Saturday, April 29, 2006

Thirty-six

I've lived here ten years, and I've never had a meal at The Space Needle. I generally don't trust any restaurant that revolves, and I know the food at The Space Needle is breathtakingly overpriced, but for my birthday, I figured what the hell. Wife and I had a marvelous time. The food was very very good (although very overpriced). My ice-cream sundae was served in a bowl-within-a-bowl. The external bowl was filled with dry ice. The waitress poured water into the external bowl, and the table was covered in steam. Nice touch.

Wife and I plan on purchasing the Space Needle and converting it into our house. Nice views, convenient location near Storm games, and possibly cheaper than a place with a view on Queen Anne.

The guy running the elevator told us it was his birthday. I told him it was mine, too. He said "Are you 24 like me?" I said yes. I hate lying, but I'm getting up there, so it's time to start.

Then we went to the zoo. The tapir was right up next to the window.

Then we napped.

Then the Mariners won.

Then we saw Thank You for Smoking, which I recommend. I love movies where the main character is both despicable and lovable.

The Loot:

A beginning photography book from the in-laws. I've grown to like photography a lot lately, and feel like I have a knack for it. The book gives assignments as though I were in a class, which will give me the challenges I want. It'll give me fun stuff to work on, especially over the summer.

Wife (in addition to the Space Needle adventure today) got me the Hoop Dreams DVD. It remains the best documentary I've ever seen (and the 7th best movie overall). One of the extras has the now-grown Arthur Agee and William Gates (no, not THAT William Gates) commenting on the film as it goes along.

A fine day.

If you get a chance in the next 40 minutes, be sure to wish Uma Thurman, Andre Agassi, and Master P a happy 36th as well. What a bizarre quartet we make. I think I made up some ground on Uma and P this year in the 4/29/70 Life Success Competition. Andre is probably unreachable at this point.

(My wife=Jennie Garth. I thought Jennie was sexy back in her 90210 days. I now know that the attraction was less for her than for fellow 4/3/72 women.)

Update:
I guess I'm not the only person who has lied about my age. Master P: 4/29/67, not 4/29/70, according to both IMDB and Wikipedia. (Several celebrity B-day sites still list him as born in 1970.) My guess is that during his "I'm desperate to get into the NBA" phase, he found it useful to lie about his age. Net result: the good news is that I'm so much cooler than he is...but the bad news is that we're no longer competing, since he's no longer in the 4/29/70 club.

Oh, and the only baseballer born on the same day as me? A really awful one. J.R. Phillips. Supposed to be Will Clark's replacement for the Giants at first base. Turned into a career .188 hitter, but with just enough power that teams kept trying him out over the course of 7 seasons. Twice as many strikeouts as hits. Exactly my least favorite kind of baseball player, but he's my only 4/29/70 mate in the majors.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Integration, and why we're not doing it

This article.

Too tired to write about it, except for this:

The reason we're not able to racially integrate, at least in Seattle, is because of economic differences. Blacks, generally poorer, feel driven out by whites, generally better off economically.

I'm so angry about the way race and economics are still interrelated in this country, the way we can't seem to solve that, the way education exacerbates and continues the problem (note the line about how so few of these neighbors go to school together), and the fact that we continue to accept this rather than actually striving for equality.

25,000th Hit

Around 10:00 last night, Blogger was having troubles. My wife quickly logged into this site to see if everything was all right with the system.

That was my 25,000th hit! A tad anticlimactic, but I'll take it. Swankette joins herself, Holly, and two surfers from Jack Bog's blog.

Another 25K to come. Soon, I hope.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Going to Uniontown?

In January of 1994, a friend of mine and I drove from Leesville, Louisiana to Sandersville, Georgia. We crossed Alabama in the process. (Net result: Alabama is one of the states that I have been in, but not slept in.)

Anyway, I'm home sick today, and to prevent total stir-craziness or depression, I'm thinking about the fun trip my wife and me and Rob and his girlfriend will be taking this summer. Included in that will be a night in Alabama. A baseball game, a dinner somewhere, and maybe a quick trip to the space museum...an anniversary celebration in a place I never thought I'd have an anniversary celebration.

