Friday, March 15, 2013

The Gospel

So I'm two days away from my fifth marathon. I started out at this in 2010 when the race was the Suntrust National Marathon, in 2012, it rebranded itself with Rock 'n Roll, which I'm relatively neutral about -- my first ever race was the first year the Philadelphia Distance Run (1/2 marathon) was a Rock 'n Roll race. Since then, I've done the National Marathon/Rock 'N Roll USA all three years, and had a miserable showing in the 2011 Philadelphia Marathon. 

Last year I was committed to putting an end to this nonsense. I was hurt all the time (I ran on what the orthopedist suggested were torn menisci...I'm virtually certain that was a presumed diagnosis that was off the mark in my case), I wasn't improving, and there wasn't much competitive drive for me. I was hanging it up. I was done until I got fat, turned 35 (then maybe I could stand some chance of qualifying for Boston, assuming I somehow got more athletic in the interim), or met one of my other fitness goals. I went out, ran a respectable 3:22:29 -- two minutes off my fastest pace, but on a course that everyone ran slower -- even though I ran 2 minutes slower, I moved up in the rankings, finishing 160th out of 3,155. In 2010, I'd finished 295th even though I ran it in 3:20:41. And I was done. That was it. No more of this nonsense, I'm hurt all the time, I am not getting better, and oh great, I'm putting on weight already. And I'm angry all the time. And I am completely unmotivated.

So instead of signing up the day the race was announced, I signed up a couple months later. And I think it's the first one I've ever actually looked forward to. The first one, I was looking forward to in a sense, but I was concerned I wasn't ready -- that I would never be ready, in essence. The second one was run three months to the day I got out of a walking boot, so I trained at the level that is supposed to result with stress fractures, and again, wasn't terribly confident about. It ended up being my best time. The third one was prefaced with injuries and was a disaster that has caused me to swear off the Philadelphia Marathon (without good cause) and last spring was the marathon of knee injuries. Every one of them, I looked forward not to the race, but to returning to a bacchanalia of soda, junk food, and alcohol. Now, eh. I've got a lot of soda in the refrigerator that's been patiently waiting, but I feel like I might finally be ready to dump it entirely, which would mean that the next time I start gaining weight, I will just die of heart disease. In retrospect, I needed to maintain a wholly destructive lifestyle for longer -- it's easier to lose weight when all you have to do is stop eating Taco Bell and Buffalo Wild Wings four times a week. 

Now, I'm just sort of okay. I'm not in great shape -- I would be flabbergasted if I beat my 3:20:41, but my knees are okay, my feet seem to be generally holding up after some extensor tendonitis issues in the fall, I've gotten long runs in (though I've done virtually no other runs most of the spring, so I'm not "trained" in the Hal Higdon sense). It's going to rain, it's going to be cold, and it's yet another new course that will be unnecessarily colder and windier than necessary at the expense of people's times, and I don't have all that much confidence (though I can't bring myself to say I lack confidence that I'll finish, so I guess I have enough), but I am genuinely excited to do it.

I suppose everybody needs some form of evangelism. For whatever reason, mine shows up when I get in the DC Armory, surrounded by people buying 13.1 or 26.2 magnets for their car or more magical items that they think will get them through the race (and I say this as a complete sucker for racing pseudo-science...I only am not buying magical amulets because I already have CES compression socks). 

Monday, December 31, 2012

My reading

Looking at the 2012 book list, a few things are apparent. First, the kindle makes a huge difference. I got it in mid-October and then proceeded to read 32 more books before the year was over. Admittedly, there were more than a few lightweights in that span, but it is still remarkable to me. I continue to read less and less fiction, even when I make a point of reading it. Given my disinterest in fantasy fiction and romance novels, I'm not exactly being inundated with opportunities to change this. And, true to form, I'm starting 2013 with fiction in its densest possible form -- Infinite Jest. Other books that have been piling up for 2013: A Wilderness of Error by Errol Morris, Pearl Jam 20, Unforgiven by Rob Bagchi and Paul Rogerson, and Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry. I'm already about 30% through The Moviegoer by Walker Percy, so it is all but certain to be the first book of 2013.

Book List: 2012

Here's the list for 2012, all 77 books. I'm reading more than ever, but am also reading less fiction than I did in all the prior years (where I sure wasn't reading this kind of volume). My favorites for the year are starred.

January (5)
When March Went Mad by Seth Davis
College Humor: The Website: The Book by the writers of
The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson
The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford*

February (10)
Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover
Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
D.C. Noir edited by George Pelecanos
2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook
edited by the editors of Baseball America The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde*
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
How to Archer by Sterling Archer
Now Pitching: Bob Feller by Bob Feller with Bill Gilbert
The Men Who Stare At Goats by Jon Ronson*

March (9):
Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships by Kayt Sukel
The Perfection Point by John Brenkus
The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi
When I Was a Young Man by Bob Kerrey
Out of My League by Dirk Hayhurst*
Bossypants by Tina Fey
My Friend Dahmer by Derf Backderf
The Sweet Science by A.J. Liebling
The Curse of Rocky Colavito by Terry Pluto

April (2):
Sweetness: the Enigmatic Life of Walter Payton by Jeff Pearlman
Game Six by Mark Frost

May (3):
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella
The Pitch That Killed by Mike Sowell
Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver

June (3):
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama
I Am a Genius of Unspeakable Evil and I Want to be Your Class President by Josh Lieb

July (5)
The Power Broker by Robert Caro*
The Last Natural by Rob Miech
The Beats: a Graphic History by Harvey Pekar et al.
The McSweeney’s Book of Politics and Musicals edited by Christopher Monks
The Card: Collectors, Con Men, and the True Story of History’s Most Desired Baseball Card by Michael O’Keeffe and Teri Thompson

August (5)
Love is a Mix Tape by Rob Sheffield*
The Deportees and Other Stories by Roddy Doyle
Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner*
Summer of Shadows by Jonathan Knight
I Love It When You Talk Retro by Ralph Keyes

