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Saturday, March 29, 2008

Getting a Job: Writing for a new baseball site

On the prodding of Susan Bernard, my eminently qualified writer friend, I applied to a baseball website for a position as team writer. The new site (really, really new) is called the Hometown 9.

I picked the Chicago Cubs, and maybe, through a little luck, I'll get my writing career rolling. Anyways, here's the first two pieces: one is my bio, the other, my opening day piece.
My Bio: I come from a long background of frustrated ballplayers as both my grandfathers spent time in the pursuit of playing baseball at the minor league level. Grandpa Clark tried out for the Brooklyn Dodgers before being told by Uncle Sam they needed 17-year olds to fight in WWII. As a result, he never got to meet Branch Rickey or that man’s miserly and ingenious ways personally. Grandpa Powers tried his hand in the Texas Leagues of the 1920’s. No records on his success, but I know he spent 37 years as a state penitentiary guard. That pretty much says it all.

Before I swindled Purdue University out an Industrial Engineering degree (or did they take me?), I was likely in hot pursuit of fly ball in centerfield. I grew up on the Chicago Cubs, wishing I could one day patrol their cozy confines in pursuit of some wind blown high pop, while also hoping Jay Johnstone wouldn’t be in the same pursuit.

My high school career never amounted to the glory of getting a visit from a tobacco-chewing scout. Some how 5’6”, 165-pound lefties weren’t on the short list of players to watch. But I could really throw that “speed ball” by you. (Glory Days reference.)

Instead, I matriculated to the concrete jungle that is Purdue University. There, I learned how to walk 1 mile across campus at 7:00 AM in 15 minutes, spend 50 minutes in class, usually falling asleep, then back to the dorm in 20 minutes, due to the headwinds of winter. That practice became a rarity; and so did my achievement of good grades, as a 2.07 GPA attests to.

Baseball play turned to baseball fantasy turned to baseball disenchantment with the 1994 strike. I felt cheated on – unlike my imaginary girlfriends – and so, I put aside the game for a spell. I am sorry for that enterprise, and I am a reformed addict. (No lie.)

So that’s it. Professionally, I have wandered away from industrial engineering and decided upon the career of “writing.” This is my first gig – aside from blogging for several years and slogging through writings that are the epitome of Americana – and I hope it will be a smashing success.

Maybe the Cubs will be too.

1st Article: Opening Day: She’s coming back to me

The mistress of spring is coming back home after a heady trip abroad. She’s wearing a devilish blue dress, cut low, the way I like it, and carrying a baseball bat. Again, the way I love it. That is but one vision of baseball that in my more sensuous dreams might exist.

“What is Love?” but that of a pitcher scraping dirt off the rubber, digging his toe into side, and steaming a bee ball toward a tightly-muscled assassin with a 35-inch thunder maker in his clutches. As the pop of the mit or the sweet crack of the bat means we are seeing the first of thousands of confrontations between the two diametrically-opposed fellas. That is love to a baseball fan.

In our nation’s capital, as the 2008 election stirs patriotic feelings, the Washington Nationals open a new cathedral for the baseball gods to perform their wondrous feats. It seems Cuba’s better known Castro knew the park was going to be a startling vision, and decided, “leader of Cuba or new Washington Senator, er, National pitching prospect?” and chose to give it, just one more try.

As a team in search of a new owner, the Chicago Cubs are seeking to break through after 100 years. 100 years. When they last proclaimed the title of World Champions, the world had no supersonic travel, no television, no atomic annihilation, no internet, no rights to vote for women, and still held back African-Americans. How times have evolved for some. As the team has changed hands, from restaurateur, to gum maker, to son-of-a-(gun) gum maker to corporate conglomerate, the loyalty of the fans has kept alive the dreams of William Wrigley, who never won a title, but is the name everyone will forever associate with the ballpark at Clark & Addison. No matter what the current real estate man has to say about it.

In Los Angeles, fifty years after their movement west on a subsonic bird of Orville Wright’s wilder dreams, the Dodgers are playing again in the L.A. Coliseum. A place developed for Olympic feats and USC football, it makes for a quirky attempt to put 80,000 fans aghast at the odd dimensions swinging around to the left field area. Where an outfielder has to put on protective gear, or at least, gets an opportunity to add 3rd base to his list of abilities. Only outfielder Wally Moon might reminisce fondly about his time hitting in this short-lived version of a major league ballpark.

These are some of the new memories surrounding the return of my mistress from abroad. She is a broad – curvy, sometimes luscious, full of vigor, but she never ages – and yet, she is hardened by a seven-score affirmation that every spring she’ll come back home to us. Fresh. A clean slate. Mistakes forgiven. And more new memories to make whilst “rounding the sack.”

Opening Day. She’s home.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Roster: My team and shortfalls

Yahoo! Team Name: SamZellHell - Current owner of the Chicago Cubs
C Jarrod Saltalamacchia (Tex - C,1B) NA - Dude couldn't make the Opening day roster! He was traded last year from Atlanta as the 'important piece' of the Texiera trade. (Kurt Suzuki is my out. Sigh.)
1B James Loney (LAD - 1B) - 23, line drive hitter that could hit .300, 22-30 Jacks, 85-95 RBIs.
2B Chone Figgins (LAA - 2B,3B,OF) - speedster, rough with the glove everywhere, .300 + 45 SBs.
3B Ryan Zimmerman (Was - 3B) - .275, 25-30 dingers, 90 RBIs due to Washington sucking at the top.
SS Hanley Ramírez (Fla - SS) - #1 overall pick by me. Five-category stud if he hits 3rd. .310-35-110-115-40 type numbers.
OF Carlos Lee (Hou - OF) - "El Caballo", which means "The Horse", is another .300 -30-100 man who could get 10 Stolen bases. He was my 2nd pick. (Pictured right.)
OF Kosuke Fukudome (ChC - OF) - A new Cubbie to love or hate. I'm hopeful he'll get 20 home runs and 15 stolen bases to go with a .280 BA.
OF Willy Taveras (Col - OF) - Speed merchant. No power. But can get steals, runs and maybe some batting average.
Util Josh Willingham (Fla - OF) - Probably the oldest regular the Florida Marlins have. Can hit 25 home runs behind Hanley Ramirez.

