Saturday, August 29, 2009

Kennedy funeral

The white-hot center of the political universe (point A) is one block away, while I'm in lab assaying cell viability. Sigh.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Idiot watch: Peter Roff

I have no idea who Peter Roff is, or why US News & World Reports allows him to write on their website, but this is just idiotic. In talking about Romney running for Kennedy's Senate seat:
As a self-funding candidate who has already been elected once statewide, Romney has nearly 100 percent name ID. And, in an environment where President Obama seems to be dragging the Democrats down, he would be a serious threat to the Democratic hegemony in Massachusetts's congressional delegation. Meaning Romney likely would win.

Do you think that, maybe, all those disparaging comments Romney made about Massachusetts while he was running for president in '08 might be re-told now? In the Republican primary Romney barely cracked 50% (51%, to McCain's 41%). So I'm pretty sure he won't be our next Senator. Idiot.

Monday, August 24, 2009

I won't sit there either

Deadspin has been going around trashing every ballpark, and Fenway was in their sights this past weekend. Best quote:
The worst experience I had in Fenway was in the right field box seats. They face center field, so I was forced to watch the entire game in the same posture that I use to back out of my driveway.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The screen door slams, Mary's dress waves

Okay, lotta nominations for best opening lines. Let's get right to it. Judge Smails had apparently played this game with his uncle not long ago, and came up with this:
We started playing "What is the greatest opening lyric to an album of all time," which isn't quite the same as your question, but it's damn close. For my money, Zepplin is the jedi master of this genre: Zep I through Zep IV all start with killer lyrics, especially if you think the essence of rock'n roll is sex:

I - In the days of my youth I was told what it means to be a man... (Good Times)

II - You need coolin', I'm not foolin', I'm going to send you, back to schoolin;' (Whole Lotta Love)

III - We come from the land of the ice and snow, in the midnight sun where the hot springs blow (immigrant song)

IV - Hey Hey Momma said the way you move, gonna make you sweat, gonna make you groove (Black Dog)

Anyway, to answer your original question, I always liked Fleetwood Mac's Monday Morning:
Monday Morning you looked so fine. Friday I got traveling on my mind...

And Layla is unforgettable:
What'll you do when you get lonely? And no one is waiting by your side?

Patience by Guns N' Roses is sweet:
Shed a tear cause I'm missing you, I'm still alright to smile...

People who like soft rock and don't think rock is all about sex always point to Paul Simon for this type of thing:
When I look back on all the crap I learned in high school, it's a wonder I can think at all...

My personal favorite is probably unknown to most, the Figgs Big City girl:
Big City girl is what you claim to be, behind my back so headily, you say we don't belong amidst your fucking social rhapsody....

Solid nominations all. Speaking of Paul Simon, I like the opening to "I Know What I Know":
She looked me over / And I guess she thought / I was all right / All right in a sort of a limited way / For an off-night

DGT chimes in as well:

I've been working on a cocktail called "Grounds for Divorce" - Elbow, Grounds for Divorce

don't fall in love with me yet/ we only recently met/true i'm in love with you but/you might decide i'm a nut/ give me a week or two to/ go absolutely cuckoo - The Magnetic Fields, Absolutely Cuckoo

You're obsessed with finding a new brain/but what you need is a new body - Rilo Kiley, Accidental Death

If I could swallow the sky and the mountains too/I'd do it/so there'd be nothing to fall on you - Jamie Lidell, All I Wanna Do

She was an American girl/raised on promises - Tom Petty & The Hearbreakers, American Girl

Have you ever been to american wedding?/Where's the vodka? Where's the marinated herring? - Gogol Bordello, American Wedding

Well I thought about the army/Dad said "Son, you're fuckin' high" - Ben Folds Five, Army

I've seen you laugh at nothing at all/ I've seen you sadly weeping/the sweetest thing I ever saw/was you asleep and dreaming - The Magnetic Fields, Asleep and Dreaming

Now, I've never claimed to be a music afficianado. I love Springsteen, obviously (this recalls a quote from a friend who attended a concert with me: "I thought he'd know 95% of the lyrics... nope, he knew 100%"). And I like classic rock in general, although I'm hardly an expert on it. I've never heard of half the bands DGT references, but those are some very good lyrics. Perhaps I should broaden my horizons...
Finally, one more nomination:
david bowie's space oddity = "ground control to major tom."

ok, maybe not a good lyric, but arguably one of the most memorable opening song lyrics ever.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Opening Line

Certainly a lot of literature has memorable opening lines:
Call me Ishmael. -- Moby Dick

These are the times that try men's souls. -- The American Crisis

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair. -- A Tale of Two Cities

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. -- Anna Karenina

But as I was listening to my iPod today, it struck me that there aren't a helluva lot of great opening lines to songs. The proximal cause for this thought was the opening line of the White Stripes song You Don't Know What Love Is:
In some respects I suspect you've got a respectable side.
Good lyric. Sounds good, but also has some meaning behind it, as opposed to, say, Springsteen's opening to Blinded by the Light:
Madman drummers bummers and Indians in the summer with a teenage diplomat.
which sounds good, but the Boss will readily admit doesn't mean anything.

