Saturday, April 20, 2013

Marathon Bombing

Photo: Boston's finest rushing to help an injured runner.  This will be SI's cover.  From

My thoughts, such as they are, on this week's marathon massacre and the FBI's and Watertown PD's amazing capture of Suspect #2.  There'll be another post soon that chronicles my thoughts as the week unfolded:

--This week's news reporting was the best of up-close and immediate news and technology.  And the worst.  It was the best because we were up-to-date about a really serious issue--this was news worth the attention, for once.  But we were in people's backyards.  Reporters and cameramen had to be told by the police and FBI to not report on tactical information, to not show how they were about to storm the boat, to constantly get back.  Incorrect information was reported around the world before it was checked by reporters.  For example, the supposed post of "You killed my brother, now all of you will die," or something like that, was incorrectly reported as written by the second suspect.  Instead, it was written by some loser hoaxer.  And a student missing for a long time now from Brown University was reported as one of the suspects.  He wasn't, and he's still missing.  The positives far outweighed the negatives, but as this sort of coverage happens more and more, I hope news stations don't get more powerful, more arrogant, more resistant to the authorities and to responsible and accurate reporting.

--Before the post-bombing events unfolded, I made a sort of criminal profiling blog that I didn't post, because I thought it'd be a disservice to those who suffered, and, also, frankly because I thought I'd be so wrong that I'd embarrass myself.  (Back during the DC Sniper situation, I wrote a long email to a friend that was my attempt to amateur profile the situation.  I was right about most of it, including that there were two snipers, that one was much older than the other, that they were living in a vehicle, and even about their race and approximate ages.  I was wrong about the vehicle: I predicted a van, but they were in a Chevy Caprice, with a hole in the trunk's lock for the gun barrel.  There will always be some sort of anomaly.)  This sort of thing is more playing the odds, more common sense, than any sort of talent or intelligence.  Anyway, here's what I'd thought, and what actually happened:

      --I thought there'd be two of them, maybe more, if the information was correct about the JFK Library's fire (it wasn't) and if there were two other bombs that didn't detonate (there weren't).  I thought that, if there were two, they'd be very close (but I didn't anticipate literal brothers), and that there'd be an age gap (but I predicted a larger gap, like with the two DC snipers).  I never thought there'd be just one, someone who planted the bombs himself and detonated them separately on a timer.  I thought this because, if there had been just one, it'd make more sense for him to detonate them at exactly the same time, because people will run away from the whole race once the first bomb explodes.

      --I thought the suspects would be younger, both in their teens and/or twenties, but younger than thirty.  And that, along the same lines, I thought they'd be students at one of the great many nearby universities.  (I thought these because--Why the marathon?  It struck me as an odd thing to terrorize.  My conclusion is that the suspects must've been very familiar with it.  Why's that?  Because they're nearby.)  I thought they'd be wearing caps or hoods.  This last is a minor thing, but not everyone wears caps and/or hoods, and the authorities would need something to exclude some of the people they'd have to analyze on film or in photos.  And the suspects would know there'd be cameras somewhere--though that's what ultimately caught them, anyway.  Turns out, in an urban area, there are cameras everywhere.

      --But I thought there'd be a much more personal reason for the bombings, something not completely political or religious.  I was totally off-base about that, which is why I'm just an amateur at this.  The suspects purposely bombed the onlookers, most of whom would be American.  And they bombed the Boston Marathon itself.

      --I thought the suspects would have more of a personal reason because the bombs went off long after the professional--and, often, international--runners had finished, so I thought they wouldn't be the targets.  And if the professional, international runners weren't the targets, then the amateur runners must have been.  Turns out, there are a lot of international amateurs who run in the marathon (for some reason, my thinking was limited on this).  And it now seems like the crowds themselves were the targets, not any of the runners.

      --However, I was on about their approximate nationalities, based on the pressure-cooker, which has been a sort of specialty used in conflicts in many Eastern-European, Russian-bloc countries.  As well as in conflicts in some countries where every type of bomb has been used.  I thought the suspects would not obviously stand out in appearance, so that they'd probably "look American," whatever the hell that means.

      --I thought the FBI should release the images of the suspects, which national intelligence organizations are often reluctant to do.  Once they did, it was all over in about twenty-four hours.  But the rapidity of that shocked me, as it did everyone else.

      --I thought it might have been possible for the suspects to be tied into the specific restaurant or whatever that the bombs were placed in front of.  Totally wrong on that.

Well, that's about it, as far as that kind of thing goes.  Next time I'll post something about my thoughts during the week as everything unfolded.

I want to close by saying that I will not soon forget the horror I felt during the initial event, and the respect and admiration (words I do not throw around, and emotions I do not quickly and easily feel) for the men and women who helped the victims and who fought and apprehended the suspects.

