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This blog is the work of an educated civilian, not of an expert in the fields discussed.

Sunday, August 31, 2003

Sports: Lots of excitement in MLB ... the lowly Brewers won ten in a row, but lost before they would force a local business to sell hamburgers or something to the entire city [per a promise, which they actually had to do once a while back), the Wild Card race is something like a six way tie, and the Central races continue to be close. My underdog Royals are in trouble, needing to play a doubleheader today, as well as a couple other extra games ... while being statistically behind by a few percentage points. The Mets got their 5000 home run, Detroit their 100th loss before September (quite a feat), and Bonds came back from bereavement leave (his dad died of cancer) and hit a home run off Randy Johnson ... and was very emotional.

The Yanks eked out a 10-7 win vs. Boston, after a 8-4 lead dropped to 8-7 after Mariano almost completely gave up the lead ... inheriting three of Jeff "the latest nailbiter path to Mariano" reliever runs, but than the Red Sox's closer gave up yet another home run to the Yanks. Kim is iffy in other games too ... if Pedro can't hold on to a 3-0 [a Pettite error basically led to all three], 3-2 [a ground rule double and a wonderful catch stopped even more runs], and 4-2 [down 3-2, Pettite gave up a run in the very next inning, but that's it] leads ... the team just isn't going anywhere. Pedro lasted but four, but in general, he always is too tender. This and the failure of the Red Sox to cut back on the offense and get at least one more stud starter, is why they never will get anywhere.

Meanwhile, after getting two of three from the Braves, the Mets were swept by the Phillies. Sao again had trouble in the fifth -- he seems to be five inning pitcher these days -- changing a 1-0 game to 4-0, and you knew it was over. They finally got a hit in the seventh [a player did get hit earlier] in the last game, but on the last play of the game, Reyes got hurt (a costly rare walk). Well, the Phillies always love playing at Shea. A nod to the Mets organization btw for having a special "cheap seats" promotion for the last month of the season. I think they probably should have did something like that earlier, and it obviously has something to do with the fact that school will mean a lot fewer fans to the lastest round of meaningless games. But, it's a good thought, anyhow.

Friday, August 29, 2003

Some Thoughts: "The Press Effect," Cheney v GAO, David Letterman, and Freddy v Jason. On the Rez by Ian Frazier is a pretty good book on Native American life (called "Indians" in the book without any comment on the name potentially being offensive), centering on the Oglala Sioux. Another pretty good thing is watching the NY Mets play good baseball, including taking two out of three vs. the Braves in Atlanta. I don't expect miracles, but next season might not be half bad.

Monday, August 25, 2003

Pre-Season Football: Chad Pennington broke his wrist, Michael Vick his leg, and various other star players were seriously injured in the pre-season aka the "too long series of meaningless games that just ask for trouble." I don't really understanding this whining. There are four or so (Jets this year have five, including one in Japan) pre-season games. These games are useful for conditioning, preparing for the regular season, and evaluating talent in real game situations. You obviously need some pre-season games. For instance, Spring Training in baseball might be too long, but it isn't meaningless. Just because they don't count in the standings, the games have various purposes. And, if not four, how many? Two? Is two games enough? The first game will often be badly played, as players get the cobwebs out. Also, it is useful to take a look at backups, and one game often is given to backup QBs. So, I think it is fairly clear that two to three games at least are necessary, probably at least three. One game is not worth that much carping.

And, what will be gained if the pre-season is shortened considerably? More regular season games? First off, two pre-season games are not equivalent to two regular season games as a matter of conditioning, energy levels, ability to perform, and so forth. So, we are not talking about a straight trade here. Also, when would the two games be played? August? I don't think so ... the heat of summer is not an ideal time. January? There must be a reason why games are not played into February, so this would questionable as well. Chopping a week off pre-season might help, but on the other hand, more games might require more training of backups because of the possibilities of injuries to starters will increase. Perhaps not ... either way, game or so won't matter that much.

Anyway, and most importantly, what is the difference if players get hurt in Week One as compared to pre-season? Not much, except that the latter way allows the player to get healthy before the season begins. Finally, Vick got injured not this weekend, but last weekend. And other players got hurt early as well ... so a shortened pre-season wouldn't have helped them! If anything, it would be worse, because some will be back near the beginning of the regular season instead of a few games into it. [In 1999, the Jets lost their QB for the season in Week One ... if it happened in the pre-season, maybe they would have been more prepared, instead of taking weeks to get fully behind Ray Lucas. Either way, the Jet fan wouldn't have felt much worse if Vinny Testaverde got hurt in a "meaningless" game.]

