OCT. 6, 2015 ALWAYS MATCHING OUR WINS
On the Fourth of July, the St. Louis Cardinals led the National League Central Division by 6 games over the Pittsburgh Pirates. The Chicago Cubs were in third place, 8½ games out. There was a lot of baseball yet to be played, but if the season happened to end that way, the Cardinals would claim the division title and the Pirates and Cubs would claim the two wild cards.
Guess what? All three teams did hold those positions the rest of the way! The playoff spots were filled as long predicted. The race did tighten towards the end, as the Cardinals finished with 100 wins, the Pirates with 98, and the Cubs with 97. These were the best teams in all of Major League Baseball. No other club won more than 95.
To Pirates fans, it seemed like every time their team won and could have gained ground, their hopes were dashed when the Cardinals won too.
One example: although the Pirates went 19-9 in August, they actually lost 1½ games in the standings. On those 19 winning days the Cardinals went 13-6 (.684).
Another example: the Pirates were 5 games back in mid-September but reeled off eight straight wins. Did they catch the Cardinals? Of course not. On six of those dates, St. Louis also won, maintaining a 3-game lead.
Checking the standings each day was like déjà vu all over again.
OCT. 3, 2015 COLLEGE EDUCATION: A GOOD DEAL?
The federal government has introduced a website called College Scorecard that allows families to compare universities on several different metrics. One of them is how much money a graduate can expect to make.
At one end of the scale, alumni of North Dakotas Sitting Bull College earn an average annual salary of only $11,600. At the other end, SUNY Downstate Medical Center graduates are paid nearly 11 times as much. In between are institutions youve actually heard of: MIT $91,600, Harvard $87,200, Penn State $47,500. My alma mater, Oberlin College, barely beat the national average at $38,400. In fact, 48% of Oberlin graduates earn less than people with only a high school diploma!
But thats okay. Im not surprised that Oberlinians are paid less than SUNY doctors, or MIT engineers, or Harvard lawyers, or Penn State executives. We tend to heed less lucrative callings. We may become educators or social workers or classical musicians or organic farmers or pastors or poets or performers. Our treasures are not necessarily in our bank accounts.
If you ask whether college is worth it, dont just compare how much youll make to how much itll cost. Consider more than return versus investment. A college is not merely a trade school to prepare you for a specific career. A college particularly a liberal arts college like Oberlin is a place where young performers and politicians, poets and physicists, talk to each other. It prepares you for life.
SEPT. 27, 2015 CADOGAN DISCOVERY
Fifty years ago I wrote a nonsense genealogy. In a way, it anticipated George Foreman and his five sons all named George. And his grill, I suppose.
My story ended with a $1.47 bill for food and drinks at Tim & Clydes place. Prices were cheaper then. But whatever happened to Tim & Clydes?
A couple of weeks ago I happened to be driving through a tiny town along the Allegheny River, and I found it! Or what it has become, anyway.
SEPT. 24, 2015 THE TROUBLES YOU'RE REAPING
The Beatles released their White Album when I was a college senior, and we featured it prominently on our campus radio station WOBC. One of the great songs on the first of its four sides was George Harrisons While My Guitar Gently Weeps. I didnt discover until recently that George didnt play the solo; the gentle weeping was provided by uncredited guest star Eric Clapton, who also joined in this performance.
Half a century later, what is it that we should be bewailing? Pope Francis and I would say its the slow death of our planet.
The Associated Press reported last week that according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the month of August smashed global records for heat. So did the entire summer. That's the fifth straight record hot season in a row and the fourth consecutive record hot month. Meteorologists say 2015 is a near certainty to eclipse 2014 as the hottest year on record.
Many of us dont want to hear it, but scientists have been trying for years to alert us to global warming. As more and more people burn more and more oil and gas and coal, the atmosphere is being polluted by greenhouse gases. In the coming years, low-lying lands will be flooded by rising seas, temperate farmlands will be transformed into dusty deserts, species will go extinct, and billions will starve.
But we cant do a thing about it!
Why not? Because we dont want to.
The rich and powerful can buy and sell us, but they wont restrain the use of fossil fuels because that would reduce their profits. None of us want to sacrifice. We might have to make drastic changes to our lifestyles. Will we not be able to drive our cars as much? Will coal miners have to find other jobs? No, we dont want to do anything about global warming. And commentators divert us with excuses to avoid doing anything.
Sean Hannity: I dont believe climate change is real. I think this is global warming hysteria and alarmism. Tucker Carlson: You cant tell me that global warming is destroying the earth. Rush Limbaugh: Its already a hoax, its already been established: There is no man-made global warming.
