"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?

Read More

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.

Read More

"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.

Read More

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.


Read More

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?

Read More

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...

Read More

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...

Read More

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.

Read More

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."

Read More

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."

Read More

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.

Read More

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

Read More

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.

Read More

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?

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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.

Read More

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...

Read More

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).

Read More

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Quote du Jour

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

Read More

Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Feelin' Minnesota

Cold Minn. Town Without Weather Observer - EarthLink - Strange News:
"TOWER, Minn. - You betcha it gets cold up here, but how will we know how cold this year?
This small northeastern Minnesota town that recorded the state's record low in 1996 - a pretty nippy 60 degrees below zero - is without an official weather observer.
The woman who previously held the post left in mid-October; she'd reported Tower's daily temperature and precipitation since 1972.
In the meantime, highs and lows are being recorded at a building in town that stands at a higher elevation than the official weather station. Colder air typically drains into the valley.
Tower, about 35 miles south of the Canadian border, and nearby Embarrass usually vie for Minnesota's daily low, forecasters say. Both towns are generally apart by a degree or two.
Mike Stewart, meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service in Duluth, said the agency is searching for a replacement to fill the spot in the valley.
'It's not going to go by the wayside. It's very important to keep that going there,' Stewart said Monday.
Embarrass still has an official observer, Stewart said. The low there was 8 below zero Monday."

This is why I love living up here. You have to love a state where small towns compete over the daily low temperature, and fret that they might not get credit for being the coldest place this side of a penguin's butt.

Actually, there are a lot of reasons to find Minnesota both congenial and amusing.

People go ice-fishing for fun up here. It's true. Did you know there's an ice shack parade? I think it's in Winona. Once a year, as the ice fishing season opens, people parade their custom ice shacks through the streets. Some of them are quite clever--I saw one once that looked like the Addams Family mansion in miniature. All this to block the wind while you go ice-fishing.

Now, I consider myself a Minnesotan, but there must be a little Texas left in me because I will never squat on an overturned bucket while trying to fish through a hole in the ice in an attempt to have a good time. Perhaps in an attempt to get food, should I ever end up that destitute, but definitely not for entertainment.

Minnesota is quite possibly the only place in the contiguous forty-eight where you can wear a hat with ear flaps in public and not be the object of great hilarity. Heck, there are days when I laugh at people who aren't wearing flap hats. Most of those days are in January.

Most native Minnesotans don't think of construction or rental agreements when they hear the term "boarding". (It's a hockey thing.)

And last but certainly not least, Canadian coins work in our vending machines.

What's not to love...eh?

Read More

Monday, November 29, 2004

The No-Politics Post

Hi! Long time, no post, huh?

Wow, I really needed that long weekend. It fortified me to face the utter meltdown of my current project at work today, which I pretty much expected after the events of Wednesday. I should have known sooner--that project went much too smoothly until then.

Have you ever accidentally left your cash card in an ATM, and it sucked it back in and destroyed it? Mr. Third Base Line has done that twice in the last year, but he's gotten his reward for suffering through my unsympathetic laughter--my card got eaten, too. Guess when? Yes, it was on Wednesday. It's amazing how quickly you can lose 20 years and feel like a kid waiting for an allowance when your cash flow is entirely dependent on someone else. That, and you feel slightly dumber than mold for losing the damn thing in the first place. I think I'll stick to the machines where you swipe your card from now on, thanks.

The Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society met again this weekend. It was a reduced group, due to familial obligations over Thankstaking weekend, but we had a good time. Two of our number learned to knit for the first time and are now busy creating the obligatory scarf. I have never met anyone whose first knitting project wasn't a scarf, come to think of it. Well, they are easy. I'm currently working on a shawl (for Shiela's Shawls), a scarf (for Paul's Scarves) and a pair of gloves (for a friend to add to her Renaissance Festival garb). One of these days I'll get around to posting pictures.

Well, that's it for my lunch break today. Back to the salt mines...!

Read More

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

"Programmer" <> "Mind Reader"

Top five tips for working effectively with programmers/developers/engineers:

5. If we liked people, we wouldn't be programmers.

4. We can explain technology to you in terms you can understand, and we will if we think you'll actually listen.

3. Remember, you signed off on the requirements--you have no right to be angry when we code what you asked for, not what you meant.

2. Regardless of what your kindergarten teacher told you, there is such a thing as a stupid question. (If you must ask it anyway, please wait until after we've had our first cup of coffee.)


1. Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on our part.

Read More

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

15 Million Lost Opportunities

MSNBC - Democrats question Kerry's nest egg:
"WASHINGTON - Democratic Party leaders want to know why Sen. John Kerry ended his presidential campaign with more than $15 million in the bank, money that could have helped Democratic candidates across the country."


