To the child in the suburbs of silence

Someday you will learn to pronounce enough of the words,
To enough of an approximation
That your harmonies blend in with the rest.
When they ask you where you’re from
It won’t beg a follow-up;
No muddled consonants will suggest an accent
And you will not have to take root in defiance,
Claiming a city with central, commonplace voices
Almost as a challenge. To push them back
Into silence instead.

You are young now. When you moved away
It was an adventure, thrilling, fascinating.
But now other children make friendships naturally,
Stretch out their hearts, transformed by some magics,
Telepathies you cannot name, cannot read,
Insights you cannot touch, cannot comprehend,
Cannot put words to the unseen void.
Maybe, you hypothesize today, it was easier before,
It is only the new start that has set you behind.
You do not think it could be anything lacking in you;
How could it be, with your digit-reckoning,
Your story-weaving, the skills the adults praise?
Homesickness is a shield, an explanation.

And being an underdog, you sense, is good.
Overcats are blamed for everything.
People like you overcats are the guilty,
The evil, the wrong,
Will never have been good enough,
In history, in books, in the paper, in the church,
Everything they make you read
To prove how smart you are, to skip ahead
Says you’re an overcat, an overcat,
You and the ones like you,
Never enough, never enough.

But when you catch sight, on the street
Of a hat, a t-shirt, maybe,
Of the city you remember, not even a fan then,
The hat your mom loved, the shirt your grandfather knew,
Amid the football horns, amid the foul weather in these new towns
And the fans not sure whether they are fair nor foul,
No, fans like you are not quite the majority here–
You smile back at something recognized.

They will still ask you, someday, many questions
“Where are you from?”
Not for your voice’s sake, but for your shirt
And you will not be nimble enough
To answer in time.
Cities down the line, you’ll stammer something:
“By birth, by college, not consecutive”
But usually it’s enough
For the questioners who don’t say what they mean.
Are they filtering out bandwagon hoppers?
Or happier to find true fans
From unexpected sources?
You still can’t read their minds. But you’ll get by.

They will look for overcats.
They will look for scapegoats.
They will look for stories, but not the stories you know;
There are, I suppose, as many among “they”
As there are people like you among
The great crowd of witnesses
Your bandwagon has led you to.
And trying to lump them together,
Bestowing praise and blame,
Is a fool’s errand.
But there are many fools running errands.

You have many associations now,
Some wondrous and graceful,
Other associations–in some minds–guilt-trips.
But while you learn to shake your fists
At the players who muff it,
Adding their histories to a litany,
You never become a scapegoater,
Even as you burn at being mislabeled one.
Though the stories will spilled forth
From your fingers very soon
In joy and in sorrow
When stars make way for prospects,
They will come in indignation, too,
When fantasy is the only way to clear your name.

For the players you love will move on.
You’ll cling to their jerseys
And then they’ll move on.
And then their numbers will circle around again
And you’ll find that the numbers are still there for you.
People will see you in the shirts, little seventeen,
And say you haven’t aged a day.

They will still ask about your age, later,
Doing double-takes when you answer.
To get them to trust you,
I suggest spouting advanced math.
Even if you’re disheartened by that path from day to day
Some of them won’t believe you’re grown-up
If you explain that you haven’t changed much;
There was no rupture, no crisis of faith,
No artsy-fartsing and no newfound pretentiousness.
There was change, yes, more slowly;
No more newspapers, no more box-score reading;
A grudging tolerance for freer verse
(Well, okay, at times
You will go for rhymes.)

Just as they ask about your age now
And you hope to impress them
After giving prodigious answers,
Showing off what you’ve learned.
Memorizing, internalizing, regurgitating records
That serve as touchstones, conversation starters
And after them, quirky plays
And after them, quirky people,
And after them, a world that unfolds
With every improvised abbreviation of the scorecard
Until the radio lulls you to sleep
With patchy AM broadcasts, bouncing off the ionosphere,
Your hand a living antenna.
It is others’ nostalgia that glorifies the medium,
Not yet your own,
But the books you turn to are an ionosphere of their own,
Magnifying the signal several times over.

Or maybe when the world’s telepathy is a cloud, disrupting the signals,
And the numbers in your brain are the radio tower,
Baseball will be the nighttime boost,
Amplifying the call to reach your hand.

Someday they will come echoing back,
The voices you have known,
Exultant for you to reach the heights you have seen.
(You will not be alone;
There will be, if ephemeral, ways of connecting.)