September (2)
Sleepwalk With Me and Other Stories by Mike Birbiglia
One Day in September by Simon Reeve

October (8)
America Again: Rebecoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t by Stephen Colbert
The Hall of Nearly Great edited by Jason Wojciechowski and Marc Normandin
Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon
The Wire-to-Wire Reds: Sweet Lou, Nasty Boys, and the Road to a World Championship by John Erardi and Joel Luckhaupt
Columbine by Dave Cullen*
The Beckham Experiment by Grant Wahl
Illegal Procedure by Josh Luchs and James Dale
The Best Show in Football: The 1946-55 Cleveland Browns -- Football’s Greatest Dynasty by Andy Piascik

November (15)
The Extra 2% by Jonah Keri*
Steinbrenner: The Last Lion of Baseball by Bill Madden
Change Up: an Oral History of 8 Key Events that Shaped Baseball by Larry Burke and Peter Thomas Fornatale with Jim Baker
Don’t Put Me In Coach by Mark Titus
The Joy of Keeping Score: How Scoring the Game Has Influenced and Enhanced the History of Baseball by Paul Dickson
Hard-Luck Harvey Haddix and the Greatest Game Ever Lost by Lew Freedman
How Soccer Explains the World by Franklin Foer
Super Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner*
Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever by Jack McCallum
Scorecasting: The Hidden Influences Behind How Sports are Played and Games are Won by Tobias Moskowitz and L. Jon Wertheim
The Will to Whatevs by Eugene Mirman
Johnny Cash: I See a Darkness by Reinhard Kleist
Brief Interviews With Hideous Men by David Foster Wallace
Created in Darkness by Troubled Americans: The Best of McSweeney’s Humor Category edited by Dave Eggers et al.
Decoded by Jay-Z*

December (10): In the Peanut Gallery with Mystery Science Theater 3000: Essays on Film, Fandom, Technology and the Culture of Riffing edited by Robert G. Weiner and Shelley E. Barba
The Best of American Splendor by Harvey Pekar
The Secret History of the War on Cancer by Devra Davis
The Book of Baseball Literacy: 3rd Edition by David H. Martinez
Pre: the Story of America's Greatest Running Legend by Tom Jordan
Marathon: The Ultimate Training and Racing Guide by Hal Higdon
The Best American Humorous Short Stories edited by Alexander Jessup
E-mails from an Asshole by John Lindsay
F in Exams by Richard Benson
Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Friday, November 16, 2012

TED? I've got Mitch Albom on line one.

Miguel Cabrera is a tremendous hitter, one of the best the game has seen in an incredibly long time. He would be, if baseball consisted solely of hitting, likely the best player of the last decade and only Albert Pujols would have a right to be mentioned in the same breath as him. In 2010, he almost certainly should have won the MVP. In 2012, he should have finished no lower than second. One could, I believe, make an argument that Miguel Cabrera could be the MVP in 2012.

On the other hand, one could just scream that he is the MVP and rejoice in vanquishing a straw man by willfully blinding one's self to knowledge, facts, analysis, and meaningful comparison. And by decrying certain numbers as worthless or artificial and then rooting your own argument in a slightly different set of numbers and voodoo mysticism.

I'll let you guess which Mitch Albom chooses.

Mitch Albom: Miguel Cabrera's award a win for fans, defeat for stats geeks

Ok, maybe you don't have to guess.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Book list: the best of ...

Top 5 of 2007:

2007 was a very good year to get me started reading again because I found a ton of books I really enjoyed. That's definitely been less the case in subsequent years.  There were no significantly lengthy tomes in 2007. That would change in subsequent years.

1. Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer - this got me started reading everything Krakuer put on paper, which is somewhat good (Under the Banner of Heaven), somewhat bad (Eiger Dreams).  If you're not a romantic at heart, it's not a book for you, because you'll have a hard time thinking anything other than "what a stupid kid," but it's a great story told exceptionally well. Alas, like everything he's ever written, it results in criticisms that the edition I read felt the need to respond to.  Krakauer is an entertaining author, but the guy can't handle criticism.
2. Mother Night by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - one of the greatest novels I've ever read, it's far and away my favorite Vonnegut work.  It's also the most unlike Vonnegut in that it's very linear and realistic, without any sort of fantastic or science fiction elements. But he displays the ability to be a fantastic traditional storyteller here.
3. Bloodsworth by Tim Junkin - a nonfiction account of Kirk Bloodsworth's fight to become the first man exonerated because of DNA evidence (note the correct use of word "exonerated", Ryan Braun).  It's a sad book in nearly all ways, but it's gripping and powerful.
4. The Nine by Jeffrey Toobin - admittedly, it's too glowing with respect to my second least favorite Supreme Court justice of recent times (I'm sure there were worse justices in the pre-Warren court era, but I won't pretend to be a scholar on them at all), Sandra Day O'Connor, but Toobin's book is the reincarnation of The Brethren by Bob Woodward and Scott Armstrong, which is one of my favorite books of all time and the best book I've ever read about any part of the U.S. government.
5. Zodiac by Robert Graysmith - there are a lot of books I considered here, but the story of trying to track down the Zodiac killer was suspenseful and fascinating for mainstream non-fiction.

