“Intelligence” – Ellen Miller: “A Must See Play”

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 (Guest post: Ellen Miller)

I admit it. I’m a New York theater snob.

When I got an invitation to join a good friend at a matinee performance yesterday at Arena Stage of the play, Intelligence, I winced. I couldn’t remember a play I had seen there in the last few years that I would recommend to anyone.

Nevertheless, I accepted, as the subject was of interest: a “fictionalized” account of the run up to the Iraq War and the role of Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson, challenging the Bush Administration and the CIA’s version of the truth.

The play was commissioned through Arena’s Power Plays series, each designed to explore an “idea, person or place in America” throughout our history. It was written by Jacqueline Lawton who began writing it in June of 2015.

You probably won’t go for the story. You know that if you live inside the Beltway Bubble of Washington, DC. But you should go for the lesson it teaches about the grave consequences of lying government officials, the lack of accountability of government policies, and the bravery of people in and out of government who confront both.

The play — 90 minutes with no intermission — is masterfully acted, dramatically written, and ably staged (and will keep you on the edge of your seat). The timing of its release is perfect.  What you learn as you watch and reflect may give you some new resolve in the context of our politics..

See it.  You only have a few more days as it closes Wed., April 2.

Ed. Note: Originally sold out, Intelligence has now been extended until April 9, and tickets are available. (h/t Susan B for this info.)

Join Me for a Nats’ Game

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Here is a list of games available in April, May, and June at Nationals’ Park, DC, either to join me or to get two seats for yourself.

Mon., April 10, 7:05 PM vs the Cards – Two tickets (without me) four rows behind the Visitors Dugout. Free if you take someone of a different generation, otherwise $75 per ticket.

Tues., April 11, 7:05 PM vs Cards – Join me at no cost to you.*

Wed., April 12, 4:05 PM vs Cards – Join me at no cost to you.

Wed., May 3, 7:05 PM vs Diamondbacks – Join me at no cost to you.

Wed., May 10, 7:05 vs Orioles – Join me at no cost to you.

Fri., May 12, 7:05 PM vs Phillies – Two tickets at no cost to you if you take someone of a different generation, otherwise, $57 per ticket.

Sat., May 13, 7:05 PM vs Phillies – Two tickets at no cost to you if you take someone of a different generation, otherwise $57 per ticket.

Tues., June 13, 7:05 vs Braves – Two tickets at no cost to you if you take someone of a different generation, otherwise $57 per ticket.

Fri., June 23, 7:05 vs Braves – Two tickets at no cost to you if you take someone of a different generation, otherwise $57 per ticket.

Thurs., June 29, 4:05 vs Cubs – Join me at no cost to you.

*I will accept, however, a bag of peanuts (for sharing).

Email me (Samesty84@gmail.com) if you are interested in any of the above games, whether to join me or to take the two tickets for yourself.

Let me know of any interest by Monday next (Nats’ Opening Day, April 3). If possible, give me two games so I can juggle any requests as this will not be decided solely on a first come, first serve basis.

I’ll have other tickets, many more, for July and August and will post those dates probably some time in May.


REMINDER

2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests

Submission Due – Monday, April 3


 

Nats’ New Park, Sox’s Fenway South, & When to Get Your Kid Hooked on Baseball

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We had heard a good deal about the new Nationals/Astros spring training facility — The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches. Thus, when I saw that the Sox would be playing the Nats there, I of course got tickets and met my cousin and some other friends there Mar. 7th.

We had tickets behind the Sox dugout, and, for some reason, the Sox brought most of their starting players. The weather was perfect, and we got to see both first string Sox & Nats players as well as those trying to make the teams. The Sox won, of course, and even if it doesn’t matter who wins Spring Training games, if you’re a Sox fan, you never want them to lose.

Indeed it’s a good park. I don’t think there’s a bad seat in the place. It has 6,500 seats and another 1500 spectators can sit on a grass berm beyond left and right field. The stadium seats are largely in the shade, thanks to good planning and to some over hanging shade structures. There’s an open air concourse that goes from the left field fence all around to the one in right, and you can walk along it without missing a pitch. The only fault I could find with the park was the small scoreboard in the outfield which made it hard to see the names of the players, etc. (But that could also be a factor of my aging eyesight.)

The facility is on 160 acres of what use to be a landfill, trash dump. There are 12 practice fields, six for each team. The Astros have one which is the exact dimensions of their home field, and the Nats have two that are similar to their park in DC. The facility was built quickly, in 15 months, and cost about $150 million, $50 from the state and $100 million from a new county hotel tax. We had heard horror stories about the traffic getting into the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches, but thanks to advance word and advice from my cousin, we approached it from the north (?) and had no trouble parking.

There are now four teams that have their Spring Training facilities in the area – Nats, Astros, Cards, and Marlins – so if you have the time and interest, spending a week or so in the Palm Beach area in the month of March will allow you to see those teams as well as ones that come across the state from the West Coast.

 

Then it was on to the West Coast to see other friends and three Sox games, one against the USA World Baseball Classic team, one against the Os, and one against the Rays. Of course, the Sox won all three, and even if the games don’t count for much, if you’re a Sox fan, you always want to see them win.

But the real reason to go was to see Fenway South, i.e.,Jet Blue Park, where the stadium is said to be a replica of Fenway Park in Boston. Built five years ago, after much negotiation with the ‘powers’ in Ft. Myers, the Sox got a new $77.9 million stadium outside of the city on 126 acres, including six practice fields (one with the same dimensions as Fenway) and a rehabilitation center. The funding came, in part, I think, because Lee County was afraid the Sox would move away, and involved some kind of public-private partnership, where much of the public outlay came from a “bed tax” on hotel rooms in the area.

While the main ball park itself has the same dimensions as the one in the north, it didn’t feel so much like Fenway in Boston. Yes. It has a Green Monster, with seats and a net in the middle of the wall, a former Fenway scoreboard that has to be manually updated with the use of a ladder (there’s no room behind the scoreboard to change the score between innings, etc.), a Pesky Pole, a triangle in center field, and a lone red seat (longest HR in Fenway).

