January 1, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Happy New Year!
State of the diagrams, 2013
For baseball fans, the new year will bring some interesting changes. The Washington Nationals are no longer a doormat for the rest of the National League East; they are, instead, favored to repeat as division champions. That means the heat will be on them from the get-go, so they shouldn't assume anything. Another big change is league realignment, as the Houston Astros migrate to the American League Western Division, though the likely effects are hard to guess in advance. The N.Y. Yankees and Boston Red Sox are straining to field championship caliber teams, while the big-spending L.A. Dodgers try to somehow wrest control of the NL West from the S.F. Giants. Finally, for the first time since the 1980s, NO new baseball stadiums are expected to open any time soon.
But before we get too caught up with contemplating what the 2013 season holds in store, I thought it would be a good opportunity to take stock of where this Web site stands with respect to the prime feature: all those baseball stadium diagrams. I think it's fair to say that some of them are very good, while others are OK but clearly in need of improvement, and some (such as Forbes Field) are horribly deficient, and have been for a long time.
Every year the president of the United States is required by the Constitution to submit to Congress a report on the national situation. For the past century or so, presidents have met this obligation by making a formal speech to a joint session of Congress. I thought it was high time I did something like that to summarize where my work in refining baseball stadium diagrams currently stands, and where it is headed in the future.
With that in mind, I now present my own assessment of the "state of the diagrams," ranking from "A" (superb), "B" (pretty good), "C" (marginally acceptable), and "D" (just plain lousy). This reflects only the diagrams themselves, and has nothing to do with the aesthetic appeal of the real-world stadiums. Some stadiums such as Nationals Park were updated fairly recently, but lack some of the latest features such as an upper-deck (transparent roof) version, and/or the entry portals therein. You can tell if a diagram is outdated if the size of the dirt infield is smaller than it should be (pre-2009, more or less), or if the profile view is crude, with the lower deck lacking the almost-universal attenuated (curved) grandstand slope ("pitch") that gives rise to the expression "bowl."
This list only includes major league stadiums, not minor league ones or those in foreign countries. Generally speaking, the ones that have been updated in the last year or two are state of the art, or close to it.
[ * (asterisk) = name change; * * = multiple name changes.]
If all goes according to plan, I will have virtually all the diagrams up to top-notch standards by Opening Day, which is April 1 this year -- just 90 days away. (The Baseball blog page will automatically keep track of the Opening Day countdown.) In the mean time, I'll try to keep up with e-mail inquiries about diagram upgrades, or you can simply post a comment on any blog post, if there are particular ballparks that you'd rather see finished sooner rather than later. Thanks once again for your interest, ballpark fans!
[Some grades in this table were subsequently changed after the initial posting.]
January 2, 2013 [LINK / comment]
2012: the year in photos
I have been fortunate to have visited a number of interesting and "photogenic" locales during the past year. You can see previews by rolling your mouse over the links below in the following summary paragraphs.
In February, I paid a brief visit to Washington, D.C. and saw the "Occupy D.C." movement up close. Later that month I took a group of students on a field trip to the state capitol in Richmond, a big success once again.
On April Fool's Day Jacqueline and I drove up to the Shenandoah National Park, and on the way back we stopped at Eagle's Nest Airport near Waynesboro, and saw some gliders landing. One month later we joined a Palm Sunday procession prior to church.
In late May, our area was hit by a plague of 13-year Periodical Cicadas, truly awesome little beasts. In June I was very busy observing the beauties of nature, joining members of the Augusta Bird Club on a trip to Reddish Knob. Throughout the month I photographed a lot of butterflies, including several at scenic Elkhorn Lake, on the northern edge of Augusta County.
On June 19 I attended a protest rally at the University of Virginia, expressing support for president Teresa Sullivan, who had been fired but was later returned to her post by the Board of Visitors. In late June I drove up to D.C., where my friend Dave Givens and I saw the Washington Nationals win a game, with Stephen Strasburg on the mound. On the way home the next day, I stopped at Great Falls in northern Virginia.
To read more about the various photos, click on the links. Those with the hand pointing icons () take you to a blog post, with detailed descriptions. The other links take you to photo gallery pages, with brief captions.
I spent a pleasant Fourth of July at celebrations here in Staunton, and ten days later hiked into St. Mary's Wilderness with Jacqueline. It was gorgeous scenery.
In late July I drove west and stopped in Chicago to see the Cubs beat the Miami Marlins at beautiful Wrigley Field. In South Dakota, some family members and I went to Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge and nearby Fort Randall Dam. I also spent some time exploring the town of Yankton. On the way back back east in early August, I visited the campus of Notre Dame, made a brief foray into Michigan, and saw the Cleveland Indians lose a heartbreaker to the Minnesota Twins at Progressive Field.
