Yay, Sox!

Congratulations, Red Sox, for a great World Series! Even this generally-doesn’t-watch-baseball fan got pretty enthused about the series this year. We stumbled into the playoffs by accidentally tuning in about ten minutes before Ortiz hit his grand slam home run a couple of weeks ago. And from there on, we were all in. Way to go, Bosox!

I found myself wondering, though, why the two teams don’t come together and shake hands at the end, the way sporting athletes used to do. For all of the excitement, I feel as if we’ve lost something in our obsession with the win. I think acknowledging each other as worthy opponents makes the sport larger, not smaller–and I wish we could have a movement back in that direction. Imagine a game like tonight’s, but with both teams out on the field at the end: the losers congratulating the winners on their win, and the winners sharing just a bit of the spotlight to acknowledge that the other team put up a hell of a fight.

Well, why can’t I do my bit right now? Cardinals, you put up a hell of a fight, you played some great baseball, and you managed to grow beards without looking like mountain men! Congratulations to you, too, on a great series.

What the hell, while we’re at it–congratulations to the fans! And to the new owner* of the Boston Globe! Beers all around!

Boston Globe photo by Barry Chin

*John Henry, who also owns the Red Sox.


New Ebooks You Should Check Out — Victoria Merriman

Continuing my recent series…

My friend Victoria Merriman is an avid bicyclist. So much so that when her professional and romantic lives simultaneously imploded, a few years ago, she decided to bike across the United States, to get it out of her system -and, as they say, see the U.S.A. She blogged about it, and later decided to transform her blog recollections into a memoir. That memoir is now published, in ebook in the Kindle store, and in print in the Createspace store. It’s called Finding Spoons: A Love Story on Two Wheels.

If you visit her website, you can read a sample chapter, and also about how through September, $5 from every sale is going to the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

You can also get a little more back story on the blog of another friend, Erica Charis.

Get into the Group Photo: Wave to Saturn and the Cassini Spacecraft!

Friday the Nineteenth is the day the Cassini spacecraft, circling Saturn, will turn its cameras back toward Earth, and NASA and JPL want us to go outside and wave. What a photo op! If you’re in America and standing outside at around 5:30 p.m. EDT, you’ll be in the photo. Look to the east and wave to the open sky!

Here’s the official word on the timing of the shot:
“The Cassini portrait session of Earth will last about 15 minutes from 2:27 to 2:42 p.m. PDT (21:27 to 21:42 UTC).” The Americas will be facing Saturn during that time. Other parts of the world, I’m sorry. Next time.

This is approximately what the view will look like from Cassini when it clicks the shutter. 

Boston Bombing Suspect in Custody

I was just sitting down to write an update—really to let everyone know that my own family is safe and well following the Boston Marathon bombing and the following manhunt, just a few miles from my house—when I saw on the TV, “Suspect in custody.” Well done and thanks, Boston area police! What a tremendous, professional job. As I write this, we still don’t know any of the details, just that they took the suspect alive, a nineteen-year-old kid who somehow got drawn into being part of this atrocity of terrorism and murder. And we still have the unanswered question: Were the two brothers acting alone? The story is far from over, but God willing, the day of fear has come to an end.

Shock and Grief at the Boston Marathon

I was miles from the finish line of the Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded yesterday. Busy with mundane tasks, I didn’t hear much about what had happened until hours later, when I started getting text messages from out of state, people checking to see if my family and I were all right. (We are.) When I finally got caught up, I realized I was learning about something just a few miles away that was breaking news around the world. Unlike September 11, 2001, when I saw the TV images minutes after the attack, this came to me as a slow-building shock. I think it’s still building.

Are my loved ones okay? Thankfully, yes. A number of people where Allysen works were running in the marathon. They’re all okay. The soon-to-be-incoming pastor at our church was running. He’s okay. The son and daughter of someone I know made a last-minute decision not to go see the finish of the race. To the best of my knowledge, no one I know personally, or even second-hand, was physically harmed in the attack.

Emotionally is another matter. People are sad and shaky and angry and depressed. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families whose lives are shattered. I find myself wondering what kind of vicious and demonized thinking can lead someone to murder and maim innocent strangers, and presumably rejoice in it. (Yes, I know, this sort of thing goes on every day, somewhere in the world. But this time it happened in my city.) I don’t propose to answer the question, because I have no answers. It’s been going on for thousands of years. But only in the recent past has it become so easy to commit acts like this with relative impunity.

I’ve never gotten personally involved in the running of the marathon, despite knowing some people who have participated. But to me, the marathon is like the Olympics: it’s a place where people from all over the world come together to compete as friends and equals. It’s a stage that brings out the best in us as people. A stage where money doesn’t matter, nationality doesn’t matter, religion and politics don’t matter. It’s a time for coming together, and celebrating the winners and almost-winners alike.

Was that why the marathon became a target? Because it celebrated the best? Because there are those who don’t like celebration, don’t like seeing people of all nations and colors running together? I don’t suppose we’ll ever know for sure. But I’m pretty sure of this: It wasn’t an attack just on America; it was an attack on humanity.

Here’s a photo posted to Facebook by Canadian astronaut Col. Chris Hadfield, from the International Space Station, titled A somber Spring night in Boston.

One online response to the photo was this: “Can you see our broken hearts from space?”

Another Loss: Film Critic Roger Ebert, at 70

I’ve never been a regular reader of the Chicago Sun-Times, but when it comes to checking reviews of movies I might be interested in (especially movies that show up on cable), the first reviewer I check is always Roger Ebert. I’ve trusted his reviewer’s eye and sensibility ever since I first encountered him with Gene Siskel, on Sneak Previews, on PBS. He died yesterday at age 70, after a long struggle with cancer. The Sun-Times has a detailed obituary, and Blastr has one that focuses more on his interest in science fiction. He was a lifelong SF fan, as well as a  perceptive reviewer of movies of all genres.

