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Not That Anybody Asked...
Comments and Suggestions for the world, from Warren Chang
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vn750
I'm a Mets season ticket holder who tries to go to every series for at least one game.  Most of the weekend series I go on Saturday or Sunday with my whole family (rather than just using my season pair), but for this series against the Cards I had plans for Saturday afternoon (kid's birthday party at 3pm), Sunday got moved to an 8:05pm start and Monday's a day game, so I went for the Friday game.

I took my 8 year old son.  Since we go on weekends so much he usually gets a promo at the door, and was disappointed when there wasn't one, so I bought him a 50th Anniversary commemorative Lego man at one of the clubhouse shops.  This little guy is now a trophy like you wouldn't believe.

Usually after 3 innings of no-hit ball I start toying with the idea of a no-hitter, and only after 5 innings do I start to wonder, "will I see history today?!"   And if a Mets pitcher gets to the 7th inning stretch without giving up a hit... Well I don't know, it had never happened to me!  Besides, after 3 innings it seemed more likely that Wainwright would toss a no-no than Santana, after he walked a couple of guys on 4 pitches to rack up his pitch count while exhibiting a bit of a control problem.

I've seen several complete game shutouts and a few 1- and 2-hitters, but all with the no-hit bid broken up by the 5th or 6th inning.  I had had tickets to the game on 9/29/2007 when John Maine took a no-hitter into the 8th inning, but I only that found out later because I was hosting a birthday party for my son (the same one now with me) and sold or gave those tickets away.  This time I was in the thick of it.

My son got excited when the Mets scored runs, especially Duda's 3-run HR that barely cleared the new walls in RF, since he "called it" by saying he wanted to see the apple come out 5 seconds before Duda smacked it.  Silly me, I thought that would be the highlight memory of the game for me at the time.

After 6 innings Santana had already thrown over 90 pitches.  I wondered how deep he would go.  Everyone around me agreed though that rebuilt shoulder or not, Collins would not pull him while he had a no-hitter going...  He would get CRUCIFIED.

After Baxter's catch in the 7th inning - a hit that sounded like a HR off the bat, then looked like a double as it leveled its arc and tailed away from Baxter in left field - I felt JUST like I did watching Endy's Catch in 2006.  I even saw the play from almost the same angle, the Mezzanine Reserved past 3B, very similar to my seats in Caesars Box over 3B.  That something that amazing HAD to be part of something magical and special.  Of course, I reminded myself that the Mets went on to lose that Game 7 in 2006, hold yourself back buddy, don't get hurt again...

Screw that.  I'm a Mets fan, and this is WHY I'm a Mets fan: because for me, the true thrill of being a sports fan is from seeing magic, the amazing, the unexpected.  And that's why I love being at the ballpark so much, why I go to 25-30 games a year for this team, because something about seeing the field in person makes that feeling more real.  On TV it seems like could be just another scripted show, like how they faked the moon landings ;), but seeing is believing.

Nieuwenhuis made a few nice catches in LF after Baxter had to leave the game with an injured shoulder after his amazing catch, including a scary near-drop of a catch when he collided with Quintanilla.  Torres made some catches of flares into shallow CF (including a broken bat shot from Beltran) that looked JUST like the kind I've seen drop in for lucky hits any number of times.  But THIS time... They were caught and held on to.  ALL of them.

I kept thinking, "they can't risk his arm with 150 pitches out there, can they?"  But then he started getting outs on just 1 or 2 pitches.  And when he batted for himself in the bottom of the 8th after throwing well over 100 pitches - 119, to be exact - I knew I would have a shot at seeing history.




The crowd was totally into every pitch in the 8th and 9th inning.  Every strike got a cheer, every close ball got a sigh, every strikeout an ovation, every ball hit into the air was silent tension you could slice with a spoon (you wouldn't even need a knife).

In the 9th inning, added to the earlier friendly foul-ball call was the "you weren't hit by the pitch" call.  All those calls that can go for or against a pitcher throwing more pitches than he ever has in his career were going for Santana.  

I cursed myself for leaving my camera at home, I ALWAYS bring a camera to the game, so when the last batter got to 2 strikes I got my iPhone ready to do the best I could...  Here it is:








Mets fans all around me were screaming, high-fiving, even hugging.  Yes, I hugged strange big beefy guys and we screamed with our faces 2 inches apart, and I'd do it again, even with my son watching (who couldn't stop talking about how exciting the game was until he went to bed)!

I turned on WFAN in the car after the game and heard people complimenting Howie Rose on his call to end the game.  Gotta go hear it now.

