A Pox On Their Ballpark

A little bit of follow-up on last week’s trip to the Oakland Coliseum. Non-believers and heretics, indulge me on this one, because it’s not really a baseball post, okay?

First, and just to get it out of the way, the Mariners’ possession of a playoff spot lasted two days. By Friday, they were half a game out, and today, after losing five straight games, they’re two and a half back, behind the Angels, Twins, Royals, and Orioles. With forty-two games left, they’re not out of it–there’s that hope thing again–but it sure ain’t looking good.

Second, I sent a polite email to the As pointing out the incorrect information they had given me, and, I presume, everyone else who bought tickets online. (If you’ve already forgotten last Thursday’s post, they sent an email announcing that the parking lots would open at two, when they didn’t actually open until four.) I didn’t expect much; a bedbug letter at most. But to date–a week later–I’ve received absolutely nothing. Not even an acknowledgment they’ve received the note, much less an empty promise to look into my concern.

This is not the behavior of a company that cares about its customers. One might think that with MLB blocking the As from leaving town, the team’s ownership might want to hang onto the fans they have. Apparently one would be wrong–perhaps since the Warriors and Raiders are fleeing Oakland, the As think they’ll have an automatic monopoly on sports fans. Here’s a hint guys: it doesn’t work that way.

But that brings us to the third item.

On Friday, I got an email from “Oakland Arena Events” sent on behalf* of “our good friends at the Oakland Athletics”. The email asked me to take a survey about my opinion on their new “ballpark efforts”. Okay. I may be a Mariners fan, but I live in the As’ territory and if they ever get the new stadium built, I’ll go to games there, so I might as well let them know what I think.

* I guess that explains why I haven’t heard from the As. They clearly don’t do email. Maybe I should have Instagrammed them or something. What are the cool kids using these days?

San Francisco Chronicle Sports Columnist Scott Ostler got the same survey. Today’s Chron has his take on it. It’s well worth the read, but for those of you in a hurry, the bottom line is that he thinks the survey is pointless. Fans don’t care, he says, about the stadium and its amenities. All they care about is whether there’s a competitive team playing there.

He’s right. But he missed the point about the survey.

See, when you go to the survey online, the first ten pages ask demographic questions. Some of it’s relevant. It makes sense for the team to ask respondents whether they live in Oakland and how many games they’ve attended this season. However, if the survey is really about where to put the new stadium, the As have no need to know how much money I make, how old I am, or what color my skin is. And there was nothing on any of the pages suggesting that the questions were optional.

Actually, I misspoke. The previous paragraph should have said “at least the first ten pages”. I stopped at page ten.

If the team was really interested in people’s opinion about the stadium, they would have asked those questions first. And, had they done that and put the demographic questions at the end, clearly marked as “optional” I would have been fine with it.

But the way they laid out the question makes it clear that the information they can use to target future marketing pitches is what’s really important to them.

I sent another email, this one to Oracle Arena Events, asking them to share it with their good friends. In that email, I expressed my displeasure at receiving a marketing survey thinly disguised as a request for my opinion.

I’ve gotten no response to that email either.

The current ownership’s approach to communication makes it clear that they have little or no interest in their fans as fans; their interest begins and ends at our wallets.

So here’s my opinion about the As’ new ballpark, if it ever happens: enjoy it. I won’t be going to any games there. Nor will I buy tickets for games at the Coliseum while the As are there.

Unless the team’s owners make it clear that they have some interest in baseball beyond how much money they can extract from fans’ pockets.

It wouldn’t take much. As Scott Ostler suggests, making a visible effort to field a better-than-AAA quality team would be a good start.

Or just reply to customer complaints–even if it’s with a bedbug letter.

Deja Vu

Apparently this country has made no progress in the last 150 years.

Back then, the big issue was the Chinese. During the gold rushes of the 1840s and after, many Chinese came to America in search of a better life. And, because life sucked so badly for so many in China, those workers who came to the US were willing to take any job at pay rates far below what white workers demanded. Corporations, seeking as always to maximize profits, actively recruited Chinese laborers and paid them as little as they could.

