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August 2002 Archives

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August 31

Did the usual grocery shopping this morning. Cooked my spaghetti sauce with turkey meat, spinach and green peppers.

A mixed sports day for me. The Terps got stomped by Notre Dame. Sunderland sneaked a draw out of Manchester United. DC United finally won a game, against the defending champion Earthquakes no less.

August 30

Came home early to wait for the cable guy. When the lightning hit, it fried some of our outlets, as well as the cable. It turned out he just had to fix the burned out grounding wire.

I picked Miranda up from Optimal Learning Center and we bought a couple of books for Michael McMillen's birthday tomorrow.

Bud and Don avoided a strike today. Although contraction has been delayed until at least 2006, nothing was said about the Expos. Will they stay in Montreal or move to Washington? While I was out of the room, TBS played a portion of Bud Selig at his news conference. Until I returned, I thought it was Bill Cosby talking.

August 29

Logged-in footage from Saturday's taping of Silver Screen Test. Saw only eight spots where I will put in iso shots and the last one is at the first PSA break. The last twenty minutes of the show were just fine.

Instead of complaining about the labor situation, here are three on-field rules that should be changed:

Stop ending games due to rain. If nine innings haven't been played, continue another day the way suspended games are currently handled. Do the same for games suspended in extra innings. I hate the stupid dance in the fourth or fifth inning in a driving rain. The team behind slows down, hoping the game is wiped out. The team that's ahead may purposely make outs just to speed up the game. Make the strategy the same regardless of the weather.

Dump the appeal play. If a runner leaves too early, he should be out, even if he is otherwise safe at the next base. Why should we wait a minute later to see if that play really happened? And if the appeal succeeds, why should we wait a minute for the inevitable argument from the manager? Let's just have the runner called out and any succeeding rhubarb happen then and there.

If the outfielder lands over the fence after catching the ball, it's a home run. If he can't stay on this side of the fence, that's too bad. I don't want the umpire having to guess if the fielder caught the ball out of sight.

August 28

Baseball Prospectus has a good colloquoy on the baseball labor situation. Colluquoy? Okay, let's just call it a dialogue.

It's also the first day picking up Miranda from the Optimal Learning Center where she spends the time before and after the official school day.

August 27

Today is Miranda's first day of 1st grade.

Tim Young has an interesting take on media bias.

Washington-Baltimore lost out to San Francisco and New York for the 2012 U.S. Olympic hosting bid. I really didn't want it because the disruption would have been a nightmare. I'm more disappointed that the Astrodome might be demolished after the 2005 Super Bowl. They'll play the game in the Texan's new stadium, but the NFL needs the exhibition space.

My parents came over to drop off the two garage-door-openers they bought for our anniversary. Installation comes with the purchase. Sears will call me tomorrow to schedule the appointment.

August 26

Before I talk about Northern Florida, here's a good opinion from Mike Berardino in South Florida.

Travels with Brick: Northern Florida

The Maryland College Bowl team flew down to Tallahassee on Republic Airlines in the days before Northwest acquired them. Much of the tournament was recounted in the January 2001 Archives. We lost to regional rival Marshall University. We didn't see too much of Tallahassee, but I remember it was far enough north to gather frost on January mornings. On the way back, we made one stop in Pensacola and discovered that part of Florida is on Central Time.

The next year, the team flew into Jacksonville and drove to Gainesville. We won three games in a row and retired undefeated champions to earn our national tournament bid. Tom Rogers and I found a small comic convention. We were leaving on Sunday afternoon, so we went to the convention in the morning. The team had a lot of waiting time before the flight in heat we don't get in College Park in January. We came really close to deciding en masse to transfer to Florida.

August 25

Been reading about Wimbledon moving to Milton Keynes..

Sports franchise movement, which we take for granted in the United States, like lawsuits and layoffs, "just isn't done" in England. Soccer teams stay in their historical area. The article cringes in horror at the American franchise system where a top team can appear in an area without going through the pyramid process. So part of the English attitude may stem from an entrenched class system opposed to an elite squad just appearing in a region full grown like Athena. Take your standard gentry horror story of an impoverished nobleman who must sell the ancestral castle to a newly minted billionaire rock star, computer geek or, in the worse case, an American. In the United States new money does this all time - only the displaced old money turns their nose up at it.