Think a cool $15 million could have changed things in Ohio and/or Florida?

The party symbol is looking more appropriate everyday, folks...

Read More

Brand Democrat

Quiz time, ladies and gents.

What have the Democrats failed at most spectacularly in the last decade?

a) Framing the debate
b) Fielding electable candidates
c) Making their positions heard over the Republican noise machine
d) Grassroots organizing

Well, okay, they've failed rather spectacularly at all of the above. But fixing "c" would give "a" a big push, reduce the impact of "b" and energize the folks we need for "d".

Some guy named Oliver Willis has apparently had enough, thank you very much, and is launching Brand Democrat. This campaign is not affiliated with the DNC (when was the last time they came up with or even put their stamp of approval on anything new and different?), but is a (gasp) grassroots effort by everyday Democrats to redefine the party...since the party won't or can't redefine itself.

And, get this--it's a pro-Democrat campaign. Not an anti-Republican campaign. Not a reacting-to-conservative-smears campaign. We've done enough of that, haven't we? And people hate negative ads, don't they? They react to them because there isn't enough positive campaigning to base their opinions on. And no, I'm not going to get into the foolishness of basing your opinions on campaign ads--it happens, it happens far too much, enough said.

A sample of Brand Democrat:

Read More

Monday, November 22, 2004

Mood Music

So I've got this MP3 player that holds my entire CD collection and still has half its available space free. I love this thing. I can listen to music while working (what, you didn't think I actually work with people, did you? Ha!), walking, riding the bus, whatever. Usually I select music to match my mood, but lately (since Black Tuesday) the shoe's been on the other foot. Listen to something long enough, your mood will change to match.

Here's what's running down the batteries lately:

Nickelback (angry, yet strangely optimistic)

Great Big Sea (four relentlessly cheerful goofballs in Newfoundland)

The Levellers (tree-hugging wacko commie liberals in England)

Voltaire (Goth satire, gotta love it)

Michael Bublé (a blast from the past to take your mind off the blasts from the present)

The Corsairs (pirate music--arrrrr!)

Read More

Friday, November 19, 2004

DeLay-ing Justice

CNN.com - House GOP change rules to shield DeLay - Nov 17, 2004:
"WASHINGTON (AP) -- House Republicans approved a party rules change Wednesday that could allow Majority leader Tom DeLay to retain his leadership post if he is indicted by a Texas grand jury on state political corruption charges."

They...I...what...*sputter* These are the people who accuse the Democrats of partisan corruption?!?!?

Not that the Dems don't have their fair share of slimeballs, but please, have a little subtlety! At least pretend you don't think we're all morons. Christ on a cracker!

I'm not going to go off on the long list of DeLay's misdeeds, because I fully expect Fourth Pew Center to do that any minute now, and to do so much better than I could being that she's in Texas. Let it for now suffice to say that DeLay and Cheney are cut from the same cloth.

It's not so much what they're doing that upsets me--of course they're going to protect one of the party elite, however nefarious he is--it's how obvious they are about it. Do they think we don't understand? Do they think we don't care? Do they think we're all cowering behind our sofas waiting for the terrorists to barge in, and can't be bothered to notice anything else? Do they think we're stupid?

Well, yes. Yes they do. And sadly, they're mostly right. America's collective head is wedged firmly in its collective posterior. And it's really starting to stink in here.

"As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents,
more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some
great and glorious day, the plain folks of the land will reach their
heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a
downright moron."
--H.L. Mencken (1880 - 1956)

Read More

Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Gratitude and Recipes

Okay, so, just when I'm starting to feel particularly squeezed by the demands of job, home, writing, knitting for charity, making contingency plans against moronic presidents involving crossing the Canadian border, knitting for gifts, and dieting, my coworker in the soul-sucking cubicle across the aisle (who, incidentally, has kids, a burden I do not share) snaps his Achilles tendon. Ouch. Puts things in perspective, doesn't it?

And the Thanksgiving dinner at our place this year will be:

Beef roast in cranberry gravy
Rosemary potatoes
Almond citrus salad
and a Syllabub for dessert

Beef Roast in Cranberry Gravy
Place a lean beef roast in a slow cooker. Add one bottle cranberry marinade*, a couple dashes of black pepper, and a bay leaf. Add Guiness or concentrated beef broth until roast is nearly covered. Add 1/2 cup red wine or port. Cook on lowest setting 8 hours, or medium for 4 (roast will be more tender with lower temp and longer cook). Remove roast (carefully), cover with foil to preserve heat. Remove bay leaf. Make gravy from the liquid that remains in the cooker, salt gravy to taste. If you don't know how to make gravy, I can't help you.

