"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

Monday, January 31, 2005

TwinsFest 2005

TwinsFest gets more crowded every year, though I imagine having the reigning Cy Young Award winner there doesn't exactly decrease attendance. That's one of the down-sides of having a team that will be shooting for a fourth consecutive playoff berth after nearly a decade of immense suckitude--long, long lines at TwinsFest. (And the annual Autograph Party in June.)

A few impressions:

--Pitching prospect Pat Neshek was either thrilled to be there, or doing a very good impression of someone who was thrilled to be there. And he has the best signature EVER. Not the neatest, but how can you fail to be charmed when someone takes the time to put little arcs of stitches, as on a baseball, inside the loop of his "P"?

--You wouldn't think Johan "Cy" Santana would look surprised when his passing generated spontaneous applause and cheering, but he did.

--Juan Rincón should seriously consider going into radio when he retires (many years from now). He really has the most beautiful voice.

--Nick Punto, our 2005 shortstop if there is any justice in the universe and the only Twin who can consistently bunt worth a damn, is a very friendly guy.

--Carlos Silva must be working diligently on his English. It has noticeably improved since the start of last season.

--It's just not the same without Corey Koskie.

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Thursday, January 27, 2005

Lest We Forget

Sixty years ago today, Soviet troops advancing through Poland took control of an installation abandoned by fleeing German troops and freed over 7000 prisoners who had been left behind. Soviet soldiers were stunned and appalled by the condition of those prisoners and their accounts of SS activities there.

That place was called Auschwitz.

Those soldiers and survivors who remain are elderly now. In twenty years, that generation will be nearly extinguished. It will be easier to forget. It is already easier to forget: witness the rise of neo-Nazi groups in the USA and anti-Semitism in Europe. Consider our own government's recent policy of "indefinite detention" of Arab prisoners who cannot be convicted of any crime due to lack of evidence, and their published theory that the Geneva Convention rules on the treatment of prisoners of war does not apply to prisoners of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Witness the genocidal wars in Bosnia and Africa. These events occupy different points on a continuum where fear begets hatred, hatred begets war, war begets atrocity.

v. wit·ness
1. To be present at or have personal knowledge of.
2. To take note of; observe.
3. To provide or serve as evidence of.
4. To testify to; bear witness.

As one generation passes away, it becomes the responsibility of those who follow to bear witness in their place. We are already forgetting the Holocaust. We are, in our arrogance, deliberately forgetting. We assume we are better, more noble, more righteous than our predecessors.

We are not. We are, in our hearts, base and unworthy creatures. The only way we will rise above our worst nature is by remembering what it engenders when left unchecked; by opening our eyes, our hearts and our mouths and truly witnessing both our past and our present.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Pardon My French

CBS News - Sex, Race And Social Security:
(AP) The chairman of the House tax-writing committee said Sunday that President Bush's drive to overhaul Social Security should lead to consideration of a value added tax or other ways to fund the entitlement program.
Congress also should consider basing benefits on such factors as race, sex and the job a retiree once held, said Rep. Bill Thomas, R-Calif.
"We also need to examine, frankly, ... the question of race, in terms of how many years of retirement do you get based upon your race. And you ought not to just leave gender off the table, because that would be a factor," Thomas said.


Can it possibly be, in this twenty-first century, in what is purportedly a civilized country, that the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee is actually suggesting basing the minimum retirement age on race and gender? So, some people would be expected to work until they're 70, because their life expectancy, based solely on their inclusion in a group of millions, is longer?

Life expectancy in the United States:

All races
National Average: 77
Men: 73
Women: 80

National Average: 72
Men: 69
Women: 76

Caucasian Americans
National Average: 78
Men: 75
Women: 80

So, with the retirement age at 68, and the average life expectancy at 77, you get 9 years of retirement. Basing a new retirement age solely on gender, men would get to retire at 64, while women would have to work until they're 71. That's probably sounding pretty good to Mr. Thomas, don't you think? I've got a suggestion for him--if he wants to enjoy a longer retirement, he should consider mixing in a salad now and then.