I also saw games in Nationals Park on August 18, a sell-out in which the Mets won, September 8, when Jayson Werth hit a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning after a long rain delay, and September 22, when Gio Gonzalez got his 20th win as the Nationals were on the verge of clinching the National League East championship. Natitude!
I wasn't as active politically this campaign season as in years past, but I did manage to see GOP vice-presidential candidate Paul Ryan speaking at a campaign rally near Harrisonburg on September 14. And of course I attended the huge rally with Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan, and many other Republican politicians at nearby Fishersville on October 4. Spirits were high that day, but the campaign fizzled after that.
As we got ready for Christmas in December, we had a hard time keeping our canaries out of trouble, such as playing with the nutcrackers. Oh, that's right -- I need to do a long-overdue blog post about our canary population explosion. Stay tuned!
Updates to the Photo Gallery pages are forthcoming.
January 7, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Br-r-r! Winter field trip to Highland County
The arrival of the frigid months has one silver lining that more people should know about: the winter birds! Yesterday I joined Allen Larner and three other people on the Augusta Bird Club's annual winter field trip to Highland County. We didn't see everything we hoped for, but there were some very exciting moments. Early in the trip, I spotted what turned out to be Golden Eagle flying high above, and managed to get an adequate photograph of it, showing the distinctive tail markings of an immature bird. We saw two or three other Golden Eagles a short while later. John Spahr found a red-phase Screech Owl in a hole in a large tree, and once again I was fortunate to get a good photo. Not long afterwards, we stopped where a Wilson Snipe had previously been seen feeding next to a farm pond. It didn't take long for us to find it, and soon we realized why it had not gone elsewhere: the bird has a broken wing and can hardly fly. We also saw an immature Bald Eagle, various woodpeckers, Goldfinches, House Finches, a Purple Finch, and hundreds of Juncos. (Allen Larner got tired of seeing all those Juncos!) Unfortunately, there were no Rough-legged Hawks, one of the main "target" birds.
(The preceding paragraph is based in part on the e-mail report submitted by Allen Larner, and the first three photos below are also shown on the Augusta Bird Club Web site.)
Golden Eagle (immature), near Snowy Mountain.
Red-phase Screech Owl, in a tree on Route 643.
Wilson's Snipe, in a stream along Route 642.
Snowy Mountain, about six miles north of this barn and silo, along Route 637.
While stopped along Route 637, northwest of Monterey, we saw a still-wet newborn calf with its mother in a muddy feed lot. What a rude shock to be born into the world on such a cold, bleak day!
After returning to Staunton, we stopped briefly at Bell's Lane, and saw a pair of Hooded Mergansers at one of the farm ponds, along with some Mallards, but not much else. Hopefully I'll get closer next time.
Hooded Mergansers (female on left, male on right), on Bell's Lane.
New digital camera!
That trip to Highland County gave me a great opportunity to try out my new digital camera, which was literally "years in the waiting." It's a Canon PowerShot SX50 HS digital camera, with 12 megapixels and a 50x optical zoom lens, the equivalent of a 24-1200mm lens. On the ninth day of Christmas (January 2), my true love and I went up to Crutchfield in Harrisonburg, because we have had great service from them before. I could have saved about $20 if I had gone to one of the big box retailing chain stores, but I really count on honest, good advice from well-trained store employees. The camera is a little tricky to operate (inevitable with such a powerful lens), but overall I am very satisfied with the purchase. Some of the images are just amazing!
Northern Harrier, on Bell's Lane, the first wild bird photo that I took outdoors with the new camera. (January 4, 2013)
The above bird photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.
Field trip to Chimney Hollow
On Saturday December 1, I led an Augusta Bird Club field trip to the Chimney Hollow trail, joined by five other members. It's one of my favorite birding locations, about ten miles northwest of Staunton. The main highlight of the day came within the first ten minutes: at least ten Wild Turkeys flushed from the trail ahead, only about 20 yards away. We also saw some Golden-crowned Kinglets, a Brown Creeper, a few White-breasted Nuthatches, Downy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees, a Raven or two, and a Red-bellied Woodpecker. We hiked a little more than three miles total.
Birding in South Dakota, 2012
Just for the record, I had some successful bird outings in South Dakota last summer, including two life birds (see below): a Sora in a roadside marsh near Utica, and a Buff-bellied Sandpiper on The Bluffs golf course in Vermillion. They nest in the Arctic tundra, and winter in Patagonia; the long distance traveled necessitates early migration. Other notable sightings: Upland Sandpiper, Black Terns, American White Pelicans (20+), Bald Eagle (imm.), Greater (?) Yellowlegs, Blue-winged Teals, Spotted Sandpipers, Great Blue Herons, Green Herons, Yellow Warblers, Flickers, Western Kingbirds, Franklin's Gulls, Spotted Towhee, E. (?) Wood-Pewee, Clay-Colored Sparrow, and an Orchard Oriole (F). Most of those species were seen at Lake Andes National Wildlife Refuge, and at Fort Randall Dam, nearby.