And millions of Chinese took those jobs because they were still better than anything they could find at home. Some of them were probably illegal immigrants, but as far as I can tell, most of them had entered the country legally.

At least until 1882, when anti-Chinese violence persuaded the government to ban all immigration from China–a ban that was renewed in 1892 and 1902.

Of course, banning further immigration didn’t do anything to improve the lot of those immigrants who were already in the country. By the mid-1880s, there were riots across the western US, most notably in Rock Springs, Wyoming Territory and Seattle, Washington.

Let me note, by the way, that when I went to school in Seattle in the 1970s and 1980s, the Seattle riot wasn’t discussed in History class. Somehow I doubt that’s changed; if anyone in the Seattle area knows differently, I’d love to hear it. Those who don’t remember history…

Anyway, the Seattle riot is noteworthy if only for the sheer pointlessness of the actions taken by the rioters. A loose coalition of labor leaders and Socialist activists rounded up 350 Chinese residents of Seattle’s Chinatown and marched them to the docks.

When the captain of the ship they chose demanded payment to carry the Chinese, the rioters passed the hat and raised funds to cover the fares. In short, roughly two hundred of the Chinese were deported. Not back to China, but down the coast to San Francisco. Arguably, the original expression of Seattle’s NIMBY spirit. As for the rioters, a confrontation with the militia resulted in serious injury to three rioters and two militiamen and the imposition of martial law, which lasted for two weeks.

So here we are, a century and a half later. We’ve got corporations fighting against minimum wage laws and a president who wants to cut off immigration, ostensibly to protect American jobs.

Deja vu, anybody?

PS: Something more cheerful tomorrow, I promise. Oh, and don’t forget that my monthly newsletter for August comes out on Monday. If you want a sneak peek at my current work in progress, sign up now!

A Sensitive Subject

The only people I have any sympathy for right now are Senator McCain’s kids. Bottom line: they’re going to lose their father. I don’t know what their relationship with their father is really like, once you get behind the obligatory political facade, but you know what? It doesn’t matter.

Per the New York Times, the median survival for glioblastoma is 12 to 18 months. That means the odds are 50-50 that they’re going to lose him before the 2018 elections. No matter how they feel about him, that’s not something anyone can skate past. It will mess up their lives.

And nobody beats glioblastoma. With all due respect to Presidents Trump and Obama, saying “He’s a fighter,” and suggesting that McCain can stare down cancer is a slap in the face to everyone who’s died of cancer.

I know my biases are showing here, but I don’t give a shit. I lost my father to cancer less than a year ago, and to hear anyone implying that he’d still be around if he’d been stronger makes me want to run amok with a baseball bat.

Bluntly, what kept Dad alive was medicine. Medicare, in particular. Yes, a positive attitude and doing what he loved helped. But it was radiation treatments, chemo, and a whole slew of medical personnel that made the difference.

So to have McCain come to the Senate practically straight from the hospital and vote to continue debate on a plan to take medical care–the same medical care that’s keeping him alive–away from millions of people is following up the insult with injury.

I disagree with him politically, but I’m happy to agree that Senator McCain’s done many things worthy of respect. His vote Tuesday is not one of them. Nor does his “no” vote on the “skinny repeal” make up for it.

Unless he publicly and explicitly commits to vote against any proposal that will raise premiums or strip insurance coverage from even one person–and then follows through on that pledge–all the pretty words he gave us Tuesday are meaningless.

I’ve lost a lot of respect for McCain this week, but even so, I sincerely wish him a long life. For his children’s sake. And, I hope, for every child who will gain or keep medical insurance as the result of Senator McCain’s actions from now on.

Local Explosions

Good Idea: Local governments hosting Fourth of July fireworks. Even in a major metropolitan area like we have here, not everyone can go or will want to go into San Francisco for fireworks. Or even into Berkeley. So it’s great when the smaller communities such as San Pablo have their own shows.

Better Idea: Add kid’s carnival games and some physical activities, with the proceeds going to support the city’s social services.

Bad Idea: Not ensuring that at least one food vendor will be selling coffee and other hot beverages. (OK, maybe this isn’t a bad idea in some parts of the world. Around here it is.)