Someday, when you are not quite so young as you are now,
But still, in the grand scheme of things, young,
And not always sure if you are worthy of what you have been given,
But not caring about your optimization,
Because there are others who have waited longer, endured more,
And grateful beyond words that they have a share in this moment,
You will be the voice that echoes back.

What you are seeking is not an end to struggle,
Not an end to identity,
But the chance to compete as others do;
On a field that is fair,
With mounds and warnings and everything in between.
Without naysayers nor overcats, without guilt or false narratives
But with room for the ever-new stories the game spouts forth.
Room for you to own the richness of your mind,
In its weakness and its strength,
And to own your faith without naivete,
Wherever you may be–
Like the prayer of the ever-steadfast voice
“Not for a win,
But that there may be no goats, and only heroes.”

There are other games, other connections.
In the high school cafeteria, out of the blue
You’ll get recruited onto the chess team,
Striving to logic your way though black and white,
Learn to keep score,
And carry the quotations of the game with you,
Forging new stories under your fingertips.
Two years later, your recruiter moves away,
Transferring to the Lightning,
And again, you feel obliged to take it out through words.
Sonnets this time.
(I don’t feel bad about spoiling this,
Since you plagiarized it from their fight song anyway,
Which was itself ripped off from Notre Dame.)
We sing “Shake down the thunder from the sky”.
But does that mean we want to seize the rain?
I couldn’t hold a thunderbolt in my
Hand without undergoing cosmic pain…

Lightning is weird.
You can’t trap lightning in a bottle;
You know this, watching players regress toward the mean
After brilliant performances one year.
You can’t count on anything, can’t be sure
Until it is proven, until it is over,
Whether leading or trailing, quiet as a mathematician;
This fear, this hope, has always defined you.

But there are lightning rods.
There will be other underdogs and other flukes
That captivate your heart along the way,
That seem to use up all the magic
Until your team are favorites in the end
And this can’t make you love them any less
Than the first day you started counting homers.

This is not the end. Nor is it
An end to anguish, to headaches
Literal or figurative,
Beyond and probably within the game.
Even now, as I write this to you
In apprehension for what lies ahead
I sit waiting for a letter I cannot receive
From my own future. But I may send one
When I am as far removed from this day
As I, who now sit writing, am to you.

The day will come when you will find your voice.
And after that will come another day
When you will scream, and weep, and then rejoice
After numbers’ worth of mind-numbing play.

You’ll see a playoff game with your own eyes
As your team makes its way out of the dark
Onto the path where they can lift the prize
And ultimately leave their winning mark.

When the flags that count bear the final score
When the clouds lift after the rains descend,
When no one speaks of curses anymore,
And your beloveds’ waits come to an end.

I can’t say how. I cannot say how long.
But someday, you will raise your heart in song.

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The NLCS, and beyond

The lead off third–most of the way around
The basepaths, yet the distance still to go
Looms large. The runner checks himself, has found
He can’t turn back; and he is left with no

Choice but to run, break forward, and defy
The pitch itself. Time slows, a run appears
From desperation, being forced to try,
And jaws that dropped pick themselves up for cheers.

What remains now, when superstition’s gone?
After imposed fake narrative, what’s left?
The game itself finds more plays to spin on;
Out of the blue, a miraculous theft.

One needn’t be a loser to love story;
There will be space for small moments of glory.

Twins 11, Cubs 3

Not sure if the 100 lipograms thing will actually happen after all, but I do have another (very cosmopolitan) post on the way for #200. Get excited!

It’s not that unusual for video screens to list the names of businesses or church groups, whenever there’s a large group and everyone comes.
What is unusual is, in between the names of all of those high-level companies, early in the alphabet, happening to spot the “Bleacher Bums.”
Between half-innings, the video screen shows us all another proposal. Those big-screen ones have been growing a little more common, it seems.
But again there’s a difference at today’s game, because usually the couples on display aren’t wearing the merchandise of the opposing teams.
And the sidebar column displays the Twins’ first names, rather than last names. Minnesota nice? Lots of these names happen to start with Js.
The good news is at least there aren’t any Jasons on the Twins’ roster right now. None at all! Because that was a really unmanageable phase.
In the bottom of the fourth, the Twins bat around. The Junior PA announcer, getting his money’s worth, gets to read a relief pitcher’s name.
Later, the Twins’ lead grows out of control, and I log on to the free wi-fi and twitter to sarcastically nominate him as player of the game.

