Andalusia: Thru Ellen’s Eyes

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To celebrate an important birthday of andalucia-travel-mapphotographer and spouse Ellen Miller, we snuck in a quick ten-day trip to Andalusia in Southern Spain. We began in Seville (Sevilla), took a day trip by train to Cordoba (Cordova). After returning to Seville, we drove through hill towns and farming areas of Andalusia to Ronda where we stayed overnight. We then drove on to Grenada where we concluded our lovely introduction to Andalusia.

First, a few brief notes on each of the places we explored, then ten photos from Ellen’s Andalusia, and finally a link to her slide show:

Seville:

All of our time here was spent walking everywhere, one morning with a guide who asked our interests and proceeded to adjust his tour accordingly (!) and the other two and a half days wandering on our own throughout the city. We learned a lot about how people live, shop, and eat in this thriving tourist town, saw some of the modern touches to this ancient city (to wit an inexplicable public structure dubbed ‘the mushroom’), and wandered through the old tile-making area of the city, which is rapidly becoming a chic place to live, wine, and dine.

For me, the most memorable site in Seville was the Plaza de Toros, the bullring. I’ve never seen a bull fight (we missed one by just a few days), but simply sitting on a stone seat and taking in the scene before us was somehow magical. I had some of the same feeling as I did more than 60 years ago when I first entered Boston’s Fenway Park and saw that wonderful ‘temple’ and its famed Green Monster wall.

While the massive Cathedral (built on the ruins of a former mosque) and the Alcazar (Royal Palace) were worthy of a bit of time, mostly we wandered through the various neighborhoods — the most interesting of which was the alluring old Jewish quarter —  mostly enjoying the narrow streets and white houses with flower boxes and grilled fronts.

And food was a highlight. For a fancy meal, we loved Oriza and its main dining room. But mostly, we found tapas bars, using our guide’s recommendation to be sure the floors around the bars were dirty with napkins (because that’s how you can distinguish a place where locals go from a place where tourists go). We stood at the bar at El Rinconcillo, the oldest tapas bar in Seville, for close to two hours, mostly soaking in the atmosphere, trying to get the attention of the ‘waiters’ behind the bar, and marveling at El Rincolncillo’s unique way of keeping track of what you’ve eaten (in chalk on the bar).

And, despite the touristy nature of it (and our resistance to it because of that), we thoroughly enjoyed a 90-minute evening performance of flamenco dancing.

Cordoba:

mesquite

We took a 40 minute train ride from Seville to Cordoba for the day, primarily to see the historic part of this ancient capital.  We enjoyed wandering in the ‘Jewish Quarter’ with its winding, narrow (‘kissing’) streets and looking in on the colorful, tiled patios. As in most of the areas we visited in Andalusia, there are virtually no remnants of Jewish life.

But it was the Mesquita de Cordoba — The Mosque/Cathedral — that most entranced us. Unlike everywhere else in Spain, the Christians did not destroy this massive, columned mosque when they ‘reconquered’ Cordoba. Instead, they simply built a cathedral in the exact center of this enormous and unusual mosque. And thank God, so to speak, that they left most of the mosque alone. Even with Ellen’s photographic skills and my writing, it is hard to capture, in picture or in words, this place. We have seen nothing like the Mesquita in all of our travels. Truly an architectural wonder.

Ronda and the hill towns of Andalusia:

best rondaWe spent a good part of one day driving from Seville through various hill towns and rich agricultural areas on our way to the cliff-side town of Ronda, where we stopped overnight before continuing on to Grenada. The countryside was lush and fertile and filled with olive trees. (Someone told us that 80% of Italy’s olive oil comes from Spain.)

Ronda is in a mountainous area and in the center of Andalusia. The town is built on the side of an enormous cliff and above the Guadalevin River which divides the town in two. The most recent of the three bridges (Puento Nuevo) now connects the two parts of the town, which has become one of the more well-known hill towns of this part of Spain. It is also the home of Spain’s oldest bullring, still in use twice a year. Although not as dramatic as the bullring in Seville, it was lovely (tho I suspect the bulls would disagree).

Grenada:

GrenadaWe left our car in a rental car park at a train station in Grenada — no one was around to accept the keys, but we assume that it was safely received — and spent the next three days walking through what became our favorite stop of this trip.

Sometimes with a guide, and more often on our own, we crisscrossed this ancient city, spending most of our time in the cobbled streets of the Albaicin, a former Moorish neighborhood that has retained some of its heritage, and most of a day at the Alhambra, a partially preserved fortress palace that is another historic monument that almost defies photographic and written description.** An UNESCO World Heritage site, it is a fortress that included, at one time, seven palaces, castles, residential neighborhoods, military housing, watch towers, and extensive gardens. One of the palaces remains and is stunning in its architecture and detailed decorative walls and ceilings. The Albhambra dominates the city, and from every angle is stunning to see.