Also on the list: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (I know, I'm a defense attorney at heart, this should be on the top five, but it's not); The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett; Horsemen of the Esophagus by Jason Fagone; Can I Keep My Jersey? by Paul Shirley; The Bad Guys Won! by Jeff Pearlman

Top 5 of 2008:

2008 was dominated by soccer and David Maraniss, with a lengthy visit by Norman Mailer and my first 1,000+ page book during this span (The Executioner's Song)

1. Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby - I'd tried reading this several years before, having had my wife bring it back from the UK for me at some point (admittedly, I think I asked more nicely than that and she wasn't my wife at the time) and set it aside. I didn't get it, how are all these games significant? There's just one league, right?  My understanding of top flight football in England wasn't much improved in 2008, this was before the revelation that would follow (largely helped by Bloody Confused! and FIFA 2005 for the PS2 -- Martin Tyler: "now Shevchenko!") and soccer would become one of the most frequent appearances on the reading lists. This has my favorite quotation from any book, and it's entirely worth the effort. You may not understand all of it, but if you're a sports fan, you'll know enough of it.
2. Born Standing Up by Steve Martin - I have an unabashed love for Steve Martin. His work is horribly uneven, he appears in loads of dreck, but he's capable of generating sincere and masterful works. This, along with The Pleasure of My Company, is what I'd put in that class. It's a very poignant and sentimental, but seemingly honest portrayal of his life up until he left stand-up comedy. Because it doesn't cover his entire life, it's a less enthusiastic memoir than most, but has a kind of quiet dignity and sadness that is striking. Yes, in many ways, it's remembering a past that likely never existed, but all autobiography is mostly fiction -- this is at least it's fiction worth reading.
3. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon - the main conceit of this book should have turned me off to it. It's an Asperger's boy as the narrator. It reeks of gimmick. But that makes it that much more striking because it really worked here.
4. Rome 1960: The Olympics That Changed The World by David Maraniss - I knew nothing about the 1960 olympics, but I know plenty now. Maraniss makes it a very living picture and addresses a lot of themes without being heavy-handed.
5. Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer - this should be required reading at BYU. This is not to say it's factually perfect, I'm sure it's not, but it tells a story that most people will never hear. In the absence of this book, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints would be a complete mystery to all but its adherents.
Also on the list: Clemente: the Passion and Grace of Baseball's Last Hero by David Maraniss - another extraordinarily sad book, this had me feeling awful reading its final chapters; Bloody Confused! by Chuck Culpepper - a helpful entree into the English soccer system with a fair amount of humor that's only occasionally tiresome; The Executioner's Song by Norman Mailer - this isn't In Cold Blood. But it's a fantastic imitation of it and really brings characters to life.; The 33-Year-Old Rookie by Chris Coste - Coste is a great player-author, and even though the story's not exactly new, it's well-told.

Top 5 of 2009:

I slayed the only F. Scott Fitzgerald novel I hadn't finished, make my first venture into the world of graphic novels, and finally, finally finish The Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

1. Heart of the Game: Life, Death and Mercy in Minor League America by S.L. Price - baseball stories don't got much more tragic than this, and Price did a great job of reminding readers that the tragedy didn't end at Mike Coolbaugh's family and friends. A balanced story of the sadness and desperation that follows so many people associated with the game of baseball.
2. Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. - this was surprisingly enjoyable. I'd hated Cat's Cradle, which took me something like 6 months to read and caused me to stop reading Vonnegut in high school. But this captured the essence of random walk Vonnegut where nothing is off limits and everything is hard to follow, but it all works out.
3. The Machine by Joe Posnanski - I read this in less than a day. It's just good Posnanski writing, there's nothing else to say. I knew the story for the most part, but it didn't make it any less fantastic.
4. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - all my other Steinbeck experiences were exceptionally brief novels that didn't overstay their welcome. They don't compare to this. It's a surprisingly bright and optimistic outlook, considering what I expected, but gave me a great look at Tom Joad as one of the greatest characters in literature. It was good enough it caused me to like the album The Ghost of Tom Joad for a while. That's impressive.
5. The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon - I liked this book a lot. But lord it took ages. I had started reading it on at least a half dozen occasions and had even gotten halfway through it once. But I started over and finally got through it. It was worth the effort, which means it has to be on the list, even if the others were all much easier reads.

Also on the list: Once in a Lifetime: the Incredible Story of the New York Cosmos by Gavin Newsham - a fantastic story of a league that's largely forgotten (NASL) and an explanation for just why it couldn't last; Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates - I was surprised at how fresh the story seemed, even if the world its characters envisioned exists only in the recollections of Republican presidential candidates; As They See 'Em: A Fan's Travels in the Land of Umpires by Bruce Weber - an informative, but living expose of sorts on the life of baseball umpires at every level.

Top 5 of 2010:
1. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall - it starts slow, but if you're a runner, you'll love this book by the time you're done. I still am up in the air as to the efficacy of barefoot running (and broke my foot in Vibrams not three months after reading this book), but it has a powerful storyteller as a late-to-the-party advocate here.
2. The Soul of Baseball: A Road Trip Through Buck O'Neil's America by Joe Posnanski - I have read Posnanski's book about Buck O'Neil and Buck O'Neil's autobiography, and Posnanski made me feel like I knew Buck O'Neil even more (O'Neil really wrote about the Negro Leagues generally in his memoir). This book is the reason I'm a member of the Negro League Baseball Museum that I've been to once and the reason I'll likely drag my wife when I return to Kansas City in the fall.
3. The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein - ok, gimmicky narrators apparently work with me. There's a lot of this book that's hackneyed and melodramatic, but the narration is so impeccable that it's worth reading anyway.
4. The Pittsburgh Cocaine Seven by Aaron Skirboll - this book has one flaw, and it's that there isn't enough of it. It's a story that begged to be told, and I was absolutely engrossed in it, I just wish there had been more, because I know the possibility was there. But even with that deficiency, it's a must-read to me.
5. You Gotta Have Wa by Robert Whiting - Whiting's discussion of Japanese baseball bookended my first trip to Fenway Park, so perhaps it's overestimated in my mind, but it brings a lot of gaijin baseball players (Randy Bass, Charlie Manuel, and Leron Lee, among others) to life and tells a story few bother to discuss.

Also on the list: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov - it took several efforts, but I finally discovered that Lolita was actually funny; The Things They Carried by Tim O'Brien - the title story is a masterpiece, the others don't quite live up, but the book is very good; American Lightning by Howard Blum - it's fair to criticize the story for bringing together stories that were really completely unrelated, but it also does so by largely dispensing with the story about D.W. Griffith. Set that flaw aside, and it's an entertaining read that could stand to have more detail.