So my mind went back 12 years, to my trip through Alabama...particularly through Uniontown, Alabama, which looked to be one of the poorest rural towns I'd ever encountered, a real eye-opener to my 23-year-old self. I started wondering what became of Uniontown, in the way I sometimes wonder about old high-school classmates. So I Googled it.

This page, the tourism page, is a marvelous mix of sad and funny. Check out what you can't link to...

Monday, April 24, 2006

Things that make me laugh out loud

Tonight, Dave Gorman is on Jon Stewart. He's not their guest, so I'm intrigued by what they'll do with him. This combination of people who make me laugh out loud in one location is awesome. Stewart is now stronger than his correspondents...with the exception of Demetri Martin, none of the new blood is terribly good.

Who makes me laugh out loud? Not like "gee, that's kinda funny," but actually laugh?

Dave Barry
Dave Gorman
Biff Henderson, especially when he goes to Spring Training
Jake Johansen
The guys who write my favorite Simpsons episodes
The Sklar Brothers
Jon Stewart
Danny Wallace's writing

These are the eight I think of right away, so I'm always excited when two of them come together. Maybe someday I'll have three...a perfect storm.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

If you know where to find it...

there have been updates to my baseball site.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Rings and things

While on the way to have coffee with the parents today, I suddenly looked at my left ring finger.

There was no ring on it. I gasped audibly.

The ring has been kinda loose lately. I've been especially careful during hand-washing and such, but I didn't feel it come off. I checked the floor. I thought of where I had been lately. I thought "damn, I don't want to lose this." I was upset.

Swankette stopped the car. She went to the back seat. The ring was there. It must have flown off my finger as I tossed my windbreaker into the back seat.

A couple of hours later, we were visiting our Friend In The Diamond Business to get that sucker resized and reduced. I'm just glad it's still around.

So I am now in a 5-day process without wearing a wedding ring. And marriage has obviously agreed with me, 'cos this feels really, really weird.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Who would search on this?

I love Jim's series where he blogs to match searches that have brought people to his site. It's damn funny.

Someone got to his site by searching on "Dear Lord, can you clear up my acne?"

I'm imagining the poor junior high or high school kid reduced to typing that into Google. The kid is probably thinking "Okay, God, whatever comes up, that's what your answer to me is."

Well, laugh a sick laugh, because the next kid to type that phrase into Google will read this twisted inspirational story.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Doin' what I can to educate

I just made my first edit to Wikipedia.

They didn't have one of the most disappointing days of my life worked in there...Monday, June 24, 1991. It was my last full day in England at the end of my junior year. It was also opening day of Wimbledon, and I headed out there to catch some tennis action. I waited in line (er, on queue) from very early in the morning. Not early enough to get Centre Court seats, but good enough to get Court One seats, which was to feature Lendl, Connors, and Cash. I wandered around the grounds--I was considering leaving Court One to sit on tiny benches on some of the outer courts. I mean, being RIGHT NEXT TO the 140th or 250th best player in the world would be a hell of an experience, too. I just loved it there.

Then it rained. It rained. It didn't stop raining.

No tennis that day. I could trade my ticket in for opening day tickets in 1992. Gee, thanks! In June of 1992, I was going to be on another continent. So, that 23 quid was gone forever.

Wikipedia wrote that 1991 Wimbledon started on Monday. I knew it didn't.

So I fixed it.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

Making Children Cry

Back when I was in graduate school for poetry, I did some work with the literary magazine for the university. My job was to read through the "slush pile" of unsolicited poetry. About 95% of it was crap, and it was mind-numbing sometimes. I'd take out the poems, read them, put them back on the envelope, and write a 1-2 sentence pithy summation on the envelope, so that the higher-up editors would know which ones to look at seriously later.

In the middle of the slush pile one day, I found a submission from a third-grade boy. He was submitting to our real-live grown-up literary magazine because, his cover letter said, his teacher said that he was a very good poet with promise.

I knew this kid couldn't get the standard rejection letter, so I made a note on his envelope that the kid merited some sort of handwritten reply. It seemed very simple to me.

I guess not everybody has my instincts.

A third grader from the Bay Area wrote a letter to Steve Jobs and Apple Computer as a school project, suggesting some changes to the IPod. (link)

She got a form response saying they do not accept unsolicited product ideas.

Why in the name of God didn't whoever read that letter have a lick of common sense?