Pre-season is not "meaningless." It might be a week or so too long, but unless a vast majority of the injuries fall in the final game (which the regulars often don't even play in), injuries will continue even if we shorten it. Finally, I don't know if extending the regular season is a good idea (another game probably won't hurt), but it really is irrevelant to the matter at hand. Injuries will happen ... making the pre-season into a scapegoat is silly.

Sunday, August 24, 2003

Still More Thoughts: I had a pretty heavy week apparently, huh? The computer message board can turn in a sort of online thoughts journal that (ideally) leads to some feedback and discussion. It also can be useful to determine how your words are being interpreted. For instance, I cited what others thought about the Pledge of Allegiance's use of "under God" (added in the 1950s to show we were a religious people, not atheistic communists) and was a bit taken aback when a reply mentioned my "prejudices." (The post concerned Roy Moore, see below, but this is what the person was responding to, as I later learned). It turned out that it was thought that I was discussing my own views. Others can result in additional information, as seen by an article referred to me by someone who read my post on Daniel Pipes. I appreciated this because though I discussed his nomination to the Institute of Peace, I really know very little about him per se. I hoped my post would add to my knowledge.

Some posts lead to predictable replies, as this one on Attorney General's Patriot Act Roadshow. I reeled back some of my rhetoric, as I try to do, because things tend to be more complex than either side thinks. It is hard to tell if I changed any in the last ten years, but I think I have become a bit more restrained ... except when watching sports ... and reflective. I hope so at least. Other replies are interesting in that they give me an opposing viewpoint, hopefully in a respectable and intelligent fashion. See, for instance, this post on Prop 54 (Racial Privacy Initiative), which was inspired not only by a Findlaw article (often an interesting piece leads me to contemplate some and feel a need to post), but an earlier post that supported the effort. Since I have mixed feelings about such things, and the original post got basically negative replies, I posted something. The responses were per usual appreciated.

A couple books. Joy in the Morning by Betty Smith (author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn) was an enjoyable story of young love that takes place in a college town in the 1920s. Not only is the primary character (a young newlywed named Anne) a charming character, it was unusual to have so many matter-of-fact mentions of sex. It was written in the early 1960s, but I bet it was somewhat controversial, especially since it clearly is partly geered to young adults (the husband and wife are twenty and eighteen, respectively). It was a nice find, since I have trouble finding fiction that I enjoy. The other was a good little book entitled Torn Between Two Cultures: An Afghan-American Speaks Out by Maryam Qudrat Aseel. The title is self-explanatory, but it was notable for putting a human face on a religious but modern first generation Afghan-American [I thought perhaps the term was "Afghani," but she doesn't mention any controversy regarding the matter]. I read stories like this and I can simply can not stereotype. We are not just dealing with "them" but people just like "us." This tends to compel one to look at things differently, or so I think anyway.

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Some More Thoughts:: Excessive criticism of judicial picks is counterproductive, Death Penalty Irony (abortion doctor murderer), is the President evil? , and Roy Moore, defender of the faith and the 10A (ten commandments display).

Monday, August 18, 2003

Friday, August 15, 2003

The Blackout: I really have nothing profound to say about it, but since I reside in NYC, a few words. Luckily, I was not in Manhattan, so was not stuck with the rest of the mass of humanity trying to get of there. I was outside reading and had no way to know there was a blackout until I noticed the streetlights were out. Again, it was not immediately apparent anything occurred an hour or so earlier ... there really didn't seem to be any more people on the street, and it was obviously quite light out around 5PM on an August day. I heard the news on the radio and thought "oh okay." I basically staid home until the lights came on ... so "Blackout 2003" (please) was mostly boring for me. I was annoyed hearing how others had power (including some not too far from me) long before me, but I survived to 4PM when it came back on. Also, I heard the Yanks on the radio (they are in Baltimore) and only later in the night was it even really dark. Though some places are still seriously effected, NYC handled things pretty well ... though I was getting annoyed, I lived through 1977, and that was days.

