Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Play Ball

Bear with me...

A major league baseball is round and white, the outer covering comprising two identical slices of cowhide, held together with 108 stitches of waxed red thread. It's about 1/4 lb. in weight and about four inches in diameter.

It also has three labels stamped on it: the manufacturer's logo, the logo of Major League Baseball, and a facsimile signature of the commissioner.

It's a metaphor for life.

Many people will glance at something matching that rough description and conclude in a moment that they're looking at a baseball. It could be a ball designed for another league, or it could be a soft and squishy ball meant for safe play by the youngest of us, or it could be a slightly larger softball.

Some people will look at some of the elements making this a baseball and finally conclude by the preponderance of evidence that this is truly a baseball and not a squash. It's okay to be skeptical and gather more proof, at least in their minds. it's always good to ask questions because, you know, you never know until you know.

Some people will insist this is a hockey puck. They won't look at any of the evidence and side with others who maybe say that this is a hockey puck in a stealth white wrapper, and someone's trying to fool us all and there is no reason to believe otherwise.

Some people will key on a particular element such as the yarn stitches, and all they can think about is Grandma knitting mittens that kept their hands warm as children, and so they have a heart-felt (although somewhat disconnected) fondness for the baseball.

Although not saying so anywhere on it, the outer cover is cowhide, but some will insist on calling it horsehide, maybe well beyond the grave. The cowhide side will insist they're right, and the battle for the truth will immediately degrade to one-word exchanges: "Cowhide!" "Horsehide!" "Cowhide!" "Horsehide!"

Some will wonder why the commissioner has his name on the ball, when he's only some office guy overseeing the sport, and it's more important to get a player's signature on it, and a real one. The commissioner's name on it just isn't good enough, no matter how they acquired the ball. To them, it's just another baseball until a real ballpoint-ink signature is on it, whereupon the baseball is placed in a display stand and likely never again to be held in human fingers. A curse upon anyone daring to handle it as the commissioner intended.

Some have examined (or maybe even assembled) a baseball inside and out, so they have more thorough knowledge of the makeup and reasons for its makeup than virtually anyone else. They understand that it takes far too long and it's maybe far too boring to explain all to anyone except the rare curiosity-seeker who has the time and desire to acquire the fullest education on it. A baseball is complicated, but that's irrelevant to just about anyone interacting with one.

There is at least one trade secret involved with every baseball but I'm not telling what that is. Some with in-depth knowledge of  baseball prefer that the rabble be hoodwinked into knowing the baseball in a particular way. Perhaps they keep a business secret, or they feel extra-important because they know the real truth about the baseball and the world does not. Maybe this is a way they maintain a membership in a brotherhood or sisterhood, and that cannot be challenged. Rule number one: You do not talk about the baseball. You know rule number two.

Public opinion of elements of the baseball will shift, often inaccurately polled. How people vote on elements of the baseball (Horsehide? Cowhide?) will never be perfect in one way or another, and some will insist that their winning vote is final and those who didn't vote their way are losers. Winners feel good about the world and are smug and satisfied, and the losers deserve mocking and ridicule for being so ignorant. Those who feel they lost will write slogans on signs on sticks, convinced that these will convince others of "the truth"; those who feel they won will ignore the fact that they voted that baseballs can be inflated.

Every day of every year is baseball season, and though the public may feel that it's reserved for only a few key days, this goes on all the time always will.

As you go about your daily lives, outdoors and in public, have you noticed that there are rare few people handling a baseball, trusting what it is and how it may act, taking its existence at a simple level of face value, and playing ball with each other, regardless of others' impressions about the baseball? And the ones who are generally seen this way are the youth?

If you should somehow ever feel that you've ruminated on this deep philosophy as far as humanly possible and you see all the metaphorical points made here, contact me.

We'll discuss the detail that the average Major League Baseball only lasts six pitches before it's sullied or lost out of play. At which point, another identical one comes into play.

Or is it identical?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Not Knuckling Under

         One reason why I haven't written a book yet is because I'm not good enough to write a hilarious fusillade like this, which is the author's reply to a review. Note: There is much to learn about human interaction in this, so even if you don't get the humor, maybe you'll get the message behind it... 

        I'd like to rebut--point by point--your two-star review of my non-fiction how-to book, THE KNUCKLEBOOK.

        First, the title is my publisher's idea, not mine. He has extensive experience getting these things right, to the point where he sells many books that make money for himself as well as the authors. The checks I got from the sales of this book have me convinced he got this right. Oh, were you expecting a check for something, dear reader?

