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January 20, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Crosley Field crazy update!

Crosley Field

Almost eleven years after the last such update, the Crosley Field diagrams are now 100% up to my highest standards of accuracy and detail. Separate brand-new diagrams for the upper and lower decks show the positions of the structural beams and entry portals, which are important benchmarks for getting other details just right. Everything was going smoothly and I thought I was all done three days ago, but then I noticed a small discrepancy that almost drove me crazy, as I will explain below. Once again, several straight days and nights of photographic scrutiny and pixel-tweaking finally paid off with a worthwhile result.

Right off the bat (!), you'll probably notice the inclusion of peripheral fences and buildings such as the clubhouses where the two teams went to shower after the games. Another obvious difference is the fact that the rear portion of the grandstand consists of distinct line segments rather than a continuous curve. Crosley Field was like Fenway Park in that respect. To compare the new diagram to the old, you can roll the mouse over the thumbnail image above, or click on the diagram on that page. (Clicking on the thumbnail above will display the "intermediate" diagram revision of 2013, which I never released because of lingering doubts.)

Among the recent "discoveries" I have made, the original (1912) distance to the backstop was about 80 feet, not 38 feet as reported in Green Cathedrals (2006), by Phil Lowry. That's a rather large difference: more than double! It all stems from the not taking into account the fact that Redland Field (as it was originally called) was much smaller until 1927, when approximately 13 rows of seats were added in front of the grandstand (excluding the pavilions extending along the foul lines). Likewise, my estimate of the backstop distance as of 1927 is 72 feet (rather than 58 feet), and almost the same for the latter years: 73 feet (rather than 78 feet). It remains an open question exactly when they added extra rows of seats in front of the pavilions. Based on the drawings I have seen, I'm pretty sure it was after 1927, but no later than 1935, when lights for night games were first installed.

I also noticed that the inner fence that reduced the distance to right field by about 20 feet from 1942 to 1950, and from 1953 to 1957, was not parallel to the front side of the bleachers. The gap gradually narrowed as the fence approached center field. In addition, for some years there was a bend in that inner fence toward the center field side, so that it intersected with the regular fence at the corner where the light tower was. Furthermore, the flag pole that was originally located near that corner was moved toward the scoreboard left of center field in 1939, more or less. By 1942 it was enclosed by a small fence, and any ball going into that area was a ground rule double.

Another small detail I just discovered was that the roof did not cover the front row of seats in the upper deck. The roof on the main portion of the grandstand (near the infield) was nearly flat, whereas the roof above the portions of the grandstand extending toward the respective foul poles (and of the single-deck pavilions before 1939) were slightly peaked toward the front.

The angst-inducing discrepancy I discovered late in the process involved the position of the two dugouts relative to the diamond. I knew that the foul territory was bigger on the first base side than on the third base side, but the extended baselines intersected the dugouts at the wrong position. Did I need to reposition the whole grandstand to make it right? Fortunately, no. I discovered that the third-base side dugout was about 10-12 feet farther from the corner of the backstop than the one on the first-base side. Problem solved!

Another trivial discovery late in the process was that there was no sidewalk at all behind the left field wall! You can see this in the "the site today" diagram, which shows that York Street was virtually flush against the stadium. There was probably nothing more than a curb and gutter.

As for the diagrams themselves, they now include the height of the outfield wall and the grass slope in front of them, as well as the huge "L"-shaped wall near the right field foul pole. Just for the heck of it, I also included a football diagram variant, since they did play semi-professional football at Crosley Field for a few years in the late 1930s and early 1940s. It is purely conjectural, however, as I have never seen such a photograph or text description of the gridiron layout. (And speaking of football, those were quite dramatic and controversial NFC and AFC championship games today, weren't they?)

In my haste to finish rendering diagrams over the past few months, I have neglected to calculate revised estimates of fair and foul territory. I just did so for Crosley Field, and fair territory comes out to 106,700 square feet, the same as before. Foul territory is now 30,400 rather than 31,300 square feet, but that may go back up again if I get a clearer view of the right field corner, which is a bit of a mystery.

It was a bit nostalgic for me to read about the stadium page upgrades on that 2008 blog post mentioned at the top. Believe it or not, this leaves only four stadiums remaining on my diagram update priority list: Griffith Stadium, Yankee Stadium, Olympic Stadium, and Forbes Field! I currently plan to make Forbes Field my last one, but I'm famous for changing plans, so who knows? In any case, I'm getting ready for a big celebration when all that is over and done with...

Stadium upgrades: 1920s-1940s

It is curious that, whereas Crosley Field was the last of the Classic Era and Early Modern ballparks (1909-1932) to undergo a major expansion (1939), it was nevertheless the very first one to have light towers installed for night games (1935). This made for an awkward situation when they began the expansion work, as the light towers that had just been built on top of the single-decked pavilions along the first and third base sides had to be removed before construction began.

The table below compares when the expansions and light tower installations took place at the 15 stadiums in this group, in order of when the first major expansion occurred. It includes alternate names in cases where the changes took place while a different name was in use. (Baker Bowl is excluded from this listing, as it was not expanded significantly during this period, and never had lights installed.) Crosley Field was called "Redland Field" until 1934, when manufacturing entrepreneur Powell Crosley bought the team and stadium. It was at his initiative that major league baseball embarked on the new era of night games under the lights.

Stadium name When was it EXPANDED? When were LIGHTS installed?
League Park 1920 * NA
Griffith Stadium 1921, 1924 *, 1925 1941
Polo Grounds 1923 1940
Wrigley Field 1923 *, 1928, 1938 * 1988
Shibe Park 1925 1939
Forbes Field 1925 1940
Sportsman's Park 1926 1940
Navin Field / Briggs (Tiger) Stadium 1926, 1938 1948
Comiskey Park 1927 1939
Yankee Stadium 1928, 1938 1946
Ebbets Field 1932 1938
Fenway Park 1934 1947
Crosley Field 1939 1935
Cleveland (Municipal) Stadium NA 1939
Braves Field NA 1946

* Expansion involved the lower deck (including bleachers) only. All other expansions listed above included the extension of an existing upper deck, or the construction of a new upper deck where none existed before.

The mail bag??

Mike Zurawski let me know about further progress on the "Ballpark Village" across the street from Busch Stadium (III) in St. Louis. See I need to incorporate that into my diagrams at some point...

Slowly but surely, I will get to the other e-mails I have received. Trying to focus my brain and get these diagrams done and still communicate with normal human beings can get to be a challenge sometimes. Thank you for your patience and understanding!