*several brands available, your local grocery store should have at least one. Failing that, mix 1/2 cup cranberry sauce or cranberry jelly with 1 1/2 cups cranberry juice and mix in blender until smooth

Rosemary Potatoes
Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut 2 pounds red potatoes into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Finely chop some fresh rosemary. Brush baking sheet with olive oil. Place a layer of potato slices on baking sheet, brush tops with olive oil. Sprinkle rosemary and salt and pepper on top, to taste.
Bake until golden and edges are crisp, about 20 minutes. You can bake two sheets at once by putting one on the lower shelf and one on the upper, switching halfway through cycle.

Almond Citrus Salad
In a large salad bowl, toss: field greens, quartered rings of red onion, halved segments of grapefruit, sliced strawberries, almond slivers, dried cranberries (craisins), carrot slices or shreds, and raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Stir 6 tablespoons sweet dessert wine (such as late-harvest Riesling), 6 tablespoons sugar, 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon brandy, 1 teaspoon (packed) grated lemon peel and a generous pinch of ground nutmeg in medium bowl. Let mixture stand at room temperature to allow flavors to blend, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours.
Beat 1 cup chilled whipping cream in large bowl until very stiff peaks form. Gently fold in wine mixture, 2 tablespoons at a time. Spoon syllabub into 4 coupes or wineglasses. Cover and chill. (Can be made 1 day in advance.)

Garnish with fresh raspberries, if desired, and serve.

P.S. If you're lucky enough to live near a Penzey's store, get your spices and seasonings there. Their stock is far superior to what you'll find in the grocery store, and quality spices make a big difference in flavor!

Read More

Monday, November 15, 2004

Life's Little Ironies #752

95% of minor illnesses surface early Saturday and are greatly improved by Monday morning.

Most of the rest strike on Friday night.

Read More

Friday, November 12, 2004

OSHA Doesn't Cover This

So, have you ever been sitting in your cubicle, puzzling something out and kind of swivelling back and forth in your chair, and you accidentally swivel a bit too far and pin your arm between your chair and the desk?

It hurts. Quite a lot, actually. On the bright side, it completely negates the need for another cup of what we here in the office like to laughingly call "coffee".

TGIF, folks!

Read More

Thursday, November 11, 2004

Well, Color Me Stunned

Say, there IS justice in the world!

Minnesota Twins News:
"For much of the 2004 season, Twins pitcher Johan Santana didn't just beat opposing hitters. Often, he overwhelmed and owned them in impressive fashion.
On Thursday, Santana was named the winner of the American League Cy Young Award.
In voting results by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, Santana claimed all 28 first-place votes and defeated runner-up Curt Schilling of the Red Sox, who received 27 of 28 second-place votes."

Read More

Wednesday, November 10, 2004


Will he or won't he?

Win the Cy Young Award, that is.

Johan Santana is the obvious choice--even his closest competition for the award, Boston's Curt Schilling, has said as much. But Johan does not pitch for an east coast team, and so we cannot be sure. Part of me says he'd have to end the season 25-0 with an ERA under 1.00 to even have a shot, and part of me has a flicker of faith in the baseball writers. But only a flicker, mind you.

It's hard to believe in anything that involves voting, these days...

Read More

Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Trying to Lose

Diet watch:
-15 lbs from a high I refuse to disclose and shudder to recall.
+15 lbs over goal.
Verdict - halfway there.

A couple of years ago I (inadvertently) traded my smoking habit for an extra 25 pounds, and I wasn't exactly fit to begin with. As much as I've fretted over those pounds and the battle to lose them, plus a few, my health was never really in question. Even at my highest weight, it was far better for me than a pack a day.

According to an article I read this morning, most people can't say the same. Apparently obesity rates among adults have doubled in America since 1991.

Doubled. In less than fifteen years. Zounds. What were we thinking?

Losing fifteen pounds was like pulling teeth. I can't imagine losing 150. Or 50, for that matter. Did you know that Denver has the lowest obesity (BMI > 30) rate in the country, at 14.2%? That's a lot, for being the lowest. San Antonio has the highest at a stunning 31.1%. It's true. Even keeping in mind that a fair number of obese people have medical conditions which make it impossible or nearly so for them to maintain a healthy weight without medications and/or surgery, those figures are awfully high.

Expanding (pardon the pun) our purview to include the obese and the overweight (BMI 25+), the winner is Portland, Maine with a 49.3% incidence. On the other end of the spectrum is Charleston, West Virginia with a mind-boggling 67.8%. If nearly half the people in the least overweight city in the country are overweight, we've got a problem.

