Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Bowl is this Sunday.

I've got New England 31-17. That last-game-of-the-year matchup was fantastic--neither team was stopping the other. So now, both teams will adjust, and I trust Belichick more than Coughlin.

Another prediction:

The Puppy Bowl will rock, again, and will be far more entertaining than Paula Abdul. We will watch it for a while instead of pregame and halftime.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Obama passes Gore

In my estimation, that is. I'm 120 pages into Obama's The Audacity of Hope, which I bought a couple of weeks ago in an effort to figure out what this guy's all about.

I believe in him more now.

First, he's an incredible writer. He manages to write about our gridlocked, ugly system without announcing simple solutions or claiming to be above the problems he describes.

Second, I like the way he treats the opposition. There's too much demonization of the opposing party by all of us. While I liked Al Gore's most recent book, I found it was a lot of "Bush sucks, Bush sucks," which, while true, didn't exactly impress me. Too easy.

Obama has respect for the office, his constituents, and his opponents. Every page or two, I keep saying "Yes! I want that to happen! I believe in this! I need to blog that quote!"

It has gone beyond agreement and into the realm of a non-sexual man-crush.

He believes in service to country over service to party. I actually believe he could bring us all together, and I'm usually a cynic. No Republican can bring us all together right now, and nobody named Clinton can either, I'm afraid.

So I'm set to send Obama a few bucks. He's won me over to the point where I no longer am pining for Gore.

Of course, to be fair, I may have to read a Hillary Clinton book next, but I can't imagine liking her perspectives more than Obama's.

The internet is good for friendships

One of my best high school friends has re-emerged in my life after two decades.

We sang together in high school, and were even friends for a while as far back as sixth grade. I wound up graduating and going to college...he wound up not graduating and getting wrapped up in drugs. My last memory of him was after my freshman year in college. He had decorated his room with a "Just Say No" bumper sticker he had jerry-rigged to say "Just Say Yes." He had just gotten a job at a grocery store, and said he had a new goal. "I want to show everybody that I can use drugs and still hold down a job."

I realized that his goals and my goals were incompatible. I walked away from his house and essentially wrote him off, hoping that he'd get clean, but knowing that I couldn't be in contact with him unless he did.

I only heard rumors about him through the years...and they were not good ones.

Thank goodness I'm the #1 me on the Internet. I got an email from him a few years ago. He had one hell of a rough decade as an addict, but he's done.

We've been in sporadic email contact lately, but when I sent out my "I've moved to Vancouver!" email to friends a little while back, I got a return email from him, saying "Wow! I'm moving to Portland!"

And thus is a friendship renewed after 20 years.

His wife--a woman we sang with back in the day--played a pretty large role in my buddy's cleanup. I won't tell the story, as it's not mine to tell, but as Swankette and I sat at McMenamin's hearing about that hellish decade and the love story that ended it, well, I was pretty blown away. And hearing about some of the lows the man has hit...well, let's just say we should say no to drugs, kids. As his wife kept saying, "It's incredible he's alive." It is indeed.

Welcome back, friend.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Ron Paul's strategy

Here's what I know about Ron Paul:

1. He's a Republican and I'm a Democrat, so I won't have to decide how I feel about him unless he garners the Republican nomination.

2. He has a very passionate, small group of loud supporters.

3. All of those supporters seem to be on top of overpasses.

In fact, Ron Paul seems to have the overpass vote pretty well locked up. If the election were today, and only people standing on top of overpasses got to vote, President Paul would be around the corner. But once we're off the overpass, statistics show them having trouble. I'd recommend that their next step be for them to try to encourage more people to move to overpasses, perhaps by building large condos on them.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The continuing joy of data entry

First a shout out to my mom. (Hi, Mom!)

I have to state that my mother, pushing 70, has to be the coolest pushing-70-year-old-mom in the history of civilzation. This isn't meant as a slight to your pushing-70-year-old moms, of course. But let's face it--most of your pushing-70-year-old moms are at home, knitting, watching Divorce Court, probably feeding a cat. Your moms have to call a neighbor for help whenever there's a power outage to make sure that the Lawrence Welk show tapes properly on the VCR.