Pitching Staff
SP Erik Bedard (Sea - SP) - Best Baltimore Pitcher in ages got traded to West Coast. Good Deal - should give me some strikeouts (200), low WHIP(1.20), ERA(3.35) and possibly 17 wins. Fingers crossed. (Pictured Right.)
SP Cole Hamels (Phi - SP) - Young lefty stud that could get 20 Wins if the Phillies are hitting on all cylinders.
P Carlos Zambrano (ChC - SP) - Fire in his belly. Not a brain in his head at times. But likeable nonetheless. Workhorse that give the Cubs a chance to win every time.
P Fausto Carmona (Cle - SP) - Stuff, stuff and more stuff. Throws Hard and sinks everything. Can win alot behind C.C. Sabathia. I'll take 15 Wins, 3.75 ERA and WHIP in the 1.25 area.
RP Jonathan Broxton (LAD - RP) - Closer in waiting. Can hit 98-100 MPH on the gun. Strikeouts nearly 1.2 batters per inning. Nasty. I figure 10 saves and 5 wins.
RP Kevin Gregg (Fla - RP) - might save half of the wins the Marlins figure to get, which is around 70 games.
RP Brian Wilson (SF - RP) - San Francisco won't give him too much to work with. But I hope for 30 saves.

BNRick Ankiel (StL - OF) - Could be the next Babe Ruth, with steroids. (Hit plenty of home runs in his miraculous conversion from pitching stud to hitting stud/dud.) (Below.)
BNRyan Theriot (ChC - 2B,SS) -Scrappy little speedster that will give me all that a utility player can.
BN Andre Ethier (LAD - OF) - Could be a break out as LA figures out what it has in the outfield.
BN Yovani Gallardo (Mil - SP) DL - He could be a total monster at 22 years old. I think he'll give me a 13-15 wins and serious strikeouts.
BN Andrew Miller (Fla - SP) - Just an injury pitcher. Was drafted #1 overall by Detroit in 2006, then traded (with others) for SP Dontrelle Willis and 3B/OF Miguel Cabrera.
Overall, I love my pitching. Deep starters should pull me up on those categories - WHIP, ERA and K's are going to be pretty easy to come by, I hope. (Knock on the screen.) Problems are in the hitting. No big, big boppers. (35 HR plus.) The team can run, I got 3 guys that could steal 50 bases, but that is one category. No big RBI guys either. Batting average and Runs are often a shot in the dark.
So, I will be doing some trading about 3-5 weeks in, after I get a feeling for the youngsters I drafted and see if the pitching can be leveraged for some superstar hitter.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Experimental Baseball :Is it Time for a Six-Man Rotation?

Over the past thirty years, the emphasis of pitching with a five-man rotation replaced the old guard of four-man rotations with the feeling that the extra day rest would improve performances of the starting pitcher. This idea is at least tempered by one study done by Keith Woolner in the Baseball Prospectus book: Baseball Between the Numbers: Why Everything You Know About the Game is Wrong (Prospectus Entertainment, 2006, pg. 74)

After reading this, and feeling those results at least support it is no longer tried-and-true to believe this additional rest is better than managing pitchers better “in game”, in holding down pitch counts and assessing the effort a pitcher expends in getting those late-inning hitters out, the possibility of a new paradigm (that infamous word in the business world) struck: the six-man rotation.

First, this is not a year-long idea, but rather a month-to-month adjustment of the pitching staff to maximize the benefits received from the pitching staff in general. Due to scheduling of games, the ability to adjust the staff only makes sense and reverts back to the prior usage of pitching in the 1930's and 1940's to some degree. (Additionally, the 2007 World Champion Boston Red Sox considered this rotation planwith SP Daisuke Matsuzaka being a long-time user of this in Japan. (Fantasy Sports, April 2008, pg. 17.)) (Theo Epstein, GM of Red Sox pictured.)

The best way to explain ‘this version’ is by month.

April. 6 starters are used throughout the month, with 4 starts per man. With spring training typically not garnering enough work for the some to round into form, the extended spring training of April allows managers the ability to decide better on the 5th man in the rotation. More importantly, all starters are available for relief work, a couple times in the month. Since many have scheduled side sessions, the usage in bullpen assistance can get them the 'required' sessions. The ace of the staff, will see three 1-inning appearances. Others will see possibly longer stints, but no more than two appearances.

May and June. 5-man rotation. The sixth man goes to the bullpen as a long reliever. Bullpen set ups as usual.

July. 6 starters. #1 starter goes one game extra than others in the rotation. Does not pitch out of the bullpen. Every other starter goes four times and makes bullpen appearances.

August, September and October. 4 Starters till the end of the season. Saving the best for last. 5th and 6th starters work half-dozen appearances out of the bullpen. Leveraging extra starts down the stretch, gives the team an opportunity to win the pennant as the games matter more. If the pennant is in hand, revert back to a 5-man rotation, or other manageable scenario.

