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Archive for September, 2008

Weekend Reading, Volume 14

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My allergies were acting up last weekend—I’m feeling much better now, thanks!—so this is a jumbo, post-sickness edition.  Here’s some of what I’ve been interested in the past two weeks.

  • We all know, of course, that flying isn’t as glamorous as it once was.  Or at all.  A NYT columnist, Michelle Higgins, served as a flight attendant on a busy day; the resulting piece is a must-read for frequent air travelers.  Also, spare a thought for the veteran flight attendant.  Says one: [W]e used to serve omelets and crepes for breakfast, and now it’s ‘Would you like to buy stackable chips or a big chocolate chip cookie for $3?’ (Be sure to check out the slideshow and first-person audio narrative that accompany the piece, too).
  • French researchers claim that the spread of the Roman Empire helps explain why persons in some regions are more vulnerable today to HIV.  According to the researchers, Roman soldiers probably carried a disease that was especially potent to persons carrying a particular gene, the CCR5-Delta32 variant.  Today, ironically, that gene variant is known to provide some protection against HIV.  In areas that were within the Empire for the longest time, the frequency of the gene is now only 0-6%.  In areas at the fringes of the Empire, the frequency is 8-11.8%.  And in areas outside the Empire, the frequency is still higher.
  • Where are all the fireflies going? Their numbers seem to be decreasing around the world.  How depressing!  I’m a big fan.  In the summer, my grandparents’ house would sometimes just be swimming in lightning bugs, and the grandkids, including me, would run around among them.  Many years later, when I was a poor grad student in Ohio, I’d pass the summer evenings by sitting on my second-floor balcony, watching all the fireflies.  It was so peaceful.
  • A British supermarket chain is giving into some cranky wordsmiths: It’s changing its express-aisle “10 items or less” signs to “10 items or fewer” notices.  I don’t think there’s much difference here in the States anymore between the two constructions.  But if you want to be fussy, here’s a primer.
  • Chrome, Google’s new browser, debuted on September 2, and I was immediately smitten.  The NYT had a good early review.  I especially like Chrome’s minimalist look and the way it allows me to visit my favorite sites by simply clicking on a thumbprint when the browser opens.  I’m pretty committed to Firefox, but Chrome may give it a run for my loyalty.  I’m probably apt to go with the one that uses the least of my precious memory….
  • You’d think a NYT article headlined “Vanishing Barns Signal a Changing Iowa” would actually contain more news and photos of old barns!  But the article is much more interested in detailing the rural-to-urban shift in Iowa.  I enjoyed the article, but I really want to know about the barns.  (The article did lead me to the website for the National Barn Alliance, which seems to be a worthy cause.)
  • Some silly ads in Vogue India depict the poorest of people carrying seriously high-end accessories.  Ugh.

Written by Jimmy

September 14th, 2008 at 4:01 pm

Philadelphia Phillies 7, Milwaukee Brewers 3

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I was at the ballpark again this afternoon for the Phillies’ 7-3 win over the Brewers.  Yes, the Phils actually won a game I attended!  Novel, huh?  The Phillies scored early and often, and I was never too worried about the outcome.  I got to focus just on Being (capital-B intended; props to Martin Heidegger, I suppose) at the ballpark.

Today’s Ballpark Experience™ included quite a few calories, I have to say.  For the first time this season, I started things off with The Schmitter.  The Schmitter is a sort of revved-up cheesesteak, featuring three layers of cheese, tomato, steak (duh), some mysteriously delicious sauce, and fried salami.  I felt like I’d swallowed an anchor—a really, really delicious anchor.  That didn’t stop me, though, from having my Citizens Bank Park usuals: crab fries from Chickie’s & Pete’s, washed down with Victory Hop Devil.

I won’t be needing any dinner, thanks.  Or breakfast tomorrow.  Ugh.

This afternoon’s game was the next-to-last in the 15-game package I purchased.  At this point, the seats around mine are filled with people who seem familiar.  Yet I really only know the tiniest bit about these people I’ve seen so frequently over the past few months.  The two women in front of me work together.  They sit next to the man—I think of him as Red Ballcap Guy—who usually attends with his wife or a friend.  On the other side of the two women are young lovebirds, totally into baseball and one another.

At today’s game, some of my section’s stalwarts were missing.  The couple who usually sits right behind me was among them.  But the father-in-law, who occasionally subs for the wife, was there—ready to tell me that the kids were vacationing abroad.  We wondered aloud about another couple that we’d never before seen miss.  And he mentioned how surprised the son-in-law was one night—during a recent Mets game, actually—when I left before the end of the ninth inning.  (Feeble Excuse: I thought the Mets had it well in hand, and I had to get up early the next day.)  “He always stays until the end,” the son-in-law said.  Wow, I’ve made an impression, I guess, and, suprisingly, it didn’t involve only the series of handsome men I’ve been trying to faux-date at the ballpark (although I bet that has been noticed!).

In the Big City, it’s nice to find a sense of community, however shallow, here and there.

Written by Jimmy

September 13th, 2008 at 11:07 pm

Posted in Sports

Florida Marlins 10, Philadelphia Phillies 8

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Dateless, I schlepped out to the ballpark last night to see the Phils take on the Marlins.  What a bizarre game!  Starting pitcher Kyle Kendrick, in what was surely the worst start of his young-ish major league career, gave up seven(!) runs in one-and-a-third innings.  The performance was shockingly bad.  Boos rained down on Kendrick as he left the mound.  Even for a boo-friendly city like Philly, the noise was striking.

I didn’t boo, though.  Sure, Kendrick’s not doing his job effectively lately.  But it’s obvious he’s trying.  It’s obvious he wants to be pitching well.  I might boo apathy, but I’m not going to boo “mere” incompetence.

After Kendrick’s removal from the game, manager Charlie Manuel put in J.A. Happ.  The Phillies probably intended to save Happ for Thursday’s game against the Brewers (the team is in a bit of a bind in pitching because of a Sunday doubleheader forced by Saturday’s rain-out).  So Kendrick’s poor pitching caused the team to put Thursday’s game in jeopardy.  Ay, caramba.  (Indeed, as it turns out, the Phillies must use 45-year-old Jamie Moyer on Thursday on only three days’ rest.)

Despite going down 7-1, and then 9-1, the Phillies made a run for it.  Ryan Howard led a three-run charge in the fourth inning with a homerun.  And in a very exciting sixth inning, the Phillies scored four more runs, with hits by serveral different players.  In the end, though, the Phils couldn’t quite get back what Kendrick gave up.  The final score was 10-8.

The loss combined with, darn it, a Mets win left the Phillies two-and-a-half games behind the Mets in the standings.  It’s small consolation, but the Brewers—who currently lead the race for the wild card—did lose.  After the good year the Phillies have had, it’ll be a real shame if they don’t manage to make the playoffs.  Ugh.

Written by Jimmy

September 10th, 2008 at 5:35 pm

Posted in Sports