15 November 2011

Occupy Wall Street EVICTED

This morning at 1am New York time, the protesters in Zuccotti Park at the Occupy Wall Street movement were evicted in a surprise police raid. Approximately 200 were arrested, and the park is being cleared of all their trash, tents, generators, and other assorted stuff - much of it will be stored at a sanitation department garage in the city and will be able to be picked up by protesters later.

But that's not the most interesting part (though I am happy to hear that police finally got their act together and started enforcing the law). The most interesting part is that at about 6:30am EST, Judge Lucy Billings issued a temporary restraining order AGAINST New York's position that when the park reopens after cleaning, protesters will be allowed back into the park, but without camping equipment (sleeping bags, generators, tents). There is a hearing taking place right now (11:30am EST) to determine if the injunction will be upheld, but in the meantime, police have barricaded the park and are not allowing anyone inside.

The reason behind the raid is a string of "Lord of the Flies"-esque behaviors that have been popping up in the tent city (and other similar tent city protests across the country) in which people are getting sick (tuberculosis at Occupy Atlanta), getting hurt (an EMS worker in New York), being put in dangerous situations (rape and sexual assaults in numerous protest camps) and getting killed (suicide in Occupy Oakland). These makeshift cities are becoming slums and ghettos and are dangerous not only to the health and safety of the protesters, but restrict the free use of the parks by non-Occupy citizens and endanger the safety and health of people in the area. Last month, Occupy protesters shut down the Brooklyn Bridge, preventing the flow of traffic for a short time.

This morning at some point, Trinity Church offered some of its land up for protesters to use while the Zuccotti Park legal issue is under way. Despite the court order to allow protesters to re-occupy the park, police still are barricading the area and not allowing protesters to return. This may be because the judge who issued the order, Lucy Billings, has been forced to recuse herself from hearing arguments on the TRO. It's a very interesting situation. I'm watching the live streams from the protesters right now online, and will keep updating this blog with major new developments.

Apparently Occupy Wall Street is not the only Occupy protest group being affected today by raids. Multiple sources report that San Diego, Portland, Berkeley, and now the Occupy Phoenix group are currently being raided by police as well. Arrests are being made in all locations, and camping gear is being tossed out. Just goes to show that squatting in public parks isn't okay for the homeless, and it isn't okay for protesters. Apparently Canadian Occupy protesters are also being evicted, but since it's Canada, no one cares. (Just kidding Canada... you're like a little cousin. We care on Christmas and birthdays.)

UPDATE 10:32am EST 11/16/2011
My final update on this post. At approximately 5pm New York time, the new judge assigned to hear and rule on the Occupy Wall Street protester's demand to be allowed to camp in Zuccotti Park ruled against OWS. He said in his decision that the OWS protesters did not show sufficient cause to prevent him from keeping park rules enforced. Protesters were allowed to return to the park beginning around 7pm EST, but were not allowed to bring in tents, sleeping bags, or large bags or backpacks. People who were lying down and trying to sleep in the park were woken up and removed. Interestingly, all of the live streaming video which has been active for two months now has been shut down for OWS on both LiveStream and UStream, and the Occupy channels are now replaying video of the eviction in lieu of live broadcasting. I believe this may be because there are now so few protesters actually back in the park that the OWS leadership no longer wishes to show the broken protest right now. In other areas, Occupy Berkeley protesters retook their squatting area with more sleeping bags and tents (to the delight of corporate tent- and sleeping bag-makers), vowing to remain steadfast. Occupy Phoenix raids turned out to be no more than catch-and-release efforts for people who were sleeping in the park, and a few tents and things got removed as "abandoned" property. Other cities also got crackdowns, but as of this morning, there was no major news that I found about any of them. Oh, and Canada: evictions, crackdown, something, something. (We love you, Canada! Really!)

OWS has vowed to try to reimagine their protest strategy. I read one article talking about how protesters were getting so much more concerned with maintaining their camp that their political agenda was falling by the wayside and their message was being lost. Perhaps this will, as Mayor Michael Bloomberg put it, force protesters to "occupy [Zuccotti Park] with the power of their ideas" as opposed to their tents. We shall see.

31 October 2011

Happy Halloween 2011!

I didn't get a chance to do all the fun Halloween stuff I wanted thanks to being sick for the past few weeks (yes, weeks.... it sucks). But I wanted to wish everyone out there who reads this a very happy Halloween! I hope you all have fun tonight and stay extra safe!

18 October 2011

Why I'm NOT Part of the 99%

You've all heard it, you've all seen it. For the past month at the time of this post, the Occupy Wall Street movement has been staged in New York, and it has spread not only to cities around the United States, but also to cities around the world. I've been reading up a lot on the protests lately to find out where I stand on not only the issues, but in relation to the political philosophy which binds these people together.

To put it bluntly, I'm frustrated and I'm angry with politics and with politicians, but not in the same way as the Occupy protesters. They call themselves a part of the "99%" - that caste of people who don't make millions of dollars a year, who don't own stock options, who don't get big bonuses, who don't have titles like "CEO" and "President" and "Chairman." They feel like all their grievances are the fault of corporations and big businesses, that the government is letting them down by not redistributing wealth to give the poor an equal share of this country's money. They're named after the statistic which says that the top 1% of wage-earners gets all the breaks in this life, while the rest of the population gets stuck in the mud.

I know how they feel, and it's part of why I'm torn. I have essentially been unemployed for the past three-plus years. I have had jobs during that time, but they're nothing to hang my hat on and call a career: summer jobs, part-time minimum wage employment, seasonal stuff, and two-and-a-half years substitute teaching. I was part of the group of people who had reached a threshold where they stopped looking for work because the economy prevented it; where businesses turned their noses up at our resumes because they screamed "unemployed;" and where I barely had enough money to do anything, let alone pay back my student loans from my college degree or pay my fair share of rent at my parents' house.

On the one hand, I should be just as fed up and frustrated with the lack of the government to fix the economy. I should feel like risky investment with my (albeit few) tax dollars is an improper use of funds, and I should be extremely mad about government spending money it doesn't have on grandiose projects like universal healthcare when people like me can't afford basic necessities without putting ourselves in extreme debt. I get that, I really do. But I'm not part of the 99%; nor am I a one-percenter. To call myself a part of their group would be to admit that what they're doing is right. That the Occupy [Name of City] protests actually are akin to the sit-ins of the 1960s and the American Revolutionary War and the desire to get America out of Vietnam. It's not.

I went to these protests, like I blogged about a few days ago. I saw who these protesters are and watched them mill around with their signs, chant about how the economy sucks, and try to get petitions signed for this agenda or that. These protesters are the same stereotype that people always associate with a liberal agenda: people flashing peace signs, wearing tie-dye, waving rainbow flags, displaying Che Guevara and pot leaves on their t-shirts, studded with piercings and inked with tattoos. They are the old hippies from the 60s and 70s, living out the reincarnation of the Vietnam-era protests, the middle-aged who remember how cool it was when the Berlin Wall came tumbling down, and the young, who believe that emulating the stereotype from years gone by will somehow give their grievances meaning.

The Occupy group is disparate and they are hateful. The amount of vitriol spewed even at the "peaceful" Phoenix protest against the government, the president (and former President Bush), conservatives, liberals, police, militia, banks, the Fed, Jan Brewer, Congress, Sen. Pearce, etc. is just wrong for getting a message across. They seem to think that they operate in a vacuum - that by shouting at the moon, they'll affect changes in policy. It's not true. The Occupy group, if you ask them, will tell you that they are the epitome of "democracy in action." Democracy is more than just being the loudest in the room. It's a complex system with laws, rules, judges, elections, political parties, and lots and lots of boring activities which test the foundations of the patience and civility required by those processes.

I am not part of the so-called 99% because I believe that to effect changes - real, meaningful changes - in the way our system works, you have to work within the system. It takes dedication, principles and morals, an ability to see beyond the black-and-white of decision-making, and patience. A whole metric ton of patience. Change doesn't happen overnight, and it doesn't happen because a few aimless people decide to yell at the world for their problems in life down the barrel of a loudspeaker. This era requires, even demands, that discourse to get anything done be civil and that it be crafted carefully. Citizens need to stand up, not to scream and shout and bash whatever they disagree with, but to play a real part in the process of democracy. To bring new ideas to the table, not chant away that we want to banish the old ones. Only then will this democracy upheld in word but not in spirit that the Occupy protesters hold so dear be truly fulfilled.

16 October 2011

2011 MLB Playoff Updates 3

Congratulations to the 2011 National League Champion St. Louis Cardinals!

Instead of making one hyper-long post about the ALCS and the NLCS, my Update #2 post was exclusively about the ALCS and this one is about the NLCS between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Milwaukee Brewers. Much like the Texas-Detroit series, which the Texas Rangers won on Saturday night, this series was also an epic battle between two very evenly-matched teams.