The Innings per season for the Starters are as follows:

#1 Starter - 239 IP

#2 Starter - 225 IP

#3 Starter - 204 IP

#4 Starter - 195 IP

#5 Starter - 143.6 IP

#6 Starter - 88 IP

The partial goal is to get 35 starts for the no. 1 pitcher - which is still a light total compared to the 1970's workhorse examples of Steve Carlton, Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Gaylord Perry, Jim Palmer or Fergie Jenkins. But more importantly, between the no. 1, 2 and 3 starters they will see 11 relief appearances that could be in key situations. The trade up between their stuff and the typical middle reliever/closer could be important to win one, two or more games that were lost due to a poor bullpen. Leveraging these key innings with better pitchers, who are throwing anyway, could be worth exploring as a way to improve marginally a 90-win team to a 93-95 win team.

Realizing pitchers' quirks, this may not be possible. However, given a young staff that has been moved around a great deal in the minors, this could be a legit, rotational organization that pitchers adjust to, thrive in and prefer above all, after a period of adjustment. (Which might happen in a down season – allowing for a realistic time for experimentation throughout the organization.)

The way they pitch needs to be monitored much more than when they pitch.

Consistency is rare anyway, considering DL stints of most starters. With an early season 6-man rotation, the man sent to the bullpen first may have to step in for an injured pitcher. What better way to train appropriately than to have all ready started earlier on during the spring?

And knowing the in-game scenario, that every pitcher is capable of both starting and relieving to the benefit of the team, may be a psychological advantage to a team in the long term. Managers have to maximize options with position players, why not expand that to pitching staffs, like in the yester years of baseball glory.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

A Baseball Package: What I think would sell and predictions

I would love to put together a professional-looking total baseball package that would sell to fans and curious people alike. In it I would try to offer the following:
Bringin’ Gas and Dialin’ 9: The 5-tool total package

· A Hardcover Book – estimated 750-900 pages w/additional Appendices of Players and Teams records
· CD: PDF of Book with online links
· CD: Image Gallery of 100s of MLB players, Stadiums, Teams, Managers, Executives and Umpires
· CD: Database of Statistics with executable queries to find those statistics, comparisons and Player backgrounds
· CD: Graphs/Charts of the Financials, Stadium Layouts and Other useful stats
· DVD/CD: Audios of famous plays, players and radio broadcasts in history with footage from World Series and epic moments in Baseball history
Estimated Retail Cost: $110-150 with the following hang ups:
1. Book: $45 - $55 (did/doing)
2. Images: $15 (need permission)
3. Database: $25 (have backend- front end needed, permissions)
4. Charts: $5 (can do)
5. Audio: $10 (missing)
6. DVD: $20 - $30 (missing)

I think it would be a cool thing to have a baseball reference library package in one complete outfit. Of course, it will never happen. (I can collect the stuff, but sell it, never.)

I started working on a Fantasy/Roto League PDF file, but got bogged down with other things. Maybe next season.

Some off-the-cuff predictions/analysis:
The Chicago Cubs can win the NL Central if their pitching holds up. (Kerry Wood closing, I have to see that pan out...I am not holding my breath given his extensive injury history since 2003.) Milwaukee has youth and now, some experience in pressure filled games in the late season. I can see them winning the NL Central by 7 games as much as I can see the Cubs win by 3 games. Milwaukee has to pitch too - but they have their young up-and-comer starting ace Yovani Gallardo to nurse back to health if they are going to win anything.

Boston has some issues (Shilling done for the year, likely, and Beckett on the DL), but still will be there in the AL. With youngsters like Clay Buchholz, Jon Lester and Manny Delcarmen pitching, and Dustin Pedroia and Jacoby Ellsbury up and coming hitters, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz don't have to be the only boppers to worry about. They can ride out; the Yankees haven't shown me they have improved that much on paper. A-Rod is their only regular season weapon.

Detroit has the powerhouse lineup (though Curtis Granderson is down for a while) but still has to pitch better than last year in the bullpen. Cleveland has plenty of talent on both sides (offense in Grady Sizemore, Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner & pitching C.C. Sabathia (left) and Fausto Carmona) and can win that division with any falter or hiccup by Detroit.
You got to figure Arizona and Colorado can't win again like last year. Arizona was outscored; so they will have to win with their pitching - maybe. They got it with Dan Haren and Brandon Webb, both 220+ inning eaters with 15-20 win potential. Colorado has the bats and some nice pieces, but I don't expect a run away by either. Los Angeles and San Diego can compete. San Francisco - your heart is gone.

Mets, Phillies and Braves. Mets have young talent with Reyes, Wright and now, Santana; and money is never much of problem, but old (and hurt) Moises Alou and Carlos Delgado are no longer premier options at power positions, 1B and LF. As a result, Endy Chavez, Angel Pagan and Ryan Church will get to play musical chairs in left & right field. I still figure this is a 90-win team, or Willie Randolph will hear, "you're fired," by a Donald Trump impersonator.

The Phillies have a similar dynamic trio in 1B Ryan Howard, 2B Chase Utley and 2007 NL MVP SS Jimmy Rollins. The problem begins once the Phillies get past ace-like Cole Hamels and starter-to-closer-back to starter Brett Myers in their starting rotation: the 3 guys left are either old, raw or beat up like a pick up truck. (Moyer, Kendrick and Eaton.)

But the Phillies will compete for this division.

Atlanta has to turn to two 20-year vets for competitive pitching in Glavine and Smoltz. I think the well is run dry. Hot-lanta can still get some miles out of Chipper and Texiera, but I don't think they will win anything.

