Dale Says

April 28, 2010

On My Birthday – 2010

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 3:46 pm

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

– Mark Twain

On my birthday I am 59 years old.  This birthday begins a year-long passage to another segment of my life. I’ve watched friends go through it, dreaded it, and now I’m not sure how I will deal with it. For now, I am consoling myself with the notion that each passage of my life so far has been better than the one before it, and, if that trend continues, the next segment should be pretty wonderful!

Change

I’m getting older whether I like it or not, and change is heading my way. Those around me are getting older, too, and some of them are succumbing to their age. Losing those you love is hard.

There were several losses in my life over the past year; including uncles, aunts, and friends. Three of them hit me especially hard.

Aunt Margaret was my mother’s sister and she was also my Godmother. The part about being my Godmother was not a big deal to her, and she told me she had so many Godchildren she couldn’t keep track of them all. But it was important to me, and I think she knew that.

I spent time with Aunt Margaret when I was young — at family gatherings and when I got dropped off at her home when my parents were on vacation. In those days Aunt Margaret called most of the shots, and few people wanted to cross her. But I also remember Aunt Margaret’s playful side. When things got tense, she would get a twinkle in her eyes, make a joke, and things would lighten up.

Aunt Margaret died last November, giving in to age, illness, and fatigue. She was a tough lady who lived a very full and rich life, and I know she’s now calling the shots in her sector of heaven.

Patty Greenhalgh and I were friends for over 30 years – ever since I moved to California. At Visa, where we were co-workers, she had a straight-forward approach to people, situations, and life in general. Since retiring, Patty and I had become closer friends, sailing together and enjoying group dinners. A couple of years ago, Patty discovered she had cancer, and she fought it with courage and determination. I thought she had beaten it; but it came back, and this time it got her.

In March, Miss Molly, our faithful feline companion for nearly 17 years, grew very ill and had to be put to sleep while we were out of town. She had a bad heart, arthritis, and diabetes and had been on a special diet and insulin for the past six months. Despite her ailments, she tried her best to rally for us, and she spent a lot of time sitting on our laps, sleeping at the foot of our bed, and letting us know she loved us.

Each night when I got in bed, Molly would jump up and lie on my chest, purring and snuggling as close as she could to my face. I petted her and told her she was the best kitty ever, and I think she understood me. After a few minutes, she would go to Patty and snuggle in the crook of her right arm — sometimes spending the night that way.

Now it’s very quiet when we go home, and there’s no one there to greet us. We miss our furry little friend in so many ways, and we are comforted by the fact that she had a long and very good life.

My Writing Quest

I want to be remembered as a writer. That’s been my quest for some time, and I continued to pursue it during the past year by taking on contract jobs, and by writing articles, columns, blogs, and my first book.

I wrote on a contract basis for much of 2009, drafting and editing training material for hospital employees. The work was interesting, the people I worked with were terrific, and the money was good. It’s not something I want to do forever, but it was excellent experience, and it really helped pay the bills.

I also continued to write columns for SCIP’s magazine (my eighth year), and I hope to continue to do so for a few more years. Working with an editor to pick topics, researching and writing the columns, and seeing the work in print has been a great writing “exercise.”

Over the past year, I wrote several articles for InTravel Magazine and Writer’s Showcase. While those are non-paid, writing them and seeing them online has been very rewarding.

And I worked on what has been perhaps my favorite writing project thus far. “Our Lacy Legacy” is a chronology of Michael and Anna Lacy (my great-grandparents) and their children. It’s the story of how Michael Lacy and Anna Barry left Ireland, came to the U.S., and started their lives. It turned out to be a saga of hard work, determination, and faith.

The story was the brainchild of Aunt Margaret (Armstrong), who was one of Michael’s and Anna’s grand daughters, and I dedicated the book to Margaret. She collected letters, photos, and information, and then became too ill to finish the project. I was recruited to pick up the pieces, and I had a great deal of help from Judy Dickens, my mother and sister, and several cousins. Working on the project made me feel closer to Michael, Anna, and their children, and it also helped me understand myself a little better.

Activities

In June I attended my 40th high school reunion in Chappell. There were around 13 of my classmates there and we got along really well. While we’ve changed physically, there hasn’t been a lot of change in basic personalities over the years.

We retained our partnership in San Francisco Giants tickets, and Patty and I went to nine baseball games last year. The team was in rebuilding mode, but the games were terrific. I continue to enjoy watching the games, writing about baseball, and following the Giants.