Top 5 of 2011:
1. The War for Late Night by Bill Carter - for someone who'd never seen The Tonight Show with Conan O'Brien (I got really sick on my honeymoon and missed the debut episode and then returned home where I would never be watching TV at that hour of the day), I was a Conan advocate. This book won't disappoint other Conan fans and was fascinating from start to finish.
2. City of Thieves by David Benioff - a grisly genre novel, yes, but it's well-told and brings scenes to life.
3. The Late Shift by Bill Carter - it's not as fascinating as its effective sequel, but it's very familiar and may have even gained significance because of the post-Conan context in which I read it.
4. Nim Chimpsky: the Chimp Who Would Be Human by Elizabeth Hess - a story that was well-captured in documentary last year in Project Nim, but the book is the real source and is emotionally evocative and raises significant questions about what it means to be human and whether being human necessarily implies superiority.
5. The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson - like American Lightning, the narratives aren't really as intertwined as they seem, but both stories are utterly fascinating and worth reading, even if both seem too fantastic for words.

Also on the list: Zoo Story by Thomas French - it's not recommended to all, because it's a sad story for literally everyone, but it gives what seems to me to be an even-handed discussion of zoos and a heartbreaking story of the operations of one zoo in particular; The Bullpen Gospels by Dirk Hayhurst - I've read all the baseball books, it seems. Going to Barnes & Noble, I'll have read over 50% of the books on the shelves, but this still ranks near the top of the list.

My reading list: 2007-2012

Back when I was on livejournal, I took up what was characterized as the 50 Book challenge, wherein you read 50 books in one year. I started this in 2007, having probably read a total of one or two books in their entirety in 2006, since I had a habit of reading half a book, putting it down and never finishing it. I completed it by November, promptly stopped reading for a month and went back at it in January 2008.

It's now ceased to be anything out of the ordinary for me, and I've done it rather easily more often than not. I felt like I'd done a particularly good job this year, having already finished 13 books, despite the fact that one of them is the 2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook, which usually takes a month to read. This year, it took a trip to Turkey. And toss in the fact that I'm reading what has to be the longest book I've read in terms of words (The Power Broker by Robert Caro, which clocks in over 1100 pages, but more than that, is a large sized book with small print. There are probably 10,000 more words in it than in any of the other tomes I've slogged through).

Sometime last year, I went through all the lists I'd kept for the prior years and put together a list spanning all of the books I've read since I embarked on what used to seem like a gargantuan task. Now it turns out that I read because I like it and because I have loads of books, because I kept buying them even when I didn't read.  If you're interested, here's the link to the list:

At the end of that list, you'll find all the lists for the individual years.

For 2012, thus far, as I've said, I've gotten through 13 books: 
January (5)
When March Went Mad by Seth Davis
College Humor: The Website: The Book by the writers of
The Great Typo Hunt by Jeff Deck and Benjamin D. Herson
The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty
The American Way of Death Revisited by Jessica Mitford

February (8)
Bottom of the 33rd by Dan Barry
The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. by Robert Coover
Jimmy Corrigan: the Smartest Kid on Earth by Chris Ware
D.C. Noir edited by George Pelecanos
2012 Baseball America Prospect Handbook edited by the editors of Baseball America
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
How to Archer by Sterling Archer

I considered 13 an auspicious start. Then I looked at the prior lists. Uh, not so much. In fact, it's barely above the median (and below the mean).

In comparison, through February in past years:
2007: 24 (thank you, Ian Fleming!)
2008: 9 (I literally worked around the clock for all of February and was in our New York office from 8 a.m. until midnight to 3 a.m. every day for two weeks and was working 9 a.m. until midnight in my office the rest of the month). 2 books is impressive for that month, really.
2009: 12
2010: 12 (one of these was From Here to Eternity, though, so that was responsible for tying up most of those months).
2011: 9 (I moved to DC and started a new job on January 30 where I then proceeded to work all the time I wasn't looking at houses, so I have a few excuses)

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Happy New Year!

I am excited for the new year -- it gives me a chance to start over with a new set of arbitrary goals that don't present a meaningful challenge. Last year, I mustered 1335 miles (only a marginal increase from the year before, even though I missed nearly three months of 2010 with a stress fracture), read 63 books (thanks to three Adventures of Tintin books in the last few days, I think I set a new high in that total, read 100 short stories (due entirely to the work of Ryan and Ashley), attended 32 baseball games in 7 cities (in 2 countries), and made it to 7 concerts (in three states/districts). And I started a new job and bought a house.

That makes for a busy year.

2012 will bring more of all of those things (I'm getting the short stories over with early this year), a trip to California for a West Coast opening day swing that will help carve stadiums off my list, and I'm excited to get started on them.

My hopes for the year (we won't call them goals, because it's not like I will regard myself as a failure for not achieving them).

-Notch a 2010 Boston Qualifying time -- the standards for Boston keep dropping, and this drop is just cruel, since a 3:05 time is really a stretch of any imagination -- 3:10:59 was already straining credulity.
-Crack the 5 minute mile (current best is 5:27)-- this is actually something that makes the first goal look modest, but I have more faith in the possibility of this hope. For whatever reason, I can always find speed in reserve, so long as I know that the end is a minute or two away. This provides no solace over a distance of 26.2 miles, but plenty over a distance of one. I don't know why I can notch times as quick as 5:27 on the treadmill, so I may well be capable of even more.
-Make it to at least 4 new MLB stadiums -- I've dwindled the list down a fair bit in the last year, but the western divisions are still virtually untouched. I'm aiming to go out at Opening Day for a trip that would take me to ARI-LAA-SDP-LAD, but I have to actually make it happen, and since my wife isn't likely to make it, I have to remain motivated on my own.
-Broker a peace treaty between the cats -- the newest torments and attacks the oldest on a nearly-relentless basis. It's disconcerting, and I'm losing hope that age will resolve the problem. But it continuing can't be an option, and I don't want to lose another cat.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Overheard in ATL


Oh, I'm at the airport.

