Thursday, August 23, 2007

The Value Of An Autograph

Yesterday morning on XM Satellite Radio's "Home Plate" baseball channel, host Mark Patrick read this column on the air, and I was moved by it.

A routine autograph request to a minor league ballplayer turned out to be something more.
"Hello," said the mother. We said nothing in return and continued to act as if we couldn't see or hear her. She stumbled at our coldness, and cast hear eyes around sadly. She looked at her son, who never took his eyes off us, smiled, and then mustered enough courage to try again.

I can't explain to you what its like to avoid someone on purpose. When I write about the concept it just seems too rude and heartless. Maybe it is, but I still do it all the time. In my line of work, sometimes you have to ignore people. You have to tune out the noise of the game.
The column comes from the "Non-Prospect Diaries," written by 26-year-old career minor league pitcher Dirk Hayhurst in Baseball America. The guy may not have a major league future, but has a gift for perceptive writing that most would only dream of.

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Friday, August 17, 2007

Around The Horn

  • One of Newsweek's own columnists, Robert Samuelson, publicly de-pantses them over their tendentious and insipid global warming cover story:
    We in the news business often enlist in moral crusades. Global warming is among the latest. Unfortunately, self-righteous indignation can undermine good journalism. A recent Newsweek cover story on global warming is a sobering reminder. It's an object lesson of how viewing the world as "good guys vs. bad guys" can lead to a vast oversimplification of a messy story.

    ...Against these real-world pressures, Newsweek's "denial machine" is a peripheral and highly contrived story. Newsweek implied, for example, that Exxon Mobil used a think tank to pay academics to criticize global-warming science. Actually, this accusation was long ago discredited, and Newsweek shouldn't have lent it respectability.
  • Charles Krauthammer writes today of the amazing story of St. Louis Cardinals player Rick Ankiel. Ankiel, whose extremely promising pitching career went up in flames in the playoffs at the end of his first major league season in 2000, was just called up to the big league squad again last week--as an outfielder. He hit a 3-run homer in his first game back, and St. Louis (and all of Major League Baseball) is going nuts over him.
  • Sitcom writer Ken Levine(M*A*S*H, Cheers, The Simpsons) and former Mariner's announcer, who writes one of the most entertaining blogs in the 'sphere (though be warned--his language gets quite salty), shares some other memories of the late Phil Rizzuto. My favorite:
    The Yankees were playing at Tiger Stadium one night. It was easy to hit home runs down the left field line. It was just a 340 foot chip shot. On the left field wall was a digital clock. A Yankee hit a home run and Rizzuto almost came out of his seat, saying on the air, “Holy cow, what a poke! He [hit] that over the 808 sign!”
  • A couple of theological notes. Every pastor ought to:

    A). Read this article by Doug Wilson about church conflicts. It's several months old, but profoundly helpful.

    B). Listen to the audio, or at least read Justin Taylor's notes, of Tim Keller's talk on Gospel Centered Ministry presented at the Gospel Coalition conference. I'm not kidding--every pastor in America needs to hear and internalize this.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stop Right There

I was saddened to hear yesterday of the death of Phil Rizzuto. I am among those who believe he was a shaky Hall of Fame selection; indeed, he was only elected by the veterans committee in his 33rd year of Hall eligibility, and even then only when a sufficient number of former teammates were put on that committee. But as a broadcasting aficionado, I grew to love him just like most other baseball fans, even though I generally detest the Yankees.

Two of my favorite things about Rizzuto:

1). I used to love seeing the Yankee games on cable late in his broadcasting career when they'd show a shot of the GW bridge around the 7th inning and wonder aloud where the just-departed-to-beat-the-traffic Scooter might now be on his commute home.

2). If you grew up in the 70's, you likely heard Rizzuto's play-by-play even if you didn't care a thing about baseball. He's the announcer in Meat Loaf's song "Paradise by the Dashboard Light." "Here's the play at the plate! Holy cow, I think he's gonna make it!"

It often seemed like Rizzuto was watching a different game than the one taking place on the field. He got the call wrong almost as often as he got it right, and frequently seemed confused even before it could be blamed on age. Usually I hate that kind of thing. (Listening to a Cubs broadcast with Ron Santo on satellite radio recently, for instance, made me want to vomit. He has no business being in a broadcast booth.) But with Rizzuto, it was fun and endearing.

Perhaps its a tribute to him that I didn't even realize he'd retired from broadcasting more than a decade ago. When I heard yesterday that he had died, I hoped he hadn't died in some hotel room on the road like Richie Ashburn did. The Scooter was a fixture; you just figured he'd always been there and always would be.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The Untouchables

Last week, Newsweek magazine soiled the bed over the so-called global warming "denial machine," demonizing as money-tainted obscurantists any scientists who dare question the fashionable orthodoxy among climate change alarmists. As Warren Meyer notes in a delightful "letter to the editor":
There are so many interesting scientific issues involved in climate change that it was flabbergasting to me that Newsweek would waste time on an extended ad hominem attack against one side in a scientific debate. I was particularly amazed that Newsweek would accuse the side of the debate that is outspent 1000:1 with being tainted by money. This is roughly equivalent to arguing that Mike Gravel's spending is corrupting the 2008 presidential election.
Yet now comes the amazing news that the NASA temperature database from which most of the alarmism community has been drawing was corrupted by--get this--the Y2K bug, and NASA has quietly had to revise their temperature estimates downward.