Check out the comments in the link above. I understand the legal reasons that big companies have to be careful not to accept new ideas. I cannot understand commenters taking a third-grader to the wood shed (with comments such such as "get a clue" and "she deserves it") because she lacks understanding of the finer points of intellectual property law. Amazing, how myopic some folks are...

Intelligence and other smart stuff

Playing off the the comments from the previous post:

Joe's point about multiple intelligences is totally cogent here. I think anyone who has lived any sort of life agrees that there are multiple intelligences. Current theorists, taking after Howard Gardner's original theories, say there are eight: linguistic, logical mathematical, spatial, bodily-kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, intrapersonal, and naturalist.

If you're out to change the world for the better which ones do you need? Are these forms of intelligence equally valuable? I sometimes feel like multiple-intelligence theory is cushy new-age feel-good stuff...a way to say "Hey! Everyone's OK!" But I think it's the way it's handled that's new-agey-feelgood. The theory itself, I believe, is on the money.

In any event, when I woke up this morning, I had second thoughts about what I wrote last night. Here's why:

One day a few years back, I met the woman who was then my U.S. Congresswoman at a town meeting. She was a Bush lackey, so I didn't expect to agree with her, but I was hoping I could get a decent conversation about education policy with her. I thought she'd know more about it than I did. As she lamely defended No Child Left Behind to me, however, I had this (perhaps arrogant) thought: Damn. I'm smarter than my elected representative. That sucks.

Maybe she's strong in the interpersonal realm. Maybe in the intrapersonal. Maybe she's a great musician, splendid athlete, great spatially, and is "nature-smart" (whatever that means). But by golly, I wasn't feeling it in the logical-mathematical or linguistic realm. And I want my elected representatives to be strong there, so they can logically think through an argument, and strong in the linguistic, so they can explain their positions to me. The other six I can live without.

I think I can say pretty well the same things about the president. Setting aside what I feel about him politically, I do not believe he is stupid, nor do I believe he has no logic to his decisions...but I do believe that he is very poor linguistically, and therefore doesn't communicate stuff well (or even try to).

Since one could argue that, of the eight intelligences, only linguistic or logical-mathematical are measured on most report cards or any SATs, I guess that "book smarts" do matter to me.

Still, multiple intelligence doesn't cover most of the other character traits I listed yesterday: bravery, strength (of character), endurance, grace, kindness, or generosity. So maybe I want our movers and shakers in the world to have all of that AND book smarts.

By the way, I should have written an emoticon when I suggested people write their SATs and AP scores in the comments. But since Joe and MCMC did, I'll go along to be fair: 1380 SAT, 33 ACT, 5 AP Lit, 5 AP US History, and 4 AP Calculus (although I was the first junior in the history of CHS to take the class). Joe--nice scores! Looks like you may have been "the smart kid"!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

SideshowJ makes me think...

Helluva post by "one of the smartest guys I know."

He's got me thinking about how being "the smart kid" can impact somebody. I'm not talking about being "a smart kid" or "one of the smart kids," mind you. I'm talking about being "the smart kid." Like SideshowJ, I was that, and it's pretty amazing how it impacts one's life.

I don't want to compare myself to J, who (sorry, J) is a guy who has a realistic shot (and, more admirably, the desire) to change the way many of us live our daily lives for the better. I don't want to pretend I have the faculties to land five doors down from Bill G like he has. But when J talks about "the voice" which says that we should be "putting our talents to better use," I empathize with that, and I wonder if it's because of how much J, I, and many other readers (perhaps you all could leave your SAT and AP scores in the comments?) of this blog kept hearing that.

I am reminded of a friend of mine who was a senior at college while I was a freshman. As I said goodbye to her before leaving at the end of the year, she looked at me and said: "You have so much potential." (In retrospect, this feels terribly patronizing, but at the time, I didn't notice.) My response: "That's kind of a curse, isn't it?" It felt like there were far more ways to squander potential than to realize it.

As far as what "squander" means...that's interesting. The valedictorian of my HS class was breathtakingly intelligent (although under immense pressure from her immigrant parents...I never remember seeing her have fun). She knocked me off of my hubris in the sixth grade spelling bee...this when she was in fifth grade (she later skipped a grade).