Not my mom.

My mom is staying up late at night working on newer and better ways to organize my Access database. I hit her with something I want to know (e.g. "Mom, how do I set it up so I can determine individual players' all-time record in my presence?") and about 24 hours later I get a macro.

All that, AND she can knit circles around your mom.

So, to make it official: Mom, you ROCK. Coolest. Mom. Ever.

Second, here's part of the reason that I love doing this...I can discover baseball moments I've seen that I didn't know I'd seen. For instance, I remember a bitterly cold night at Comiskey Park with my cousins, who stripped shirtless in the freezing miserable April lake-wind night. I remember wearing 5 layers of clothes as I capped off a Cubs-and-Sox-in-one-day adventure.

But today I discovered someone I did not remember.

Oscar Salazar.

Ten days in the bigs, and I saw him play. And see that one career home run? It was that miserable night on Chicago's South Side. He joins Mitch Lyden in the TRP Saw Him Hit His Only Career Home Run Hall of Fame. (And both happened in Chicago. Hmmm. What's it all mean?)

Oscar hit his home run on April 19, 2002. The Tigers sent him down two days later, and he hasn't been back to the bigs. But, after two years away from the affiliated minors, he re-appeared last year playing double-A ball for the Orioles in Bowie. He's only 29, so the major league dream might be flickering, but it isn't over yet.

Oscar, if you need any help, send me tickets. You need me in those stands.. Seriously...I'm your good luck charm. There were only 16,000 of us who bought tickets that night, and even fewer of us hardy enough to show up. Go ahead and get me to a ballgame this year.

It's a little creepy how much I'm enjoying putting together this database. But at least I have the support of my family.

Monday, January 21, 2008

My smart friends talking politics

In the comments down here, my friends have reminded me that McCain isn't as moderate as he makes himself out to be. Even though I feel that, with a brief exception in 2000, he does what he believes in rather than what he believes to be politically expedient, I can't vote for a guy who voted against habeas corpus.

But the guy I agreed most with was (stop the presses!) Spoon, when he said the following:

God almighty! Is is too much to ask for a candidate that we can believe in?

Here's the thing: I received a lot of reasons not to vote for McCain. I want a reason to vote for Hillary. I'm begging you.

Greg came the closest to fighting for Hillary when he offered this lukewarm testimonial:

Clinton has voted in a manner generally consistent with what I believe is right. On top of that she's tough, smart, and she knows how to win elections.

All the Democrats vote in a manner generally consistent my principles (I'm a Democrat). If we leave out the hugely important war authorization, that is. But that's hardly getting me excited about the election.

Additionally, the ability to win elections isn't important to me. It gets us into trouble. It gets us Kerry.

So we have "tough and smart" left. All of the candidates for both parties are smart. "Tough?" Hell if I know what that means or why it matters.

So I'll ask again:

What does Hillary Clinton stand for? What are her values? And what has she done that shows those values?

I want to like her--honestly, I do. And I'll probably vote for her if she's there.

But I'm tempted to do a write-in vote for somebody with deep convictions who values all people and desires to bring them together, who would do what is right rather than what makes him electable.

That's right: I'm tempted to write in MCMC's name.

I see a passion and conviction in him that I just don't see in Hillary.

All I'm asking is for my leader-of-the-free-world to have clearer convictions and motives than my friends do. I can't believe that's asking too much.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

And some football

Patriots 38, Chargers 3. Billy Volek. 'Nuff said.

Packers 21, Giants 7. Fun to watch people slogging away in 25-below wind-chill.

Attention Hillary Clinton Supporters

Right now, Obama's my guy. But I'm trying to mentally prepare for a McCain/Clinton election. I don't think it's a foregone conclusion like so many others seem to, but in case it's there, I want to be ready.

