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September 2, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Nationals get swept, AGAIN

After a very encouraging first half of August, the Washington Nationals reverted to their record-setting losing ways. In St. Louis, they came close in two games, but ended up losing all three of them to the Cardinals. The loss on Friday night, when the Nats wasted a 2-1 lead going into the bottom of the eighth inning, was especially hard to take.

In San Diego on Monday night, newly-acquired Livan Hernandez pitched a complete game, giving up only three runs, but it was all for nought; the Padres won, 3-1. As a result of that loss, the Nats' record in August fell to 14-15, their 11th consecutive losing month. All they had to do was win one of their last four games to finish the month with a winning record, but no-o-o. (SOUND OF TEETH GNASHING.) See MLB.com. The Nats scored only one more run in that series, and this afternoon the Padres turned on the offensive firepower, making the Nats' ace John Lannan look like a chump. frownThe Padres sure didn't look like a last-place team to me.

Just for the record, as of yesterday, the Nationals and Orioles became the first teams to be mathematically eliminated from post-season contention. So much for baseball in the Washington-Baltimore region! With only 28 games to go this season, the Nats (currently 46-88, or .343) are going to need a miracle to avoid losing at least 100 games for the second year in a row. Specifically, they have to win 17 of those games, all but three of which are against NL East rivals. (The Dodgers come to town on September 22.) The prognosis is not very good. Maybe the Nationals should move back into RFK Stadium, where they had much better success!

Nats trade Belliard to Dodgers

Wouldn't you know ... I pay a compliment to a struggling player who finally went on a hot streak last month, and now he's been traded all of a sudden. Ronnie Belliard will be playing for the post-season bound L.A. Dodgers, in return for which the Nationals get "a Minor League right-hander Luis Garcia and a player to be named." They'd better be good. See MLB.com. Good luck in October, Ronnie -- unless you're playing against the Yankees, that is! smile

Yankee Stadium(s) photos

John Crozier and Brian Vangor both sent me more photos of new Yankee Stadium, the best of which have been duly posted on that page, and Brian sent me a photo of old Yankee Stadium draped in a black shroud, appropriate for a funeral service. (It's intended to keep the dust from scattering around as demolition work proceeds.) While I was posting those photos to the Yankee Stadium and Yankee Stadium II pages, I redid some of the older photos as well.

COMING SOON: Even more new ballpark photos, from John Minor, James Sutton, and Yours Truly...

NOTE: I got another warning about excessive bandwidth usage for the month of August, which may be related to the increased number of large, high-quality stadium photos I have been posting lately. If you are a regular user of this site and have not previously contributed a few of your hard-earned bucks, provided research assistance, or submitted photos of your own, please consider donating a few dollars or sponsoring a stadium page. I do appreciate all such expressions of support. smile


September [2]*, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Migrating birds at Piney River

I took a detour through the bucolic hamlet of Piney River yesterday, and was rewarded with a fair number of migrating birds. I was hoping to see a Yellow-breasted Chat, like the last time I was there, in May. There is an old railroad station house that is now used for the rail-to-trail park that extends for several miles in southern Nelson County. I learned that the railroad was constructed during World War I for the express purpose of facilitating rapid culling of timber from the Chestnut forests that used to cover much of the Blue Ridge, but which were wiped out by the Chestnut blight. It was a "use it or lose it for all eternity situation," and they knew that the railroad would only be needed for about ten or twenty years. Quite a unique situation.

Anyway, here are the birds I saw:

	
	Location:     Blue Ridge Rail Trail - MSG05
Observation date:     9/1/09
Number of species:     12

Turkey Vulture     3
Yellow-billed Cuckoo     2
Red-eyed Vireo     2
American Crow     3
Carolina Chickadee     4
Tufted Titmouse     2
Carolina Wren     5
Nashville Warbler     1
Magnolia Warbler     1
Pine Warbler     1
American Redstart     3
American Goldfinch     1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)
	
	

The Nashville Warbler was only a "probable," but I got a good view of the Magnolia Warbler. The presence of both of those species is a clear indication that fall migration is in full swing.

* Date corrected two days after the fact.


September 3, 2009 [LINK / comment]

McDonnell on "family values"

I was really hoping that the 2009 governor's race in Virginia would maintain a dignified tone, focused on current pressing issues. Unfortunately, it appears that Creigh Deeds has taken a page from Jerry Kilgore's (failed) 2005 campaign and gone negative, harping on irrelevant red herrings. To me, it looks like a sign of desperation, and is out of character for the renowned "nice guy" state legislator.

It all started when the Washington Post began running stories about a term paper McDonnell wrote while attending graduate school in 1988, railing against "cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators." A Post editorial (hat tip to Matthew Poteat for the link) portrayed him as a "Culture Warrior" who yearn for a bygone era of conformity -- the 1950s. The Post editorial criticized him for "sounding at times like an Old Testament prophet." Well, what's wrong with that? In a country that has gone so far astray as modern-day America, we could use a few Jeremiahs or Ezekiels.

Sean Hannity said today that the Washington Post has "literally declared war on Bob McDonnell." Literally? smile

There is no question that McDonnell is a social conservative, and there is no question that he knows the political landscape in Virginia well enough to downplay those issues that used to resonate so deeply in the electorate. That's what good politicians are supposed to do. McDonnell told the Washington Examiner, "[Deeds] must have the most backward-looking campaign in Virginia history." McDonnell is a pragmatist, first and foremost, and he knows that he must appeal to moderate or independent voters.

To me, that term paper is about as relevant to the current campaign as Michelle Obama's infamous undergraduate thesis at Princeton University, which is to say, not very. See Sept. 26, 2008; scroll down.


September 6, 2009 [LINK / comment]

The Nationals: from bad to worse

The Washington Nationals are still in a downward spiral, losing the first two games to the visiting Florida Marlins. In his third outing since returning to the Nats, Livan Hernandez pitched rather poorly las night, giving up three runs in the first inning, and the Nats went on to lose, 9-5. (The score on Friday night was 9-6.) That makes it eight consecutive losses, the longest such streak since August 8 to August 20 last year (12 games). See the Washington Nationals page.

Now is the time for all good Nationals fans to come to the support of their team!

I'm heading up to Washington right now, in fact!

For sports fans here in Virginia, yesterday was just plain miserable: The University of Virginia Cavaliers lost to William and Mary 26-14 (!!??), and the Virginia Tech Hokies lost to the Alabama Crimson Tide, 34-24.

Miami stadium progress

In Miami, construction crews are busy pouring the concrete foundation for the future home stadium of the Florida (Miami!) Marlins. Three weeks ago, they did the foundation for the first of twelve columns that will support the massive retractable roof, and they expect to finish those columns this fall. More recently, a "time capsule" box full of Marlins mementos, including the World Series championships in 1997 and 2003, were buried in one of those foundations. What will archeologists from some future civilization think of that? See the Sun-Sentinel blog for this news item, and an archive of older items related to the new stadium. (Hat tip to Mike Zurawski.) The rate of progress is encouraging, so there is every chance that they will be done in time for the 2011 season.

The mail bag

This time of year is when I always fall behind on my e-mail, but I'm working to get caught up again. Josh Geiswite sent me some very keen observations about Yankee Stadium, which I appreciate.


September 6, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Princess gets life-saving surgery

The left foot of our canary Princess became badly infected last week, and her lethargy was an indication that her life was at risk. Another worrisome symptom was her strong thirst for water, something we had never seen before. So, we had to make a tough decision, and on Friday we went to the veterinarian who amputated the infected foot. The operation was a success, but they kept Princess overnight for observation, just in case.

On Saturday morning, we brought Princess home from the vet. She has been rather subdued since her surgery, but her appetite remains healthy, and there is a very good chance that she will return to her old spunky self before long. Without the use of either foot, it will be even more difficult than before for her to get around, but she'll probably find a way to manage. For a nine-year old bird (with us for nearly eight and a half years), she is amazingly energetic. We have to give her antibiotics twice a day for the next several days.

Princess after surgery

Princess is getting thorough post-operative care.


September 6, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Health care fit for a dog

Radio talk show host (!?) Garrison Keillor, renowned for for his droll wit on A Prairie Home Companion, unwittingly made a good point about health care, in a column that appeared in today's News Leader. It's not on their Web site, but you can read it at chicagotribune.com. Keillor notes that Americans currently spend about $10 billion a year for health care for their pets, with the clear implication that that is just way too much, and then muses, "Perhaps there should be a public pet option." He meant that in a rhetorical sense, of course, but I think it may be worthwhile to consider a notion, absurd though it may be.