The 11,000 seat stadium is quite open and shady, but it didn’t feel anything like Boston’s Fenway to me. I couldn’t tell exactly, but the right field configuration didn’t feel like the Fenway I know and sitting on/in the Green Monster (game vs. the Rays) only faintly resembled the one in Boston. In the game vs the USA team, we sat just to the left of home plate and had an enormous amount of room in which to stretch out. Against the Os, we sat beyond first base and by the end of the game our necks were sore from looking to the left.

Still, it’s the spring home of my heroes, and, like most spring training facilities these days (15 in Florida and 15 in Arizona), you feel close to the players, the weather is delightful (away from the cold and snow of the north), and you get the opportunity to see both starting players and those who are trying to be starters, or will be in several years.

I’ll definitely return. Anyone want to plan next year’s trip with me?

**          **          **          **          **          **          **          **

Readers of this site probably already know of my interest in different generations enjoying baseball together. That’s how I got hooked on baseball, and I’ve carried that on with my own kids and now grand kids.

You may also know of my two favorite current sports’ writers, Joe Posnanski and Thomas Boswell, from whom I learn something every time I read one of their columns.

And so, check out Posnanski’s latest column, wherein he writes about the best age to get your kids/grandkid involved. While the article does focus on Theo Epstein, I post a link to it primarily for the discussion about getting the next generation involved.

And finally, I have not heard from most of you with your predictions for the 2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests. And in case you missed the post, Connecting Generations, there are special prizes this year for submissions that involve cooperation between two generations.

Deadline for submissions is just about two weeks away. Remember, in case of a tie, the predictions submitted earlier wins.

Saturday Was Different

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I have seen more than 500 MLB baseball games live, between spring training, the regular season, and the playoffs (including the Sox winning the World Series in game four against Cards in 2004).

But this past Saturday night in Marlins’ Park was different than all of those 500.

The game itself wasn’t different. In fact, it was between two teams each chocked full of MLB stars. The rules were (largely) the same, and the play was definitely at the major league level.

It was the 2017 World Baseball Classic with the USA vs Dominican Republic in game four of the first round of the tournament. The stadium was sold out. In fact, it was the largest ball crowd ever to attend a game in Marlins’ Park – 37,446.

As we drove near the stadium, we could hear roars coming from inside the park, and the game was still a half hour from beginning. People were lined up around the stadium just to get in.

So what was so different about this game?

The crowd.

I’ve always thought that the fans at a baseball game are every bit as important as the teams playing. Players come and go (more frequently now than when I was a kid), but for the most part, the fans remain and remain loyal (tho Dodger and Giant fans might disagree). Sometimes referred to as the Tenth Man, I think the fans are what makes baseball special.

And in Saturday night’s game, it was definitely the crowd that led the Dominicans to their victory over the USA.

We got to our seats as the first USA batter was up, and you would have thought we were in the 9th inning of a tie game. Every pitch led to the crowd rising, clapping, screaming, waving USA or DR flags and banners. And that was before the first hitter even got out of the batter’s box.

Behind us were a group with a banner largely and loudly proclaiming that “This Was the Real World Series.” And while the Dominicans were clearly a majority in the crowd, there were plenty of USA fans with their flags and paraphernalia.

When the USA scored and scored again and went ahead 5-0, the crowd settled down a bit, but the noise was still louder than what I had heard at the KC Chiefs’ Arrowhead Stadium record decibel level a year or two ago, with only half as many in the crowd.

Then the tide began to turn, one run at a time for a couple of innings as the DR closed the score to 3-5. The decibel level increased. Then, in the bottom of the 8th with two men on base, DR’s Nelson Cruz (43 HR in 2016) batting against the USA’s Andrew Miller (10-1 with an ERA of 1.45 and WHIP of 0.686, the MLB’s best in 2016) hit a HR that just stayed fair and put the DR ahead 6-5.

The stadium went wild.

(See my shaky video of the Cruz’s HR & crowd reaction)

When the next DR batter, Starling Marte, also hit a HR off of Miller (has Miller ever given up two HRs in a game or back to back ones?), the DR fans were already standing and did so for the remainder of the game.

Final score: DR over the USA 7-5.

Forget it Arrowhead fans. You’ll never equal the noise Saturday night from Marlins’ Park (where the fans didn’t have to be told to make noise).

I’ve never been to a South or Latin American (or European) soccer game with 100,000 fans, but I think I’m beginning to understand what that must be like.

Never in my 65 years of attending MLB games (first went at the age of about eight to Fenway), have I been part of such an animated and exuberant crowd.

While I was clearly, and vocally, rooting for the USA, I was delighted to see so many fans, jumping up and down, screaming, cheering, and filled with joy.

Euphoric doesn’t adequately describe the fans that streamed out of the park at the end of the almost four hour game. Even the USA fans seems exhilarated, if also disappointed.

Baseball at its best, and the fans knew they were part of a game they’d never forget.

As of this writing, the DR remains undefeated in the 2017 WBC (they won the last championship when the WBC was played in 2013 and likely will do so again this time if Saturday’s game is any indication).

Credit their fans.

The DR team could not and will not let their fans down.

PS – David Ortiz was seen Sunday night in the DR’s dugout dressed in a DR baseball uniform as they defeated Columbia 7-3 to move on to the next round.  Could we possibly see him at bat again before the end of This Real World Series?

PPS – More from my recent 2017 Spring Training trip coming in a future post.

PPPS – Don’t forget to get your predictions in for the 2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests. Deadline approaching.

34th Miami Film Festival – 5,4,3…1/2

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We certainly saw a range of films over four days at the current Miami Film Festival. There were two that were outstanding (one we had seen at the October Philly Festival but including it here as our friends loved it every bit as much as we did.)

While there were several we saw that I enjoyed and rated positively, there are only two of the six/seven that go into the “put on your list’ category, and one in the category of ‘definitely avoid’.