This really is everyone's problem, no matter your weight. Having half the population in a perpetually unhealthy condition isn't going to do us any favors with regards to the cost of health care and health insurance, for one thing. For another, severe obesity can and does cause disability, which means more people dependent on public assistance. The list goes on.

We all know that we, as a society, have developed some very bad habits with regards to eating and exercise. We know what we should eat and how we should be active, but we don't do it. We understand that our health is easily overset by too much cheap food and too little exercise, but it's so much more appealing to sit on the couch and eat a pizza than go jogging and have a granola bar. It's hard to admit that most of us are fully responsible for our own squishy bits. We blame heredity and reach for the remote control. I know I'm guilty of it.

So where do we go? It's so easy to say "eat right and exercise", and so hard to do it. And yet, paradoxically, people who have eaten right and exercised and still couldn't lose the weight are scorned for taking the "easy way out" when they have life-saving surgery. Whatever you need to do, whatever your doctor urges you to do, go for it.

I was going to segue into a bit about increasing rates of childhood obesity here, but it's just too sad. We adults can handle the consequences of our own (in)actions, but children know only what they're taught. It seems like every time I pass a McDonald's I see at least one terribly overweight child waddling in behind an equally overweight parent, and I really just want to run up and shake said parent until their teeth rattle. Whatever the root cause of an individual's excess weight, fast food is not going to help.

But oh, it's so cheap and convenient. Here's a thought, however: its consequences aren't.

Granola, anyone?

Read More

Monday, November 08, 2004

Twins Hot Stove Report: Preheating

Three 2004 Twins are on the free agent market as we speak: RHP Brad Radke, 3B Corey Koskie, and SS Christian Guzman.

Radke has been offered a two-year contract but will wait until he can hear what other teams are offering (they can start making their offers on the 11th) before deciding. While the Twins are sure to receive a "hometown discount" for Radke's services, a particularly lucrative offer from another team might lure him away.

Whether they re-sign Radke, and for how much, will probably be the determining factor in whether and how generously they make overtures to Guzman and Koskie. Koskie appears to be attracting a lot of attention, while Guzman has the bad luck to be entering a free agent market filled to the brim with competent shortstops.

If Radke moves on, I expect to see the Twins re-sign both infielders, but if he stays one or both will be wearing a different uniform next season. There's not much to do now but wait and see where Radke lands.

Edit: Catcher Henry Blanco is also testing the free agent market, after exercising a clause in his contract which allowed him to file for free agency even if the Twins picked up the option on his contract (they did). After his heroic performance last season, he's no doubt hoping to pull in a bit more than the option value. His re-signing will depend, I believe, entirely upon how much he asks for. The amounts he could command aren't sufficient to derail the Twins' plans with regards to the other three free agents, and they do have a few catchers in the system ready to compete for Blanco's job in spring training if he should leave the organization.

Read More

Saturday, November 06, 2004

Hockey Schtick

So. It's finally starting to set in.

No Wild.
No hockey.
And a long winter coming.

We had baseball, then politics to distract us. But alas, blare of goal horns will not break the silence that follows, and it's a very long time until baseball season begins. Whatever shall I watch while I knit?

Read More

Friday, November 05, 2004

Going to Ground

Hello, everyone. How's life in the United States of Jesus treating you? Don't forget, it's easier to flee if you've already got a Canadian work permit, so get those forms filled out and mailed in!

Me? Oh, I'm doing okay. I've decided to be absolutely f---ing furious for a few weeks, mostly at the Democratic party (how on earth do you lose to a guy who started a senseless war, turned a massive budget surplus into a deficit so large we're actually near the limit of our national credit--it's true!, neutered the EPA to the extent that there are now a number of Minnesota lakes so full of mercury from legal industrial emissions that fishing is prohibited, and can't pronounce words of more than two syllables?), but after that I'm going to find a way to calm down. I hear opium works nicely.

On the bright side, it's remarkably easy to retreat into fantasy when the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Since I'm not only retreating but also recording, I should get a lot of writing done in the next few years, right? Right. Remember the bright side. Life is good, I'm getting lots done, pay no attention to the fundamentalists behind the curtain, la la la la la la la la...

So anyway, if I don't answer the phone, I'm probably spending some quality time with the laptop and the mp3 player. Just leave a message. I'll get back to you when I can bear to look out the window again.