I bring this up in part for very personal reasons: a trip to a local animal clinic for emergency pet surgery this very weekend. We (that is, our canary Princess) received prompt, attentive care by a professional veterinarian, and were apprised of the full cost in a very direct, comprehensible way. Why? Mainly because there were no insurance forms or government regulations to interfere with the doctor-client (as opposed to doctor-patient) relationship. If we had health insurance for our pets, whether public or private, it would probably result in unnecessary tests, leading to higher costs, as well as withheld treatment.

In his column, Keillor goes on to mock conservatives' fear of socialism, and then proceeds to make arguments based on socialist premises, such as ascribing moral choice to collective entities -- the fatuous "we." He is just preaching to the liberal choir. Like Rush Limbaugh, he is a semi-serious satirist who makes serious points with humor, but it's often hard to separate the humor from the argument. His implied impatience with the pace of the debate (wanting to "be done with this and get ready for the World Series") is probably a sign that he doesn't really want a reasoned debate over the merits of the alternatives, but wants to push through universal health care as quickly as possible by appealing to sentiment and guilt.

In sum, health care services for humans would probably improve if the same practices followed in veterinarian clinics were adopted by hospitals and private practices. So, in that sense, Keillor is right on target when he takes note of the superior level of health care enjoyed by pet animals in America.

Goodlatte's public forum

At the insistence of local political leaders, Congressman Bob Goodlatte held a forum on the health care issue at Turner Ashby High School yesterday. (I was unable to attend because of an emergency trip to the veterinarian that I had to make, mentioned above.) Fortunately, the crowd of over 600 people was fairly calm, permitting a rational discussion of the complex underlying issues. Goodlatte stood firm on his opposition to Obamacare, but like other conservatives, he is still searching for an adequate alternative to full government control of health care. See the News Leader.


September 7, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Two clutch homers end Nats' skid

I have to say, if I was going to pick only one game in Nationals Park to see all year, yesterday's game was it! Traffic was worse than I expected as I headed into D.C., so I didn't get inside the stadium until the middle of the first inning. I wish I had given myself more time, as I missed a pregame ceremony in which the University of Virginia Cavaliers baseball team was honored for making it to the College World Series in Omaha this past June. The weather was very nice, mostly sunny with clear blue skies and a few clouds. Great for taking photos.

The game itself was well-played by both teams, with fine performances by both starting pitchers (Anibal Sanchez for the Marlins and J.D. Martin for the Nationals), and no errors by either team. The first run in the game came on a long home run by Hanley Ramirez in the fourth inning. The ball landed at least 20 rows up in the left field stands, and another 25 feet or so, and it would have reached the plaza. According to hittrackeronline.com, it went 422 feet. The Marlins got another run in the seventh, while the Nats kept wasting run-scoring opportunities, loading the bases with only one out in the sixth -- for nought. A certain fan in the upper deck (moi) was starting to get hoarse from all his cheering...

When sluggers Adam Dunn and Josh Willingham both flew out in the eighth inning, it looked like the Nats were going to drop another one, losing nine straight. But then Elijah Dukes showed uncharacteristic patience at the plate and took a walk, followed by a single by pinch-hitter Josh Bard and another walk by Wil Nieves. Then pinch-hitter Mike Morse hit a ground ball single up the middle, and two runs scored, tying the game! What a huge turn of events that was! (I was really whooping and hollering by this point.) Unfortunately, Morse tried to reach second after the catcher bobbled the ball, but Wil Nieves stayed put on second, and Morse was trapped between the bases for the third out.

In the top of the ninth, the Marlins kept advancing runners around the bases by playing effective "small ball." Willie Harris, who was just moved in from center field to second base, made a great throw to the catcher to put out Emilio Bonifacio for the second out. Then, of all people, former National Nick Johnson hit a two-run single to take the lead again, 4-2. That really took the wind out of the Nats' sails. But in the bottom of the inning, something magical happened. Willie Harris swung at the first pitch he saw from Leo Nuñez, and the ball soared into the second deck above the bullpen in right field. That brought the score to within one run. Well, at least the Nats weren't going to give up easy. On the very next pitch, Cristian Guzman hit an infield single just past second base, showing surprising hustle as he just barely beat the throw to first. Then, Ryan Zimmerman stepped up to the plate, and everyone waited in tense anticipation. On a count of one and one, he smashed a low-trajectory home run into the "Red Porch" seats in left-center field, quickly ending the game in an unimaginably dramatic and spectacular fashion. It was Ryan's fifth career walk-off home run, a virtual carbon copy of the one he hit to end the first (official) game ever played in Nationals Park -- March 30, 2008. More importantly, the 5-4 victory over the Marlins was a team effort, in which several players had a key role. After all the awful heartache and frustration of the past couple weeks, the Nationals finally came through in the clutch and gave the home-town crowd (attendance: 22,325) something to cheer about.

As I wrote on my Facebook page,

Andrew Clem is in a state of utter bliss after seeing Ryan Zimmerman hit the game-winning home run in Nationals Park this afternoon, putting an end to the Nats' awful losing streak. Blessed relief! "It just doesn't get any better than this, folks!"
smile big

I would have thought that this big come-from-behind win would get prominent coverage in the Washington Post. Nope -- only a tiny blurb on the front page of the sports section, while the story itself was buried inside on page D7. Are the WaPo sports editors asleep at their desks, or what? This is the last Sunday before the pro football season begins, so there should be no excuses about having to cover the Redskins. Ironically, one of the newspapers near where I live, the Waynesboro News Virginian, had a headline at the top of the front page, and was the main story in the sports section. Kudos to their editors for prominently featuring that remarkable game in Washington.

By the way, I simply must point out that the Nationals have won both games I saw them play this year, in both cases putting an end to a losing streak -- four games, as of August 1, and eight games, as of September 5. The August 2 victory I witnessed in Pittsburgh was the first of eight consecutive wins (see my Great Baseball Road Trip 2009 blog piece), so maybe yesterday's game was the start of another hot streak for the Nats. Hey, we can dream, can't we?

In checking my records, I also noticed that the Nationals have won all three games I have seen at Nationals Park. They ought to pay me to attend games in D.C., as a good luck charm! In any event, I have updated the Nationals Park page with seven bright, sparkling new photographs I took, including this one:

Nationals Park grand view 3rdBase UpDeck

This is the view from my seat on the third base side in the upper deck.

COMMENT by: Chris Knight, of Kansas City, KS on Sep 08, 2009 03:09 AM
I can see from the recent photos, They still have that stupid tent on top of the parking garage up there. That really detracts from the stadium from what you said blocking the view of the Capital Building.

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Sep 08, 2009 17:13 PM
Yes, the dumb circus tent put up for the benefit of elite parking patrons is still there, partly blocking the Capitol view and thereby negating one of the best features of Nationals Park. The Lerners keep showing themselves to be penny wise and pound foolish. From where I was sitting on the third base side, however, you can't see the Capitol.

COMMENT by: Chris Knight, of Kansas City, KS on Sep 10, 2009 06:43 AM
Let's hope a storm would come along and blow that tent away. XD!


September 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Whirlwind tour of Cincinnati

During my brief visit to Cincinnati last month, I stopped at the site where Crosley Field once stood, and took a picture for posterity. In the background you can see one of the warehouses that is visible in old photos of Crosley Field. Then I headed over to Great American Ballpark, and took a few quick shots as well. There is a very clear, sunlit panoramic view of the southwest side camera, but by the time I crossed the Ohio River to get a shot of the riverfront, it had turned cloudy, so those photos aren't so vivid. Too bad I didn't have time to stay for the Reds-Nationals game that evening...

Riverfront Stadium While I was at it, I digitally enhanced the old (2004) photos of "GABP," and updated the diagrams of Riverfront Stadium as well, with the usual attention to the profile, etc.

Nats' "streak" cut short

Speaking of the Nationals, they started off strong and stayed ahead of the Phillies last night, as John Lannan was having his best outing in several weeks. I had high hopes that the game I saw on Sunday might turn out to be the start of another big winning streak like in August. Then in the seventh inning, the visitors got three quick home runs. Drat. Final score: 5-3.


September 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Van Jones: isolated incident?

After a firestorm of criticism from conservatives, Van Jones, President Obama's "green jobs czar," was forced to resign over the weekend. Jones issued two public apologies in recent days, but it was too little too late. In 2004 he had signed a petition charging that the Bush administration had deliberately allowed the 9/11 terrorist attacks to happen, as a pretext for war. He also made a speech insinuating that only white boys would be capable of a Columbine-style massacre, and in February this year referred to Republicans in a profane way. Clearly, he was an irresponsible extremist who has no business occupying a high government position. See the Washington Post [updated link] and 911Truth.org, the fringe group that circulated that petition he signed.

The question is, are there more like Van Jones? Here's one disturbing example: Obama's science czar, John Holdren, advocated compulsory sterilization and forced abortion. See Investors' Business Daily; hat tip to Stacey Morris. The fact that Obama cut Van Jones loose so quickly and surreptitiously may indicate his fear of being exposed for sympathizing with left-wing extremists. [Those who argue that this was a mere lapse in White House "vetting procedures" neglect the possibility that Obama's staff knew exactly what kind of person Van Jones was, and approved of him anyway.]

For a comprehensive list of Obama's "czars," see politico.com. Six of them have been confirmed by Congress, and one of them is a post created by congressional statute. The other 21, however, are basically unaccountable to anyone but President Obama himself. That is not a wise or proper way to build an effective administration, bypassing normal bureaucratic channels, and it undermines public confidence in government. Conservative critics are right to be wary of Obama's use of "czars."

Holder Probes the CIA

Attorney General Eric Holder recently decided to broaden the investigation of CIA operatives who were involved in "enhanced interrogation techniques" of terrorists and suspected terrorists. See the Washington Post. What is particularly galling about this is that President Obama disavows any role in proceeding with the apparent purge/witch hunt, and made a big point to try to raise morale during a visit to CIA headquarters earlier this summer. I hope this is not a sign of more such double-dealing and politicization to come. The men and women who serve our nation in the Intelligence Community deserve a lot more respect than that.

The Prez speaks to kids

Yesterday President Obama spoke to school children all across America via a live video feed. Was this a sinister attempt to manipulate and indoctrinate tender young minds, or was it something more ordinary, akin to what former presidents Reagan and Bush (the elder) did? In his daily "video rant," Chris Graham thinks the hubbub from many conservatives is grossly misplaced (see facebook.com), to which I commented:

Personally, I couldn't see any harm in Obama's speech to the kids either, and I agree that many of his opponents are way out of line. Like you, I respect the office of the President, but you have to admit that Obama's effort to "transform the nation" is bound to elicit fear, especially given the leftists he has associated with. I think he is part of the problem of polarization.

As for the historical background, I don't think there was a pathological "delegitimizing" campaign against Clinton such as you describe, at least not until the latter years of his presidency. Whenever it started, and whoever bears more of the blame, the problem is rife in both parties now. Unless moderates regain control on both sides, our future as a democracy is in jeopardy.

Is Deeds a baby killer?

Is Creigh Deeds "on record for murdering unborn babies," as stated in a letter to the editor today? Not as far as I know. Allegations of such an extreme nature should be supported by factual evidence, if the letter writer seeks to persuade undecided voters. In my opinion, such inflammatory words are damaging to Republican Party candidates and to the conservative cause in general.


September 9, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Very rare bird comes to Staunton

Intrepid bird observer Allen Larner spotted an odd-looking shorebird at a local farm pond on Sunday, and as the mystery of its true identity deepened, more and more visitors came to Staunton from far and wide. The bird in question is either a Greater Sand-Plover or a Lesser Sand-Plover, and in spite of dozens of fair-to-good quality photographs,* the experts seem stumped. Both species nest in the subarctic tundra regions, and spend the winter in various parts of Europe and Asia. The Lesser Sand-Plover is often seen in Alaska occasionally along the Pacific Coast, but there are only one or two confirmed cases of the Greater Sand-Plover in North America. Neither one has ever been sighted in Virginia, so it's a remarkable event in either case. Here are my observations sent to the shenvalbirds e-mail group:

My impression was that the bill was small and slender, as in a Lesser, but in some of the photos I've seen, the bill looks larger. As for the size, I thought it looked notably larger than the nearby Semi-palmated Plover (7.3 in), so that makes the Greater (8.5 in) more likely than the Lesser (7.5 in).

Here is the first part of what Erik Hirschfeld, an ornithologist from Malmo, Sweden wrote (via the shenvalbirds e-mail group) about the photos he saw:

When I look at them, I still think this is a Greater and here are my reasons therefore:

1. The size. This is a large bird (cf the Semipalmated Plover in one of the photos)
...

* See, for example, Brenda Tekin's photo gallery at birdsofvirginia.com camera, or Allen Larner's photos at flickr.com camera, or Diane Lepkowski's photos at smugmug.com camera.

A final verdict will probably take days or weeks, but it's nice to know that a leading authority picked up on the same feature that I did. DISCLAIMER: I have a weak background in shorebird identification, and would have had no way of knowing which bird it was without the National Geographic Complete Birds of North America (Exclusive Edition, hard cover, 2006), edited by Jonathan Alderfer. At 696 pages, it is my biggest bird reference book. Many thanks to our friend Gail Rupp for this very thoughtful and useful gift.

So how did this bird get so far off course? I figured it must have gotten confused wandered southward through Canada, but another birder suggested an alternative possibility: It might have already arrived from northern Scandinavia to the coast of North Africa, and then got swept up in the tropical storm that eventually became Hurricane Erica. That would be quite a trip!

Being way behind in my e-mail -- as usual -- I didn't even know about this rare appearance until Walt Child from the Augusta Bird Club called me about the club's Web site on Monday, and asked if I had seen the rare bird. Earlier that morning, ironically, Jacqueline and I had gone for a "walk" very close by, on Bell's Lane, without even realizing the momentous happenings nearby. (She always covers much more distance than I do, since I'm always peering through my binoculars. smile) These are what I saw on Monday morning (Labor Day):

  • Yellow warbler (F/J)
  • Magnolia warbler
  • Chestnut-sided warbler
  • Rose-breasted grosbeak (F)
  • Cedar waxwing
  • Blue-gray gnatcatcher
  • Goldfinches
  • Phoebe
  • Bluebird

These are what I saw that afternoon, along with 20 or so other birders:

  • Greater (or Lesser?) Sand-plover (LIFE BIRD)
  • Semi-palmated Plover (FOS)
  • Least sandpipers (FOS)
  • Lesser yellowlegs (FOS)

The next day, Tuesday, there was an e-mail report of five American Avocets on one of the Bell's Lane ponds, and late in the afternoon I spotted them right away. They were the first of that species I have seen in years. Meanwhile, a Kestrel was hovering above that same pond. Then, I went over to see the Sand-Plover and his "friends" for a second time -- the same four birds as listed above. I went for a third visit today, but the Sand-Plover has apparently left town for good. There were still at least 8-10 hardy and hopeful birders standing vigil, including two guys from Pennsylvania whom I met. The day's highlights:

  • [Least sandpipers]
  • Semi-palmated Plover
  • Brown thrashers
  • Bluebirds
  • Killdeer (a very common Plover!)

September 11, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Jeter ties Gehrig's hits record

In the Bronx on Wednesday night, Derek Jeter tied Lou Gehrig's record for total number of career hits as a Yankee, #2721. He had been in a 0-12 slump, possibly because of the psychological barrier he was facing. The hit, a single, came in the seventh inning, and the Yankees went on to beat the visiting Tampa Bay Rays, 4-2. See MLB.com. Fellow Yankee fan Brian Vangor was lucky enough to be one of the 45,848 fans present at New Yankee Stadium to witness the historic moment, and took this photo of the scoreboard display:

Jeter, Gehrig 2721 hits

By the way, has anyone noticed that the Yankees have widened their lead in the AL Eastern Division over the past few weeks? With a win-loss record of 91-50 (.645), they are far ahead of any other team in the majors. It's hard to remember the last time the Bronx Bombers were playing so well so consistently. Maybe they'll get back into the groove of living up to their legacy this October...

Yankee Stadium 3-D model

Speaking of the Yankees, there are some great, highly accurate 3-D models of Yankee Stadium created by Rick Kaplan at digitalcentrality.com. That reminds me, I need to fix a few details in my (2-D) Yankee Stadium diagrams.

Nats avert another sweep

In Washington, the Nationals played fairly well but lost in the first two games with the Phillies this week. Last night, the visiting team scored twice in the first inning, a bad sign that they might get swept again. But in the third inning, they tied the game, 2-2, and two innings later a pair of home runs by Adam Dunn (#36) and Ian Desmond gave the Nats a commanding 8-2 lead. It was a perfect chance to give a rookie pitcher a chance to prove himself, but in the top of the ninth inning Zack Segovia let the bases get loaded and then gave up a grand slam home run to pinch-hitter Matt Stairs, making the score 8-6. Get that rookie outta there! So, in came closer Mike MacDougal, who gave up another run, and a Phillies runner made it to third base with only one out. I'm ashamed to say, I couldn't watch any more. Fortunately, veteran pitcher Ron Villone got the job done, as Ryan Howard grounded into a double play to end the game. Whew! The Nats' record for the 2009 season is now 48-92, almost the inverse of the Yankees' record. frown

Baseball in the Bible Belt

I teach classes* in Lynchburg, Virginia, and on a bright and sunny day last week, I decided to stop by Lynchburg City Stadium, a.k.a. "Calvin Falwell Field," the home of the Lynchburg Hillcats, to take some pictures. The Hillcats are a single-A farm club of the Pittsburgh Pirates, and are in the Carolina League championship series right now. Last night, they beat the Wilmington Blue Rocks, 1-0, thereby evening the series, 1-1. If not for the threatening weather, I might have stayed to see a game there before heading home. The visitors had won the day before, 7-1. [Lynchburg set a franchise record for season attendance this year, totalling 164,913.]

Lynchburg City Stadium was originally built in 1939, on the top of a hill on what used to be the south end of Lynchburg. It was thoroughly renovated in 1978 and again in 2004, when it was officially renamed "Calvin Falwell Field." See milb.com and minor league ballpark expert Charles O'Reilly, who didn't like it so much.

Lynchburg is better known as the home of Thomas Road Baptist Church, where the late Rev. Jerry Falwell used to preach. It is no longer located on Thomas Road, but rather on the east side of town, next to the campus of Liberty University, which Falwell founded. (Contrary to what O'Reilly wrote, Calvin Falwell was Jerry Falwell's cousin.)

Lynchburg Stadium 3rd base side

Lynchburg City Stadium, a.k.a. "Calvin Falwell Field," on the third base side. Roll your mouse over that image to see the outfield fence, and the Blue Ridge Mountains beyond. Also see the panorama of the south side of Lynchburg Stadium camera

* The recent "back to school" rush explains the lack of diagram updates lately, in case you're wondering.


September 11, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Sneak attack, eight years later

Most Americans remembered today as the eighth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, typically an occasion for mourning or perhaps expressing outrage at the mass murderers who perpetrated the acts of terrorism. What is often lacking in the memorial ceremonies, however, is the idea of taking some kind of action to show national unity and resolve. For various political reasons, that urgest task is extremely difficult to carry out right now.

U.S.A. flagIn today's News Leader, Dr. Gordon Bowen wrote that praying and flying the flag are not enough, and that the best way to remember 9/11 and those who died is by making sure that such an attack never happens again. He believes that firm resolve in the President is absolutely essential for us to remain free and secure from terrorist threats. He notes, hoewver, that the despite repeated overtures by the Obama administration, our foreign policy objectives in the Middle East are largely unmet. For example, three out four Egyptians (whose government is allied to us) cheer whenever Americans are killed by terrorists. Obama has not been able to get other countries to like us, or even respect us, in some cases. Bowen criticizes Obama's "hollow policy of mere word play."

A prime example of such "word play" as a symptom of leadership weakness is the official change in phraseology to refer to the conflicts in the Middle East. As Al Kamen noted at washingtonpost.com last March, The Obama administration dropped the Bush administration's term "Global War on Terrorism," and has taken to calling it the "Overseas Contingency Operation." What a dreadful, uninspiring, meaningless label that is! I have been skeptical of the "GWOT" terminology as well, preferring something that refers in a more precise way to the nature of our enemies. To many people, however, any such identification would alienate certain populations. It's quite a dilemma.

With our nation bitterly divided over health care and other issues, and with our economy remaining in the doldrums, it is easy to lose heart and let fear of the future get the better of us. Indeed, instilling fear so as to paralyze their opponents' ability to resist is precisely the objective of terrorists. As American citizens, we are all obliged to take concrete steps toward supporting our local communities and nation. Giving to charities which are devoted to soldiers or terrorist victims are all positive deeds, but there are other things we can do, and not just on this particular anniversary. I donated blood to the Red Cross, which held a special blood drive here in Staunton today. It was just a small "drop in the bucket" (well, a pint, actually), but was nonetheless a tangible, significant contribution to making someone else's life better -- and therefore making our nation just a teeny bit stronger. I hope and pray that, in the months and years to come, Americans take more time to serve their communities and nation in some genuinely helpful fashion, and perhaps a little less time to ostentatious gestures of patriotism.

World Trade Center / Ground Zero under construction

Rebuilding at Ground Zero, October, 2008: "You can't keep a good country down."


September 12, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Birding in the Blue Ridge

I joined Allen Larner and three other Augusta Bird Club members for a field trip along the Blue Ridge this morning, but we didn't encounter nearly as many neotropical migrants as we had hoped. Vireos were fairly plentiful, but we only saw two warbler species (a Tennessee and a Magnolia) and heard one more (Hooded). Given that this is peak migration season, three is a substandard number for warblers. The highlights of the day were a few Scarlet Tanagers and Blue-headed Vireos, as well as some Juncos. Here is the complete list:

Location:     Humpback Rocks
Observation date:     9/12/09
Number of species:     27

Wild Turkey     1 *
Turkey Vulture     8
Broad-winged Hawk     1 *
Red-tailed Hawk     1
Ruby-throated Hummingbird     2
Red-bellied Woodpecker     1 *
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker     1 *
Downy Woodpecker     5
Yellow-throated Vireo     1 *
Blue-headed Vireo     4
Red-eyed Vireo     8
Blue Jay     4
American Crow     5
Common Raven     3
Carolina Chickadee     10
Tufted Titmouse     4
White-breasted Nuthatch     3
Carolina Wren     6 *
European Starling     5
Tennessee Warbler     1
Magnolia Warbler     1
Hooded Warbler     1 *
Scarlet Tanager     3
Eastern Towhee     1 *
Dark-eyed Junco     5
Northern Cardinal     8
American Goldfinch     4

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(http://ebird.org)

* Asterisks indicate birds that were heard but not seen.

After that we spent a half hour or so at the Rockfish Gap hawk watch, where Brenda Tekin and several other observers were scanning the horizon. We didn't see any large clusters of hawks, but I had the good fortune to spot a Bald Eagle off to the northwest, and most of the folks got to see it as it passed by heading east. A Red-tailed Hawk flew right in front of us, and briefly hovered motionless in the wind, as seen in the photos below. Even though it wasn't the best day for birding, the skies were clear, which was good for taking photographs:

Rockfish Gap

A wide-angle view of Rockfish Gap, where Interstate 64 crosses the Blue Ridge, known at this location as "Afton Mountain." Beyond the bridge on the left is the city of Waynesboro. Click on this image to see a larger version.

Rockfish Gap, Red-tailed Hawk

A Red-tailed Hawk passed right in front of us Rockfish Gap. Roll your mouse over the image to see a closeup.

Hawk watch crew

The hawk watch crew at the Afton Inn at Rockfish Gap, including Brenda Tekin, Allen Larner, as well as Ed and Nancy Lawler.

Shortly before noon, Allen and I left Rockfish Gap, and he was kind enouigh to take me on a "tour" of the Quillen farm. Highlights:

  • Indigo bunting (F)
  • Flickers
  • Red-headed woodpeckers (A, J)
  • Pewee
  • Bluebirds

That is one of the few locations in Augusta County where Red-headed woodpeckers can be seen on a routine basis. They are much less common in the east than in the central states.

COMMENT by: Chris Knight, of Kansas City, KS on Sep 14, 2009 02:40 AM
I didn't know you were a bird watcher. I love birds a lot. My favorite bird is the Red-Tailed Hawk like the one you have pictured there. They're quite common around me and I am glad they're around as they take care of rodents and other pests. Mainly I love birds of prey, they're neat to watch. I only wish my Camera could take a nice picture of a Hawk like that. I did get some great shots of American Bald Eagles while I was in Grafton, IL. (Just North of St. Louis) You couldn't miss em there, the Eagles were everywhere along the Mississippi River. The best picture of eagles I took was there of a couple of bald eagles (1 adult and 1 first year juvenile) on a big stick in the Mississippi River. The Adult had its feet in the water while the younger eagle on the right was perched a little higher. A picture of those eagles can be seen at: http://www.furaffinity.net/view/2160987 Well have fun Bird Watching. They're neat to see and listen to.


