary from Keith Olbermann of MSNBC.

You should stop reading right here given the reference, but we're just 2 sentences in. Let's give it a little more time.

The commentary — you can find it on YouTube — scores the tea-party movement as the outcry of people who haven't yet made peace with the fact that their president is black.

Another trusted source: YouTube. And scores? Really? Where are these "scores" if they're so prevalent?

Everything else, said Olbermann, is euphemism. Taxes? Socialism? Budget deficit? No, he argued, when you strip away the pretenses and rationalizations, "it's still racism," and they hate the president only because he is black.

Oh, for fuck's sake. Does Pitts really believe this shit?

One is reminded of the 2008 campaign in which many of Barack Obama's opponents insisted people only "supported" him because he was black.

Um, and many did just that. 96% of black people and 92% of Hispanics voted for Obama. Think they all did it based on his eloquence and "record?" Horsesheet.

It was an offensive claim, in that it assumed black was black was black and that people were so imbecilic that skin color — alone and of itself — was sufficient to win their votes. As if you could sub in rapper Flavor Flav and they would not care.

See above. Plus, they hated Bush.

The truth, it always seemed to me, was more nuanced. People liked Obama's policies, his eloquence, and his fierce intelligence and the fact that he was black....

Wait? I thought you just strongly stated that it was offensive that people voted for him because he was black. So now Pitts is saying people did vote for him based on his skin color. Nice.

....that his election would turn history on its ear, was a desirable bonus, but only that — icing on the cake, but not the cake itself.

Yes, it was, so just say it: Because he was black.

I submit that a rough inverse of that dynamic now helps define the tea-party movement.

What? What dynamic?

Ask yourself: Would we even be having this discussion if Condoleezza Rice were president? If Rice, Republican stalwart, conservative icon, and black woman were chief executive, would the first pot of tea ever have been brewed?

No, because people like you and the kind folks over at HuffPo, Daily Kos, Harry Belafonte etc. would have been too busy calling her an Uncle Tom like they did Colin Powell. (At least until he bit back at Bush, then he was your bosom buddy.)

One suspects the average tea-party participant would tell you emphatically, "no," and that this "no" serves as his personal shield against charges of racism. How can I be racist, he would demand, when I know in my heart that I would've supported Condi to the max?

Shield us against racism? No, get it straight, asshat. We (a strong majority of GOPers) didn't like Obama's fucking policies then, and we still don't like his fuck-America-any-way-I-can policies. If Condi had done the same as Obama has done (ridiculously doubtful), her ass would be a in political sling, too. So suspect your ass off, but you're dead wrong.

If you concede him that, then you have to ask yourself what it does to Olbermann's contention that racism is the whole raison d'être of the movement.

Olbermann is a glorious fuckwit of an individual.

The answer leads us back again to nuance, albeit in mirror image. The tea-party people distrust Obama's policies, his eloquence, his fierce intelligence and the fact that he is black then becomes the final straw, the difference maker and deal breaker. To put that another way: I doubt most of the tea-partiers hate Obama strictly because he is black, but it sure doesn't help.

Holy shit. Could Pitts be more confused—nay, fucked in the head? He, like most loony liberals who make this shit-ass claim, confuse even themselves. (And to the nice, amiable liberals, I hope you're a bit embarassed at the moment.)

My point is not that Olbermann's argument is wrong but, rather, that it is incomplete.

Yes, race is obviously a component, and a major component at that, of the reaction against the president. The recurring use of racist imagery and language, the attendance at tea party events of a racist group like the so-called Council of Conservative Citizens, settles that definitively.

Wait, Pitts is going to paint an entire movement based on the participation of one racist group? One, very small group equals a "major component." Wow.

But ultimately, people seem moved by something even bigger than race. This is race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, "culture," and the fact that those who have always been on the right side, the "power-wielding" side, of one or more of those equations, now face the realization that their days of dominance are numbered.

Wait until November, buddy boy. This is going to be 2006 in reverse.

There is a poignancy to their responsive fury because one senses that the nether side of it is a choking fear. We are witness to the birth cries of a new America and for every one of us who embraces and celebrates that, who looks forward to the opportunity and inclusiveness it promises, there is another who grapples with a crippling sense of dislocation and loss, who wonders who and what she will be in the nation now being born.

I think they call that nation "America.". Other than that, this is a gushing piece of meaningless tripe.

Oh, and by the way, if you can still follow his logic and reasoning, can you pass whatever your smoking. I'd like a hit too.

One hopes they will find answers that satisfy them because the change they fear will not be turned back. No one ever volunteers to return to the rear of the bus.

We don't fear; we don't like it. Not one bit. It's selling out our Constitution, our liberties, our rights, our personal freedoms and robbing us blind.

No one is telling anyone to get to the back of the bus. We just don't like where the driver is taking us. And by the way, isn't disssent patriotic? Isn't that what liberals cried between 2000-2008? I'm thinking yes here.

