A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library. ~Shelby Foote

Monday, April 30, 2007

Joe Torre's Massive Head

No, I don't mean his ego-- compared to his boss, George Steinbrenner, Joe Torre barely has an ego. No, I mean the Yankee Skipper's actual noggin'. Check this picture out:

Torre is behind Steinbrenner and Yankee general manager Brian Cashman, yet his head is significantly larger than either of the other two. Granted, part of that is Torre's substantial double-chin, and another part of it is the optical illusion created by the Yankee's hat on his dome. But still.


That's a big head. No ifs, ands or buts. Cashman's looks almost doll-sized by comparison. And weaselish. Or maybe a ferret. Some sort of rodent, at any rate.

In other baseball news, my Milwaukee Brewers (and I know they are mine, because Bob Uecker tells me so during every radio broadcast) continue to play really good baseball. The Brewers are 15-8, with a 3.5 game lead in the NL Central. Offensively, they have the 5th best batting average in the NL, 6th best RBI total, 3rd most HRs, and the 6th least amount of strike outs (a category which, regrettably, the Brewers have owned for most of the 21st century). The pitching staff's ERA is only middle of the pack (8th out of 16), but it is inflated by a few really bad outings-- the staff has actually pitched better than its ERA in 90% of the games. And only once out of 23 games has the starting pitcher not gone at least five innings. Milwaukee has issued the second fewest number of walks in the NL, and has struck out the third most, and perhaps most significantly, it is 13-0 when leading after seven innings. With Derrick Turnbow and Francisco Cordero, the Brewers are going to win nearly every game they are leading after seven innings. That's huge.

I'm trying to temper my enthusiasm with the thought that the ridiculously long MLB season is only about 1/6th of the way through, but honestly, this team is a playoff contender. Injuries could keep them out of the playoffs, or their inability to "rent" a player post-All Star break might keep them out of the playoffs, but I think they have an excellent shot to win their division (the weakest in baseball so far) or to take the NL wild card slot.

Which is so cool. It's been a LONGGGGG time.

And since I mentioned Bob Uecker, I should mention that I hope he lives forever-- or at least until I stop listening to Brewers games on the radio. Uecker and his on-air partner Jim Powell are fabulous. I listened to part of a recent Cubs/Brewers game on the Cubs' radio station, and the on-air guys just stunk. Plus, Ueck is a class act and, from everything I hear and read, a genuinely nice guy. At any rate-- Huzzah!


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Sports Tidbits

About two weeks ago I wrote the following on this here blog: "Once Bill Hall remembers how to hit, they are going to be a very good team." Two days after I wrote that, Hall hit his first ever grand slam, and since that game he is batting .342 with three home runs and nine RBI. The Brewers are 7-2 over that same span. I'm a genius! I also have to say that there are few sweeter sights to a Brewers fan that has suffered through decades of futility than this:

I am especially a fan of the Brewers' road record-- 6-3! Last year, the Brewers were abysmal on the road, so to show some spark away from Miller Field is a very encouraging sign indeed.

The Brewers' rotation is solid, solid, solid. They may not have that one stand out guy, though Sheets could be that guy if he ever gets consistent, but from 1 through 5, their starting pitchers will rarely lose a game early, and will nearly always go five to seven innings. And with Derrick Turnbow and Francisco Cordero, if the Brewers are ahead after seven, they are going to win nearly all of those games. Sweet. The offense is young, but learning to win, and barring injury, they also will be good all year long.

I think I can honestly say I have never been this jazzed about the Brewers in my life-- even the year they went to the World Series, because I was all of 13 in 1982, and didn't really care about baseball.

In football news, the NFL draft is this weekend, and it is mind boggling to me how big a... spectacle it has become. The Pack needs a running back, tight end, D-lineman, and could use another WR and O-Lineman to replace the aging Chad Clifton. Most "experts" have the Pack taking California running back Marshawn Lynch with their pick at #16 in the first round. I'd be okay with that. I haven't seen Lynch run, but everything I read indicates that he'd be a good fit in Green Bay, and the pairing of him with Morency makes for a pretty good 1-2 punch at RB. A few "pundits" have us taking a WR in the first, which I sincerely hope we don't do-- WRs are a crap shoot, and good ones can be found much later in the draft.

Heard a rumor on the 10 o'clock news that KC is shopping Larry Johnson, and targeted Green Bay as a possible suitor. I have no idea what the Chiefs want in return for LJ, but THAT would be a sweet, sweet guy to have in the backfield with Favre.

Not looking forward to USC wide receiver Steve Smith being drafted. Having two guys with the exact same name, playing the exact same position (Steve Smith is also a wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers) is going to be a nightmare in Fantasy Football terms.

