Monday, January 26, 2009

Adventures on the MBTA

I've driven to work every day for the past 2 weeks, due to a combination of it being cold out and my not wanting to wait at the bus and train stop, and my being frackin lazy. Taking the bus and train the 8-ish miles to work takes me about an hour door to door; driving takes me 20 minutes, and that's going into Boston.

So I'd decided to be good today. I kissed the Persistent Wife, who was still mostly asleep, left the house at 6:33, shivered, walked down the hill to the bus stop, shivered some more, waited, said hi to Dan, the only other person who's ever there, waited some more, then got on the first of the two buses that showed up at the same time. The T figures, why send only 1 nearly empty bus every 5 minutes, when we can send 2 nearly empty buses every 10 minutes? I suppose that could be considered efficiency, if you squint hard enough.

At the train stop, which is about a 120 second walk from the apartment we used to rent before buying a house in the next town over, I checked out the message board. Nothing except the excruciatingly-worded message not to get on or off a moving train. Great! Except when I looked again a few minutes later, there was a new message about a delay due to mechanical difficulties.

Usually, messages like that one are accompanied by a time from, usually 5-10 minutes, sometimes longer. This morning there was no time estimate. Just...a delay. Very open-ended.

I hung around for another 5 minutes, then walked back up the stairs to the waiting buses, where it was not only warm, but there was the possibility of progress. It left a few minutes later, and when the bus was again approaching the street to my house, I considered getting off, walking back home and taking the car. But no, because I'm being good this week.

2 minutes later, at the bottom of a long hill, the bus broke down.

It's a measure of how often this happens, I think, that there was really no reaction from my fellow riders. Because, I also think, this sort of thing happens a lot. The guy who was most pissed off was the driver. These buses aren't falling to pieces before our very eyes, but they're running all the time, and they get beat on severely. Plus, in a down economy, I would imagine regular maintenance is one of the first things to suffer.

It was another 10 minutes before the next bus arrived -- which seemed excessive, since there was another bus right behind the one I boarded at the train station; why the long wait? -- and much to my surprise we all were able to get on, becuase this new bus was already half full, and we were right there too. There was no room for anyone else, though. I suppose the good news is, we suddenly became an express.

After that it was the typical 3-part commute when I don't take the train: the bus to Harvard Square; the Red Line to Park St.; and the Green Line to North Station. Then a brisk walk to Charlestown, made brisker by the fact that it was 18 when I left the house. But at least I don't live in Norwood like my buddy, where he reported it was -1 this morning. His train was late too.

Wow, it's a shame that mechanical things with engines cease to function when it gets that cold. Well, you know -- except for all those cars on the roads running just fine.

When I drive it takes me about 20 minutes to get to work. Taking the bus and the train is about an hour. Taking the bus and subway -- usually -- only takes a little longer than that. Today? Almost 2 hours, door to door.

I love public transportation. People should use it more.

I hate the T.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I don't know why I never write an outline first. Well, yes I do: it's because outlines aren't "productive," and because I'm always impatient to start writing this thing clogging up my head. Which, obviously, is dumb, because outlines help. A lot.

This evening I took about ten minutes and outlined what goes on at the party. I expanded those sentences into about ten paragraphs, put the events into some kind of order, clarified it all, and hey, look at that: a map. Cool. So how come I don't do that all the time?

Oh, right: because I'm impatient, and because they're not productive.

Not too bad

Okay, I was reasonably productive. Certainly I was productive when compared with some of my recent output. I completed about another page, leading up to the party Sam and Alex are going to, which is main focus of this chapter.

More importantly, I began sketching an outline for what happens. I don't think I can just wing it here, because in my head I have at least half a dozen little events which are scheduled to happen, and for once it's important to plan them all out first. I began by simply sketching out one sentence per event, and ended up with 9 things happening; most of them happening to or witnessed by Sam. Next I'll write an outline, maybe enlarging each line into a more descriptive paragraph, until I have a roadmap I can follow when I begin to write it all down.

Which -- I possibly should have been doing from the start.

I wish I still had the outline I wrote for The Dark Side of the Sun waaay back in high school or something. It would be interesting to see how radically it's changed since then. The only thing I remember is one scene that was never written during the first draft, and which now will never exist because it was a little silly. But I'd still like to read it again.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


I realized something this morning, or last night, or whatever. Recently, anyway. And it's that I'm getting sick of this book, which as you can imagine is not the sort of thing that makes you want to sit in front of the computer and write stuff. Because I can't keep to a writing schedule, it's taken way longer to finish than it should have. Because of that, I keep re-reading the same bits over and over, and getting bored by them.

I'm a few pages into Chapter 15, which is probably the third-to-last chapter in the book. I never finished 14, because I wrote myself into a corner and got stuck again. Instead I jumped ahead to the next bit, which was interesting me more at the time, and which is also not a good idea. I should probably go back and fix and finish 14, but first I should probably make myself sit here and write something, dammit, but it's hard, which is why it's taking a long time, which is why I'm bored with some of it.

Do other writers have that problem? Getting bored with their own stuff? It's art, so getting bored with it is a completely different thing from getting bored with your job in the office. Instead of working out the happenings in the somewhat complicated chapter 15, I'm thinking about Samantha's friends and if any of them would like a story of their own. I'm thinking about this thing I wrote 9 chapters for about ten years ago, and which sputtered to an inglorious halt when I realized it was all going wrong, and wondering how to re-write it and connect it to this book. I'm thinking about Gone and how violent it should or shouldn't be.