Rockies 4, Cubs 3

The wind blew out, bringing Rockies’ home runs with it. The first two were thrown onto the field; the third Helton’s second of the night, got hit to green center, merely needing to bounce in its return to the field.

The structure on top of center field, next to its electronic peers in the upper deck, didn’t quite seem iconic. They weren’t in sync, with the legend behind the times. It couldn’t fit every Senior Circuit result, not even including every competition involving those in the Cubs’ division. Still, I didn’t need to know (though the electronic ones told me) the Bulls clinched something. I sort of minded the hockey score (1-0 in the first, the Cubs’ neighbors losing), though. Hockey is cool.

But let’s return to the green grid. It showed us four ones, once; the count 1-1, one out, Kosuke Fukudome hitting (turning thirty-four, music informed us). Super wild.

I noticed them removing the line scores for the White Sox when they finished, with just the end score left behind. But the column for the result is titled 10, in line with the 1-9 next to it!

The electronic sign directly under this didn’t impress me, either. There, I found out the Cubs’ fourth hitter got his 1,000th RBI on 4/10/10. Good for him, but did he do nothing else in the previous twelve months? Plus, their first hitter is hitting (.500) when hitting first. Still excellent, but why ()? It told us 38,261 were there, but this figure seemed quite high. They showed some promotion for keeping Wrigley green like the ivy. So, not green?

This isn’t to suggest the upper deck ones were so good. During the pre-competition music, it showed Old Glory in windy style, though wind blew plenty to begin with! It died down, though, until I could see retired numbers billowing in right field but not left. Might’ve just been some trick of my position.

The good news they showed, sort of, were digits next to the Cubs’ fourth relief pitcher; “5.59.” Not excellent, but when my scoresheet got printed, they were 8.10. He, if nothing else, showed up on the roster list. This didn’t hold for their first reliever who just got brought up from the minors, very recently indeed. This boded poorly. Though he wound up pitching fine, going two innings while conceding no runs on one hit.

Enough of the scores, then. Other things I noticed:

The Cubs’ shortstop writing stuff in the dirt before the top of the first.
The Rockies’ second hitter (fielding second, too), putting some kind of big plus sign in the box in the top of the first.
The beer vendor conversing with the guy in front of me, wondering if someone they both knew would be there for the next home series.
Five guys with instruments, moving from section to section, performing between innings.
People cheering for outfielders to throw them souvenirs. I thought they were trying to get everyone to get up, section by section. Shows where I’m from, I guess.
“95th,” doubly reversed, blinking, next to my reflection in the window, with blue light from the Red Line lighting up the city beyond.

Purple Line Express

The Purple Line Express by itself is enough to inspire your music group to title itself in honor of El lines or buses. Dempster? Wells? Welington [sic]? Unless you get sued, which stinks, it’s truly inspiring.

Riding through “Dempster” seemed to be ominous–like, it’s some sort of omen. It turned out to be just ominous. We got out before Belmont, where the purple line would continue to if the Cubs were off, so didn’t get close to Wellington or Wells. Our long climb to the 500 level worked out well, since we were shielded from strong winds, but we didn’t get there for the lineups. The first visiting hitter used to be on the Cubs; forgetting he’d left, I didn’t write him down.

By the time Cubs got up, they were losing 1-0. Their positions sounded less blurry to begin with, but throughout the night there were lots of substitutions which sounded pretty blurry. Lots of them were defensive, so I couldn’t just look for their numbers. So, my scorekeeping didn’t work out perfectly.

The second inning. Oh, the second inning. Jose Guillen led off, getting hit by two of Dempster’s pitches–there is precedent for this sort of thing, but not much. (Guillen is the fourth to do so.) Their pitcher got two hits. The reliever surrendered four RBIs on one swing.

Guillen led off the fourth. (Innings three through ten, unsurprisingly, I crossed off keeping score, putting n-1 in the box n previously occupied.) This time he got his own hit, but did not come in. He would’ve led off the sixth, too, but Schierholtz pinch hit for him. Pity. Could’ve seen him go for some record.

One of Soldier Field’s residents led us during the seventh inning stretch. The guy behind me yelled “Let’s get some touchdowns!”

They didn’t. Not even with Welington pinch-hitting in the ninth.

There weren’t long lines to get on the Red Line, either.

But I still think you could write CDs from these stops. Even if “Dempster” is dirgelike.

ZACK Non-Attack

Unless the opposing pitcher is on your fantasy team, there’s really almost never a bad time for your team to get hits. There are times when it would be really, really nice for them to get hits, and then times when it’s not so important, but hey, the more the merrier. Fantasy aside, can we therefore conclude that it is always good for your team to get hits, and always the best course of action to root for them to do so?

No, we cannot. For we also appreciate the home fans we see in broadcasts of no-hitters we switch to, who start cheering for the visiting pitcher at the end of the game–tacitly rooting against their own batters. But when does the “end of the game” begin? When is it acceptable to switch your allegiance?

Enter the ZACK, a new statistic that hopes to measure the acceptability of rooting for a no-hitter against your own team. This is the first version of the formula, so the scale of some of the numbers involved might be off. Feel free to give feedback.

ZACK is derived from four variables: ZACK=Z*(A+C+K). Each of these letters stands for a different question that a fan might implicitly consider on these occasions:

Z is for Zone? (Where am I?)
A is for Accomplishment? (How far along is this game?)
C is for Crucial? (Is this an important game to win?)
K is for Killed? (Are we getting killed out there?)

Here’s how you compute these…

Zone. We take as our baseline being actually present at the game; if you’re at the game, Z=1 so it won’t make a difference when you multiply it by the sum and you can move on to A. If you’re not at the game…
…but you’ve been paying attention (through any chosen medium) from the start, Z=3/4
…but you’re been paying attention for a while, Z =2/3
…but you just started paying attention because someone has alluded to what’s going on, Z=1/2 (You may think that this should be strange for a game involving “your team”, but perhaps they’re only “your team” in the league you don’t care about quite as much and you’re busy watching a different game.)
…but you just started paying attention because someone has explicitly told you what’s going on, step away from the computer (or open a new tab), and give that person a stern talking-to from me.

Accomplishment. The editors of MLB.com apparently believe in a “bright line test” after the fifth inning or so, allowing live look-ins after a specific point in the game. I do not; no inning should be disproportionately important. (If the correct answer to the question posed at the end of the second paragraph is “the seventh inning, period”, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.)

So, my first principle in ZACK is that each inning is equally important. Therefore, A=8 at the beginning of the game, and increases by 1 for every out recorded by the opposing pitcher, whether that out comes in the first inning or the ninth. (Well, actually, I didn’t consider extra innings. Maybe A should go up by 2 for every out beyond the twenty-seventh!)

However, I can appreciate that completing a half-inning may have more subjective value than just three outs. So, A increases by an extra 1 for every half-inning completed. (The A value for a game could go 8-9-10-12-13-14-16 through the first two innings if all the batters go down in order.)

Subtract that original 8 from your A value if your team has gotten on base through other means.

Crucial. This is the hardest to calculate, and the one that might need the most fine-tuning. I apologize in advance.

The first thing to do is see if your team has either clinched a playoff spot, or been eliminated from playoff contention. If so, C=9. Go directly to K. If it hasn’t, continue below. However, if the value that you get from continuing below is greater than 8.5, use C=8.5 instead.

Okay, so your team is still in some sort of race; it’s either leading the division or the wild card by x games, or it’s x games out of the division or wild card (consider whichever case makes x smaller–usually you’re closer to the wild card than the division title). If you are playing the team chasing you by x games/in first by x games, go to the next paragraph. Otherwise, take x/2 and go to the next paragraph.

Okay, so the number you got from the paragraph above, which is either x or x/2? To this, add the number of months remaining in the regular season; +5 in April, +4 in May, +3 in June, +2 in July, +1 in August, 0 in September. (If this is October and your team has not clinched or been eliminated, you have other things to worry about than ZACK.)

Okay, now you have C. Unless this value is greater than 8.5, remember, in which case C=8.5.

Killed. K increases by 1 for each run, beyond the second, your opponents have scored.

I originally considered tweaking this, as your team is not necessarily getting killed out there even if your opponents have scored more than two runs. However, I think the novelty factor of watching your team score without getting hits offsets this.

All right, we’re done! Multiply Z*(A+C+K) to get your ZACK score, and then root away.

What’s that? You’d maybe like an example or two to help with the numbers and stuff? That’s fine.

For a couple of examples, we will take two games last night; the Twins game against the Royals I attended (you will never guess who was pitching for the Royals. Never. At all), and the simultaneous Cubs game against the Astros. Both the Twins and Cubs qualify as “my team”.