Clockwise, from top left: Yellow Warbler, Barn Swallow, Dickcissel, Ring-billed Gulls with Franklin's Gulls, Green Heron, and in center, Common Nighthawk.
One of the unusual encounters was with a juvenile Mourning Dove, on the back porch of my brother Chris' house. It and a sibling hatched in a nest that was built in a flower box, and Chris got to watch it grow up and fledge.
Three life birds in 2012
I only saw three life birds in 2012, but that's as many as the previous two years combined! Obviously, I am in a real long-term slump, birding-wise. That means I'll have to do more travelling this year! The table below shows the lines of data that have been added to my life bird list.
||June 30, 2012
||near Reddish Knob, Rockingham Co.
||on a solo nature hike
||July 28, 2012
||Near Utica, SD
||with John & Alan Clem
||July 30, 2012
||The Bluffs Golf Course, Vermillion, SD
||with Alan Clem
I only had a brief glimpse of the Blue-winged Warbler, but there are only two other warblers with a head that is nearly all bright yellow: the Yellow Warbler, and the Prothontary Warbler, and neither of them are found in thick mountain woods during breeding season.
While updating my life bird list, I realized that I had failed to record my first-ever sighting of a Great Horned Owl, in a nest at Coyner Springs Park, Waynesboro, VA on on April 8, 2007. That correction raised the annual totals for that year, and the cumulative totals for 2007-2011.
I am now officially caught up on my wild bird blogging. Now back to politics, baseball, etc.
January 19, 2013 [LINK / comment]
LaRoche stays with the Nationals
It's been a busy month for Nationals General Manager Mike Rizzo, who completed three major transactions over the past couple weeks. I have been pretty busy as well (see below), so permit me the opportunity to get caught up on recent Nats news.
After many weeks of drama, rumors, and negotiations with other teams, Adam LaRoche signed with Nationals for another two years -- not three years, as he had been seeking. The $24-million deal was reached two Wednesdays ago, seeming to indicate a win for the team owners. Nobody else was willing to give LaRoche a three-year contract, something of a surprise to me. See MLB.com. The Nationals front office had made a $13.3 million "qualifying offer" to free-agent LaRoche in November, so they would have received a draft pick compensation if he had signed with another team.
This is obviously good news for the Nationals as they prepare to defend their National League Eastern Division championship this year -- and hopefully go further in the playoffs! LaRoche led the team last year in home runs (33) and RBIs (100); see the Washington Nationals page. I have mixed feelings, however, since it made it almost impossible to keep another star player on the roster: Michael Morse. (See below.)
Soriano joins the Nationals
Perhaps even bigger news came last week, when relief pitcher Rafael Soriano signed a contract with the Nationals, worth $28 million for two years, with a third year option. Soriano (no relation to Alfonso Soriano, a former National) replaced Mariano Rivera for the Yankees last summer, and did well enough to get the Yankees to the American League Championship Series last October. On Thursday Soriano was introduced to the press at Nationals Park ceremonially donning a Nationals jersey, number 29. See Washington Post.
Dan Kolko (masnsports.com) agrees with others who say the Nats overpaid Soriano, and will also lose a draft pick because the Yankees made him [Soriano] a qualifying offer, but he still thinks it will still be a good bargain because of the arm power that he possesses. Having a dominant closer on the mound is what makes the difference between winning and losing big games, as the Nationals found out to their bitter dismay in NLDS Game 5 last October.
Speaking of which (!), Drew Storen just signed a one-year $2.5 million contract with the Nationals, thus avoiding arbitration. He will presumably become either a backup closer or the setup man in the Nats bullpen, a role which Tyler Clippard had before Storen had elbow surgery last spring, after which Clippard became the closer until late in the season. See MLB.com. The Nationals now have a formidable bullpen, but it remains to be seen whether they can each accept the shifting roles they will play. In the above-cited Washington Post article, Mike Rizzo was quoted as saying:
Drew Storen is a closer. ... He's going to be a closer. He's got closer stuff. He's got a closer mentality. And by no means the signing of Rafael Soriano was based on one inning and one game at the end of the season. This guy's a young closer that was thrust into the closer role as a very young man and a very young major leaguer.
Morse is traded by the Nationals
As an inevitable consequence of the Adam LaRoche deal, Michael "The Beast" Morse was traded to Seattle Mariners, from whence the Nationals had obtained him in a trade three years ago. This week's deal was part of a three-way trade in which the Oakland Athletics were also involved. In exchange, the Nats get right-hand pitchers A.J. Cole, who was with the Nationals until being traded in the Gio Gonzalez deal in December 2011, and Blake Treinen, as well "a player to be named later." See MLB.com. (What about left-handed pitchers? That's what the Nats really need.)