As I said, mostly boring. The one notable thing is that the NY subways were knocked out ... still are ... and even on 9/11 one was able to ride them fairly regularly hours after the events. Some cities have water issues ... our only water issue is that the beaches were closed (some pools were open) today because of sewage issues. The blackout does suggest that we need to update our electrical grids, and so forth, but the quick and fairly easy (on the whole) way that even this major and pretty unique event was dealt with, is pretty amazing. And, a day without electricity ... well, I survived. Nothing much happens in August, anyway, right?

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Few Thoughts: I posted some stuff on various issues over the last week: Bush on Iraq (and Gore's Speech), nuances of language, some Iraqi thoughts, and concerns about judicial independence/sentencing discretion.

How about the CA recall? It is a bit of a joke that Arnold, benefits to Republicans aside, is the leading candidate/"solution" now offerred in California. The recall was started by a small bunch of rich guys to overturn a popularly elected governor who is only partly to blame for the mess over there, while the alternative last election was subpar, as it is this time (what exactly does Arnold know about running California? uh ...). He is a great scapegoat though, but still, this doesn't justified a rushed recall election (new governor, if elected, due to come in November) that might result in a "winner" that only receives a minority of the vote. The obvious nature of all of this makes it tiring to discuss, but then, quick "fixes" via direct democracy that involve easy choices (supporting Arnold is rather easy, isn't it?) is a longstanding practice over there.

On the other hand, the Mets are doing good ... not great, they are the Mets after all ... but challenging the Cards, Astros, and Giants, they held their own. Mike Piazza came back in style today. KC took two out of three of thier first series vs the Yanks, so are hanging on to 1st place. The Marlins actually took 1st place in the Wild Card race, and are surprising people just like its new manager said they would back a few months back. And, the Jets won their second game, thanks to some end of the game turnovers.

Saturday, August 09, 2003

Baseball, Movies, and Books: KC finally did it ... after blowing a two run lead in the ninth vs. Tampa Bay, it lost again today (losing pitcher: Anaheim castaway, Kevin Appier) fell from first place because the White Sox beat the As. Armando Benitez gave up a key insurance run ... for Seattle ... and Roger Cedeno (yeah) is playing good for the Mets (showing some life of late).

On the movie front, Freaky Friday was fun ... it started off annoyingly predictable, but the leads are good, especially once they switch. A few are annoyed that Asians are treated in a stereotypical matter (the switch is thanks to a charmed fortune cookie), and they have a makings of a point. It was not necessary ... amounting at best a couple of cute characters. I also saw the British immigrants being exploited (and struggling to survive) drama/thriller Dirty Pretty Things. Well, part of it ... the leads were too good to be true, and the story was a bit dull. It had potential, but not good follow through.

After a bit of a dry spell, I found a few good books as well. A couple were of the "enjoyable but been there, read that" sort of nonfiction that is like watching average television. A bit more notable was The First Impeachment: The Constitutional Framers and The Case of Senator William Blount by Buckner F. Melton Jr. It is the little known story of the very first impeachment, which actually was against a U.S. senator involved in an Aaron Burr sort plan (the subject of a later book by the author) to invade Spanish territory in the West.

After summarizing the constitutional history of impeachments and the background to the Blount (Blunt) Conspiracy itself, Melton discusses the complex goings on in Congress, which ended in a whimper -- the Senate did expel Blount, who jumped bail and eventually was elected to his home state legislature (and presided over an impeachment there!), but wound up deciding it didn't have the power to try for impeachment. Why? Apparently ... though they didn't specify ... because senators are were not considered impeachable. This is so even though many framers of the Constitution originally thought they were.

Interesting bit of history, American and constitutional. Good notes (footnotes, not endnotes, which is fairly rare) and bibliography.

Saturday, August 02, 2003

Summer Time Blues: Oh well. KC lost again, after coming back from a defecit (thus Lima still is perfect), but blowing it ... for the second time Lloyd had a role (this time he got the loss, last time he just gave up the runs that decided the game). They now are tied with the White Sox, who beat up on slumping Seattle, and behind in the win column. They survived one drop off, helped by the Twins slumping ... the White Sox can't keep this up, can they? Oh they might ... and August brings six games against the Yanks and other trouble for KC. Buckle up guys!

