Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Halfway Through

This vacation, that is, and so far I am being very good about actually being on vacation. I've only checked my work email once, and wasn't tempted to respond to anything, and don't intend to do anything work-related other than turn in a small grant proposal tomorrow that's due on Friday. And it's helping a great deal knowing that in a month, I get to do it all over again; I will be off the week before Labor Day again. I'm not going anywhere; my finances don't allow that at the moment. But it's been great just being able to do what I want to do when I want to do it, and leaving the cursed work phone home whenever I leave the house.
But I haven't been relaxing, either. I've embarked on a couple of projects this week; I'm thoroughly cleaning one area of the house per day and also getting the yard and garden under control. Yesterday was Sabrina's room and the back yard, respectively; while the room wasn't bad at all, given we had just cleaned it last week when we got rid of the rug in there, the back yard was a four-hour chore that filled two garbage cans with yard waste. But it sorely needed it, and it actually looks like a back yard again, not an fern farm with one corner that a rose bush had staked out for its own private domain.
I've been noticing on Facebook that a number of my friends have been suffering from insomnia. I normally am not, but over the weekend, I had trouble sleeping. I figured it was because I had been at the softball tournament and drank cans of Pepsi later than I normally ingest caffeinated drinks, but last night, I was pretty tired from all that physical activity, and yet it was one or better before I finally fell asleep. I can do without this development. It would help if I got into a good book; I'm reading one that I want to finish, but it's not one that lends itself to bedtime reading. I tried earnestly to finish it last night, but it got too heavy for my eyes close to the end. That's become my bedtime routine, too; I need to read for 15-45 minutes before turning out the light if I hope to sleep.
And the day ahead is very full. I have a dentist's appointment at 8:00 AM. I will stop by the main office to pick up my pay stub and see if the signed title page to the grant has arrived from agency headquarters. Today I clean the kitchen, which will take an hour or so, and the side of the house is the outdoor project--maybe another hour. I was going to get a haircut and hang out with my friend Musa in the afternoon for a bit; he has a project of his own that I am assisting him with, and hopefully we can put a dent in it. Hopefully we will have our men's group tonight at 5:30, as well. So it isn't like I'm sitting in a rocking chair on the porch and sipping lemonade all day.
Which is the way I like it, to be truthful. I'm not one who has an inclination to sit in front of the television during down time, and while I enjoy reading, it feels odd to me to do so while the sun is out and there are other things I can be doing. That's why vacations in the wintertime are always preferable to me; I do tend to relax and just hang around more. But I'm not complaining; I enjoy yardwork immensely, too, and wish I had had more time earlier in the year to buy and tend to plants. But I've decided to treat this year as a fallow year for some areas that I normally have flowers in, especially in the front yard; that soil is pretty marginal there, and plowing under some clover and grass and letting it rot should make it grow like gangbusters next year. At least that's the idea.
The garden is coming along pretty well. The last few years, the broccoli was disappointing; this year, the broccoli was great, but I've had some trouble with squash and peppers and, surprisingly, tomatoes. All three bloomed late due to the end-of-April frost, I believe (the cucumbers were affected the worst, and got a late start, but are coming on, finally). But the green beans more than made up for it, and the lima beans are growing like crazy, too, and should be ready to harvest in numbers enough for a few meals in August. I am going to have at least four good-sized pumpkins, too, and there are at least three more possibly developing at present. One of the things I want to do tomorrow or Friday is go up to Apple Hills and pick blueberries. I have six blueberry bushes I have bought over the years, and I may have to reconsider my usual no-artificial-fertilizer policy, because they're not getting any bigger as the years pass. As it stands, they get a few berries every year, but the birds get them before I can harvest them in any significant numbers. I'd really like to see them get, if not the size that commercial farms get to, at least as big as I am, but it doesn't seem to be happening. I also need to get another asparagus plant or two somewhere; with the hedges gone now, there's plenty of room for them, and the one I planted a few years ago is becoming a veritable monster, a pleasing development to me.
But the best part of it all has been simply not going to the office and getting immersed in the minutiae of my professional existence. It's been a stay-cation, but I've never liked travelling much anyhow, and this has been just fine by me. And I have five full days to go before heading back to the grind.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Binghamton East Tournament, Final Day

I'll spare the suspense: they didn't win. They came perilously close to not even getting into the championship game, and led for a total of two innings in the fourteen they played yesterday (the championship round games were seven innings). It was disappointing, and it didn't have to be this way, but I know one thing: the experience of the last couple of weeks certainly made an impact on my daughter. At fourteen years old, she's had a few concepts forever seared into her psyche about what it takes to excel at a pursuit. One is that no matter what your talent level may be, you can't win anything just by showing up. Another is that you have to prepare for each and every contest like you were playing worthy opponents. And yet another is that all the talent in the world doesn't help you if you don't do what you do intelligently.
I knew we were in trouble before the first game even started. The team was there on time, for once, but no one took warming up terribly seriously; they were far too caught up in who-texted-who and talking about social whirls. The pitcher didn't properly warm up, which cost her dearly in the first inning when she walked five batters in the midst of giving up four runs. She settled down in the next two innings before the main pitcher came in for the fourth (which moved Sabrina from behind the plate to right field), but the team was behind the entire game, as the Endicott team showed a level of skill that clearly floored our kids. Their outfield, in particular, was good; seven of our kids hit fly balls that were caught, which on this level doesn't happen regularly.
The turning point of the game came in the top of the sixth. Endicott was ahead 5-2, and put runners on second and third (after a throwing error by our normally-best infielder, who, as the two weeks of tournaments went on, developed a serious Sax/Knoblauch syndrome about throwing the ball to first base. She was a starter on the JV team this year, but that has to be fixed real quick if she's going to have the future she seemed destined to have just a few months ago) with no outs. The batter hit a fly ball to right field that Sabrina caught (the less said about our usual outfielders, the better; suffice it to say that Endicott made more putouts in this game on fly balls than we did in ten games over two tournaments), and then she made a perfect throw to the plate to nail the tagging runner. We escaped the inning down still down only three, and then Mindy led off with a cannon blast home run in the bottom of the sixth, which opened the gates to a ten-run inning and a deceptively large final 12-5 margin of victory.
I was talking to a long-time friend of mine after the game, a guy who was one of my best friends in high school whose daughter is on the Endicott team, and he told me that Endicott had lost five games without winning any this summer to the Endwell team we were about to play for the championship. And watching them warm up, I knew we were in trouble: they have a lot of large, heavy girls on the team, but they played smartly and their pitcher threw strikes. And sure enough, we were losing 3-1 after two innings, and spent all game trying to catch up. We tied it at 4 in the fifth, and then went up 6-4 after six, not without controversy. One of our kids beat out a ground ball, and then slipped and fell after turning toward second as the overthrown ball clanged off the fence. She was tagged as one umpire called "dead ball" while the other called her out; after a long and messy confrontation, she was allowed to stay on first because of the dead ball call. But the tag out exemplified the casual and unintelligent way some of our kids play the game. I coached in the 9-12 league for several years, and I know that all of our kids were taught from the time they were 9 that you turn, after going by first base, toward the dugout for that very reason--that you can get tagged out if you turn the other way. I was and remain shocked by how many kids, on the JV team and in City League, do not do this, and I knew that it was a matter of time before this came back to bite us... I'm trying to keep in mind that these are teenage girls, that they are trying the best they can, and that different kids have different personalities and that not every kid is going to be like mine is. But the coach in me sure gets frustrated watching the same kids make the same mental mistakes time after time after time, game after game. Sabrina, Sammy, and Kayla are the only kids on this team that tag up on fly balls, or in general act like they've been on base before when they are on base. We threw away two runs in the championship game trying to catch runners off base that weren't three feet off the base--and throwing the ball away. We lost three runs in the first game when the right fielder didn't keep a line drive in front of her, partially because she wasn't paying real close attention to the game and was surprised when the ball came out her way (I mean, you're playing in the field in a softball tournament, and you're fifteen years old. You can't focus on what you're doing for five minutes?) Although it ended up not costing us a run, the second baseman, with runners on first and second and one out, fielded a slow roller--and tried to reach behind her to tag the runner rather than just throw to first for the out. Another run was lost when the same kid didn't tag up on a fly ball. There are four players on this team that will swing at just about anything they can reach. Physical errors, galling as they can be, happen, and coaches can accept that. But playing with a lack of mental acuity and intelligence--that can be avoided. And should be, even at this level ... This particular  kid can hit some (although her plate discipline is atrocious; she is one of those who swings at everything, and as a result wasn't terribly useful on the JV team when facing good pitching). But she's not particularly good in the field, and her baserunning is consistently awful--she was put out on the bases in at least six of the games in the two tournaments, and this instance could have made seven.
Anyhow, we pushed across two runs, the second when Sabrina drew a bases-loaded walk. What I was writing about a couple of days ago was confirmed; the same umpire was behind the plate for both games, and by time she came to plate in the sixth inning of this game, he knew she was disciplined enough to only swing at pitches that were strikes. Ball four was close, and she got the call because the umpire knew she didn't chase bad pitches... With a 6-4 lead, everyone breathed a little easier--until the leadoff batter hit one to short and the throw hit the fence. Before the inning was over, they had scored three, and you could see the deflation in our kids' faces. We got a runner on with two outs, and then Mindy hit a ball into the outfield that dropped in front of a fielder--and our runner, with head down, didn't stop at second as Ed was hollering "Stay!" and was out by thirty feet at third base. Game, tournament, and season over.
Sabrina had only one hit in the two games, but hit the ball hard for the most part; the hit was a shot that hit the mound and went about twenty feet in the air for a single, one soft mini-popup to second and three balls hit right at someone, plus the walk. She ended up with a .421 average and a .577 on-base percentage for the tournaments, and didn't strike out in 26 trips to the plate, something no one else on the team could say. And even though the team finished second in both tournaments, it did her a world of good to play on a good team again. Her JV team wasn't awful this year, but lost more than they won, and the other teams she was a part of the last two years all lost with numbing regularity. Her confidence, which was sagging just a little toward the end of the City League season, was fully restored, and more importantly, she learned that along with the talent, her softball sense will serve her even better as time passes. I am glad she had this experience, and she will be on the team again next year, Ed told her afterwards, if she wants to be.
She will get a few weeks off, before travel team tryouts sometime in August. I was talking with a friend of mine during most of the first game, whose daughter was on the travel team last year, and he told me he had to take her off it this spring because the fee to be on the team jumped from $800 to $1300. That kind of money is beyond me, even not considering the money it takes to travel all over the Northeast, and I've told Sabrina that it's possible that she's not going to be able to play even if she makes the team...we will see. But as a coda to the 2013 season, a season that began with open-gym workouts back in February, it ended well. In 34 games, against varying levels of competition, she hit .388 (33 for 85), with a walk/strikeout ratio well over 4:1 (and she didn't strike out after the second-to-last game of the JV season) and her ability behind the plate grew by degrees. It has to be logged as a successful season.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Ripples In A Pond