Now that it was on my mind, I paid attention to the next few songs, and the opening lines were immediately forgettable (indeed, I now don't remember what those songs were). So now I'm trying to think of other good opening lines, without the use of the internet. The only one I can come up with is from The Who:
I woke up in a SoHo doorway. A policeman knew my name.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some obvious great openers, but it has been about an hour and nothing has sprung to mind. Nominations, anyone?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Dog days

From Yglesias:
If we assume that Baucus actually wants to see reform happen, he’s going about it in a very strange way. If you want to see reform enacted, Baucus needs to just write a bill he likes, talk to Susan Collins and Olympia Snowe about what kind of special lobster subsidies they’d like to see in it, and then you pass the thing. This isn’t brain surgery.

Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of evidence that Baucus doesn't really want to see reform happen. Not that I wouldn't mind seeing Maine lobsters outfitted with Rolex watches and fancy pants.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Huzzah yourself

Who knows why (maybe the panama hats) but I've always thought that Teddy Roosevelt would have been absolutely insufferable to be around. This passage from "Theodore Rex" pretty much confirms it:
Personally, Roosevelt was not worried about assassination. If a bullet came from behind, he could do nothing about it, and would "go down into the darkness," that being his fatalistic image of death. If the attack was frontal, as on McKinley, he had confidence in the abnormal speed of his reflexes, and the power of his 185-pound body. Last winter, in Colorado, he had leaped off his horse into a pack of hounds, kicked them aside, and knifed a cougar to death. What a great fight that had been!

The phrase "ass-clown" springs to mind.

Thanks to the pirate with webbed feet for the quote.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

ID card

I somehow have myself on a bunch of right-wing email lists -- I regularly receive missives from Ann Coulter, Newt Gingrich, and various right-wing organizations. Not sure how that happened, but they are amusing (if you temporarily tell your brain it is all a joke). Anyway, here's one I received yesterday, warning against a national ID card:
Dear Friend of Liberty,

Unbelievably, Congress and the Obama administration are currently trying to resurrect the failed REAL ID Act, more accurately named “Dangerous ID.”

Dangerous ID, which passed in 2005, establishes a de facto National Identification System, and opens the doors for Federal biometric tracking of every American citizen.

And although Dangerous ID is a clear attempt to establish a National ID System, the reality might be much worse -- an INTERNATIONAL Identification System. That’s why it is so critical we get that law off the books.

You see, Dangerous ID actually requires that driver’s license photographs meet United Nation’s biometric format standards. At this level of sophistication, government software can analyze facial characteristics and generate a unique identification number.

Think about that for a moment -- your identity will be reduced to a single number in an international database that can be tracked globally by one-world government surveillance cameras and facial recognition software.

I find the fear of all things international to be rather amusing, but it struck me odd that certain strains of conservativism probably have a lot in common with the ACLU, at least on this particular issue.

Personally, I think we should have a national ID card, because let's face it, we already have a mismashed system of identification that is a frickin' mess. We have Social Security numbers, State-issued driver's licenses, Federally-issued Passports, all of which, combined, function as an ID system. Later in life you probably also get a Medicaid ID. Further, none of these systems are connected to, say, voter rolls or the IRS. If I move, I need to tell the state of Massachusetts about it to get a new driver's license, but I also need to tell the IRS, and the Post Office, and I need to re-register to vote. That is nuts.

Maybe I'm not paranoid enough, but I have zero fear of what the government would do to me if I had an ID card, if that ID card had some sort of biometric system to it (hell, they can sequence my whole genome if they want), and if that ID card combined the functions of our various current systems. If the government wanted to take away all my civil liberties, well, there's nothing stopping them from currently doing that, as we've learned during the Bush adminstration. So I fail to see how an ID card is going to, all of a sudden, but all the power in Big Brother's hands.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

SC Senator

Still recovering from last night (not that current events are helping...) but this Ezra Klein interview with Lindsey Graham on health care reform is really interesting. Check it out.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Aug. 7, 2009: Red Sox-Yankees

12:45 5 hours, 33 minutes. And 4 hits. That's about a hit every 75 minutes.

12:42 At least they didn't lose 1-0.

12:40 From a Yankee fan:

Oh, and Damon is now 0-7 with 2 k's and 1 blown can have him back.
I'm not sure what I hate more, the concept of closers or sacrifice bunts. In order for the latter to be even remotely worth it, you need a ridiculously high chance of success, which Damon does not provide.

12:37 Thank You For Bunting

12:36 Lead runners on are not good.

12:35 Ask the blog readers, and you shall receive:
During the 13th inning, YES mentioned a 14 inning 1-0 game from 1969 (Sox won, they only used 2 pitchers!).

12:34 Not quite was I was looking for, but Rivera: 16 pitches in 1 inning, Aceves averaged 12 pitches over 3, Bruney 14 pitches over 2, and Coke 12 pitches in 1.

MIDDLE 15: 0 - 0

12:32 Okay, I gotta look up pitches by inning here for the Sox, they have sucked in extras...

12:29 I like how the Sox have two guys who were in AAA a week ago batting in the 15th inning of a seemingly-important game. Super duper.

12:27 I'm pretty sure Tazawa is in until this ends, as he's normally a starter, and the Sox have no one left in the pen. Phil Coke in for the Yankees, while Chronicles of Reddick leads off for the Sox. Damn, he just looked at his pitch. NESN still hasn't told me the last time a Sox-Yanks game went this long scoreless.

END 14: 0 - 0

12:23 Looked foul to me. I have -10.50 vision.