Read More

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Ex-Wild center Zholtok dies in Latvia

Ex-Wild center Zholtok dies in Latvia:
"NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- Former Minnesota Wild and Nashville Predators center Sergei Zholtok died Wednesday in his native Latvia of an apparent heart ailment. He was 31.
Zholtok was playing for Riga 2000 this year during the NHL lockout. News reports said he excused himself from a game in Belarus and collapsed and died on the way to the locker room."

Oh, Zholi. We're going to miss you.

For those who don't follow the Wild, this guy was amazing. He wasn't the second coming of Wayne Gretsky, but he was fast and fearless. He helped younger players adjust to the league and improve their games. He took time off from the NHL to play for his native Latvian team in the spring World Championships several times. He and another Latvian player organized an online auction to benefit abused children in Latvia, convincing many other NHL players to donate signed memorabilia to the cause.

Sergei Zholtok: the pride of Riga, Latvia.

Rest in peace.

Read More

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Received Via Email

Read More

Truer Words, Etcetera

"You’ve got to be [an] optimist to be a Democrat, and you’ve got to be a humorist to stay one."
--Will Rogers

Read More

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Modus Vivendi revisited

In October of 1990 I was seventeen years old and 1500 miles from home, embarking on my freshman year at Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Although I would not be of age to vote in the coming election, I was swept along in the enthusiasm of new friends to attend a political rally in downtown Northfield. The candidate was a Carleton professor, on leave to make a longshot try at a Senate seat.

I had expected from the endorsements of my friends a god among men, a pillar of strength, a savior in a three-piece suit. I was disappointed when a small, balding elf of a man in jeans and a polo shirt bounded onto the improvised stage. What the hell? I wondered. This scrawny little guy is what everyone is freaking out over?

But then he spoke.

I did most of my growing up during the Reagan/Bush administrations, tucked away in rural Texas where Washington seems very far away and somewhat unreal, a strange fiction created for the evening news. The Reagan recession hit home, though, coming hard on the heels of the oil bust of the seventies, another blow to Texas' reeling economy. Things were always tight, but we had two cars that ran (most days) and a phone (with service), making us better off than many of my friends. And, of course, we had a television where the debacles of Grenada and Nicaragua, Guatemala and El Salvador, played out. I watched the Iran-Contra affair bloom and nuclear proliferation run rampant. I watched a health problem turn into a health crisis while our fearless leader deemed one word to profane to pass his lips: "AIDS".

The adults in my life were Democrats. After watching the 80s stagger past, I thought I understood why.

There aren't a lot of Democrats in rural south Texas these days, and one of the reasons I went to a rally for a candidate I couldn't vote for was the novelty of being surrounded by like-minded people. I didn't particularly care about politics, as I was too young to vote and had absorbed the message--true where I grew up, but not in my new home--that being a Democrat was an exercise in futility.

Paul Wellstone changed that, in the space of an hour. He spoke about the power and necessity of grassroots organizing, about ways ordinary people far from Washington can get Washington's attention, about creating a common voice loud enough to drown out corporate and special-interest lobbyists. He told us about the wretched state of health care in our nation, and the declining state of education. Voting is only the beginning, he warned us. After the election must come accountability.

He was relentless, fiery and inspiring. He did not shy away from hard truths about the worst face of our society, and he would not allow us to shy away from them either. He made us realize that we must know what is really happening before we can even dream of changing it. He encouraged us not to just take his word for it, but to go find out for ourselves, to probe beyond the nightly news soundbites for truths that might horrify us, but must be brought out into the light of day.

I finally got to vote two years later. I remembered, and tried to be an informed voter. I believe I have gotten better at that as the years passed. Four years after that, out of college and working contract jobs with no health insurance, I finally got to vote for Wellstone. It was 1996, and I voted Democrat for President and Senate, and Green Party for the House, due to certain conflicts of values I felt with our (Democratic) congressman. I voted my conscience that day, but I've voted for the lesser of two evils ever since.

Until today.

Wellstone was taken from us too soon, and this year's Democratic presidential candidate was not my first choice among the men who vied for that nomination. But the same congressman from 1996 is still on the ballot and a candidate much more to my liking got the Green Party endorsement to run against him. He got my vote today. He got my vote because as I lifted my pen to vote the party line I remembered Paul, and how he always insisted that change begins with us. The little people, the voters, the dissatisfied masses. I am not, have not been, satisfied with my congressman. Perhaps, when he sees whatever small number of votes went to the Green candidate in the newspaper tomorrow, he will take a moment to wonder why we didn't vote for him. Perhaps I'll write him and ask.

Voting, after all, is only the beginning.