WOW.
19th-Nov-2010 10:34 pm - Behold The Reichsblotch!
vn750
Don't Turn Around - Der Kommissar's In Town 

Below are some pictures I took of a cheap pencil sharpener in the form of a globe that my 9-year-old daughter bought this past weekend.  I noticed that there was plenty of detail in the globe when it came to Africa - most countries are delineated with a different color - but for some reason, Europe boiled down to just three big blotches: Spain/Portugal, Italy, and a big yellow blotch that spanned Germany, Austria, Poland, France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark, Czechoslovakia... Hm! I pointed this out to my wife, jokingly calling it "The Reichsblotch".


Then I noticed that that vertical line east of Berlin is 20 degrees East in longitude. I cross-checked against an actual map of modern Europe and Der Reichsblotch extends to roughly 21 degrees East - right up to Warsaw. It also juts further east in a more southern part of the globe - under the Ukraine, which is to say, Hungary and Romania. (With the Ukraine in the same color as "Asia", which in turn seems basically to be the former USSR as it does not include, say, China, India or Thailand.)

Now, I felt a little bit chilled.

The chill went all the way to incredulity mixed with a sense of inevitability when I looked for the mark of provenance on the thing and found that unlike 99% of such throwaway tchotchkes in today's world, this was not Made In China: it was Made In Germany.

Achtung!

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31st-Oct-2010 10:48 pm - Sparring With A Used Car Salesman
liar pants on fire

" ...By their fruits ye shall know them."

Earlier today, I closed on buying a used 2008 Acura MDX (Base model). This was done after quite a bit of research and analysis as to what I wanted/needed in a new car, including the fact that the car it was replacing had been driven 68,650 miles in just over ten years - a late model, low mileage used car seemed the best fit.  It's not a daily driver, it's not a commuter vehicle, it's a family car for weekends and long trips.

After dealing with a very nice floor salesman who had showed me various cars and accompanied me on the test drive, I was handed off to "the financing guy" to wrestle over the final numbers, put down money and affix John Hancocks and all of that rigmarole.  Part of his job was to push very hard for me to take an "extended 7-year bumper-to-bumper warranty" that would cost $2,500.  When I declined, he immediately offered it to me again "at the dealer cost" of $1,750.  But either way I had to buy it from the dealer at the point of purchase - I could NOT get this coverage later, this was my ONLY CHANCE.

Hmm.  A hard sell + pressure tactics + an instant 30% discount = "Do I look like a trusting, gullible fool to you, bub?"  (Wait, let me take off my Mets jacket and say that again.)  But rather than sit there and just keep saying "no... no... no, thank you", I decided to play along and poke holes in his spiel.

I pointed out that the car comes with a 7-year, 100,000 mile factory warranty, and that with my driving patterns I would hit 7 years well before 100,000 miles.  He countered that it's a "limited warranty", and one that started when the first owner bought it in December of 2007, so I only had 4 years of it left.

Yeah, but I might well only keep the car for another 4 or 5 years, which is pretty typical.  So why should I pay $1,750 to extend the coverage by just one more year?  Ah, but the extended warranty is transferable to the new owner!  Bah, I replied, that adds nothing to the resale value and we both know it, if it ends up being useful to the next owner it's just lucky for him or her.

All right, he conceded that point, but it's not just the length of time - it's the difference between "limited" and UNLIMITED.  This is UNLIMITED, bumper-to-bumper coverage!   At this point, he shows me a diagram of the car and how every piece of it falls between the front and rear bumpers.  I am not kidding, this is the literal truth, right down to him tapping the front and rear bumpers on the diagram with his pen.  I suppose that still leaves out the trailer hitch, so better not have that thing rust away or something, I guess.

OK, so what's "limited warranty" mean versus "unlimited" here?  Well, he says, "limited" means "manufacturing problem from the factory", not "what might happen to you".  Unlimited means "whatever happens to you".  And you have kids in your car!  You are going from a sedan to an SUV, you could be driving in the rain, the snow, up into the mountains, on the beach, anywhere where anything could happen.  To your kids!  In this car!  Think about that!

Right.  OK then, so you mean a scenario like where a truck hydroplanes through a red light and clips me, this policy covers me 100% for fixing it up?  Well no, that's done via your car insurance's collision coverage.

I see.  So does the unlimited coverage pay my insurance deductible?  No, not that either.  It's more like something with the engine or transmission that "just happens".

Right.  So, we're talking about an engine or tranny problem that isn't a factory problem, and isn't due to a collision accident.  What would that be?  You mean like if I completely forget to ever change the oil in my car, and the engine seized up, the "unlimited warranty" would cover it?

