Category Archives: Beyond

Joy Even in Times of Loss

As the song sung by Charlie Brown and his friends goes, Christmas time is here. Or at least it will be here tomorrow.

And while there is certainly happiness and cheer, as well as snowflakes in the air in certain parts of the world during Christmas time, for many people this marks the first Christmas without a loved one.

This is the position that I find myself in following the death of my Grandmother in November.

While I knew that my Grandmother was gone, I was reminded again last Sunday that this would be the first Christmas without her when I was tidying up my desk and came across a pile of Christmas cards from last year. Among the cards in the pile was one from my Grandmother.

I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss. Photo R. Anderson

I recently found the last Christmas card my Grandmother sent me which served as a reminder to find joy even in times of loss.
Photo R. Anderson

While more and more people are choosing electronic ways to send Christmas greetings, my Grandmother, who never owned a computer, never sent a Christmas tweet, nor posted anything other than framed pictures on her “wall,” always sent a traditional Christmas card with the help of the United States Postal Service.

As I was reading the card from last year I realized that for the first time since I could remember there would not be any more Christmas cards from her.

While I was saddened by this thought at first, I looked at the card again and saw two doves and the word joy on it.

The stack of cards has been on my desk for nearly a year but by going through them this past weekend I was reminded from beyond the grave to have joy for the season despite the feeling of loss.

While I was thinking about my Grandmother Sunday, I remembered that I was to attend my final holiday concert of the season that evening and needed to decide what I would wear.

As part of my preparations for being a pall bearer at my Grandmother’s funeral I bought a new suit jacket since I had increased in circumference since the last time I wore a suit.

The black suit jacket I found was both stylish and befitting my circumference to allow me to join my cousins in our official duties at the funeral.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there.

Since returning from the funeral in November my suit jacket has sat neglected and alone in a dark closet devoid of purpose aside from striking up conversations with the other jackets that are also hanging in there. Photo R. Anderson

Now I know that my suit jacket is just thread and material so any anthropomorphic tendencies to believe that it has feelings of its own would be futile. Instead, it was me who needed to have a better memory of wearing the suit beyond my Grandmother’s funeral.

So I decided that I would wear the suit to put a bow on my final holiday concert of the season so to speak and in a way bring my Grandmother along in spirit as well.

As I was driving to the concert in my spiffy suit and tie I realized that I was hungry and should probably eat something before the concert.

I decided to go to Dairy Queen, which as coincidence would have it was a favorite of my Grandmother’s, and upon walking through the door I heard a small child say to his parents, “Wow, he sure got dressed up to get ice cream.”

The joke was on the child though since I did not in fact order ice cream and had a steak finger basket instead. But yes I was probably a little overdressed for the Dairy Queen.

As it turned out I may have been slightly overdressed for the concert as well as I was one of the few people wearing a suit who was not part of the performance, but it still felt nice to dress up.

I am glad that I decided to wear the suit to the concert to add a new memory that did not involve a funeral and carrying my Grandmother’s casket.

Beyond the Christmas card encouraging me to approach the season with joy, I will continue to remember my Grandmother in many other ways in the coming years including when I watch her beloved Atlanta Braves play or whenever I am shelling pecans. I am blessed to have decades of memories of my Grandmother to call upon to help through any sad times that may arise.

Memories are certainly powerful things to be cherished. Or as Paul Simon would say, “preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go hang my stocking by the chimney with care. Merry Christmas to one and all.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Holiday Shopping Made Easy

If you happen to be reading this on the day that it was written, it means that you only have three shopping days left until Christmas.

Of course if you are reading this after Christmas, consider this an early reminder to get started on shopping for next year.

Much like there are different types of philosophies regarding whether it is best to build a baseball roster through free agency or through the farm system, there are also different schools of thought on how to best tackle Christmas shopping.

For some people, Christmas shopping involves battling the crowds at the stores the day after Thanksgiving in search of the best Black Friday deals.

Lines of toy soldiers were the only lines I wanted to see this Christmas season.  Photo R. Anderson

Lines of toy soldiers were the only lines I wanted to see this Christmas season.
Photo R. Anderson

For others, Christmas shopping is a mad dash to find items at the last minute as if the other 364 days of the year were not good enough to shop on.

My style of Christmas shopping has varied through the years although I am pleased to say I was never a buy everything the day before kind of shopper or a get up before the sun for Black Friday kind of shopper.

While the methods have fluctuated, the common denominator through all of my shopping usually involved me trying to avoid crowds at all costs and be done as early as possible.

Usually the crowd avoiding version of shopping involved going to stores at off hours when the bulk of the world was either at work or asleep.

This style of crowd avoidance shopping was very easy to accomplish when I used to work the night shift at newspapers.

However, once I switched over to a more standard day time work schedule I found that I no longer had the advantage of shopping when others were not around.

This year I decided to try an entirely new way to Christmas shop and fully embraced shopping online as a way to spread Christmas cheer.