All of which would be fine, if it weren't preventing me -- or discouraging me, perhaps I should say -- from also thinking about this book.

Okay, I'm going now. I'm going to write stuff, then make another post tonight or tomorrow morning -- an honest post -- about what I did.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Jim Rice again, and Dwight Evans

This "most feared" moniker that's been attached to Rice is just a story, little more than propaganda by the writers who helped get him elected. There's no empirical evidence that he was ever "feared," and certainly none that he was feared more than his contemporary bashers like Parker and Schmidt.

I don't know if you can quantify fear, but intentional walks seems like a good place to start. Rice never led the league in IBBs; in fact, he only ever finished in the top 10 three times: 1977, 1978, and 1983, with 10, 7 and 10. Career, he ranks tied for 179th, with guys like Terry Pendleton, Geoff Jenkins, Claudell Washington, and Fred Lynn. Even in 1978, when he led the league in pretty much every offensive category, the other manager only gave him a free pass 7 times (and never, as the legend has it, with the bases loaded). Later in his career, as his skills eroded, there was no fear at all, as the opposing managers realized he was far more likely to GIDP than smash a home run.

And if Rice was feared, you'd think that would be fresh in the minds of the wroters who watched him play. But in his first year of eligibility, 1995, Rice only got 137 votes, less then 30% of the total needed for enshrinement. His vote totals crept up after that, until 1999, when he dropped to 146 votes, again less than 30% support. So the BBWAA voters first forgot how feared he was, then slowly recalled, then forgot again?

Yes, that's kind of cheap -- 1999 was a big year for the HOF, with Brett, Ryan and Yount all getting in; so it's no wonder Rice's vote total dropped like a stone -- but it's a serious question. If Rice was good enough to be elected in 2009, why wasn't he good enough to be elected in 1995? I think it's because the legend of his fearsomeness -- and legend is all it is -- needed time to sink in. The story was repeated often enough, and the voters finally began to believe it.

Dwight Evans: .272/.370/.470, 127 OPS+
Jim Rice: .298/.352/.502, 128 OPS+

Rice's power advantage is matched by Evans' superior discipline at the plate; and they were both essentially the same against the rest of the league: about 27/28% better with a bat in their hands. Evans was top 10 in walks ten times, led the league three times, and is #27 on the career list with 1391; Rice was never top 10 in the league in any year, and is #362 on the career list with 670. Rice hit 382 HR; Dewey hit 385. Evans was a superior fielder year in and year out, winning 8 Gold Gloves; Rice, to be kind, cost his team runs in the field.

Rice's support is understandable, even if I disagree with it. Evans' lack of support is mystifying. His first year on the ballot, 1997, Evans got 27 votes, 5.9% of the total needed. He rose to 49 votes and over 10% in 1998. Then in 1999, competing with the 3 who were elected that year, he dropped to 18 votes and 3.6%, and that was that. I think that is a disgrace. Don't mistake me for a fanatic: Evans is no slam dunk. But his credentials are at least as solid as Rice's -- better, in many areas -- and he was done in 3 years.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Jim Rice

Jim Rice was elected to the HOF today with 76% of the vote. How someone with a vote can make a rational argument that Rice is a HOFer, while Albert Belle is not, mystifies me, but whatever. I wouldn't have voted for him, but he hardly brings shame and disgrace down upon the Hall. He's a borderline guy (where's the swell of support for Dewey, who had a far better case than Rice?), and he had allies in the media building up the myth of the "most feared of his era" and silliness like that, and it finally worked. Good for him, and thank the baby Jesus we don't have to read any more should-he/shouldn't-he arguments.

Rickey Henderson got in with 94.8% of the vote, which causes me to wonder: who are those 5.2% of the voting members of the BBWAA who do not think Rickey belongs in the HOF? Unlike this senile old fool who just plain forgot about Rickey, other voters presumably used their brains for a few seconds, and made the decision that he doesn't belong. I do not get that.

Tim Raines, Bert Blyleven, and Alan Trammel did not get in. Blyleven gained almost a percentage point and is now over 62%. He will be indulcted eventually, finally. Raines actually lost almost 2%, presumably because it's against the BBWAA bylaws or something to vote for more than one HOF-caliber leadoff guy per year. Losing support in your second year isn't a good sign; presumably more than a few voters are thinking more about the coke, than his qualifications. Trammell lost almost a point, and is at 17.4%. It doesn't look promising for the guy who got screwed out of the 1987 MVP by idiot voters who gave it to George Bell instead.

Andre Dawson increased his support, and is now at 67%. He's pretty much a shoe-in at this point. He deserves it about as much as Rice does, though his annual low OBP drags his down. Again like Rice, he won't disgrace the Hall when he gets in.

Mark McGuire held more or less steady, losing less than 2%. Hopefully he'll hold on long enough for the memories of his unfortunate testimony to fade, and he'll get in where he belongs.

Six BBWAA members voted for Mo Vaughn in his first year, and I'd love to hear the arguments for that one. Mo got fat and hurt almost the moment he left Boston for Anaheim, and was never the same player. He only played 12 seasons, was only "great" in 4 of them, and was held back from being even greater by his annual poor defense at 1B. He only got 1.1% of the vote, and will not appear on the ballot next year.