The story of Wimbledon to Milton Keynes repeats so many of the cliches familiar to the American sports fan. First the previous owner, Hammam, wanted to move to Glasgow and Dublin of all places. Current owners Norwegians Kjell Røkke and Bjørn Gjelsten run the team into the ground, then look for greener pastures. After the Football Association approved the move, the F.A. suggests the old neighborhood should build a museum. Paul Tagliabue told the same thing to Baltimore after they lost the expansion derby to Carolina and Jacksonville. Some have even questioned whether the FA really approved the move, or just validated that Milton Keynes deserved a team as well.

As an American, I was surprised the team could keep their name more than 60 miles away. We couldn't call a team the Brooklyn Dodgers if they played in Los Angeles.

As an aside, Robert Moses offered Dodgers owner Walter O'Malley the site that would eventually be Shea Stadium. O'Malley replied that they couldn't be called the Brooklyn Dodgers if they played in Queens.

But the story isn't quite that of Robert Irsay, spiriting the Colts away under the cover of darkness to a new domed stadium. There is no suitable temporary facility available in Milton Keynes, so Wimbledon continues to play in the London stadium they share with Crystal Palace.

I wonder if Røkke and Gjelsten could have bought a team in Milton Keynes and transfered the WImbledon players there. It would be equivalent to the gutting of the 1899 Cleveland Spiders, but at least Wimbledon, would still be near Wimbledon.

Are there economists laughing as if this is from an academic's satirical novel? Milton Friedman is the seminal figure from the conservative monetarist school. John Maynard Keynes represents the post-Great War interventionist school. Milton Keynes sort of puts the two opposites together.

Meanwhile, a grassroots group has assembled a new team dubbed AFC Wimbledon. AFC play in what amounts to the Eighth Division to 4,500 while Wimbledon FC continues to toil before less than 3,000 in the First Division (which is really the second division).

I like that the English Football system allows this response. The American sports leagues are too monolithic to permit competitors. One could say that William Shea and his New York boosters made a response similar to the formation of AFC Wimbledon. When the Dodgers and Giants moved to California, Shea started the Continental League and got Branch Rickey to head it. Major League Baseball got the New York and Houston interests involved in the expansion and the Continental League collapsed. All the potential Continental League cities eventually got franchises except for Buffalo.

In a free market, the owner should be able to locate his team whatever he wants and damn the fans. But a free market should also mean, if the fans are there, someone can step in and serve that market.

August 24

Another taping of Silver Screen Test today with the non-buzzer format. It was also the first program with the new DVCPro format for the tapes. For me, it means a lighter load of tapes to carry.

Thank you to the crew: Yen-Ming Chen, Bob and Rob Creager, Ken Kelly, Nancy Poole, Larry Sheingorn, Victor Soto and Patrick Thorpe.

August 23

Went to the Open House for Sally Ride Elementary. Miranda met the 1st grade teacher she was assigned to, along with some of her classmates. The reading teacher tested her and Miranda may have to move to another class with better readers.

August 22

I'm not as worked up about the possible strike as I have been in past years. Part of it is age and seeing it happen over and over again. Don't take it personally. It's not your business and just accept it as part of the landscape.

Another part is just interest in other stuff besides baseball. I have a feeling even the most intense baseball fans will just shrug and move on to something else. When the dispute is settled, they'll shrug again and come back.

August 21

For those you vowing to never watch another major league baseball game, whether in person or on television, if the players trike next Friday, you might need another diversion. There's always spending more time with your family, helping your community to be a better place, reading, watching other television programs or other sports. If you still need a baseball fix, try Out of the Park Baseball, a text-based simulation game with a very active community. To them, their fictional dynasties are quite real. Also check out their strangest fictional names.

August 20

Many writers in the area of baseball economics have called for the elimination of the anti-trust exemption. Certainly, that would be a good start, but others, such as Bill James, have called for a full AT&T-like breakup. As one not shy about half-baked ideas, I thought I'd give this one a try.

Break up the existing major leagues into four leagues of no more than eight teams each. As a corollary, all minor leagues are also on their own. Another concept we'd have to get rid of is that teams in the same league "compete" except on the field. Each league is a separate economic entity, like McDonald's, Burger King or Wendy's. Each team is a separate franchise, like individual restaurants. Each team wants to win their league, but the leagues are trying to drive each other out of business.

Before the breakup, the major league teams can cherrypick their prospects, but their roster will be limited to 40 players. Beyond the 25-man active roster, the other 15 would constitute a "reserve" squad that would play 2-4 times a week either in the afternoon, or when the main squad is on the road.

