Monday, September 29, 2008

I Know That I Disagree

Matt: [Immediately after raising some trivial fact to rebut the claims of a tour brochure] "I don't even know why I remember that."

Laura: "I think information comes back to you when you have the opportunity to be contrary."

And I translate into many hours of history
But nobody knows my name

Friday, September 26, 2008

It's Good To Be The King, Er, Twins

I absolutely love being a Twins fan. They aren't the flashiest of teams, and this year they've seen a lot of their fundamentally sound play dissipate. Their bullpen isn't as dominant as it used to be, and statistically speaking they've been incredibly lucky. Yeah, lucky. But the thing is, they're a team that really makes their own luck, and when they get the breaks they feel like they're deserved. Anyone who follows them understands how and why they win games: not just because they do the little things right, but because they persevere. Because they believe.

I read a chat with ESPN analyst Keith Law in which someone (update: not Keith Law) wrote briefly about the Twins and their "luck". The comment read, "I dislike the Twins because their success is largely based on unquantifiable playing style. If I can't measure success, it probably doesn't really exist." Mr. Law's response was, "And it's not "playing style," it's just luck."

Just because you can't quantify something doesn't mean it doesn't exist. The success of the Twins is a very tangible thing. You don't just see the results, but you can also experience the "why" behind those results. As a Twins fan I've been constantly in touch with their success. I see the hustle, hear the excitement, feel the energy within this team. I can't quantify it, but I can certainly experience it. You can't really quantify emotions, but they exist. Same with the success of the Twins. We can call it "playing style" or "heart" or "luck" or whatever we want. But it does exist. Mr. Law doesn't like the Twins because he isn't a believer. He doesn't have the faith.

But there is something out there - something real - called Twins' baseball. Anyone who has been a Twins fan can assure you that it does exist. We might not be able to quite put our finger on it, but we know it's there.

Twins' baseball is an unquantifiable ideal. It's a belief that the Twins can win, no matter the odds. It's a style that culls favor from the baseball gods. It's nobodies becoming somebodies. It's playing baseball the right way, no matter which way we're playing it. Twins' baseball is hustle and heart, taking advantage of the little things and not letting the big things stand in your way. It's can-do and won't-quit. It's the interconnected fans that make up Twins Territory, each one of us believing that if we don't expect success then we're more likely to see it. And it's the justification of those secret hopes.

For those of us who believe, Twins baseball is a reward for our faith.

We're gonna build something this summer

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Joe Maddon Should Not Win Manager Of The Year

I know that AL Manager of the Year was pretty much decided back in June/July when the Rays beat everyone's expectations and had their first winning season ever. All the credit went to Joe Maddon. Nevermind that he was working with a significantly improved roster, and had players who finally lived up to expectations, instead of under performing like they had previous years.

Ron Gardenhire is simply a more deserving manager. I certainly criticize Gardy's in-game management, but his ability to motivate players is simply superior to all others. Plus, it's hard to ignore all the times he does make the right personnel decisions. Take tonight's key matchup with the White Sox.

Joe Christenson if the Strib wrote before the game, "The DH decision likely comes down to Jason Kubel vs. Michael Cuddyer. Kubel is 2-for-21 (.095) against Vazquez, and Cuddyer is 12-for-35 (.343) with two homers and six RBI."

Who did Gardy go with? Kubel. Who was the key player of the game, with 2 HR and a triple? Kubel.

I don't know how he did it, but he made the right decision. And that's the key to a great manager.

Throw in the fact that the Twins have outperformed expectations (just like the Rays) but have done so after losing the best pitcher in baseball and one of the best center fielders. The Rays didn't lose talent after last year. The Twins did. They also lost their most important right-handed hitter for a good chunk of the season, had their starting 2b go down with an injury for a while, lost their best set-up guy for the season, and cut their opening day pitcher and third baseman. Oh, and the Twins are the youngest team in baseball.

I'm not the man's biggest fan, but there's just no way that Gardy shouldn't be Manager of the Year.

You stated your case time and again
I thought about it

Worrisome Humor

I'm not sure who wrote this originally, so I can't give credit, but I received this tongue-in-cheek e-mail today, and it's well-worth posting here.

Dear American Taxpayer:

I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.
I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for a large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.


Let me assure you that this transaction is 100% safe.


This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of friend so the funds can be transferred.


Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to wallstreetbailout@treasury.gov so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.


Yours Faithfully
Henry "Hank" Paulson
Minister of Treasury


Hilarious, right? This kind of humor is just one of the perks of being a consumer attorney. Good stuff.