That was very sad news to me, but as Dan Kolko explains at masnsports.com, it just wouldn't be fair to keep Morse on the Nats roster. He would only have been a reserve player, wasting his formidable slugging power. The acquisition of Denard Span from the Minnesota Twins filled up the outfield, which was lacking in a fleet-footed guy who can chase down potential doubles. Bryce Harper hurt himself doing that a couple times last year, and the Nats can't afford to risk his precious limbs that way. We'll find out soon enough whether Span is of more value to the team than Morse has been.
Farewell, Michael Morse! We'll remember all you did for the Nats!
Bryce Harper on TV
Thanks to Facebook, I learned that Bryce Harper was going to be on "Jimmy Kimmel Live" last Tuesday night, and he had me grinning through the whole interview. He is not only quite a character (Mohawk hair style, Gonzo attitude, etc.), he's also amazingly well composed for someone who just turned 20. You can watch the complete show at abc.go.com; he follows Rob Lowe, about midway through the program.
Nobody joins Hall of Fame
The Baseball Writers of America chose Nobody for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame last week. Nobody has a career batting average of .381, with 2,420 RBIs and 799 home runs. Craig Biggio received the most number of votes (388), but failed to reach the required 75% level. He, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza, are suspected of having used performance-enhancing drugs at some point during their careers. For factual, non-ironic coverage, see MLB.com.
In a related story, bicyclist Lance Armstrong, who won the Tour de France seven times altogether, admitted to Oprah Winfrey that he used performance-enhancing drugs. (Those titles were stripped from him.) As recently as last month, he was vehemently denying doing any such thing. Weird sudden turnabout. See ESPN. How about you, Barry? The point being, the price of coming "clean" may be too high, given the legal liability from former sponsors, etc. That's why stonewalling is the most frequent response to P.E.D. accusations.
Dodger Stadium makeover
I had heard that the new owners of the Dodgers (Magic Johnson, et al.) were going to make some improvements to Dodger Stadium, but until recently I had no idea how just extensive the changes were. Believe it or not, they have torn out the first dozen or so rows of seats, along with the concrete structure. Are they planning to lower the playing field? That's the only reason I can figure why they would go to such drastic lengths. Capacity is expected to remain at exactly 56,000, as it has been ever since 1962. When asked about the rumored $100 million price tag for the projct, Dodgers president Stan Kasten, who said that figure is "as good as any to use." You can read all about it at MLB.com, and also watch a photo gallery. Hat tips to Bruce Orser and Mike Zurawski.
Memorial Coliseum update
And speaking of the L.A. Dodgers, the diagrams of L.A. Memorial Coliseum, their former temporary home, have been revised. Including the entry portals allowed me to get other details (such as the press box) more accurately than before. As usual, the profile is much improved. Note that I have added a new color (dark olive) for dirt that is outside of the baseball playing field. It helps to define more easily where the outfield fence is. There is also a new full-size version with center field at the top, a suggestion made by Steven Poppe. Contrary to what may be implied by the adjacent thumbnail image, however, I don't intend to do a football version with that "tilted" stadium orientation.
More Web site upgrades
The Memorial Coliseum page includes a new feature that will be incorporated into all stadium pages over the next few months: the number of rows in each deck of the grandstand, with appropriate color-coded backgrounds. It so happens that this particular stadium only has one deck, so instead of decks, I put the number of rows in each level (upper, middle, and lower), which are divided by the lateral aisles. Also, the fence height is now split into three separate columns. Here's what the data table on that page now looks like (slightly squeezed, omitting the last six columns), and below that is a taste of what is still to come.
Memorial Coliseum vital statistics:
||Outfield dimensions (feet)
||Behind home plate
||Seating rows (typical)
Yankee Stadium vital statistics:
||Outfield dimensions (feet)
||Behind home plate
||Seating rows (typical)
|Built / Rebuilt
||Until / Demo-
NOTE: The above tables do not include the five "Clem Criteria" used to subjectively rank baseball stadiums from best to worst, or the average summary measure. Data are "subject to revision."
In addition, I have made great progress on a number of stadium diagrams that will be released soon, and am exploring options for enhancing user interactivity, via social media, etc. There will probably be some kind of integration with Facebook for purposes of commenting, recommending, etc. Finally, I have weeded out links to blogs that no longer exist, and will soon do likewise on the list of links to other baseball Web sites. I'll also be adding new advertisements to various baseball pages, including those whose sponsorships have lapsed. If you'd like to sponsor a page for the first time, renew an old sponsorhip, or just chip in a few bucks via PayPal, please see the Sponsor page.