And as everywhere else we were on this short trip, the food, largely tapas, was memorable. The tapas in Grenada is often free and meant to draw you into a bar, where you’ll not only drink but also order more food. Los Diamentas and Bodegas Espadafor were two of our favorites. Both were filled with locals. The final night we ate at Restaurante Estrellas de San Nicholas where from the top of the Albacian we had a wonderful night time view of the Alhambra. Surprisingly, the food was almost as good as the remarkable view.

(** In being intimidated by the Alhambra, I’m in pretty good company when I say it is a difficult place to describe. Washington Irving wrote, “”How unworthy is my scribbling of the place.” But I did read his Tales of the Alhambra (1832), a series of sketches, stories, tales, myths, descriptions, and observations of the Alhambra, where he spent part of year living in a room within one of the palaces. It’s a good read, especially once you’ve been there.)

bullring

cathedral ceiling

mesquite

cordoba shadows

castles in countryside

best ronda

ronda village.

Grenada

alhambra

To see the entire slide show (68 photos), use this link: Andalusia: Thru Ellen’s Lens.

For the best viewing, click on the little arrow at the top right of the first page of the link to start the slide show and see all the photos in the largest size possible (use a laptop or desktop computer if you have access to either).

I Owe It All to My Grandson

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Scherzer

At every baseball game I attend I am looking to see something I have never seen before. Sometimes that’s not such an easy task.

Last night, it was a no-brainer.

If you follow sports at all, and baseball in particular, you’ve already heard Max Scherzer, the Washington Nationals’ $210 million dollar — for seven years —  pitcher, struck out 20 batters in nine innings, to become only the fourth pitcher in MLB history to accomplish that task (Roger Clemens did it twice, Randy Johnson and Kerry Wood did it once each).

I suspect the Nationals were pleased to fork over the million dollars ($30 million a year divided by 30 starts) for that performance. Scherzer had been having a not-too-good year prior to last night as his ERA going into the game against Detroit was 4.60 and his won-loss record was 3-2.

It was an evening I will not forget, especially since I am putting in writing what I saw. When Scherzer struck out his 17th batter, I turned to a fellow Nats’ fan, Don, and said, “I once saw Pedro Martinez strike out 17 at Fenway years ago.” (However, when I tried to confirm that Pedro had indeed done that, I couldn’t find it in the records, although Pedro did strike out 17 Yankees once in Yankee Stadium.)

So much for the accuracy of my memory.

Anyway, here are some of the highlights from last night:

1st Inning: After getting the first batter to pop out, Scherzer strikes out the next two batters, including his friend Miguel Cabrera. Total: two strikeouts.

2nd Inning: Scherzer gives up a single to Victor Martinez and then strikes out the next three batters. Total: five strikeouts.

(Note: I mentioned to Don that Scherzer had already struck out five of the six batters he faced. But most fans didn’t seem to focus on that yet as they were carefully watching former Nats’ beloved pitcher Jordan Zimmermann return to Nationals’ Park for the first time since he left the team this past winter. He got an enthusiastic standing ovation/reception and was even ‘forced’ to step out of the batter’s box to acknowledge the well-earned applause and appreciation for what he accomplished while he was with the Nats.)

3rd Inning: Jose Inglesias, not one of the Tigers’ better hitters, leads off the inning with a first pitch home run that just got over the left field wall. Scherzer then strikes out the next three batters. Total: eight strikeouts.

4th Inning: One strikeout, one ground out, and one fly out to right. Total: nine Ks.

5th Inning: Two strikeouts and a fly out: Total: 11 Ks.

6th Inning:  Ground out and two strikeouts: Total: 13 Ks.

7th Inning: Cabrera strikes out again, but then Victor Martinez singles and Justin Upton doubles. Men on second and third. Only one out. Score at this point, Nats 2, Tigers 1. Scherzer strikes out the next two batters to get out of the inning and preserve the lead. Total: 15 Ks.

(Note: Up to this point, Jordan Zimmermann and Scherzer were in a terrific pitchers’ duel, despite all of Scherzer’s strikeouts. Now with the Tigers threatening, Scherzer was at his best, ‘easily’ putting away James McCann and Justin Upton. In the bottom of the 7th, Danny Espinoza adds an insurance run with a home run off Jordan Zimmermann to make the score 3-1.)

8th Inning: Scherzer strikes out the side. Total: 18 Ks.

9th Inning: Lead off home run for J.D. Martinez. Score goes to 3-2. Cabrera strikes out for the third time on a 97 mph fastball before Victor Martinez singles and goes 3-4 on the night. Scherzer then gets Upton to strikeout swinging and ties the record for most strike outs in a nine-inning game. Two outs and James McCann up with Scherzer, the rest of the Nats, and the 35,695 fans cheering for him to break the record. After a first pitch strike, McCann weakly grounds out third to first.  Total: 20 Strikeouts.