Slicing by race alone (sorry, I couldn't find figures for other non-Caucasian races, not that I expect any system based on race coming out of this administration would break any more finely than "white" and "other"), African-Americans would retire at age 63, and caucasians at 69.

Breaking it down by race and gender, African-American men would retire first, at 60, followed by caucasian men at 64, African-American women at 67, and caucasian women at 71.

I am NOT working until I'm 71. No way. And I'm fortunate enough to have a job with a desk and a nice padded seat. Are we going to make the mail carrier trudge through a Minnesota winter on her artificial hip? What about janitors? Shelf stockers?

How about this, Mr. Thomas: instead of penalizing people for belonging to groups with traditionally high life expectancies, why don't we work on ways to give everyone the opportunity to enjoy generally good health, barring untreatable genetic conditions? Ever wonder why the life expectancy for African-Americans is so much lower than that for caucasians, Mr. Thomas? Think it just might have something to do with poverty, education, and the availability of affordable medical care? Do you think maybe if we fixed some of those problems, more people would have stable, lucrative employment and therefore pay more into the Social Security system before they retire...at a reasonable age?

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Friday, January 21, 2005

Get A Life, People!

The latest entry in the "Get a Life" file, with a carbon copy for the "What Century Do They Think We're Living In?" file.

ABC News: U.S. Christians Issue Gay Warning Over Kid Video:
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Christian Conservative groups have issued a gay alert warning over a children's video starring SpongeBob SquarePants, Barney and a host of other cartoon favorites.
The wacky square yellow SpongeBob is one of the stars of a music video due to be sent to 61,000 U.S. schools in March. The makers -- the nonprofit We Are Family Foundation -- say the video is designed to encourage tolerance and diversity.
But at least two Christian activist groups say the innocent cartoon characters are being exploited to promote the acceptance of homosexuality.
"A short step beneath the surface reveals that one of the differences being celebrated is homosexuality," wrote Ed Vitagliano in an article for the American Family Association.
The video is a remake of the 1979 hit song "We Are Family" using the voices and images of SpongeBob, Barney, Winnie the Pooh, Bob the Builder, the Rugrats and 100 TV cartoon stars. It was made by a foundation set up by songwriter Nile Rodgers after the Sept. 11, 2001, hijacked plane attacks to promote the nation's healing process.
Christian groups however have taken exception to the tolerance pledge on the foundation's Web site which asks people to respect the sexual identity of others along with their abilities, beliefs, culture and race.
"Their inclusion of the reference to 'sexual identity" within their 'tolerance pledge' is not only unnecessary but it crosses a moral line," Dr James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, said in a statement on Thursday.
Rodgers was astounded at the attack. "That is so myopic and harsh. You have really got to look hard to find anything in this that is offensive to anyone. The last thing I am going to do is taint these characters," he told Reuters.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

...And Desperation Sets In

Ah, I miss baseball. More so this year, without the beloved distraction of hockey, but every offseason is far too long. Let's slap a retractable roof on every stadium and play year-round, how about it?

I know, I know. The offseason makes you value the season more. It's difficult to properly appreciate what you never have the opportunity to miss. But perhaps the season could be extended? Just a bit? Start in mid-March instead of early April. Is that too much to ask? We could pay for it with the Yankees' luxury taxes.

Maybe we could round up some of those out-of-work hockey players and put on a few exhibition baseball games for charity. It wouldn't be good baseball, but it would sure be entertaining!

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

Karma's a Bitch

Last night we braved the arctic tundra to see a Wild Colonial Bhoys show--and if you haven't seen them, you should!--at O'Donovan's Irish Pub downtown. We've seen them before, at Kieran's and The Liffey.