Boston, Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Angels (not mentioned),Cleveland, Detroit, Philadephia, New York and Arizona make the playoffs.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Not Always the Dreams of Our Fathers: The ancestry and their influences on America's race issue

Two days ago, Barack Obama made a historic speech involving his close relationship to controversial Chicago pastor Jeremiah Wright and more importantly, the subject of race and American history. He spoke in a straightforward language of how this country, and even his upbringing, has been one of divisive words, feelings and actions by those closest to him, and how, he did not agree with their ideas or thoughts on race, yet still loved them. (His “white” grandmother, for example in a passage below.)

Telling Excerpts: "I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed...

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.
And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love"

Some, like Amy Holmes – an African-American woman and CNN Political Analyst – made the faulty leap of logic that he is now just the “racial candidate.” Far from it.

A Republican insider, Ari Fleischer, former White house press secretary under G.W. Bush, uses this as a political platform to inflame white conservatives (“Reagan Democrats” too) by drawing on Wright’s words as being a “Ku Klux Kan” speech while ignoring the point of Barack’s recent statements and lucid speech. Again, far-fetched, and out of historical context.

Wolf “Donner” Blitzer kept repeating “the fall out” after the speech. To make it sound disastrous. (CNN, 8PM, March 19, 2008.)

Barack’s speech was meant (and did) clarify an all-ready hot button issue: race and the rhetoric espoused in heated moments by other people. The mere idea that the color of man’s skin, his upbringing and his values are somehow distilled down to one Sunday service or several conversations with a pastor is laughable. (Complex humans beings, who live upwards of 90+ years, being boiled down to a few hours of life. Absurd.)
This brings me to my own inherently complex past and where I should or will go in the future.

In late 2004, I contacted my father for the last time, likely in my life. In that phone call, which was somewhat conciliatory on my part, I learnt more about myself, or rather, the connections to certain aspects of American history, without any real prompting on my part.

My father majored in History, and likely could have become a professor, if he had not fallen into disarray in his own life. His outlooks became tied to stringent attitudes; fundamentalist religious beliefs; and the idea that his family does not obey him, going back at least 25 years. As a result, I’ve seen him only once in those 25 years, with a few scattered phone calls and letters in between. He spent time in Ft. Leavenworth, like Barack's grandmother, but for different reasons.

In our final conversation, he told me about some genealogical research he had done recently, even offering to share the write-up of this analysis.

Two names of significant importance came to the forefront of this research. Better news first.

Samuel Houston (1793-1863) was a hero at the Battle of San Jacinto, where Mexico’s Santa Anna surrendered to Houston-led forces, thus winning the war for Texas’s independence. A large and imposing figure, 6'2"+, Sam Houston was born in Rockbridge County, Virginia, but grew up in Tennessee as a teenager. He ran away from home at 15, and lived for nearly three years with the Cherokee Indians in eastern Tennessee, where he took the name Black Raven and learned the native language, skills, and customs.

After he left their stead, Houston soon enlisted in army, led by General Andrew Jackson, that would fight the Creek Indians (close cousins to the Cherokee) and also in the War of 1812. After his military service, where he reached the rank of Major General, he studied law and practiced in Lebanon, Tennessee. In 1817, Houston became a U.S. subagent assigned to manage the removal of the Cherokee from Tennessee to a reservation in the Arkansas Territory. (A prequel to the 1830’s Trail of Tears forced removal.)

Sam Houston returned to Nashville to practice law and from 1823 to 1827 served as a U.S. congressman. He was elected governor of Tennessee in 1827. After a brief, unsuccessful marriage to Eliza Allen in 1829, he resigned his public office; he again sought refuge among the Cherokee and was formally adopted into the tribe and began a bout of heavy drinking – though it is likely he was always fond of the bottle. He also remarried a Cherokee woman, Tiana Rodgers who he met at a dance.

He twice went to Washington, D.C., to expose frauds practiced upon the Indians by government agents and in 1832 was sent by Pres. Andrew Jackson to Texas, then a Mexican province, to negotiate Indian treaties for the protection of U.S. border traders. (Meanwhile, President Jackson was at the forefront of removing the Cherokees from land granted to them in Georgia by the U.S. Supreme Court in a landmark decision. Jackson usurped the authority of the highest court. The “Trail of Tears” saga was born.)
It can also be said that Sam Houston had quite a temper and engaged in several duels in the course of his lifetime, once wounding a general, General William A. White, in a duel fought 6 miles south of Franklin, Kentucky in September 1826. After one such battle, in which he beat U.S. Representative William Stanberry of Ohio with a cane, he would hire Francis Scott Key as his attorney.

He would be sent to Texas to do negotiations on behalf of Andrew Jackson in regards to Indian relations, communicating via dispatch.

From there, Houston’s personal travails are uniquely tied to Texas independence; his nomination as 1st President of the Republic of Texas; 1st U.S. Senator of Texas (1846-1859); and later, last governor of the great state of Texas on the cusp of the U.S. Civil War. He fought against secession of the state – which led to his removal as governor by the Confederacy in 1861 – and much of his final years were spent trying to resolve the inequality battle in America between the races. Houston died in Huntsville, Texas in 1863.
(Print Sources: Britannica 2005, World Book 2002)
Quote of Sam Houston on Education: "It is a matter of great satisfaction to me to hope that my children will be in circumstances to receive a good education. Mine was defective and I feel the inconvenience, if not the misfortune of not receiving a classical education. Knowledge is the food of genius, and my son, let no opportunity escape you to treasure up knowledge."
On the opposite side of that coin, Nathan Bedford Forrest (1821-1877) first became well-known as the only buck private-to-major general in the Confederate army, saying “Get there first with the most men,” a mantra of the Civil War, but later came into post-war power as the 1st Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Forrest was self-taught, with no formal education, born in Bedford County, Tennessee. As a self-taught man, Forrest bought and sold farm animals and slaves before acquiring considerable wealth as a cotton planter in Hernando, Mississippi. He was also a very tall man, exceeding 6'2" in height in some reports, and also prone to violence, outside of war.