The shocked look on his face was priceless.  Oh no, no, no no no.  That's failure to maintain the car, that is not covered.  Never change the oil?  Was I kidding?

Well yes, I was kidding, but only because I wanted to see where he WASN'T kidding, so to speak.  So what exactly would be "something that happened to me" that isn't a factory error, isn't an accident and isn't improper maintenance?

I'm sure I was the first person in a long time (I can't say ever) to press him this far, and to his credit, he came up with a scenario: failure due to overuse.  "For example, in the wintertime you could get stuck in some snow or ice and try rocking back and forth to get loose.  A whole lot of kicking in and out of reverse while revving the engine could wear out your transmission or engine in just a few years.  At which point, this warranty would cover giving you a new transmission, which could cost THOUSANDS of dollars and take a week to repair!"

OK.  So let's take this worst case example, which is to say, the best case scenario for buying this policy.   I would pay let's say $4,000 to fix the car, or rely on this $1,750 policy to pay for it instead.  Let's even call it $4,375 which is exactly 2-1/2 times $1,750.  (I used his own calculator to do this.)

As a probability weighted value, then, I break even on this policy if there is a 1-to-2.5 = 2-to-5 = a 40% chance that this worst case scenario happens.  Since this policy isn't infinite, it would have to happen within the next five years, during which I expect to have driven it for only 35,000 miles - or at most, seven years (the extent of the policy), by which I expect to have driven it at most 50,000 miles.  So, why should I be worrying about a 40% chance of me wearing out the transmission in the next 35,000 to 50,000 miles due to getting stuck in the snow a lot...  In an SUV which includes SUPER HANDLING ALL-WHEEL DRIVE (that is what Acura calls it, SH-AWD) as one of its technological selling points?

HAH!  IS THAT THE BEST YOU CAN DO?  (I didn't actually say that out loud, but it echoed in my head.)

He stopped pushing it on me at that point.  Though the look on his face when I used the phrase "probability weighted value" was almost as good as the one where I asked if it covered me never changing the oil in my car.
 

edvard munch scream
What happens, of course, is that Google will helpfully fill in the rest of your search phrase for you, based on several of the most frequent or most recent searches done worldwide with the same beginning keywords.

In my case, I wanted to find the full text of Langston Hughes' famous poem, " A Dream Deferred".  I went to Google and entered the opening line: What happens to a dream deferred?  But just after I typed the word "a", a slight pause on my part resulted in an auto-filled drop-down selection box of Google's helpful suggestions for what I was maybe trying to look for.

Here it is...  I hope there's not some bio-engineer of a mad scientist out there working on a dead body with a dog, a girlfriend and an octopus.


9th-Jan-2010 02:14 pm - Divining the Mets' 2010 Season
ny mets logo
It's In The Cards
While hosting a New Year's Eve party, I took out a box I hadn't unpacked since moving into my house over two years ago that I knew contained card gaming supplies I needed to use (Bridge bidding boxes, unused for at least four years).  Inside that box I found a bunch of other card-related stuff, including an old Hoyle's book on "Rules of Card Games" and several random decks of cards...  And a deck of cards representing the "Tarot of Baseball" that I picked up years ago and forgot about.

I'm not a mystical believer of any sort, but I do enjoy understanding arcane symbols and meanings in art and literature, and I happen to know something about the symbolism of the standard Rider-Waite Tarot deck as a result of reading a rather cheesy trilogy of Fantasy/SF books by Piers Anthony in my youth (followed by reading more about the history and meaning of various Tarot decks on my own).  I recognized that many of the pictures on the Baseball Tarot were direct, tongue-in-cheek references to the imagery from the Rider-Waite deck, especially the Major Arcana (Triumphs).  A triple play of arcane symbolism, ironic satire and baseball... Perfect for me!

Like a standard Tarot deck, the Baseball Tarot has 78 cards in it, comprised of twenty-two Major Arcana cards with individual names on them (and here called "Major League Arcana") numbered zero to 21, and four suits of 14 cards each called the "Minor (League) Arcana".  Typically the four suits are Swords, Pentacles (coins), Wands (sticks) and Cups (whence come the standard playing deck's suits of Spades, Diamonds, Clubs and Hearts), with the 14 cards ranked from Ace (one) to Ten, followed by the Page, Knight, Queen and King.  In the Baseball Tarot deck the suits are Balls, Caps, Bats and Gloves, with the "court cards" named Umpire, Pitcher, Coach and Manager.  The correspondences between the Rider-Waite and Baseball Tarots are not always one-to-one, but frequently are, in both imagery and meaning.