(Note: Far from being disappointed, Scherzer pumps his fist and grins so every one of the 35,695 fans can see how pumped up he was and excited to beat his old team and get back on track, dropping his ERA from 4.60 to 4.15. Overlooked in the excitement of Scherzer’s terrific game was Zimmermann’s good performance, giving up three runs and seven hits over seven innings, dropping his ERA from 1.10 to 1.5, still far ahead of Scherzer for the season. Basically, Zim made one mistake, the home run pitch to Espinoza, which allowed the Nats to win 3-2.)

And a few other things of note:

**In his complete game outing, Scherzer threw an amazing 96 strikes out of his 119 pitches (80.6%) — significantly better than the other three pitchers who also have struck out 20 and a MLB record. Also, no walks and six hits over his nine innings.

**Eighteen of Scherzer’s 20 strikeouts were swinging strikeouts. Kinsler, J.D. Martinez, Cabrera, McCann, and Gose all struck out three times. Victor Martinez got three hits and was the only Tiger batter who did not strike out.

**Scherzer had first strike pitches to 24 of the 33 batters he faced, a 72.3% rate.

**Scherzer now has defeated all 30 MLB teams. John Lackey is the only other active player to do that.

**Despite having Jonathan Papelbon warming up for the 9th inning, Nats’ manager Dusty Baker chose to stick with Scherzer in the 9th, even after he gave up a lead off home run, making the score close to 3-2. It’s doubtful Baker could’ve gotten Scherzer off the mound and out of the game in the 9th, at least not without the fans (and Scherzer) going bersek.

**Baker’s moving Daniel Murphy to batting forth and dropping Ryan Zimmerman to fifth paid off as Murphy drove in two of the Nats’ three runs, and would have had a third RBI if Harper had not been thrown out, on review, on an attempted steal. Murphy is now hitting .409 and no doubt better protects Harper from being walked than Zimmerman was able to do.

**Jason Werth’s batting average dropped to .196 as he went 0-4 and left five men on base.

**Dusty Baker who has played in 2,039 games and managed 3,210, said, “That’s the best pitching performance I’ve seen in person” — quite a complement for someone who has participated in a total of 5,249 games, witnessed numerous other games in addition, and is one of baseball’s most astute observers of the game.

For those of you who were not privileged to be at the game, did not see it on TV, or watch any of the replay, you can see in a third of a minute, what Scherzer did. (Please bear with the 12 second ad at the beginning of the video below):

Scherzer’s 20 Strikeouts in 20 Seconds

Oh. And why the “I Owe It All to My Grandson” headline of today’s blog?

I went to the game with the expressed purpose of getting the MVP Byrce Harper Bobblehead giveaway for my seven-year old grandson.

Otherwise, I doubt I would have had the great pleasure of attending and witnessing Max Scherzer’s wonderful performance last night.

Are Strike Outs Overated?

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Strike out

What really matters in determining how well a baseball team is performing?

Isn’t pitching supposed to trump (excuse me) hitting?

Didn’t the Sox spend gazillions of dollars to beef up their starting pitching and their relief pitching?

And aren’t strikeouts important?

So it’s only 22 games into the 162 game season, but a few things pop out if you follow the Sox:

  1. Their record is 12-10 which has them in second place in the AL East, 1.5 games behind the surprising Orioles.
  2. They are next to last in ERA (4.43), giving up 103 runs (98 earned), only Houston is worse in these pitching categories.
  3. They have struck out the most hitters in the AL, 223, but have also given up the most walks, 88.
  4. They only have six saves.

However,

  1. They have the highest hitting average in their league (.278), the most hits (218), the most doubles (63), the most triples (7), and the most RBIs (107).
  2. Most important in this area is they lead the league in runs with 114, 18 more than the second place Tigers and 19 more than the Orioles.
  3. So maybe their record of fewest home runs so far, 17 vs the Orioles 33, isn’t hurting their run scoring.

Plus,

  1. Their fielding has been pretty good as they are near the top of the league with a FPCT of .987 and only 10 errors.
  2. Their record in stealing bases tops the league, 20 (out of 22 attempts), and they’ve thrown out six of nine stolen base attempts.

It sure seems that hitting is trumping pitching, at least so far as the Red Sox are concerned in the early going of this season.

Actually, the most interesting thing about the season so far for me is something that Joe Posnanski, one of my favorite sports’ writers has highlighted — teams are striking out almost one out of every four times they are at the plate, the highest rate in the history of baseball, and, he writes, that’s not a bad thing.

Teams seem to believe, he says, “Hit the long ball. Steal bases at a high percentage. Draw walks. That’s still the winning formula.”

Strike outs overrated?

See Posnanski’s article Teams Are Striking Out More and That’s Not a Bad Thing.

Good Theater in DC

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Those of you who read MillersTime with some regularity may have noticed that I have not reviewed many movies of late. Because of extended grandparenting joys and duties, lots of travel, and the wonderful return of the baseball season, we have missed most of our 2016 Sunday morning Cinema Club films, the Miami Film Fest, the Jewish Film Fest, and the DC Film Fest. Plus, we haven’t even made it to a regular movie theater in what seems to be forever.

