17 August 2010

Sports Illustrated: The Baggy Pants Baseball Uniform Issue

While waiting to see my surgeon, the dour Scotsman, Dr McKenzie, I started reading one of the magazines in the waiting room subscribed to by his partner, the enthusiastic German Dr Dringman, both of them of Surgical Associates fame. The article on Stan the Man Musial by Joe Posnanski was good enough that I couldn't resist hiding the issue (Aug 2-9, the summer double issue) in my baggy pants on the way out so that I could finish it and have something to blog about while drinking my dissolved MiraLax on Tuesday in preparation for a takedown of my colostomy by Dr M on Wednesday morning.

I used to wear heavy, sweaty baggy baseball pants just like Stan Musial and Bob Feller and Dr Bobby Brown and a lot of other guys, so this picture set off an instant train of flashbacks, which included these WWII and Korean War vets—yes they all served unless they were 4-F. Musial was an outfielder, Feller a pitcher and Dr Brown played 3rd base for the New York Yankees while he was going to medical school and studying to be a cardiologist. I'm not sure how he pulled that off but in those days—when the teams travelled by train—the World Series, the October Classic, naturally enough, was played in the early part of October.

My father also served during WWII; he came home from Italy in 1945, guarded some German POWs for awhile, then learned how to be a butcher, and when the local Rock River League team needed some hitting and batting practice pitching help, he dug out his glove and volunteered for that duty too. One of the saddest days that I remember was when I borrowed his glove, one of those old-fashioned ones that if you didn't come up with the ball right in the middle of the pocket it would bounce away in an embarrassing way, and left it out overnight in the rain. There is a picture of one of those gloves on p. 51. I came across this picture of my dad batting at Mathes Park, age 15 or so.

I couldn't hit or throw a ball as well as those guys could in the 1940s but I dreamed along with my friends as we played ball all day all summer long. They are all approaching 90 now so maybe I could keep up with them, if my pending surgery is successful. I know the first two are still autographing baseballs, though I'm not sure about Dr Brown. According to Posnanski, Musial was not only the  favorite of many mid-Western boys—and maybe even a few girls too—but also the respect of every baseball player he would meet. There are a fair number of anecdotes in the article: after Alberto Pujols met Musial he started asking those who called Pujols El Hombre to stop doing that because there was only one The Man; Carl Erskine, a Dodger pitcher of that time, said that "his strategy for pitching Musial was to throw his best stuff, and then back up 3rd base."

One way you can tell if a hitter is hustling on the bases is comparing his doubles and triples. The slackers always have very few triples. Musial led the National League in doubles 8 times and triples 5 times. He was famous for never refusing a request for an autograph. I'm hoping I get a chance to test that out.

16 August 2010

Red Rooster Cafe on Broadwater

Not very fancy on the outside, on the corner of Broadwater and 15th, near the American Legion Club, is the Red Rooster Cafe, open since some time in January of this year.

Down home menu, open from 7am to 3pm, breakfast until 11:30am, no beer or wine. Pleasant waittresses. I had a breakfast there this morning and was surprised when that included two good tasting and really good-sized sausage patties. They don't compete on price but they are not expensive either.

I told my wife about it, so we went back for a late lunch. Good creamy chicken and vegetable soup and a very nice 4 cheese grilled sandwich with tomato and bacon. She had some macaroni chili that looked good.

Worth another visit early or late.

Run by nice people for ordinary people. In addition to the usual stuff on the menu they also had a nice supply of jams and jellies, home-made on the premises.

So if you forgot to pick up some at the Farmer's Market this is the place to go.

There is take-out too if you are in a hurry.

13 August 2010

Signs of the Times

This is made right there in Missoula Montana. In case you have trouble reading around the curve of the bottle this is Moose Drool, which probably deters the wimpish drinker. It is a very good dark beer, probably one of the best of the increasing number of micro-brews that we are becoming famous for.

This is the cashier's place at The Soup Place, where at lunch time today we had some of the beer above together with some excellent chicken soup, gazpacho and a nice Reuben sandwich. As you can see there is a lot of stuff going on in Billings in August, but who would have guessed we are having a "bellydance festival?" Check it out.

Driving home after lunch, at a safe level of blood alcohol of course, I came across this sign on Broadwater heading west. I know we have the promise of our Lord that his church will endure forever but it is still fairly comforting to know that while the rest of us are out working this place where a part of the church gathers on Sunday and Thursday is protected by a tough-sounding Security Center. Notice also the dark green foliage around the sign. By this time, middle August, in much of Montana things look fairly brown owing to a lack of rainfall.                                                                                            But this year is one of those that probably fooled our ancestors of the 19th century into thinking that they had found a piece of Paradise. When I look out into my backyard this summer I wonder why I planted the trees so close together.