September 14, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Nationals win series in Miami

For the first time since visiting Chicago late last month, the Washington Nationals have won a series, beating the Florida Marlins two games out of three. In the rubber match yesterday, there was a long rain delay, and soon after they resumed play it started raining again. The score was 7-2 in the bottom of the ninth, when the umpires decided to call it the final score.

Boosted by those two wins, the Nats currently have a 50-93 record. With 19 games left this season, they have to win 13 games to avoid losing 100 or more games for the second year in a row. There remains a very slight possibility that they could still overtake the Mets and avoid the "cellar" position in the National League Eastern Division for the fourth year in their five-year existence. (The Nats finished in fourth in 2007.)

In my blog post of Sept. 11, I should have called attention to the fact that Ian Desmond's home run last Thursday at Nationals Park was in his very first Major League game. [Desmond went 2-for-4, and drove in four runs. He deserves congratulations for the spectacular debut performance, and it was a night he will never forget. Meanwhile,] Livan Hernandez won his first game since returning to the Nationals last month. Desmond is currently batting a phenomenal .615, 8 for 13. Let's see if he can keep this up for the rest of September. He has shifted from his usual position at shortstop to second base, [and] Cristian Guzman's job may be in jeopardy thanks to Desmond. See MLB.com.

One of the curious things about the second half of this season is that Adam Dunn has raised his batting average to above .280, closing in on Ryan Zimmerman, who has fallen to below the .300 mark. Because of the "role reversal" between the heavy slugger and the consistent hitter, they even switched those two guys in the lineup one game last week. In contrast, Dunn's home run production slacked off this month, until he got two over the past few days, raising his total for the year to 37. It shouldn't be too hard for him to reach the 40 mark once again...

The mail bag

In ballpark news, there is a (slight) renewed push in the San Jose city government to hold a referendum on financing a new ballpark for the Oakland (or whatever) Athletics. One study estimated that a new stadium would generate $130 million in annual spending, and would create 2,100 jobs in San Jose, of which 980 would be "new jobs." (?) Mayor Chuck Reed says he is "elated" by these findings, and team owner Lew Wolff cited the "stimulus" benefits from such a project. See the San Jose Mercury News; hat tips to Bruce Orser and Mike Zurawski.

In The Bronx, most or all of the "frieze" that used to surround the bleachers, a replica of what had originally adorned the rooftop, has now been demolished. See some photos at baseball-fever.com; hat tip to Mike Zurawski who thinks the sooner they finish tearing it all down, the better.

There is more news to get to soon...

Belated photo caption

I finally came across the piece of paper with the names of the friendly family I met and photographed at "family-friendly" Coors Field when I was in Denver for the Cubs-Rockies game last month, so I decided to display the photo again:

Coors Field Rockies fan family

Havilah, Joseph, and Jorrin, at Coors Field, August 9, 2009.

Speaking of the Rockies, they were on a hot streak until they lost two games over the weekend. They are currently three games ahead of the Giants in the NL Wild Card race, only three games behind the Dodgers in the NL Western Division. They face the Giants again tonight.


September 16, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Tale of teams from two cities

Last night, both teams from the Washington-Baltimore region fell behind 5-0 in the early innings, but all similarities between the two games ended there. In Philadelphia, Washington Nationals pitcher Garrett Mock gave up five runs to the host Phillies in the first two innings. In Baltimore, meanwhile, Orioles starting pitcher Jason Berken gave up five runs to the visiting Tampa Bay Rays in the first three innings. Things looked bleak for both the last-place teams. After that, however, the games turned in totally different directions. To his credit, the Nats' Mock settled down and pitched four scoreless innings, but he didn't get any run support, and his team went down to defeat, 5-0. Ryan Zimmerman remains in a perplexing slump.

In contrast, the Orioles started getting hits and scored runs in almost every subsequent inning. The hero of the game in Baltimore was rookie catcher Matt Wieters. He drove in five runs, including a 3-run homer in the eighth inning to cap off the Orioles' superb 10-5 comeback victory. Now why can't the Nationals play like that more often?

The mail bag

Patrick Sammon wants everybody to take a look at the official trailer from the Sony Pictures movie Sugar at youtube.com. It's about a young pitcher nicknamed "Sugar" from the Caribbean who gets invited to spring training with a major league team. After his arrival in the U.S.A., however, he experiences all sorts of "culture shock." It's right up my alley in terms of baseball and Latin American interests, and it just came out in DVD and Blu-Ray. Also see sugar-themovie.com.

Busch Stadium III Second, I have added [four] new photos to the Busch Stadium III page, courtesy of James Sutton, who also provided some tips with regard to the (rather complicated) profile. Based on his helpful input, I have updated [that diagram, ever so slightly, adding a third profile, which pertains to the grandstand beyond the infield but inside the left- and right-field corners].

Finally, Jeremy Carpenter informed me that the gridiron on the Oakland Coliseum early football diagram was a little off (about 18-20 feet too far toward center field), so I fixed that as well.

Still more mailbag items to get to...


September 17, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Happy Constitution Day, America!

Unbeknownst to the vast majority of Americans, and perhaps to many officials in the Obama administration (!), today was the 222nd anniversary of the signing of the U.S. Constitution. On September 17, 1787, George Washington and 38 other delegates attending the convention in Philadelphia signed the Constitution, which then went to the states for ratification. It went into effect the following June 21, when New Hampshire became the ninth of the 13 states to ratify it.

So why does any of this matter? "Is this going to be on the final exam?" For some people who regard Obama as the Anti-Christ, the number 222 may hold special significance, as one-third of the demonic number 666.

A much bigger reason to reflect on this occasion is that the debate over health care policy has largely overlooked some fairly obvious questions about the constitutionality of the proposed measures. What is there in the Constitution that even hints at the Federal Government having the power to require citizens to purchase health insurance? The fact that so few Americans seem to care about that is a troubling sign that our liberties are slipping away faster than most of us imagine. I am not one of those who are in a panic about an alleged plot to turn America into a socialist economy, but I am very concerned about the gradual, long-term slide toward statism. We either pay more heed to the Constitution and demand that the government abide by its limitations, or else we will lose our freedoms. There will be no turning back.

D.C. Tea Party: opposing views

The big Tea Party in Washington last Saturday was a big success in terms of "energizing the Base," though it also exposed some zealots and fringe elements who would be better off keeping out of the public eye. As a result, the impact on policy-making remains to be seen. According to the Washington Post,

The demonstrators are part of a loose-knit movement that is galvanizing anti-Obama sentiment across the country, stoking a populist dimension to the Republican Party, which has struggled to find its voice since the 2008 elections.

Yes, indeed. At a moment of transcendant historical importance, it appears that abrasive radio talk show hosts like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity are driving the dialogue on the conservative side, while the voices of prudence and reason (e.g., George Will) are taking a back seat. (Groan.) In the interests of "fairness and balance," I present two video reports on the tea party in Washington. First from the conservative side is a look at some participants who make compelling arguments against Obamacare, etc.; hat tip to Yankee Phil:

Then from the left side (New Left Media, to be precise) comes this quite slanted but still funny series of interviews with some of the less-sophisticated "tea partiers"; hat tip to Cliff Garstang:


 

Obama's health care hard sell

Just a few random thoughts before I write something of a more serious nature about President Obama's speech to the nation about health care last week...

To me, Obama seemed less poised and focused than usual, perhaps an indication that he realizes he can't have his way in "transforming the nation" with his charm alone. He remains curiously detached from the policy formulation process, apparently not wanting to stake too much of his prestige on the outcome of this particular initiative.

I doubt that many people were influenced very much by the speech, one way or the other. The country remains deeply divided on this very fundamental issue.

During the speech, Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC) said what many people believe ("You lie!"), but he picked a very bad time to say it, thereby creating more sympathy for Obama than would otherwise be the case, and giving the Democrats a golden opportunity to play the "race card." Dumb, dumb, dumb.

Obama's "cheerleading" performances at some of the pro-Obamacare rallies strikes me as very unseemly and unpresidential.

The compromise plan offered by Sen. Max Baucus (D-MT) seems dead on arrival, and he is apparently being used as a pawn to float a trial balloon as just one phase in a prolonged series of bargaining sessions.