Yesterday did not turn out as expected. It rained hard Saturday night, which meant that the two fields at Fairview Park, where the East Side tournament is held, took a lot of work to make playable by 10 AM yesterday. The two play-in games for the championship did get completed, but as the grounds crew, of which I am now a part of for at least the rest of this year's tournament, were raking and lining the fields for the noon games, the skies opened and it rained hard for about thirty minutes, enough to make the fields unplayable for the rest of the day. The tourney will resume tonight at 6, and presumably finish with an 8 PM championship game under the lights. We are playing Endicott in the semi-final; I guess the bracket was set up so that 1 plays 3 and 2 plays 4 in this round. The one notable development that came out of yesterday is that the Harpursville team's parents regained their title as the Worst Ever, and a couple of the kids on the team were audibly chirping at the umpires...
Have you ever watched a sporting event with one of those fans? You know the kind I am referring to: the ones whose teams are forever the victims of unscrupulous, biased, and even crooked officiating? The kind who are convinced that the other team is full of Machiavellian evil child geniuses who devote their entire 13YO existences to figuring out ways to cheat? When I got to the field yesterday, I took in a couple of innings of their game, and was on the Harpursville side of the field. The first batter I saw up hit a grounder that was out on a close play at first--and the stands exploded. I heard, in succession, "C'MON!", "What's with this guy?", "That wasn't even close!" (all standard, not really a big issue), and then "C'mon girls, let's beat the cheaters" and "This happens every game!" and "The umpire must be from Johnson City" and then, on the first pitch to the next batter after the change of inning, my personal favorite "Well, I can't see if it was outside or not, but it should be a strike because the location was good" (it was a foot outside) and then, on a play in the outfield that one of their players dropped, "She had it long enough!" when the ball went in the pocket of her glove for a nanosecond before hitting the ground, followed by "When Binghamton's girl did that, it was an out" (in Saturday's game, Mindy made a catch in center field for a third out and then dropped the ball as she started to jog in to the dugout). Then one of their kids grounded out on a play that was close again, and the kid threw a fit, hollering "I was not out" all the way back to the dugout...And this was during ten minutes. What an unpleasant bunch of jerks. Period. I now suspect that the reason they were all so low-key Saturday was the presence of one of my friends at the game, whose granddaughter is on the team. He is a tall, towering, physically imposing presence, even in his late 50's, a real biker type, and while he has some volatility to him that occasionally surfaces in meetings (he has been clean 25 years), he conducts himself as an adult in public. Saturday he was very visible and actively cheered on the team--within accepted boundaries, encouraging the kids and at least on two occasions exhorting them to not worry about calls and to play their game. He wasn't there last week or yesterday, and the difference was really night and day.
What an unpleasant bunch of people there are surrounding this team. They really think that there are no close plays that should go against their team. Later in the game, one of their kids tried to come home on a wild pitch and was called out, and the stands exploded again--until the kid, bless her heart, came back to the dugout and said, "I was out." And one jewel of a person actually said, "He should have called you safe because of all the calls he's missed this game." Unreal. With that kind of "adult" input and leadership, I truly fear for these kids' ability to function not only in the sports world, but the real world as they mature. When your world view is shaped by visions of grand conspiracies designed to keep you down and from achieving your rightful place, when the world is filled with secret cabals and people on the take--what do you think the children immersed in that culture are going to be like as adults? I am reminded of a conversation I had with a Harpursville school official several years ago, who said the most tiring aspect of her job was dealing with parents of some kids, parents who went to the school when they were kids and who never liked it or got along with people there, and who hated school and do not value education in any meaningful way as a result. I'm sure that these parents always tell their kids that teachers and administrators are picking on them, "don't like" them, unfairly favor other kids at their expense, etc. ad nauseum... 
Ripples. It all matters. What this kind of input from alleged adults teaches kids is not only unhealthy and wrong, but it inhibits and retards the process of growth and development in adolescents. There are some talented kids on that team--not as many as on some of the others, but enough so that they should be competitive with most of the other squads on this circuit. But what I have yet to see, in watching about six of their games over the last two weeks, is any real coaching or encouragement. The kid who was complaining on the field about "not being out" hit her ground ball on a 3-0 pitch; a coach worthy of the name would have told the kid long ago that you don't swing on a 3-0 pitch. I've seen the same kids caught stealing again and again, and I keep seeing the coaches send them regardless; the problem here is not that the umpire is biased and wants to call them out, it's that they're not fast enough to get to the base against a decent catcher, and a coach worthy of the name wouldn't keep asking a kid to successfully achieve something they're not capable of achieving. There is no awareness at all, in either the stands or the dugout, that the other team is full of players doing their best to play the game, and sometimes they actually make good plays and good pitches without the conspiratorial assistance of the umpires and the people running the tournament. There's no indication that practice consists of any kind of fundamental training; there doesn't seem to be any awareness of things like force plays, backing up each other in the outfield, where and when to cut the ball off, and a hundred other nuances that increase the likelihood that, at the end of the game, your team will have more runs on the board than the other team.
Nah, it's easier to blame the umpires and the other team for being dishonest cheaters.
It's all very familiar to me, partially because of what I do for a living, but mostly because I have seen this mindset at work up close and personal for seventeen years. This is how MOTY lives her life. Nothing is ever her fault; other people always have it in for her. She wants all the benefits and rewards that other people have without actually doing the hard work necessary to achieve them. She will do the same things over and over and over again and then over again some more, and never understand that it's the idea that's flawed, not the execution, and that other people's skills and abilities necessarily impact her life--for example, back when she actually looked for jobs, it was always because someone "didn't like her" that she didn't get one; there was never any credence given to the notion that someone else who applied might have been better qualified, and no awareness that her chances would be greater of getting one if she did something to improve her qualifications and skill set.
And I saw the danger of long-term exposure to this kind of thinking on the ride home. One of Sabrina's friends on the team is part of a large family; there are ten kids in the family, and Sabrina informed me in the car that she thinks the mother is pregnant again. I said something like they need to stop doing that, and Sabrina talked over me, loudly, several times and more aggressively with each time, saying "It's their choice! You can't say anything!" I ended up nearly blowing up, because 1) she wasn't letting me even finish my thought, and 2) my thought was, these people are career welfare-roll residents. It's one thing to have a large family if, you know, you're actually able to support and take care of a large number of children. But the father's been in and out of jail for years, and the mother doesn't work. The kids are decent kids, to be sure--but they've essentially been raised on public money, and as part of the public who puts into the system without taking out, I'm not happy that the only skill that these two people are apparently willing to hone is their ability to have sex with each other. The point is that, yes, we have choices, but twinned with choice is responsibility. I respect everyone's ability to make choices; this is still America. But you can't keep making choices and then expect other people to take responsibility for the consequences of your choices. I don't pay taxes with the idea that I am going to be paying for a "Cheaper By The Dozen" re-enactment in real life. Quite honestly, if you want to have twelve kids, support them with your own efforts, not my money. I was eventually able to make this point to Sabrina, and while I'm not sure I changed her feeling, she is at least thinking about it, especially since, at the get-together we eventually went to yesterday afternoon, a couple of the other adults there told her that I was right.
And of course, this is very relevant to both of us at the moment, but more so Sabrina. From the vehemence of her statement and some of the wording, I know that she is parroting MOTY's rationale for being seven months pregnant at 39 years of age and no visible means of support because she hasn't had a job for two fucking years. "It's her choice." If MOTY's life can be summed up in a sentence, it's "I do what I want to do without any thought of long-term effects and consequences, and it's everyone else's job to clean up the mess and deal with it." This has been a consistent theme since the woman was 22 years old, when I met her, and there is no sign at all that any learning or enlightenment has taken place in the intervening seventeen years. She still has the foresight of an earthworm; she still expects and demands other people to alleviate the poor results of bad decisions she makes; she still is unable to make the distinction that what she wants may not be in the best interests of her children. She is, to be blunt, a parasite on society at large, someone who is totally incapable of taking responsibility for her choices and has no skills other than the ability to open her legs wide for the next sucker. And as she ages, the quality of suckers had steadily decreased; this guy isn't even going to be around when this kid is old enough to go to school, being that he has Lou Gehrig's disease. And that's not even considering that the evidence is mounting that she has returned to using her drug of choice. In a best case scenario, the kid is born positive and grows up in foster care.
But it's her "choice."
What a world we live in. I'm normally "progressive" or "liberal" in political outlook and moral views--but I have to say that people like this piss me off as much or more than they do the gun nuts and conservatives. I do not want a more equitable distribution of wealth to pay for the sexual irresponsibility of grown-ups. The point of progressive policy is to make our society function better, but there's a supposition that everyone in that society is actually, you know, trying. And it burns me when I see a great deal of evidence that there are a lot of people out there who really aren't willing to make an effort. And the fact that the ripples eventually return to the source is small solace. I have no problem helping those who make mistakes or find themselves in tough spots--if they are willing to learn from those mistakes and/or are willing to put the effort into becoming contributors rather than recipients. But I have a huge and growing problem with people who just are not willing to put the effort in. I haven't worked for thirty years of my life to enable some pea-brained bozos to create twelve children that they couldn't support on their own if their life depended on it, or for some emotional toddler in an adult's body to continue to make a truly astonishing number of ill-informed, short-sighted decisions that make any neutral observer seriously consider whether she is trying to make the worst choices available to her.
It's gotten old.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Binghamton East Tournament 2013, Day Two

