Monday, July 30, 2007

Adieu KG and other stuff

Lots of rumors floating around right now about Kevin Garnett. Where rumors fly, so do bullets.
  • The StarTribune is reporting that trade talks with the Celtics are heating up. Apparently the Wolves would send Garnett to Boston in exchange for up to 6 players, the most prominent of which is power forward Al Jefferson. Other reports indicate that Jefferson is not part of the trade, but that half the city of Boston is. It's confusing, but other names mentioned include Sebastian Telfair, who I think played Mr. French on Family Affair if I remember correctly and whom I'd assumed was dead for about 30 years. I know, that was Sebastian Cabot. Telfair is Stephon Marbury's cousin, I believe. If this pans out, we'll have a lot of names to learn; that much is certain.
  • The Brewers continue to slide and the Cubs continue to surge in the Comedy Central pennant race. I'm not quite sure what the issue is in Milwaukee, but one alarming development is the recent series of implosions of closer Francisco Cordero. Cordero had been lights out all season, but has blown two saves in the last week. There are some good relievers available, like Octavio Dotel and Eric Gagne; perhaps the Crew could get one of those guys before the deadline. Pitching is the issue in Milwaukee.
  • Meanwhile, the Twins may still be in the fight following two clutch wins in Cleveland over the weekend. The Twins seem to have a hitting issue; namely, a complete lack of it beyond Morneau, Mauer and Hunter. It was nice to see that Jason Tyner got his first major league home run over the weekend, but really now, how good a team are you if you have to rely on someone like Jason Tyner? They need bats. Maybe the Brewers and the Twins should make a trade - how about Matt Guerrier or (better yet) Pat Neshek to the Crew for, say, Tony Gwynn Jr.? Or Juan Rincon for Kevin Mench? That would be a good trade for both sides.
  • I had an extended conversation with an anonymous poster last week about Barry Bonds. I remain quite ambivalent about Bonds, which is fairly heretical these days. I do wonder how all of this is going to look 20 years on; I tend to see Bonds as a Faustian figure, a fellow who may have sold his soul for glory that he may ultimately be denied. What I'll never really understand is that he wasn't satisfied with simply being the best player of his generation; he may have chosen the needle (or the "cream" or the "clear") because being the best simply wasn't good enough. The Baseball Hall of Fame has some strange standards; I highly recommend Bill James's book on the Hall, The Politics of Glory, to those who are interested in the topic. As James rightly points out, the standards of the Hall of Fame are already so hopelessly compromised that some of the oppobrium put on Bonds, Mark McGwire and others seems pretty strange.
  • It's looking bad for Michael Vick, as one of his co-defendants looks like he's going to cop a plea and testify against the Falcons quarterback. If Vick did what he's accused of, he's a lousy human being and probably deserves a little time in prison. But I have heard and seen pundits who are arguing that this scandal is worse than the Ray Lewis scandal. Lewis, you'll recall, was charged with murder. Somehow, I still think murder is a more serious offense than cruelty to animals.

Friday, July 27, 2007


I will be making my second trip up to the Tomahawk Scout Camp this afternoon, this time to pick up Ben. He’s been up there for a week now and I made a quick visit on Wednesday to see him. It’s a long way up there – about 110 miles through some hilly country. This portion of Wisconsin was one of the few places in the state that I’d never been and it was interesting to see.

Ben and his pals have had a marvelous time up there – my own scouting career ended after I earned my Cub Scout Bear badge, so he’s gone a lot further than I have with it. And he’s been doing some things this week that I haven’t ever done, like firing a shotgun. I was a city kid and my dad didn’t hunt, so many of these activities are alien to me. Ben may not ever be interested in hunting, or even target shooting, but it’s a good thing for him to understand how guns work. He’s less likely to believe nonsense as an adult if he gains an understanding of a subject as a child.

That, in a nutshell, is what Scouting is really about. While the activities are a lot of fun, the moral message of Scouting is hard to gainsay. Consider the Scout Law:

A Scout tells the truth. He keeps his promises. Honesty is part of his code of conduct. People can depend on him.
A Scout is true to his family, Scout leaders, friends, school, and nation.
A Scout is concerned about other people. He does things willingly for others without pay or reward.
A Scout is a friend to all. He is a brother to other Scouts. He seeks to understand others. He respects those with ideas and customs other than his own.
A Scout is polite to everyone regardless of age or position. He knows good manners make it easier for people to get along together.
A Scout understands there is strength in being gentle. He treats others as he wants to be treated. He does not hurt or kill harmless things without reason.
A Scout follows the rules of his family, school, and troop. He obeys the laws of his community and country. If he thinks these rules and laws are unfair, he tries to have them changed in an orderly manner rather than disobey them.
A Scout looks for the bright side of things. He cheerfully does tasks that come his way. He tries to make others happy.
A Scout works to pay his way and to help others. He saves for unforeseen needs. He protects and conserves natural resources. He carefully uses time and property.
A Scout can face danger even if he is afraid. He has the courage to stand for what he thinks is right even if others laugh at or threaten him.
A Scout keeps his body and mind fit and clean. He goes around with those who believe in living by these same ideals. He helps keep his home and community clean.
A Scout is reverent toward God. He is faithful in his religious duties. He respects the beliefs of others.