For many of them, law enforcement is a personality, not just a job.

People are inherently good, and many of them are inherently good at what they do.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Signs You Have Too Many Books

Photo: The Rose Main Reading Room of the New York Public Library, Manhattan

I realized recently--okay, I've had this "realization" frequently over the years--that I have a book-hoarding problem.  You know, like those people on the show Hoarders, who have psychotic breaks when a professional therapist, visiting the squalid house, tells them that pooping and peeing on their stereo speakers because they have too much stuff in the way to make it to the bathroom is not a normal thing?  Well, I'm not that bad, as my floors and hallways are mostly bare, but I have lots of piles of books in the living room, on the table, and on the kitchen table, and in my office on my desks and chairs.  I have books in seven bookcases in the house, and in about nine boxes in the garage, and in a giant bookcase in the spare office/bedroom downstairs, which has ten deep bookshelves.

If this sounds like you, these are signs enough that you have a book-hoarding problem.  But here are a few more signs that you have too many books:

--You find yourself reading six books at once, and yet you still look for more things to read.

--You realize that fifteen bookcases are not close to enough to hold all of your books.

--Your reading material in your bathroom impedes your path to your "favorite chair."

--And you look forward to needing to go to the bathroom so that you can read.

--You read much more than you need to in order to research your novel or story.

--You have so many books that you actually consider opening your own free library, somehow.

--Except that you don't want anyone else reading your books.

--You have so many books that you end up getting duplicates at yard sales or library sales because you forgot you had them to begin with.

--You buy books that your friends want to borrow from you because you don't want them to read yours.

--You own every book ever written by Stephen King, and Robert B. Parker, and Jonathan Kellerman, and Mickey Spillane, all of whom have written at least 40 books each.

--You've forgotten which books are in the seven or eight boxes in the attic and basement.

--You have about fifty anthologies of short stories, poems and short novels.

--You still have all of the books you ever needed to read in college, and you majored in English and Philosophy.  That's a lot of required reading.

--You tell your friends that they should ask you if you have a book before they buy it, even though you have no intention of ever letting them borrow one.  (See the comment five bullets above.)

--You have to instigate a policy of no book-buying for yourself.

--You promise yourself that you'll just get new books from the library, so that you can read them without being driven to keep them.  And you know you won't follow through with this.

--You say to yourself that you won't buy anything new until you've finished reading all of the books you have, even though this couldn't possibly happen during what's left of your lifetime.

--You realize that you'd rather stay at home and read a lot rather than go to Disneyland or some such thing during your vacation.

--You think that the best thing about summers is the reading you can do on your house deck or in your house in the central air.

--Your favorite characters are more endearing to you than are your favorite people.

--You realize that you like more characters than you do real people.  And you're okay with this.

--You think that e-readers of any kind are blasphemous.

--You have books by Wilkie Collins on your computer desktop.  Unread.

--You think that one of the best things about finishing a book is the review you'll write on Goodreads.

--Or for the blog entry, of course.

--You've considered wall-papering a wall with small posters of your favorite book covers.

--You can actually tell someone why the white bookcovers of the post-1990 Catcher in the Rye is a sinful, crying shame compared to the classic red carousel horse and NYC skyline of the original.  And you sound like a lunatic doing so, and don't care.

--After you've recently shelved literally hundreds of books into your new library, someone says to you, "Are you actually keeping all of those?"  You say, "Yes," and don't realize their incredulity until over an hour later.

--You've been in minor branches of public libraries with fewer books than you have in your house.

--You have five favorite genres.

--One of your favorite places in Manhattan is the New York Public Library.  And an actual wish is to have one that's just as beautiful, if not a little smaller, in your house.

--You have three different editions of Shakespeare's Complete Works.  And you're not getting rid of any of them.

--You realize you have more books in your home than some of the more poor schools do in their classrooms, their bookrooms and their libraries.  Combined.

--You have over 30 bulleted reasons about why you have too many books, including this one.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Opening Day 2013--Red Sox 8, Yankees 2

Photo: Jackie Bradley, Jr., from

A little self-advertising, if you will.  The following is the first entry of a re-booted sports blog, which you can find after this at Steve's Baseball Blog.The link from this blog is listed with my other sites in the right column.

So I'm going to give this blog another shot.  Hope springs eternal, right?  Gone seems to be the bitterness of last year, in which we had a manager nobody liked (including his own players), players nobody liked (including the manager, and the other players) and a front office that seemed to be a bit distant from the action.  Then came the fire sale trades at the end of the season, and things looked up, except for the players themselves, because by then nobody cared.

In all of that, you have the fact that the players weren't trying at all, despite being paid millions (or, tens of millions, in a few cases), and then when the Jerry Sandusky thing came around, that was it for me, folks.  Maybe I'll see you, maybe I won't.