As we’ve found with other film festivals we’ve attended, it’s delightful to go with friends and to chat about each film as well as enjoy good food and friendship.

Norman: The Moderate Rise and Tragic Fall of a NY Fixer *** (Ellen ****)

This opening night film of the 34th Miami Film Festival drew a full house at the wonderful Olympia theater in downtown Miami. I thought it was a bit of a strange choice to start the festival. Ellen, however, thought it was a “typical opening night choice, a film for critics, one that would unlikely gain a large audience.” She rated it much more highly than I did.

Richard Gere stars as Norman Oppenheimer, a ‘fixer’ whose raison d’etre appears to be connect people (and make money in the process?). As the film develops and as Norman continues to present himself as someone who knows everyone, even if he doesn’t, he remains a bit of a mysterious person, and we see him in this singular role throughout the film. Because of having ingratiated himself with an Israeli Foreign Minister, who later becomes Israel’s Prime Minister, he finds himself at the center of a major scandal.

And that’s when things become confusing for me. Is this a film about an individual, a character study, or is it more about broader issues, including, though not limited to, the lengths to which Israeli will go to protect its policy of control over its status? Of course, a film can have more than one focus, but it’s title indicates its about the ‘fixer.’

For me, writer-director Joseph Cedar (Footnote) is not clear about what his primary purpose is, and he fills the almost two-hour film (it seemed much longer) with strands that are sometimes hard to follow and are confusing. Richard Gere’s performance is strong, if singularly focused, but that may be because of the script.

Know that others with whom I saw the film, liked it much more than I did.

Walk With Me: The Trials of Damon J. Keith **** (Ellen ****)

This documentary film is about a judge I suspect most Americans do not ‘know’ but nevertheless has been at the center of numerous decisions of major importance to our country over the past half century.

The film focuses on four major decisions of Detroit Judge Damon Keith and places them in context of what was happening both in and beyond Detroit.

It is also a portrayal of someone who seems to be an individual of remarkable kindness, strong intellect, and high personal integrity.

Now, 95 years of age, Judge Keith is still an active judge, although he has moved from his position as the Chief Judge of the US District Court, Eastern District of Michigan to Senior Judge for the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, one of the highest courts in the land.

Walk With Me introduces its audiences to an individual well worth knowing.

Voices Beyond the Wall: Twelve Love Poems from the Murder Capital of the World **** (Ellen ****)

A feel good movie about an orphanage (Our Little Roses) for 70 girls in San Pedro Sula, Honduras.

I may not have read the previews of this documentary carefully enough and so was surprised to find that the orphanage was largely a happy place where good things were happening for girls who had been abandoned by their families.

The film follows a young Episcopal priest, Spencer Reece, who has chosen to spend a year at Our Little Roses teaching poetry to the girls there.

Although the girls are initially a bit suspicious of Reece and don’t know or have much interest in poetry, they find his gentleness and interest in their stories helps them open up about some of the sadness, fears, and worries they have. Through Reece’s ‘work’ with them, some of the girls clearly benefit from being able express their feelings about what has brought them to the orphanage and how they look at their future.

Frantz ***** (Ellen *****)

We saw this wonderful film in Philly, and our friends with whom we were attending the Miami Film Festival confirmed what I wrote about Frantz previously:

Unquestionably our favorite film of the entire (Philadelphia) festival. This is a romantic film about love, loss, family and late stage of coming of age. It takes place just after WWI focusing on the fiance of a dead German soldier (and his family) and a mysterious French soldier whose lives intertwine in unimaginable ways.

“From every aspect — the story, the photography, the acting, the directing, and the production, we both couldn’t imagine a better film.”

Their Finest***1/2 (Ellen****)

A story about telling a story.

This British film follows several screenwriters who have been tasked with creating a ‘propaganda’ film to encourage the British populace (and Americans too) to support their war effort in the early years of WWII.

The film is based on the novel The Finest Hour and a Half by Lissa Evans and largely focuses on Catrin Cole, a young woman (wonderfully played by Gemma Aterton) who has been brought into the British Ministry of Information’s Film Division to give ‘female’ perspective to a film that will hopefully support the war.

And so Their Finest becomes both a story about this first time screenwriter who finds herself having success (in what has been largely a male dominated world) as well as the actual making of the propaganda film.

There is a wonderful performance by Bill Nighy, as an aging actor who is part of the cast and who Cole is able to engage in a role that revives his acting career.

Female Danish director Lone Scherfig (An Education) gives us an entertaining and sometimes humorous if not necessarily a profound or satisfying story (stories).

AfterImage***** (Ellen *****)

Our favorite film of this festival.

AfterImage is/was the final film of the award winning Polish director Andrzej Wajda (someone whose work I don’t know but will now seek out). And it’s captivating.

It’s the story of artist (Strzeminski) who is also a teacher and an author and who faces an increasingly totalitarian regime in Poland. We see his attempts to stay true to his vision(s) of art at a time when Stalinist ideology/realism takes over the art world in post war Poland.

It’s a history lesson as well as a riveting personal story of an individual whose commitment to his work and beliefs are tested when a society will no longer allow for individual freedom of expression.

Again, the story, the photography, the acting, the direction, and the production all come together to make for an outstanding film.

The Bar – 1/2* (Ellen****)

I never thought I’d rate a film lower than The Lobster.

I was wrong.

You’ll have to ask Ellen what she could possibly be thinking to give such a disasterous movie a rating of four stars. (Perhaps she’ll explain herself in the Comment section of this post.)

My First Read Every Sunday Morning

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I’m not sure exactly how to describe this wonderful Sunday morning gift to those who subscribe (free) to Brain Pickings.

It’s the first email I open and read each Sunday morning. Those years of spending an hour or two with the mammoth Sunday NY Times are long past, and I’m not sure anything has ever filled that void. (Some friends look forward to the Sunday news shows on TV, but I’ve long been in agreement with Calvin Trillin who snarkly refers to them as ‘the Sunday morning gasbags.” Plus, TV has never been central in our lives.)