The commissioner of baseball becomes a self-regulatory organization. Like the NASD, the New York Stock Exchange, the ERSB, the RIAA or the MPAA, the office would exist on one level to promote the sports interest in general, to lobby Congress, etc. As a regulatory entity, it would police the leagues so that the government doesn't have to do it. Such matters would include integrity, ethics, and unfair practices. The commissioner's office would also mediate inter-league disputes. For the first 3-5 years, the former major league teams could only form leagues of no more than 8 teams. The minor leagues could be of any size, but their revenue could be no bigger than the largest league consisting of former major league teams. After the probationary period, the former major leagues could expand, but no bigger than the highest revenue league. This highest revenue league would serve as a ceiling to expansion by adding teams. Of course, there is no limit on revenue added by other means.

Every player's rights are held by some team in every league, in theory, although this would probably only be true for the stars. Contracts would be limited to three years, five in the case of free agents over 30. This would keep players from being trapped for too long at a low salary and allow teams to bail out relatively quickly from a bum deal. In practice, a player comes out of high school or college and signs with a low minor league. If he's good, his league will benefit from the crowds he draws or the players or money they will get in return by trading him to a higher league. Once the contract is up, he can sign a new deal with any league and gain the benefit of his recent performance. Just as now, a team may trade a player near the end of his contract to gain compensation. There would be no draft as we know it, where only one team can negotiate with a player, but leagues will organize some way to allocate rights among their own teams.

Each team would play approximately 140 games from April to August. Each league would send their champion to the World Series Tournament. How leagues determine their champion is up to them. Some may choose only their first place winner or the winner of a play-off tournament. The seeding and placement of league champions in the World Series Tournament would be based on the league's revenue. Therefore if League A has twice the revenue of League B, League A's champion enter the tournament one round later than League B's champion. In the first year, every team not in the World Series Tournament would play in a Regional Cup. This would involve teams near each other geographically across all levels, but should not involve more than 32 teams at a time. It would be interleague play, a subway series or derby every year. After the first year, all the previous year's Regional Cup winners, who are not already playing in the World Series Tournament, play for the National Cup. So every September and October, every team is playing the World Series Tournament, National Cup or Regional Cup, in descending order of prestige. If last year's Regional Cup winner is in this year's World Series Tournament, last year's Cup runner-up can be this year's representative. So regardless of level, every team finds itself playing for a championship.

A problem I see I would describe as the "glamour team" problem. Let's say a middling league has a single glamour team. It may be more beneficial, financially, for that league to contrive for that team to win every year and compete in the major tournaments. Hopefully, the fans of the other teams in the league will get discouraged and walk away, reducing the total revenue of the league.

But there are many good points to this proposal. The players can't have a long-term strike. The fans will just follow another league or the owners will hire other players. The owners can't have a long-term lockout. Again, the fans will just follow another league or the players will sign with another league.

Team owners can just move on cities, but if there's a profit to be made, some other owner will move their team in. The threatening game won't be a long drawn-out process. Owner threatens to leave. City says don't let the door hit your butt on the way out. Another owner comes in.

Much smaller communities would now have real baseball, not just young men who may disappear at the whim of somebody in the parent club's office. There would be real pennant races, and those races would greatly increase the attendance at minor league parks.

Teams can no longer use the small market excuse to hide incompetence. Why do you think the Athletic and the Twins are winning, but the Royals and Tigers are not? It's not the size of the market, it's the size of the brain at the top.

August 19

Travels with Brick: Huntington, West Virginia

I went to two College Bowl National Championships in Huntington, West Virginia at the campus of Marshall University. I usually took the van, but maybe once a trip I walked to the theater. Townsend Reese preferred to walk to work out his demons.

The first year an adult movie house along the way prominently displayed the triple feature of Blazing Zippers, Gulp! and Your Wife for Mine. I never took the opportunity to slide across the river to Ashland, just to say I was in Kentucky. Like Charleston, Huntington is also a small Eastern industrial city. For a few years it was my least favorite city probably because I stayed there for an extended period.

August 18

Hicks: Strike might make owners push for cap. The headline isn't as telling as this line from the article:
Hicks, speaking from his yacht off San Diego...
And I don't think he'll be looking for a job to finance his next round of sailing.

Three things you will hear over next two weeks:

The fans and the media are on the owners' side. The fans and media and media have never been on the players' side. But if call-in shows are any indication, I hear the "plague on both your houses" line more frequently.