The subtitle--the words right under the title, the ones right there on the cover--tell you exactly what to expect inside. "This book will teach you all you need to know about the most frustrating yet entertaining pitch in baseball--how to throw it, how to hit it, how to catch it, how to coach it, how to umpire it, and how to watch it." You gave this two out of five stars, in part, because you didn't find any stories or bios of knuckleball pitchers. Well, according to everything right out front there, without cracking the cover open, you could assume that this is also not a story about a little girl and her fuzzy bunny in 18th century Antarctica. Therefore, maybe you should have given this only one star? I'm sorry it never occurred to me to deceive the reading public by writing a book that was not exactly what they'd expect from reading the cover.

You said that the information inside was "obvious." To you? I had to interview Hall Of Famers as well as many others to gather all this information, because none of them knew all of this. If this is obvious stuff to you, then why aren't you in the Hall Of Fame or coaching it? Maybe you know all this, but haven't put this into practice. Sounds like you must be God. If you are, I'd also like to apologize before you throw a lightning bolt at me. But I'd also like to call you out for not posting this under your real name. I wouldn't mind meeting you if you are God. (Give that idea some time, though; I'm not finished with my life on Earth.)

I get the impression by your attitude that you're taking this book as a bit of a personal affont. If I had any idea that you wanted me to write the book for you and you alone, I would not have done so. That would have sold only one copy, and that's not worth the effort. This book was written for many people, those who didn't know this stuff, who wanted to be entertained, who wanted different ideas and clues to how they can approach their knuckleball experiences in a better way. I've sold thousands of copies, and it still sells a decade after publication. The information inside holds up, and readers keep discovering it as useful and uplifting. Even if they're reading it for free at the library, my aim is still accomplished; I have information to pass on to those who'll appreciate it, and I'm doing just that.

        One thing I should have included, which I mention every time I talk about this book: If you take the information and either make the Hall Of Fame or blow out your arm, I'm taking neither blame nor credit. Like the pitchers who take this information out on the hill, you're on your own. No one else is taking blame or credit. That's the same thing with book reviewers, too. You might pitch a complete-game shutout, or you might get lit up and hit the shower right after the last note of the Star Spangled Banner. That didn't occur to you, did it? I guess you aren't God, after all.

My review of your review: One moon.

--Dave Clark, author

Thursday, March 10, 2016


I suspect I did something hideous in the womb to be born into a language as forlorn as English.

Before I go further, the title does not refer to "forlorn", or "further."

I'll get to that in a moment.

First, a peeve.

Is there one English word in common usage that refers to turning on a light?

Not that I know.

For "turning off", you can use the word for a fire, "douse", I suppose. Sounds awkward, though.

I realize that the U.S. had the happy opportunity to steal the King's English and make it better, and it has, in some respects, but not perfectly, as you can see.

That's bad enough.

What I feel is worse is the overuse of expletives.

I can't believe anyone is angered to the point where they'd use one about every third word.

What do they say when they're totally and completely torqued off? "Oh, crudsy?"

They have nothing left in their ammo belt.

And I'd like to see a better expression of the respect and dignity I know they have, if they'd elect to show it.

They may switch off, to other words beginning with other letters. Then again, probably not.

Settling for particular expletives seems to be the kind of habit I see when people put on comfortable old slippers, instead of severe language like this. Really? You'd wear the slippers but not say those things in front of your mother.

Furthermore, the word I reference is a vulgar term for what is the most beautiful experience two people can enjoy between them. I don't understand.

I've given myself migraines trying to get around this, avoid this, and never while needing Valium.

I rarely have the urge to even use the term H-E-double hockey sticks.

I'm not totally against that, or any other coarse word. If the occasion demands it and no other word will do, then feel free to launch it with the full power and effectiveness demanded.

Other than that, I wish people could do better. Really. I'd be proud of them, and they'd realize they really don't mean what they say, the message being ignored and missed through needless repetition.

I want to help. I want to make them better. I want to lead them by example. I want them to understand that communicating with the world at large may bring them rewards and more prosperity in their days by mastering their tongues. They could enter better circles of people.

But I don't think that'll happen. This is a fool's errand.

I don't think I'm better than they are for this, really.

I'm so lost, so confused, so saddened.

Oh crudsy.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

The Star Wars Technical Flaw That Isn't

I'm not a huge fan of any of the star industries, which includes Trek and Wars and People magazine, but I check them out now and again just to try to find something the goggle-eyed fans have missed. Being an outsider, I might see things in a different way. I think I found something.

