Sunday, March 23, 2008

Tuesday? - on Sunday?

OK, the Tuesday thing just hasn't worked out.
It's Sunday now, and for 4 days I've been saying "I really need to write my Tuesday post".
OK, we're going to make a change. Tuesday Talk will now be Sunday Stuff. (so I'm a sucker for alliteration)
Sundays should be better, although not by much. Today I've already been to the Bagel Shop to solve the world's problems, to the LL field to do a little work, watched the Carolina Girls (I know, they're WOMEN!) kick Bucknell's ass all over the basketball court, swept the porch and patio, filled the bird and critter feeders, finished a bill for a customer, watched the Tarheel Men (OK, boys - now we're even) kick Arkansas' ass all over the basketball court, checked out my favorite blogs and chatted a bit, and wrote a piece about the upcoming Red Sox season, for which I can't wait.
At least this year my family left me alone about Easter. They may have finally gotten the message that I actually have accepted the Jewish tradition as my own, even if I still have some qualms about religion as a whole. It's ironic that they probably think I'll burn in hell for being Jewish, and may never know that Judaism brought me back to religion after Christianity pushed me away.
My wife continues to be very tired, all of the time. Fighting cancer takes a huge toll on the body, then you add the medicines which also take their own toll, and she just has no energy whatsoever. She mentions the idea of discontinuing treatment sometimes, and I understand the premise that it's better to have "good" time, even if there's less of it, but I also worry that without the chemo the cancer itself would keep her just as ill and she wouldn't really gain any "quality" time. This is her week to skip treatment, so hopefully she'll have a better week next week and maybe her spirits will pick up a little. I can't help but believe that better spirits alone would improve her general condition, but that's probably an overly optimistic hope. Regardless, how can one have any positivity about them if they have the knowledge that this disease has them and it can't be stopped. I don't really feel inadequate because I can't do anything about the disease, I know that's out of my control. I often think, however, that I should be able to do more to help her mood. And I question whether I would be able to keep her more upbeat if I had done better in the economic world and we were able to do all those things we wanted to get around to but never have. I guess I just have to keep plugging away at "the list"
Speaking of which - I'm not sure I want to see that movie. Apparently the characters in it have their list to pursue, but they also have all the financial resources to achieve it. Not quite like real life for most of us. I also hate hearing that country song where the guy does the same thing. All sappy and heart-warming supposedly. Go bull-riding, sky-diving, cross-country riding. And just where is the money coming from to do all this? He hopes everyone gets to "live like they were dying." Trust me, it's NOT the best time of your life.
Having said all that - I must add
We have managed to see Alaska, although it took the help of some VERY dear friends to make it happen. We saw it from a boat, a cruise ship to be exact, which was absolutely wonderful, but I would love to return sometime to see more of the inland parts. We stood atop a primitive glacier together, which might just be one of the most memorable moments of my life. It was like being on another planet. We saw killer whales fairly close up from a smaller ship in the bay, and I was one of only a few that managed to get pictures of a brown bear feeding on the salmon on one of the islands we stopped at.
We also managed to take our whole family, all 13 or so of us, to Disney World for a week. That may not sound like much to many of you, but we've never been able to do anything close to that before, and we took all the kids and grandkids, pretty much on us. None of the grandkids had ever been there before, our daughter had never been, and our 2 sons had not been since their grandparents took them a very long time ago. We spent 3 whole days in Disney, 1 in rehab, and 1 at Sea World. The sale of my wife's soap business made that possible.
We've since been on another cruise, this time to the Carribean, and again with some help from our friends. This one, though, really put us behind and I don't know how long it may be before we're able to cross something else off the list. I often feel a little guilty about doing some of these things when the bills aren't caught up, and there's almost no money in reserve. But I get over that quickly when I think that I'll have time to deal with the finances later. I don't know how much time we have to do things on "the list".
So I guess I'd better finish that damn bathroom and get ready to go to Europe, eh?
If that's not optimism, then there's no such thing!