As noted at Meyer's Coyote Blog:
Today, the GISS [NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies] admitted that [the person who had noticed a likely program glitch] was correct, and has started to republish its data with the bug fixed. And the numbers are changing a lot. Before today, GISS would have said 1998 was the hottest year on record (Mann, remember, said with up to 99% certainty it was the hottest year in 1000 years) and that 2006 was the second hottest. Well, no more. Here are the new rankings for the 10 hottest years in the US, starting with #1:
1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938, 1939
Three of the top 10 are in the last decade. Four of the top ten are in the 1930's, before either the IPCC or the GISS really think man had any discernible impact on temperatures.
He also asks a pertinent question, which shows how pernicious and ultimately anti-scientific the strong-arm attempts to silence opposition like the one at Newsweek last week really are:
So how is this possible? How can the global warming numbers used in critical policy decisions and scientific models be so wrong with so basic of an error? And how can this error have gone undetected for the better part of a decade? The answer to the latter question is because the global warming and climate community resist scrutiny. This weeks Newsweek article and statements by Al Gore are basically aimed at suppressing any scientific criticism or challenge to global warming research. That is why NASA can keep its temperature algorithms secret, with no outside complaint, something that would cause howls of protest in any other area of scientific inquiry.
"Denial machine" indeed. Science is about testing conflicting theories against the available evidence. When anyone attempts to shut down such inquiry by fiat, we should ask ourselves what they have to hide.

Oh, and incidentally, the one person most responsible for this corrupted NASA database? James Hansen, the incorruptible and untainted hero of last week's story in Newsweek. As an Investor's Business Daily editorial notes:
Hansen was once profiled on CBS' "60 Minutes" as the "world's leading researcher on global warming." Not mentioned by Newsweek was that Hansen had acted as a consultant to Al Gore's slide-show presentations on global warming, that he had endorsed John Kerry for president, and had received a $250,000 grant from the foundation headed by Teresa Heinz Kerry.
(Hat tip: Coyote Blog, via Hot Air--whose post you also really should read, via Centuri0n)

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Thursday, August 09, 2007

If We Shout, Will You Believe Us?

A few months ago, it was TIME magazine that pooped its collective panties over the current global warming frenzy. This week, it's Newsweek that soils itself, evacuating its proverbial bowels of any remaining shreds of credibility.

In this week's piece (and I use that word advisedly) called "The Truth About Denial" (cute, huh?), Newsweek declares outright war on the global warming "denial machine," which evidently looks something like Hillary Clinton's dastardly "right wing conspiracy." You see, Newsweek can't seem to understand why most people persist in not taking their word for it when they insist a climate catastrophe is on the way.

Now, you might think that Newsweek would adopt a posture of humility on climate issues, seeing as though they wet themselves only 30 years ago over the coming global ice age. But you would be wrong. Humility is not really their forte, and so Newsweek finds itself in high dudgeon against those who dare to question the media's current catastrophic pronouncements.

Evidently, Newsweek is stoked because certain industries that would be hurt by draconian regulation under, say, the Kyoto treaties (namely: all of them), are giving funding to organizations doing research disproving the fashionable climate change theories. Newsweek finds this to be an ethical outrage, and professes to be shocked, shocked that selfish interest could play a role in such life-or-death matters. This as opposed to, say, Al Gore, who in no way personally benefits from being positioned as the savior of mankind, or, say, General Electric/NBC (which carried Gore's Live Earth concerts on all of it's networks, and which publishes Newsweek online), who in no way would financially benefit from global warming alarmism. They, and only they, have taken sides for purely objective and altruistic reasons, rather than for the reams of cash suddenly finding its way into their pockets.

Also today, interestingly, comes the news that forecasters are revising their hysterical hurricane estimates for 2007 downward, the main reason being that there haven't been any actual hurricanes yet. According to global warming theory, we should be seeing tons more of them, and so the forecasts were ratcheted up again this year (like last year). But the storms have thus far failed to materialize (like last year), resulting in the revision. Rest assured, however, that the climate alarmists will tell us that the dearth of storms is also because of global warming--just like a surplus of them would've been. And we'll resist the urge to point out that a theory that purports to explain everything explains nothing. Still, one must wonder: if scientists have no idea how many hurricanes there will be this year (or what the weather will be a week from now, for that matter), how accurately will they be able to predict the global temperature 50 years from now? And how accurately were they able to measure the global mean temperature 100 years ago?

To ask such questions is to become a "denier." But I'll bet any one of the alarmists this: 30 years from now we'll all be sitting around laughing at the overheated climate change rhetoric from the 00's, and they'll be on to the next catastrophe. Whaddya want to put on it? Anyone?