Worse Idea: Limit your advertising of the event to a small roadside banner. Don’t spell-check the description on the city’s website*. And above all, make sure it isn’t listed in the major newspapers’ lists of things to do on the Fourth. Remember: nobody’s going to show up if they don’t know about it!

* “Mowtown” music? Really?

Good Idea: Amateur/guerrilla fireworks around the civic fireworks venue. I know I’m going to take some flack for this, especially since it’s illegal in most of California, including this part. But IMNSHO, as long as it’s limited to a few blocks around the official site, I don’t have a problem with it. Police and fire fighters are already on-site so they can keep an eye on it. It gives the crowd at the official site something to do during that last half hour when the games have been shut down. And, let’s face it, the people and animals living in the immediate vicinity are going to be traumatized by the noise and lights anyway.

Bad Idea: Aiming your fireworks to burst above the official site. Too many people are distracted, keeping track of their kids. Even if you have no misfires, showering ash down on somebody trying to corral a pre-school kid up past his bedtime is impolite at best.

Worse Idea: Bringing your Chihuahua or other non-service dog to the show. It’s too cold for the poor critter, and he’s not going to enjoy the show. And neither are you if you’re spending all your time reassuring your pet.

Still Worse Idea: Continuing your show after the official one starts. Trying to compete just makes you look like a three-year-old repeating “Look what I did, Mommy!” and demanding your painting be framed and hung in the living room instead of attached to the refrigerator with a magnet. Plan ahead and schedule your show to finish at the community show’s posted start time. It’ll be late starting–it always is–so you’ll have a few minutes to sweep the debris out of the street before the professionals take over.

I’ll grant a limited dispensation to fire off a few last pieces after the civic show ends. But if you’re still at it more than fifteen minutes later, you’re moving into “Impolite Asshole” territory. People are trying to drive home. Others are trying to sleep–don’t forget, July 5 is a work day five years out of seven. And the streets are too full for the fire department to get to you if something goes wrong.

See you next year!

Wrong Way

Warning: venting ahead.

If you didn’t agree with my opinions about the New England Patriots’ and the NFL’s handling of the Aaron Hernandez case, you might as well skip today’s post. Quite bluntly, it’s more of the same.

The bottom line is that there’s no longer any such concept as “innocent until proven guilty” in this country.

A couple of weeks ago, a man who lives in one of the communities near me was arrested. I’m not going to say anything about his race or the specifics of the crime because they’re irrelevant to the point I’m trying to make.

A report of his arrest was posted on Fugitive Watch. Mind you, he’s not a fugitive. He’s in custody, and as far as I can tell, he never tried to evade arrest. I’m not sure how reporting his arrest will help “solve crimes, apprehend wanted fugitives and provide education and crime prevention information” (as Fugitive Watch’s mission statement suggests). But I suppose we’ve reached the point where “It’s related to a crime” is sufficient excuse to ensure that the site always has new stories showing up.

But I digress.

I found out about the case when somebody posted a brief mention on social media, and included the statement that “I hope the authorities closed this ‘[type of business deleted]’ for good.” The business in question provides social and psychological services. The news story specifically says that the alleged offense has nothing to do with the business. Nor can I find any indication that there’s ever been a complaint about the company. But the poster included those quotes to suggest that it’s a fraudulent operation.

So, yeah. In Aaron Hernandez, we had a situation where an arrest was presumed equivalent to guilt. In this case, not only is the presumption of guilt, but it’s extended to include everyone who worked for the alleged offender.

In fairness, bail in the case is high, indicating the severity of the alleged offense and, presumably, that the judge believes he’s a flight risk.

Never the less, I find it immensely disturbing that an accusation against a business owner–again, accusation, not conviction–now leads to immediate calls to shut down his business, throwing the employees out of work*, and depriving the accused of the resources he needs to defend himself. And it’s worth noting that as of when I wrote this post, the company’s website was down.

* Per Glassdoor, it’s a fairly sizable business, too: 51-200 employees.

Regardless of the outcome of the case, the accused man’s life is effectively over. He’s not just “guilty until proved innocent,” he’s “guilty in the court of public opinion.” Even if he’s acquitted–even if the accuser recants and the case is dropped–the mere fact that he was once accused will follow him forever.