The worst catastrophe, if it comes, is still decades away. I wont be alive to see it. Younger folks figure theyll be able to find a way to cope. Besides, it wont happen at all because Rush says its a hoax.
I regret to inform you that Rush is the one whos lying. He and the other perverted deniers are full of hot air. Theyve inverted the facts. The real hoax is their insistence that we can carry on as usual.
SEPT. 21, 2015 INSIGNIFICANT STAT
Starling Marte of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who usually hits left-handed pitchers well, has been slumping since July. An article in yesterday's paper gave the numbers and ended with the factoid that his walk rate against lefties (3.4 per cent) is only half what it was in 2014.
That sounds like a drastic falloff. It isnt. Its a drop from 6.3% to 3.4%. Had it been a drop from 63% to 34% it would have meant something, but Martes bases on balls have always been infrequent. In 2014 he walked six times against lefthanders. So far this season, only four times. Thats a whopping difference of one walk every three months.
SEPT. 16, 2015 GOD HATES, AND OTHER OPINIONS
When the angels arrived in Sodom, Lot hospitably invited the strangers to stay with him. However, Lots neighbors had resented him ever since he had immigrated to their town (19:9). Surrounding his house, they demanded that he hand over the undocumented aliens. The mob wanted to rape the angels (19:5). Lot came out and offered his daughters instead, because its more virtuous to give up some of your own property than to allow your guests to be treated unkindly (19:8). But the angels yanked Lot back into the house and warned him to get his family out of town before the rain of fire began.
Aside from the mobs threat, theres no indication here that homosexual activity was more common in Sodom than anywhere else. So why did God destroy the city? What was its sin? Hostility to outsiders? Sodomy? Something more? The Bible gives us the answer. Its in Ezekiel 16:49.
To me, the Sodomites sound like present-day Republicans who dont think taxes on the wealthy ought to be used to assist the less fortunate.
Ezekiel 16:50: They were haughty and did detestable things before me. Therefore I did away with them, as you have seen.
This summer on the Internet, Ive found much other material that interests me. In many cases, the topics are politics and religion, which we really arent supposed to discuss in polite company. Nevertheless, I wanted to pass along some of what Ive found. Ive added a new article to this website: a collection of what Im calling Retweets. Take a look.
Penn Hills had to take out a $12 million loan to balance its budget. If money is that tight, maybe they should consider once again employing old-school methods: metal cops and adolescent escorts, no salary required.
SEPT. 10, 2015 CAN HE LAST 'TIL THE WORLD SERIES?
Baseballs best pitchers especially those who are relatively inexperienced or recovering from surgery are burning themselves out during the long regular season, then having to sit out the more important stretch drives in September and playoffs in October.
In 2012, the Nationals shut down Stephen Strasburg on September 9 after 159.1 innings. This year, Matt Harveys agent Scott Boras warned last week that the Mets will put his client in peril if they use him for more than 180 innings; the latest guess is that Harvey will make only one more regular-season start. And Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole already has thrown 180.2 innings, many more than his previous career high; because the Bucs would like to keep Cole fresh for the postseason, hes skipping his regular start tonight.
How can we avoid these situations? Let me make two off-the-wall suggestions.
Replace the customary five-man pitching rotations with six-man rotations. Granted, a manager will still try to find a way to get his ace onto the mound every five days, thus using him up before the postseason. To minimize this, add a rule that anyone who pitches five innings or more on a given day is ineligible to pitch again until six days later. If a game is a blowout, the manager might replace the pitcher after 4.2 innings so he could make another start in a few days. No problem; that would tend to save his arm, while giving a long reliever a chance at a win.
Or . . .
Shorten the season from 162 games to about 142, provided that you can somehow convince the owners to give up the revenue. Forget the first half of April, when weather in the North can be challenging. Start the season on April 15 as it did in 1947 and call it Jackie Robinson Opening Day to honor Robinsons debut with the Dodgers on that date, meanwhile ending the silly custom of making every player wear #42. Then finish the season early enough to allow the wild-card teams to play five-game series (not one-game playoffs) during the last week of September.
SEPT. 7, 2015 WHAT'S THE SCORE?
It was a recent Sunday. I tuned the TV to an afternoon baseball game and curled up on the couch, my back to the screen and my face buried in a pillow and my eyes closed, listening to the commentators.
It wasnt until late in the 1980 football season that NBC and Don Ohlmeyer were confident enough in their pictures to broadcast an announcerless game. I remember watching that one-time-only experimental telecast, Jets versus Dolphins. We viewers heard only what we could have heard in the stadium: cheering, PA announcements, and the sounds of players hitting each other. I rather enjoyed the realism.
On this recent Sunday, I wasnt paying nearly as much attention. Within a few minutes, I had slipped into an afternoon nap.
