That Thing Where You Texted The Wrong Person

How many times has this happened to you? You are replying to a text message, and click the Send button, only to discover that you have texted the wrong person. Sometimes the reverse happens. You receive a text message from someone that makes no sense at all. It is usually followed, seconds later, by an apologetic message. Whoops, sent to the wrong person by mistake.

We used dial wrong numbers. It was fairly easy to misdial. The buttons on the phone weren’t very large and a 5 could accidentally become a 6. A strange voice would come on the line. You’d ask for the person you were trying to reach and often get a mildly annoyed reply that there was no such person and you must have a wrong number.

The nice thing about wrong numbers is that they were mostly anonymous. You didn’t know who you dialed and they didn’t know you. That generally isn’t the case with text messages. Messaging applications like Apple Messages have this tendency to sort conversations by recency. So if I am texting Kelly, and then I get a text from my sister, the conversation with my sister jumps to the top of the list. When I go to reply to Kelly, I am actually replying to my sister.

One could produce a sitcom based on non sequitur text conversations. A recent one that took place with my old man will serve as an example:

Me: Did you know that Al Martinez died back in 2015? I just found that out today.
Dad: Was he the columnist at the LA Times? No I didn't.
Me: Yes. I'm working on a post about him and I learned that he died in January 2015.
Dad: Good!

It is hard to imagine my dad was saying it was good that Al Martinez died in 2015. It is possible that he was saying it was good that I am writing a post about him. But given my experience with text messaging, it is most likely that the “Good!” my dad replied with was meant for someone else.

You’d think someone would have come up with a simple way of avoiding this, but so far, I haven’t seen one. One has to simply pay extra attention when one is texting to ensure one’s messages are directed to the correct party. This got me thinking about behavior. I wonder how many misdirected texts are composed and sent while driving. Studies show that texting distracts from driving, but the reverse must also be true. It seems to me that a good percentage of wrong-number text messages result from some kind of distraction.

We are good at creating words for strange phenomenon that results from technology misuse, so I wondered if such a word described what I otherwise call “texting a wrong number.” It turnes out, there is. The Urban Dictionary calls this phenomenon textident: Accidentally texting the wrong person; usually caused by texting more than one person at the same time.

Does this happen to you or am I the only one? Text me and let me know. Just not all at once, okay?

A Good Diary

The Little Miss recently got her first diary. She was very excited about it. It came with a small key (certain to be lost) with which she can lock the diary after writing in it. I was pleased to see her get a diary. I wish I had started a diary at five years old. It would be fascinating to see what my five-year-old self wrote about.

Instead, I was 24 when I started a diary, and I kept it going pretty steadily for 10 years. I used red, hard-covered Standard Diaries, and I never wrote anything in them that I would be ashamed of if someone else happened to see it.

Diaries fascinate me. It seems that everyone I’ve read about kept a diary, from John Adams to George Patton and beyond. The historical value of diaries like these must be incredible. My reasons for keeping a diary were less with an eye toward history and more about wanting to be able to remember what I was doing on any given day. As a child, I can recall laying in bed thinking, “When I am older, will I remember this particular day?” I remember having the thoughts, but the days blur together.

My diaries listed what I happened to be reading, or writing; what stories I submitted, or what rejection letters I received in the mail. I noted when I spoke to people on the phone, or had an important meeting at work. Only occasionally did I venture beyond this. They served their purpose, however. I can open one up and get the details of some particular day in my life.

I no longer keep a diary, at least not in the traditional sense, although I’ve tried on-and-off when the mood strikes me. If I am going to spend time writing, I prefer to spent it writing here, or writing stories, or articles. Besides, the amount of data that is captured by our activity these days makes the kind of diary I kept obsolete.

I can, from various data sources, produce the following for just about any day in the past four or five years:

  • How many words I wrote, and what those specific words were. (Google Docs and GitHub
  • What code I wrote (GitHub)
  • How far I walked and how many steps I took (FitBit)
  • Who I interacted with (Email, Facebook, Twitter)
  • What important things came in the mail (Evernote)
  • What I was reading (my reading list, and browser history)
  • What events took place (iCloud calendar)
  • What items I checked off my to-do list (Todoist)
  • Where I drove, how long it took, and how much I spent on gas (Automatic)
  • What the weather was like (Dark Sky
  • What photos and videos I captured (iCloud)

I’ve played around with digital diaries like Day One. I like Day One, but it seems to me that a modern diary would simply be an aggregator that took data from all of these different sources and compiled it into a daily entry–one to which I could append my own notes and thoughts, if I wanted to. The closest I’ve seen to something like that is Gyroscope.