It looks like Marquette guard Dominic James is going to enter the NBA draft. That's too bad-- both for Marquette and for James. The kid has talent, but he still needs to learn to shoot under control and to be more of a point guard and less of a shooting guard. One more year at Marquette could do that for him and also get the school into the sweet sixteen or beyond.

Guess that's it for now, except to note that my son's soccer team is 1-0-1 so far this spring. Their first game was an 11-11 tie, while the second was a 16-5 blow out. Honestly, if professional soccer was as exciting as six-year-old soccer, I'd watch a lot more soccer. Jacob scored four goals in the first game (including the first of the year), and three in the second. Go Guppies!


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Yeah, What He Said

Andrew Sullivan links to a great interview with Jon Rauch, and I recommend reading the whole thing. The part Sullivan highlights, however, deals with Rauch's political identity-- or lack thereof-- and I really identify with Rauch's response. It sums up my own take on politics and political parties quite nicely.

Favorite bit:
Rauch: I don't tell my vote, my specific vote, but over time, my votes have been pretty much esoteric, like my writing. I feel very much emotionally like part of the marginalized middle. That isn't to say that all my views are wishy-washy and that I'm halfway between Republicans and Democrats, but I do feel myself to be one of these independent voters who is kind of left behind by a political system biased in favor of people who fit into neat boxes and have extreme views. And I vote like an independent.
The marginalized middle. Yup, that's me.

Monday, April 23, 2007

ESL: Internet Scam Edition

So, I got another "Please excuse me, but even though I've never met you I'll send you $5 million if you just help me out-- oh, and I need you savings account info" email. No surprise, I'm sure most of us get at least two of those a week. But this one was... different. I think they have a room full of chimpanzees, randomly banging away on keyboards, figuring one of them will write an email close to what they want. Thusly:
I am Mr Gilbert Mercier On the occasion of the WEEDING of my son, I would l ike to reserve your establishment for the periode from May 05th till May 10Th.

I would thus like that you make(do) me a valuable proposition for the rent this day. I clarify you that this rent is foreseen 04 persons all in all,This known as I wish knowledge if you Accept remote payments by credit card.
Errr... right. Sorry to hear about your son being weeded, Mr. Mercier, but I'm not sure how reserving my establishment in early May will ease your pain. The email reminds me of my few small attempts at Babelfish poems.

Do you think they ran their standard "please help a rich Belizian merchant" letter through the Babelfish translator and back again and THEN sent it out?


Friday, April 20, 2007

The Satire Experts

It's gotta be The Onion. Been doing it for years and they still do it as well or better than anyone else. The Daily Show claims to be the most reliable source for made-up news, and they are pretty good, but for my money, nobody comes close to The Onion. This piece, about a documentary on liberal, upper-middle-class existence, is just flat out brilliant. Favorite bit:
This American Life host and producer Ira Glass began work on the project in 1995 in Chicago, where he found himself inspired by and catering to an audience of professionals who dine out frequently and have a hard time getting angry. Glass and his team of producers, writers, and interns set about the exhausting task of gathering all available information on a range of subjects from minor skirmishes with the law to the rewards of occasionally talking to poor people. The raw data was then analyzed, deconstructed, reconstructed, re-deconstructed, organized under a broad philosophical title, and interspliced with musical interludes by rock duo They Might Be Giants.
On a related topic, I saw Sean Penn on The Colbert Report last night, and he is undeniably NOT a satire expert. Tim Robbins, though I disagree with him on many issues, I respect, because A) he's intelligent and has clearly thought through his beliefs, and 2) he's funny and able to poke fun of himself. Penn has neither of those attributes. Came across as a self-aggrandizing turd, from my perspective.

But maybe that's just me.

The Onion also does sports. Say it ain't so, Mel!

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Green is the new Red, White and Blue

So states, Thomas Friedman, and blast if he isn't awfully convincing. I've never been a fan of Kyoto, but danged if he doesn't make me reconsider.

Read the essay. It's long, but it's worth it-- and the whole thing is fascinating. Pragmatic, anaylitical, visionary, hopeful, reaslistic, informative... and on and on. It's superb.

We must wean ourselves from oil and coal. There's a reason they are called non-renewable energy sources.

Boy I wish Arnie could be President.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Now I Have to See 300

So I can better appreciate the South Park parody of the movie in this week's episode. Even without seeing the movie I was able to figure out much of the parody based on what I've read about 300, but I'm betting it would be better with the actual movie as a reference point. Regardless, the episode is hilarious, as nearly all of the recent South Park's have been-- not just funny, but hilarious. And wickedly sharp, too.