Game one in Milwaukee's Miller Park was a back-and-forth affair until the Brew Crew put things away with a six-run fifth inning thanks to a two-run double from Ryan Braun, who also homered in the game, and homers from Prince Fielder and Yuniesky Betancourt. Jamie Garcia went just four innings for the Cardinals, giving up six of their nine runs, as the Brewers won the game 9-6.

In game two, the Cardinals got mad, then solved the mysteries of Miller Park. Albert Pujols led the team with three doubles and a line-drive home run to left, and the 6-7-8 hitters in the lineup went 6-for-14 with three runs scored and five RBI. Rickie Weeks and Prince Fielder homered in all of the Brewers three runs, but the 12-3 victory by the Cardinals could not be overcome.

Taking the series to St. Louis and the beautiful Busch Stadium, where game three saw the Redbirds put up four runs in the first inning thanks to a trifecta of doubles by Jon Jay, Albert Pujols, and David Freese. An RBI single in the second by Yuniesky Betancourt followed by a sac fly to right by Yovani Gallardo, and then a Mark Kotsay homer in the third put three runs on the board for Milwaukee, but both bullpens performed spotless work in the 6th through 9th innings. The Cardinals held on to beat the Brewers 4-3. 

Five doubles by the Brewers in the middle innings of game four gave them a four-to-two advantage as Randy Wolf went seven innings and struck out six, giving up two runs. Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford closed out the game as the Cardinals were limited to eight hits. David Freese picked up another two hits for the Cards, but it wasn't enough as they lost 4-2.

With the Series tied, the ALCS became just a best-of-three situation, and the Cardinals made the most of it in game five. Taking advantage of the worst defensive play in at least a decade (errors by Jerry Hairston, Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt, and Johnny Estrada) including Weeks' third error this series, the Cardinals picked up five runs - just two earned - off of Brewers started Zack Greinke in 5 2/3 innings. Pitching for the second time in the championship series, Jaime Garcia went into the fifth inning and gave up just a single run. The Cardinals bullpen held the lead, giving up only two hits and one walk over the final 4 1/3 innings of the game as the Cardinals took the hammer in the 7-1 victory.

Game six was a must-win situation for the Brewers, but they failed to capitalize. The Cardinals were off to a rocket-fast start in inning number one as David Freese hit a three-run home run to put them up 4-0. A Rafael Furcal solo homer in the second, an Albert Pujols homer in the third, and a two-run single by Allen Craig gave the Cardinals added insurance. Another error by Jerry Hairston didn't help matters, and the Cardinals won the game - and the National League Championship - by a final score of 12-6.

15 October 2011

The Occupy Phoenix Protests

So by now, most people with an inkling of what's going on in the country will have at least heard of the "Occupy Wall Street" movement in New York. Some of them may even know that the protests have spread into several other major cities, including Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Portland, Seattle, and now Phoenix. Yesterday, Occupy Phoenix protesters marched through the heart of downtown Phoenix, stopping at the different bank buildings there (Wells Fargo, Chase, Bank of America) and the 12 News/Arizona Republic building. There were, according to local news reports, about 200 people at the march.

Today, a larger protest is currently being held at the Cesar Chavez Plaza in Phoenix. I stopped by there for about two hours this afternoon to see for myself what all the talk is about. First off, the protests attracted a good couple thousand people, and the demographics were mildly surprising. I noticed moms bringing their children (even babies, despite the heat of the day), old former hippies wearing tie-dye shirts (and before you question my use of the term hippies, he had written it himself on his sign), plenty of twenty-something college students with ASU hats, militia members dressed in camouflage fatigues, new agers with "legalize hemp" signs, men in business suits, guys in Guy Fawkes masks (the "V for Vendetta" mask) with anarchist symbols all over, a couple Uncle Sams, a handful of Tea Party protesters wearing three-pointed hats and beating drums, a group of people dressed as cows ("Join our moooovement"), a man playing the bagpipes, and then of course a few regular normal people. Plenty of the people out there were white, but a sizable chunk were also Hispanic, many of whom wore buttons or clothing or carried signs against Joe Arpaio and in favor of legalizing illegal immigration.

As for signage itself, the sky was basically the limit. I saw signs against "corporate welfare," against banks, against Bush, for marijuana, against the Federal Reserve, for legalizing illegal immigrants, against Obama, for peace, against war, for giving money back to the people, and against bailouts. Plenty of them used the "I am the 99%" phraseology. Plenty more had dollar signs ("Stop Worshipping $" comes to mind). Most of the signs were handheld, but there were two (just two) larger banners. One was for the legalization of marijuana (and it was poorly done... black on dark green doesn't show up well) and the other said "Bush and Obama are War Criminals." I never thought I'd see both of them on one sign like that, that's for sure.

The one thing I didn't see was a significant use of the "Occupy" or "Occupy Phoenix" term. In fact, only one sign that I noticed had the word "Occupy" actually on it. That kind of an important distinction because unlike the Tea Party, who all come together under the name, this movement does not seem to be either as organized or as capable of long-term stability as a political force. When I looked at the crowd, I got the sense that I was seeing the ASU Mall during Rush Week. Lots of different groups all in the same place, united for the moment by virtue of being part of the Rush Week festivities, but ultimately with different goals and leadership.

For the hour and a half I immersed myself in trying to figure out the crowd and make mental notes to share here, the crowd was relatively peaceful. There were a large number of Phoenix Police officers there to make sure the crowd didn't get out of control or spill out into the streets (like a few, um, misguided people tried to do). There were cop vehicles everywhere I must have counted at least twenty within a one-block radius, and several more driving around. I also saw at least two plainclothes officers inside the crowd itself, looking for trouble. In one section of the plaza, a large crowd was gathered in a semi-circle, and people kept taking turns chanting and railing against this or that, and the crowd kept repeating catchphrases back to them. In other parts of the plaza, people tried getting cars to honk at their signs, or just basically treated this like a party. There was music (drums and guitars and bagpipes), dancing (the cows were having a blast), and plenty of people brought food and drink. I envisioned a bit of a mini, politically-charged Woodstock, though that might just be my imagination running rampant.

All told, it will be interesting to see how far this goes in Phoenix over the next few days. Someone mentioned and I overheard that some of the protesters had slept in the plaza Friday night, and due to the number of bedrolls I saw people carrying, I would assume that at least some will try to do it again tonight. The movement should be an interesting one to watch. They've put together a "General Assembly" in New York to come up with a platform for their movement, though I anticipate their ability to put together a coherent list of goals for the group to appease all those competing demographics to be slow if not impossible to manage. Ultimately, I see this group being a hot topic for a little while, then blowing over.

13 October 2011

2011 MLB Playoff Updates 2

Congratulations to the 2011 American League Champion Texas Rangers!

This post is my little recap of the 2011 American League and National League Championship Serieses. Yes, serieses. I was going to go with "serii" but that sounded slightly less stupid than using serieses. And using "series" to describe a plural number of serieses just feels weird to me. And because no one ever comments on this blog, I know I won't get grammar haters berating me about it. So ha.

Anyway, over the past several days I've been watching all the MLB ALCS and NLCS games. The American League features the powerhouse Texas Rangers against the powerhouse Detroit Tigers. People expected a firecracker series between the two, and they haven't been disappointed, even though none of the games has been particularly high-scoring. The featured player of the series? Mother Nature.

Game one featured Justin Verlander giving up three early runs to Texas, then being forced to leave after a pair of rain delays in the fifth inning. The Rangers bullpen shut down the Tigers' offense after the delays (a combined two hours, thirty minutes), limiting them to just one hit. It was a 3-2 Texas win.

If you ask the Rangers, they "Cruz-ed" to victory in game two 7 to 3 after Nelson Cruz crushed a two-run home run in the 11th inning after Cruz had tied up the game in the 7th inning with another homer. Game two was originally to happen the night after game one, but was postponed due to the threat of rain. Ironically, no rain actually fall at the stadium the whole time the game was supposed to be played. But hey, a little delay never hurt anything... that walk-off shot? It was a grand slam - the first postseason walk-off grand slammer ever! The Rangers jumped on a plane for Detroit when this one ended at 12:03am local time.

Game three showcased pitching more than hitting, although there was plenty of that, too, in the 5-2 Tigers victory. Doug Fister totally shut down the Texas offense over 7 1/3 innings, allowing just two runs on seven hits (six singles and a double). After a quick first-inning Texas run, Fister worked his magic while the Tigers clubbed three solo homers and put up runs in the 4th-7th innings for a total of five.

By a score of 7 to 3 (again), the Rangers got the hammer in the ALCS by tagging the untouchable Jose Valverde for four runs in the top of the 11th inning of game four, giving him a loss on a Mike Napoli go-ahead single, but blown open by a Nelson Cruz three-run bomb. The Rangers showcased not just the big hits, but also their fielding and defensive skills, as Nelson Cruz threw out Miguel Cabrera at home trying to score the go-ahead run on a short right-field hit in the 8th, and Napoli threw out Austin Jackson trying to steal a base in the 10th.