However, we have somehow seen a number of theater productions and want to draw to your attention two plays — both at Arena Stage — that might be of interest to those living in or coming to the DC metro area. The first is closing soon (May 8th), the second has just opened and will be here until May 29th.

All the Way ****

All the Way

Whether you see this play as a history lesson or because you were in someway ‘around’ during this time in our country’s history, you will not be disappointed. While I have some reservations about the play (see below), none of those have to do with the accuracy of this one year in the life of LBJ.

The play opens as Lyndon Johnson becomes an “accidental president” in Nov. of 1963 with the assassination of John Kennedy. It ends one year later with the landslide election of LBJ as president in his own right.

In between, we see all aspects of this 36th president, and playwright Robert Schenkkan, director Kyle Donnelly, and actor Jack Willis get LBJ just right. For those of you who were in Washington, I suspect the LBJ you see on stage will be the one you ‘knew.’ For those of you who know some of our country’s (recent) history (especially if you have read Robert Caro’s wonderful LBJ bios), you too will recognize this LBJ. For those of you who know the name LBJ as largely an historical figure, you’ll be treated to an engaging history lesson. For all of those who see All the Way, you will leave the theater with a better understanding of the man, how our government works, of the presidency, of politics, and of a particular time in our history.

The one year in the life of LBJ captured here portrays this president at the height of his power, at the most successful time in his life. In the process, it also explores the other players of the time – Martin Luther King, Hubert Humphrey, J. Edgar Hoover, Lady Byrd Johnson, Walter Jenkins, Richard Russesll, Robert McNamara, and others – and how LBJ used them both to hold the country together and to pass the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (There is a second play, The Great Society, by the same playwright that portrays LBJ as he ends his presidency and returns to Texas, a time and a result very different from the successful portrayal here.)

This 2014 Tony Award (Best Drama) is both history and biography at its best.

I did have difficulty (physically) seeing Jack Willis as LBJ. So too with most of the other actors playing their roles as historical figures. (Others have told me they had no problems with that at all.)  Also, even though the Arena Stage production goes to great lengths to deal with the round stage (as opposed to a proscenium one), I found myself struggling to see and hear well when a particular actor had his or her back to me. And for me, not all of the actors were as effective or as skilled as Jack Willis in their depictions of the roles they were playing.

Nevertheless, if you can get to Arena Stage before May 8 (it will not be extended), consider doing so. The play is long (2 3/4 hours), but it nails that time in our history.

Disgraced ****1/2

Disgraced

When I first read Disgraced was coming to the Arena Stage, I read about it being a Pulitzer Prize winning play (2013) and about it being the most produced play in 2015 (30 theaters around the country and the world with another 20 theaters planning to produce it also).

Then I read on Arena’s Stage website the play was “about the clash between modern culture and ancient faiths. The son of south Asian immigrants, Amir has worked hard to achieve the American Dream — complete with a successful career, a beautiful wife and $600 custom-tailored shirts. But has he removed himself too far from his roots? And when a friendly dinner party conversation rockets out of control, will the internal battle between his culture and his identity raze all that he’s worked so hard to achieve? Hailed as “terrific, turbulent, with fresh currents of dramatic electricity” (New York Times), this incendiary examination of one’s self and one’s beliefs will leave you breathless.”

So it caught my attention, but somehow I did not realize that it was about being Muslim in America. I’m glad I didn’t realize that, as I might have chosen not to see it. And that would have been a pity. I would have missed so much.

Briefly, there are five characters (two couples and a younger man) who for 90 minutes (no intermission) on one set explore who they are below and beyond what they have already become. One, Amir, is the son of a Pakistani Muslim immigrant and has passed himself off as a Indian-American who has become an extremely successful lawyer in a Jewish law firm in New York City. His wife, a White-Protestant-American is an artist who is exploring Islamic imagery in her emerging, successful work. The second couple is an African-American woman, also a lawyer in the same law firm as Amir, and her husband who is a Jewish curator from the Whitney Museum. The fifth character is the young Muslim-American nephew of Amir.

As is often the case in stories set around a dinner table, there is much below the surface, and with that as a setting, the audience usually is witness to an unraveling in varying degrees. In this case, the playwright, Ayad Akhtar*, says Disgraced is “actually a melodrama-slash thriller-slash-agitprop-slash-tragedy.”

It’s all that and much more. While it’s primary focus is on Amir and who he really is, it is also about the other characters and who they are. It is about assimilation, about ethnic and identity confusion, and about losing your religion and your community. Additionally, it is about unintended consequences and about where our discourse and rhetoric can lead us.

It’s an intriguing play that grabs you both emotionally and intellectually and deserves discussion.

If you see Disgraced and want to spend an evening over dinner discussing it with us and others who have also seen it, let me know.

(*There is an excellent interview with the playwright that perhaps is best read once you’ve seen the play.)