I think I have a doozy, and it has to do with Star Wars.

It's at least in the first movie, which somehow is subtitled Episode IV. (I have no answer for that.) (Neither have I seen any of the other movies, to see if this is also in one or more of them.)

Fans point out a technical flaw. They say that the flying fighters and space machines with engines can't make sound, because this is in the vacuum of space, where there can't be sound.

However, I have a wonderful answer to that, courtesy of a little tour I got with a pilot of an American air-breathing fighter plane. I extrapolated a concept I saw in the cockpit of an aircraft that is rightfully called a Warthog. I'm sure I could have seen this idea is in many others.

Anyway, flying in space is especially deadly, considering the amazing velocities at which things move. Even marble-size objects can have a five-figure closing speed and more, and can therefore destroy whatever they hit in a blink.

When one is flying fighter craft in the vacuum of space, one therefore needs as many sensory clues as possible to gain advantage in the fight and avoid damage.

Visible information through cockpit windows is a given. So is a variety of onboard sensors that transmit location of surrounding craft and objects to a screen or heads-up display.

One more thing, which is my answer to the so-called flaw: These craft are also equipped with surround-sound equipment to produce artificially-generated engine sounds from all quadrants. These sounds provide additional information to the pilot as to type and location and approach of potentially-threatening craft and objects. It's as if the pilot was outside of and free of the aircraft and could hear exactly what was around and what it all was doing.

Naturally, it's a skilled pilot who decides from moment to moment what sensory information is the most vital, be it directly-visual, display icons, warning lights, feedback from the controls, or artificial auditory clues.

The fact that theater viewing of this movie included 3D sound should have tipped off the audience that there are many ways to be environmentally aware, and the setting of space may not present every way that could prove useful. The technology outfitted in the craft would make up for that, giving every pilot every possible bit of vital information possible, in every way useful to a pilot's full compliment of physical senses.

Zoom! Roar! It's sound, but not from space. It's what it could be, if space transmitted sound.

Not a flaw.

Now can I be a Star Wars fan? 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Headlong To Wrong

We prefer a sound bite to accurate communication.

While I can't patent this discovery, I can explain it, with a note that fine writers understand this and take advantage of it.

We'd rather state something in a minimal count of syllables than to clearly and accurately convey the message. Its equally evil twin is our urge to get done, rather than call that spade exactly what it is.

You'll find the occasional exception, such as weathercasters using "significant" instead of "substantial". "Significant" signifies something; it's a symbol for something. "Substantial" means "an outrageous scary load".

An example of syllabic shorthand:"Birth control."

It doesn't control birth, but it has three syllables, and flies out of the mouth so you can go on to other words.

"Pregnancy control" is more accurate, not to mention five syllables. But that's still not accurate.

"Pregnancy prevention" is as accurate as English-speakers can state it. Six syllables.

Too much for ... all of us?

Have you ever heard anyone--even doctors--use that term?

I'm betting the lunch money that's a "no."

So are we open to change? Change is good. That's what is implied.

So a broken leg is change, right? So are you in favor of a broken leg?

I think you'd prefer "improvement", each and every time. Three syllables. Take a moment and ask for that, instead. You always seem to get some sort of change, for good or ill, but a shift is all you get, like a kiddie roller coaster. Go get that improvement. No one's asking for it, so there must be plenty left to grab for yourself.

I do understand that we're guilty of the inaccurate shorthand because we know it works and we may feel we have loads to say and little time to get it out.

My main point is that fine writers may recognize that a dive into a thesaurus for a better/cuter/sleeker/eggheaded substitute word may appeal, but they may also realize that a replacement that's accurate will prevent the reader from sliding by the term, forcing them to slow and allow a thought to get attention and sink in, rhythm be cursed. Calling a spade nothing but a spade sometimes does the job better than a swoopy poetic schuss. Look up the word, "schuss" (which you will) and it means, "ski downhill." A schuss is fun, but maybe the speaker doesn't want to put the listener on a fun ride.

The author may want uplift, not downhill travel.

This may improve your communication.

It'll at least tell the audience that you're thinking, and that may be the actual effect you're trying to bring across.

I'm no grammar nanny, so I won't encourage you to find your own examples and give it a try, but you may stumble onto others.

I just wanted to note that accuracy has a purpose, and you may appreciate that all the more in your daily interactions.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

We Look, But Do Not See

Most everyone loves to take sides in discussions and arguments, and I discovered something about them that no one else has spotted.