With a 3-1 deficit in the Series going into Game 5, the Tigers knew they had a lot of ground to cover to win a World Series berth, but they rose to the task. In the 6th and 7th innings, with the score tied 2-2, the Tigers put up five runs on something I've never seen nor scored before. In the sixth, with no one out, the leadoff hitter in Ryan Raburn singled to left. Then Miguel Cabrera doubled him in immediately after. Victor Martinez followed that up with a triple, and Delmon Young homered to deep left-center field. The Tigers basically hit for a natural cycle (a 1B, 2B, 3B, and HR in that order) as a team. Kind of cool. Justin Verlander also set a new career high pitch count (133 pitches over 7 1/3 innings), giving up four runs. The Tigers send the Series back to Texas with a 7-5 win.

On Saturday night, the Texas Rangers defeated the Detroit Tigers 15-5 to advance to the 2011 World Series! It was an exciting, high-scoring game that saw the Tigers jump out to an early 2-0 lead. But in the 3rd inning, the Rangers pounced and never looked back, scoring NINE runs on four walks, four singles, two doubles, and a couple of fielder's choices off of four Detroit pitchers. After that, while three solo home runs put the Tigers at a total of five runs for the game, the Rangers tacked on six more runs, including Nelson Cruz's record-breaking sixth home run (the record was most home runs in a single postseason series), topping Ken Griffey Jr., Reggie Jackson, and Chase Utley. Cruz also broke the record for most RBI in a single series with 13, and he was named ALCS MVP. The Texas Rangers take on either the St. Louis Cardinals or the Milwaukee Brewers pending the final game (or two if needed) of the NLCS. Congratulations, Texas!

06 October 2011

2011 MLB Playoff Update 1

Well, my playoff predictions are already looking bad....

I predicted the Rays to beat the Rangers, and the Diamondbacks to beat the Brewers. I also predicted the Phillies to whoop the Cardinals, and the Tigers to cream the Yankees.

UPDATE 1: So far, in four games, the Texas Rangers have defeated the Tampa Bay Rays. It was a pretty exciting series which saw the Rangers win games two, three, and four, taking both Rays home games and one of two at the Ballpark at Arlington. In game one, the phenom rookie Matt Moore stymied the Texas offense, and actually shut them out over seven innings, 9-0. In game two, the Rangers answered back in a back-and-forth contest, capitalizing on a five-run fourth inning and a big late homer by Mitch Moreland. Game three was the least exciting contest of the series, as Texas outlasted the Rays 4-3, and in game four, Adrian Beltre smacked a record-tying three home runs (tying Reggie Jackson and others) as the Rangers clinched the series 4-3.

UPDATE 2: The Detroit Tigers beat the New York Yankees in a wacky five-game series to clinch their half of the American League Division Series. A Robinson Cano grand slam in game one allowed the Yankees to trounce Detroit 9-3, but the Tigers answered back with victories in games two and three. Game two saw former Diamondbacks pitcher Max Scherzer hold a no-hitter for six innings to beat the Bronx Bombers 5-3, and a Verlander-Sabathia rematch saw the potential AL MVP win 5-4 over the pinstripes in game three. The Yankees victory in the must-win game four 10-1 gave them a record victory - their largest margin of victory in an ALDS in franchise history - to force game five. Game five, which just ended tonight, saw Ivan Nova go just two innings before being removed due to forearm tightness. The Tigers got out to an early lead on back-to-back home runs in the first, and held off a late comeback to win 3-2!

UPDATE 3: The Phillies and Cardinals also got forced into a game five situation on Wednesday, as the Cards' David Freese smacked a huge 2-run home run to center field. Game one of that series saw the Phillies rout the Cardinals 11-6. Game two was a Redbirds come-from-behind victory to win 5-4 against Cliff Lee, and game three was a low scoring affair which saw pinch hitter Ben Francisco launch a three-run bomb to lead the Phillies to victory 3-2. Game five was yet another incredible matchup between former Cy Young winners Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter. In a 1-0 shutout, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Phillies. Chris Carpenter pitched a complete game shutout, and Roy Halladay went 8 innings and gave up just the one run. An epic defeat of the Phillies team won, ironically, by pitching.

UPDATE 4: In the Arizona Diamondbacks and Milwaukee Brewers series, the Brewers took a two-games-to-none lead as they swept the DBacks at Miller Park 4-1 and 9-4 in the first two games. But a magical game three featuring a huge, game-opening grand slam by Paul Goldschmidt - just the fourth rookie to hit a slam in the postseason, and the first Diamondbacks player to ever do it - gave the DBacks life 8-1. A game four in which Chris Young hit two homers and Ryan "Tatman" Roberts launched the Snakes' fourth grand slam in as many consecutive home games (another record) led the Diamondbacks to force a game five 10-6. Game five was a tight, nerve-wracking, extra-inning game where the Brewers finally beat the Diamondbacks 3-2 in the tenth, capped off by a postgame interview which featured Nyjer "Tony Plush" Morgan screaming at the top of his lungs into a live television camera "F*** YEAH! F*** YEAH!" Classy, Brew Crew, classy.

Thus, the Championship Series will feature:
The Detroit Tigers vs. the Texas Rangers (Go Tigers)
The St. Louis Cardinals vs. the Milwaukee Brewers (Go Cardinals)

01 October 2011

Terra Nova

A few months back, I saw a promo for a new show coming out this September called "Terra Nova." If you remember the premise, a group of people travels 85 million years into the past to escape the polluted, dying Earth and start a new life. I just finished watching the pilot episode, and wanted to critique the show.

I'll try not to post anything too spoiler-ish, so this post can be read by everyone who's not seen the show yet.

First up, the plot basically starts out with Earth completely polluted to the point that people have to wear re-breathers to walk outside, families are limited to no more than two children to conserve oxygen, and simple things like the sun and the moon cannot be seen through thick smog clouds. Plant life is all but gone. A group of scientists has, however, discovered a rift in the space-time continuum which can enable people to travel back to the time of the dinosaurs - though it is a one-way trip exclusively - and slowly, small groups are making "pilgrimages" to the settlement established in this new timeframe, called "Terra Nova."

The show follows a family as they are selected to join the tenth pilgrimage: Jim Shannon, a cop and the father; Elizabeth Shannon, Jim's wife and a trauma surgeon who was selected for the pilgrimage based on her qualifications; Josh Shannon, their angsty teen son; Maddy Shannon, their brilliant-but-in-a-nerdy-way daughter; and Zoe Shannon, their third child. Third child? But they were only allowed to have two children! Yup. It's a plot twist. Get over it.

The Terra Nova compound is a giant ring surrounding a large tract of farmland. Though the show hasn't gotten into specifics much, it has a medical area, a command center, solar and wind power stations, and a while bunch of very tall gates designed to keep out the dinosaurs. But Terra Nova is not without its flaws. The kids there like to sneak outside the gates, there is a sect of people called Sixers who came through on the sixth pilgrimage who separated and created their own compound somewhere (and who act very much like raiders), and of course there are security problems.

I won't delve much more into things than I already have about the storyline itself. I think you should go watch the pilot for yourself. What I will say is that the show has its good points and its things it should improve upon. The plot itself is compelling. There are some twists and turns, and there are mysteries to be solved throughout the course of the season (mysterious rock carvings, anyone?) in much the same way that "LOST" had. So if you were a fan of that show, as I was, you should give "Terra Nova" a chance. The show also has a semi-Jurassic Park feel. Yes, I know it's horrifyingly cliche to compare every film product with dinosaurs with "Jurassic Park," but seriously, that movie set the standard for dino films. There are big gentle dinos like the Allosaurs with their long necks, dinos like velociraptors called "Slashers," and big T-rex looking things that they call "Carnosaurs."

On the weaker end of the show, for one thing, I had a hard time getting past some of the CG. A good show nowadays is one in which you don't go "oh, man, that's totally a fake whatever-it-is." That is to say that even if something is CG, the viewer doesn't notice it. In "Terra Nova," I noticed it. Another flaw has to do with the characters. Now, this is a new show, with good characters. Jason O'Mara, who plays Jim Shannon, has had appearances on "Band of Brothers," "Grey's Anatomy," "CSI:Miami," and "Life on Mars," to name a few. But Shelley Conn, Landon Liboiron, Naomi Scott, and Alana Mansour (the other four family members) haven't been in a lot of mainstream stuff before, and their acting skills were weak. Liboiron, who plays Josh Shannon, is a VERY stereotypical "you-can't-tell-me-what-to-do" angsty teenager, very cliche. The Maddy character could be interesting if they develop her right, and the characters of Elizabeth and Zoe are really tabula rasa for this show... they could end up being enjoyable or very, very flat. Among the other major characters are Allison Miller, playing Syke (an odd pun, perhaps?), and Stephen Lang (of Avatar fame, among many, many other things) playing the Terra Nova Commander Nathaniel Taylor. Both of these characters are intriguing, and I will be interested to see how they develop. Major potential.

Overall, I liked the pilot. I think the show has some good potential, though I could definitely see it turning into something a lot like "LOST." That might be good, since "LOST" was very popular, but it might turn away a lot of viewers who didn't like that shows multitude of twists and turns and non-explanations.