Along with millions of other moviegoers, I’m sure, I mourn his passing. But I’m grateful for the legacy he’s left us of intelligent, compassionate, critical thought about the movies. I’ll keep checking for his reviews as long as they leave them up on the web.

Obama Homers State of Union While Boehner Looks On, Constipated

President Obama gave his State of the Union speech last night, and it was a great speech. But for any serious people watcher, at least half the game was watching Speaker of the House John Boehner, sitting right behind the president.

Let me preface by saying that Congressman John Boehner is from my home state, the Great State of Ohio. I’m guess I’m not that much of an Ohioan anymore, having lived in Massachusetts for far longer than the years I spent growing up in Ohio. But still. You can take the boy out of Ohio, but you can’t (entirely) take Ohio out of the boy.

And so it made me wince to see Ohio’s most powerful member of Congress look like he’d eaten a bad Brazil nut for a solid hour, while listening to the president’s State of the Union address. Okay, sure, Boehner doesn’t agree with all of Obama’s policies. Hell, I don’t agree with all of Obama’s policies. (What’s up with the drone strikes, Mr. President? And why, after the Gulf oil disaster, are you so eager to fast-track oil exploration?) But most of what he said was, in my opinion, good common Midwestern sense, mixed with a healthy dose of much-needed inspiration.

So why did our most prominent Republican look as if he were receiving an hour-long prostate exam? Was it the bitterness of a vanquished foe? Or was it just a visible symptom of our still deeply divided country?

One of the many things I liked about the speech was the stories that Obama wove into it. I like stories. They humanize discussions that can otherwise become abstract and cold, and turn into endless confrontation between entrenched positions. Stories move us, and help us listen to each other. Who could fail to be moved to grief by the story of the young woman who, one week, was participating in the Presidential Inauguration, and the next, was struck down by gunfire near her home in Chicago? Or heartened by the cop who took twelve bullets while performing his job, and lived to inspire others? We can’t make national decisions based just on stories. We need hard facts to help us decide what to do about global climate change, for example. But stories have their place. Sometimes they can soften a hardened heart, and help us pay attention to what the other is saying. They might not change our minds. But they help us listen.

And listening is something we need a lot more of in American political life today.

Who Says Wonks Can’t Have a Sense of Humor?

Think they can’t have a little fun at the White House? How about this Official White House Response to a citizens petition “to Secure resources and funding, and begin construction of a Death Star by 2016”?

This Isn’t the Petition Response You’re Looking For

The Administration shares your desire for job creation and a strong national defense, but a Death Star isn’t on the horizon. Here are a few reasons:

  • The construction of the Death Star has been estimated to cost more than $850,000,000,000,000,000. We’re working hard to reduce the deficit, not expand it.
  • The Administration does not support blowing up planets.
  • Why would we spend countless taxpayer dollars on a Death Star with a fundamental flaw that can be exploited by a one-man starship?

The rest of it is pretty good, too. Why not give it a read?

How an Election Is Like a Colonoscopy

I’m being only partly facetious. I participated in the one, earlier today, and I started the prep for the other this evening. (I’ve just finished drinking my third bottle of generic Drano.* And when did this turn into a three-day ordeal, instead of two-day?) Now I’m waiting to learn how it all turns out, on both counts.
*By which, of course, I mean magnesium citrate.

Most people over the age of 50 in the U.S. know what fun it is to clear out your system in preparation for—as the alien in the movie Paul put it—”probin’ time.” About as much fun as the twelve months of campaign noise, idiotic commentary, vicious back-and-forth attacks, and robocalls in preparation for a major election.

Probin’ time!

So now I’m sitting here feeling queasy from the noxious liquids I just drank, and queasy from watching the election returns, especially as I watch the numbers go up for the candidates I don’t like. My daughter, who just voted in her first presidential election, came to me a little while ago, and asked, “How do you get through it? How can you stand waiting to find out?” (There are some candidates she really wants to see win. I’m with her.)

Colonoscopy-wise, I still have to get through tomorrow, on a liquid-only diet, so I can have the completely painless procedure done on Friday. (I’ve done it before. The probin’ itself is nothing, once you’ve gotten through the prep.) By then, I hope, the waiting for the election results will all be over. Unless, of course, it’s in the courts.

Just to be serious for a moment, don’t anyone think I’m running down the right to vote. I’m not. It’s sacred, and I’ve voted in every election I could vote in, since I turned 21 (I think that was still the voting age, back when the rocks were cooling). I sincerely hope all of you voted today, if you were eligible to. (Also, I hope you get your colonoscopy when your doc tells you to. You know why.)

Just for the record, I’m pulling for Obama to win. And Warren for the Senate in Massachusetts.

Addendum: What do you know! Almost everyone I voted for won. This may be a first! Thanks for voting, everyone!

One Term More: a Musical Parody

With apologies to my Republican readers (if I have any left). It is a parody.


In remarking on the political divisiveness and social unrest of an historically polarizing election and in commenting culturally and metaphorically on Victor Hugo’s fictional historic struggle at the barricades of freedom, “One Term More”, with deep affection and utmost respect, parodies the inimitable “One Day More!” © Published by Alain Boublil Music Ltd. / ℗ 1985 EXALLSHOW LTD. Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg / Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the beloved, internationally acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh Presentation of “Les Misérables” By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo.

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