Monday, July 30, 2007

I had a travel experience yesterday

as I was coming back from a lovely weekend in Texas. I had been out pretty late the night before, and had partied pretty vigorously, so I was feeling a little iffy. Also, I had forgotten to bring enough socks, and so my feet were a little more fragrant than is their wont.

I slide my credit card in an auto-check-in machine, but I don't have my confirmation code, so it's a no-go. But not to worry, Maribel can help me. She will find my reservation on the computer. Except not. It's not there. I'm sorry, but there's just nothing I can do. But another lady, from the international check-in counter (apparently this is where the real experts work) runs my credit card again and tells me that my reservation is made for August 29th instead of July 29th. Great. Smooth move by me. Those reservation-makers must like to do this though, because I know I'm not the first person to make this mistake.

In any case, I have no choice but to fork over a hundred dollars to change my ticket. New problem: my phone is out of batteries, my charger is in Chicago, and I need to find a way to call home and let someone know-- uh, sorry, I am actually going to get back two hours later.

So, very distracted, I make my way into security, hand my expired driver's license and my boarding pass to the first woman, who passes it to a young man (a little on the chubby side), who clucks in a motherly tone "get that taken care of." Yeah, thanks, dork. No kidding.

And then it's through the metal detector, hand my license to the next TSA fellow, who is black and muscular. Please step over here and stand behind these ropes, sir. He frisks me, announces that my possesions will need to be searched, and hands my computer and sandals to another, older man, and together they start swabbing away at the various surfaces of my stuff. The old guy is definitely getting a whiff of footage working on my shoes, and the big black guy is just working away, swabbing the outside then the inside of my bag, and then turning to put the swabs in a little machine that presses them down, and says caution- hot. Looks like a pretty neat contraption, and I ask him, "what substances does this thing test for? I was just wondering."

He looks up at me, squints his eyes in grave suspicion, and takes a tighter grip on my bag.

"Rezidoo," he says. Residue. Well, there you have it.

Friday, July 20, 2007

a decent exchange

So my co-worker sent me this link with a subject: This guy looks like a lunatic!!!

what follows is the transcript of our subsequent exchanges:

Fort Knocks: I'm pretty sure that's my little league baseball coach.

Friend: He seriously looks like him? Was this a traumatic experience? I would guess so judging from the looks of that psycho. I cannot stop laughing when I look at the crazed look in that guy's eyes.

Fort Knocks: yeah, whenever he was throwing batting practice, he had a bag of baseballs and a bag of whiffle balls, and if you missed a pitch, he would grab a whiffle ball, sprint towards home plate and try to peg you with it, yelling "Keep your eye on the ball" and then he would keep chasing you and throwing whiffle balls until you said "I will keep my eye on the ball!" yeah, we lost a lot of games that year. Plus, he pushed one kid onto the train tracks, so a bunch of other kids quit.

Friend: Um what? Are you kidding me? The first part reminded me of a Bad News Bears incident which made me chuckle even though it's pretty twisted, but pushing a kid onto the train tracks??? What??? Did any parents ever see this stuff? This guy should be in jail.

Good thing this loon didn't deter you from playing baseball. I wonder if now he's one of those creepy guys who just lurks around little league games when he really has no place being there, just watching silently and thinking about the old days.

Fort Knocks: he also had this weird thing where he would watch the game from the dugout with binoculars, even though he was like 20 feet away. and he was totally different around the parents, really nice and friendly, but when the parents were gone, he would invite the kids over to his house to watch tv or whatever. i never went, but one of the kids who did go, yeah he quit. and after watching the game through binoculars, every game he would go to the port-a-potty for the whole bottom of the fifth; he called it his strategy time. i didn't ask.

Friend: Ok are you kidding me. This sounds like something out of 'How to catch a predator" or "America's Most Wanted." That is absolutely beyond creepy. How old were you guys anyway? Did you tell your parents about that? This guy should have been investigated for sure. I'm getting the creeps even reading about this guy. That's got to be traumatic for kids to say the least. Wow.

Fort Knocks: some kids said they told their parents but their parents didn't believe them. I never told my parents. I was pretty shy and content to go with the flow. There was a cat (I don't think it was a stray because it had a collar) that walked across our field, and he chased it and nailed it with a bat. it went down, and we went back to practice, but as we were leaving, he was going back over there, and he had taken off his hat and his shoes, which was weird, but then I saw him start to beat the dead cat with his bat. we joked about how he probably had people cut up in his freezer, but now i think it might be true. and another time he brought a bone-knife to practice (I didn't even know what that was), and he showed us how the indians used to scalp people, grab a big fistful of hair and then just slide the knife along the skull. the kid went to the hospital; the coach said he fell, but i don't think they believed him. we got a new coach like a week after that.

Friend: Oh my gosh. I'm quite literally getting the creeps from this story. What a sicko. I can't even believe this guy got a job as a coach. That is beyond disturbing to say the least. I'm quite certain that I would be traumatized if that happened to me. Wow, wow, wow. I cannot believe he did all of those things. Was his name James Crucio by any chance? Because that's the guy in the picture. He does sound like someone who is a serial killer or something. You wouldn't think that someone like that could be lurking in the suburbs, especially a place like Oak Park. Now I feel pretty disturbed. The closest I ever got to having a crazy coach was with my high school traveling soccer coach. He was busted for heroin, cocaine, and other drugs and was using his main job at the Darien Sportsplex to traffic the stuff.

It must have been hard to go to practice every day knowing that lunatic was your coach.

Fort Knocks: Oh my gosh, yeah! that was his name! The first day of practice, as a team bonding, team unity thing, he made all of us take off our pants-- the whole way, and run around the outside of Maple Park. Before we knew each other at all. It was like "hi, nice to meet you, oh wow, now you're naked from the waist down." but then he took shortcuts through the park, and would hide in the bushes and jump out roaring. and we'd all freak out and scatter, and he'd chase us for a while, and then find somewhere new to hide. But one of the times (the second time, I think), he jumped out right at this bigger kid, and the kid yelled and dodged away from him, but right into the street (Maple is right next to Harlem). And he got absolutely crushed, flattened by a cement truck. So Crucio told us all to run back as fast as we could and put our pants back on, and then hid the kid's body in the bushes before the truck could stop, turn around and come back, because the blocks are double-length, and the truck was too big to turn around or back up, so he was going around the block. And then (luckily for him) it started raining, and he got us all across the street to an Amoco (back in the day before they were BP) to wait for our parents.

Friend (finally gets it): I knew it. Totally the same guy. What a tough life you lead in the streets of Oak Park.

Maybe I'm just really gullible. Oh wait, yeah I am. The gulliblest person you've probably ever met. And yes I made that word up.

I should kick you in the shins.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Guess what?

On Sunday, I threw a one-hitter. I had a perfect game going into the last inning with one out, guy got a single, and the next guy hit into a double play. Almost a perfect game. How about that? So I won the award for best pitching performance of the tournament up at this semi-pro tournament in Wisconsin. yay for me.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

I figured out the answer to Darfur problems, and terrorism in Africa (heck, the whole world)

Convert everyone to Christianity.

Have you ever heard the expression: Don't treat the symptom, treat the disease? I think we should all take that to heart when we're addressing major problems in the world. For all the hype and celebrity fundraising, especially about AIDS and Darfur, I never hear anyone say what they plan to do, or how they expect to help solve or alleviate the problem. Raise money to stop genocide in Africa! We as Americans have a duty to help the victims of this horrible violation of human rights! Put in your dollar here.

To do what?! Is this money going to pay for plane tickets and training for a private global militia to stop the aggressors and restore peace? Are we going to bribe the bad guys into putting down their weapons? Or are we supposed to end the violence by ending hunger somehow? Stuff them all so full of Wheaties and rice that they forget why they were so angry in the first place? No?

