Monday, March 31, 2008

2008 Baseball Preview

I did abysmally in my picks last year, and hopefully I'll do an equally terrible job this year (at least in the AL Central, since I'm not picking the Twins for once, but I'll still be rooting for them). For those wondering where my annual call for Opening Day to be recognized as a national holiday is, don't worry, it'll get its own post this year.

So, without further delay, here are the picks:

National League

NL East: The Mets added a HUGE piece in Santana, and I still love the guy so much that I'm going to predict he alone pitches them to the top of the East. No big chokes like last year. Philly is a great team, and the Nationals will hopefully turn some heads (beautiful new stadium, a lot of excitement around some good, young offensive threats) and finish in third. Of course, that involves me picking against the Braves, which is something I know I should never do. But Jayson Stark picked the Braves to win it all, so I think that'll be an effective enough curse, and I'll stick with my pick. NL East shapes up as Mets, Phillies, Nationals, Braves, Marlins.

NL Central: Never a fun division to pick because there are so many middling teams, and it's baseball's biggest division. I think the Cubbies will take the crown, provided they get a second baseman. Fukodome will quitely put up solid numbers, and Kerry Wood will thrive in the closers role. Of course, they'll choke it all away in the first round of the playoffs. The Brewers are good, but I think they've got one more year to go, and the Cardinals have fallen a long way. NL Central in order: Cubs, Brewers, Astros, Reds, Cards, Pirates.

NL West: Another difficult division, with a handful of middling-to-good teams. I loved the Rockies last post-season, but I think they'll fall back to Earth as teams frequently do. The Padres will show some cracks, and the Giants are probably the worst team in baseball. That'll leave the door open for a battle between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks. I love the Diamondbacks' pitching, so I'm giving them the edge over the Torre-led team from L.A. Your NL West finishes Diamondbacks, Dodgers, Padres, Rockies, Giants.

NL Wild Card: East or West? The good teams in the West are closer to each other than are the good teams in the East, so I think the West will bully each other around too much for one of them to take the wild card. Of course, the same thing happened last year, but it came out of the West. This year though, conventional wisdom rules, and the Phillies take the Wild Card.

MVP: David Wright leads the Mets to a East title over the Phillies and takes home the MVP trophy as a result.

Cy Young: Johan Santana proves to the rest of the world what those of us in Minnesota have know for years: unless you're at least 47, he is a better pitcher than anyone you've ever seen.

Rookie: Um... I dunno. I'll say that Geovany Soto guy, because I recognize the name.

American League

AL East: You know, I really hate the Red Sox. So I'm not picking them. Yankees take the East. How do you like them apples, Boston? Welcome to second place. It's called hubris, and the baseball gods don't smile upon it. The full AL East shakedown goes Yankees, Red Sox, Blue Jays, Rays, and Orioles.

AL Central: This pick hurts me. Because I'm such a Twins fan, I always want to pick them. And maybe they'll have a miracle season, but that's exactly what it would have to be, so I can't knowingly predict they'll win. I'll hope for it though. And let me just say that if there is one surprise team that could do big things this year, it's the Twins. I think Cleveland's pitching is actually quite suspect after Captain Cheeseburger, and I don't know if I even trust him after all the innings he threw last year. Fausto will, like his namesake, realize that deals with the devil that result in temporary glory are ultimately unwise exchanges. Detroit has another season of glory, before next year when suddenly a suprising number of guys are too old (see White Sox, Chicago '06 & Cardinals, St. Louis '07). Your AL Central finish: Tigers, Indians, Twins, White Sox, Royals.

AL West: The Angels are the obvious choice, but I've been writing this post for too long, and I think Seattle puts it together while the fans in Anaheim realize that $90 million is an awful lot for garbage time home runs and GIDPs. The real question here is whether the Rangers or the A's are the worse team. I'll say the A's, because we all know they'll be back on top soon enough, while the Rangers continue to languish in irrelevance. Mariners, Angels, Rangers, Athletics.

AL Wild Card: Once again, screw you Boston. Indians take the wild card.

MVP: Hmm, this is tough. Oh wait, no it's not. Alex Rodriguez.

Cy Young: Hmm, this is tough. Yes. Yes it is. I'm going to go with Eric Bedard who leads all AL pitchers in K's and a surprising Seattle team to the playoffs.

Rookie: I'd pick Evan Longoria, but he's not even in the majors right now. Bucholz would be a wise pick, but once again, I hate the Red Sox. On roughly the same principle, I not going with Joba Chamberlin of the Yankees. That leaves... Daric Barton?

Playoffs

NLS: Mets over Cubs, Diamondbacks over Phillies
NLCS: Mets over Diamondbacks
ALS: Tigers over Mariners, Yankees over Indians
ALCS: Tigers over Yankees

World Series: Tigers over Mets

I don't care if I ever go back

Friday, March 28, 2008

The Greatest Prank Never Realized

When I was studying in Rome a handful of the girls and guys on our trip had a small little feud. I don't remember what it was about, and I wasn't really directly involved, though I enjoyed watching from the sidelines. The guys kept pulling pranks on the girls, who would return the favor. It's hard now to recall what all the gags were, but the perhaps the greatest missed prank ever happened during that trip.