One side effect of buying all of one's Christmas gifts online is that a lot of boxes are generated. Photo R. Anderson

One side effect of buying all of one’s Christmas gifts online is that a lot of boxes are generated.
Photo R. Anderson

While I had certainly experimented with buying a few gifts online over the years, this was the first yule tide season when more gifts came through the mail than through me walking through a brick and mortar big box retailer.

On the surface shopping online seemed like the perfect solution for avoiding the crowds, while allowing me the convenience to shop at the hour of my choosing without needing to worry about how crowded the store was going to be.

With my handy laptop and the whole wide internet a mere mouse click away, I proceeded to click my way through my Christmas shopping list over the course of an hour or so.

Instead of being limited to what was in the stores within driving distance, I was able to pick and choose from a variety of items which could not be found near me.

During this online shopping bonanza I also discovered the joy of winning auctions on EBay, but that is a column unto itself for a later time.

The only downside to online shopping was the fact that unlike a brick and mortar shopping trip where I leave with the goods as soon as they are paid for, with online shopping I had to wait for the goods to be delivered to my door.

While I have worked hard through the years at being a more patient person, the sad fact is I still can be a very impatient person at times.

This patience is definitely tested when shopping online and having to wait a varying number of days for items to arrive depending on which region of the country they were departing from.

Actor James Doohan is best known for playing Montgomery Scott, aka Scotty, on <em>Star Trek</em>. Among his duties was beaming up away teams from alien planets. A transporter sure would make shopping online faster.<br /> Photo R. Anderson

Actor James Doohan is best known for playing Montgomery Scott, aka Scotty, on Star Trek. Among his duties was beaming up away teams from alien planets. A transporter sure would make shopping online faster.
Photo R. Anderson

In a perfect world items purchased online would instantly appear via some sort of “Beam me up Scotty” transporter system.

Order the item, pay for the item, and within seconds see the item appear on your mini transporter pad or replicator device faster than you can say, “make it so.”

Of course the world we live in does not include transporters and in home replicators. Although Amazon is looking into the use of drones and one hour delivery in some markets which will certainly lessen the wait time for those online goodies.

Another obstacle I discovered as a result of my conversion to shopping online was the package pickup stage of the transaction.

While I was free to order items at any time of the day or night, I was only able to pick up the packages during the hours that the community center of my apartment complex was open.

This led to me making daily trips after work to rescue my goodies from the clutches of the parcel closet which basically was like a day care for boxes waiting for their owners to come and get them.

Much like the guy that wears the red suit this time of year, the online buying experience also led to me creating a list and check it twice to track the anticipated and actual arrivals of each package to ensure that no gift was left behind in closet of misfit gifts. I also kept in virtual contact with my shipments through text messages and emails that informed me of where my package was in its journey.

While there was some concern that a package or two might get delayed along the way, thankfully all of the items arrived before Christmas and are wrapped and awaiting their recipients.

So while there were certainly some pros to an all online form of shopping, the jury is still out on whether I will continue to embrace that form of holiday commerce next year, or if I will return to once again braving the crowds in the stores.

Of course we may all be shopping by transporter or 3D printer next year.

I won’t be holding my breath on that though since I am still waiting on that personal jet pack and moon base that I was led to believe would have arrived by now.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for some holiday ham.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

The United States to Normalize Cuban Relations after Nearly 60 Years

The other day it was announced that after the United States would seek to normalize relations with Cuba after nearly 60 years of trade embargoes and other restrictions that have made it difficult for the average American to travel to the nation 90 miles south of Florida.

The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.

I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.

Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Photo R. Anderson

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, for me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smoke filled rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.

I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.

I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.

I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.

I had always held out hope that the embargo would be lifted during my lifetime so that I could visit all of the sights and sounds of the island mentioned above and now it appears to be the case.

Of course normalizing relations with Cuba, and opening up a United States Embassy on the island, takes time and certain travel restrictions will still be in place for the foreseeable future so a trip to ring in the new year on Cuban soil is out of the question at this time. But it does seem closer to becoming a reality today than it did before the President’s announcement.

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.  Photo R. Anderson. Photo R. Anderson

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.
Photo R. Anderson.

Make no mistake there are serious issues that still need to be resolved in Cuba and lifting an embargo that was either effective, or ineffective, depending on what side of the fence you are on, is merely the first of many steps.

The news of normalized relations was met with both elation and protests within the Cuban American communities of Florida.

Throughout the embargo many people have risked their lives to escape Cuba and build a better life for themselves and their families in America. Countless more lost their lives making the journey or were intercepted and sent back to Cuba.

The issues that led to those harrowing water crossings will not change overnight and should not be forgotten. But, normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States could lead to grass roots changes that take shape in the decades to come.

Another huge issue with the announcement that has yet to be fully fleshed out as a result of the open relations with Cuba is the impact on Major League Baseball.

Shortly after the President announced the change in posture with Cuba, Major League Baseball issued a statement of its own stating in part that they were actively monitoring the situation and would respond when appropriate.