Do yourself a favor. Take an 90 minutes and watch the pilot, then let me know what you think in the comments box.

28 September 2011

A Wild Wild Card Night

As if this season of baseball wasn't crazy and insane enough, the final day of the regular season saw a total of eight games which had playoff implications, and most of them were absolutely incredible!

First off, in the American League, the Yankees, Rangers, and Tigers had already locked up their divisions, but the Boston Red Sox were trying to avoid missing the playoffs after a miserable September which saw them lose  20 of their 28 games. At the same time, the Rays were trying to at least get to a playoff game by beating the Yankees, who have the best AL record this year. The Rangers and Tigers were each trying to gain home field advantage and the number two seed in the AL against the Angels and Indians, respectively.

In the National League, the Braves and Cardinals were tied for the Wild Card spot, and a win by one and a loss by the other would seal the deal for one of them. Milwaukee and Arizona were vying for the right to not face the Phillies with home field advantage.

Here's how the night went down. First, the matchups:

Red Sox-Orioles

The games started out quickly enough. The Yankees took a seven-run advantage over the Rays, while the Rangers handily beat the Angels, rendering the Detroit game meaningless. When the Cardinals beat the Astros, it became a must-win situation for the Braves, and when Milwaukee beat Pittsburgh soon after that, the Diamondbacks knew they were going to open on the road.

But then the Rays tied the Yankees with a six-run eighth inning and a solo homer in the bottom of the ninth. Boston and the Orioles emerged from a rain delay with Boston on top by one in the 7th, and a 3-3 stalemate ensued in Atlanta. The Yankees-Rays game and the Phillies-Braves games both headed to extra innings, with the Wild Card hopefuls fighting with every tool in their arsenals for the chance to play postseason baseball. It was exciting.

Just a few minutes ago, the Baltimore Orioles tied their game in the bottom of the ninth inning against Boston on a Nolan Reimold ground rule double, and then won it on a walk-off Robert Andino RBI single. The Red Sox needed a Yankees win to force a playoff.

The Atlanta Braves gave up a run to the Phillies in the 13th inning of their game, and the Phillies shut them out in the bottom of the frame, ending their playoff dreams this year. This locked up the NLDS matchups.

And just moments ago, Evan Longoria hit a game-winning, playoff-making, walk-off home run in the bottom of the 12th inning against the New York Yankees to give them the AL Wild Card, locking up the ALDS matchups.

No one would have ever thought the Rays had a chance this year, but they came back from several games down to Boston to win it, and the Cardinals completed a similar wild run. This day of baseball has been simply amazing!

The playoff picture is set.

ALDS A: Detroit Tigers vs. New York Yankees
ALDS B: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Texas Rangers
NLDS A: St. Louis Cardinals vs. Philadelphia Phillies
NLDS B: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Milwaukee Brewers

Thus, my playoff predictions this year will be as follows:

ALCS: Tampa Bay Rays vs. Detroit Tigers
NLCS: Arizona Diamondbacks vs. Philadelphia Phillies

World Series: Detroit Tigers vs. Arizona Diamondbacks

WS Winner: The Arizona Diamondbacks in 6 games

Yes, I'm biased. Deal with it! Haha... GO DBACKS!

My 32nd Game of the Year

Tonight I went to - where else? - Chase Field for my 32nd and final regular-season game of the year to watch the Arizona Diamondbacks take on the Los Angeles Dodgers. I've blown my previous high of 15 games in a season out of the water in 2011 thanks to all the tickets I've been given or won from the Diamondbacks organization, the Diamondbacks Foundation, Fry's Food, and now from right fielder Justin Upton himself!

That's right, I won a four-pack of tickets to tonight's game on Twitter from @realjustinupton, who was giving away tickets yesterday. Imagine my surprise when I woke up this morning and had a direct message from Upton telling me I'd won! It was very cool.

I ended up taking Scott to the game with me, but we had two unusable tickets because no one else could go. We got there early enough to be first in line to get in when the non-season ticket holder gates all opened, and while Scott went to the team shop to get a shirt and hat, I went to left field in an attempt to catch a ball or two. I was wholly unsuccessful, though I did get Clayton Kershaw's attention and he glared at me. Funny story. Kershaw robbed a couple DBacks fans of a ball hit at the wall, and a guy 20 feet to might right yelled at him "You suck, Kershaw." Kershaw turned around, asked who said it, and the guy said "I did." So Kershaw proceeded to wind up for a really hard throw of the ball he'd just caught right at that guy. He didn't do it obviously, but he came off as a wimpy little you-know-what. So one of the next balls that was hit was a homer, which Kershaw also chased to the wall right below where I was standing. I yelled out at him, "I don't think you're tall enough to rob a fan of that one, Kershaw," which prompted him to glare at me a moment. I glared back. He went and moved to center field to shag balls after that. Probable Cy Young Award winner for 2011 or not, Clayton Kershaw is a jerk. Period.

Anyway, after BP, we had some time to kill, so we wandered to our seats in right field, then just before game time, we got some popcorn and chatted throughout the first six innings of the game. It was a 0-0 deadlock, with  phenom Jarrod Parker (@JarrodBParker) pitching in his first ever big league game, and doing really well. He got pulled after 5 2/3 innings with a pitch count of around 75, but he was obviously getting tired, and he did a great job in his debut!

Eventually, the Dodgers scored a run on a Dee Gordon single in the 7th, but the Diamondbacks came right back to tie it in the bottom of the inning on a long Lyle Overbay double, scoring Chris Young.

Fast forward to the top of the 10th inning... score still tied at 1-1. Micah Owings came in to pitch and promptly gave up a double, then made a throwing error to score the runner on a fielder's choice, then a single and a fielding error on Chris Young, a groundout advancing the runner, a single, a walk, and a triple, and just like that, it was a 6-1 Diamondbacks deficit. By that time, most of the crowd had left, thanks to both the time and the circumstances, but Scott and I stayed. (Okay, in all fairness, I kind of made Scott stay... he wanted to leave in the 8th inning.)

By the way, that triple I mentioned was a clanger off the wall which Justin Upton tried to chase down. The ball hit the wall, ricocheted hard, and hit Upton in the left temple. Upton, recovering from a mild concussion after being beaned by Tim Lincecum the other night, was obviously hurt, but still found enough strength and clarity of mind to get the ball back in before squatting on the ground and waiting for medical help. He was removed from the game as a precaution, but initial reports said he would be all right. Scott and I were literally RIGHT THERE when it happened, and it definitely sounded painful. In the screen grab below, Upton had just been hit by the ball, and he's below the "S" in the State Farm sign. The ball is to the right of his head below the "a" and Scott and I were sitting in the yellow circle.

I really hope Justin's going to be okay. Two head injuries in a lifetime would be two too many but a pair in a week is excessive. I did hear tell that he had a headache but felt all right, but obviously I wish him well anyway. I was extremely impressed at his strength of will to stay composed after the ricochet and get the ball back in to the infield. He saved a potential inside the park home run and held the runner to just a triple. If it were me, I might have said screw the run and just laid down on the grass. Upton's the man.

In the bottom of the 10th, everyone thought the club would be just going through the motions. After all, down by 5 with three outs remaining, at 10:30pm in a game that technically doesn't really matter aside from keeping you in the race for home field advantage in the NLDS.... It would have been easy to just say screw it. Indeed, Willie Bloomquist and Gerardo Parra quickly grounded out. With two outs, Cole Gillespie, who came in for Upton, singled to the first baseman and beat the throw. Miguel Montero smacked on up the middle, and Chris Young walked. Bases loaded, two out. A fielding error on the Dodger third baseman Aaron Miles allowed a run to score, leaving the bases loaded again during John McDonald's at-bat. After a pitching change, Aaron Hill walked, driving in another run, which left the Diamondbacks down by three runs with the bases loaded and Ryan Roberts coming to bat. Roberts had had an 0-for-4 night at the plate with two strikeouts. But you can't keep him or this team down... on the very first pitch he saw at 9:26pm he connected, sending a scorching line drive to deep left field, and over the wall!

A WALK-OFF GRAND SLAM FOR RYAN ROBERTS! That's the first walk-off grand slam for the Diamondbacks organization since May, 2000, and only the fourth time it has ever been done in extra innings EVER (including once by Babe Ruth)!

Ryan Roberts had said that if he were ever to hit a walk-off home run, he'd do the Kirk Gibson fist pump from the 1988 World Series... you know the one. And he did... it was awesome! (I'm not kidding... you MUST click this link to watch the video: http://www.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=19748777&partnerId=aw-5143649194975279678-996) Immediately after the game, Roberts (@RRoberts14) tweeted to his followers, "Thanku [sic] to everyone for sticking around and having that moment with me! Wow wow wow!"

It truly was incredible. It was without a doubt the best moment of the year for this club. It makes you believe that this really, truly, might just be our year again.

27 September 2011


The Arizona Diamondbacks on Friday delivered the knockout blow to the San Francisco Giants and became the 2011 National League West Division Champions!

