Cheering for laundry

The other day, i had to have an honest conversation with myself.  A conversation about how to justify my laughter at Derek Jeter’s season-ending injury.  It’s customary to admit that it’s wrong, 100% wrong to cheer for opposing players’ injury, but i think that most of us  here did not have that reaction at first.  Laughing at the Yankees was wrong, distasteful, childish… but honest.

Thing is, i don’t think any of us wish the person harm.  Baseball players are held to a high standard of civic responsibility by virtue of being on TV every day for six months, and by all accounts he meets and exceeds this.  The difference is the uniform.  In the pinstripes, he becomes that smug fuck with no range and a closet full of Gold Gloves who’s never taken a called strike.  A hated enemy.  So i laughed at the player’s injury, and ultimately, i’m fine with that.

But i find an interesting parallel with the reaction to the monthly report of the unemployment numbers, in particular this most recent one.  Goodness knows, i’ve anxiously hoped they’d be good.  Not because they exactly affect me (heck, recently i suppose i just made them worse by one), but because good numbers are good for the person i want to be the next President.  But the crucial question is, if the reverse were true, if i were pulling to unseat the guy, would i then be cheering for bad things to happen?

It’s fairly clear that plenty of us in this country are doing just that.  Yet another obvious manifestation of Mitch McConnell’s repugnant rallying cry.  Of all the disheartening things that have happened to this country in the last twelve years, it’s possibly the worst.  At best, an open admission that the opposition party wants the government to fail utterly, at worst, a brazen exhortation to partisans to impede anything which might reflect well on the administration.  And no matter how cynical and how partisan you are, there’s strong correlation that runs in opposition to that idea—a successful president must by definition be bringing some of that success to the citizens of the country.  Therefore, Republicans are cheering against us all.

So if fewer people are unemployed, they’re disappointed (or sadder still, in denial).  Because they’ve tried so hard to eliminate public jobs that might’ve helped that number, but also put money in the hands of middle-class pockets, who might’ve spent it and helped other Americans make a living. Wouldn’t want to help that along.

It’s laundry.  For four years, Republicans’ loyalty has been to laundry alone.  Red versus Blue.  Awkwardly, my metaphor means that i am exactly the person i started out mocking.  Indeed, we’re all (gulp) Derek Jeter, lying on the field.  Except, to continue abusing the metaphor, the Republicans aren’t the cackling Sox fan at home on the couch.  They’re more like the maniac that ran on the field and kneecapped him with a tire iron at shortstop.

And i don’t think any part of me would be cheering for that.

Revolution 0:1 Impact de Montréal

Because they’re pissing me off, and i don’t write enough here, i’m going to start writing up match reports of the Revolution matches.  The number one rule of this site is to write about whatever you please, after all.

So yet again, the Revolution found a way to lose a game in which they had all of the attacking possession, and all but one of the actual serious chances.  Never mind crossbars, posts, or penalties not given, the promise of the earlier part of the season has well and truly slipped away.  Players who were having palpable fun on the field are now frustrated and sulking, and the crankiness in the stands is well and truly back.

What’s the problem as far as my inexpert opinion is concerned?  1. The shortcomings against physical sides like Kansas City and Toronto were obvious; the skill players such as Nguyen and Feilhaber were getting clobbered, the refs didn’t call it often enough, and even when they did… 2. They can’t score a set piece to save their lives.  McCarthy got his head to a couple late tonight, but he’s really the only big body you can throw in the mixer, and is not who you’d want to rely on anyway.  3. Their patience is gone.  For all the talk of playing the game the right way, of passing the ball, playing possession and building from the back, they resort to blasting it far too often.  Finally, 4. the personnel is not right anymore; earlier in the season, it seemed Heaps could do no wrong with his substitutes, and the 11 were more up to the task.  Now, we’re back to seeing useless, clanking mismatched parts out there, waiting for them to be belatedly subbed out.   Seeing players get pushed around with no steel to strengthen the formation, and others being asked to do things they’re just not suited for.

If they put away one or two chances tonight, then we’re probably talking about a good performance, but they didn’t, so we’re not.  It’s not fair, but perhaps it’s more useful to not have continued shortcomings sugar-coated.