The Last Five Years at BST

Jason Robert Brown's The Last Five Years is a two-person Sondheim-like operetta starring Lysa Fox and Kelly Martin, two of our best here in Billings. Two creative people try to make a marriage work: Jamie is the novelist in the early stages and Cathy is the aspiring actress who doesn't quite make the big time, a recipe for a difficult marriage. Music is a variety of styles often really good though not always successful in the recitative and amplified mode. I would have thought that amplification was not necessary for these two at the fairly intimate BST but perhaps it was thought to be too awkward if Lysa's voice over-powered Kelly's.

Brown borrows a little from Alan Ayckbourn in that he tells the story backwards for Cathy, starting with the seemingly inevitable breakup of the marriage, and forwards for Jamie, starting with their joyful first meeting, joining together only for the wedding scene, a nice duet. The playing with time theme is made a little too clear for the rest of us by Jamie's gift of a watch to Cathy at Christmas time but the song that goes with it, a Tailor by the name of Schmuel, a reminder of Fiddler on the Roof, was very good, especially the way Martin does it.

Lysa plays and sings well the usual story of the woman wronged. While I was watching these two excellent players and because of the fiddling with time which didn't work that well for me I couldn't help but think of Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire and that famous quote: "Ginger Rogers did everything he did backwards. . .and in high heels!"

Piano, cello, violin and guitar make a good combo for this music and especially for the space of the BST. Worth seeing and hearing.

11 August 2010

Max of Montana Slips Into Billings

With not a lot of fanfare preceding him, the senior Senator from Montana, Max Baucus, gave the commoners at several meetings including the Downtown Exchange Club yesterday the latest wisdom from Washington DC. He appeared to be sober. The picture above is from Max's adventures in Washington where he said that forcing people to pay for insurance was a "tax cut."

The article in the Gazette did not mention his paramour du jour so it was not known who was handling him on this rare trip to his home state. It seems clear that he didn't use a tele-prompter, or if he did, he simply read badly from it.

He was not asked if he had finally read any of the bills he put out of his Senate Finance Committee. He also was not asked why he voted for the tax rate cut for all in 2001 but now has changed his mind. He did say "it makes no sense to raise taxes. If anything we should do the opposite . . . ."

The article in the Gazette used the following pull quote:
"When you're treading water, you're sinking. You have to be moving forward."
While people were scratching their heads trying to figure out what this meant the smiling Senator made a quick getaway. Perhaps those in other Montana cities will be better able to understand what the Senator is worried about.

09 August 2010

About burgers

In 1885, 15-year-old Charles Nagreen sold meatballs at the Seymour Fair. To satisfy people who wanted to walk around and eat, he flattened the meatballs into patties, sandwiched them between two pieces of bread and called his creations "hamburgers." "Hamburger Charlie" sold burgers at the fair for 66 years. Both the Food Channel and the Travel Channel have produced programs on Burger Fest and the origin of the burger.

It Just Finally Dawned On Me

When some economist or other reasonable person says to his friends on the Left, we should lower the highest tax rates, that way we will actually take in more total tax money: they are not actually listening, or if they are, then they are thinking to themselves how can anyone take in more money by lowering the taxes on the rich? Crazy conservatives. And the conservatives point to what happened when the tax rates were lowered in the early 60s and again in the mid 80s and they say Yes, when we lowered the taxes the deficit went up, forgetting that the spending also went up.

They never hear the phrase tax rate, with emphasis on the last word. I'm pretty sure that they think all those whose tax rate went down actually paid a lesser amount in taxes, i.e. 'tax breaks for the rich.' But somebody paid more taxes, probably only a small amount from the increase of people actually working. Most of the increase in the money taken in by the IRS would come from the few people in the highest tax bracket who actually paid more money to the IRS even if the rate was lowered.

An example: $1 million income paid 50% tax= $500,000 to Uncle Sam and $500,000 to your mattress or maybe your IRA, or maybe to the business so it can expand; then rate was lowered to 40%, encouraging the guy to expand his business; and the guy made $2 million and paid in $800,000 to the IRS. Uncle Sam makes $300,000 more than the previous year and the guy makes a total of $1.2 million, some to his mattress and even more into the rest of the economy.

So lowering the tax rate or percentage actually results in more income for the payer and the payee, that is, Uncle Sam. But I suppose if you must 'spread the money around' then having someone making more money than the rest of us is anathema, even if Uncle Sam makes more money too. Is this attitude related to Aesop's fable, the one where a dog prevents the horses from eating the hay in the manger, even though he can't digest it for himself? Or is this a reversal of the old saw about My pain is someone else's gain?

But then why should we try to raise more money for the feds? They will simply spend it and more. Catch 22? At least a variation on that theme.

Ramadan Will Soon Be Here

A good friend of mine, Professor Elizabeth McNamer of Rocky Mountain College, wrote an interesting  but incomplete article on Ramadan that appeared in Sunday's Gazette.

It may be that she had in mind, perhaps, to remind the comparatively few Muslims that live in Montana what their obligations were, but I suspect she had us common infidels in the uppermost part of her mind when she carefully outlined Islam and the month of fasting and behaving decently our Muslim friends call Ramadan.

In addition, they are to read the Quran and attend their local mosque. I guess it's something like Lent for liturgical-minded Christians, except that it occurs in late Summer/Fall in the northern hemisphere.

I think the good Professor left out some important questions that us infidels would like to know. For example: Is there anything that we should be prepared for in order to avoid embarrassment? You know, like our Jewish friends do when we inadvertently wish them a Merry Christmas. Or, perhaps more seriously, do Muslims forgo killing each other and the rest of us during Ramadan? Must we infidels not kill them during this month? Dr McNamer did suggest that the insane do not have to follow the rules for fasting. Would that give the killers on either side an excuse?

The question on killing has been asked by Pope Benedict XVI at Regensburg a few years ago. But as far as I can tell, no one has given a reasonable answer. Perhaps she will take up her formidable pen again when Ramadan comes to a close.

07 August 2010

Guess Where I Saw This Vehicle?

No, not London. No, not New York. I saw this right here in River City in front of First National Pawn on Grand. Apparently, the guy who owns all the pawn shops keeps this car here in Billings but doesn't use it that much anymore as he spends most of his time in Hawaii. So he is selling it. Looks to be in very good shape. Check it out.

I guess they park it on the sidewalk so they can get at least some walk-bys and I suppose they are hoping  it will suffer less damage from the bad drivers on Grand Ave.

Almost Any Night at the Ballpark in Billings

If you come in the front door entrance, just across from Perkins Restaurant and the Deaconness Hospital, this is what you often see. Even without a marquee on 27th St people line up to buy tickets, especially on a weekend evening or Sunday afternoon. Billings is 2nd only to Ogden UT as far as average attendance (a little less than 3,000) at Pioneer League (Rookie) games, whether in the midst of a winning season or not, loyal fans come for the game and food and conversation with friends. They even put up with a noisy and intrusive PA announcer, though thank Heaven, he is less irritating than the guy in Great Falls and especially in Missoula.

At the other end of the block I found this group tail-gating in the parking lot. First time I've seen that at Dehler. The ballpark brats and beer and burgers are good enough to draw most people inside.

06 August 2010

Naps Are Good: I Told You So

Some months ago I came across an article telling us how good naps are. Here is another one. I think this article suggested that naps are helpful in a cognitive way. And the earlier article suggested, at least in Greece, that they were good for your heart health.

04 August 2010

Bloop Hit in 9th Gives Mustangs Win 1-0

As you can see from all the zeros on the scoreboard both the Brewers and especially the Mustangs' bats were very quiet this evening. This shot is from the top of the ninth. When the Mustangs came up in the bottom of the 9th, Dayne Read walked, one of only four base runners for the Mustangs the whole night. He was sacrificed to 2nd by Devin Lohman and Danny Rodriguez got the only hit of the night for the Mustangs, a broken bat blooper just over the 2nd baseman's head to score Read. Still, it looks like a solid hit on my scorecard.

Evan Frederickson, the tall thin left-handed starting pitcher for the Brewers was very effective, striking out 12 in 6 innings of no-hit pitching. The only interest the fans had was when he walked Hamilton twice and, of course, trying to figure out where Gavin Hanson, the home plate umpire, was going to set the strike zone for the next batter. We almost scored a run in the 4th inning on a silly balk call by Hanson, when Frederickson walked Hamilton to start, then wild-pitched to 2nd and then made a throwing error trying to pick him off. The manager for the Brewers managed to set him straight fairly quickly, perhaps persuaded by the base umpire, Ramon Hernandez: though he made a foul ball the night before into a two run homer, he at least did have some knowledge of the balk rules. The players and the umpires are supposed to be learning and improving during the course of the season, aren't they?