Since I went to 25 games at Citi Field last year and recently renewed my full season's ticket plan with the Mets for 2010 (albeit in a much cheaper seat location than for 2009), what else could I do but unpack it, read the directions and try to divine the answer to the question: "How will the Mets fare for 2010?"


The Deal
The directions told me to select out a card representing me based on my age, hair and eye color (The Manager of Caps), then to shuffle and deal out ten cards in a prescribed pattern while fixing my question in my mind.

Here's the deal I got:


2010-Mets-Tarot-fortune


(If you click on the picture you'll get taken to my Webshots hosting page, where you can then click on it again to get a full screen, high resolution image where you can see the pictures on the individual ten cards.  The "Four of Balls" is a terrific one in particular.)


The Fortune
Based on the pamphlet it came with, here's the interpretation of the card positions and values.

Card #0 (The Seeker): Given the nature of the question, I suppose the Seeker really represents the Mets as a team or franchise, personified by Fred Wilpon, the team's owner, or by Omar Minaya, the General Manager.  However since the context of my question is really to ask "will I enjoy the 2010 season?", I let the card represent me: the Manager of Caps, a man over the age of 35 with black hair and dark eyes.


Card #1 (across the Seeker): The Four of Balls.
This card represents the atmosphere of the question or matter at hand.
Sorrow, separation from game plans.  The Seeker is faced with a situation where re-establishing control over life is of paramount importance.


Card #2 (Upper Left): The Seven of Bats (reversed).
Forces opposing or interacting in the environment surrounding the question.  Always read as right-side up.
Holding one's own against adversaries.  Success will come with perseverance.  Courage in the face of difficulties.


Card #3 (Upper Right): The Three of Gloves (reversed).
The past events leading to the matter at hand.
An excess of physical enjoyment and pleasures of the senses lead to a bad hangover, rubbery legs, and a missed fly ball.


Card #4 (Lower Right): The Three of Balls.
Influences in the Seeker's recent life that tie the question together.
Mastery of a situation, control of another person.  A perfect use of the tools at hand.


Card #5 (Lower Left): Triumph XIX, The Natural (a.k.a. "The Sun").
Influences now coming into play regarding the matter at hand.
A good marriage and supportive friends in the dugout.  A past record of achievement and future prospects of continued success.  Material happiness.


Card #6 (Bottom of the right-hand column): The Ace of Balls.
Immediate choices ahead for the matter at hand.
A great force, in love as well as hatred.  Excessiveness; conquest of others; triumph and power.  May also mean fertility.


Card #7 (Second up on the right-hand column): The Five of Bats (reversed).
The negative aspects (fear, weaknesses) surrounding the matter at hand.
Competition leads to the improvement of one's ability.  Sharpness and experience lead to improvement in material matters.


Card #8 (Third up on the right-hand column): The Umpire of Gloves.
The emotional environment of family, friends, etc., of the matter at hand.
Studious, thoughtful judgments.  Willing to render a service as a mediator.


Card #9 (Second from top on the right-hand column): The Three of Caps.
The Seeker's own hopes or desires for the matter at hand.
Skill and mastery of one's trade or craft, art or labor.  Nobility or experience, a well-known renown, even glory.


Card #10 (Top of the right-hand column): The Six of Bats (reversed).
The cumulative result of all the influences and factors in the fortune: the forecast.
Triumph after battle.  Unexpected good news, perhaps an annuity or an inheritance.


The Reading
So, what does it all mean?  I'm no fortune teller, but if I'm to play one on the Internet, I'd assume that it's par for the course to interpret the reading in a way that the recipient would like to hear it.  Even so, looking at the meanings of the cards in their respective positions, the gist of it seems to be positive, especially if I interpret "The Seeker" more in terms of the team's management than myself as a fan.

Coming off a disastrous, injury-laden 2009 season, the atmosphere hanging over the 2010 Mets is one of having to re-establish direction and control of their own fate.  The injury problems from last year are suggested here as being related to bad training, and mental inattention in baserunning and defense due to "physical excesses". 

The overarching theme for 2010 then is "how will the team come together?", and the outlook there seems good.  For Card #5, describing influences now beginning to come into play, we see Triumph XIX ("The Natural"), traditionally viewed as the most positive card one can turn up from the deck.  This suggests that the Jason Bay pickup, and any others that will come out before the season begins, will on the whole work out very well.

A big choice or "great force" is a key decision in the Mets' immediate future, involving "excessiveness" and "triumph and power".  This could refer to a potential player move of some kind.  Maybe this is a reference to the rumors involving the talented headcase Cubs pitcher supposedly on the block despite a no-trade clause, Carlos Zambrano?