Fans say they'll never come back. Which is the same thing the fans said in 1972, 1981, 1990 and 1994. This is the fans equivalent to the owners' mantra:"We're going bankrupt."

Being on strike on September 11 is the biggest black eye baseball has ever suffered. Worse than segregation, throwing baseball games, collusion, the 1918 World Series and cease and desist orders to fansites.

I went to the Detroit-Baltimore game with Bruce Beard. I discussed the principle that, apart from walks, strikeouts, home runs, and hit batters, pitchers have little control of the game. I pulled out of my head the idea that, subtracting strikouts and home runs, the batting average is about .320. Bruce proposed to test with research in this game. Since he started keeping track in the 5th inning, the players went 12 for 35 at .343 in batted balls that did not become home runs. For the entire game it was 23 for 64 at .359.

Baltimore is clearly better than Detroit. The Tigers made some ridiculous baserunning blunders. The Oriole pitchers, especially Erickson and Brock, shot themselves in the foot by allowing so many baserunners on.

In the evening, Miranda and I looked at the felled trees and counted the rings. I counted 55 on the larger tree and at least 30 on the smaller tree.

August 17

Since the trees behind my house and my next-door-neighbor are technically on parkland, county workers cut and chopped up the lightning-damaged trees yesterday.

Bush will be "furious" if baseball players strike. Ponders plan to include Major League Baseball in the new Department of Homeland Security.

August 16

Last night, Miranda said,"Wanna here me sing 'God Bless America' real fast?" So she did. I said that I could do a punk rock version. These are the moments I wish I could play an electric guitar, or a keyboard where I could fake it. She loved it so much, that she asked me to sing it again, but my throat could handle only one more rendition. You don't want to hear that off-key groan of the word "foam".

Derek Zumsteg has a great plan for revenue sharing. He starts off my assuming that every team should be in a market size of 4 million, in the Atlanta range. He also figures that each team should be generating $23 per person in the market, which is 16% below the median. That numbers limits the teams getting welfare. Multiply 4 million people by $23 per person and you get expected revenue of $92 million. So all teams in markets bigger than 4 million have to pay $23 per person above 4 million in their market. Multi-team markets are split in half so that the New York, Los Angeles and Chicago teams get nicked and the Bay Area teams get additional revenue. On the other side, teams get $23 for each person under 4 million in their market.

What's great about his system is that revenues don't matter. A team can hide revenues, but they can't change census figures. A team hiding revenues will only end up reducing the per person payment. Teams in the big markets have to pay regardless of their revenues. The only way the could turn themselves into a receiver would be to allow enough teams into their market to turn themselves into a small market.

I'm hearing too much of the same rhetoric. Golic and Greenberg think that the players should not strike because of the public relations boon it would be. Then the owners, "out of shame", would continue to negotiate, rather than declare an impasse. First of all, nobody in this business cares about public relations or has any shame. Secondly, asking the players to trust the owners is like asking someone to trust someone who has lied to them one hundred times out of the last hundred. It's the equivalent of unilateral nuclear disarmament down to medieval technology. The players would be cutting their own throats.

And as for baseball being destroyed? I don't think so. It's got a long way to fall. Despite all their problems, check the ratings and attendance, baseball is only second to football. Might baseball fall below basketball and hockey in popularity? Maybe. That's still a lot of attendance and a lot of television air time and they'd still be above soccer.

I think it's in the owners' court. If the whispers of bankruptcy are correct, then the banks will demand a settlement shortly after the strike. If the owners can financially withstand the strike, then the sky hasn't been falling. Maybe the owners can get the players to accept a luxury tax, by taking contraction off the table and actually promising expansion in three years. That means we have to wait that much longer in Washington, and the Expos aren't going anywhere.

August 15

A while back, Phil Castagna proposed a central organization to schedule quizbowl tournaments. At this point, I would favor only that a responsible and competent person collect and continually update upcoming tournaments on a web site. The circuit would support that work by referring to the site regularly. If someone else thinks they can do a better job, let them post a web site as well.

Phil's posting on the Yahoo Quizbowl group was followed by schemes to unify quizbowl. I would be in favor of a single entity. When I won the National Championship, there only one entity - College Bowl. One governing body validates the championship achievement. That's why I work with another competitive entity, because I want to be on the other side, validating someone else's achievement. Of course, on the high school level, there are several governing entities as well.

Aside from the College Bowl Company, various media, were there to help in the validation. All that attention, the newspaper, radio and television coverage, gave the impression that the championship really was worth something. Don't get me wrong. Any of a number of subsequent champions produced by later, more rigorous means could probably kick my ass. But does it feel any better than a dominating night of NTN?

Despite all this, I don't think we can get to a single entity without a lot casualties. Regardless of how moral and well-intentioned the people who prevail are, those on the losing end will harbor a lot of bad feelings. The circuit is small enough as it is, we don't need to alienate any more. So I think we should look at other models.

One that might work is the science fiction convention circuit. They consist of the same intelligent, occasionally socially inept, crowd found in quizbowl. Their conventions are the equivalent of tournaments. There is no scheduling entity and a quick look at SciFi Conventions shows that frequently there are many cons in a single weekend. They have splintered off into media, comics, gaming and costuming cons, as well as the traditional con centered on the written word with plenty of the other stuff included.

Most of the regional conventions are run by a local club. The Baltimore Science Fiction Society, the Washington Science Fiction Association and FanTek are some examples in the Washington-Baltimore area. The clubs have regular, usually monthly, meetings that newcomers can attend before going to a convention. Perhaps a non-university-affiliated group could hold monthly practices and call them meetings to attract more of the general public to the circuit.

Ultimately, though, I don't think the science fiction model can work. Conventions make money, not just from memberships, the equivalent of entry fees, but from providing space to people who want to sell stuff. That stuff can be artwork, books, clothing, games, posters, videos, etc. I can't think of any trade, with a large number of dealers, that had something the quizbowl community would want to buy. More importantly, what could anyone have to sell that would find the concentration of quizbowlers in one place to be a money-making opportunity they couldn't pass up?

The circuit just has to keep brainstorming this one.

August 14

I always thought that Andruw and Chipper Jones would be the inter-racial media darlings of a dynasty the way Frank and Brooks Robinson were for the Orioles. They haven't partially because the Braves pitchers have been the bigger stars. Also, Chipper had a messy divorce that started with getting his lover pregnant while Andruw had that Gold Club incident.

Still, I think we should start referring to them as a unit called Cajones. For example, last night was not a good night for Cajones, going 0 for 7 with a walk.

August 13

ESPN is showing the Little League World Series again, complete with heart-rending commercials, probably to convince you that this is the way baseball is supposed to be, unlike Major League Baseball. On the other hand, I hate putting pressure on kids who are not Sean Burroughs. It embarrasses me to see them on television, because it seems so trivial. I think we would be better served by showing pretty much any other sport, with athletes who are, or can be one of the best at their sport.

If you read The Politics of Glory AKA Whatever Happened to the Hall of Fame?: Baseball, Cooperstown, and the Politics of Glory, Bill James suggests that the Baseball Hall of Fame could get fans to vote for induction and charge them $15 or $20. They could charge $30, call it “membership,” then send out a glossy magazine like many museums do. There’s a long list of writers willing to trade blogging to earn a few bucks writing for a national magazine about baseball.

August 12

We got up at 3am to look for the Perseid meteor showers. No such luck this morning, unlike my observation of the Leonids last November.

Travels with Brick: Charleston, West Virginia

I didn't get to see much of Charleston. I went there in connection with the College Bowl Regional Championship at the University of Charleston, then known as Morris Harvey College. It seemed a lot like the small Eastern industrial towns I've known like Wilkes-Barre and Bethlehem in Pennsylvania and Cumberland in Pennsylvania.

The Maryland team at that time included Bob Maranto, my future best man, and Jay Hepner, former Peary team captain and current Quince Orchard coach. Jay spent the whole weekend talking about how he so much looked forward to seeing Kate Jackson on Saturday Night Live. When 11:30 came around, we left him asleep and went to another school's room to watch.

Our favorite moment was the sketch around her monologue where she recounted her days as an NBC tourguide. A tour interrupted her. At some point, the tourists stopped asking their tourguide questions and asked Kate instead. One asked her the capital of Delaware. Kate said,"Delaware doesn't have a capital. It uses Maryland's."

August 11

Miranda woke me up this morning with the line,"Cause that's real cheese." It seems last night, she slipped and hurt herself while taking her bath.

Crying and cuddled up in Whitlock's arms, she said something into mommy's breasts that sounded to Mary like,"Cause that's real cheese."

