Day Off

Jul. 3rd, 2017 10:07 pm
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Like most of the people in the U.S. who had the option, I took today as a vacation day. Not a lot got done, although most of the bills are now paid.

And Uncle Jeff arrived in town this afternoon for a visit, which is always a good thing.

Tomorrow, the girls march with the softball team in the Des Plaines Independence Day parade. So sleep would be a good idea.
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I had planned to take the family down to the Lisle Eyes to the Skies festival today for the carnival, music, and fireworks. It turned out that this plan was going to result in more unhappiness than happiness.

Having promised Katie a few weeks ago that I would take her to a carnival, we ended up going to the carnival over in Mt. Prospect where the girls had an excellent time using the unlimited ride bracelets that I bought them. They were able to do much more riding than they would have down in Lisle.

Then we headed home, while I stopped at Mariano's on the way to pick up groceries. We have now had a lovely dinner of sandwiches, chips, sweet corn, and salad -- Gretchen was good enough to put together a Reuben for me -- and a very relaxed evening. Well, other than the fireworks that are terrorizing Ruby.

Apparently, someone needs some more exposure to things that go boom before being a hunting dog. Since I wasn't planning on going hunting, we should be just fine...


Jul. 1st, 2017 11:33 pm
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Steven Joel and France have stopped here tonight on their way to Winnipeg. It has been an absolutely charming evening, but everyone is now officially exhausted, so it's time to go to bed. :)
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Apparently, a judge has issued a temporary injunction against the Cook County soda tax, siding with the merchants who are still trying to figure out how they are supposed to collect this mess.

Meanwhile, Toni Preckwinkle had a letter to the editor in today's Chicago Tribune saying that Trib columnist Eric Zorn was incorrect when he said that the county would be charging a tax on the ice in a customer's soda. Of course, she did not explain how he was incorrect about this. I am willing to bet (an easy bet with the tax in temporary abeyance) that had I gone to McDonald's tomorrow and ordered a 32-ounce soda, I would have been charged 32 cents in Cook County soda tax, despite the presence of ice in the drink. That would seem to indicate that I am paying tax on ice.

If Preckwinkle can explain how that wouldn't be happening, I would be greatly entertained to hear that explanation.


Jun. 30th, 2017 04:01 pm
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Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi has been acquired. Finally. :)
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I was sitting at lunch today when yet another commercial from an Illinois Democratic Party front group came on the television there (there are just as many commercials from Illinois Republican Party front groups, just for the record) telling Governor Rauner to "pass a budget". The degree of political illiteracy required to say that is pretty remarkable, since the Executive Branch anywhere (outside of, perhaps, Venezuela) does not pass legislation; it signs or vetoes legislation. One might tell House Speaker Madigan to "pass a budget", since he is the head of one of our two Legislative Houses here in Illinois and controls the agenda in the House with an iron hand. But that would require a degree of political literacy that has apparently escaped the authors of this particular ad -- which I have heard. A lot.

In other news, Cook County continues to careen towards the imposition of the new penny per ounce soda tax on July 1st. I have, as you might expect, nothing favorable to say about this. I keep trying to buy more Caffeine-free Diet Pepsi at the local Jewel; they continue to be out of it. I may have to buy caffeinated soda, which is most likely not as good for my health as drinking the caffeine-free soda -- ironic, given that the stated objective of this is to improve health. Of course, they say that the objective of the red light cameras is to make our streets safer too, which would be why yellow light times were reduced so that they could issue more tickets in various places.

Thus, my Toni Preckwinkle litany:

  • Toni Preckwinkle doesn't care about global warming -- if she did, she wouldn't be causing her constituents to drive to other counties to buy soda.
  • Toni Preckwinkle doesn't care about your health -- because if she did, she would be taxing that Starbucks cup full of cream and sugar too. It sure as heck is worse for you than diet soda.
  • Toni Preckwinkle: Working hard to make Todd Stroger look good.

    I could go on, but I think I probably should go do some work...

    Y'all have a nice day! :)
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    I went to the petting zoo tonight.