Oh well I guess I mustn't grumble,
I suppose that's just the way the cookie crumbles.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Crown Me

So I managed to break a tooth today. One of my molars. Bottom left side, second from the back. Gina, what number is that?

I managed to break it eating nothing more than a salad. It was just lettuce. Oh sure, there was a little bit of (really soft, tender) chicken and ham, some green onions and some cheese, but nothing hard enough to crack my tooth. I'm sure the damage must have been done earlier, but still, the final blow came while eating lettuce.

My teeth are in rough shape, even though I take care of them pretty well now. There was a time when I wasn't great to my teeth, and I think there might be some genetic weakness too, but whatever the case, I'm paying the price now. It really stinks.

I'm sure this will become a crown. I'm missing like about one sixth of my tooth (and it's a big tooth). Probably a root canal too I suppose. What is left of the tooth is really jagged, and I keep cutting my tongue on the sharp edge. Plus, this tooth has one of those old metal fillings and that's still there, only now part of it is basically just hovering over open former-tooth space. And that keeps cutting my tongue too. Ugh.

This all comes with an "of course" moment too, since I was already planning to call the dentist today to schedule an appointment. I guess we know which tooth will be getting most of the attention this time around.

I just need to make it to Wednesday. And then I'll get like three more appointments scheduled.

Your temperament's wrong for the priesthood
And teaching would suit you still less

Phickle Thoughts

I want to write something, but I'm not quite sure what, so I'll just put up a Phickle Thoughts.
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It's been one of those nights; where I'm really feeling metaphysically weighted. It's not depressing, or somber (though that word covers a little of the meaning), it's just as if I feel the weight of being. I'm feeling somehow hyper-aware of my existence, in an almost spiritual, or at least super-natural, fashion. Does anyone know what I mean? Does anyone else ever get this?

Maybe it's why I feel like writing, to try to tap into it a little more. My descriptive powers, limited as they may be, seem to be escaping me though.
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The final game was played at Old Yankee Stadium tonight. Pretty momentous really. I've never been, and I guess I never will, but I still appreciate the history of the building. I'd probably feel worse about never getting there if the new one were going to be significantly different, but since they'll be largely the same, I'm more ok with it.

To commemorate the final game, Mrs. Fickle and I watched Pride of the Yankees. For those not in-the-know, it's a based-on-a-true-story film about Lou Gehrig. The man was simply amazing. Every time I see a clip from the Luckiest Man on Earth speech I tear up. Babe Ruth was the greatest ballplayer ever, but Lou Gehrig might have been the best person ever to play ball.

I really admire the Iron Man record in baseball. Lou Gehrig is amazing, and Cal Ripken Jr. was always my favorite non-Twins player when I was growing up. I remember watching him break the consecutive games record. It was awesome. I suppose it's sort of strange that I love the Iron Man record as much as I do, given that I'm the type who has no problem knocking-off work early if things are slow (not, of course, from my current job where there is always a ton of work), or missing a day of class here or there for little-to-no reason. Maybe because it's baseball. It's a game. It's perfect. There's simply no need for a break from baseball. Rain, shine, tidal wave, whatever.
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I'm reminded, of course, of Kirby Puckett's approach: you play every game like it might be your last, because you never know when it will be.

I always thought of Puckett's glaucoma and Lou Gehrig's ALS as uniquely similar. Two brilliant players, still around the prime of their career, who had their days cut short by rare medical conditions. Both players were known for their hustle, their love of the game. Both players appreciated that it was a game, and that they were lucky to be playing.
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Alright. That's enough. I'm tearing up again. Wow I love baseball.

Why you think we need amazing grace
Just to tell it like it is?

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Target Centers

This post has been a few days in coming, but I've been sick, so back off, ok?

The Twins announced the naming sponsor for their new ballpark, and as I'm sure everyone has heard, it's Target. Yup, the Twins will be playing at Target Field. Along with the field itself, Target will be sponsoring the walkway up to the ballpark.

As far as names go, it's not terrible. Target is a nationally-known, well-liked, Minnesota company. They've always been very involved in the community, and they're a relatively responsible corporate citizen. But "Target Field" is kind of lame. It isn't "U.S. Cellular" or "American Airlines" offensive, but it's not brilliant. I don't know too many corporate names that are.

Well, I know one that's pretty good: Target Center. That arena right next door to the Twins new stadium. So Target will be sponsoring an arena, ball field, and the walkway between the two. Here's what I'd like to see: call the entire area "The Target Center" and have "The Arena" and "The Ballpark" at Target Center. Target still gets their naming rights, they're acknowledged to be sponsoring the entire neighborhood, and not just two venues, and no one has to call the stadium Target Field.

