Rationally Irrational

As I write this Tuesday evening, the Mariners are one game over .500 and trying to make it two. So, naturally, the newsosphere is full of caution. “The season is only a third over.” “A lot could change quickly.” “This is no time for irrational optimism.”

Talk about radical misperception.

Baseball is all about irrational optimism.

Think about it: At least 50 times in each game, somebody voluntarily confines himself to a small box while another guy throws rocks at him. Blunt force trauma is no less dangerous to life and limb than holes-poked-in-you trauma is. Yet these people are optimistic that those rocks won’t hit them–and that they can use a piece of wood to defend themselves against the rock-thrower.

That’s pretty darn irrational.

Every year fans decide, on no evidence whatsoever, that this will be their team’s year.

Ridiculously irrationally optimistic.

The commissioner forces through strange new rules in the hope of making games shorter, yet never addresses any of the delaying tactics players use to control the pace of the game.

Incredibly, stupidly, irrationally optimistic.

So don’t talk to me about keeping my hopes realistic.

Bigger picture: America is full of irrational optimists right now. Justifiably so in many ways.

Removing mask mandates and distancing rules even though vaccination rates are still hovering around 50%. Trusting the unvaccinated to not claim to be vaccinated. Expecting Republican lawmakers to respond favorably to appeals to patriotism, honor, and justice.

It’s been a very long year and a half. Nobody is going to dial it back and settle for rational optimism.

Not that rational optimism is even being offered. This is a confrontational, contrary age. Irrational optimism not your bag? Your only alternative today is irrational pessimism. “Earth is going to be destroyed by an asteroid.” “COVID-19 is the first stage of the zombie apocalypse.” “The Mariners won’t win another game this season.

I don’t know about you, but if I have to make that choice, I’m not going to pick looming disaster. We’ve been there and done that for quite long enough, thank you.

While I was writing the previous two paragraphs, the Mariners gave up six runs in one inning. I’m choosing irrational optimism. Maybe they’ll come back in the last three innings to win. If not, there’s going to be another game tomorrow. After all, the season is only a third over and a lot could change quickly.

Saw That Coming

I’m just surprised it took this long.

The As are threatening to relocate out of Oakland if the city doesn’t roll over and a give the okay for them to build a new ballpark downtown. And, naturally, they have the full support of MLB for a possible move.

This, of course, is only the first step. Once the stadium location is approved, that same threat will be deployed again and again.

Remember, the Athletics currently own half of the Coliseum site and they’re negotiating with the city to buy the other half. Their plan is, apparently, to redevelop the site into housing and shopping–it’s right across the street from a BART station, so (assuming BART recovers from the COVID-19 transit slump) access is easy from anywhere in the Bay Area. There’s a lot of money to be made off that space.

Don’t be surprised if the As threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t sell to them (or a third party they’re confident they can work with). After all, they’re going to need that income to pay for the new ballpark.

Naturally, they’d never threaten to leave town if Oakland doesn’t kick in substantial money toward stadium construction. Significantly more than the ballclub is likely to pay for the Coliseum site.

The threat is as inevitable as it is depressing. We’ve seen it over and over again, every time a team in any sport wants a new home.

But to be fair, what other leverage does a sports team have? Fans will come out to see a losing team almost as readily as they will a winner, so threatening to tank (unofficially, of course, as saying it in so many words would get the team sanctioned by their league) wouldn’t accomplish anything. “Help pay for the new stadium or we’ll stay in the old one,” is no threat at all.

And it’s certainly a stronger threat for Oakland than it was in most of the occasions it’s been trotted out since the Sixties. After all, the Raiders are in Vegas now, and the Warriors are in San Francisco. If Oakland lost the As too, that’s one heck of a lot of tax money vanishing from the civic coffers.

So get ready to hear “we’re exploring our options” over and over and over for the next few years.

There’s a Difference

I feel the pressure building up again, so I’m going to inflict another rant on y’all before the steam starts spraying out of my ears. Thanks for your patience.