How many people do you know, people that you deal with in the course of living your life, consistently model these behaviors? Not many, I’m guessing. While there are bad Boy Scouts, I’ve not met many. Scouts understand that a functioning society needs people who are trustworthy, loyal, helpful, friendly, courteous, kind, obedient, cheerful, thrifty, brave, clean and reverent. Although based on what I saw at camp, clean may be a bit of a challenge.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Confessions of a steroid user

Even though Michael Vick and the corrupt NBA referee are starting to put matters in perspective, there remains a lot of controversy over Barry Bonds and his slog toward the home run record. As of this writing, he now is sitting at 753 career homers and has a chance to tie or break Henry Aaron’s record on the Giants’ current homestand. I’ve written about Barry before; I’m pretty much ambivalent about it all; there looks to be a lot of circumstantial evidence that he was seeking an edge and that he may have taken performance-enhancing drugs. But given the presence of Gaylord Perry in the Hall of Fame, it’s difficult to see why Bonds should be vilified.

Lately I’ve been thinking about Bonds in a different context. Since I had my surgery in April, I’ve been living without a pituitary gland. As a result, I am now taking a variety of pills to help keep me on the beam. Among the things I take every day is hydrocortisone. Hydrocortisone is (cue ominous music) a steroid! I’m not sure if taking steroids has enhanced my performance in any way, but I still end up taking the pills anyway. And if I stopped taking steroids, ultimately I would get so sick that I’d die. So when I hear people railing against steroids, I wonder a bit. They have their purpose in life. So does self-righteousness, I guess.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

I'm only sleeping

Had a little trouble getting to sleep last night, but I'm hardly the only one.

  • The most famous bit of insomnia came overnight on Tuesday, as Harry "Sominex" Reid and his merry band of surrender monkeys decided that they would try sleep deprivation as a policy driver. Didn't work, of course - the days of the all-night filibuster have been gone since Frank Capra and it doesn't count if your Red Bull-addled staffers are the ones staying up; they would do that anyway. Boredom can lead to sleepiness and it's quite possible that as Reid and his compadres continue these sorts of stunts, he might lull enough people into slumber and get his plans across. But as the old saying goes, the price of liberty is eternal vigilance and Mitch McConnell is awake.

  • They could use some Red Bull over at the Metrodome. The Tigers have come to town and have now held the Twins to a total of 2 runs over the first two games. Matt Garza was spectacular, but the Twins hitters didn't deign to show up and give him any support in Tuesday's 1-0 loss. Last night the Twins managed to strand several dozen runners on base and lost an eminently winnable game, 3-2. Now our beloved TC Men are 8 games back. They might be running out of time. Dmitri Young, please pick up the white courtesy phone.

  • In late breaking news, Valerie Plame's lawsuit against the Bush administration was put to sleep by a federal judge today. That's probably a break for her - personally, I would have loved to see her self-aggrandizing husband Joe Wilson have to testify under oath about his role in all this. People are still laboring under the misimpression that these people were wronged somehow. The attendant publicity such a trial would have engendered would have changed all that, and quickly.

  • Is it just me, or is it really quiet in Green Bay right now? I'm not seeing or hearing any Packers news and as the sunsets come quicker and more signs of football are visible, I'm wondering what's going on here. This has been one of quietest off-seasons I've ever seen, Michael Vick notwithstanding. I almost wish Brett Favre would do one of his Hamlet soliloquies just to liven things up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Relentless Cubs and other non-sequiturs

All in handy bullet format!