Sounds good, right?

Another thing I'd like to see in the new ballpark (credit goes to Kendrick on this): little Target bullseyes in the urinals.
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Finally, it'd be wonderful if the Twins could address the skyline view from the ballpark. Minneapolis actually has a pretty wonderful skyline, but the view from the new stadium isn't the greatest. This is largely because of a single building: the city center. It's a giant concrete rectangle. My friend Joel has suggested that hanging a glass facade over the building might be enough to fix the problem. I think more than simple glass is needed, since the building will still be just a big flat rectangle. Some variation in texture or color would certainly help. Joel fixed up a couple of pictures to help illustrate the point. They're obviously quick photoshop jobs, but I think they make a compelling case. First, as the view currently is. Second, a plain bronze glass facade, and finally a multi-colored approach.




I think the third one is obviously the best. Now if anyone knows how we'd go about making this happen...
I can do the Robocop
I can do the Freddie
I cannot do the Smurf

Monday, September 15, 2008

Test Photo

This past weekend I went to the Twins game in Baltimore. I took some pics with my new camera. I'm test loading one onto this page here.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Another Bike Post

Ah, the things you learn while biking to work.

For example, did you know that the Coast Gaurad have what appear to be modified life rafts with gigantic machine guns mounted on them?

I love D.C.

I get on my bike
Ride down our block
Ride through the world

Monday, September 08, 2008

The Magic Sweatshirt 2: In Search Of A Subtitle

Once upon a time, in the far away Land of Minnesota, there lived a boy. He liked to eat bologna sandwiches and read mystery novels. And although he almost always forgot to take out the garbage, he was, for the most part, a good boy.

The boy had been smiled on by Fate, and in her infinite wisdom she granted the boy a gift: a magic sweatshirt. It was a garment of beauty and strength. It gave the boy a special confidence, a power that increased the strength of his words and heightened the effect of his deeds. It was really, really soft. It had appeared from nowhere, an existence without origin. But you already know that story.

As the boy grew, in the far away Land of Minnesota, he often wore his magic sweatshirt. It contained a simple coat of arms: the image of the Land of Minnesota, surrounded by clear text proclaiming, "Minnesota-State: Curb Gutter Div.". The message was powerful and striking, and yet so mundane as to be cool on account of its unspectacular nature. This very dichotomy was in fact one of the shirt's greatest powers, and its unassuming awesomeness helped draw many people to the boy.

But with a greater base of friends came more hardship for the boy. For this is truly one of pitfalls of so wonderful a gift: to whom much has been given, much is demanded. Fate had bestowed on the boy a garment of immense power and softness, and Fate surely demanded much of the boy. Fortunately for the boy, Fate had seen fit to place a giant pocket on the front of the magic sweatshirt, and bestow it with powers of its own.

The pocket was given three magical abilities, and the boy used these in service to all those around him. First, the pocket was granted the ability to stretch to any size. Whenever a friend needed something carried - keys, wallets, balls, gloves, full-sized frisbees, and even jugs of water - the boy was able carry the load. Never did the boy face an object too large for him to fit it into his pocket.

The second power granted to the pocket was that of infinite depth. No matter how many items the boy endeavored to carry, they all fit easily into the pocket. He could continue to load items into the pocket long after regular pockets would have been full. And because the pocket was of infinite depth, none of the items ever interfered with the boy's mobility. Even with a jug of water or a full-sized frisbee placed in the pocket, the boy was able to carry himself with grace and ease, as if there were nothing at all in the pocket. The infinite depth of the pocket also meant that nothing was ever lost from the pocket, for it all sat snugly in the deep well of the infinite, until the time came for the boy to remove the object. This made the boy a reputable and secure keeper for all those around him, and he received much acclaim.

The third, and perhaps the greatest, power of the pocket was the power of regeneration. The boy understood that he must give back to all those around him, for he had been given this wonderful magical sweatshirt. And so the boy often carried with him treats, stowed in the infinite depth of the pocket. One day, the boy was called to a small village on the outskirts of the far away Land of Minnesota. He was to seek out the greatest Christian music acts, and return home to share what he had found. A large contingent came with the boy, and he carried many things for them in the pocket of his magic sweatshirt. But he feared, for he had only a few small rolls of tootsie for the journey, and they were to be shared by all, throughout the entire voyage.