12:22 Apparently the Yankees have one of the 17 Molina brothers as a backup catcher

12:21 From email:
Well, if this game goes 27 innings, we now have our Sportscenter "wow" highlight from the middle 9 frames...

12:20 JD DREW, THIS IS NOW THE SECOND TIME I WILL REMEMBER YOU! (unless there's a bleeding single to this next batter...)

12:19 2-2 on Hinske. Does Tazawa have an out pitch? We'll find out...

12:17 Pinch runner for Posada. I assume this guy is the backup catcher, or that there is a backup catcher on the bench. Otherwise, that is really ballsy by Girardi. Jeez, this strike zone is tiny.

12:16 1st and 2nd, one down. One hit was hard, one a bloop...

12:11 Hey kid, welcome to the big leagues from Japan's Industrial League (wtf?). Does this possibly end well? Eleanor? His curve ball... WRONG! Jack? Well he commands... WRONG! NEXT ISSUE!

MIDDLE 14: 0 - 0

12:08 In the last two minutes I learned that it is "Yankee" (no S) stadium, and that striking out 4 times in a game is a golden sombrero, 5 times is an "Olympic Rings" (I call bullshit on that one) and 6 times, rarely accomplished, is a "Horn of Plenty" named after Sam Horn, one of the few to ever accomplish it.

12:04 Ortiz swings at ball 4, grounding out. Dave Roberts calls it a good at bat.

12:02 "Ortiz is getting his swagger back" according to Dave Roberts

12:00am This will probably only inspire Youks and Ortiz to swing for the fences. At about the 5 hour mark here... Youk gets on, is there a chance Big Popup doesn't GIDP? (I mean, I suppose he could just, you know, pop up)

11:59 Cameraman, you suck. I didn't think that was gone until you panned into Brooklyn off the bat. You j-hole.

11:57 Victor, on 0-2 in the 14th, take it in the upper thigh, would ya?

11:56 The sclerotic heart of the Red Sox lineup this inning

END 13: 0 - 0

11:53 This game is making my postdoc seem brief

11:51 The blind squirrel that is Dave Roberts has found his nut: the strike zone has gotten smaller, at least for Saito

11:50 Okay, he walked Ta-share-uh. Now A-rod...

11:46 Please walk Teixeira. Please.

11:44 I'm not the only one who hates Dave Roberts:
What is that blissful peace I hear? Is that.. Dave Roberts not having said anything for like three innings? Does NESN only pay their color commentator for regulation innings?

11:42 Remaining in the Red Sox pen is Oil Can Boyd, the corpse of Mordecai "Three Fingers" Brown, and some AT&T Rollover Minutes, brought to you by AT&T

11:41 Bold prediction - this game doesn't see the 15th inning. Given who the Sox have left to get 6 outs, I think that's a pretty safe assumption, actually.

MIDDLE 13: 0 - 0

11:40 Pedroia whiffs. Just shoot me.

11:38 Human White Flag, Takaishi Saito warming in the pen....

11:37 Oh my, we've worked him up to 7 pitches this inning! Will MVP make him pitch any more than that? Whoa, #8 now, for ball 1! I am bitter and tired.

11:35 This is atrocious

11:32 An email:
I bet you didn't do the math on the time commitment when you decided to live-blog this one.
I might need so set my alarm clock so I can make it to the beach tomorrow.

END 12: 0 - 0

11:31 Melky bailed out Delcarmen. He couldn't have thrown two strikes before a ball.

11:29 Do you recall any time in extras where we've had men on base and were, you know, pressuring the pitcher? Me neither.

11:25 Nice catch Youk. Fundamentals. How many times we going to pass the ball? FOUR TIMES!

11:21 Yup, Astros scored a run in the bottom of the 24th in 1968. Wow.

11:20 Thank you Don, Mets-Astros, 24 innings of 0 run ball (1968 I think he said?)

11:18 Low-lev Delcarmen into the game. This is, um, not good. When he's off, he is upper-deck-home-run off. Nice that the Sox are into their 6th pitcher while the Yanks are on their 3rd, because Aceves was an ace for 3 frickin' innings...

MIDDLE 12: 0 - 0

11:14 No stats info from NESN yet, just that 'tek is 1 for his last 20, with 3 Ks tonight. Oh captain my captain!

11:11 I'm sorry, but if you can't score a run off a reliever wearing number 91 in three innings... do they even have a hit? (maybe one, no more)

END 11: 0 - 0

11:09 I'm sure NESN will provide the info, but when was the last Sox-Yanks game to go to the 12th scoreless? Had MLB integrated yet?

11:07 To add to my previous comment, an email:
I was at a double-A game in New Haven in 2002, Binghamton Mets in town to play the New Haven Cardinals. Game is in the 14th or 15th inning, and me and my buddy have moved down to the seats right next to the on-deck circle. There are almost no fans left. So the Mets are coming up in the top of the inning, and their big slugger is warming up in the circle, Bobby something, can't remember his name, never made the majors. And my buddy says, "Hey Bobby, could you end this thing, I want to go home." And Bobby says, "Dude, I'm going to either end it or strike out quickly. We don't get paid for extra innings."

He struck out on three massive cuts in four pitches.

11:06 A fine comment from SOSH: "Johnny Damon used to look like Jesus, and now he looks like a chimp. Is that Creationism in reverse?"

11:04 Well, at least now we're past the MLB-mandated 4 hour mark for a Sox-Yanks game. And the New York crowd again shows their lack of depth perception.