As for the emotional environment surrounding the team, I wouldn't have thought that "studious, thoughtful judgments" would describe any kind of fan base feeling right now.  But perhaps this refers to the Mets' own front office, that despite the howling on talk radio and discussion forums, they are proceeding with objective plans on building the team and not just picking up or trading away the latest target of fan love/hate.

The Seeker (which is starting to look like Minaya) desires renown for mastery of his trade, with a cumulatively good outcome following unexpected good news.  Perhaps a mid-season trade or pickup, blossoming rookie or resurgent veteran will come out of nowhere to carry the team.  (Not the proverbial Left Field, at least, as Jason Bay has apparently already been prophesied about earlier in the reading as a highly positive influence.)

It's too much to take this to mean "they'll win the World Series", but I'll be happy if they just finally made the playoffs again, after two consecutive years of losing the division lead in the last week (at home!) followed by a total washout of injuries.

Heck, it's too much to take this to mean anything.  But it's nice to know that randomly picked cards can be as hopeful as I am.
ny mets logo
What You Talkin' Bout, Willis?
It's nuts, right? The team sucked hard last year, in especial contrast to That Other Team In Town; the tickets can be pretty damn expensive in face value, yet were dirt cheap on StubHub by August. So... Why?

Well first of all, I'm getting much cheaper tickets (nearly 25% cheaper), with a view that I know I will like because I visited the seats this time to check them out before buying them, and the same (actually more) club accesses than I had last year: in the Promenade Club, Section 420, Row 3, before the bend. They're at a good enough price point despite the disappointing 2009 season that I've gotten plenty of interest in co-planners to share with me, so that I've allocated nearly the entire season's worth of tickets before pitchers and catchers even report, which is a big difference from last year when I tried to sell my tickets on a game-by-game basis.

But more fundamentally, why even bother being a Mets fan? Despite having a high payroll and playing in the biggest market in the country (where even a minority share to the Yankees is very significant), the franchise has seen only a few magic seasons compared to 40+ years of mostly misery. And even more ironically, despite growing up up Flushing I only started following the team AFTER the 1980s.


The Litany of Failure
Beginning with a team labeled "the worst team money could buy" in 1991, the team has seen SIX seasons out of 19 with 90+ losses, less than half (nine) end with winning records (counting an 83-79 season among the "successes"), and FOUR seasons ending with a dramatic collapse in the final fifteen games.

1998: 88-74, 18 Games Behind first place in the NL East, 1 GB for a Wild Card tie. With the Braves winning an impressive 106 games that year the Mets were never going to catch them, but they lost all last 6 games of the season to miss forcing a 3-way tie for the Wild Card.

2001: 82-80, 6 GB first place, 11 GB for the Wild Card. Pulling to within 3-1/2 games of first place with 19 games left (on 9/23/2001), the Mets then went 9-10 to end the season. This disappointing finish included going 2-4 in their last six games, all played at home, against the two teams with the worst records in the NL that year (the 62-win Pirates and the 68-win Expos), getting shut out (scoring ZERO runs) in 3 of those losses, and plating just ONE run in the other one. It also came after going 1-3 after that date against the first-place Braves, with two of those losses coming on dramatic blown saves on 2-out 9th inning home runs given up by A. Benitez and John Franco. All they had to do was hold those two MULTI-RUN 9th inning leads, then go a relatively modest 4-2 (win both series) at home against the two last-place teams, and they'd have tied for first place.  Which shouldn't have been a tall order for a team that was the defending winners of the 2000 NL Pennant...

2007: 88-74, 1 GB first place, 2 GB for the Wild Card. They went an astonishing 1-5 against the last-place Nationals in the last 2 weeks, and featured unspeakably horrendous starting and relief pitching down the stretch, all while the Phillies suddenly just kept winning and winning. (That Phillies team got swept 0-3 in the first round of the playoffs though, by the equally hot Rockies, who made it to the World Series.)

2008: 89-73, 3 GB first, 1 GB for the Wild Card. They again led the NL East with one week left to play, but lost 9 of their last 15 games, with their "closer" losing the lead (and the game) twice on 9th inning home runs, and middle relievers like Scott losing leads in the 8th inning another two or times in that stretch.

The bullpen sucked after the closer Billy Wagner went down in August, and it being after the trading deadline the best the GM could do was to pick up a castoff closer from the last place Nationals in Luis Ayala. Even Wikipedia notes: "if all games played by the [2008] Mets ended after the 8th inning, they'd have won the NL East by 12 games".

Then came last year, the 2009 season: a sad final record of 70-92, finding themselves more than 10 games behind by the end of July, getting decimated by freak season-ending injuries... All while That Team Across Town won #27. The rich got richer, and the fools looked, well, more foolish.

