31 May 2008

Rachel came to visit during my last week off, over memorial day weekend. We had good weather for the most part during her visit which made enjoying the Folklife Festival much easier. We took in three out of four days of contra dancing and a baseball game.

First the contra dancing. There certainly were plenty of people to sweat and work up a thirst with. When I wasn't dancing with Rachel I ran into ladies from Seattle, Olympia, Portland, San Diego, and Colorado just to name a few. It was fun. There was quite a variety of skill levels which makes it easier for folks like me.

While they didn't have formal instructions beforehand, if only due to the logistics of getting 5 lines of 25-40 couples each to get "hands four" and so on, the folklife version of contra dancing lent itself to novices being able to jump in and give it a try. I really didn't mind so much, it was less stuffy that way. Still, somehow when you watched from the sides everything seemed quite synchronous--even if it didn't always feel that way in the more crowded parts in the middle.

There was also lots of music. It wasn't Sasquatch, but it was closer and I slept in my own bed every night :) Then there were crazy folksy types singing about not having kids to save the planet or about relationships ruining your political convictions and good stuff like that.

As for the baseball game, well, we lost. I will say that we put up an excellent fight against the reigning champs. I should have mentioned to Rachel that the Mariners always do well against the Red Sox. They went on to win that series, only losing the game we went to by two runs. It had been tied up until the 8th inning and Felix had been pitching very well, but he started getting banged around and the managers kept him in the game too long and things got out of hand. The team tried to rally in the 9th, but it was too little too late. Oh well. It isn't as if we're in the Pennant chase anymore!

There were other activities, but the week was finally over and we said our goodbyes and I went back to work, yet another crazy week of work! So now our thoughts are shifting further out into the summer and planning a trip to Wisconsin. Speaking of which, can you believe the Brewers this year? Who knew?

More to follow. See also my photoblog. I'll be adding a picture of the eagles nest on my way to work. I might go back on a nicer day, the pictures turned out really well, but it was overcast and the color is less than desirable. I'd like to catch it when the sun is higher in the sky too, maybe the baby eagle will be easier to spot in the nest that way.



Tristan Prettyman

16 May 2008

new photoblog for you visual junkies...

I am happy to announce that I have found a great place to post my photography. I've had my frustrations with how blogger, myspace, google images, and msn live handle uploaded pictures and at last Wordpress has a great photoblogging tool. Sure enough it lets you upload the whole picture, does not compress it, and the Monocrome layout tool chooses a color theme for each picture based on it's analysis of the content of that picture. Pretty snazzy.

The Monocrome layout also turns each picture into a link so it makes it difficult for people to download the full picture. One drawback so far is that it squeezes the picture into a fixed frame. I loaded the URL for one of my uploaded pictures and if viewed 100% they spill off the page just like they should, but when you view my blog, the pictures will have a fixed size thanks to the layout tool. I will work on finding out how to at least bump that up a bit for those of us with larger desktops. Otherwise we shall all just suffer a little in the mean time (of course other browsers may have a way of getting around the link--which is to the next picture in the blog's archive--to load the full picture in a new window or something).

Well, it's very late for me. I'm off to the land of candy, fairies and bazaar plot twists.



Another great one from the Oscar winner:

Say it to Me Now
Glen Hansard
Once Soundtrack

14 May 2008

another entry into the dreamlog...

Occasionally I have this recurring dream that I'm about a month into a new semester and I have a class that I forgot all about and so far have not ever gone to, and panic sets in. Last night (or this morning really), I dreamed that I had managed to only attend one of my classes this time around and was suddenly trying to figure out if it wasn't too late to make it. I don't really know why I keep having these dreams. Of course all the usual suspects were there, and the odd part is that I don't even know which classes I'm missing, when they take place, or where they are.

It is such a relief to wake up and realize that college is over. Now I get to go to work early and pull a twelve hour shift. Oh to be me!



Sweet and Low
Augustana - Can't Love, Can't Hurt

09 May 2008

another tragic ending to a promising season...

Baseball has barely begun, so why am I already toasting the end of a disappointing season? Well, if you do the math, the Mariners are already so far behind that it would take such a performance for the rest of the season to pull off a comeback--and that would require a team capable of such a comeback and clearly this team is not!

Still, there are fun moments. I'll get to those. First, the reason I made the trip up to see Seattle take on the Texas Rangers? Well, Felix Hernandez. I've been to some games, seen some pitchers, watched the M's lose. I guess I wanted to go to a game that for all intents and purposes should have been a sure thing. So with Felix on the mound facing the team that is supposed to be the worst in the American League (which now the Mariners are). So much to my dismay, Felix gives up two runs in the first inning. He can't seem to locate his pitches and even hits Finally he hit Laird in the second inning setting up a two run homer by Kinsler. His pitch count would haunt him for the rest of the game even though he wouldn't leave until after the 5th inning with 112 pitches. Gabbard would leave in the fourth with only 63 for reasons I'll get to later. Still while Felix struggled, he was throwing strikes. The rest of the team, however, wasn't hitting.