"Paul Wellstone was the soul of the Senate.He was one of the most noble and courageous men I have ever known.He was a gallant and passionate fighter, especially for the less fortunate.I am grateful to have known Paul and Sheila as dear and close friends.Their deaths are a shattering loss to Minnesota, to the nation, and to all who knew and loved them."
U.S. Senator Tom Dashle
October 25, 2002

Read More

Stand and Be Counted

Did you?

Read More

Monday, November 01, 2004

Thought of the Day

Ponder, if you will:

We live in an age disturbed, confused, bewildered, afraid of its own forces, in search not merely of its road but even of its direction. There are many voices of counsel, but few voices of vision; there is much excitement and feverish activity, but little concert of thoughtful purpose. We are distressed by our own ungoverned, undirected energies and do many things, but nothing long. It is our duty to find ourselves.
--Woodrow Wilson

Read More

Sunday, October 31, 2004

This Movie Messed Me Up

Saw - the movie

If you like horror movies, see "Saw". It was as creepy as "Frailty". (And if you haven't seen "Frailty", do so.) There are some nicely grotesque bits, but this is not a slasher film, it's a mind-bender. I walked out of the theatre wishing there were some safe way to apply soap and water directly to my brain. I don't think I'll ever look at a bathroom the same way again, either...

Read More

Saturday, October 30, 2004

Green Grow the Rushes

The Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society met today. We sat around my living room knitting, crocheting, beading, chatting, and eating chocolate and Chinese. I'll spend all day tomorrow on the Gazelle in penance, and not regret a bite.

We are a mixed group. Wives, mothers and singles. Blue collar, white collar, no collar. We range in age from just under twenty to somewhere over forty. We met because we all like pretending to be pirates, and we continue to meet because we enjoy each other.

We always end up sitting in a circle. I don't think it's ever been planned that way, it just happens. The newcomer edges a chair in and the circle expands. It's an old metaphor, and I won't belabor it.

Ladies, it is a blessing to know you. To be surrounded by strong, vibrant women restores my soul. You are my battery and my barometer. There are things I am now proud of that I would not have even attempted without your encouragement. You make me brave. Thank you.

Read More

Friday, October 29, 2004

Modus Vivendi

At what point must principle bow to practicality?

And at what point must it not?

I came to the rather lowering realization the other day that I haven't voted my conscience, by which I mean cast my ballot for the candidate whose platform and actions most closely reflect my ideals, since 1996. Instead, I've found that in almost every race there is one candidate who scares the bejeezus out of me and I simply cast my vote for whoever has the best chance of beating them. This isn't unusual, I'm sure--if you've never voted for the lesser of two evils, drop me a line. I'd like to buy you dinner.

But there is a soul-sucking quality to leaving the polling place after doing your civic duty, knowing that somewhere on your ballot was an unfilled dot (we still get paper ballots in my precinct, isn't it quaint?) next to the name of the best person for the job. But they didn't get your vote because Big Party Candidate A is the devil incarnate so you voted for Big Party Candidate B, who is merely slimy, in the hopes that the former won't get the chance to rewrite the Constitution or something equally appalling. And Minor Party Candidate C, who actually tells it like it is and wants to do good things, never had a chance because they didn't have a a multi-million-dollar war chest. Of course, if they did, they'd be a major party, with major-party concerns and major-party corruption, wouldn't they?

Then again, sometimes all of the candidates suck and voting is like throwing darts at a map to decide where you're going on vacation. You're as likely to end up in Akron as in Miami.

Should casting a vote be a matter of conscience, or a matter of strategy? We all have to decide that for ourselves, each and every time we step into the voting booth. It's a decision I struggle with more every election cycle. I used to wonder why someone eligible and able to vote would choose not to. I believe am beginning to understand. Disillusionment is the great demotivator.

But the fact of the matter is, if we all do nothing, nothing changes. If any one of us does nothing, they allow others to change things for them, and really have no right to object when the changes made aren't to their liking.

Throwing a dart at a map isn't a sure thing, but it's something. You've got a chance. You might end up somewhere wonderful.

I hear Akron is really nice this time of year.

More on this subject another day.

Read More

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Curses Foiled Again

I am now at peace with the Twins' inglorious exit from the playoffs. Their failure was an unfortunate but necessary chapter in an amazing story.

Boston, you see, needed to beat the Yankees. After years suffering under the lash of their division rival's endless expense account and seemingly unshakeable dominance, after their heartbreaking loss against them in last year's ALCS, after all the chants of "1918" and "Who's your daddy?", the time had come to shut them up, sit them down, and tell the Bambino that enough is enough, already.

