"Let us go forth a while, and get better air in our lungs. Let us leave our closed rooms...
The game of ball is glorious."

--Walt Whitman

Friday, December 31, 2004

%@!#ing Yankees

Major League Baseball : News:
"The Yankees and Diamondbacks have agreed in principle on a three-for-one swap that will send 41-year-old Randy Johnson to the Bronx, sources close to the trade said Thursday. But Arizona's top official said the club was still working on details and that paperwork couldn't be forwarded to the Commissioner's office until after the New Year's weekend.
The Diamondbacks would get pitchers Javier Vazquez and Brad Halsey, along with catcher Dioner Navarro and $8.5 million to $9 million in cash, in exchange for Johnson, the five-time Cy Young winner who has been coveted by the Yankees for since this past July's non-waiver trade deadline.
Once Selig approves the deal, a 72-hour window will open for the Yankees to negotiate a contract extension with Johnson, who owns a no-trade clause in the remaining year of his current deal, worth $16 million. In addition to the no-trade clause, Johnson, who signed as a free agent with Arizona in 1998, is protected by a clause in the Basic Agreement that keeps players with 10 years of experience -- the last five with the same team -- from being traded without their permission.
If the Yanks and Johnson come to an agreement and the Big Unit waives his no-trade clause, all four players would have to pass physicals before the trade could be officially announced.
Johnson, who is first among Major League left-handers with 4,161 strikeouts, underwent surgery on his right knee during the 2002 season to remove the remaining cartilage. Johnson has a substance injected into the knee to help absorb the impact of his 6-foot, 10-inch frame landing on his right leg when he pitches."

What we need now, boys and girls, is a failed physical. There are four players--is just one previously undetected condition too much to ask?

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Thursday, December 30, 2004


Normally, when you leave your home in the morning, it's the part of the day with the least potential to be remarkable in any fashion. But sometimes, when you live in Minnesota, you leave the house and find out that it's winter. And then your perfectly dull little trip to the car/bus stop/coffeehouse is suddenly ripe with opportunity to pull you into the cosmic practical joke.

Normally, when ice builds up on sidewalks, it announces its presence by being nice and white. Or brown, if it's got road sand mixed in. But sometimes, when it falls as drizzle and then freezes in a very thin layer, it looks exactly like wet concrete. You can't even tell the difference when your eyes are, for example, six inches above it, after it's felled you like a gazelle on the Serengeti.

Normally, when you fall, you fall on your hands. But sometimes, when a thin sheen of ice is covered by a thin sheen of water, you fall so quickly you can't get your hands down. Then, if you're lucky, you land entirely on your posterior (if you're not lucky, you land on your teeth). Those are pretty much the only times you're actually glad you ate all those pizzas after your metabolism realized you weren't 18 anymore.

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"No Rational Relationship"

Despite the best efforts of the Enemy, America continues to creep toward becoming a just and sensible society. Behold: progress!

Yahoo! News - Ark. Judge Voids Gay Foster Parents Ban:
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - A state ban on placing foster children in any household with a gay member was struck down when a judge ruled that the state agency enforcing it overstepped its authority by trying to regulate 'public morality.'
Ruling in a case brought by the Arkansas chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites), Pulaski County Circuit Judge Timothy Fox declared the ban unconstitutional Wednesday.
At issue was a 1999 board regulation that said gays cannot become foster parents, and foster children cannot be placed in any home with a gay member under its roof.
The ACLU had argued that the regulation violates the equal-protection rights of gays. But the judge's ruling did not turn on that argument.
Instead, Fox noted that the Arkansas Legislature gave the state Child Welfare Agency Review board the power to 'promote the health, safety and welfare of children,' but the ban does not accomplish that. Rather, he said the regulation seeks to regulate 'public morality' -- something the board was not given the authority to do.
"The testimony and evidence overwhelmingly showed that there was no rational relationship between the ... blanket exclusion (of gays) and the health, safety and welfare of the foster children," Fox wrote.

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Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Pass the Advil


I hate Javascript with the sort of seething passion generally reserved for child molesters and Rush Limbaugh. Javascript, FYI, is the demented bastard offspring of C (a fairly reasonable sort of language), created for the sole purpose of aging web developers before their time. You might be able to beat it into submission if you had, say, a good language reference manual for it, but there is no such thing. Why? Try writing a comprehensive reference on that language toddlers make up and use somewhere between crawling and English. You'll probably have more luck.


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Monday, December 27, 2004

Back in the Saddle

With ChristmaHannuKwanzYule behind us (wait...is Kwanzaa over?) it's time to consider the dreaded Resolutions. We all do it. Even the folks who make a show of declaring that they are absolutely NOT making new year's resolutions have something they really want to accomplish in the next year. We may or may not promise ourselves that we'll actually do it, but there's always something we hope to succeed in.