When I woke up a couple of hours later, the baseball game was still on. I wondered, Whats the score? I could have bestirred myself to roll over and peer at the corner of the screen, where the score bug is always visible. But I was too lazy. I lay there and waited for the announcers to tell me.
For a long time, they didnt.
Much play-by-play commentary is superfluous. We can see Theres a ground ball to shortstop, so we dont really need to be told. Therefore, TV narration has gradually become less comprehensive. Sometimes if the guys are telling a story, they may not feel the need to interrupt themselves to say Ball two outside, and the count is now 2 and 1.
This attitude has now extended to the score. Ive heard of radio announcers using an egg timer to remind themselves to give the score every three minutes. TV announcers dont worry about that. An attentive viewer can be expected to know whats happened in the game so far, and if he forgets, the score bug can remind him.
As an inattentive viewer, I had to listen for clues. If a certain batter had grounded out in the fourth inning, that implied we were now in about the sixth inning. If the announcers started worrying about the Pirates bullpen, the Pirates were probably protecting a small lead. Eventually, about the eighth inning, when a walk was described as bringing the potential tying run to the plate, the mystery had been resolved. I could remain in my comfortable semi-napping position.
SEPT. 2, 2015 CORRECTING A MISCONCEPTION
Those who worship the Bible as an inerrant guide to all aspects of life often claim that their sacred book forbids abortion.
It doesnt. There's even a chapter prescribing how to perform one.
As Brother Billys guests pointed out in my earlier article and this minister agrees the Bible does not define life as beginning at conception. A developing fetus is not yet considered a person. Life doesnt begin until the newborn emerges and begins to breathe the breath of life.
And as cervantes posted on the Internet, August 28, 2015: If human life begins at conception and the gamete is a person, then the greatest public health catastrophe and most urgent medical crisis confronting us is the more than 50% of unborn babies that die naturally. God is the most prolific abortionist of all time. 100% of NIH funding should be diverted immediately to saving those millions of innocent lives that God is murdering every year in this country alone.
Sometimes people want to play God by deliberately ending a pregnancy that's resulted from an illicit or adulterous relationship. Believe it or not, for those situations the Bible gives a detailed recipe for concocting an abortifacient from holy water, as well as detailed instructions for using it to eliminate the misconceived fetus.
I explain in my article Biblical Lie Detector.
AUGUST 27, 2015 THAT TIME AGAIN
Its time to get the stadium ready for the high school kickoff!
Its also time to get the fans ready for the college kickoff!
Theres a story in the local paper almost every day about another schools prospects as it wraps up its scrimmage games and training camp, preparing to open the season. I often find myself reading such articles without being completely up to date on the personalities involved.
This Monday, there was such an article labeled Duquesne. Duquesne is a local university that as recently as 1992 played lowly Division III football, though theyre now in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision.
Apparently its a well-financed university, as we shall see. The story began:
I guessed this Ferry person might be the Duquesne football coach. Ive heard his name before.
I wondered how theyd managed to find four Irish teams that knew how to play American football.
Thats a lot of touchdowns for a defense to allow. And for some reason, they seem to be proud of it.
Sounds like hes looking forward to kicking off the season next week.
Aha! That changes everything! A sharpshooting guard doesnt play football. No rifles are permitted on the offensive line. A sharpshooting guard might be a member of the security detail or the basketball team. That suggests Ferry is probably a basketball coach, and because Micah sounds like a boys name, Ferry must be the mens basketball coach.
Now I understand though I still wonder why the article couldnt specify the sport up front, and why a team would fly across the Atlantic to practice hoops in August.
AUGUST 24, 2015 ALL ROADS LEAD FROM ROME
Construction began 2,327 years ago on the famous Appian Way. In Italy, the old road leading south from Rome is lined with monuments and tombs of ancient patrician families.
I found a miniature modern version in Union Cemetery, on a hilltop across the river from my apartment.
These family tombs face the rising sun. They bear the names, from left to right, of Paletta, DeMao, Innocenzi, Ciappetta, Roperti-Dancsecs, Mazziotti, and Santoro.
AUGUST 20, 2015 ARE YOU SMARTER THAN A WEED?
AUGUST 16, 2015 PLEASE BUY A CHANCE FOR PEACE
Im still finding out more about Melanie. I recommend this performance of Gary Whites sad ballad, rawer and more evocative than Linda Ronstadts 1970 hit. And I also recommend these remarkable 2015 duets with a current music star. Cest la seule chose que je peux faire.
AUGUST 14, 2015 JOIN HANDS THEN, BROTHERS OF THE FAITH
My pastor from the 1960s, John C. Wagner, has passed away at the age of 84.