Andrew Sullivan sums up much of my sentiment regarding this week's episode, and South Park in general, AND Don Imus, in this post. He makes some very good points.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Tidbits and Oddities

Nothing coherent to this post except for its total lack of coherency-- which works for me.

Thanks to near blizzard conditions in Cleveland, the Indians are wrapping up a mid-week series of games today-- at Miller Park in Milwaukee. Shades of Major League, where the actual baseball game footage was shot at Milwaukee County Stadium, though the film was about a fictional Cleveland Indians team. Bernie Brewer was gracious enough to allow Slider, the Indians' bizarre mascot-type... thing... to slide down Bernie's slide when the Indians hit a home run. And, of course, the sausages race after the sixth inning. So far this year the Italian has been dominating, though I don't know the results from the Cleveland games.

Given the snow in Cleveland, and for that matter, the snow here in Wisconsin yesterday, I have to question the sanity, or at least the intelligence, of Minnesotans who are willing to pay for a baseball stadium, but won't pay extra for a roof. Eh, what's a foot of snow and sub-zero temperatures to Minnesotans, eh? After all their football team plays outside, right?

Sticking with baseball for the nonce, the Brewers swept a rare header-and-a-half against the Florida Marlins yesterday. Their Tuesday night game was called after ten innings when the third rain delay of the game showed no signs of letting up. On Wednesday night, they played the 11th, 12th, and 13th innings, at which point the Brewers finally won, 3-2. After a brief break, they played the regularly scheduled game, which the Brewers won, 5-2. I am encouraged by the Brewers play, as their pitching so far has been excellent, and they seem to be getting their offense into gear. Once Bill Hall remembers how to hit, they are going to be a very good team. Wow, I haven't said that about the Brewers since the early '90s.

Sports related, sortof, but not baseball is this story of a man who drove a zamboni drunk-- which is apparently not illegal. Moral of the story, it's ok to drive four-ton machinery with a bellyfull of Sambuca and valium as long as it can't carry passengers and isn't usable on a highway.

Totally un-sports related tidbit. If you ever want a truly mind-bending experience, watch The Sopranos on HBO-Lat. Seeing Tony and the other big, burly Italian goombahs speaking with Spanish overdubs is... really, really bizarre.

Final tidbit: Amazingly, Michele Malkin is actually right about something. I don't get to write that very often. Not so amazingly, the quote at the end of her post illustrates quite clearly that Snoop Dog is not only an idiot, he's a misogynistic, bigoted, belligerent idiot.

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BP Must Be Sad

The man who created Billy Pilgrim, the adopted name of everyone's favorite Way Left Music Fan over at Empire of the Senseless, has died. Yes, Kurt Vonnegut shuffled off this mortal coil yesterday at the age of 84. As with so many others, his works were revolutionary to me when I first read them in college. And they hold up pretty well, though the second time through they seem just a little preachy-- especially the later books. Unlike BP, I found Timequake tedious to the point where I didn't finish it. But his themes and subjects were universal, and his writing was lyrical and mind-freeing at its best.


ESL: Acronym Edition

Abbreviations and acronyms, particularly acronyms, are great-- to a point. They allow us to take cumbersome names and make them both more concise and much easier to remember. KFC, ESP, NCAA, AAA, and NATO are all examples of successful acronyms. Some have become so successful they are now words in their own right-- laser, radar and sonar all started out as acronyms. But at some point, acronyms can become meaningless. When they get too long, or contain too many consonants, it becomes alpahbet soup, gibberish, annoying even.

Enter my school's homosexual acceptance group. Six years ago, when I first started at UW-Parkside, their acronym was LBGT-- Lesbian, Bi-sexual, Gay and Transgender. Somewhat unwieldy (no vowels), but not too bad. A year or two ago they added a pair of Q's to the end-- LBGTQQ-- for "Queer" and "Questioning". Oi. But wait! On my way home the other day I noticed a Cancer benefit being sponsored by LBGTQQIS. Great benefit-- horrible acronym! Though you'd score HUGE points in Scrabble-- if you could find two Q's.

Before we go any further, let me reiterate my support for gay rights. I was appalled when Wisconsin wrote discrimination into our Constitution last fall by prohibiting gay marriage, and my sister is gay. I have no issues with homosexuals, and I'm pleased that Parkside's homosexual acceptance group is both active and vocal. But come on.


In case you're curious, the I (finally, a vowel!) is for Intersex, while the final S is for Same-gender-loving. No, I'm not making that up.

At some point, doesn't this kind of parsing becoming counter-productive? Seriously. The NAACP doesn't feel the need to delineate every single "color" of people they include in their association. They aren't the NAAAHLAMNCNASP (National Association of African-American, Hispanic, Latino, Asian, Multi-racial, Non-Caucasian, Native American, Slavic People), because 1) that would be silly and B) the whole POINT of the NAACP is to bring people together, not emphasize their differences.