T Minus 33 Hours and Counting

The Sox open up Tuesday morning against the A's in Japan. I plan on gettingup early, and tuning in my computer. I'm assuming I'll be able to follow the Gametracker thing. I hope so.
I'll also be pulling up Joy of Sox and chatting with my on-line friends there during the game.
I'm betting on big things for the Sox again this year. Papi and Manny were both slightly hampered last year and I think they'll both improve this year. I also think JD Drew will have a much better year.
Even if Jacoby Ellsbury (LBJ) doesn't take over the CF job full time, he will play there regularly and should add some offense from that spot. I also think we'll get just a little more from the catcher's spot, because Cash should be a better PH for Tek than Dougie was. I'm betting that Youk and Lugo will stay at about the same pace they've been on.
Pedroia and Lowell are the question marks, but I really think Peds will at least match last year. Many are expecting Lowell to drop off, and they certainly could be right. But I bet it won't be that much of a drop, and he might just surprise them. Let's hope so!
With the extra numbers from Ellsbury and Drew, and even a little improvement from the 3-4 spots, I expect the Red Sox to surpass even last years big numbers.
Dice K opens the season in Japan - fitting. Although there's no doubt that it would have been Beckett if he wasn't hurt. Jon Lester has been throwing very well the last couple of weeks. He'll probably be the 3 man when Beckett returns, which should not be long based on reports from camp. Wakefield will just continue to be Wake, and Buchholz is apparently going to be the 4th man at least until Beckett returns. Wake will probably not get as many wins as he did last year, but I'm still thinking pitching will be about the same, with a little more consistency from Dice making up the wins that we won't get from Schilling and Lester/Buchholz? doing a little better than the revolving door they're replacing.
The one question mark is the bullpen. Of course we have Papelbon to close, and Okajima to set him up. It doesn't get much better than that. But I've not seen enough of the numbers from spring training to get a real feel for what we've got before them. I think Timlim is bound to hit the wall sooner or later, and fear this might be the year. After all, he was very inconsistent last year. Hopefully our starters can consistently get us close enough to the 7th inning that we won't need a huge contribution from the rest of the pen.
If we get the increase in offense I expect, an iffy inning or 2 from the pen shouldn't kill us too often. Down to 32 hours now, so here's to huge numbers, and a repeat in '08!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Do You Think He Will Dream?

One of my heroes has left us.
Of course, I kind of think he left most of us behind a long time ago.
Sir Arthur C. Clark was one of the most intelligent writers I've ever had the pleasure of reading. I have devoured almost everything he's ever put out, although there are a few small holes in my list. I will correct that soon enough.
Naturally my favorites are the Space Odyssey series, although there is one earlier one I like every bit as much. I personally enjoyed reading 2010 a little more than 2001, although there is no doubt which was more significant. Although there were those in the scientific community who preceded him, Clark was one of the first to challenge people's ideas about our place in the universe in the "mainstream" media world. At least he was among the first in my experience, perhaps that is why I was so attracted to his work at a very early age.
By the time 2001 was released, I had already read "The Sands of Mars" and "Childhood's End".
The latter still remains one of my favorite books of all time. If you have not read it, you would do well to pick it up. It holds up well for a science fiction book written in the early '50s.
When 2001 came out in the theaters I was only 10 and my Mom did not let me go see it. I got the book , though, and saw the movie at a late show when I was around 14 or 15. He and Kubrick made a hell of a pair! It was one of the very few movies I ever bought. I have not yet updated it to DVD, but I will.
I bought 3001 when it was released in '97. Yes, I got it right away even though that meant forking out the bucks for the hardback. In it there is a forward featuring an extensive interview with Clark in which he recounts the creation of 2001. It was actually Stanley Kubrick who pushed him into the project. The book and the movie were done simultaneously, so he and Kubrick would constantly be calling each other and saying things like"hey, you've got to rewrite / reshoot this part because I added this and that won't make sense now." Or " hey, I really want to use this effect, can you work that into the story somewhere?" I can almost hear it.
More recently he collaborated with Stephen Baxter on a great little series consisting of "Time's Eye, "Sunstorm", and "Firstborn". The first two were very good, although "Time's Eye" was definitely better. I haven't read "Firstborn" yet, it's in that pile of books waiting to get read on my office shelf. I just keep picking them up, and I'm collecting about 2 now for every 1 that I get around to reading. Mmmm, the downside of blogging, maybe?
I truly regret that Clark will no longer be around to excite me every so often with his amazing prescience. But he leaves a huge library of work, with a number of offerings I haven't gotten to yet, many that are worth the time to re-read, and a new one that is due to be published this year. So I will continue to enjoy his genius for years to come I'm sure!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Woo, Woo!