Player Ratings (per the typical 1-10 scale with its glorious shortcomings; 10 is perfect, 1 is dreadful, 5 is average):

Reis: 5.  Only save he had to make was one he really couldn’t be expected to.  Still nearly got a palm to it.  Calm as ever with the ball at his feet, but the long distribution still mediocre at best.

Tierney: 4.  Burned for speed only once, still tenacious going forward.  Even if you look at him as the offensive outside back and Alston as the defensive one, it’s not a good enough trade.  He dribbles the ball well, but the quality of his passes has been inadequate this year; he’s left Soares, Benny, Simms, Nguyen, amongst others way, way too short too many times and rolled too many balls to the opposition too often.  Time to give the rookie a shot.

Soares: 5.5.  ‘Megged on the goal, which i suppose should count against him, but it’s awfully unfair considering he’s running full stride to match a much faster player.  Calm and collected as always, with the usual well-timed steps to nip attacks in the bud.  The yellow card was the product of an excellent dive, not any sort of foul.

McCarthy: 6.  An excellent offensive header across goal from the post on a corner probably would have been put away if a certain dreadlocked guy was still around.  Good positioning all night. Both center-backs were very steady tonight.

Alston: 6.  Made good runs, was constantly open out wide, put in one excellent cross, one lousy up-the-line ball.  Completely untroubled on defense except when Felipe tried to win a penalty against him the same way Philadelphia did two weeks ago.

Nguyen: 5.5. His work is very commendable, and for a good ten minutes, he’d actually taken control of the middle of the field, which the Revs seemingly hadn’t done for weeks.  Having said that, his effectiveness is less than what it once was; he can’t dribble around everyone all the time, and now he’s double-teamed and roughed-up constantly.  Couple this with the loss of the close-quarters triangle passing and lack of off-the-ball movement, and he’s having to reach too deep into his bag of tricks too often.

Feilhaber: 4. Simply needs to do more.  It doesn’t help that he’s being asked to sit really far back.  The problem with this is that when he makes a loose pass or tries something opportunistic (read:reckless), there are fewer people behind him.  Maybe it’s harsh to hold his (terrible) giveaway accountable for the goal, considering it was in the offensive half of the field, but the trouble was, it put a fast runner right on your two centerbacks. Never mind the fact that for every nifty play that comes off, for every impeccably slotted through ball, there are five failed ones that end with him dribbling at people, leaving it for no one, or passing optimistically into traffic.  Not effective.

Simms: 5.  Better tonight than he has been lately, more active.  But the Revs were at their best when he, Benny, and Nguyen were constantly running off the ball and completing triangles.  It’s not happening anymore, and since Simms seems to have so many fewer touches of late, and the skill players are getting whacked, i feel like there’s some causation here.

Guy: 5.5.  It’s unfair to give him less than this, because he did everything he was asked to do.  The fact of the matter is, he’s a tiny player without the speed or the skills to compensate.  No idea why he keeps having to do so much work with his back to net.

Sène: 6.5. Maybe it’s a bit fashionable to bag on Saer Sène right now.  While he has missed some chances of late that would have changed results, you simply can’t ignore the fact that the dude is doing pretty much everything right now.  He drops back, he shepherds the ball through the midfield, he is distributor, provider, and finisher all in one.  There’s no way i fault him for having not everything work, considering that at least he’s trying.  He’s trying everything.

Bengtson: 5. Sorta on an island up there, unfortunately.  Was badly offside one time when it’d have been nice if he wasn’t.

Subs: Cardenas: 5.5.  Very bright start, good enthusiasm and fresh legs, but petered out after the first five minutes in.  Rowe: 5.5.  Same thing i said about Cardenas.  Fagundez: No rating.

Replying to My Grandpa, No. 1

In the hopes that this prevents me from sending it to my grandfather, here’s what i’ve written in reply to his latest tea-drenched (but racist-flavored) email forward.  Here’s hoping the flavoring comes from the originator.

Here we go.  Names omitted to protect them from themselves:

Dear Grandpa,

I’ve received a lot of emails from you over the last couple years, and I am always, always tempted to reply.  Maybe today’s the day I send it.

