Author Archives: Alex

About Alex

As you can probably tell from this blog, I'm really a kid at heart. My little girls teach me a lot about being an adult.

Love it or Hate it

Here’s a great quote from Joe Posnanski about why some people hate certain sports:

I’ve always said that I have no interest in converting non-baseball fans into baseball fans. For one thing, I don’t think I could do it. But for another, I fully understand why some people think it’s oppressively boring. I understand because … baseball IS oppressively boring if you don’t like it. …

So, sure, if you don’t like baseball you don’t like baseball. But, you know, football is nine minutes of action and 51 minutes of meetings. Basketball is repetitive, and hockey is a game of line-shifts deflections, and soccer is a whole lot of kicking the ball back to the goalkeeper. Golf is about walking and geometry. Tennis is a math teacher explaining angles. If you want to pick out the worst things in a sport, you can make them all sound insanely boring — except MMA, perhaps, which is like watching assault and battery. The beauty in all these sports is those moments of brilliant action and the way the imagination fills the empty spaces. People have been burying baseball for a long time, and there are certainly reasons to believe that someday soon America will move on to something else.

I don’t think so, though. Yes, it’s local. No, it doesn’t do great TV ratings. Yes, there’s cynicism in the game and yes kids need more stimulation in their lives. But there’s something about baseball that has endured and, I believe, will endure through steroids and short attention spans and free agency and big contracts and everything else. Maybe I could explain it like this: If you go up to a baseball fan anywhere in America — in Montana, in Florida, in Texas or in Connecticut — and ask “Who scored the millionth run?” there’s a chance they will say they have no idea. But there’s a pretty good chance they’ll say “Bob Watson.” Why do they know that? Why do they care about something that meaningless? I think they care because of something I have said about baseball before: ”I never argue with people who say baseball is boring because baseball IS boring. But then, suddenly, it isn’t. And that’s why it’s great.“

Sometimes people say things you’re thinking much better than you can. I’ll just leave it at that, and use it as another explanation of why I love baseball.

World’s Blankiest 80’s Cartoons, Part 2

Even though the original post is over a year old, the first list of the World’s Blankiest 80’s Cartoons was never complete. Here are a few more of the blankiest 80’s cartoons, including some ideas from my sister:

Chip ‘n Dale Rescue Rangers – I have fond memories of this TV show. One of my favorite characters was Monterey Jack, a mouse who loves cheese (very tricky, Disney, using an actual cheese for the name of a character). I think we must have watched this show right as it came out (many of the others we only watched after they had been in syndication for a while) and I thought it was pretty cool that these two established Disney characters now had their own detective show, and the fact that Chip dresses like Indiana Jones certainly didn’t hurt things.

Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears – We didn’t watch this show a lot, but I remember it very distinctively. Actually, come to think of it, I might just remember it because they advertised it like crazy, which is typical of Disney. I do remember that one of the characters was voiced by the same actor (Lorenzo Music) as Garfield in Garfield and Friends. I didn’t buy it.

He-Man and the Masters of the Universe – He-Man was an awesome show. As a kid, I always thought he was a lot like Superman, only better. By day he’s just the mild-mannered Prince Adam, but the power of Grayskull transforms him into the awesome He-Man (wow, that name sounds really dumb now, although I wouldn’t want to get in a fight with him for making fun of his name). Despite the similarities with Superman, it was He-Man’s enemy that set him apart. Skeletor was awesome, just look at the guy. He was a purple muscleman with just a skull for a head, but he was no dummy. The great part about this show was that it was so easy to pretend you were He-Man: all you needed was a pair of red shorts and a big sword. It surprises me that I didn’t do that more often.

My Little Pony – We rented a few of these episodes on Netflix for my daughter to watch, and she enjoyed them a little bit, although she definitely likes playing with her knock-off pony toys. Like Rainbow Brite and many others, they had their own movie. This show definitely appealed to little girls who were into hair and fancy things, though, and the toys carry on that tradition today. Hasbro was the creator of these toys, though, so maybe after they stop making Transformers and G.I. Joe movies (which are based on their other toys series) they will move on to My Little Pony. Just maybe.