MID 11: 0 - 0

10:58 Was that 8 pitches that inning? I don't know if this is something that happens to every visiting team, or just the Sox, but it seems like patience goes out the window once extra innings arrive

10:56 "Baffled" is a good word to describe Vmart this series so far. Clueless.

END 10: 0 - 0

10:53 HAAAAA!

10:52 Jeebus, there's not a Yankee that scares me more than Jeter ('cept Sheffield, he was downright petrifying). Every time he swings I think the game is over.

10:50 The silver lining is that Papelbon has been good when he's been motivated.

10:44 After bouncing one in the grass exactly halfway between the mound and home, Ramirez bounces another one. I didn't use to give much creedence to the idea that a closer need something, but R. Ramirez makes me believe it.

10:40 Great, Hinske. I didn't even like him when he was with us.

10:35 Three hits. Three hits. Three hits.

END 9: 0 - 0

10:33 That was Ellsbury's power stroke. Pedroia has had more than enough opps tonight, all we need is a single...

10:31 Actually, wouldn't mind seeing Jacoby go for the HR here, it is short enough...

10:31 Walking Woodward: horrible. Will Jacoby make them pay: um, no

10:28 C'mon Reddick, um, chronicle this!

10:27 Someone I've never heard of now in for the Yankeess. But it is against Varitek, so he could have just come from Williamsport

END 9: 0 - 0


10:22 Balk? Yeah, so composed. I think I control the universe

10:20 Oh great, Posada... I'm going to close my eyes for this...

10:18 Regardless of what happens, Bard at least looks composed

10:13 What do I know.

10:12 Odd that Tito would bring him in to face Texeira, who bats lefty, which is by far the preferable side to bat from in this stadium.

10:10 Oki gets 1 out, Bard now on. I guess Tito trusts him. I think I do.

10:06 No Paps. I'd say this is strategy, but I think Tito just doesn't trust him. I sure don't.

MIDDLE 9: 0 - 0

10:02 Nope, forgotten. In under a minute.

10:02 Hey Drew, now would be a good time to make me remember an at bat of yours...

10:01 Three years ago I'd be surprised if he didn't hit a homerun. Right now, I'd be surprised if Papi didn't GIDP (with no one on). Hey, a single!

10:00 Don't complain, that was right there.

9:59 Lean in youk, lean in!!!!

9:58 There's no excuse for swinging at an outside pitch at eyeball level, Vmart

9:55 Surprised to see Rivera in a non-save situation. Then again, the Sox did make the Yankees use a decent chunk of the bullpen last night (somehow)

9:53 From a managing standpoint, I have nothing to put on Tito tonight. We just can't hit, simple as that. We now have the "heart" of the lineup due, and that does nothing for me. That says something.

END 8: 0 - 0

9:52 All of Yankee(s) Stadium has depth perception issues, they get to their feet on a semi-shallow pop up to right center.

9:50 Why don't you see more pitchers who can throw a functional change-up? Of all the non-fastball pitches to learn, it is the easiest on the arm. And probably the most effective. If I ran the world...

9:45 Entering this inning, according to fangraphs, we have a 39% chance of winning this game.

9:44 Mr. OkiDoki comes on. OkeyDokey. Those were both strikes...

MIDDLE 8: 0 - 0

9:42 Mr. MVP flies out. I feel like one criterion of being MVP is that the voter can imagine that it is remotely possible that this person wins the award again sometime in his life.

9:40 From the pirate with webbed feet: "I will also point out that you & Joe Girardi have the same pirate name." Damn you Gideon!

9:39 I think he was out, although I also like ham, so I guess I'm living a lie. C'mon... get him in, Dustin!

9:38 Considering that Dreamboat led off the game with a hit, and it is now the 8th inning and we have but one hit, um, that means we haven't gotten a hit in a long time...

9:36 From the inbox:
Dear Pirate Who Doesn't Like Ham,

He was out by about a step (The Sexy-Voiced Pirate can run the DVR).

ps - I'm evidently the Pirate With Webbed Feet.

9:34 Is it possible, short of the left and center fielder being struck by lightening, to hit an inside-the-park homerun in this park? I wonder if there are parks that have never had an inside-the-park homerun. A walk to Ellsbury removes Burnett...

9:33 Casey Kotchman is like a Little Leaguer who hits a homerun on his first pitch of the season and Ks every single other at bat, swinging for the fences.

9:31 My inability to function my DVR remote leaves me believing that Reddick was safe

9:30 I think he was safe. Replay time...

9:28 Damn you foul! So, um, foul! BTW, apparently the pirate with the sexy voice agrees with my bullpen based logic. Google "Defoe pirate name generator" if you want your own pirate-based pseudonym.

9:25 Am I nuts to think that if the Sox score this inning, a reliever comes in, but if they don't, then Beckett comes back out? There's absolutely no logic behind that thinking, but I do think that is what's going through Tito's head.

END 7: 0 - 0

9:24 Whoa! Strike 'em out, throw 'em out! Woo hoo!

9:21 Yes, my son/daughter/cloned iPS cell, this is how I spent my Friday night's before I was wiping your ass. So no, you can't get a hologramtoo on your forehead.*
* A hologramtoo is my made up on the spot vision of what parents will not like their children to have in the future.

9:20 Big K! An email: "Did Dave Roberts just talk about Matsui's "happy zone"? Dude, I don't even want to know how you pitch there."