I have three things. Well, five if you count a Twins World Series and the return of NHL hockey, but since I don't have any control over those they don't really count. Curiously enough, all my resolutions are to continue or resume doing something I did last year, not to stop doing or substantially change how I do anything. I think it's a sign that I'm finally approaching where I want to be with my life, and hey, it's only taken thirty-one years. Prompt, I'm not.

You all are hereby granted permission to smack me upside the head if you catch me backsliding on any of the following things after January 1st:

1. Lose ten pounds.
Three years ago, I quit smoking. Yay!
I gained 25 pounds in the next two years. Crap!
Last year, I lost fifteen. Yay!
Time to finish the job. Crap!

Do you miss pizza? I do.

2. Face politics again.
I've been hiding from the news. When Emperor Bush starts spewing the daily lie ("the economy is strong!") it's hard not to shriek and turn the channel to something safe like Animal Planet. But the time for mourning is over, and I need to face the grisly truth and prepare for the '06 gubernatorial race. First step--start watching the evening news again. Then, the books.

I have a stack of very worthy but lamentably unread political books. Howard Dean's new treatise on grassroots politics. Joe Trippi's discourse on politics and the internet showed up under the tree the other day (from my brother-in-law, who is so fantastically liberal he makes me feel stodgy. Thanks!). "Dude, Where's My Country?" has been stalled on chapter 6 since November. Robert F. Kennedy Jr's new book arrived tied to a box of Pepcid, on loan from Mom. (I'm a little concerned.)

I think I'll ease myself in with the "Bush Survival Bible". A little sarcasm goes a long way.

3. Finish the [bleep]ing novel.
Hey, it's half done. I took a couple of months off to write a short (in the most generous sense of the word) story, but I really need to get in there and finish the Big One.

I love my shiny new laptop and its wireless network, so I no longer have the "my desk isn't comfortable!" excuse. The couch is plenty comfortable. And my mind should work at its peak if I exercise and eat like I should, right? Right.

I don't suppose pizza is brain food?

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Thursday, December 23, 2004

If I Were the GM

If I were the Twins' general manager (and there are a multitude of reasons why I'm not), I would have done a few things differently this last week or two. Judging by the wailing and gnashing of teeth on the Twins Fan Forum lately, I'm not alone. But just for the record...

If I were Terry Ryan, I would:

  • not re-sign Luis Rivas unless I was pretty darn sure I could work a good trade involving him. Contrary to popular apocalyptic opinion, we're not all that short on infielders. We've got Morneau (1B), Cuddyer (2B), Punto (1B/2B/SS/3B), Ojeda (2B/SS/3B), Castro (2B/SS/3B), Bartlett (SS), Prieto (2B/SS/3B), Rodriguez (2B/SS) and Tiffee (3B). Throw in a veteran 3B, and we're golden!
  • repeatedly beat Gardy upside the head for even suggesting that Cudderror be the starting third baseman next year.
  • have signed Joe Randa to platoon at third with Terry Tiffee and/or Nick Punto.
  • tell Gardy to move Stewart to DH, whether he likes it or not (he doesn't). The man has hamstring issues, let's be practical here--for his salary, we need him playing every day. We do that by keeping him out of the field. Hunter, Jones and Ford can man the outfield, with whichever of Restovich, Ryan or West has a better spring training as backup.
  • make JC Romero pee in a cup. Daily. If he's on the juice, get him off of it. If he's not, send him to a shrink.
  • be looking for another starter. Chances are either Lohse or Mays (and possibly both) will stink so badly in spring training that their presence in the rotation will not be tolerable. We need someone waiting to fill that hole, and JD Durbin definitely needs more seasoning before he's that guy.
  • release LeCroy. The guy's got the ability to be a heavy hitter, but he needs to play every day to acheive his potential and he just won't get that chance here.
  • eyeball the free-agent market on catchers. We've got no guarantees about Mauer's knee, after all.
  • offer to take the Dodgers' place in the defunct three-way trade that would bring Randy Johnson to the Yankees, then pull out at the last minute. Have a video camera on Steinbrenner when he receives the news and sell copies of it on DVD to raise money for a new stadium.

Ah, if only...

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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Big Unit Stays Put

Yahoo! Sports: Randy Johnson: Deal to Yanks on Hold
RotoWire.com Staff - RotoWire.com
Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Update: The Dodgers have reportedly pulled out of the three team trade that would send Johnson to the Yankees, ESPNews reports.