The boy placed the candied treats in the magic sweatshirt's pocket. He intended to make them last as long as possible, handing them out only to those who specifically asked. But word, as it is wont to do, traveled fast. Soon those in his traveling party, passersby they'd met on the way, and even the villagers themselves were seeking out the boy, asking for one of the chocolate midges. The boy could not refuse. Soon, the boy was sure he was approaching the end of his stock. One of the boy's dearest friends approached, and requested the favor of a single roll of tootsie. The boy cautioned that he may no longer have any, but agreed to check inside the pocket of the magic sweatshirt.

What he found astounded the boy. There seemed to be almost as many midges as there had been when he had started his journey! The pocket, it seems, had magically multiplied the candy. This continued throughout the weekend voyage, and whenever the supply dwindled, and seemed almost to expire, the boy would suddenly find in his sweatshirt more of the cocoa treats.

On his final night in the village, just before the boy drifted off to sleep, he removed his magic sweatshirt, the garment that had served him so well on his journey, and looked into the pocket. Inside he saw that only one piece of candy remained. He reached in, took out the treat, and he himself savored the delicious piece of chocolate.

Fate had chosen him, and so he had become the bearer of chewy, chocolaty happiness for many throughout the far away Land of Minnesota. The magic sweatshirt had given the boy a most wonderful gift, and the power of the pocket had allowed him to share that gift with all those around him. For, as is customary with mystical garments, the magic sweatshirt never asked more than the boy could handle, and everything the magic sweatshirt asked, it itself helped deliver.

The end.

Don't let your white dress wear you out

Saturday, September 06, 2008

Change

The two presidential candidate keep trying to claim that they'll be agents of change in Washington. They might both be right.

Obama promises change from the policies of Bush. His whole campaign - from the primaries on through to today - has been a message of change. But what does Obama mean by "change"? I don't think he means he'll change the way business is done in Washington. I don't think he means bipartisan efforts. I don't think he means anything revolutionary at all. All Obama means is that he'll advance the Democratic platform. Which would certainly be a change in that Bush has advanced a Republican platform. But it's pretty much the most obvious pledge of change anyone could make.

McCain promises change in a more revolutionary sense. He's campaigning on his "maverick" reputation, on his ability to work across party lines, on his non-traditional approach to getting things done. McCain has always been more bipartisan than most politicians, and so maybe he'll make efforts in this direction. But he won't be changing policies. He'll still be advancing the same platform that Bush has been working towards. And of course, bipartisanship only works if you've got people willing to work with you from the other party. Who knows whether that'll ever happen.

Anyway, the point here is that both candidates promise only a type of change, and not some sort of universal change. And we certainly shouldn't be confident that either candidate will actually achieve any meaningful change. And I guess this just really ticks me off. Because both sides are being so disingenuous when they claim the label. Obama is acting like he'll be a revolutionary candidate, when he'll be nothing more than politics as usual. And McCain is acting like he'll be able to bring everyone together in a big happy family, but he'll only be working to promote the same stuff we've seen over the past 8 years - certainly nothing new there.
--------------------------------
In the comments of the last post I was accused of being a Republican. I'm not. There are few things which make me so angry. I don't embrace the Democrats. I don't embrace the Republicans. Both sides have big problems, neither party presents a cohesive platform that I can support universally, and both candidates are campaigning on disingenuous mottoes of change. (I will say that I think the Democrats offer the most potential for a platform that I embrace, and the fact that they're close but unwilling to move the rest of the way is so very frustrating. The Republicans have further to go before I could support their platform. I've supported candidates from both parties, but never either party's platform.)

Anyway, hopefully this post helps reveal a little more of why I'm so troubled by both parties.

Sometimes it's hard to know where I stand,
It's hard to know where I am

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Question:

Does anyone really believe that McCain is another Bush and/or that his presidency would just be another Bush presidency? Are the Democrats really serious about this strategy? Should they be?

People always told me that bars are dark and lonely,
And talk is often cheap & filled with air.

Pick of Palin

I watched Governor Palin's speech tonight. This was the first live coverage of either convention that I watched. Usually they're much too painful for me, but I was really interested in finding out more about the Republican nominee for Vice President, and so I tuned in.

She spoke well, and you'll see plenty of reports praising her abilities after tonight. In a high pressure situation she delivered a consistent, measured, accessible speech. Meh. Good - even great - oration just doesn't impress me. It just doesn't seem that rare to me. So even if she did well, the most enthusiasm I can muster for the speech itself is a "meh". I probably would have said the same about Obama. It's a pretty rare thing when a political speech can motivate me. In recent history the only person to really woo me was Keith Ellison. If you ever get a chance to hear that man talk, seize the opportunity.