People assume there is one side or another, and that's where everyone stands.

King Solomon may have discovered something revealing about that, however.

There may be another side, one that may grab the topic by the ears and shake it, if only everyone saw it.

I have an example.

The second amendment refers to "... the right to bear arms...".

Take a breath, and think about that last word. "Arms."

Many discussions have taken place over what our founders meant by word choices and phrases in our founding documents.

"Arms", however, by all measures, means exactly what it meant back then.

Not "firearms", specifically, but any arms.

In their days, it may have been scythes or knives or whips or clubs.

To the Frankenstein monster, it was pitchforks and torches,

Nowadays, this may be pepper spray, laser pointers or Louisville Sluggers.

All along, it could refer to chairs, or the requisite weapon in corny murder mysteries: fireplace pokers.

Prisoners could be armed with broken glass, or even a ballpoint pen. Or, shoelace.

I saw a fairly recent police report referring to the weapon in a battery case as being a "shod foot". A foot with a shoe on it. The shoe may have been a Nike, or a Birkenstock, or one of those Crocs things. Scary or not, painful or not, a foot with a shoe on it just became an "arm". If nothing else, a foot as an arm is ironic.

An unarmed person has no arms whatever, nothing that could or could not fire a projectile. Certainly there are no guns at a knife fight, but there sure are arms at one.

Let that concept percolate, if you will, and keep that thought at the handy when you hear reference to "arms" "unarmed" and armament.

Also note that many objects can be considered tools or harmless accessories or arms, depending on their use or potential threat of use.

Just to kick the wheels in high gear: Do you think our founders meant something far larger when they wrote of "the right to bear arms"? Was their concern above and beyond the mere possession of only firearms?

Mulling that concept, I'm personally finding it impossible to imagine anyone being against the Second Amendment, when regarding defense against violent aggression.

I'm also disturbed by what their reason was for including this as any amendment, never mind the second one. Was this necessary to state as the second-most important amendment? If so, what was going on so that they felt they had to do this?

Maybe it was the second one they addressed, or it was raised at that time by one of them and the rest failed to argue that it perhaps was less important than others to follow? Was there a conscious pecking order to the amendments?

The factual story behind why the Second Amendment is as it is may be lost to history.

Most telling, however, is the fact that so many discussions of the Second Amendment get heated and political and wobbling off-track because those on both sides of the fray always assume "firearms".

We may have a brand-new argument going. Perhaps this will trigger a larger discussion regarding personal safety, crime prevention and punishment, outside the bounds of what the Second Amendment states, and encompassing arms of all types, the firing kind or not.

Therefore, those involved in the discussion may find more common ground and agreement, because now none of the argument can involve firearms as the sole subject of the Second Amendment.

The argument now will become: How can we all be safer and more secure and trust one another so we will all stay out of harm?


Sunday, February 23, 2014

We Need To Dig Up Thomas Edison

We need to dig up Thomas Edison. We have a job for him. Looks like he's the only one who can do it.

Cutting to the chase: He did not invent the light bulb. He improved on it. Flip the switch, bulb is on and doing the job. Flip the switch off, done. Off/on/off/on/off/on/off.

The bulb is working, the moment we power it up, and it's rested and ready the moment we power it down.

Cars do this stuff, too.

But it's really too bad that we put up with sluggish performance with our high-falutin' productivity toys like desktop computers and laptops and tablets and phones.

I'll prove to you what a sheep you are.

I already know you have a computer or tablet or phone on (so you can read this). Go get another device, one that's powered down.

Ready? Turn it on.

Now, we're going to have a little discussion about all the performance problems you'd think we'd scream about and bully the manufacturers into fixing. But we don't, because we are growing wool.

Have a phone that rotates the screen or pauses it or reconfigures it just because you set the phone down or rotated the thing? For heaven's sake, WHY?  Lightbulbs work in all configurations, the same exact way, in case you're unfamiliar with a flashlight.

Is the toy now powered up and ready to use, yet?

Didn't think so.

I'm typing this on a Chromebook, one of the few outliers in the toy department. Power on, work. Power off, all done.

I like "done". "Done" is the best part.

Done getting ready. Done working for me.

Notice I'm not a Luddite, but until a few so-called world-class big manufacturers stop making prank hardware for sheep who don't care, I won't purchase their products, and I'd really like to buy a riotous assortment of them. Most look potentially fun.

Okay, bazillions of people will buy them anyway.

Well, this is the electronic version of "The Emperor's New Clothes".

Ominous sound goes here: