Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Primary Day in New York: Vote Dana Balter

So fellow New York State friends (and enemies, if you're there!): it is primary day today for Congressional races. First of all, here in NY-24 we are lucky to have two sharp, qualified candidates who would be huge, massive--I'm honestly lacking superlatives for what a big gap this is--improvements over John Katko: so no matter who you choose to vote for today, if your candidate doesn't win today, I implore you to dust yourself off, pour a glass of your preferred drink, regroup, and get to work tomorrow electing the other. 

I am supporting Dana Balter today. Balter entered this race early as a relative unknown and got immediately to work building up grassroots support. She's presented a detailed progressive agenda that will help reverse the negative trends in New York exacerbated by things like the John Katko tax cut that seemed carved perfectly people to benefit those in rich suburbs of large cities of red states--you know, the exact opposite of Syracuse.

Balter also doesn't have the baggage stemming from a Mayoral campaign which still has some fresh wounds here in the city. I'm always, always hesitant to use "electability" as a key aspect of my voting choice (that bumper sticker says "elect ability", right?) But in order to beat Katko, the candidate facing him is going to need to consolidate support in the city, and Perez Williams was, very recently, totally unable to do that. Colleen Deacon got 58.6% of the vote within the city of Syracuse in 2016 on her way to getting trounced in the election. Hillary Clinton got 70.3% within the city. Granted, Perez Williams was running against a candidate with much more appeal within the city, but she still is running a race where she'll need to pull in 65% of the vote in a city that she failed to reach 40% in a mayoral election the year before. It's hard to see how those numbers are there.

 As a supporter of Perez Williams in 2017, I understand fully how much of that baggage came from attacks on her that were, uh, to say politely, gender-unfriendly and racially charged. Instead of policy, the biggest theme of the campaign sadly turned into her being "difficult" contrasted with Walsh's likeability. But I will also say that losing badly, and taking that as a sign to run for higher office only three months later really plays into some of those criticisms of her. 

Perhaps more importantly, the decision by the DCCC to recruit and financially support Perez Williams really plays into the narrative that they have become this aloof, elitist branch that fails to get into the trenches and talk to the activists doing the work. And I'm not just talking about progressive, college kid-type activists either: Balter consolidated the support of each of the county parties. If the DCCC had bothered to talk to people, they'd have found that genuine enthusiasm for Balter within the local party. They'd not have gotten spooked by Balter's poor 4Q (2017) fundraising numbers, when she was building momentum after being a total unknown. Which, speaking of Fundraising: the biggest reason for the DCCC wanting an alternative to Balter seemed to be those poor fundrasing numbers, but Balter has outraised Perez Williams overall, and by an overwhelming amount among donors within the district. 

So today, send a message to the DCCC that these campaigns are won on the ground, not with a checkbook. And then, even more importantly, send a message to John Katko and the local Republican establishment that they are responsible to the residents of Central New York, not their patrons on the Florida coast. 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jim attempts to assemble a dollhouse - a play-by-play

So a couple weeks ago, my daughter turned two. We had a party for her, and it was awesome. One of the presents Alice got at her party was a dollhouse. Specifically, it is a Chelsea Doll Cottage, by the fine folks at KidKraft. It is pretty cool looking on the box. There is, however, some assembly required. How much assembly? Well, it says on the website about three hours worth. For comparison's sake, when you buy a grill, it says that assembly will take an hour? Have you ever assembled a grill? It didn't take an hour. I bought a grill this spring and I went out of my way to find one that was already assembled, so I wouldn't have to deal with that. The fewer steps between me and a hot dog, the better.

Okay, there is a big reason other than how long it would take for that first hot dog why I didn't want to assemble the grill: I would not be accurately described as a handy fellow. My future in carpentry is limited. If I was good at building stuff, blogging about putting a dollhouse together would basically be bragging. Not the case here!. At least once during this process, I will realize that I've screwed some necessary piece in upside down and then done four more steps before I realized that I did so and will need to disassemble and will be swearing a lot. I invite you to take part in this lovely process with me.