What?! What does George Clooney think is going to happen? Money won't do much for the savages in Africa (no, I didn't say everyone in Africa is a savage, but some of them sure as hell are). Billions of charitable dollars have been poured into the dark continent, and billions of dollars for a sustained military presence. But Africa has proved to be a sinkhole for indiscriminate throwing-money-at-the-problem. Both charitable efforts (mostly the International Red Cross), and military efforts have enjoyed success that is severely limited in scope of time and space. We can feed or supress some of the people for a while, but as soon as we turn our heads, the problems return. Remember Black Hawk Down? Within two years after the U.S. left Mohammed Farah Aidid's gang broken and barely existent, the same gang had returned to power and tyranny (even though the warlord died himself). And of course, millions are still hungry (many thousands to the point of death).

So we can't solve the problem. Why not? Because we haven't addressed it. We just keep smacking band-aids on the new wounds, plugging the new leaks in the dam. It's like playing one of those arcade "whack the chipmunk" games-- we're batting them back quicker than ever, we're doing so much, and making so little progress.

When someone is sick with strep throat, he'll probably have a fever, a lot of sweating, and perhaps some trembling in the extremities. So we treat it with antibiotics, because now we know what we're doing.

If we took the same attitude to strep throat that many take to global social issues, we would be intermittently dabbing the sweat from a patient's forehead and splashing him with cold water to get rid of the fever. And then, quick, dry it up, look how wet he is-- look how sick. And then hold down his left hand to stop it from shaking. After it's still, move to his right foot and pin that down. But oh! by then his hand is trembling again, and no time for either, we have to pour a giant bucket of ice-water all over his body that we just fund-raised. Huzzah. And at the ceremony after, we can celebrate the accomplishment by unveiling our dream plans to get enough money to build a hermetically sealed, dehumidified straitjacket permanently submerged in a tank of supercooled 32 degree water.

Even if we succeed, which is superlatively unlikely, we will only have stopped the symptoms. We will not have cured the disease. So we give him antibiotics, and grit our teeth through the fever, which is a natural and inevitable part of the healing process. Heat kills the bacteria. If you take anti-inflammatory medicine or ice your entire body, the infection will last longer. The symptoms are ok for now, as long as we are treating the disease, as long as we are getting closer to being permanently rid of it.

So, now are you ready for global social antibiotics?

Terrorism and genocide are not diseases. They are not tragedies. They are crimes. Helping the victims of populational systems of crime is only half the solution-- and the lesser half at that. If we stop the crime, maybe the victims can help themselves. But if we just try to help the victims, without stopping more victims being made, everyone is screwed.

The answer lies in stopping the crimes in the first place, and since forceful prevention has so far proved pretty ineffectual, that means we have to convince the people perpetrating the evil to stop doing it. They themselves have to want to stop.

The difficulty has long been that there is no system from which to work, no basis for building upon. This is the reason that the success of monetary efforts has been so short-lived in general. No substantial change is made to the human fabric of the continent. Some people might not be as hungry for a while, but in a few days or weeks, they'll be hungry again. And they'll be in exactly the same position they were before.

When the military efforts, however successful, are curtailed, the aggressive tribes remain. Whereas in conventional war, a country might pay damages, or might have a new government installed to maintain order, these peoples do not acknowledge national borders, and cannot be fined or punished in a practical way. Eventually, the stronger power withdraws because there's no definable enemy left to fight. They killed the original leaders, and no one really knows who the leaders are now, or even what the sides are. But people are getting killed a lot, and everyone wants the Americans to leave. So we do. And again, the people are left in exactly the same position they were in before.

We can't adjust or tinker with national frameworks, because there are no stable frameworks. There is no common ground for communication. There is no system to which both sides subscribe. The first step must be to establish such a framework. And in this day, I don't think a political system can pave the way for religious unity. Efforts at singularly establishing new types of government have failed or been an uncertain and difficult work in progress (cf. Iraq).