9:19 Here's the tough part of being manager: Beckett is looking close to done (inability to put away Matsui, loss of command). But is he the better option right now? Relievers, as a group, seem to have trouble with coming into a game with runners on base... whaddya do?

9:18 There's no Yankee I loathe more than Posada. He drives me nuts, I don't really know why. I can't stand him. C'mon DP!

9:17 Well, he swung at ball 4 anyway...

9:16 Matsui is taking too long... I fear a battle of the bullpens in my heart, even thought my mind says ours is better...

MIDDLE 7: 0 - 0

9:07 Presumably in response to the doorstop job posting, an email: "I think if you put [the pirate with the sexy voice] & me together, I bet we could fill that job description. How's the pay?" Unfortunately, the pay isn't even close to $15 million a year, so you'll have to turn it down. Rickey doesn't like being disrespected.

9:05 The middle of our lineup, um, sucks. Personally, I blame Tiffany.

9:04 WANTED: 300 lb doorstop to hold a bat and shake its head. Ability to spit into hands and clap them a plus.

9:00 Clarification: my wife bought a bed frame but didn't take into account that we have a split boxspring for our queen sized mattress, i.e. there is no cross beam for the new frame. BTW, my journalistic integrity has been compromised, there were 4 previous versions of this sentence that have been deleted. Will Ortiz do anything here? no.

END 6: 0 - 0

8:58 Now, there's gotta be something to the fact that both Beckett and Burnett are on their A game tonight, and they are former teammates who are facing each other. My wife is correcting my syntax as I type, and she just spent $450 in cash on a bed frame that won't even fit our current bed. And I'm the moron. No dear, it is not wrong, and I won't stop it. Get your own blog. ... :)

8:57 It could be worse, I tell myself. My cousin Timmy (age 10) is a Mets fan. What a guy.

8:54 From the inbox: "I think Youk's batting average would be higher if he didn't sweat so much." He needs to get laid. Where's Heidi Whatney?

MIDDLE 6: 0 - 0

8:52 Erk blorg asflkjas;flkj;fjkl! That's 2, 3, 4 in our lineup, doing nothing. Super.

8:50 C'mon Youk, 0-2, this is your count...

8:49 Jeebus, that's a second 1st and 2nd, no one out that we're -- wait for it -- about to squander

8:48 That first pitch to Vmart should have ended up in the right field stands. Weak breaking pitch...

8:47 My beer is empty and I'm still sitting here. THAT's how into this game I am. Pedroia, you suck. Beer time.

8:46 Right call on that, I swear as I saw it I thought, that looks funny. Good call.

8:45 Dreamboat Ellsbury, disappointment or not? Good question. Then again, he has the only (bloop) hit of the night. But he also grounds in to double plays an awful lot, which is saying something, considering how fast he is. I think he is a victim of hype.

8:44 Nick Green, offensive catalyst, at the plate... 4 pitch walk

END 5: 0 - 0

8:40 YEAH!!! or, as Beckett mouthed, "YEAH MOTHER FUCKER!"

8:39 Shit, bases loaded, Jeter up. This is when he either leans into a pitch, or broken-bat bloop down the RF line...

8:36 Of course Yankees Stadium (or is it Yankee Stadium? just like Boston Common v. Commons, I never remember) plays some idiotic music when Varitek goes out to the mound. Could we just eliminate that? I never remember sitting at Fenway going, jeez, I love this 18 seconds of music!

8:34 Big K by Beckett. He didn't "out-think himself" according to Dave Roberts.

8:33 Batting Average on Balls In Play (if you were wondering)

8:32 Um, Drew caught that? This stadium is soooo tiny in RF...

8:31 Blogging is taking up drinking time.

8:30 F'ing seeing eye single... damn you BABIP overlords!!!

8:29 Shut up Dave Roberts, shut up. Just, stop talking. You're an idiot, shut up shut up shut up.

MIDDLE 5: 0 - 0

8:24 From Bill Maher: "Sarah Palin says she would never apologize for America. Even though a Gallup poll says 18% of Americans think the sun revolves around the earth. No, they're not stupid. They're interplanetary mavericks. A third of Republicans believe Obama is not a citizen, and a third of Democrats believe that George Bush had prior knowledge of the 9/11 attacks, which is an absurd sentence because it contains the words "Bush" and "knowledge.""

END 4: 0 - 0

8:18 Back to politics... can you imagine if John Edwards (i.e. losing VP candidate) said anything this stupid in 2005? I mean, if he just outright made crap up that is totally inflammatory? Beckett through 4...

8:16 Okay, sorry to bring politics into this, but this is what Sarah Palin just posted on her Facebook page (not a direct source for me, obviously): "The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's "death panel" so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their "level of productivity in society," whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil." Death panel? Meanwhile, Damon Ks looking.

MIDDLE 4: 0 - 0

8:12 Does anyone remember that stretch from mid-'04 through '06 where Ortiz was the best best best hitter in baseball (most feared, anyway). That seems forever ago. All things must pass. But damn, that was a helluva ride.

8:11 Youks is now at the point in his career -- maybe it was that Onion headline -- where he now gets the benefit of the doubt from the ump. He's seen strike 3 twice in this at bat... and now draws the walk.

8:08 Lucchino is stoned or drunk or both in the booth

8:05 Sorry, didn't finish my thought... Rivera will get a standing O at Fenway... Jeter will get applause, but more out of politeness than anything else.