The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh – One of the highlights of my young life (if you read my journal, at least) was meeting Winnie the Pooh in the mall when I was a kid and getting some stickers and a poster for this show. When I was flipping through channels a while ago, I noticed that there was a new Winnie the Pooh show on TV, but it had a little girl in place of the beloved Christopher Robin. I’m sure it’s all about a new generation or whatever, but I had to flip the channel immediately for fear of corrupting my two young daughters. Lots of 80’s TV shows have come back, but I can’t think of any that are better than the originals. A. A. Milne would be rolling over in his grave… if he hadn’t already done so back when his widow sold his characters to Disney.

Pound Puppies – this was one of a few 80s cartoons that also had a movie that came out with it, and it also belongs to the category of TV shows inspired by toys. There’s nothing wrong with that, though, as the movie, Pound Puppies and the Legend of Big Paw, brings back lots of good memories of the summer movie series we used to go to when we lived in Missouri. At the beginning of the summer my mom bought punch passes for all of us that would get us in to see a movie every week or so during the day. We always brought popcorn and other snacks as we watched the movies. I can’t think of any of the other movies that we saw that summer, but I do remember seeing the Pound Puppies movie.

Rainbow Brite – This is one of the shows that Beth had to remind me about. Apparently the 80s had lots of cartoons that were for girls as well (I mean, besides She-Ra, which boys were allowed to watch because He-Man could show up at any time). Anyway, I definitely remember my sister watching this show. There were lots of girls (and maybe some boys too?) riding on horses and they had little sidekicks called sprites. That sounds right. OK, now I had to look it up. So Rainbow Brite was the leader of a group called the Color Kids, who each had a Sprite for a sidekick. Their main enemy was Murky Dismal, who had a typically clumsy sidekick called Lurky (who wasn’t really that bad, he just hung with the wrong crowd). Anyway, Murky has pretty much the greatest backstory ever:

Murky is the main villain from The Pits. In one episode it is revealed that, as a toddler, he colored on the walls with crayons, markers, paints, rollers, and finally an industrial airbrush. His mother made him wash off “every bit of color, if it takes all day, if it takes the rest of your life,” leading Murky to his hatred of color as an adult. He loves to invent devices to create gloom clouds which remove color and make people hopeless. He is constantly trying to capture the Color Kids or take Rainbow Brite’s Color Belt. His full first name is Murkwell. –From Wikipedia

The Real Ghostbusters – Unlike another 80’s cartoon called Ghostbusters (which I only vaguely remember), this one was based on the popular movies, and because of all the marketing promotions, kids liked this show more. Later on, they figured out that kids really liked Slimer, so they renamed the show “Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters”. Interestingly, Lorenzo Music voiced Bill Murray’s character from the movies in this show, and Bill Murray went on to voice Garfield, Lorenzo Music’s most well-known character, in a couple of movies.

She-Ra: Princess of Power – I’ve already mentioned that She-Ra was one cartoon that featured a girl that a boy would be fine watching even if he didn’t have any sisters. I know that my sister had a She-Ra action figure (or does this count as a doll?) that she got to use while my brother and I played with He-Man and Skeletor. She-Ra is actually He-Man’s twin, so obviously there are a lot of similarities between the two.

Shirt Tales – When we were kids, my mom sewed a bunch of stuffed animals from patterns for all of us, including several Care Bears (there must have been between ten and twenty which was awesome because we could line them all up for a Care Bear stare) and a few of the characters from Shirt Tales. Just like the Care Bears were based of popular American Greetings cards characters, the Shirt Tales were based off of characters created for Hallmark. I only remember watching the show once or twice, but I thought it was awesome because it featured one of my stuffed animals. I also remember that they had a really cool car that they drove around in, which according to Wikipedia, is the “STSST (Shirt Tales’ SuperSonic Transport) which could operate as a car, jet, boat, submarine, and just about any other form of imaginable ride”. Nice.

Smurfs – I have fond memories of the Smurfs, and Gargamel was one of my favorite villains. This was another show that we rented recently from Netflix, and it was kind of funny to go back and watch it again. We enjoyed that the Smurfs could use the word “smurf” as any type of word, but depending on the context they used it in it often sounded like those innocent little blue creatures were swearing. I was also surprised to find out that Smurfette was originally created by Gargamel, and she wasn’t always the sweet little thing she is now. How smurfy of them.

