Just because the Den Mother can wax eloquent about the most pressing issues of the day doesn’t mean she is all work and no play. On the contrary, it is October, which in my world means the World Series, even if it’s Red Soxless.
It wasn’t so long ago (exactly 12 years, in fact) that my own beloved boys of summer made the hearts of New England’s loyal baseball fans take flight for the first time in a really long time. In 2004, everyone knew that the Red Sox and Cubs hadn’t won a championship, as my dear late father used to say, since Hector was a pup. The Cubs had last won it all in 1908, he Red Sox in 1918 (against, ironically, those same Cubs). Oddly enough, the Red Sox didn’t even have the longest drought in the American League at the time. That distinction (?) belonged to the other Sox, which are also the other Chicago team: the White Sox, who hadn’t won since 1917.
No matter. The BoSox won it all in 2004 (and again in 2007 and 2013), and their white-stockinged counterparts won in 2005, though at least one ChiSox fan hardly acted like it was anything at all. Just days after the series ended, I met a young-ish White Sox fan at the Baseball Hall of Fame and, upon wishing him enthusiastic congratulations on finally coming in from the wilderness, was met with a quizzical look. Apparently he didn’t realize his team had just earned its first World Championship in 88 years. Good riddance to him and those like him.
Anyhoo, fast forward to this year, when it so happens that the two teams battling it out for the title happen to be the teams with the two longest championship-free streaks in Major League Baseball. For those keeping score at home, here’s the list, with the number of years they’ve gone without a World Series title:
|San Diego Padres||48*|
|New York Mets||30|
|Los Angeles Dodgers||28|
|Toronto Blue Jays||23|
|Tampa Bay Rays||19*|
|Los Angeles Angels||14|
|Chicago White Sox||11|
|New York Yankees||7|
|St. Louis Cardinals||5|
|Boston Red Sox||3|
|San Francisco Giants||2|
|Kansas City Royals||1|
*These teams have never won a World Series championship in their history.
Even before the playoffs, I said that the Cubs were the only team I wouldn’t be crushed to lose to in the World Series. So they are my team for the next 3-5 games. Go Cubbies.
If you’ve ever been to a lefty protest of almost any kind, you’ll see what I did there in the headline. For some reason, certain people believe that getting together and chanting “Hey hey, ho ho, [insert topic of protest here] has got to go” is a magical incantation that stops badness from happening, or at the very least “sends a clear message” that someone is pissed. Of course, chanting and sending clear messages don’t actually do any good. All they do is allow the protesters to feel and appear important. Virtue signalling, I think they call it. But it does make a clever blog headline.
Know what else doesn’t do any good? Invoking the oh-so-hip-and-trendy “rape culture” canard about which I’ve written before. It’s the 21st century equivalent of Mama Cass’s sandwich or the 2000 Florida recount. To quote C.H. Spurgeon, a lie will go round the world while truth is pulling its boots on. (No, that wasn’t Mark Twain.) And once it’s out there, it just won’t die.
Most recently, the ubiquitous “rape culture” topic showed up in my inbox in the form of a column by Catholic nun Christine Schenk in the latest issue of National Catholic Reporter. I don’t know if Sr. Christine wrote the headline (“Rape Culture: Of Donald and Don Giovanni“) but she definitely wrote the column, in which she calls Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to task for being a pig. She concedes that Trump has never been accused by anyone of being a rapist, but that doesn’t stop her from concluding that we live in a society that “breeds too many Don Giovannis” (Don Giovanni and Donald Trump, get it?)
That got me wondering just how many Don Gionvannis (i.e., rapists) St. Christine thinks there are running around, and if that number is “too many,” what an acceptable number would be. Let’s presume that she, like everyone else (except, presumably, rapists themselves) considers one to be too many. What are the real numbers? Let’s ask the FBI, which addresses rape and other crimes in an annual report. The last complete report covers 2014, and it offers this summary (emphasis mine):
- There were an estimated 1,165,383 violent crimes (murder and non-negligent homicides, rapes, robberies, and aggravated assaults) reported by law enforcement.