I took the liberty of replacing your term “FREE STUFF” with “INVESTMENT CAPITAL”.  The argument still doesn’t hold water, but it’s closer.  As Oliver Wendell Holmes, said, “I like paying taxes.  With them I buy civilization.”

I consider the “FREE STUFF” you refer to an investment, to oversimplify.  Consider the recent controversy here in Massachusetts that the Boston Herald so gleefully reported.

Basically, welfare recipients were able to use their electronic benefit cards to buy lots of stuff they probably didn’t need.  And do you know what?  I don’t care.  As a taxpayer, I don’t care.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad they’re improving it, but it is a good example to illustrate my priorities.  Bear with me.

I don’t care if 19 out of 20 people receiving so-called FREE STUFF is a waste of our effort.  It’s that 20th that matters.  If that 20th person goes on to be a good subway driver, or a manager of a McDonald’s, or a good schoolteacher, then it’s worth it.  Maybe that 20th person’s a waste of oxygen, but has a kid who grows up to be a good engineer.  It doesn’t even matter.  We’re playing a long game here.  That 1 out of 20 makes it worthwhile at any price.

You can call it naive, you can call it wasteful.  I call it investment.  It’s flawed investment, flawed generosity, but what isn’t flawed in this world.  The other choice is to not invest, to make a virtue of selfishness and put our faith solely in fortuitously intersecting selfishnesses, or as some would prefer to call it, ‘the free market’.

Obama: Until there’s evidence to the contrary, he’s too good a man for the job.

Borders: Everyone’s able to make this country better.  Many are willing and we should be pleased to welcome them.

Language: Do you have any idea how much of Europe speaks English now?  Because it’s useful.  So is Spanish in lots of parts of this country.  So be it.

Culture: Evolves every single day and those who attempt to stop it will just get tired.

Drug Free: See my previous point.  I don’t care and it’s not worth our trouble to find out, unless it’s to get them help.

From the Hub of the whole damn Universe in the the socialist workers’ paradise of Massachusetts,

-rob

 

P.S. I fervently hope that I shouldn’t be reading anything into the animated monkey image attached.


On May 23, 2012, at 4:51 PM, MY IGNORANT-ASS GRANDFATHER wrote:

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Teabaggy McTeabagger <tcot@galtsgulch.xxx>
Date: Wed, May 23, 2012 at 10:04 AM
Subject: investment capital
To:

I AM FORWARDING THIS EMAIL THAT I RECEIVED TODAY TO A FEW OF THE “THINKERS” IN MY ADDRESS BOOK.   IT REFLECTS THE FEELINGS OF A LOT OF PEOPLE.

I have never heard this said as simply or as well.   Class war at its best.

The folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL don’t like the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL, because the folks who                    are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL can no longer afford to pay for both the INVESTMENT CAPITAL and their own stuff.

And, the folks who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want the INVESTMENT CAPITAL to stop.

And the folks who are getting the INVESTMENT CAPITAL want even more INVESTMENT CAPITAL on top of the INVESTMENT CAPITAL they are already getting!

Now… the people who are forcing the people who pay for the investment capital have told the people who are RECEIVING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL that the people who are PAYING for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL are being mean, prejudiced, and racist.

So… the people who are GETTING the INVESTMENT CAPITAL have been convinced they need to hate the people who are paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL by the people who are forcing some people to pay for their investment capital and giving them the INVESTMENT CAPITAL in the first place.

We have let the INVESTMENT CAPITAL giving go on for so long that there are now more people getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL than paying for the investment capital.

Now understand this.   All great democracies have committed financial suicide somewhere between 200 and 250 years after being founded.   The reason?

The voters figured out they could vote themselves money from the treasury by electing people who promised to give them money from the treasury in exchange for electing them.

The United States officially became a Republic in 1776, 236 years ago.   The number of people now getting INVESTMENT CAPITAL outnumbers the people paying for the INVESTMENT CAPITAL.   We have one chance to change that in 2012. Failure to change that spells the end of the United States as we know it, especially if the present administration gets it way and gives illegals aliens the right to vote.