Snorks – I loved the Snorks, and I wanted to be just like AllStar. He was your typical Renaissance Snork, who, “as well as being athletic and heroic, he’s interested in Science and also an inventor”. Not too bad for a little underwater creature that hung out with seahorses. When my mom used to take use to the genealogy library at church when we were little, we rented a tape of Snorks from the nearby Dillon’s supermarket one time, which was totally awesome. Personally, I think the Snorks were much cooler than the Smurfs, and interestingly, they were both created in Belgium.

Strawberry Shortcake – this may have been the first of the 80s cartoons to feature characters that were created for greetings cards. I remember my sister being a big Strawberry Shortcake fan, and she even had a Strawberry Shortcake bike, which was the same bike I learned to ride on. From my perspective, this was one of the more tolerable girl cartoons, and even today my three-year-old daughter knows who Strawberry Shortcake is. Be warned that watching this show can make you hungry, though, although you wouldn’t want to eat Strawberry Shortcake or any of her friends like Huckleberry Pie, Blueberry Muffin, or Lemon Meringue. Even though they have delicious-sounding names, it’s still considered cannibalism.

The Great Operating System Equalizer

I’m that guy who talks about operating systems. In my latest computer purchase, I chose Linux as my primary OS. I like that I can customize it and make it just what I like. I like what the open source movement means for software. Still, I’m not completely happy with my setup. It works, but it could definitely be easier. That’s why I always try to read up on new features that operating systems provide, why I was excited to test out Windows 7 and why I try out several different flavors of Linux in virtual machines. I’m even nerdy enough to get excited when Apple announces that it’s not focusing on any flashy new features in Snow Leopard, just tweaking a few things under the hood. To me, fixing things under the hood is a feature. Even with all those shiny new toys, the thing that excites me most is the general direction that all of these operating systems are converging to one direction: the web.

When you take away all the buzzwords and hype that come with using the web as a platform, this OS convergence can be simply described, as David Worthington does in talking about the upcoming release of Windows 7:

Windows 7 is a big improvement upon Windows Vista, but the hoopla of days when people lined up to buy OS’s is over. There are simply too many alternatives, and the Web is the great equalizer.

This convergence is bringing back the browser wars and it’s increasing innovation. It should be fun, as soon as I get Skype working properly in Linux.

Great Greinke Quote

Zack Greinke, the Royals’ lone All-Star and best pitcher in baseball, was excellent on the field yesterday: ten pitches, two strikeouts and a flyout in foul territory. Peter Gammons said he had the best pitching performance of the night. He was great off the field as well, as he had some great quotes over the past couple of days as well. This one was my favorite:

“I was hoping (President Obama) didn’t like me, because none of the White Sox guys like me. So I was hoping that he’d be like, ‘You punk, I hate you.’ But he didn’t do that.”

Here’s what a showdown between Obama (a White Sox fan) and Greinke would have looked like:

Zack Greinke pitches at the All-Star GameObama Throws the First Pitch

My vote is for Zack.

Don’t be afraid to break it

Broken ComputerBack in high school, one of the nicest compliments I ever got was from our system administrator. He said I was one of the best hardware guys at the school because I was somewhat cautious with the computers I fixed. At first it sounded like a weird compliment – there were certainly other people who knew their way around the inside of the computer better than I did, and I certainly wasn’t always cautious; I broke a few computers around school during that computer repair class, even if I did fix most of them again in the end. I think he meant that I was relatively cautious – I think I fell at a happy medium between so timid I would be afraid to even open the computer and another point at which opening a computer was so routine that being cautious was an afterthought.

I think I find myself at that medium still today. I still really enjoy building computers, but I don’t want to overclock my system because I’m pretty much required to keep the computer in working order for a long, long time. I’m adventurous enough to run Linux 90% of the time at home, but I’m not going to compile all my own software from source. I guess a better motto would be “don’t be afraid to break it any more than what you can fix”. No, that doesn’t sound quite right either. Here it is: “Don’t be afraid to break it any more than what you’re motivated to fix.”