- Aggravated assaults accounted for 63.6 percent of the violent crimes reported, while robberies accounted for 28.0 percent, rape 7.2 percent, and murders 1.2 percent.
- There were an estimated 8,277,829 property crimes (burglaries, larceny-thefts, and motor vehicle thefts) reported by law enforcement…
- Larceny-theft accounted for 70.8 percent of all property crimes reported, burglary for 20.9 percent, and motor vehicle theft for 8.3 percent
Let’s note first that there were seven times more non-violent property crimes reported in 2014 than there were all violent crimes put together. Even within the violent crime category, there were almost four times as many robberies (i.e., theft with a violent component) as rapes. If we add robberies to the non-violent property crimes, that means that all property crimes outnumbered rapes 99-1.
None of that means we don’t have a problem with rape. There were only 1/6 as many murders as there were rapes, but no sane person would contend that homicide isn’t a scourge that needs to be fought. Nor do mere numbers tell the story. A victim of violent crime suffers far more than a victim of property crime, with sexually-based crimes being particularly damaging not only physically but emotionally as well. Comparing the two straight up is like comparing a case of the sniffles to cancer: “You have a brain tumor? That’s nothing — I had to deal with FOUR COLDS last winter alone!” Yet that’s what Sr. Christine does when she places Truimp’s rude and crude words and behavior alongside a literary example of actual sexual assault. It’s also what many other Trump opponents do when they equate him to a rapist, even as they defend another well-known politician—former president Bill Clinton—who has been accused multiple times of actual rape (“rape-rape,” as Whoopi Goldberg might call it).
Nor does it do any good to overstate one particular issue for what are often transparently political purposes. There was a time, barely a generation ago, when you’d think medical science was standing idly by while women were being decimated by breast cancer even as men enjoyed virtual freedom from any analogous disease. Contrary to the popular perception, prostate cancer was not only more prevalent and more deadly, but was vastly under-funded in research circles compared to breast cancer. You would never have know that because men weren’t having candlelight vigils across the country to accuse doctors and pharmaceutical companies of blatant sexism for failing to find a cure for prostate cancer.
There are certain issues—rape being one of them—that are serious enough without lying about their prevalence or using them as political bludgeons against people we don’t like who never did anything remotely close.
[Cross-posted from the Triumphant Red Sox Fan Forum]
It’s nice to be back, folks, and under very good circumstances.
I admit to the return of my pre-2004 mindset throughout most of this season, in that I never thought our boys would actually win the division. After the last two seasons, I would have been happy with a winning record.
But they exceeded my expectations and now embark on what we all hope will be another worst-to-first postseason performance. Having limped through the last week of the season (a lone win in the final six games) that cost them home field advantage in the first round, they nonetheless start wish a clean slate. Here, are the matchups (click the image for a .pdf version you can download and print):
The Red Sox vs. Indians best-of-5 series begins on Thursday evening at 8:00 EDT. Cleveland will host games 1 and 2 Thursday and Friday, Boston will host games 3 and 4 (if necessary) Sunday and Monday, and they’ll all go back to Cleveland on Wednesday if a game 5 is required. The winner of that series will play the winner of the series between the Rangers and either the Blue Jays or Orioles, who are playing for the wild card slot tonight.
From my perspective, I say we should root for the Orioles as the preferable team to face should they beat Texas and we beat Cleveland. We beat Baltimore in the season series 11-8, whereas Toronto edged us out 10-9. Toronto is also on a bit of a high, having surged past the O’s at season’s end to secure home field for the wild card game. Baltimore, on the other hand, were swept by the Sox in the second last week of the season, so hopefully we might be in their heads a bit.
Another advantage the Sox have over the Orioles is in starting pitching against each other. Looking at John Farrell’s postseason rotation of Porcello, Price, Buchholz, and Rodriguez has fared much better overall against Baltimore than against Toronto. Likewise, our batters have done better against Baltimore.
I should point out that as I write this, the O’s have just taken a 2-1 lead against the Jays in the fourth inning. So pull for those O’s to keep it going and win this thing.
See you on Thursday.