    For guitars, that is. The Taylor Road Show was in town and -- despite the best efforts of traffic to keep me away, which included a wreck that blocked I-290 inbound and clogged every north/south route in the area, plus two wrecks that I drove past on surface streets on the way there, one of which was bad enough to get its own mention on the radio traffic report -- I made it there.

    It was a good presentation. I got a chance to lay hands on a couple of the new maple-bodied guitars and determined that they had some lovely characteristics, but they weren't the right guitar for the way I play. And I was shown a 710 model with a Martin-like V-shaped neck that helped remind me why I like Taylors. :)

    There was one gorgeous custom guitar with cocobolo back and sides that was sold during the presentation before anyone could get their hands on it. Obviously, there is an advantage to having money and knowing what you like.

    But I am all guitared up -- for now, at least.

    35 Years

    Jun. 27th, 2017 11:38 pm
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    I have been reminded that I have been working at this job for 35 years now. Three different companies (at least, depending on how you count), but the same job.

    That's not bad for a temporary job. :)
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    Katie was selected to play in the Crosstown League All-Star Game a week from Saturday, which was really nice. And now, the Des Plaines teams are putting together another All-Star team to play in a tournament over in Niles. Katie's been invited to join that too and is greatly looking forward to it!

    I have suggested that practice is in order. :)
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    It was back to work today, where I discover that I am running out of June. How can this be happening?

    (Yeah, I know. Softball. :) )
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    Well, it was a noble try.

    Katie's team lost 6-2 to the team from Niles today in the finals and finished second in the league, which was pretty good. :) But they were missing two players and it was the balls that were hit to the places where there were no fielders that resulted in most of the margin of victory.

    I'm very proud of them all.
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    Gretchen says that the end of today's semifinal softball game was like the end of a movie and that I have to write it up for my blog. I, of course, will attempt to comply.

    But I don't have the scorecard. All that I have is my faulty memory. It will have to suffice.

    We resumed the game at both teams' home field, Chippewa Park, after the game was called on account of darkness after seven innings with the score tied 2-2. I don't know how well the managers and coaches of the other team slept, but comparing notes on our side, we discovered that none of us had slept well and we were all up early.

    There was barely enough chalk left in the locked supplies bin to chalk the infield foul lines -- certainly not enough for the batter's box! And why should there be? The season was over and there would be no more games played there.

    Well, there was another theory blown to heck. :)

    One of our co-managers, Laura, had called in and made sure that we would have an umpire for the game. He showed up shortly before the scheduled start at 10 AM. We compared notes on the rules -- a darned fine idea after yesterday's game, where a critical play turned on an extremely fine interpretation of an ambiguous rule (which was, in my opinion, ultimately called correctly) -- and we were off!

    Both teams had blown through all the available innings on their best pitchers, since pitchers at this level are limited to three innings per game. So it was into the depth on the pitching staff. Happily, we had some. Sofia had pitched a good seventh the previous night and proceeded to give us a good eighth and ninth inning. Both teams had scoring chances, but neither scored.

    I had told the girls before they started today that all they had to do was play good defense and they would win, because they were good hitters and they would eventually hit. And the defense on both sides was being just good enough. Coach Michelle had set our lineup with the best infield defense, which put tall, reliable McKayla at first, quick Katie S. at second, and strong-armed Elia and my Katie at short and third. Outs were recorded in all manner of ways. Katie snagged a foul pop-up at one point. At another time, a hard shot bounced off her and into foul territory. The third-base coach for the other team called for the runner who had just advanced from first to second to run to third. And Katie recovered, grabbed the ball, and tagged her out easily.

    I recall too that the opposing pitcher caught a short pop-up on the infield with two out and the bases loaded when I came in for coach pitch in the bottom of the ninth. And their catcher caught a foul pop. There were good defensive plays all around.

    Came the tenth inning and we knew that Emma would need to come in to pitch, Sofia having exhausted her available innings. I had looked at the lineup and had realized that we could keep the infield defense intact by rotating up the middle, bringing Emma in from center to pitch, moving Sofia from pitch to catch, and sending Ava from catch out to center. So that's what I told them to do, not having actually consulted with Coach Michelle first. (I apologized later.)

    I don't remember exactly what happened in the top of the tenth, but we got through it without giving up a run, although there were at least a couple of base-runners. I remember the bottom of the tenth pretty vividly. :)

    I need to pause to explain to you about "coach pitch". At this level of our local girls softball, when a pitcher gets a four ball count on the batter, instead of issuing a walk, the opposing coach is called out to pitch. The coach can throw three pitches; the batter gets up to three swings, getting as many swings as they had strikes left on them in the count. So if the count was 4-2, then the coach throws three pitches and the batter gets one swing. A foul ball on the last strike is a do-over.

    Watching Katie and later Julie as well play at this level last year, I reached a conclusion about coach pitch: a large percentage of the difference between the teams can come down to whether or not the coach can throw hittable pitches. And my theory about hittable pitches is pretty simple: not too fast, minimal arc, and in the strike zone. And please do not bounce the pitch on the plate, because that is going to require a miracle to hit.

    (Come to think of it, one of our girls actually did hit a pitch from the opposing pitcher on the bounce today. I forget which girl... :) )

    So I don't want to buzz the ball in there, but I do want it moving fast enough so that it's not dropping rapidly as it crosses the plate. It's a fine line. But I am an old junk ball softball pitcher from my days of pickup softball in grad school, so I can usually get two of the three pitches in the right zone. And that means I can usually avoid striking out my own team. :)

    I had started the season handling the coach pitch, then had been moved to first base coach, then I got bronchitis and lost my voice, and went to keep score on the bench. As scorer, I used fifty years of experience at filling out a scorecard to help us position the girls better on the second time through the order, because girls at this level have a strong tendency to hit the ball to the same zone all of the time.

    And now, after a long journey, I was back at coach pitch again for the end of the season and the playoffs. I hadn't had to do a lot of coach pitch in the current game, because the opposing pitchers were throwing a lot of strikes. So were ours. And the girls on both sides were hitting or striking out off the opposing pitchers, keeping the coaches on the bench, which is almost always the best thing for the team on defense.

    Katie was leading off the bottom of the tenth and worked the count to 4-1. I got the ball and walked out to the mound. (I am too old to "trot".)

    "Make it good, Dad," Katie called out. "You know where I like it."

    And I tossed it in and got it to a good enough spot. Katie hit a hard grounder through the hole between first and second base, past the drawn-in right fielder onto the outfield grass. With the ball in the outfield, runners can advance until an infielder controls the ball on the infield. And I shouted out, "Go two!"

    (Yes, I know this is the job of the first base coach. I am, however, probably the loudest person on the field when I don't have bronchitis. :) )

    And Katie zipped into second. So we had a runner on second, nobody out, and now the force was off at second. Force plays at second and third are the bane of the offense at this level, as many hard-hit balls that would put you on base with no one on are much more easily converted into force outs.

    Next up was McKayla, one of the two authentic power-hitters on the team. Earlier in the game, McKayla had doubled and Katie had scored the first run of the game from first base, because Katie is fast. Any sort of hit into the outfield was likely to win the game right here.

    And McKayla got under the pitch and lofted a pop-up toward second. Katie took a few steps off the base. A crowd of girls converged.

    The ball hit the ground.

    Katie, listening to Coach Mike at third, scooted over there. McKayla was safe at first. First and third, nobody out. No force at home, and now the infield will have to come home with the throw, because Katie is the winning run.

    Alondra was up next. She got in some good cuts and fouled a couple of pitches off impressively, but ultimately struck out swinging. One out.

    Elia strode to the plate. Elia has more raw power than any other girl on the team and owns the team's only homer of the season. I badly wanted to get the chance to coach pitch to her.

    I didn't get the chance. She found a pitch to her liking and lined it to short left field. It was hit hard enough that it bounced off the chest of the girl who tried to catch it. Katie scooted home, avoiding the catcher who was standing on the plate.

    I was standing right behind the plate on our side of the fence and I wasn't sure she had actually touched the plate as she danced across it.