January 13, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Brian Dozier joins the Nats

In yet another roster-building coup for Washington's General Manager Mike Rizzo, infielder Brian Dozier agreed to a one-year contract worth $9 million with the Nationals. There is no optional extension. Dozier will become the Nats' regular second baseman, with Howie Kendrick as the presumable backup, depending on his health. By next year, minor league hot prospect Spencer Kieboom is expected to be ready to fill that position. Dozier came up from the minors with the Minnesota Twins in 2012, and from 2014 through 2018 (five straight years), he hit over 20 home runs, peaking at 41 in 2016. His batting average has not been spectacular, and dropped to just .215 last year, but he does have the slugging power that the Nats will need if Bryce Harper does not sign with the team. See the Washington Post sports section for this story and for the one below.

As a veteran who has avoided serious injury throughout his seven-year career, Dozier seems like a safe bet with a big potential for improvement. He turns age 32 in May, perhaps in the prime of his career. He reminds me a lot of Daniel Murphy, the second baseman who wasn't considered worth a big raise by the Mets front office at the end of the 2015 season. They bitterly regretted letting him go after the Nationals snatched him up. Like Murphy, Dozier combines steady reliability with flashes of excellence in clutch situations. In the 2015 All-Star Game, Dozier hit a solo homer, helping the American League to win, and in a preseason exhibition game at Nationals Park in 2016 he also homered. The acquisition of Dozier essentially plugs the final remaining gap in the Nats' lineup for 2019, leaving Bryce Harper and the back end of the pitching rotation as the only big question marks for the roster as spring training approaches. So, I have made a tentative update to the Washington Nationals page.

The fact that the New York Yankees signed free agent D.J. LeMahieu essentially rules them out as prospective suitors for Bryce Harper. He just had talks with the Phillies, and Mets have been rumored to be in the running, but this drama may drag out for a few more weeks...

Rendon, Turner come to terms

It was a big relief that Anthony Rendon and Trea Turner both came to terms with the Nationals front office. Rendon will get $18.8 million this year, while Turner will get $3.725 million. Rendon became a regular with the Nats in 2013, playing second base and then moving to third base after Ryan Zimmerman was reassigned to first base. Other than spending the first half of the 2015 season on the disabled list, he has been steady and extremely productive both in the batter's box and on the field in a defensive capacity. With a .308 batting average last year, he really should have made the All-Star Game. He will turn 29 in June. Turner has likewise proven to be a star-quality player, with the added advantage of high speed on the base paths. I was fortunate to see him debut in the majors on August 21, 2015. At age 25, he has a great career ahead of him.

[UPDATE: I neglected to mention that one other arbitration-eligible player, pitcher Joe Ross, also came to terms a day earlier and will thus avoid arbitration; he will get $1 million this year. Two arbitration-eligible Nationals could not come to terms, and their future with the franchise is uncertain: outfielder Michael A. Taylor and relief pitcher Kyle Barraclough.

Ballpark news roundup

I learned from Mike Zurawski that the Tampa Bay Rays are closing down the seldom-needed upper deck at Tropicana Field to create a more "intimate" experience. This will reduce capacity from about 31,000 to a little over 25,000. (The original capacity was 45,200.) See So, I added a new diagram variant to the Tropicana Field page, with the upper deck colored gray to indicate that it's currently out of use. I may tweak some of those diagrams in the next couple weeks... The Rays are thus following the lead of the Oakland Athletics, who closed the entire upper deck of Oakland Coliseum in 2006, but reversed course in April 2017 when they resumed selling cheap upper-deck tickets once again. It's not an encouraging sign, but as Mike Zurawski points out, the Rays get a bigger-than-average portion of their revenues from television rights, and that will not be affected.

Yet another MLB stadium is in the midst of changing its name for the 2019 season: The Giants' AT&T Park will [henceforth] be called "Oracle Park" from now on, under the terms of a hefty 20-year, $200 million contract. As such deals go, this one seems pretty legit. See Coming so soon after Safeco Field was renamed "T-Mobile Park," however, I became a bit annoyed at having to update the Stadium names [link corrected] page once again. It's rather unwieldy to maintain, and isn't very useful anyway, so I got ambitious all of a sudden and created a new, much improved page: Stadium names chronology. The old page (listed in alphabetical order) will remain at least for the time being.

In case you were worried about the Los Angeles Angels becoming "homeless" next year (see Dec. 1), rest assured, they agreed to terms to renew their existing lease agreement for one year. After that, who knows? See [These last two news items are likewise courtesy of Mike Zurawski.]

And speaking of "homeless" pro sports teams, the Oakland Raiders may not have any place to play next year, as the City of Oakland leaders are (understandably) angry that the Raiders are leaving town in 2020 to take up residence in Las Vegas. One rumored temporary "home" for the Raiders is San Diego, where QualComm Stadium (or whatever they call it now) is in a virtual state of "limbo," hosting just a few college games each fall.

I see from the clock that it's time for football. Catch you later, sports fans!

January 9, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Field trip to Highland County

This past Sunday, January 6 (Day of the Epiphany!), I joined Allen Larner and two other members of the Augusta Bird Club on a field trip to Highland County. (The club generally has a trip there each June and January.) The weather forecast was excellent, with clear skies and temperatures in the 50s, but it turned out to be rather breezy, probably reducing the number of birds we saw. We departed Staunton at 8:05, reached Monterey at about 9:30 and headed north to the Blue Grass area. It was slow going at first, with hardly any birds at the former home of the O'Bryans, on the Virginia-West Virginia line. After we drove a few miles to the west side of Snowy Mountain, however, we spotted three Golden Eagles in the distance. My photos of them were barely even identifiable, but soon thereafter, we spotted a young Golden Eagle swooping over a field to the west and being harrassed by two Red-tailed Hawks, with the sunlight at a perfect angle for photos! I finally realized one of my fondest photographic ambitions, getting good-quality photos of that species, at a relatively short range. I estimate the raptors were only about 100 yards away. It was almost exactly six years ago that I first photographed a Golden Eagle (from quite a distance) with my then-brand-new Canon PowerShot SX50 camera!

Next we headed south through the village of New Hampden, but didn't see much there, so we continued farther south. We went looking for a Loggerhead Shrike that was reported on Dug Bank Road, without success. Striking out again and again, we decided to go to Bath County, much farther to the south. At a farm pond along Route 220 we finally saw a big cluster of interesting birds: Common Mergansers, Hooded Mergansers, Ring-necked Ducks, and various other ducks and geese. It was there that we saw a young Bald Eagle to the southeast, toward the sunlight, so it was hard to get a good view. Next we drove to Lake Moomaw, and on the way in we saw lots of Juncos, White-breasted Nuthatches, a Winter Wren (glimpse), Brown Creeper, and Golden-crowned Kinglet. On the lake itself there were seven Horned Grebes and three Buffleheads, but not much else.

Montage 06 Jan 2019

FROM TOP LEFT: Golden Eagle (imm.), Hooded Merganser (M), American Kestrel (F), Horned Grebe, Common Merganser (M), Golden-crowned Kinglet, and in center, Bald Eagle (imm.). (January 6, 2018)
Roll mouse over the image to see a larger view of the Golden Eagle.

