Abby ‘Clarifies’ What Really Happened


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A few days ago, knowing that my grandson Eli was not yet reading religiously, I read him my post about his 22-year-old hero Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals.

Little did I realize that four-year-old granddaughter Abby was also listening to the story of Harper’s ejection by the home plate umpire.

Later that night I got a text message from their mother.

It read:

Abby tells me that Harper got in a fight with the vampire and got kicked out of the game.

And that clarifies everything.

Dear Eli: Good News/Bad News


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Dear Eli,

I know I haven’t seen you in a couple of weeks. I’ve been traveling a bit and was with your Auntie Elizabeth in California, Oregon, and Washington. We got to see three Red Sox games, and they won two of the three. Not too bad.

Then when I returned, your Washington Nationals were playing two games against that *#!^x* Yankee team. So, of course, I had to go to those two games, Tuesday night and Wednesday night. The Nats won both games by close scores (4-3 and 3-2).

In fact, the Nats are playing really well and with the victories over the Yankees they are now in first place in their Division.

That’s pretty good because in their first 20 games, they only won 7 and lost 13 and were in last place. Then, in their next 21 games they won 17 and only lost 4. So they have gone from last place to first place.

And your favorite player, Bryce Harper, has been a big part of both their losing at the beginning of the season and winning now. In fact, he is now doing so well he has been named “Player of the Week” two weeks in a row. That rarely happens. But he’s been “on fire”, hitting lots of home runs, knocking in runs, and getting on base with a lot of walks.

But that’s where there’s a bit of bad news too.

In the last week, he’s been thrown out of two games for arguing with the umpire. That’s bad news for his team because they need him in the games all the time.

As you may know, one of the rules in baseball is that you cannot argue with the umpire about balls and strikes. If the umpire calls a pitch a strike, even if you think it was not a strike, you cannot disagree. (There are OK ways to let the umpire know you disagree — ask me what they are, and I’ll explain — but you just have to stay in the batter’s box and wait for the next pitch.)

Something happened in the game last night that ended with both Harper and Manager Matt Williams getting thrown out of the game in the third inning (when the Nats were losing 0-2).

The Nats were already upset because they thought umpire Marvin Hudson was calling certain pitches “strikes” that they thought were really “balls”. Harper came up to bat and the first pitch was called a strike. Harper didn’t like that and said so to the umpire, who let him disagree (without throwing him out or warning him).

Then the Nats’ manager and others in the Nats’ dugout were yelling at the ump, who got mad, took off his mask and warned the manager not to argue balls and strikes. He then told Harper to get back in the batter’s box. And that’s where Harper made the mistake that got him thrown out of the game.

Rather than understanding that the umpire was angry and just getting ready to hit again, Harper took his time and confronted the umpire by just going to the edge of the batters box and not getting in it. That’s when the umpire threw him out of the game. (Basically, he ‘argued’ some more — ask me to demonstrate what he did.)


The umpire threw him out and then when the Nats’ manager tried to defend Harper, he threw the manager out too.

As you can imagine, most of the 37,000 fans (not the Yankee fans tho) booed the umpire and seemed to feel the ump was wrong. They wanted Harper to stay in the game.

And the reason I’m writing all this to you is that I know Harper is your favorite player, and I would guess if you had been at the game, you too would have been mad at the umpire.

But I watched closely what was happening, and I disagreed with Harper, the manager, and all the fans who were booing. While I think it’s good that Harper is passionate about baseball and particularly about how good or bad he’s playing, sometimes he goes too far.

Last night was too far. Perhaps his being named “Player of the Week” twice in a row and his terrific hitting is making him think he’s special. But he still has to live by the rules. And the rules say, “No arguing balls and strikes.”  He has to understand that even if he thinks something is unfair, he can’t overreact. The team needs him. And getting thrown out twice in one week is not something a good player can let happen.

Harper is young (just 22 years old), and sometimes young people make mistakes. (Actually people of all ages make mistakes, though young people sometimes make more mistakes and have to learn about how to handle themselves better in difficult situations).

Anyway, your Nats are now in first place. Harper is leading in home runs, runs batted in, and in walks and is a big reason the Nats have gone from last place to first.

Hopefully, he won’t get thrown out of any more games. His team needs him to keep winning.

See you soon,


Grand Papa



On the Move: A Life


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If you ‘know of’ Oliver Sacks, have read one or more of his 12 previous books, then the picture above might be a bit surprising to you.


Usually, the pictures we see of this neurologist/author portray quite a different image.

More like this picture to your right:sacks_scourfield-300x298

As you may know, Sacks is a prolific writer, using cases from his work with a variety of patients to describe a world that most of us do not know, a world where anomalies of the brain lead to behaviors and lives that often seem strange, at least until Sacks explains them to us.

As you also may know, Oliver Sacks is dying of terminal cancer, as he announced in an eloquent and affecting NYTimes column, My Own Life, three months ago (although since writing that piece in February, he wrote a second column in April, A General Feeling of Disorder, NY Review of Books, and seems to have ‘rallied’ and may be with us for a while longer).

I have long been intrigued by Sacks’ work, his writings, his findings, and by the man himself. Thus, when his 13th book, a memoir, On the Move: A Life, was published several weeks ago, I, of course, read it immediately.

Some of what we read in this memoir is familiar as he has written about himself previously (particularly in his Uncle Tugsten and in his A Leg to Stand On). We know he is a doctor, a scientist, an author, and above all an advocate for (our) understanding strange behaviors and listening to the lives of (his) patients.

But there is much that is new also.

He was once a weightlifter and held a title in that field.

He loved motorcycles and rode them (often at 100 miles an hour) for much of his life.

He was addicted to drugs.

He has always been an avid reader and investigator, as well as a prodigious writer. (He has kept personal journals all of his adult life in addition to his 13 books, hundreds of articles, and thousands of physician notes and reports.)

Swimming has always been a love of his life and continues to be a source of comfort for him now.

He is gay and writes about that part of his life, about his love affairs and about 36 years of sexual abstinence.

And there is much more in On the Move.

He writes openly about his family and his family relationships, including his move (escape?) from England to the US for most of his professional life.

He describes his own physical, medical, and emotional struggles, some of which he believes have made him a better physician, neurologist, and investigator.

He describes in some detail his work on the back wards of a chronic care hospital in the Bronx and how that led to his understanding of many patients who have been misdiagnosed, to some of his writing (Awakenings) and eventual notoriety, and to some controversies about his work.

Although On the Move sometimes wanders, sometimes is in need of a good editor, and sometimes is uneven — telling too much or too little, it fills in many details not previously (widely) known about Sacks. It is filled with the energy and the passions of Sacks’ life, and, as good memoirs do, let’s us understand more than we have known previously about this fascinating and unusual person.

It seems to me Oliver Sacks has always been a story teller. Virtually every one of his 12 previous books have been at their core his stories about his patients, and, occasionally, about himself. But he is also a teacher, and his stories always seem to have lessons for his readers.

In On the Move the stories are all about himself, and it’s an honest, humorous, and sometimes painful memoir, and an accounting of a life.

“The Sympathizer” – A Brilliant First Novel


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Every so often, usually when I’m feeling particularly guilty about overly enriching Amazon by purchasing ‘Kindle’ books, I go to Washington’s independent bookstore, Politics and Prose, to buy a couple of hardback books.

Usually, I look for Mark, the head book buyer, I think, and ask him what are the two best books he’s read in the last couple of months. He rarely steers me wrong. (Because of suggestions he made, for example, I read All the Light Between Us and also The Son, shortly after each was published. The former recently won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the latter was one of the finalists for the Pulitzer in 2014.)

About 10 days ago I was in the store, saw Mark, and asked my usual question. He immediately went and got The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen and read me the opening page. Then he found a copy of Mary Costello’s Academy Street and said, “Also, here’s a little gem that hasn’t been reviewed yet, but I loved it.” (See my earlier post, Mary Costello – A New Voice.)

I read, actually consumed, The Sympathizer first and wanted to write about it, but I noticed the author was coming to Politics & Prose for an author talk and decided to wait until I saw and heard him in person. That happened Wednesday night.

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Don’t Tell More Than One Person


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I thought about keeping this place a secret, so it wouldn’t get too crowded.

But then a friend (SB) mentioned that maybe it needed more customers in order to stay viable

Thus, with some trepidation, I draw your attention to a gem in DC (good for those who live here and for those who visit too).

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Two Mainstream Films


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Readers of MillersTime often say they don’t live in an area that has all these small films I frequently review/preview. Generally, there is enough written about the mainstream, popular movies so I see no need to add to that chatter.

Here are two films, one of which is in the larger theaters now, Woman in Gold, and one, Testament of Youth, that will be released by Sony Pictures in the US on June 5th and will, I hope, get wide distribution.

Both films have to do with fall out from war, WWI & WWII. Both films are based on true stories.

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Mary Costello – A New Voice


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Rather than wait until the December posting of favorite reads, let me draw your attention to an author and a book I recently found delightful — Mary Costello’s Academy Street.

This first novel is quite short, 146 pages, but somehow this Irish writer has managed to pack a full life into the story of Tess, an Irish woman who comes to live and to stay in America after spending the first part of her life in Ireland.

Initially, Academy Street reminded me of a favorite read of a few years ago, Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn, also a story of an Irish immigrant (female) who comes to America.

But in the short time it took me to read Mary Costello’s lovely gem, I thought of another favorite, John Williams’ Stoner, also a portrait of a person’s whole life. Both Williams and Costello seem to ask the question of the value of their main character’s entire life.

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Home Is Only Two Blocks Away


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Thomas Wolfe, it turns out, is not entirely correct.

Though, in this case,”Home” has moved two blocks (three minutes walking or 52 seconds by car).

Pix by Anita Rechler

Yes. Yes. Yes.