As I knew they would, the Beast is the top seed after the round robin portion of the tournament concludes, unless Endicott or Endwell won the 4 PM game between the two squads  by about forty runs, which I am positive did not happen. We will play the winner of the 4-5 seed matchup at noon, and thus we will be playing a team, again, that we beat rather handily during the first two days. My gut feeling of an Endicott-Beast final looks pretty safe.
We won our games yesterday without any concerns whatsoever. The first game was against the better of the two Johnson City teams. The JC team had just lost a tough one to the Endwell team in the morning opener, and it was clear that they were spent, because they didn't do a thing right during the 4 1/2 inning game. The final was 21-2, and it wasn't that close...and the thing is, we didn't even play well. We made errors in every inning, and of the twelve outs we made, five were made by our 3-4-5 hitters (and a sixth made by the 5 hitter on the bases). It really could have been much worse. We had eleven players yesterday, and that is apparently what we will have today, too; one of the other kids informed the coach she wasn't going to be there a half-hour before gametime yesterday and won't be there today, either. Kelsey was sick Friday, but was feeling well enough to play yesterday and nearly hit a homer to right field. The top pitcher apparently is nursing a sore arm and wasn't really herself until about the third inning, but she didn't strain herself, either, after we scored nine runs in the second inning and led 12-1 at that point.
Sabrina played right field during the game and wasn't called on to do anything other than back up throws--which she did, well. She also came to the plate three times, and saw a total of one strike; she scored on all three of her walks, and stole a couple of bases. One thing this coaching staff has figured out is that, despite her not being all that fast, she is one of the best baserunners on the team. She never hesitates on either steal attempts or wild pitches, and also knows how to slide, which isn't a given on this level. She scored in the second game on a sacrifice fly, which may not seem like a big deal except for nobody else on the team seems to understand the concept of tagging up, or in some cases even that it isn't a good idea, when you are on base, to put your head down and take off at full speed on every ball that's hit, even those in the air. She doesn't slow up before the bag running out grounders, either (no one on this team is guilty of that, to be sure, but I am totally amazed at how many players on the school teams, much less in City League, do not run through the bag, but slow up at first like it's second or third, like they are afraid to overrun it).
We had our second game on the upper field immediately afterward, against our friends last week from Harpursville. The players were a lot better this week, as far as the chirping, on that team than last, but there are two people in that dugout that really need to grow up; it doesn't reflect well on you or your team when you bitch, loudly, about every single call that doesn't go your way, including balls and strikes. This game was not a gem, from our standpoint, either; there was plenty of sloppy fielding and errors. some bonehead plays when we were hitting, and Tia had a hard time finding the plate consistently in three of the five innings she pitched. But to accentuate the positives, while she was wild at times, Tia was also impossible for them to hit hard today; the only ball that made it to the outfield legitimately was from the first batter of the game. Sabrina-- Tia's personal catcher, apparently, which is ironic, since Sabrina didn't catch Tia when they were on the JV team; Riley did--caught the second game, and did better than she did the day before, even if she didn't throw anyone out; she actually did a real good job, I noticed (I was sitting behind the plate for most of the game, until my chair broke, which is going to be some annoyance tomorrow if we have to play on the upper field again), of framing Tia's pitches; as wild as she was, it really could have been worse because Sabrina was real good about reaching forward for pitches that were low and keeping them at the knees for the called strike.
To give Harpursville credit, they are the only team so far that made us bat in the fifth inning before the mercy rule came into play; we won 15-5. Sabrina drew another walk, smoked a double down the left field line, and lined out, hard, on a nice play by their third baseman in her three trips up. Through eight games over two tournaments, she has put together this batting line:
At Bats      Runs      Hits     RBIS       2B   3B  HR BB  K    Batting Ave. On-Base % Slugging %
   14           10            7         7            3      1    0    6     0       .500             .650            .857

She's been hitting eighth, and I would think she would have earned a move up, but... I haven't talked to Ed to make sure, but the more I see of how he has constructed a batting order out of this particular set of talent he has in 2013, I think he views the order as two sets of four hitters, making Sabrina a second clean-up hitter., before batting whoever is the right fielder last. Sabrina also runs the bases well enough so that she is not going to make outs on the bases while the bottom of the order is up, and she has often run herself into scoring position on groundouts and such, where other players either make a mistake or just don't go. But even more than the stats is that, with her history of streaky hitting, she is dialed in right now. Everything she has hit dating back to the last three games of the last tournament has been smoked, and with her hand healed, the third baseman and left fielder are in jeopardy. She and Tia both hit huge balls down the left field line that were just foul that made the field of weeds behind the upper playing field at Fairview...I've watched and coached a couple of thousand softball games over the last six years, and I am totally convinced that my daughter has one of the brightest futures in this game of anyone in this area, including other schools and towns. All parental pride aside, she's a good and smart player. She plays a very important defensive position very well, and will only get better as her arm and leg strength improves; her only real weakness behind the plate now is getting out on bunts quickly. Her arm isn't quite as strong as the two varsity catchers, but she's three years younger than they are; with a pitcher who can throw strikes at reasonable speed, she throws runners out. Harpursville didn't even try to run on her today unless the ball got by her. Even now, she's better than either varsity catcher catching popups and holding on to foul tips. I've talked about her baserunning. And not only can she hit well, but she isn't getting by on sheer talent at the plate. She is the most disciplined hitter on this team, in that she is perfectly willing to wait four or five pitches to get one she likes and that she can drive; too many kids go up there like batting was one of those three-pitch carnival games and swing at every offering they can reach, regardless of the strike zone (Sabrina's type of hitter are the kind of players that get respect from umpires, too; the same three or four umps have worked both tournaments, and I've already seen that at least two of them seem to have decided that if Sabrina doesn't swing at it, it must not be a strike. She got ball four yesterday on a pitch in the same location that Mindy got called out on, and I am convinced that because Mindy was swinging from her heels when she was up there, that was why her pitch was called strike three) She isn't swinging for the fence every swing; our power hitters connect about once a game, but also pop it up and strike out far more than they should considering the quality of pitching we've been facing. The nuanced, intelligent parts of her game--plate discipline, baserunning, and the willingness to do things like back up throws to first when she's playing right field--are very unusual in kids three or four years older than her, and extremely rare in kids who are 14. It bodes very, very well for her future, because she has already learned to harness her talent and to play the game smartly, not just on instinct.
I'd feel this tournament was a lock--except I felt that way last week, too. I think it will be better for the team that they will be playing a team they haven't played before for the trophy; I doubt they will be overconfident. Eleven players are more manageable than thirteen, too; at least eight of them are playing the whole game. I'd also prefer to see fewer errors in the field and many, MANY fewer errors running the bases; we can't give good teams four and five outs an inning, and take the bats out of her own players' hands.
I am enjoying this tournament experience immensely. I ended up not having to cook yesterday, because I was tapped to chalk the fields between games and rake the dirt, which I had never done before and actually discovered that I like. It also allowed me to watch all of both games. I also was pleasantly surprised when Mindy's mother sought me out before the first game and asked me my name and talked with me with the express purpose of getting to know me a little better; amazingly, later in the day when Sabrina's aunt (her mother's sister) showed up, it turns out that Mindy's mother went to school with Sabrina's mother and aunt. Small world. Ed already knew me and was friendly with me, but you can never have too many friends and people you get along with in the world of softball, I discovered a couple of years ago. And honestly, this needs to be said, something I've talked about it a few times before. Binghamton kids and Binghamton parents have reputations for being something less than refined and polite--and I can tell you, after four years of these tournaments, that that perception is very much wrong. Our parents are generally quiet, and those that are not do not make spectacles of themselves. And every year in these tournaments, there's some team that has parents attached to them that are just assholes, and this year, the hands down winner of the Shut-Your-Festering-Piehole award goes to, surprisingly, not the Harpursville entourage, but the parents of some of the kids on the Johnson City team we beat yesterday. One woman, in particular, can only truly be described as "douchebag bitch." Cursing at the umpires (who didn't miss a call, from what I could see), heckling the first base coach of the other team, passing stupid and ill-informed remarks within earshot of everyone on that side of the stands that only pointed out her near-total lack of knowledge of how it is ballgames are won and lost--I had a seat with a great view that I gave up to get away from her. She was, thankfully, relatively quiet during the beatdown their team got from us, but we may well play them again tomorrow... and one other thing I didn't like about that team. Sabrina's best friend Makayla is, inexplicably, on that team, even though she lives on the South Side of Binghamton. Makayla's not a great player, but she has some skills, but has been a bench player in the two tournaments I've seen her team play in. She got the start in right field against us. In the first inning, she didn't make a shoestring grab on a low liner, but did keep the ball in front of her--it would have been a good play had she made it, and I thought she did well to keep it from going to the fence, but no one on their side of the field or stands agreed, and weren't shy about expressing that opinion for all to hear. In the second inning, she dropped one, and then one got over her head during the messy nine-run inning--and when the inevitable pitcher change happened, the coach yanked her out of the game. In mid-inning. Before she had even batted. Let's see...you're losing by nine runs in the second inning and just changed pitchers, effectively throwing in the towel. You have to embarrass a kid by pulling them in the middle of an inning? You can't replace her at the start of the next inning, if that's what you feel is necessary, after she's batted? I just thought it was a horseshit move, especially since the team's shortstop booted not one, not two, not three--but four grounders during the same inning, but magically stayed on the field and heard nothing but encouragement. But the shortstop is the daughter of one of the people in the dugout--coincidence, I'm sure... I don't like scapegoating, and I certainly do not like moving players around on the field or taking them out of the game in the middle of an inning. These are kids, teenage girls (perhaps the subgroup of human beings most susceptible to fragile self-esteem issues); sometimes they have a bad inning or even a bad couple of innings. They suddenly don't lose their ability and talent in a second, but by doing things like yank them off the field, you are telling the kid, in front of the whole world, "I think we have a better chance to win if you're not out there." And never is heard a discouraging word, right?... and especially in a situation like yesterday. That team wasn't going to win if we played with six players on the field. What point does the yanking accomplish, besides tearing down a kid who already didn't have a whole lot of extra confidence to the point where she probably is useless to you for the rest of the tournament? I didn't feel bad about the ass-kicking they got one bit. And I do hope by some miracle we face them again today--but I think Harpursville is better than they are.
We'll find out when we get there. We have to be at the field at 11, so I will get a chance to meet with my sponsor before leaving to pick up Sabrina from her mother, who apparently thought dog-sitting was more important than attending her daughter's softball games today. Sabrina went there after we were done because it was Saturday and because she would get a chance to wash her uniform without going to the laundromat. I hope that we are done in enough time to attend a get-together we've been invited to that celebrates three of my better friend's birthdays, which fall within a few days of each other. I hope we have a first-place trophy to show off when we get there.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Binghamton East Tournament, 2013, Day One