Some Days Are Better Than Others

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Hats

Sometimes it’s a particularly good day for Sox and Nats fans…and not so good for Yankee and Orioles’ fans.

Sunday was one of those days.

We were at a Nats’ afternoon game that was mostly without excitement for the first eight or nine innings. Strasburg pitched well, except for one pitch (isn’t that often the case for pitchers?) where, although he struck out 10 batters over 7.1 innings, he gave up a three-run homer that broke up a tie game and put the Nats in a 4-1 hole.

Mostly the game was a pitchers’ duel (I enjoy those, but my wife, a fair weather fan — she only goes to games if the weather is fair — prefers more ‘action’). Then the Nats scored two in the 8th to come within one run of tying the game. In the 9th, boy wonder Bryce Harper, who was being given a day of rest (really necessary for a youngster like him?), pinch hit and of course slammed one out of the park to deepest center.

Tie game.

Extra innings.

We had to leave the park for grandparent duties but listened on the radio (still a wonderful way to follow baseball if the announcers are good) and later followed the action on our smart phones. The game went 16 innings before a mostly unknown player, Chris Heisey, who had replaced Harper after the 9th, hit a game ending home run, almost six hours after the 1:35 PM game had started.

GoNats.

As if that wasn’t enough baseball for one day, after we got home, I checked in on the Sox who were playing a Sunday night game. And that was almost a repeat of what happened with the Nats, tho the Sox game only went 12 innings and lasted a mere five hours.

The Sox were ahead 5-1, then 5-3, which they held from the end of the third until the bottom of the 9th, when their new, expensive, and highly touted closer, Craig Kimbrel, got two outs before giving up a double and then a home run.

Another tie game.

More extra innings.

Finally, in the bottom of the 12th, Sox back up catcher Ryan Hannigan had a 13-pitch at bat/walk before Jackie Bradley drove in Hanley Ramirez for the Sox lead. (Hannigan scored an insurance run when he then made it home on a wild pitch.) Sox used an unheralded reliever, Heath Hembree, and held in the bottom of the 12.th

Sox win.

Now it was just after 1 AM (I had moved from the bedroom to the study around midnight in order not to cause my fair weather wife any more loss of sleep and to preserve what was left of my marriage), and I was a bit hyped up. So of course I checked in on the Evil Empire Yankees and was pleased to see they had lost 8-1 and were now in last place. Plus, although A-Rod drove in the Yunkee’s one lowly run, he was now hitting a mere .148.

Then I checked on the current AL East surprise league leaders, the Orioles, and was delighted to see they had lost to the Royals, 6-1.

All in all, about 12+ hours of baseball, and all good.

Some days are simply better than others for obsessed baseball fans.

The Best Ethnic Restaurant Guide for the DC Area

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What does a professor of economics know about ethnic food?

Actually, this one, Tyler Cowen, is someone you should know about and follow, particularly if you live in the DC-VA-MD area (tho many of the things he has to say about eating out are applicable to cities and suburbs around the US).

Three years ago I blogged about Cowen on MillersTime (here and here), writing, “For those of you who know of Cowen, you are familiar with his penchant for seedy, small, ethnic restaurants in the DC area. How he finds all of them and still keeps his day job as an economist at George Mason University and his prolific writing output is beyond me. But he is a treasure, despite (or perhaps because of) his sometimes over enthusiastic reviews or his opinionated posts.”

If you don’t know about him and his Ethnic Dining Guide, you’re in for a wonderful find. Forget the Washington Post, the Washingtonian, Trip Advisor, or Zagats. Cowen is a one man eating machine who simply loves finding and reporting on local restaurants and grocery stores and has been doing so for almost 30 years.  I don’t think he earns any money from this love (his day job is at GMU where he’s the Director of the Mercatus Center for economic policy), but if you’re looking for the best, the most comprehensive guide (free) to ethnic restaurants in this area, check him out:

Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Guide* – April 2016. Start with this.

Tyler Cowen’s Ethnic Dining Blog – April 2016.  Also, check out this blog version because it often contains Cowen’s latest passions or finds.

Six Rules for Dining Out – Atlantic Monthly, May 2012. An article Cowen wrote a few years ago that contains some of his thinking about approaching eating out in general, ethnic, trendy, ‘top rated’ restaurants, etc.

(*Note. If Cowen gives a phone number for a restaurant, call it before you head out. In some cases, a restaurant may be closed or may have gone out of business and that is not always reflected in his massive list of area ethnic restaurants.)

PS – Update 4/26/16. I was reminded by a reader that one of the strengths of Cowen’s list is that he not only leads you to a restaurant you might not know, but he also gives advice about particular dishes to order. He believes it’s not just about choosing a restaurant but equally important is knowing what to order at that restaurant. His guide is certainly helpful in giving suggestions about what he has liked at particular restaurants.