And that’s just wrong.

Yes, the public has the right to know about arrests in their community. Secret arrests and secret trials are not a direction we want to go.

But that necessary transparency leads directly to this sort of situation.

I don’t have an answer. Just indignation.

SAST 05

A few quickies for you today.

I’m betting that most of you have already seen the fuss over Juicero, but for those who missed it, the short version is that the company sells a variety of juices in bags–and a $400 machine (marked down from $700) to squeeze the juice out of the bags.

The controversy is not over “Why?” That’s quite clear: because there are enough people willing to shell out the money to buy the squeezer and the juice packets (at $5 to $8 a pop–though one hopes they don’t pop easily).

The controversy is over the fact that Juicero’s investors feel they’ve been defrauded because customers don’t need to use the squeezer to get the juice out of the bags. According to Bloomberg, hand-squeezing the bags produces almost as much juice as the squeezer, and does it faster.

Apparently, neither the investors nor Bloomberg have heard of a device called “the scissors,” which could be used to empty the bag even more quickly.

Let’s note, by the way, that the bagged juice is a perishable product, enough so that the bags can’t be shipped long distances.

My advice? Go to your local hardware store and buy a hammer. Stop at the local grocery store on the way home and pick up a box of zipper-seal baggies and a couple of pieces of your favorite fruit.

Place the fruit in a baggie and zip it closed. Pound the fruit with the hammer repeatedly. Unzip and pour.

When you finish your juice–which cost you considerably less than $400 unless you got the hammer on a military procurement contract–repeat the process, substituting Juicero’s executives and investors for the fruit.

Mmm, yummy!

Moving on.

There’s a letter to the editor in today’s SF Chronicle from one Lorraine Peters addressing the United Airlines fiasco. Ms. Peters suggests that United should have handled the matter differently. Instead of using force, she says, they should have made a loudspeaker announcement: “Attention all passengers, this flight cannot take off until the gentleman in seat (so and so) vacates it and disembarks with the other three passengers.”

I presume Ms. Peters is an investor in United Airlines.

Let’s not forget that the “gentleman in seat (so and so)” paid for that seat in the expectation that United would supply the service he paid for. Placing the blame on him when United failed to meet their obligation is disingenuous at best.

Allow me to propose an alternate loudspeaker announcement. “Attention all passengers. We fucked up and didn’t get a flight crew to the right place at the right time. The only way we can think of to fix our mistake is to kick four of you off this flight. So we’re going to sit right here at the terminal until four generous souls agree to disrupt their travel plans for the benefit of the rest of you. Complimentary drinks and meals will not be served while we wait.”

It wouldn’t have done any better by United’s reputation, but at least it has the virtue of being honest.

Moving on again.

The Bay Area Air Quality Management District (that’s the San Francisco Bay Area, for those of you in the outer provinces) has announced a regional plan to combat climate change.

Among the proposals included in the plan are such sure-to-be-popular items as “Explore vehicle tolls in high-congestion areas to discourage driving,” “Discourage installation of water-heating systems and appliances powered by fossil fuels,” “Encourage the removal of off-street parking in transit-oriented areas,” and (my personal favorite) “Start a public outreach campaign to promote climate-friendly diets.”

That first one’s interesting. I see some potential pitfalls in implementing it, of course. It’s taken months to get the local metering lights to work reliably; adding an automated payment system on top of that seems fraught with peril. Imagine the fuss the first time someone gets charged a four-figure fee to get on the freeway. More to the point, though, we had major congestion on the freeway yesterday outside of commute hours because of an accident. The metering lights at several on-ramps detected the slowdown and kicked in. If the payment plan had been in effect, would we have been charged to use the freeway while the police were examining the car that went off the road?

That last item, by the way, translates as “encourage people to eat less meat,” because meat production creates more pollution than growing and shipping plants. Maybe they should also tax “add-on” gadgets such as Juicero bag squeezers, since building and shipping them creates unnecessary pollutants. But I digress.