  • Someone break up the Cubs, who have now won 16 of their last 20 games and have pulled ever closer to my beloved Brewers in the NL "Comedy" Central race. No one else is close right now and it looks like a two team race. It's been interesting to watch this develop - the Brewers jumped out to a huge early lead and have continued to play well, but something is happening on the North Side. Lou Piniella has won elsewhere and maybe he's the difference. We'll see.
  • As the Democrats continue to push for ignominious surrender in Iraq, Thomas Sowell, the longtime economist and syndicated columnist, asks the relevant question - what then? This is a question that the Left has consistently refused to answer, preferring to bang their fists on the table and to excoriate George W. Bush. But this the right question. See more at
  • Tim Brewster has to be wondering what to do now - just as he was attempting to build a groundwork for the new season, word comes that star cornerback Dominic Jones has been charged with criminal sexual assault in the April incident that already has a cloud hanging over three other Gophers. This is bad stuff and if Jones indeed did was has been alleged, he deserves an extended tour of the Minnesota penal system. There's a larger message here about how we tolerate bad behavior among athletes, but that's another post.
  • Do you remember when Pele came to the U.S.? I do - I was about 12 at the time and the hype was pretty difficult to avoid. But the hype didn't change things - as great a player as Pele was, his arrival in America rivaled the Bay City Rollers, Comet Kohoutek and the swine flu among overhyped 70s events. Now, 30 years on, the latest soccer phenom arrives in America to show us what we're missing in our studied avoidance of the world's game. David Beckham even got a name-check in a semi-popular film from a few years back, Bend it Like Beckham. He's married to one of those Spice Girls. And he has tattoos! The full package, I guess. Will any of this matter? Check back after the football season is underway; if people are still talking about Beckham and not about Peyton Manning, then we'll know something is up. But don't count on it.
  • Have been a little light on posting lately. I'll try to be a bit more diligent about it in the coming days. Blogging is a discipline just like any other. The blank screen, like the blank page, is something that can be overcome.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Rockies fall to Red Sox

Maria's Rockies lost in the instructional league consolation championship game to the Red Sox, 9-5, on Saturday at Perry Park. The Rocks had trouble getting their offense started and fell short despite a late rally. Still, it was a real good season for the team, which won 6 of its last nine games after a tough start. It's fun to see the improvement of the kids, especially at the 7-8 year old level; the quality of ball improves so much as the season goes on.

We're done with baseball reporting for now - the kids aren't signed up for any fall sports but we'll be having basketball soon enough. We now return to regular programming.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Gray in black and white

My kids don't really like black and white movies unless they involve the Marx Brothers or Buster Keaton. Since I tend to be a devotee of older films, that can be a problem, especially since there are so many great movies to share with them that were filmed in black and white. I'm not sure if the problem is the lack of color, though. The larger problem might be the black and white movies that I prefer have so much gray in them.

I'm not talking about chroma. I'm talking about moral themes and how the world of adults are portrayed in some of the great movies of yesteryear. In the last two weeks, I've watched two films that are universally acknowledged as classics - Casablanca and The Third Man. These are films that have unmistakable moral messages. You likely know the stories - Rick (Humphery Bogart) and Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman) may always have Paris, but give up a future together to help the noble but surprisingly plasterboard Victor Lazlo escape from the clutches of the Nazis. In The Third Man, Holly Martens (Joseph Cotten) learns a lot more than he probably wanted to know about his old college chum Harry Lime (Orson Welles), one of the more memorable villains in film history, as he locates and then chases Lime through the sewers of a bombed-out post-war Vienna.

Although the main themes are clear enough, the choices that the characters must make in these films involve a lot of complexity. In some respects both movies are about faith; Rick Blaine must rediscover the ideals he once held even as he confronts giving up potential happiness. Holly Martens thinks of himself as a worldly enough fellow, but what he learns in Vienna shatters not only his image of his friend, but also his assumptions about human nature. These are rich topics for a story and I'm not sure that such themes are part of the cinema these days. It's a lot easier to smash up cars than have a villain discuss the relative historical and cultural contributions of Italian principalities vs. the Swiss, as Harry Lime so memorably does. I suspect that modern audiences don't know who the Borgias are.

And that's the challenge; I worry that my kids may never learn such things unless I teach them. My son Ben loves history and he can relate details about the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and both World Wars in amazing detail; he'd likely be a natural for that "Are You Smarter than a Fifth-Grader" show that's on television now. But he watched these movies with me and it was clear that while he understood the plot, he didn't understand how the characters made their choices and what the import of those choices were. Perhaps it's a bit much to ask for an 11-year old to understand these things, but I hope he will. It is my job to teach him and I intend to; in a world filled with Pokemon and Transformers and spectacle, redolent of nihilism, it's crucial.

Rockies keep rolling

Maria’s Rockies returned to action last night and recorded a thrilling 11-9 victory over the top-seeded Nationals at Lambert Park. Considering that the Nationals had beaten the Rockies 20-5 earlier in the season, the game provided an excellent gauge of the improvement of this team. The defense was solid all game long and there was enough timely hitting to bring home the victory. The win means that the Rockies went through their playoff pool with an undefeated 3-0 record. They will play their final game on Saturday at Perry Park; time and opponent are TBA.