First, let’s get Z and C out of the way, as we can do that early for both teams. (I suppose in late September C could change while the game is going on, if another team loses/wins at the same time; again, if this will dramatically alter your result, you have other things than ZACK to worry about at this point.) I was at the Twins game, so Z=1 there, but the Cubs were already losing by the time I started glancing at the scoreboard, so Z=2/3 there.

C for the Twins? They entered the game with a 5.5 game lead over the White Sox, so x=5.5. They weren’t playing the White Sox, so 5.5/2= 2.25. It’s September, so that’s all there is to do to find C.

The Cubs are actually farther out of the wild card race than they are the division race. Taking the “mere” 19.5 games by which they trail the Reds, we have 19.5/2=9.75. This is greater than 9.5, so C=9.5 for the Cubs. (That is to say, we’re not worrying too much, playoff wise, about the outcome of this game. Might as well root for a no-hitter.)

So, at the beginning of the game, the Twins’ ZACK was 2.25+8=10.25, and the Cubs’ was (2/3)*(9.5+8)=(2/3)*17.5=11.67. Here’s what happened through the first few innings…

Graph of Cubs and Twins' ZACK scores

Am I on the right track? There’s a lot of room for improvement, but I feel like this is a good start.

By the way, I’m not going to give you a cutoff value for acceptability, except that I’m pretty sure it’s greater than 14. Beyond that, it’s an issue that each fan must struggle with alone.

Also, although it should be obvious, don’t bother with ZACK once your team has already gotten a hit! Then, just sit back, enjoy, and hope the barrage continues for enough runs that Matt Capps can’t blow it.

Vacation jottings

Why didn’t I post for so long? I was on vacation. I could split this up and post it bit by bit, but I was hoping that this would wind up as my high word count for lipograms (so far!). And it has, by a long shot! I wasn’t writing all of this out word-for-word and day-by-day, but it’s a rough summary of what I was thinking.

My actual jottings by hand say “now, today, tonight” a lot. Typing this up, I at first put “that day”, “that night” talking about, say, watching Oakland, but I’m going to copy down “now” if I put it down by hand. This will jump from “now” to “past” and back without a lot of justification, so sorry if that looks ugly or if it is a cop-out, but this is sort of hard!

July 26, in Dallas:

  • I got a book about this sport (anthology by many authors) at a gift shop, so my trip is off to a good start.
  • It’s fun to watch TV and at its bottom, find nothing but scrolling “NL…AL…NL…AL…” This is July and August.
  • Switching to no-nos is a vacation tradition.  Mussina in 2001. Jon of LA (AL) in 2008. And now, Matt Garza. But watching hits to finish no-nos is also part of this tradition. If you must switch to it, you didn’t know all along, and had to find out. And if you found out, got told, who knows how long it’ll last? But Garza’s did. A twist on an old tradition, for 2010.
  • I don’t actually know what to call 2010, so far. Do fans know “I’m watching a transition?” And if so, from watching play? Or knowing what’s going on with contracts and such? Looking back, you can point to cyclical divisions, but do you know about such a division as it’s going on? My fandom isn’t all that long, so I don’t know right now.