Just as I am sure there are regular citizens on both sides of the issue of opening relations with Cuba I am sure there are people in the ranks of baseball that are on both sides of the issue as well Cuban.

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams.
Photo R. Anderson

For years baseball players from Cuba have risked their lives and left their families behind defecting in hope of finding greener pastures elsewhere. And while it has become easier for MLB teams to sign Cuban player over the past couple of years there are still hurdles that only impact Cuban players.

It is entirely possible with the normalized relations that Major League Baseball teams will set up academies in Cuba similar to the ones that are in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries to evaluate international talent.

Major League Baseball has a history in Cuba with the Giants, Dodgers and Pirates all having held their Spring Training camps in Havana at one time or another. Additionally, the Havana Sugar Kings were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds from 1954 to 1960.

After a 40-year absence Major League Baseball made a brief return to Cuba in 1999 when the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team played an exhibition game in the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. The Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings.

With many issues left to resolve it will likely be years before the floodgates open wide to Cuban players leading to additional competition to be one of only 1200 players to be on one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams’ roster.

Realistically in the near term, it will be far more likely that one will still need to travel to Cuba to see a roster filled with Cuban baseball players. A day will likely come though when almost every team in the Major Leagues has some sort of Cuban influence.

Of course the Cuban influence I would most like to see return to American Ballparks is some good quality Cuban pork. Are you listening Minute Maid Park?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try and find an authentic Cuban sandwich.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Violent Protests Have No Place in Sports or in Life

The other day protests turned to riots in Missouri following the release of a grand jury decision.

While I am certainly glad to live in a society where one is free to peacefully protest through civil disobedience when they disagree on an issue, I have never understood why some protests turn against their own community.

For much of Monday night images on television showed burning police cars and buildings as well as reports of gunfire and items being thrown at members of law enforcement and the media.

Surely this is not what is meant by peaceful civil disobedience.

It is likely that a small minority of protestors escalated things to the level of violence so any generalizations about the behavior of all of the protestors would be false. Sadly, the actions of the few far out shadow any peaceful message that the many may have been trying to share.

When the dust settles it is the images of the burning police cars and buildings that most people will remember more than any peaceful demonstration that may have occurred.

Of course protests and riots are not limited to issues pertaining to the courts and government. The world of sports is full of examples of times where fans riot in the streets following either a win or a loss.

Baseball and hockey fans have been known to take to the streets and tip over cars and start fires following championship wins or in some cases losses by their teams.

In the world of football, fans have been known to charge the field of play and tear down the goalposts as part of a celebration.

Of course when it comes to the biggest riots in sports that honor tends to fall to soccer teams where riots in the stands have turned violent and even caused deaths in some cases.

In each of these sports related riots innocent victims were affected and large costs to property were incurred.

While it is unlikely that the students of Rice University will ever tear down a goalpost. In October both of the goalposts at Ole Miss were torn down by fans celebrating a victory over Alabama. According to published reports, replacing both goalposts cost $11,000 each. Additionally the fan incursion onto the field drew a $50,000 fine from the Southeastern Conference on top of $3,000 for miscellaneous repairs that were also needed. The total cost of the fan riot was $75,000. Photo R. Anderson

While it is unlikely that the students of Rice University will ever tear down a goalpost. In October both of the goalposts at Ole Miss were torn down by fans celebrating a victory over Alabama. According to published reports, replacing both goalposts cost $11,000 each.
Photo R. Anderson

In October both of the goalposts at Ole Miss were torn down by fans celebrating a victory over Alabama. According to published reports, replacing both goalposts cost $11,000 each.

Additionally the fan incursion onto the field drew a $50,000 fine from the Southeastern Conference on top of $3,000 for miscellaneous repairs that were also needed. The total cost of the fan riot was $75,000.

Alumni of Ole Miss set up a collection site and raised over $85,000 to cover the repairs and new goalposts so the University did not have to pay for the conduct of the fans but the fact remains celebrating a win by tearing down goalposts should not be allowed, even if the Alumni are willing to pay for it.

Of course the cost of replacing two goalposts is nothing compared to the costs that have been incurred by the riots of Missouri. While goalposts can be replaced within a matter of days the damage of one violent night in Missouri will take months, if not years, to repair.

With at least a dozen businesses burned to the ground, and others falling victim to looting, there is a very real cost being felt by the owners of those businesses.

Unlike the big time colleges who have Alumni willing to write a check for a new goalpost without blinking, many small business owners have their entire life savings tied up in a business to the point that even the slightest disruption in sales can have devastating impacts.

Aside from the small business owners being affected by the actions of a select few trouble makers, employees of those burned businesses are also affected and could see their incomes disappear.

History is full of examples of riots such as the one in Missouri and there will likely be another event in the future that will lead to protests such as the ones taking place this week.

That is part of the freedom Americans have. We are given free speech and the ability to show are displeasure with things in a way that very few other countries have.

But there are limits to the protection of free speech. Just as it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire it is also illegal to burn buildings and other property as a form of protest.

The violence and destruction over the past few days takes away from those members of society who are trying to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard.