Down 1-0 going into the bottom of the 7th inning, first baseman Paul Goldschmidt walked, then was driven all the way around to score by a Chris Young double. After an intentional walk to Gerardo Parra with just one out, new shortstop John McDonald popped to first base, and Geoff Blum, pinch hitting for starter Joe Saunders, struck out looking.

David Hernandez relieved Saunders, and got Justin Christian to fly out to right field before allowing a single to Jeff Keppinger. Emmanuel Burriss came in to pinch run and did move to second base on a wild pitch, but key strikeouts to both Carlos Beltran and Brett Pill kept the score tied.

In the bottom of the eighth, third baseman Ryan Roberts (AKA "Tatman") smoked a 1-0 double to left field to lead off. Second baseman Aaron Hill sacrifice bunted to the pitcher to move Tatman to third base. Wisely, the Giants allowed their starter, Matt Cain, to intentionally walk Arizona's most dangerous power hitter, right fielder Justin Upton, before removing him in favor of lefty reliever Javier Lopez. Lopez faced just a single batter and threw only a single pitch, getting catcher Miguel Montero to fly out to shallow center field, not allowing the run to score from third. But with two outs, two runners on base, and a 1-2 count, Goldschmidt hit a shrieking line-drive into the right-field corner: his first career triple scoring two runs and giving the D-backs a two run advantage. Young's strikeout ended the inning, but not before the damage was done.

Tension filled the stadium as the air crackled with excitement and anticipation. Cheering partially gave way to thunderous silence as no one wanted to jinx the team by speaking the unspeakable: the Diamondbacks were about to go from worst in 2010 to first in 2011. Eventually, the sounds of "Thunderstruck" by AC/DC amplified the atmosphere in the stadium... J.J. Putz, the closer, and he of the 45 saves this season for Arizona, came in from the bullpen.

Putz's first challenger was Mark DeRosa, and Putz fell behind him with two early balls. The third pitch was a bloopy liner to center field. The tying run was coming to the plate in the form of the extremely dangerous and tough to strike out pinch hitter Pablo "Panda" Sandoval, relieving Andres Torres, who had pinch run for Brandon Belt, while Brandon Crawford pinch ran for DeRosa. Perhaps it was fate, or nerves, or the consequences of the inevitable... or maybe Putz was just mad about the single... but the un-K-able Panda was struck out swinging on a mere four pitches. On the very next pitch, a long fly out to center field eliminated Orlando Cabrera, and the Giants were left with but one out to play with, down by two runs. Eli Whiteside, the catcher, came to the plate, and on strike one, Crawford moved to second. Defensive indifference. His run didn't matter. All that did matter was getting out Whiteside. Strike two. The fans climbed to their feet, yelling JJ's name, whistling, and ready for the celebrations that were inevitable. Ball one. A collective groan, but then even louder cheering, as if the fans themselves could will the strikeout just by sheer volume. Another pitch... a foul ball. With a 1-2 count, and the decibel level inside Chase Field rivaling that of the inside of a jet engine at peak operation, Putz threw pitch number five home... a shallow pop to center field... caught by Chris Young!

Putz picked up Montero as Young gave a leap of ecstasy and the team rushed the field to celebrate. The Arizona Diamondbacks had just won the National League West Division, usurping the title from the once-champion San Francisco Giants, for the first time since 2007. Nothing that night could have been sweeter than the taste of champagne sprayed from dozens of bottles, nor more exciting from the fan's perspective than watching the team rush the pool in right field, jumping over the right field fence to splash into the cool water.

The team has a tough road to go: if they win home field advantage, they face the Atlanta Braves, against whom they have gone 3-3 this year. If they fail to gain that advantage, they face the Philadelphia Phillies, against whom they are also 3-3 this year. Arizona has among its young stars a potential Cy Young Award Winner (Ian Kennedy), a potential MVP (Justin Upton), a guy who was never supposed to make the team (Ryan Roberts), a complete turnaround (Sean Burroughs), the possible Rookie of the Year (Paul Goldschmidt), the unquestionable Manager of the Year (Kirk Gibson), three potential Gold Glove outfielders (Chris Young, Gerardo Parra, and Upton), a possible Silver Slugger pitcher (Daniel Hudson), and two of the best shutdown relievers in the game (David Hernandez and J.J. Putz), not to mention two possible Executives of the Year (Kevin Towers and Derrick Hall). Not too bad for a team the pundits predicted would be lucky to make it out of the cellar again this year. Rebuilding be damned.

Will we win the Series this year, the tenth anniversary of the improbable 2001 World Series against the Yankees? From this team, anything is within the realm of possibility. All I know is that it will be incredibly fun to watch!

Go DBacks!

21 September 2011

2011 MLB Postseason

Every year, I do a post about the makeup of the 2011 postseason picture for baseball, and this year is no exception... with one exception. The Diamondbacks are back in contention for the first time since 2007! A win over the San Francisco Giants at any time this weekend, or any combination of two Diamondbacks wins, two Giants losses, or one of each within the next six games seals the deal and makes the DBacks 2011 National League West champions!

To answer the obvious question, yes, yes, YES I have already bought my tickets to the National League Division Series here in Phoenix should we make it. That all being said, here's the current postseason picture:

American League:
East: The New York Yankees clinched the AL East crown for the 17th time tonight with their win over the Tampa Bay Rays. Obviously the Yankees are always a tough opponent, but that the AL East was only won with six games to spare says a lot about the rest of the field. The Yankees haven't been themselves since losing to the Diamondbacks in 2001... can they pull off win number 28 this year?

Central: The Detroit Tigers ran away with the Central this year, and with Verlander as their ace, they remain a very tough opponent. Their hitting is good, their pitching is stellar, and they have all the tools to make a run for the title.

West: The Texas Rangers lead the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by 5 games going into the final stretch, and their magic number is 3. The Rangers have seven games left to play, but three of those are against the Angels, so the Halos aren't quite out of it just yet.

Wild Card: The Boston Red Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are all still in contention. Currently it's the BoSox atop the field, but just by 2 1/2 games over both competitors. With the magic number for Boston set at 5, there's no guarantee yet that they're going to make it. Recently, the Rays have really been on a roll, and I wouldn't count them out.

National League:
East: The Phillies locked up the majors' best record - and the NL East - a long time ago. They have been everything this year that all the pundits predicted. They look primed to recapture their 2009 title, and with Halladay and Lee leading the way, followed by a killer offense, it'll take determination to stop them. However, they also have a target the size of the Twins' stadium on their backs, so a determined team with something to prove definitely has a shot.

Central: The Milwaukee Brewers hold the hammer over the St. Louis Cardinals, who have been streaking lately trying to play catch-up. The Brew Crew's magic number is 3, and their schedule has them set against the Marlins and the Pirates to close out the year. I'd feel confident in saying they can probably get three wins out of the deal to put the Cards to bed.

West: Like I mentioned above, the DBacks magic number is now 2 over the San Francisco Giants. The Giants come to Phoenix this weekend for a three-game set, and anything but a sweep of the Snakes gives the title to Arizona. Despite exceptional pitching, I don't think Brian Wilson's team is going to be able to "Book it!" this year!

Wild Card: The Atlanta Braves currently hold a 1 1/2-game lead over the St. Louis Cardinals and a 3 1/2-game lead over the San Francisco Giants. The Cardinals face the Cubs this weekend in what is sure to be an emotionally-charged set as they try to take over the Wild Card lead, if not the NL Central, and the Giants play the Diamondbacks for their fight to remain in contention. The Braves take on the Nationals, followed by the Phillies, so this is by no means locked up yet for any of the three teams.

If the postseason started today, the picture would look like this:

Rangers @ Yankees
Red Sox @ Tigers

Diamondbacks @ Phillies
Braves @ Brewers

Frankly, I can't even make good predictions yet because the Wild Card races are so tight (it will come down to the wire in the NL, I think), so I'll hold off until next week. But just looking at the matchups, the Diamondbacks and Phillies would be fun to see - hopefully the underdog team that wasn't supposed to make it out of the cellar this year can play Daniel to the Philly Goliath - and the Tigers and Red Sox matchup would be a good one as well. If the Rangers could trounce the Yankees in a matchup from the 2010 NLCS, it would be nice to see them try for another World Series berth.

All-in-all, unless we get Yankees-Phillies again this year, the postseason should be a fun one to watch! Personally, I'm rooting for a Diamondbacks-Tigers World Series (or perhaps a rematch of 2001....)!

18 September 2011

2011 Fantasy Baseball RESULTS

Several months ago, at the start of the regular season, I posted my 2011 Fantasy Baseball lineup and mentioned that if I could get in the top half of places at the end, I'd be happy. This is the original lineup:

IF: David Wright
IF: Buster Posey
IF: Rafael Furcal
IF: Gordon Beckham
OF: Hunter Pence
OF: Jay Bruce
OF Chris Young (Arizona)
UTIL: Joe Mauer
UTIL: Carlos Quentin
SP: Roy Halladay
SP: Matt Cain
RP: Chris Perez
RP: Ryan Franklin
P: Shaun Marcum
P: Jaime Garcia
B: Angel Pagan
B: Coco Crisp
B: CJ Wilson

Well, I'm happy to say that not only did I make it into the top 6 (out of 12 players), I also took home the trophy for 1st place! The season officially ended today, and I won! This is the championship team:

IF: David Wright
IF: Ryan Roberts
IF: Gaby Sanchez
IF: Kelly Johnson
OF: Jay Bruce
OF: Hunter Pence
OF: Chris Young
UTIL: Matt Weiters
UTIL: Carlos Quentin
OF: Ichiro Suzuki
SP: Jaime Garcia
SP: CJ Wilson
SP: Roy Halladay
SP: Matt Cain
SP: Shaun Marcum
SP: Ian Kennedy
RP: Chris Perez
RP: Ryan Madson

Nine of my 18 players stayed with me all year; the other nine were lost due to injury (Posey), or just were underperforming so I replaced them.

Now I can add this to my list of "credentials:" "2011 Yahoo Fantasy Baseball Champion." Woot.

16 September 2011


Hello friends. Sadly, I have been neglecting my blog more frequently than is normal. I'm juggling a bunch of stuff right now while getting settled into my apartment, so it's been hectic the last few months. I'm going to try to do better!

As for the apartment, well, it feels like home a bit more now. I have had to pay rent and Internet bills (gasp!), so I'm getting the full experience.... And trust me, spending $700-plus on rent for the first time is a bit of a shock to the system when you haven't paid for very much that's that expensive before! But we have a nice setup. My brother's got a nice television which is HD-capable, and we've been watching the Diamondbacks games here. We also have a couch and a recliner, as well as our computers, a desk, and the other normal amenities. The place is not cluttered with stuff, though. It's just right.

Aside from that, obviously lately I've continued to go to my Diamondbacks games. In addition to the weekend games I got from the DBacks Scholarship, I also had a great time about three weeks ago with Scott, Travis, and Matt watching batting practice from the field behind the batting cage. It was a vastly different experience than watching from the stands, especially in the outfield where I like to be to try to catch baseballs.

(From left to right, that's Matt, Scott, Travis, and me.)

We got to meet Ryan Roberts, who signed a couple baseballs for us, and we had a generally good time. Roberts, by the way, sounds nothing like you would expect. It was weird, in a good way.

The week after that, I took my friends Nate and Ryan to another game where I got to spend an inning in the Diamondbacks' broadcast booth alongside Mark Grace and Daron Sutton. I was allowed to bring only one of them, so Ryan went with me. THAT WAS AWESOME! At the third inning of the game, we went up through the press corridors, which apparently not many fans get to do (my passes were special as a raffle prize from the Diamondbacks Foundation) and got to stand in a little area to the left of the broadcasters while they called the game. Between the top and the bottom of the third, while there was a commercial break, they both came and shook our hands and asked where we were from and how we liked what the Diamondbacks were doing this season. Mark Grace also signed two baseballs for us. It was just unspeakably cool... I'll probably never have another chance to do that again! Here... photos:

First, a view of the field from the press box. I'd be perfectly fine having this view every day....

Next, a photo of the booth itself. The people in the photo are (closest to me) the broadcasters' statistician and scorer on the very right of the photo, then Daron Sutton and Mark Grace sitting, and a broadcast crew member behind them. In the next booth over, you can see Greg Schulte and Tom Candiotti, who do the radio broadcasts!

 Did anyone notice what Mark Grace was doing in the above photo? That's right.... signing my baseball!

The wall we were standing next to in the booth was a veritable who's who of celebrities, former players, part-owners... all the cool people who had been up there for interviews. We saw, notably, Luis Gonzalez' autograph and Billy Crystal's signature (he was once a part-owner of the Diamondbacks). 

The booth is on the second level of the stadium so this is mostly just a shot of the stadium, the baseball writers' area, and the stands, but I think it turned out nicely.

Of course, it wouldn't have been complete without the obligatory photo with Mark Grace and the two of us.... And Mark was kind enough to pose with us quickly during the inning break!

That may very well qualify as the coolest thing I have ever been able to do at Chase Field. Right up there with winning all my tickets this year, and getting to go to the All-Star festivities! Right now, obviously, the DBacks are in the thick of protecting their seven game lead in the division over the Giants. It was so cool to be able to do, see, and interact with the players, broadcasters, and staff when the games really matter. There was a certain extra electricity about everything, which I don't think would have been as pervasive if I'd gotten to do all this stuff, say, last year when the team performed very poorly.

Since I'm on the topic of stuff that's been going on, last night I also attended the LD-15 meeting for the Republican Party. It was held at AZGOP headquarters, which is currently in the process of being rennovated. This was my first LD-15 meeting, and most of the people there was quite kind. They seemed a bit desperate for new precinct committeemen, going out of their way to twist my arm a bit about it, but I attribute that to a sense of needing more support in the heavily Democratic district. They had a trio of candidate speakers there last night. First was Susan Bitter-Smith, the Central Arizona Project president who is now running for Corporation Commission. She last ran for Congressional District 5 against multiple opponents and lost a couple years ago. In 2006, she also ran for CD-5, and I had a negative incident happen with her campaign, when, according to the information I have, someone who was involved somehow with her campaign slandered me and defamed my character. Last night, she did recognize me, but I didn't tell her from where.

The next speaker was one of the former Phoenix mayoral candidates, whom I was unfamiliar with, having just moved into the area. She was throwing her support behind Wes Gullett, who is in a runoff against Democrat Mike Stanton. I know little about either candidate right now, but I wasn't surprised to see the Republican candidate endorse the Republican... it's not as if she would have endorsed the Democrat.

The final speaker of the evening was Clair Van Steenwyk, also known as Van the Radio Man, a conservative/Christian radio host in the valley who has decided to run for US Senate against Jeff Flake and Wil Cardon. This guy was, to put it mildly, hyperconservative. A staunch, almost Libertarian, Tea Party member, Van Steenwyk acted last night more like a bitter, angry old man than a candidate for Senate. He denounced the GOP as being too accepting of people that weren't committed to repealing anything that wasn't explicitly in the US Constitution, and basically called anyone that didn't see things his "blunt" way a RINO (Republican In Name Only). I was offended by him, and it usually takes a lot for me to be offended by a politician. He called Flake and Cardon out for saying that they would "bury" his campaign, and he accused them of "buying the seat."

I want it formally said, right here, that I do not support this man for US Senate. I do not think he has the right demeanor, the right ideas, or the right ideology for the job of representing Arizona's interests in Congress. Sorry, Tea Party, but this level of extremism and hatred for members of our own party MUST STOP. I'm very tired of other Arizona Republicans thinking I'm an inferior conservative because I don't support this level of hyperrepublicanism.

That brings me up-to-date now. This weekend, I'm celebrating a birthday with some friends (Scott's daughter is turning one year old, and they're having a get together), and I may see a movie. I'm looking forward to checking out Contagion and getting wigged out by how easy it would be to spread a virus uncontrollably. Luckily, our movie theatre here is close to the grocery store, so I can buy lots of Purell when I get out.

25 August 2011


This week, I did something brand new to me: I got my first apartment, with my brother as my roommate. We moved in between Tuesday and Wednesday, and are currently in the process of unpacking and getting stuff settled.

The apartment is nice, and we're located in a decent part of southeastern Phoenix. The moving process itself was relatively painless, albeit hot, since we've had excessive heat warnings all week. Our apartment is not too energy efficient, so it's tough to cool it down, but it's not awful right now. We're trying hard to use as little electricity as we can to save money, but I have a feeling that our first SRP bill will still be high.

This type of being on my own is much different than being in my dorm as an undergrad. It's still sharing a building with a bunch of strangers, but this time I can't walk to the Union and get food with my meal plan. And my fan is squeaky and it's giving me a headache.

I'm not sure I like being on my own yet, but I assume that if and when I can find a job out here, it'll get better.

On the plus side of things, I did get my final grades for my Ethics class and my Preservation class from this summer: two A's which keeps my 4.0 GPA intact! I have now completed five classes out of the required twelve, and I'm almost halfway done with my Master's with a great GPA! Hopefully this will help me get a decent job soon!

14 August 2011

Politics by the Pool

This past Thursday, I had the unique opportunity to attend an event sponsored by the "Startup Statesmen," an Arizona group of younger conservatives in the east valley (for those of you who do not live in Arizona, that would be the eastern part of the Phoenix metro area encompassing the Gilbert-Mesa-Chandler-Fountain Hills sort of area; also Congressional District 6). Their mission, according to their Facebook page, is "to encourage young conservatives to use their voice and send their vote." Presumably for conservative candidates, I would guess.

