The Electric Commentary

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Paul Vs. Train, Part 954

Due to circumstances beyond my control, my commute has recently taken me to the Chicago Susburbs, which extend from the Western end of Indianapolis, Indiana, West through Kansas City, Missouri, South to Atlanta, Georgia, and up into the Northwest Territories. I'm commuting to the latter.

This involves two buses and a train. The following story is true, and takes place about one week ago on Chicago's Blue Line, which runs from O'Hare to downtown.

All trains are currently undergoing construction in Chicago. The Red Line, for example, generally runs underground, but last night they decided to run it above ground without telling anyone about it. This resulted in me going to my volleyball game on North and Clybourn, from Addison via the Merchandise Mart. For those of you more familiar with Milwaukee geography, this was the equivalent of heading to Miller Park from Downtown via Germantown.

Anyway, the Blue Line is currently monitored by computerized governors, meaning that if the conductor drives too fast on certain parts of the system, a computer shuts off the train. Me and 4000 people were waiting for the Blue Line at the Rosemont stop. This was after a particularly arduous Bus ride, which is not the CTA's fault, but is irritating nonetheless. We had been waiting for about 45 minutes. They are supposed to show up every 6 minutes.

Suddenly, a CTA employee appeared on the platform. She was ranting and raving at someone on the other end of a Walkee-Talkee. Every few seconds you could hear a high-pitched whine on the other end.

As we would soon discover, this was the noise of the governor repeatedly shutting off the train. The conductor was repeatedly breaking the speed limit. This occurred every 30 seconds.

After another 15 minutes or so (1 hour total) the train pulled into the station, at which point the following occurred:

1. The CTA worker (who was female, by the way), forcibly removed the conductor (who was male).

2. The conductor was clearly either drunk or high. He could barely walk.

3. He also threw up in a trash can.

4. She handed him over to the proper authorities and took over the train.

When there is a backup like this it is standard practice to run a train "express," that is, skip a few stops and get some space between the backed up trains so that they are not running on top of each other. They decided to run this train express from Rosemont to Jefferson Park (about 3 stops). Funny thing though. When a computerized governor is limiting your train's speed, you can't really run express.

Twice, at Harlem and at Cumberland, this express train was forced to stop in the station, where a bunch of angry commuters had also been waiting for a train, but even though the train stopped it did not open its doors, because, you know, it was express.

When we finally reached Jefferson Park, they decided to run express from JP to Logan Square. (About 5 more stops, I think.)

That's great, except that I had to get off before that, which means I had to get off of the "express" train and wait for the slow train behind it. Getting on the express train in the first place proved pointless.

Fortunately, as it was impossible to run an express train, the non-express train was right behind it.

All in all, it was a 2.5 hour trip home on the drunken Blue Line of doom, but at least no one died.

You'll never get me, CTA. Never.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Headline Of The Year

You can find it here. Oh hell, here it is:

Royals To Get A Taste Of Angels' Colon

Hat tip, FJM.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

The Chicago Sun Times reminds us of what we hate about Chicago

As you may have heard, the Brewers are kicking a lot of ass right now. We're even getting a lot of national press pointing out that we have the best record in baseball, that we're having the best start in franchise history, that we have a 7 game lead in the NLC, that the signing of free agent Jeff Suppan has improved a solid rotation to be one of the deepest in baseball, that the crew's own home-grown youngsters like Hardy, Fielder ant Weeks have led us to being among the best in the NL in hitting, home runs and basically everything else, etc. etc.

You may also have heard that there is this other team in the NLC that is 7 games back, in second place with, a .500 record. They're called the Cubs, and like the Brewers, they have had very little success in Baseball.

These two teams actually have a lot in common in that regard. But they are so so different in so so many ways. For starters, the Cubs are a large market team with a huge payroll. Every single guy on their team was acquired by free agency. They're like the Yankees except they suck. The Brewers play in a smaller market. The Chicago metro area is about 10 million people to Milwaukee's 1.5 million or so. Despite having at least 6 times the fan-base, they only sell a few thousand more seats per game. The Brewers have the 15th best attendance in baseball and play in the smallest market in baseball. The Cubs have the 7th best attendence and play in the third largest market. Brewer fans even came out in droves to watch the Indians play the Angels when The Jake was snowed in, just so the Indians would feel at home. The Cubs' payroll is over $100 million, to the Brewers' less than $70 million. The Brewers have built their team by developing young talent in addition to acquiring some solid free agents. Brewer fans drink lots of beer and eat lots of sausage in the parking lot before the game, then go inside and watch the game and cheer on our team. Cubs fans don't seem to know when they should be cheering. The number one thing people from out of town say about Milwaukeeans [besides making fun of our apetites] is that we are all really "nice." The number one thing people from other cities say about Cubs fans is that they're ass-holes.