Anyway, for those of you who don’t know of Brain Pickings, take a look. It’s author, Maria Popova, writes below about what she’s trying to do. But I never saw her once-a-week postings in the exact light she describes. Mostly, she focuses on one or two authors each week and highlights something from his/her writings that she finds particularly insightful and important.

About Brain Pickings, she says:

Hey there. My name is Maria Popova and I’m a reader, writer, interestingness hunter-gatherer, and curious mind at large. I’ve previously written for Wired UK, The Atlantic, The New York Times, and Harvard’s Nieman Journalism Lab, among others, and am an MIT Futures of Entertainment Fellow.

Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.

Founded in 2006 as a weekly email that went out to seven friends and eventually brought online, the site was included in the Library of Congress permanent web archive in 2012.

Here is a little bit about my most important learnings from the journey so far.

The core ethos behind Brain Pickings is that creativity is a combinatorial force: it’s our ability to tap into our mental pool of resources — knowledge, insight, information, inspiration, and all the fragments populating our minds — that we’ve accumulated over the years just by being present and alive and awake to the world, and to combine them in extraordinary new ways. In order for us to truly create and contribute to the world, we have to be able to connect countless dots, to cross-pollinate ideas from a wealth of disciplines, to combine and recombine these pieces and build new ideas.

I think of it as LEGOs — if the bricks we have are of only one shape, size, and color, we can build things, but there’s a limit to how imaginative and interesting they will be. The richer and more diverse that pool of resources, that mental library of building blocks, the more visionary and compelling our combinatorial ideas can be.

Brain Pickings — which remains ad-free and supported by readers — is a cross-disciplinary LEGO treasure chest, full of pieces spanning art, science, psychology, design, philosophy, history, politics, anthropology, and more; pieces that enrich our mental pool of resources and empower combinatorial ideas that are stronger, smarter, richer, deeper and more impactful. Above all, it’s about how these different disciplines illuminate one another to glean some insight, directly or indirectly, into that grand question of how to live, and how to live well.

If you are looking to replace some of the time you may be currently spending on obsessive reading of political ‘news,’ check out one or two of the links I’ve posted below that will give you a sense of what her Sunday posts contain.

You can subscribe to her blog (see the details on the left hand side of this or any of her posts), and each Sunday morning you will be greeted by her latest focus. I don’t read them all, but I do find many of them lead me to authors and writings that I enjoy.

Check out one or two of these:

  1. Timeless Advice on Writing: The Collected Wisdom of Great Writers.

2. Ten Learnings from 10 Years of Brain Pickings (includes, towards the second half of this particular post, ten of the things (she) most loved reading and writing about in this first decade of Brain Pickings)

3. A Rap on Race: Margaret Mead and James Baldwin’s Rare Conversation on the Difference Between Guilt and Responsibility.

4. Insomniac City: Bill Hayes’s Extraordinary Love Letter to New York, Oliver Sacks, and Love Itself (Note: Popova is quite a fan of Oliver Sacks and has written about him and his various writings on numerous occasions. This one is her latest).

5. Wendell Berry on How to Be a Poet and a Complete Human Being.

 

Connecting Generations

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Among so many other wonderful things, baseball is also about connecting generations. Look around you at any MLB  or professional game, especially a day game, and you’ll see fathers/mothers with their sons/daughters. Look more closely, and you’ll see grandfathers/grandmothers with their grandsons/granddaughters.

(Digression: I’ve written elsewhere on this site about my wonderful grandfather who introduced me to Fenway Park and my Red Sox obsession when I was less than 10 years old. I’ve written about taking my daughters to games for years, including World Series victories! And about my belief that it’s never too early to start because here’s what can happen. Most recently, I blogged about taking my then seven year old to his first Fenway game and taking my six year old granddaughter to see the Nats. And if what my grandson promised me (unasked!) — that he would take his grandson to Fenway Park — then that will be seven generations (over 100 years) of family seeing the Sox and baseball together and sharing wonderful memories of being connected with each other.)

Thus, a long lead in to something new this year I am adding to my annual MillersTime Baseball Contests:

Consider a Joint Submission with a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, nephew or with your father, mother, aunt or uncle, or grandfather or grandmother. If you and your ‘generational companion’ win, then both of you will get a ‘prized’ MillersTime Winner T-shirt and two tickets to a regular season game of your choice.

This addition is clearly a transparent attempt to encourage different generations to discuss baseball and for one generation to pass on their baseball interest to a younger generation, or, if you’re participating with an older generation, to get that older generation to share with you things from their past.

My definition of ‘different generations’ is a loose one, and as long as you ‘discuss’ some of the contests with someone older or younger and submit joint answers to the contests, then you will qualify. Even if you have to drag some kid off his/her Internet device or an elder out of his or her 4 PM dinner.

I am hoping for at least ten submissions this year that are Joint Submissions. And I am hoping that at least some of those are from women with a daughter, a son, a niece, a nephew, a mother, a grandmother, or a grandfather, etc. — the possible combinations are almost endless.

Please consider being one of the Joint Submitters.

See: 2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests :

2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests

2017 MillersTime Baseball Contests

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Yes it is.

And guess who is going to five games? Well, three actual MLB spring training games, plus one game between the Sox and the USA team, and one World Classic playoff game. (Have I mentioned how much I love retirement?)

In the meantime, feast your eyes and minds on the MillersTime Contests for 2017 and sharpen your pencils (some of you no doubt still use those things). Your predictions are due by the opening pitch of the season, April 2, 1:10 PM.

So it’s time to turn to the MillersTime Baseball Contests to test your baseball knowledge, hopes, luck, fears, prejudices, and ignorance. The contests have evolved from just Red Sox (and Evil Empire) focused questions to ones that involve all of MLB as the majority of contestants are no longer Sox fans (poor souls).

You don’t have to enter all of the contests, and if you’re not baseball obsessed (pity), you can easily just choose a couple of contests to enter (see #1, #2, #3, Extra Credit).