It was the girls' turn to retaliate, and they wanted to come up with something great. They snuck into the guys' rooms, stole their boxers. They spent a night sewing all of the front flaps shut, mistakenly thinking that men actually use that flap. After a couple days, when there had been no reaction, they were convinced that the guys had just plotted to jointly ignore the prank, so as to keep from giving the women any satisfaction. In all actuality, none of the guys had even realized that the flaps had been sewn shut. When they finally found out that their prank had fallen flat the women pretty much gave up, and the prank war ended. But you have to admit, that would have been a pretty awesome prank.

Anyway, the reason this story is important in your life is because, in thinking about this story, I realized that the flap is there for a reason, and now I actually use it when I'm wearing a belt and need to go to the bathroom.

You were born too late
I was born too soon

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Visit From My Cousin

One of my cousins recently visited us here in D.C. I hadn't seen him in roughly five years, but we picked up like no time had passed. Our family has a pretty strong bond, and we're all similiar in some important ways, so it makes it really easy for us to connect. We played a lot of games (especially Smash Bros. Brawl!) and had a great time.

He was able to get a recommendation for a Bolivian restaurant that we'd never heard of, and we went there one of the first nights he was in town. It was a little hole-in-the-wall place, with just a handful of tables. The food was authentic Bolivian, which is something I'm sure most people haven't had the opportunity to try. It's too bad, because the food was delicious. If you ever get the chance, eat Bolivian.

While we were out to dinner that night we realized that one of the screws fell out of my glasses. I had a huge argument in court the next morning, so we needed to get a new screw that night. We made our way to Target, and found a small glasses repair kit. Unfortunately, they didn't have any glasses screws in the kit, or anywhere else for sale. They did, however, have a large selection of reading glasses, most of which had glasses screws in them... Anyway, we bought the repair kit, and with the aid of that somewhere along the line we were able to procure a screw for my glasses.

My cousin came to my argument the next morning, which was kind of nice. No one other than my coworkers has had a chance to see me in court yet, and I liked having the feedback. It was especially nice because I won the argument (keeping a man from being wrongfully evicted. Good times.).

It was a really good time. We love having visitors, and people are always welcome at our place. It can get kind of lonely being so distant from so much of our families, and so we really appreciate the time we get when people come to see us. And so I'll end this post with a hearty thanks to my cousin for coming to see us, and a reminder that our door is always open.

There's always something happening
And it's usually quite loud

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

But I'm Mostly Polish...

For some reason or other I always happen to wear green on St. Patrick's Day. I never intend to, it just happens. In fact, I'd even try to avoid green, but, well, it's really really hard to fight the kind of cosmic forces that are obviously at play here.

Your house is on fire

Monday, March 10, 2008

Phickle Thoughts

Honestly, I'm a little disappointed there wasn't more conversation in response to the last post. I guess I only have myself to blame. I should have titled the post, "In Your Face, Libertarians!". Maybe that would have gotten more of a reaction.
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On Sunday we purchased Super Smash Bros. Brawl for our Wii. I must say that I'm exceedingly pleased at how much fun it has been. I'm excited to play online against friends and family. If you've got a Wii and Smash Brothers, and you're interested in playing, shoot me a line and we'll exchange friend codes.
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The ability to play Wii online is awesome. I've only played Guitar Hero against others, but I'm excited for the possibility of playing many many more games. It's especially a bonus when we live in D.C. but most of our friends and family live in the Midwest. The ability to connect online is so tremendously valuable. Whether with the Wii, or just online. I got to play chess against B.I.L. (Brother-In-Law) the other day via Yahoo Games. It was terrific.
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I'll admit, a little part of what made it so fun was the fact that I actually won for once. Despite being more than 10 years younger than me, B.I.L. routinely beats me at just about everything. I'd be embarrassed but B.I.L. is just darn good at every game. Except nerts (or is that with a 'z'?). But it's ok that he beats me at everything, because I've got him where it counts: in height. Yup, that's right, I've gotta be almost a foot shorter than him. Poor guy.
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Speaking of games, Laura and I attended a game night thrown by one of my best friends from law school. We played Clue (among other games). I hadn't played it in more than a decade. It was a lot of fun. Good game, that Clue. I probably outta go out and purchase it some time. I'm a big fan of Mr. Green.
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At law school friend's game night they had the Harry Potter inspired jelly beans. The ones that come in "every" flavor. Our friends had already picked through almost all the good ones, so whenever someone made a dumb move (like when we played Taboo and someone said a prohibited word) they had to eat one of the jelly beans. I had a handful. I was terrific at guessing the flavors. I correctly identified grape jelly (the only good one I had), dirt, boogers, grass, soap, and sausage (I guessed liverwurst. Close enough.). I'm impressed at how accurate they can make those beans taste. And at how many absolutely disgusting things I've tasted in my life.
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On the Harry Potter theme... how terrible is J.K. Rowling? She's suing the guy who put together an encyclopedia of the Harry Potter world. Nevermind that she herself used the guy's online catalog to write her books. She decided she wanted to sell one of her own, so instead of putting it up against some competition, she's trying to create a monopoly. It's all about the money for her. Of course, it always was. I'm not sure if that makes her more or less of an artist.
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I've been struggling with the idea that weight loss will required diet and exercise.
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Micheal Clayton was a terrific movie. We Netflixed it and watched it last night after our game night. Excellent drama. We liked how they kind of took the suspense and "who-dunnit" out of the calculation to make it more of a drama and less of a mystery. I still haven't seen No Country for Old Men, but after having seen 3 of the best picture nominees, I'd say that this was a strong year for Oscar films. It's been a while since there was such a good year.
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Last but not least, there's a new little blurb under the title. Enjoy!