Somebody please give me a reason to like Hillary Clinton. Because right now, I'm undecided.

That's right: after 8 years of W angering me in so many ways, there's actually a chance I'll vote for his party.

Here's what troubles me.

I do not get the sense that Hillary Clinton follows her principles. In fact, I couldn't tell you what her principles are. I get the sense she follows what she believes is popular rather than what is right.

To be fair, I believe that McCain did this in 2000, when he went from the "Straight Talk Express" to speaking at Bob Jones University. That's awful.

But let's compare the candidates on the war.

Both voted to authorize the invasion. I believe McCain did so out of his beliefs; I believe Clinton did so because she wanted to be electable.

McCain 1, Clinton 0.

When Abu Ghraib came forward, McCain loudly, eloquently, and passionately took it to the administration. He demanded answers. I'll never forget him asking Rumsfeld for the chain of command from the torturers up through the Secretary of Defense (and Rumsfeld's inability to answer). I'm sure Clinton was on Bush too, but she was certainly quieter. McCain was better at standing up for what this country should be about.

McCain 2, Clinton 0.

That's right: I believe that McCain is actually better on the war issue than Clinton is. If we had Obama or Gore in know someobdy who actually voted against this goddamned'd be different. But if it's McCain/Clinton, we'll have an election between two war supporters. So I have to go with what they've said about how to prosecute this war. I don't remember Clinton talking much about it. McCain has been quite outspoken, at some risk to his popularity with the Republican base, in criticizing Bush's prosecution of the war. Again, I think it's because, in spite of his '00 missteps, McCain is actually following his conscience this time around. I don't get the sense Clinton is. She's following the vicissitudes of the polls.

Yes, I know that McCain actually wants more troops in Iraq and Clinton wants to pull out. But I can't forgive Clinton for voting to put us there in the damn first place. At least I feel like McCain stands for something. Clinton stands for getting elected.

So, Clinton supporters: You're in danger of losing this lifelong Democrat's vote this year.

Please tell me what Clinton stands for other than attempts to be popular, and please show me what her actions have been that demonstrate it. I want to vote Democratic, but I don't want to vote for someone whose #1 goal is being President rather than standing up for something she believes in.

Either way, if this is the best we can do, I think I'll be holding my nose in November.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

An almost-New Year's Resolution

That Nesbitt's Peach Soda I had the other day has led me to a plan for health.

I want soda to be special, like it used to be. When I was a kid, we had bottles of 7-Up in a basement fridge that we would go to on occasional weekends. That made soda into an event. I think that sugary-syrupy-water should be that. I'd like them more.

Also, there's absolutely no reason why I need to drink one every day. I usually have one for lunch, and on those occasions when I go out to eat. That's probably about 1 and a quarter per day.

I'd like to see if I can do better for a while. Not cut them out entirely, but make them special again.

Therefore, from now until Spring Break (which begins when school ends on March 28), I will only drink soda that I go to Moxie's to get. I will do so after ballgames occasionally, and maybe on the weekends. But all of my soda through Spring Break will be exotic soda.

This means my sugar intake will go down significantly. It also gives me occasion to drink more interesting sample some cool sodas all along Moxie's giant fridge. Perhaps I'll even blog about them.

Why am I telling you this? So that you can hold me accountable.

(Maybe it's time for me to take up beer.)

I'm on a roll!

OK...I missed the Indy upset (so did pretty well everyone else). But check out my other picks:

New England "by about 10." Actual final: Patriots by 11. That's about 10.
Green Bay "by three touchdowns." Actual final: Green Bay by 22. That's three touchdowns with one two-point conversion.
Giants "21-16." Actual final: New York 21, Dallas 17.

Man, I'm good.

Remember, as Jim says: Always bet on sports.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Some books

I spent a recent gift Powell's card today during the early football game (when I want to watch 4 football games in one weekend, I make it a point to watch them all on Tivo so it's 5 hours instead of 12). I bought a book of poems by Erin Belieu because she said on the back cover that she listened to Aimee Mann's Bachelor #2 while writing the book. Then, the first poem I saw had Bill Parcells as a central figure...knocked it out of the park. That book had to be mine.