While it might be tempting to wait until late in Spring Training to submit your answers, you do run the risk of losing out to someone who submits a similar winning answer earlier.

Also, in addition to the prizes listed in each contest, all winners get the exclusive, one-of-a-kind “MillersTime Baseball Contest Winner” T-Shirt, a much ‘valued’ prize.

Winner

backwinner

 

Justin B models

his ‘prized’ T-Shirt

 

 

Contest # 1:

Pick your favorite MLB team (or the team you know the most) and answer the following questions to prove whether you’re just a homer (“Someone who shows blind loyalty to a team or organization, typically ignoring any shortcomings or faults they have”) or whether you really know something about your team and can honestly evaluate its strengths and weaknesses.

a. What will your team’s regular season 162 game record be in 2016?

b. Will they make the playoffs, and if so, how far will they go?

c.  What will be the most important factor (hitting, starting pitching, bullpen, an individual’s performance, the manager, injuries, etc.) in determining their season?

Prize: Two tickets to a regular season game with your favorite team (details to be negotiated with moi.)

Contest #2:

Make a prediction about something that will happen during the 2017 MLB season.

Your prediction could be about a team, about a player, about a new record, about an ‘event,’ or about something, hopefully unique, you think will happen in 2017. One prediction only.

Of those that come true, MillersTime readers will determine which one is the best prediction. Voters generally have selected the most specific prediction, one that showed baseball knowledge, and/or one that predicted something unusual.

Prize: Join me to see a Nats’ game next year in wonderful seats. If you don’t live in this area, can’t get here, or don’t want to come to DC swamp, you can give your prize to someone who can get here, or you can choose one of the books cited in the prizes below.

Contest #3: True or False

A. The Chicago Cubs will follow Joe Maddon’s advice again to “Be a good Cubbie and try not to suck” and will at least go to the World Series in 2017, as they did in 2016.

B. The Washington Nationals will NOT lead the NL East Division as they did in 2016.

C. One pitcher will throw two no hitters in 2017. (Only been accomplished five times: Johnny Vander Meer in 1938, Allie Reynolds in 1951, Virgil Trucks in 1952, Nolan Ryan in 1973, and Max Scherzer in 2015.)

D. Bryce Harper will rebound from his 2016 season — BA .243, HR-24, RBIs-86 – and finish in the top five the MVP voting. (Hint, but be wary: Harper hit a monster HR on his first swing in Spring Training this year)

E. A contract at over $400 million will be offered before the end of the 2017 season.

F. There will be five or more Triple Plays in the MLB this year. (Over the last seven years the average has been 4.1 per year.)

G. There will be more than three 20 game winners in 2017. (2016: Porcello -23, Happ – 20, Scherzer – 20)

H. No pitcher will have an ERA under 2.0 (Best in 2016 was Kyle Hendricks at 2.13)

I. At least one MLB batter will strike out 219 times or more in 2017 regular season play (Chris Davis, Orioles, did that in 2016.

J. One of Grand Papa’s (your ‘conductor’ of these contests) grandchildren will witness in person (at an MLB game) either a grand slam, a triple play, a no hitter, or Teddy win the President’s race at the Nats’ stadium.

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 20 Best Books Ever Written About Baseball.

Contest #4:

A. Which MLB team will have the best improvement in their games won over 2016?

B. Which MLB team will have show the biggest decline (the most losses compared to their record in 2016) ?

Prize: A copy of A. Bartlett Giamatti’s wonderful collection of baseball writings entitled A Great and Glorious Game.

Contest #5:

Will the American League continue its dominance over the National League in the All Star game in 2017? (AL won the last four ASG, 7 out of last 10, and 11 out of last 15).

Tie-Breaker: Name the AL and NL players who will each get the most votes to play in the All Star game.

Prize: Join me after the All Star break to see a Nats’ game in wonderful seats. If you don’t live in this area, can’t get here, or don’t want to come to DC, you can give your prize to someone who can get here, or I can take a kid to a game in your place.

Contest # 6:

Who will be the two teams in the World Series in 2017 and which team will win it all?

Tie-Breaker: Name the five teams in each league who will make the playoffs.

Prize: One ticket to the 2017 World Series.

Extra Credit:

Make up your own question about MLB in 2017 and then answer it.

Of those that come true, we’ll put it up to MillersTime baseball readers to decide who wins the prize. And that question will be incorporated in next year’s contests.

Prize: Your choice of one of these books: The 20 Best Books Ever Written About Baseball.

Additional Details:

  1. All winners get the ‘one-of-a-kind,’ specially designed MillersTime Baseball Winner T-Shirt.
  2. Enter as many or as few of the contests as you want.
  3. Be sure to answer all parts of each contest you do enter.
  4. If you get a friend (or a foe) to participate in these contests, and he/she wins and has mentioned your name in their submission, you will get a prize also.
  5. Get your predictions in soon. In case of ties in any contest, the individual who submitted his/her prediction first will be the winner.
  6. Submissions should be sent to me in an email – samesty84@gmail.com or can be sent to me by snail mail – Richard Miller – 2501 Tracy PL. NW, Washington, DC 20008.

 Deadline for Submissions: Opening Day: Apr. 2, 2017, 1:10 PM, EST.

Addendum: Consider a Joint Submission with a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter, niece, nephew or with your father, mother, aunt or uncle, or grandfather or grandmother. If you and your ‘generational companion’ win, then both of you will get a ‘prized’ MillersTime Winner T-shirt and two tickets to a regular season game of your choice.

So Much I Don’t Know About Baseball**

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(**Previously titled: This Is How Stupid I Am About Baseball)

Before I turn to the MillersTime Baseball Contests for 2017 (to be emailed on March 1 and due back to me on April 1), there is one piece of unfinished business I’ve avoided.

Despite the obvious correctness of the message on the T-Shirt above, or maybe as proof of it, I am posting my predictions from last year’s contests and what in fact happened. (Heads up: not a pretty picture.)

