Friday, December 28, 2007

A public letter the drug purchasers of the greater Vancouver, Washington area

Dear Drug Buyers of Vancouver,

I just wanted to send a note to tell you that your dealer has changed his cell phone number. I have his old one now. So if you need to call to get drugs, please update your own cell phones first. This is especially true to those of you who call and immediately ask "Who is this?" even though you called me. It's doubly true if you are calling at 3:00 AM on December 25th.

I wish you luck as you work through this difficult time of transition.

Sincerely,
TRP

I guess the ten-year-old never really goes away...

I have completed my baseball database for games I have seen through 1996. '96 was my first year in Seattle and my first year going to Mariner games (8 of them that year). It's fun looking at names I forgot I remembered (Rusty Meacham) and guys I forgot were Mariners (Mark Whiten).

So it was in a relatively nostalgic moment that I came across this article on ESPN.com. It centers on Shane Monahan, who played in 78 games for the M's in 1998 and 1999. Although nobody remembers him (I faintly do), and although his name did not appear in the Mitchell report, he says he wanted to talk about his use of steroids and amphetamines because "I don't want kids from college or kids from high school going through what I had to go through. I certainly don't want my son, 20 years from now, having to be faced with that decision so he could play professional sports."

I certainly admire that. And I don't think that I'm capable of being surprised that so many players, by Monahan's account, were using steroids at the time. He even suggests that Lou Piniella hinted that Monahan needed to use. Amphetamines? Monahan says that he saw every Mariner teammate take greenies except for Dan Wilson, whose religious beliefs prevented him from doing them. He says the M's ridiculous travel schedule all but necessitated amphetamine use.

Again, I'm not surprised at the likelihood that, if Monahan is to be believed (and I don't see why he'd lie), my beloved Edgar, Bone, and Junior were popping uppers.

So why is it that I feel so sad at this decade-old news?

This is what happens when I leave town.

Seattle is no longer the most literate city in the US.

They list the top ten cities. Surely Vancouver, WA has gone up to #11 in the last few months.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Off to see Will Smith.

My big sister got me a night out at Cinetopia for Christmas, so Swankette and I will use it tonight to get some awesome food delivered to my recliner while I see I Am Legend.

I'm intrigued by the premise of the last guy left on earth, and I like Will Smith, but I bet I don't like this one quite as much as I liked This Quiet Earth, a top-100 movie for me. A guy in New Zealand wakes up to discover he's the only human being left. It's about how he handles the situation as he looks for fellow humans and tries to figure out what happens. The silence of that movie absolutely terrified me. I bet it terrifies me more than the creepy zombie-like plague people in I Am Legend. I also like the mystery of the disapperance of everyone, which will be missing in today's flick. Still, the idea of "I'm the only guy left, but I'll try to find fellow humans" intrigues me.

And it gives me occasion to tell y'all to see This Quiet Earth if you haven't already.

Today's the day

Go over here, make a comment that's kind to refs, and you've caused a dollar to go to charity...and have a chance to pick a charity that as much as $250 more go to.

How can you resist?

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Compliment a ref for charity!

Hey, guys--My close personal friend BloggingRef has decided to fish for some ref-lovin' compliments (attention slut that he is). For every comment complimenting a ref from 12:01 AM Thursday to midnight Thursday, he will give a dollar to the Special Olympics (up to $250). Then, the best commenter gets to decide where matching funds go. This could result in up to $500 going to a cool charity.

I love refs, as you know, so drop on by and drop in a comment about a zebra or a man in blue.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The joy of data entry

Last year for Christmas, I got Microsoft Access. I have eleven scorebooks filled with ballgames I've seen (200+ major league games, going on 100 minor league games), and I decided that the notecards which led to Excel which just keep track of wins, saves, homers, and stolen bases are simply inadequate. What if somebody ran up to me and threatened to detonate a nuclear device if I didn't immediately tell the top five players ranked by OPS on the road in games I have witnessed? This could happen. I need to be prepared for it.