Damn it, people, “stay at home” means you remain in your house.

It’s that simple.

Yes, I know the directives have exceptions. Here in California, the exceptions are to go shopping for essentials and for exercise.

I’m fine with anyone who goes for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, or other exercise. Solo or with someone they live with. Go for it. I won’t even complain if you take your mask off, as long as you’re actually in motion–keep it on if you’re doing stationary exercises, or face my wrath.

But apparently there are way, way too many people who are unclear on what constitutes “essentials”.

A few hints:

Buying groceries is essential. Having a sit-down meal in (or outside) a restaurant is not. Take-out is fine–no worse, epidemiologically speaking than grocery shopping–as long as you take it home to eat.

Shopping for a computer, cell phone, or tablet so you can work, go to school, stay in touch with family and friends, and, yes, entertain yourself is essential. Shopping for any of the above because your old one is the wrong color, weighs a couple of ounces more than the latest model, or has a small scratch on the back is not essential.

Entertainment media you can take home–books, movies, video games (yes, even video game consoles)–are essential; we don’t want anyone assaulting family members just to break up the monotony. Outside entertainment–movies, sporting events, concerts–not essential. Note that I’m not drawing a distinction between indoor and outdoor events. Yes, the risk is lower outdoors, but the constant vigilance required to stay six feet away from all the yahoos who won’t wear a mask outside is going to ruin your enjoyment of the event. Drive-in theaters? If everyone stayed in their car with the windows closed and the engine off, maybe safe enough–but essential? No.

Buying a new freezer? Depends. If you don’t have one or it doesn’t work, essential. If you want a second one to store the groceries you’re hoarding, not essential. And rethink your priorities if you accumulated a six-month supply of ground beef.

Getting the picture?

Think about it this way: remember “shelter in place” and how much you enjoyed that?* If we don’t stop breaking curfews and going out for non-essentials, we’re going find ourselves back in Shelterinplaceland.

* Man, March seems like a long time ago!

Viruses don’t care how stir-crazy you are.

Vaccines are not cures, nor are they 100% effective, and they won’t be universally available for months yet.

If it helps any, try pretending it’s a earthquake drill, like we had in school, back when we had schools. A very, very protracted drill.

Duck and cover!

(Note: duck is not essential–but it is available from many grocery and restaurant delivery services.)

Take a Deep Breath and…

The good news is that there is a vaccine being distributed in the U.S., and more are likely to be approved for distribution soon.

The better news is that front line healthcare workers are getting the first doses. This is so logical and sensible that I can’t believe it’s actually happening in 2020.

Granted, that may not be the case in all states–each state gets to set its own priorities–but most are putting doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals first, with the most vulnerable elderly close behind.

Amazing.

Naturally, there are those who disagree. Not because 2020, depressingly enough, but because the world is full of people who either can’t or won’t think logically.

“But what about the essential workers?”

“But what about the food service and restaurant workers?”

“But what about the teachers?” (Often followed by “…and the high school and college students?”)

I haven’t heard, “But what about the hair dressers and barbers?” yet, but I figure that’s only a matter of time. After all, nearly a dozen California state senators are petitioning the governor to classify restaurants as essential businesses and allow them to open for dining.

Remember, folks: a vaccine is not a cure. They only stop you from getting a disease if you don’t already have it. And in this specific case, it takes several weeks and two shots to reach its full effectiveness.

So let’s be blunt and look at the bottom line. We can’t vaccinate everyone at once. Can not. There aren’t enough doses available and there aren’t enough people to administer the shots and do the record keeping (especially including the part about ensuring that people show up on time for their second shots).

The more classes of people you including in the first wave of “must haves”, the more likely failure becomes. Heck, if you don’t think there’s potential for abuse of the process, just look at what your state classifies as “essential businesses”. Not matter where you live, I guarantee you’ll find at least one–probably several–that you vehemently disagree with. Or just look at how poorly testing services have been managed.