Needless to say, not everyone thinks the agency’s plan is a good one. According to the Chron story, the opposition–they quote a Chevron employee–is suggesting that local action is pointless because climate change is a global problem and needs a global solution.

Let’s not examine that logical fallacy too closely. Let’s just rejoice in the fact that a Chevron employee actually admitted that climate change is real and related to human activity.

SAST 3

More short notes, not because I have a short attention span*, but because I’ve collected a few items that just don’t warrant a whole post to themselves.

* Well, no shorter than usual, anyway. Yes, the flu is mostly gone. Despite the ongoing coughs, my lungs are still inside my chest, rather than splattered across the keyboard, and my temperature has been normal for more than a week.

Last June, NASA announced the discovery of a small asteroid, 2016 HO3, which orbits the sun on a path that keeps it near the Earth. Near in astrophysical terms, that is: it never gets closer than about thirty-eight times as far away as the moon.

The animation at that link is a little deceptive. It seems to show the asteroid orbiting Earth, but if I’m reading the story correctly, that’s not really true. It’s on a separate orbit around the sun, but because it’s sometimes closer to the sun than we are and sometimes further, it appears to be circling us.

What I find most interesting about 2016 HO3, though, is that I’m starting to see tweets suggesting that it’s existence means that Earth should no longer be considered a planet.

You remember the fuss a few years ago when the IAU redefined the word “planet” and demoted Pluto to a “dwarf planet”? If you don’t, pick up a copy of How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming by Mike Brown–actually, pick up a copy even if you do remember; it’s an entertaining read–to refresh your memory.

Part of the new definition is that to be a planet, a celestial body has to “clear the neighborhood” around its orbit, meaning that in the late stages of planet formation, it should either sweep up the smaller bodies near its orbit, incorporating them into itself; capture them as satellites; or shove them into orbits away from its own.

However, such neighborhood clearance is never perfect. The presence of 2016 HO3 is not going to get Earth demoted to “dwarf planet”. Sorry, Pluto-lovers.

Moving on.

A story out of Maine has been popular with those who feel strongly about grammar and punctuation. There’s a good writeup at Quartz; briefly, a court based its ruling on the lack of an Oxford comma.

Long-time readers know I love me some Oxford comma. But, happy as I am to see the question get some judicial notice, I’m well aware that one court decision isn’t going to make any difference. The AP isn’t going to change its stance on the use of commas. Neither is Maine’s style guide for legislation. But I can–and will–dream.

And finally.

One of the proposals being considered for speeding up baseball games is to start extra innings with men on base. I was dubious when I first heard about the notion. After seeing it in “action” last night, I’m completely revolted.

Yeah, it shortened the game. In an aesthetically impoverished way that sucked all of the joy out of what should have been a thrilling conclusion to the Netherlands/Puerto Rico World Baseball Classic game.

Consider how both halves of the eleventh inning started. Runners were plopped down on first and second. The first batter laid down a sacrifice bunt. The second batter was intentionally walked–yes, that same intentional walk that MLB is killing off this year because it’s boring. That brings it down to one less-than-thrilling question: will the next batter hit into a double play, or manage a sacrifice fly.

Sure, there are other possible outcomes. Never assume the double play–the throw to first could go sailing into the seats. The batter could get a base hit, even a grand slam. He could strike out. But those are all low-probability events.

Where’s the fun in watching where the strategic choices are so constrained that neither manager could justify a different approach?

If Commissioner Manfred forces this rule change down our throats next year, as seems likely, I predict a major dropoff in attendance.

SAST 3

I seem to be fever-free, which is nice. My attention span has improved. I haven’t gotten lost in mid-sentence in almost two days!

The cough is still distracting, however. Writing is a race to get words on the page before I drape my lungs over the keyboard.

Sorry about that image. But it is the only way to accurately describe the sensation.

So, another day of short notes, as I write a bit, cough a bit, lather, rinse, repeat.

Daylight Savings Time, how I loathe thee.

It’s not the lost hour of sleep Saturday night. It’s not the next several days of disrupted sleep. It’s not even the need to reset the non-Internet-connected clocks*–or the confusion to the Backyard Bunch, who are suddenly getting their dinner an hour earlier according to their stomachs.