But for Boston to beat the Yankees, they had to play the Yankees. And for two teams from the same division, the only place to meet is the league championship series. Given the long and hostile history between these two teams, I'm sure that if the Red Sox had reached the World Series through other teams--if, in other words, the Twins had been the ones to send the Yankees home--their victory would have lost some of its sparkle. They would have wondered, could we have done this if we'd had to beat them on the way? And those charming Yankee fans would have been quick to echo those fears with claims that Boston never would have gotten past the Bronx Bombers.

So the Twins and the Angels had to be set aside for history to be made.

It didn't look good for the Idiots, as the Red Sox styled themselves, did it? Down three games to none in the ALCS, a deficit insurmountable in all the long history of this great game. Three outs away from being swept, in fact, facing one of the most formidable closers in recent memory. But their fans held up their "I Believe!" signs, and the Idiots decided they could believe for a few innings, and they rallied, and they won. And won, and won, and won. And the Yankees gave us the Biggest Choke Ever--thank you very much, boys, that was delicious. Could you lose in humiliating fashion again next year, too? I'd like to order a second-place finish, hold the wild card. Start cooking, Steinbrenner.

Meanwhile, as the poor benighted Yankees cleaned out their lockers and their owner was repeatedly defibrilated in his secret headquarters, the Idiots capered home to Fenway Park and their first World Series since 1986. Remember that one? Bill Buckner? Enough said.

I entertained myself with a certain mental image through the Fall Classic. Derek Jeter, slumped on a couch in a darkened living room, the flickering light from the television set illuminating his rumpled clothes and three-day beard. On the end table by his elbow sits a bottle of Pepto Bismol, from which he grimly quaffs whenever the Red Sox score. And wonder of wonders, quite possibly for the first time in his life, he isn't smirking.

A lovely picture, isn't it? If only I could draw.

I got a bit nervous when they went up three games to none in the World Series. Didn't you? They'd just done the impossible versus the Yankees, and wouldn't it have been the ultimate confirmation of the curse for the very same thing to happen to them?

But last night we discovered that yes, the Curse of Pay-Rod does indeed trump the Curse of the Bambino. Perhaps the Bambino took a good look at the financial state of the game of baseball and the resulting competitive disparities and decided he didn't like the Yankees anymore? The newer curse does seem to contain the same humiliation clause the old one did, which I personally find reassuring. And with the Yankees' farm system bled dry and an aging, overpaid and therefore largely untradeable lineup, the Curse of Pay-Rod should have lots of raw material to work with over the next few seasons.

Maybe Boston can get a little dynasty of its own going. Several division championships in a row, another ring or two, and so forth. Wouldn't that be great for them, after such a long drought?

Oh, but not next year's ring. Sorry, Boston. That one's ours.

Read More

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Amnesty condemns U.S. over torture

Amnesty condemns U.S. over torture:
"LONDON (Reuters) - The United States has failed to guard against torture and inhuman behaviour since launching its 'war on terror' after September 11, 2001, Amnesty International has said in a report just days before the U.S. election.
The rights group called on President George W. Bush and his Democratic challenger John Kerry to promise to take prompt action to address the issue head on if elected on November 2.
It condemned Bush's response to the 2001 attacks on U.S. cities, saying it had resulted in an 'iconography of torture, cruelty and degradation'.
Amnesty's report accused Washington of stepping onto a 'well-trodden path of violating basic rights in the name of national security or 'military necessity'.'
'The war mentality the government has adopted has not been matched with a commitment to the laws of war and it has discarded fundamental human rights principles along the way,' it said.
At best, Washington was guilty of setting conditions for torture and cruel treatment by lowering safeguards and failing to respond adequately to allegations of abuse, it said.
At worst, it had authorised interrogation techniques which flouted its international obligation to reject torture and ill-treatment under any circumstances."

Hmmm. Now, didn't the president claim (after his initial claims of the existence of WMDs in Iraq and his followup claims that Hussein and binLaden were all buddy-buddy failed to hold water) that we invaded Iraq to free the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime which used force and torture to realize its objectives?

Ladies and gentlemen, your tax dollars at work.

See, this is why I find myself humming the Canadian national anthem at odd moments.

Read More

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Alas, Poor Kubel

Being Jason Kubel was a pretty good deal until last week.

Rewind to April and put yourself in his Nikes for a minute. You're a 22-year-old outfielder, starting the season at AA New Britain. You flash a little leather, make a few pitchers cry, and next thing you know you're packing your bags and heading to AAA Rochester. You flash a little more leather, make a few more pitchers cry, and nail down your organizational Minor League Player of the Year honors by hitting .352 with 22 homers, all before the end of August. Because that's when you get called up to The Show, just in time to have a shot at making the playoff roster.