Another baseball song
While browsing around Apple's Music Store recently, I stumbled upon a baseball-themed song that was new to me. It's "Come On Home to Baseball," by Ray Stevens, the humorous country musician famous for the 1970s hit songs "The Streak" and "Wildwood Flower" (youtube.com). So I added his baseball tune, released in 2006, to the song list on the Baseball in Culture page.
January 20, 2013 [LINK / comment]
iMac memory upgrade: success!
For the last few months, it seems my iMac computer has been straining harder and harder to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of Facebook and other Web sites overloaded with Flash and user interactive functions. So, I finally decided to get a memory upgrade last week, and I'm happy to report that everything is working much more smoothly now.
In particular, I purchased a four-gigabyte dual inline memory module from Ramjet, based in Champaign, Illinois, and the little bundle of electronics arrived in just a few days via regular mail. ("RAM" stands for "random access memory" in computer lingo.) It was the second time I had purchased a memory module from them, the first being in January 2010, and I was better prepared this time. You have to avoid static buildup by holding onto copper plumbing pipes or similar metal grounding, or else the slightest spark can ruin the delicate circuitry in those RAM chips. As you can see in the photo below, all cables must be disconnected from the iMac first, and then it is laid face down on a flat surface with a towel. Then the covering plate is unscrewed and a little plastic tab is pulled to release one of the old memory modules. In this case, I replaced the original 1 GB memory module with the new 4 GB memory module, leaving the previous upgrade 2 GB memory module in place, for a net total of six gigabytes. It slid into place fairly easily, and before I knew it, everything was hooked up again, and the machine was booted up. Sure enough, choosing the "About This Mac" menu option yielded a window showing that 6 GB of memory were present. Ta - dahhh!
Carefully installing a 4 GB memory module into the slot on the underside of my iMac.
Apple recommends that memory upgrades be done by trained technicians, and doing it yourself may void all or part of the warranty. Since my iMac is nearly five years old (see my February 24, 2008 blog post), that is of little consequence in my case. I can tell you that the problems I have had with the Safari Web browser being slowed down to a snail's pace, and relying on hard disk access just to scroll up and down a graphics-laden Web page, have virtually disappeared. It's kind of like getting an oil change for one's car. Now that my computer is running much more quickly and smoothly, maybe I can start working more efficiently. In sum, I am one happy Mac camper!
Science & Technology page new features
My Science & Technology blog page, which like some of my other topical blog pages has not been updated for several months, has two new features. First, there is a tabular representation of the planets in our solar system, showing their respective distances from the sun (mean orbital radius) and their approximate relative sizes. Some basic information on each planet is displayed when you roll the mouse over them. Just some cute infotainment, if you will.
Of perhaps more immediate practical use is a new table of HTML standard colors, along with the three-character codes for each one; e.g., "ff0" (yellow) is equivalent to "ffff00." (Those are hexadecimal numbers, i.e., base 16.) The three primary and three secondary colors, and four shades of gray (not 50) are indicated by underlines, with rollover effects for good measure.
And finally, I have begun upgrading the Periodic Table of the Elements on that page, which will eventually display information about each element when you roll the mouse over the appropriate table cell. At present, only the names are displayed.
January 21, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Continuity: Obama begins his second term
What a day! The jubilant culmination of American politics, with enough sugary-sweet patriotic symbolism and carnival theatrics throughout the long day to give even a sober person a bad hangover. The second inauguration of President Barack Obama was blessed with nice weather, a bit chilly but with crystal clear blue skies. Spirits were high among those present, not as many as there were four years ago.
Outside the Beltway in the "real" America, meanwhile, millions of conservatives groaned in collective agony. How could this travesty have happened? I don't consider myself as part of the bitter anti-Obama crowd, and even though I'm not thrilled with the direction the U.S. government is heading, I'm at least happy for Obama's supporters. Campaign 2012 was a fair fight, and the Republicans had a chance to make a case to the American people, but they failed.
The President's second inaugural address featured a heavy dose of realism, blended with equal parts of appeals to bipartisan cooperation and determination to carry out the progressive agenda favored by his liberal "base." With the Republicans in control of the House, he knows he is not going to achieve anything as significant as his health care law passed, at least not for the next two years. So instead of heralding a glorious new era of "change," as he did in 2008-2009, this time he emphasized consolidating what had been done in his first administration.
For me, the most intriguing passage from the speech was the following paragraph (from whitehouse.gov):
That is our generation's task -- to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American. Being true to our founding documents does not require us to agree on every contour of life. It does not mean we all define liberty in exactly the same way or follow the same precise path to happiness. Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time.
The basic question is whether the exercise of government power, and presidential power in particular, is subject to rigid constraints by the Constitution, or whether contemporary interpretations allow for more "flexibility" than the Founding Fathers might have envisioned. Obama is squarely in the latter camp, of course, but he at least seems aware of the need to acknowledge there is another point of view.