After that, I tried with some baseball cards--which I liked doing, by the way.  And I liked how I went into the players lives, and delved a bit deeper into their backgrounds, or their issues.  In the meantime, I learned a few things as well.  But then some personal changes happened, and my writing took off, and I didn't have the time anymore.

But now I'm back.  The smoke has cleared, and the dust has settled, and whatever other trite cliches you can think of have happened.  Spring is here.  There's hustle and bustle and excitement and exuberance on this Sox team again--for now, anyway.  But there does seem to be a new attitude, and that's not just the Sox ads on NESN talking there.

So, the game.  Opening game, opening series, and at Yankee Stadium, no less.  True, this Yankees team is essentially their Triple-A team right now, but the Sox still had to face Sabathia.  They've handled him well in the past, sure, but this game wasn't even about facing him, beating the Yankees, or even winning, per se.  It was about the new look, new attitude Sox.  The new face of the team.  That's what I mostly wanted to see.

And I did.  Specifically, here are the notes I took during the game (when I watched it on DVR after returning from an appt.):

--I'm glad I thought ahead enough to get two autographed baseballs from Jackie Bradley, Jr. when he was at Pawtucket Red Sox Hotstove League in January.  One to keep, and one to sell when the time is right.  Already his autograph has sold on ebay for about $50.  After one major league game.

--Lester is noticeably taking less time between pitches.  He needs to do that all year.  He was told to do so the last couple of years, but didn't.  This was a Becket influence, I think, since Josh has a cup of coffee and a sandwich between pitches.

--Lester's keeping the ball down and not feeling, also like Becket does, that he can just blow his fastball by people whenever he wants.  He has to set up his pitches better, which is what he's doing now.

--Seeing what I've just written, I'm noticing how glad I am that Becket's gone.

--Bradley's first AB was brilliant and memorable.  Down quickly 0-2 to Sabathia.  Takes some (very close) pitches for balls that you would expect a player with his limited experience to swing at.  Fouls off some good pitches.  Finally draws a walk after a seven or eight pitch at bat.  This pushes runners to second and third, which is more important than the fact that it loads the bases.  This PA proves John Farrell's point about how impressed he was with Bradley's approach every AB.

--I don't know why Sabathia didn't continue to give him off-speed stuff inside and low.  He was susceptible to those in this AB.

--Iglesias infield hit to short; Bradley safe at second by an eyelash, which extends the inning and scores the run.  Speed on both counts, Bradley safe at second and Iglesias fast enough to not even draw a throw to first.  I like it!

--Ellsbury hard hit to first, throw home for one out rather than to second and back to first for a possible double-play.  Youkillis knew that with Ellsbury running, the DP wouldn't happen.  Again, speed.  Iglesias now on second and Bradley at third.

--Victorino singles in both speedy runners with a hard hit single.  I was wrong to question batting him second.  I forgot about his solid production the last few years, and I forgot about his Gold Gloves.  My bad.

--Pedroia singles in speedy Ellsbury.  With Bradley batting eighth, Iglesias ninth, Ellsbury first and Victorino second (and maybe even Pedroia third), the Sox have five consecutive above-average to speedy runners.  That's very nice.

--Napoli, who'd looked silly in his first AB, just (and I mean just) gets under one and skies to deep center to end the second inning.

--Good show here in the second, with lots of walks, speedy running, and clutch-hitting.  You can do a lot of things with walks and singles.  This is how the Sox won titles in 2004 and 2007.  This needs to happen every game, all year, in order for them to have a chance.

--Bradley's great catch on Cano's (don'tcha know) drive in the 4th.  He took an odd-looking route to it, but it's a results-oriented business, as Orsillo says, and he made a great catch.

--Iglesias's push-bunt single in the fourth.  He needs to do that much more often.  Every time he hits it in the air, he owes me twenty push-ups.

--That's a line from Major League, by the way.  That one was for you, big guy.  (Because Bunky's already taken.)

--I love Jonny Gomes, the second straight Jonny the Sox got from the Oakland A's who's an under-rated table-setter, run-producer and all-around making-it-happen kind of guy.  You don't see a two-run infield single too often.  I won't be surprised if the players talk more about Gomes's hustle than they do Bradley's play in this game.

--Bullpen is doing a good job, but we knew heading into the season-opener that the bullpen was actually going to be a major plus for this team.  That, by itself, is unusual for Boston, even for the World Series winning teams.

--There's so much talk about Bradley right now, it seems like Sox fans have him already ticketed for the Hall of Fame.  And he doesn't even have a hit yet.

--Great start for what hopefully is a new-look, new-attitude team.  They should at least be fun to watch, on tv and at Fenway.  I go to my first Fenway game on April 12th.