Ah, life. As the saying goes, it’s a bitch. After a week on vacation during which I managed to get my body clock back on track, it took three days and one phone call with my old boyfriend (a.k.a. the Love of My Life, or LOML) to screw it up again. Even my mildly sedating anti-depressant couldn’t knock me out before 4:00 a.m.
In my younger years, I didn’t even understand what insomnia was. You’re tired, you sleep. Who the hell couldn’t manage that? The only two times I can remember not being able to get to sleep were when I had my tonsils out at age 7 and stayed awake during my entire admission except during the actual surgery (my younger brother had died five months earlier and to me, hospitals were where children died, so I must have decided that I’d better stay awake just in case) and again in my mid-20s when the aforementioned old boyfriend called to tell me he was getting married (it’s hard to fall asleep when you’re sobbing uncontrollably for about 12 hour straight). Besides those incidents, I never had trouble sleeping until maybe my late 30s.
For a while, I took a nightly tablet of melatonin, a hormone that helps regulate the sleep cycle. That worked reaonably well and I was able to stop taking it after a few months.
Then came menopause. I couldn’t fall asleep, couldn’t stay asleep, and never awoke feeling rested. It was my psychiatrist who, in the context of a review of my meds (better living through chemistry!), suggested adding trazodone, a mood elevator that can also help insomnia related to depression. I’ve been sleeping pretty well ever since.
Which isn’t to say that there aren’t things that can and sometimes do make it harder for me to drift off into dreamland. I have a tendency to use my laptop or cell phone right before going to bed, a habit that is considered a significant contributor to sleep disturbance. Apparently the electronic glow of the screen stimulates something in the brain that keeps us awake. It wasn’t such a problem years ago when the only lighted screen we watched at night was network television, but such screens are ubiquituos now. And come to think about it, I did sleep much better when I read a chapter or two of a good book before turning out the lights.
Technology aside, another major impediment to sound sleep is mental activity. Most people experience occasional times when their minds run like a freight train and prevent them from relaxing. It could be because of stress at work, worry about a sick family member or friend, or even just having attended a high-activity event after which it takes a while to unwind. If such a mental marathon meets the physiological effects of looking at an electronic screen, watch out.
Which is apparently what happened to me Tuesday night. After talking to the LOML for over 45 minutes, I proceeded to turn it over and over and over in my mind,, analyzing and trying to make sense of every word. Then I journaled about it, which might have helped me untangle it and usher in a restful night if I hadn’t done it in an online journal. Yep, the lit screen again.
It had been so long since I took that long to fall asleep (did I mention it wasn’t until about 4:00 a.m.?) that I had forgotten how miserable it was. It was enough to make me get serious about laying off the electronics before bed. And if I must, I will follow it with a half hour of reading a book or magazine (paper, not virtual) or listening to relaxing music with the lights dimmed.
Those things I can control, unlike the situation with the old boyfriend.
(* Pat yourself on the back if you got the Beatles reference in the title.)
Today is a day of numbers. Some are familiar:
- 11, 175, 77, 93 — The flight numbers of the hijacked planes.
- 3 — The number of airports from which the four hijacked planes originated.
- 8:46 — The time of first impact.
- 2,977 — The number of people killed in the attacks.
- 19 — The number of hijackers.
Others, less so:
- 61 — The number of nations, besides the United States, whose citizens were among the victims.
- 4,300 — The number of civilian aircraft grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration following the attacks.
- 120 — The number of U.S.-bound overseas flights that were diverted to Canada.
- 1 — The number of people who made the decision to completely shut down U.S. airspace.
- 5 — The number of military fighter jets scrambled (alas, too late) from Otis Air Force Base and Langley Air National Guard Base to intercept the hijacked planes targeting the Twin Towers.
Being cheap—and, at the moment, broke—I don’t have television service. That’s no cable, no satellite. The only things I really miss watching are the local sports teams, but I can get those on the radio. Still, it’s nice to watch a movie or program occasionally, and for that reason I compromised and sprung for an $8/month subscription to Hulu.