ACC Tournament champions again!
Tyler had a typical monster game and Wayne Ellington is starting to really heat up as the Tarheels prepare to enter the NCAA Tournament this week.
Ellington led the way with 24 points, continuing his terrorizing of the Tigers. He scored his career high of 36 against them in their first meeting this season, including the last-second three-pointer that won the game, and followed that with 28 in the rematch in Chapel Hill. Tyler scored 18 and battled like a maniac all day against 2 of the few big men who have really bothered him this year, Clemson's Trevor Booker and James Mays.
The Heels also got nice contributions from Ty Lawson, who played his best game since returning from his injury, and from Danny Green, who just has a knack for hitting big shots at the most unexpected times. Of course, he will also occasionally force up a bad shot, but he always seems to redeem himself shortly when that happens.
The only blemishes on the game were an unacceptable 20 turnovers, though they were better in the 2nd half, and an abysmal 14 of 24 at the free throw line. Tyler was his usual self at the line, going 4 for 5. But the rest of the team was only 10 of 19 - Not Good! If they had hit even half of the free throws they missed in the last 3 minutes, Clemson would not have had a chance. As it was, the tigers kept the game exciting till the end. Down by 7 with under a minute to go, they nailed a trey and then forced a turnover, giving them a chance to cut the lead to 2. But Carolina's defense held and, despite the shaky foul shooting, the Tarheels claimed their second straight title and a league-record 17th overall.
The victory gives them the #1 seed in the East Regional of the NCAA tournament, and the #1 seed overall as well. This means their first game is against the winner of the weird "play-in" game that the NCAA added a few years ago. It also means they hardly have to leave their neighborhood for the early rounds. Rounds 1 and 2 (yes, I'm assuming they'll beat Mt. St. Mary's or Coppin St.)are in Raleigh, just a few miles down the road. And the Regional Semi's and Finals are right back in Charlotte, where they just cut down the nets today. A good omen indeed!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Slack, eh?