July 27

  • Quick trip into Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, or Aaaaaklahoma if you want silly vocalic fun (and I think you do). Not a lot to do in Oklahoma, though, so back down south for discussion about which six flags had flown in this sky.
  • It’s not so hot as it looks, and it looks truly hot.
  • Tonight is my first visit to Arlington’s ballpark! It’s by a humongous stadium for Dallas Cowboys, and also has its own parking lots, but it’s hard to find out which is for normal fan parking.
  • A warning plays prior to today’s first pitch; MLB prohibits boards from instantly showing…what sorts of plays? I don’t know. Plays that umps had to look at again? Balls or non-balls? Don’t know. But this ballpark has a board for displaying plays on its wall, so it’s an important warning. Although its big board is not too functional, or it was actually “Kouzmano” [sic] playing third for Oakland…
  • It also has a board for showing “last play”, but this won’t display any dash. I’d put down “5-3” for a groundout to third, but it just says “53”. I think my Twins do a similar thing now. Anyway, that’s silly.
  • On a past vacation, I saw Cliff pitch.
    This was a bit of a switch from that.
  • Top plays: Cruz flying into a wall to catch Rajai Davis’ blast (this was, in fact, shown as play #1 on TV). A pop to Kurt Suzuki, flying into a…backstop sort-of-wall thing.
  • Not top plays: Coco Crisp, in inning six, took off from first. Molina was hoping to throw him out, but nobody was waiting to catch that throw, so it shot past its bag. Crisp got to third as Julio Borbon was bobbling said ball. Oops.Also, Josh Hamilton’s third-inning hit, I would not call a hit. But I can’t put down what I would call it, so that’s possibly a good thing. His first-inning hit was hit to Daric Barton, who was playing first, but nobody was around for his throw, so Hamilton got on. Prior to that, his bat had flown into stadium stands!
  • Cliff got K following K, giving up just a hit through 5 innings. Our hosts got a run, but would strand lots too. Kurt Suzuki got a hit to bring in Coco Crisp, who was on third following that non-top play, in inning six, and it was 1-1.
  • This ballpark’s grass and dirt’s boundary is an unusual polygon, I think. Its organ is slow and choppy. A bar or two of “Victory Symphony” now and again.  Odd. Its display cut to A-Rod (going for blast 600). His shot was far, but got caught, provoking clapping from fans in this stadium, distant from that action.
  • A fan up high sort of by us had an air horn, as in (association) football.
  • Cliff put down all of Oakland in a row, following Suzuki’s hit, but finally Kouzmanoff got a hit. Cliff stays in, though, to finish inning 9. I usually don’t put anything in pitching parts of my notation card but innings thrown; but I put down 13 and 118 for “SO” and “NP” for him. It’s that good.
  • Display boards broadcast a “rally warning” for this ballpark–fans should watch for runs and hits. Occupants of opposing dugout should worry. It’s not as cool as past blog warnings, but it’s cool.
  • I didn’t think anything was particularly, abnormally big down South, until I saw bugs.

    At a ballpark, you might want to scoot down to obtain a good look at action. Or, you might want to scoot up to sit in shadows, not blazing sunlight. On that night, you might want to scoot back into dark chairs, to avoid gigantic bugs.

  • Josh Hamilton got on, prompting fans in front of my chair to stand. So I stand too, to watch without too much blocking of my sight.
  • And standing is a good call. A shot towards distant stands, and I shout, not caring that a big thing was whizzing past my hair. I don’t put down “HR” until going back to my room, but I can’t crash for long. I’m still in Dallas, but Cubs and Astros will start at 1:05 in Houston!

July 28, Houston

  • Houston’s stadium was cool, in both ways. It stood out in a way Arlington’s didn’t. With a big glass wall looking out on Houston, and a big fan blowing lots of cold wind down, it was hard at first to know I was indoors! Watching a bird in with us didn’t aid this conclusion at all.
  • It had many fans blowing air down, but not many filling up chairs. Lots of school groups, though, chanting for “Astwos” (clap, clap, clap clap clap) during Cubs’ first two innings at bat.
  • Display boards would show scrolling stock costs and, in sporting statistics, “x” for “for”. So, “Hitting .340 (18×53) during last 14…” My program also had “x” for “for”.
  • Both squads had a “Castro” starting, though Carlos of Houston wasn’t half of a similar pair. “Astro Castro” sounds cool.
  • Similarly to 7/27, I was rooting for a squad that was winning 1-0 following 1. Also similarly, this would last until inning 6. But Houston would actually tack on a triad of runs, thanks to a two-run blast from Carlos.
  • Following six-and-a-half innings, fans didn’t sing a normal song too loudly. But fans did clap along to a song that was also playing in Arlington (big, bright, stars at night; blooming aromas, and so on).
  • This organ, too, would throw in 5th Symphony introductory bars.
  • Carlos of Houston hit a two-run blast.
  • Houston would tack on a trinity of runs, to go up 8-1.
  • I normally do not put anything down but “IP” for throwing statistics. But that day, I did for Bob Howry. IP: 2/3. NP: 37. (Big hit, groundout, hit, hit, hit, groundout, walk.)
  • No, I am not copying and pasting poorly. It was that bad.
  • Now that I’m looking at and transcribing this, I’m just now finding out that I didn’t put down “IP” for “Abad” (who wasn’t). I’ll do that now. 1 (half) inning…Cubs got guys on, but couldn’t do anything big.
  • Now that I am going back through this post to look at it, I’m just now finding out that I didn’t put down IP for Justin of Chicago. I’ll do that now, too. 1/3.
  • NL and AL play is distinct; lots of substitutions for NL, not so many for AL. Around Dallas, putting all scoring on  just a big front half of part of a program works okay. In Houston, it hardly works. But in both stadiums, I had to do it that way.
  • Also, it’s hard to know “oh, I’m indoors, it’s got a roof” if stadiums shoot off sparkling lights following hosts’ wins. But that’s what I saw in Houston.
  • I saw an intriguing donut shop tonight, with a sign boasting “tacos, muffin &” so on from four am to two pm. Sadly, it was past six pm, so I couldn’t go in and look at it.
  • I was tiring that night, unsurprisingly, but was up for all of a marathon St. Louis win. (Garcia vs. Santana, again!) This took “just” 13 innings…not 20, alas (or not alas, for my biological clock).