If you don’t believe this can happen look at Greece and the election that just took place in France.  Now France is a Socialist Country with                    a 75% tax rate on those that PAY for INVESTMENT CAPITAL .

ELECTION 2012 IS COMING

A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of Wolves!

I’M 100% for PASSING THIS ON !!!
For all our sake PLEASE Take a Stand!!!

Obama: Gone!

Borders: Closed!

Language: English only

Culture: Constitution, and the Bill of Rights!

Drug Free: Mandatory Drug Screening before Welfare!

NO freebies to: Non-Citizens!

<ATT00025.gif>

There’s so much more to say, of course, so tempting to use this same metaphor to point out how many of the folks he thinks are so giving of FREE STUFF are not only not paying for it, but receiving it.  But i’ll content myself with having not hit the Send button.

Or did i?

True Confessions of an Imperfect Cyclist

It’s spring.  We’re already weeks past our first 80˚ day, baseball season starts tomorrow, flowers have bloomed and immediately become confused.  And just as predictably, editorial pages and comment sections are fertile with vitriol hurled between cyclists, pedestrians and cars.

To summarize:

Cyclists: Cars are all trying to kill us.
Drivers: Cyclists all ride like assholes and we should be allowed, nay, encouraged to actually, seriously kill them with our mighty, righteous vehicles.
Pedestrians: Please, neither of you, kill us.

Oversimplification of this nature is rampant, and speaking as someone who wades into the heart of downtown traffic on two and four wheels, during rush hours bad and worse, several days a week, about the only thing we should be able to agree on is that not a bit of it is simple.

And that’s the crux of my approach to cycling in the city, to be perfectly honest, is that i’m never a simple equivalent to a car or a pedestrian.  It’s not that it’s merely inconvenient for me to pick one or the other, it’s that my instincts for safety require a blend between the two.  You can correctly interpret this as breaking more than one (only-enforced-in-Cambridge) law, but you can also look at it as the result of my consideration of the whole of my interactions with traffic of all kinds at any given point of time, and picking a safe solution.  In more than one sense, i’m operating my bike the best i can using the space afforded to me.

Let’s look at some examples of what an asshole i am.

  • Running a red light.  This is the number one cause of suburbanites who never even go into the city except for a Red Sox game filling the Globe‘s comment sections with justifications for being allowed to run over cyclists.  This isn’t a huge surprise, given that famously, er, competitive Boston drivers, can’t enjoy seeing me roll on through while they have to wait.  A very few cyclists will do this straight through crossing traffic, which i am not nearly good enough to do, and do not wish to do and won’t discuss further.  Having said that, for the most part, i look at most empty red lights (also: walk signals, 4-way stops) as the equivalent of a flashing yellow; i slow, sometimes to a near-stop, i look carefully, and proceed if safe.Why do i think it’s okay to do this?  1. First and foremost, at a red light, i am surrounded by cars and have zero speed, and this is when i am most vulnerable—i am safer when i am moving, visible to you, and further away from you, the driver.  Even a small head start means i can ride further away from car doors, not get squeezed into a gutter, and just gives me a greater margin for error.  2.  It really does cost me effort to get back up to speed, and it does nobody any good at all for me to sit there at an empty intersection.  3.  The only way this affects you the driver is that you may have to pass me a second time; i promise, i can ride in a straight line as long as you can drive in one.
  • Rolling up alongside stopped cars.  Alternately, “making a third lane for ourselves.”  People don’t like us looking down into their cars as we go by, fear for their mirrors, and as always, don’t like the idea of us gaining advantage upon them.  Lately, i notice a lot of cars not-so-coincidentally get real friendly with the curb or the white line when i’m behind them, in the interest of squeezing me out.  Obviously, this is dangerous enough by itself.  Why do i want to get by you?  So you don’t suddenly make a right turn directly in front of me and i get squashed like this poor guy.  It is safest for me to be in front of you.  If i can’t make that happen, i’m going to find a gap in the line of cars and take up the entire fucking line, because that is the second safest place i can be.
  • Taking up the entire fucking lane.  Trust me, we prefer not to do this.  We can feel your eyes burning through the back of our helmets.  When i do this, it’s because i can’t be sure what the cars around me are going to do, and i need to communicate my path very clearly and leave myself room to move.  It means you can’t make a sudden turn through me, you can’t pass me as i need to get over a lane, and you can’t force me to stop just ’cause some car stuck his nose out of the driveway.  It goes without saying that if i think someone’s entering the street or swinging wide their +5 Vorpal Door of Cyclist Killing, i am going to take the lane, too.
  • Crossing with pedestrians.  Like i said, the letter of the law is that when in the street, cyclists should be acting like cars.  Correspondingly, i shouldn’t be able to take advantage of a walk signal to go.  But i do, provided i don’t interfere with pedestrians, for the same reasons i’d roll through a red light, except this is even safer for me.  On the off chance i do impede a pedestrian, even though i am careful, i apologize, since i am the one who’s in the wrong.
  • Stopping in crosswalks.  Where it’s safe, i’ll almost always pull all the way ahead of the crosswalk, so as not to impede pedestrians, but i need to be seen.  Either way, i do need to be ahead of the stopped cars.
  • Things i do not ever do: Ride on the sidewalk (doing this is for pansies), ride through crossing traffic (near suicide), Ride the wrong way up the street (okay, maybe that one stretch atop Beacon Hill if it’s late at night and empty)

