Baseball and the art of social maintenance

31 January 2009

The Supermodel has observed something about me over the years: that by and large, I am not real comfortable in social situations. I know lots of people who are energized by them, who feel most comfortable when surrounded by people and interacting with them (actually, the Supermodel is one of them). And then at the other end of the spectrum … there’s me. Put me in a scenario where I have to be in constant contact with folks, and I’ll end up drained, uncomfortable and often more than a bit snippy. In short, I have the same personality as many other writers: kind of anti-social.

However, for almost every rule there is an exception. And today I had one of those exceptions.

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I think it’s stress …

30 January 2009

It’s a famous old cartoon, maybe you’ve seen it. A zebra is standing in place, head turned back with a concerned look on its face. It’s looking at its back half, where its trademark black stripes have fallen off, landing in a pile around its hind legs. And the caption below reads, “I think it’s stress …”

That picture perfectly illustrates how I feel as I write this.

I still haven’t quite recovered from all the busyness of last weekend’s road trip with the Supermodel to Las Vegas (see my previous posts) and a LOT has piled up since then, in as many areas as you’d care to name. Let’s see …

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Road Trip vol. III – Leaving Las Vegas/California, here we come …

28 January 2009

(Blogger’s note: here’s part III of the Supermodel’s and my tenth anniversary trip.  Part I is here, Part II is here, and there is no Part IV, so don’t waste your time looking for it.)

So after a whirlwind afternoon and evening in Las Vegas, full of entertainment, good food and a big self-esteem lift for the Supermodel, what’s next?  According to the Supermodel her bad self … hash browns.

No joke.  After two days of exotic meals interspersed with snack foods, what she wanted most was a hearty breakfast before we headed off to a church service, and from thence back home.  Okay, works for me … and thankfully there was a Coco’s restaurant just up the block from the Motel 6.  I enjoyed an orange juice while she plowed through a big plate of scrambled eggs, sausages, fried potatoes and sourdough toast with jelly.  (Okay, I helped her a little with the potatoes and toast.  What are husbands for?)

Little did we know that breakfast was going to be the highlight of the trip back.

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Road Trip vol. II – Vegas, baby, Vegas

27 January 2009

(Blogger’s note: this is part 2 of a three-part series on the Supermodel’s and my tenth anniversary trip.  If’n you missed part 1, click here to catch up.)

***

I love Las Vegas, because no matter where you’re from, Las Vegas is the exact opposite. — Rita Rudner

Several years ago, the Supermodel and I were planning a huge road trip we wanted to take, visiting friends in several states over a three-week period. I don’t remember all the details, because we never had the time or the money to make the trip (we decided to start churning out kids, so there went both the time and the money).  But I do remember there was one state we specifically weren’t visiting: Nevada.

Seriously, why would we want to?  I had been in Nevada twice in my life — once as a kid, passing through on a trip to Boise, Idaho to visit my aunt and uncle; the other a two-hour stopover while flying from a conference in Phoenix back to Sacramento.  Both times it was sweltering hot, and I was constantly surrounded by hundreds of slot machines and similar gizmos going off like Hell’s sound effects.  Throw in the whole “sex industry” angle and, as a Christian, I had little to no interest in visiting the Silver State.

What changed?  I dunno.  But when the Supermodel suggested we give Las Vegas a whirl (pun intended), I shrugged, said “why not?” and pointed the car east.

To give you the short version … the heat wasn’t a problem, we largely ignored the gambling, we completely ignored the sexual come-ons.  And we had the time of our lives.