Oh, you didn't know? Whenever I'm at the airport, I have an incessant
need to call everyone I know. If I'm not calling people at the airport
-- oh, I can't hear you, I'm in the airport -- if I'm not calling
someone, then I would have proof that I have no friends. It's just
inconceivable that I wouldn't have someone to call.


Oh, gosh, I'm about to get on the plane. But rather than get off the
phone and end this call that was made solely because I am in the
airport, I will just make everything take longer. Oh, I'm in the

Oh, you're at work? Really? Oh, well it won't be much longer. I'm at
the airport. I can't believe you're at work. I mean, it is 2 pm on a
Tuesday and there's a 99 percent chance that if you have a job, you
would be at work, I just think it's SO WEIRD that you're at work. Oh,
I'm not at work. I'm at the airport.


Hello? Hi Doodie, I just wanted to let you know I was here and was all
checked in. My flight's on time, so thanks for bringing me.*

*this is an exact quotation. This leads me to believe 1) she was
calling anthropomorphic feces, 2) that can drive, 3) and that in the
event that her flight had not been on time, she would be angry at the
anthropomorphic feces for driving her to the airport.

This person also was telling person #3 (the person before
Anthropomorphic feces) that she has a mortgage for 40,000 and a second
mortgage for 15,000. She should have skipped flying to Atlanta, she
could have paid off her f---ing mortgages.

Sent from my mobile device

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

The continuing story of Justin Verlander, magical pitcher

Justin Verlander and narratives -- in that link, Joe Posnanski discusses how sportswriters and commentators are clinging to the story that Justin Verlander was the reason the Tigers won last night, despite all evidence being markedly to the contrary.  It's a great read, it's spot on, and it has one problem and one problem alone. Alas, that problem is that Posnanski himself is guilty of perpetuating a narrative that numbers didn't necessarily back up with Verlander this season. See, for instance, two ways to look at MVP voting and the obvious MVP choice (he rightly concludes there isn't one)

While Posnanski is willing to acknowledge that Verlander is not a guarantee for MVP, he does seem to buy into the gospel that Verlander is a uniquely dominant pitching force in the American League. In fact, numbers indicate that he's a superb pitcher whose difference from other great pitchers has been exceptional fortune.  To the extent Verlander has a defining feature that makes him the true unrivaled leader in AL pitching, it's been his ability to pitch deeper into games than his rivals (which may be a function of how atrocious the Tigers' other starters were for most of the season, forcing Leyland to leave Verlander in to give his bullpen a rest). 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Fire Rob Parker?

I don't want to have to do this, Rob Parker. Don't make me do it. Oh lord. Fine.
New York Yankees manager Joe Girardi likely won't win American League Manager of the Year.

Rick Perry likely won't be elected president in 2012. But there's a disturbing probability that each of these could happen despite mountains of evidence that neither man has offered a shred of value added to his representative organization.  I like the direction that this article is going, Mr. Parker, please continue.

In fact, he'll be lucky to finish in the top three in the voting.

I don't know. If I had a ballot, it would probably say Joe Maddon, Manny Acta, and Ron Washington, but a lot of people just look at who went to the playoffs, so Girardi's name will be on there. But I also think that Manager of the Year is preposterous since managers are essentially irrelevant -- what you need is a GM affiliated with the Army of the 12 Monkeys and some dork that was in Get Him to the Greek. Haven't you seen that Moneyball movie?

Sadly, most baseball writers/voters just can't look past the Yankees' $200-million payroll to actually see what he's done.

Earned an attendance certificate? Filled out the lineup card? This is why Manager of the Year is as stupid an award as an ESPY. Winning games is its own reward for a team or a manager. Winning individual awards is something only non-true Yankees like A-Fraud cares about.

Plus, there's an anti-New York vote that swirls around Baseball America whether folks want to admit it or not.

You do know that Baseball America is a publication, right? One that's infinitely more esteemed in its coverage of baseball than the Red Sox crap factory that employs you?

But if there was ever a manager who deserves some credit for getting his team into the postseason this year -- the Yankees clinched the AL East title with a doubleheader sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays on Wednesday -- it's Girardi.

If there was ever a manager who deserves some credit for getting his team into the postseason this yearYou tricked me, Rob Parker. I was going to suggest that EVER was a very high threshold -- that you would have to be saying that Joe Girardi outmanaged Gil Hodges in 1969 or Sparky Anderson in the 1970s, Bobby Cox in any of the years between 1991 and 2005, every year John McGraw managed... No, instead you are saying he is the most credit-worthy of all time* *if you measure all time by considering only this year. You're still demonstrably, ludicrously, and insanely wrong by any rational measure (Kirk Gibson, anyone?), but you're clever. (Oh, wait, you mean credit like credit ratings, credit limits, right? Because obviously since he has a $200+ million payroll...oh Jesus. You're serious.)

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Lists: Books

January (3)
Black and Blue: How Racism, Drugs and Cancer Almost Destroyed Me by Paul Canoville
Home Buying For Dummies by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown
Tips and Traps When Buying a Home by Robert Irwin

February (6)
Mortgages for Dummies by Eric Tyson and Ray Brown
The Damned United by David Peace
The Quitter by Harvey Pekar
An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
The Good Stuff by Joe Posnanski
How to Beat Up Anybody by Judah Friedlander

March (3)
Zombie Spaceship Wasteland by Patton Oswalt
Hell in a Handbasket by Tom Tomorrow
2011 Baseball America Prospect Handbook by Jim Callis et al.