Overall, it was definitely more restrained and pragmatic speech than his first inaugural address, in which he pledged to "begin again the work of remaking America." (See whitehouse.gov.) That seemed to echo the ambitious goal "to transform a nation" from his February 2007 speech in which he announced his candidacy for president. (See March 1, 2009.) As he candidly told Russian then-president Dmitri Medvedev at a summit meeting last spring, Obama expects to have more "flexibility" in his second term. Frankly, that gives conservatives like me the heebee-jeebees. Anyway, I'll have a more thorough review of the president's speech in a future blog post or newspaper column.
I was amused by Richard Viguerie's take on the second Obama inauguration. He puts the blame squarely on the shoulders of the "Republican establishment"; see conservativehq.com. He feigns a complete lack of awareness that the right-wing populist Tea Party movement, which he champions, has its genesis in the political strategy and policy agenda of the Bush (Jr.) administration, which he (rightly) berates for its big-spending ways. Which leads me to my next point:
Political blog hiatus ends
Until today, I hadn't had a blog post about politics since November 12, mainly a reflection of my utter disgust at the Republican leaders' failure to draw any useful lessons from President Obama's reelection. For the past several years, I have operated under the assumption that reason and sanity would eventually prevail in the Grand Old Party. For the sake of party unity, it seemed only prudent to exercise restraint in the way I characterized certain leaders and decisions with which I took issue; "If you can't say something positive, don't say anything."
Real-world events proved contrary to my expectations, however. The way the fiscal cliff negotiations backfired badly for the GOP, as House Speaker John Boehner was undercut by his own party members, and the way some Republicans have reacted to the mass shooting in Connecticut suggest that the deranged fever of the right-wing "Base" is just as strong as ever. It seems that the party remains determined to persist in the suicidal trajectory which it has pursued for the last several years. So, I find myself in need of reorienting my political identity, and expressing my thoughts in more direct, less tactful ways.
January 21, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Jupiter's "near miss" with Moon
Not really. It might have looked like Jupiter was in a near collision with the Moon this evening, but they are actually over four hundred million miles apart. I was watching the weather on NBC 29 this evening, and thanks to Eric Pritchett, I learned of Jupiter's close encounter with the moon. So, I made use of my new camera to record the astronomical event and had it on Facebook within a few minutes. For some reason, the photographic image doesn't convey the same sense of close proximity as seeing the phenomenon with the naked eye. The real thing really is quite dramatic looking. According to space.com, there won't be another such close encounter between those two heavenly bodies until 2026.
Jupiter is at the top left, obviously. Click on the photo to see a larger version, and click HERE to see the closeup version that appears when you roll the mouse over.
I wonder what the astrologers are saying about this celestial conjuncture with regard to the beginning of President Obama's second term. Good omen or bad?
January 25, 2013 [LINK / comment]
California coliseum dreamin'
Here in the East, the temperatures are dipping into the teens tonight, making us jealous of those folks who live in warmer regions as we don wool socks and thermal underwear. So, it's only fitting to pay tribute to the home state of "California Gurrl" Katy Perry with some updates to the diagrams, etc. from that part of the U.S.A.
Oakland Coliseum update
The Oakland Coliseum diagrams have been revised, with the entry portals depicted for the first time. Including those details helped me to make a few minor corrections in the "Mount Davis" grandstand addition of 1996, but the original 3/4-circle grandstand is otherwise virtually the same as it was before. Note that the entry portals in the second deck are slightly deeper than the ones on the third deck, but the ones near the infield were enlarged after the 1996 renovation. In those parts of the grandstand, fans now enter the upper deck along a flat corridor emerging from the new upper-level concourse, rather than climbing a staircase. But of course the upper deck is closed for baseball games nowadays, so it doesn't really matter from a baseball perspective.
Fair & foul territory
There is [a] new feature on the Oakland Coliseum page: my own estimates of fair and foul territory, based on a graphical editing technique I recently devised. It should be accurate to within a half percent or so, but I'll have to do likewise for other stadiums and compare to other peoples' estimates before I can be sure. In this case, there are approximately 107,867 square feet in fair territory and 40,733 square feet foul territory -- no doubt, the biggest in the major leagues right now. In the months to come I will be adding similar data to all stadium pages.
Which coliseum is which?
I saw Jerry Maguire again a week or two ago, and I'm almost sure that [some of] the scenes were filmed outside of Oakland Coliseum. At one point they are talking inside a glass-enclosed [high-level] luxury suite on the northeast side, and the curved portion of the grandstand along the opposite sideline is fairly clear. After the game Tom Cruise and Cuba Gooding Jr. are walking outside the stadium, and the grass berm lanscaped with trees looks just like Oakland Coliseum. The Internet Movie DataBase says it was filmed in L.A. Memorial Coliseum, [as well as Sun Devil Stadium, of course] and I think somebody made a mistake. I'm planning to make an edit there, so if anyone knows otherwise, please let me know.
