Thursday, October 29, 2009

Hit by Baseball, Parents Sue

A small news item caught my attention this morning; it was on HLN as well. An 18 year old Montana boy was hit by a baseball and died from the blow. His parents sued Louisville Slugger, maker of the bat, insisting that the company doesn't inform people well enough that balls hit by aluminum bats travel faster and with more power than wood bats. They not only won the suit, they were awarded $850,000!

To begin with, I feel so sad for these people who lost their beloved son at only 18. I can't imagine the depth of their loss. No amount of money would be enough compensation.

However, to blame Louisville Slugger is outrageous. Anyone over the age of 12 knows that being beaned in the head by a baseball, no matter what kind of bat hit it or who threw it, will definitely result in serious injury. That's why players wear helmets and why now even coaches in children's leagues along the first and third base lines are required to wear helmets. Also, softball coaches must wear them now because "everyone" knows softballs aren't really soft.

Until today I would have said it's common knowledge that aluminum bats are extra powerful and therefore controversial. The lesson is that people either pay attention or sit behind the screen to stay safe. As for players, they must be particularly mindful of the dangers of the game.

I don't know more about the circumstances of this young man's death, but I am outraged that Louisville Slugger is being blamed. It reeks to me of a case of looking for "deep pockets." The company will be hurt irreparably by this case and it won't help the parents at all. Their son will not come back and their grief will not be assuaged.

Monday, October 26, 2009

This and That, Rants and Raves

Whoopee! The government is sending a check for $250 to make up for not giving us a cost of living increase in our Social Security checks this coming year. Ooh boy - how shall I spend it? Since my husband just came out of the coverage gap in the Medicare prescription plan and I won't come out of it before the end of the year, it's already spent thank you very much. I know the old saying that getting old isn't for sissies, but now that prescription drug costs are so high and continually climbing, that's even more true.

Oh well, we're enjoying nice fall weather (the leaves are all on the ground now), it's football season, and college basketball games will start next month. What more could I ask?

My current pet peeve, meanwhile, is an ad showing how Onstar can stop a stolen car once the police have identified it. In the commercial the car pulls onto the side of the road and comes gently to a stop. My vision is of a guy who has stolen a car racing down the highway with the police in pursuit. Suddenly Onstar cuts the power to the car and he loses control causing a multicar collision in which many people die. No thanks, I'm not interested.

One more bit that I absolutely must mention is a move in an NFL game yesterday that outraged me but didn't seem to bother the network guys at all. One of the Vikings was returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Great play for him, wonderful for the Vikings. Meanwhile, a Viking player who was guarding him came upon a line judge who was trying to get out of the way but just wasn't quick enough. The Viking hit him, hard, as though he were a player with pads and a helmet. The poor man lay on the ground for a while, during which time everyone celebrated the big return. The official finally was walked off the field and never returned.

There was no excuse for such a hit - no Steelers nearby, plenty of room to go around the official. The player wasn't even penalized for the hit as far as I could tell and I am really furious. I love football but there are definitely some things that could stand correcting in the sport, and that's one of them.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not All the News is Really News

I've been a news junkie since I was a little kid. Almost from the day I learned to read in fact. I read newspapers, get the news on TV and radio, and now the internet. The problem is that somewhere along the line the news business deserted me.

The "news" now is guessing what might happen, telling us what happened some time ago, scaring us to death with worst case scenarios, "stuff" that is really none of our business, and last but certainly not least, celebrity gossip. Lord knows the facts of current news are scary enough without all this other garbage thrown in.

My biggest pet peeve is celebrity gossip, like for instance who isn't sick to death of Jon and Kate? From what little I've paid attention to this non-story I simply worry about their children, but otherwise I fail to see why I should be at all interested in their life. Then in recent days the "balloon boy" hoax, like we couldn't see that one coming. Again, I feel sorry for the kids but please no more about that pathetic family. Paris and Britney must be green with envy at the headlines these people are getting, and probably laying awake nights trying to figure out a way to get noticed again.

A lot of what passes for news these days reminds me of the color coded threat level of the Bush administration. We're supposed to monitor our level of stress according to the color of the day or what? We all know the world is a dangerous place. News organizations shouldn't tell us what could happen, just what actually happened. If someone is charged with plotting terrorism, that's news. On the other hand, people take their cues from news, especially TV news, so I wish TV would pay as much attention to the good things people do as they do crime. I know, if it bleeds it leads, and has for as long as there has been a way to deliver the news. However, we're evolving that delivery system in the wrong way.

I'm very sad that newspapers across the country are either going out of business entirely or limiting their publication to the internet. However, part of the blame lies at their own door. What we want from newspapers is a fuller account of things that happen than we get on TV or radio or even the internet. When they stop fulfilling that need they become redundant and useless. I still read the local papers for the local news, but I'm hard put to find a way to learn more in the knowledge that I'm getting the information from a reliable source. I sure miss it.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Our New Stone Wall

Finally discovered that Walmart still develops 35 mm film, in one hour yet, so I took advantage of a trip to Vestal, NY to get the pictures of our new stone wall developed. This has taken so long everyone has probably forgotten that I had promised to show the wall. It's so beautiful though I can't resist.