One of the biggest surprises of the day came near the end of our visit to Lake Moomaw. We saw some strange tiny critters swooping all around the road we were driving on, and quickly realized what they were: bats! We stopped two or three times so that I could try to get some photos, but it turned out to be almost futile, as those little things are not only fast, they change direction instantaneously! But at least I captured a few recognizable images, good enough to identify the species:

Bats montage

Eastern Red Bats, near Lake Moomaw. (January 6, 2019)

Our return trip home was relatively uneventful, and we didn't even stop at Augusta Springs or Swoope, both of which we passed along the way.

Evening Grosbeaks? No.

On December 29, I drove up to the Union Springs area in Rockingham County, in hopes of seeing the Evening Grosbeaks that had been reported there by Kevin Shank. (He is a nature photographer who publishes an excellent magazine called Nature Friend.) I spent about two hours there, but it wasn't my day. I did see lots of Juncos, Goldfinches, and other birds, at least.

Montage 29 Dec 2018

FROM TOP LEFT: Black-capped Chickadee, American Kestrel (F), Tufted Titmouse, American Goldfinch, and Red-bellied Woodpecker. (December 29, 2018)
Roll mouse over the image to see a larger view of the Golden Eagle.

Additional photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

January 9, 2019 [LINK / comment]

Polo Grounds: a massive update

As befitting the massive size of the original structure itself, the just-completed Polo GroundsPolo Grounds diagram revisions were of a truly monumental scale. Ironically, the overall size and shape of the stadium and field did not change very much compared to the last Polo Grounds diagram update in August 2007 (11 1/2 years ago!!??), but the inclusion of numerous new details and additional diagram variants for different years really added up. As always, historical information (photos and text) from Bruce Orser proved invaluable, and for the first time, I got some helpful tips from Angel Amezquita.

So, what changed? For one thing, the light towers (eight of them in all, built in 1940) were included for the first time. Note that three of the four pairs were laterally symmetrical, but that two of them (overlooking the power alleys) differed from each other, for reasons to be explained. Second, I discovered after doing some careful measurements that the bleachers and adjacent grandstand in center field were about 15 feet deeper than I previously estimated. As if they needed more seats in those extremely remote parts of the ballpark! When games were sold out, some fans had to sit over 570 feet away from home plate! Third, many more peripheral structures are now depicted: the small buildings behind the center field bleachers in the 1913 diagram, and the access ramps leading down from "The Speedway" that ran along the crest of Coogan's Bluff.

For the first time, the diagrams include multiple profiles, to more clearly illustrate how different parts of the grandstand differed from each other. There are now separate diagrams for the upper deck and lower deck, showing where the entry portals and structural beams were located. One detail in the upper deck is worth highlighting: the diagonal lines which separated the relatively steep portion (about three-fourths of the stadium) from the much shallower portions in the left-center and right-center corners. Those lines were angled in such a way so as to enable the fans in the more distant seats to at least see home plate, even if first base or third place were blocked from their view by the steeper-graded seating section to their right (or left). Finally, I have yet to finish a diagram for "the site today," but that will appear in due course. (Likewise for Metropolitan Stadium, as I indicated recently.)

Clearly depicting the awkward situation in which part of the field is covered by an upper deck of seats has long been a challenge for me. As with the recent diagram updates for Tiger Stadium and Shibe Park, I am experimenting with new graphical cues in the Polo Grounds diagrams to indicate that the outfield fence, foul line, etc. lies underneath. Some diagrams depict overhangs with lavender color, and others retain the color of the roof, etc., depicting details below with black or dark gray lines.

[According to Philip Lowry's Green Cathedrals, [home plate] at the Polo Grounds was moved forward in some years, and backwards in others, possibly accounting for the variations in the distance to center field over the years. But it also states that the foul poles remained in the same place, which would mean that the diamond would no longer be a square, and I find that rather hard to swallow. For the time being, I'm "agnostic" on changes in Polo Grounds dimensions other than those in 1962, when the New York Mets were born. Those changes in dimension seem consistent and very plausible.]

[Finally, note that only the first-deck diagram shows details in the bullpens. With the overhanging second deck, trying to depict all the details would result in confusing clutter.]

College football bowl games

Congratulations to the CLEMson Tigers for winning the College Football National Championship game in Levi's Stadium (home of the Santa Clara / San Francisco 49ers) on Monday night! It was their second win in the last three years, and it was the third year of the last four that the two same teams were featured in the final game. This time the Tigers literally crushed the Alabama Crimson Tide, 44-16. Clemson had beaten Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl (which hasn't been played in the stadium called the "Cotton Bowl" since 2009), and Alabama had beaten [Oklahoma] Miami in the Orange Bowl (which wasn't played in the stadium called the "Orange Bowl" from 2000 until it was demolished in 2009).

One of the recent Christmas season traditions is the proliferation of often-irrelevant college bowl games, which serve in effect as "participation trophies" for the also-ran teams. For example, on December 20 Marshall beat South Florida in the Gasparilla Bowl, formerly called the St. Petersburg Bowl, and probably other names before that. For the first time since 2008, when that bowl was launched, that it was played in Raymond James Stadium rather than Tropicana Field. I believe the only current MLB stadium that hosts college football bowl games is Yankee Stadium II, where the Pinstripe Bowl was played on December 27. This year the University of Virginia (which briefly reached the national Top 25 last fall) played in the Belk Bowl in Bank of America Stadium in downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. The UVa Cavaliers swamped the South Carolina Gamecocks, 28-0. Wa-hoo-wa!

Harper: waiting game

According to rumors circulating over the past week, the Washington Nationals made a significantly bigger contract offer to Bryce Harper. At this point, he seems more likely to stay with the Nationals than join some other team, but it's really anybody's guess. The signing of Alex Rodriguez by the Texas Rangers in [January 2001], and of Albert Pujols by the L.A. Angels in [December 2011], are just two examples of how owners can do serious damage to their franchise by wasting money on superstars who no longer have the motivation to perform at championship caliber. I think Bryce Harper is better than that, but spending over $300 million on a single player is extremely risky. Plus, inflated payrolls lead to inflated ticket prices.

But my main concern about paying Harper too much is that it might make it hard to keep third baseman Anthony Rendon for the long term. The Nats made a qualifying offer to Rendon, who is eligible for arbitration if negotiations fail. As a very reliable slugger and fielder who probably deserved to be on the All-Star team last year, he is worth at least one-third of what Harper is worth. But will he get paid accordingly?

December 31, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Election 2018:
Will the "blue wave" bring the balance back?

Well, this awful year is just about over with, so I figured I ought to at least record a few thoughts about recent developments in the wonderful world of politics. (See note at bottom.) So we had a big election last month, and the American people made their (hopelessly divided) collective voice heard! As expected, the Democrats picked up enough seats to retake control of the House of Representatives, but the Republicans held on to the Senate, and actually picked up a couple seats there. The widely-heralded "blue tsunami" in favor of the Democratic Party fell short of what anti-Trump people were hoping for. Midterm elections typically go against the party of the incumbent president, and as such reversals go, this one was pretty mild.