I think the reason that I have failed to take up writing in a diary has a lot to do with all of the data that is already available. Sitting down and writing that I was stuck in traffic for half an hour on my way home feels silly and redundant when I know the data exists in Automatic Link, for instance. I can’t help but feel that I am somehow repeating information that has been recorded elsewhere.

That is one reason I like this blog so much. It isn’t really a diary, but it allows me to write about things that I think about without feeling redundant. And if someone invents an aggregator to collect all of the data already available, when I look back at today, I’ll see that I wrote about 600 words in the evening, just before taking the Little Man to Cub Scouts.

600 words is about 100 more than I aim for on these essays. I need to do better.

Distraction-Free?

Everywhere I look in the technology world, people are clamoring for more “distraction-free” interfaces. Yet at the same time we are adding more and more screens to our environments with which to contain things to distract us. Take me for example. As I write this, I have three screens in front of me: two large (30+ inch) flat-panel monitors, and the screen of my MacBook Pro.

On the leftmost screen, I am writing this essay. I write using MacVim, and I run the application in full-screen mode, using a distraction-free plugin called Goyo in order to keep me focused on what I am writing.

MacVim in distraction-free mode
MacVim in distraction-free mode

The left screen is where a lot of my active work happens. But despite the distraction-free mode in which I write, there is still plenty to distract me on the two other screens. The second large monitor contains my productivity apps. Todoist runs there, as does Fantastical 2, which contains my calendar. I also keep a terminal window open on that screen. I do a lot of stuff in the terminal window because I’ve scripted a lot of routine tasks and can perform them quickly from there.

Finally, there is the screen of my MacBook Pro. On this screen I keep my Jabber client and chat windows.

Distraction-free only works when all distractions are truly eliminated. I don’t see how adding more and more screens accommodates this. If I am writing in distraction-free mode, there are still plenty of other things that can distract me. The phone in front of me can ring. I might not answer it, but it’s ring will distract me. I can put the phone into Do Not Disturb mode, but whenever I do that, I forget that I’ve done it and wonder why no one has called me for three days.

Email is a constant distraction, although I have gotten better at checking my email less frequently than I used to. Social media can be a distraction. When I got my new phone, I deliberately refrained from installing Facebook and Twitter, and it’s had a positive effect. I thought I’d check them more on the computer, but I’m probably checking them only about once a day now.

My phone alerts me to changes in the Yankees score, or if it is about to start raining. Every app I install seems to want to interrupt my life with some kind of notification. I turn off the notifications I don’t think I need, and I put my phone into Do Not Disturb mode in the evenings to avoid these distractions.

There are other distractions that distraction-free software can’t address. The baby needs my attention, or the Little Miss invites me to a birthday party for her stuffed animals. The Little Man wants to show me his progress in a game that I don’t understand. I have to bring the garbage cans and recycling bins around to the backyard.

I think the best solution to working distraction-free is to learn to roll with the distractions, to not let them bother you. During the two-plus years when I wrote every single day, I learned to write with the TV blaring in the background, and my kids running around. I learned to stop on a time to help Kelly with something, and then come right back to where I’d stopped and start again. It was one of the best productivity lessons I ever learned. It’s not about working distraction-free, it’s about learning to work in the real world, where distractions are everywhere.

Spoiler Alert!

When someone discloses the ending of a TV show, movie, or book to someone who hasn’t yet seen or read it, we call that a spoiler. But what is the word for someone who gets partway through a movie, TV show, or book, and turns to the person next to them and asks, “Does so-and-so live?” I don’t think there is a word for a person who wants a movie, TV show, or book to be spoiled. Nevertheless, I live with two of them.

If we are watching a movie, and there is some tense, dramatic scene involving the main characters, the Little Man will inevitably ask, partway through the movie, “Does he die at the end?” Kelly sometimes asks similar questions about a show we’re watching that she knows I have already seen. They seem like perfectly innocent questions, but I find them painfully difficult to answer. I often find myself muttering, “Just watch the movie and find out,” not wanting to spoil things.