But the biggest difference between the two teams is attitude. This article from one of the local rags in Chicago is the latest example of why the Cubs and their fans never win, and never deserve to. What's interesting about this article is that it is saying a lot of what I just said--e.g. that money isn't enough and that there is something to be said for building a team, but it does so in a back-handed way so typical of the Wrigley crowd. Some quotes:

And you might not know this, but the people in Milwaukee think they're in a rivalry with Chicago. How cute! But this division is lining up as a battle between the free-agent-buying, big-market Cubs and little Milwaukee, the burg where you stop along the way to get Christmas trees.

Actually, at the moment this division is lining up as one team running away from the pack. It's early and I'm not smug enough to say it'll look like that all season, but the Cubs are 7 games out of first, and only 2.5 out of last in the division. And nobody in Milwaukee thinks our city is a rival to Chicago in anything but beer consumption and baseball. Few cities are! Our alleged inferiority complex is a figment of Chicago's collective imagination.

''The Cubs are going to be hanging around us all year,'' Brewers reliever Derrick Turnbow said. ''They won't go away.''

Did you notice anything about what he said? The Brewers think they're going to be around all year.

This from a team that has finished behind the Crew the last two years. I'm not saying we've been good, but they've been worse. Where does this arrogance come from? I could understand if it was the New York Times and he was talking about the Yankees, but this guy is a Cubs supporter!

Despite his back-handedness, I like his conclusion:

''There's nothing wrong with assembling a team if you have the resources to do it financially,'' said Capuano, who's 5-0. ''You can buy a whole team, like the Diamondbacks did in '01.'' But Capuano said there's something to be said for camaraderie. And in the Brewers' case, many of these guys have ridden the bus together through the minors, learned the game together, learned how to be together... ...The Brewers still run the sausage race after the sixth inning. Bratwurst won Wednesday. Everyone still seems a little too nice, a little too white-picket-fence. And Yost can say, ''We're not here, there or anywhere. It's May.'' But little Milwaukee is going big-time.

I hope so.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Songs Where The Band Name Appears In A Song?

Everybody Have Fun Tonight, Wang Chung.

In a Big Country, Big Country.

A Murder of One, Counting Crows.

Any others?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Get Some Sun!

You know how health authorities kept telling us that any amount of sunlight is bad for us? Well...

For decades, vitamin D has been the Rodney Dangerfield of the supplement world. It's the vitamin most Canadians never give a second thought to because it was assumed the only thing it did was prevent childhood rickets, a debilitating bone disease. But the days of no respect could be numbered. If vitamin D deficiency becomes accepted as the major cause of cancer and other serious illnesses, it will ignite the medical equivalent of a five-alarm blaze on the Canadian health front.

For many reasons, Canadians are among the people most at risk of not having enough vitamin D. This is due to a quirk of geography, to modern lifestyles and to the country's health authorities, who have unwittingly, if with the best of intentions, played a role in creating the vitamin deficiency.

Authorities are implicated because the main way humans achieve healthy levels of vitamin D isn't through diet but through sun exposure. People make vitamin D whenever naked skin is exposed to bright sunshine. By an unfortunate coincidence, the strong sunshine able to produce vitamin D is the same ultraviolet B light that can also causes sunburns and, eventually, skin cancer.

Only brief full-body exposures to bright summer sunshine — of 10 or 15 minutes a day — are needed to make high amounts of the vitamin. But most authorities, including Health Canada, have urged a total avoidance of strong sunlight or, alternatively, heavy use of sunscreen. Both recommendations will block almost all vitamin D synthesis.

Those studying the vitamin say the hide-from-sunlight advice has amounted to the health equivalent of a foolish poker trade. Anyone practising sun avoidance has traded the benefit of a reduced risk of skin cancer — which is easy to detect and treat and seldom fatal — for an increased risk of the scary, high-body-count cancers, such as breast, prostate and colon, that appear linked to vitamin D shortages.

I think I'll have lunch outside today.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

And while we're bashing Mormons...

Check out Mitt Romney's favorite book:

When asked his favorite novel in an interview shown yesterday on the Fox News Channel, Mitt Romney pointed to “Battlefield Earth,” a novel by L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology. That book was turned into a film by John Travolta, a Scientologist.

A spokesman said later it was one of Mr. Romney’s favorite novels.

“I’m not in favor of his religion by any means,” Mr. Romney, a Mormon, said. “But he wrote a book called ‘Battlefield Earth’ that was a very fun science-fiction book.

So he's a Mormon who likes Scientology novels. Wow. That's quite the combination. Also, if the book is anything like the movie, Romney's taste in literature should make him unfit to be President.