Nevertheless, the Democrats did regain a majority in the House for the first time since 2010 (with a 233-200 margin), and in three more days, Nancy Pelosi will become speaker of the House once again. (She previously served in the last two years of the Bush Jr. administration, and the first two years of the Obama administration.) It was amusing to see the Democrats bicker over who should lead them during the next two years, as the division between the mainstream and "progressive" wings of the party is nearly as great as is the corresponding division on the Republican side. Pelosi will turn 79 on March 26, and it's not very often that someone continues such a leadership role in Congress into their eighties -- much less a woman!

The fight among Democrats was in part a reflection of the fact that they lack any semblance of a coherent policy agenda, and there is zero consensus on which way the party should head in the years to come. (Of course, the same thing could be said of Republicans.) What unites Democrats is not so much a commitment to a particular course of policy action but rather a fervent attachment to the politics of "identity," drawing attention to all sorts of perceived injustices that hardly anyone even dreamed about ten or twenty years ago.

On the Senate side, Mitch McConnell is straining to maintain a semblance of order in the face of a continued onslaught of disruption brought about by the White House. As the archetypal insider "establishment" figure, he symbolizes the "Swamp" upon which Trump supporters routinely heap their scorn. As a central figure in the Senate Republicans' decision to block the confirmation process for President Obama's Supreme Court justice Merrick Garland in 2016, he his hated with a passion by many Democrats. I have no strong opinion on him either way; he usually gets the job done, and that's what's most important. With a 53-47 majority in the Senate (up from 51-49 before), he won't have quite as much trouble getting bills and procedural motions passed as before.

It is fitting to pay (ironic) respect to outgoing Speaker of the House Paul Ryan. Eight years ago he was the up-and-coming face of a dynamic policy-focused leadership in the Republican Party. Six years ago, he was candidate for vice president on the ticket with Mitt Romney. Three years ago he replaced John Boehner as House speaker after a rebellion by the GOP Tea Party faction -- the precursor to the Trumpista movement. And then two years ago, he turned into the symbol of the hopelessly ineffectual mainstream Republican leaders who were blindsided by the Trump movement. From one day to the next, he wasn't sure whether to resist Trump or try to work with him, and in the end he was consumed. I had such high hopes for him at one time, so I try to be a little more charitable than the many analysts who bitterly deride him for appeasing Trump.

So did President Trump drag Republicans down to defeat? In some cases yes, but for the most part, the Trump Effect was relatively muted. His unpopularity among suburban Washington establishment types no doubt led to the defeat of incumbent Republican Barbara Comstock, but that is merely a manifestation of the long-term trend toward intensified polarization in the American body politic. The largely white, rural, southern and midwestern America of yesteryear feels besieged by the multi-ethnic, urban, Atlantic/Pacific America of the (apparent) future. As well it should. But that theme of this year's election campaign will have to be explored at some other time...

Virginia turns solid blue

Virginia was among the notable exceptions to the general trend of a mild shift toward the Democrats. Here in the Old Dominion, it was a veritable Blue Tsunami. The Democrats "flipped" three of the state's eleven House districts in their favor: in the 2nd District, Elain Luria beat incumbent Scott Taylor 51-49%, in the 7th District, Abigail Spanberger beat incumbent Dave Brat 50-48%, and in the 10th District, Jennifer Wexton beat incumbent Barbara Comstock by a stunning 56-44% margin. These results may reflect the court-ordered redistricting, and indeed the aggregate statewide voting percentages did not swing nearly as sharply as the number of House seats (7 R, 4 D before; 4 R, 7 D now) would indicate. But when you consider that both U.S. Senate seats are firmly under Democratic control (Tim Kaine easily beat back a challenge by Corey Stewart), and all three executive offices in Richmond are in Democratic hands, the magnitude of the reversal in political fortunes since 2012 or so is almost incomprehensible.

Virginia Congress 2018 Map

Roll your mouse over the map to compare to the 2016 election; click on it to restore the 2018 map.

District Republican % Democrat %
1 Wittman * 55.18% Williams 44.70%
2 Taylor * 48.83% FLIP -->     Luria 51.03%
3 (write in) 8.78% Scott * 91.22%
4 McAdams 36.06% McEachin * 62.46%
5 Riggleman 53.18% Cockburn 46.64%
6 Cline 59.89% Lewis 40.00%
7 Brat * 48.43% FLIP -->     Spanberger 50.32%
8 Oh 23.61% Beyer * 76.17%
9 Griffith * 65.17% Flaccavento 34.75%
10 Comstock * 43.74% FLIP -->     Wexton 56.09%
11 Dove 26.94% Connolly * 71.10%

Asterisk ( * ): incumbent; Winning candidates are highlighted with an orange background.

The Politics in Virginia page has been updated to show the new and returning members of the House from Virginia as of next January.

Democrats surge in Virginia

In the November 2017 elections in Virginia, Democrats made a spectacular gain, going from a near-hopeless 2-1 disadvantage (66-34) to virtual parity (51-49). Hardly anyone expected such a huge swing in the balance of party power. The Republicans retained a 21-19 majority in the Senate. In the governor's race, which was expected to be close, Ralpha Northam easily beat Ed Gillespie, by a 53.90% to 44.97% margin. In the race for Lieutenant Governor, Democrat Justin E. Fairfax beat Republican Jill H. Vogel by 52.72% to 47.18%, while incumbent Attorney General Mark Herring (Democrat) beat challenger John D. Adams (Republican) 53.34% to 46.56%; (see Gillespie had been weakened by a stiff challenge from Corey Stewart, a big Trump supporter who recently announced he will leave the statewide political scene.

Beginning in January 2018, Kirk Cox replaced the retiring William Howell as Speaker of the Virginia House of Delegates.

Political info page updates

All of the political information pages have been updated:

R.I.P. George H. W. Bush (1926-2018)

George H. W. Bush

President George H. W. Bush
(Photo from the National Archives.)

President George Herbert Walker Bush passed away on November 30, a little over seven months after his wife Barbara died. It was not unexpected, as Bush had a health emergency during the early summer, and at age 92 he had already led a very full life. The funeral and related memorial observances were a touching reminder that, not long ago, this country was united by certain basic norms and customs. The awkward presence of President Trump at the funeral in Washington National Cathedral served to punctuate just how badly frayed our body politic has become.