O'Donovan's is a great place. They have what is quite possibly the best corned beef this side of Ireland, Finnegan's on tap, and an excellent staff. What they do not have, as we discovered after ten o'clock when the place got crowded, is a good ventilation system. Now, we've been there many times before, but never late on a weekend night.

There was a time, not so long ago, when a smoky bar was exactly the sort of place I wanted to spend a cold Friday night. Three years after my last cigarette, however, a couple of hours of heavy secondhand smoke have left my lungs feeling like they've been scrubbed with steel wool. We had to leave before the end of the last set because Mr. TBL and I were both gasping for air. I was coughing uncontrollably and am still hacking intermittently today.

I certainly regret every cigarette I ever smoked, and every wisp of secondhand smoke I ever inflicted on others. If I'd had an experience like last night's before I started smoking, I wonder if I would have started at all. I certainly had a sense that I was on the bad end of some cosmic retribution as my lungs attempted to flee my body halfway through the second set.

The indoor smoking ban goes into effect in Minneapolis on March 31st. A lot of people say it infringes on smokers' rights. Now, I never had much sympathy for that sort of talk even when I smoked--I was the one with the filthy habit, and if it was bothering people, I was okay with taking it outside. What little sympathy I did have is now gone. Your right to smoke ends where the air going into my lungs begins. When two sets of civil liberties conflict, the one that doesn't hurt anyone wins. End of discussion.

The Bhoys will still be at O'Donovan's in April, if the schedule holds. Now that is going to be a great show.

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Thursday, January 13, 2005

Sound and Fury, Signifying Nothing

Major League Baseball : News:
Major League Baseball and the Players Association have reached agreement on a new drug program that will include more frequency of testing for steroids use and stricter penalties for those players who initially test positive.
"I think it's going to entail more testing, some out-season testing, yes, more in-season random testing and stiffer penalties," said New York Mets pitcher Tom Glavine, a senior member of the union.
Punitive action after an initial positive test is key to the stricter policy. As of now in the Major Leagues, the first positive test puts a player on a clinical track. The second positive test can be met with a 15-day suspension without pay or a $10,000 fine, plus the public releasing of the player's name.
"I have said all along I want a policy similar to the one I put in the minor leagues in 2001," Selig said. "I have spent an enormous amount of time with team doctors and physicians. Every one of them, all 30. And I feel very comfortable in telling you that I really feel good about where we are.
"[The minor-league policy] is the best steroid policy in sports. There's no question about it. Immediate penalties. Random testing year-round. It's got everything in there."

Is it? Is it really? Then why, praytell, aren't you duplicating it at the major-league level?

Folks, the MLB is trying to sell this new program as a breakthrough, a final solution, a sweeping reform. What it is, is giving the toothless dog a molar. Compare, if you will:

The minor league program has year-round, random testing, up to four tests per year per player, and a 15-day suspension for the first offense. They also ban amphetamines and other stimulants.

Contrast this with the current major-league program: "survey testing" of a set number of players one year, with random testing the next year if more than 5% came up positive. The survey tests were non-punishable, by the way. No treatment, no nothing, for those who tested positive. Well over the requisite 5% did indeed come back positive, so now we have random testing--and if there's a way to get someone tested because there is reasonable cause to suspect them of using, I haven't heard of it. First offenders are put in treatment, a second offense gets a 15-day suspension, and the release of the players' name and offense to the media, largely by virtue of the fact that other suspensions are couched in terms of games, not days. They have to test positive five times to get a one-year suspension, and it'll take the better part of three seasons to come to that point, since they can only be tested twice per season, and not at all in the offseason.

Finally we come to the new program, as reported thus far; it hasn't actually been offically spelled out yet. There will still be random testing. A first offense results in a suspension of up to ten days, and the one-year suspension kicks in at the fourth offense. There may or may not be an increase in maximum allowable tests per year per player. If they do, it won't exceed the minor-league limit of four. Offseason testing may or may not be on the menu. Testing will not include the amphetamines or stimulants banned in the minor leagues, use of which many consider an epidemic in the majors.

