Thursday, September 28, 2023

Here's To You Mr. Robinson.


Brooks Robinson, the greatest defensive third baseman of all time, died this week at the age of 86.

With the help of my then editor, I corresponded with Mr. Robinson once.


By mail.

The real one, I mean.

Both Brooks and the mail.

Here's the story...

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Corner Boys.


George Brett and Brooks Robinson.


A generation or so ago Mr. Robinson came back to Vancouver, more than thirty years after he ripped his arm open on a metal hook sticking out of the 3rd base dugout while playing the hot corner for the Vancouver Mounties in what is now called Nat Bailey Stadium.

Brooks was here the second time, after his playing days were done (and probably only a couple of years after the photo, above, was taken), for a promotion of some kind.

At the time my PhD thesis was almost done and I was spending way too much free time at Nat Bailey (and it was, quite literally, mostly free to get into the ballpark back then thanks to the genius that was Stu Kehoe).

I was also doing a lot of sports-type writing for my then editor, a crotchety S.O.B. named Rusty, who had already gotten me a free breakfast on the Colorado Rockies and who would soon force me to break into Nat Bailey in the middle of night to play fungo grenades and make up stories with titles like "Mrs Sniderman's Doberman."

Which, now that I think about it, is probably why Bruno Kirby has never played him in a major (and/or minor league) motion picture.


The point of this little digression is that, because we couldn't get an audience with Mr. Robinson,  Rusty and I sent him a questionare in the mail with all kinds of bizarre stuff in it like 'What was the model of your first glove, ever, when you were a kid?'.

Which was all done on a lark, so much so that, if I remember correctly, we addressed the envelope to 'Brooks Robinson, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore Maryland'.

And then we forgot about it.

Until a few weeks later when the darned thing came back with each question dutifully filled out, in ink, in a tight-knit, barely legible scrawl.

Pretty cool, eh?

I've got the story I wrote based on the questionare buried in a box, printed on newsprint, somewhere...After all, these were the days just before the graphically interfaced interwebz became all the rage...In fact, when I first moved away, I actually sent Rusty stuff, late at night, via the lab's goddamned mojo-wire...It was almost fun, at least in the beginning, for historical reasons.
As for Mr. Brett...It's almost the 31st anniversary of the infamous  'pine tar game' in New York's Yankee Stadium...
Speaking of the big apple...A young Mr. Springsteen's 'New York City Serenade' was the impetus for both the header and the sub-header of this post.


Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Do They No Longer Have Editors At The NY Times?


The following is from the New York Times pre-Republican debate coverage written by Jonathan Weisman and Lisa Lerer:

...Rather than attending the debate, Mr. Trump will appear with union workers in Detroit...

Obviously the Grey Lady is happy to set this up as an action that is directly comparable to Mr. Biden's walking the picket line with striking autoworkers yesterday so that they can report on who the 'winner' of the hearts and minds of union/autoworkers tomorrow.


But here's the thing, as reported today by Alexander Sammon in Slate:

...The event will not, despite original reports to the contrary, have Trump speaking to striking union members. Instead, he will speak to nonunion workers at a nonunion parts manufacturer called Drake Enterprises, at the invitation of the company’s management...

Imagine that!


Friday, September 22, 2023

Who Is This 'He'?


Mr. Scrimshaw.

Writing on the Lotuslandian political scene:

...He’s strengthened the Cons at his own expense, Mainstreet has them in third, and there have been reports of 2 other private polls with the BC Conns above 20%. He’s had 3 answers on the “Million” march this week, and has managed to come to an answer on parental rights that has pleased nobody, and now the BC Cons have to be taken seriously, since they have two MLAs and official party status now...


Who is this 'He' that Mr. Scrimshaw speaks of?

Why, it's the Kevinator:

...(Kevin) Falcon has to do what he’s been avoiding for months and take a decision about the future of the party. Is it going to be a party for young professionals, social liberals, and the reasonably affluent, f*ck their right flank? Or are they going to become a party of their right flank, make them indistinguishable from the BC Cons, and smother Rustad? Because doing neither ends one way - with the BC Liberals relegated to history, just like the SoCreds before them...