Regardless of whether one agrees with the protesters or not one should agree that they have the right to demonstrate within the boundaries of the law.

It is when those protests fall outside the boundaries of the law that action must be taken to ensure that innocent people are not harmed.

So the next time your team wins that huge upset victory, celebrate the win from your seat and leave the goalpost firmly planted in the ground.

Also, continue to protest for causes if you are so inclined, but keep the protest peaceful so that innocent victims are not impacted.

The current protests in Missouri will end at some point and the impacted businesses will either be rebuilt or will relocate.

But there will still be scars below the surface just as there are with any riot.

The key is to let the scars serve as a reminder that can be learned from so that the events are not repeated.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for a weekend of Thanksgiving football and food.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Day Set Aside to Honor Those Who Have Served, Sacrificed

Tomorrow is the eleventh day of the eleventh month, also known as November 11th. Tomorrow is also a day set aside as Veteran’s Day in America.

The holiday got its start on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, when an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War.

Commemorated as Armistice Day beginning in 1919, November 11th became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938.

In the aftermath of World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day was renamed Veterans Day, and became a holiday dedicated to American veterans of all wars.

So while November 11th has long been a day set aside to honor the service and sacrifice of the men and women who have served in the armed forces to protect the freedoms that we all enjoy, the way to honor those troops has changed in many ways through the years.

Americans still put out their flags on this holiday. Some towns still hold parades and the banks and post office are still closed.

The honoring of veterans has moved into the nation’s sporting events as well allowing thousands of people to celebrate and remember in mass.

Large American Flags have long beena tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute let a sour taste however. Photo R. Anderson

Large American Flags have long been a tradition at sporting events. This past weekend stadiums across the country honored Veterans and America with flags and tributes. One tribute left a sour taste however.
Photo R. Anderson

Watch almost any sporting event over the past weekend and there were displays of patriotism and honoring of the troops as far as the eye could see.

As troops have not always received warm welcomes on the home front it was especially nice to see how the men and women of the armed services are respected and appreciated for their sacrifice.

So, on this Veteran’s Day if you see a soldier, make sure you thank them for their service which makes your freedom possible.

For that matter thank a veteran any time you happen to cross paths with them since thanks should not be limited to a single day of the year.

And if you see an athlete wearing camouflage know that their heart is likely in the right place. But try not to go out and buy the same camouflage cap they are wearing since there was a price paid and a sacrifice made every day by thousands of Americans in that pattern and wearing that comes with a willingness to make the ultimate sacrifice for your country.

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy's Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events. Players wearing camouflage, not so much. Photo R. Anderson

Flyovers such as this one by the United States Navy’s Blue Angels are perfectly good at sporting events.
Photo R. Anderson

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a flag to place on the patio

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Latest Leaks Shoot Holes in the Cloud

Over the Labor Day weekend a hacker released dozens of photos taken from various celebrity’s personnel databases exposing a vulnerability in the move to cloud based data storage.

Victims of the hacking ranged from singers to models to actresses to athletes.

Within hours of the release the internet was abuzz with news of the latest celebrity hacking with some people denying that the photos were them and others admitting that the photos were of them and threatening legal action for their release.

Of course once anything is let out of the internet bag and released for all to see it never really goes away and can be found in some dark corner somewhere meaning that the violation of privacy never really goes away.

Among the victims of the release was Detroit Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander who is now facing questions about photos with his girlfriend, Kate Upton, instead of being completely focused on the race to the postseason.

To his credit Verlander stated that he does not let things like this distract him when he is pitching but it is hard to believe that someone could totally tune out such a violation of privacy.

And make no mistake it is a complete violation of each of the hacked celebrity’s privacy that the information and photos that they considered private was released for the world to see.

While celebrities are public figures they still have just as much of a right as the rest of us to keep aspects of their lives private and to choose what to share with the public.

It used to be that if an individual or a a company had data  to protect they would lock them away in a safe or vault.  Photo R. Anderson

It used to be that if an individual or a a company had data to protect they would lock it away in a safe or vault.
Photo R. Anderson

This is certainly not the first instance of celebrities having their photos released and it will certainly not be the last in this digital age in which we find ourselves.

And while such celebrity hackings make the headlines each day, there are likely thousands of lower level hackings that occur whether through individuals cracking a cloud account, or data breaches of consumer credit card data showing how fragile each of our identities really are.

Earlier this week it was revealed that shoppers of a certain depot for the home may have had their information leaked. This follows credit card breaches at a variety of retailers this year from Target to Albertson’s and many in between.

This is not to say that computer networks are not safe, or that hacking is anything new, but a move to computerized systems makes it much easier for someone to succeed.

Consider if you will the world as it was before the internet and the cloud. If a company had data to protect they would lock it away in a safe or vault. And if they wanted to ensure that the information was secure in the event that the vault was swallowed up by a giant sink hole or other unforeseen disaster, they would store a copy in a second vault for redundancy.