That's not even counting the ignominious way their only three post-season appearances in the past 20 years ended: giving up a game ending walk with the bases loaded in 1999, having their home field about 35% full of celebrating fans of the opposing team in the World Series, and with Carlos Beltran taking a called strike three with the bases loaded in 2006. (Which in retrospect, given the wickedness of the curveball, is really the least offensive of the three.)

It's enough to make me want to vomit. Or drink. Or drink until I vomit.


The Thing With Feathers
And yet, there is hope. Look at that sentence again about the 2008 team: with an anywhere close to decent closer (which K-Rod is), the team should have won the NL East running away, and that 2008 Phillies team they lost to by 2 games ended up winning the World Series. The 2009 Mets team on paper was meant to be just that -- the 2008 team's lineup, but with a much improved bullpen -- but freak injuries tore the team apart. It could be that I'll be looking back on this dark time in August laughing with fellow fans like my Yankee-fan friends did this past September, saying, "remember anguishing about being 0-8 against the Red Sox?"

Yet more speechifying on the theme of shoulda, woulda, coulda, right? Maybe, even probably. The Phillies got better in 2009 with Cliff Lee, and the AL sure hasn't gotten any easier to beat. The Braves made a series of excellent moves going into 2008, contended into the last two weeks of the season, and have made a couple of nice moves so far this year as well. Without significant bounce-back performances from oh, at least 4 out of 6 players with exceptionally disappointing years last year, not to mention a good pickup or two via free agency or trade, the Mets will most likely end up a close third in the NL East (those Marlins always seem to overperform to expectations every year).

But, as the character Andy Dufresne wrote in The Shawshank Redemption, one of my favorite movies of all time: "Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies." And if Yankees fans are defined by Expectation, are Mets fans not defined by Hope?

"I find I'm so excited, I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it's the excitement only a free man can feel, a free man at the start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend, and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope."
lolthulhu sanity
I got an unsolicited (I don't think...) book in the mail today entitled "Pro Evo", subtitled "Pro Evolution - Guideline for an Age of Joy". It looks like this:






And with it came a card reading:


The enclosed book, PRO EVO, comes to you as a free gift.

The author (1911-2001) discovered in the 1950s a new, simpled and reliable guideline for human thought and action, oriented on cosmic evolution.

The discovery was decisive in his own life,
bringing him joy, fulfillment and success.

Grateful, he wanted to share his ideas.
He published his discovery and set up a Foundation.

This book he wrote is sent to you as a free gift from the Foundation.
May the guideline be as helpful in your life as it was in the author's!



At first scan it reads very much like a Unification Church ("Moonies") book I once took in the late 1980s, as part of my self-study in Comparative Religions Of The NYC Subway (along with rather entertaining "Jews for Jesus" pamphlets, issues of "The Watchtower" in both English and Spanish, and random New Age stuff). But it's also kind of anti-religious, as it purports that There Is No God as one of its cornerstones.

Weird. I wonder how I got it? Even Wikipedia has nothing to say about its apparent author, "Tomotom Stiftung". His "Foundation" is Verlag Asama AG in Chur, Switzerland, and the book (including "this English translation") was printed in Germany.

Googling for this book's title and author turned up mostly bewildered queries like mine of "where did this come from? / why did I get this book?", along with over 150 "new and used" copies for sale on Amazon.com, mostly for $0.01, though there are four advertising their copies as "collectible" (one of the sellers describing it as "destined to become a classic"), and offered at $15.00 up to $20.60. (HA!)
rodin thinker

The Internet (and Facebook in particular) seems full of vacuous and silly quizzes these days. Well, not this one! This quiz is not about identifying catch phrases from TV shows, song lyrics or anything from pop culture, it’s about recognizing the source and original context of quotes and phrases that most educated people will have heard of or read.

Here are ten such phrases that I’ve come across and had to stop and think about, and in some cases, had to research to find if I was right about the meaning or origin.  (I was wrong about three of them.)  I've tried to make it harder by throwing in plausible alternatives.  Good luck!


Instructions:  Answer the ten questions as best you can, then click on any of the "Read Answers" links to see the answers.  Apparently once you click on any of them, ALL the answers show up (the LJ-cut boxes don't cascade), so only do this after answering all ten questions!  (Or if you're coming here from taking this quiz on Facebook!)

If you've come to this journal page directly and want to hide the answers, please use this link below instead!

Test Your Knowledge Of Famous Phrases -- Questions Only


1. The credo "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs" comes from:

(A) "The Republic", by Plato
(B) "The Communist Manifesto", by Karl Marx
(C) "The Prince", by Niccolo Machiavelli
(D) The United States Constitution

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2. John F. Kennedy said in his Inaugural Address: "Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country." What was he referring to?