The elder President Bush (#41, in slang parlance) was born into wealth and privilege but answered the call of duty in World War II, becoming a Navy pilot who was shot down after flying many combat missions. After the war, he chose to seek his own fortune in the oil business, taking his wife Barbara to raise a family on the hot plains of Texas. He had mixed success in business, but struck it rich in politics, where he battled his way into the U.S. House of Representatives, refusing to be discouraged by an early defeat. Impressing people in the Nixon administration, he was appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and as Director of Central Intelligence. He ran for president in 1980, representing the moderate faction of the party, and after he was defeated by Ronald Reagan in the primary campaign, he accepted the #2 position as vice presidential candidate. He didn't seem to have a great deal of influence in the Reagan administration, but he was rewarded by "inheriting" the presidential nomination in 1988, handily beating Democratic Mike Dukakis.

As president, Bush assembled one of the finest group of cabinet officials and advisors that this country has ever had: James Baker as Secretary of State, Dick Cheney as Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Brent Scowcroft as National Security Advisor. (I had a great deal of admiration for Cheney back then, and I often wonder if he became more harsh and conniving as a result of the 9/11 attacks.) That team was the subject of Bob Woodward's book The Commanders, which focused on the decision-making by the first Bush administration following the seizure of Kuwait by Iraq in the summer of 1990, leading up to the triumphant military liberation campaign known as Desert Storm in January and February of 1991. But for all his strategic acumen, Bush lacked political savvy, and turned a blind eye to the emerging economic problems in 1992. His challenger in that year's election campaign, Bill Clinton, capitalized on Bush's Achilles heel with the simplistic but effective slogan, "It's the economy, stupid." And that's how Bush went into early retirement.

As president, Bush was the subject of bitter Democratic scorn, notwithstanding his repeated efforts to meet the opposition half way. He was responsible for landmark policy initiatives such as the Clean Air Act and reform of the financial sector, but every time he paid a heavy price. The widespread cynical response by many Democrats to his uplifting exhortation about "1000 points of light" was just plain awful. I bet they regret that now. It may not be too far off base to suggest that the origins of the fury toward Democrats exhibited by many contemporary Republicans was the unfair way that Bush Senior was treated. It was while he was president that I began shifting from the Democratic side to the Republican side, and to this day I regret not voting for him at least once.

The last former president to pass away was Gerald Ford, on December 26, 2006. (See my tribute December 27, 2006. I updated my Presidency page accordingly.

George H. W. Bush was the only president (or president-to-be) whom I ever saw clearly with my own eyes. I may have caught a distant glimpse of Ronald Reagan at his second inaugural (January 20, 1985), but I definitely saw his second-in-command, George Bush, during a parade in honor of the hostages freed from Iran, along Pennsylvania Avenue a few days after the 1981 inauguration. Bush was standing on the steps on the side of one of the buses carrying the freed hostages, waving in a gleeful way that struck me as just a little awkward given the circumstances.

As a final note, Bush the Elder may represent the last of a dying breed: the male White Anglo-Saxon Protestant (Episcopalian!) Eastern Establishment Republicans who used to run this country. Most Republicans today look down upon the privileged elites, and in return, most elites regard Republicans with deep disdain or even contempt. It is another manifestation of the ongoing flip-flop in party identity, as the populist strain in the conservative movement seeks to recruit from a demographic segment (e.g., coal miners in Appalachia) that was once solidly in the Democratic camp.

R.I.P. John S. McCain (1936-2018)

In late August it was announced that Senator John McCain was ending treatment for his brain tumor, about a year after his condition was made public. Within a few days came word that he had passed away at the age of 81. As a former war hero (having been captured by the North Vietnamese after his jet fighter was shot down), McCain commanded a degree of respect that few other politicians in Washington enjoy. He was not the smoothest of characters, and his temper got the best of him from time to time, but for the most part was was good-natured and well-liked. On several occasions, he was able to serve as a mediator in the U.S. Senate, such as when the "Gang of 14" forged a compromise in May 2005.

But the very word compromise has come to be regarded as inherently evil by many people these days. Indeed, the fact that McCain has been alternately praised and scorned in the wake of his passing says a lot about the fractured polity in the United States today. McCain was always regarded with suspicion by many in the Republican Party's right wing, and I myself had my doubts about him. His vote not to repeal Obamacare last year was regarded as unforgiveable by many, but without a replacement plan at hand, such a policy move would indeed be risky. He wasn't the ideal presidential candidate in 2008, and the economic circumstances probably doomed his chances in any event, but I was still proud to vote for him. May he rest in peace.

Coincidentally, when Jacqueline and I were in Annapolis last August, we saw a photo of John McCain in a display at the visitor center of the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated in 1958. Unbeknownst to me at the time, McCain had decided that his final resting place would be at the U.S. Naval Academy cemetery. Next time we go there, I'll make sure to pay respects at his grave site.

USNA cemetery, Severn River

U.S. Naval Academy cemetery, seen from Severn River. (August 19)

Politics blog hiatus

I was surprised to realize that I haven't blogged on politics since January 28, 2018, almost a year ago. Maybe I'm taking my song "Better Left Unsaid" too seriously! Truth be told, I'm among those who has become deeply discouraged about American politics in the Era of Trump. Is there a place for independent-minded people who try to find points of common purpose in the ongoing political melee? I often wonder. Perhaps in another year things will get better, but for the mean time, I do not count on my opinions carrying much weight.

December 31, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Shibe Park (surprise) update!

In yet another interruption of my vain hopes for finishing up diagram revisions by the end of the year, I made some revisions to the Shibe Park Shibe Park diagrams. The latter years hardly changed at at, but there were some significant improvements in accuracy and detail for the earlier years, especially 1913 and 1923. In order to get the placement of things like the scoreboard as exact as possible, I included the small buttresses in front of the outfield wall, at regular intervals of about 16 feet. (They were covered up by the enlarged wall built in 1935.) Once I realized I could use those tiny notches as a "ruler," everything became much easier.

That page also has a "the site today" diagram, showing a crude layout of Deliverance Evangelistic Church on top of Shibe Park / Connie Mack Stadium. The previous diagram update for Shibe Park was on Feb. 11, 2016.

This revision was prompted by two e-mail messages I received earlier this year. First, Eric Raudenbush sent me newspaper items that explain clearly how the bleachers in left field were modified prior to the 1923 season. Basically, the first six rows of benches plus the walkway in front were removed, thereby shifting the left field wall back by 18 feet. This clears up what had been a difficult mystery; back in 2006, ballpark expert Ron Selter had inferred from the drop in home runs in 1923 that home plate must have been moved backward by 21 feet. Now we know that home plate did not change (at least not in that year), but that the distances to left field did increase by approximately the amount he estimated. One of those articles indicated that the bleachers were also extended all the way to center field at that time. Yet unresolved is whether the bizarre forward shift in home plate in 1926 cited by Philip Lowry's Green Cathedrals (both the 1992 and 2006 editions) is real or not. Given that the 1923 change was motivated in part by a desire to reduce the number of easy home runs to left field, I have a hard time believing that they would reverse course in such a drastic fashion only three years later. Stay tuned!

