Sunday, September 28, 2008

shea stadium (1964 - 2008)

Today was the last day in the life of a vibrant and quirky stadium in Flushing, New York. And a somber day it was. Not only did the stadium see its final game, it saw its team, the New York Mets, lose all hope of making it to the playoffs—on the last day of the regular season, for the second year in a row. Sheesh.

It's been a tumultuous season, to say the least. The Mets suffered through a number of key injuries (most devastatingly to their closer, Billy Wagner); fired their manager in midseason; came back to erase a seven-game deficit in the division; went on to blow a three-game lead that they later earned, and finally, made their fans suffer through a roller coaster last two weeks that undoubtedly left many ulcers in its wake. I gotta say, they performed pretty well considering they were stuck with an extremely subpar bullpen for much of the season. And yet, they lost. Again. Boo.

Perhaps it was fitting to go out this way. The Mets seem to be built on a relatively solid core of players, but they are in need of a spark (or five) get them through to the next level. I kind of feel the same about the Mets' home for the last 44 years. Shea Stadium will always remind me of my youth, in the same way that the Polo Grounds will always stick with my father, who grew up rooting for the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco. But I ain't no spring chicken, and neither is Shea. The stadium has improved since it opened, especially in the coloration. But a good chunk of the mezzanine seats have a horrible view, while the upper deck—where I'm guessing fans spent most of their time over the years—is downright frigid in the spring and early fall. Also, fans in some of those outer seats can seem far, far away from the action. Worst of all, the interior parts of Shea, including all concession stands, are totally cut off from the field.

Still, it's with a real tear in my eye that I say farewell to good old Shea Stadium. I was lucky enough to have attended three of what the fans voted as Shea's top 10 moments (#2, 6, and 10), and those memories won't soon be forgotten. Of course, I won't soon forget all the other memories of the Mets blowing it, I assure you. The new digs next door look fresh, and they will be home to a whole new set of memories, though. One wish is that the Mets would use the change of venue to bring ball girls back to New York. Growing up, I realized it was a pipe dream to think of playing for the Mets. But they used to have ball girls on the sidelines, and that was a great thing to see. Today, it's all boys all the time, which sucks for all those girls out there who dream diamond dreams.

Anyway, goodbye Shea. We will miss you.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

a year in spacetime

Although I technically started this blog in 2005, today marks the one-year anniversary of the real beginning of Annals of Spacetime.

It's been an interesting journey thus far. I think now is as good a time as any to step back and remember that our world, and the life on it, is precious. In the grand scheme of the universe, we are, as astronomer Carl Sagan so famously pronounced, just a pale blue dot in the vastness of space. But this is the only planet we've got.

In the past few weeks, disasters both natural and man-made have graced our headlines and threatened our sense of security. I truly hope that the powers that be who are making decisions on behalf of the rest of us can appreciate and be humbled by the power they hold in their hands. And that the rest of us make it a priority to understand the world around us a little more each day.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

for whom the bell curve tolls

In this week's education-themed New York Times Magazine, columnist Deborah Solomon interviewed Charles Murray, the author of a new book suggesting that college is a waste of time for most Americans, who aren't smart enough to understand what they're learning.

You might remember Murray as the author of the controversial book, The Bell Curve, back in 1994. To recap, The Bell Curve purports to use statistical data to explain that people who score low on intelligence tests (who tend to be minorities) do so because of inherent, genetic differences. Today, many people who study the determinants of intelligence agree that the results of the studies used by Murray and his co-author Richard Herrnstein were seriously flawed. In particular, a number of new scientific studies, which made sure to use the proper controls, have shown that one's upbringing plays much more of a role in determining how much a person's inherited intellectual abilities can express themselves.

Back to the interview. First off, I just disagree with Murray about the premise of his book. People go to college for many reasons. No, you might not remember or truly understand all the lectures you hear, but you can say the exact same thing about any level of schooling. But more importantly, college is far more than just a place to become educated cerebrally. It's a place where many young Americans can meet people of different backgrounds outside of their home-town circle; explore various academic areas without worrying about whether or not they're going to get fired for doing a bad job; and have maturing experiences that simply don't exist outside of the college setting.

But aside from that, the most teeth-gnashing of Murray's responses came after Solomon asked him a couple of questions related to the upcoming election. First, there was:

Q: What do you make of the fact that John McCain was ranked 894 in a class of 899 when he graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy?

A: I like to think that the reason he ranked so low is that he was out drinking beer, as opposed to just unable to learn stuff.

Okay, so to explain away McCain's ineptitude at scholarly pursuits, you say he was just "out drinking beer," but for other people you argue that they aren't measuring up because of genetic inferiority? Hmmm. Then, my favorite question of the day:

Q: What do you think of Sarah Palin?

A: I’m in love. Truly and deeply in love.

Q: She attended five colleges in six years.

A: So what?

So the man who endorses a policy of social darwinism for our education system can't see the hypocrisy of endorsing someone to be our Vice President who—for whatever reason—can't even make it through college on the first or even second try? Wow.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

george w. bush 2.0

I was having a conversation with a friend today about the improbable candidacy of Sarah Palin for the position of Vice President of one of the most powerful countries in the free world. We were discussing how grossly underqualified this woman is to be the country's second-in-command, much less the proverbial heartbeat away from the oval office. But more specifically, all we could think of was that Ms. Palin is basically a clone of George W. Bush—with heels.

You could talk about political ideologies; Palin and Bush are both right-wing Christian conservatives who'd be thrilled to repeal Roe v. Wade and dozens of other cases that have empowered people in this country. And they both obviously disdain science, conservation, and reason in favor of rewarding their friends and super-rich Republican cronies. But it's the way they work that really makes them seem like they were separated at birth.

For one thing, Palin and Bush both surround themselves with people who do the talking for them. They know that errant words can and will come back to haunt them, so they've both taken every step to keep layers upon layers of press handlers, who very rarely let them speak candidly and face their accusers. Bush and Palin are also masters of changing the subject to avoid real issues.

But most of all, Bush and Palin are both compulsive about manipulation, secrecy, and personal revenge. They will both do whatever it takes to get what they want—including firing people because of personal vendettas—and they've shown that they'll abuse their power to make sure no one gets in their way.

So we have to ask ourselves: Is Sarah Palin really who we want as the second-in-command of our country? I realize that John McCain is the first name on the Republican ticket, but his selection of Palin has been a real eye-opener. I mean, McCain keeps calling himself a maverick. But Palin is the same type of leader as Bush—minus the Washington experience! So in choosing Palin, McCain is in fact embracing what Bush stands for. Talk about fuzzy math!

In the last two months, we've seen McCain try to distance himself from Bush with words, while his actions have made the case that he and his running mate are just George W. Bush 2.0. A perfect example is the recent "interview" he gave to Time magazine. His behavior makes it crystal clear that, if he wasn't there already, McCain has completely defected to the dark side.

In short, McCain and his Veep choice are more of the same old team that brought us a pointless and devastating war; who constantly sided with big business and big oil at the expense of average Americans; who set us back decades in terms of cleaning up the environment and following progressive policies to fight pollution; and who ruined our good standing in the world, both financially and ideologically. I really hope that in the coming weeks, any undecided voters will come to realize how dangerous John McCain and Sarah Palin would be for our country if elected. It's time to restore some decency and reason to the White House, and the only person who's going to do that in this election is Barack Obama.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

ipod overkill

I love iPods as much as the next person; these little guys have taken over the way we listen to music, and the product is generally top notch—crappy batteries and lack of a built-in radio nothwithstanding. But Apple is getting on my nerves with how many redesigns they've come out with. Not including the tiny Shuffle, which doesn't give you any real control over what you hear, and the iPod Touch, which is basically an iPhone without the phone, the iPod has undergone at least a dozen changes in just seven years. That's close to two new versions every year! While I'm all for upgrades, every redesign makes the previous one obsolete. And while you might be able to send yours in for repair to some third-party company, the reality is that fixing or accessorizing your iPod in a physical store becomes all but impossible a year, on average, after you buy it. Hey, Apple! Do us a favor and slow down, will ya? Thanks.