    To pitch to Pujols, or not? I think I would. Holliday was a scoring sparkplug that day. With a walk and a hit batsman, control was worrying–you don’t want to throw away your margin for missing marks. And it’s not important how many MVP awards Pujols has won–you can’t bring a trophy with you up to bat.

    I’m glad visitors won and, looking back, ditto for April’s marathon. For all walkoffs’ joy, and Cruz taught you that if you didn’t know, in such a long fight, you want to watch a bottom half. Just to find out if it’ll go on.

July 29

  • It’s NASA’s 52nd birthday, so I was at its Houston facility. It’s a bit disappointing that a program that puts humans on our moon with 2 MB of computation ability has a Star Wars display out front.

    It was a good tour, though, with a cool US flag to boot: it’s on top of Mission Control if a US astronaut is out on duty, so many, many months in a row.

    Also, I saw a Saturn V craft.

    OH MY GOSH, THAT THING IS GIGANTIC.

    It is so big. Long, tall, in all ways. Oh man. Humongous.

    Along it hangs fabric with discussion and photographs of Apollo flights. First was Apollo 1; its astronauts burnt during a simulation.

    What I find most inspiring about this story is not Gus Grissom’s conviction that cosmic flight is worth any risk, but that this was in January 1967. That’s just thirty months from Apollo 1 to 11.

    And it shows all Apollo missions with humans, too, 7 through 17. A quotation from an Apollo 17 astronaut–and a big blank patch.

    What will fill that in? Privatization of such programs sounds natural. Capitalism isn’t a totally good plan for all things, I think, but with our human goals to always push forward, rivalry can spur us on. And rivalry for nothing but glory from doing a task first is natural among groups that look for profit. It’s not as toxic as rancor among “nations”.

    Many big plans–“don’t worry, that wasn’t a finish, on to Mars, hooray!” did sound hollow in Houston, but I still think that humankind will again outgrow this world and push for distant horizons.

  • A lot of driving around and making wrong turns tonight. I did wind up with food, but got back to that night’s inn only half an hour until its pool’s closing hour. Officially. Unofficially, it was actually about an hour.

    Without aid, my vision is not good. Floating on my back, I would look up and try to find stars, but couldn’t pick out many. Was that Lyra’s alpha star, possibly? How about Aquila’s and Cygnus’?

    That was history; not so much light pollution, good point, but blurry and hazy in its way. But humans found stuff out. In a cosmic way–think of how long it is for light to go among stars–Apollo 11 was still almost now. Up in this vast cosmos, information has a long way to go. Ditto for humanity.

  • Strasburg is out for 15 days. Poor guy.

July 30

  • Okay, linguistic trivia. What’s “Cajun” from? Turns out, “Acadian”–of or about a location in what’s now Nova Scotia (upon looking this up, that’s only sort of it…it’s a long story). Many individuals in its diaspora wound up, confusingly, in “Acadiana”, now Louisiana. I was at a national historical park, finding all this out, but missing its film’s introduction was a bad start. I would think, “Wait, this was in Louisiana? Or Canada?” On a past vacation, I was up by Acadia (part of north USA), so this was confusing.
  • Now I’m riding down a thruway that honors a protagonist of a Romantic ballad about Acadia.
  • Okay, now I am riding on top of a swamp.
  • Louisiana has many tall crypts and buildings on bricks. Digging too far down is not a good plan.
  • Colorado won against Chicago, partially thanks to a gargantuan inning. 11 hits in a row, in an inning (with two outs, so hits had to go in a row). It’s a high mark for all of history…I don’t think I could stab at that statistic until I found out about this ugly display.

