Friday, September 29, 2006

Go Ahead, Make My Day

If your day has been "made" by a good event, can it later be unmade? Or is "made"ness irreversible? Discuss:

What goes up must come down
Spinning wheel got to go 'round

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Goodbye to a Hero

This has been perhaps the most wonderful, magical year for the Twins and their fans. They were left for dead, and they came back. They have had several players emerge as true stars. They have clinched a spot in the playoffs. Heck, they even got funding for a new baseball stadium. And yet, for all this wonder, this season will feature one of the most bittersweet moments in recent Twins history, because tonight is the night that Brad Radke will make his final start. Oh, there's a chance he'll pitch in the playoffs. And a really slim shot that he'll come back next year. But when the dust settles tonight, we very well may have seen Radke for the last time. And as a Twins fan, there is not much that could make me more sad.

"Bradke", as he's known to fans, has been with the Twins for 12 seasons. It was the only organization he's ever known. First brought up in 1995, he's gone 148-139 in his career. At first blush, that doesn't look like the most spectacular record. Truth be told, at first blush, Radke doesn't look like the most spectacular pitcher. But look deeper and you'll be impressed at what you find.

Recall that the Twins were an absolutely miserable team in the mid and late 90's. Perennial bottom dwellers, the Twins were barely able to put a marketable product on the field. In many ways it was probably this stretch of awful teams that put the Twins up for contention when the contraction issue came about. Fortunately for Minnesota - and baseball - the Twins began to develop some very real talent, and all of that contraction talk went away. It's been a storied decade for the Twins - from horrible to hopeful, from contraction to contenders - and only one player has been there through it all: Brad Radke.

Here is a pitcher who was the single ray of sunshine during the darkest days of the 90's, poking through that little hole in the Metrodome roof. No matter how bad the Twins were, Radke was consistent. In 1997 he even managed to go 20-10 for a team that finished with 68 wins and 94 losses. So maybe his numbers don't look overwhelming. But when you consider who was playing behind him during those early years, his accomplishments begin to look substantially better.

More important than his stats has been Radke's steady presence. Throughout the 90's, and even up to today, the Twins have been a roster in flux. This is the curse of a small market, where players move on when they get too expensive, and new faces come up to take the open spots. Throughout all of the turmoil and roster turnover, Radke has been a calming influence. This was true for the new players, who looked to Radke for guidance and wisdom. If ever there was a pitcher who knew about working a hitter, Radke was it. He never had overpowering stuff, but he always seemed to get the job done. He worked hard with every pitch, always expanding the strike-zone, making hitters go after the pitch that he wanted them to hit. With his approach - throw strikes, make every pitch work for you - and his work ethic - always focused, dedicated to the task on hand - Radke had an amazing influence on the younger Twins players.

Radke's stability also had a wonderful effect in the Twin Cities, and around Minnesota. Radke and his wife Heather have always been very active in the community, spending significant time and money supporting children's organizations and hospitals, such as the Hennepin County Medical Center's neonatal ICU. Lots of ballplayers give back to the community, but Radke has gone above and beyond the call. Here is a player who seems genuinely grateful for everything he has, and who understands the importance of giving back to the community.

Radke has also been a wonderfully stable figure for Twins fans who needed someone they could relate to. When Kirby Puckett's career was tragically cut short many Twins fans lost their hero. Though a lot of people around the country looked up to Pucket, many never understood exactly why Puckett was a hero in Minnesota. The reason wasn't simply that he was a terrific player, but more so that he was our player. He was a Twin, through and through. When he thought about signing with Boston, that alone nearly killed hundreds of fans. We Minnesotans are fiercely loyal. And we want the same from our heroes. When we lost Kirby, we had nowhere to turn. There were no other career Twins.