I was also active in Tel-Hi the past year, serving on the Board, helping develop a planned giving program, and assisting with fund-raising efforts. Tel-Hi is a wonderful grass-roots organization that helps hundreds of people every day, and participating in their programs is very rewarding.

I also continued to participate in the Dashiell Hammett Society of Studs (DHSOS) – a literary society – and to write their minutes. This gathering of five middle-age friends is a wonderful way for us to get out, share our experiences, and cement our friendship. It’s difficult to fully appreciate how important it is to each of us, and I know we will always look back fondly on these meetings and on our incredible friendship.

Turkey, Africa, and More

We took two wonderful international trips over the past year, to Turkey and Africa.

The trip to Turkey would have been a good trip anyhow; after all, it is a fascinating country. But chance encounters with the Turkish people transformed our journey into an extraordinary experience. Our two-week tour included exploring Cappadocia, cycling and sailing on the Turquoise Coast, and sightseeing in Istanbul. Everywhere we went, we stumbled upon people who welcomed us, shared their day with us, and treated us with kindness. Their acceptance and warmth reminded us how much we have in common with people everywhere and it helped renew my faith in others.

After our trip, I wrote this to the people of Turkey:

“Thank you for your kindness and for welcoming us to your country. Thank you for your generosity, your help, letting us take your photo, and making us part of your day. Your friendliness and warmth further convinced us that we all belong to a family of people, with more commonality than differences. We all have hopes and dreams and an innate connection with others, and you reminded us that even though we might not look alike, that doesn’t mean we’re bad; just different.”

Our trip to Africa was fabulous in every way! We spent two weeks in Zimbabwe, Botswana, and South Africa, and experienced Victoria Falls, herds of elephants in Botswana, and a wide variety of animals, cities, and countryside in South Africa.

The sights were fantastic! Seeing Victoria Falls, the wildlife in Botswana and South Africa, and exploring the cities and countryside of South Africa are among the highlights of my travel experiences. And the people of Africa were wonderful to us!

In addition to our international trips, we continued to travel within the U.S. over the past year. I spent time in Nebraska with my mother, helping her adjust to being a widow and helping her manage her home and yard. We also spent time at the McCrary home in Stillwater, Oklahoma, and in August we went to the Shakespeare Festival in Ashland, Oregon with our group of special friends, followed by our usual tranquil week at Drakesbad.

Circle of Friends

The friends we hang with is an amazing group. For the past 20 years, we have spent holidays together, and each year we have shared time at Drakesbad. I have assumed, over those years, that the group would always be together, and things within the group would always be the same. But over the past year signs of change have begun to appear. We are aging, and most of the group is now over 60. And, as these things go, some members of the group are beginning to experience health issues. So far, the changes haven’t curtailed our activities, but they are created a need to help each other. It’s been gratifying to watch the group rally around those who need help, and to see them lend assistance without being asked. I feel incredibly fortunate to be included in a group that treats each other so well.

Another Turbulent Year

The past year was another turbulent one, as the world began to slowly recover from the most severe economic recession in over 50 years. Over the past year the stock markets started to come back, but unemployment is still high and many businesses have gone out of business or are hanging on for dear life. The U.S. has gone deeply in debt to bail out banks, car companies, and to stimulate the economy, and I worry about the long-term implications of so much debt.

Other countries are also suffering long-term effects of the recession. In Western Europe, several countries are in danger of defaulting on their debt, and their wealthier neighbors are being forced to bail them out. The long-term implications are frightening, as the world’s national economies are now so closely connected.

The economy in California is in even worse shape than the U.S. economy. Staggering annual budget deficits loom, and the politicians in control lack the courage to make hard decisions to cut spending and increase state revenue.

President Obama has shown signs of inexperience, but also of courageous leadership. He steered Congress through an overhaul of the U.S. health care system, a move that may cost him the next election, but which was badly needed. He also made what I think was another courageous decision when he decided to send additional troops to Afghanistan. The war in that country, and the one in Iraq, have cost the U.S. billions of dollars and have severely divided the country.

The fight against terrorism continues, with Muslim extremists as determined to kill westerners as westerners are determined to kill terrorists. This stand-off, which seems to result from misunderstanding and ignorance, has been going on for decades, and the world seems no closer to a solution today than we were years ago.

A series of earthquakes in Haiti, Chile, and China over the past year have caused devastating damage and increased global nervousness. The earthquake in Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, was particularly devastating, and it killed more than 200,000 people.