So, after putting it off for a while, I started the data entry while I was sick last week (it's a fine way to pass many, many hours while sick). If I average two games a day, I'll be done by the time the season starts. And, with some coaching from my mom and maybe JJ, I'll be but a few clicks away from any obscure Stat In TRP's Presence ever.

I do enjoy reliving the games, however, and cross-referencing with baseball-reference.com to learn cool stuff. I know most of the major league debuts I've seen, but rarely do you know you're seeing a guy at or near the end of his career. I saw this guy finish off a highly brief and undistinguished career. That's cool.

I've seen several players who have since passed on, as well. Kirby Puckett. Ken Caminiti. Aurelio Lopez.

So data entry can actually be quite fun.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dave Gorman may top himself...

First of all, I have just found that Dave Gorman (who I love, and who loves me) has a blog. I'll be checking in to see one of the funniest guys around.

Second, Dave has been quiet (at least here in the US...he has a radio show in the UK) since his Googlewhack Adventure. Well, that's going to end. He spent much of last year driving across the US with a film crew with one of his goals. This goal, while not as wacky as to meet 54 Dave Gormans or to meet a chain of 10 Googlewhacks, is pretty difficult and interesting, and might tell a lot about what's good and bad in US Culture.

He attempted to travel across the US from coast-to-coast without eating at a chain restaurant, sleeping at a chain motel, or (and I can't believe this is possible!) buying gas from a chain gas station.

The book is coming out in April or May, and I'll buy it even if I have to pay overseas shipping. There's also a movie...America Unchained...which won first place at the Austin Film Festival. I'll need to see that. I hope I get a chance.

Great article

As a teacher, this link (from Jim) about a poetry teacher in New Jersey taking his high school kids out to provide free poems from a "poetry stand" absolutely made my day. Read the whole thing, but check out how the kids go from using poetry to separate themselves from everyone (in an "I'm so very different and put-upon" HS angsty way) to using poetry to bring us all together. LOVED this article...loved it so much that, if I teach Creative Writing in the future, I will do a similar field trip to set up a stand at the mall.


Thursday, December 13, 2007

Here's the part about the steroids thing that steams me the most.

There's plenty of blame to go around, of course. But Donald Fehr is the guy who frosts me most.

The whole damn reason that unions exist is to protect the well-being of their membership. The list of names in the Mitchell report--most notably the mix of All-stars and scrubs--means that everyone in the majors and the minors was and is faced with a simple decision between their personal health and the health of their careers. That choice is wrong for coal miners, and it's wrong for ballplayers.

Any union leader worth his salt would see that, if any player is using steroids to gain a competitive advantage, it is bad for the health of the entire union's membership. Donald Fehr knew about the problem, but he sold out his players' health for money.

There's a lot bad about steroids in baseball, but this is the worst part. The union head didn't give a shit about the health of his rank and file. When more of these players start dying prematurely like Ken Caminiti and Lyle Alzado did, Fehr shoulders a good portion of that responsibility. Of course, the individual steroid users are the truly responsible parties, but if his priorities were straight, Fehr could have saved his players from themselves. It's unconscionable that he didn't.

I only hope Gene Upshaw learns the lesson Fehr didn't--and soon.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

The Sick Room

I'm spending my second consecutive day at home due to illness. I never do that, so this is highly unusual. I noticed I was sick on Monday during 2nd period, fought through the day at school, and made it home as sick as a dog. My temperature: 101.7. Yesterday: 99.6. So I'm staying at home, making sure I'm well enough to make it through to Christmas.

And I'm doing it in one of the best aspects of my house:

The Sick Room.

Now, don't tell my guests that this will be the guest room eventually. But when there are not guests, it is the sick room. We have a bed featuring a new mattress. We have wireless internet, and we have TV hooked up to the cable. Originally, it was supposed to be my first TV (my college graduation gift, actually), but that died in storage, so we went out and bought a tiny TV--much better suited for the sick room. So, for 48 hours, I've been in bed, cleaning out the accumulated TiVo stuff (lots of the Colbert and Stewart I've missed, loads of Cash Cab, and quite a lot of Letterman).