Turns out Miranda actually said,"Cause that's three ouchies." This was her third injury that day, in addition to the two mentioned in yesterday's blog. Both of them were laughing hysterically in the sort of way that you had to be there. Miranda had to make sure it was the first thing she told me this morning.

Kauai's mom inside the trap.August 10

We caught Mommy cat in the laundry room. I took her out the garage door to our front steps. I opened the cage and she ran down the street past the remaining houses under construction. Cue music to Born Free.

Whitlock is so relieved. Now we just have a lot of cleanup and getting someone to fix the insulation.

Rick & Grey Dutton I took Miranda back to Sally Ride to practice riding her bike. She still has trouble going even slightly uphill in the concrete area beneath the awning. Afterwards, I took her to the playground. All Miranda remembers is that she fell off her bicycle and that I accidentally bumped her head while lifting her unto the hanging slide device.

I went to Grey Dutton's 41st birthday party. The first person I saw was Joan Wendland who was giving out Blood-and-Cardstock plastic cups. I gave her a Silver Screen Test card. Again we discussed her providing me with some copies of the game to give away on my program.

Ilana Stern & Britt BassettIlana Stern and her husband Britt Bassett have returned to land. Having finally run out of money, they're going back to work to earn enough to finance their next round of sailing. Ilana introduced me to Britt as the guy she went to Disney World with. Britt and I discussed the hazards of our strangely similar alliterative names. Ilana said I was one of the few people she recognized immediately. Maybe because good fortune has rendered me less gray, less bald and less fat than others.

Chris & AliceAlice Sato is back in town with a new boyfriend, a film editor now working for Georgetown University. She's taken a post-doc at Johns Hopkins. They're living in Brett Abbott's house in Maryland while he's on assignment in England.

Talked for a while with Catherine Stader, AKA Trapper. She's looked exactly the same since I first met her when she was about 17, like a red-haired Connie Willis. Trapper still lives in the oldest part of Montgomery Village. I saw her on the Metro the morning I went for my interview with the Commission.

Linda Rioux AKA Constantia had a song in her head she couldn't identify. It was from the 1970s and concerned the singer arriving hungry at some location containing food galore. Once there though, he had to dance for his supper and the refrain repeated,"I can't dance." At this point I knew it was this song. It was pretty easy for the Julie Stahlhuts of the world, but I put a shout out to the younger TRASH aficionados. How difficult was this question?

August 9

More thanks to Craig Barker for pointing out an article on Anna Kournikova who now has Harold Solomon coaching her. Harold is from Silver Spring, Maryland and his uncle is my dentist.

A long time ago, he was back in town to play the tournament now known as the Legg Mason Tennis Classic. I was attending a science fiction convention at the Silver Spring Hilton. This was back in my punk phase when I looked like a street gang member in leather and chains.

I was going down in the elevator even though I wanted to go up because convention elevators get so crowded you take any lift you can get. At that moment though, the elevator was strangely quiet and I was alone. On the first floor, in walked Harold Solomon, who had just checked in. So I immediately turned into babbling fan, telling him how wonderful he was and how I was going to watch him in person at the tournament. Harold kept to his corner in the elevator trying to figure out when thugs became part of his fan base. He didn't say too much and quickly got off on his floor.

Very disturbing entry from Teresa Nielsen Hayden on a prudent approach to child abuse.

Great article today from Rob Neyer on the gold glove of Millennium Trammell. Not that I don't think Jeter is good, barring injury he'll make the Hall of Fame on his four World Series rings so far. Yet the Detroit shortstop of the 1980s was just as good, and his Hall of Fame chances are slim.

Peeked into the basement and saw the mother cat crawling into the rafters. She won't use the litter box and would be much happier in the wild. I tried to find here tonight to send her outside, but she did a great job of hiding. We set the trap in hopes of catching her.

August 8

Thanks to Craig Barker for this piece about both my favorite sports.

Whitlock said the mother cat had eaten her food. Also, she's ripped up the insulation around the basement window.

Freekick, the official MLS program magazine had an ad from the campaign giving drug users the guilt trip for terrorism. Granted, some terrorists finance their operations with drugs. However, Osama Bin Laden's family got rich from oil money. He continues to be financed by Saudi oil families, either money given volutarily or extorted. So shouldn't the people driving cars and the oil company executives be made to feel guilty for the terrorist attacks? Oh yeah, I forgot, they have Secret Service protection.