July 31

  • I’m in Nawlins now (I saw “Nawlins” on a sign, it’s okay). Brunch was a yummy (non-toroidal) donut thing–too much sugar for my liking, but I could dump most of it off.
  • I saw a World War Two history building following that. Military history is not my thing at all, but it had air conditioning, so that was good.
  • Lilly and Ryan off to LA (California, NL). Turns out Ryan’s family sounds Cajun, ditto that of a distinct Cubs utility man.
  • My aural ability is rapidly diminishing. Wax buildup and swimming in many pools is a bad combination.
  • Colorado walking off against Cubs. Or, arguably, cycling off. Boo.
  • Oh, and Jarrod Saltalamacchia is going to Boston. Had fun trying to say “Saltalamacchia”–it was on a shirt back in Arlington.
  • Wood to Bronx, also. And a post-Astros B…saw a sign with Biggio and company in Houston (by “tacos muffin” donut shop). Is this a day of transition? Or do I know now to look for lots of skill from Astros starting with B, and will I claim to find it, from looking so hard? Argh, it’s July 31 and I can’t focus on it all. But tomorrow it’ll calm down, right?

August 1

  • Also a vacation tradition: tracking cars’ origins. On my way to church this morning, I saw a car from Hawaii! How this works, I don’t know (think about it…). Still looking for all 50.
  • I’m in Mississippi now. Gulf Coast was hot and shallow–no sign of oil but that put on to block sun rays. Charming fish carcass on sand, but mostly a comfortably warm coast. No crowds. Actually, no crowds in almost all tourist spots (bar WWII stop on Saturday) so far.
  • Now I’m back in Louisiana’s capital. I had to stop at Wal-Mart for socks and drops to combat that wax buildup. If this isn’t my vacation’s most humiliating point, I don’t want to find out what is
  • As I’m transcribing this, I should say, it was. Nothing truly ridiculous was upcoming. Okay, back to jottings.
  • …Okay, so swimming was possibly actually a boon, by making wax not as tight! Drops working, stuff is loud now! Hooray!

August 2

  • Louisiana’s capitol building is tall. It boasts lots of stairs up to its doors, most listing USA subdivisions. I took proxy photographs of what our car list is missing (Alaska, both Dakotas, and Idaho). By August’s finish, I’ll visit all 48 subdivisions…I’m up to 47 as of Mississippi, and an upcoming vacation will go sort of by #48. It’s still out of our way, but it’s worth it.
  • Anyway, Louisiana’s capitol. Its lobby contains a bust of P. B. S. Pinchback, by his biography–a classy Wiki-printout. It has cool rooms and murals, though, plus an outdoors part of floor 27 from which to look out at Louisiana.
  • Still many swamps. Out our car window, it looks woodsy until I think of how high up I am. How can such woods grow in a swamp?
  • Our car says it’s 108° out, but radio adjusts that to “just” 103.
  • Sci-Port in north Louisiana was fun. It had a radar gun (I can throw about 25-28 mph, it says) and (association) football shot-stopping simulator (I was in today’s top two, as of my turn). It also had many cool displays, and a humorous man talking about what stars you could watch tonight.

August 3

  • CNN says that much of this country is unusually hot. It’s usually not all that brutal, this trip (urban South Carolina in August 2009 was that brutal), or I’m just numb to how hot it actually is.
  • I saw a bunch of blooming plants today. Such plants also attract many big bugs, alas.
  • Riding down world’s first Adopt-A-Highway now. It looks good.
  • Woo, I saw a car from a tiny non-island island! That’s a good thing, too, as I forgot to photograph it on Louisiana’s capital stairs.
  • A car from North Dakota (which I forgot on my original list, jumping from North Carolina on bottom to Ohio up top is hard) was in this parking lot, across from our car.
  • I’m back in Dallas now, and saw JFK assassination stuff. A sixth floor tour strictly warns “NO PHOTOGRAPHS”. Had a photo opportunity on grassy knoll; Dallas and Chicago both sport big downtown plazas that sound similar.
  • Now I’m flying back. I had wordplay fun in Dallas airport, although (J-I-V-blank)*2 for 26 points, and ((P*2)-A-N-S-Y)*3 for 39, still couldn’t bring victory.
  • What to do about Cubs futility? 18-1 loss last night. I still think that Chicago isn’t actually that bad, it’s still just flukish, but who knows? As I said to start, possibly fans don’t know about ongoing transitions…
  • Final standings:
    • US subdivisions on my total list: 47 (and counting)
    • US subdivisions on cars: 47

      Washington DC could fit on both lists. Also on car list: Ontario, USA official, US Navy, plus four (San Luis Potosí and similar).

    • A-Rod blasts at start of trip: 599
    • A-Rod blasts at finish of trip: 599