I woke up today with no fever, but no energy. So I'm trying to hang out in bed, but walking around the house every hour or so--sometimes to see my wife's wonderful progress on the house (all the boxes in the living room are empty!), sometimes to do laundry, sometimes to get some grape juice.

I've also started the huge process of data entering all of the statistics for baseball games I've attended. That'll take a helluva long time.

Sick room ROCKS.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Student Congress? On MTV??? Starring ME???

I continue to be in love with this team of mine. This week, for the first time in my 8 years of coaching, my team won a Sweepstakes award. There's a little bit of an asterisk attached to that--the strongest team in Southwest Washington was hosting the meet, and meet hosts traditionally recuse themselves from their own sweepstakes trophies. And most of those sweepstakes points came from novices...but the novices did absolutely clean up. So we were meet champions. I will makes sure to tell my principals that, and to leave out the asterisks! Kids were elated. I liked them even more on the ride home. The bus broke down on the side of the freeway, delaying us for over an hour while we waited for a replacement bus. Incredibly, there was no whining, no complaints...everyone just hung out together. A kid broke out some iPod speakers and we listened to 80s era music, sang, chatted, and had fun. This crew is really, really special.

But that's not what I'm writing about.

MTV was at this weekend's meet.

They are profiling a kid from a rival school for their show Made. Apparently, a ditzy cheerleader wants to be taken intellectually seriously, so they're re-making her by having her join the debate team.

That's all well and good...more power to her. But I'm a little bummed out with a lot of the process and with MTV in general.

First off, the concept of the show is that they bring in a coach--somebody good-looking and ever so painfully-hip--to help the kid. So instead of the school's excellent coach, they've brought in some dude in his mid-twenties. I overheard him describing Public Forum postings to the camera operator, and describing them incorrectly. This kid can make herself simply by walking into the actual coach's office after school. But that won't do, of course...he's in his fifties and doesn't have slick, spiky hair. Instead, MTV has brought in a less-qualified, more-hip outsider.

Second, as my wife points out, the fact that a kid who wants to be taken intellectually seriously decides the way to do that is to call MTV...well, that's a pretty comical premise to begin with.

Third, MTV and/or Hip Spiky-Haired Coach have decided that, for yesterday's meet anyway, that the kid should compete in Student Congress and Interpretive Reading.

Seriously? Congress? This is intellectually serious? Or this? Or this? This?

And interpretive reading? Please, NOT interpretive reading! This make Congress look like a MENSA meeting.

Gossip is that the NFL has gotten involved, as they should, as this could be priceless advertising for their organization. They're encouraging the kid to do Public Forum, which she will at the start of January. So I see the storyline developing. They're starting her out with these gateway events and will have her debate PuFo later on.

Anyway, here's where I jump in. I was coerced into being PO for an hour of Congress yesterday, and while I was there, the Made girl (I'll call her "Jamie") gave her only speech. One of my kids wound up stumbling into the role of antagonist. My kid gave an earnest but somewhat rambly speech in favor of a resolution illegalizing hate speech, and Jamie gave a decent-but-not-great speech against the resolution. There was a brief question period between the two of them, and the camera desperately whipped back and forth between my kid and Jamie. Then, there was the vote. The resolution was defeated--Jamie's side got the vote. I'll probably be on MTV saying "The resolution fails."

I'm worried that they'll edit the footage to make my kid appear to be the villain. With music and with clever cutting, they can make anyone look like anything. And if I were directing this episode, it would be very easy to cast my kid as the bad guy, the bumbling guy, or the smug guy who hates the protagonist.

So, on the van ride home, I asked my kid if he'd seen Made. He hadn't--he doesn't have cable. I explained to him the concept and the notion that these show producers might not have his best interests in mind, and that he should think about that before he signs any release. Additionally, my wife and I are taping a couple of episodes for him so he and his mom can see them before making any decisions.