In 1841 (age 20), he went into business with his uncle in Hernando, Mississippi. His uncle was killed there during an argument with the Matlock brothers. Forrest shot and killed two of them with his two-shot pistol and wounded two others with a knife thrown to him. Ironically, one of the wounded men survived and served under Forrest during the Civil War.[4]

At the outbreak of The Civil War, he raised a cavalry unit (financing it, in part, with a personal fortune estimated a $1,500,000) and, as a then-lieutenant colonel, took part in the defense of Ft. Donelson, Tennessee.

He would be credited for using unique, daring and brilliant cavalry tactics, with his battle at Brice’s Cross Roads, Mississippi, in June 1864, becoming a military model for the mounted U.S. Army for decades.

Though a uniquely competent general, he also engaged in atrocities in ordering his troops to “take no more Negro prisoners” when they assaulted and captured Ft. Pillow. Yet a Congressional investigation committee verified the slaughter of more than 300 black men, women, and children within the fort. (Yet no charges were ever brought by the United States against Forrest.) A list of Forrest's military campaigns.

After the Southern defeat, and the fierce animosity born inside many White Southerners, a “social club” was formed: The Ku Klux Klan.

The 19th-century Klan was originally organized as a social club by Confederate veterans in Pulaski, Tenn., in 1866. They apparently derived the name from the Greek word kyklos, from which comes the English “circle”; “Klan” was added for the sake of alliteration and Ku Klux Klan emerged. The organization quickly became a vehicle for Southern white underground resistance to Radical Reconstruction.

Klan members sought the restoration of white supremacy through intimidation and violence aimed at the newly enfranchised black freedmen, who were now represented in this short-lived new political landscape by U.S. Senator Hiram R. Revels, U.S. Representative Benjamin S. Turner and U.S. Representative Joseph H. Rainey (pictured left), with 19 others elected to the Congress.

In the summer of 1867, the Klan was structured into the “Invisible Empire of the South” at a convention in Nashville, Tennessee, attended by delegates from former Confederate states. The group was presided over by a grand wizard (Forrest) and a descending hierarchy of grand dragons, grand titans, and grand cyclopses. Dressed in robes and sheets designed to frighten superstitious blacks and to prevent identification by the occupying federal troops, Klansmen whipped and killed freedmen and their white supporters in nighttime raids.

Later, Forrest would publicly reject the Klan, ordering it disbanded due to “excessive violence.” Though it is likely he only denounce them after the objectives, white control of Southern assets and political processes returned to “status quo”, were met. (Print Sources: Britannica 2005, World Book 2002, History of the United States by Douglas Brinkley)

These so happen to be some of my roots in my life. That they makeup a part of where and what my family has been does not portend the direction of where and how I will go. (Post hoc ergo propter hoc (“after this, therefore, because of this”), in which something is assumed to be the cause of something else merely because it was antecedent in time.)

Because of my forefathers, including my very own father, that I am assumed or concluded to be lacking of understanding, sensitivity or empathy to the plights of men and women of all races, creeds and proclivities is "wrong-headed."

It is often said, when we are alive, that: “we live in dangerous times.” Each generation has faced particular and peculiar battles – some that are still ongoing, generation to generation, century to century, millennium to millennium – while in the passing down of particular ideas from father-to-son to next son is suppose to be sacrosanct, I tend to believe each person has to decide on his own what is right.

Even our close mentors, a father figure, such as general-turned-President Andrew Jackson was to young and precocious Sam Houston, can fail us in some respects. (Houston could not later be completely agreeable to rounding up of the Cherokee people. He had a lifelong bond to them. It was broken. Yet, he carried forth his marching orders to Texas and defended and respected Jackson.)

I don’t doubt Barack Obama was taken aback by his pastor’s comments. Nearly all of us, has said something (or heard it from a close friend) that could be considered horribly misplaced, unpatriotic or apathetic to the plights of others.

I have. (In a one-to-one context where I made Wright-like proclamations about God Almighty in the context of a horrible rant against a particular person.)
And I was punished for my comments in ways that, given a thorough understanding of the legal process, could be considered a violation of Freedom of Speech. (That does not excuse those words; just a context of what our rights are to be. And sometimes what they are asked to uphold – a greater ideal – over what they might represent to a people, or a person.)
Or as Benjamin Franklin once said, “those that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty or safety.” Franklin who would disowned his own son, William, royal governor of New Jersey, for his Tory leanings during the Revolution.)
(And Even now, Barack Obama's Rights to Privacy have been violated.)

But more to the point, we likely all are an amalgamation of differing religious ideals, belief systems and skin tones.
We are who we are; but not solely that at all.

From my mother’s side, my grandmother was of German stock. My grandfather of English descent, possibly a relative of the Clark family that fought in Revolutionary War era battles against various Indians in Indiana.

From my father’s side, my grandmother was half-Cherokee and Englishwith Houston’s heritage ensconced in that line. My grandfather was of Irish-Dutch-French ancestry yet carried an English “Powers” surname – with some inherent connection to Forrest.

Yet not all of that defines me. It is just a history – fractured sometimes by decisions made, and people destroyed in their plights for rights and right – and it should only go to how far we need to come from defining ourselves by such random instances of blood and brethren.
Or as Barack reminded us of William Faulkner's famous words: "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." (But we are nevertheless left to the ultimate defining of history by the victorious historians, who, don’t always get it right in painting the past.) (Faulker is a favorite author of mine.)