But here's the thing that, perhaps, particularly given that he's an outsider, Mr. Scrimshaw may not know...

Mr. Falcon is not 'like' the SoCreds before them.

He is the SoCreds.

Always was and always will be.

From Frances Bula, writing in 2009 in Business in Vancouver:

...Kevin Falcon sounds slightly awestruck, almost gushing, when he talks about his most memorable encounter with one of the major political inspirations of his life, former premier Bill Bennett.

It was at the Hotel Vancouver during the height of the union-organized Solidarity protests against the premier’s restraint plans in the fall of 1983. On October 15, 60,000 protesters surrounded the hotel, where the Social Credit party was holding its annual convention, one of the largest political protests this province has ever seen. But inside the hotel’s convention rooms, amid the carpets and chandeliers, Socreds of all descriptions were networking as usual.

The 20-year-old Falcon, an insurance broker and Junior Chamber of Commerce vice-president active in the Young Socreds, walked past the premier as he was talking with Peter Brown and Murray Pezim, two major power brokers.

“I was standing there hoping that maybe when their discussion was finished, I might get a chance to introduce him to my friends. And the premier saw me, said, ‘Excuse me,’ to these very important people and came over and said, ‘Hello, Kevin, How are you? Good to see you.’"...

Imagine that!

Image at the top of the post?...This.


Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Ninety-Four Days.


Ninety-four days seems like a long time when the going gets a little tough.

Of course, it's absolutely nothing compared to the six months and twenty-four cycles of chemotherapy that C. went through not long ago.

Anyway, it's now Day 16 of my 94 day long term from hell and things are starting to settle down a little, especially given that the grants have gone in now. However, that will all change when course number three kicks in next week.


Yesterday, the weather turned toward fall and it was the first day I wore a jacket while riding to work. It was also the first time in months that I thought about what the winter will bring.

It's a weird thing.  When it's the middle of summer I have a very difficult time even conceiving of the middle of winter.

And apparently, the denizens of John Steinbeck's Salinas Valley had the same difficulty remembering what the coming seasons would bring.

How do I know that?

Because I'm reading 'East of Eden' for the first time since high school.

e., who, in addition to being a performer, is a reader like her big sister E., left Steinbeck's magnum opus on my desk down in the subterranean blues room recently after she was done with it.


When I arrived at e.'s apartment in Victoria awhile back with the rental van that we used to bring all her stuff back to central Lotusland (because she finished college last spring) my brother the former fireman was there to give us a hand.

As he was expertly packing things into the van such that the load shifted not once on the drive and ferry ride home, the former fireman noticed that one of the items he was packing away was a little cabinet I made when I was a kid.

"That looks like a 'Woodwork 9' project," he said.

It was, indeed.


I took woodwork in grade 9 in 1973.

Fifty years ago.

Which just proves that Dylan was only half right.

Because, while time may be a jet plane that moves too fast when it's feeling frisky, the 78 days remaining until my last class of the term seems like an eternity at the moment.


Jody Paterson has an interesting post up at her place about the death of both newspaper column writing and long form blogging...It's worth a read...While I don't disagree with Ms. Paterson,  I have a very different motivation for continuing on with the long(ish) form thing.


Sunday Set...Into The Darkness.


This is a lullaby set.

Lots of old stuff...

Image at the top of the post
is our cat Benny, all ready for a ferry trip to the island...We lost the little guy early this summer....I still miss him.


Carbon Offset Projects, What Are They Good For? Absolutely Nothing!

From Nina Lakhani writing in The Guardian:

The vast majority of the environmental projects most frequently used to offset greenhouse gas emissions appear to have fundamental failings suggesting they cannot be relied upon to cut planet-heating emissions...


...In a new investigation, the Guardian and researchers from Corporate Accountability, a non-profit, transnational corporate watchdog, analysed the top 50 emission offset projects, those that have sold the most carbon credits in the global market.

According to our criteria and classification system:

A total of 39 of the top 50 emission offset projects, or 78% of them, were categorised as likely junk or worthless due to one or more fundamental failing that undermines its promised emission cuts.

Eight others (16%) look problematic, with evidence suggesting they may have at least one fundamental failing and are potentially junk, according to the classification system applied.

