Sunday, May 28, 2006

Records

So Barry Bonds hit a record-breaking (sort of) home run today, at home, and I wasn't there to see it. This is interesting. Although I go to fewer than half of the Giants home games, I have somehow managed to see pretty much all of Bonds' milestone home runs: 500, 600, 660, 700, as well as 71 and 73 in a single season.

But we had long planned to be gone this weekend, and I had assumed that Bonds would have passed 715 long before this. Oh, well.

I guess "milestone" is a better word for this one than "record." When Hank Aaron hit his 715th, it was a new record, surpassing Babe Ruth's career total. That record had stood for so long, and the number 714 had been etched into the minds of so many baseball fans, that even now, surpassing that number (more than 30 years after Aaron did), it still resonates with fans.

So Bonds is now in second place, all time. On his current trajectory, I tend to doubt that he will
break Aaron's career record. Given the ambivalence about Bonds and how he has gone about his job, that might be a good thing overall.

Now we can all pay attention to more important matters, like getting the Giants to win more consistently!

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Blogging Against Cancer, again

This one's for you, Dad.

Today is Blog Against Cancer Day, part of LIVESTRONG Day, sponsored by the Lance Armstrong Foundation. As we have already established, I'm against cancer, and I've even blogged about it, so this seemed like a no-brainer.

The point I made before was that I'm tired of waiting around for a cure. I'm sick of having to deal with all the friends and family who have gotten and either survived or succumbed to cancer. Since that last posting, my wife's grandmother passed away from her cancer. Such an event is never easy (although she died quietly and painlessly in her sleep, at home, with family near), and that has been made especially clear seeing the reaction of our not-quite-five-year-old daughter, who was very close to her great grandmother.

I've been wearing a yellow LIVESTRONG bracelet for a couple of years now, ever since I was given one by a young friend who distributed a lot of them as part of her bat mitzvah project. But what drew me to the Lance Armstrong Foundation was something much farther back, indeed, before I was born.

Lance's story is well known by now. But nearly 40 years earlier, my dad had a similar experience. Newly married, in his early 30s, and with a newborn daughter, he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Cancer treatment in 1959 wasn't nearly as advanced or specialized as it is today, but after surgery and cobalt radiation treatments, Dad was cured, and fully recovered, though it was deemed extremely unlikely that he would be able to have more children.

As luck would have it, just before my parents were going to adopt a child, they learned that they had, in fact, conceived another child: me. So I'm mighty grateful that my dad got another 20 years of life. But I'm pretty angry that that is all he got. Twice more he had cancer, this time starting in his colon, and finally, he died at the age of 56.

No one should die at such a young age. No one should have to lose a father or a husband (or a child) so soon. And his grandchildren should not have to think of their grandfather as just someone they've seen in old pictures.

I don't have any answers. But I do believe we can beat this thing. Take care of yourselves. Take care of your family and friends. And support organizations like LIVESTRONG and the American Cancer Society that support those with cancer, those who are survivors, and those who care for them. I know the cancer society provided both invaluable information and material support to my family when we were dealing with my dad's terminal cancer.

And support those who dedicate their lives to finding treatments and cures.

Live strong. And appreciate those around you who do, too.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Anger and Civility

Last week I was on about anger (and good writing that expresses it). It seems to be a big topic these days. Today I was referred to a posting by Chris Clarke (whom I happen to know from long ago, though he probably wouldn't remember that) about civility. He makes the excellent point that civility isn't appropriate in some cases:
My point: it is not civil to discuss things quietly and collegially while people are dying because they canĂ‚’t afford medicine. It is not civil to speak in even, chuckling sardonicism as one beleaguered wild place after another is paved for profit. It is not civil to calmly raise logical arguments against torture, against kidnapping, against using nuclear weapons on civilians to show our resolve.
All good points. On the other hand, the title of his posting is "Fuck Your Civility." While that is attention-getting, it also plays into one of the difficulties in the blogosphere. Some of the cleverest and best-researched blogs I read are marred (IMHO) by a tendency to swear and call people names. Some of it comes across as immaturity, some as incivility. But a lot of it is just rudeness, and you can't create any kind of meaningful dialogue by being rude.

And that's a bit of a dilemma: You can get people's attention by swearing or name-calling, but you're not likely to engage them in a productive way thereafter. The trick is to find a way to get attention without alienating.

Tough one, that.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Free Product Samples

Apparently today was "Hand Stuff Out Free to Pedestrians Day" in San Francisco. Walking home from the ballpark (jubilantly, after a 9-3 pasting of the Cubs), I was handed samples of two new products to try. So I suppose it's my patriotic duty to write about them.

The first was being handed out right by the park, lots of packets of Wrigley's Doublemint Twins mints. I guess the guys (they all seemed to be guys) handing them out are not graded on how many people they give samples to, just how many samples they give away. So they give them away in bunches, and I now have about 8-10 little packets of mints, which is probably close to a lifetime supply for me. [Brilliant marketing: saturate the customer, so they don't buy any of the product, ever!]

I tried them. They taste like Tic Tacs. Look like 'em, too. I don't see any exciting new elements to this product. Nothing wrong with them that I can tell, either. Just mints.