Wanting to know the end of a story before reaching the end is alien to me. I watch movies and read books for the drama of the story. Knowing what will happen spoils some of that drama, so I can’t understand why someone would want to know this before the story reaches its natural conclusion. But this is a fairly common phenomenon in our household.

Even when I write a story, I don’t plan it out ahead because knowing for certain what is coming steals the fun. The first draft of a story is like watching a movie for the first time. Everything I am learning is new, and I am often surprised by the twists and turns the story takes. But having written many stories, I also understand (or at least have glimmering idea) of what it takes to keep a reader interested and entertained. An important ingredient is to keep them guessing.

Kelly and the Little Man are more practical. They want their expectations set early on. I have trained myself, over decades to gradually unveil a story, drawing in the reader, and it kills me to have to answer questions about what happens later in a story. Interestingly, the Little Miss is more like me in this regard. She gets totally and completely absorbed in the shows she watches–to the point where interruptions annoy her. And she never asks what happens next. She grasps the thrill of storytelling, and it wouldn’t surprise me if she tried telling her own stories as she gets older.

Spoilers have been around forever but have become more effective thanks to the megaphone effect of the Internet. But spoilers have never interested me. I can’t recall a time when I felt tempted to look at a spoiler. It requires a certain amount of impatience to reader a spoiler, but savoring a story over a long period of time is something I love about stories. It is why my favorite books tend to be longer books. I want to the story to last as long as possible. I am in no hurry to get to the end to find out what happened. I’ll get there in good time.

That said, let me close with one spoiler: Next time the family sits down to some dramatic movie or TV show, you can be sure that either Kelly or the Little Man will ask me what happens well before the end.

New Blog Schedule Begins on April 10

Beginning on Monday, April 10, the blog will have a new schedule. There will be a new post Monday through Thursday each week. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, things will be quiet.

There are two reasons for this change:

  1. As much fun I have writing these posts (and I do have fun–more fun than any other type of writing I do), it isn’t easy to come up with something new every single day of the week. My brain needs time to recharge. Otherwise, I end up forcing things, and write posts that aren’t as good as they might otherwise be.

  2. Several months of stats have shown a pretty consistent pattern. People read the blog Monday through Thursday, but readership drops pretty dramatically (by several hundred readers per day) Friday through Sunday. The change ensures there are quality posts on the days people are reading, and I don’t feel forced to post something on the days people are not.

I’ve been consistently writing a post a day since November. The new schedule cuts things down by 4/7ths. I’ll still likely continue to write in advance and build up a decent backlog of scheduled posts, but I also hope that the decreased output allows more time for better posts. We’ll see how it goes.

Obituaries

I was sad to read that Don Rickles died earlier this week. He was 90 years old, and vibrant to the end. The New York Times had a good obituary. He died on April 6, 2017, outliving Isaac Asimov by exactly 25 years.

Obituaries fascinate me. When I sit down to read a newspaper, I almost always turn to the obituary pages first. Why this is I can’t say. The only exception comes when I read small regional papers while traveling. There, I am curious about local color and save the obits for later.

It would be wrong to say that an obituary was a miniature biography produced posthumously in the immediate aftermath of some notable’s passing. For one thing, biographies are usually strictly chronological. For another, it is sometimes hard to tell why one person warrants an obit in the paper, while another does not.

A typical obituary starts like any other newspaper story: with the who, what, what, when, and where. About half the obituaries I read include the “how”, i.e., the cause of death. In Mr. Rickle’s case, it was kidney failure. Once the basics have been established, an obituary proceeds directly to the thing about the person that makes their obituary noteworthy. I call this the “Why Do I Deserve An Obituary” section.

Good writing builds to a climax. Obituaries routinely break this rule. Just as they get interest, there is a sudden and dramatic change of subject. The recently departed is then formally introduced to the reader: “Benjamin Franklin Pierce was born in Crabapple Cove, Maine, on April 1, 1922 to Dr. Daniel Pierce, a lobsterman, and the former Edna…” The rest of the obituary is biography.

Obituaries of famous people are interesting, but we often already know the details of their lives. I find the obituaries of less famous people far more interesting. I wondered if anyone had ever bothered to collect obituaries in book form. A quick Google search made it clear that I am far from the first person to have that idea.

Back when I was in college, I minored in journalism, and I seem to recall that new reporters were often relegated to write obituaries, as if it was some kind of proving ground. Decades later, I find this rather remarkable. Obituaries are themselves small works of art, capturing an entire life in a few hundred words (maybe a thousand for someone really notable). The job has to be stressful. Moreover, it has to be somewhat grim. Don Rickle’s died on Thursday, April 6, and the New York Times posted its obituary probably within minutes of the story being confirmed. A lot of the material had to have been in place already. It was just up to someone to fill in the when, where, and how.

I’m often fascinated by how long people live, or how short their lives have been. Obituaries encapsulate so much in so little that I often come away from them with a desire to live my life to the fullest. Each obituary is a reminder that the subject is out of chances… but I’m not. At least, not yet.

Rotors Of Unusual Size

We have a pest problem and I’m not sure that an exterminator can help us. The creatures are nocturnal. They hide by day and only come out at night. They only come out, in fact, just as we’ve finished spending thirty minutes or so getting the baby to sleep.

The baby–now seven plus months old–sleeps well at night. Recently, getting her to sleep has been the trick. The older kids are in bed by 8:30 or so, and we are usually so worn out from our days that we are ready to follow on their heels. But the baby seems to get a second wind just as her big brother and sister head off to dreamland. She sings. She sits up. She turns herself over and over. She does everything but lay down and go to sleep.

I’ve gamified the situation. As I did with our other kids, I often sing the baby to sleep. I spurn the traditional lullabies for Bing Crosby tunes. My game is to see how many songs it takes before the baby falls asleep. Anything under four is a good night. I have a set list in my head. I usually start with “Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ral,” which the baby seems to like, and which she recognizes as a “sleeping” song. She sometimes gets grumpy when I start singing this, knowing it means she’s in a battle to stay awake. I follow that with “Far Away Places,” and then move onto “Now Is the Hour.”

A few nights ago, I could tell the baby was tired and fighting in, so I pulled her into my arms, and sang these three songs. By the time I got to the final refrain in “Now Is the Hour” she was asleep.

Enter our R.O.U.S.

Not a minute after she was asleep, and I carefully wiggled my blood-starved arm from underneath her, out pest emerged. It made its WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK-WHACK sound, starting from a distance. As it drew closer, the windows began to rattle, and as it passed overhead, it seemed the walls themselves began to shake.

It turns out we live under the flight path of military helicopters on their way to the Pentagon. At some point between 8:30 and 9:00 pm each evening, one of those waspish beasts is heading home for the night, and wants everyone to know it.

As it passed overhead, the baby, who had been gently snoring, lifted her head and looked blearily around, wondering what all the ruckus was about. It took me another nine or ten songs to get her back to sleep. I lost count, but I know I was getting into the weeds when I was belting out songs like “It Might As Well Be Spring.”

Who does one complain to about a noisy helicopter passing over every night? The FAA takes noise complaints, but I am not sure what they do with them. Back when I was a pilot, flying in L.A. there was some pretty strict noise-abatement procedures in place for airports like Van Nuys and Santa Monica. But those are public airports. Our R.O.U.S. is a military helicopter on a–presumably– military flight path.

The problem is that this particular chopper seems to know when the baby goes to sleep. If she dozes off twenty minutes earlier than usual, the chopper flies by twenty minutes earlier. If she can’t get to sleep and keeps us up for an hour or more, the chopper waits until all three of us are on the verge of sleep before doing its noisy flyby.

In the end, complaining is probably more trouble than it is worth. The baby seems to mind less than her mom and dad. I’ve always disliked helicopters, though, and this certainly isn’t helping their image.

Opening Day, 2017

The Little Man, and his team, the “Red” Nationals, played their first baseball game of the season this week, a 6-2 victory over the “Blue” Nationals that was called after five innings due to darkness.

This is the Little Man’s first year playing kid-pitch baseball, and the team did a good job against the four pitchers they faced over five innings. The Red Nationals swatted 11 hits, including two triples and a home run. They had only six strikeouts, pretty remarkable for their first time facing another kid as an opposing pitcher. In the field, the Red Nationals held the Blue Nationals two just two runs, both scored in the fifth inning. Red pitching dominated, with a total of 14 strikeouts against their blue rivals.