No more flippin' burgers, puttin' on my silly hat
You know I don't want that, no more.

Monday, March 03, 2008

My Political Philosophy

Well, this post has been a long time coming, and unfortunately it probably won't be an extremely complete post. Actually, it's more of a primer, and hopefully a conversation starter. Bits and pieces of my political philosophy have shown up all over the place, primarily in previous discussions about whether or not the government should "legislate" "morals" (separate quotes for those words). Anyway, here is a quick attempt at laying out my political philosophy. As of today. Sometimes my thinking on these things changes. Note the name of the blog.

The government is a body that derives it's power from the people (nothing revolutionary here; at least not in this day in age). As such, in order to determine the role of the government, we need to figure out a few things about the people. If we're trying to figure out people, it seems we've got ourselves a little question about human nature. That being the case, it's easy to see why much of my political philosophy is actual an extension of my thinking about human nature. Primarily relevant to this conversation is the idea that people are, by their nature, social beings.

The whole "state of nature" idea of Hobbes, et. al. is, at best, a terribly unrealistic fiction with only marginal philosophical utility. People are not simply individuals who enter into society because it's a useful arrangement for protecting their life (and/or rights). Rather, people are born into society. The natural consequence of our existing is that we are social beings. It is impossible to be born into a state of nature, and nearly as impossible to leave society to enter a state of nature. Any political philosophy based on the state of nature/social contract theory should be largely rejected.

If people are by their nature social beings, then government is essentially a natural outgrowth of our social functions. Government is the mind that directs our social existence. Just as we as individuals order our lives to achieve desired ends, so too does our government order our society to achieve desired ends. The desired end of government, it follows quite naturally, is the same as the desired end of any individual: the good life.

The idea that government exists for the purpose of making sure everyone plays nice seems to be almost all-pervasive. This is a philosophy that comes from the whole "state of nature" fiction. The people who hold this view allow for some essential "road building" though to be honest I question how that fits into the social contract/play nice theory. I want to throw this philosophy out and suggest that even without government people would, for the most part, play nice. History tends to bear this out. Because we are social beings, we function socially just fine, with or without a specific government telling us to get along. So if we get along just fine, what is the role of government?

As Aristotle put it: "The political partnership must be regarded, therefore, as being for the sake of noble actions, not for the sake of living together." The living together part is taken care of by human nature. Government then is for "noble actions" or those things which enable the good life.

Now, there are plenty of debates we can have about what specific attributes constitute the good life, and plenty of debates about the best way to achieve that good life. But I don't think it is too controversial to suggest that the good life encompasses the entirety of human experience: physical and mental health, economic and financial prosperity, moral virtue, education, family life, entertainment, cultural sophistication, and so on and so forth. All of these are thus proper subjects for government, let's say, "promotion." Because in order to promote the good life the government doesn't necessarily need to be making things legal or illegal (though certainly that will be the natural response to some areas), but rather they need to be engaged in enabling citizens to achieve the good life. So, for example, road building is a necessary and proper function of government (as is collecting the taxes to build those roads) because those roads enable people in their attempt for the good life.

Not only does the government serve as a tool for helping individuals achieve the good life by their own individual volition, the government is also concerned with creating a sort of social "the good life". The form this takes is that the government exists to create good citizens. A good citizen is an individual who facilitates the functioning of the government. Roads are a perfect example here as well. By creating roads the government makes it easier for people to come together and operate the government.

Well, I guess that's a pretty decent, quick, summary of my political philosophy. People are naturally social beings, and government is the natural outgrowth of that social nature. People orient themselves towards achieving the good life, and the natural orientation of government is also towards the good life. Government should properly function to 1. Help individuals achieve the good life in their own lives and 2. Create individuals who facilitate the proper functioning of government.

If you could make your own money, and then give it to everybody,
Would you do it?
If knew all the answers, and could give it to the masses,
Would you do it?