September 18, 2009 [LINK / comment]

McDonnell and Deeds debate

From the sound of yesterday's debate in Tysons Corner, Creigh Deeds thinks he is better suited to be governor because of a paper Bob McDonnell wrote 20 years ago. (???) The two candidates really went at it during the hour-long verbal exchange, a sign that the race is heating up. McDonnell kept his cool as Deeds kept hammering away, and responded by challenging Deeds to explain his (evidently non-existent) transportation plan, and to clarify whether he does indeed plan to raise taxes to pay for such projects. According to the Washington Post, "Deeds has pledged to come up with a statewide, long-term solution in his first year in office but has offered no details, saying that doing so would jeopardize his ability to bring lawmakers together." (NOTE: There is a "fact check" box appended to that WaPo article, detailing the various inaccuracies committed by Deeds during the campaign.)

Thus far, Deeds has been notoriously vague on this crucial subjects, which reminds you of President Obama's style of governing, leaving tough decisions up to others. Not surprisingly, Deeds carefully distanced himself from President Obama, even though Obama won Virginia in last year's election. Deeds' focus on McDonnell's conservative values made it look like he (Deeds) has nothing better to talk about. Even though the debate was fairly civil, the tense atmosphere suggests that the next such encounter may get rougher. The McDonnell campaign Web site has some video footage from after the debate was over.

It is very gratifying that McDonnell has resisted the temptation to respond in kind to the attacks on him by Deeds. Instead, he is maintaining discipline and staying on message, downplaying social issues and emphasizing economic issues. He is clearly benefiting from national discontent over the economy and the growing dislike for Obama's Big Government agenda. McDonnell's record as a fiscal conservative will serve him well as independent voters make up their minds in the last few weeks. When it comes to budgetary matters and fiscal responsibility, McDonnell is no "Johnny Come Lately."

Race getting tighter?

According to the latest Rasmussen poll, cited by the Augusta Free Press, Deeds has narrowed the gap from about 9% to 2%, a virtual dead heat. It's probably just a short-term blip, but it reminds us that the race will probably be closer than most people think -- not a sure thing at all.

Predictably, perhaps, Andrew Sullivan called McDonnell "a radical theocrat" after the flap about the grad school paper. Sullivan is understandably "allergic" to social conservatives in general, so he probably has a hard time distinguishing the zealots, who tend to be more visible, from the rest.


September 20, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Mets clinch fourth place

You may have thought that the series between the Nationals and Mets in New York this weekend didn't count for much, but you'd be wrong. In fact, the Nats have been mathematically eliminated for contention in the race for fourth place in the National League East. With 13 games left in the season, the best final season record the Nationals can possibly achieve is 64-98, which is one less win than the Mets currently have. The Nats have to win at least nine more games to avoid an even worse record than last year (59-102), and that is not a very likely prospect, I'm afraid.

The Nationals won the first game of the series with the Mets, on Friday night, but just barely. Boosted by home runs hit by Ryan Zimmerman, Josh Bard, and Josh Willingham, they had a 6-2 lead going into the bottom of the ninth inning. That's when the Mets staged a big rally, getting three runs across the plate, and loading the bases with two outs. Jeff Francoeur smashed a ball right at the pitcher, Mike MacDougal, who had the presence of mind to stop the ball with his glove (which came off), and tossed the ball over to first for the final out. Whew! The end of that game was a lot like on September 10, when the Phillies scored five runs in the top of the ninth inning, but still lost, 8-7.

The game on Saturday afternoon was a tense pitchers' duel, and former National Tim Redding got just enough run support to get his third win of the season, while current National John Lannan was given the loss, his 12th of the season. Adam Dunn got his 100th RBI, but he's running out of time to reach 40 home runs; he needs three more...

Today's game was rather lopsided, as the Nats didn't even get on the scoreboard until the ninth inning, when Zimmerman and Dunn each got RBIs. Final score: 6-2. It was John Maine's first win since May 31; he has been plagued by injuries this year, like many of his teammates. It's too bad the Mets suffered so many injuries in their first year at home in Citi Field. Without Carlos Beltran, Jose Reyes, and Carlos Delgado for much of the summer, they really didn't have much of a chance to go to the post-season.

Hillcats win Carolina League

Congratulations to the Lynchburg Hillcats for winning the 2009 Carolina League (Class A) championship on Thursday night. They swept the Salem Red Sox in three games, the last of which was at the opponent's ballpark, a close 8-7 victory. It was the sixth time that Lynchburg had won the Carolina League Championship, and the third time since the team was reborn as the "Hillcats" in 1995. The Hillcats had previously won the "Mills Cup" in 1997 and 2002. Last week they beat the Wilmington Blue Rocks to take the Carolina League Northern Division title, falling behind two games to one and then winning the next two games, the final one of which was at home in Lynchburg. See milb.com. I guess this means I'll have to do a full-fledged stadium page for Lynchburg City Stadium, a.k.a. Calvin Falwell Field, which I visited a couple weeks ago. The only previous minor league stadium I have done is The Diamond, former home of the Richmond Braves, who abandoned the capital city of the Confederacy and relocated to suburban Atlanta this year.

Data correction

I realized I had mixed up the Power alley and Center field columns on the table shown on the Outfield trigonometry page, so I fixed that. I was referring to it while working on the Sportsmans Park revised diagrams.

The mail bag

About the same time I was in Denver last month, the City Council voted to preserve the mountain views from Coors Field, barring high-rise construction on the west side of the stadium. Smart move. See 9news.com; hat tip to Matt Lanning.


September 21, 2009 [LINK / comment]

More fall migrants arrive

I made a quick stop at Betsy Bell Hill on Saturday morning in hopes of seeing some migrating warblers, but no such luck. If I were smart, I would have joined Jo King's Augusta Bird Club field trip to McCormick's Mill last week, where they saw TEN (10) warbler species. Arghhh... I did, however, see a particular bird for only the third time in my life: a Black-billed cuckoo. At first the view was obscured by all the foliage, and I had to wait for a couple minutes until its head popped into view, just to make sure which species it was. The red eye, black bill, and absence of reddish tint on the wings left no doubt. Sometimes a birder's patience is rewarded!

  • White-breasted nuthatch
  • Red-bellied woodpeckers
  • Flicker
  • Downy woodpecker
  • Black-billed cuckoo

Later that day I headed over to Bells Lane, but did not find any exotic shorebirds this time. I was pleased, however, to see at least a dozen Palm warblers, as well as a Savannah sparrow, both of which were the first ones I've seen this season. Very nice.

  • Phoebes
  • Brown thrashers
  • Kingfisher
  • Goldfinches
  • Bluebirds
  • Palm warblers (FOS)
  • Savannah sparrow (FOS)
  • Great blue heron

Out back yesterday, I saw a hummingibird for the first time in at least a week.


September 22, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Zelaya returns to Honduras

After nearly three months of a tense standoff, exiled Honduran President Manuel Zelaya returned to his home country yesterday, sneaking across the border and taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy. His return sparked triumphant demonstrations in Tegulcigalpa by his supporters, who chanted (in Spanish), "Yes, we could!" In response, Honduran police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse the crowds. Also, the de facto authorities ordered that the Brazilian embassy be cut off from deliveries of supplies, which may lead to a humanitarian crisis on top of the political crisis. The Brazilan government claims that Zelaya showed up at their embassy unexpectedly. President "Lula" da Silva has expressed support for Zelaya, but it is unlikely that they want to bring about an international conflict by taking sides in the Honduran dispute. He says he favors a negotiated settlement. See the BBC.

The U.S. reaction has been low-key thus far. State Department spokesman Ian Kelly urged "all parties to remain calm and avoid actions that might provoke violence..." He also expressed appreciation for the de facto government's pledge to respect diplomatic premises. See state.gov.

Zelaya was deposed at the end of June after the Congress and Supreme Court authorized the armed forces to evict him from the presidential palace. Since then, Roberto Micheletti has served as president but has not been recognized by the U.S. government. Zelaya made a symbolic step inside Honduran territory in late July, but quickly withdrew to avoid being arrested by the border guards.

There have been recent signs that the dispute was heading toward a climax. Several days ago, the U.S. government revoked the visas of the acting president of Honduras and other top officials, thereby preventing them from attending the annual United Nations gathering of world leaders. See CNN.com. This move was no doubt prompted by the desire to avoid giving any more legitimacy to the de facto interim government of Honduras, which has been standing in spite of economic boycotts. Earlier this month, Honduras expelled all Argentine diplomats; see BBC.

Zelaya's surreptitious return to Honduras raises many questions. Were border guards bribed into allowing him access? Was he wearing a costume? Were the economic sanctions causing so much hardship inside Honduras that some government officials or security personnel "defected"? Until more details emerge, it will be hard to assess the situation accurately. Whatever his immediate intentions, Zelaya bears a heavy burden in persuading his devoted followers to refrain from violent means. Honduras is lucky to have avoided large-scale death toll thus far, but conditions could quickly deteriorate if Zelaya opts for a high-risk approach to take back power by any means.