Wow, I've been very slack. At least about blogging.
Last week was a whirl, with the 1st full week of Little League practices, and a big job going on at the same time. I never had the time to sit down and write.
I'll make up for it now. A week full of Sports!
My grandson Gage had his 1st Tee-ball practice last Saturday. I have been asked to help out with the team by the manager, an energetic man named Comacho. I like it! He's probably not a whole lot over half my age, and he's obviously much more accustomed to working with 5 and 6 yr-olds than I am. However, having Gage live with us has kept me better prepared than I might be otherwise. It was fun just watching the interactions and the oh-so-different personalities and levels of development. While Coach Comacho talked with the parents, I took the kids off to one side and had them just roll whiffle balls back and forth to each other. Then I started having them try to use both hands and "alligator crunch" the ball. What a blast!
I missed today's tee-ball practice because my own team, the Junior Rockies, had a morning practice. Had to schedule it early so I could get home to watch the Heels in the ACC Semis. I'll get back to that!
My Rockies will probably struggle a bit this season, but then, I think all 3 teams in our league will struggle, so hopefully we'll at least be competitive within the league. We interleague with 3 other area leagues, though, and we'll have our hands full with those teams. Last year we dominated against the teams from the other 3 leagues, but I don't see that happening this year. The biggest problem is sheer numbers. We only have 10 players rostered right now, and one of them has a broken wrist and won't be able to throw a ball until halfway through the season. There are also new pitching restrictions this year which will have a huge impact on us. Of course, all of the teams have these restrictions, but we may be the shallowest team from a pitching standpoint, so it will affect us more. Having said that, I also have full confidence in my own ability to teach almost any kid to pitch, at least adequately. To that end I have shocked my team by announcing that every one of them is going to learn to pitch! I have already had every one on the mound, at least for a short session. This is a vast turnaround from the usual process. Usually I have kids begging to get their chance to try pitching, and can't hardly find time to work with all of them, leaving some of them feeling disappointed. This year I've actually had to convince a couple of them to give it a shot. That's never happened before! Interestingly enough, one of the kids who has not pitched since he was 10, and who said he had no real interest in doing so, is looking like he might be my number 3 man. Love those kinds of surprises!
The Red Sox are moving towards opening day. I can't wait! Wife-K (of Dice-K) had a baby boy yesterday, which means Dice will probably make the trip to Japan and can pitch on opening day. Of course, Josh Beckett is the team "ace" and as such is supposed to make the Opening Day Start, but he is still recupping from back spasms and won't be going with the team to Japan.
Now to My Heels -
After avenging their earlier loss to Duke by storming back last Sunday and beating them on their own court - for the 3rd time in as many years - the Heels are in the ACC Championship Game on this Sunday by virtue of a great comeback victory over Va. Tech today. They managed to go from about halfway through the first half until the 3 or 4 minute mark of the 2nd half without leading once. That's 3 or 4 minutes LEFT. At one point late in the 2nd half they were still down by 6. But Wayne Ellington hit 2 big 3-pointers and the team suddenly sucked it up defensively and next thing you know - score tied with under a minute to go. The Heels made a good defensive stop, got the ball back with about 25 to go and Roy called a timeout. Tie game, #1 ranking and a virtual lock on a #1 seed in the NCAAs on the line? No problem. 5 seconds to go, still tied? No problem. Ginyard misses a close in running shot with 2 seconds left? No problem. We have Tyler! Hansbrough muscles down the rebound, takes a half step back and buries a short game-winning jumper as the buzzer sounds. Just Tyler being Tyler!
Once again, I had to go change into "game-gear" in the second half. Once again I had to get out the magic Tarheel fight song bottle-opener and start setting it off every time we scored in our run to get back in the game. I had done the same thing during the come-back against Clemson a couple of weeks ago. Once again, it worked and we pulled off the huge win. And once again, the oblivious TV announcers failed to mention even once that "this amazing run started when Tim got the bottle-opener out of the kitchen, Mike. What a clutch player HE is!" Oh well, I battle on in obscurity.
The Heels will play Clemson, who shocked the world (but not me) by beating Duke in the other semi-final. This will be a tough game. Both of our games against Clemson this year have been overtime games, one of them a double OT! They match up well with us and it's hard to beat a good team three times in a season. But I'm confident that, although it won't be easy, the Heels will take the tournament trophy home again this year.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Liberalism is Hard

I spent the morning at the Bagel Shop, as I usually do on weekends. I stop in some weekday mornings as well, but not very often anymore. This is because when I do I'm there longer than I should be and get an even later start on my workday than I normally do.

It's a great little place and there's a group of "regulars" who sit around, chat, laugh, and solve all the world's problems. It's a very eclectic little group, with all types represented. A lawyer, a couple of financial people, a doctor, a drug co. sales rep, a farrior, (that's right-a horse shoer), and right down the line to yours truly, the token struggling guy in construction.

This being small town Southern America, the vast majority of the crowd is conservative. OK, they're all conservative, except the lawyer, and he's gotten to where he hardly ever comes in anymore. I think I know why he doesn't. The closer we get to election time, the more rabid the conservative rhetoric is getting there. I really like most of these people and think they are really decent, honest, friendly folks. But sometimes it's very hard to listen to the hateful way they refer to anyone opposing their political views.

