Saturday, February 14, 2015

The Lure of Everest - Doing What Needs to be Done

I'm currently reading Jon Krakauer's Into Thin Air, which is kind of the follow-up to one of the previous books I've read, called Into the Wild, by the same author. Not that the stories have anything to do with each another - but they are both written by the same author, an avid mountain climber and both began as pieces for Outdoor Magazine.

I've already discussed some of what Into The Wild is about. Into this Air occurs a few years later, when Krakauer joins a commercial expedition to climb Everest that culminates in several deaths. Like he does in Into The Wild, the author does a great job framing the story and studying it from all angles - weaving in personal stories and researched anecdotes to make his points.

One of the anecdotes in Into Thin Air is about a failed Everest expedition when a poor and inexperienced, but strong willed climber talks two sherpas (local residents) into joining him on his journey. Following is a revealing quote from one of the sherpas:

"Denman (the climber) had neither the money to pay us well nor to guarantee a decent sum to our dependents in case something happened to us....Any man in is right mind would have said no. But I couldn't say no. For in my heart I needed to go, and the pull of Everest was stronger for me than any force on earth."

That's just a nugget - but it gives you some insight into one of the larger themes that Krakauer attempts to explore - maybe for his own personal understanding as well as reader's. That is, why do people climb  mountains and take on other recreational adventures through which they are risking their health and life.

Monday, February 09, 2015

Padres Sign Shields: Is this a good thing?

You always here analysts talking who "won the offseason" or who improved their teams the most. Is seems to me that this mostly turns out to be bunk and that teams typically have to play together and gel before you can really see how improved they are. That said, the Padres have picked up quite a few players this offseason:  Justin Upton, Matt Kemp, Wil Myers, and Will Middlebrooks, to name four (actually it's starting to remind me of the late 1970s-early 1980s era when Ray Kroc was throwing his McDonald's money around: Steve Garvey, Rich Gossage, Graig Nettles, Rollie Fingers, Gene Tenace..) and we're starting to hear talk that the Padres may have made themselves contenders - even though they have to content with the Giants and Dodgers in the powerful N.L. West.

Their latest signing appears to be James Shields, the erstwhile Kansas City and Tampa ace, who helped lead both his former teams to World Series appearances. There is no doubt Shields has been a good pitcher, winning 114 Major League games over the past nine years. But, the thing that worries me (and may very well have worried other major league teams) is that he has been a workhorse, and has been touted as thus. In the ESPN article announcing he's come to terms with the Padres (4-year, $75M range), it says, "Shields ranks first among MLB pitchers with 1,785 2/3 innings pitched since 2007," like that's a good thing. (That doesn't include 59 postseason innings either.) I would think it means that the big righthander is getting close to his expiration date, but we'll see. He is going to be pitching in a very pitcher friendly home park....Anyhow, good luck San Diego, it would be nice to see you challenge the Dodgers and Giants.

Monday, February 02, 2015

Super Bowl XLIX - Belichick's Bluff

A very exciting game and interesting way to end the 2014-2015 football season. Two thoughts on the game (and the Patriots somewhat surprising victory, even though following the championship games, I immediately thought they were the better team. However, as the game grew closer, I think the Deflategate stuff certainly distracted the Pats and really brought the Seahawks back into the picture. But, it was not to be.)
  • I thought Julian Edelman should have been MVP. He had a great game, including 100 yards receiving, a number of solid punt returns, and a great tackle on one of Brady's interceptions. Speaking of which, Brady played a great game, but I thought his pick on the goal line in the first half was enough of a negative that Edelman could have won MVP. Not that it really matters.
  • I think Pete Carroll and Bill Belichick had a figurative staredown at the end of the game and Carroll.blinked. Here's how I see it:

    1. First, I that ridiculous catch by Jermaine Kearse caught everyone off guard. Seattle immediately called a timeout, but I think that catch kind of threw everything out of kilter. Shit like that just ain't supposed to happen. It was almost like aliens intervened and it threw the game into another dimension. 
    2. Seattle than slammed the ball ahead easily for four yards with Beastmode Lynch to get the ball to the one. But then things got really weird. We were all kind of waiting for New England to call time out, but Belichick doesn't. Which to me is kind of a show of support for his defense - like saying you guys got this, even though the Seahawks have Lynch, the momentum, and the ball on the one. All of a sudden, Carrol has to be thinking, wait, does he know something I don't? And instead of taking his time - maybe he too was expecting a Pats timeout and when he didn't get it, it threw him off - he rushes to make a play call (well, his offensive coordinator does, but Carroll approves), and they end up with the fucked up pass that gets intercepted. Belichick, in my opinion though, was probably bluffing and Carroll bit. - Anyhow, that's how I saw it - in retrospect of course, because I certainly, like Carroll, was having a hard time processing what was going on in real time.