END 3: 0 - 0

8:03 When Rivera retires, he'll get a standing O. Jeter, not so much. Beckett with a nice play at 1B on that.

8:02 I wonder if anyone has ever looked at time between pitches and batter's average on the subsequent pitch.

8:00 HUGE double play! I love Beckett. Right now.

7:58 - I'm not sure about stats on doubles followed by walks, though. Where's John Valentin, we need a triple play!

7:52 - Well, at least Cano didn't have a lead-off walk, as they score more often than lead-off doubles...

MIDDLE 3: 0 - 0

7:48 - Wait, what, catchers are allowed to throw runners out? I thought that was just ceremonial! As NESN goes into commercial, BMW is advertising a car that alerts to you when you are drifting. Yes, that's exactly what we need, drivers to develop an even more falser sense of security in their car...

7:45 - By the way, can we just replace umpires calling balls and strikes? Burnett just threw a pitch over the middle middle of the plate, and it was called a ball because Posada was set up outside. That offends me.

7:44 - The wife just said Jason Varitek was cute in the way that I was cute... what, in a slow, halting conversation sort of way? No, kinda hairy, leaderish type. I don't know what that means, and I need to have more than half a G&T if this night is going to end well (just deconstruct that sentence and know everything about me...) Six in a row retired by A.J.

END 2: 0 - 0

7:39 - As the wife just noted, that Josh Beckett is easy to watch. I don't think she was commenting on his looks, but rather on how easy he makes it all seem.

7:34 - Wow, great K of ARod there. Working back from a 3-0 count... He's bringing it tonight...

MIDDLE 2: 0 - 0

7:28 - It is often said, and I believe it, that you need to get to some pitchers "early on" in the game lest they "settle down" and mow you down. I totally believe this. But I wonder if it is true. It probably isn't true across baseball, but it certainly could be true for certain pitchers. I have no idea how you'd measure that. But Burnett seems to be doing it right now. Now that I think about it, though, I'd have a 50/50 shot of getting out Drew, Tek, and Reddick 1-2-3, so maybe it is all a matter of lineup construction

7:26 - Don notes that Drew is hitting .394 since some point in the past (probably a very recent point). This guy has been on the team for 3 years now, and I remember exactly one big at-bat by him (Gave 7 ALCS v. Cleveland, '07). On the plus side, Heidi Whatney got her hair done today at some fancy pants salon, and is lookin' good.

END 1: 0 - 0

7:23 - Easy 1-2-3 for Mr. Beckett. He's gonna need 8 more of them.

7:19 - Speaking of Remy, a guy I know saw him at the Waltham Appleby's, eating alone. Not really sure what that means, but the phrase "spiraling out of control" springs to mind.

MIDDLE 1: 0 - 0

7:17 - If Big Popup is running hard the whole time, he's probably safe. BTW, I'm not sure who YES currently has in the booth, but in an attempt to find a replacement for Jerry Remy, the Red Sox have paired Don O. with Dave Roberts (yes, of the 2004 stolen base). He's horribly vanilla. Did the execs at NESN think we wouldn't notice that he's horrible, or that we wouldn't care, because he's Dave Roberts? They're wrong either way. It can't be hard to find a good color guy, although if you limit yourself to "people who played for this team" then you're wading in a pretty shallow talent pool.

7:15 - Four pitch walk, as expected. WTF is that tattoo on Burnett's arm? Chains? Chromatin? 13 pitches, 10 for balls, and there are two outs... c'mon, corpse of Papi...

7:14 - I wouldn't give Youks anything to hit here, he's the last (currently) decent hitter in the lineup.

7:12 - Good start. This is where things seem to fizzle in general, although V-mart has been stellar... As for the HBP thing, for a long time the Red Sox hit way more Yankees than the other way around (mostly Pedro). Wow, as I type that, DP. Super.

6:59pm - Okay, live-blogging tonight's game, because, um, I think I'm losing my mind. So Smoltz is gone, DFA'd (designated for assignment). Beckett starts tonight, so we might actually win. If he throws a complete game shutout. Otherwise, I'll hold my breath. The offense was horrible last night (as it has been for awhile), at one point having drawn 7 walks but not plating any of them. That's anti-timely-hitting. We'll see how this goes...

On Birthers

The blog-reading public* is clamoring** for my thoughts on the Birther movement. I vacillate (or is it oscillate? I don't recall mentally turning around and achieving a point of zero velocity, so maybe I just keep going in a circle) between kinda enjoying the spectacle -- look at all the crazy white people! (they're all white) -- and being frightened of it. I mean, these people vote, hold jobs, and drive cars.*** And when it comes time to have a serious discussion in this country, about health care, for example, the opinions of these crazies appear in polls that help to dictate politicians actions. So nutters are hardly benign, and it is not like we're talking a vocal but tiny minority -- "No" and "Not Sure" accounted for 58% of Repulicans when asked if Obama was a legit citizen (and 17% of Independents, and 7% of Democrats -- am I wrong to think that the 7% of Democrats who aren't sure if Obama is a citizen all live south of the Mason-Dixon line, and vividly remember Strom Thrumond's 1948 campaign?)