April (4)
The War for Late Night by Bill Carter
I Was Right On Time by Buck O'Neil
Bowerman and the Men of Oregon by Kenny Moore
For Your Eyes Only: Ian Fleming and James Bond by Ben Macintyre

May (5)
The Internet Is a Playground by David Thorne
Chronicles, Volume 1 by Bob Dylan
Living on the Black by John Feinstein
The Late Shift by Bill Carter
Cancer on $5 a Day *Chemo Not Included by Robert Schimmel and Alan Eisenstock

June (4)
The Game From Where I Stand by Doug Glanville
The Devil and the White City by Erik Larson
Permanent Midnight by Jerry Stahl
Mountain Man Dance Moves: the McSweeney's Book of Lists by the Editors of McSweeney's

July (6)
Chasing the Game by Filip Bondy
Shut Out: a Story of Race and Baseball in Boston by Howard Bryant
The Rocket That Fell To Earth by Jeff Pearlman
The Final Season by Tom Stanton
The New Frugality by Chris Farrell
Where the Wild Things Were by William Stolzenburg

August (5)
Project Nim by Elizabeth Hess
A False Spring by Pat Jordan
Zoo Story by Thomas French
High Heat by Tim Wendel
Those Guys Have All the Fun: Inside the World of ESPN by James Andrew Miller and Tom Shales

September (2)
My Year of Flops by Nathan Rabin
Last Call by Daniel Okrent

Since I've uploaded this, I've read nothing but nonfiction, but it's also included some real dense works -- Last Call took me the better part of two months. It's a good history of prohibition, but the word I'd use to describe it a bit too appropriate for such a topic, so I won't even use it.


I hit a run of science/ecology/biology books with Where the Wild Things Were, Project Nim, and Zoo Story. Now I'm starting a couple of novels, which is odd since I haven't read anything but nonfiction since apparently An Object of Beauty in February, which, while certainly not good, didn't warrant a half a year away from fiction entirely.


Fine, fine, Last Call is dry. Okay? Happy now? Can we move on?

The 50 book threshold seems a lot tougher this year. Admittedly, I've had a lot of lengthier books and I've really run out of go-to fiction authors (I've read everything from Chabon and Vonnegut now, and the Ian Fleming Bond novels are waaaay back in the rear-view mirror now), but it still seems like I've read a lot more than 38 books. I suppose moving near the subway has largely limited my ability to read when going to and from work -- my commute's no longer worth filling and this week I've taken to walking home while I'm trying to overcome an inexplicable injury/health issue that I'm not willing to run through. Either way, 50 is doable, and I suspect it could be done by November considering I have a couple more flights in my near future and no baseball games to fill my spare time.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

I hate our coffee machine

The coffee machine in my office is annoying for two reasons. 1) It fills even paper cups about half full, so you have about half of a cup of coffee. 2) The coffee machine has apparently become human. It has developed self-awareness and the ability to lie. 

The machine ALWAYS lies. With coffee, it says "preparing your fresh ground coffee"...and my response is "f*** you, machine. I know it's not fresh ground, because I was the one who put in the little plastic packet into which the "coffee" was ground probably eons ago.   So the only way to interpret its statement is that the coffee has been freshly brewed from ground coffee, which coffee works.  Barring someone just pouring water over a bunch of beans into a mug, it's going to be made "freshly" with ground up beans.  So basically the machine is telling me that my eyes are working and the machine is performing its task, but it has to be a fancy man about it.

From this machine, I drink coffee solely because I'm trying to avoid drinking soda, because I don't like coffee much.  So I usually get a mocha -- which, as I learned from said coffee machine, is just coffee with hot chocolate in it. (I do not know these things and I don't enjoy the differences between wine. I am not welcome in the white guy club.) And the's even worse.  This time the machine's not lying, it's just an asshole. With the mocha, it says "preparing your indulgent mocha".  Indulgent?  Come on.  1) machine, check --  in·dul·gent /ɪnˈdʌldʒənt/  Show Spelled[in-duhl-juhnt] adjective -- characterized by or showing indulgence; benignly lenient or permissive: an indulgent parent. 2) Are you kidding me? There is nothing indulgent. It's powdered coffee, powdered hot chocolate. It's about as indulgent as doing your taxes. The only, only, only way that you can call it indulgent is to use it in the more colloquial sense that basically means gluttonous. The machine is telling me "hey fatass, you'll get your fucking sugar caffeine shit."

So I hate our coffee machine and am going to have to see the movie Tron so I can figure out how to kill it from the inside.

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Live from Oriole Park at Camden Yards

They're playing Ini Kamoze's "here comes the hotstepper" in the Bud
Light Warehouse Bar right now. I had forgotten the song entirely,
which is embarrassing, since I'm now convinced it's the best song I
don't have on ITunes (Us3 - Cantaloop and Onyx - Slam might be its
only rivals, and I now intend to buy all three when I get home).

Coming here is always an ambivalent experience. I've never liked the
Orioles, I hate Cal Ripken (and if I were to say so here, I would
likely be burned at the stake), I was very down on the stadium until I
discovered the bleacher seats -- the "good seats" here (about 20 rows
behind the plate) are among the worst "good seats" I've ever had. But
it's a good day today, I can pretend I want the Orioles to win
(admittedly, on balance, I prefer the Jays, but I really just want the
AL East to reach parity and Andy McPhail is criminally
underappreciated as a GM).

Orioles fans are probably the most past-oriented fans on earth. I
don't think you'd find any other stadium where the most omnipresent
jersey is a player who doesn't play anymore. Admittedly, they've been
bad for a long stretch, but their fans don't have the excuse that
they've not spent money (that's definitely not the Orioles' problem --
they signed Tejada, after all) or that they traded everyone (I don't
even remember the Orioles trading a homegrown talent other than Bedard
-- they deal guys like Derrek Lee that they sign on one year deals
because they'll pay for such players or short-term guys like George

Now they've moved from Ini Kamoze to "Party in the USA". Maybe the
Orioles just acquired Tulo.

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Saturday, July 30, 2011

How to Live Forever

Because it was still 100 degrees at 5 p.m., I decided there was no way I'd subject myself to the Nationals game tonight, even though I missed it Wednesday for work. So I had to find something new to do and knew my laptop was dead (my 5 year old laptop...still works fine -- hence you can read this and it's not all blackberry-formatted). Because I'd been constantly in the E Street Cinema the last few weeks, I was acutely aware of a documentary coming out called "How to Live Forever" that examined aging, death, and whether these were truly inevitable things. Not from a super-scientific point of view, much more of a populist sort of mid-life crisis assessment. And today, it opened at the E Street Cinema and the director was there for a Q&A. Having missed the Q&A with the people associated with Project Nim last week when it sold out before I got tickets, I had to go.