The vaults that hold the recipes for Coca Cola and Colonel Sander’s 11 secret herbs and spices for fired chicken are still safe to the best of my knowledge in their vaults.

I am not pointing this out to make you thirsty for a soda and some chicken but merely to observe that in this store everything in the cloud world sometimes low tech solutions are the best.

In many science fiction movies such as the Terminator and Matrix franchises the future is depicted as one where the machines have taken over and mankind is left to fight the technology that they created. Photo R. Anderson

In many science fiction movies such as the Terminator and Matrix franchises the future is depicted as one where the machines have taken over and mankind is left to fight the technology that they created.
Photo R. Anderson

While someone might have needed to crack a safe to steal sensitive information in the past, with the information superhighway one need only an internet connection and some time to crack even the most sophisticated computer systems.

While I am not advocating that we all trade in our cars for a horse and buggy and shun all technology, there is something to be said for not putting one’s trust in electronic systems that can fail.

In many science fiction movies, such as the Terminator and Matrix franchises, the future is depicted as one where the machines have taken over and mankind is left to fight the technology that they created.

I do not foresee a future where Neo and John Connor need to save the human race from robots, but I do see a future where perhaps someone needs to save society from their faith in the cloud.

The last time I looked at a cloud in the sky I did not think wow a cloud looks like the strongest structure there is for storing my important information. Instead I saw the cloud for what it was a fluffy floaty thing that traveled at the whims of the wind and sometimes was shaped like a bunny rabbit. Photo R. Anderson

The last time I looked at a cloud in the sky I did not think wow a cloud looks like the strongest structure there is for storing my important information. Instead I saw the cloud for what it was a fluffy floaty thing that traveled at the whims of the wind and sometimes was shaped like a bunny rabbit.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps it should not be a shock that, despite the best efforts of many smart computer programmers and security firms, the cloud seems to be porous and an easy target for hackers.

The last time I looked at a cloud in the sky I did not think “wow, a cloud looks like the strongest structure there is.”

Instead I saw the cloud for what it was a fluffy floaty thing that traveled at the whims of the wind that sometimes was shaped like a bunny rabbit and sometimes got dark and made me wet on the way to my car.

Does that really sound like the most secure place to put your most private data and vacation photos?

Perhaps a certain commercial for an auto insurance company had it right and the wall where we post our photos should be made of stucco and not binary code.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to go stare at some fluffy clouds and see what shapes they make.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Time Traveling through Baseball’s Present

When last we left this time and space we discussed certain key moments to visit in baseball’s past given the chance of time travel in honor of the return of Doctor Who.

Today, we will turn our attention on the present and what the ability to time travel within a single day would allow. Think of it as Groundhog Day meets Field of Dreams with a Ballpark view.

For several years I have thought that it would be fun to visit each of the 30 Major League Ballparks on consecutive days.

In developing my dream itinerary of the order of Ballparks to visit I learned that I was far from alone in this dream. In fact, there are countless sites dedicated to the 30 Ballparks in 30 days quest.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

The level of detail with each of these plans varies but if one is so inclined, and has the means to do so, there are resources available to plan the perfect month long baseball odyssey.

While visiting all 30 Ballparks in a month is the stuff of legend for many super fans, now consider that you did not need to leave home, job and family for a 12th of the year while taking out a loan to follow your dream.

What if you could see all of the games on a single day?

Okay granted there would not be more than 15 Ballparks hosting games on any given night making it impossible to visit all 30 in one night but one could at least see all 30 teams in action on the same night through the joys of time travel.

While the internet, and other media sources, makes it possible to watch all games on a given night from the comfort of one’s home there is certainly nothing like being in the Ballpark to see the games in person.

One could have dinner at home and then hop in their time machine and go from Ballpark to Ballpark. When one game ended simply set the time and destination to the start time at the next ballpark and away you go.

One could start on the east coast and work their way west or vice versa depending on their preference. With a time machine one need not be constrained by time zones for other factors in planning the perfect night of baseball watching.

Of course with an average game time in the two to three hour range, were one to go from game to game it would require them to be awake for 30 to 45 to catch all 15 games. This means that the souvenir cup size filled with Dr. Pepper is your best friend along the journey.

But after those 45 hours of watching baseball one could return home and sleep as long as they wanted since they could always just use the time machine to make sure they got to work on time.

As an aside with the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss. How serious of an amount of cola? Considering that there are 128 ounces in a gallon, one would consume around 3.75 gallons of soda if they went with the souvenir soda at each of the 15 Ballparks.

If one had the chance to visit 15 Ballparks in a single night, and got a cup to take home as a memento, they would have a lot of soda to drink. With the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss. How serious of an amount of color? Considering that there are 128 ounces in a gallon, one would consume around 3.75 gallons of soda if they went with the souvenir soda at each of the 15 Ballparks. Photo R. Anderson

If one had the chance to visit 15 Ballparks in a single night, and got a cup to take home as a memento at each one, they would have a lot of soda to drink. With the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss.
Photo R. Anderson

Realistically there will probably never be a way to simultaneously see every first pitch on a given night in person, nor should anyone drink that much soda in the course of a day, but it is certainly a nice thing to think about.