This brings me to a point made quite succintly by Andrew Sullivan:
If that is what you really believe - that people in cities or suburbs, that minorities, that gays, that blacks and Hispanics are not part of "real America" - then of course, you are angry. You believe a fake America has taken over. You cannot understand this. So you start believing that we have a fascist/communist dictatorship, that there was some fraud allowing a non-citizen to become president, that the government is about to "take over" all healthcare provision ... and on and on. And no one is left in the GOP to challenge this, to calm it down, to present practical alternatives to the obvious crushing problems the country and the private sector have in paying for increasingly costly healthcare.

I depart from Judge Smails, however, in the source of all this paranoia -- I think it is almost 100% racial. In his own words:
For sure, there's a component of racism/xenophobia/Muslim/FunnyName to all of this. But it seems evident to me that this is much better explained by partisanship. If it were strictly --- or evenly largely --- racism, then we'd see a large number of poor white self-identified democrats (among whom racist attitudes poll as strong or stronger than most Republicans; plus they significantly outnumber poor white republicans) believing Obama wasn't born in the U.S. But we don't see that at all --- it's by and large a republican thing.

So I'm inclined to believe that this is your classic partisan conspiracy belief --- not unlike the 30% of Democrats who believe Bush knew about 9/11 ahead of time or the 40% of democrats who think the vote in Ohio in 2004 was rigged. Even in the face of zero evidence for their cause, partisans are quick to latch on to conspiracies. It helps people feel good about themselves. And, of course, conspiracy theorists are nothing if not believers that the lack of evidence for their case is even more evidence of a conspiracy.

I think the crux of our disagreement is that I'm not sure I believe that, among poor white Democrats, "racist attitudes poll as strong or stronger than most Republicans." Well, perhaps better put, I suspect that racist poor whites are now a tiny tiny fraction of the Democrats' coalition (the 7%), almost all of them having moved to the Republican party over the last 20 years or so. So while the feelings correlate along party lines, that doesn't mean partisanship is driving these feelings.

The last time the Democrats lost an election ('04) some responded by saying the vote was unfair, undercounted, whatever, and given what happened in Florida in '00, that's not an entirely crazy thing to jump to, especially in the days immediately following the election. But the Republican response has been to deny that they guy was even born here, despite a birth certificate and a birth announcement in the Hawaiian papers, with these thoughts still going strong 8 months after the election?! Sorry, there's not an equivalence here. I think there is something much deeper driving these protests, and I think the non-whiteness of Obama is the source of it.

* Actually, one person
** And "asking" is probably more accurate than "clamoring"
*** Probably while texting

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

What is happiness?

A reader sends in a recent piece from the New York Times, an author reflecting on happiness. Read the whole thing (it's the length of a regular OpEd) but here are some sentences that caught my eye:
I was similarly miserable throughout the happiest summer I ever spent in New York City.

I wonder, sometimes, whether it is a perversity peculiar to my own mind or just the common lot of humanity to experience happiness mainly in retrospect.

We do each have a handful of those moments, the ones we only take out to treasure rarely, like jewels, when we looked up from our lives and realized: “I’m happy.” One of the last times this happened to me, inexplicably, I was driving on Maryland’s unsublime Route 40 with the window down, looking at a peeling Burger King billboard while Van Halen played on the radio. But this kind of intense and present happiness is heartbreakingly ephemeral; as soon as you notice it you dispel it, like blocking yourself from remembering a word by trying too hard to retrieve it.

Perhaps the reason we so often experience happiness only in hindsight, and that chasing it is such a fool’s errand, is that happiness isn’t a goal in itself but is only an aftereffect. It’s the consequence of having lived in the way that we’re supposed to — by which I don’t mean ethically correctly so much as just consciously, fully engaged in the business of living.

I agree with a lot of his sentiments. In some ways, I think I'm lucky (or perceptive, or something) to appreciate my happy moments while they are going on rather than only in retrospect. But there are also a lot of times when, if you asked me how are you doing, I don't think happy would be the first word out of my mouth (e.g. organic chemistry classes in college) but I now recall quite fondly as some of the best times in my life. Part of this may be nostalgia, for I know that I will never be in organic chemistry classes in college again, while time with my family, games at Fenway, etc. are all on-going events in my life. That certainly doesn't mean I don't appreciate the latter, but I think there is a different kind of happiness one experiences in the midst of something, compared to when you look back on something that is gone, never to come back.

The same is true for science

Ezra Klein ponders the often-stated result that having children decreases your happiness. He parses the research a bit more, and compares happiness to living a satisfying life. He concludes with this:
It may not be very fun to do your work or care for your children, but the two seem to be important contributors to a satisfying life. Which makes intuitive sense. On a moment-to-moment basis, I sort of loathe writing this blog. I would far rather be drinking a beer on my porch. But in the aggregate, I'm much more satisfied with my life when I'm writing this blog.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that these data leave me confident that having children will be almost as rewarding as writing a blog. And I plan to tell that to them, and often.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

No dunce caps needed

Since I'm surrounded by teachers, I'll point to this by Yglesias:
Smaller classes can have positive effects, but the effect is much smaller than the impact of having effective teachers. In other words, if you have 100 kids it’s better to have four good teachers teach them in groups of 25 than to have four good teachers and one bad one teach them in groups of 20. And not only better, it’s also cheaper. And since it’s cheaper, you could use the money you saved by not hiring the fifth teacher to make sure you pay the four good teachers enough to keep them in the classroom.

I'm pretty sure my wife is a good teacher, so if her school wants to pay her more, that's a policy I can get behind.