Then I bought Barack Obama's The Audacity of Hope so I could try to figure out what he's about. Let me tell you straight up: a Clinton/McCain election would be a tough decision for me, and might be my first Republican vote. As of now, Obama's my man--I think. Maybe Clinton can convince me that she has thoughts that are not driven merely by what is popular, but I'm highly skeptical.

Next came a travel book about Arkansas. Swankette and I cashed in some frequent flier miles this morning, so it's official: we will do the Ozarks over Spring Break, including minor league games in Little Rock and Springfield, MO. I'd like to know where I'm going and what to do.

Finally came a little ditty called 1000 Places to See Before You Die: US and Canada.

Sure sounds like a challenge to me!

Of course I'm worried about my OCD kicking in, and about my life being wasted if I don't make all 1000 of these. My dear wife said that we needed to put our initials by the places we have been.

I'm proud to say that, as of now, I have been to 111 of the 1000 places I need to see before I die.

Since I don't yet have information on exactly when I'll die, it's a bit challenging to make it to the remaining 889. Additionally, there are some time-specific ones that are a bit tricky (I'm supposed to enjoy Thanksgiving both at Plymouth Plantation and see the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade), some that are bad for a guy with my food allergies (I'm supposed to have both an Alabama and a Georgia barbeque?), and some that I don't think I'd enjoy at all (sorry, but no way I'll ever do Mardi Gras in New Orleans). But I still feel like 111 isn't a bad number. If Swankette and I make it to half of the 1000, I think I can call it good.

Better go win the lottery, though.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I would never vote for Huckabee

but after watching him on Colbert just now, if he were elected, I think he'd instantly become our funniest president (just nosing out Franklin Pierce).

I Heart Moxie's

I need to start drinking less soda. The stuff just isn't that good for you. I'll try to take a bottle of water to work for lunch instead of my usual blast of corn syrup.

Plus, by eliminating the common daily soda, I can justify regular pilgrimages to Moxie's. I can put a hoagie in a bag, and have more moments like this one...

sitting back, relaxing after reffing a game, and enjoying a wonderful soda I'd never seen before. Tonight, it's Nesbitt's Peach Soda.

Delicious. Wonderful, tasty, unique, sweet, and delicious.

Is this just taking me back to the old days, where we'd get canned soda from a cooler after soccer games in second grade? It was never Nesbitt's Peach, but it was a reward for running hard. I'm digging this.

If Moxie's didn't close at six, I think I might get a hoagie and an exotic soda after every ballgame.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

And for this weekend...

New England over Jacksonville. For a while in the first half of the Jacksonville/Pittsburgh game, Jacksonville looked good enough for an upset. But not logn enough. NE by about 10.

Indy over San Diego. The Chargers are just flat-out not consistent enough...not even over 60 minutes against Tennessee. We're talking 31-14 here.

Green Bay over Seattle. The Seahawks made Washington look way too good. Seattle hasn't done well on the road or against playoff teams. This one could be ugly. Pack by three TDs.

Giants over Dallas. New York has looked very, very strong for two weeks. That will continue in a fairly big upset...21-16.

Let's see if we can keep this juggernaut going...

I've got playoff intensity.

I'm one of those guys who just STEPS UP HIS GAME for the playoffs. UNSTOPPABLE. I went 4-for-4 last weekend. So get outta my way...I'm picking them all right all the way to the Bowl.

Of course, I never would have MADE the playoffs, because my regular season predictions were terrible. To wit:

(within one game=on. two games=off. three or more=way off.)

