We’ve All Had Days Like That 

Wednesday, December 30th, 2020

As has been well established, I really like octopuses. Now, there’s yet another reason to appreciate them.

Scientists have discovered that, on occasions, an octopus will “punch” a fish for no reason other than “spite”.

I feel you, octopuses. I feel you.

Progress in Major League Baseball

Tuesday, December 29th, 2020

Winter has just begun here in America, but recently, two positive announcements were made relating to the boys of summer. First, at some point in the near future, Cleveland’s baseball team will have a new name.

The decision follows a similar move by the NFL’s Washington Football Team. Unlike the Washington Football Team, however, Cleveland’s baseball team will continue to be known as the Indians — the name it has carried since 1915 — until a new name is chosen and various branding and trademarking issues are resolved.

I’m not sure why they’re taking a half measure for now, but it will be good to get rid of this name (and worse, the terrible “Chief Wahoo” logo). For now, there’s nothing stopping all of us from just calling them the Cleveland Baseball Club, and I intend to.

Shortly after Cleveland’s announcement, Major League Baseball stated that the the Negro Leagues would now be considered as ‘Major League’.

Major League Baseball is correcting a longtime oversight in the game’s history by officially elevating the Negro Leagues to “Major League” status…With this action, MLB seeks to ensure that future generations will remember the approximately 3,400 players of the Negro Leagues during this time period as Major League-caliber ballplayers. Accordingly, the statistics and records of these players will become a part of Major League Baseball’s history.

From 1920 to 1948, African and Latin Americans players competed at a tremendously high level, but were excluded from the all-white Major League Baseball. That exclusion can never be undone, but recognizing the accomplishments of those players is a positive move nonetheless.

Both of these changes have been a long time coming, but late is far better than never.

Take a Day Off, Coach

Monday, December 28th, 2020

Regular readers will know about my love-hate relationship with the Apple Watch, which I often refer to as my dumbwatch. While I appreciate the activity tracking it does, I’m often confounded by many of its behaviors. Perhaps my least favorite feature is the Activity app’s “Daily Coaching”. According to Apple, this is intended to “help you complete your Activity goals and Monthly Challenges”. I leave this turned on so that it can helpfully notify me if the day is winding down, but I need a bit more activity to reach my goals.

However, this same feature also nags me at other times throughout the day, in ways that are anything but helpful. I run in the morning most days, but occasionally, I’ll run in the afternoon. At eleven or noon on those days, the Watch will note with alarm that I’m behind my usual pace. I’ll get there, dummy. Worse, this warning sometimes pops up earlier, right after I’ve woken up and put on the Watch in the morning. I’ve even seen it as early as 1 AM, which is just ridiculous.

Other times, possibly because it’s bored, the Watch will issue a needless status update. When the below appeared, it was shortly after high noon, and I was over halfway to my calorie goal.

Here's a look at today's progress - 50% done, halfway through the day.
Begging for attention

I really don’t need or want an Everything’s OK alarm.1

This past Friday, my Watch popped up with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday, you rocked your exercise ring. Unstoppable, Paul. What will today bring?”

Now, read in the right cadence, that’s downright poetic. But it’s also a rhyming pain in the ass. For the love of Saint Nicholas, that was Christmas morning. The day brought some time lounging about in pajamas, followed by talking with loved ones while sitting around on the couch. Maybe Apple could provide this digital coach a calendar, because shattering personal records on December 25th is simply not in the cards for most people.

The day after Christmas, however, I ran a half-marathon. It was a cold, windy Saturday, and when I was done, I was done. This was my last race in a virtual distance medley. Over the past three months, I’d trained for and run a 5K, 10K, and now a half-marathon. I intended to take it easy and recuperate on Sunday.

So of course, shortly after I woke up the next, my Watch hit me with this:

The Apple Watch saying “Keep it going - Yesterday was all about your Exercise ring, Paul. Boom! Go for it again today.”

No! No I will not. It is OK to do less some days than others. Boom? Boom yourself, Watch.