It's a change, but not much of one.

Oh, and Bud? The minor-league testing system isn't the best in sports. That distinction belongs to World Anti-Doping Agency's testing code, which governs most Olympic sports. The penalty under WADA is a two-year suspension for the first offense and a lifetime ban for the second, barring mitigating circumstances. And they test for many substances that baseball doesn't, at any level.

Baseball already has its testing done in IOC (International Olympic Committee) labs, which are arguably the best drug-testing facilities in the world. If they really wanted to clean up the game (and they don't), they'd put testing policy into WADA's hands. WADA has the labs, the personnel, the panels to adjudicate appeals. They have objective officials to levy the sanctions, committees that constantly review and debate the issues around testing and alter policy as the times and the available substances change. The Olympics are clean because WADA makes them clean. They could do the same for baseball, and relieve the unions and the owners of the burdens of policing in the bargain.

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Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Open the Pod Bay Doors, Hal

Ever had a CT ("cat") scan? It's a freaky experience.

They have you lay face-down on this wierd headrest with your arms at your sides, and then they wrap you in a thin blanket of some space-age material like a burrito. You glide forward into a tube filled with a grid of red laser lines, which abruptly vanish just as you're flashing back to every bad sci-fi movie you've ever seen. You glide back and forth for a while while something whirs around inside the tube, and then it's over.

I'm not normally given to claustrophobia, but that thing did it. Not shrieking claustrophobia, mind you, but a definite I'd-rather-be-elsewhere vibe. I wished it had been uncomfortable, frankly--that would have given me something immediate to think about. I doubt anyone of ordinary imagination could get a CT without visualizing, however briefly, the appearance of something utterly unexpected and unwelcome on the scan.

I am, by the way, heartily sick of doctors. The incompetent fool I saw last month has a lot to do with that, yes, but that was two appointments out of several dozen over the last few years, and six in the last two months alone. There will, of course, be at least one more, to review the scans. Hopefully this guy has a clue...

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Monday, January 10, 2005

Here's a Health to the Company

Saturday evening the crew of the Bloodwake and assorted friends/allies/henchpersons met for a belated Yule feast. A good time was had by all, and "all" in this case stuffed a rather spacious apartment nearly to bursting. With the aid of an inflatable spear, we taught young Jake Scalawag, aged 14 months, the word "stab". With the aid of hot buttered rum, we toasted any number of things. With the aid of a small fleet of pots, pans and slow cookers we all ate until we felt like beached whales.

Now, I'm not what you'd call a social person, unless of course you were being sarcastic. And normally, a noisy throng like that would send me screaming into the night, but these folks are different. It's a funny thing that's happened with the Bloodwake Pirates. It all started out a few years ago when a few (less than half a dozen) of us grew a bit bored with our Renaissance Festival garb and personas, so we threw together sailor outfits for a lark.

It has since blossomed, or snowballed, into an honest-to-gosh organization with its own website, membership rolls (seventeen crew at last count, and several applicants in waiting), and a spinoff group, the Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society. We've met people we never would have in the normal course of things, and they've become part of our circle of friends, part of our lives.

It's an odd feeling, to look at people who are important to you and realize that you would be strangers if you hadn't woken up one day and thought that you were a little tired of being Scottish all the time. It makes you grateful, and it makes you wonder.

So if you're ever at the Minnesota Renaissance Festival, stop by Mac's Pub. We're the pirates. You can't miss us.


--"61*" is an excellent movie.

--Hey, look, I changed the blog layout!

--Yesterday I ice skated for the first time in twenty-odd years. I remained upright the entire time by virtue of proceeding very slowly and with much frantic waving of arms. Small children were skating circles around me. Tonight I'm going back out. My goal is to skate faster than the pedestrians passing on the sidewalk.