Harumph.

Contest #1: Predictions about a favorite team:

A. The 2016 Red Sox win-lose record – 88-74. (FACT: Sox went 93-69 and won the AL East Division.)

B. They will make the playoffs and lose in the ALDS. (Fact: They did lose in the ALDS to the Indians in just three games.)

C. The positive factors for their season will be outfield defense and bullpen efficiency. Starting pitching, although better than 2015, won’t get them to 90 wins. (Fact: Outfield defense was good as was the bullpen, but it was starting pitching and hitting that propelled them as far as they got, before failing them.)

Contest #2: Prediction about something in the 2016 MLB season:

No MLB player will play in all 162 games. (Fact: Three players played in all 162 regular season games – Escobar, Schoop, and Springer.)

Contest #3:

A. The top 10 MLB players’ Batting Average will be .319, lower than the .322 in 2015. (Fact: The top ten Batting Averages were higher – .326.)

B. The top 10 MLB players’ OPS Average will be .924, lower than .931 in 2015. (Fact: The top 10 OPS Averages were higher – .966.3)

C. The top 10 MLB pitchers’ Earned Run Average will be 2.33, lower than 2.38 in 2015. (Fact: The top 10 ERAs were higher – 2.74.)

D. The top ten MLB pitchers will win a total of 188 games, higher than 183 games in 2015. (Fact: The ten winning pitchers won a total of 185 games.)

Contest #4.

A. Two teams with a combined won/loss record closest to .500 – Philles & Cubbies. (Fact: Indians & Rays = .502)

B. Team with the most won/loss improvement – White Sox. (Fact: Red Sox +15)

C. Pitcher with most relief wins – Mark Melancon will edge out Craig Kimbrel and Trevor Rosenthal. (Fact: Familia – 51)

Contest #5. Who will get the most AL & NL All Star Votes:

AL – David Ortiz and NL – Giancarlo Stanton who will edge out Bryce Harper. (Fact: AL was Salvador Perez and NL was Anthony Rizzo)

Contest #6. What 10 teams make it into the playoffs, which two to the WS and who wins it all?

AL – Kansas City, Houston, Chicago, Boston, Toronto (Fact: Red Sox, Orioles, Blue Jays, Indians, Rangers)

NL – Chicago, San Francisco, St. Louis, NYM, Arizona (Fact: Nationals, Mets, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants)

Cubbies beat Royals (Fact: Cubs best the Indians in seven games)

Extra Credit: Make up a question for the 2016 season and answer it:

Last year the total number of stolen bases in the MLB was 2,505. Will that number increase, stay the same, or decrease?  What will that number be?

Decrease – 2,412. (Fact: Increase: 2537)

Respectfully submitted on The Ides of March, 2016 at 6:00 PM.

**          **          **          **          **          **          **          **

So, except for partially getting the Red Sox season correct (but underestimating their wins) and choosing the Cubbies to win the World Series (over the wrong team), I was not even close. Hopeless.

And if you’re going to join me for a Nats’ game this season, please do not come hoping to learn anything useful from me.

If You Love Oliver Sacks, Read “Insomniac City”

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If you are an Oliver Sacks’ fan (how could you not be?), you’ll be delighted with this new book.

It is a memoir and diary by the man Sacks came to love at the age of 75 and the man with whom he shared the last years of his life. Don’t be concerned that it might be an invasion of privacy. It is done in such a lovely manner that you can’t help but smile at the parts that involve ‘O’ (as Bill Hayes often refers to Sacks). It is the Sacks that you’ve come to know and love.

You will recognize the man and some of the reasons you’ve been so taken by him. It is the same man who revealed sides of himself never previously known in his wonderful memoir On the Move: A Life and in the articles following that publication in which he wrote about facing death.

One of the engaging qualities of both Hayes’ book and its window into many private moments with Sacks is that the character described (Sacks) is the one you know. You will get additional insights into him and into who he was and how happy he was in the final years of his life, including in his death.

Insomniac City is also about more than Oliver Sacks and Bill Hayes’ relationship with him, though that by itself is worth the short read (290 pages).

It’s also about someone you most likely don’t know, Bill Hayes, who is someone I came to admire and was glad to begin to know, not only for the joy and happiness he gave to Sacks but for the person Hayes is.

Mixed in to times Hayes spends with Sacks are Hayes’ descriptions of New York City and how and why he came to love it when he moved there in 2009 at the age of 48. If you know NYC, much will resonate, I suspect. If you don’t know it or if you don’t particularly like it, Hayes may give you a new or different perspective.

Much of the book is about Hayes’ own interactions with the city, with individuals that are not usually associated with the city, though many are the heart and soul, I think, of New York. Hayes is a writer (The Anatomist, Fire Quarts, and Sleep Demons) and a contributor to the New York Times, the New York Review of Book, and Salon. He is also a photographer whose photos have appeared in the NY Times, Vanity Fair, and the New Yorker. And throughout the book he takes you with his camera as he records ordinary people throughout the city (some of those photos are in Insomniac City).

There is a good deal of wisdom in the book, particularly about issues of grief and enjoyment of life.

Hayes has a good eye for seeing, a good hand for writing, and a good nature for loving.

Check it out.

Thru Ellen’s Lens: San Miguel de Allende

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We travel a lot, as readers of this site no doubt know.

Even more now that both Ellen and I are retired.

Some of our trips are explorations of places we’ve never been (Myanmar, Cambodia, Antarctica, Iceland, Costa Rica), some are returns to favorite places (India, China, Spain, Europe in general), some are within the US, some are for family reasons, and some involve special interests (film festivals, baseball, friends). And sometimes the travel begins right in our house in our favorite reading spots where we can go anywhere in the world without going out our front door. (I’m currently deep ‘in’ the Himalayas with Robert Twigger’s wonderful White Mountain: Real and Imagined Journeys in the Hamalayas, a book identified as a ‘favorite read’ by a MillersTime reader in 2016.)

Over the past few years, we’ve made one addition to our travel: spending a week in one city, unpacking, and then leisurely exploring and getting to know a city (if we’ve never been there before) or revisiting some favorite sites and restaurants and exploring new places in that city that we ‘missed’ on a previous visit (if we are returning to a city we love — London, for example).

Recently, at the invitation of cousins from the Boston area (with whom we visited Central Europe a year or so ago), we spent a week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. We were three couples, and we rented a house in the Centro, where we could walk most places. Known in part as a place where Americans (and other expats) have retired or choose to visit, it is a 500 year old city, and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site (2006). It also has the feel of a place that is what I call a ‘working city’ where the local population mixes easily with visitors, both foreigners and even more so families from throughout Mexico. Someone mentioned it is the most visited city by Mexicans of all places within the country (hopefully that was not “fake news”). It reminded us of Santa Fe, as it was when we first visited it some 45 years ago.

Each day during the the week we focused on just one or two activities. The afternoon of our arrival we wandered through the Jardin area and the cobblestone streets, poking our eyes and heads into one of a kind shops and doorways throughout the colorful town, just trying to soak in the city.

The next day we took a taxi to the Tuesday market (20 minutes away for 50 pesos – $2.50), where we again wandered, this time through three crowded ‘football fields’ worth of stalls selling fruits, vegetables, meats/seafood but mostly everyday household items. There were many small food stalls where shoppers, sellers, and Ellen and I sat on small stools to enjoy locally prepared foods.

One day we went to the town of Guanajuato, about an hour and a half away through countryside, reminiscent of another favorite place of ours — New Mexico. We took the cable car up to the El Papita Statue (independence hero) where we simply couldn’t get enough of looking at the hillside city of Guanajuato, also a UNESCO World Heritage Site, (1987/88). Sometimes referred to as the most beautiful city in Mexico, it was initially a silver mining town before it became important in the independence of Mexico. It was built on a hillside, between mountains, and has a series of underground tunnels. We found it filled with students (it has an important University) and tourists from all over Mexico who come to see its splendor. We visited Casa Diego Rivera — Rivera’s home which has been turned into a museum. (It was largely disappointing if you want to see his art but interesting as the place where he lived and worked). Mostly, we wandered through the town and found the market area, where once again we joined other locals at one of the tiny eating stalls.

Another day we spent at a recently discovered (1998), excavated (2002) and reconstructed pyramid site, Canada de la Virgen, 25 kilometers outside of San Miguel. It has only recently been opened to the public (2011), as the access is only through privately owned land, though the actual archeological site is now under government control. We were treated to a particularly informative ‘tour’ by a guide who had worked as an archeologist on the site, followed by a luncheon at a nearby home and museum run by a woman who has done most of the astrological work on Canada de la Virgen.

Most of the remainder of our time we just walked and enjoyed melding into the largely local population of San Miguel and with those who had come into the city from around the country. The weekend was the most crowded time, where there seemed to be many families who were visiting San Miguel. The weekdays were less crowded.

We had a number of evening meals we would put in the category of memorable, either for the food or the scenery, or both, and a number of lunches in small places that were also delightful. Ellen Instagrammed many of those meals and so the places we ate can forever be found on her social media thread.

It was a leisurely time, enjoyable to be with our cousins and also to get to know another couple, for simply wandering about, and for having time to read and relax. And, once again, Ellen spent much of our strolling time looking through her camera lens and recording what she saw.

Very important to our trip was an introduction to a “new friend” — she has lived in San Miguel now for four years — who guided us in all things to do and places to eat. As always, knowing someone in a new city was invaluable. After corresponding with her prior to our arrival, we actually met her for the first time at dinner one evening and felt like we had met a fellow traveler. As one good turn deserves another, we are happy to pass along the details of what she passed onto us.

We are likely to return to San Miguel de Allende. The weather was perfect. It was easy to get to, inexpensive once there, and a great diversion from the cold February in Washington.

Here are 11 of Ellen’s favorite photos, followed by a link to a slide show with 73 photos for those of you who would like to see more of San Miguel de Allende and the surrounding areas. The first 50 photos in the slide show are of San Miguel, followed by ones from Guanajuato and Canada de la Virgen.

Enjoy.

Click on this slide show for more photos. 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).

Good News

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I know many readers of this site are deeply disturbed about what you see occurring since President Trump won the election and took office. Some of you are less disturbed and are encouraged by what you see as some relief for controls on business, potential tax changes, possible changes in trade agreements, the current increases in the stock market, and the possibility that Pres. Trump will in fact make positive changes in the country.

This post is not about Pres. Trump or our politics. It’s meant to highlight something that transcends the day to day political battles in our country. This letter written from Bill and Melinda Gates to Warren Buffett highlights good that is being done in the world as a result of strategic philanthropy and thoughtful analyses of the global crises we confront.

It won’t take more than 15 minutes of your time to read.

Background:

In June of 2006, the world’s second richest man, Warren Buffett, the Chairman of Berkshire Hathaway, Inc., gave the bulk of his fortune to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, run by the world’s richest man (and his wife). Buffett pledged $31 billion dollars to the Gates Foundation broadly to fight disease and to reduce inequity. (At the same time, Buffett also divided $6 billion among four charities started by his family members.)

Buffet’s total gifting was $37 billion. At that time, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation had an endowment of $29.2 billion. Thus, Buffett’s gift to that foundation doubled the money they had to spend.

Recently, Buffett wrote to the Bill and Melinda Gates the following letter:

Yesterday, Feb. 14th, in their annual letter about their work, Bill and Melinda released their answer to Warren’s questions, saying:

What follows is our answer to him.

It’s a story about the stunning gains the poorest people in the world have made over the last 25 years. This incredible progress has been made possible not only by the generosity of Warren and other philanthropists, the charitable giving of individuals across the world, and the efforts of the poor on their own behalf—but also by the huge contributions made by donor nations, which account for the vast majority of global health and development funding.

Our letter is being released amid dramatic political transitions in these countries, including new leadership in the United States and the United Kingdom. We hope this story will remind everyone why foreign aid should remain a priority—because by lifting up the poorest, we express the highest values of our nations.

One of the greatest of those values is the belief that the best investment any of us can ever make is in the lives of others. As we explain to Warren in our letter, the returns are tremendous.

I hope you will find the 15 minutes to read their answer in this link:

Dear Warren

Truck Day, Spring Training, & The Contest

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Finally.

Life begins again.

Truck Day for the Red Sox is Feb. 6.

Sox Pitchers & Catchers report to Spring Training Feb. 14.

Sox first full-squad workout is Feb. 17.

(Sox are reporting a week earlier than last year, tho many, if not most, of the players go early to ‘Fenway South’ – JetBlue Park – anyway.)

Sox first Spring Training game is Feb. 23 against Northeastern. and their first Grapefruit League is against the Mets Feb. 24.

And I’ll see the Sox vs the Nats at The Ball Park of The Palm Beaches (the Nats new Spring Training facility) on Mar. 7, and then three games at Jet Blue Park (USA team, O’s, and the Rays) on Mar. 9, 10, & 11.

Opening Day for MLB is April 2 with the Yanks vs Rays and the Cubs vs the Cards. The Sox open at home against the Pirates on April 3, and the Nats also open at home April 3 vs Marlins.

Life takes a turn for the better.

MillersTime 2017 Baseball Contests:

Meanwhile, I’m starting to work on the annual MillersTime Baseball Contest questions for 2017, and I have a few questions I hope you’ll answer:

  1. Usually I have six contests with maybe an Extra Credit one. Is that too many?
  2. I’ve moved from a Sox vs Yunkee focus to questions about your favorite team and ones that require more knowledge of all of MLB. While I try to have a mixture of simple and more complicated contests, what kind of questions in general do you prefer?
  3. I’m open to specific suggestions on new questions. If you have an idea for one for 2017, please send it to me in the next couple of weeks.

I hope to have The Contest questions posted on this website by Mar. 1 with your predictions due by Opening Day, April 2 at 1:10 PM.

Feel free to have your baseball friends join in. If anyone you bring in wins (they need to mention your name), you too will win a prize.

To see last years winners, go to: Summary of 2016 Winners and to see last year’s questions, go to: 2016 MillersTime Baseball Contests.

And all winners will get the exclusive and highly coveted MillersTime Winner baseball t-shirt in addition to individual prizes for each contest.

Samantha’s Perfect Day

 

Samantha, age 11 months, was left in the care of her maternal grand parents (Nonna – Ellen and GrandPapa – Richard) for a three day weekend with the following ‘instructions.’

Samantha’s Perfect Day

7  AM  – Wake and six ounces (milk)

8  AM  – Breakfast (yogurt or oatmeal, 1/4 cup & 1/4 cup water)

9  AM  – Nap (sleep suit, noise machine, close curtain)

10:30  AM  – Snack (fruit, avocado, cheese, no sippy)

Noon  – 4 oz + lunch (veggies, toast with almond butter, baby pouch)

1  PM  – Nap (sleep suit, noise machines, close curtains)

3  PM  –  Snack (cheese, avocado, cherrios, no sippy)

5:15ish – Dinner (left overs from previous night’s adult dinner)

6:15  PM  – Bedtime

  6 ounces in sippy (in bedroom)

  Change into pajamas

  New Diaper & Cream

  Discuss What You’re Thankful For

  Leg Cream

  Into Sleep Suit

  Songs

  Read Books

  Noise Machines On

  Into Crib, Close Door

  “Goodnight Samantha. I Love You!”

  “GOOD GIRLS SLEEP ALL NIGHT!”

  6:45  PM  –  Asleep

When I read these instructions, I knew immediately that I had a MillersTime post in the making. All I had to do was to type in the instructions, and then add in what really happened, perhaps with an occasional exaggeration for a laugh.

But a funny thing happened.

Samantha followed the script exactly, at least for the first 48 hours. She got up on schedule after 12 or 13 hours sleeping at night, napped at the right times, ate when she was ‘supposed’ to, etc. I had nothing to write about.

(Disclosure: Actually, in the third and final evening there was a bit of a hiccup as Samantha was unhappy about going to bed a bit early. She had been fussy throughout the late afternoon, and we’d been told by her mother that it was OK to put her to bed a bit earlier than the schedule indicated if it seemed necessary. Hah. Thirty minutes of screaming in the only ‘meltdown’ of the weekend. But after a short ‘intervention’ on our part, she went to sleep, about her regular time, and slept another 12 hours.)

I guess she just has a good parental unit.

But then, of course, her parents had good parental units too. So I guess it’s not a surprise that she would ‘perform’ as intended.

Thus, instead of my snarky comments, all you get are photos from Ellen.

“The Data That Turned the World Upside Down”

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I’ve stumbled across an article that has given me a new insight into the reason for Donald Trump’s electoral victory. This one is different from everything else I’ve read, and while it is certainly not the sole reason for his victory, it is one that has not been much in the press. I urge you to read it as it has implications beyond understanding how DT was able to win and perhaps why no one (outside of the Trump campaign) saw it coming.

Quick background. I spent five days in 2012 in Columbus, Ohio on a get out the vote (GOTV) campaign for Pres. Obama and was astounded at the planning and sophistication of that GOTV effort. In November of 2016 went back to Ohio, Cleveland this time, for a week for a Hillary Clinton GOTV. While I felt that campaign was not quite as astounding as the one in 2012, I did feel it was useful. And everyone, myself included, thought Clinton and the Dems had a much superior ‘ground game’ than did Trump and the Repubs.

What I didn’t know, and what very few others knew, was that the Trump and a small group of his campaign staff had leapfrogged the Dems and had a much more sophisticated GOTV.

Check out this article: The Data That Turned the World Upside Down

Not only will it explain why DT was able to do what no one expected, it will also tell you much about the new world of Big Data. It’s not a short article, but it certainly was an eye opener for me.

See what you think.