For the record, in California, I’m considered an essential worker. Doesn’t change my opinion. Realistically, most of the members of the public I come into contact with are not going to be carriers. Measures to prevent the spread–masks, barriers, and distancing–are onerous, but they work.

Would I like to be vaccinated? Do I intend to get the shots when it’s my turn? Yes and yes. But I’m not one of the people most in need.

We need to focus on smaller, more attainable goals than “give it to everyone”.

In this case, it means starting with the people who have the most confirmed contact with the virus: emergency room and ICU personnel, their support staff, and their immediate families.

Spread out from there: more medical professionals, nursing home and hospice staff and–to the extent possible–patients. Again, where it can be done, make vaccines available to families, not just individuals.

Note that I said “immediate family” not “family”. Those closely related and living in geographic proximity. Spouses or partners, parents, children. Yes, that policy is subject to abuse, but so is every other policy. But the benefits are huge: pockets of the vaccinated can act as the viral equivalent of firebreaks.

We’ve seen that social bubbles can slow the spread of the virus. Think of family vaccinations as strengthening bubble walls. If your life depended on staying in a physical bubble, would you want it to be a soap bubble or a rubber balloon?

Hey, there’s a slogan I can get behind:

INFLATE THE BALLOON!

Can’t Ignore It Forever

So, to no one’s surprise at all, the Lame Duck a L’Orange has fired Chris Krebs. One might almost be tempted to believe that Krebs wanted out of the Department of Homeland Security. What does he think is coming? (I did say “almost”; that sort of thinking smacks more than a bit of paranoia. On the other hand, now that the baseball season is over, paranoia is the nation’s first choice for a pastime.)

I haven’t written anything about the election because, really, what’s the point before the proverbial final aria has been belted out? The states are still certifying their votes, the Electoral College will have its say, and the Supreme Court could jump in. And don’t forget to obsess about the Senate runoffs in Georgia. But a few random thoughts intrude now and then, so I figured I’d inflict them on you all.

All that said, I’m delighted to see the Quacking One placing his faith in the legal talents of Giuliani. Donny can’t keep a consistent thought going from one end of a sentence to the other, and Rudy can’t keep a legal theory going from one end of an argument to the other. So well matched!

And, of course, there’s that other delightful news out of Georgia: according to the Secretary of State–the same guy who claims Lindsay Graham pressured him to lose Democratic votes–there were 24,000 Republican voters in the primary election who failed to vote this month, presumably because Trump told them voting by mail wasn’t safe, but they couldn’t be bothered to show up to vote in person. Talk about shooting one’s self in the foot while putting said foot in one’s mouth!

You’ve probably heard that toilet paper is in short supply again. My own theory is that people aren’t hoarding it in case of another shelter-in-place. I think they’re just collecting it for a massive TP-ing of the White House if donny (does he really deserve a capital letter?) refuses to vacate come January 20.

Not that it would matter if he locked himself into the Oval Office. As any number of people have pointed out, the Eisenhower Executive Office Building (home to the Vice President’s offices) is right next door, and is admirably equipped to serve as a center of government. If donny doesn’t want to leave the White House, that’s just fine. Lock the doors from the outside and he’ll be just fine. I’m sure the Secret Service would be delighted to toss a fast food burger through a window every so often. Wouldn’t do to let him starve, after all, and protecting his life is part of their job description.

And meanwhile, the election goes on. I believe Georgia is expecting to complete their recount and certify the election results shortly. One step closer to closure.

There Is Nothing More Important

The Rays couldn’t quite pull it off–couldn’t even push the Series to seven games–and we’re now into the Winter of our Discontent (which follows the similarly discontented Fall, Summer, and Spring).

I’ll have my usual season-ending post next week, looking at my predictions for the playoffs and taking a peek at next year.

For now, though, something a bit more important.

More important than baseball? Yes, there really is such a thing.

Have you voted yet?

If you have, thank you.