So for all the frustration the tea-party movement engenders among the rest of us, one also feels a certain pity for people like the woman last year who cried, plaintively, that she wanted her country back.

As if she didn't realize that it is already, irrevocably, gone.

Pitts, we are judging Obama by the content of his character. We are repulsed by what he proposes and what he's "accomplished". But get this one thing through your thick-as-concrete skull: None of the opposition has had to do with Obama's good goddamn race. And it never has, you clueless, race-baiting turd.

I'm truly sorry for being off-the-charts mad, but sick to death of this "opposition to Obama means you're a racist." It's thoughtless, cowardly, mean, ugly, sickening and desparate.

* I'm sure the use of the word "boy" would be racist here.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Evil Fox News

"How does that channel call itself news by the way?"

This was a question posed to me last night by an Old Liberal Family Friend. (I had cited a number that he just assumed that it came from Fox News because I'm a Republican—never mind that the figure actually came from a CBS/NYTimes poll. But I digress.)

Like most Republicans, I hear this screed time and time again. And I wonder, "What is the obsession with bashing Fox News? Is it because the channel airs conservative viewpoints under the slogan "Fair and Balanced? Is that it?"

I think the repulsion starts with the name. Fox News is owned by Fox Entertainment Group which is a subsidiary of News Corporation, the second largest media conglomerate behind Disney (source: Wikipedia). In short, Fox News is a brand of FEG and NC. Within that group, it distinguishes itself both externally and internally from Fox Sports, Fox Radio, Fox Network and others, by calling itself Fox News because—not to be smarmy and condescending—the predominant programming on the channel is news. Pretty clear. Or so one would think.

But this is lost on my Old Liberal Family Friend, apparently. Why? I believe it's because Fox News has both news programming and shows.

Like too many liberals, my Old Liberal Family Friend apparently can't seem to make the distinction between a news program and a show. Along with with other "Faux News" bashers, my Old Liberal Family Friend seems to believe that anything airing on Fox News constitutes "news" given that the channel's name is Fox News. So, the logic goes, when Sean Hannity is on it's "news." Glen Beck? News. Greta Vansustren? News. Bill O'Reilley? News.

In any circle, that's called a sweeping generalization. And it's an uneducated and ignorant one at that.

Sorry, but none of those are news programs; those are shows on Fox News, just like Keith Olbermann, Hardball, Rachel Madow and Mad Money are shows on MSNBC. Or the Today Show or Good Morning America are shows on NBC and ABC. They are not news programs; they are shows, period—much like opinion columns in newspapers.

Just like the Big Three, Fox News does have hours devoted to just news. In fact, on a daily bias, they devote more to their news programming than do ABC, CBS and NBC combined. This, however, does not register with my Old Liberal Family Friend.

But goes the reply, ' But that makes those views representative of the channel at large!'

Yeah, so what's your point? This is true whether one is speaking about Fox News or the New York Times.

Do those shows have a conservative bent? No doubt. Hannity, Beck and O'Reilley are clearly conservative. (Though Beck and O'Reilley have claimed otherwise.) The political shows (or round tables) on Fox News indeed feature the likes of Charles Krauthammer, George Will, Bill Kristol, Fred Barnes, etc. So yes, Fox News does represent the conservative viewpoint on their shows.

And what is the matter with that?

Given that Fox News is an island in sea of liberally slanted TV news—ABC, NBC, CBS, MSNBC and even CNN to some extent—that makes them a 4.5: 1 underdog. Is that fair? Is that balanced? No, it's not. (And that ratio holds true in major city editorial boards as well. On average, liberal columnists routinely outnumber conservatives 4:1 on most ed. boards.)

I watch little in the way of political shows or round tables. I also rarely watch cable news programs as I prefer to read my news. Yet, in my limited observations tuning into Fox News shows, I've always been impressed to see that the guest panels are routinely peppered with folks from NPR, the Democratic Nat'l Committee, Free Republic, NYT, WaPo, progressive think tanks and so on. The ratio runs at least 3:2, if not greater in some cases.

I can also say with confidence that I've tuned in to Olbermann, Matthews and Madow and that they cannot make such a claim.

Yet Fox News is still unfair and unbalanced.

I'm amused by the attention liberals give to Fox News, ranting about how conservatively biased it is, or how it's an arm of the Republican party, while at the same time they give scant attention to the repeated liberal bias of MSNBC and the Big Three; in fact, I would contend (by example*) that turn a blind eye to it entirely as long as it fits their world view. (This is not to say that conservatives don't do the same, they do. I think they're aware of it too. The difference being that conservatives don't put on airs or speak about being open minded and tolerant when, in fact, they're not.)

Ultimately, liberals are threatened by Fox News; their views and agenda are being brought out into the open and challenged, so I understand the motivation to attack and discredit. And because no media outlet has ever openly done that before, Fox News is being quite fair and balanced.

* "Fake, but accurate", anyone?