Saturday, however, I started to think they might be taking the show in a different direction. MTV interviewed my kid and his Public Forum partner...but they exclusively asked them about one of Jamie's teammates, Juan. Juan is a good-looking, brilliant, telegenic, sharp kid, competitive at the highest local levels of debate. One of my female debaters, after facing Juan in LD on Friday, could barely keep the saliva in her mouth. "That kid is the Shakespeare of debate!" she gushed. So I'm now wondering if they're going to try to make this show about Juan accepting Jamie or taking her seriously.

In any event, I'm very wary of this. I'll sign the waiver for myself--I didn't say much besides "We now have time for questions...Senator Johnson?"--but I'll encourage my kids to watch the show and think it over seriously.

Stay tuned. The camerafolks will be at next week's meet too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Aimee Mann revisited

Swankette and I enjoyed Aimee Mann's Christmas revue tonight.

It really was something else. She sang a load of the stuff from her Christmas album from last year. If you listen closely, many of the best Christmas songs are sad. Listening to Aimee get through "I'll Be Home For Christmas," what is at heart a sad, wistful love song, is something to behold.

It's so confusing. Just a few years ago, I was saying (in one of my first posts on this blog) that I thought I had outgrown Aimee. She was still producing sad, upset breakup songs. I began to suspect that my sunnier disposition wouldn't match hers.

Well, I was wrong. Here she was tonight, singing beautifully, having a few Hollywood friends mock her in a homemade movie (In it, Ben Stiller says "Hey! Sing that one song about being really depressed!") and singing a mix of poppy Christmas-related hits ("It's Cold Outside," "You're a Mean One, Mr. Grinch"), past songs of hers that mention the holiday ("I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up for Christmas," "Jacob Marley's Chain,") and a couple of non-holiday numbers. She's been married for nearly a decade, and her most recent album's love songs are all less personal. The Forgotten Arm is more an opera than her former barrages of the "kiss and tell off" genre--exactly what I needed through my 20s, but not anymore.

Which leads me to this: I'm back on the Aimee-loving bandwagon, as a current member rather than a member emeritus. She used to write pissed-off songs that said "How could you do this to me?" like "Stupid Thing," "Say Anything," and "Long Shot." Now she writes pissed off songs that say "How could you do this to yourself?" The horribly sad "I Was Thinking I Could Clean Up..." and the older "That's Just What You Are" are examples of this. She's got another album coming out in March, and played a song from it tonight. The delicious hook from that song, "Freeway," goes as follows: "You've got a lot of money/But you can't afford the freeway." Aimee's still mad, but she's no longer taking it as personally. She's pissed off at people who settle for less...in the multitude of ways that can manifest itself.

I think I've made that leap from taking-it-personally to taking-it-less-personally as well, and it's great to have Aimee Mann along with me. That's my favorite thing about long-term relationships with artists...sometimes you feel like you're growing up together. Aimee is 10 years older than I am, which makes her older than either one of us would like to admit. So the old pissed-off love songs wouldn't feel quite right from her anymore--just as I complained back in '04 that they don't feel quite right on my stereo anymore.

I'll need to load The Forgotten Arm onto the iPod for the next week or so. I need to get the recent Aimee back in my life. She's a helluva poet, and her introspective voice does me good.

"Sometimes it hurts me/To feel so much tenderness/Beautiful..."

TRP is in the HOUSE!

Yup, in the hizz-ouse! In HIS-hizz-OUSE!

Things have been crazy here, what with lack of internet access, unpacking (thank you, Swankette, for doing so much of this while I'm away at work!), and work commitments. I know you all have barely been able to get by without me. But I'm here, and boxes are trickling down to nonexistence around me. I have internet access and a working computer. And with my commute gone, I even have some modicum of free time. Finally, and as ever, I have loads of brilliant insights and critically important opinions.

This blog needs to be revived. And it shall be.

But not tonight. Wife and I are off to see Aimee Mann sing Christmas songs. I love Aimee Mann.