And finally, why does the LBGTQQIS make some of these distinctions? Heck, what exactly ARE the distinctions being drawn here? LBGT I get, but how is "Queer" distinct from them? And isn't Queer a perjorative, not as bad as the N-word, but in the same ballpark? Regardless, isn't it an all-encompassing term for homosexuals, regardless of their gender or preferences? Questioning is pretty clear, but what in the world is Intersex? As opposed to Outersex? I seriously have no idea what is meant by the term. Which leaves Same-gender-loving. Clear enough, but I fail to see how this is any different than all of the categories covered by other parts of the acronym. Doesn't L, G, and the first Q pretty well cover Same-gender-loving?

Time to prune the acronym, methinks.


Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Turd Day in Wisconsin

So many turds, so little time. We've got turds both literal and figurative, so let's, er... dive on in, shall we?

Been raining steadily for the last fourteen months here in Wisconsin (ok, ok, how about two weeks) with only occassional respites of sunshine, so water levels are high, the ground is saturated, and the turds are floating out into the lake. The exact volume of turdishness is at this time undetermined, but since there is more rain in the forecast for later today and tomorrow, the algae are likely to be happy. The fishies not so much. Oh, and not just Lake Michigan-- some of the other waterways in the Milwaukee area, too. Thank you MMSD.

Moving on to the figurative turds. Well, it's election day, so we all get to vote for the turd of our choice. What fun. Of course, not all of them are turds, but it is getting harder and harder to distinguish the fecal matter from the non these days. For example, there is this-- always nice to see a candidate for the Wisconsin Supreme Court, the embodiment of anti-turdishness, willing to mislead and obscure the voters for political gain.

But really, that's pretty minor. Much, much bigger turds out there-- and they aren't even politicians! Well, okay, Harry Reid is a politician, and he's definitely a turd for threatening to cut funding for our troops if Bush vetoes the Democrats' current deadline laden funding bill. Much as I disagree with the P and VP on their handling of the war, cutting off funding for our troops is not an acceptable way of dealing with the mess in Iraq.

Right! Non-politician turds. Okay, well there's Brian Duchow and the judges that won't allow the tape of Duchow threatening to "beat the hell" out of a child with Downs Syndrome to be admissible in court. Those are some high grade turds there, my friends.

There's Milwaukee turd extraordinaire, Michael McGee, Jr., who is facing a recall election today. McGee is a bully, and a whiner, and a abuser of his status as an African-American politician for his own personal gain. Here's hoping he goes down in flames.

Oops. That was a politician again. Geez, it's awful easy to find political turds.

Okay, okay. Well, James Wolcott was, I'm pretty sure, the first person I called a turd in this blog, so I should mention him. Seems he has a spiffy new blog "home" at Vanity Fair. And he is berating officious, sneering, East Coast pundits for their mischaracterization of Fred Thompson as "gruff" and like a teamster, citing their "ardent longing of Beltway types for topdog masculine authenticity." Pot. Kettle. Black. Irony.

And what early April turd listing would be complete without mentioning my local school district? Yes, once again, for the fifth straight year-- they are consistent, you have to give them that-- the RUSD is almost certainly going to ask residents to give them more money. And once again they will hold a special election for this referendum to keep turn out down and improve the chances that it will pass. Never mind that holding a special vote on a day with nothing else going on costs tax payers an extra $30,000 or thereabouts. Completely shamelessly, some of the members of the School Board are once again maintaining that the referendum would not raise taxes since it's just a continuation of the increase approved last year. And the year before that. And the year before that.

Okay, now I have to go wash my hands.

Monday, April 02, 2007

Play Ball!

Remarkably, national baseball "pundits" are picking the Brewers to be good this year. Not just ok, but actually good-- contend for the division title good. Granted, pundits know only slightly more than your average lichen-covered rock, but it's still refreshing to see. 'Course, now the Brew Crew has to go out and actually live up to, or exceed, expectations, but there is excitement over the Brewers that hasn't been experienced here since the mid-eighties.

Opening strong is always a good thing, too, and Ben Sheets just finished off one of the most exquisite opening day pitching performances I've ever "watched" (it was online, so I couldn't actually see it, but still). A two-hit gem, as Milwaukee rolled over the Los Angeles Dodgers, 7-1. Generally, it takes a little while for the pitching and defense to get in a groove, so early season games tend to be dominated by hitting-- not the case for Sheets, who gave up just a 2nd inning home run and a ninth inning double while striking out three and walking none. Absolutely brilliant performance.

Long, long season. But a great start for the home team!


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