With that said, hopefully, Barack Obama can define his purpose better, or someone else will do it for him. And leaving that, to others, in “their defining,” is a path to oblivion.

He thwarted that, in my opinion, in his speech. Others will forget that.

Friday, March 14, 2008

The Bear is Yet to Come: The U.S. Economy will fall into a Depression

With today's announcement that Bear Stearns, the 5th largest investment bank needed an influx of cash to remain solvent to its outstanding investors/investments, it calls to question: what will happen next?

Bear Stearns, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, Lehman Brothers and Goldman Sachs are the benchmarks for high-yielding banks that produce money/provide liquidity in the Capital markets. If they start to falter, the next group is the commercial banks, which affects all Americans, Europeans and Asia markets.

The signs have been clear: Commodity Prices (Gold, Corn, Wheat, Silver, Oil) are at record highs, Mortgages are failing at huge rates, with ex-Fed Chair Greenspan asleep at the wheel in allowing the housing market to gallop ahead unrestrained, the United States Dollar is at record lows versus the Japanese Yen (99 Yen), Canadian Dollar (1.01), Swiss Franc (0.9987), The Euro (1.567) and to add to that, we are in a economic standstill right now, zero growth.

The United States Economy will trigger larger problems as it continues to pump liquidity into the market via lowering interest rates (expect .75% ease on Tuesday), thus causing the dollar to decrease in value and thus continuing to raise commodity prices, which introduces more inflation into an all ready, dicey situation.

Inflation has been a European concern of utmost importance which is why they have not lower their interest rates in lockstep with the United States. They are uniquely aware of the triggers of the Great Depression, which started in Europe, namely Germany, after WWI.

We are just at the beginning of a major economic shake up. And we have one Presidential candidate, John McCain, who said, "I don't understand the economy..."

Which leads one to wonder, do you want another ill-equipped President running a country in a economic meltdown? What did the Iraqi war gain us in economic terms? (The cost and money spent could have been used better...)

George W. Bush, with a Harvard MBA, has taken us back to the edge of the 1929 October financial meltdown.

He and his policy people pushed for easy/no regs on lending of money to people that should not have ever received a banking loan on a house. These people got over their heads. Then the banks got too tight - on lending, or passed their bad paper on to other banks, and other banks did the same,etc. - and the money has been devalued in the process. Meanwhile, the Fed and Government has done us in with bad policies.

Oil prices are being driven by devaluation of currency. Your money is buying less and less - and the problem is spreading to corporations that are cutting jobs - as Ford, Chrysler, GM and other big manufacturing are reducing their forecasts but cannot lower prices, while those that do overseas business are doing ok or better. So, not all is lost.

So, I am sounding the alarm on the 1MC: "start preparing for a long downturn in the U.S. Economy. Expect prices to rise 20, 30 and 50% above today's rate. And get your money out of risky investment vehicles. Hedge funds are the first to go. Stock up on staples. Get prepared for more bad news..."

Predicting another Great Depression is sometimes a self-fulfilling prophecy. But the government as currently constituted is not going to save you or me. "Let them eat cake," is their mantra.

I have made numerous posts on the American Economy prior to this, which means I have been paying attention longer than just today...so, though this is radical to say "Depression," in 12-18 months, it may "bear" itself out.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Police Songs: For a blogger that voted for me

Just because I am a big Police fan, I will post a few songs by The Police and Sting. I can remember getting Message in a Box, the entire catalog of Police songs, and thinking, "I'll never sell this." Well, I fell on hard times, and sold about 400 CDs and over 400 tapes. I needed money. However, before I did, I did save them on my laptop, that which I could. (Now, the laptop crashed...haven't listen those 1,200 plus songs in over a year.)

Well here are the Videos/Songs I like:
Too Much Information

Englishman in New York

Demolition Man (In Chile, 1982)

The Soul Cages

Invisible Sun (with Bono, live at Giants Stadium)

Tea in the Sahara (live)

If you Love Somebody, Set Them Free (Dream of The Blue Turtles)

Of course I could put Every Breath, Message, Roxanne, Spirits, Fields of Gold, and plenty of others on the list, but I just gave my oddball favorites.

Thanks Cooper! Easiest Post I've Done!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Howl: I Hear America Singing

Since we last left this blog, in a state of disarray and political dire straits, I haven't gotten it right inside. So instead of boring you with my pedagogical and pedantic rants of disillusionment, I mashed together two poets of note: not Starsky & Hutch. (Ginsberg and Whitman (pictured left))

I am no expert on their writings. Not some scholar bent on the critique and disection of their works. I just think most Americans should know who they are.

I got most of my positive innoculation to their writing well after college. I was an Engineering major, which meant my typical semester course schedule included Thermodynamics, Differential Calculus, Operations Research, Linear Programming in C and Egyptian History. I took one English class and a Com class in my 5-year plan not worked out by Stalin.

But back to the show!

Walt Whitman. I Sing the Body Electric! The title was added after the original publication - as was the line. I Hear America Singing is usually thought of as his best work. Patriotic. Workman like with the toils of Americans at their best.

I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear, ...
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work,
or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day—at night the party of young fellows,
robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.

Meanwhile, a century later, Ginsberg stood the conventions of the time on ear with a Howl! Again, another potrait of America in my uneducated view:
I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix, angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,...
Peyote solidities of halls, backyard green tree cemetery dawns, wine drunkenness over the rooftops, storefront boroughs of teahead joyride neon blinking trafficlight, sun and moon and tree vibrations in the roaring winter dusks of Brooklyn, ashcan rantings and kind king light of mind,
who chained themselves to subways for the endless ride from Battery to holy Bronx on benzedrine until the noise of wheels and children brought them down shuddering mouth-wracked and battered bleak of brain all drained of brilliancein the drear light of Zoo,
who sank all night in the submarine light of Bickford's, floated out and satthrough the stale beer afternooon in desolate Fugazzi's, listening to the crackof doom on the hydrogen jukebox,...
It goes on for quite a while like that...reciting it would be a bitch, unless you were on some sort of 'happy pills.'
Ginsberg used a a repetitive style, like Mr. Whitmans, likely borrowed. Repeating the line introduction, nearly the same cadence always - with poetic quirks - and describing as good or as bad as we have it in America.
Seeing the world either as positive or as negative, as crass or as saintly, as to men could.
I got no more time today!!! I'll see you next week!!!
AUDI 5000!!!!

Monday, March 3, 2008

R.I.P. : Netscape goes to The Tech Great Beyond

Netscape is officially a dead end as a technology platform, as it will no longer be supported. (Picture above is from blog.wired.com.) I came into knowledge of the internet via Netscape and Mosaic browsers. (Picture below left is from browsersheritage.com.)
In 1993, while at Purdue University, I spent an inordinate amount of time in Grissom Hall doing web searches on Mosaic, an NCSA platform, while learning little or no code, but downloading alot of worthless information. "Back in the day", my account limit on this information to store on the local university server was like 10-20MB. I, personally, didn't own a 386 or 486 Intel at 25-75 MHZ, nor could I get a baude rate above 9600 KB/sec. But it was fun, nonetheless.

I chatted often with a college girl, Jennifer Hollingsworth, who went to Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania in 1995 while in that same Grissom computer lab. We'd kill hours of time, talking about school (more her schooling than mine), discussing politics (which I knew nothing of) or relationships (ours, friends or families.) Probably for 3+ months, we racked up close to 250 hours of chat room time, all for free. The internet was good.
(Though this relationship ended over whether I would visit her in Pennsylvania - I would have, but I was broke - and the fact she pulled a 2.0 in that semester, honors student, mind you, thus pissing her family off to undoubtedly no end. She cut me off before I could either apologize appropriately or fix what I fucked up...pardon the language.)

While I was screwing the pooch of on-line relationships, Netscape took over from Mosaic as the browser software of choice, in my opinion, during the mid-to-late 1990's. But that was soon to be a thing of the past as Internet Explorer took over dominance, thanks to good ole Microsoft.

As blog.wired.com suggests:

Netscape released its browser’s source code and created the Mozilla project in
1998. AOL then acquired Netscape in 1999. Recognizing that
Netscape got some things right and others wrong, Blake Ross and some of his
developer friends branched off to create Firefox, which for all
practical purposes is the current incarnation of Netscape. Many believe the original Netscape died with the AOL purchase.
Since then, the web
browser scene has been rife with change — Mozilla gave way to the leaner, faster
Firefox and Apple developed its own Safari browser — and Netscape’s browser has
been rendered largely irrelevant. Indeed, as AOL's director of the Netscape brand Tom Drapeau points out, his team has failed to put a dent in IE’s dominance, and the latest release of the Netscape browser is simply “a skinned version of Firefox with a few extensions.”

I didn't give way to Internet Explorer - using Netscape until probably 2000-1 - but I was different anyways: I didn't own my very own computer until 2001. (My aunt bought one in 1999, but never used it, never knew how, so, I generally kept it updated with software or moved my files via the old 1.3 MB disks...yikes!)

I would also go to Kinko's to do my interneting then. (I was making good money, then, but not thinking very smart - except that a Kinko's girl would usually let me work over Kinko's for nearly no charge.) She was a very nice person - but unavailable, in that sense.

AOL hadn't been a dial-up of choice until I got that 1st computer in January 2001. (I figured those handy drink coasters (those disks) had to have something on them, so, why not?) After only 3 months, I wasn't interested in AOL anymore. I did Compuserve for awhile (after a stint in the Westville Hilton) using, "AOLSUCKS" as my password.

AOL /Time Warner deal (picture from webcomicbattle.com) has turned into the biggest joke. The relevancy of both corporations has diminished to the point that I really don't know what either one (as if they are seperate) is doing.. this after being one of the largest mergers in American history. (And, at the time, the dot.com bubble had not burst.)

Meanwhile, Netscape, the initiator of this story has gone to moth balls. 14 years it took to go from new kid, to industry leader, to struggling competitor to bad platform, to defunct/obsolete program.

This mirrors often how I feel: in 1993, life was looking better. I was young, impressionable, quick to act, and had ideas for the future. After graduation in 1996, my path seemed set to go - I could make some hey, drive towards new heights, maybe innovate something. By 2001, the wheels were tettering on a precipice of legal malaise. And, in 2008, I feel quite defunct and outdated.

We might all have to die - figuratively - a 1,000 deaths before we get it right. As browsers now are nothing more than 1st generation access points to others in the world. As all the applications on Iphones, blackberries and Steve Jobs-only-knows-what-else come to fruition, we see things get replaced, get outdated or wither away in this tech world. (Ms. Pacman, Nintendo box, Atari 2600 for pictured examples.)

To go beyond, as we approach 2012, the Mayan's end of celestial time, we might see the future as not so bright.

The intrusions into people's lives are becoming more pronounced, more impassioned by a less-than-enlighted society that hasn't understood technology from the git go. The governments learn from people they wouldn't hire 25 years ago - even though these nerds could hack their mainframes, and essentially disrupt commerce, the most important aspect of technology today, money flow, in the time it took most of the nerd herd to masturbate over some floozy they can't get nanoseconds from. This manipulatory fact has hastened the demise of individual freedoms, just ask your government, if you can.