Another benefit of the traveling within the same day form of time travel would be the increased ability to catch balls in the ballpark.

There are people who try to catch as many foul balls, batting practice balls, and home run balls as possible when they attend a game.

Through the use of time travel these Ball Hawks could watch a game in advance and know exactly where the balls were going to land and then position themselves to catch them instead.

This of course would get into that grey area of changing the future and crushing someone else’s timeline that originally caught the ball. Surely changing the recipient of a foul ball would not start the process that dooms the entire planet, but then again that is the tricky thing about time travel.

How small of a change in the past does it take to totally ruin everything that follows?

Perhaps it is best just to watch the games without interfering. Of course that does not mean that one cannot have some fun with it along the way.

Since every game is televised these days, and with highlights living on the internet, one could make it their mission to be on camera in each of the games they visited on the same night.

It could be a fun sort of Where’s Waldo moment to scan the crowd shots and find yourself. Extra points could be given for wearing a hat from the home team at each of the games. Although I guess in true Waldo fashion the same outfit would be best.

So there are just a few of the things one could do on any given night of the baseball season if they had all of time and space at their disposal.

A Groundhog Day full of baseball games certainly seems more exciting than waiting to find out if a furry rodent can see his shadow or not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to tweak my plan to visit all 30 Ballparks in 30 days in case I ever win the lottery.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Time Traveling through Baseball’s Past

For fans of a certain British television show about a guy and his companions who travel around in a bigger on the inside blue police box, today marks the start of a very important week.

The week is important for fans of Doctor Who in that it marks the final countdown to the new season of time traveling adventures Saturday night.

In honor of the countdown to the new season of the show I thought it would be fun to focus on time travel here as well.

In particular the focus this week will be on time travel as it relates to baseball in the past, present and future.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

Today we will start our journey through baseball time and space in the past.

Consider if you will, all of the historic moments that have occurred in baseball.

From Babe Ruth, to Shoeless Joe Jackson, to Jackie Robinson, and every player in between, baseball is full of larger than life players who for many baseball fans exist only as black and white news reel images or statistics on a page.

With Babe Ruth having made his professional debut 100 years ago, there are few people still around who were alive then, let alone old enough to have been there to witness it.

Now consider that time travel was possible and you had the means to visit any past moment in baseball history, including the Bambino’s first game. What moments would you visit?

I have often pondered that very question and have come up with some definitive moments that given the chance I would love to see in person.

The moments are divided up into the categories of Ballparks, Ballplayers, and Ballgames.

First let us focus on the Ballparks.

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards? Photo R. Anderson

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards?
Photo R. Anderson

While I have had the pleasure and opportunity to visit many Ballparks, including several that have since been torn down, there are a few of the classic Ballparks that were torn down before I had the chance to see them that I would have loved to catch a game in.

With the ability to travel back to the golden age of baseball and visit any Ballpark I would visit the Polo Grounds, Ebbett’s Field, and the first Yankee Stadium.

While many new Ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards have brought back a piece of that classic Ballpark feel, there would be nothing quite like traveling to see the ones that started it all.

It would also be fun to travel to an era where people dressed up in their Sunday best to catch a game although I could probably go without the grandstands full of cigarette smoke since I am allergic.

While visiting Ballparks from the golden age would be fun, another Ballpark that I would love to visit is technically still standing but no longer hosts baseball, or much of anything else for that matter. That Ballpark is the Astrodome.

Although I covered a high school football game in the Astrodome, by the time I moved to Houston the Astros had moved to Minute Maid Park (technically Enron Field at the time) and the days of baseball in the Dome were done.

Granted the Astrodome begat many carbon copy domed stadiums that hosted baseball in Seattle, Minnesota, and St. Petersburg but there would be something hard to miss about being at the very first indoor baseball game under a dome.

Whenever I find myself at Tropicana Field I often try to picture what a culture shock it most have been for those first Houston fans to see a game without knowing what the weather was like outside or being able to see the sky.

After Ballparks the next item to travel through time to see would be Ballplayers.

I would need to use my time machine to travel to see Babe Ruth play a game along with Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Shoeless Joe Jackson to name a few.

Speaking of Shoeless Joe, an interesting time traveler’s paradox comes into play. Would one warn Shoeless Joe and his Black Sox teammates about being banned for life for the World Series fixing scandal, or just let history go on as predicated.

While time travel in science fiction books and films often show negative results to the future through the butterfly effect whenever the past is changed it does pose an interesting question of what one would do in that situation.

There are of course people who would use time travel to their benefit through betting on games when they know the outcome but for our purposes here let us go with the belief that all who travel back are merely going as fly on the wall observers to soak in the events without altering the outcomes or fattening their wallets.

So with that philosophy of observe, but don’t interfere in mind, the Chicago White Sox would still throw the World Series just as Pete Rose decades later would still be banned from baseball.