What i don’t want to do is pretend that any of this is law-abiding.  Plainly, it isn’t, but it is a way of abiding.  It’s not a cheat, it’s not an attempt to screw you while you’re stuck in traffic, reading the Herald and listening to Dennis & Callahan (do i stereotype much?) and cursing my relative mobility.  Hell, i’m saving your precious tax money.

And even if it was, dear driver, solely an attempt on my part to get home faster than you.  Even if i was the worst exponent of hipster-kind, blasting through busy intersections with impunity, leaving screeched brakes and jostled pedestrians in the wake of my fixie, that still doesn’t ever, not ever give you the right to even joke about running me over.  Dead is dead, and there ain’t no comin’ back.  So take a breath, realize that this is a big city and you’re not going to get through the day without someone annoying you somehow, and on the road, just like in every other part of life, you can’t kill those who do.

on Greece

Two weeks ago, i was ending the day on a hotel balcony, with all of Athens sprawled out in front of me. With a beer in my hand, and my feet up on the railing. From above, central Athens is arranged so that almost all of it seems like it’s looking up at the Acropolis, lit up and otherworldly from a distance. It’s iconic and recognizable, of course, but more so against the rolling jumble of the urban sprawl. You can waste hours gawking at that view, is what i’m getting at.

Sunset over AthensA gray evening in Athens Past time to hike down the hill

Of course, the experience of the city itself is almost the exact opposite of that removed tranquility. Even in winter, it’s teeming with people, people whose presence you simply can’t insulate yourself from, in good ways and bad. It’s anathema to us aloof northeasterners and our quaint concepts of personal space and orderly existence. Fortunately, on vacation, this is fun rather than a crazy-making annoyance. Even the billowing secondhand smoke and occasional aggressive body odor.

First and foremost, they’re selling all manner of things. Ramshackle carts with bright and shiny kettles offer hot beverages. Grilled meats of every variety, of course. Elaborately plumbed carts with festive water fountains splashing over fresh (-looking) coconuts which do not actually seem to be for sale so much as they exist to call attention to some sort of tubular dessert product. Stuff that appears like Jersey shore zeppoles, except covered in cinnamon syrup, or chocolate sauce.

Keeping close watch over these delicacies is a staggering menagerie of stray dogs. The more we walked through town and kept crossing through certain areas, around some subway stations, some of them became recognizable, recurring characters with distinct personalities (e.g. there’s not enough sun on the sidewalk, so i’ll lay in the street, traffic be damned). There are not dozens, there are hundreds in the central city; it’s clear that they’re cared for in some ways, none of them appear starving and some of them even have collars and tags. On the other hand, enough of them limp noticeably that you wonder how many of them have been hit by cars.

