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Watching the Cyberbully

December 9, 2016
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I’m reading about the president-elect’s recent cyberbullying tweets to the union boss guy in Indiana and I’m wondering if I should be concerned with what will happen when the president-elect takes his fingers off of Twitter, and as president puts his fingers on a nuclear bomb launch button?

A Poem for a Minnesota Winter Morning

December 8, 2016

Minnesota has been lucky to enjoy above-average temperatures so far this winter, but it’s starting get cold now. And with the lower temps and higher winds, I guess that means 40 degree days are gone and winter is finally here.

Walking to work this morning it was cold and I came up with this little poem while I was waiting at a red light to cross the street.

If you have long underwear –
today’s the day
that you may
want to start to wear them.

That’s it. Thanks for reading and stay warm!

“Stay warm”. That’s such a Minnesota-ism and I didn’t realize I had even used it until I was proofreading this. For at least five months out of every year it’s got to be right up there with, “Yeah, sure” and “You betcha and “and stuff”.

Playing Baseball the “Twins Way”

December 7, 2016

Define “Frustration” in three words: Minnesota Twins Baseball.

This is a rant. You’ve been warned.

And you wonder why the Twins suck? OK, maybe you don’t wonder why the Twins suck, but they do, and the reason why isn’t because they never do anything to field a winning team; it’s because they never do anything to field a winning team but then to out and pretend that they are.

Look at the Red Sox. They sign Rick Porcello in 2015, and in 2016 he wins a Cy Young award. In 2016 they they sign David Price, a 2012 Cy Young award winner. Today they signed Chris Sale who hasn’t won a Cy Young award, but he’s been a finalist for the award for the last five years. If you believe in the maxim that good pitching beats good hitting, then you might want to fly out to Las Vegas and check out the odds on the Red Sox playing late in October next year.

Look at who the Twins. Who have signed recently? We got one bum from Korea last year, Byung Ho Park, who got sent to the minors mid-season because he couldn’t hit and once down there at AAA he continued to suck; and we got another bum from Japan a few years ago, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, who sucked, got injured, recovered, still sucked, played a little for us in the minors where he, yes, sucked, came back up, sucked and eventually asked for his release, got it, and who sucked so bad that he’s not even playing in this country anymore because, yes, he sucked that bad. And am I alone in finding it sort of funny when a guy who sucks asks for his release from a team? That’s sort of like asking for an ankle weight on a sinking ship. Anyway, then we got an aging Torii Hunter for a year in 2015 and we got a manager who can’t manage but is apparently cool simply because he’s from St. Paul and everyone knows his name.

And the Twins interest in free agent pitchers for 2017? Like there’s any interest in free agent anything for this team, but they’re supposedly – if the news can be trusted – interested in a guy (and like this comes as a surprise to Twins fans) who’s a low-cost option. He’s San Diego’s Clayton Richard and he’s another pitch to contact guy who pretty much fits the definition of a bum. His last good year was in 2012 when he led the National League in games started (33) and hits allowed (228) and homeruns allowed (31) while putting up a blazing hot 14-14 record. Now he’s just another middle reliever who tries to hold games for the closer by letting opposing batters hit the ball while he (and the rest of the team and the fans at the park and at home) holds his breath that it’s caught. And he takes a spot start here and there when there’s a double header.

So, you see? Like I said: Bum.

But when you put it in perspective, I’m sorry, when you put it in Minnesota Twins perspective, Chris Sale signed for $38 million for three years and Clayton Richards will probably sign for about $5 million for two years with a bunch of incentives which he won’t meet because. Yes, you guessed it.

Sadly, this is the “Twins Way”. A bunch of unseasoned young guys with no major league experience who learn on the job while marking time until they can become free agents, surrounded by a bunch of middle-aged, bargain basement pick ups through free agency or trades, all led by a manager who is better left to be the subject of another rant sometime around mid-May when the team is in last place and down by 10 games.

Sadly, I don’t see this formula changing. The Red Sox have a goal of winning a World Series championship and they go out and actively take steps to achieve that goal by spending (a lot of) money toward that end. The Twins just want to play around .500 baseball with fingers crossed that something on their patchwork quilt team sticks and they can bump up to a winning record and, with luck, back their way into the top half of the division and maybe, if the stars are all aligned, a playoff spot while, keeping their payroll down at a level that guarantees the owners make a profit with just 1.5 million fans turning out at the park.

I guess as long as Minnesota baseball fans are more interested in the new food offerings at Target Field then they are with the level of play on Target Field then this is about what we can expect.

But it’s baseball, right? And we love the game, right?

OK, that’s my rant. Now let’s get back to the winter meetings and keep our fingers crossed for a trade with the Dodgers that gives them Brian Dozier and gives us their top three pitching prospects.

The Electoral College vs. Baseball

December 6, 2016

I’ve seen this analogy a few times now in the last 10-12 days. Donald Trump supporters – shaken that their swamp-draining messiah trails Hilary Clinton in the popular vote by something like 2.5 million votes, or feeling a little wobbly with the fact that starting in 1992, the last seven presidential elections, the Republican candidate has won the popular vote only once while winning the Electoral College three times – apparently feel the need to remind us all how important the Electoral College really is. I guess it’s all part of making America great again or something.

The idea is to pick something everyone loves and can identify with and create an analogy and run with it despite the logic not making sense.

In this case it’s baseball and the analogy is the World Series. In 1960 the Pittsburgh Pirates (who remembers Roberto Clemente? I do, but only barely and probably because I remember my dad talking about him or because I’ve seen him in documentaries) beat the New York Yankees four games to three. But the Yankees scored more than twice as many runs as the Pirates, outscoring them 55 to 27 in the four games. So, say those folks who refused to acknowledge just how great America was and went looking for an alternative and who, seeing how unpopular that person really is, feel a need to defend their darling, the dissimulating Donald, this is why the Electoral College is important.

I’m lost, why?

OK, the idea is that the Yankees scored more runs than the Pirates, but the Pirates scored just enough runs in enough games to win the World Series. So the question posed is if the Yankees should have won the 1960 World Series because they scored more runs but didn’t win more games. Of course not, they say, and blah, blah, blah, baloney, bunk and balderdash. And any other “b” word you can think to add.

First of all this analogy isn’t new to 2016. I think the first time I heard it was just after the 2000 election when Americans said they liked Al Gore more than they liked George Bush and I’m pretty sure that it goes back further than that.

It’s a bad analogy because every sports fan knows that the best teams in a season aren’t always the teams playing for a championship, and that championship winners aren’t always the best team in the sport’s final series. Also, and everyone knows this, the baseball playoffs and World Series (not to mention all sports) is about entertainment and not a determiner of the best team of any given season. Even when you have a team like the 1960 New York Yankees with Whitey Ford, Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris, the sample size of only 4 to 7 games is way too small for that. And that’s a completely different scenario than a presidential election which isn’t (or shouldn’t be!) about entertainment.

So when you look at a presidential election, should the winner be determined by the person who played just good enough in a few key games (states) or should it be determined by every American having an equal say in the outcome? I don’t say all this to offer a suggestion to that hypothetical question or to complain about the 2016 election or to offer an opinion about the Electoral College, but only to say that I don’t think the baseball comparison is a good analogy, so if any Donald devotees really want to justify their decision, and their vote, then they should find a logical way to do that.

Random Thought #23

December 6, 2016
tags: ,

I think Cocoa Krispies are much better than Cocoa Pebbles.

Peaceful Resistance Really Works

December 5, 2016
Can you imagine defending yourself against attack dogs and refusing to leave? Can you imagine standing outside in 25 degree weather and being shot with high-pressure water hoses – lethal force – and refusing to leave? Can you imagine having what amounts to a private police force shoot at you with rubber bullets and led-filled beanbags from guns that don’t say “not lethal” but “less lethal” and refusing to leave? Can you imagine being maced and tear gassed and refusing to leave? Can you imagine psychological warfare – floodlights shining on you all night long – and refusing to leave? Can you imagine standing up to concussion grenades that are blowing off body parts of people standing next to you and refusing to leave?
 
The water protectors in North Dakota are the light years beyond the definition of heroic and inspirational.
 
And those US military veterans who swore to uphold the US Constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic, those women and men who drove up to Cannon Ball, North Dakota and stood in front of the water protectors and said if you want to attack these innocent citizens, if you want to attack the US Constitution, then you go through me – I don’t even have words to describe my admiration and respect for those people.
 
Peaceful resistance really works and I can’t remember the last time I felt this proud to be an American.
 