And I'm glad I did. It's a light documentary considering that really so much of it is about death. It's somewhere in between the Errol Morris school and Michael Moore. But one of the questions that he asked a number of people on the street really struck a chord with me because it was bizarrely appropriate to a conversation I had earlier this week while exemplifying why I am a bad role model and should not be let near summer associates.

The question was: "if you could take a pill that would let you live 500 years, would you take it?" The people on the street that he asked were basically split -- half seemed to think that life's brevity was a value of some sort (these were either truly decrepit people or people who were far from having to contemplate death), half said yes (with a special poignance from one person, who pointed out he was recovering from his second cancer surgery).

My conversation came about in a different way but sort of touched on similar ground. In order to talk about anything but work, I asked the summer associates what they were doing with their time in between working and going back to school. One of them had a great many travels planned, the other was going to a wedding and was planning to go skydiving.

Because my brain doesn't involve itself before I speak, I just say "I could never do that." The reason? It's not because I'm afraid of heights or even that I'm afraid my parachute wouldn't open (though that probably plays an insignificant role). Rather, it's the fear that I would get in the air and decide that maybe it's not worth it to pull the rip cord. It's not that I'm suicidal, I couldn't even contemplate that seriously. It's that I lack 100% certainty that, given the actual obligation to do something or vanish, I'd do something. It's much easier and much less troubling to simply continue to exist and not have to confront those decisions. There are plenty of days where I think I don't know how people have kids, because I have it easy and this still sucks. I'm healthy, I have a job, I'm financially secure (until August 2, thanks a lot, tea party). And there are a lot of days where I am ready to chuck it all.

It's certainly possible other people feel this way, but I suspected it's not a terribly common belief. Well, I thought that for a day. The next day, I learned that the summer associate who is not going skydiving apparently told one of my co-workers that my theory was "brilliant". Either I'm apparently onto something and there's a whole community of us who practice fundamentalist ambivalence or he may be more troubled than we know.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Bixler's dream is over -- Riggleman resigns

Well, perhaps Jim Riggleman's just been overcome with guilt for continuing as a manager after I excoriated him <A HREF=>here</A>, or maybe Jim Riggleman's resignation is just another sign of the Nationals trying desperately to get their plot to move the team to Las Vegas back on track. In any event, it's one of the most fascinating train wrecks I've experienced, definitely one of the weirdest managerial situations. Edwin Rodriguez resigned earlier this week, to be sure, but he resigned on a day when I looked at the standings, saw the Marlins had fallen to last and wondered how he hadn't been fired already.  Mike Hargrove suddenly quitting on the Mariners was odd, but the team's only real player didn't like Hargrove and was vowing to leave if Hargrove remained as manager (leading to articles like <A HREF=>this</A>. 

But the Riggleman situation is a real black eye for everyone associated with it. Mike Rizzo looks like a jerk for not offering to have a conversation (at which point he'd have refused to exercise the option, triggering Riggleman's resignation then) and the franchise looks cheap because they could have bought peace for the remainder of the season by coughing up $600,000.  For a team that signed Jayson Werth to an average annual value contract of $18 million, that's really stingy.

Then there's Jim Riggleman.  The Nationals job has already lasted longer than two of his three managerial stints even though his winning percentage hasn't shown much reason to keep him around. The 2011 Nationals are a team that's managed to win a lot of games without ever looking particularly good. They've got some solid pieces and have recovered well from losing two players who were supposed to serve as the heart of the lineup with Zimmerman out for nearly two months and Adam LaRoche out for the season. Despite his truly mind-boggling moves and the complete lack of depth on the team, the Nationals were respectable and seemed to be actually drawing some interest from fans (the attendance numbers don't reflect this, though the Nationals have been hampered because they haven't had any of their big draw promotional games yet, any weekend series against the Phillies, and haven't had the sellouts that came from Stephen Strasburg showing up to pitch.)  In any event, the team was at least looking likely to survive and still have a few fans in the seats in September.  So, despite the fact that he's been a questionable manager, he deserved to get the lame duck option picked up, because he hadn't done anything fire-able in the standings (again, tactically, I don't see how he could possibly have held his job in the first instance and a manager who didn't make such moves might well have had this team three or four games over .500 -- the Giants game would have been firmly in the win column).  But insisting that the conversations had to happen in June is, as Mike Rizzo said, not what baseball is about. He had a contract. He wasn't getting fired. If he was going to get fired at the end of the season, he'd have lost nothing -- he's not going to generate any interest as a Major League manager ever again now, and that would make him an unlikely bench coach as well.  If things really work out for Riggleman, he'll be managing the Camden Riversharks next year.

I don't think the Nationals will finish at .500. They wouldn't have with Riggleman, they won't under McLaren. I don't know what effect it will have on the team or their performance. I don't know how McLaren's performance will compare to Riggleman's. But I do know this much -- everyone in the scenario looks like they weren't suited for the jobs they held, and that doesn't bode well for the future of baseball in D.C.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Welcome to run-down San Salvador!

Combining the presence of half of El Salvador's population with the
fact that RFK looks a lot like it's a stadium in a third-world
country, I think I've really got the real feel today (hopefully minus
the people throwing bags of urine).

When they said the game was sold out, I just figured they'd not sold
all the seats and were treating this like a DC United match. Nope.
This place is going to be full by 6 pm, when the El Salvador-Panama
match starts.

What's stunning is the complete absence of Panama fans here. When I
was at the Gold Cup semifinals in 2009, Panama had at least 2/3 of the
fans in Lincoln Financial Field. Today, I saw three on the Metro, no
one in the stadium. Even Jamaica's six fans outnumber Panama thus far.