As a certain British time traveler would say, some points in history are fixed points in time.

The third area of our journey to baseball’s past would be specific Ballgames.

From the first World Series game, to Lou Gehrig’s luckiest man alive speech, there are countless moments in Ballgames that would be worth traveling to.

For me some of the games I would need to see in person would be when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and when Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. played their first games.

To see the start of the two longest consecutive games played streaks and to see a home run record fall would be truly historic events.

There are of course more Ballparks, Ballplayers and Ballgames that could be revisited given the ability to travel to any point in time. Each historic moment in baseball would be at the time traveler’s disposal to visit time and time again.

While realistically time travel to that degree will remain a mere wish and the stuff of film, television and literature, it is certainly fun to consider the big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for travels through the present.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Robin Williams’ Death Leaves a Void

Monday afternoon the world found out that actor/comedian Robin Williams died at his California home at the age of 63.

While that news hit each person in a personal way, the overall collective grief reached the point of the President of the United States issuing a statement on the matter.

When the POTUS is commenting about your death, that is when you know that you have reached the status of national treasure. Of course in Robin Williams’ case he portrayed presidents in several films so perhaps that helped garner the Oval Office tribute.

Like many fans I never met Robin Williams and only knew him through his body of work which seemed to hit the mainstream right around the same time that I became aware of my surroundings enough to make and maintain memories.

Once of those earliest Robin Williams memories involved Mork of Mork and Mindy fame. In addition to watching the show I was given a Mork figurine that had a backpack with a pull string that would playback numerous Mork sayings. I do not recall what happened to that figurine but I did enjoy it during the time I played with it.

From Mork came the move from the small screen to the movies. One such movie was Popeye. I remember my mom and I spent a whole day traveling from record store to record store trying to find the soundtrack to the movie because I had enjoyed the songs so much. Sadly we never found the album that day, or any day since for that matter. But the search was just as fun and created a lasting memory of an afternoon spent with my mom trying to give her son what he wanted.

Robin Williams played many rolls throughout his career from a genie to a president but my best memories of him are when he was a sailor man. Photo R. Anderson

Robin Williams played many rolls throughout his career from a genie to a president but my best memories of him are when he was a sailor man.
Photo R. Anderson

While my Robin Williams memories began in the late 70’s, every generation since has had a movie or a memory that they can cling to and call their own.

For some the first memories of Robin Williams came in the form of a genie in a bottle from Aladdin. For others Robin Williams is Teddy Roosevelt from the Night at the Museum trilogy. Others still may have first discovered him in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, or Jumanji.

Such is the transcending nature of Robin Williams and his career. He knew how to make us laugh and through is dramatic roles in Dead Poet’s Society, What Dreams May Come, and Good Will Hunting he knew how to make us cry.

That dramatic turn earned Williams three Academy Award nominations and a Best Supporting Actor win for Good Will Hunting. Personally I think it was Dead Poet’s Society where he was truly Oscar worthy.

Robin Williams also was a fixture in the world of Major League Baseball taking to the field before Game 1 of the National League Division Series in 2010 to cheer on the San Francisco Giants. The pep talk seemed to work as the Giants went on to win their first World Series title in 56 years.

While Robin Williams never really did a baseball movie per se, it is during Good Will Hunting that his character talks about the Boston Red Sox and when it is necessary to chase after what is important no matter the cost.

The bench where that scene was filmed has turned into a memorial as many fans share their grief showing that Robin Williams has the power to makes us cry once more with his unexpected passing.

There will likely never be another actor/comedian like Robin Williams. Thankfully through the art of the movies his work will continue to entertain for generations to come. Photo R. Anderson

There will likely never be another actor/comedian like Robin Williams. Thankfully through the art of the movies his work will continue to entertain for generations to come.
Photo R. Anderson

While fans are certainly entitled to their grief, I plan to focus on the laughter that Robin Williams brought me and many others throughout his life.

With such a large group of movies to his name, and four more scheduled for release after his death, future generations will continue to experience the craft of Robin Williams long after the sadness of his passing has faded.

In that way Robin Williams will never leave us just as the greats who passed before him still live on through their work captured on film.

The passing of Robin Williams which has been attributed in early accounts to a struggle with depression highlights a bigger societal issue. As much as TMZ and trash journalism programs try to feed the public every sordid detail about celebrities, there is no way to know everything about them. Nor should we know every detail about celebrities.

We live in a society where most people know more about people they have never met than their own neighbors. While a certain degree of knowledge is good even all of the information about celebrities does not cover the hidden struggles that many of them face.

Robin Williams is not the first comedian to battle depression and he will not be the last. It is a cruel fact that many studies have shown that often times the people who makes us laugh the most, such as Robin Williams, are quietly crying on the inside.

Other studies have shown that the more creative a person is the more likely they are to suffer from depression. It is almost like they need to have that internal strife in order to fuel the creative juices.

Creativity and depression are certainly not limited to the field of comedy. In the world of music there are people like Kurt Cobain who used his battles to make great music that inspired a generation but ultimately fell victim to the depression that no amount of external success could quench.