What’s maddening about virtual assistants like this is the wildly fluctuating levels of intelligence. The same device that can check both my calendar and local traffic, then helpfully remind me when I need to leave for a doctor’s appointment, is also completely oblivious of concepts like holidays and rest days. Apple and others have created semi-intelligent facsimiles of a human assistant, but it’s clear there’s a lot of work left to be done.

For now, it provides me with a harmless outlet for anger and mockery. The Apple Watch has no feelings, so I’m blissfully free to tell it to shove its encouragement up its own ass.


Footnotes:

  1. As always, the relevant video is archived here.↩︎

Scottish Gritters Have Great Names 

Friday, December 25th, 2020

The transportation department of Scotland has 213 snow plows, which they refer to as “gritters”. Every single one of them has its own name, and they are wonderful. My current favorites are “Spready Mercury” and “I Want To Break Freeze”, but there are so many to enjoy. View (and track!) the Scottish snow plows yourself right here.

A New and Disgusting One 

Thursday, December 24th, 2020

I’ve heard of bathtub gin, but sewage treatment wine is a new one.

Turn the Other Cheek 

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2020

Speaking of things that matter to those of us who dwell in reality, I too have been wondering why the web has suddenly been inundating me with pictures of some woman’s left ass cheek.

Things Worthy of Our Love

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2020

In a recent Atlantic piece, long-time Republican speechwriter Peter Wehner notes that since losing the election, Donald Trump “has become even more destabilizing and dangerous”. Trump’s recent actions have been so far beyond the pale that it seems impossible to adequately express how unhinged they are. A discussion of martial law taking place in the Oval Office is the stuff of nightmares.

However, the conclusion of this horror film is near, and Wehner discusses where we as a nation might go after.

Beyond that, and more fundamental than that, we have to remind ourselves that we are not powerless to shape the future; that much of what has been broken can be repaired; that though we are many, we can be one; and that fatalism and cynicism are unwarranted and corrosive.

There’s a lovely line in William Wordsworth’s poem “The Prelude”: “What we have loved, Others will love, and we will teach them how.”

There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity. We need to teach others—in our individual relationships, in our classrooms and communities, in our book clubs and Bible studies, and in innumerable other settings—why those things are worthy of their attention, their loyalty, their love. One person doing it won’t make much of a difference; a lot of people doing it will create a culture.

It’s my hope that in 2021 and beyond, we can indeed all be better. By our example, we will teach others to be better as well.

Meanwhile, in another piece for the same publication, Tom Nichols opines that engaging with Trump’s die-hard supporters simply isn’t necessary. He states that we can, and should, “tune out the noise” and the antics. I’m very much in favor of that. I’d like to hear a lot less about the lunatic fringe, and a lot more about reality, and things that matter to those of us who dwell therein.

When January 20th finally arrives, we can all stop paying attention to Trump’s latest fact-free statement. It’s been a long time coming. Once we get there, let us resolve to spend our time on more productive things.

Holiday Surgery Is Also Best Avoided 

Monday, December 21st, 2020

If you can avoid having surgery on your surgeon’s birthday, you should.

TV surgeon Dr. Turk Turkleton, of the sitcom “Scrubs”, definitely had the right idea.

Turk: It could keep me from becoming the youngest chief of surgery in history, which could keep me from curing paralysis, which could keep me from having my birthday be a national holiday! And everyone knows I hate to work on my birthday!

Live Free, With Bears 

Friday, December 18th, 2020

In the mid-2000s, a group of libertarians decided to take over the small town of Grafton, New Hampshire. Their attempt to create the minimal government society of their dreams didn’t work out terribly well, particularly when the bears came.

Imploding A Former Trump Casino For The Children 

Thursday, December 17th, 2020

I’ve got a birthday coming up, and I thought maybe a few of my loyal readers could band together to win me the right to implode Trump Plaza in Atlantic City. C’mon, it’s for charity, place a bid!