In Latin American history, deposed presidents or persecuted dissident leaders have taken refuge in the embassies of sympathetic countries many times. In Peru, the leader of the APRA movement Victor Raul Haya de la Torre spent the late 1940s and early 1950s in the embassy of Colombia. Other times, fugitive leaders have sought the protection of the Catholic Church, as the case of Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega when the United States forced him out in December 1989.

Bolivia-Peru tiff

A rather trivial cultural dispute broke out between Bolivia and Peru recently. At a beauty pageant, Miss Peru, Karen Schwarz (!), wore a native American "devil" costume that is part of the traditional folk dance. In response, the Bolivian culture minister, Pablo Groux, threatened to file a grievance at the International Court of Justice, apparently on the grounds that it was an infringement of national cultural heritage. See the BBC.


September 25, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Nationals lose their 100th game

The Washington Nationals are quickly running out of goals to keep them motivated during the last week of this abysmal season. On Tuesday the L.A. Dodgers trounced them, 14-2, embarrassing the Nats' usually-reliable starting pitcher, Livan Hernandez. There was one consolation in that game, at least: Adam Dunn hit his 38th home run, raising hopes he can reach 40. Wednesday's game started off almost as badly, but ended much better. Chad Billingsley had a no-hitter going into the sixth inning, when Ryan Zimmerman hit a three-run homer (#31) to tie the game. Thanks to a walk-off "sacrifice fly" by pinch-hitter Pete Orr in the bottom of the ninth (the ball was dropped by right fielder Andre Ethier), the Nats pulled off a tense 5-4 victory. That desperately-needed win lifted the team's lowly spirits, but they couldn't quite manage to win last night. J.D. Martin gave up four runs in the first inning, but the Nats slowly came back to tie the game 6-6. In the inning, however, the diminuitive but dangerous Rafael Furcal hit a home run that was the deciding factor in the Nationals' 100th defeat this year. frown Well, against a first-place team like the Dodgers, at least one win and a close loss is a respectable outcome.

Tonight, John Lannan went seven superb innings and 122 pitches without a single earned run, but even that wasn't enough to get a win over the Atlanta Braves, who took advantage of errors to score twice in the first inning. That was all they needed, as the Nats went down again, 4-1. frown The Braves are only 3 1/2 games behind the Rockies in the NL Wild Card race.

I was hoping to persuade my wonderful wife Jacqueline (a Braves fan) to go see one of the Braves games in Washington this weekend, but I don't think it's going to happen... frown

Should Guzman be traded?

Probably so, but it might be hard to get much of value in exchange for him. The Nationals are in dire need of a shortstop with more range than Cristian Guzman, who is good with the bat but not much else. He has suffered from a sore shoulder lately, further constricting his defensive abilities. See MLB.com. The young rookie Ian Desmond might fill that role, but probably not on a full-time basis for at least another year. He started off this month red hot, but he has only had three hits in his last 27 at-bats, and his batting average has fallen to .289.

Rogers Centre

I have added three photos of Rogers Centre, courtesy of Tim Moysey. That leaves Chase Field in Phoenix as the only current MLB stadium for which I don't yet have photos, so if any fans from Arizona would like to share theirs, please contact me.

Tiger Stadium R.I.P.

The final structural beam from old Tiger Stadium was torn down at 9:24 A.M. on September 21, marking the sad end of the tragedy that has been unfolding in Detroit. One of the onlookers said the old ballpark officially died at moment, and you can watch and listen to a video that was posted by the Detroit Free Press; hat tip to Mike Zuawski. So where do stadiums go after they die???

COMMENT by: Brian Hughes, of Edison, NJ on Sep 26, 2009 10:28 AM
Brief note, the United Football League's New York team will be playing a game at Citi Field on November 4th. I plan on attending. Pictures, of course, will be provided. http://i655.photobucket.com/albums/uu273/areacode212/CF_UFL.jpg

COMMENT by: Andrew Clem, of Staunton, VA on Sep 26, 2009 17:22 PM
Sounds like another sign of the impending Apocalypse to me. Just kidding! (I think.) Thanks, and I'll look forward to seeing that.


September 25, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Colorado photo bonanza

Almost a month behind schedule, I have finally compiled and edited the best of the photos that I took during my trip to Colorado last month, which you can see on the hand point Colorado 2009 photo gallery. That page contains two distinct sets of photos, the first of which covers Brainerd Lake (August 10) and Boulder (August 11), and the second of which covers Rocky Mountain National Park (August 12). The terrain is incredibly diverse, and I tried to include photos that were representative of the various elevations and ecological zones. There are a couple animal photos, and I may add some photos of flowers and insects later on. In order to handle the large number (22) of photos more efficiently, I created a new interactive system for displaying just one photo at a time; just click on the camera icons (camera). At the bottom of that page are links to two other pages with previously-posted photos: Birds of August, 2009 and Coors Field.

Previously, I had posted the first batch of photos from my road trip on August 16 (baseball), and the second batch on August 18 (Washington, D.C.). Obviously, school and other duties have taken priority over my photo journals. All that is left to do from my Great 2009 Road Trip are photos from various points of interest I visited on the way out west, and then back again.

Colorado 2009 montage

CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT: Meadow near Lake Mitchell; Stream and foot bridge near Brainerd Lake; Boardwalk at Many Parks Curve, Rocky Mountain National Park, with Longs Peak beyond; Mountain Chickadee; Clark's Nutcracker; Horseshoe Park & Beaver Ponds; Marmot; Chipmunk; Red Rock Lake; The Flatirons, rising beyond Boulder.


September 27, 2009 [LINK / comment]

Sweep: Washington loses 3 games

It's probably no big surprise that the Washington Nationals were swept by the Atlanta Braves in the weekend series, but that's not the worst of it. Up in Detroit, meanwhile, the Washington Redskins lost to the Detroit Lions 19-14. It was the Lions' first win since [December 23,] 2007. You think that's bad? Well, how about this: Back in Our Nation's Capital, in RFK Stadium to be more precise, D.C. United lost to the San Jose Earthquakes, 2-1, probably dropping out of post-season contention.

In Saturday's game against the Braves, the Nats gave up four runs in the first inning, the third day in a row the visiting team jumped to an early lead. Unlike before, however, the Nats bounced back, and a three-run homer by Mike Morse brought them to within two runs. Hopes were dashed in the top of the ninth inning, however, when the Braves scored five runs. Final score: 11-5. Another big loss was hard to take.

As the rain clouds lifted this afternoon, it seemed like a brighter day was at hand. Ryan Zimmerman and Josh Willingham had back-to-back homers in the first inning, and clung to a small lead for most of the game, as Livan Hernandez pitched steadily and effectively. In the seventh inning, however, Adam LaRoche doubled in a run to tie the game, 3-3. When Willie Harris led off the bottom of the eighth with a triple, it looked like the Nats would easily retake the lead. Nope. More blown opportunities put the game into extra innings, whereupon the "closer" Mike MacDougal gave up three runs, sealing the fate of this jinxed home stand. Final score: 6-3. See MLB.com.

That game really, really hurt. Just when you think the Nats can salvage a bit of dignity, they just collapse. Something major has to change before next year, and not just the pitching roster. They desperately need a manager who can kick some butt and make the players act like a team for once.

Postseason comes into focus

The Yankees and Cardinals clinched their respective divisions this weekend, and the Dodgers, Phillies, and Angels are on the verge of doing so as well. The Red Sox are virtually assured of the Wild Card slot, so the only remaining questions are whether the Tigers can cling to their 2-game lead over the Twins in the AL Central, and whether the Rockies can do likewise over the Braves in the NL Wild Card race. In any case, I have tentatively put teams into the postseason slots on the Postseason scores 2009 table, subject to revision, of course. See the archive of postseason scores.

Baseball in November?? frown

Speaking of the upcoming postseason, it seems the MLB head honchos are still doing everything they can to kill fan interest in their sport. For one thing, all of the first round divisional series will be carried exclusively by TBS, just like last year. So, unless you are paying for your TV service, you will be out of luck, baseball-wise. What better way to advertize the increasingly non-competitive nature of the sport and the businesss behind the sport, than to deliberately foster a monopoly that shuts out millions of viewers? Dumb, dumb, dumb. But that's not all. Even though many people have complained that the post-season is getting dragged out too much, this year's World Series is scheduled to be played through the first week of November, possibly as late as November 5. Downright stupid! Last October I griped about "how ridiculous it is to play baseball so late into the autumn," suggesting a speeded-up schedule with zero days of rest, unless a team wins a series that doesn't go the full seven games. (I think all three rounds should be seven-game series, both for fairness and economic reasons.) It would also help matters to have more postseason games during the day, at least on the weekends.