The days are getting longer, and with an active second grader and kindergartener, to say nothing of a seven-month old, the lengthening days are more than just solar mechanics. I was in the office at 6 am on the day of the first baseball game of the season. The game itself didn’t start until 6:10 pm, and was finally called at 7:40 when a watercolor splash of reds and oranges tinged the clouds billowing in the west.

Spring means baseball, a constant in my life as far back as I can remember. I started by watching games with my dad, mostly on television, but now and then at the stadium. At some point, I started to play. My memory of learning to play baseball is like my memory of learning to walk: there isn’t a time I can think of when I didn’t know how to do it. It is almost as if I was born with the rules of baseball imprinted in my DNA. Three strikes is an out. Four balls is a walk. A pop fly to the infield with fewer than two outs and a force at third base is an automatic out.

The same is true with throwing a ball, catching a ball, and hitting a ball. As far back as my memory goes, I could do it.

At some point, when I was eight years old or so, I began to play baseball. I played for years, and then I became a spectator, and a student of the game and its history. Now, it seems, the cycle has started all over again, but instead of me taking the field at one of my Little League games, it is the Little Man and his friends.

It is a delightful experience to watch them play. They mess around at practices, act silly, don’t always listen to the coaches. But when they took the field for their first game this week, it was all business. They looked like professionals. No one was goofing around in the field. They played their positions, and took the game seriously. And yet you could see in their eyes that they were having fun. In the fourth inning, when a come-backer was knocked to the pitcher, he fielded the ball gracefully, took his time, and made the throw to first to get the out. It looked like a miniature version of a perfectly executed major league play, and the kids cheered at their smooth execution.

Perhaps more than anything else, the kids learn from experience in baseball. And baseball is a fast teacher. In the third inning with a runner of first base, the next batter of the Red Nationals hit a blistering line drive at the Blue Nationals first baseman. The runner took off at the crack of the bat and was halfway to second when the Blue Nationals first baseman caught the ball (out!) and casually ran to touch first base (out!) and then back to dugout after the inning-ending double-play. The next time that Red Nationals runner was on first, he was much more aware of balls hit into the air.

The Little Man came up to bat twice. He took the first pitch, a ball (“Good eye!”) and then popped the second pitch up to first base for an out. On his next at bat, he drew a 2-2 count before swinging a little late at a low strike for the final out of the fourth inning. But he walked away with a smile on his face, got his glove, and hat, and ran out to take his position on the field, a bundle of energy and enthusiasm.

Baseball is back!

Baseball Cards

Mine is probably the last generation that will lament the loss of our baseball cards. My dad has talked about all of the great baseball cards he had as a kid that his grandmother tossed in the trash. Think of what those cards would be worth today! I had some decent cards, and they have been lost to the ages, too.

Topps is still making baseball cards, but I don’t know how well they are selling. The Little Man collects Pokemon cards. He goes with a¬†friends to a local comic book store each Saturday morning to play and trade cards. This Saturday he came back with a pack of baseball cards for me–which is what got me thinking about baseball cards in the first place.

Baseball cards were one of several fads among kids when I was growing up. Matchbox cars was another. I remember the thrill of getting a pack of cards. There were 15 cards in a pack (I think) along with a stale slab of bubble gum. The routine was always the same. I’d sift through the cards looking for duplicates of ones I already had. These could be traded for cards that I didn’t have. Then I’d look at the new ones.

Occasionally, some friend or acquaintance would get the entire season’s boxed set of baseball cards. I was always deeply envious of this. There in one box was a complete collection of all of the year’s cards. What a treasure! Looking back on it, however, this seems to be a rather dull way of collecting baseball cards. Where is the thrill of discovery? Where is the fun in trading cards with your friends?

We occasionally played games with the baseball cards. I remember that they were a lot of fun, but I have no memory of the mechanics of the games themselves. I suppose that means the company was better than the games.

My knowledge of baseball stats came from these cards, and for some players I could recite the stats on the backs of the cards as if they were state capitals.The numbers may very well have been my first introduction to practical statistics and math. I didn’t know what most of the numbers meant, but a few stood out: Avg, ERA, HR, W, L.