...No, I'm not giving up my car. I'm just pointing out how stupid the ad campaign is. Master of the obvious. But I might consider a Prius next time around.

August 7

I think I heard the mother cat again this morning. We'll set a trap later to catch her. She sounds mournful and hungry, but I can't feel guilty about that. If she's too scared to come down and eat, well that's Darwin's way isn't it?

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Max Sawicky makes a good point here. If mining safety regulations hadn't been gutted, there might not have been a disaster to politically exploit.

Rob Neyer and Joe Sheehan both railed against the long-term contract the Angels signed with Darren Erstad. This kind of unwarranted signing puts me against the minimum salary requirement some have suggested. The reason for the minimum salary is to prevent teams, such as the Expos, from merely pocketing their revenue sharing cut instead of putting it into players. However, some teams may make stupid signings like this just to get above the minimum. With revenue sharing in the NFL, consistent bad management have failed to garner success for some teams like the Lions and the Bengals. Right now I'd be in favor of sharing all television revenue and putting a third team in New York as solutions. Maybe we can rightly put the blame on incompetent management rather than low revenue.

Kauai, a black kittenAugust 6

Here's a picture of Kauai. It's appropriate that a Sunderland fan has a black cat. Here's a list of Famous Sunderland Supporters, apart from myself and Adam Fine.

August 5

Travels with Brick: Rocky Mountains and Great Plains

The drive to Denver from Chicago took two days so we stayed the night in Omaha. The African-American janitor in the hotel smashed the stereotype of a homogenous white Midwest.

Just inside Colorado, we ran into a storm with hailstones the size of ping pong balls inundating the car. Even, my father the meteorologist, was scared. We just held on tight and the car suffered no damage at all.

We stayed in Estes Park at the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park. We drove Route 34 along the Big Thompson River and its canyon. The drive is mildly scenic with the river less than a hundred feet across, a few white water areas, and high canyon walls. In 1976, a flash flood killed over 130. Heavier rains upriver funneled into the narrow canyon where the campers were unaware of the severity of the rainfall.

In Boulder we visited the National Center for Atmospheric Research whose modern buildings appeared in Woody Allen's futuristic comedy Sleeper. I also felt the usual Eastern inferiority at the lowness of the Appalachian Mountains.

We took a northerly route back to Chicago. Having never been through a genuinely sparsely populated area, I finally appreciated that some places have no people. Hawk Springs is the largest town in Southeastern Wyoming for many miles around, but its population was less than the honor society for my high school graduating class.

In South Dakota, you discover the wonders of Wall Drug, the Jackalope and the pronunciation of the capital. It sounds like a dock, not like a Frenchman. On the plains, you can see thunderstorms and, presumably, tornadoes coming. Living among hills and buildings, it's difficult to appreciate approaching weather.

It rained the morning we went to Mount Rushmore. George Washington looked like he was crying.

Miranda tries out her bikeAugust 4

Whitlock and Miranda went to get the bicycle. It didn't quite fit in the trunk of the Saturn. It just barely fits in the trunk of Altima.

I took Miranda out to Sally Ride to try it out. She needs more work getting off the seat and pushing hard when going even slightly uphill.

Kauai is getting used to everybody, purring regardless of who picks him up.

The Washington Freedom defeated the Atlanta Beat in the 94th minute to qualify for the WUSA playoffs.

Lightning shattered one tree and ripped through another behind it.August 3

We got Miranda an 18-inch bicycle from Toys "R" Us. The young man named Russell did a wonderful job telling us what we needed to know.

The MLS All-Star game was interrupted by lightning. Lightning hit a tree behind our neighbor's house. The explosion propelled splinters up to 50 feet, including our yard. The wood shards poked holes in our neighbor's siding like shrapnel.

We got off easy. The electrical outlets in our kitchen don't work and we're getting snow on our cable.

August 2

Still no mommy cat. I've closed off the area under the stairs with fine chicken wire called hardware cloth. I'm starting to suspect mommy may have escaped. I haven't heard any movement or smelled any waste. Whitlock and Miranda are now calling the kitten Kauai.

August 1

The kitten remains in the powder room. We still haven't seen the mother cat. I've climbed the ladder to check the rafters of the bottom floor and still haven't seen her.

I tried to clean up the area under the stairs she fouled. I took out the waste, but the bleach was too strong in such a confined unventilated area. We just poured more bleach in from the outside.

The Undertow... another pointless surfing metaphor ...

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