Team/My predicted wins/Actual wins/Difference/Result

San Diego 12/11/-1/on
Denver 9/7/-2/off
Kansas City 6/4/-2/off
Oakland 4/4/0/on

Cincy 11/7/-4/way off
Baltimore 9/5/-4/way off
Pittsburgh 8/10/+2/off
Cleveland 4/10/+6/way off

Indy 11/13/+2/off
Houston 7/8/+1/on
Jax 7/11/+4/way off
Tenn 6/10/+4/way off

New England 13/16/+3/way off
Buffalo 9/7/-2/off
Jets 6/4/-2/off
Miami 5/1/-4/way off

St. Lou 9/3/-6/way off
Seattle 9/10/+1/on
SF 8/5/-3/way off
AZ 6/8/+2/off

Chicago 11/7/-4/way off
GB 8/13/+5/way off
Det 6/7/+1/on
Minn 3/8/+5/way off

NO 10/7/-3/way off
Car 9/7/-2/off
TB 5/9/+4/off
ATL 3/4/+1/on

PHI 10/8/-2/off
Dal 9/13/+4/way off
Was 7/9/+2/off
NYG 6/10/+4/way off

I picked 5 of 12 playoff teams, including exactly ONE of six NFC playoff participants. Thanks, Dallas.

92 games off total, for an average of just short of 3 games off per team. This is a nose-dive from last year. But I'm making it up to you here in the playoffs.

Today at school

I passed a student in the hallway after school--she was hanging out with a friend of hers I don't know.

ME: "Hi, Kelly."
STUDENT: "Oh, hi, Mr. RefPoet."
STUDENT'S FRIEND: "You kiss-up!!!!"

Yup. Polite greeting is officially apple-polishing in at least one kid's mind. I laughed for quite a while.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

TRP's Fearless Round One Predictions

My preseason SB pick was New England over New Orleans. Half of that looks pretty good.

As for this week:

Seattle over Washington. (It's in progress, but this is what I picked pre-game.) The Racial Epithets have a great story, but they aren't convincing enough for me.

Jacksonville over Pittsburgh. I like what they've got going on in Jacksonville.

San Diego over Tennessee. Hobbled Vince, studly LaDainian.

Giants over Tampa Bay. New York looked damn good in defeat last week.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Maybe I should manage a campaign

Somebody out there agrees with me. Bean. He suggests that my opening Obama/Huckabee salvo will have the effect of removing religion from the campaign. "I think Christ would like that," Bean says. He very well might.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

I play campaign manager

Let's suppose Obama wins the Democratic nomination (not a sure thing). Let's suppose Huckabee wins the Republican nomination (simply no way that's going to happen).

The day it's clear that he's won, and that he knows who his opponent is, here's a public relations coup that I would enact. (This is in addition to, not instead of, actually communicating ideas as I suggested in the previous post.)

I'd have Obama go on TV and say the following:

"We have a long, spirited campaign ahead of us. I'd like to lead it off by inviting Governor Huckabee to join me at church. He can join me at my church in Chicago, or else I'd be honored to join him at his in Arkansas if he'd like. No cameras, no press there...just my family and his worshiping together, starting off the campaign by thinking about one thing we share in spite of all our differences: our faith."

This would have multiple impacts, all good for Obama.

First, it would blow away the bizarre rumor that won't die--that Obama is a Muslim. If church attendance is a measure, he's a better Christian than most of the Democratic candidates and a couple of the Republicans.

Second, it puts Huckabee in an impossible position of either having to say yes--and participate in eliminating a key stereotype against Obama--or to say no and have to explain why.

Might be silly, but it popped into my head while I drove home from my game tonight.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

It's an election year...

which means that, in another 11 months and change, I will again be completely devastated by how little this nation does to fulfill its mission. I felt that way in 1988 (a singularly ugly campaign), and pretty well have felt the same way for every election, midterm and presidential alike, ever since.

So, with the start of all of this soul-crushing routine in Iowa tomorrow, I thought I'd finally respond to Tommyspoon's perspectives on what needs to happen this year. He posted this nearly three months ago--the conversation started when I saw my party sinking to the same bullshit tactics I've associated with Republicans like Karl Rove and Lee Atwater (the two men who, I would argue, harmed the US political process more than anyone else in the last 100 years). Spoon's response (to grossly oversimplify) is that the end justifies the means. All's fair to gain power.

