Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Post-Sandy Post

When we bought our house some thirty-eight years ago, the entire block was filled with large oak and maple trees. Over the past three-plus decades, almost all of them have come down, some by choice and some by the hand of Mother Nature. Last year, one of the two in front of our next door neighbors' house came down in Hurricane Irene and they opted to take out the one next to it.

That left only the two maples in front of our house. But, as soon as clean-up crews get to it, they will be gone as well. One of them blew over in the storm, taking out the telephone pole across the street along with our power lines. The top portion of the other one snapped off and landed on the neighbors' lawn across the street; I had at first thought that what was there was from the tree that had fallen, but later saw what it actually was.

We'll miss the shade the trees brought on hot summer afternoons, but not raking up all the leaves in the fall, nor the roots that clog the sewer line. And our street, which was once tree-lined, will be that no longer.


Other than the trees and power outage, our damage was relatively minimal. Sections of the fence in our yard came down, the wind so strong that it snapped some of the posts like toothpicks and in other spots blew the slats right off.
Still to be assessed is just what happened to the solar panels on the roof. From ground level, it looks like they have been curled up by the wind, but it will take someone more knowledgeable than I to determine whether they need to be fixed or replaced. Since the pool is closed for the season, their import is minimal till next spring's First Dunk. Any other damage to the roof, of course, would be far more important.


Thanks to our neighbors, the Capones, who made room in their freezer, we will not have to lose all of the meat, vegetables, and sauce made from our home-grown tomatoes that would have fallen victim to the power outage.
Thanks to our friend Gudrun, who has invited us to use her shower, we will not be "those smelly folks." (Though I will have to remember to bring a razor there next time, as I am starting to look a bit scruffy.)


The current estimate is that more than 850,000 LIPA (Long Island Power Authority) customers are without power, upwards of 80% of their total users. It is amazing/ annoying/ distressing to listen to people calling in to the radio stations complaining because they haven't had their power restored yet. ("What are these guys doing? Why isn't my power back on yet?")
Yes, we'd all like to be first on the list and I'm sure many folks would try to make a case for why their power is more vital than anyone else's. But we're all in this together and, as soon as humanly possible, we'll all get through it.
Instead of complaining that they're not working as quickly as you would like, be thankful that there is somebody there to fix it.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Swimsover 2012

As has been the case for the past few years, Columbus Day is the unofficial end of summer for us because it is after that three-day weekend that we close the pool. Though the last time I got in for a swim was October 6th -- when water and air temperatures were both in the 70s -- the pool was just closed yesterday because we had to wait for a new cover to be delivered.

Eternal optimist that I am when it comes to the pool, I did hold out hope that I would get in one more swim before the cover went on, but a stretch of very cold nights brought the water temp down to the low 50s and no amount of solar heating was bringing that up to anything above "Yow! That's cold!" (I did stick my feet in on Sunday after doing a variety of yard chores, but that was as far as I got.)

So now we can look forward for First Dunk 2013, about six months away. Or, the way time seems to fly by, in about a week and a half.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Politics As Usual

Over the past few months, Laurie and I have been watching the seven seasons of The West Wing on DVD and it is interesting to see how much of what was done in the series parallels things that are still happening today. Though a couple of plot lines -- the kidnapping of Bartlett's daughter, for example -- are overly melodramatic, situations in the Middle East, issues with North Korea, and numerous domestic problems all ring true.

Much of the sixth season and all of the seventh focus on the presidential primaries and election of a successor to Jed Bartlett. The rise of Matt Santos (played by Jimmy Smits), a Latino Congressman from Texas, so foreshadows the emergence of Barack Obama in 2008 that you wonder if Obama's campaign people used the show as their playbook. The behind-the-scenes look at the campaigns of Santos and Arnold Vinick (played by Alan Alda) in the show gives a lot of insight to the current Presidential race.


Since it is apparently a foregone conclusion that President Obama will win in New York, we have seen virtually no ads for him or for Mitt Romney. In fact, our airwaves have been relatively free of political ads.

Our junior senator, Kirsten Gillibrand, is running for re-election, and there have been a couple of TV ads about her. I mentioned to Laurie a couple of weeks ago that there had to be a Republican candidate running against Gillibrand, but had no idea who it could be. A day or two later, Laurie found a small article in the newspaper that mentioned the candidate, Wendy Long.

Similarly, there must be a Democrat running against incumbent Congressman Peter King, but whoever it is seems to be hiding out.

In fact, the only race spending money on local airtime seems to be that between Congressman Tim Bishop and challenger Randy Altschuler in nearby Suffolk County. The entire campaign is devoted to attack ads; neither candidate bothers telling the voters what good he has done or will do, just how bad his opponent is.
An Altschuler ad condemns Bishop for "voting with Nancy Pelosi 97% of the time" in a tone that would make you think Pelosi was Satan. She is, rather, the Minority leader of the House of Representatives and, since Bishop is a Democrat, it is not surprising that he votes the party line 97% of the time. One might reasonably expect that the voters who elected him would want that.
Bishop's ads focus on Altschuler's claim of being "a proven job-creator," by pointing out that Altschuler was a leading proponent of outsourcing and that most of the jobs he created were in India.


Finally, a radio ad that has recently debuted asks, "Aren't you tired of politicians who tell you at election time that they are on the side of the taxpayer and small business in order to get your vote?" The ad goes on to say that only one political party has remained consistent on their position in support of those groups -- the Conservative Party -- so you should vote for their candidates.
Well, assuming that I agree with their views, that might be a viable alternative. Except that most of the candidates on the Conservative ticket are the Republican candidates... and aren't they among those flip-flopping candidates the ad starts out by condemning?

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baseball Fun With Numbers

Other than generating more revenue, I don't see any reason for the new one-game wild card round of playoffs that Major League Baseball has introduced this year. Any team, including the MLB-worst Houston Astros, can win one game; they did it 55 times this season. A lucky break or a bad umpiring call can end one team's post-season in three hours.

Everything seems to have worked out as it should in the National League. The three divisions have been won by the teams with the three best records in the league and the wild cards are the two next-best teams. If five teams are going to compete, they should be and are those five.

Not so in the American League. The winners of the East and West divisions are still to be determined on the last day of the season. Three of these four teams have identical records at the moment, with the Yankees only one win better than the Orioles, Rangers and A's. What happens tonight will determine which two will play the wild card game on Friday, after which, one of them will be done for the season.

Okay, that is also as it should be and makes for some great baseball.

But let us consider the American League Central Division, which has already been won by Detroit. The Tigers have the seventh-best record in the American League, with fewer wins than the aforementioned quartet of teams. They also will end the season with fewer wins than the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Angels, both of which have already been eliminated from postseason play! And after the playoff game on Friday, a third team with a better record will also be gone before the Tigers even take the field!

And what happens if the Tigers go on a tear, make it through the playoffs and win it all? Then the World Series winner will be the team with the eleventh-best record in baseball!

Yeah, that makes sense.