The other product, handed out at the base of Market Street, near the Ferry Building, is a new ice-cream sandwich product called Blisscotti. The hook is that the outside of the sandwich is made from biscotti, the really dry, crunchy biscuits made for dunking in coffee. There is some chocolate between biscotti and ice cream.

Now, I have to admit that I'm probably not in their target market: I don't like coffee, so I don't consume biscotti. On the other hand, I love ice cream and ice-cream sandwiches, so I thought I'd give it a try.

First: These things were way too cold. Like rocks. Couldn't bite them. Must have been storing them in dry ice or something. I did finally manage to crack off a piece and eat it. Obviously, this would be less of a problem at home.

Second: What is the point of this? Biscotti are hard and crunchy. They have no flavor to speak of. They are meant to be soaked in coffee to soften them and give them flavor. I suppose if you let all the ice cream melt, it might soak and soften the biscotti, but by then, nothing would be edible.

In short, this was not a winning product. I threw the rest away. If you want an ice-cream sandwich, stick with one of the classics, like an It's-It, especially if you're in San Francisco.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Really Good Writing

A few posts ago, I praised the writing of blogger Glenn Greenwald. It's rare that I find true eloquence in a blog, but I found some more tonight at Truthout, written by William Rivers Pitt:
It isn't an excess of outrage that plagues this nation today, but an abject lack of it. Instead of castigating those who take an interest, who have gotten justifiably furious over all that has happened, I suggest you take a moment within yourself and ask why you don't share their feelings.
I think this may be one of the reasons I started a blog. I'm angry. I probably haven't shown that here, but having a forum (even if I'm the only one reading it!) is helpful in putting a finger on the feelings. Read Mr. Pitt's open letter to Richard Cohen of the Washington Post. It's worth it.

And feel free to be angry.

Update: I just noticed that Glenn Greenwald covered some of the same ground on his blog today, too. That's what I get for working instead of reading all day....

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

One Reason to Love Baseball

Been a while since I wrote about baseball. Probably because the Giants haven't been worth writing about of late. Mediocrity (or worse) does not inspire.

Anyway, tonight I went to the game, and it was one of those that makes one remember why baseball is such a great game. Coming in, it just didn't look like the Giants had much chance. They flew in very late last night from the East Coast after a Very Unsuccessful Road Trip (as in, losing all three games in Philadelphia over the weekend after splitting a pair in Milwaukee). The Big Star, Barry Bonds was resting, and they lost another hot player, Moises Alou, to injury over the weekend. And top it off with having to face one of the league's best pitchers, Roy Oswalt, while starting one of their own who has been out with an injury.

All in all, it did not look promising. The teams traded runs for the first few innings, and the pitchers seemed to be settling down, when suddenly the Giants broke through for five runs in the fifth inning, and a sleepy 2-2 game was suddenly 7-2, the Astros ace pitcher was gone, and the Giants were rolling. Go figure.

Of course, the Giants made it more "interesting" by coughing up three runs in the ninth inning, but still, a win tonight was an unexpected bonus, and a lot of fun to watch. Plus, our friends in the row ahead brought homemade brownies, and they were delicious.

Baseball, bratwurst, beer, brownies. And a win for the home team. Sweet!

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Fish Story

I've been avoiding political issues in my blog, but this is just too much. A fish.

Apparently a German newspaper asked the president of the United States of America what the best moment of his more-than-five years in office was. He came up with an answer I could not have imagined:
"I would say the best moment of all was when I caught a 7.5 pound perch in my lake," he told the newspaper in an interview published on Sunday.
No, really. He caught a fish. In his own, private, stocked-with-fish lake.

It just boggles the mind. He said some other fairly embarrassing things there, too. Like he can understand why the German people are opposed to war, what with having been "thrown into complete disarray" by a "horrible war" themselves. Apparently they aren't on board with the easy, fun wars of today yet. Go figure. Or....

Friday, May 05, 2006

Wronger Than Wrong

I just stumbled onto a hilarious blog post. How many times have you heard the phrase "He couldn't be more wrong"? Here, a scientist dissects that notion:
You see, wrongness is a fermionic property. That is to say, a statement is either wrong or it is not wrong; you can't pile on the wrongness to make a condensate of wrong. By the conventional rules, n declarative statements can be wrong at most n times. By the Pauli exclusion principle, you just can't be more wrong than that!
...
So in fact, Reynolds has managed to fit five units of wrongness into only four declarative statements! This is the hackular equivalent of crossing the Chandrasekhar Limit, at which point your blog cannot help but collapse in on itself. It is unknown at this point whether the resulting end state will be an intermediate neutron-blog phase, or whether the collapse will proceed all the way to a singularity surrounded by a black hole event horizon. We may have to wait for the neutrino signal to be sure.
Even after submitting my own little contributions to the "blogosphere," I have to admit that a fairly good majority of the material out here is bad: poorly conceived, poorly written, poorly presented. You can add a few more adjectives, like "smug," "snarky," and "rude," too.

But now and then I find something clever or thoughtful or humorous. This was one of those good bits.