Friday, July 06, 2007

Grab a seat

Or duck and cover:

  • The Star Tribune is speculating that, based on the most recent census data, Minnesota might be in danger of losing a congressional seat in 2012. Population gains in the southern states mean that one of Minnesota’s seats may end up going to North Carolina or Georgia, to name just two possibilities. Given the current alignment of congresscritters representing and misrepresenting our state, it would be very interesting to see how it would play out. At this time the two main cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, both have essentially their own representatives. As it stands, these two representatives (Betty McCollum and Keith Ellison) are both shrill, emotional, moronic liberals. Needless to say, they represent their constituencies well, although as a sentient Ramsey County suburbanite I am deeply disenchanted with having McCollum representing me, since she acts in ways that are contrary to my interest on a daily basis. But would it be in the best interest of the state to morph their respective districts into one district? It might be. Anyone who has spent more than a weekend here knows well that Minneapolis and St. Paul are very different places, even though they both elect annoying leftist politicians. I’ve always lived on the St. Paul side of the river, although I’ve usually worked on the Minneapolis side. I don’t know if my neighborhood would be better served if it were part of, say, the 6th CD (now represented by Michele Bachmann); I do suspect my interests are more closely aligned with folks in places like Stillwater and Elk River than with the average IBEW steward in St. Paul or the vegan St. Joan of Arc parishioner in South Minneapolis with the PETA bumper sticker on her Prius. Something to watch; that’s for sure.
  • The great Satchel Paige famously warned “Don’t look back; someone might be gaining on you.” In this case, that someone appears to be the Cubs. The Brewers have been struggling through another desultory road trip while the Cubs have been red-hot and have now pulled to within 4 ½ games as we approach the All-Star break. I still like the Brewers’ chances, especially since they have been pretty much lights out at home, but it appears there’s going to be a pennant race after all. I am hoping that Bill Hall gets well soon, though.
  • Now that we are into July, we are less than a month away from football. Lots to think about there; some of the national preview magazines have my beloved Badgers ranked very high; I’ve seen as high as #3. Meanwhile, the Packers continue to float around under the radar. I don’t have a good feel for how this season is going to go at all; the NFL in particular looks pretty dodgy. But I would say this; if the Badgers dispatch their one legitimate non-conference opponent (Washington State) easily, look out.

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

A tough commute and some other stuff

I’ve really been trying to stay away from politics lately, especially given how unpleasant our current politics are. But things are happening right now and you have to keep your eye on things.

  • The hot story from yesterday was President Bush commuting the sentence of Scooter Libby, the former White House aide who took the fall in the Valerie Plame kerfuffle. The outrage from the Perennially Indignant (thanks to P.J. O’Rourke for this useful term) has been loud and predictable, while the Republicans are trying to pretend that it doesn’t matter. I suspect this does matter, but not for the reasons either side is proffering. The larger problem is this: George W. Bush’s most notable failure has not been the War on Terror, including the theatre in Iraq – that steaming pile was in front of him from the beginning. The larger failure has been that George W. Bush has not been able to change the culture in Washington. It may have been an impossible task; there are so many bureaucratic infighters and low-blow artists in our nation’s capital that it might take some sort of political Orkin Man to clean things out. But he promised to try and it’s clear that this was a promise he had no intention of keeping. If he had been serious about reform, he would never have allowed Scooter Libby, a long-time Washington operative who had the charming Marc Rich as a law client, anywhere near his inner circle. But he did. You can’t change Washington if you have people like Scooter on your team. Still, I’m glad Scooter got his sentence commuted, since it does provide an excellent opportunity for schadenfreude at the expense of the Perennially Indignant.
  • Apparently there was an attempted attack on the Glasgow airport – the eyewitnesses were awfully hard to understand, even though I’ve heard enough Mike Meyers routines to recognize a brogue when I hear one. The terrorists are testing Gordon Brown, the new British PM. I’m guessing he won’t fold, even though a lot of his supporters would like him to. President Hillary or President Obama can expect a similar test, too.
  • Score one for free speech – the Supreme Court’s decision in the Wisconsin Right to Life case was a hammer-blow against the McCain-Feingold regime. I want as much free speech, especially political speech, as possible. I sincerely hope that the Supremes blow the rest of McCain-Feingold away soon.

The season ends for Ben

As expected, Ben’s Brewers lost their finale on Friday night to the Red Sox, 14-3, at a sun-drenched Southpoint Park. The Red Sox are the favorites to win the American League and the result was not surprising, especially after they jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the first inning. It wasn’t all bad, though; three kids who have not had much of a chance to pitch were able to do so. One of these was Ben, who pitched the 4th inning and got out of it without giving up a run, throwing 13 pitches and giving up one hit and a walk. Ben does not exactly have a cannon for an arm, but his slow stuff worked well, causing the Red Sox hitters to beat the ball into the ground for three routine ground-outs. The Red Sox coach told Ben after the game how much he admired his performance, which was a classy gesture and really made Ben’s day.

All told, Ben’s Brewers won 3 games during the season and lost about 20, with one of the youngest teams in the league. That’s not a great record, but you will not find a better group of boys. I’m guessing he’ll remember this team more fondly than some of the other teams he’s played on. I know I will.