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2016 Book of the Year. But what if we’re wrong? by Chuck Klosterman

Book of the Year.  But what if we’re wrong? by Chuck Klosterman.  The central premise of Klosterman’s book about the past, present and future is to ask if the “ideas so ingrained in the collective consciousness that it seems foolhardy to even wonder if they’re potentially untrue” turn out to be totally wrong.  He begins with the topic of gravity.  Aristotle’s definition of gravity stood for centuries before being overturned by Copernicus and Newton, whose ideas lasted until Einstein, whose ideas are still being expanded upon.   Klosterman continues in a series of essays examining topics such as which one artist will be used in textbooks many centuries from now to represent this century’s books or rock and roll music or television the same way we use John Philip Sousa to define marching music (assuming we still have textbooks or even schools).  He also questions whether organized sports and democracy will continue to exist and examines things like Phantom Time and artificial intelligence.

Usually, Klosterman’s time horizon is centuries, but readers can easily ask the same questions of current trends: are political gridlock and climate change permanent or is there some transformative event that could happen to change everything again?  And what changes will happen just in our lifetimes?  When my grandparents were born, the tsars had ruled Russia for over 300 years, the IOC had never hosted an Olympic Games, and the concept of a black or female or Catholic or transgender U.S. President was not to be believed.

This book makes an interesting companion piece to 2013’s Best Non-fiction winner: The Half-life of Facts: why everything we know has an expiration date by Samuel Arbesman.

For all my previous “books of the year” lists, see my dedicated page for these titles.


Flip Flop Fly Ball quiz answers

This post contains the answers to the Flip Flop Fly Ball quiz.  Simply hover over the text and the answer will appear.











Flip Flop Fly Ball Follow Up: the Quiz

A follow-up post to my review of Flip Flop Fly Ball by Craig Robinson, here is a quiz based on some of my favorite questions answered in the book (answers to follow this weekend):

1. How many of the 14 expansion teams since 1961, how many started their franchise histories with a 1-0 record?

2. From 1964 through 1992, at least one team each season wore powder blue road uniforms (11 teams in 1980-81).  Name the first and last teams to follow this trend.

3. How many MLB venues are named a Park?  How many are a Field? And how many a Stadium?

4. Rank in terms of height: Marine Corps War Memorial, the Hollywood sign, NFL regulation goalposts, The Green Monster (just the wall, not including those awful seats where the netting should still be)?

5. Before the Cubs in 1988, who was the next-to-last team among the pre-expansion teams to add lights to their stadium?

6. As of the 2009 season, name the only two stadiums where the catcher is facing Northwest instead of Northeast or Southeast?

7. As of the 2009 season, name the only three MLB stadiums at an elevation greater than 1,000 feet?

8. Name the American town within the continuous states farthest from a major league team?

9. Including Fall, Winter, Minor and Instructional Leagues as well as spring training and MLB regular season games, on how many days during 2009 could you have seen a game in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area?

10. In the Steve Miller Band’s song “Rock’n Me,” he travels from Phoenix, Arizona all the way to Tacoma, then Philadelphia, Atlanta and L.A. before returning to Northern California.  What pitcher played for teams in all those places (except Tacoma, though he did play for Seattle and pitched at Tacoma in the PCL as a visiting player)?

Taking a break

I will be taking a break from writing until after the Thanksgiving holiday.  I’m in the middle of an out-of-state job interview and the preperation for that and the concurrent real estate search are taking up some time.

I am still reading though and finished Sara Fraser’s historical mystery, The Resurrection Men.  I enjoyed it very much and will go back to read the first book in the Constable Thomas Potts series, at which point I expect I’ll write a reveiw.

Our badminton tournament went well this weekend.  We had sevety-one participants from nine states.  You can find pictures of the event here.

Murder on the Brighton Express

Murder on the Brighton Express by Edward Marston. After the disappointing previous book in the Railway Detective series, this adventure is a slight improvement in that it at least keeps much of the focus near an actual railway. Detective Inspector Robert Colbeck and his Sergeant Victor Leeming face many obstacles in this case set in bustling 1854. First, they must convince an antagonistic Inspector General of Railways, Captain Ridgeon, and a disbelieving and mocking press corps that a head on collision between the Brighton Express and a cargo train was a deliberate act of derailing the passenger train by another party or parties and not an accident caused by the recklessness of the driver. Then, they must prove to their demanding boss at Scotland Yard, Superintendent Tallis, that the criminal was not just seeking to cause mayhem and damage to the train in general, but was in fact targeting a specific passenger on board. The dashing Colbeck’s prime candidates are an executive of the railway line and an outspoken Member of Parliament, both known to regularly take the Express home on Friday evenings and also known to have enemies in abundance.

Although the pace of the book is quite good as is the interplay between the primary characters, Colbeck, Leeming, Tallis, and Colbeck’s girlfriend, Maddy Andrews, but there is no special spark present. Rather there are some nagging problems with both plot and character development. Colbeck fails to provide compelling evidence for his “specific target” theory, and though he is proved correct in the end, even then his success is due less to diligent investigative work or exceptional deductions, but rather to mistakes made by his adversary. Further, the criminal seems to act out-of-character for his profession, makes poor choices, and is only captured by chance and by Colbeck taking unnecessary risks. This story does give readers more insight in Leeming’s character, but the relationship between Colbeck and Andrews does not move forward at all. Regular readers of this series will again find this story satisfactory at best.

Fans of railway mysteries may want to consider Andrew Martin’s more gritty series featuring Jim Stringer and set in the 1900s.

Aunt Ann’s birthday

Aunt Ann’s birthday. We conclude this year’s family history entries with a short profile of my Aunt Ann, who celebrates her birthday tomorrow. I mentioned her briefly in my mother’s entry last month and you can find a picture of her as a young girl there. After graduating from university, she took her first job with the Pentagon during World War II. From there she moved on to a long career with the Bureau of Labor Statistics and helped gather data from which the Consumer Price Index was calculated. She was active in many civic organizations such as the local consumer protection agency and her church, but she was especially proud of her heritage, serving as an officer with her Daughters of the American Revolution chapter and from 1983-85 she was President of the Huguenot Society of Virginia.

She was a caregiver for her mom and dad for many years in their home in Virginia. When we would visit, she would demonstrate her excellent bowling skills and introduced us to candlepin bowling, a sport we didn’t see growing up on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, now in her 80s, her health has suffered with dementia constraining her activities, though she continues to read and follow the news on television.

Ann in her African dress

Ann in her African dress

Mom’s birthday

Today is a day of remembrance for many.  And it is for yours truly, though not for the events in New York, but rather for one occurring many years earlier in rural, Keyser, West Virginia.  On this date in 1928, my mother was born.

The photo below is one of my favorites of her.  It was taken in the spring of 1929 and shows her as a baby on her mother’s lap with her older sister standing nearby.

Click on the image to view it full-size.

Mom was certainly a multi-faceted woman.  One thing we had in common was our love of sports.  When she was younger she participated in a bowling league and for many years she played tennis with my father and another couple.  But her favorite sport was baseball, even though she never played.  She loved watching the game at all levels: from youth games to the College World Series to the major leagues.  She couldn’t stand the hot, humid Midwest summers we have around here, so she would wait until October to visit and we would watch playoff games almost every night.  And boy was she competitive, especially at card games.  She played bridge for many years and was a cruel, cruel hearts opponent.

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