Second, Terry Wallace sent me a photo of Shibe Park taken in October 1914, probably during the World Series (the "Miracle Braves" of Boston vs. Philadelphia Athletics). It shows clearly that there was a wall between the left field bleachers and the right field wall, enclosing the center field corner where the "flag pole" was. It was actually a tower with four corners, rather odd for that purpose. It looks like a small oil derrick. After considerable time comparing that photos to others I have seen, I concluded that the hitherto-unknown center field wall was the same distance from the outer wall behind the left field bleachers as was the very short wall or fence between those bleachers and the grandstand near the left field corner. As it turns out, that wall (probably a strutural element in the bleachers) ended up being the left field wall after those bleachers were reduced in size in 1923.

Putting those two crucial clues together reconciled a lot of conflicting information. It also erased any doubt as to whether the old (1910/1913) bleachers were replaced or simply added onto vertically. After looking at details such as the location of the entry portals, I am satisfied that the latter conjecture is much more likely.

The mail bag

Thanks again to Eric Raudenbush and Terry Wallace for their very helpful information summarized above. But there's more!

Christopher George asked if I know the actual roof height of old Comiskey Park. He has seen figures of 75 feet and 74. I replied that my diagram indicates the front edge is 78 feet tall, which would be a couple feet higher than the rear. Further checking may be necessary, but for now that's close enough.

Finally, Mike Zurawski sends word that Commissioner Manfred is exploring the possibility of expanding Major League Baseball from 30 to 32 teams, but only after Oakland and Tampa Bay get new stadiums approved. See That could be a while... Portland and Montreal were among the cities he mentioned as possible homes for new MLB franchises. There's more news from Mike that I have not had the time to absorb as of yet...

Who's Who?

After my father passed away two years ago, my siblings and I went through his precious possessions, including his archives of Chicago Cubs and Nebraska Cornhusker memorabilia. Among the more fascinating finds were these copies of issues Who's Who magazine. Unless I am mistaken, Who's Who ceased print publication after the 2016 edition, when Bryce Harper appeared on the cover. I bought myself a copy, not realizing that it would turn out to be the final edition.

Who's Who in Baseball 1926-1946

Who's Who in Baseball: Max Carey (1926), Dizzy Dean (1935), Jimmy Fox (1939), Hal Newhouser (1946), and Bob Feller (1941).

New Year's Eve!

At the stroke of midnight, my Baseball blog page will cease displaying the 2018 postseason series scores (at the bottom) and will begin displaying a countdown of the days remaining until the umpires make the official "Play ball!" shout in 15 stadiums across the country. Opening Day in 2019 will be early: March 28. That's less than three months from now!!!

Happy New Year, baseball fans!

December 27, 2018 [LINK / comment]

Christmas Bird Count 2018

The weather was pretty lousy for this year's Christmas Bird Count, which is why I didn't get started until mid-morning. But at least it didn't rain much, contrary to the bleak forecasts. I covered mostly the same areas in Staunton that I did last year, leaving out Gypsy Hill Park and adding Bell's Lane:

It was slow going at first in Montgomery Hall Park, but I was surprised to see so many Bluebirds. Since it was so muddy from all the rain of the night before, I didn't walk very much away from the paved streets. Getting nice views of two Flickers was a nice treat as well. The higher I drove up the hill where the picnic areas are, the foggier it became. Visibility was so poor at the top that you could barely see more than a quarter mile. I spotted a Red-tailed Hawk in a tree top about 150 yards away, but it got away just before I could snap a photo.

Then I drove to Betsy Bell Hill, where there were several Juncos on the ground, as well as various woodpeckers and White-breasted Nuthatches. Just before I was about to leave I was startled to hear an odd, high-pitch song. I looked up in the trees and saw two Brown Creepers chasing each other. That was quite a treat! I also saw a probable Ruby-crowned Kinglet high in the tree tops. I followed it to try to see whether it had the black facial markings of a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and I'm almost certain that it did not.

The next stop was the Frontier Culture Museum, fairly close as the crow flies, but over a mile if you are driving in a car. I finally saw Blue Jays, Mockingbirds, and Robins there, as well as two Field Sparrows and two distant House Finches. For the second year in a row, I didn't see any Bluebirds in that area, even though it features many Bluebird boxes that are part of an effort to conserve that species. There weren't any ducks or geese on the two ponds, either. Then I headed over to nearby Starbucks for hot coffee and a danish to warm up and rebuild my energy reserves.

My fourth and final area to cover was Bell's Lane. (Due to the weather, I just didn't bother with Gypsy Hill Park.) In the bushes along the road, I saw several Cardinals and Carolina Wrens, and I saw three Mallards in the overflowing stream, and 13 Canada Geese flying overhead. I saw ten White-throated Sparrows, but no White-crowned Sparrows, which was a disappointment. As I approached the north end, I saw two Kestrels and a flock of Starlings that included at least one Red-winged Blackbird. At the beaver pond, I spotted a Kingfisher and Great Blue Heron, but didn't see the hoped-for Snipes. It was starting to rain steadily by then, and I just didn't have enough desire to stick around any longer. My species total of 34 was three less than last year.

  1. Canada Goose -- 13
  2. Mallard -- 3
  3. Great Blue Heron -- 1
  4. Mourning Dove -- 5
  5. Turkey Vulture -- 3
  6. Red-tailed Hawk -- 1
  7. Belted Kingfisher -- 1
  8. Yellow-bellied Sapsucker -- 1
  9. Downy Woodpecker -- 2
  10. Red-bellied Woodpecker -- 5
  11. Pileated Woodpecker -- 1
  12. Northern Flicker -- 2
  13. American Kestrel -- 2
  14. Blue Jay -- 7
  15. American Crow -- 11
  16. Carolina Chickadee -- 10
  17. Tufted Titmouse -- 9
  18. White-breasted Nuthatch -- 8
  19. Brown Creeper -- 2
  20. Carolina Wren -- 14
  21. Ruby-crowned Kinglet -- 1
  22. Eastern Bluebird -- 14
  23. American Robin -- 14
  24. Northern Mockingbird -- 5
  25. European Starling -- 102
  26. Field Sparrow -- 2
  27. White-throated Sparrow -- 16
  28. Song Sparrow -- 9
  29. Dark-eyed Junco -- 11
  30. Red-winged Blackbird -- 1
  31. Northern Cardinal -- 13
  32. House Finch -- 2
  33. House Sparrow -- 7
  34. American Goldfinch -- 1


Montage 15 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: E. Bluebird, American Kestrel, Northern Flicker, Mallard, American Robin, Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, Carolina Wren, White-breasted Nuthatch, and near the center, Brown Creeper and Field Sparrow; at [various places in Staunton] on December 15.