Recommendation: The Yankees are still likely to continue pursuing Johnson, but it looks like they'll need to bring another team into the deal or somehow get the Dodgers to rejoin negotiations. We'll update you on this story as we get more information, but for now, the deal is off.

Hah! Take that, Steinbrenner!

Remember, folks--anything that is damaging, disheartening, or even merely inconvenient to the Yankees is good for baseball. Anything. This, considering last year's pitching woes, falls under "damaging", with a dash of "disheartening". Especially if they can't find a way to revive the deal.

Of course, the Twins have got the Gloveless Wonder topping the list of potential replacements for Corey "Brooks Robinson" Koskie at third, so perhaps I shouldn't be talking about the misfortunes of other teams...

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Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Hallmark, This Isn't

So it occurred to me the other day that we, meaning the hubby and I, haven't actually gotten any holiday cards (yet) this year. Which isn't all that surprising, really, since I'm a pagan and he's too lazy to be agnostic. We don't tend to get a whole lot Christmas cards anyway.

I like cards, though. There's something about a greeting card. It's kind of like a postcard the mailman can't read and that you don't have to think about what to write in. Open, sign, seal. Done! I'm not so good about sending them, though. I've still got a pair of Halloween cards I picked up four years ago. Every year I rediscover them the first week of November.

I don't like the sentimental ones much, though. Sympathy cards are all well and good--who knows what to say when someone dies or falls horribly ill?--but if my birthday makes you all teary-eyed, keep it to yourself, please. I'm over thirty, I need a good belly laugh on my birthday. Especially since my belly decided to maintain a circumference approximate to my age.

My mother and her best friend are masters of the funny greeting card. I don't know where they find these things, but you're guaranteed a giggle when you see their handwriting on the envelope. One year they gave each other the same Christmas card. (It was, apparently, a particularly good one.)

I'll conclude this mostly pointless ramble with a complete digression--the Christmas dinner menu!

Pork tenderloin in apricot chardonnay sauce
Garlic & herb potatoes
Corn on the cob
Sourdough rolls (with herbed butter)
...and an apple pie.

Update: So I get home after writing this to find three cards in the mail. Go figure.

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The Return of Potter


New Harry Potter book due July 16 - Yahoo! UK & Ireland News:
"LONDON (Reuters) - Christmas has come early for fans of the fictional boy wizard Harry Potter, with news that author J.K. Rowling has finished the sixth book in the series, 'Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince'.
The book, set to be published on July 16, 2005 in Britain, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, picks up the story of Harry Potter's sixth year at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry as his evil foe Lord Voldemort's 'power and followers are increasing day by day,' Rowling's publishers Bloomsbury and Scholastic said on Tuesday."

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Thursday, December 16, 2004

Thank You, Senator Dayton

It's nice to know someone in Washington still has something resembling a soul.

Dayton wants inquiry into armor:

"WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Sen. Mark Dayton urged President Bush Wednesday to order an investigation into the government's failure to provide enough armored vehicles for soldiers stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In a conference call with reporters, the Minnesota Democrat called the failure 'outrageous and indefensible' and said Bush should ask everyone responsible to resign.

Dayton said he is upset by recent reports that makers of the armored vehicles and armor kits had the capacity to produce more armament upgrades but hadn't received orders to do so.

'Those disclosures directly contradict everything that I and my colleagues have been told repeatedly by service branch and Department of Defense representatives during the last year,' he said.

Dayton made the request to the president in a letter that he released to the public on Wednesday.

Taylor Gross, a White House spokesman, said, 'As the president has said, we are fully committed to ensuring that our armed forces have all the equipment they need to be successful in the war on terrorism.'

Gross declined to comment specifically on Dayton's request.

Calls to the Department of Defense were not returned."

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Wednesday, December 15, 2004

In Harm's Way

San Antonio, like much of the state of Texas, is a gun-totin', beer-drinkin', Republican-votin' sort of place. But it's also a military town, and they love their boys in uniform. One sure way to piss off a San Antonian is to screw the military.

So it should come as no surprise that the media there would break with the GOP noise machine in outrage over the recent armor-for-troops scandal. My mother, who lives near San Antonio, forwarded me an article from her local paper, with a note to the effect that she'd like to blog it herself, but she really doesn't care to get an ulcer. I'm feeling the need for a Rolaids, myself.

For your edification, select excerpts from that column:

Carlos Guerra: S.A. firm keeps offering to help bulletproof GI vehicles in Iraq:

San Antonio Express-News

Until Ronald Kimball wrote me to take issue with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's assertion that 'production problems' are the reason GIs in Iraq don't have armored vehicles, I was unaware that San Antonio's Texas Armoring Corp. is doing a brisk business bulletproofing vehicles for a lot of Middle Eastern customers.