In any case, I added data on fair and foul territory to the Memorial Coliseum page. That was, of course, an extreme case of huge foul territory on the third base side, tiny fair territroy in left field, huge fair territory in right field, and tiny foul territory on the first base side.
Sun Life Stadium tweak
For the record, the Dolphin (Sun Life) Stadium diagrams have been revised, but only a true fanatic would notice. The entry portals in the upper deck have been moved back about five feet (two rows), and the covered "mini-dugouts" for pitchers in the bullpens are now shown.
Nats sign more free agents
Last Friday (the 17th) five Nationals players signed contracts, thereby avoiding the arbitration process. Ross Detwiler, Ian Desmond, Roger Bernadina, and Tyler Clippard signed one-year contracts, and Craig Stammen agreed to a two-year contract worth $2.25 million. All of those players have proven to be very reliable and helped win a number of games in the memorable 2012 season. Jordan Zimmermann is seeking a bit more than the team offered, but they are expected to arrive at a deal. Desmond's salary is said to be $3.8 million, a nice chunk of change which he richly deserves after hitting 25 home runs last year. MLB.com. General Manager Mike Rizzo said they are considering extended contracts with Desmond and Zimmermann.
Speaking of the Nationals, tomorrow is "Nats Fest" in Washington, and I'm thinking about attending. If so, it would be my first time at that annual winter event. Jayson Werth, Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Gio Gonzalez, and many other players are expected to be there. Natitude!
R.I.P. Stan Musial
Hall of Fame slugger Stan "The Man" Musial passed away last week at the age of 92. He played his entire career with the St. Louis Cardinals, from 1941 to 1963, interrupted by one year of military service (1945) in World War II. During those 22 years, he amassed an amazing lifetime batting average of .331, with 3,630 hits and 475 home runs. He was one of the best left-handed sluggers of all time, if not the best. But beyond that, he was a modest gentleman who inspired genuine affection and devotion from team mates and fans alike. In the 1940s, he made St. Louis proud to be one of the real powerhouse cities in all of baseball. Two years ago he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama, a very fitting tribute. To read some glowing tributes to Musial from Bob Costas, Tony LaRussa, Albert Pujols, Bud Selig, and others, see MLB.com.
I was just old enough to be paying attention to baseball in Musial's final year, and I vaguely remember my father talking about him when Musial retired in 1963. In fact, he saw Musial play in the 1944 World Series -- all games of which were played in St. Louis! (It was the Cardinals against the Browns.)
Stan Musial statue, outside Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis.
R.I.P. Earl Weaver
By coincidence, former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver died within 24 hours of Musial's passing. During the 17 seasons he managed for the Orioles, the lovably cantankerous foot-stomper had a .583 winning percentage, with 1,480 victories, the 22nd highest total in history. He was 82 years old. See MLB.com. You might say that he played a similar role as Musial did in leading the team of a medium-size city to greatness beyond its size. The Orioles used to be the St. Louis Browns until they moved to Baltimore in 1954; that's an odd parallel with the passing of the greatest star from St. Louis.
For those who never had a chance to see Earl Weaver in action, like I did, and for those who want to remember, here's a good You Tube video, courtesy of The Church of Baseball on Facebook: "Earl Weaver Is Not Happy", when he was ejected by umpire Bill Haller. Weaver was bragging that he was going to be in the Hall of Fame, not exactly modest.
January 28, 2013 [LINK / comment]
NatsFest 2013: NL East champs!
I was in the Washington area on Saturday, and took advantage of the opportunity to attend "NatsFest,"the first time I had done so. It's basically a way to get the fans fired up for the forthcoming season by having the team members talk, mingle, and sign autographs. (You have to get a special "autograph voucher" months in advance, however.) The event was a big success, numbers-wise, and my guess of about 5,000 people in attendance turned out to be correct. (See WaPo article below.)
Outside it was bitterly cold, but inside the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, the air was heated by excited mobs of Nats fans scrambling to get a better view. At one point I had to wait in line over ten minutes because the room was filled to capacity. Good grief! It's a sign of the team's great achievements (and near-triumph) last year: Everybody loves a winner!
My impression was that the players are very confident in their prospects for defending the National League Eastern Division championship this year. It's hard to argue that they are the team to beat, but as we all know, injuries can change things dramatically during the regular season, and anything -- anything! -- can happen in the postseason.
The crowd gathers in eager anticipation at the stage in the main ballroom.