My favorite card was my 1978 Topps Reggie Jackson All-Star card. It was card #200 in the set that year. I had that card memorized. I think 1978 was my favorite years for baseball cards. Topps hit a high-water mark that year. I remember the cardboard-looking back of the card, with the brown borders and the blue print on gray background.

At some point kids stopped collecting baseball cards, but I don’t know when that happened. I suspect it was sometime in the mid-to-late 1990s when the Internet began to take off. Who needs a baseball card when you can go to baseball-reference.com to get the information you need.

I don’t know what happened to my baseball cards, but I was touched that the Little Man would spend some of his money at the comic book store to buy me a pack of 1999 baseball cards. I’ll try to take better care of these.

Ten Years of Selling Stories

Somehow I missed it earlier this year, but January marked the tenth anniversary of signing my first contract on a story sale to a professional fiction market. In the decade since, I’ve sold ten additional stories, and at least twice as many nonfiction articles. I write a lot, but I sell a lot less than what I write.

I used to daydream about that first sale. From the time I started writing with an eye toward publishing what I wrote, I would imagine what the thrill of that first sale would be like. It was like daydreaming about winning the lottery. It was fun and exciting to think about, but I somehow thought I would never be a good enough writer to make an actual sale. It took fourteen years of trying before I made that first sale. I lost count of how many stories I wrote, and how many rejection letters I received. And then, I made a sale! And it was no small sale, either. I was paid $500 for that first story. I couldn’t believe it was possible to earn $500 from writing, but I had a check in a my hand to prove it.

My first sale was to Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. Over the years, I sold three additional stories to that magazine, and was a book reviewer for the magazine for a time, with a monthly book review column. Edmund Schubert was the editor of the magazine and he was the one who bought my first story. He was a great editor. He worked with me to make the story as good as it could possibly be–certain better than the version of the story that I submitted to the magazine. He set the bar high for all the other editors I’ve worked with over the years.

Back when I started writing, the pinnacle of short fiction markets in science fiction was Analog. The magazine has been around since 1930. Its name changed from Astounding Science Fiction to Analog in 1960, but the magazine is the same. It is known for being a hard science fiction market, and I never thought of myself as a hard science fiction writer. I always assumed Analog would be out of my reach. But in 2010, I sold them a story, my third published story. Eventually I sold them another story, and I wrote two lead editorials for the magazine.

When I began writing, fiction was all I cared about. I never imagined writing and selling nonfiction. As it turns out, I enjoy writing nonfiction more than writing fiction. For one thing, it is much easier for me. It also often pays better than fiction. Over the years I’ve written and sold a variety of articles, editorials, essays, and reviews for various markets, including some entirely outside the science fiction world. I sold four article to The Daily Beast, for instance.

Selling that very first story was a big deal. When it happened, I thought there was a chance I might sell another. But having ten stories in my bibliography seemed like a pipe-dream. I’m glad I managed to sell a little more than ten short stories over the course of ten years. I never imagined I’d sell a story to an original anthology (Beyond the Sun), or have some of my stories reprinted, translated into other languages, and even have one of my stories appear in an audiobook. It’s been a delightful run, and I look forward to what the next ten years brings to my writing.

Becoming a Major League Baseball Player at 45

Some dreams don’t want to die. A week ago I turned 45 years old. My birthday ushers in the baseball season, and each year, I watch spring training with the thought that there is still a chance that someday, I’ll play in the big leagues.Granted, I am far from peak condition, but even the thought of what middle age has done to my body doesn’t kill off the dream.

There have been at least 35 players in MLB history that have played at age 45 or older. Satchel Paige played at age 59 in 1965. More recently, Jamie Moyer (another Jamie!) pitched at age 49 back in 2012. Nolan Ryan was 46 when he pitched in 1993, and Randy Johnson was 46 when he pitched in 2009. Roger Clemens was 45 when he pitched in 2007. He might have had some help. Tim Wakefield was 45 in 2011. He’s a knuckleballer, but I’ll take what I can get. No one can dispute that Pete Rose was a hard playing big-leaguer, and he was just my age–45–in 1986.

Many people find baseball boring, but for me, the magic of watching a baseball game is the way that it makes you believe that you could be out there on the field doing what those players are doing. Football and basketball don’t have that quality. I’m not seven foot four, or two hundred and ninety pounds. Sure, there are the Muggsy Bogues of the NBA and NFL, but in baseball, that matters a lot less.

It doesn’t help matters that the Little Man’s Little League season has started, and working with the team at practices, and watching them in games adds to my belief that I can do it, that I can be a major league player. Baseball is a games of smarts. An old pitcher like Jamie Moyer survives in the big leagues not because of a blazing fastball but because of good control and a Ph.D. level knowledge of the game. He can out-think the younger hitters. I feel like I have some of that wisdom. It’s what baseball people call “intangibles.”

Do I really think I still have a chance of making it in the Show? There are two answers to that question. I prefer the answer that still allows me to believe it is possible, even if I know, intellectually, that it will never happen. Instead, I find ways to make it happens. I have written, sold, and published two baseball fiction pieces. Whatever readers read into these pieces, they were my attempt to keep the dream alive.

At some point, I’ll have to come to terms with the fact that I will never play baseball in the major leagues. Maybe when I turn fifty? What is far more disconcerting is the thought that someday, I’ll have to give up the thought of tossing a ball with children or grandchildren, of taking grounders, or of shagging flies. At some point, there will be a last grounder hoovered, a last fly ball snowconed in my mitt. They will be fleeting things, unnoticed until months or years later when the beginning of the baseball season rolls around, and I suddenly realize that I can no longer recall the last time I held a baseball in my hand, and no longer have the will or desire to hold one again.

That’s why I continued to believe, despite all the odds, that it is still possible for me to play baseball in the big leagues. All I’d need to do, if I really wanted to do it, is add it to my to-do list.

Of course, this is one task that will never find its way onto my to-do list. That’s as it should be.

Where Are All the Bad Books?

According to Sturgeon’s Law, for every good movie, there are nine bad ones. The same holds for books, music, and humorous YouTube videos. Bad art used to bother me, but it no longer does, and I have a theory for this. A person’s involvement with bad art is inversely proportional to one’s age. Call it Jamie’s Law. Put another way, we see a lot more bad art when we are younger than when we are older. At least, that has been my experience.

I will sometimes catch a trailer for what looks to be a terrible movie. Watching the trailer, I’ll roll my eyes and wonder how anyone could have gotten away with making such a bad film. When I was younger, I’d go to see the film just to reassure myself that my judgement was correct. It really was bad. I was rarely disappointed.

These days, when I see a trailer for a bad movie, a shrug and think, “What do I care?, I’m not going to go see it anyway.” Browsing books leads to similar results. The bestseller lists are often crowded with what I think of as bad books, but why should it matter to me? I’m not going to read them. If someone reads what I think of is a bad book, and enjoys it, it doesn’t hurt me and it provides some enjoyment to them, so what does it matter?

It took me a while to get to this place. What convinced me that there was something to Jamie’s Law was a look through my reading list. I’ve kept a list of books that I’ve read for more than twenty years. There are more than 650 books on the list. I don’t rate the books, but I do flag books that I would recommend to others–books that I particularly enjoyed. In recent years, I found myself tagging a book like this with increasing frequency. I began to feel guilty about it. Every book I read can’t be so great as to deserve a recommendation, can it? I’m being to easy. If Sturgeon’s Law says that for every good book I read, nine should be bad, where are all the bad books?

Well, ninety percent of everything might be crap, but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve grown wiser in my selection of books. I choose books based on my experience of what I have enjoyed in the past. I read things that I think I will enjoy, and my radar for this has gotten better with age. In other words, my age and experience are stacking the deck against Sturgeon. The number of bad books, movies, music, and other art grows at that 9-to-1 ratio, but the pool from which I consume art, in all its forms, is a rich source of good art because my experience has made it so. A good fisherman knows where the fish will be biting, but only because of a lot of trial and error over the years.

I do occasionally come across some form of art that I think I will like, and by which I am disappointed, but that is happening with less and less frequency. The big thing today is for everyone to get out of their social media echo chambers and experience other viewpoints. Well, I’m quite content to stay within the art echo chamber that I have cultivated so carefully over the last forty-five years. It is serving me well.