Actually, Night One, since the game didn't start until 8 PM and we didn't get home until well after ten. When we got to the field last night, I stole a look at the tourney schedule, and there aren't as many teams in this tournament as there were last week. Neither of the Chenango Forks teams is here this weekend, so avenging the results of the Windsor tournament is not going to happen. But three of the other teams in the draw were there last week, two of which we beat pretty soundly; the third one was one that didn't make the championship bracket. I will be very surprised if the championship game Sunday afternoon is not Binghamton East against Union-Endicott.
There are a few differences this weekend. Last week we had thirteen players; last night we only had ten, and I know at least one of the kids on the team is on a travel team and is at a tournament in Tennessee this weekend. I actually much prefer when only ten or at most eleven kids are available for a particular game; it means everyone plays (or at worst one position splits time), and it does seem to relax the kids knowing that they will be playing the entire game. Two of the missing were among the right field/DH shuffle, and the third was the second basemen/second pitcher, so things broke well for Sabrina, at least for last night. The team we were playing is, I found out by talking with some of the parents in the stands, actually eligible for a 12-and-under tournament; they have two 13YOs and everyone else is 12 or under, which means they keep getting their heads handed to them in these tournaments. We defeated them in an easy mercy-rule killing in last week's tournament, and this week was more of the same, with the final count being 21-8 over 4 1/2 innings.
As in last week's game, Sabrina got to play the entire game behind the plate. She was catching the team's third pitcher,  Tia, who is normally the left fielder and is the cleanup hitter. Tia was on the JV team with Sabrina, was the second pitcher on that team, and although she can bring it fast, her control isn't real good--she walks a lot of kids, and she goes to a full count on more batters than not. Which cost her last night; the two balls that the JC team hit into the outfield were both dropped by our players, who weren't as alert as they could or should have been because they had been lulled by the number of pitches between meaningful plays. I stress that I am not knocking Tia, only that it is harder to play in the field, and more especially the outfield, when a fast and wild pitcher is on the mound. And as it turns out, I like Tia as a kid a great deal, and she and Sabrina are very good friends and work well together. Tia invariably will say, "Nice pick" or "nice stop" or even "thanks" when Sabrina blocks a ball or makes a good reach for a high one, and is very aware on the mound of what the baserunners are doing--none of this trudging back to the rubber with her head down. And as fast as she is, she gives the catcher the chance to throw out basestealers, and Sabrina did gun down two last night and picked another off third base, accounting for an inning's worth of outs.
She hit well, too, hitting a double and single in three trips up, raising her tournament batting average to .500 and her slugging percentage to .833. She said her hand felt fine after the game, which was more of a concern to me than anything else. And as often happens, the more time one spends on a team, the greater acceptance comes from long-established players. This is an East Side team, after all, and while Sabrina does know all of the others, and was teammates with four of the other players on the JV team this year, she was not terribly close with any of them, except Tia and Sammy. She said she got some stomach pains as the game progressed, but they seemed to be tension more than anything else, because they had dissipated by time we got home. But she has been accepted by everyone on the team, it appears; even the varsity catcher, who normally doesn't interact with her much, took time yesterday to talk with her about her pick-off throws and some general catching strategy, which she normally doesn't do.
And I feel as though I have been admitted into the parents' club, too; I was asked by the mother of the usual pitcher, who is active in the East Side Youth Association, the organization that sponsors this tournament, if I would be willing to work the grill during one of the games this afternoon. We're playing at noon on the lower field and at two o'clock on the upper, and I agreed; I like to help out and I like to cook, and if I get to do so during the noon game, I can still see the game more or less in its entirety. And on a side note, the year of putting bygones in the past on a personal level continues apace. A guy I've written about in the past that did some stuff in active addiction to one of my exes was working the concession stand last night, and we ended up talking civilly a few different times. Whatever happened happened at least sixteen years ago, and the person he did them too has been out of my life for over a decade now. I don't like it when I am defined by what happened many years ago for people whose paths cross mine today, and I found it, finally, relatively easy to let it go with this guy, who has been a rather devoted father to his daughter, who has played softball in these leagues and tournaments for several years as well. And it felt good to do so. I don't really think the guy was losing sleep over knowing I had an issue with him, but as the night went on, there were small signs that he, too, was relieved that the tension had ebbed away. We're both on the far side of fifty now, and life is really too short to carry this stuff into old age. And as my daughter has always pointed out to me, whatever he did, he didn't do it to me personally, and Lila has been gone for a very long time now. There's no reason for me to fight a war that I wasn't party to and that ended a long time ago.
On the ride home, Sabrina surprised me by talking about Lila, which she has not done in at least nine years or more, and saying she wanted to meet her again. She has only very dim memories of Lila, and as time passes, there are fewer and fewer reminders of her in our home and lives--there's a few pictures and some coffee cups, and this desk that I am sitting at, and that's about all that is left of her presence here. Well, that, and the homemade bookmark that her daughter, eight at the time, made for me that still marks my page in my Just For Today meditation book. That kid is now twenty, and I've seen her turn up in some Facebook posts of friends; she doesn't seem to have had any lasting damage from the car accident or from Lila's long and slow descent back into active addiction. I don't really wish to see Lila at this point; there is nothing between us and hasn't been for a long time--the last time I did see her was at a convenience store, and it was just incredibly awkward after greeting each other. But the possibility is there that I might see her again if she makes her way to meetings again, although I don't think that's likely. But you never know.
Have a few things to do in the last four hours--clean the guinea pig page, laundry, and finish the weekly grocery shopping. First day of vacation is going to be a little full, but knowing I can turn off the work phone and leave the work computer in its case already has been very freeing. And I fully intend to relax on those fronts for an entire week.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Jail Expansion