September 30, 2009 [LINK / comment]

(Justin) Maxwell that ends well!

In late-season games between lower-tier teams when not much is at stake but pride, ball games rarely generate much excitement or drama. Well, there's an exception to every rule, and this evening's game in Washington validates another aphorism: "All's well that ends well." What we are talking about here is the Nationals' last home game of the otherwise-forgettable 2009 season. Thanks to a grand-slam home run by the young Justin Maxwell (who had entered the game as a pinch-runner) with a count of 3-2 and two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning, the Nats came from behind to win 7-4, thus completing a three-game sweep of the New York Mets. Wow!!! That memorable comeback victory put big smiles on the faces of all the long-suffering fans in Our Nation's Capital and for those of us in the hinterlands. It really took the sting out of a thoroughly miserable year. smile Appropriately, it was Fan Appreciation Day. In the eighth inning, Ryan Zimmerman hit his 33rd home run of the year, but Adam Dunn remains stuck at 38, without only four more games to go... See MLB.com.

I checked my records, and this was only the second of five final home games that the Nationals have won, since the "rebirth" of the former Montreal Expos in Washington. (Half a decade has passed -- imagine that!) The final series of their first two seasons were played at home in RFK Stadium, and in both cases the Nats were swept -- by the Phillies in 2005, and by the Mets in 2006. In the last-ever game at the old stadium (2007), the Nationals beat the Phillies 5-3, averting a four-game sweep, but in the final game at Nationals Park last year they lost to the Marlins after winning the night before. (They were supposed to play one more game in that series, but it was rained out and cancelled.) In the last two years, they have ended the season on the road, losing the final games both times.

As the Nationals head to Atlanta for a four-game series against the Braves this weekend, they will face a team that is highly motivated to win. The Braves still have an outside chance of taking the Wild Card slot from the Colorado Rockies, but they need to win every game, and get help from Colorado.

In the nearby city of Baltimore, meanwhile, fans of the Orioles are struggling to cope as their team just lost their 13th game in a row, the longest such streak for the O's since 1954 -- their inaugural year after the former Browns relocated from St. Louis. Playing in St. Petersburg this evening, the Orioles scored three runs in the top of the eighth inning, but the Rays held on to win, 5-3.

Nats' walk-off home runs

I got carried away in checking my records, and looked up every game in which a ninth inning home run decided the game. The following list of walk-off homers by definition pertains to home games in Washington, with links to my blog posts on that date or shortly thereafter:

  • June 18, 2006 -- Ryan Zimmerman (2-run); WSH 3, NYY 2
  • July 1, 2006 -- Nick Johnson; WSH 4, TB 3 (10 inn.)
  • July 4, 2006 -- Ryan Zimmerman (3-run); WSH 6, FLA 4
  • May 12, 2007 -- Ryan Zimmerman (GS); WSH 7, FLA 3
  • Mar. 30, 2008 -- Ryan Zimmerman; WSH 3, ATL 2 (Nationals Park very 1st game!)
  • Apr. 25, 2008 -- Wil Nieves (2-run); WSH 5, CHC 3
  • June 29, 2008 * -- Ronnie Belliard (2-run); WSH 3, BAL 2 (12 inn.) (* wrong score)
  • June 20, 2009 -- Willie Harris (2-run); WSH 5, TOR 3 (12 inn.)
  • Sept. 6, 2009 -- Ryan Zimmerman (2-run); WSH 5, FLA 4 (I was there!)
  • Sept. 30, 2009 -- Justin Maxwell (GS); WSH 7, NYM 4

Other 9th-inning homers

This second list pertains to both home and away games, including opponents' home runs:

  • Apr. 16, 2006 -- Ryan Church; WSH 7, FLA 5 (Dolphin Stadium)
  • May 13, 2006 -- Jeff Francouer (GS); ATL 8, WSH 5 (Turner Field)
  • Apr. 22, 2007 -- Ryan Zimmerman (GS); FLA 12, WSH 6 (Dolphin Stadium)
  • Apr. 13, 2009 -- Ryan Zimmerman (2-run); PHI 9, WSH 8 (Nationals Park 1st game)
  • May 12, 2009 -- Pablo Sandoval (3-run); SF 9, WSH 7 (AT&T Park)

Do you notice that a certain name keeps popping up over and over? It's a little odd that neither Alfonso Soriano (2006), nor Dmitri Young (2007), nor Adam Dunn (2008) have achieved such a distinction for Washington.

Etc., etc., etc.

Even though most of the divisional races weren't very tight this month, the Twins have sure given the Tigers a run for their money in the AL Central over the past week or so. Tonight, however, the Tigers beat the Twins 7-2, meaning that it's do-or-die time for Minnesota in the final game of the four-game series tomorrow.

Congratulations to the Angels for clinching the AL West, and to the Red Sox for clinching the AL Wild Card slot.

FYI, I'm almost done with the Sportsman's Park diagram updates...


September 30, 2009 [LINK / comment]

End-of-month political wrap-up

Being thoroughly preoccupied with more important (?) things, like baseball, birds, and teaching, I haven't had time to blog much on politics lately. If you can't tell, I'm growing weary of all the hyperpartisan cacophony. Anyway, here is a brief potpourri of musings on recent political happenings...

Jimmy Carter on racism

Jimmy Carter, widely regarded as among the best former presidents in U.S. history, created a big commotion by blaming racist sentiment for the vehement opposition to President Obama's agenda. Almost every sensible and honest person would acknowledge that there is a certain racist element present at some of the protests, but to smear the "Tea Party" folks or opponents of Obama in general with the racist label is both unfair and terribly damaging to our body politic. Carter spoke at James Madison University last week, but a scheduling conflict prevented me from attending. He was given the Mahatma Gandhi Global Nonviolence Award from JMU's Mahatma Gandhi Center for Global Nonviolence. See the News Leader.

Ironically, Carter referred to Barack Obama as "this Black Boy" at last year's Democratic National Convention. See for yourself at youtube.com. Hat tip to Frances Rice of the National Black Republican Association.

Census worker murdered

In Kentucky, a man who was doing preliminary work for the 2010 Census was murdered by someone who scrawled "FED" on his body. The details about the cause of death remain sketchy, however, and the authorities aren't saying much. See New York Times, hat tip to J.C. Wilmore, whose take on that elicited a hateful outburst from "Smash Mouth Politics". Also see CNN.com. It reminds you of the hillbilly moonshiners who used to shoot at "them revenuers" many years ago. The difference is that the latest incident may reflect the current deep polarization in American politics, exemplified by the recent "Tea Party" protests. I think that's a bit of a stretch to link that murder with the anti-Obama movement, and until we find out more facts, we should try to reserve judgment.

FOX News at Tea Party

The "fair and balanced" FOX News was taking sides during the recent "Tea Party" protests in Washington. After a video was circulated, they have acknowledged that one of their staffers served as a "cheerleader" during the demonstrations. See politico.com, via Andrew Sullivan. Not exactly meeting the standards of TV journalism set by Edward R. Murrow, is it? Good thing their morning news anchor-babe Megyn Kelly is on maternity leave during this embarrassing interlude.

Corruption? I'm shocked!

To find out who is on the list of "The Most Corrupt Members Of Congress," take a look at at businessinsider.com; hat tip to Stacey Morris. Clearly Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY) belongs near the top of the list, and there is a growing clamor among Republicans to censure or try to remove him from office. I don't agree with some of the people on that list. Just because, for example, Sen. Mitch McConnell welcomes campaign contributions from just about anybody doesn't mean he is corrupt. He takes a defiant stand against arbitrary campaign finance restrictions, and he's just being consistent.

Muslims rally at Capitol

Last Friday, several thousand Muslims gathered on Capitol Hill for a prayer. See islamoncapitolhill.com; hat tip to Stacey Morris. "The peace, beauty and solidarity of Islam will shine through America's capitol." I wish I could take such words at face value. Well, since our President has extended an olive branch to the Muslim world, we might as well give them a chance. The Ummah (worldwide body of Muslim believers) is growing in numbers in this country and abroad all the time, it seems.

Health care in Cuba

Leftists used to cite the health care system in Cuba as a model for the United States to follow. How many of them have actually been treated there? Take a look at therealcuba.com; hat tip to Stacey Morris.


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