As iconic as it is, the Acropolis is mostly less impressive up close, or at least was to me. i found i spent more time looking out at the city than up at the ruins; as fascinating as they are from a distance, up close they seemed barer, less distinct than i’d expected. Couple that with the extent to which there are visibly new pieces, and the effort to replace vulnerable pieces with copies, and for whatever reason, somewhat ironically i found it harder to imagine what it must have been like intact (a visit to the Acropolis museum a couple days later helped out immensely. but with models.).

Ancient frameworkWe have the technology

Out of all the places i’ve been, people in Athens neither stood out as particularly friendly nor unfriendly. We had great hospitality in restaurants and bars for the most part, mostly patient with small doses of attempted assault on their language. Their insistence upon after-dinner dessert or wine, gratis is nice. Better still is the absolute certainty that you’ll get a snack, usually some tasty seasoned dried peas and nuts and crackers, with your beer. They aren’t kidding about the late-night atmosphere either; one bar we went to seemed almost like it was a surrogate living room, except on a vast semi-enclosed patio, open and serving beer and food 24/7.

It’d be easy to get used to, if only i could figure out how they get to work in the morning. i suppose that is, to some extent, part of the problem, which explains the other festivities that we saw. Almost every night we were in Athens, there was some sign of protest, but the big one was Sunday night, and everybody seemed to know it was coming, as so often is the case. Though there were many, many people there, only maybe 30-40 of them were actively throwing rocks (also: oranges, which are plentiful), engaging the police, destroying property, lighting trash cans on fire. And the line of riot police just stood there. Until they didn’t. At which point they chased the hardcore types around Syntagma square, and began boxing everyone in. Including us. Then they closed the box, extruding us progressively onto side streets and down the alleys. With tear gas. At this point, the troublemakers were probably out of sight, regrouping, and i doubt very much if anyone worth arresting was (we did see someone carted off for being a little too insistent about wanting to cross a blocked-off street, which was a little sobering).

Prepared for the worstNo way out

Through all that, lefty liberal that i am, i can’t quite even sympathize. i almost certainly don’t have all the facts, but as i understood it, their government provided an abnormally high level of services for them in a variety of forms for a long time, to keep the populace happy, and did a terrible job of reining such things in/actually paying for them during the recession. Having now done so, thus, the riots, apparently.

Anyway, the next day, it was off to the islands. Which apparently no tourists do at all in the ‘winter’, which means it gets into the high thirties at night, maybe. During the day, shorts and t-shirts would suffice for most of us. Anyway, we piled off the ferry on Mykonos, after the ship had mostly emptied out on other more workaday islands, and walked into town. No sign whatsoever of the beautiful people who storm the island in the summer. The bleached-white buildings with brightly-painted trim, split by the narrowest streets you could ever imagine, eerily deserted. A few locals hanging around, kids being picked up from school, but you could turn three corners and be confronted with wall after wall. And cats.

Cat seasonFive windmills alone on a beachWindmill on the Aegean

So i pride myself on my sense of direction; heck, i popped out of the subway upon arrival in Athens turned 180˚, started walking, and wound up exactly where we wanted to be. Mykonos, on the other hand, was utterly crazy. Streets are not straight for any longer than perhaps twenty feet, they are completely free of signs, and often without any distinguishing characteristics. Give yourself two or three lefts and rights, and you will be screwed up for sure, upon arrival. Because what you’re grasping for is a landmark, and all you’ve got is the harbor, really, which disappears almost immediately upon entry into the labyrinth. It’s fantastic. It was almost a disappointment to get my bearings.

How could you get lost? (no. 1)How could you get lost? (no. 2)Bright and white

One final public service announcement. If you’re traveling internationally with someone who’s recently changed their name, make sure the name on the ticket matches the name on the passport.

About rob c.

Here is a tiny little corner of my website devoted to my work.

i’m rob colonna, a mechanical engineer, product design engineer, jack of many trades.  Over nine years, i’ve designed everything from tiny bits of plastic that cost a penny and a half, to coffee makers that cost $100 to giant telecommunications switches that cost millions (full disclosure: i didn’t make the expensive parts).

Here’s my résumé.

Here’s my portfolio.

It’s possible, depending upon when you’re reading this, that i may not be permanently employed.  If so, you should probably hire me to make things for you.