About three weeks ago, the County Sheriff went public with the idea that the existing county jail needs to be expanded. It wasn't all that long ago when the current county jail was built--maybe twenty years. There were some concerns when it was newly open about some shoddy construction practices that apparently took place when it was built, but they were rectified fairly quickly, and there haven't been any real concerns voiced, at least publicly, for a long time about it. And it's done quite well by the country during its lifetime. No one has ever escaped from it, and the way that it is built, I highly doubt that anyone ever will; once inside the building, there are so many checkpoints and electronic doors that no one is going to make it all the way through the building without being stopped.
There were times in the past when overcrowding was an issue, but reports of that hadn't made the news for several years now, which made the sheriff's announcement a bit puzzling. What overcrowding there is tended to be in the women's pod--there is only one housing unit for women, as opposed to at least five for men and one restricted pod, and a small medical unit, as well. It does seem that there have been more arrests around here in the last year to eighteen months; if there haven't been, then more of them have been featured in the media.
But incarceration should be something of a last resort. The number of people in jail in the country as a whole has quadrupled since 1980, and all that has accomplished is to create a significant number of people who cannot function in society for a variety of reasons once their sentences have been served; between the distorted social environment in a jailhouse setting and the stigma that we as a society place on ex-cons, we come very close to ensuring that the majority of those incarcerated will return at some point, not even taking into account what they are returning to on the outside. I'm not sure what the answer, or answers, may be; I do know that wholesale incarceration as a public strategy really hasn't worked or served its purpose.
But that question, fruitful as it may be to explore at some point, isn't what I am writing about this morning. The proposed expansion is going to cost money--lots of it, no doubt. And this county has been crying poverty for several years, and especially in the two years since the current county executive took over. There has been all sorts of cuts to county programs, from public assistance to youth programming to essential services. There has been a lot of time and noise devoted to rooting out supposed malefactors who are stealing welfare benefits; periodically names are released to the media of miscreants who have been charged with taking public money they haven't been entitled to. Early retirements and straight-up job cuts have been taken place in county departments, and several consolidations have taken place.
So where's the money going to come from for this proposed jail expansion? If we're so broke, if money is so tight, then where is this windfall of cash that we are going to have to tap into? And it isn't the expansion that is going to cost money. A bigger facility is going to mean more corrections officers hired, more support staff, higher pension and benefit costs for the unionized new employees. The price tag quoted is only going to be a partial reckoning; this will be something that costs the country a lot of money in the future, as well. I'm not saying that the jail doesn't need an expansion; I just want to know why there seems to be money available for this when there seems to be so little available for other things that, you know, have a positive impact on the community as a whole.
And I don't like a trend I'm already seeing. Since the idea was publicly floated, it sure seems like the powers that be are doing their best to inflate the demand. I have seen and heard of seven different people who were jailed in the last three weeks for offenses that people historically have not been jailed over. The local media, and in particular the rag that passes for a newspaper in these parts, suddenly, after years of more or less reporting on the most egregious of arrests, is publishing accounts of virtually every arrest made. I am seeing much more of a police presence in the City of Binghamton as a whole--not just BPD cars everywhere, but sheriff's cars and state troopers, as well. I don't know if it's just coincidence or if there is a concerted effort taking place behind the scenes or not--but it sure has gotten my attention.
And chances are, if this decision has already been made and public funding is not approved, proposals to go to what many states already have--for-profit prisons--will be heard. This is one of the worst and most barbaric ideas that has come out of Reagan's America; I don't have time to fully explore the phenomenon this morning, but in a nutshell, incarceration has, in those states, become legalized slavery. And there are already a couple of disturbing signs in Broome County that someone is thinking along these lines. Putting money on an inmate's account used to be pretty straightforward; you brought cash to the jail processing window, they gave you a receipt, and that was that. Now there's an automated machine that takes the money--that has a $3.25 "convenience fee" taken right off the top. There is no real reason for that other than to make some middlemen money, and to further inconvenience and stigmatize the families and friends of those incarcerated. But crap like this is the norm in states with for-profit prisons.
I don't like the way this is headed. And I am going to be paying a lot of attention as events warrant.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book Review: THE TRIBUNAL

There are few figures in American history that are more interesting, and whose reputation varies more widely depending on whom you talk to, than John Brown. The general consensus found in American history books today reflects the fact that, while the Union won the actual shooting war, the South won and continues to win the cultural war: he is usually described as "insane" or as some sort of madman. That was not the general consensus in his time and place, and The Tribunal, a collection edited by academics John Stauffer and Zoe Trodd, shows this. While the Southern press and Southern politicians reacted with near-hysteria to Brown and his raid on Harper's Ferry in 1859, engaging in invective and flights of paranoia unusual even for the breed, both the Northern and foreign press and individuals saw him for what he was: one of the few among us at any time and place who had the courage to not only confront gross injustice, but who had the cujones to actually fight it.
And it is sad and depressing that the same forces Brown, who always maintained that he was merely following the dictates of Christianity in his actions, confronted are still powerful, even ascendant, today. The shrill and frankly ridiculous screeds heard today in defense of racism, economic Darwinism, and  the security state are not new; they are the justifications of the slaveholders of 150 years ago, with but minor changes. The bitter imprecations heard when people with souls and morals call out hypocrites are heard with distressing frequency in today's right-wing media and from the lips of people like Louie Gohmert and Steve King. The same mindset that defended the right to hold other human beings in bondage to the point of fighting one of the bloodiest wars in history is the same mindset that is still fighting for control of the country today. And their ostensible Christianity and morality is just as grossly hypocritical now as it was in Brown's time and place.
Brown was not crazy or insane. Brown attempted to raise a slave insurrection to end what he regarded as a monumental injustice, and he was not afraid to confront the forces of evil while doing so. Brown was not insane; he saw those forces of evil for what they were. He was willing to do more than just talk, which was as rare then as now, and he got labelled as insane by those attempting to justify the unjustifiable, a classic instance of cognitive dissonance. Brown was not insane; he was one of the few then and now who took the words not only of the Bible, but of the Declaration of Independence seriously and acted on those beliefs. John Brown believed in the brotherhood of men, and in justice for all; for him, slavery was evil and those promoting and justifying it were, as well.
Brown was not insane; indeed, he was a hero to many in his time and place. Even the Southerners who came into personal contact with him were awed by his character and courage, and reading what was published at the time that Brown was front-page news, it is impossible to miss the adulation he inspired. The best writing of Thoreau's career was not Walden Pond or his treatises on civil disobedience; it was the essays he wrote in late 1859 about Brown. Ralph Waldo Emerson, one of the sharpest minds and clearest consciences ever to grace this country, also wrote eloquently and powerfully about the shining example Brown was for the rest of us in late 1859. The best selection in the book was a speech given by abolitionist Wendell Phillips, in which he accurately said that Brown, by confronting the powers of slavery, had not only started what would become the Civil War, but had brought about the beginning of the end of the "peculiar"--and reprehensible--institution.
And this is what has been forgotten. The people who actually took up arms to keep this country together, and right the most awful wrong that people in this country have ever perpetrated, didn't think John Brown was insane, not at all. He was their role model. He led the way. He actually not only stood on principle, but acted on them. That he died for his trouble is not the point so much that he confronted evil, and by doing so he made it impossible for those whose hearts were in the right place to stand aside any longer. Soldiers went into battle during the Civil War singing "John Brown's Body." For us to regularly claim, a century-and-a-half later, that Brown was a "madman"  not only denigrates his memory and reputation, but also that of the millions who were inspired by his example to end the gigantic moral travesty that slavery was. If you want to hold that Brown was a madman, then you have to believe that those who gave their lives to hold this country together were madmen, too, and that those who fought to end slavery were madmen, and that it is insane to confront evil when evil is the law of the land.
We should all be so insane. Because the world would undeniably be a better place if we were.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Random Notes, Late July 2013