Sam Wo’s is coming back.

Maybe as soon as this summer.

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An “Impossible Dream”?


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The Impossible Dream

by William Plitt


A month ago, at end of weeks of a seemingly endless winter, I gambled and
bought three tickets to “Man of La Mancha”, a presentation by the Washington Shakespeare Company at the Sidney Harmon Theatre in the City.  I was needing some “lift”, both in attitude and altitude, and hoped to  that “lift” in light-hearted theatrical/musical entertainment- a distraction from our work too!

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Films, Films, Films


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Ten films for you to keep in mind. Six of these are in the theaters now.

Five of the ten get my highest ratings — four and a half or five stars.

A Brilliant Young Mind *****


You’ll have to wait for the summer for this one — Samuel Goldwyn Films just purchased the US distribution rights — but mark it down. It’s a very good one.

A Brilliant Young Mind is Morgan Matthews’ drama about a 16 year old autistic math prodigy; it was inspired by Matthews’ own 2007 documentary, Beautiful Young Minds. That documentary followed the young British International Mathematical Olympiad team through their selection process, their training, and the actual contest itself in 2006.

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Help Us Spread the Word


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For most of my ‘professional’ life I worked with children, adolescents, and families in various settings –- Peace Corps, John F. Kennedy High School, The Psychiatric Institute, and The Frost School –- and in a variety teaching, counseling, and administrative positions.

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10 of These Predictions Will Come True


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I’m not sure if the contestants in this year’s 2015 MillersTime Baseball Contests are geniuses, fools, frustrated writers, or wannabe comedians (see #s 28, 32, and 43, for example).

You decide.

Judging by previous years in this contest, at least 10 of the predictions below — Question #2 in this year’s contest — will come true.

Which 10, of course, is the question.

If you predict how many actually come true, you will also receive a prize — a t-shirt proclaiming you a MillersTime Baseball Contest Winner. Send your guess (the number of predictions that will come true) to me at or put the number in the Comments section of this post. Multiply winners are possible, but you only get one guess/prediction.

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A Gentle Gem


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Seymour: An Introduction *****


I suspect most of us have never heard of Seymour Bernstein.

Although I enjoy classical music, I did not know his name nor his work, until last night.

Thanks to the actor Ethan Hawke, however, Bernstein may gain some recognition outside of a small circle of people in the music world. In his first work as a movie director — this a documentary – Hawke has given us a gem.

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Never Leave Until It’s Over


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Dear Eli,

It was fun going with you to the baseball game Thursday. And I’m glad we stayed until the very end of the game, even if your favorite team, the Nats, lost.

You always have to stay until the end of the game. No matter how bad or how good it might seem for your team.

Yesterday was a good example of why it’s so important to understand the game is never over until the final out.

Last night in Yankee Stadium, it was the bottom of the 9th inning, and my heroes the Sox were ahead 3-2. There were two outs. One more and they’d beat the Evil Empire (the Yankees).

Disaster struck.

Instead of the final out, the Yankees hit a home run to tie the game.

Extra innings.

Nothing much happened for the next seven innings, although Friday had turned into Saturday.  Then, in the 16th inning, Big Papi, the great David Ortiz, hit a home run and put the Sox ahead 4-3.

Then, the Yankees got a home run in the bottom of the 16th when one of their players, Mark Teixeira, who was 34 years old when the game started and had turned 35 by the 16th inning, hit a home run.

Bummer. The game tied again, 4-4.

In the top 18th inning, again the Sox went ahead, 5-4.

And wouldn’t you know it, again the Yunkees tied it. Score now 5-5.

Then, in the 19th inning, after more than seven hours, the Sox went ahead 6-5.

This time, the bad guys didn’t tie it in the bottom of the inning, and the Sox won.

And that’s why you never, ever leave a game until the final out is made.

Never give up.

What the ‘Experts’ Say – 2015 MLB


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Well, the votes are all in, and, according to the MillersTime baseball prognosticators, here are the results of two of the six contests:

Contest #1. Favorite Team Record and how far they’ll go:

a. Sox – 89.5-72.5 – lose in ALCS

b. Nationals – 99-63 – win WS

c. Os – 92.5-69.5 – lose in ALCS

d. Dodgers – 92.5-69.5 – lose in WS

e. Yankees – 86-76 – no playoffs

f. Royals – 83-79 – no playoffs

Contest # 6: Who will play and who will win the WS:

Overwhelmingly Nats win WS over the Angels.

In my humble opinion, the Nats fans have bought the hype and don’t understand that while pitching is most important, you need some hitting and good defense. Nats may make the playoffs but will be a disappointment (and disappointed) again.

The other predictions above are pretty good, I think, tho the Sox fans may be disappointed too, as my heroes, if they do make it into the playoffs, are unlikely to get very far.

Hopefully, one of you readers will remind all of us of these predictions at the end of the season.

PS – Lots more predictions to come, including some ‘remarkable views’ of what might happen in MLB this year.