During the building process - at least the first couple hours - my soundtrack will be the Syracuse vs. LSU football game. This should be helpful. As much as I screw this up, there is no chance it will be as much as a disaster as this game figures to be for the Oranges.

1:02pm: Here is a picture of the box. Cubs Snoopy will provide moral support.

1:11pm. The manual!

There are only 14 steps. Whether that is good or bad is an open question. The color coordinated hardware is intimidating. The wooden pieces are numbered though. With actual number stickers! Now, as long as those numbers aren't like two mirror images that can be put together backwards, I will feel good.

1:20pm: The box is unpacked.

I am not overwhelmed by the this stinking pile of adorableness which appears to be the walls and floors and such:

What I am more worried about is the box within a box. I already opened and unpacked a box. To get to another box feels like I'm delving too deeply. Perhaps I can perform a doll house inception, though? Do I unwrap this piece by piece now, or try to find stuff as I need it?

Try to find stuff as I need it, obviously.

Ok, here goes

1:53pm: Step 1 completed
Ok, narrowly averted the first disaster of the day. Step 1 is to connect boards 2 and 3 to piece 1. So, I separate pieces 1, 2, and 3. Or so I thought. Initially, because I am a fool, I had pieces 5, 2, and 3. And I had them wrong long enough to photograph my error:

Fortunately, I realized it when the instruction manual clearly showed a window and door, rather than two windows, on piece 1:

Part 3 was connected first, using two Hardware Parts D: the White 11"x16" bolt. Part 2 was attached next, using two Hardware Parts C: the Green 11"x16" bolts.

We appear to be in business:

Also, incredibly, Syraucse is losing only 7-3 at halftime.

2:01pm: A pitcher who can paint the corners is known as a Rembrandt.

2:16pm: Step 2 completed

This step took a much shorter time than writing about it. It will likely be the easiest step. I had to slide Board 4a into the slots between Board 2 and Board 3. It slid in correctly, indicating that Step 1 was done correctly enough. Hooray!

1:43pm: Step 3 completed

So the goals of this step were to connect Pole 6 and Board 5 (YES! 5 now!) to the existing structure.

Pole 6 gave me guff, as Hardware Piece A (Silver 11"x16" bolt) did not want to catch the Dowel Nut. I played around with this for some time. I was apprehensive about whether Hardware Piece I (9"x16" Bolt) would give me difficulty as well, as it was not screwing into a dowel or nut, but straight into the wood. Fortunately that went smoothly.

Board 5 (!) connected easily to the structure, using one Hardware Part D and two Hardware Parts C.

With that, Step 3 appears to have been finished.

3:12 pm: Step 4 completed

So, here's where I started to get cocky. I saw Step 4 was another simple board-sliding step. This is easy!

So, I decided to go to my refrigerator to get myself a lovely Saranac Pale Ale.

As Alice would say... Delicious! She really says that, and it's as cute as it sounds. Anyway, after one sip, I took the Board 4b, the ONLY THING I needed to useduring this step, and slid it in place. Upside Down.

Again, this was the only thing to do on this step. I saw my error and corrected it before screwing everything else in place, fortunately. Unfortunately, LSU just snagged an interception. minutes after opening up a 31-17 lead.

Much Better.

3:20pm: An external complication arises. Alice has awoken from her (extended) mid-day slumber. She wants Play-Doh. The Play-Doh is hard. This will end badly.

3:48pm: Step 5 completed
Fortunately, I was able to mash the Play-Doh enough that she finds it acceptable. Every time it falls apart I get a "fix it" but that is better than the nuclear meltdown that would occur if the Play-Doh was no longer usable.

Anyhow, Step 5 was successful, even sustaining an attack from an Alicesaurus. (Note: not an actual attack. She's pretty gentle with her toys, fortunately). I connected Board 7, which appears to be the third floor, to the rest of the structure using three Hardware Parts D (the Green 11"x16" bolts).