Hitch Bashes God

Of course, Christopher Hitchens bashes God all the time, but now he is doing so in book form, with excerpts in Slate:

In March 1826 a court in Bainbridge, New York, convicted a twenty-one-year-old man of being "a disorderly person and an impostor." That ought to have been all we ever heard of Joseph Smith, who at trial admitted to defrauding citizens by organizing mad gold-digging expeditions and also to claiming to possess dark or "necromantic" powers. However, within four years he was back in the local newspapers (all of which one may still read) as the discoverer of the "Book of Mormon." He had two huge local advantages which most mountebanks and charlatans do not possess. First, he was operating in the same hectically pious district that gave us the Shakers and several other self-proclaimed American prophets. So notorious did this local tendency become that the region became known as the "Burned-Over District," in honor of the way in which it had surrendered to one religious craze after another. Second, he was operating in an area which, unlike large tracts of the newly opening North America, did possess the signs of an ancient history.

A vanished and vanquished Indian civilization had bequeathed a considerable number of burial mounds, which when randomly and amateurishly desecrated were found to contain not merely bones but also quite advanced artifacts of stone, copper, and beaten silver. There were eight of these sites within twelve miles of the underperforming farm which the Smith family called home. There were two equally stupid schools or factions who took a fascinated interest in such matters: the first were the gold-diggers and treasure-diviners who brought their magic sticks and crystals and stuffed toads to bear in the search for lucre, and the second those who hoped to find the resting place of a lost tribe of Israel. Smith's cleverness was to be a member of both groups, and to unite cupidity with half-baked anthropology.

Free Decemberists Concert

The Decemberists will be playing a free show with the Grant Park Orchestra on July 18th. It's at the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park at 6:30. The Decemberists put on a good show. Although they indulge in far too much audience participation and other whimsical chicanery, they make up for it when they are actually playing. It is definitely worth checking out.

Draft Fallout

The nice way to characterize the Packers' draft would be to call it a "long term" draft. Mainly it was just confusing. We took an undersized, injury prone, interior defensive lineman with our first pick. He did not look impressive in games, so I'm told. It does not address a huge need. Maybe they know something I don't, in fact, they probably do, but really, I like my picks to have shown something on the field, and Justin Harrell did not do that. I don't follow college ball as closely as I do professional football, but I've never heard of most of these guys, and usually I've heard of at least one or two.

My ignorance does not make it a bad draft, of course, but I smell Jamal Reynolds, and it is not a pretty smell.

Cleveland did well. Their o-line sucked, and Joe Thomas should be an instant improvement. Their QB sucked and Brady Quinn, even if he's just average, should be a huge improvement. Cleveland really had no choice but to improve, and these were both "duh" picks, but they still deserve credit for not screwing up.

Detroit took another receiver, but it's hard to knock them for grabbing Calvin Johnson. Every other team would have done exactly the same thing. They also drafted Michigan States' Drew Stanton, and while he's a decent pro prospect, I can't help wondering if Millen did this just for the home town draw.

Minnesota, desperately in need of a QB, went with the oft injured Adrian Peterson. I hate taking RBs in the first round, and while this pick is certainly defensible as he was the best player available on many boards, I don't think Peterson will do much to improve a Vikings team that simply cannot pass the ball.

Finally, the Bears draft looked unspectacular, but solid. They nabbed a member of the 7th Floor Crew, which does fill a need, but the best part is that we still get to see Rex Grossman play real NFL football games, as they stayed away from QBs. I'm happy about this.

Except for the Quinn-fall I though it was a boring draft. I'm always disappointed by the draft because nothing really changes until you actually see everyone play. I've never felt like a Packer draft pick was a sure-fire star. I wonder if they have just never had one, or if all fans are like that, even when a Barry Sanders or John Elway is joining the team.

Fire Joe Morgan, Etc.

I read Fire Joe Morgan all the time, and I don't know why I don't have a link up. That's just bad form.

Here, Warren Meyer references a FJM cut about David Eckstein's "clutch hitting." It's quite amusing. Here's a snippet:

It was a week ago today, fewer than 24 hours after the Pirates had put down a sizzling St. Louis rally in the ninth inning, that catcher Ronny Paulino reflected upon it and offered this surprising tidbit.

"You know what the key was to that whole inning?" he said. "When David Eckstein got hit by that pitch."

Say what?

Hitting Eckstein -- not intentionally -- loaded the bases and, ultimately, forced closer Salomon Torres to pitch to Albert Pujols with a one-run lead.

"Doesn't matter," Paulino said. "Eckstein's the guy you don't want to face there."

There's a lot of stupid stuff in this article. I am happy to say -- since I get bored of disparaging journalists only -- that most of it is said by actual baseball players. That's new and fun!

David Eckstein's career EqA is .260, which is exactly league average. Albert Pujols's career EqA is .341, which is easy, don't-even-think-twice Hall of Fame shoo-in. Anyone who ever wants to pitch to Albert Pujols over David Eckstein in any situation, including pick-up whiffle ball games at family barbecues when Pujols has dengue fever and Eckstein gets to use one of those over-sized red bats while Pujols has to hit with a live cobra, is a goddamn moron of the highest order.

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