'It is not a matter of production, as Secretary Rumsfeld said in response to the soldier's question about armored vehicles for the troops in Iraq,' Kimball wrote. 'It is a matter of lethargy and ineptitude. And it is sad that the government will lie to the American people, and especially to the soldiers, saying that they are doing all they can when we know the truth.'

Kimball's son, Trent, now owns the business his father got into in 1975 after leaving the Drug Enforcement Administration. For years most of their business was with Latin American governments and individuals, but lately the Kimballs have shipped 24 armored vehicles to clients in Iraq.

The firm currently is armoring 35 vehicles, most for Middle Eastern clients. Texas Armoring could deliver several armored vehicles to Iraq immediately, the Kimballs said.


Their armoring materials will defeat any bullet short of a 50mm round and would protect passengers from most improvised explosive devices, which have become ubiquitous in Iraq. But Trent Kimball warned that while most improvised explosive devices are as easily defeated as fragmentation grenades, "you never know about the power behind an IED."


Trent Kimball told me he has been getting some very disturbing queries from Americans lately. "I'm getting e-mails from people who want to buy armoring kits to send to their kids in Iraq," he said. "They even write to ask if we will sell them body armor."

They help when they can, he said, but they would rather deal with the U.S. government.

"We have armored the Hummer H-1, the military style Humvee," Ron Kimball said. "And we could make a Humvee armoring kit per day starting today and make 30 with the material we have on hand."

But after repeatedly submitting price quotes, the Kimballs said no one from the Defense Department has even bothered to call.

To contact Carlos Guerra, call (210) 250-3545 or e-mail cguerra@express-news.net.

This isn't the first company to come forward to say that they could increase armor production but haven't been asked to. I'm sure it won't be the last. The government insists (ludicrously, in the face of a heretofore unheard-of deficit) that there is ample money for such things. But if the government does, in fact, have sufficient capital to buy sufficient armor for existing and incoming troops, why haven't they? If the money has been allocated, where is it? Is it lining a pocket it shouldn't? Does it lie fallow in some government account, awaiting requisition?

Perhaps it's being used to buy coffins, instead. And flags...you have to have flags, for the coffins and the widows. You need headstones, too. You can't leave a soldier's grave unmarked after he's died for lack of armor.

What a waste.

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Body Count

Death toll of the Iraq war:

American military -- 1,297 (as of 12/14/2004)
Coalition forces -- 145 (as of 12/14/2004)
Iraqi Civilians -- 14,770 (minimum estimate as of 12/13/2004)
Contractors (all nationalities) -- 192 (as of 12/14/2004)

Total (estimated, minimum) -- 16,404

Source: antiwar.com

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Tuesday, December 14, 2004

NHL - Union Busting?

The Rocky Mountain News has an interesting take on the latest developments in the NHL lockout:

"TSN, an all-sports television network in Canada, said it obtained a copy of a confidential eight-page memorandum sent by the NHL to all the teams that states its intention to reject the union offer.
According to TSN, NHL vice president Bill Daly wrote in the memo that the union offer included 'necessary and significant short-term relief' for the league but 'falls well short of providing the fundamental systemic changes that are required to ensure that overall league economics remain in synch on a going-forward basis.'
Daly continued: 'There is virtually nothing in the union's proposal that would prevent the dollars 'saved' from being redirected right back into the player compensation system, such that the league's overall financial losses would approach current levels in only a matter of a couple of years.'
In other words, team owners are too irresponsible to keep a rein on player salaries and must have a mechanism that protects them from themselves. If the NHL is headed for financial ruin, well, just pin the blame on the players.
The union's proposal included a luxury tax that Bettman disdains. Why? Because it doesn't guarantee owners and general managers will behave in a fiscally responsible manner, so a hard salary cap is the only way to keep them in line.
In the NHL's previous proposals - back in the summer, in case you've forgotten - the players were offered 53 percent of revenues (down from the ridiculously high 75 percent they received last season) and a guaranteed average salary of $1.3 million (a $500,000 reduction).
So it was interesting last week, when the sides met for the first time in three months, that the union offered to slash contracts enough to lower the average salary to lower the average salary to $1,368,000.
Union executive director Bob Goodenow said the offer would save the league $528 million over the next three seasons, at least $570 million over a six-year period and allow teams a second chance at showing fiscal sanity.
It's unfortunate the owners don't trust themselves enough for that to happen.
The union proposed a 20 percent tax on team payrolls that exceed $45 million, 50 percent on those above $50 million and 60 percent on those over $60 million with the monies distributed to needy teams.
But after cutting costs by 24 percent, only three teams - New Jersey, Philadelphia and Toronto - would have to pay any tax based on full-season 2004-05 payrolls.
So why not lower the payroll thresholds and increase the tax at rates negotiated by the league and union?
Oh, that would require compromising. Can't have any of that.
Bettman and the owners also want to eliminate salary arbitration and make deeper reductions in entry-level contracts than the 65 percent cuts offered by the players.
Maybe Bettman really does want to cancel the season and declare a labor impasse. That would allow him to impose his own rules, invite players to show up next season and in effect bust the union.
NHL fans should prepare for a long, hard winter."
Is the NHL engaging in union-busting? Is this more about undermining the players' collective power than about fixing the finances of the league?
While I have been firmly behind the owners in their quest to bring some sort of fiscal sanity to the league, after the union's proposal last week I started to wonder if they'd gone too far. The union offer is extraordinarily generous. While in theory a salary cap is the most certain way to bring balance to the enterprise, it has become obvious that the players simply aren't ready for that. And the owners do bear the lion's share of responsibility for allowing salaries to spiral out of control.

