Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Pavement Schmavement

or Burn Arcade Fire Burn

I have a confession to make: I'm no indie rocker.

I've come to this conclusion only recently. I mean, I like music - a lot. The friends I have and seek are also likely to like music, a lot. When I first got here I was happy to find a colleague who used to do A&R for matador, because I knew I'd be at home. Still, indie rock, it just isn't me. I don't know what it is. Maybe it's the low fidelity, or the haircuts, or maybe it's that I just can't keep up with everything.

Yo La Tengo, Pavement, GBV: sure, they're good bands. I listen to them once in a while. But I'm more likely to listen to the Cars. Really my indie rockness peaked with Superchunk and Bettie Serviert. There, I said it. I hope we can still go to shows.

Friday, April 22, 2005

Esther's Cat

This girl I just met has a cat who's ugly and lovable. There was a while when we were sitting together where she stroked the cat's back, and talked to him. I was jealous of that cat.

Questions that come to mind during the quiet parts of first meeting someone:
1. Should we get to know each other well will she still be so quiet?
2. How long is she going to have these cats?
3. How long will it be before she notices I'm awkward?
4. Could I get used to this?
5. What does she think?
6. What would it be like to get in her pants?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Pizarro vs Atahuallpa

Maybe Guns Germs and Steel fans can help me with this. In Chapter 3 Diamond asks the questions "How did Pizarro come to be at Cajamarca? Why didn't Atahuallpa instead try to conquer Spain?". Diamonds answer, paraphrasing roughly, is that Spain had guns, ships, literacy, and centralized political organization. The Incas only had the latter, and this actually ended up working to their disadvantage.

It seems to me that Diamond confuses 'how' and 'why' questions. When we ask 'how' we might answer with technical factors that explain. 'Why' is more of an ethical issue. Just because Spain had guns does not explain why Pizarro vanquished Atahuallpa. Possession of technology [can suggest/influence but] does not determine its use. When we make sense of, say, Nazism, we cannot merely point to military technology and centralized decision making, even though these were an important part of Nazism's history. Questions Diamond avoids are "Why did Pizarro come to be at Cajamarca? Why did an imposition of Christianity mean a slaughter of the Incas? How is it that imperialism came to be seen as serving the church?"

I'll keep reading Guns, but I remain a skeptical reader...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Steroids and Baseball's Walks Record

There has been talk of appending an asterisk next to the records of hitters should they be discovered to have used steroids. Of all the records destroyed in baseball's frankenball era, none is more deserving of an asterisk than Barry Bonds' career record for bases on balls.

The walk is a curious statistic. In pitching it is a clear demerit, a mark noted on the record as an indicator of a pitcher's lack of control. What the walk signifies for batters, however, is less apparent. In one sense a career record for walks is indicative of the fearsomeness of the hitter. This is the case with Bonds. Particularly after he bulked up, he was so dangerous to opposing teams that the team's manager would rather give him a single base than chance giving up a home run. In another sense, though, the ability to draw walks is the hallmark of a batter with a good eye and patience at the plate. Because a walk is often as good as a single, a crafty hitter will test a pitcher's control: he'll make the pitcher earn an out. Ricky Henderson, the previous record holder for career walks drawn, was this type of batter. He was in many ways the greatest leadoff hitter of all time.

A leadoff hitter's main job is merely to get on base and position himself to be driven home. Henderson excelled at all the little things required of leadoff men: he could work the count, steal a base, and advance on a deep fly or a hard grounder to first. The rather arcane record for most walks drawn in a career can be seen as a record of such little things.

Of course it would be unfair to Roger Maris should Mark McGwire and the rest have overtaken his home run record while using steroids. The steroids issue is more insidious, though. Abuse of steroids has caused an explosion of home runs throughout baseball. In doing so it has changed the very nature of the game. Where teams once sought to get a runner on base, advance him into scoring position, and hit him home, they now look for scoring from a single swing of the bat. The subtlety and pacing that make baseball magical have suffered. Though Maris' record certainly deserves its rightful place, that it was broken is a matter of one man illegitimately hitting more homers than another. Bonds' eclipsing of Henderson's walks record is indicative of power hitting overwhelming the rest. That is the real shame of the steroids era.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

All about the Esthers

This weekend I have a date with, uh, Esther. It's my first J-date.

Now before you get too critical, I have already been accused of exploiting my tenuous Jewishness for romantic gain.

It is true that I'm a secular Jew at best. I more or less moved on from the religious part when I was a teenager. But I prefer to think of the last half of my life as a kind of rumspringa. Now that I'm older, and more mature, it seems only appropriate to revisit Judiasm. Even if this takes the form of an online dating site for us chosen people.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Guns Germs and Steel

At the insistence of a friend here I've started reading Guns, Germs, and Steel by Dan Brown I mean Jared Diamond.

I've actually had the book for a couple of years, but have never been able to get going with it. This time I think I understand why: it reads a bit like a manual for imperialists. Diamond searches for reasons why one group progresses faster and further than others. He discusses processes of domination and conquest spurred by environmental affordances and organizational dynamics. Tim says that the book is more even, that Diamond simply doesn't write from a moral perspective, but maybe that is the problem.

I'm only halfway through the chapter on Polynesians, though. I'll let you know how it goes.

Welcome to my blog!

Hello all:

Welcome to my new blog. I promise to post infrequent messages about 1: me and 2: things of interest to me. I expect significant interest from readers - I figure I'll be able to adsense this thing into an early retirement within a year or two. Anyway, stay tuned for posts on awkward exchanges with coffeeshop employees, phronetic research, and the Illini's recent championship run.