Until Radke filled the void. Sure, he wasn't the spectacular athlete that Puckett was. And yeah, he gave up too many first-inning homers. But he was still our guy. And in Minnesota, that counts for a lot. Radke was always there, day in and day out. There was never any question about who was going to start our season (Until, of course, Santana came along...). We always knew who would lead our staff. Despite the constant turnover, there was always a player we could come back to, someone familiar who played a key role on the team. When the Twins started winning in 2001 they were doing it with new faces, players nobody knew. But thankfully there was still Radke. We didn't know these new guys, but we knew that with Radke as a leader we could trust that they'd all be out there bustin' their hump. Just like Brad. Radke has always exuded that same midwestern work ethic we Minnesotans cherish, and he was always reliable. Even the past couple years, despite a torn labrum, despite a stress fracture in his shoulder, Radke has sucked it up, and pitched through the pain. He's given everything he possibly could.

I'm unable to attend tonight's game. Something about me living in D.C. and the Twins playing in Minnesota. But I wish could. Of all the games they've played over the past 10 years, if I could pick one, this would be it. I wish I could be there to hear the ovation Radke will get when he steps onto that turf. And I wish I could be there to hear it when he steps back off. I wish I could be there to cheer every pitch, filled with joy that I got to watch this man for a dozen years, and filled with sadness that I have to say goodbye.

In Field of Dreams Terence Mann (James Earl Jones) delivers one of the most poignant speeches of American cinema:

"The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It's been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt, and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and that could be again."

For Minnesota, Radke was our baseball. The Twins have been erased and rebuilt more times than I can count. But through it all, we've had Brad Radke.

Steady as she goes

Friday, September 22, 2006

Collection Booth, Voting Plate, They're All the Same.

I've been ruminating a bit lately on a topic I'd like to discuss here for a bit. I'm not really sure what you'd call it... I guess maybe hypocrisy, particularly the similarities between religious and political hypocrisy.

My thoughts about it really came to a head during church this past week. For starters, there was an excellent sermon. Our priest told us a story about a Catholic priest in Africa, who was working at a mission, out in the middle of the plains, far away from everyone. There were other groups of missionaries - Methodists - serving a tribe not far away, and every week they would come to the priest for Sunday service. After several weeks they Methodists approached the priest, and asked if they would be able to receive communion, as part of the community they had established in the area. Weeks later, the priest was relaying this story to his bishop, who asked the priest, "what did you tell them?"

The priest responded, "Well, I wasn't sure how to proceed. So I prayed about it, and I asked myself, in this situation, what would Jesus have done?"

To which the horrified bishop exclaimed, "You didn't do that, did you!?!"

I think it was a wonderful story, and it really highlights one of the biggest areas of hypocrisy in the Catholic Church - we teach that Christ came for the poor, the sick, the sinners, the undesirable, and yet we try to exclude anyone who isn't "worthy" from receiving Jesus in the Eucharist. It's something that really bothers me.

The other - and the bigger - piece of the Mass that really stood out was the second reading. This one touched more directly on what I'd been thinking about lately. It came from the Book of James (2:14-18). I'll quote it here in its entirety:

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day,and one of you says to them, "Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well," but you do not give them the necessities of the body,what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, "You have faith and I have works." Demonstrate your faith to me without works,and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

It's a really wonderful section, because it cuts right to the heart of what it is to be Christian, to be a person of Faith. You cannot simply proclaim faith. You must live your faith, and if your faith is real, true, alive, then you will demonstrate it with the works of your life (I suppose I could get into the Catholic/Protestant soteriology debate over "Faith & Works" vs. "by Faith alone", but that's extraneous to this post, so I'll leave it alone for now).

This brings me to what has always been one of the most legitimate - and therefore most enduring - criticisms of Christians, indeed, of all faithful persons: that their actions do not match up with their words. That they are, in fact, hypocrites.

I remember reading a book in high school - Awakenings (was that what it was called? Where the lady committed suicide at the end? I forget. Someone want to help me out on this one?) - where the main character came from a family that spent Sunday making up for what they did the rest of the week, or something like that. I was always struck by that idea, probably because it proves true for so many people. All week they forget about God. They sin, they fail to serve others, etc. And then on Sunday - at least for an hour - they take time to reflect on their faith. And then it's right back into it.