The union is offering to take the hit in their own pockets in order to effectively erase the overspending of the last few years. In return, they are asking that the owners take it upon themselves to ensure that salaries remain sane.

That seems fair to me.

It's not the easiest way. At any moment, any owner could come down with a severe case of Steinbrenneritis (and, in fact, George Steinbrenner himself owns an NHL team) and blow league parity all to hell, albeit at the price of a hefty luxury tax. I'm a believer in salary caps, myself. I think the NHL needs one, and I think the MLB needs one. But these things take time and now is obviously not the time for the NHL.

If the owners can show themselves to be responsible stewards of the league, their arguments for a salary cap will hold a lot more water. They will be able to push for it on the grounds of equity, not simply because they trust each other even less than they trust the union.

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Monday, December 13, 2004

It's Like a Bad Dream

Corey Koskie is no longer a Twin.

I don't think it's really sunk in yet. I've been a Koskie fan as long as I've been a Twins fan (since 1999, for the curious). I have a signed Koskie jersey, all the Koskie bobbleheads and figurines, and over 100 Koskie baseball cards. My Twins shrine has a separate Koskie wing. I'm sure I'll be heartbroken once the numbness wears off.

From the Star Tribune:

ANAHEIM, CALIF. -- Corey Koskie has agreed to a three-year, $17 million contract with Toronto, joining shortstop Cristian Guzman as free-agent losses to the Twins infield.
The Twins fell out of the running for Koskie after a brief Sunday morning meeting with Koskie's agent, Pat Rooney.
Rooney gave the Twins, who hadn't budged from a two-year, $8.25 million offer made last week, one more shot.
"I appreciate the offer," Ryan said, "but we are where we are. We weren't going to change the years. You could be creative on the contract but not the years."
Ryan would not comment on why he wouldn't give Koskie another year, but Twins officials have pointed to Koskie's health as a reason. He played 118 games last season while being slowed because of a strained sternum and a sprained ankle. Koskie hasn't played more than 140 games in a season since 2001.
The sides kicked around an option for a third year, an option that would kick in if Koskie played in a certain number of games, but they couldn't agree to a deal.
So Koskie, born in Anola, Manitoba, will head to his native country, where the Blue Jays will reap the benefits of a public relations move. Eric Hinske will either be traded or moved to first base to make room for Koskie. The Twins will receive two draft picks as compensation.
Koskie did not return phone calls Sunday.
"We wanted him to stay," Ryan said. "It was just a matter of dollars."

Hinske might be traded? Helloooo...'scuse me, over here? What would it take to get him? How about Jacque Jones? He's been on the trading block for like a year and a half anyway. We could do worse than Hinske at third--read on.
Meanwhile, the Twins will work on remodeling three-fourths of their infield. First baseman Justin Morneau is the only certain starter. Michael Cuddyer, a former first-round pick who has power potential, will start at either second or third, with third base now the best bet.

Oh, don't tell me that. Not on the same day you tell me my favorite player ever will be wearing a different uniform on opening day. First you take away the best-fielding third baseman I've seen, excepting those old tapes of Brooks Robinson, and then you practically hand the job to the Gloveless Wonder?

Hello! Am I the only one who remembers that he stunk so bad at third while Koskie was out injured last season that we actually called someone up to man third when what we really needed was another pitcher??? Remember that? I do. Our season seats have an excellent view of third base, and I still have nightmares as a result.