Most of them know that I'm a left-leaning kind of guy, and they used to use phrases like "in my opinion", or "but don't you think". Lately though the talk has gotten downright visceral, and many of them have either forgotten or don't care that there is at least 1 person among them who is on the recieving end of the epithats they are spewing. It's almost as though they think "well, yeah, you may be a democrat, but you wouldn't vote for HIM, would you?" There is also kind of a pack mentality that sets in, and the slurring and demeaning just feeds off itself, and they assume that everyone in the place, even those they don't know from Adam, must agree with them, because to not agree would be "un-American". After all, his name is Hussein, and she tried to send the country into communism with that damn health care plan of hers, right?

The thing is, I may disagree - strongly - with their political views, and I may think they are motivated by a complete self-centered-ness, or a paranoid fear, or both. Yet I also know that they will do anything to help a friend, are very active in charities, and are often the nicest bunch you would ever want to meet. So I try not to demonize them for their political leanings.

Now if only I could get the same consideration.

You see, this is a constant theme with conservatism these days that really annoys me. It is also, in my humble, non-higher educated opinion, why conservatives have been kicking liberals' asses for a while now. Liberals, as part of their make-up and belief system, do not judge others who don't follow their own specific set of ethics and rules. They are tolerant, by definitiion. They take pains to allow others their space, and respect their beliefs. So it is naturally harder for them to relegate an entire group of humans to a lessor standing because of the name they choose to call themselves, or the company they keep. Conservatives, on the other hand, led by the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world, have no qualms assigning the word liberal to all Democrats, and then proceeding to declare all liberals anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Moral, anti-Work, and all manners of other anti's. In other words, they demonize them. If you think it was a mistake to go into Iraq, you're a terrorist lover and you don't care about our troops. If you believe we should provide health care for everyone in the country, you're a communist, or you just want to raise taxes, or you want the government to control everyone's life. It's no wonder, given the images stirred up by the right-wing fear-machine, that conservatives can get their members to rally around their causes so much better than liberals can. Our tolerance is our trademark, but also our undoing.

I think one reason that the crew at the Bagel Shop tends to carry on about liberals as though I'm not there is that they have been conditioned to believe that all good, God-fearing, decent, working guys have to be conservative. I'm just like one of them, so it's easy to assume I must think the same as them. I often try to respond in ways to let them know that there are other sides to every issue. I very rarely get "into it" with them when the whole group is there because there are a couple of them for whom that would just be a waste of time and result in raised voices and probably a scene, which I have no desire to create. But when I'm sitting with just one or two of them, especially with some of the group who enjoy real conversation, I will make a stand for what I believe, thereby letting them know that there are actually non-conservatives out here who work, struggle, love their kids, coach baseball, believe in God (sorta), and don't really hate their country. I can only hope that they will come away with a sense that maybe all liberals aren't the crazy, demonic radicals they've been led to believe in. Maybe some liberals have actually thought about the issues and came to a rational decision that this is a better way.

It actually irritates the hell out of me that liberals are condemned for wanting to "control people's lives" and conservatives sell themselves as the "keep the government out of my life" bloc. This after conservative leaders have actually tried to pass an amendment to our hallowed constitution that would deny the rights of a relatively small group of people just because they have a different sexual preference. Just how intrusive is THAT? Apparently it's socialism if the government tries to get involved in your health care, but just "right" if the government wants to choose your sexual preference. I started to write more on this, but it begs it's own post, so I'll get back to it

I know a lot of very decent people who are die-hard Republicans, including the vast majority of my own family. I think there are those in that party who represent some of the worst problems with our society, but I don't judge everyone who calls themself a Republican by those members. I only ask that conservatives do the same, and not buy into the hate-mongering and fear tactics that so many of their spokespeople engage in.