What I think is really fascinating is the difference between the hypocrites and the regular sinners. At some point in time everyone slips up. No matter how intently you pray, no matter how strong your faith, you're going to sin. And that's ok. Making a mistake, failing in your Christian task, that doesn't make you a hypocrite. It just makes you human.

No, the hypocrites are the ones who have no intention of living their faith. Who embrace the dichotomy between the Sunday self and the Weekday self. Who think they can make up for their week with their faith on Sunday. But it doesn't work that way. James tells us so. If you're living life that way, if you're dichotomizing your faith and your works, then that's not really faith at all. You can't expunge your real life by simply attending church once a week. You can't say to yourself "I gave to the weekly collection, so I've done my duty to help the poor." You can't say to yourself "my church has hired a youth minister, so I don't have to help teach my faith to the young." Those are not statements that compatible with Christian faith, but instead are the statements of a hypocrite.

I'm amazed at how common this type of hypocrisy is. And what I've come to realize lately is that this isn't simply a religious hypocrisy - it's a political hypocrisy too.

What I mean is this: A lot of people look at their time at church/monetary donations as a way of paying their due. They figure that so long as they've given something to promote the cause, they're off the hook, and they don't have to live like Christians the rest of the week.

So too it is with politics. A lot of people look at their vote/monetary donations as a way of paying their due. They figure so long as they voted Democrat (it's mostly democrats, but probably not only democrats (let's face it, more republicans probably fall into the religious hypocrite division)) they're off the hook, and they don't have to live like a Democrat the rest of the election cycle. I know so many people who vote Democrat because "it's the right thing to do," or because they "support education" or "want to help the poor, not the rich". But so many of those exact same people would never help out the homeless man on the street. Or spend time in a soup kitchen. Or donate some spare time to mentor a child. It's almost as if they've voted Democrat so that they don't have to do it. And in that sense, this political hypocrisy is exactly the same as the religious hypocrisy.

I wonder, as church attendance has dropped throughout the past century, how many truly faithful persons have we lost? Or have we simply cut the number of hypocrites from our pews? Because now those hypocrites have a new way to expunge their guilt and clean their conscience; It seems that political hypocrisy has, for many people, simply replaced religious hypocrisy. The voting booth is nothing more than the new collection plate.

Mama works on carburetors

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Frustrated at the Incorporated

[Warning: Dangerous self-pittying ahead]

Can't sleep tonight. I think it's because I have an interview tomorrow morning. I'm not especially nervous for it, since it's only with a temp agency. Placing folks like me - you know, people who don't have a job - with firms on a temporary basis is how they make their bread and butter, so I'll probably get some sort of work (and thankfully, some sort of income) directly from this interview.

No, the reason this interview is keeping me up tonight is that it's really forcing me to come face-to-face with what has been a major struggle for me: unemployment.

The fact is, I don't have a job. And that has been a source of immeasurable frustration.

I suppose I could choose to paint the picture in a positive light: I've only been out of school a few months, I've put together a solid resume and it's really only a matter of time, I'm doing all the right job search things, there's a lot of people who don't have jobs yet, working in a temp position will get me some good experience while I keep looking, etc.

Although all those things are true, in my mind, there's really only the bleak reality that I don't have a job. And the truth behind that fact is even more disheartening. Despite doing everything right with my cover letters and resumes and so-on, I can't seem to even get an interview. Despite a good GPA and a great education, no one is interested in my services. Sure, I know some other people who don't have jobs yet - but when 95% of your classmates are doing something, they might as well all be; it is no consolation that there are others still looking. And maybe I'm only a few months out of school, but the honest truth is that I've been applying for jobs for well over a year, and two years if you count the fact that 2L interviews invariably lead to actual career-starting positions. That's a long time to go without landing a position. That's a whole lot of rejection letters. That's a whole lot of energy spent on ultimately futile efforts. And worst of all, that's a very long time to try to maintain a positive outlook; a lot of possible openings to get excited about, and a lot of dashed excitement.