If there is some good to come out of the death of Robin Williams perhaps it is an awareness of the perils of depression and perhaps a call to find ways to help those who suffer from it.

Another lesson to take to the Ballpark or the cinema is that as much as fans think they know the athletes or actors that they admire and cheer for there are other sides that are hidden from view.

Often times these other sides are no different than anyone else. Celebrities still have to navigate personal relationships and put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us; even if they have way more pairs of pants and assistants to help with that.

The point is to never elevate celebrities to such a high pedestal as to make them appear invincible or to the point of believing that money buys happiness.

By all accounts Robin Williams, much like Kurt Cobain and others, was a wealthy man rich with talent and adored by millions. But even with all of that going for him he could not overcome his depression.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for a Robin Williams movie marathon.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tis Better to Appreciate than to Just Participate

Last weekend an organization I am actively involved with held an event to honor individuals who had helped make a recent keynote event a success.

In addition to providing each of the attendees with a hot lunch of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all of the trimmings, we were each presented with a certificate as a token of thanks for our efforts that helped make the event a success.

They could have easily stopped with just the hamburgers and hot dogs, but the inclusion of individualized certificates was certainly a nice gesture on the part of the organization.

When I looked at the certificate though I noticed some wording that I had not expected.

Instead of it being a certificate of appreciation, the certificate was worded as a certificate of participation.

While it is true that each of us participated in the event I had never really seen a certificate worded that way and was more accustomed to receiving a certificate of appreciation. In fact the certificate the organization gave out for the previous year’s event was worded as a certificate of appreciation.

Of course, at the end of the day, it did not really matter what word was placed on the certificate since I know that all of the hard work was appreciated with or without a piece of paper saying so. It was a nice gesture and my name was spelled correctly so I am definitely not complaining.

The certificate did raise some interesting general observations about appreciation versus participation and how they relate to sports and society as a whole though.

Consider the world of Major League Baseball where nine players participate on the field and in the batting order. Despite all of them participating in the game a quick scan around the grandstands shows that a few of them are appreciated by the fans more than the rest.

If Major League Baseball, and other sports for that matter, were set up in an all are equal manner, there would not be fans dressed in a certain player’s jersey and cheering louder when they came up to bat or made a great play.

If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day. Photo R. Anderson

If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, everyone would be wearing team jerseys without a player name on the back and cheering equally for everyone from the 12-time All-Star to the 12-year journeyman when they came up to bat.

Of course that is not the case. The stars of the sport get the big contracts, endorsement deals and screaming fans while the rest of the players are just happy to be on the ball club.

That is not to say that all of the other participants on a team are not important. Even the biggest superstars in the sport need a team around them to succeed, but the fact remains certain players on every team rise up above the rest and are appreciated more than their teammates.

While professional sports continues to show that some players are worth more to a team and its fan base then others, amateur sports seem to be going in an entirely different direction.

I am of course referring to the participation medal which has made its way into youth sports. The idea behind a participation medal is that everyone, regardless of talent, should be recognized for their participation in said sport instead of medals only going to a couple of people. Some youth sports have even stopped keeping score in games so that there are no winners or losers at the end of the game.

If one never feels the agony of defeat in life how can they appreciate the highs of success?

A few years back I participated in a 5k event where each person received a shirt and a medal just for showing up. Medals were also available for certain categories once the event started. While I could have just decided that a medal for showing up was good enough, I worked hard, fought through some leg cramps, and was rewarded with a second place medal for my classification.

A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal.
Photo R. Anderson

This is not being mentioned in any way to toot my own horn or suggest that I am a great 5k athlete. I am not. I was just successful on that particular day and just as easily could have fallen out of contention on any other day.

The point of the story is I tried for more knowing there was a chance that I would not succeed in my quest for a podium finish.

While I understand that some people were happy just getting a medal and a t-shirt, even though I was huffing and puffing at the end of the race, the second place medal I earned felt much better around my neck than if I had just settled for the one everyone else received.

One could certainly spend hours debating whether this move to the philosophy of everyone gets a medal actually creates a weaker society by dulling the competitive edge and rewarding all regardless of level of effort thereby creating a world where no one keeps score and everyone gets orange slices at the end of the game; and many people have. Personally I think the reward everyone approach weakens society and I am very concerned that we will just settle on participating as a way of life.

This country was built on the backs of men and women who did more than just participate. They innovated and they strived to excel in various fields while never settling for good enough and understanding that sometimes failure is an option that one can learn from and come back stronger as a result.

For that example of people doing more than merely participating, and realizing that the juice is worth the squeeze, I will be forever appreciative. I just hope that the spirit of innovation and being willing to fail does not get lost by a generation raised on the philosophy that they will be rewarded just for showing up and someone else will always be there to cut their orange slices for them.

I am sure that the people who chose to put participate on the certificates last weekend had no idea about the debate it would cause, but it certainly was a good stepping off point for some societal retrospection.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some fresh squeezed orange juice.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson