Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Jersey Quest

My quest began quite innocently and with good intentions but isn’t there some saying about the road to hell beginning with good intentions or something like that?  I’ve always been a big sports fan and wearing jerseys has always been my way to express that.  Besides that I like the cut of most sports jerseys.  I happen to think they look good on me.

My dad took me to my first A’s game when I was 4 years old.  The first player I ever identified with was A’s right fielder Reggie Jackson.  He threw and batted left-handed just like me.  We were practically twins!  Reggie has been my hero ever since and I always wanted a Reggie jersey but whenever I saw a nice Reggie jersey in a sports apparel store they always ran upwards of $100 so forget it.

A few months ago on a whim I checked eBay for some Reggie jerseys and I happened to find one that was on auction for just $20.  I bid on it and eventually won it for 30.  I had no idea I could get good quality jerseys that cheap.  A new obsession was born.

Through eBay I was able to acquire quite a few more at some very reasonable prices.  I won Latin legend and only instant Hall of Famer Roberto Clemente’s Pittsburgh Pirates jersey.  Former National League MVP Albert Pujols.  Former Yankees slugger Hideki Matsui (I love the guy because his nickname is “Godzilla”, another childhood obsession of mine.  He actually had a cameo in a recent Godzilla movie.  How cool is that?)  Boston Red Sox pitched Daisuke Matsuzaka (who helped my fantasy baseball team tremendously one year).  Two more A’s jerseys, one black and one green (with Barry Zito’s number on it.  Don’t make fun.  He was good when he played for the A’s).  A road red Houston Rockets Yao Ming (Chinese guy, gotta represent).  And a home blue Tennessee Titans Vince Young (can’t say I’m too proud of that one in hindsight).

Probably my best jersey conquest was finding the jersey of my all time favorite football player Ronnie Lott.  I won the jersey for $5.  Five bucks!  I’m not kidding.  It’s not perfect though.  It’s not a 49ers jersey.  It’s a Raiders jersey but for five bucks who cares?  It was heavy and everything was stitched.  I couldn’t believe my good fortune.

All these acquisitions have turned me into a bit of a jersey connoisseur, a snob if you will.  Nowadays all my jerseys must be an exact replica of the players’ actual on-field garment.  The logos, names, and numbers must be stitched on, not silk screened.  And I have come to know knockoffs when I see them.

For example, New York Yankees jerseys should never have player names on the back, the Cardinals and A’s home white jerseys should have the player numbers on the front and back, and the baseball Giants should only have the player names on the back of their road greys and not on the home cream jerseys nor their Friday night orange jerseys.

This is not to say every jersey has been a triumph.  I won a home white Seattle Mariners Ichiro Suzuki that was way too small, an orange Baltimore Orioles Brooks Robinson (the greatest third baseman of all time) that was too small as well.  They went to my godson in Texas.  My Albert Pujols jersey was inaccurate as the was no “5” on the front.  My Warriors Stephen Curry has a blemish on the front.

I’ve also discovered that cheap jerseys can be had from the far east.  I’m talking Singapore, the Philippines, and China.  But that’s another story.  More about that on my next post.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Why I Hate Meg Whitman

Every time I see a commercial for Meg Whitman it just pisses me off.  Her dishonesty and outright distortions of the truth have driven me to finally make a blog entry.

Let’s start with her lies about her maid, a woman she allegedly has known for 9 years yet claims she only discovered a few months ago she was here illegally at which point the maid was fired.  Are we to believe Whitman knew this woman for over 8 years and was completely oblivious as to her citizenship status?  Bullshit!  She must think you and I are complete idiots.  This woman claims to take a hard line on illegal aliens yet had one cleaning her house.  What’s the word I’m looking for?  Lair?  Hypocrite?  How about both?

She attacked Jerry Brown because Brown’s in favor of keeping the state’s capital gains tax.  Who even benefits from capital gains?  Poor people? No. It’s the rich.  Meg just wants to protect her rich friends.  She claims that money keeps businesses running and those businesses create jobs.  Come on, Meg.  Are you really using that old, tired “trickle down” Reaganomics bullshit.  We’re smarter than that.  The rich don’t trying to create jobs, they’re just want to create more profit.  Are we to believe that the rich are interested in nobly sharing the wealth with the poor?  Come on.

Then she claims that California is one of the least business-friendliest states in the country, 48th out of 50 allegedly.  Gee, Meg, that must explain why Apple, Google, Yahoo!, Electronic Arts, HP and eBay (eBay, imagine that) are such miserable failures, aren’t they?

Her latest commercial offers the biggest insult of all.  She claims Jerry Brown gave state employees collective bargaining power and “…the unions have just gotten stronger and stronger…No wonder why all the unions support him.”  The last time I checked there was still such thing as “furlough Fridays” in California.  If those unions are so powerful why can’t they stop state employees from having to take Fridays off without pay?  She would have you believe all state employees have it made.  If that’s the case I wonder why EVERY SINGLE STATE EMPLOYEE I SPEAK WITH talks about needing to get a second job to make ends meet?  How dare you attack California’s civil servants that way, Meg Whitman.

Now she did say she’d protect the pensions of California’s safety workers.  And for this all the cops are endorsing her.  One of Jerry Brown’s staffers was caught on mike talking about this endorsement and calling Whitman a “whore” for which Brown apologized at the start of their final debate.  But you know what?  Even the president of California NOW agreed she’s a goddamn whore.

"Meg Whitman could be described as 'a political whore.' Yes, that's an accurate statement," [California NOW President Parry] Bellasalma said after a TPM blogger called to ask her about a story that appeared on the Daily Caller website. (http://tinyurl/22quou7 if you want to read it yourself)

While it is true that California did survive two terms under that horrible Pete Wilson why subject ourselves to this woman?  Please vote for Jerry Brown next month.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

And the Aquarist Returns, Too

Two Christmases ago Karen got me a 55-gallon fish tank.  This was the Christmas before we adopted Zoe.  I’m sure what she had in mind was fulfilling my need for a pet.  She was aware that I had kept fish for most of my life but hadn’t in a couple of years.

When I was really into it my favorite fish to keep were sailfin mollies.  The males all have these long, tall dorsal fins that kind of look like sails.  They come in gold, green, silver, and black strains, and I kept them all.  They are Mexican in sailfin molly   In the wild they are found in limestone caves where the ocean meets the rivers.  As such their ideal environment is slightly warmer than most tropical fish, hard, alkaline water that’s slightly salty.  I catered to their needs.  I added extra sea salt to their tank, kept the temperature up, and even threw in bags of crushed coral to maintain the alkalinity.  Thankfully, most tap water here in the Bay Area is hard and alkaline anyway.

But this time around I just couldn’t get into it.  Got myself a few guppies and platies.  I didn’t pay any attention to them and naturally they died.  I just didn’t care.  I don’t know why.  I just wasn’t into them.

The tank sat idle for months.  I didn’t want to put that much work into fish keeping anymore.  Then it hit me.  Goldfish!  I’ll just throw a few goldfish in there.  No special requirements.  No salt.  Not even a heater is needed.  They’re cold water fish. I refilled the tank.  Let it cycle for weeks.  Finally I went down to my local Petco and bought 4 fancy goldfish.  Fantails to be exact.  Two died within days.

Fantail Goldfish

A few days ago I went to PetSmart to pick up a few more.  I didn’t want to put too many in.  One rule I intended to follow about goldfish is not to keep too many together.  They’re messy and produce too much ammonia.  Also, colder water holds less oxygen.  I also wanted to keep the tank fantails only.  As you can see they’re not streamlined at all.  The shape of their bodies and fins prevent them from being fast swimmers.  Keeping a faster swimming fish with them would mean losing out on food.

I was helped by a very knowledgeable person named Tina.  She told me a few things I was completely unaware of.  As mid-water eaters it’s very important that they be fed that way.  Eating flakes from the surface of the water is a particular danger for them.  If they end up gulping any air it could lead to air bubbles in their swim bladders which is almost always fatal.  If you look at their mouths you’ll see that it’s not upturned like a guppy or downturned like a catfish.  Guppies mouths are made for eating from the surface of the water while a catfish’s mouth is made for bottom feeding.  No, all goldfishes have mouths that are straight forward.  Tina recommended soaking the flakes before introducing them to the fish.

Tina also stressed the importance of having animal and vegetable supplements.  She recommended giving them peas once a week with the skin removed.  Maybe a little sliver of cooked zucchini.  She also recommended brine shrimp be rotated into their diet occasionally.

They must also not be overcrowded.  As a rule of them they should be given about 10 gallons EACH.  Therefore, I will not be adding any more to the five I now have.  I might add a snail or two to consume the uneaten food on the floor of the tank.

If kept happy and healthy all goldfish can be very long lived.  Fantails can live 15-20 years under the right conditions.  There’s no way they’ll ever replace the love and affection my dogs give me, but there’s no denying the peace, calm, and serenity they bring just watching them swim happily in their decorated tank.

A Note on the Passing of Ted Kennedy

Senator Edward M. “Teddy” Kennedy died last week.  For me, it was a sad occasion.  Although many will choose to remember him for the Chappaquiddick incident I have chosen to remember the man for all the good work he has done in his service to this country as a US senator.  He chose to represent the underrepresented.  Over his career ted kennedyhe had help to pass legislation that raised minimum wages, protected the rights of the mentally ill and the handicapped, migrant laborers and union labor, civil rights, was a key figure in ending the war in Northern Ireland,  the list goes on.

He was the patriarch of the Kennedy clan and had that responsibility thrust upon him at the tender age of 36 when his brother Bobby was assassinated.  I imagine that if a heaven exists and that his brothers Jack and Bobby are there they must have been very pleased with how he carried forth the Kennedy legacy.

Amongst his most famous quotes was, “For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.”  Powerful words, indeed, but my favorite was the final lines of the eulogy he gave at his brother Bobby’s funeral, “Some men see things as they are and say why.  I dream of things that never were and say why not.”

Farewell, Senator Kennedy.  The world will miss you, America will miss you, and I will miss you.

Maria Shriver and Governor Schwarzenegger

This has been a particularly difficult time for California’s First Lady, Maria Shriver.  Just two weeks prior to losing her Uncle Teddy her mother Eunice Kennedy Shriver died.  My thoughts and sympathies go out to her, Governor Schwarzenegger, and their family.

And by the way, I must mention despite being a “lame duck” governor Governor Schwarzenegger hasn’t stopped trying to do the right thing for the state.  Last week The Governator ordered state surpluses be sold off at auction.  He had the foresight to autograph a few items.  I have no doubt that those items were worth a great deal more.  The auction raised more than a million dollars that will benefit state coffers.arnoldand_maria

On general principle I shouldn’t like Arnold because he’s a Republican, but I do.  For the most part he has avoided partisan politics.  He has put his film career aside, no small sacrifice.  And he has always tried to do right by California.  He may be “just an in-law” and he belongs to the wrong political party but his sacrifice and sense of duty to public service has made him a worthy member of the Kennedy legacy.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Return of the Sports Geek

Anyone who’s known me for a while know that I have been a sports geek since I was a little kid, long, long before anyone had ever coined that term.  When I first discovered baseball stats and understood what they were I was completely fascinated with those numbers.

Then my cousin Gary introduced me to the next element on the road to sports geekdomhood, sports gaming.  This was ages before EA Sports, video games, or personal computers.  No, these were board games.  Basketball, baseball, football, golf, Gary had them all.  And these weren’t the kind of games that had flippers, spinners, or balls that tested your reflexes.  These were simulations that had player cards with dice, action cards, and result charts.  These were the kind of games that were intended for people who took their sports gaming seriously.

My mom got me started with a few titles of my own.  The first was Avalon Hill’s Statis-Pro Basketball.  The game included player cards for every player of all 26 teams (yes, there were only 26 teams in the NBA at the time).  I was in heaven.  I played game after game.  I wore those cards down to paper rags.  Part of playing the game properly was having to record each players stats.  You had to keep track to reasonably emulate each players’ playing time.  A light went on.  Stats!  I had stats of my own now!

Of course, I couldn’t just throw my stat sheets in the trash.  I had to keep them and tabulate them and record them.  Ultimately, this is why I believe I’m good in math.  I kept and calculated those numbers by hand.  Before too long I could tell you things like 2/7=.286 off the top of my head without even thinking about it.  It was tedious and time consuming but it was a labor of love, and boy, did I love it.