Anyway, we were always acquaintances. I was curious to see what she was up to at our tenth reunion. She looked happy and relaxed. I knew she'd gone to MIT and Harvard. I learned she went to Stanford for grad school. When I asked her what she was up to nowadays, she said: "I'm just a photographer."

My response: "Was the word 'just' really necessary in that sentence?" Her husband nodded passionately...I got a solid vibe that he was a great guy, really loved her, and had had this conversation with her quite often.

Of course, I'd gotten it from the other end. An asshole member of my class (I went to school with him from kindergarten to graduation, and he was an asshole every minute of the way), when I told him I was working towards a job teaching high school, said "Is that all? I'd have thought you'd have cured cancer by now." Fuck you very much, angry butthead...but that kind of thing, when heard repeatedly at a young age, sticks in the mind.

The more years I put in on this planet (and especially as a teacher), the more I think that intelligence, while critically important and a central part of what I must pass on to kids, is probably overvalued in our society. Why do we believe intelligence changes the world more than bravery, empathy, strength, endurance, grace, kindness, or generosity? Why the hell do the smart kids get the lion's share of the pressure to change the world when they might not have the best tools to change it?

Read J's post. He articulates this a little better than I do. And he probably has higher SAT scores and AP scores than I do anyway.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm back, and I still hate Southern California.



The trip was quite fun, although it's not as fun now as it was when I wasn't leaving a wife behind. Nonetheless, it went well.

--San Diego is a fun city, really. I walked all around the zoo. My new favorite animals: meerkats and springboks. Still enchanted by giraffes and okapis, of course. I was thrilled to have my first in-person look at okapis, who sat and ate.

--Proof that God dislikes me: I flew down to Petco Park only to see the first San Diego home rainout in 8 years. Fortunately, I was down there for two games, so I did get to the park. People were very mad at Barry Bonds.

--I then flew from San Diego to Las Vegas. This was my first experience with Southwest Airlines. It was fine, with one exception. Note to all Southwest flight attendants: I do NOT want to be entertained while in transit! Not one iota. As we took off, the flight attendant got on the PA system and said "Run, Forrest, Run! [We leave the ground.] Wheeeee!!! [pause] To infinity and beyond!" Mixed cultural references, all annoying. He had others for the landing: "Whooa, there, Wilbur...or if you're a certain age...Trigger! [Made decelerating horse clomping noises.]" SHUT UP! I do NOT want standup...I just want to get to Vegas!

--In Las Vegas, I lost some money playing blackjack, then lost some money betting against the Mariners without Felix and FOR the Mariners with Felix. I was a little behind playing blackjack, when I remembered that my best blackjack is played before breakfast. The next morning, I won $90. So I wound up a little bit behind, but with loads of futures bets in my pocket (the A's to win the pennant at 7-1, the A's to win the series at 14-1, Trinidad and Tobago to win Group B of the World Cup at 50-1, the USA to win the Cup at 30-1, Ukraine to win the cup at 50-1, and Germany to win the Cup at home at 11-2.

--Why in the name of all that is holy would anyone want to live in the L.A. area? Endless strip malls, horrific traffic, every 50th car either scarily tailgating or weaving through traffic, and smog so unreal that I spend my whole day thinking about how we're doomed as a civilization. Yeah, we get a lot of rain in Seattle, but if that's the price for actually seeing our mountains every now and then.

--Las Vegas: liked the ballpark. Lake Elsinore: liked the ballpark, didn't like the experience. High Desert: Awesome, middle-of-nowhere ballpark, and good experience to boot.

--Got myself bumped off of the flight going home. They were desperate...they said I couldn't get back until Monday morning at first, but when I walked away, they said "well, we can get you home from Orange County at 11:00 PM. But then, when I said that was too late, they got me home at 6:00 PM (instead of the original noon). I took a shuttle from the Ontario Airport to the Orange County Airport, and then flew through Portland, missed a connection, and made it home. But now I have a free ticket to anywhere Alaska flies. Hmmm. Cabo? Anchorage? It won't be LA, that's for sure...

--I'm always happy to head home.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Off I go...

This year's Spring Break Baseball Trip features San Diego for the next two days/nights.

And dammit, the forecast calls for rain.

Forecast in Seattle is for sun.

Un-freakin'-believable.

Still, it'll be fun. Then a night in Las Vegas for the 51s, then back to Southern Cali for two more nights of Minor League ball.