Musings of someone who gets up far too early in the morning:
1) If anyone doubts that there is a self-perpetuating, closed club of elites in this country, then look no further than the speculation in the news that the next Federal Reserve Chair is going to be Lawrence Summers. Lawrence Summers has been, at various times, President of Harvard, United States Secretary of the Treasury, and Director of the National Economic Council. He is reputed to be a person of great intelligence, and all who have had contact with him say he has one of history's great egos. The problem with his prospective appointment? His track record suggests that he is not only an asshole, but an asshole who is, despite his reputation, wrong most of the time about matters pertaining to his supposed field of expertise, economics. When he was Clinton's Treasury Secretary, he was the leading voice in the administration against signing onto the Kyoto Protocol, saying global warming wasn't a major problem. He pushed for capital gains tax cuts. He blamed the California rolling blackouts in 2000 on "excessive government regulation," echoing the CEO of Enron; we all know what the real problem was. He was the genius who spearheaded efforts to repeal restrictions against commercial banks engaging in financial speculation, which was a direct and major cause of the financial meltdown several years later. And he was one of the major figures who fought tooth and nail against regulating the credit derivatives that allowed the fleecing of the American public and the making of obscene amounts of money by the financial industry while the rest of the country suffered. Oh, yeah--while at Harvard, he opined that women are less smart than men, he was forced to resign because of conflict of interest charges regarding the investment of Harvard's money, and by getting into a contretemps with an African-American professor in which the main issue appeared to be that the professor had made a rap album. Let's see--this guy is a robber baron apologist with a sense of entitlement the size of a mountain, couldn't have been more wrong about the effects of virtually everything he did, and is a first class jackass on top of it. And we want this guy running the Federal Reserve, a position that isn't answerable to anyone for years at a time? If this goes through, we are all, Democrat and Republican, rich and poor, white and not, in a lot of trouble. This is like carrying a plugged-in toaster into the bathtub.
Even Mitt Romney wouldn't have made an appointment this stupid. Holy....Shit.
2) Somewhere in the United Kingdom, a baby was born earlier in the week. I guess details are sketchy, though...
I freaking wish. Who really cares? Why do people still pay attention to the British royal family? Queen Elizabeth has been queen for 61 years, and this baby that was born isn't going to be on the throne for fifty years or better, given that his father and grandfather are in line ahead of him. Actually, the way the world is going, the chances that this baby will ever be king are growing more remote by the minute. But more to the point, what is the importance of this, on the larger scale? Why is this headline news everywhere in the world? We don't have a monarchy in this country, and the monarchs of Great Britain are no more important to the way that country is run than the figures on a wedding cake are to a marriage. And yet you cannot get away from the royal baby this week, and I've even seen the return to the news cycle of Princess Diana, dead sixteen years now and missed by... who? I swear to God, I will never understand what passes for news in this country. You can make a case that the British press should make a big deal about this, but every freaking news outlet in the world? Please.
3) There was much more edifying news coming out of the United Kingdom this weekend. In the ongoing morality play that golf in the twenty-teens is becoming, Eldrick Woods continues to choke away chances at adding to his total of 14 major titles, and it is looking increasingly doubtful that he is ever going to catch Jack Nicklaus' total of 18. I didn't like Tiger before the sex scandal, and I totally loathe his weasel ass now. I don't mind telling you that I am taking perverse pleasure in seeing him struggle so mightily to close the deal in majors now, especially since he has been so public in stating that they are what really matters to him. And it isn't like he's been out of the picture in most of those he has failed to win; he's prominent right up until the last few holes, but keeps blowing putts and missing wedges or putting drives in neighboring zip codes or...something. I love it when karma exacts its inevitable toll, and this guy has had this coming for a long time. What goes around most surely does come around again. And the absolute last straw was when Woods was caught breaking a rule at the Masters earlier this year--and not only didn't call it on himself, but the powers that be didn't disqualify his ass. Woods is a perfect symbol of the assholes driving this country into the ground--massive sense of entitlement who doesn't believe the rules apply to him. His failures couldn't be happening to a nicer guy.
And it's even better when one of the good guys wins. I've also written extensively of my liking for Phil Mickelson, and Mickelson picked up an improbable fifth major title of his own by blowing past the field with a round four shots better than anyone who teed off within 90 minutes of him on Sunday. Including, needless to say, Woods, who was forced to watch Mickelson's numbers on the scoreboards as he hacked his way through another final-round disappointment. Mickelson is 43 now, and had never really been a factor in a British Open before--but is playing probably the best golf of his life at the moment. Everyone talked about what a disappointment the US Open must have been, but he finished second, which means he played better than all but one guy. He's been right there in most majors in the last few years, and now has three of the four major titles on his mantel. And more to the point, he's likable and easy to root for. He's happily married, he's unfailingly gracious to media and fans, he's transparently happy to be playing golf for a living, and he handles adversity with dignity and class. In other words, in those areas, he's everything Eldrick Woods is not. I wasn't able to watch the entire show Sunday, but the Open was on the TV at the concession stand at the softball tournament, and every single person that stole a glance at the TV or asked about the progress of the tournament was pleased to hear that Lefty won. Every single one. Mickelson may have had more than his share of disappointments, and perhaps his record could be somewhat better than it is. But he has nothing, absolutely nothing, to be sorry for, and people can identify with his carving a wonderful career in the shadow of a tyrannosaur much more than they (ought to be able to) identify with someone like Woods. And even though we all pay too much attention to sports, this is one on-going saga that I am thoroughly enjoying from my living room.
I honestly do not think Woods is going to remain stuck on 14 majors forever; the Open will return to St. Andrews soon, and I think the US Open goes to Pebble Beach again in a few years, and if there is one thing Woods is proving in the latter part of his career, it is that he is a horse for particular courses. But I really don't think he is going to get 18 majors, and I will think watching him hack his way around championships in his late 40's and 50's stuck on 17 and becoming less competitive as time passes will be a lovely way to appreciate what a piece of crap he really is.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Book Review: WRONG AND DANGEROUS

Subtitled "Ten Right-Wing Myths About Our Constitution," Garrett Epps' Wrong and Dangerous ought to be required reading for anyone who spouts a political opinion in a public forum. There has been, in case you've spent the last three decades under a rock, a conservative offensive in this country that has resulted in a fundamental reordering of our nation, and much of the justification for what has been a naked power and wealth grab by elites stems from a lot of the bullshit--there is no polite way to describe it--emanating from a lot of pseudo-intellectuals claiming that the "original intent" of the Founding Fathers is now being fulfilled. Epps shows, through actual documentary evidence such as the writings of the Fathers and, you know, the actual text of the Constitution, that almost every conservative constitutional talking point is made-up bullshit. Commonly held nonsense such as "the purpose of the Constitution is to limit Congress," Congress goes too far in regulating commerce, there is no separation of church and state, and the odious concept of states' rights are held up scrutiny and shown for the balderdash they are.
Not that it stops anyone from repeating this crap, because some pretty powerful forces are very deeply invested in promoting these myths. The purpose of this crap is not to increase "freedom," it is to take it away. The purpose of this crap is not to increase equality of economic opportunity, it is to try to return to the economic climate of the Gilded Age. The purpose of this crap is not to restore the United States to its "original state," it is to impose an American Taliban on the nation. This is ultimately a depressing book, because this stuff is so pervasive and so widespread that it is shifted the terms of the debate, possibly past the point of a return to sanity--witness how far the ground has shifted in the Second Amendment battle, for example, and how hard it is in many areas of the country to get even rudimentary control on the sale and possession of army-grade weapons, in the guise of "protecting" rights allegedly present in the Second Amendment. And the tools are the same neo-Nazi techniques that the far right has been using since the 1960's--the Big Lie, the painting of opposing views as treasonous, stubborn and willful ignorance of the actual laws and history of this nation in favor of fantasies.
I've said this before, but the difference between right and left wing in this country is that the right wing, in pursuing its agenda, makes shit up. There is no liberal/progressive that could or would claim with a straight face that Jefferson, Franklin, or Madison was actually in favor of the United States being a "Christian" nation; even a cursory look at the lives of any of these men puts the lie to that notion. Jefferson actually published a New Testament stripped of anything other than Jesus' sayings; Franklin was the most openly atheist political figure we have ever had in this country, and the entire concept of separation of church and state was made the law of the land more through the efforts of Madison than anyone else. Yet I have heard and read modern conservative Christians claim that each of these Fathers intended for the United States to be a fundamentalist Protestant nation and for the government to reflect this, and the sad part is that there is a substantial element of those able to vote that believe this tripe.
And if anything, this book makes me dislike Antonin Scalia and Clarence Thomas even more than I did before, which I didn't think was possible. Even wrong-headed ideas can be tolerated, I suppose, if they are honestly held. But its the hypocrisy exhibited by those entrusted with interpreting the law that I find so objectionable. They are limited government, strict-constructionist when it comes to progressive matters--and then talk lovingly of "intent" and "implications' when it comes to implementing conservative ideas not found in the text of the Constitution. It's gotten old. Real old.
Anyway, if you find yourself frequently in debates with or harangued by people who watch Fox News and think Sarah Palin is anything more than America's Bimbo, you might want to read this book. You're not going to change their minds by refuting their nonsense--but you will feel more secure in knowing beyond the shadow of a doubt that you are right and they are willfully ignorant morons.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Windsor Tournament 2013--Final Day