Even with the program, you can't tell which players are going to be in which places at which times, so getting good pictures was a matter of luck. At one point Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, Jordan Zimmermann were on the left side of the stage, and Gio Gonzalez, Tyler Clippard, and (I think) one other guy on the right side, but I couldn't get a decent photo of the latter group. I got a new camera with a 50x zoom lens for Christmas, and it came in handy on Saturday. I look forward to using it at Nats games this year. I added a big batch of photos from NatsFest to the Washington Nationals photo gallery page, including nine closeup photos of the players.
I caught the last part of General Manager Mike Rizzo's introduction of Dan Haren (pitcher) and Denard Span (outfielder) in the main ballroom. They represent the team owners' commitment to fielding a team capable of going all the way in the postseason. They are both happy to be playing for Washington.
Bryce Harper, Ian Desmond, and Jordan Zimmermann answering questions.
One of the big questions is how Drew Storen has handled the stunning loss to the Cardinals in the NLDS Game 5. I was pleased to see that he is as upbeat as ever, having put the whole mess behind him. Storen expressed appreciation for all the fan support, and remarked that he was caught be surprise by news that Rafael Soriano had been signed, taking Storen's place as the main closer. I hope they all get along... For more on the NatsFest event, see the Washington Post and MLB.com.
Two of the players sported a massive growth of facial hair: Jayson Werth and Danny Espinosa. With his long hair, Werth almost looks like a cave man. (Future commercials for GEICO?) From a closeup picture I took of Danny, I think it's pretty clear that he used dye to make his beard black. ("Does he or doesn't he? Only his hair dresser knows for sure." -- a TV ad from the 1960s) Evidently, he is emulating Brian Wilson and some of the other San Francisco Giants players who look like Russian Orthodox priests.
One of the big "headline" events was the introduction of the newest president: William H. "Bill" Taft, who succeeded Teddy Roosevelt in 1909. He then had a falling out with his fellow Republican, who then ran against him on the Bull Moose ticket in the 1912 election, which is how Democrat Woodrow Wilson got elected president. (See my Presidency reference page.) If I understand correctly, most of the presidents' races this year will feature a lot of rivalry between "Bill" and "Teddy." (I'll bet they're going to have an Excellent Adventure! )
William H. ("Bill") Taft is introduced to the audience, joining the other four presidents who are memorialized on Mount Rushmore.
My only big complaint was the long lines in the various food concession kiosks. I guess they didn't expect that many people to show up. Three times I gave up and went to a different line, only to wait even more. The pizza line was shorter, but all they had was cheese pizza, not the gourmet or pepperoni choices. It was pretty good, at least. Another minor gripe is the way the players were kept in groups of three or four, in rooms filled with hundreds of people. If they had them in groups of two or three, in more rooms, it would have been easier for more fans to get closer to the players.
The final event of the afternoon was a mock "Jeopardy" game, pitting Ross Detwiler against Drew Storen and Jayson Werth. Conceptually, it was a great idea, something that "Saturday Night Live" has parodied very well over the years, but some of the questions were absurdly trivial. For example, how many square feet are there in the main scoreboard at Nationals Park? Even I don't know that! The categories were:
- Nats Stats
- Nationals Park
- Davey's Locker
At one point Werth asked where Adam LaRoche was, making me wonder if he had been expected to attend. And what about Stephen Strasburg? Each player has contractual obligations to make a certain number of public appearances on behalf of the team each year, and in some cases such as with Ryan Zimmerman, they fulfill that duty with some kind of charity fund-raising event. Werth was really cracking a lot of jokes up there, adding to the festive spirit of the day. I was very impressed that at the end, he signed autographs for a bunch of people who were standing at the edge of the stage. He didn't have to do that, and it shows he cares about the fans. I was holding up an 8x10 print of the photo of him hitting a game-tying home run in the bottom of the ninth inning on September 8, but I just couldn't get close enough to the stage before he left. Oh well. Anyway, a good time was had by all!
Afterwards, while I was walking away from the Convention Center, I noticed that Jordan Zimmermann and a few friends were walking in the same direction, just a few feet away. That gave me a chance to get a better closeup photo of him than I had gotten when I was inside. The Washington Nationals page has been updated with the expected roster for 2013, and popup closeup photos for those players whom I photographed.
Natitude 2013: "Play it again, Sam!"
Aloha Stadium update
Just in time for Pro Bowl 2013 yesterday, I made some minor updates to the Aloha Stadium diagrams. The entry portals are now shown, a few minor corrections have been made, and of course, new data on the number of grandstand rows and fair and foul territory are now shown. The Pro Bowl was actually pretty interesting for most of the first half, but the NFC just blew the AFC away in the second half, winning by a score of 62-35.
And of course, I expect to have the Superdome diagrams updated in time for this Sunday's Super Bowl game.