    "Touch home," I told her.

    She went back, tagged the plate, and the umpire signaled safe.

    I guess I did have one thing left to do in the game, even if it wasn't coach pitch. :)

    The game was over. The Lightning won, 3-2, and are advancing to the finals tomorrow to play the first place team from Niles. They get to play in Bandits Stadium, the professional fast-pitch park over in Rosemont, which will be a kick.

    But it was a great game. And either team could have won. They both played their hearts out.

    We'll see how it goes tomorrow. One of the other coaches on our team characterized this game as being like the U.S. vs. Russia semifinal hockey game some years ago -- it was the game that both teams really wanted to win.

    The one thing that I am certain of: this was the longest game in the league this year. :)
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    Katie's team played a heckuva game against the other remaining Des Plaines team in tonight's semifinals.

    It isn't over yet. The game was called on account of darkness with the score 2-2 after seven innings, one more than regulation.

    We'll resume tomorrow at our Des Plaines home field at 10 AM.

    Sleep is for the weak and sickly, I suppose. :)

    One Win!

    Jun. 22nd, 2017 10:33 pm
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    Katie's team played against the Lincolnwood team tonight in their first round of the playoffs (Katie's team had a bye during the play-in round) and won 15-3. This means that tomorrow they will face the other surviving Des Plaines team in the semi-finals.

    Fingers crossed! Today, we were blessed with good pitching, good defense, good hitting, and a lot of hustle! That will take you a long way. :)


    Jun. 20th, 2017 11:36 pm
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    We had a useful Windycon meeting tonight. Now, we can sort some things out. :)
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    Tonight, I headed down to Wrigley Field and watched the Cubs beat the Padres.

    Tuesday night, there is a Windycon meeting.

    Wednesday night, Katie has softball practice.

    Thursday night, Katie's team has the first game of their playoffs.

    Friday night, if Katie's team wins on Thursday, they will play again.

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    I have spent a fair amount of the weekend trying to finish up some code for the upcoming release at work.

    I have also managed to believe that the pitching clinic that Katie was supposed to go to was today instead of Saturday. Saturday, sadly, was correct; I was not.

    I am sure that I have brain cells, but I think I need to work on the auxiliary memory.
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    My recurring sinus infection seems to have recurred. I'm attempting to beat it back with a stick and some pseudoephedrine HCl which seems to be going well so far.

    And then there's work, of which there will be some more tonight.

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    Tonight was the Des Plaines Girls Softball outing to the Bandits game. The Bandits are a women's professional fast-pitch softball team that has won their league's championship two years in a row. Sadly, their luck was not good tonight as they gave up five runs in the first inning and lost 5-0, but everyone -- especially the girls! -- seemed to have a good time.

    Some additional notes on yesterday's softball game:

  • Katie had two hits, including one where she hit the ball towards first base, but hustled down the line so quickly that she rushed the first baseman to the point where she couldn't make the play. Thus, the value of speed and the general encouragement to run!
  • So when you're handling coach pitch, you head out from your dugout and the opposing catcher (usually) flips you the ball. The opposing catcher in this case had been drilled to make her throws crisp, which they were. This was a bit of a surprise coming at me from a distance of less than 10 feet. It was rather worse when one of the throws caught me in the knee. My good knee, or at least the one that has not been surgically repaired. Fortunately, it caught me just to the left of the kneecap, or it might have done some serious damage. As it is, it's just a bit sore today.
  • The girls on Katie's team did a fine job of hitting off of the opposing pitcher yesterday. This is a good thing. :)
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    The regular softball season for Katie's team, that is. They won today, beating the Skokie Schwarbies by a score of 8-2. Elia hit a big three-run home run (the team's first of the season) to give the team a 3-2 lead and they scored five runs in the fourth to win going away.

    The Lightning finished in second with a record of 9-2-1, going 9-1 after an initial loss and tie. They are an impressive bunch of girls.

    Playoffs start on Tuesday, but finishing second in the ten team league will mean a first round bye, so the next game is Thursday. Fingers crossed!


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