Anyway, this event - Politics by the Pool - was to be for young conservatives to gather and network for the purpose of getting my generation of political leaders engaged for the 2012 election season. There was a live band, Rocketeer, from the local area, some snacks, a television playing the first GOP presidential candidate debate, and a pool for anyone who wanted to swim, all at a very nice house belonging to the guy who set the event up. Congressman Jeff Flake, the current Congressional District 6 Republican running for the seat soon to be vacated by Senator Jon Kyl, and Kirk Adams, the former Speaker of the Arizona House of Representatives who resigned to run for Congressman Flake's seat, were both in attendance to give speeches and mingle with the crowds. Also there, providing support to the candidates and encouraging people to "like" the candidates on Facebook, were Alan Soelberg, the current 1st Vice Chairman of the LD-19 GOP, and Chad Heywood, who has worked for both candidates.

I arrived at the house just after 7:30pm and there were plenty of cars lining the street for the people who were already there. I was wearing my NAU College Republicans t-shirt, and to my sad dismay, no one else was wearing anything GOP-related. Because I've been out of politics for a while now, save my going to a meeting now and then, I really didn't know anyone. However, I did arrange to meet a couple friends there, so I waited for them to get there so I wouldn't be the odd man out. In the meantime, I chatted with Alan, who was working the crowds getting them "signed in" for the event - code for getting names and email addresses for future listservs - and encouraging them to "like" Facebook pages.

Shortly thereafter, I met one of Alan's associates who was working the crowds outside on the patio: Dave Johnson, the man I formerly mentioned as Plaid Jacket Man in THIS POST about the LD-19 GOP election meeting. He had, at that time, been shouting about the rules and voting procedures that he felt had been violated by the establishment leadership at the meeting. It was nice to finally officially meet him, although I am not too sure he was happy when I told him I was the blogger who had written about the incident. He is a very vocal supporter of Kirk Adams, however, and I ended up discussing my views about the candidates and some issues for a few minutes before he got pulled away by another matter.

After that, the band started up, and while they sounded good, they were also very loud, so I went back into the house with my friends Nate and Kevin, who had shown up by then to chat and catch up. One of their mutual friends, Jeff, a government teacher in Mesa, also got into the conversation and we really did end up having a good time for a while (despite having a hard time hearing one another over the din). When Congressman Flake arrived, he remembered me and said hello. I asked him how my sister's artwork looked in his DC office, and he said it was great and that she is very talented. Kirk Adams also recognized me and we exchanged hellos as I introduced him to my friends.

Around 9:00 or 9:30pm, everyone was asked to gather out in the backyard for speeches by Congressman Flake and Fmr. Speaker Adams. I was really expecting a little more - kind of an overview of the political landscape and some views on how young people could actually work on being involved in significant capacities in 2012. I suppose I was expecting too much, though. Congressman Flake was up first, and thanked everyone for being there, making a joke about being asked to take off his shirt to go swimming ("It didn't work out too well for Anthony Weiner," he quipped), and then made some quick remarks about how the country's debt and spending levels will be the burden of our generation and that's why it's important for us to get more involved. Congressman Flake gave way to Kirk Adams, who also made some very brief remarks about 2012. All the "speeches" were over in under 10 minutes.

Afterward, Kevin had to go, so Jeff, Nate, and I went back indoors and chatted for a while again about baseball and politics. Just after 10:30pm, we realized that we were among the last stragglers there, so we broke up our little party and returned to our cars and home.

I suppose in retrospect most of the people there already knew one another through church or through political channels. I would guess most of them attend the same Mormon churches or are precinct committeemen. I did feel like an outsider there; no one volunteered to introduce themselves to me or to see who I was. Not that I'm all that worried, because I'm moving out of LD-19 in a week, so I'll be in a new district and not interacting with LD-19 people on a regular basis any longer (though I still intend to keep in touch when possible).

24 July 2011

Preservation Class - Sunday Edition

Hello, loyal readers! Once again, I am blogging to you from Tucson, Arizona in preparation for my Preservation summer class, which begins tomorrow. It should be a long week; those of you who've read this blog for a while know I was down here for another class in January to kick off my Master's degree in Information Resources and Library Science. Since that time, I've finished one full semester (two courses) and maintained my 4.0 GPA, which even earned me a $1,500 scholarship from the school for each of the next two semesters.

This summer, I've been doing work for my Ethics class (really, more like an overview of ethical theories... maybe they should change the title...) and gearing up for this 5-day intensive course on preservation of books, papers, photographs, film, etc. It starts tomorrow from 8am to 5pm, and should be pretty hardcore. But I'm definitely looking forward to it. We get a field trip to a different preservation department around the city of Tucson each day, and on Wednesday we get to make our own books! Our field trips shake out like this:

Monday: University of Arizona Library Special Collections (I got to tour the Special Collections Dept. in January when I was here, but this should be more in-depth)
Tuesday: Arizona Historical Society Library, Archives and History Museum (I also toured this in January)
Wednesday: Center for Creative Photography
Thursday: University of Arizona State Museum Conservation Section
Friday: Photographic Works

In addition, I have to come up with one Ethics assignment by Sunday, a topic for my code of ethics project by Friday, and a topic for my final preservation paper by the end of the week. So yeah, I'll be mildly busy. My professor should be pretty cool, though. He is the head of the Preservation Department at the University of Utah, and I've heard tell that he is a master bookbinder. Part of his introduction to class was to ask us to bring some of our old damaged books for us to look at and discuss the preservation aspects of maintaining them. I've got several, including a 1909 Kansas Manual of Patriotic Instruction (which is like a lesson plan book for teachers back then in how to promote patriotism in the classroom), a 1915 copy of Robert's Rules of Order, and a set of Bibles which are family heirlooms, the oldest of which is a 1792 Latin Bible owned by my great-great-great grandfather (or so I have been able to figure out) which is in very poor condition. Hopefully I can get some advice on keeping it from deteriorating further.

One of the other cool things about being in Tucson this week, is that there are thunderstorms and rain forecast for my entire stay here, with temperatures in the mid-to-high 90s! Cloudy and cooler? Yes, please! As I type, I can hear the thunder rolling outside my hotel room.

If I'm not horrifyingly busy later in the week, I'll update how class is going, but don't get your hopes up. That might not be until after I get back home on Friday.

11 July 2011

2011 All-Star Sunday

Owing to the fact that the Major League Baseball All-Star Game is being played in Phoenix at my home park, Chase Field, this year, of course I couldn't pass up the chance to attend at least part of the festivities. And thanks to the Arizona Diamondbacks and Fry's Food Stores, I got my tickets to the XM All-Star Futures Game and the Celebrity Legends Softball Game for free when I won them last month as the Fry's VIP Rewards winner during a Diamondbacks home game.

I was really expecting a lot of people to attend the event, so I started my day early, and I arrived at the ballpark at 9:30am (paying the $20 parking fee) to be among the first in line. Well, apparently everyone else did NOT have the same idea. I was first in line without any problems, and the second fan overall to be in line (the first being another season ticket holder who'd been there about 30 minutes before me). And thus began the waiting. The gates were supposed to open at 1:00pm according to the time on the ticket, but we got a lot of conflicting information. Some people said 11am, some said noon, and one guy insisted it was 2pm. I was just glad I brought a book to read (James Rollins' "Deep Fathom").

Eventually, around noon, the lines started to fill in, and by 1:00pm, there were hundreds of people waiting to get in. In each line, a security guard waited to check everyone's bags. I chatted with my line's guard, Jeffery, for the final 20 minutes of waiting, and he responded by checking my bag early so I could run right in and try to catch a Futures Game commemorative baseball. Thanks to him, I was indeed the very first fan allowed into Chase Field. I slowed long enough to grab a Taco Bell lanyard/ticket holder giveaway, and then ran (literally) to left field in the hopes of finding an Easter Egg or two (baseballs that are waiting to be picked up).

There were a few people milling around down there already who had early entry - family of the kids who got to snag balls on the field, I assume - and there were no baseballs to be found. I knew my best chance would be to try to out-reach people for long fly balls or toss-ups, so I stood in the left-field power alley right up in the first row. A couple home runs went out of the park as the left-field stands quickly filled up, but nothing came toward me. Eventually, though, a ground rule double bounced just over the cut of the grass on the warning track and right at me. I stretched out... and some guy on my left whacked my arm and made me botch the catch. There was no way HE was going to snag the ball, but in his haste to try, he screwed me up. I turned to him and mock-angry said "Really?!" He just smiled and said sorry, and it was all good.

A few short moments later, wunderkind prospect Bryce Harper stepped up to bat and let loose a long, high fly ball right at me and I just knew I was the only one capable of catching it. The ball was going to hit a couple feet below the top of the wall, and both guys on my left and right were too short to stretch for it. I got in position, stetched WAYYY down the wall, and the ball landed in the webbing of my glove and sno-coned in there. I had it! I pulled my arm up.... and the dude to my left decided to fight me for it, and he knocked it out of my glove with his!

For some reason, I wasn't angry. I just smirked at the guy, and I knew he was excited, trying to go for a souvenier, same as me. Jarred Cosart, the Phillies prospect starting pitcher, saw me get robbed of both balls, and I held up my hands to him in a gesture of "how about a little help?" He gave me the slightest shake of the head, pointed at me, and threw me that ball that had jostled free of my glove. The guy on my left tried for it again, but this time I boxed him out, out-stretched him, and made the catch! It was a really nice baseball with a great commemorative logo. So thanks for the help, Jarred!