Batgirl, as always, said it best:
"Cuddy, while a pretty good second baseman, fields third kind of like BatKitty #3 plays with a toy mouse--which is to say he boots the ball around for a while, then pounces on it, then boots it some more, then picks it up in his mouth and carries it over to Morneau, who has to wipe a little drool off the thing."

We don't call him "Cudderror" for nothing, folks. Being the fielding snob that I am, I'd prefer to trade him for a six-pack of Guinness and a rosin bag, but if we must put him on the field (and the bench is, as always, Option B behind the Guinness idea) let's put him at second. He's almost average there, and might improve.

Failing an acquisition of Hinske or free agent veteran Joe Randa (who has much less pop but rather more health than Koskie), there's always Terry Tiffee. Tiffee's the rookie lad who got called up to end the screaming horror of Cudderror-at-Third last season, and he did okay. No telling if he's up to a full major league season, complete with major-league pitching, but I think he's good enough to plug in there with fingers crossed. There are always midseason trades if he can't hack it, right? And Nicky Punto can play third in a pinch, if [insert player here] needs a day off.

Do you suppose there's any chance Gardy reads this blog?

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Friday, December 10, 2004

A Vast Left-Wing Conspiracy

Where to begin?

Okay, I expect you've already heard about Tennessee National Guard Spc. Thomas Wilson asking Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld why soldiers in Iraq are forced to dig through landfills for scrap metal to attach to their vehicles as armor, when they should be provided with honest-to-gosh armored vehicles.

To which Rumsfeld replied that "you have to go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you want". Did anyone else cringe? I did. Way to respect those troops, Rummy.

He continued to insert his foot in his wide-open mouth by adding that "you can have all the armor in the world on a tank, and it can [still] be blown up." Hey, that'll help troop morale! The irony is, he left the press conference and was whisked away in a heavily armored vehicle.

And then there was this zinger: "It's essentially a matter of physics, not a matter of money. It's a matter of production and the capability of doing it." Guess what? Several manufacturers of armored vehicles and armoring kits have since come forward to say that they've been ready to increase production for months now but the government hasn't asked them to.

And then a military representative got in on the song and dance, only to be shot down by, ahem, friendly fire.

ABC News: "Wilson's comments about soldiers searching landfills for scrap metal and compromised ballistic glass sparked a controversy at Camp Buerhing, when Maj. Gen. Gary Speer told The Associated Press that he was not aware that soldiers had to scrounge for materials to armor their vehicles.
However, Maj. Gen. Gus Hargett, adjutant general of the Tennessee Guard and Wilson's commander, disputed Speer's remarks. 'I am surprised by General Speer's statement that he was not aware of the soldiers using scrap metal and used ballistic glass to up-armor the vehicles,' he said in a written statement. 'I know that members of his staff were aware and assisted the 278th in obtaining these materials.'"

Now we know that the question was given to Wilson by a reporter doing a story on armored vehicle shortages, unable to ask the question himself because only soldiers were allowed to address the Secretary. And I'm fine with that--I can't imagine he'd have agreed to ask the question if it wasn't something he was concerned about. I'd sure be worried about driving through Baghdad in a canvas-sided Humvee if I were a soldier.

But now, get this, some conservatives are accusing Spc. Wilson of being a "liberal plant". Excuse the hell out of me? There's a long way between asking a reasonable question suggested by a third party and being some sort of infiltrator.

However, let's play devil's advocate and assume that yes, Spc. Wilson is a liberal plant, inserted into the military on the off-chance that someday he'd get to ask a high-ranking Republican a very uncomfortable question on television.

How exactly are we then explaining the 2000+ soldiers who burst into applause and cheers so enthusiastic that Rumsfeld missed the end of the question and had to have it repeated? Are they also liberal plants? Have those sneaky wine-drinkin' east coast elitists been infiltrating the military for decades, manipulating battalion assignments via their agents in the military brass, in order to fill that meeting hall with radical soldiers? Was this, in fact, the crowning moment of a vast left-wing conspiracy?

Come on, people. If the liberals were that cunning, they would have won the election.

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Thursday, December 09, 2004

Twins Free Agent Update

Minnesota Twins News:
"MINNEAPOLIS - The current longest-tenured Twins player will remain just
In an 11th-hour agreement before the arbitration deadline, the Twins signed veteran pitcher Brad Radke to a two-year contract late Tuesday. The club did not reveal terms of the deal, but The Sporting News reported it was worth $18 million.
Minnesota also offered arbitration to Corey Koskie, Terry Mulholland and Henry Blanco. Blanco signed a two-year, $2.7 million contract with the Cubs Tuesday night.
After several weeks of negotiations, Twins general manager Terry Ryan said Radke and the club agreed to the contract at around 10:30 p.m. CT -- 30 minutes before the 11 p.m. deadline."

Can I get a "hallelujiah"?

We've got Radke--and we need Radke--for two more years. We've got a compensatory draft pick for Blanco, and we've got either Koskie or a first-round draft pick and Mulholland or a fairly high draft pick. Mulholland, I think we can re-sign. Koskie? Aye, there's the rub.

Twins: Koskie asks for no-trade clause:
"Third baseman Corey Koskie is willing to re-sign with the Twins for less than what he's being offered elsewhere, but a no-trade clause has to be tied to the deal.
Koskie and his agent, Pat Rooney, have informed the Twins of an offer from another team for as much as $16 million over three years. Koskie would not reveal the team.
Koskie would settle for two years from the Twins for between $9 million and $10 million. But because he would be leaving a bigger deal on the table, he would like a no-trade clause added.
His view: If the Twins struggle and fall out of contention, he could be dealt. Then the local discount he agreed to means nothing.
'I don't know what to think right now,' Koskie said. 'I was under the assumption that there was not going to be arbitration offered, but it was offered.
'We'll see what happens. This will not be a long process. Whatever happens, I want to move quickly.'
Twins General Manager Terry Ryan has a little flexibility with his payroll, but not much higher than the $54 million ordered by owner Carl Pohlad.
Ryan admitted the odds aren't in favor of retaining Koskie, but he wants to try."

Uh-oh. That doesn't sound good. I mean, the unexpected arbitration offer is good, but The Wise Mr. Ryan's pessimism...? Is not. Let's see what the Canadian press is saying, shall we?

Winnipeg Sun: Koskie no longer fits - Twins lowball free agent:
There was always something about Corey Koskie and the Minnesota Twins -- like your favourite T-shirt and jeans, they just seemed like the perfect fit. The small-town Manitoba kid who beat the odds to play Major League Baseball, playing for a small-market, blue-collar team that's overcome the odds to field a World Series contender. Both prime examples of where hard work can take you.
Well, we're somewhat sorry to report this midwestern marriage is about to be torn apart by free agency.
After 11 years with the organization, six years of manning the hot corner for the Twins, Koskie has come to grips with the idea of leaving the only team he's ever known.
"It's not looking good for me to be a Minnesota Twin," Koskie, 31, told The Sun via cellphone yesterday. "It just wasn't working."
The "it" Koskie refers to were last-minute negotiations that went right to Tuesday's 11 p.m. deadline for teams to re-sign their free agents, or at least offer them salary arbitration.
The Twins did offer Koskie arbitration, but it's likely they're just trying to cut their losses. Any team that signs Koskie now will owe Minnesota a first-round draft pick as compensation."


Aside from my eternal and possibly unnatural devotion to Koskie, this disturbs me for a reason these articles don't touch on: who the heck would replace him?

On the one hand, we have Michael Cudderror--whoops, I mean, Cuddyer--the hard-hitting, but not frequently-hitting, gloveless wonder. He's much less of a hack at second base, and if we simply must put him out in the field I'd rather have him at second than anywhere else. Besides, my seats are near third base, and the last thing I need is a close-up view of his "fielding" on a daily basis.

On the other, we have Terry Tiffee, who has a pretty good clue what to do with a grounder down the line and hit for high average in the minors. He's also been rather injury-prone lately and is the veteran of a whopping 17 major league games. We just don't know how he'll hit, or hold up physically, in the Show over the course of a full season.

I'd rather have Koskie, with Tiffee playing the apprentice role. If we could platoon them at third, they'd both get enough rest to stay healthy, and Tiffee would get valuable major-league experience without undue pressure.

Without Koskie, I'd roll the dice on Tiffee and thank the gods we have Nick Punto, who would no doubt pitch if you asked him to and can definitely fill in at third, on the bench in case of injury. But I have a sinking feeling that the organization's inexplicable love affair with Cuddyer would have him trying to fill the void Koskie would leave behind.

Aw, crap, now I'm going to have nightmares.

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Monday, December 06, 2004

For This I Have Premiums & a $20 Copay?

Have you ever gone to a doctor and had them basically shrug their shoulders and say, "We've got no idea what's wrong with you. Good luck, have a nice day, and call us if something changes"? And, to add insult to injury, this is a specialist your GP suggested you consult when he ran out of ideas?

Now, I'm no doctor, but you'd think an otolaryngologist (that's an ear-nose-and-throat guy) would have a clue or two about recurring earaches, wouldn't you? I mean, it's not like I went in there with an extra eye sprouting out of my shoulderblade or something. This was not some bizarre condition, and you'd think they'd at least try something. But no, they gave me an exam and a tympanic pressure test and showed me the door. What the hell? The icing on the cake, of course, is that I had to use half a day's vacation time to go to this appointment.

Mr. Third Base Line says it should be legal to hit stupid people over the head with a frying pan. Mother Third Base Line (aka Fourth Pew, Center) counters that there isn't enough time and there aren't enough frying pans. I say it should be legal to hit someone over the head with a frying pan if you're paying them to be smart and they go ahead and act stupid anyway. That's fair, right? I'll get my money's worth one way or another, either in services or that satisfying *bonnnng* sound.

On a lighter note, yesterday I knitted myself a fuzzy scarf out of some sinfully expensive yarn that had been sitting around my yarn bin waiting for its day in the sun. It's fluffy, seafoam green, utterly not my style, and I love it.

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Friday, December 03, 2004

Write or Wrong

What, you expect good puns on a Friday? Feh.

Finding out the other day that I still had three use-'em-or-lose-'em vacation days to burn before the end of the year, I booked today off. The Project Del Muerte went into code freeze yesterday (can I get a "huzzah"?) and I had a sneaking suspicion I'd need the downtime.

I spent most of the day with the Mini Dell of Doom (the new laptop), which is now happily and securely connected to the Mighty Dell of Doom (the great hulking thing on my desk) via the Router of Doom. You have to name things to network them, at least with my router, so I found a theme and went with it. I suspect I've been watching too much Invader Zim.

Anyway, I logged 2,300 words today, which is a new personal best. One of these days, when I get an honest-to-gosh Day Completely To Myself (which will no doubt involve not only time off work but also giving Mr. Third Base Line a plane ticket to somewhere with a beach), I'm going to go for 3,000. I think I can do it if I'm inspired and don't need to, say, do six loads of laundry like today.

Inspiration can be problematic, though. Sometimes I really have trouble maintaining my own interest in the story. I came to the conclusion recently that it really boils down to one thing.

I know how it ends.

There's just no suspense. Sure, there are details that need to work themselves out as the story progresses, and sometimes characters take on a life of their own and veer off in odd directions. And that can definitely be exciting. There's also a sense of pride and satisfaction to be derived from telling a story well that can't be gotten from simply reading one. It requires a certain patience, one I can't summon every time I'd like, to derive satisfaction from exercising that skill. And it's not a skill I'm entirely certain I possess, truth be told.

It's not that I don't enjoy writing--I do! At least, I do when it's going moderately well, or when a character does something even I didn't expect, or when I recall that several dear people I'd rather not piss off don't yet know how the story ends and would rather like to.

Of course, even when the last line is written, the story isn't necessarily over. There might be a sequel.

That should keep me interested...

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Thursday, December 02, 2004

Giambi Used Steroids

ABC News: Report: Giambi Testified He Used Steroids: "SAN FRANCISCO Dec 2, 2004 -- New York Yankees slugger Jason Giambi injected himself with human growth hormone in 2003 and also used steroids for at least three seasons, according to his grand jury testimony reviewed by the San Francisco Chronicle.
The testimony given in December 2003 to the federal grand jury investigating BALCO contradicts Giambi's public proclamations that he never used performance-enhancing drugs.
Giambi described how he injected human growth hormone in his stomach, testosterone into his buttocks, rubbed an undetectable steroid knows as 'the cream' on his body and placed drops of another, called 'the clear,' under his tongue, the Chronicle reported on its Web site Wednesday night."

Who's surprised? Anyone? No?

Yeah, me either. Except maybe that he admitted it.

Those of you who have discussed the issue of steriods in baseball with me before know that I consider the MLB's anti-steroid program to be a bit lenient. Dare I say, impotent. I may have even at some points have questioned whether it encouraged rather than discouraged steroid use. There was quite possibly some swearing involved.

But I will put the question to you, dear readers. What should be done to players who are found to have repeatedly used steriods?

A) Forfeit of all performance bonuses paid and 30% of salary earned during all seasons in which steriods were used. Name to be stripped from the record books for any personal or team records or championships achieved in those seasons. Banned from any future participation in All-Star Game and playoffs.
B) Public flogging by the team mascot.
C) Public flogging by a division rival team's mascot.
D) Public flogging by the fans.
E) Must play next two seasons using lead-cored bats and gloves, for minor-league minimum salary.
F) Pictures of their sad, shrunken testicles to be shown on Jumbotron whenever they come to bat.
G) All of the above.
H) Other (please describe).

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Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Quote du Jour

"Eagles may soar, but weasels don't get sucked into jet engines. "
--John Benfield

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