So far, Alice seems to approve.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

Matt Hague can really hit

I was at yesterday's Syracuse vs. Buffalo Triple-A game. I'd been planning on going most of the week, and when it was announced that Stephen Strasburg would be making a rehab start it was a pretty easy decision. Strasburg wasn't super sharp on the mound but he was spot on in the clubhouse, treating his teammates to delicious Dinosaur BBQ for the postgame spread

The point of this post isn't to debate the merits of the local barbecue scene, however. I wanted to talk about the Buffalo Bisons designated hitter. He was good. How good? Well, he compelled me to write a blog post about baseball, which I hadn't done in about forever. 

Hague went 4 for 5 with a double to raise his season line at Buffalo to a pretty remarkable .353/.432/.490. So why isn't he on every single prospect list? Because he turns 30 in 22 days. Hague first made it to Triple-A back in 2011, and has since compiled 583 games and 2508 plate appearances at the level. He's consistently hit there--.302/.378/.435--but he has never gotten a chance in the majors. 

So, Hague is probably just some Quad-A guy is what you are thinking. Having seen him live, I feel pretty confident that he isn't He reminded me quite a bit of Kevin Youkilis, who also took forever to get a chance. He holds his bat up and in front of his head, like a cross between Youkilis and Julio Franco, but with a much more upright stance. Then, as the pitcher is delivering, he shifts his weight back to an extreme level, going almost into a crouch. So, it doesn't look like a very effective swing. This isn't Ken Griffey, Jr.'s smoothness, folks. 

But, for all the weirdness in his stance, he was showing great hitting fundamentals, particularly with his hands. That enabled him to rip one base hit of Strasburg up the middle, and fist another in the same direction. Later, off of AJ Cole, Hague pulled a (slower) fastball hard for a base hit to left. Then, in the ninth, he hit a double the other way down the line off of left-hander Matt Grace. 

So, I don't really know why scouts or statheads haven't picked up on him. Maybe I just saw him on a particularly good night, but man, it seems impossible that he wouldn't be able to hit at the next level. His strikeout rate would probably go up, sure - but it's only 11% this year! He's not a great defensive player - but so what! Half the teams play a designated hitter, and even if he's a below average 3B/1B he would easily make up the difference with his bat. 

If I had to guess, I'd think he could hit something like .290/.360/.430. That would make him easily an above-average offensive first baseman. And while many teams around the league have that position filled, a team out of contention should absolutely give him a shot. The Red Sox, for example, have a lot of very expensive players. Getting a look at someone who could be a productive, very-low-cost option at first base (or even third!) for at least a couple years seems like a no-brainer. 

It seems like the Moneyball era got rid of players like this - Triple-A sluggers like Roberto Petagine and Jeff Manto who never got a chance because they weren't toolsy. Hague, though, is something of a throwback - a player who should be getting a shot based on his on-field accomplishments but has languished in the minors. Here's hoping someone gives him a chance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

David Letterman, I will miss you

As you probably have heard, David Letterman's final "Late Show" will be on tonight. Even though I hadn't watched Dave as much the last 10 years as I did in high school, I will miss him greatly.

There have been and are going to be a lot of pieces that will explain in much greater detail and with much more authority what an influence Letterman was on late night TV and on comedy in general. While his detractors might want to point out that he rarely won in the ratings war, comedy is hard to measure by ratings. Being funny and having broad appeal don't always overlap - in a lot of cases, they are directly at odds with each other. Particularly in his early years, Letterman was never one to sacrifice being funny for being appealing. He was unimpressed with the cult of celebrity. As Julia Roberts said to him last week, "stupid people annoy you."

Enjoy retirement, Dave.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Observations, II


There has been a lot of cool astronomy stuff in the news this week (apparently there are underground oceans everywhere). But one thing that I never knew was that the adjective form of Jupiter is Jovian. I will now use that every opportunity that I get. You've been warned.