(A) Military service in the armed forces, Reserves or Coast Guard
(B) Political service (i.e., "the people are the government")
(C) Humanitarian service abroad, in the Peace Corps
(D) Community service, at the local level (encouraging civic volunteerism)

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3. "Never... was so much owed by so many to so few". Who said this, and about whom?

(A) Simonides (ancient Greek poet), about "The 300 Spartans" at Thermopylae
(B) Abraham Lincoln, about fallen Union soldiers at Gettysburg
(C) William Jennings Bryan, about Andrew Carnegie and J. P. Morgan (meant ironically)
(D) Winston Churchill, about the RAF during the Battle of Britain in World War II

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4. "Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears." Shakespeare wrote these words, but for whom to say?

(A) Julius Caesar, a general and statesman
(B) Brutus, his friend
(C) Mark Antony, his ally
(D) Casca, his enemy

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5. "This is the way the world ends / Not with a bang but a whimper." What event is this an allusion to, in its original source?

(A) Guy Fawkes, who was caught trying to blow up the English Parliament in 1605
(B) A global nuclear holocaust, wherein death would come so fast you'd barely have time to cry out
(C) A soldier's death by poison gas in a World War I attack
(D) A woman attempting suicide to get back to/at her father, who died when she was a child

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6. Franklin D. Roosevelt said: "The only thing we have to fear... is fear itself." The fear of what?

(A) Fear of spending, lending money as the Great Depression continued
(B) Fear of incurring an unprecedented national debt to fund his New Deal government agencies
(C) Fear of the Axis enemy (Germany and Japan), in gearing up to fight World War II
(D) Fear of the terrifying atomic bomb, unveiled at the end of World War II

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7. What overmatched commander defiantly replied, "I have not yet begun to fight!" to a question of his surrender?

(A) Leonidas, King of Sparta, in response to the Persians
(B) John Paul Jones, American naval commander, in response to the British
(C) Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson, Confederate general, in response to the Union
(D) Anthony McAuliffe, American commander, in response to the Germans

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8. Of whom or what was it written: "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale her infinite variety"?

(A) Venus (the goddess of Love), by the ancient Roman poet Ovid
(B) The unnamed subject of a poetic ode, by John Keats
(C) Cleopatra, by William Shakespeare
(D) The Grand Bazaar of Istanbul, by William Butler Yeats

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9. Who first expressed that "History repeats itself - first as tragedy, and again as farce", and about what?

(A) Pliny the Elder, on the stabbing of Caligula (as an echo of Julius Caesar)
(B) Karl Marx, on the rise to power of Napoleon III (as an echo of Napoleon I)
(C) Mark Twain, on the election of Grover Cleveland (four years after he was not re-elected)
(D) Warren Buffett, on the stock market crash of 1987 as an echo of the one from 1929

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10. What military leader first said: "On my signal, unleash Hell"?

(A) Maximus Decimus Meridius (ancient Roman general)
(B) William Prescott (American officer in the Revolutionary War)
(C) Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson (Confederate general, U. S. Civil War)
(D) George Patton (U. S. general, World War II)

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RANKING (in Elizabethan England):
0 - 1: Wage Slave. Get thee to the workhouse, thou villain!
2 - 4: Yeoman.Ye are the salt of the earth.
5 - 6: Gentry. Though ye be not noble, yet be ye worthy and prosperous.
7 - 8: Nobility. I salute you, my good Lord or Lady!
9 - 10: Royalty. My Liege, you do grace us with your presence!


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vn750
I reserved the last day of my Summer 2009 Staycation to take a motorcycle road trip by myself while my Mom watched the kids. Since it was a day trip, I was limited to something about 150 miles away or so, to give myself time to account for possible traffic, to spend a reasonable amount of time at the destination and still get back in time for dinner.

I decided on Atlantic City. I hadn't been there since I was 22 years old or so, and felt like smelling the clean ocean air of the Jersey Shore, tasting some saltwater taffy, and why not, even trying my hand at the Blackjack table.

I looked up what would be a notable eatery to try out once arriving in Atlantic City, and found rave reviews for the White House Sub Shop. I should have looked more closely at the pictures at the roadfood.com review; the sandwiches were ENORMOUS!