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Wednesday, August 08, 2007

That's "Hedley"

For some strange reason, in the last 24 hours I've heard Barry Bonds referred to as "Barry Lamar Bonds" half a dozen times in the media. What gives with the middle name? Never in 20 years of watching him have I heard his middle name until now. Is it an attempt to add gravitas to his steroid-fueled home run record? Or is it a bit of editorializing, casting him with the likes of Lee Harvey Oswald and John Wayne Gacy?

I just hope this record doesn't give him the big head. Ooops. Too late.

Barry in 1988

Barry now

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

My Old School

Last weekend, I did something I didn't think I'd do: attend my 20 year high school class reunion. Now, I happen to have loved high school and had a lot of good friends there, which I know is not a universal experience. I knew there would be some people there with whom I'd spent every day of my life for years, and having lost touch I wanted to see them again. But it's also been a long time, and I've changed quite a bit. I used to be a big partier; now I don't even drink alcohol. I used to be an agnostic, left-wing radical; now I'm a Christian conservative who works in ministry and believes that Jesus is the most important thing in the universe. All of that is hard to explain to drunk people while shouting over loud music.

But finally, about ten days before the event, I realized that I couldn't not go. Too much of my life was spent with some of these folks to merely blow them off. This created a large problem, as I would now only have little over a week to lose 50 pounds, find a better-paying, more prestigious job, earn a graduate degree, and garner multiple community awards.

I let my grateful wife off the hook for this one. There are few things more excruciating in life than attending the other spouse's reunion. The whole event is really designed to completely exclude you from the git-go (unless, as was the case for a few, you met in high school). It's people coming together for the express purpose of sharing memories that do not include you in any way, shape, or form. You can always tell which ones are the spouses, because they're usually gathered together with glum looks around the open bar. Meanwhile, the other spouse isn't having much fun reminiscing with classmates either, because he knows he's in big trouble with the annoyed and excluded wife and has to keep checking back to try to unsuccessfully placate her in some way. And that's not even to mention the relentless and inevitable hunt for the former high school boyfriend or girlfriend. "Is that her?" they hiss as each classmate is greeted, ready to brain somebody with a purse. Having once made a living DJ'ing events like this, and attended a few as a guest, I've seen this scene played out hundreds of times. Not us, not this year, much to my wife's relief.

I was surprised by how well everyone had aged. I suppose those who've been ravaged by Father Time simply choose not to attend (present company excepted). But the ones who were there gave me no easy reasons to have illusions of superiority whatsoever, which was obviously disappointing. Sometimes the experience was surreal. Some of my classmates and I go back as far as grade school together. It's amazing to see the face of someone you knew in first grade suddenly plastered onto a 38-year-old body.

The vast majority of them seem to be doing very well, and undoubtedly all are making more money than I am. Ten years ago that would've been tough; now I can handle it by the grace of God. Still, when a sweet-souled female classmate who is now a cancer specialist M.D. and on the faculty at the Stanford School of Medicine said to me, "You were always so smart," I was tempted to respond, "Oh yeah? You wanna trade houses?"

I'm glad I went back. I'm a much different person then they knew--I've been profoundly changed--but they're unlikely to have noticed that over the thumping music and the raucous celebrating. But being there reminded me how much I care about these people from the Lindbergh High School class of '87 with whom I have a history, and hopefully someday I'll have a quieter opportunity to find out about their adult lives and tell them a little bit about my own journey.

And it also gave me another chance to fly the friendly skies and discover why the airlines are going out of business. This time around, I spent a total of an hour and fifteen minutes waiting for luggage to pop out onto the carousel. I would have been fed up with the wait, but now they make it more interesting by enlisting you into the ranks of their actual baggage handlers. See, now that airports have gone to the innovative slithering-snake shape for their baggage carousels rather than the old, standard oval, you now spend much of your wait dodging luggage that careens off the treadmill at impossibly tight turns, trying to shove somebody's golf clubs back onto the conveyor belt while also nursing your shattered tibia. Way to go, American Airlines! That's worth the price of that 13-inch wide seat right there.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The List Grows Smaller

There have been several notable deaths this week. First, legendary Swedish director Ingmar Bergman scratched himself off my "Can't Believe They're Still Alive" list. They've been dropping like flies over the last year or so.

More distressingly (to me, at least), former "Tomorrow Show" host Tom Snyder died of leukemia earlier in the week at the age of 71. His death was quite unexpected, at least to me. For my money, Snyder was about as good as television gets; a pure broadcaster. This is a guy who, with nothing more than a cigarette and a black backdrop, could create entertaining, often riveting television night after night just by talking. There are few true broadcasters left anymore, but Snyder was definitely one of them.

For a quick overview of the style that made Snyder great, here's a video compilation of some interview snippets. He was an odd, quirky, one-of-a-kind interviewer, and television has been worse off since he left it. There will never be guys like this on TV again. Watch and enjoy.