The efficacy of the remaining three projects (6%) could not be determined definitively as there was insufficient public, independent information to adequately assess the quality of the credits and/or accuracy of their claimed climate benefits...

So what, you may be asking.


Fake solutions that kickstart pablumized PR spin designed to promulgate a business/government-backed push for continued fossil fuel extraction and combustion will cause even hotter summers, and more fires, and more extreme weather events, and more ocean warming, and more sea level rise, and more human displacement, and more and more and more species eradication.


Earworm in the headers?


Monday, September 18, 2023

An Inevitable Media Feedback Loop.


From a piece by what appear to be two actual humans named Frank Landymore and Jon Christian published in 'Futurism':

When the iconic entertainment site The A.V. Club started publishing AI-generated articles earlier this summer at the directive of its owner, G/O Media, the backlash was intense.

"The A.V. Club used to be a benchmark for pop culture writing on the net and now it's a private equity ghost town pumping out AI generated listicles," wrote film journalist Luke Dunne...


...Amid the fallout, G/O editorial director Merrill Brown sent out an internal memo instructing staff to ignore the criticism...

"Several of us are very familiar with this kind of chatter as it's part of an inevitable media industry feedback loop that comes with the advance of new technologies like the Internet in the nineties and more recently the widespread use of streaming media technology"...


What's it really all about Alfie?

Well, as you may have already guessed...

The inevitable feedback loop that feeds the online firehose filled to bursting with liquified garbage, is designed to...

Get rid of actual people:

...The reality, of course, is that G/O (Media) is almost certainly testing whether it can use this type of automated content to eliminate the jobs of its remaining human staffers.

It has a long history in that domain. And though G/O only began its AI experiment in July (of 2023), the slow exsanguination of its excellent publications, including The Onion and Deadspin, had already begun years before...


No new stuff...just an endless loop grinding the pablum ever finer...

Quelle surprise!

Interestingly, or, perhaps ironically... The online journal 'Futurism', where this 'expose' appeared, appears itself be part of a venture/hedgy-backed  pseudo content farm-type organization called 'Recurrent Media'...Again, in their defense, at least they seem to be using real, actual people writers (who sure do crank out the pieces though)...
Subheader ear worm?...This! 


Wednesday, September 13, 2023

One More Example Of The Creeping Americanization Of Our Body Politic.


There is this ridiculous thing that happens over and over and over again after needless, preventable tragedies occur in the States, which is that politicians of certain ideologic stripe inevitably offer up nothing but 'Hopes and Prayers' and exhort all concerned not to 'politicize' the issue.

The editorial cartoon shown above was published in the Washington Post a few years ago after the worst mass shooting in American history occurred in Las Vegas. It was a terrible tragedy that was driven by the ability of one person to legally acquire multiple high capacity semi-automatic AR-15-like weapons that he then used to kill, maim and injure huge numbers of people in a very short period of time for no good reason at all.

Of course, this is an extreme example of the 'Hopes and Prayers' crutch that is used by US politicos who don't want to actually do anything re: responsible gun control that would massively decrease the incidence of mass shootings that now occur pretty much daily in that country.

The same see/hear/speak no evil strategy in the face of, essentially, preventable evil has spread to other realms, including tragedies fuelled by our rapidly escalating climate crisis.

But what about much, much more easily preventable E. coli outbreaks in privatized daycares?

In, say, Canada?

Does that result in immediate calls from our politicians for increased regulation of the kind we used to have before self-regulatory policies allowed Listeria to bloom, willy nilly, in meat cutters?


Most certainly not, at least so far in Alberta as Andre Picard noted recently in the Globe (and no longer Empire) Mail:

The outbreak of E. coli that is unfolding in a small number of Calgary daycare centres is absolutely horrific. As of Sunday, there had been 190 cases reported, including 27 patients hospitalized, of whom 20 have “severe illness.”...


....Despite the magnitude of this problem, we have yet to hear a peep from Alberta’s chief medical officer of health, who is (checks notes) Dr. Mark Joffe. AHS seems to be content with releasing a daily count of the hospitalized, and basic information telling parents what to do if their children fall ill. Meanwhile, both Premier Danielle Smith and provincial Minister of Health Adriana LaGrange have been “sending thoughts and prayers” to parents. Argh...