Figured I might as well show you the front of our house as well. Next spring the "artist" who built the wall will be back to build a wall from the house to the road and across the front to our neighbor's property line. Then we can get rid of the mound of dirt by the driveway. It's going to be outstanding!
If I ever get my home office cleaned up enough that you won't think a tornado went through it, I'll post a picture of my blogging space. Don't hold your breath though - I still don't have a digital camera.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Drowning in Magazines

Help! I'm drowning in magazines!

I haven't posted anything for a few days because I've been trying to read a few of the magazines on my table before the whole stack falls over. I love books but I also love magazines and I'm forever trying to catch up with the latter. Since my favorite magazines are long reads like THE AMERICAN SCHOLAR, WILSON QUARTERLY, HARPER'S, THE NATION, THE ATLANTIC, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, and several history journals it takes a while. I also receive a couple health newsletters about "our" diseases. Too, I find that the older I get the slower I read nonfiction. In other words, this is frustrating. It's sort of like Chinese water torture . . . drip, drip, drip.

The next book I've selected to read is a big one so I think it'll be quite a while before you see another post about my reading.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What I've Been Reading

I seem to be back in the history-mystery rut. Many of the books I read are older ones because I love book sales so much. My poor husband must feel like a pack animal when he accompanies me to a sale, but actually I think he enjoys watching me act like a child on Christmas morning. I need to get some of the to-be-read piles down because next month comes the annual Putnam's warehouse sale. I missed it last year since I had just had a knee replacement, but I'm raring to go this year.

Anyway I recently read CONQUERING GOTHAM subtitled "A Gilded Age Epic: The construction of Penn Station and Its Tunnels," by Jill Jonnes. We take modern transportation for granted so it's startling to realize that 100 years ago the only way to get to Manhattan from New Jersey was by ferry. No bridge, no tunnels, just a port crowded with passengers and cargo and then a river full of ferries. The river crossing was terribly dangerous of course, and in the winter sometimes impossible.

Meanwhile, the president of the Pennsylvania Railroad, Alexander Cassatt, was frustrated because his trains could only take people as far as the Jersey side of the river. Manhattan was growing fast; already many people were commuting from Jersey to Manhattan for jobs. A plan to build a bridge had fallen through. Then someone suggested that Cassatt should look at the huge metro station in Paris. There he saw electric train cars smoothly traveling in and out of tunnels. The idea that became Penn Station and the tunnels connecting both New Jersey and Long Island to Manhattan was born.

Penn Station opened in 1910 after years of planning, horrible accidents in the tunnels, fights with Tammany Hall for permits (without paying bribes), and financial overruns. The station itself required buying up all the property in a two-square mile area which was called the Tenderloin because so many houses of ill-repute were located there. The whole story is fascinating, enough so that although this isn't great literature you stick with it. I enjoyed it very much.

Then for a change I read a Marcia Muller mystery novel, BOTH ENDS OF THE NIGHT, one of her Sharon McCone books. This one is about flying and the people in the world of private planes. McCone and her boyfriend Hy both fly and love planes. When McCone's former flight instructor comes to her because her own boyfriend has disappeared leaving his young son behind, McCone butts up against the secret world of the Witness Protection Program. There have been changes in McCone's personal world as well that readers of the other stories in the series will appreciate, but this would also be enjoyable as a stand-alone. It's just plain a good story.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Review: "Even Money" by Dick & Felix Francis

After a long career in which he published some 42 books, nearly all mystery novels involving in some way horse racing in Great Britain, Dick Francis retired. His beloved wife, the person who had done most of the research for those books, had died, and I suppose he simply didn't have the heart to go on without her.

Fortunately for his fans, including me, his son talked him into writing again and they have now co-authored three mysteries. Recently I won a copy of the third one, "Even Money."

One thing I've always loved about Francis books is that I learn about something fascinating even though it's a topic I never dreamed I would find at all interesting. In his younger days Dick Francis was a jockey. After an injury ended that career, he began writing. In "Even Money" the hero is a bookmaker at tracks in England where this is legal. Math is certainly not my forte and I've never bet on anything in my life, so that part of the story went right over my head. Still, I learned much about identifying race horses, ringers, and such.

Ned Talbot, the hero, is portrayed expertly, something we've come to expect in a Francis story. Talbot's personal life and profession as well as the mystery he becomes entangled in draw the reader in with the result that this is a can't-put-it-down book. All the chores I should have been doing were still waiting to be done when I reluctantly finished the book.

You see, Ned's father supposedly had died 36 years earlier when Ned was a year old. Ned had always been told his parents died together in a car crash and he was raised by his paternal grandparents. Then one day a man shows up at Royal Ascot claiming to be Ned's father and their conversation convinces Ned he is telling the truth. A short while later they are walking through the parking lot together when they are attacked and Dad is stabbed to death in the assault. You can imagine Ned's head is reeling. Meanwhile he is dealing with the institutionalization of his bipolar wife and the problems of other major characters, all beautifully drawn.

I like the fact that when something frightening happens such as the assault in the parking lot, Ned is properly scared. I hate it when characters in mysteries do foolishly dangerous things and you're thinking, "No, don't go in there, you fool!" or something similar. Ned is just an ordinary man suddenly thrust into a mystery and he reacts just as you and I would.

I had missed the first two books in this collaboration but I'll certainly read them now.