The death of one technology or platform only gives rise to another with faster transistors, more complex algorithms and more uses by us, the consumer, but less understanding, by us, the controlled. The entertainment value alone made it that easy; seeing what the TV has done, the computer became like an uber cocaine to people without personal connections. Governments caught on, and we serve them, now, more than ever.

Hopefully, this tour down my memory lane, through the technology life cycle will remind you that you are the most advanced system ever developed - so don't be a slave to a box constructed by others, like you. Be your own system - and update, revamp and design for the future. Or you'll likely be another defunct person walking around.


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Mildred Clark (nee Koepl): 16 Years ago today

I really did not want to write this post. Not due to any ill will at all. Quite, quite the contrary. I loved my grandmother so much. It is just that in remembering that it's been 16 years since she past, it reminds me of what has gone on, what she would be saying if she had lived through to see the tumultuous situations I got into, and where her daughters are today in their lives that depresses so.

She was a tough-minded, work-till-you-sleep, never-pulled-any-punches type. She was of German descent - so, that explains a lot of that. She worked from age 10 onward; grew up on a farm in Wisconsin, cooking for 20-30 hands on a farm in her early years. She drove the tractor around before she could really legally drive - and continued to drive without a license later on in life from 1962-1992. She was stubborn that way.
Her older sister commited suicide at age 17. I can't image what Milly felt about that. It wasn't a subject discussed in great detail. She carried on, doing whatever it took to make it best for herself.

She met my grandfather, William, after WWII when her family moved south to Dyer, Indiana. They were fixed up by friends of theirs - though I don't think those friends were around much after that. During a baseball game at old Comiskey Park where a fresh-from-the-fighting Ted Williams was leading the Boston Red Sox, they fell in love, almost literally - with my grandfather trying to catch a foul liner hit by Teddy Ballgame down the 1st base line. He dove over my grandmother and got a bruised hand and a wife in the process.

They married on February 18, 1950 in Niles, Michigan. For some crazy reason, which I believe had to do with Grandma's mother's disapproval, they drove up to Michigan in a snow storm. The story related was that Mildred gave my grandpa an ultimatum : either that day or forget it. They started out their marriage $75 in the hole - the cost of the justice of the peace.

Unlike others in the 1950's, they had a difficult time. At one point, they were living out of their car while letting their daughters stay with relatives or friends at the time. My grandpa was undereducated - 9th grade was his last year - so, that might of been part of it. He did finally get on track in construction and worked in the mills for 25 years. But whatever the fallout was from that period, my grandmother lost her own mother's love, what little likely existed before that. As a result, for the last 30 years of her life, Mildred didn't speak to most of her family, and never to her mother again.

By 1968, my grandmother was well entrenched in the housecleaning/janitorial business. She did that for the remainder of her life. She cleaned the Lowell Public Library (I write from the new one) for 20 years - passing away 4 months after the new one opened. During the mid-1980's, I would go to the old library, push mow the 3/4 acre grounds and saw grandma during various stages of getting the library cleaned from stem-to -stern. I enjoyed this - I liked trying to give her a break, getting her to talk about sports, especially those Cubbies, who she came to mock after their inglorious 1969 season. I thought she was wrong, but alas, it has been 100 years since those Northsiders have done it right.

She would do anything for me - college, for one, she assisted me financially more than I really know - and I think saw what she and grandpa wanted in a son they didn't have...maybe.

When the doctor diagnosed her with cancer in late 1991, it was too late. She had hid the fact she had been bleeding for months - she hated doctors, I suppose for the reasons most give and the fact she lost husband to cancer - and it had spread from the uterus to her liver.

On the day she passed, the doctor was in North Carolina on the links. I remember seeing her take her final breath and just going nuts. I stormed out of the room, pushing my aunt and mother aside. I slung a food tray down the hall watching peas scatter like marbles all over the place. A nurse or CNA screamed something incoherently as I went to the elevator, then I turned and said to her: "Shut...your...mouth...bitch!!!" And I got in the elevator as mad as I have ever been in my life.
My mother and I had drove up seperately that night. I had my grandparents old 1967 Electra 225. This car had plenty to give under the hood; I nearly had an accident one time at age 17 in a McDonald's parking lot when the accelerator got stuck as I pulled away from the drive-thru. It took a miracle for me to stop the car before I roared out onto the main road in Lowell.
But that night, I was all for speed. I got into that 2-ton monster with one intent: to see how far I could push my luck. I tore out of that parking lot looking for a sitdown with God I think . The old ambulance route is a winding road with a speed limit of 40MPH. It has one stretch where you might be able to get up to 80 MPH and hold it on the road. I wasn't interested.
Before I could think clearly, I buried the needle beyond 120. I took a curve at probably 95 MPH, using as much skill as sure luck to keep it on the road. I managed to come to my senses as I reached a T in the road.

I stopped and cried.

(That was the last time that car saw a speed over 60. We sold it 6 months later...)

My grandmother hasn't yet received her headstone due to finances. My grandfather got his from his Naval service. Every year, I put two quarters on that stone - my grandmother kept coins prior to 1964 since they actually contained silver - in remembrance of this profitable quirk. She kept a huge change purse - I think we counted out $58 in coinage upon her death. And she had another $550 dollars, all prior to 1964, upstairs in her room. (Of course, that got spent by her oldest...)

I would have posted a picture - and I will (March 3, 2008)- but I didn't think I would write this post. It just didn't know what would be best.

Thinking of you grandma Clark!