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Road Trip vol. I – A second honeymoon (in more ways than one …)

27 January 2009

(Blogger’s note: I know, you’re all dying to find out how the Supermodel’s and my tenth anniversary road trip went. Well … too much happened to cover in one blog entry, so I’m going to have to do this in stages. Part II to come tonight, with a possible Part III tomorrow. Strap yourselves in, folks …)

I’m using the phrase “second honeymoon” in the title of this entry with some trepidation. You see, the Supermodel’s and my first honeymoon was something of a disaster. It was raining when we left Stockton, and we didn’t even get to our destination – Gleneden Beach, Oregon – on the first night. Instead, stopped by a snowstorm, we spent our wedding night at the Motel 6 in Weed, California, a town that probably wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for Interstate 5 running through it. When we finally got to Gleneden Beach the next day, it was at the start of three days of non-stop rain, and when we insisted on persevering and going sightseeing anyway, we ended up totaling our car. Thanks to my father-in-law, we were able to get a rental car and come home, cutting the trip short by two days. It was a good thing we didn’t believe in omens, or we might have just gotten an annulment right then. So the word “honeymoon” carries an ironic tone in our household.

Our trip Friday started out quietly, though. We left Stockton a little before 8 a.m. and pointed the car south on I-5. We had packed a couple of shopping bags of snack foods, so we didn’t have to stop for anything but gas, bathroom breaks and chances for the Supermodel to stretch her legs. As we approached Bakersfield, we had to make a decision about destinations – south to L.A.? west to the coast? east to Nevada? – and chose east. Around noon, we stopped in Barstow, gassed up, used the facilities and picked up a copy of the Las Vegas newspaper to do some early scouting. Then it was off on I-15, setting the cruise control at the speed limit of 70 and occasionally interjecting “Viva Las Vegas”, which didn’t last long since neither of us knew the rest of the lyrics.

Everything was smooth until fourteen miles east of Baker, when I checked the rear view mirror and saw white smoke coming out the back of our car.

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The 10th Anniversary Mystery Trip

22 January 2009

The Supermodel and I are celebrating our tenth anniversary tomorrow.  (Please, please … hold your applause until the end of the blog.)  We’ve been looking forward to this for almost a year — okay, actually we’ve been looking forward to it for TEN years, but it’s only in the last year that we’ve actively thought about how we want to commemorate the occasion.

And the answer kept coming up: road trip!  We have wanted to make one of those weeks-long visit-everything-we-can-possibly-visit excursions for I don’t know how long, but between having kids and not having enough money, we were never able to manage it.  But we’re going to do a mini-version this weekend.  Tomorrow morning, my mom (aka “Grandma Sue”) will come down to watch the kids, we’ll hop in the car and take off, not to return until Sunday evening.

Where are we going?  No idea.

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“Patience is a virtue, but I don’t have the time!”

21 January 2009

(The title, in case it sounds familiar, is stolen from an old song by Talking Heads. — r.a.)

I was planning to write today about the ballpark draft in the fantasy league I’m in, Legends of Baseball. But, as the philosopher Lennon said, life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.

Legends of Baseball is a fantasy league where you can put together a team of players from throughout baseball history, from 1871 to the present. It’s what is called a “head-to-head” league, which means that instead of just having your players collect stats, you actually create a team and compete against other people’s created teams. That, in turn, means you’re working through a full 162-game, six-month schedule, and you have to set up pitching rotations and batting orders, define bullpen and bench roles and even decide your manager’s tendencies – when to bunt or not bunt, how often your players will steal bases, when you bring in relief pitchers, all that jazz. All of it is run through a baseball-game simulation software package called Diamond Mind, probably the most accurate baseball sim around. It’s not easy, but it’s a ton of fun.

All of that simulated game-playing is affected by the simulated ballpark you’re playing in, just as real games are affected by the real stadiums. A hit that would be a home run in Boston’s Fenway Park could end up just another fly out at the Oakland Coliseum, for instance, due to the positions of the fences, the temperature, the humidity, or even the altitude if you’re playing in Denver or Atlanta. There are all kinds of what are called “park factors” for every stadium that’s ever existed. The upshot is the owners in Legends of Baseball have to choose their home parks carefully. Beside that, the ballpark draft is the first event of the upcoming season, sort of like a Fantasy Baseball New Year celebration. And this year, it was scheduled for January 20 …

… and nothing happened.

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