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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Top 5 Interrogative Songs

posted from The Top 5 - the longest-lasting of any of the blogs after the livejournal venture had disappeared for a couple years, but I am so swamped with things to do that I am unmotivated to do any of them before midnight, since I'll be doing them after midnight anyway. So it led me to resurrect the top five blog, so long as I can convince Ryan, who's not teaching in the summer, and Dan, who should have limitless time, as I understand that is what happens in grad school -- to follow suit.

Tim's Top 5:
I blame Dan. He posted a reference to this blog today. So I'm posting, because I came up with something that I think would make for a good sporcle quiz -- providing answers to songs ending in question marks. So that's what this is for me -- you could choose to pick songs that are phrased in the form of a question if you prefer, but I'm sticking to something easy to search for in Itunes -- and the only other songs I can think of are "Are you gonna go my way", "Are you gonna be my girl," and "Do you want to know a secret" none of which would make my list anyway. The fascinating thing is that this is a list where the Jimi Hendrix Experience, CCR, Elliott Smith, John Lennon, R.E.M. and The Clash would have qualifiers, and I didn't pick any of those.

1. Life on Mars? - David Bowie - This is far and away the winner here, although if I'd gone with songs phrased in the form of a question, I wouldn't be able to count it. It's one of my favorite Bowie songs, which means it's one of my favorite songs period. The vocal jumps are matched perfectly by the mostly nonsensical lyrics and the music is just soaring. I can't think of a whole lot of songs that do so much with vocal dynamics, but it's fantastic here.

Answer: possibly, frozen under the water.

2. What Do You Want Me To Say? - Dismemberment Plan - I had actually stumbled onto listening to this album (Emergency and I) today and never once thought to connect this song to the list until I ran the ITunes search. It has a similar sort of emphasis on explosions of sound, but ties in some occasional spoken-word sort of lyrics. I've never listened to anything but this album, but this album is fantastic enough to deserve the hype it gets.

Answer: that you're coming back to DC and will be playing the Black Cat on a Saturday or Sunday night.

3. Isn't it a Pity? - George Harrison - This is a very simple song that goes on for a very very long time, but it doesn't feel that way at all. Another masterpiece from what is far and away the best solo album any Beatle ever released. Yes, I said that. Suck it, Imagine (which had a song that narrow missed this list). This song is also noteworthy because IT includes a question mark in the title, even though the next track (What Is Life) does not. Get with the program, Harrison!

Answer: Yes. 'Tis. You're missed, George.

4. What Difference Does It Make? - Sensefield (cover of The Smiths) - I'm sorry, but I just really don't think that highly of the Smiths song (like most Smiths songs, I can see how someone who is not me would like it, but that person is not me). Jon Bunch's vocaqls are meant for this sort of thing, and Morrissey's spoken-word vocal here doesn't carry the same force. This is a pretty good straight rocker, and I am a sucker for Sensefield.

5. What do you do with a B.A. in English? - Cast of Avenue Q - this is the perfect start to a fantastic show that was even better than I had ever figured possible when I saw it live in London. RIP, Sir Gary Coleman.

Answer: Good luck figuring that out. That's why the song is so perfect.

Honorable mention - there'd be plenty, including the only Alice in Chains song that I like (Would?), but how about: CCR - Have You Ever Seen the Rain?; Elliott Smith - Wouldn't Mama Be Proud?; R.E.M. - What's The Frequency, Kenneth?

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Just a thought...

I find it amusing that there are 19 copies of Final Exit available used on Either Amazon's running estate sales now or that book's not all it's cracked up to be.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Lists: Books (2011)

I'm at 20 books for the year and expect that I'll be at 21 by the end of the month. I've noticed that I'm accumulating a number of authors for whom I've read multiple books over the last few years -- likely because I read on very few topics and I don't have a lot of readers in my social circle who would really turn me on to someone. The latest to join this group is Bill Carter, who is a television writer, which is surprising, given that I don't really watch much in the way of television. But I read his book about the debacle at NBC with Conan O'Brien in April, which then led me to go back and read his book about the Letterman/Leno debacle at NBC -- of which I made short work. They're both fascinating to me and strike me as pretty ludicrously balanced. They don't make me despise Jay Leno any less, but they make a case for him as a sympathetic figure in both scenarios. But that was right on the heels of finishing John Feinstein's error-laden book about Mike Mussina and Tom Glavine, which was my second of his books.

I'm in the middle of three books: Where the Wild Things Were, Shut Out by Howard Bryant (see FJM post if you want a good reason why I've not felt motivated to pick this up again), and The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson (which I anticipate I may finish in the next two days).

So, since I started this quest in 2007, I've read 24 authors multiple times. Here's the list:
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. (13)
Ian Fleming (12)
Michael Chabon (9)
Jon Krakauer (5)
Raymond Chandler (3)
Steve Martin (3)
Joe Posnanski (3)
JD Salinger (3)
Sherman Alexie (2)
Jim Callis et al. (Baseball America prospect handbook authors) (2)
Bill Carter (2)
Don DeLillo (2)
Dave Eggers (2)
John Feinstein (2)
Mark Haddon (2)
Dashiell Hammett (2)
Nick Hornby (2)
AJ Jacobs (2)
Chuck Klosterman (2)
Michael Lewis (2)
David Maraniss (2)
Jeff Pearlman (2)
Art Spiegelman (2)
Eric Tyson/Ray Brown (2) - no more from these two, it's safe to say.

I'm surprised that Fleming got beat out, I didn't realize I'd read that many Vonnegut books. I will definitely read more Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler when the opportunity presents itself, I just don't engage with fiction that often (the list of authors kind of shows that my forays into fiction are very concentrated in a given author).

I'd expect to add a few authors to that list since I already own the books to do it: Christopher Buckley, James M. Cain, Raymond Carver, Norman Mailer and Harvey Pekar.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Well, it fits one of the themes...

I'm pretty sure Paul Simon's "Mother and Child Reunion" is the song most likely to be permanently lodged in my brain. It's not my favorite song of his by a longshot, but it just gets in there and it stays for weeks.