Well, that sucked.
The unthinkable happened. This juggernaut of a team managed to not win the tournament. And yet it wasn't hard to see coming, and the entire day had a feel of weirdness, of something not being quite right, from the time we arrived at the field at 8:20 AM. The schedule everyone was operating under had the championship game at 6 PM, and quite a few of us, including me, had made plans for doing other things during the afternoon, and so it was a very unpleasant surprise to find out that the championship game had been moved to 1:30 PM, meaning we had to stay at the field or at most go home for about an hour and then come back. Almost all of us chose to stay.
The first game was against the unpleasant bunch from Harpursville that I was hoping we would get a chance to play. It was no contest, an 8-0 game called after 4 1/2 due to the mercy rule--and yet it really didn't feel like a slaughter. One reason was that we got a lot of help from the other team, as indeed we did during the previous three games--they didn't get hardly any baserunners, but those they did they kept throwing away by attempted steals and bunts, and in the field, they simply didn't make anything other than the ordinary plays. Our pitcher threw a one-hitter--but of the nineteen batters she faced, she threw a first-pitch ball to eighteen of them, and working from behind in the count is not normally a prescription for winning ball games. As the game progressed, we got sloppier at the plate, too, as those capable of it began swinging for the fences (without success) and almost everyone lost their concept of the strike zone, golfing at some and chasing others up around the eyes. Sabrina was the DH and only got to the plate once, doubling, but her hand started to bother her immediately, and although she was upset she was lifted in the fourth inning, I figured out that Ed was making sure that every kid got in the game before it ended.
And, like in their game the previous day, a few players on the Harpursville team showed an extreme lack of class; there was an incident toward the end of the game when our catcher came to the plate singing some song to herself and their catcher apparently made nasty and insulting remarks. The umpire put an immediate end to it, but predictably, the fat jerk of a coach and the inbred scorekeeper both became incensed, and there was also some chirping in the post-game handshake line. Most of the players hung around the park for a while afterward, and I could see that most of the kids on the team are all right; there just seems to be one or two families that are assholes. Which is usually the way, in these situations. I have a feeling we might be seeing them again in this weekend's tournament. Another worrisome development was that we lost four runners on the bases, something I will talk more about it in a bit.
I started to become a little concerned during the break between games; everyone on the team clearly believed all they had to do was show up to claim the championship, a sense magnified when the opponent turned out to be the team they won rather easily against on Friday night. And, although it wasn't the reason we lost, this does need to be said: it was not the team that we played on Friday night; somehow, they were allowed to add two players to their roster that played for other teams in this tournament. There are a disturbing number of coaches like this around youth softball/baseball leagues, that will bend, break, and trample the rules in pursuit of wins and championships. There was/is a coach notorious for pulling crap like this in the City League's 9-12 league; every year she wants to add a player to her roster that, according to her, is mediocre at best that somehow managed to not be available when tryouts are held--and who turns out to a tyro version of Jennie Finch. Finally, the City League director got wise to this and won't allow it anymore, but no one associated with this tournament has the balls to stand up to this guy, because the changes were allowed.
The game started, and I immediately became more concerned. Although they didn't score in the first three innings, the other team got two girls on base in each of the innings, and more importantly, after one runner was caught stealing in the first inning, they stopped trying to run on a catcher who can't be run on. I don't know how many runners teams lose a game at this level trying to steal bases or take bases on plays they shouldn't, but the average has to be between three and six--or, put another way, most teams lose at least one inning's worth of at-bats due to, frankly, stupidity. It amazes me how few coaches appreciate that all softball/baseball takes place in a context of outs. No matter what you do, no matter how you play the game, no matter how good or bad your talent--you get 18 (or 21, in scholastic settings) outs per game. With some runners, I understand stealing bases--those that you know are going to make it. I can't understand trying for stolen bases with every runner on your team, especially after the other team has demonstrated that their catcher can and will throw you out. Our catchers must have thrown out ten runners over three days and four games, and there were other outs gotten over ill-advised trying to take extra bases on groundouts and plays like that. If the other team is better than you, that's one thing--but for God's sake, don't make it easy for them by handing them four or five outs a game through your own stupidity running the bases. This coach, as much as he rubbed me the wrong way, figured it out early in this game, and it became clear as the game went on how much we had been depending on those four to six outs a game the other team had been giving us all weekend.
And even more worrisome, our bats were dead, for the most part, and we kept losing runners, too. We pushed across a run in the second--but lost the inning when the batter who hit a double tried to make it a triple and was out by fifteen feet. Our power hitters kept aiming for the fences, and kept popping the ball up, and the flaws of some of our less powerful players came to the fore in this game. Sabrina was the DH again, and caught a bit of bad luck when she smacked one right on the left field line that stayed fair and wasn't hit quite hard enough to get by the third baseman, and her hand swelled up immediately, causing Ed to take her out again.
The fourth inning was our undoing. The first batter walked after being down in the count 0-2. This is something that happens far more often than it should. Every pitcher on the varsity and JV level in the Binghamton softball program except one--the pitcher on this team is on varsity-- has, I have seen, an inordinate amount of trouble getting strike three. I don't know what it is, but I've seen it for five months now, to know it's a real problem. Three of the four kids that pitched on the JV team this year walked anywhere from a third to half of the batters they were ahead of by 0-2 or 1-2 counts, and that just can't happen more than very occasionally if you want to win ballgames. This pitcher hadn't done it in the tournament up until this inning, but it immediately came back to haunt her. The next batter dropped a sacrifice bunt that was misplayed, and then the next batter did the same... I hate bunting. In this case, I could understand it; there was no reason to suppose that a big inning was in the offing, and they were trying to get a run to tie the game. But in general, this fetish--there is no other word for it-with bunting that I see in girls softball is ridiculous, and does far more harm to the batting team than good. It's essentially giving away outs every game--if you make the plays.
But we didn't. And then there were a couple breaks-of-the-game hits--two liners to the outfield that our players missed shoestring catches on by inches and that became home runs, and suddenly it was 5-1. And I knew we were beaten on the second one; Tia flagged down the ball and hit the cutoff, and Sammy threw a strike toward the plate that had a chance to get the runner at the plate--except the pitcher, disgusted by the turn of events, reflexively speared the ball about fifteen feet in front of the plate and walked to the mound, evidently thinking that the runner had already scored when she caught it. And then we went down meekly at the plate, and this pall set over the dugout, like "This can't be happening."
The loss of focus continued in the last two innings; the other team pushed across what turned out to be crucial single runs in each frame because of uncharacteristic errors by some of our most dependable players. The team did go down fighting; they scored four runs, chasing the other team's pitcher, and actually had the winning run at the plate with one out, before the relief pitcher got the 8 and 9 hitters to ground out to end the game. It was very odd--and hard--to accept second-place trophies and then watch another team get the first-place hardware.
I talked with the coach after the game, and he was concerned with Sabrina's hand injury. I stopped by the walk-in on Robinson Street on the way home, and, shockingly, it was empty; we weren't in there for 40 minutes all told, and got x-rays and everything. It's a deep bone bruise, both on the thumb and the index finger, and there's nothing for it but ice and Motrin for a few days. Ed is not going to have a practice before the beginning of the tournament next weekend, which is probably the right call. Honestly, despite all the "brain farts", as he called them, if those two balls in the outfield were a foot closer to the fielders, we probably win the game in spite of it all; there was nothing there that practice is going to fix.
Well, if it was a travel team, maybe, because the other thing about softball on this level that galls me is the lack of attention paid to outfield play. On all-star teams like this, almost everyone is used to being the best or second-best players on their teams--and they don't play the outfield. In baseball, outfielders are much more important that in softball, but that doesn't justify the lack of attention paid to teaching kids how to play out there on this level. On both those plays, I'm not sure that players backing up the play would've made a difference--but it would have been nice to know. On the one to center, neither the right or left fielder moved, and on the one to left, the center fielder never moved. Maybe I feel it more keenly because I used to play center field, but the lack of backing up never fails to get my gall up. When I coached the 9-12 team, the outfielders were my responsibility, and I told all the kids--usually the 9YOs and the scrubeenies--that you normally couldn't win the game in the outfield, but you could sure lose it. And one reason we were always near the top of the league in those years was that our outfielders didn't lose any games; they kept the ball in front of them if they could, they did back up and held some hitters to doubles and triples instead of homers, and a few of them even learned to catch fly balls. Both in JV and in older City League, it killed me to see how few kids actually can and/or want to put the effort into playing the outfield. And there are times when it comes back to bite you in the ass, and it certainly did yesterday.
Anyhow, back to some semblance of normality for a few days. Next weekend, the tournament is in the city, which will make it easier on all of us. And hopefully this time there will be no snags in getting the big trophy.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Obsession with--Candy Crush?

As a recovering person I have known, and accepted, that I am a creature more prone than most to obsession and compulsion. It is true that I have not been subject to the uniquely self-destructive expression of that tendency that drug addiction is for many, many years, but I still find myself obsessing over matters small and great pretty much every day. One of them, much to the distress of my friends, has been Facebook for several years now. While I've cut back some, I still am on it far too much; I really can't remember what it is I used to do with the two hours or so a day I am logged in.
And what I spend much of that two hours a day doing now is play a silly little game. I've gotten caught in a couple of games before over the years, most notably Bejeweled Blitz, even as I have made fun of friends of mine who were pursuing levels in games like Farmville and (some time ago; I haven't heard of anyone playing it in over a year) Mafia Wars. But I have never gotten hooked on a game like I have with Candy Crush. I'm pretty good at it, in that I am up in the high hundreds of levels completed. But when I am stuck on a particular level, like I am now, I find myself thinking at the oddest moments about what I have to do to move on. And I actually find myself jealous of people who started playing after I did and that have passed my level. And I find myself humming the goofy music at weird times...and I know I'm not alone. I was in the stands at the softball tournament yesterday, and suddenly became aware that the two women a few feet away were discussing Candy Crush. Of course, I immediately jumped in, only to discover that they were having problems at levels I passed months ago--which earned me faint but noticeable disdain from them. I might as well have been talking about living on the moon.
As obsessions go, it's pretty manageable. But it's still one I would rather not have, especially at six in the morning when I need to get my daughter out of bed so we can get to the tournament on time this morning. But one thing about being stuck--the five lives tend to go by quickly. So here goes nothing.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Windsor Tournament 2013, Day Two

When we left Windsor last night, I was convinced that the rest of this tournament would be essentially a walkover, that the team wouldn't have to break a sweat to cruise to the championship trophy. The Binghamton East all-stars--their team jerseys read "B. East" on the front, and they fully identify themselves as the "Beast" of the area--are still very much on track for the trophy presentation around 8 PM tomorrow evening--but not without a bit of a scare today.
The worst thing about these softball tournaments--and this is our fourth summer of them--is the uneven quality of the umpiring. At least once in every tournament Sabrina's teams have ever played in, there has been at least one game in which the umpiring has been absolutely execrable. Today was that day for this tournament. Our first game was against one of the two Chenango Forks teams in the tournament. They weren't a bad team, to be sure--but there is no way in the world that they should have been within five runs of us, and the biggest reason that the final score was 5-4 today was the guy wearing blue; he should have been wearing a clown's outfit. To wit:

  •   his strike zone was low but consistent for Forks. His strike zone for our hitters was all over the map. He called Sammy out in the first inning on a pitch that was down the middle--of the left-hand batters box. It didn't get much better from there.  
  • Maybe there will be two umpires in the championship games, but in the preliminaries, the home plate guy is it. As such, on occasion you know that there are going to be missed plays on steals and plays in the field. But this game, this guy was making it up as he went along. He called Sammy--again--out for leaving second base early on a steal attempt  of third in the third inning, which is ludicrous because Sammy is fast enough to steal third base running backwards from second. He called Sammy out on a steal of third in the fifth inning when she had already slid and sent the base flying by the time the ball got there. He called out one of our players at first base when she was a step past the bag, and called one of their players safe when he said our first baseman was off the bag. There were two players of theirs caught stealing that were called safe. 
  • To be totally, scrupulously honest, he did do their team one grave injustice: he called one of their runners out at third in the last inning that was safe by five feet. But considering he cost our team four runs, it was somehow fitting he cost theirs a chance to tie the game. 