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Thursday, January 06, 2005

Style and Substance

The 45 YGB Bracelet, a very nifty-looking piece of jewelry that looks like a baseball's seam, is now available through the Tug McGraw Foundation.

All proceeds go toward brain cancer research.

This is a must-have for all baseball fans and all supporters of cancer research. To the best of my knowledge, everyone who reads this blog is at least one of the two!

Come on. They're only $4.50. That's just one foo-foo drink at Starbucks, ya know.

Special postscript to the Skiing Pirate: I've already ordered two for you and Splinter, hon.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2005

Koskie Has Left the Building

We bid farewell to the "Koskie wing" of the Twins shrine,

and greet the (new) "other local teams" wing of the Twins shrine.

Needless to say, all Koskie materials have been safely stored in anticipation of the day he is traded back to us.

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Monday, January 03, 2005

Blinding Flash of the Obvious

Yahoo! News - Senator Says Lifetime Terror Detentions 'Bad Idea':
"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A reported U.S. plan to keep some suspected terrorists imprisoned for a lifetime even if the government lacks evidence to charge them in courts was swiftly condemned on Sunday as a 'bad idea' by a leading Republican senator. "

Gee, you think???? Read on for more stunning leaps of common sense.

The Pentagon and the CIA have asked the White House to decide on a more permanent approach for those it was unwilling to set free or turn over to U.S. or foreign courts, the Washington Post said in a report that cited intelligence, defense and diplomatic officials.
Some detentions could potentially last a lifetime, the newspaper said.
Influential senators denounced the idea as probably unconstitutional.
"It's a bad idea. So we ought to get over it and we ought to have a very careful, constitutional look at this," Republican Sen. Richard Lugar of Indiana, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, senior Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, cited earlier U.S. Supreme Court decisions. "There must be some modicum, some semblance of due process ... if you're going to detain people, whether it's for life or whether it's for years," Levin said, also on Fox.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The State Department declined comment and a Pentagon spokeswoman, Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke of the Air Force, had no information on the reported plan.
As part of a solution, the Defense Department, which holds 500 prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, plans to ask the U.S. Congress for $25 million to build a 200-bed prison to hold detainees who are unlikely to ever go through a military tribunal for lack of evidence, defense officials told the Washington Post.
The new prison, dubbed Camp 6, would allow inmates more comfort and freedom than they have now, and would be designed for prisoners the government believes have no more intelligence to share, the newspaper said.

So, basically, we've got a bunch of prisoners we can't convict of anything, and who have apparently told us anything useful that they might know. And instead of letting them go, which is what usually happens to accused criminals against whom a case cannot be proven, we're just going to warehouse them until they croak.

Silly me, I thought the right to a trial applied to everyone. I guess these guys are Arab until proven innocent, huh? And that's about the worst crime going in Dubya's America.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005


We celebrated the new year last night by having dinner and drinks at the Local (an Irish pub in downtown Minneapolis) with several dear friends, two of whom had to drive in from the hinterlands on the leading edge of an ice storm to get here. That is definitely the way to start a new turn of the seasons--I'm hoping it becomes a tradition.

My resolutions have been covered, but I also have some wishes for 2005.

I sincerely (but in no particular order) hope that:

  • the Twins finally get to the World Series.
  • the Democrats finally get a clue.
  • the Republicans finally get a conscience.
  • the Greens finally get some funding.
  • the pirates known as Meg the Bonny Lash and Cannon Jack Darling will be safely delivered of their second child, due before winter's end.
  • I will be put on some interesting and challenging projects at work (note the "and"!).
  • the Skiing Pirate will find that, although time does not actually heal all wounds, it does take away the worst of the sting.
  • the NHL lockout will end--without union-busting.
  • the Twins will put someone who knows what that leather thing on his left hand is for at third base.
  • the sixth Harry Potter will rock as much as the first five.
  • the Yankees will collapse utterly, finishing third in their division and causing King George to spontaneously combust on national television.
  • did I mention the World Series?

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