King Corn

I (finally) have gotten around to reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma. There's a lot of stuff in there that I kinda already knew: factory farming of animals is disgusting, agricultural policy in this country creates all the wrong incentives, we're feeding corn to cows even though they normally eat grass. Of course, learning about these things in more depth is nice.

But one thing that I don't think I had appreciated nearly as much was the sheer pervasiveness of corn in our diets. Any processed food, and I do mean any, has corn in it. Maltodextrin, MSG, lecithin, and the ubiquitous high fructose corn syrup -- all these ingredients, and many many more, are processed from corn.

So I decided to do an experiment, to see if I could avoid corn for a single day. I thought of this experiment the morning of, so I didn't have a lot of lead time to, say, arrange for a deep sea fishing trip to catch my dinner, plus my gun was, uh, in the, uh, gun shop, so I couldn't go hunting for, uh, varmints.

Breakfast was easy: coffee. There's a whole food if there ever was one.
Lunch: Went to the local Stop n' Shop, and after a lot of label-reading, was left with strawberries, Stonyfield organic yogurt, cashews, and V8 juice.
Dinner: Cheese and wheat crackers, homemade granola with yogurt.

Obviously there are a lot of really tasty things I could have eaten for dinner if I weren't feeling particularly lazy -- grass fed beef, for example (but no ketchup!) And my lovely wife pointed out to me that I kinda cheated with all the yogurt & dairy, as even those cows were likely corn-fed. So yes, corn is indeed everywhere.

Now, I'm certainly not going to cut corn out of my diet, this was just an experiment to see how ubiquitous it is. That said, I don't think processed foods are all that good for you, and we'd probably all be in better health if everything we ate didn't have high fructose corn syrup in it. I've heard it argued to those who have these thoughts that, well, if we all ate organic, we wouldn't be able to produce enough food to feed everyone. This I'm not so sure about. Corn, as it is currently grown, requires a helluva lot of petroleum-based fertilizer, which ain't cheap. Plus, by feeding it to cows or breaking it down into its component parts and industrially treating it (i.e. where maltodextrin comes from), a lot of energy gets used up. In other words, if you eat the corn itself, you're getting a very high percentage of the energy captured from the sun, but with each layer of feeding or processing, there's about a ten-fold drop in efficiency. Sure, corn is cheap, but that's because our government wants it to be. Plus, all these inefficiencies (run-off of fertilizer into rivers, giant lagoons of cow crap) have externalities that currently aren't being accounted for. But since our democracy would obviously fall apart if we didn't allow Iowa to hold the first caucus, I'm sure our idiotic corn-centric policy isn't going to change any time soon.

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Andrew Sullivan points to an interesting finding:

His post in its entirety:
Robin Hanson points to the above graph from a recent survey and posits:

If the public knew the truth, I expect two effects:

The public would consider scientists to be less authoritative as a neutral source on policy questions, and
Since scientists are respected, the public would become less conservative and more liberal.

But it seems to me that scientists may simply be responding to the redefinition of conservatism in America as a fundamentalist Protestant religious grouping that denies evolution, favors (intellectually indefensible) Bibical literalism, and has a problem with the Enlightenment. Many scientists might remain conservative in the sense I hold - belief in limited government, pragmatic change, individual freedom - but feel they have to call themsleves "liberal" considering the views of those who now go by the name "conservative."

Sullivan's analysis certainly rings true to me. Further, I disagree with Hanson that the public considers scientists to be authoritative on, well, anything related to public policy.

Huh what?

While reading in Sports Illustrated about Mark Buehrle's perfect game, I couldn't help but notice the guy in the background of these pictures of Dewayne Wise's incredible ninth inning catch. An incredible play is happening right in front of him, and he's completely passed out. It also looks like the bottle of beer he has still has the cap on it.

Deadline trades

In baseball yesterday, the Sox traded Justin Masterson and two prospects for Victor Martinez. In the last four years, Victor has put up an OPS of 0.856, 0.879, 0.701 (an injury shortened 2008), and 0.832 so far this year. Now, these are good numbers but hardly elite slugger numbers. What does make him an All-Star, though, is that he's putting up these numbers mostly from the catcher position. In previous years, he's started ~125 games at catcher and ~30 games at 1B, but this year his split has been much closer to 1:1.

Essentially, the Red Sox now have five players for four positions: Lowell, Youkilis, Varitek, Martinez, and Ortiz to rotate through C, 1B, 3B, and DH (the ability of Youkilis to play both 1B and 3B, and play them well, in invaluable in this regard). Martinez, like Varitek, is a switch-hitter, although his vs. righty and vs. lefty splits are quite similar (Varitek is much better batting from the right side). Given the age of both Lowell and the Captain, Francona shouldn't have much trouble finding reasons to sit them as the season wears on. It will also be good to have a serious bat to come off the bench for pinch-hitting duties. As I wrote about at the All-Star break, the most serious concern for the Sox was giving too many at-bats to the Mark Kotsays of the world. Well, they've solved that problem, and given themselves some nice insurance if Lowell's hip acts up again.

As for LaRoche, well, we hardly knew ye. I'm not really sure that Casey Kotchman brings much more to the table, and I think he'll be playing the role of Doug Meintkewitz (nope, not looking up how to spell that), coming in off the bench as a late-inning defensive replacement. Whatever that is worth...

I think it is safe to say that, of all the teams in the AL East, the Red Sox did the most to improve.