Anyway, I was able to get what I came for with the Palin speech. I feel like I have a much better feel for the woman. To sum up my impression:

I'm extremely impressed with her personal biography, but not in any way impressed with her political positions and rhetoric.

I love the mom-of-five, PTA rise to governor, child with a disability, public-school education, blue-collar husband background. But I don't love the down-with-taxes, up with drilling, boo civil rights, yay corporate America rhetoric. She doesn't seem like she'd be a Republican attack-dog, and her political posturing/strong partisan positions don't really seem to fit with the identity that her biography paints.

It feels like there's a disconnect.

I hate those people who love to tell you
Money is the root of all that kills

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Busiest Weekend Ever

Friday morning Mrs. Fickle and I flew back to Minnesota for a quick weekend. Our flight to MN involved a 5-hour layover in Milwaukee between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. We killed some time eating breakfast, and rummaging through a bookstore. We voluntarily went out of the boarding area so that we could kill time going back through security. We watched some of the news coverage of McCain's VP announcement, and then settled in for a couple episodes of Arrested Development. We had brough a couple of movies, but ultimately we'd killed enough time that we couldn't even fit them in after we sat down to watch them. So instead we picked AD. The layover wasn't nearly as bad as we feared it would be, and all-in-all it was certainly worth the cost (it would have been significantly more to have a shorter layover).
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We were picked up at the airport by my brother and his new wife. They took us almost directly to the Minnesota State Fair. I hadn't been to the Fair in at least 5 years, and it was terrific to be back. The first thing we saw was the cows. And then the biggest pig in the state. And then we had cheese curds and hotdish on a stick. And then milk shakes at the dairy barn as we watched a dairy princess get her head carved in butter. And a short time later, mini-donuts and giant pickles. There was probably some other food in there too, but my memory is clogged with fat, so it isn't working properly.

I was excited to see one of my favorite D.J.'s playing music for a little kids' "dance party" at the fair. I routinely listen to The Current online, and so it was great to get to experience a little bit of it up close and personal. By the way, for anyone who ever has approved of my taste in music, The Current comes highly recommended. It has great music, and it's public radio, so you're a good person, just for listening.

At the Fair I also noted, once again, that the Democrats were charging for their promotional materials. The Republicans were instead giving it away. I can't imagine that this is a good strategy, and if the Democrats lose this fall, I think we'll all know why.
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Friday night we hung out with my brother, my sister, and their spouses (and my nephew). We played a bunch of Wii, and had a great time. It's things like this we miss out on, so it was great to be a part of it.

Saturday morning my sister and I went shopping for gifts for our Godson. Then Mrs. Fickle and I ran a bunch of errands, the most exciting of which was purchasing a new digital SLR. We went with a Sony (which used to be Minolta), and got two different lenses, an 18-75 mm and a 75-300 mm. I absolutely love my new toy.
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Saturday night was baptism. I've never been a Godfather before, and I was extremely honored to be asked.

During the baptismal ceremony, when the priest asked if we rejected Satan, and all his evil works, etc. all I could picture was that scene at the end of the Godfather, with all of Corleone enemies being offed. I meant it when I said I would do my best to help raise my godson in the Catholic faith, and to that end I didn't have the kid's father whacked. I still don't want Kay asking me about my business though.

I found some quality gifts to give to my godson. I had received a large, brightly-colored wooden rosary at my baptism, and I was able to find another one to pass on. I also found Bible building blocks. I was going to give him an actual Bible, but he's a Catholic, so you know he probably wouldn't read it.
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On Sunday we picked up Mrs. Fickle's sister at college (she's a freshman at the U of M) and I drove them both to their sister's baby shower. Then I went home, hitched a ride with a friend, and made the two-hour trip south to the wedding of one of my best friends. I was asked to take some pictures, and I did my best to get some quality shots. My new camera was perfect for the task, and I had a lot of fun using it. So even though not all of my pictures are brilliant, at least I had a good time.

It was a wonderful day. Mrs. Fickle got a ride down and joined us for the reception, and I was able to catch up with a bunch of friends from college that I haven't seen in ages. There's a core group of about 8 guys (give or take) who hung out all the time at Saint John's, and we're all still very close. We don't get to see each other often enough, but when we do we're able to jump right back into the way it was in college.

I really miss the guys.

The wedding was beautiful, the reception was a blast, I couldn't be happier for the groom, the bride is a lucky woman, and the day couldn't have been much better.
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We came home exhausted, fell instantly asleep, and woke up early the next morning for our flight back to D.C. We squeezed all of this in (and more!) in under 72 hours. Pretty darn good.

Can't you come over, watch a movie with your friends now?
Or will you fly away before we see the end now?