Also, because Cowen has so many restaurants on his list (and he has a day job not related to food), he does not always have the latest info (Mixtec, in DC, for instance has now been closed for almost six months, and Masala Art, the Indian restaurant on Wisconsin Ave. in DC has gone down hill, perhaps a victim of too much success and the distraction of opening a second restaurant near Arena Stage.). That is a reason to check his blog and not only rely on the massive guide. He adds new ‘finds’ (check out his “Current Favorites” list on the right hand side of the home page of the blog), and he also sometimes updates reviews of previously recommended restaurants.

“The Secret History of Tiger Woods”

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tigerheadPhoto Illustration by Richard Roberts

I’ve never been too fascinated by golf and have often used the snarky quote, “It spoils a good walk,” to express my view of this ‘sport.’ (Mark Twain is quoted to have said, “Golf is a good walk spoiled,” although that quote apparently precedes Twain.)

But I have always been interested in the best players in any sport and will read about or even attend events other than baseball to see the likes of a Michael Jordan, Andre Agassi, Pele, etc.

Tiger Woods fits (or once did) into that category of best ever, and when he seemed to self destruct a few years ago, I wondered what the ‘back’ story was, why someone of his great abilities could fall so precipitously.

A long article I read several days ago about Tiger Woods — The Secret History of Tiger Woods by Wright Thompson — gives some insight that I had not previously had to this fallen, ‘best ever’ athlete.

Check it out: The Secret History of Tiger Woods, by Wright Thompson, ESPN, 4/21/16.

What do you think?

Sanders vs Clinton vs Democracy

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So much time, energy, and money is being spent (wasted?) on the primaries (and then the presidential election itself) that it’s tempting to tune out and perhaps not even participate in our elections at all.

Everyone I know and talk with is unhappy in one way or another with the candidates, with Congress, and with our political system. But if we don’t participate in some way, then we are part of the problem.

So for Democrats, what to do? There are legitimate arguments to be made for supporting either of the two candidates now vying for the nomination. Here are three recent articles that to me are worthy of the time it takes to read them.

Voting Without Illusions by Micah Sifry. For me, the strengths of this article are Micah’s points about the attention that must be paid beyond the presidential race.

Hilliary Clinton and the Complex System by Jack Danger. Choosing Clinton over Sanders.

There Is No Bernie Sanders Movement by Jamelle Bouie. For those who support Sanders, the need to be engaged beyond this campaign.

Your thoughts and comments are welcomed.

Grandparenting a New Born Is Exhausting

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Everyone knows about how tiring it is to have a new born in the family, what with sleep schedules that really are not schedules at all. Everyone has sympathy for the poor parents, especially the mother of the new born.

But what is it like for the grandparents? No one talks much about that.

In my continuing effort to inform readers of MillersTime about this ‘new’ station in life, see the two pairs of pictures below, taken in the middle of the day.

SLT.3            Grandpapa’s Eyes Are Open, but ten seconds later they are closed.                                    SLT.2Ditto for the grandmother.

Nonna’s Eyes Are Open, but ten seconds later they are closed too.

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slt.6

PS:

And what about the newborn?

Despite her mother’s attempts to instruct her in the necessity of walking 10,000 steps a day, the one-month old chooses muscle building exercise.

SLT.5

Note to new mother from Grandpapa: Your precious princess told me she didn’t know what “walking” was nor did she know the word “steps.”

 

 

Watching Grandchildren

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I was reminded recently of how much fun it is to simply watch the little ones experience life.

We had taken our seven and five year old grandchildren to see the play Annie. They had seen the movie and had mixed feelings about going to the play. However, once the play started, they were captivated, and it was more fun watching them than watching the play.

theatre

The seven-year old was mesmerized, and you could see his emotions play out as the play progressed. The five-year old was seeing it differently. She was intensely focused and seemed to be trying to figure it all out. Her questions at intermission confirmed that, as she asked, in her own way, what was real and what was pretend.

The evening reminded me of two previously evenings.

About 30 years ago we took our daughter, the mother of these grandchildren, to see Annie when she was about the same age. At one point in the play Sandy, the dog, became separated from Annie, the orphan. As Sandy was wandering alone on the stage, our daughter started crying so loudly that we had to take her out of the theater. With some help from her mother, she was able to return after the intermission for the remainder of the play. We all remember that night vividly.

Then about 20+ years ago, there was another evening I will never forget. Our younger daughter was with her dance group in Moscow, and my father and I were traveling with the group also. One evening we were at the ballet, and my daughter and her friend were entranced by the dancers in Giselle. But what was even more memorable was watching my father watch his granddaughter. There were tears streaming down his face. And soon down my face too (son watching father watching his granddaughter, my daughter, watch the ballet).

E.S.

Now I have the wonderful pleasure of watching that same granddaughter (my daughter) with her new born, talking softly and soothingly to her child of one month. And once again, let me extol the virtues of watching one’s child become a parent. That’s even better than watching the new grandchild enter the world, which is pretty terrific too.