I believe it's clear, therefore, that our most advisable, most hopeful course, is that of personal conversion, a course of building from the ground up. Because anything based on the broken and backwards systems in place now is bound to fail.

Good Christians are not terrorists. Good muslims may or may not be-- depends on whom you listen to. Good pagans-- well, I don't know if there are any. I mean, I don't even know if they think of themselves in that way. But many of the terrorist and genocidal tribes in Africa are pagans, and many are Muslims. So let's convert everyone to Christianity.

But, you might say, these issues are far more complicated. There are centuries of traditions behind all of these behaviors-- and there are political problems, and education problems, and gender equality problems that cannot be ignored.

And I say yes, the problem is very complicated. But that doesn't mean the answer must be. When you have strep throat, you don't just have lesions on your tonsils. Your white blood cell count is elevated, you produce more mucus, your eyes become slightly dilated, you get a fever, you get dehydrated. Right. So fix the problem. Don't fix all the little signs that the problem is giving you. Take antibiotics. Convert the pagans and Muslims. The rest we can get to in time. It doesn't mean it's not important-- it means working on it without a basis in place is worthless, wasted work. It means, that for now, even such grave problems are irrelevant. Focusing on them has not worked before, and it is not about to start working.

And if there are centuries-old traditions deeply rooted in the genocidal terrorist culture, I say those are stupid traditions. What's worth holding onto will be held onto no matter what religion you are. But no one should celebrate the sins of his ancestors.

So we need missionaries. We need martyrs to go and convert the heathens. Their deaths will be a symptom of the disease being cast away from the body. Their suffering will be a fever. We'll have to grit our teeth and bear it, and celebrate that Christ will conquer, as he always does.

For the rest of us, pray. Pray for the missionaries who are there already, pray for those who will go, who must, pray for the Muslims and the killers and the victims the pagans. And don't worry that a prayer for Darfur is a prayer for liberal showmanship. The real problems and solutions to Darfur have nothing to do with George Clooney. But might as well pray for him too.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Poor little fella

I just read that Craig Biggio, upon smacking his 3,000th career hit to join an elite group of baseball heroes, tried to stretch it into a double, and got thrown out sliding into second base. Ouch, Craig. I heard someone else suggest that he just wanted to get out of there and start the celebration. That would be like Rickey Henderson stealing second to get the all-time steals record, and then getting caught trying to steal third. Or getting picked off second. Or Michael Jordan winning his second third-straight-NBA title with a photo-op eighteen-footer and then coming back to sort of lead a mediocre Wizards team to... mediocrity. Or Michelle Wie finishing in the top ten in her first major championship, and then finishing in last place by fourteen shots and missing the cut in her last two majors. Or the Dallas Mavericks posting a historic 67-15 and then gagging in the first round series with Golden State.

Well, no, I guess it's most like the Rickey Henderson scenario. And even though all the other ones really happened, I don't think they compare to the gaffe of a player who's made a name for himself by doing the little things right-- clutch hits, sound defense, and intelligent baserunning.

Still, I'm a Biggio fan. Quite honestly, I believe him to be the type of player who wasn't concerned, when he rounded first base, with who was watching, and what people would say about his decision to run. He went for it because he thought he could make it, and he thought a double would help his team more than a single. I salute you, Craig.

Then again, maybe the hot weather started melting a few pounds of pine-tar off that epic helmet, and it got in his eye.

I'm sure you've all seen it before

but then again, I hadn't, and neither had anyone that I work with. So, come to think of it, maybe nobody has seen it before. In any case, mixed with a few overloving animally kisstures are a lot of really happy-making pictures. I found them. I was the first to find them. I knew them before the guys who made the website. Before their mother felt them in her womb, I knew them. Neways, check it out.

In other news, my desk just got moved at work, so that my back (and my computer screen) faces a majorish thoroughfare. I get more work done, and less other things. The guy who used to sit here got fired on Friday. Maybe because he blogged at work like I'm doing, and the bosses walking by behind him saw. See you later.