The nice thing about Hulu is that it isn’t just a site where you can stream, at your convenience, programs other people watch on television. It has its own original programming as well, some of which is quite good. I’m currently watching a Hulu original series called Casual, about a woman in the process of getting a divorce who temporarily moves, with her teenaged daughter, into her brother’s house. The story follows the three of them as they navigate the various relationships (I use the term loosely) arising from each character’s pursuit of casual sex. What’s interesting is that for three people who are getting the no-strings-attached sex they actively seek, they are remarkably miserable
All of which has me thinking about Catholic teaching on sexuality, something about which I’m preparing to lead discussion as part of an adult faith formation program I coordinate at my church. Even people with absolutely no connection to the Catholic church know that its teachings prohibit pre-marital, extra-marital, or same-sex sex. (Yeah, I spent five minutes trying to figure out how to say that last one in a less redundant way but came up empty. Sorry.)
The teaching goes basically like this: the purpose of sexuality is that it be shared between two people who are joined in marriage, for the purposes of uniting them to one another and producing children. As someone who has had sex and given birth without being married, I often questioned why the marriage part was a requirement.
More recently, I have come to some understanding of that teaching, from two perspectives: practical and emotional. My pregnancy was the result of a relationship that wasn’t in any way serious or committed. I ended up raising my child alone, a difficult task materially speaking. On the other hand, when I had sex for love (with someone different), it was indeed unifying. But that relationship ended, and in three decades I still haven’t gotten over it. I wonder if it would have been easier to move on if we had never shared those sexual experiences that seemed to cement the emotional connection between us. For the record, I also had a wild phase when I sought sex for fun, but it wasn’t remotely fulfilling and didn’t make me feel very good about myself. I don’t do that any more.
Maybe that’s the wisdom of Catholic teaching. As much as we may want to believe otherwise, sex is profoundly different from other human interactions. For people who don’t take it seriously, like the characters in Casual, it can be unsatisfying at best and hurtful at worst.
Ten days after breaking his leg in horrific fashion landing a vault in Rio, French gymnast Samir Ait Said is reportedly on the road to recovery.
Ait Said had surgery the night of the injury and posted a video on Facebook the next day, thanking well-wishers for their support and offering words of encouragement to his Olympic teammates (according to a partial translation provided by Yahoo Sports). Yesterday he attended the rings final as a spectator.
Because I’m not an avid gymnastics fan, I didn’t realize that this wasn’t the first injury to keep Ait Said from Olympic competition. Another leg injury prior to the 2012 Games in London kept him off the team entirely. Last year, he declared his desire to medal twice in Rio to make up for what he couldn’t do in London. No one would blame him for being bitter for being denied yet again.
But he isn’t bitter, telling French sports daily L’Équipe (as quoted in the Guardian article linked above) that he is really quite fortunate:
There are worse things in life. I’m in good health, that’s the main thing. You have to put it in context. You know, people died in the Paris terrorist attacks, some people lost their children. I’ve missed out on the chance to make the Olympic final, that’s all. I’m still alive, I have my friends, my parents are here with me.
Ait Said says he plans to compete in Tokyo in 2020. I, for one, will be rooting for him to win big.
Twitter users know that if you don’t protect your account (i.e. restrict who can see the contents), any other user can see your tweets. I tweet a fair amount of news, current events, and political stuff, so it isn’t unusual that someone I don’t know will like/retweet/reply to one of my tweets or even follow me. But I can’t figure out why, yesterday afternoon, I was followed by the verified account of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista.
Granted, he isn’t the most discriminating Twitter user when it comes to following people. But that doesn’t explain why he added me to the 774,000 other people whose tweets litter his timeline. Nor does it make it any less fun to be able to say that Jose Bautista follows me on Twitter.
I haven’t been this excited since I got a follow from Wayne Rogers, the (now deceased) actor-turned-investment-strategist who played Trapper John McIntyre on the M*A*S*H TV series.
It’s only day 2 of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, but we already have a winner for The Den Mother’s Olympic Boyfriend of 2016.
French gymnast Samir Ait Saif gets the nod not only because he’s gorgeous, but also because this happened to him and he didn’t throw up on international television. He didn’t even yell. (WARNING: Disturbing video at the link.)