Enough said?


Sunday, September 10, 2023

Struck Dumb At Oak And Twenty-Fifth.


I'm lucky in that my commuter trip from the near Eastern Townships to the Pointiest of Grey Points on the western edge of Central Lotusland takes place almost entirely on bike (and/or bike friendly) routes.

But there is one stretch where, particularly if I'm in a hurry, I use King Edward, which is reasonably OK given that most of it is that wide open stretch between Oak and Granville.


On Friday I got started a little late and headed out into the teeth of the rush that, when you factor in SUV's ferrying kids to westside schools, can be a real schmozzle.

And as I headed for the corner of Oak and 25th I couldn't help but notice the massive three stop light long lines of cars heading off in all directions all at once.

I was also struck dumb with the realization that we've just got to stop this.

Now, I further realize that only a small percentage of people will ever ride a bike, even if it is battery powered, regularly to and from work/school, etc., especially in the grey months.

But, honestly, why don't we have buses heading off in all directions all at once all the time?

And why aren't rides on all those buses subsidized to the hilt with actual, comprehensive carbon tax monies to make them as cheap as possible, if not free?

Image at the top of the post?
....From the City of Vancouver Archives (decided to make like NVG on this one)..King Ed and Oak looking west, sometime in the '80's...The actual pavement itself is pretty much the same, the buildings, not so much...
Heading into Day 6 of the term from heck fire...Got through the first week...The grant is almost done and professional school teaching now tapers off for me a little as the new course and my undergraduate teaching ramps up...


Tuesday, September 05, 2023

Our Ferry Summer.


Our summer of ferry rides ended yesterday at approximately 3:41 pm when we drove off the bottom deck of the Queen of New Westminster at the Tsawwassen terminal just behind the hordes of departing people with bikes and/or pets as well as a gaggle of folks pulling kayaks on tiny wheeled carts.

Why were we on the bottom deck of that old, but still serviceable, locally built boat despite the fact that we both had a reservation and were first in line?

Well, for the first time ever, we were told that the low slung Mazda 5 with the Thule box on top was overheight, despite the fact that we have always fit under the 7 foot bar at the bottom of the ramp since we first bought that car almost 10 years ago now.

C., who is normally the most agreeable of travellers, was miffed and said that if it hadn't been so busy and if she had been on her own, she would have forced the ticket booth lady to get out the measuring stick.

Why the fuss?

Because we don't like to leave the Whackadoodle II, pictured above, on her own down in the car for the entire trip.


I have to say that, despite all the troubles BC Ferries had this summer, we really had no complaints on the many trips we took.


But all that summer stuff is behind us now and, truth be told, I'm not quite sure how I got myself into this predicament but I've got a whole lot of teaching to do this term. Specifically, two full gradual school courses, one of which is brand new to me, as well as significant chunks of two undergraduate courses and an increased load in the professional school stuff I do.

On the bright side - it's only 92 days until the last class of the term.

But who's counting!

I'm not really complaining
about the teaching... I actually like it once things get rolling, and doing more of it is what old academics should be doing so that the young folks can focus on their research as much as possible while their still at the cutting edge of things...Speaking of the latter, I'm helping a young colleague with a grant at the moment for a really interesting applied science project where we're going to try and pluck single cells out of 3-D organoids so that they can be fully characterized 'omic'ally....The young guy's expertise is doing the cell plucking using an interesting technology called open microfluidics while our group is making the organoids...
Image at the top of the post is the W-II from early August...She had been staying with friends over on the Island while C was away and I went over to pick her up as a foot passenger on one of those boomerang 'get-off-the-ferry/pick-up-the-dog-and-get-right-back-on-the-ferry' trips...Thus, this is her up at the front on the upper car deck, where both people and pets are allowed, on one of the KrautRock ferries (back when both were operating) gazing out at the Salish Sea...Yesterday it was e. who took her up to hang out on  the upper deck...
Finally, make sure you head on over to Norm Farrell's place to read his latest titled, 'BC Hydro's Credibility Gap'...