So (probably) in response to Hernandez hitting Laird in the first, Gabbard brushes Ibanez back in the fourth (seen here).

Richie Sexon comes up and the very first pitch to him is up at eye level (he is very tall) and Sexon must have beleived Gabbard was head-hunting and immediately charges the mound.

I don't know about Sexon though. He isn't hitting very well and if I'm a Texas pitcher and I think Hernandez was going after hitters I wouldn't go after someone who is barely keeping his job. I'd go after Ichiro, Beltre, Lopez, or Betancourt, not Sexon or even Ibanez. Still, as well as Gabbard was pitching, it would seem that he was at least trying to send a message, which is tacky considering how much Hernandez seemed to have been struggling. Perhaps he just didn't see it that way (Felix was still managed to throw 70 strikes in 112 pitches).

So that aside, you have to give Sexon credit for having some balls. I mean if someone is going to charge the mound, it might as well be the player who could've just as easily have been benched in the first place. Besides, as you see here, the first five players to reach the mound besides Sexon, are all wearing grey and blue and Laird (the catcher) was hot on his heels (he was the one hit by Hernandez, remember?). It looks like Yuni and Adrien are the first Mariners to arrive on the scene while the umpires seem to be rather casual about jumping in. Notice here that Sexon has already taken his shots on Gabbard (throwing his helmet at him and then jumping him and throwing a few punches) and is immediately tackled by Laird.

What is interesting is how quickly Gabbard manages to wiggle out of the fight, while it clearly seems to continue, without him. Yes, that is Hernandez in the top right of this picture, it seems he had a few things to say. I guess that is Guardado (former mariner pitcher) along with Johjima keeping Hernandez at bay. There's only one umpire in the crowd, the other three are off discussing who to eject I suppose.

Next up, Cairo pinches for Sexon and walks. Then Betancourt singles and a throwing error gets the runners on second and third. This is where they decided to remove Gabbard who was clearly rattled, though they would say he bruised his leg in the fray. Likely an excuse though. So they let their bullpen take up the cause and the Mariners would strand more runners, continuing their scoreless streak.

After the game I needed a drink, so I went and got one. The conversation was obviously about the game when I landed at Paddy's but it quikcly turned to other sports I care less about and players and teams I care even less about. So I went home so I could catch the interviews on the news, which I feared I'd already missed.

Speaking of drinks, these young ladies were visibly over served, cheering wildly for a small ninth inning attempt at offense and talking smack to any Ranger fan who came down to sit in our area. The thing about talking smack is you should have the scoreboard on your side first. I took it from them and some punks sitting up above slightly that it doesn't matter what the score is at all, the other teams pitcher is always fat and lazy and our team rocks. I feel ashamed to think I was ever so ignorant as to have believed it mattered who was winning.

Sadly the night's recaps seemed to focus on the fight and reactions to it, but less on the game and the lack of an offensive performance in Seattle. The only fight in this dog seems to be in between pitches. Maybe they should scrap all the big money players for the rest of the season and bring up some brawlers. That would make for an interesting season, sell more tickets, and perhaps give us more late night coverage on the tube.



Violet Hill
Viva la Vida

02 May 2008

i really should cut down...

I recently grouped the blogs I occasionally read into categories such as music, sports, news, and blogging (for the ones that like mine, don't really conform to a category I would want to have to make just for them). What I noticed, oh after only about my second night back at work, is that I seem to have either subscribed to too many music blogs OR one too many. There are something like seventy five posts to read in that category today. This is insane. I should just pick one and count on that person to keep me totally up-to-date on all the music I should be liking right now.

I was also going to rant about how the Tacoma News Tribune's general news thread is a lot less bloggish and a lot more... uh... well a collection of published articles from their website that are often not even written locally. I find many of them come from the Washington Post or other national sources. It's very annoying. I may as well read the Post instead of the local rag.

Otherwise I'll just remind you to check out some of the other interesting things people are writing on the right side of the page.



primary fuel source...

I haven't blogged much about politics this year, but now that nearly every state has had a chance to vote, I thought I'd make some observations about how thing's have gone so far in this CRAZY election year. Well maybe it isn't so crazy, just intense and educational.

I don't pretend to know a lot about the inner workings but I was perusing MSNBC.com's coverage page that has been tallying the results party-by-party and state-by-state since the beginning. Now that we're down to just a few states, the information has a lot to inform us about the way the process works for each party and gives us the chance to speak up with our dissatisfaction or praise, whichever the case may be.

I'll start with Iowa since that is where it all started. It went like this for the Dems: Obama 25, Clinton 14, Edwards 6, and big goose-eggs the rest of the way down. The breakdown for the GOP were: Huckabee 30, Romney 7, and zero's for everyone else. I know it's been a long season and so much has happened since, but I call attention to this because it might surprise some of us to see the way all of this started knowing how it is about to end. How did we get from Obama and Huckabee being the early frontrunner's to having such a tight race on one side and a near landslide on the other, even though McCain didn't earn any delegates in Iowa at all?