It was a credit to the quality of this team that Krusty the Umpire didn't get them flustered. They played nearly flawlessly in the field, and hit well enough to get the victory. And their DH contributed mightily to the effort. Sabrina tripled in the second inning and scored on a wild pitch that didn't get too far away from the catcher, and singled in the fourth to set up another run, in general looking like the player she has been for most of the past four years.
She was rewarded with a start behind the plate in the 6 PM game. It was against the poorer of the two Johnson City squads entered, and the result, a 12-0 laugher, was predictable. Sabrina played a good game behind the plate--she atoned for her one major dereliction by tracking down a passed ball and making a perfect toss to the pitcher covering the plate to erase the one threat the other team had of scoring--and was 1-for-3 hitting, with the hit being the most poorly hit ball of the three; she hit one to deep center field that the center fielder managed to catch, and a hard grounder to third would have resulted in an out only if there was a force at third--which, unfortunately, there was. I would say that she is unequivocally back in the groove, except for her right hand swelling up as the second game progressed. She's icing it, but there's a pretty good bruise in that meaty area between the thumb and the index finger, and I am hopeful that she does not have to play the field tomorrow.
There were three other teams in the seven team bracket that went 2-1, and so there is a four team winner's bracket tomorrow--single elimination. I am not sure if we are playing one of the Chenango Forks teams again, or the Harpursville team. And I think almost everyone wants to play the latter, because the 4 PM game, the one between the two we played, was witnessed by almost all of the team--and Harpursville acted very much the fools while beating the other Johnson City team, making ugly and personal remarks to the other team's pitcher and then getting loud and nasty when they were called on it. The handshake after the game was supposed to settle things down--only to see a couple of shithead players and one very bitchy shithead coach reignite a flame that was out. And the most obnoxious person about it all was, predictably, not in the dugouts, but some loud yokel parent who looks like the product of seven generations of close in-breeding and who managed to enrage just about everyone in the Johnson City dugout. One of our players, Tia, was on that Johnson City team last summer, and Sabrina' friend Makayla is currently on it, as well, so all of our players are now very aware of just how jerky and cocky that team is. And they're not much, from what I saw; they lost to a team we beat, didn't even mercy the other Johnson City team, and were all out to win the game I witnessed.
We have to be at the field at 8:30 AM for the 1 seed vs. 4 seed  playoff game--and then the championship game isn't until 6 PM. I would have to imagine that we are going to make two trips to Windsor tomorrow; I can't imagine hanging around the field for 6 1/2 hour waiting to play, and I can't imagine losing the early game, either. Sabrina is beginning to appreciate what she's a part of now; she mentioned in the car on the way home tonight that it is nice to be on a good team again. And it is. Some of the players are much better than others, but out of thirteen players, every one of them would be one of the two best players on the other five teams I have seen play games thus far. I suppose, if I had to pick one of our players as having the dimmest future, I would choose Kelsey, a 16YO who didn't even try out for varsity this year--but Kelsey is a fine hitter and a pretty good outfielder,  could probably handle every infield spot but shortstop, and would be batting no lower than fifth on any other team here. She is splitting right field with two other players on this team, playing two innings a game and getting one or maybe two plate appearances.
Yes, we are that deep and loaded. And while I knew Ed was a good coach and a good man, I am growing more impressed by him every day. He is helpful to the players, always finding teachable moments; the in-game management remains very good--but most of all, I notice he takes the time to tell every player what their role is on the team for the game they are going to play that day. You don't have to sit on the bench wondering when or if you are going in. He is just as encouraging to the kids splitting time as he is to the stars. And I am pleased that his faith in Sabrina has been rewarded; I fully believe that he has wanted her on one of his teams since she was 9, because he acts like he values her, indeed went out of his way to get her on this team for this summer.
And I would bet that by this time tomorrow, Sabrina is going to have a third Windsor Tournament trophy on her mantel in her room.

Fighting Against Misinformation

Since I'm not going to be able to make either my home group or the Sunday meeting this weekend, I made sure I got myself over to the noon meeting yesterday. The nooner has been a magnet for people in early recovery for ages, since most people in early recovery do not have jobs or are on leave from them, and so has developed a reputation for being a place where some somewhat unique sharing can be heard. But it also has become a magnet over the years for people with clean time who, for one reason or another, have mental health issues. And that has led, over the years, to even more unique sharing. There was a woman who was part of the group for years and years who was both surly at best and who held some very odd views on what recovery was, and two people have celebrated anniversaries of over twenty years in the last few weeks whose very sanity is often in question. It also seems to attract its share of ne'er-do-wells, men and women who can never put together time but that never seem to be out of the recovery picture for a long time, either. All in all, it's a meeting that is often in sore need of the perspective of people mature in their recovery that have actually worked the program and some steps.
I started to attend the meeting semi-regularly in the winter when I was hanging around someone I was infatuated with, and haven't stopped even as that episode fades into the distance, precisely because I see the need for mature recovering perspectives being shared at least occasionally. Other men and women with a lot of recovering experience--not just time around the program--have also started to attend more regularly: one of my sponsees who works a couple of blocks away is there a couple times a week, and three members who were here when I got here in 1998 have also made the meeting when their work schedules permit them to for a few months now. And all of us, at least to my ear, share responsibly when we share, talking about our experience with working the Steps and what solutions we have found to some of the dilemmas that are often aired by newcomers.
Unfortunately, that sort of sharing is often overwhelmed by noise that is not helpful. I try to make allowance for the sources of the noise, but there are certain people that irritate the crap out of me. My peeve-with-a-face is a guy who invariably shares for eight or nine minutes, with all sort of forced jocularity and faux experience, when in fact he's totally and irrevocably, from the evidence, full of shit. It's starting to really piss me off that this clown takes 35 minutes a week away from people who actually want to recover, and pollutes the air with absolute bullshit. He's picked up about seven white keytags in the last year, and about thirty in the thirteen years since he dragged his ample ass from Rochester to this area, and he still is as in love with the sound of his own voice--and unwilling to do a goddamn thing that actually involves a program of recovery--as he was on the day he arrived. Sometimes when he picks up another white tag, he seems to be full of remorse and talks about changing--and then he's the same old gasbag noise machine within a week; sometimes he doesn't even go through the remorse stage, but carries on like his latest relapse was no big deal and that how dare we even notice that he just made a mockery of all that fine-sounding crap he was spouting for weeks. Here's an idea: if you really want us to believe that something is going to be different, how about shutting the fuck up for a couple of months? Stop talking like a goddamn reverend of recovery, stop sharing for laughs, just stop fucking talking and start doing something besides adding to your collection of seventy-five (and growing) white keytags.
I just wrote about mine, but I usually don't talk in meetings about feelings like that, because ultimately I don't want to be part of the chaos. But I've given into temptation in the past, and so when one of my friends went off yesterday about the amount of misinformation that he hears too much of, I was in full sympathy and concurrence. His bete noir is a guy who has, allegedly, over a quarter-century clean (there are have persistent suspicions that this guy isn't even really an addict, but hangs around NA because he knows no one can keep from coming around. He has, ahem, social acceptability issues that have cropped up in many other arenas) but is forever sharing absolute crap like dealing with "the horrors of recovery" and how he lost everything in recovery and how he has been persecuted and physically attacked and... the list goes on. What it is actually is an expression of what is termed "terminal uniqueness," when addicts try to somehow set themselves apart from the rest of us, and the terminal uniqueness is an expression of the disease of addiction's ultimate nature, overwhelming self-centeredness. This guy has driven me nuts, too, at times; I can remember ten or eleven years ago, when this guy shared for about the ninetieth meeting in a row about how NA women were screwed up because none of them would sleep with him, absolutely tearing him a new asshole, pointing out that no one finds constant complaining and victimization attractive, and then for good measure he might actually display more than a nodding acquaintance with personal hygiene, and then on top of that, most women don't find (then) 45YO men who still live with their mother a hot prospect. And then when I finished, I looked at him, and he had this shit-eating grin on his face, and I realize that he does what he does because he seeks attention, and I had just given him what he wanted.
I've never forgotten that moment, and I've really tried to ignore him ever since, especially since his mental condition has deteriorated over the years and his whacked sharing now is coming from an obviously disturbed individual; I don't really think that many newcomers look and listen to him, no matter how much clean time he says he has, and think "this is someone whose program I find attractive, because he's clearly nuts." But at the same time, my friend's point was very valid. We do have a responsibility to share in a way that makes recovery attractive. Yes, we all suffer from the disease, even with a long time clean, and there are times when our sharing doesn't meet that high standard. But only a few times; most of the time, members with a program of recovery do share their experience, strength, and hope, not just whatever mess they happen to be wading through (usually because of their own poor judgment skills) that day. It is very confusing when members with substantial time are talking about how their lives have gotten worse since getting clean, even if they are visibly mentally ill. It is very disturbing when someone shares about getting beaten up for what he says in a meeting (even if it was twenty-five years ago, and the guy who assaulted him didn't target him specifically, but attacked other members on a couple of occasions after meetings, as well, before getting put away). It is very detrimental when someone talks every day about how poorly he has been treated by others in the fellowship over the years (without adding in what he has contributed to the equation). And it gets old to listen to, and it gets frustrating as hell.
I had a lot of identification when I heard my friend share. And I'm writing this post this morning in support of the motivation behind what he said. We need to take responsibility for how we present our fellowship--not to outsiders, although that is a matter for consideration too, but to those coming in the door. I know I'm starting to sound redundant about this, but it's become very important to me that we make recovery attractive to those who are just starting out on this journey. It's the most important part of our own recovery, because we only keep what we have by giving it away. We need as many people to stay around as we can; it may be one of those who heard a message clearly enough to hang around at the beginning of their own journey who might be able to save someone else's life, or even mine, down the road.
Speaking in self-centered, attention-seeking ways does not accomplish our larger purpose. And I have no problem with experienced members calling out those who regularly engage in the practice, even if it isn't couched in the most spiritual terms.