It was partly because of his suggestion that I went to Oberlin College, I recalled to his son John Jr. this week, and it was partly because of his example that I adopted Oberlins attitudes of peace and inclusiveness towards all humanity.
After leaving Richwood, Rev. Wagner left the pulpit. He was on the United Methodist Church conference staff and then served as an administrator and professor at United Theological Seminary before retiring at the age of 65.
According to the obituary, In retirement, he continued teaching at the Church of the Messiah in Westerville and the Methodist Theological School in Ohio. He was a wise, brave and compassionate man who took genuine risks for social justice. Against the wishes of his bishop and superintendent, he protested the segregation of churches in Mississippi in 1963, and the Columbus Athletic Club. He demonstrated against the wars in Vietnam, Nicaragua, and Iraq, and was an advocate for the full inclusion of all persons and perspectives in the UMC. Deeply Christian, he cherished his relationships with people of all faiths. He was intuitively kind.
Polio kept taking its toll on his muscles, his mobility, and finally, his breathing, but he never wavered in using his voice for love, justice, wry wit, and endless puns. A few years ago Yale reported, Since 2000 he has used an electric wheelchair and scooter. With Miriam's help John gets around very well and hasnt hit anybody. The obituary notes, John leaves behind Miriam, his wife of 62 years, who made his long life and ministry possible.
The funeral is tomorrow in Delaware, Ohio.
AUGUST 10, 2015 TRAVELOGUE
In the foreground: the Stony Creek Mill Pond, built in Michigan in 2003. Across the pond: a weaving shop, built in Georgia before the Civil War.
No, this isnt a photoshopped composite. Its a picture I took in a place called Greenfield Village during a vacation trip I took last month.
Since then, I've been arranging my photos and researching the places I visited. I saw a roundhouse and a round house. I pondered playing a contrabass triangle. I ate schnitzel, watched wind make electricity, and bought a blue Santa.
All the exciting details are in my new article Revisiting Michigan.
AUGUST 8, 2015 PRESIDENTIAL DEPARTURES
I described in this article how, as a high school student, I experienced the sudden termination of the John F. Kennedy era in 1963.
The next Presidency, that of Lyndon Johnson, ended when LBJ announced he would not be a candidate for re-election.
I was on a brief break from college and was at home with my parents that Sunday night, March 31, 1968. We watched the Presidents televised Oval Office speech. For more than half an hour he discussed the ongoing Vietnam War. Eventually he turned to Americas increasing doubts about what we were doing there.
In other words, I realized, Johnson doesnt want to get entangled in the upcoming Presidential campaign. Hes not going to run for re-election. But it took him another half minute to get around to saying it.
Yes, I thought, Im correct. Hes obviously bowing out.
It was this last sentence that apparently shocked everybody, but not those of us who were still paying attention after 40 minutes. We could see it coming.
Then the next Presidency, that of Richard Nixon, ended in his resignation.
Like most people, I had been annoyed by the occasional news reports casting suspicion on the leader of the free world following a relatively unimportant 1972 burglary at the Watergate. You can listen here to a caller on our morning show in 1973. Author Rick Perlstein explained, People want to trust the king. People dont want to believe this about their President. But eventually the revelations forced us to believe it, and Nixon had to quit.
On Thursday, August 8, 1974 41 years ago today it was announced that the President would be addressing the nation at nine oclock that night. They didnt say he would be resigning, but everybody knew it. In Washington, Pennsylvania, that afternoon, our TV3 crew was taping a Bronco League baseball game for a delayed cablecast starting at eight PM. We decided that when nine oclock rolled around, anybody watching our game would be switching channels to see Nixon quit. Therefore, we might as well interrupt the baseball playback and put him on our channel as well.
As we recorded the game at Washington Parks Bronco Field, during the first hour sportscaster Larry Schwingel explained to the viewers that they could stay with us and not miss the historic speech nor any of the ball game. That night during playback, Tim Verderber was at the controls. The game was playing on a U-Matic videocassette recorder which had audio/video inputs but also an RF tuner. We set the tuner to Channel 11. I was monitoring NBC on another TV set in the back of the control room. When NBC switched to the White House at 9:01, I cued Tim. He waited a second, maybe to let Larry finish a sentence, and then pressed the Stop button. The VCRs output switched from tape playback to tuner input, and Nixon was on TV3 as well as virtually all the other eleven channels of our cable system. When he finished 15 minutes later, Tim merely pressed Play again, and the baseball game resumed.
Then in the next decade, Garry starred on HBO'S The Larry Sanders Show. As the beleagured host of a late-night talk show, Larry often worried that his network was considering hiring someone else to take his place. Hey now!