The Itinerary
This is a cut-and-paste of a screenshot of Google Maps of my round trip.
bike trip to atlantic city - road map
My 2004 Kawasaki Vulcan 750
This bike is the same, and yet not the same as the one I took on my earlier two road trips: it's 10 years and many miles younger (this trip brought it up to about 2,200 miles). I got it back in early April of 2009. I thought it was too drab in plain silver and black, and decked it out with reflective pinstripes in Mets colors and the overlapping NY Mets logo on the engine block. Even though the wheels came off the Mets 2009 season, I'm a REAL FAN who's keeping the stuff on the bike. To Infinity, And Beyond!
IMG_3303
The Instrument Cluster
This is a close-up shot of the instrument cluster on my Mets Bike. The windshield is a different model, a Memphis Shades "Slim" at a 15" height (the 17" height was recommended to me, but I dislike seeing through a windshield). I like it much better than the National Cycle shield as there are no handlebar mount attachments to crowd the dials, and the flatter shield surface makes the EZ-Pass stick better. Also shown is my Garmin Zumo 550 GPS, which I got (myself) for Christmas 2008. This is its first real road trip on my bike!
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The White House (Sub Shop)
The first thing I did after arriving in Atlantic City was chow down. I'd spent over 2-1/2 hours on the road, stopping once for gas and a drink of water, and had only eaten a bowl of cereal nearly five hours earlier. I got a cheese steak, being so close to Philly, and it was HUGE. The sandwich defeated me: I got the "whole sub", not having scrolled down to look at the pics from roadfood.com, and only ate about 3/4 of it. I wish I'd gotten the Italian hero now. Maybe next time.
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Now THAT'S A Sandwich Board!
The simple yet expansive menu of the White House Sub Shop befits their simple yet expansive sandwiches!
white house subs - menu board
The Atlantic City Beach
After eating my fill and more, I strolled down Arkansas Ave. to see the Boardwalk of Monopoly fame. On a beautful day, with the weather a crisp and clear 78 degrees, there were hardly any souls to be seen... They were all indoors, in dimly lit casinos, gambling away!
IMG_3319
Take A Walk On The Boardwalk
The Boardwalk, looking northwards from the Arkansas Ave. nexus point (you mostly see the back of the Wild West casino, with its Old West sets).
panorama - atlantic city boardwalk
Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200
Looking southwards didn't seem much more lively either, and I was only going to spend about another hour in Atlantic City before heading back to get home by 6:30pm. It was time to try a casino.
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Hail, Caesar!
When in Rome, do as the Romans do, eh? Speaking of Romans, then, Caesars was right there on Arkansas Ave., so in I went! I wish I'd worn the "Caesars Club" T-Shirt I got on Opening Day, since I had season's tickets to the inaugural season in the Caesars Club section. Maybe I'd have gotten some free chips. Probably not though.
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Nos Morituri...
I took two pictures once I stepped inside the casino, one of the banks of slot machines and one of the gaming tables, before someone from Security came over to tell me it wasn't allowed...
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...Te Salutamus!
...but she didn't make me delete the two pictures I'd already taken, either (or even ask to see them), so here they are!
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Render Unto Caesar
I was amused to see that the Blackjack chips had pictures of Roman Emperors on them. I noticed that the lowest denomination, the $2.50 chip I got back as part of getting a Blackjack 1.5-to-1 payoff on a $15 bet, showed the name and image of "Nerva". I doubt many people coming to Caesars would recognize the name as one of the "Five Good Emperors" of Ancient Rome. I felt like those four years I spent studying Latin in high school and college finally paid off. Alas, the only payoff I would get was that familiarly smug feeling of being overeducated. Though I did save this chip as a souvenir.
caesars chip

edvard munch scream
[SCOTUS = Supreme Court Of The United States]

I don't know which is more stunning: that a case (Safford Unified School District v. Redding, No. 08-479) arguing for the constitutionality of strip-searching a 13-year-old girl for suspected illegal drugs (based on the hearsay evidence of another 13-year-old girl, and conducted by school officials and not an official force like the police) made it all the way up to the same Supreme Court that declined to hear a case as fundamental as one challenging the constitutionality of Federal wiretaps without a warrant...

...Or that it is now forever on the public record that Supreme Court Justices made the following statements from the bench of the highest courtroom of the country:

Supreme Court Justice Breyer: "In my experience, when I was 8 or 10 or 12 years old... people did sometimes stick things in my underwear."

Supreme Court Justice Scalia: "You’ve searched everywhere else... By God, the drugs must be in her underpants."

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Roberts: "The issue here covers the brassiere as well, which doesn’t seem as outlandish as the underpants". He is at least somewhat "fair and balanced", though, as he later would temper with the statement: "[are you] saying if you have reasonable suspicion that it’s in the underwear, you shouldn’t even bother searching the pack or the pockets? You should go straight to the underwear? That can’t be right."
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