My fantasy baseball team, the Fern Hill Herring, is in first place by half a point. Fantasy baseball is possible because actual baseball can be quantified very granularly. These days, every at-bat, every hit, every stolen base, in fact every freaking PITCH, is observed, recorded, entered into a data base, distributed into the domain of 1s and 0s that make up the Internet, and then sliced and diced and redistributed to idiot savants like me who get a little RUSH of DOPAMINE when the computations are favorable. It so happens that the computations are based on actual events, but it’s easy to imagine, in some dystopian future, that actual baseball is replaced by sophisticated simulations, and no one would be the wiser, or care.
Ah, but nevermind that. Baseball remains magnificently real, played by actual humans on genuine grass and dirt, and thank God for it. I’m aware that artificial turf remains in use here and there, but nothing is perfect.
This summer I plan to drive the 12 year old to sleepaway camp in Minnesota, and en route I want to take him to a baseball game at the half-way point, which is Cleveland, Ohio. The only problem is that the Cleveland team is named the Indians, and their mascot is a racist caricature that I cannot endorse.
A big problem with modern life is that it offers too many issues at which to take offense or umbrage, or too much to feel outraged about. I think this was true even before the election of Mr. Trump, let alone the daily disasters that define his administration. So we have to pick our battles, and make what progress we can, and try to enjoy life at the same time. Very likely, Maxwell and I will take in that Indians game and cheer on the home team, along with all the good-natured Ohioans in attendance that day. I suppose that instead of buying a team cap, even the innocuous version that is merely embossed with the letter “C”, I should donate money in support of real Native Americans or some other worthy cause. Check with me later.
My least favorite moment of the 2016 election came online, when Facebook’s algorithm spit out an invitation, personalized just for me, to enter a contest to meet Eric Trump, the son of the candidate. The copy did its best to drum up excitement—“Wow, a chance to have dinner with ERIC TRUMP!”—which feels even more nauseating now than it did at the time.
In contrast, my favorite moment came at the Democratic National Convention, when Hillary, in her acceptance speech, said “I believe in science.” Well, my goodness, I believe in science, too! I’m not sure why this statement is at all controversial or debatable in this advanced age, but if we need to pick sides, then so be it.
The contention comes from the subject of global climate change, but science also explains the process of photosynthesis; the distribution of earthquakes; why a hammer and a feather fall at the same rate on the Moon, as demonstrated by Astronaut David Scott during NASA’s Apollo 15 mission of 1971, and the changing speed of a golf ball as it rolls up the extended tongue of a concrete frog, as demonstrated by me and the 12 year old at the miniature golf course.
I really hate global climate change, and I wish it would reverse immediately. If we could get Barbara Eden to put on the genie costume and do the magic again, that’s what we should all tell her to do. As opposed to any other wishes that might come to mind.
Geez, that show was stupid. For the unaware, I am referring to “I Dream of Jeannie”, a situation comedy that featured Larry Hagman as an uptight astronaut who stumbles upon a decorated glass liquor bottle, the opening of which reveals not some stale Chivas Regal but Barbara Eden in a skimpy outfit, who promises servitude and calls him “Master.” Wacky, gender-sterotypical hijinks ensues in episodes that span several years, roughly concurrent with the Apollo missions, which it often outdrew in viewership.
For all of its power and accomplishment, science is very difficult work that, at its heart, is kind of….well, um….boring. You disagree? Before you construct your counter-argument, go online and find a journal article, and then attempt to read it. Below is a link to an article on the detection of restriction enzyme polymorphism using DC-alpha chain probes, which I selected somewhat at random.
Example of Scientific Research on Restriction Enzyme Polymorphism Using DC-Alpha Chain Probes
When lay people describe science with words like amazing and powerful and fascinating, I think they are referring to specific scientific discoveries, and more often to the stories or narratives that accompany those discoveries or achievements, as spun by the National Geographic Society, or the late Carl Sagan or very-much-alive Neil deGrasse Tyson, or even that modern-day Mr. Wizard, Bill Nye. Science is a wonderful subject for story-telling and drama, at least in the proper hands. Let me recommend “A Short History of Nearly Everything,” by Bill Bryson, as a great example of educational science writing.
It so happens that my job is also in the field of narrating science, in my case to an audience of K-12 school children and their teachers. I might say that I try to write episodes of “I Dream of Jeannie,” but without the girl and the magic and the sex appeal, instead focusing mostly on the uptight astronaut or the equivalent.
The news of the moment involves Mr. Trump firing the FBI director who was investigating him, and I encourage you to read about that outrage elsewhere. I expect further outrages, including many louder than the current one, until this yahoo is finally removed from office. We need to work toward that end. We also should guard ourselves from becoming mired in nostalgia, like the story about Route 4 in the next paragraph.
I used to drive the carpool between Manhattan and our offices in Upper Saddle River, New Jersey. Invariably the traffic would turn ugly on Route 4 in Hackensack, for unknown reasons. At such moments, while we were stuck together in my Ford Escort, I would start singing the Route 4 Loyalty Song, which went like this.
Bum, did-ee-bum, bum, BUM!
We’re loyal to you, Route 4.
We’re gray with white stripes, Route 4.
We’ll back you stand,
‘Gainst the best in the land,
Cuz we know you’ve got sand, Route 4!
Rah, rah, spoken!
The carpool wanted to throw me out of the car and into the traffic. None of them were alumni of my high school in Minnesota, which was the origin of the song, but I’m not sure that would have made a difference.