I’m assuming you made the only rational choices. This is not, as many people have been reminding us for months, even years, the time for protest votes; promotion of third, fourth, or fifth parties; or betrayal votes.

It doesn’t matter who she hugged.

It doesn’t matter how much you love their platform.

It doesn’t matter what party’s ticket he’s leading in your state.

Now is the time to vote Democrat. Even if it would be the first time someone in your family has ever voted Democrat, it’s time.

Because if the Republicans hold on to the White House and the Senate, there won’t be an election in 2024.

Not a real one with multiple candidates who could win. Maybe we’ll get a sham election with a single slate of candidates or multiple candidates from a single party.

Choose your reason: a massive death toll from this and the next pandemic, outlawing of the Democratic party as domestic terrorists, or flat-out executive fiat backed by a bought-and-paid-for Supreme Court. Doesn’t matter why. Only the result matters.

If you haven’t voted yet, get off your ass and do it. Don’t rely on the Post Office at this point. Check your county’s website for the official list of ballot drop-off locations* and early voting sites, and do it.

* I strongly doubt that California is the only state plagued with fake drop-off boxes sponsored by the Republican party.

If your state offers ballot tracking (parts of seventeen states use ballottrax.net), sign up. Make sure your ballot is received.

And if you have to cast your ballot in person, especially if it’s November 3 or nothing, be careful. Wear a mask, social distance as much as possible, and pack a lunch–and it probably wouldn’t hurt to take a dinner as well.

Keep your pro- or anti-candidate or issue shirts, buttons, or signs out of sight until after your ballot has been cast: don’t be a target and don’t give anyone even a specious excuse to prevent you from voting.

It’s going to take years to undo all the crap the Republicans have done. Let’s get started now, because if we don’t, we won’t have the chance at all.

Can I Borrow a Sand Shovel?

The Mariners continue to tease us with late season relevance.

It’s a very small tease–they’d pretty much need to win all their remaining games to make the playoffs. And that includes Tuesday night’s game, which they’re losing 6-1 as I write this.

Not going to happen. Not in 2020.

But dreaming about it is a hell of a lot better than paying attention to the way everything political is going in the wrong direction. The Republicans are getting ready to stack the Supreme Court to ensure that the nigh-inevitable challenge to November’s election results goes their way. And if you believe at least four senators are going to slaughter their political careers by blocking the coming appointment, allow me to remind you of every single vote of consequence in the last three and a half years: how many times have we heard that one or two senators were straying from the party line, only to have them vote in lockstep with their orders from above?

Even the current slowing of the COVID-19 numbers has its downside. Just in time for the Dark Side to trumpet the wonderful things they’ve done to stop that virus (that wasn’t as serious as the Democrats wanted everyone to believe) as we approach the beginning of mail-in balloting (that you shouldn’t use because your mail won’t be counted, unless you’re voting Republican).

So, yes, baseball.

The Mariners may be teasing, and the Orioles hanging on by their fingernails–not mathematically eliminated, but winning-the-lottery improbable–but the Giants are still in the running. Half a game back as I write this. That could actually happen.

Even if it doesn’t, it’s looking like there will actually be playoffs this year–assuming I didn’t just jinx it (quite likely: this is 2020, after all)–as improbable as that seemed when the season started last week.

Yes, I know it was a little earlier than that. Doesn’t feel much like it.

And I know obsessing over baseball is burying my head in bread and circuses. I even know that’s a very disturbing mixed metaphor.

But why not? I know how I’m voting. I’ll fill out my ballot as soon as it arrives. And if baseball keeps me distracted enough to prevent full-stomach ulcers until after the election, I’m good with that.

Distance Learning

A rant:

I was going to ask for a little restraint, but on reflection, I don’t think there’s any of it in stock these days.

Specifically, I was hoping we could avoid developing herds of self-appointed distance monitors.

Yes, social distancing is necessary. Absolutely no argument from me on that.

But demanding that people move is not the way to get it done. Humans are contrary creatures. “You have to move,” or “Hey, you, six feet!” just make the recipient want to move closer, strictly out of spite.

It’s in the presentation.

Try “Could you please move a further away?” That’s not so hard to say, now is it?

Or, if you’re in a place of business, just pointing to the tape marks on the floor will probably get the job done–and if there aren’t tape marks, say something to the staff, don’t excoriate your fellow customers!

Because, let’s face it, most people don’t have a clear mental picture of what six feet is. (Hint: your foot is probably not a foot long, and even if it is, you’ve never seen six of ’em heel to toe.)

I have a pet theory that many people, if asked to estimate six feet, say to themselves, “Well, I’m a few inches shorter than six feet, so it’s a bit longer than I am tall.” Then they picture themselves lying down, think, “Ew, this floor is filthy, I don’t want to lie on it,” and completely forget to add the necessary inches to turn five-foot-something into six feet.

All that aside, though–and taking the whole flies/honey thing as given–the possibility for escalation is scary. Because moderation and restraint are, as previously noted, in short supply.

These days it’s a small step from admonishing a random stranger to move a aside to demanding they clear off “your” sidewalk, then to calling the cops on someone you think is too close. After that, the weapons come out, and we have a whole different class of virus-related deaths.

Again, yes to social distancing. But remember that “seventy-two inches” is an arbitrary distance chosen for a number of reasons, not all of which have any grounding in virology.

The whole point of social distancing is to not crowd together, to not loiter near other people.

It is not to get in people’s face in the name of getting them out of your personal space.

SAST 17

You Know Who has never been subtle, but even by his standards, the paired assault on the Post Office and on mail-in ballots is crude and obvious.

Fortunately, the counter move is just as obvious. To misquote Pogo, vote early and vote widely.

Fill your ballot out as soon as you get it*–you know who you’re voting for–and get it in the mail immediately. Better yet, if your state offers a way to drop off ballots in person in the days or weeks preceding Election Day (California does; I’m sure others do as well), use one. They generally have a shorter wait than actually voting, and they often keep longer hours than polling places. Best of all, they avoid the Post Office completely.

* And if it hasn’t shown up within a couple of days of the mail-out date, use whatever process your state has for dealing with lost ballots. Don’t wait around, hoping it’ll show up.

And vote in every contest on the ballot. And vote Democrat. This is not the time for a protest vote, much less a no-vote protest. It’s not the time for voting for a third party candidate. Anyone who runs as a Republican is automatically complicit with You Know Who. Defeat ’em all.

Moving on.

Watching baseball on TV doesn’t feel quite real.

It’s not the fake crowd noise–or fake crowds–though those don’t help. Nor is it the omnipresent threat of a sudden end to the season. It’s not even the universal DH or the fake baserunners in extra innings.

What it really is, is the contrast with everything going on outside the stadiums. Defined beginnings and endings. Rules known to everyone and largely accepted, however grudgingly. Even, Goddess help us, leaders–team captains, coaches, managers–who lead.

Still, I don’t let the fantastic aspects stop me from watching. Heck, I write fantasy; I can deal with a universe totally unlike the real world.

Aspirational? Sure. Achievable? Probably not–but we can dream.

And moving on again.

In a move that surprised absolutely nobody, Google announced their latest phone, going head to head with Apple’s announcement of a few new models of computers.

I’ve been trying to get excited about any of the forthcoming gadgets, but it’s touch. None of them, Apple or Google, is radically new. They’ve all got minor advancements over the previous generation, but nothing to make anyone want to rush out and buy one.

Which seems weirdly appropriate for today’s universe.

Apple is nominally targeting the Back-to-School audience, but with so many schools being virtual, there’s not much scope for the usual implied message of “be the envy of your peers”.

Google, on the other hand, seems to have announced the Pixel 4a solely because it was already developed and in production. Might as well push it out there, collect a few news stories, and prepare the way for the Pixel 5, possibly as soon as a couple of months from now.

Maybe if Microsoft ever gets around to releasing their dual-screen Android phone, we’ll have something to get excited about. Right now, though? Gadgets: boring.

SAST 16

Apparently someone at MLB.TV is reading this blog. Less than a week after I noted that nobody’s been talking about MLB.TV subscriptions, they decided to prove me wrong.

I said that I doubted we’d get a prorated refund. Surprise!

According to the email I received, we do get prorated refunds. We can have them credited to back to the cards we used to pay, or we can credit them against next year’s subscription.

That’s a no-brainer. I see no reason to give MLB half a year of interest on my money. More to the point, though, after the example of this year’s negotiations between the owners and players, I’m not the only person wondering if there will be a season next year.

Refunds will be issued around the end of July. I presume this is so they won’t have to go through the refund process twice if the 60 game season gets scrapped entirely–something that seems increasingly likely in the light of the ongoing problems with testing.

On a semi-related note, team schedules are now available online. You can subscribe to them with your Google, Apple, or Windows calendar.

If, that is, you’re willing to give an unidentified third party access to all of your calendars. At least, that’s the case in Google-land.

Maybe it’s different for those of you using Outlook or iCal; I suggest you check the permissions that come along with any calendar requests very carefully.

Moving on.

Douglas Adams was wrong. It’s not time that’s the illusion. Dates are illusions.

These days, I’m far from the only person who can’t tell whether it’s a Wednesday in July or a Tuesday in November without looking at a phone (or calendar for those of us who still use paper). I think we all know it’s still 2020, but I’m certain enough to bet money on it.

It’s not just the lack of stimulation, with our limited ability to spend time with friends, or the sameness of our personal schedules–especially for those working at home. It’s the sense of futility that comes from not having an endgame in sight. Nobody knows when life will return to normal–whatever that is or will be–and, worse yet, nobody knows when we’ll know when.

We’re just marking time. Seconds, minutes, hours. But not days. They’re just too big to grasp.

Moving on–in a limited way.

Along with the retreat from “reopening,” we’re getting a return of one of the most noxious notions from the days of “Shelter in Place.” You know the one I mean: “Look at all the free time you have. You can finally do those things you’ve been putting off!”

Poisonous.

Maybe it works for you. I’ll admit it worked for me early on. I wrapped up the third draft of Demirep and put it in the hands of my beta readers (and thanks to all of you!). But after that?

My usual practice is to start the next novel while the beta readers are reading. This time, nope. It’s not that I don’t have ideas. I do. But actually doing anything with them? Not happening.

And the last thing I need is somebody guilting me about it.

Same goes for you. If you’re not capable of working on one of your projects–whether it’s something artistic or practical–you’ve got my permission to not do it and to not feel guilty or defeated. We’re all different, and we all react to events differently.

If someone tells you that you have to work on something, feel free to politely tell them to get stuffed. And if they gloat about how much they’ve accomplished under lock-down, feel free to deliver them to your local taxidermist for stuffing.

On a related note, I will assault the next person I hear saying “Man, being a professional athlete is the worst job these days.” (Yes, people really are saying that. If you haven’t heard it–presumably because you’re being a responsible adult and socially isolating and being a smart adult and staying off social media–I envy you.)

You know what really sucks? Working in a field where you don’t have a choice about going to work every day, where your employer doesn’t pay for tests and won’t pay you if you get sick. Or not working because your former employer is out of business.

We’re all having to learn new ways to do our jobs–it’s not just ballplayers who have to figure out how to get the work done safely. And very few of us have the same safety nets they do. Well-funded unions that actually look out for their members, affordable health insurance, and well-off senior members of our professions who look out for their juniors* are increasingly scarce.

* Major kudos for the various MLB stars who’ve been chipping in money to help out the minor league players who aren’t getting paid at all now that the MiLB seasons have been cancelled.

Moving on.

Well, maybe. One of these days.Sometime.