Spoon--sorry, but your way hurts the country even as it helps the party.

Your use of Al Davis's "just win, baby" as a suggested Democratic party motto is telling. You hate Al Davis. I hate him too (as a childhood Bronco fan, it was the law). Why? Because his monomaniacal desire for winning causes him to ignore such matters as the rules, respecting his opponents, and basic civility. But beyond that, any comparison of sports and politics always disgusts me for two reasons. First, if the goal is to win a football game, it's probably not surprising that our election-year discourse has all the subtlety and thoughtfulness of fans arguing whether the Red Sox or Yankees are the better team. If you want to increase the discourse, that priority needs to be echoed in your suggested actions for the party. You're advocating going the Rove/Atwater route and doing the opposite. I can't accept that. It hurst our nation.

Second, and more importantly: Winning is NOT the end goal. Governing justly and improving the world is.

"But TRP," Spoon says at this point in the conversation. "We can't govern justly if we don't win."

Perhaps, but I give you this promise: we can't govern justly if we win a Rove/Atwater style election.

You say the following:

The only thing that the current GOP will respect is their own downfall. They must know that their tactics will not work anymore. I believe the only way to do that is to give back to them in full measure. If we can beat them at their own game then they may think twice about playing it in the future.

Absolutely not. No way. Not under your own criterion.

As a matter of practicality: If the point of politics is to win, as you say, then neither party will abandon a tactic that is effective. The democratic version of power-mongering Roves and Atwaters will use buttheaded incivility MORE if it's proven effective.

Beyond that, you're using the same logic as of using chemical weapons against Iraq "because it's wrong, and our opponents need to see that it's wrong, and people will think twice before ever doing it again." It's the same logic as torturing those who torture "because it's wrong, and our opponents need to see that it's wrong, and people will think twice before ever doing it again."

Your ends-justify-the-means reasoning is identical in logic, if not in scope, as these two examples.

Democrats used to have the moral high ground. I refuse--REFUSE--to let go of it without a fight. As Jesus, an awfully fine philosopher I turn to every now and then, said: "For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?"

Say it with me, Spoon: If it's wrong when they do it, it's wrong when we do it. And worse, if I say they're wrong when they do it, I am not only wrong, but a hypocrite, when I do it.

I just don't want to go through of my quadrennial November disappointment of "Damn, there has to be a better way to run a democracy than this." I believe in the free marketplace of ideas: that if people get ideas out there, that the best ones will rise to the top, and people will consider that when they vote. But when's the last time anyone in either party actually considered doing that?

I guess I'm with Churchill: "Democracy is the worst form of government except for all the others that have been tried."

Anyhoo. I'm prepared for another bullshit election cycle that leaves me hating the nation as a whole. Bring it on.

Oh, and one other thing: First of all, be careful saying that Baird is "going against his constituents." I'm an undecided constituent, and my wife is very much in line with him about where to go next in Iraq. The third district is fairly eclectic, including whacked-out-lefties in Olympia, a big swath of mostly-conservative rural lands, and the mixed suburban land of Vancouver I call home. Saying "his constituents feel" is a 60/40 split at best, I'd wager.

But more to the point, I passionately disagree with your assertion that it is the job of a representative to do what his/her constituents say no matter what. If it were, you'd be cursing Baird's decision to vote against authorizing force in Iraq back in '03. Remember: most Americans supported the invasion by your logic, Congress' vote to invade Iraq was just, moral, and correct, and Baird's vote against it was an abrogation of his duty as a Congressman. I doubt you'd go there.

Anyway, Spoon, happy new year. You know I respect you. If my tone was off, blame it on my dread for the upcoming bullshit we call an election year.

I still haven't picked a candidate. They're either at odds with me on critical issues, voted for the war, or rub me the wrong way. Without Gore in the race, there's nobody I can feel enthusiastic about.