Plus, yesterday, I also had the pleasure of watching both the seven-year and five-year old hold the one-month old while my wife, grandmother to both, looked on delighted.

A.S

ESE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And then lunch with the almost three year old:

Ryan

So many good memories from the past and ones being made today.

Two Things to Always Remember When Watching Baseball

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Of course there are many more than two things that baseball fans need to remember when watching the greatest game ever invented.

But, taking a ‘page’ from Art Buchwald’s wise reprinting each year of his le Jour de Merci Donnant, I want to remind those of you who pay attention to more than just the home runs and final score of games about two articles I have posted in the past:

Read This and You’ll Never Watch Baseball the Same Way Again

The Three Thoughest Outs in Baseball

And since I have your attention, once more let me remind you:

Don’t forget to get in your 2016 Baseball Contest Picks. Deadline is approaching One Week away as I type this.

I know most of you who have not sent in your predictions yet are simply waiting for Spring Training to be over so you’ll have all the information you need to make wise, judicious decisions. None of you, I’m sure, are procrastinators.

(Your next reminder will be a personal email from me with a few choice remarks.)

(Also, for those who may have missed it, this year, at the urging of several of you, I have made and posted my predictions for these Baseball Contests. I’m not eligible for any of the prizes, which is probably not an issue once you see my picks.)

Are You Sure You’ve Seen Them All?

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I initially chose MillersTime as the title of this website because I thought it described my newly retired status and defined what I wanted to write about — my varied interests and activities. (If you are want to know more about my interest in writing, see an earlier post, Why I Write.)

In my mind, “MillersTime” was a singular endeavor (Although I couldn’t figure out the mechanics of putting an apostrophe in the title, I like that it sounded a bit like my own newspaper). As it developed, I began to include, along with my travel writing, photos that Ellen (my wife) had taken of the trips.

For some of you, Ellen’s photos are one of the best aspects of MillersTime.

For those of you who have enjoyed Ellen’s photos from one or more of our various trips, I’m posting below a list of and links to all of her photo slide shows (in case you might have missed one or two).

Remember to use your largest possible screen (laptops and desktops are much better for these photos than smartphones, for example). Also, once you click on the link to a particular slide show, be sure to click on the tiny arrow inside the little rectangle at the top right of your screen to start the slide show.

Enjoy.

                                                  Thru Ellen’s Lens

Myanmar/Burma

Winter in Iceland

The Balkans

Weekend in Maine

Japan

Easter Island

Antarctica

Vietnam & Cambodia

India

England *

Scotland *

Slice of Sicily *

Peruvian Amazon *

Brasilia **

Santa Fe **

Berlin & Prague **

Warsaw & Krakow **

*Slide show work only on laptop or desktop computers.

**No slide show, just photos in the post.

H is for Hawk – Taming Grief?

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(One of 10 Best Books of the Year, NY Times, Time Magazine, The Oprah Magazine, Library Journal, Amazon (20), etc., and also recommended by three MillersTime readers. Additionally, it was the winner of a number of prizes, including the Samuel Johnson Prize, the annual British prize for the best non-fiction writing in the English language and the Costa Book Award, one of the most outstanding books of the year written by authors based in UK and Ireland.)

I recently finished and was fascinated by the book H is for Hawk. Written by Helen MacDonald, it is a memoir about her grief at the loss of her father and the unusual way she ‘grieved’ in the year following his unexpected death.

Memoirs have always been a favorite form of non-fiction for me, especially well written ones, such as MacDonald’s. Generally, grief memoirs seem to take one of two forms: one written during the immediate time following the death of a spouse, parent, child, or friend or one written after the period of grief has passed. (One of my favorites of the first category is Joan Didion’s The Year of Magical Thinking. For the latter category, and even more a favorite, I have read and reread Kay Redfield Jamison’s Nothing Was the Same.)

Written five years after her father’s death, MacDonald’s memoir falls into the latter category and recounts the extraordinary period of time in which she both lost and found herself.

H is for Hawk is actually three interwoven stories. It recounts the famous author T.H. White’s unhappy and unsuccessful experiences in trying to train a goshawk; it recounts MacDonald’s experiences with training her goshawk (Mabel) and attempting to deal with her grief, and it also tells the story of Mabel.

Of the three narratives, I found myself only moderately interested in White’s experiences, although they do give a good framework for MacDonald’s own experiences. Nor was I quite as absorbed in Mabel and the intricacies of falconry as some readers seem to be, although that is a large part of the H is for Hawk. For me, the most fascinating part of the memoir was MacDonald’s struggles with her grief, how she handled (mishandled?) that, and what she did and didn’t learn about herself and about her loss of her father.

As I usually do, I will leave the details and discoveries in the book to those of you who may yet read it.

HM.1I will add, however, that Ellen and I spent a wonderful evening last night at Politics and Prose Bookstore listening to and getting to know more about MacDonald. It was perhaps one of the best book talks we’ve attended. Within that one hour, we were treated to a wonderful summary of her book and numerous insights into MacDonald’s life, writing, and personality.