Everybody hang tight and be good...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

2006 MLB Predictions

And this time, they're serious. There's a BAG OF CHIPS at stake. Pankleb, I would like to request the all-natural MSG Free Cool Ranch variety. (Yeah, I want the BIG BAG, not the puny single-serving deal.) And I'll eat it with my 12-inch sub in your presence. Mwah-hah-hah! If we keep up these bets, I can cut my food budget way down next year!

AL EAST:

Boston 94-68
NYY 90-72
Toronto 88-74
Tampa Bay 76-86, their best record ever
Baltimore 71-91

Right now, the Yankees have the best lineup around, but there are just too many places that could go wrong. Too much age, too many question marks. They'll fade, and they'll miss the playoffs. Can't wait.

AL CENTRAL:

White Sox 94-68
Cleveland 91-71
Minnesota 81-81
Detroit 80-82
Kansas City 60-102

Minnesota's ass-bats won't allow them to progress. Detroit is a year away. Cleveland will stumble a touch from last year, but still make the playoffs. The defending champs haven't made many changes. They're in.

AL WEST:

Oakland 95-67
Angels 89-73
Seattle 77-85
Texas 72-90

Last year, I said that Texas was a year away. But when I look at their rotation, I just don't see them winning enough games. Seattle makes tracks by actually getting offense out of the catcher position, Felix starting every five games, and a bounce-back by Beltre and Ichiro. But at least one of Pineiro or Meche will not be pitching by the All-Star break due to injuries or ineffectiveness, and the rotation was already hurting badly with them in it.

NL EAST:

Mets 94-68
Philadelphia 88-74
Atlanta 85-77
Washington 73-89
Florida 58-104

Atlanta won't be able to piece it together this time...sophomore slumps and not enough bullpen. Philadelphia will find some inexplicable way to bungle the division, but sneak away with the wildcard. That leaves the Mets. Pedro is resurgent, and (what the hell) wins the Cy Young.

NL CENTRAL:

St. Louis 98-64
Milwaukee 85-77
Houston 82-80
Cubs 73-89
Pittsburgh 72-90
Cincinnati 67-95

Nobody is in the Cardinals' class. Houston will feel the loss of Clemens...their rotation just isn't enough this time, so they fall off dramatically. I knocked a few wins off the Cubs just to piss pankleb off. The Bucs are falling into small-market purgatory...getting several good players, but not getting good fast enough to keep them.

NL WEST:

Los Angeles 85-77
San Diego 83-79
San Francisco 81-81
Arizona 76-86
Colorado 72-90

Still a bad division. No real reason to pick anybody. I'll go with LA's veterans to squeeze enough wins together to lead this motley group. Bonds is such a question mark that the Giants could win anything between 68 and 90 games. I'm guessing he gets hurt again, then blames the media.

PLAYOFFS:

Oakland over Cleveland
Chicago over Boston

Oakland over Chicago in a great series

St. Louis over Philadelphia
Mets over Dodgers

Mets over St. Louis

Oakland over Mets. The pitching will be strong on both sides, but Oakland is very strong from top to bottom of the batting order.

I now will examine pankleb's predictions:

NL EAST: I need Florida to su-uhck.

NL CENTRAL: pankleb is grossly underestimating the Cards. It's gutsy of him to pick the Cubs to win the division even while saying they'll be without Prior and Wood. I just don't see it. I need the Cards to rock, the Cubs to suck, and the bottom half of the division to stay very low in wins.

NL WEST:

The bag o' chips will neither be lost nor won here.

AL EAST:

I don't understand how you can compliment Tampa Bay so, yet have them below 70 wins. I need the kids in Tampa to come through, and I need a big year from Toronto.

AL CENTRAL:

We generally agree. But while they are beating up on each other, yes, they also will get to beat up on the weaker other divisions. It's not as close from top to bottom as pankleb thinks here. A World Champ with the same cast won't fall off as far as he has them falling.

AL WEST:

I need Texas to suck.

Holy crap! We have the same World Series result!!!! Clearly, we are BRILLIANT!

TEAMS WE EXACTLY AGREE ON:

You heard it from two experts:

Houston will go 82-80.
Colorado will go 72-90.
Baltimore will go 71-91.
Detroit will go 80-82.
Seattle will go 77-85.