A look at the numbers might indicate why. Iowa is strictly a caucus state. There is no popular vote that counts for anything in their primaries. It is also not a very big state for Democrats, but it still awards a lot of delegates. Go figure. So how many votes separated the top three blue candidates? 207 out of a total 2501, Obama had 940, Edwards was second in fact with 744 while Clinton was a respectable third with 737. Still, she won twice as many delegates because she won more caucuses than Edwards.

How few votes exactly is 2500? Well the reds had 118,691 votes cast in that same state on the same day. Clearly more people in this heartland state identify, for the most part, with the GOP platform and showed up at their caucuses instead. Huckabee didn't get that much more of the popular vote than Romney or the next three candidates (Thompson, McCain, Paul respectively), but he only needs to win by a small margin in each caucus to walk away with all the votes.

I don't want to go into each state but I wanted to mention Michigan because it is a peculiar story. Clinton turned on the gas and won a whopping 55% of that state, but someone named Uncommitted cleaned house with another 40% of the vote (possibly Obama supporters since he wasn't even on their ballot). There are always uncommitted votes but it generally represents a mere 1-3% of the overall--people who just want to express their dissatisfaction with the lack of options.

On the other side in the same state you see Romney and McCain identifying better with northern conservatives, telling us that folks in that state cared more about a candidates resume as someone who can bring our economy back on track. Huckabee is a great guy and I wish he would've made it further through campaign season, but he doesn't make you think about the economy as much as a certain social agenda and this time around I don't think enough conservatives care primarily about those issues to take a chance on someone whose economic policy is less certain.

The rest of the story more or less writes itself. McCain wins a few big states and starts taking an early lead. Romney drops out having Michigan as one of his only major prizes (though he made a respectable run at it as far as he went) and Huckabee holds on longer hoping to pick up the scraps left behind from all the early drop-outs, but largely fails to establish a clear voice for what his administration will represent that voters can identify with.

Back to the Democrats, the story is probably over-told! I mean, what could I say here that you haven't read somewhere already? What I would like to do instead is make an observation, that for better or worse, we've had the chance to look more carefully at more than just one candidate who may best represent our ideas about domestic, foreign, economic and social policy. Way back at the beginning I was actually hoping maybe three strong candidates would emerge and go deep into the primary season, allowing all states to have the same chance to choose between all of the candidates in a given party.

Say what you will about how it has gone, but as a liberal minded person, I'm glad we haven't made our minds up completely yet. I would almost feel cheated if I were a Republican in a state like Illinois. What choice do they have at this point with virtually all the candidates who had a reasonable shot at winning their parties favor going into the general election having already bowed out? At this point, like it or not, their guy is going to be McCain and there isn't anything they can really do about it, except vote undecided.

There are differences in the way the two parties award delegates. Much has been said for that so far. It isn't that conservatives just agreed more on who to vote for. Far from it. Still, Republican rules for the primaries and how they earn delegates are more flexible, giving more freedom to state delegations to choose how to award delegates. Some states opt for a winner-take-all approach for the whole state based either on the primaries, the caucuses, or a combination of both using whatever formula they agreed on the last time it was revised. Other states may award delegates only to the top two or three candidates while in theory some could break up their delegates as closely as possible with the popular vote, though this is an unpopular choice as it makes that states delegates less important to a candidate when choosing where to spend their dollars and time trying to appeal to voters.

I don't know if it is possible to get the two parties to agree to use the same system, but I am going to come right out and say that I don't like winner-take-all being on the table for either party as it disenfranchises elements of either party in those states. It also makes them a sort of bully depending on how early they hold their primaries or caucuses.

So what about a simple vote with delegates awarded based on census data and the actual voting results? Well, I think this would take a lot of the fun out of the process. First it would almost require us to have a national primary all on the same day because spreading them out the way we do now would discourage people from voting for some candidates who were trailing if they could support a second favorite candidate who was having a stronger run. Having a national primary would also force candidates to campaign nationwide which would discourage them from pounding the pavement and holding town-hall style meetings in individual communities across the whole country and would compress the season (which could be a good thing). They would spend more time and money on national advertising and only nationally televised debates would be favored by candidates from either party.

I think the best compromise from the system we have to a complete overhaul such as a national primary is to have the parties agree to use a top-two or top-three format in every state. Give the voters in the last state to have an election as many choices as possible. Award delegates by the percentage of the votes they won plus a small bonus to the top candidate which would not amount to more than 5% of the states total delegates. The bonus theory to me represents that candidates likely ability to garnish even wider appeal in the general election from that state. If every state has a similar (proportionately) sized bonus then a candidate can distinguish him or herself as the stronger candidate by winning more states as well as more votes, a balance between simple popularity and ability to close the deal in enough states to actually win in November.

I think that is more than enough for now... I'll chime in again closer to November and again after the dust settles and see if my thoughts change any along the way.