Imagine 100 people of the opposite sex were handed a quick description of your best features, and asked if they'd have any interest in dating you. Now imagine that of those 100 exactly 0 had any interest in dating you, and at least 90% didn't even ever want to talk to you. Chances are, you'd feel pretty down about your love life.

I think that begins to describe how I feel about my lack of a job. The fact is, at first none of it was personal. I got a bunch of rejection letters back during my 2L year. Everyone did. That was expected. And I found a good job for that 2L summer, so I wasn't too worried. But then 3rd year started, and the interviews were fewer and further between. I really had to work to find the jobs out there, and when I did, I usually couldn't get an interview. A cover letter sent to a prospective employer simply meant another rejection letter. Soon enough, it all became personal.

Every rejection letter hurt. Every time I opened my mailbox and found a thin envelope, it felt like a slap in the face. Some hurt more than others - I really wanted some of those positions - but they all were personal. I suppose I shouldn't write in the past-tense; the fact is, the rejections are still coming. And they still hurt. Maybe worst of all, like any repetitive stress injury, each additional rejection just builds on the damage that's already been done. I can't imagine my confidence dropping much lower, but I'm sure when I check the mail tomorrow another rejection will accomplish what is beyond my imagination.

Why does no one want to hire me? Why does no one even seem to want to interview me? What is it about me - about my resume, about my cover letter, about my experience, about my education - that makes me so undesirable? I've been over these things, and over them again. I know with certainty that there is nothing wrong with anything I'm doing, with anything I'm sending out to employers. And yet... here I am. Frustrated, worried, hopeless.

I have worked so hard. I have tried so much. I have prayed so intensely. I have been so optimistic.

I am so defeated.

Put me out of my misery
I'd do it for you, would you do it for me?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Are, or, The Scourge of the High Seas, Not the National League Central

For those of you who weren't aware, today, September 19th, was the internationally recognized "Talk Like A Pirate Day". Seriously.

I wasn't aware there even was such a day until a few weeks ago, when my friend Stephanie invited Laura and me to a party celebrating the day. As is the custom with most parties, this one was held on the weekend - this past Saturday actually.

Laura and I were excited to go and dip our cups into traditional pirate grog and receive our actual pirate names (I was Shark-Tooth Pete, she was Rose Rose), but it turned out there was a strict dress code for the evening; we all had to dress like pirates. So we dug through our clothes, and realized we didn't really have anything too piratey. Now, we're not big on getting dressed up unless we're going to go all out (those of you who Rocky Horrored it with me know exactly what I'm talking about). But we didn't really want to invest a ton of money into pirate costumes.

But then, as we pondered this dilemma, a brilliant solution struck! A few bandanas, a couple T-shirts, a handful of makeup, a black magic marker, and... Viola! Perfectly legitimate (albeit pun-filled) pirate costumes! I offer the following pirate costume fashion show for your review:


Here is Laura, modeling the traditional pirate head-wear and eye patch. She'll be the terror - and envy - of the Seven Seas when she wears her stylish Pirate "Boo"-T. (Also available in "May").


No one knows how to accessorize better than Matt, seen here carrying one of his doubloons. A closer look reveals the fine detailing in his buccaneer facial trauma, and of course, what pirate would be complete without a little pear-rot on his shoulder?


And finally, Laura shows off a somewhat toothy grin, as she holds out a picture of our evening's mascot. A π-rat.

And I don't look good in leggings

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Phickle Thoughts

A whole hodgepodge of ideas here; if you don't like one, read through some of the others, maybe they'll click for you:

I love researching my book. There are so many cool things out there that I never knew about. I have learned so much, it's unbelievable. A big thanks to everyone who tossed an idea my way. Especially Luka - thanks buddy. Anyways, that's progressing. Slowly. I won't be ready to write for quite a while, but some of the ideas are really coming together nicely.