Christmas Day birding

On Christmas Jacqueline and I went for a brief drive to Bell's Lane and then I took her to Mill Place for the first time. She was quite impressed! I heard the "oika, oika" call of a Flicker nearby, and soon we saw four of them emerge from a pile of brush. The big highlight was seeing an Eastern Phoebe on the other side of the pond, and I was lucky to get a photo. There were lots of Juncos and various sparrows in the bushes, but I didn't see the lame male Cardinal which I had seen on my previous two visits. I hope he's OK. On the pond near the Mill Place entrance (in back of Hardees), I saw a dozen or so Hooded Mergansers. Later in the day I saw several Common Mergansers on the distant pond on Bell's Lane, and my photos were just good enough to be sure about the species ID.

Montage 25 Dec 2018

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, White-throated Sparrow, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, Hooded Mergansers, Dark-eyed Junco, and in center, Common Mergansers and American Kestrel; at Mill Place and Bell's Lane on December 25.

Loggerhead Shrike pays a visit!

On Sunday December 23rd Vic Laubach alerted local birders that he had seen a Loggerhead Shrike on Bell's Lane. I didn't see the message by mid-afternoon, and by the time I got there it had either left or else become inactive. Today Vic sent another alert, and I went out again and spent several minutes scanning the fields around the ponds. And all of a sudden, there it was!!! The bluish gray color really stood out even though the skies were cloudy and the light was dim. Conditions for photography weren't good, but it was at least close enough (about 100 yards) for me to get an adequate image. I saw it dive after something on the ground, but didn't see it again before I had to leave. I'll try again to get a better photo once the sun comes back -- if the Shrike is still here, that is. I had seen and photographed one of that species at close range in March 2017 while birding in Florida, and saw them at a distance two or three times before that in the Swoope area of Augusta County.

Loggerhead Shrike

Loggerhead Shrike on Bell's Lane, Dec. 27, 2018.

Other photos can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.

What I'd really like to see for Christmas (the season which lasts until January 6) is an Evening Grosbeak! Some of them have been reported in the Shenandoah Valley, and apparently there is a southward "irruption" of this northerly species this year because one of their main food sources is scarce. Never having seen one before, this would count as the 504th bird on my life list. Unless I get lucky in the remaining few days of the year, this will be the first year since I began birding (1997) that I have not spotted at least one new "life bird." frown

December 26, 2018 [LINK / comment]

A brief review of travels in 2018 (and before...)

In preparation for a summary of travels that Jacqueline and/or I have taken over the past year, I have thoroughly revised the Chronological photo gallery pages, with consistent formatting from 2014 up to date. Whereas before each yearly page grouped photos geographically, now they are strictly sequenced according to time (which they really should have been all along), with one or more "batches" for each month. Part of the problem is my own inconsistency in blogging about travels in a timely fashion. It was 15 months ago (July 1, 2017: "North of the border: trip to Canada & the Midwest") that I began the laborious process of catching up with the chronicles of my adventures. In the next few days, I will do likewise about the trip to the southwest that I took with my father in 2014, completing the task of consistent formatting photo gallery pages going back at least to 2012. It was in 2008 that I first purchased a high-quality digital camera (a Nikon D40), and in 2013 I purchased a camera with a 50x optical zoom lens, the Canon PowerShot SX-50. My photos prior to 2008 are of mixed quality, some scanned from prints made from my old Pentax K-1000 film camera and others being still images from my Canon video camera. Many of the latter are barely worth archiving, frankly.

What follows are brief summaries of each of our significant trips this year, beginning with a link and headline for each of the four travel-related blog posts that I made in 2018. (Jacqueline's travels to Peru are not included.) Clicking on those respective links will take you to more detailed descriptions of the things we saw and did.

August 9, 2018: "Highlights from a few "recent" day trips"

On March 23 we drove to Highland County, even though it was a week after the annual Maple Festival. Our hopes that some of the vendors might still be hanging around proved to be in vain. On March 26 we drove to Charlottesville to buy concert tickets, and played tourist / shoppers for a day. Of special interest was the Robert E. Lee statue near downtown, the center of violent political clashes the previous August. The statue had been covered with a black tarp for several months, as the City Council wanted to remove the statue, but a state court ruled that such a move was illegal. Police had put yellow "keep out" tape surrounding the statue.

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Charlottesville

Robert E. Lee equestrian statue in Charlottesville. (March 26)

On May 26 Jacqueline, her family, and I visited Washington, D.C. and Arlington National Cemetery for the first time in years, paying homage to John and Jacqueline Kennedy's gravesite. On June 10 we went to Manassas battlefield, another symbol of lingering Civil War divisions. It was much appreciated by Jacqueline's brother Roberto, who is fascinated by U.S. Civil War history.

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite

John and Jacqueline Kennedy gravesite at Arlington National Cemetery. (May 26)

Finally, on August 4 we went on a "random" day trip to Brownsburg and Goshen, in Rockbridge County. It was a beautiful sunny day, following days of heavy rain that had caused many area rivers to flood.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

The Maury River passing through the Goshen Pass. (Aug. 4)

August 23, 2018: "Weekend trip to Annapolis"

Annapolis is a place that we had been meaning to visit for many years, and finally we got around to actually doing it. The weather was uncertain as we left Staunton, but the skies eventually brightened, and it turned out to be a big success. We feasted on steamed hard-shell crabs at Cantler's Riverside Inn, and the next day took a boat tour of the Annapolis harbor, walked the streets of the city, and briefly visited the U.S. Naval Academy campus before returning home. It was an intense but very rewarding weekend!

Annapolis montage

CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: The tower above the Maryland State House (south side), the Government House, U.S. Naval Academy Main Chapel, Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, boats at dock, the Annapolis Federal House, and in center, quaint townhouses on Fleet Street. (August 18-19)

September 25, 2018: "Day trip to West Virginia"

For years I had been meaning to visit Dolly Sods, a wilderness area in West Virginia that was recommended by a former house mate of mine in grad school. It was a rugged uphill climb along gravel roads to get there, and Jacqueline was less than enthuasistic. But she did enjoy visiting Seneca Rocks afterwards, even though we didn't have much time left.

Goshen Pass, Maury River

Seneca Rocks, during our second stop there in the late afternoon. (Sept. 19)

October 25, 2018: "'Innings' and outings in October"

Jacqueline had the day off on October 25 and was anxious to get out and see something different. (My interest in birds often bores her, and I promised to keep that to an absolute minimum that day.) After scrutinizing the various maps we have I hit upon the perfect destination: the White Oak Lavender Farm, located in Rockingham County a few miles southeast of Harrisonburg.

White Oak Lavender Farm

The main building of the White Oak Lavender Farm. (Oct. 4)

Finally, we drove up to the Blue Ridge on October 21, hoping to see some fall foliage, but it had not yet reached peak color. We stopped in the village of Love, hoping to eat lunch, but they were closed, so we ended up a Blue Mountain Brewery, which was just wonderful.