It turns out I wasn’t alone in my love of sports gaming.  Avalon Hill (sadly, no longer in existence) had their own quarterly magazine devoted to their own line of sports games.  I read an article written by someone who was reporting on his results from a league he had put together using one of their baseball titles.  His league had six teams, all fictional, playing a 50 game season.  The teams consisted of players he had drafted from a pool of all major leaguers.  They were all-star teams playing against each other in an all-star league.  I HAD to do something like this myself!  And an obsession was born.

My own efforts included my NAFL football league, NABL baseball league, and the NABA, my basketball league.  The “NA” always stood for “North American”.  For some reason my leagues always have to include at least one Canadian team.  However, as a young and foolish teenager I couldn’t fathom the work involved in keeping all those stats.  I never completed any one season.  All of my leagues ended up being abandoned no more than halfway completed.

At 19 I decided to give an all-star basketball league another try.  The NABA consisted of exactly six teams playing a 30 game schedule playing each game on my old, tattered Statis-Pro Basketball board game, keeping all stats by hand.  It was a lot of work and although it took over a year to finish, I actually completed my entire season, playoffs, finals, and all.

I was proud of my work but felt it would be more meaningful if I could establish continuity.  I was able to complete a second season under the same parameters.  I was satisfied with myself but was questioning the value of doing so much work.

By then I had my first IBM PC clone and discovered APBA computer basketball.  The program was also a simulation, not an arcade game.  I could still run my all-star league and best of all it kept stats.  No more pencils with worn erasers for me.  No more hours being bent over my coffee table with score sheets and cheap calculators.  Running my league was now a breeze.

The NABA enjoyed a six-season run that ended about 15 years ago when I eventually grew bored and lost interest.  In those six season the league enjoyed regular rookie drafts and expanded three times, eventually ending with 12 teams, double the number of its humble start.

I haven’t mentioned hockey yet.  Yes, there was an NAHL, but about a third of the way through my inaugural season I came to the conclusion that the program I was using just wasn’t producing satisfactory results and called it to a halt.

Since then I haven’t bothered much with games like this but they’ve always held a special place in my heart.  They’re a dying breed, too.  With EA Sports offering video games with photorealistic graphics people just aren’t interested in text-based sports gaming any more.  Games like the ones I enjoyed so much are few and far between.

Fortunately, there are a few old-school, hardcore lovers of text-based sports games like me out there.  This one in particular has inspired me to revive my efforts and carry on once more.

Quest Hockey Simulation is the singular effort of Mr. Joe Gucciardo of Howard Beach, NY.  As a rooter of underdogs I had to give this one-man endeavor a try.  I downloaded the demo and found it very impressive.  I’ve discovered that the program isn’t set up to do draft leagues but can be done with a little work.

What the hell?  Why not give it a go?  Joe’s only charging $17 for the full version of the game.  Why not show an independent programmer and fellow sports geek a little support?

Preparations are now being made for the NAHL’s revival.  This will be an eight team league with two four-team divisions playing a 40-game season.  I’ll be creating a website where I’ll be posting the results of my nerdy efforts.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

A Post Script to my July 4 ramble

There is one more name to add my list of people that I feel embody the spirit of the American Dream.  His recent death was overshadowed by the passing of Michael Jackson.  It’s TV commercial spokesperson Billy Mays.  You know who I’m talking about, “HI, THIS IS BILLY MAYS FOR OXY-CLEAN…”, the bearded guy with the blue shirt that always talked REALLY LOUD.

He had a TV show on the Discovery Channel called “Pitch Men”.  On this program different inventors would bring their ideas to Billy and his partner.  If they decided it was a product they’d believe in they’d produce the commercial themselves, usually with Billy as the spokesperson.  In one episode I watched as they helped a man sell a bi-directional, hand-held circular saw.  At the end of the episode they’d sold over one million units.

What embodies the American Spirit better than an inventor, a person that envisions a product or an idea that makes everyone’s life easier and makes themselves rich in the process?  Billy Mays helped those people realize those dreams.  That’s what made Billy Mays a great facilitator of the American Spirit, the American Dream. 

There aren’t enough Americans like him.  Billy Mays, you will be missed.


Friday, July 3, 2009

Happy Birthday, America!


This weekend the United States of America turns 233 years old.  On this occasion my thoughts turn to the ideal of the American Dream.  To me, the definition of the American Dream is the idyllic image of a house with a white picket fence with a dog and raising 2.5 kids, and having the opportunity to be a success at anything you aspire to.  There are many people that embody the spirit of the American Dream.  These people come to mind.