So, you hit .300 in the big leagues for a month, make that playoff roster, play in the playoffs, and then you're off to spend a few weeks in the prestigious Arizona Fall League, the instructional league for top prospects. And as you're flying to Arizona, you've got to be thinking about that arbitration-eligible right fielder making several times your salary and due for a raise. A raise the team may well be ready to take a pass on, thanks to your availablity as a younger, cheaper option.

And then, in your first game in the AFL, you collide with another outfielder on a fly ball play and tear a ligament in your knee so badly you're expected to miss the entire 2005 season. How rusty will your skills be after an enforced year off? Will you need to spend 2006 in AAA just to catch up? Will you have a bum knee for the rest of your career? Will you lose speed, lose power, lose confidence? Even if you make a full recovery, will there be an opening in The Show when you're ready again?

It makes me sad, it really does, how quickly a shooting star can become a burning question mark. One play, just one ordinary everyday play, and suddenly everything changes. The personnel options available to the team shrink drastically, budget questions have fewer solutions, and one young man's future hangs on a surgeon's knife and the recuperative powers genetics and his own ability to follow doctors' orders allow him.

Good luck, kid. Get well soon.

Read More

Feline Rescue

Spare a moment while I shamelessly plug one of my favorite charities.

Feline Rescue :: Kneading Paws, Needing Homes:

"Feline Rescue is organized exclusively for charitable and educational purposes. Our primary goal is to provide shelter and care for stray, abused and abandoned cats until they are adopted into suitable homes. Feline Rescue has no paid staff.
We promote positive community interaction through education, spay/neuter programs and other activities that enable all people to enjoy the friendship of cats.
We operate a shelter where the majority of our cats are free to roam. Volunteer crews come in twice a day to clean the shelter and socialize with the cats. They provide a safe, caring environment while giving the attention and affection the cats deserve. In addition to our shelter and adoption services we also have a foster care network for our kittens and cats with special needs.
Donations, adoption fees, fund raising events and matching grants are our primary sources of income. All donations go directly to the care, feeding and medical needs of our cats.
No cat shall be destroyed except when it is beyond medical treatment."

I first heard of Feline Rescue a couple of years ago when a friend gave me and Mr. Third Base Line a wonderful Yule gift--a year's sponsorship of an unadoptable cat. We got a picture and bio of the cat, the cat got a year's room and board. I can't say which of us got the better end of the bargain.

Read More

Monday, October 25, 2004

Defining the Argument


  1. Not limited to or by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry.
  2. Favoring proposals for reform, open to new ideas for progress, and tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
  3. Tending to give freely; generous .
  4. Generous in amount; ample.

I put forth two questions, which I have never been able to answer to my own satisfaction:

When, how and why did this become a dirty word?

And what, pray tell, does it say about our society?

Read More

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Third Base Line Glossary

TBL: Third Base Line, the person. As opposed to Third Base Line, the blog.

Baby Jesus: Joe Mauer.

Bankees: the Yankees.

Bubble: the Metrodome.

Casa Liberales: TBL's home.

'Cisco: Francisco Liriano.

En Fuego: the state of being so incredibly good at baseball that the sight makes TBL all swoony. Most often applied to Johan Santana.

Fourth Pew, Center (aka FPC): TBL's mother, proprietress of the blog Fourth Pew, Center (natch).

Go-Go: Carlos "Zoom!" Gomez

Infield: TBL's nom de plume when posting on BatGirl.

Jughead: Adam Everett.

Ladies of Tortuga: the Ladies of Tortuga Knitting and Keelhauling Society, which encompasses most of TBL's female friends.

Landed Gentry: the Royals.

Levellers, aka Levs: BEST. BAND. EVER.

Little Grey Box O' Gloom: TBL's cubicle.

Mr. TBL (ancient posts only): TBL's ex.

Native American Stereotypes: the Indians.

Pirates: usually refers to the members of the Bloodwake Pirates re-enactment group, which encompasses most of TBL's friends. (See also: Ladies of Tortuga.)

Puckhead: TBL's hockey-lovin' Canadian buddy.

Smirking Bastard: Derek Jeter.

Sucking: the state of being so incredibly bad at baseball that the sight makes TBL develop involuntary twitches.

Tall Socks (also "socks the right way"): the wearing of a baseball uniform in the only proper manner, i.e., with the socks and pants meeting just below the knee.

The Company: TBL's employer.

Tolie and Pooie: TBL's fat, lazy, cranky feline companions.

Whine Sox (also "Wind Sox"): the Chicago White Sox.

Young Brad Radke/Young Master Radke: Kevin Slowey.

Read More