Twenty Minute Cliff

Twenty Minute Cliff, on the Blue Ridge Parkway. (Oct. 21)

To see additional photos, please visit the Chronological photo gallery (2018-BEST) page, which has 20 photos, and if you are really interested, see the Chronological photo gallery (2018) page, which has over 100.

December 24, 2018 [LINK / comment]

H.H.H. Metrodome update!

In another interruption of my firm plans for finishing up diagram revisions by the end of the year, I realized I had to fix the Metrodome Metrodome diagrams. Why the unscheduled revision to a stadium that was supposedly up to high standards in terms of detail and accuracy? As you can imagine, I discovered an error in the old diagrams when I was finishing the Metropolitan Stadium diagrams a few days ago and comparing them to those of the successor. It always bothered me that the angle of the wall behind home plate was not nearly as slanted in my diagrams as indicated by photographs, and I finally figured out why. I knew that the football goal line coincided exactly with the baseball first base line, and that the back of the end zone coincided with the edge of the warning track in left field. I falsely assumed that there was the same amount of space beyond both ends of the football gridiron, but I [recently] noticed that there was about eight additional feet of space on the side near first base. Also, the distance from the third base line to the grandstand was much less than on the first base side, and when I made those adjustments, the angle behind home plate came out just right. As is the case for most of my stadium pages, you can compare the new version of the diagram (which is slightly longer and thinner) to the old version by clicking on the image.

I also took a bit more care depicting the slight (~ four feet) overhang of the upper deck above the right field fence, and a couple other details such as the passages between the luxury sweets [suites !] through which fans entered the back of the lower deck. That page now includes a "site today" diagram, depicting the new home of the Minnesota Vikings which now sits on that plot of land: U.S. Bank Stadium.

Officially, the former home of the Twins and Vikings was called the "Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome," named for the jovial Minnesotan who served as vice president from 1965 until 1969, and who ran unsuccessfully for president in 1968. For the last few years it was known as "Mall of America Field," named for the shopping/entertainment extravaganza that was built in the suburb of Bloomington, where Metropolitan Stadium once stood.

Finally, I added this colorful "new" photo to that page. It is of topical interest because of the player who is displayed there: none other than former Viking running back Adrian Peterson, who has had a great comeback year with the Washington Redskins. "Fueled by perseverance," indeed! (As for the team itself, well...)

Metrodome ext SW

The southwest entry to the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome on August 10, 2010, soon after a Twins-Mariners game at Target Field.

Johnny Holliday retires

I mentioned on November 9 that former MLB player Ray Knight will not be returning as a commentator for the MASN pre-game and post-game shows next year. Last week we learned that his partner Johnny Holliday has decided to leave as well, meaning that two vacancies exist for next year. Holliday is known in the Washington area as a sportscaster for Maryland Terrapin athletics, and is a seasoned pro with a background as a radio disc jockey. His friendly, upbeat banter will be missed.

Among the possible replacements are Phil Wood, who co-hosts the Saturday morning "Nats Talk" show on MASN, Dan Kolko, who does on-field interviews for MASN, and former Nat Michael Morse, who filled in as color commentator a couple times this past year. Wood is a bona fide expert on Washington baseball, but is not really a TV professional, and lacks somewhat in the charisma department. He would probably do fine as a partner with someone who is more telegenic. The other two guys probably need more experience before getting a promotion to co-host.

Safeco Field is renamed

Beginning in January, the stadium in Seattle heretofore known as "Safeco Field" will officially become known as "T-Mobile Park," under the terms of a 25-year deal worth $87.5 million. See Thanks to Mike Zurawski and someone else whose name I forgot (on Facebook, perhaps?) for the news tip. (Why "Park" rather than "Field"? The new name makes you think about a mobile home park.)

What are the chances that a corporation in the rapidly-changing cell phone industry will remain with its identity intact for a quarter century? Just about zilch, I figure. Hey, maybe T-Mobile will get bought out by U.S. Cellular, in which case the Mariners would end up playing in U.S. Cellular Field #2?! Be that as it may, I have updated the Safeco Field and Stadium names pages accordingly.

The mail bag

I was asked by Angel Amezquita if I could add a "site today" diagram to the recently-updated Metropolitan Stadium page, and the answer is yes, very soon! I was at the location inside the massive Mall of America in January 2014.

I've been going through my e-mail in-box, and will try hard to answer other messages that have been sent in recent weeks and months. Thanks for your patience!


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What's this about?

This blog features commentary and musings on a diverse but well-defined set of topics, from a critical-minded conservative point of view, featuring a veritable library of original graphics and statistical information. It is distinguished in many ways from the rest of the "blogosphere." My blog entries cover a rigidly defined set of topics, with varying degrees of intensity according to how much is going on in each area, and how much time I have. Being somewhat of a "do-it-yourselfer," I chose a "home-made" approach rather than conforming to the common blogging systems such as Blogger or WordPress. The blog entries and archives are arranged in a sort of "proprietary" scheme that I have gradually developed over time. Finally, being an old-fashioned, soft-spoken kind of guy, I avoid attention-grabbing sensationalism and strident rhetoric, and strive instead to maintain a reasonable, dignified, respectful tone.

"It's not just a blog, it's an adventure!"

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NOTE: Additional blogs are listed on the respective category pages: Baseball, Politics, etc.

My blog practices

My general practice is to make no more than one blog post per day on any one category. For this reason, some blog posts may address more than one specific issue, as indicated by separate headings. If something important happens during the day after I make a blog post, I may add an updated paragraph or section to it, using the word "UPDATE" and sometimes a horizontal rule to distinguish the new material from the original material. For each successive day, blog posts are listed on the central blog page (which brings together all topics) from top to bottom in the following (reverse alphabetical) order, which may differ from the order in which the posts were originally made:

  1. Wild birds (LAST)
  2. War
  3. Science & Technology *
  4. Politics
  5. Latin America
  6. Culture & Travel *
  7. Canaries ("Home birds")
  8. Baseball (FIRST)

* part of "Macintosh & Miscellanous" until Feb. 2007

The date of each blog post refers to when the bulk of it was written, in the Eastern Time Zone. For each blog post, the time and date of the original posting (or the last update or comment thereupon) is displayed on the individual archival blog post page that appears (just before the comments section) when you click the [LINK / comments] link next to the date. Non-trivial corrections and clarifications to original blog entries are indicated by the use of [brackets] and/or strikethroughs, as appropriate so as to accurately convey both the factual truth and my original representation of it. Nobody's perfect, but I strive for continual improvement. That is also why some of the nature photos that appear on the archive pages may differ from the (inferior) ones that were originally posted.

The current "home made" blog organization system that I created, featuring real permalinks, was instituted on November 1, 2004. Prior to that date, blog posts were handled inconsistently, and for that reason the pre-2005 archives pages are something of a mess. Furthermore, my blogging prior to June 1, 2004 was often sporadic in terms of frequency.



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