Daniel Corcino looked very good, allowing just two hits in 6 innings and striking out 8. After a good inning from Pat Doyle, Josh Smith finished up with two strong innings and the win. And a 25 out no-hitter by the two Helena pitchers, Frederickson and Seth Lintz comes to nought with a walk, a sacrifice bunt and a bloop single to right by Danny Rodriguez in the bottom of the 9th.

Pithless Thoughts: My New Personal Doctor

There must be some truth to what he says as he looks like he has survived for at least 60 if not 70 years.

02 August 2010

Cross Purposes

Sometimes you see a cartoon which should be a classic because it captures so much meaning in a small space.

[Finally, the text people catch up with the cartoonists. Maybe the cartoon is what stimulated Michael P Fleischer to write this small essay for the Wall Street Journal.] Added on 9 August 2010.

01 August 2010

Does This Look Like a Scam or a Hoax or a Fiddle?

I love these data plotting blogs. This start in 1800 and ends in 2010. A guy by the unlikely name of Smith says that the data from about 1990 onward looked a little 'fudged' to him, maybe there has been a little data tampering. The true believers will look first at his credentials. Be sure to look at the original here.

Finally the Truth Comes Out

This is something that we all suspected long ago. In fact, the article mentions that academics started noticing this 'summer slide' as long ago as 1906. They attribute the long summer holiday to our 19th century agrarian habits. I guess they didn't know that farm work and work in the shop was often done before school and after school until at least the 40s and 50s where I grew up. 

In elementary and high school we would ask our teachers why it took so long to start some new stuff each year. They would tell us that it was a good pedagogical technique to review the material from the previous year, though I'm sure they didn't use the term 'pedagogical' in those days. I don't think we totally believed them. In the later years of high school and during college we needed to earn money for the coming semester, so that made some sense then. Nowadays the huge tuitions, even at state schools, means that kids can't really expect to earn anything close to what it costs for the next semester. In fact I see some schools, both high schools and colleges recognizing this problem and trying to remedy it be graduating more quickly, starting with community college classes in high school and summer school in college.

A few decades ago I joined a threesome of young guys for some golf in early June. I could tell by their conversation that they were teachers fresh out of school. For a now unknown reason we started talking about our educational system and its results. They had a lot of good ideas. When I suggested that we have a longer school year they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. No more of that silly talk.

This graphic is a little puzzling. It looks like South Korea spends half the instructional hours on math that we do for a significant increase in math scores at age 15. Doesn't that suggest that maybe we should spend less time than we do. What are we doing with all that time on math? Are we harming some students? It looks like there is a fairly decent correlation of age 15 scores with total school days, except for Brazil. And look at Mexico, they spend more time and score lower than we do.

The article points out various strategies and tactics for avoiding this 'summer slide,' many of which look promising. What took them so long? Maybe we should post the math skills that need to be understood and when they have been demonstrated then the student gets to do something else. Some might finish by age 14, while others might take a few more years. Maybe the end point should be when the student is capable of showing that his parents understand the concepts.

I remember Time Magazine as a sort of middle of the road weekly news magazine for average working stiffs who didn't have time to listen to NPR. I'm not sure what audience it is aiming at these days.

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime

Downtown Billings in the SummerTime
At The BrewPub on Broadway

Downtown Phoenix

Downtown Phoenix
Downtown Phoenix in the Winter Time

Good Cheese Here

Good Cheese Here
Vermont Cheddar & Minnesota Blue


Dehler Park, Billings MT, July 2008 This is what Bart Giamatti recommends for good mental health.

Me and Joan

Me and Joan
Early elderly and middle middle age: We May Know Something You Don't

Mrs America

Mrs America
Fortunately these girls had a good-looking mother

Rimrocks @ Billings MT

Rimrocks @ Billings MT
“In beholding old stones we may feel our anxieties about our achievements–and lack of them–slacken . . . Vast landscapes [and seascapes] can have an anxiety–reducing effect similar to ruins, for they are the representatives of infinite space, as ruins are the representatives of infinite time, against which our weak, short-lived bodies seem no less inconsequential than those of moths or spiders.”—Alain de Botton in Status Anxiety

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral

Easter Sunday at St Patrick's Co-Cathedral
12 April 2009

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs

Pleasant Hillside at Hustisford, AKA The Grassy Knoll for you conspiracy buffs
A Lot of Muellers Are Buried Here
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