Saturday, December 28, 2002

Quick football note
Those commercials have elevated my dislike of Michael Strahan from "strong" to "burning".

Friday, December 27, 2002

Thoughts on regime change
One thing that struck me while I was pondering international politics yesterday is that, sometimes, it seems as if we feel that we can achieve democracy in other countries overnight. Fundamentally, I suppose the four-year (or eight-year) lifetime of an American president ensures that people won't consider the effects of a policy longer than 10 or so years down the road. But I think the fact that this misses is that it really does take an extraordinarily long time to achieve stable, productive regimes. Our own country was 150 years in the making, and even after getting our nice Constitution it wasn't like the country lived happily ever after afterwards. Now, it's certainly true that we can hope that maybe with the guidance of those who have already made it through, we can help the Third World countries reach our level more quickly, but I think that it is going to be a much slower process than anyone can hope, and in the middle of that process it's going to be pretty unpleasant.

Of course, while we forget that it took 400 years to bring our nation to the point where it is today, it's equally easy to forget that, just 60 years ago, the whole world was at war. It surprises me, reflecting on it sometimes, just how quickly people's mindsets have shifted from being a world at war to having known essentially nothing but peace. So this does give me hope that, if we can ever bring stable governments to the countries that need them, it will be possible to forget past hatreds and injustices. But maybe that's just the optimist in me speaking.
Personal luck: high
Recently, my luck seems to have been better than average. At our pre-Christmas poker gathering, I did much better than I usually do. It wasn't that I was playing fantastically well (though with a few egregious exceptions, I thought I was playing decently); rather, it was that in the hands where it's ultimately pretty much luck that determines the winner (and often, those hands tend to be the biggest pots, for obvious reasons), luck usually came down on my side.

When we were bowling yesterday, I also felt luckier than normal. In fact, my whole score was different than normal: normally I pick up surprisignly few strikes and instead rely on picking up a lot of spares off 8s and 9s. Yesterday, though, I was bowling a ridiculous number of strikes -- some earned, but many which on other days would have earned me nasty splits. But I was opening practically every frame I didn't get a strike on -- when I looked at the end-of-game statistics, I had 12 open frames, 5 spares, and 14 strikes. That's way out of character for me -- normally in 3 games it would be something like 8, 16, and 6, respectively.

Yes, I know there's no such thing as a lucky streak. But I'm going to enjoy this one anyway.

Thursday, December 26, 2002

And my hubris is punished
Looks like I spoke too soon on Neifi Perez, what with the Giants signing him to a 2-year, $4.25M contract. It's things like this that drive me nuts -- it's one thing to trade away your #1 pitcher because you claim that you don't have the $4.4M he's due in 2003. It's an entirely different thing to take that $4.4M you didn't have and spend it on two of the stiffest stiffs this side of the Tin Woodsman. I just hate, hate moves like these.

Wednesday, December 25, 2002

Merry Christmas!
I'm currently at home in SF, so expect a little lull here. But I hope that you're all enjoying a wonderful day today.

Monday, December 23, 2002

Maybe I'm just a pessimist
So I was reading this David Brooks article in the Atlantic Monthly. It's fascinating, because it essentially describes a world completely alien to me. When I look at the person I am and the people I know, I don't see a generation of people basking in their artificially inflated senses of self-worth, their existence validated by meaningless benchmarks like the color of their credit cards; rather, I see the exact opposite: a group of people always striving to live up to ever-increasing standards, who, despite a large quantity of objective evidence of their intelligence and abilities, still believe that they're not as good as everyone else out there. While Brooks believes "we are convinced that we are running our own lives quite well, whereas the idiots around us are screwing up theirs," I often feel like I'm the only one who's unable to keep his own life together, while everyone else is able to do a great job running theirs, and I know that this viewpoint is hardly unique among my friends, either.

Ahem. That ended up being a little more bleedy than I wanted it to be.
Yes, it's time for another baseball post
...but don't worry, the amount of actual baseball in this one is not that great.

Despite the fact that the Giants have undergone huge offseason renovations to a team that just barely missed capturing the World Series, I've found it hard to get worked up over many of the moves made. I think that's because a lot of the people who have departed were people I alternately loved and hated: Dusty Baker, Jeff Kent, and even Russ Ortiz all fall into that category. Sure, I loved that Baker was able to hold together a fractious clubhouse and consistently coax maximal effort from his players, but I hated that he couldn't make a good tactical move to save his life and consistently played washed-up has-beens over players who at least had a chance to be good. I loved Kent when he was knocking in astronomical numbers of runs, but I hated him when he was swinging a weak bat and allowing pitchers to walk Barry a record number of times. And Ortiz, I loved him when he practically single-handedly won the Braves series and pitched like a true #1 starter, but I hated him on those days when he couldn't find the strike zone to save his life and when he was banished to the bullpen in 2000. So, while seeing them go (especially Ortiz, who is the only good pitcher the Giants have developed in my lifetime) was hard, it also brings hope that maybe their successors won't infuriate me in quite the same way (of course, also fear that their successors won't be able to fill their shoes).

The arrivals...well, Marquis Grissom certainly elicited quite the string of profanities from me (Neifi Perez I found it hard to get worked up about, since I didn't think the Giants were serious about him, and fortunately I was proven right when they non-tendered him), but the rest, while solid signings, are essentially replacements for the personnel they're losing. So it's hard to get too worked up about them; none of them is really a superstar, so while I can hope that they'll do a better job than those they replaced, it's not like their signings guarantees the team's improvement, either.

Of course, maybe all of this is just my defense mechanism at work again, not letting myself hope for too much.

Sunday, December 22, 2002

Today's insight into my psychology
So, today, while I was driving home, I had just gotten off the Bay Bridge, and my mind wasn't particularly on matters of driving (actually, I was thinking about plumbing), when suddenly I was startled out of my reverie by the sudden sound of a siren behind me. I instinctively braked, but the cop (a motorcycle cop, which is my excuse for not having picked up on him in my rear-view mirror) showed that he wasn't after me and immediately sped by me. I suppose he was heading to something requiring his attention further down the road. Of course, I wasn't doing anything particularly illegal, but I almost certainly was over the actual speed limit (I mean, in that area it's pretty much impossible not to be, except of course during heavy traffic periods), so I was certainly glad to have not received a ticket.

I felt surprisingly shaken afterwards, though. I don't know why; I can understand feeling nervous and twitchy after having just been in a near-accident (which is certainly the case for me), but it's not like a ticket is all that bad (well, I suppose it can be, financially speaking, but it doesn't have the same emotional impact). In fact, the more I think about it, the more I realize that the same is true for me about any "near miss" kind of situation: afterwards I always feel relatively drained and shaken, even if the thing I was missing wasn't all that terrible or traumatic. If I had to guess, I would say that since the bad event didn't actually happen, my mind can exaggerate it as being worse than it would actually be (certainly something I'm guilty of doing not at all infrequently), and thus feel more relieved about avoiding it than the event warrants.