* The stove. The microwave. The thermostat. The answering machine. The car. Half-a-dozen wall and table clocks. Hey, I just gained two wall outlets by unplugging a clock radio instead of resetting it!

No, what really pisses me off is that I’m suddenly getting up before sunrise again. I like having daylight when I stagger upstairs to say good morning to Rufus and take my first look at e-mail. Why should I have to turn on a light for that?

Mr. Trump, if you want to boost your approval rating, do away with Daylight Savings Time. That’s something both parties and the independents can get behind.

I’ve been following “Jim’s Random Notes” for several years. It’s an interesting mix of computer, wood carving, and cycling geekery. A post last week, North Dakota Mexican Food, amused the heck out of me.

You’ve played the game where one person recreates a drawing based on somebody’s description of the original, right? An NDMF is the culinary equivalent: someone describes a dish, and someone else thinks “Hey, that sounds interesting. Let me see what I can do.”

Is there anyone out there who doesn’t have a NDMF experience? I can think of three right off the top of my head:

  • The Mexican restaurant that thought fajitas were a stew.
  • The diner whose barbeque sauce was red-eye gravy with a couple of chili flakes.
  • The Mexican restaurant that served Saltine crackers instead of chips.

Maybe the Internet will make the NDMF less common. But really, it’s never been particularly hard to find a cookbook…

Moving on.

Google and Apple have been in the news around here lately over their new campuses. Most of the press has been positive, but I’ve noticed they’re both taking a ding in the letter columns because neither company has included housing in their developments.

Excuse me? Yeah, OK, finding housing in the Bay Area can suck. You don’t have to tell me horror stories about extended commutes, thanks; I’ve got plenty of my own.

But do we really want to return to the days of the company town, where your boss owns the factory, the house you live in, the store you shop at, the air you breathe, the booze you drink, and everything else?

Aside from anything else, if the company owns your apartment, it’s a five minute walk from your office, and they own the phone you’re required to carry, are you ever going to get any down time? Or are you going to be unofficially (or officially!) on call twenty-four/seven/three-sixty-five?

I think it would have been wonderful if Apple and Google had included some subsidized affordable housing for non-employees in their construction. Didn’t happen, but would have been great. But captive housing for employees? Bad idea.

Moving on.

Let’s wrap this up with a positive note. I write a lot–a hell of a lot, actually–about useless gadgets full of security holes and loaded with disappointment.

So it’s a real pleasure to write about a gadget that looks like it does exactly what it’s designed to do without putting your money and privacy at risk.

Take a look at the Fidget Cube.

Pretty slick, huh? Everybody fidgets differently, and the Fidget Cube is designed to offer fidgeting options for anyone.

I’ve carried a fingering stone in my pocket for decades. I’ll turn it around in my hand or rub the smooth side with my thumb when I’m on a phone call. Much less distracting than fiddling with the phone cord and quieter than tapping my pen on the desk.

The Fidget Cube’s got me covered with a smooth curve for rubbing on one side. A trackball for spinning. A joystick for sliding.

And several other goodies that I might never use, but somebody else will find addictive. Click-wheels. Toggle switches. Push-buttons. Spinners.

And it looks to be solid enough to stand up to a pocket full of keys, nail clippers, and thumb drives.

Would it replace my rock? Maybe not; it’s hard to top the appeal of a natural object shaped by wind and water. But who says it needs to replace the rock? Why not try some two-handed fidgeting?

Changeless

Some things don’t change much at all.

The spider’s had to rebuild her web a couple of times, but she’s still hanging around in front of the house.
24-1
And hiding on days when I have the good camera handy. I presume she’s concerned about having her picture out on the Internet in this age of facial recognition.

Yuki still thinks Rhubarb is the greatest pillow known to felinity.
24-2
And snoring. Not surprising with his head at that angle.

The turkeys are still terrorizing the neighborhood. This shot was taken shortly after they held off the dog next door while stealing everything edible in his yard.
24-3
And they’re beginning the preliminaries to their mating rituals. It is that time of year.

Rufus is still negotiating territorial rights with Watanuki.
24-4
And there is much staring.