Cesar Millan, otherwise known as The Nation Geographic Channel’s The Dog Whisperer, a Mexican immigrant who entered the United States as an illegal like many others with nothing.  He found a passion, stuck with it, and grew his success to a point where he’s been a guest on Oprah, got his own TV show, has written many books, and now has his own signature line of dog supplies sold at what is probably the country’s biggest chain of pet stores, Petco. 

The man that does yard work at my mom’s house, Martin.  He is and will probably always be an illegal alien Mexican immigrant.  Like many tens of thousands like him, he’ll stand on a corner at the crack of dawn waiting for someone to choose him as a day laborer.  He hustles his butt off, doing any odd job that pays.  He has to stash away a large reserve of cash because at any given moment he could be caught by immigration and be deported to Mexico.  He has to pay thousands of dollars to the “coyotes” that smuggle him back to the States.  Despite these obstacles he’s a co-owner of the house he lives in, is raising a family, and is undoubtedly making a better life for his children.

My late cousin, Tony.  Tony was originally from Bolivia and was married to my cousin Yolanda.  Tony returned to Bolivia to bring back his daughter Isabel.  When she first got here as a little girl Isabel didn’t speak a word of English.  Now, she’s grown woman, serves in the Navy, there’s not a trace of a Spanish accent when she speaks.  Even years after his passing, Tony’s memory still represents the fulfillment of the American Dream.

Our governor, Arnold Schwarzeneggar, is himself an immigrant.  Where else but in America can someone migrate here speaking barely comprehensible English, become a movie star, marry into a family that is almost American royalty, and be elected to the highest office in the most populous state in the union?

Our nation’s president, Barack Obama, is only one generation removed from a man that grew up in a small village in the African nation of Kenya.  Imagine a man with that background having a son that would one day become the most powerful man in the free world.  Where else on the entire planet could a dream like this be achieved?  In the words of everyone’s favorite boxing promoter, Don King, “Only in America”.

I also think of the blue-coated militia that constituted America’s first army.  They fought and died to protect America’s independence against the British Empire, the centuries long most powerful empire on Earth at the time.

Most Americans can recite the opening words to Declaration of Independence, “We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these rights are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”  Those words speak of a promise, and it is thanks to people like the ones I have mentioned above that prove that America’s promise can and will be fulfilled.

God bless America.  And happy birthday, too!


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Father’s Day Thoughts

Before I begin I’d like to regress to a story that actually relates to Mother’s Day.  This is an excerpt from the article that was run on the June 18, 2009 edition of the Contra Costa Times:

Earlier this year, Alfred Rava and the Oakland Athletics came to a preliminary settlement concerning a three-year-old class-action suit over a Mother's Day weekend giveaway of free plaid reversible bucket hats. Rava accused the A's of sex discrimination after he did not receive a hat during a promotion at a game May 8, 2004.

Bob Rose, a spokesman for the A's, said the organization will no longer offer male- or female-only giveaways, in part due to the suit. As an example, Rose cited this year's Mother's Day giveaway. On May 10, the A's gave away tote bags to the first 10,000 fans.

With all due respect to my gay friends what kind of so-called man pulls a faggy move like suing someone over not receiving a free trinket on Mother’s Day?  Mother’s Day, for Christ’s sake!  I think even my gay friends would agree that was a faggy thing to do. 

Mr. Alfred Rava, on behalf of all fans of all sports, you are no longer allowed in any venue, indoor or outdoor, that hosts any sporting event of any kind.  I hope your kids (I assume you have kids since you claim to be a mother) are ashamed.  I hope you were heckled, harassed, and teased.

In the words of Don Corleone to his godson Johnny, “You can act like a man!”

I had just one quick, funny story to share.  Bryan and I took Dad and Betty to Skates in Berkeley for Father’s Day brunch.  As we were leaving a man at an adjacent table asked Bryan, “Is that Senator Mike Honda?”, referring to Dad.  (And he’s a congressman, not a senator, by the way)  When we all got outside Bryan told Dad about it to which Dad replied, “It’s an easy mistake to make.  After all, we all look alike don’t we?”

I wish I’d quit forgetting that.