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This has been an amazing baseball season in the American League Central. 3 teams vying for 2 playoff spots, amazing rookie performances, break-out seasons, pitching, hitting, fielding - the AL Central has got it all. If you haven't been following at least one of the teams: Twins, Tigers, or White Sox, shame on you. If you're a NY or Boston person, and you can't name more than 3 people on either team, shame on you. Learn about these players; because they're awesome. It's going to be a fantastic final 3 weeks.

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I said it once before, and I'm going to say it again, before I'm too far removed from being in school:

I absolutely hate it when a campus signs an exclusive contract with only one soft drink provider. When you can't get certain types of pop on your campus it's a huge bring-down. Let's face it: Cherry Coke is the single greatest kind of pop. But Pepsi is generally better than Coke in the cola realm, and Mt. Dew is a necessary supplement. Coke probably has the edge in the root beer, and I think it's a toss up between Sierra Mist and Sprite. Toss in Dr. Pepper (affiliated with Pepsi), and its clear you need both types of pop on campus.

So why do they do it? Money, I'm told. But I don't even know if that really makes sense. My undergraduate didn't have an exclusive contract with either, and I'm pretty sure the smaller amount they got in 2 contracts came pretty close to off-setting the single exclusivity contract. At least, I'd have to imagine it came pretty close - otherwise, wouldn't they also have an exclusive contract? Maybe not. Maybe SJU just cared enough about their students to bring them all the sodas of the rainbow.

Anyways, I think exclusive pop contracts should be outlawed.

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When I eat raisin bran I pick out the raisins.

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You know what else I hate? Expensive, fancy pet food. The other day I saw this commercial for "restaurant-inspired cat food". Basically, it was a commercial selling the idea that you should feed your pet cat like a wealthy socialites.

And to me, that's just ridiculous. Now, I'm not a pet person. Never really have been. I just don't get the big appeal of pets. But that's just me. I've got no problems with other people having, enjoying, or loving their pets. I figure it's probably like the big family thing - I know the value of a big family, because I've experienced it. It's hard to put into words that can make someone else really feel the same way. Other people, who have experienced the value of pets, obviously get that. I just don't. No biggie.

But I really think it can go too far. I mean, there's all sorts of stories about pets being pampered in ridiculous ways - dog houses that cost a small fortune, plastic surgery, pet psychologists and therapists, etc. - and I think this whole "restaurant-inspired cat food" thing is another painful step in this direction. It's just too much. Of course, worse still is the actual restaurant-for-pets. (Oh, they exist). I mean, why does a cat need to eat salmon prepared by a chef when it can fill up on just-as-nutritious, not-nearly-as-expensive options?

I guess ultimately I just have a lot of trouble when people treat their animals better than they treat people.

Of course, I guess I don't actually know anyone who does that. Maybe these people aren't real? We can all hope.

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And, to head out on a pleasant note, I'd like to alert everyone that the final season of Arrested Development is now available. It's hilarious. Get it. Along with the first two seasons, if you don't already own them.

Hmm, maybe that's not a pleasant note, seeing as these are the final episodes of a show that should still be running... well... um, that's all I've got. Sorry folks.

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Oh wait! I thought of one! Go here and download the song that's called "Don't Download This Song." Man, I love Weird Al.

Don't download this song
Even Lars Ulrich knows it's wrong

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Steven Speilbergo

I don’t see what’s so great about foreign film. I mean, how is that not just out-sourcing acting jobs?

It may be years until the day
My dreams will match up with my pay

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Question:

A Chuck Barris inspired question here:

Would you rather be scorned for producing some of the worst television programs ever, programs which damage our collective American culture (e.g. The Gong Show, or Temptation Island), or would you rather be lauded for killing people (i.e. as a highly-skilled assassin)?

Bonus points for getting the song reference, triple bonus if you can explain why I picked it. But no cheating.

We ate and ate at a hotdog stand
We danced around to a rockin' band