The Red Sox lost for the second time in two days vs subpar teams (the first time Pedro pitched ... it's almost a bad thing these days when he pitches for them), and the As won, so Oakland is inching back to that Wild Card lead. The As beat the Yanks, who are having hitting woes. Hitting woes, such as getting a lead runner to second with no one out in the ninth, but not scoring, makes Benitez not getting that third out in the eighth ... opening up a chance for the unearned run that decided the game (homer with two outs off Osuna, by the person who got that unearned run, won it in the tenth) ... matter. Meanwhile, the Mets are currently losing it via the bullpen. Another wasted effort by Trachsel (6.2, one run vs the Cards) because of a six run eighth. Now it's time for previously dependable Wheeler to mess up. So it goes. The Mets actually showed life for a little while ... now they are losing eight games out of ten, and basically simply suck. A team like the Brewers suck, but actually show some life now and again ... currently, the Mets need to show a bit more life ... is four out of ten too much to ask for?

I was not up to see it, but the Jets lost to Tampa in the opening game of pre-season football ... in Japan. A few years ago the Mets played the Cubs there, but I think it is a lot easier when the game is pre-season action like this. The As/Mariners was scheduled to play last March, before the hostilities cancelled their plans, but I think baseball is more popular in Japan than football. Given all those European football games I see (Rhine Fire seems to predominate), wouldn't Western Europe be a more logical site? Anyway, football in August is a bit hard to take ... heat and football does not go great together.

Friday, August 01, 2003

Baseball Update: One loses track of all the moves that the Yankees are making these days ... now they have Aaron Boone at third, Ventura went to the Dodgers (sorry Robin), and Gabe White also came over from the Reds (he's a good, if currently hurt, reliever). Recently, troublesome Mondesi was sent out (it is nice in a way that ball players have the pride to be upset when they feel they are being underplayed or not treated fairly, but given his mixed performance, such players also have some nerve complaining ... like "poor baby") and yet another outfielder came. Meanwhile, the Mets got rid of some more veterans, including Lloyd, who went to Kansas City. Sadly, Kansas City just got swepted by the White Sox, so are but two games (in the loss column) separated ... there is still a long way to go, and I fear that the Sox's recent surge might mean they will be the Central winner. Deserved, if they can do it, but sad in a way ... maybe, like the Twins, a late drop-off will still be followed by a great year. I don't know though ... I think the KC owners want to have an excuse to cut payroll and so forth.

You Can Count On Me ... but not universal fate: I recently saw the DVD version of a favorite movie of mine, You Can Count On Me, in which Laura Linney is excellent and pretty hot (a crude comment perhaps, but every time I watch it, I am reminded about how cute and sexy she looks in the film ... in fact, she looks much better in this film than in various other roles she played). I am starting to get DVDs out just to listen to the commentary (this one also had a sort of promotional set of interviews with the cast as well), and being a bit of a film nerd (geek?), I continue to love this sort of thing.

The writer/director made a comment early on that helped me admire his point of view ... he does not believe in any overreaching "purpose" to the world or any particular "reason" why two people meet and fall in love. It's not like it is some question of fate or anything, just a combination of little things, which seems to be a pretty common sense view. It annoys me, for instance, that Jamie on Mad About You has this in my view egotistical view that somehow her love and marriage with Paul is unique ... they in particular, it seems, were "meant" to be in a way that others were not. Nice idea, but I don't think it's true. It might be true that the couple has any number of traits, life experiences, and so on that makes their match more ideal than many others. I do not know if that is true as compared to both of them being somewhat full of themselves in regard of their own self importance ... a theme that the show at times jokes about.

The director also notes that perhaps, who knows, there might be some universial purpose. Such a purpose is far above his cognizance (my word, so don't blame him, if it is used badly) though, and I'm willing to agree with that. There are things we don't understand. On the other hand, I just do not see much evidence of some overreaching fate or some anthropomorphized version of the concept of good/creation/life that many call "God." The use of such a problematic concept to explain life's mysteries or because it provides some solace (I guess some celestial Easter Bunny can serve a similiar purpose without all the shit "God" leads to) does not work for me. This does not mean life has no meaning ... there are rhymes and reason to our lives, and we can benefit from even the bad parts of it. I don't think this means the bad stuff was somehow "necessary" or anything though, and I find unreasoned leaps of faith as cheating. For if we don't use reason, why be human at all? Walking upright is great and all, but it's not something be that proud of.