We have an incoming administration in this country that doesn’t believe in climate change and that believes fracked oil is a good thing (I’m sure the citizens of Mayflower, Arkansas might disagree) and who will more than likely ignore and deny the public safety and environmental hazards caused by the 3,300 pipeline leaks in this country in the last five years, so who knows what the future holds for us, but today; today is good.
 
Peaceful resistance really works.

Did someone say White Castle?

December 4, 2016

I’ve been seeing commercials lately for new seasonal menu items at White Castle. Turkey burgers topped with spicy Dusseldorf mustard (I googled it and it’s like Grey Poupon), or sweet apple butter or tangy bistro sauce (apparently it’s like Grey Poupon only with mayonnaise mixed in). Considering I had my first White Castle with my dad probably 55 years ago, the place has always meant hamburgers for me so the commercial struck me as strange. In fact it’s always struck me as a little strange to hear about White Castles that aren’t hamburgers. Turkey burgers or fish burgers or chicken breast burgers or especially the veggie burger they unveiled a few years ago. All strange.

Stranger for me than those non-hamburger menu offerings is the name “Sliders”. Back when I was a kid the word was more or less a derogatory term and I don’t know why White Castle embraces it. The nickname didn’t bring to mind a pleasant sight: the combination of fatty hamburger and greasy fried onions would, on occasion, cause them to “slide” out the next day of you-know-where the next morning or, for the more unfortunate, later that night.

Despite that occasional unpleasant side effect I used to eat White Castles all the time. Back when I was a kid I think they were something like 15 cents each and my friends and I would invariably end every evening at “The Castle”. Our restaurant of choice was the White Castle on Grant Street and Nicollet in downtown Minneapolis. I’d share how many I used to eat back then but to confess that would be embarrassing! OK, since I’m all about full disclosure, let’s just say that if I were to eat in December 2016 at White Castle what I ate in the 1970’s at White Castle then, factoring in for inflation, with their current price I’d need to have a wallet stuffed with . . . no, I can’t do it, it’s too embarrassing!

But I will talk about one of my favorite White Castle memories. It was November 28, 1974. Thanksgiving. My parents were down in Florida on vacation and it was fall semester at the U of MN and so I stayed at home. The wrestling matches were downtown at the Minneapolis Auditorium, a block and a half from White Castle, and I’d be meeting my friends there for the opening bell. I didn’t have anywhere to spend Thanksgiving; I may have been invited to spend it with some family member or other, I don’t remember, but if I was, I refused. And if I wasn’t, that was OK, too. I left home early that afternoon and took the bus downtown and walked around. Up and down Hennepin Avenue and the Nicollet Mall and the linking side streets – enjoying the quiet and calm of the always busy and generally shady and somewhat risky “Block E”  section of Hennepin Avenue and with the lack of cars and limited busses, the overall solitude of the streets. There were other people around on Hennepin, although not very many, and while I shared nothing in common with them I felt a connection to them.

I ended up at White Castle a couple of hours before the wrestling matches so I sat there smoking and drinking coffee and eating, not hamburgers, but in honor of Thanksgiving, turkey burgers (without some variety of Grey Poupon mustard or sweet apple butter). It was a great time and when it was time to meet my friends I walked the block and a half over to the auditorium. If you’re a pro-wrestling fan I apologize for not being able to tell you who was on the card that night but I think it’d be a safe bet to say that Bobby Heenan and The Crusher where around somewhere. Don’t ask me who won; it’s enough that I remember White Castle hamburgers and Hennepin Avenue’s Block E and a Thanksgiving dinner, spent alone but forever unforgettable, 42 years ago.

So I don’t get “sliders”. To me, these little tasty beef and onion nuggets will always be plain old White Castles to me and never “sliders”. I admit it’s a cute and catchy nickname – and that pretty much every restaurant across the country has adopted their own version of “sliders” to their menus – but it’s not a nickname I’ve ever used or ever will use.

A lot of years have passed since my dad bought me my first White Castle, and at some point in time I stopped eating meat so it’s been a fair number of years since I’ve had one, but regardless of marketing, they’ll always be White Castles to me. And while they’re not the healthiest things in the world, I’ll always remember them as little four-bite pieces of succulent, mouthwatering, oniony  gold. And I find it sad to think that everyone associated with White Castle’s advertising teams weren’t around 40 years ago when a fast food hamburger wasn’t anything but a White Castle. And sadder still to think that those advertising folks might not even be older than 40.

Now I need to go think of something to have for dinner.

More brief thoughts on White Castle are here.

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