April 26, 2010

Take One for the Team

Filed under: Profile — Dale @ 3:00 pm

The Giants have a good team this year. They do not have a great team, however, and in order to make the playoffs they will have to do all the “little things” well. One of those little things is discipline at the plate.

The Giants lacked any semblance of plate discipline yesterday, and it hurt them. Cardinal’s pitcher, Brad Penny, took advantage of the Giant’s free-swinging tendencies and dominated the Giants through seven and two-thirds innings.

After the game, Penny told the Associated Press he didn’t throw any pitches as hard as he could. San Francisco’s hitters were swinging so early in the count, he said, he never had to.

“They were really aggressive, which helped me out and worked in my favor,” Penny said. “If you look at the difference in the game our guys were patient and ran Matt’s pitch count up and they (the Giants) were swinging at the first or second pitch.”

There are at least three compelling reasons to take the first pitch:

1) Opposing pitchers will have to throw more pitches (and leave the game earlier)

2) Taking a pitch permits the hitter (and those on the bench) to see the pitcher’s stuff and get their timing on his pitches

3) Working the count in the batter’s favor increases the chances of getting a hit

As the following chart shows, batters tend to have more success when they work the count in their favor.

MLB Batting Averages by Pitch Count

                         2000 2007 2008 2009

First pitch     .336   .344  .337    .338
1-0                   .343   .341   .339    .340
0-1                   .324   .324   .339    .317
2-0                   .360   .350  .355    .368
2-1                    .340   .339  .339    .339
3-0                     n/a    .396  .370   .395
3-1                    .344    .368  .350   .352

Given the advantages that accrue when batters take a pitch – why wouldn’t the Giants want to develop better discipline at the plate, and why wouldn’t they be willing to take one for the team?

April 16, 2010

Mark Twain

Filed under: Colorful Characters, Profile — Dale @ 11:21 am

April 21 is the 100th anniversary of the death of Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens), who died in 1910 at age 74. He managed to pack a lot of adventure into those 74 years.

After his father died of pneumonia when he was 11, Twain went to work for his brother at a local newspaper. At age 18 he left Hannibal and worked as a printer in New York, Philadelphia, St. Louis, and Cincinnati — educating himself along the way in public libraries.

Twain became a steamboat pilot on the Mississippi River, and in 1860 he and his brother traveled by stagecoach to Nevada where he worked briefly as a gold miner. He hated mining and soon went to work at a Virginia City newspaper, where he first used his pen name. He moved to San Francisco in 1864 and achieved his first notoriety when his tall tale “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County” was published. A year later, he traveled to the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) as a reporter and in 1867 a local newspaper funded a trip to Europe, where he wrote a collection of travel letters which were later compiled as “The Innocents Abroad.” Twain married, had three daughters, and spent the rest of his life writing (including “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”), speaking, and promoting his various and often controversial philosophies.

In 1909, Twain wrote, “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it.” His prediction was accurate, as he died on April 21, 1910 one day after the comet’s closest approach to Earth.

A few favorite Mark Twain quotes:

“Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.”

“A man who carries a cat by the tail learns something he can learn in no other way.”

“Always do right. This will gratify some people and astonish the rest.”

“It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.”

April 14, 2010

Two Matt Cains

Filed under: Profile — Dale @ 11:04 am

We saw two Matt Cains last night, and only one of them was worth the $27 million, three-year contract the Giants recently gave him.

The first Matt Cain was not sharp, allowing five hits, two walks, and three runs during the first three innings and struggling with his control. That Matt Cain threw 25 pitches in the first inning, 14 in the second, 24 in the third, and his pitch count was 63 after three innings.

But in the fourth inning another Matt Cain took the mound. This second version had confidence and control and he easily retired the next nine batters he faced, throwing just 8 pitches in the fourth inning, 6 in the fifth, and 9 in the sixth. It looked like he wasn’t going to give up another hit.

But Cain was pulled for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth and the Giants bullpen couldn’t get the job done. Poor Giants defense, sharp Pirates defense, and a dumb base running decision sealed the Giants fate.

“I was happy with how I ended,” Cain told ESPN. “Mechanically I was trying to find some things early and getting myself into trouble. I put the guys in a hole through the first three and they did a great job of battling back.”

The second Matt Cain is the guy the Giants paid all the money to, and that Matt Cain is one of the best pitchers in the majors. And, at age 25, he should have a lot more years.

Let’s hope the second Matt Cain is the one we see during those years.

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