Some things we learned in the question and answer period:

  • Mabel has died. MacDonald now owns a parrot.
  • MacDonald is not currently ‘falconying,’ although she hopes to have time to return to it in the coming year.
  • Movie rights have been purchased to the book.
  • MacDonald was shocked by the wide spread response and success of her book and never dreamed it would have interest beyond a small audience.
  • It took her four days, which she described as very long, tiring, and emotionally draining, to make the audio recording of the book.
  • Writing about Mabel, even though done five years after the events recorded in the book, was the easiest part of the writing for her (and her best writing in my estimation).
  • MacDonald purposely left out the stories of her still living mother and brother, and even details about her father, as she didn’t want to tell their stories for them. The memoir is her story and her way to say goodbye to her grieving self.
  • H is for Hawk is a “language centered” book, in MacDonad’s words and also her way of telling the world about hawks and falconry.
  • MacDonald told the audience “Although they are killers, goshawks have no guile nor deceit and are honest and solitary.”

Much the same could be said of Helen MacDonald herself.

An Abuse of Power

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I suspect most readers of MillersTime, as well as most individuals who are concerned about the nomination and confirmation to the Supreme Court of Pres. Obama’s selection, have already settled in their mind where they stand on this issue.

My two cents is not so different from what I read in an Open Letter to Mitch McConnell by Kate Geiselman, someone I have never known. They key part of her view is toward the end of her very short, six paragraph letter:

The purpose of the confirmation process is not so you can wait for someone from your party to take office and pick a nominee you like better. No, the reason checks and balances exist is so that one branch of the government cannot abuse its power. By design, the system slows government down, and that’s as it should be. But deliberately forestalling the confirmation process of a moderate, qualified nominee who would likely sail through were it not an election year is not “checking” the executive branch. It’s ugly partisan politics.

Actually, I would take it a bit further.

It’s not just partisan politics. It’s obstruction, something Sen. McConnell has perfected in the last seven years.

It seems to me the bottom line is that the Republican Senate, because of their numbers, has the power to wait to advise and consent until a new President is elected, despite the fact that there are nine months remaining in the current President’s term (his second term).

But because someone or some group has a certain amount of power, that does not mean that exercising that power is the right thing to do. To deny the President and his nominee a hearing and a vote is an abuse of that power.

It’s that clear and simple to me.

Join Me for a Washington Nationals’ Game

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Below you’ll find a series of Washington Nationals’ dates and games available, either to join me or to get two seats to a game I cannot attend.

If you join me, your seat is free, but you’ll probably have to listen to my baseball chatter and maybe even buy me a bag of peanuts.

If it’s a game I can’t attend, then if you agree to take a kid (broadly defined) for one of the two seats, then both seats are free.

If the two seats are for two adults, then you can reimburse me at my cost, $55 per seat.

The seats are good ones, either in Section 127, between home and first behind the Nats’ dugout, 20 rows off the field or in Section 117, four rows behind the visitors dugout.

Let me know (Samesty84@gmail.com) as soon as you can what game(s) you are interested in attending (the more choices you give me the better). I will try to fit everyone in.  If nothing works out for these games, I’ll have another set of offerings (later in the season) with a number of seats for July, August, and September.

Update: Opening Day – Thursday, April 7, 4:05 PM – One Ticket, without me

  1. Sunday, April 10, 1:35 vs Marlins. Two seats. (I can’t attend).
  2. Wednesday, April 13, 7:05 vs Braves. One seat with me.
  3. Thursday, April 14, 4:05 vs Braves. One seat with me.
  4. Friday, April 22, 7:05 vs Twins. Two seats. (I can’t attend. Passover.)
  5. Sunday, April 24, 1:35 vs Twins. One seat with me.
  6. Wednesday, April 27, 7:05 vs Phillies. One seat with me
  7. Tuesday, May 10, 7:05 vs Tigers. One seat with me.
  8. Wednesday, May 11, 7:05 vs Tigers. One seat with me.
  9. Sunday, May 15, 1:35 vs Marlins. Two seats. (I can’t attend.)
  10. Tuesday, May 24, 7:05 vs Mets. One seat with me.
  11. Tuesday, June 28, 7:05 vs Mets. One seat with me.
  12. Sunday, July 3, 1:35 vs Reds. Two seats. (I can’t attend.)
  13. Sunday, July 17, 1:35 vs Pirates. Two seats. (I can’t attend.)

If there’s another/different game anytime in the season you have interest in that’s not listed here, let me know as I can possibly trade some parking passes with a friend to get that game and to go with you if I’m in town.

PS – Don’t forget to get in your 2016 Baseball Contest Picks. Deadline is approaching (see below). Submissions will not have any effect on getting one of the above games.

(Also, for those who may have missed it, this year, at the urging of several of you, I have made and posted my predictions for these Baseball Contests. I’m not eligible for any of the prizes, which is probably not an issue once you see my picks.)