If you’re squeamish and would rather not watch the video, here’s USA Today‘s description of the incident:
Ait Said’s left leg snapped on his vault landing, the sharp crack heard throughout the arena. As he rolled over, clutching his leg just below the knee, his foot and the lower half of his shin dangled in the opposite direction of the rest of his leg.
It was not a compound fracture (in other words, the bone did not puncture the skin), but there might still be internal soft tissue damage.
The Den Mother joins many others around the world who send Ait Said heartfelt wishes for a fast and full recovery.
With the Olympics coming up, I got thinking about all the flags we’ll see in the opening ceremony, among spectators cheering on their teams, and at medal ceremonies. Did you know that the colors of the Olympic rings—blue, yellow, black, green, and red—were chosen because every national flag on the planet contains at least one of those colors. (That factoid prompted the Den Son to state that he’d love to start his own country and give it a solid purple flag. But I digress.)
It has always fascinated me how many flags resemble others in some way. There are very few—the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the former Soviet Union come to mind—that are (or were) almost universally recognized. But what about the tri-color flags? There are tons of those, some vertical stripes, some horizontal stripes, that can be confusing to those who aren’t already familiar with them.
How similar are some national flags? Let’s take a look.
Liberia, Malaysia, and the U.S.A.
Liberia, being a nation founded for the resettlement of freed American and Caribbean slaves, deliberately adopted a flag similar to that of the United States, but with very different symbolism. The Malaysian flag is unrelated to both.
Australia and New Zealand
The principle differences (though there are others) are that the Australian flag has what’s called the Commonwealth star under the union flag and an extra, smaller star in the Southern Cross.
Honduras, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Argentina
The three Central American countries’ flags are based on the the flag of the former Federal Republic of Central America, which was itself inspired by the Argentine flag.
France, Ireland, and Italy
Tricolors are abundant across the globe, as with these three European flags that all have white in the middle.
Ireland and Ivory Coast
I’m showing the Irish flag again to compare it to the flag of the Ivory Coast, which is merely a differently proportioned mirror image of the other.
Guinea and Mali
Two more vertical tricolors that also mirror each other vertically.
Indonesia, Monaco, and Poland
Yes, those really are three different flags. The only differences are the proportion and orientation.
Luxembourg and the Netherlands
And just to mix things up, here are similar flags that differ only in their shades of blue.
Costa Rica and Thailand
Some flags are virtually identical, but with colors reversed. The Costa Rican flag predates the Thai flag by almost 11 years, so somebody in Thai government was a copycat.
Cuba and Puerto Rico
Something I once learned: Don’t ever confuse these two flags when talking to a Puerto Rican.
Iceland and Norway
Iceland was governed by Norway for many centuries, so it isn’t a surprise that its flag was based on Norway’s.
Denmark, Finland, and Sweden
Like Iceland and Norway, these Scandinavian countries do love their Nordic cross. I can easily identify the Danish and Swedish flags, but for some reason the Finnish flag always stumps me.
Bahrain and Qatar
Prior to 2002, when Bahrain reduced the number of points on its flag, it looked even more like the Qatari flag.
Russia, Slovakia, and Slovenia
Then there are countries whose flags look look like someone else’s, with something new dropped onto the middle, as appears to be the case with Slovakia and Slovenia. For the record, I always get those two confused just because of their names; the flags don’t help.
Mali and Senegal
I’m pointing out Mali again to show it next to Senegal. These countries were both part of the short-lived Mali Federation, whose flag was a version of French Sudan’s, but using the colors of the Pan-Africanist movement.
Romania and Moldova
These two nations share cultural, historical, and geo-political ties, so it isn’t surprising that the Moldovan flag is based on that of Romania.
Italy and Mexico
There are no similar ties, however, between Italy and Mexico.
The Netherlands and Paraguay
Nor are there between the Netherlands and Paraguay. In fact, the latter’s flag was based on the colors of the French flag.
I could go on and on, but I got tired of downloading flag images. Can you find similarities in other national flags?