A few more balls came my way, none over the wall, and several of them were thrown into the crowd. I didn't ask for any of them because I didn't want to take any away from the other fans who wanted to catch a souvenier. I resolved to only try for one if it was hit to me. About five minutes after my Bryce Harper ball, a line-drive home run came my way off the bat of Diamondbacks phenom Paul Goldschmidt. Again, I knew I could outstretch the people near me for the catch, and I did just that! The two biggest names at the Futures game, and I caught baseballs from each of them (with some assistance... heh)!

After that, I got the feeling that my luck had run out. I abandoned my spot to head out and see if I could get an autograph from Harper, Cubs' prospect Matt Szczur, or Goldschmidt. I don't think any other baseballs went to my spot, but I can't be sure. Eventually, BP ended, and I tried to get an autograph, but I got totally snubbed by Goldschmidt, and there was no possibility of my getting near Harper. Szczur was equally hard to get to. I gave it a good shot, but I just couldn't get close enough, so I abandoned trying. I was kind of dehydrated and hungry (five hours of sitting in the heat and trying to catch baseballs will do that to you), so I roamed around to left field again and got a gigantic DBacks' Double Fatburger and Fries. If you haven't tried one of these amazing creations of beef and cheese and toppings and wedge-cut fries, you must simply fly out to Chase Field and do so!

I took my dinner to my seat in the lower level down the left-field line under the awnings (and right in the path of a big A/C unit!) and ate, cooled down, and rehydrated. It was fun watching the autograph hounds crush one another in their quests to get resellable autographs of the biggest prospects, and I was glad I didn't push my luck by becoming one of them. (Really, I only wanted the Goldschmidt autograph for my collection; the others were for friends that I said I'd get if the possibility presented itself.)

At about 2:45pm, all the announcements started welcoming fans to Chase Field, announcing the lineups and coaches, the first pitch, the National Anthem, etc. I was rehydrating and trying to stave off a headache at that moment (which I get when I need water), so I was kind of lightheaded. When the game started, though, I was fully in the moment. Bryce Harper started off in left field, and went 0-for-4...

(((As I type this, I'm watching the Home Run Derby, where it's Robinson Cano versus Adrian Gonzalez for the title, and I just watched Zack Hample, the man who's caught over 5,000 baseballs at major league stadiums across the country, and whose blog I follow daily - http://snaggingbaseballs.mlblogs.com/ - catch a Robinson Cano home run in pursuit of winning the Derby!)))

... Paul Goldschmidt also went 0-for-4 with a strikeout, but a pair of doubles by A's prospect Grant Green and a homer by Jason Kipnis sealed the 4-to-6 USA victory over the World team. Tyler Skaggs, the DBacks' pitcher started the game with a one-hit, no run inning, and my new favorite non-Diamondback prospect Jarred Cosart picked up the victory for Team USA!

After the game, Grant Green was named MVP, going 2-for-2 with two doubles, a run scored, and an RBI. He did a great job... both of his doubles were line shots into the gaps. He definitely didn't get cheated. When the presentation of the MVP award was completed, there was about a thirty-minute intermission while the grounds crew set up the field for the Celebrity Legends Softball Game, headlined by Luis Gonzalez, Mark Grace, Rollie Fingers (God, I love that moustache!), Mike Piazza, Jennie Finch, Jordin Sparks, Nick Jonas, Fred Lynn, Steve Garvey, Chord Overstreet, Erin Andrews, and other celebrity names from all over the place. Gonzo made a leaping catch at the wall to rob Rollie Fingers of a homer, and Rickey Henderson did homer over the shortened outfield wall to start the game. A late addition to the game saw Matt Williams get to hit, and when soccer star Carlos Bocanegra stepped up to bat, everyone on the National League side crowded in front of the plate soccer wall style, covering their crotches. If you're a soccer fan, you get the reference. I thought it was hilarious! At one point, despite it being a slow-pitch game, Finch threw a wide fast pitch which went to the backstop. There was a little mock shouting (this was scripted, I'm sure), and the umpire "warned" both benches. The game was all for the fans' enjoyment, and they totally succeeded. I was laughing the whole time!

The National League ended up winning 5-3. Frankly, the Celebrity game was more fun for me than the Futures Game. It was awesome. When all was over, I hung around a few minutes, then left. I snagged an official All-Star Game program for $15 on the way out as my one souvenier (well, aside from the baseballs, I guess), and made my way back to my car, then home. It was awesome. I haven't had as much fun at a baseball game since the Yankees-DBacks game last season!

28 June 2011

Financial Aid - Done and Done

I suppose I could make this post into another epic story, but I won't. The last couple months I have had some real issues getting my financial aid taken care of for my summer classes. Apparently, my financial aid form got misfiled or something, and so I wound up with $3400 in past due tuition balances and no financial aid to cover it all. After a very long, drawn out battle with U of A's financial aid department (think the 6-race battle from "The Hobbit"), I finally can announce that it's all sorted out. (Yay!)

That means that I'll be getting a $2600 loan refund after the amount that I've accepted to pay for tuition, which will help pay for my 5-day course in Tucson next month for my Preservation class. I'm looking forward to that course, which will explore the history of bookmaking and some of the techniques and issues involved with trying to preserve information for future generations. I checked into the syllabus, and it looks like it'll really be a fun class, if not work-intensive.

Right now, I'm enrolled in (and about halfway through) my Ethic for Information Professionals class which is examining ethical theories and applying them to LIS (library and information science) issues, like porn in libraries, fines and fees, PATRIOT Act requirements, etc. It's all kind of stuff I have heard of before, but a more in-depth study. Not uninteresting, but so far I'm not seeing how the class is beneficial to my studies. At least the professor is much more organized than my last one, which is very nice.

Also, aside from school, I have a couple fun updates: Dad, Scott, Scott's dad, and I all had a great time at the Father's Day game between the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago White Sox at Chase Field! We sat one row behind the D-backs' dugout, and though there were no foul balls and the D-backs lost the game, we enjoyed the time spent and I even got the warm-up ball from the first three innings from 1st base coach Eric Young after the top of the third! I'll post some photos from the game soon.

No word back from Iron Mountain, Inc. yet. Still job hunting.

Tonight one of my favorite authors, James Rollins, who wrote Subterranean, Deep Fathom, Map of Bones, and a whole host of other awesome suspense/action novels is coming to The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale, AZ tonight to sign copies of his newest novel, The Devil Colony. It came out a week or so ago, and Rollins is on a book tour to promote it! I am so happy I found out about it in time to go tonight! If you're also going to be there, and want to meet me, the fabulous author of this blog, say hi! (I'm kidding... my ego's not THAT big!)

26 June 2011

Anonymous Help

Hey out there in Bloggerland... Been a while since my last post, and I have NEWS! Earlier today, some anonymous baseball fan posted a comment on my post from February 16, 2010 about the four autographs I could not figure out on this Team USA-signed baseball from the 1998 Japan All-Star Series:

 Remember? I had four signatures on that ball I simply could not figure out, and my not-too-awful research skills were fruitless in providing me with any help. I wrote to Major League Baseball, Japan professional baseball, baseball research groups, and got no help with that year's team rosters or information on that series of games AT ALL. But now, thanks to my anonymous friend, I can announce that I know who three of those four signatures are from!

Cookie Rojas:
 Leo Mazzone:
 Rich Dauer:
This signature still eludes me... there is speculation it's from Manny Ramirez or Chan Ho Park, but after I compared it with online exemplars from those two players, I seriously doubt either one of them signed this:

UPDATE: Speculation abounds that this may be Mike Jackson's (Michael Ray "Mike" Jackson) autograph. I have evidence that he did pitch in relief for Team USA in 1998 as the set-up man for Trevor Hoffman, but I cannot find a decent exemplar auto of Jackson to compare this one to. Anyone have a good photo out there?

DOUBLE UPDATE: I have received definitive proof that this autograph is indeed Mike Jackson's:

If you know whose signature this is and can provide proof, I will be greatly in your debt!

All told, this means that the signatures on this baseball are of the following players:
Manager Mike "The Human Rain Delay" Hargrove
Pitching Coach Leo Mazzone
Coach Cookie Rojas
Coach Rich Dauer
Sammy Sosa
Carlos Delgado
Rick Helling
Trevor Hoffman*
Greg Vaughn
Dan Plesac
Javy Lopez
Tom "Flash" Gordon
Kevin Millwood
BJ Surhoff
Billy Wagner
Jason Kendall
Garret Anderson
Nomar Garciaparra*
Jason Giambi
Devon White
Curt Schilling*
Brett Tomko
Damion Easley
Al Leiter
Jamie Moyer
Andruw Jones
UPDATED: and Mike Jackson

Thanks to all who helped me figure this one out! It took 18 months, and it's very satisfying to have a definitive resolution!