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Cosmic Quote #23: Happy Birthday MC

“I seldom end up where I wanted to go, but I almost always wind up where I need to be.”-Douglas Adams

“There still is no cure for the common birthday.”–John Glenn

The Millennium Conjectures™ turns one today.  On May 23, 2012 my life was in turmoil.   My father had just passed away,  one of my best friends was in the process of being diagnosed with an incurable cancer and I was feeling more than a bit burned out.  Was this the cure?  Life still has its vicissitudes, but I am certainly doing a lot better than a year ago.   This blog has helped, and it has survived.   To paraphrase Douglas Adams, it hasn’t always gone where I thought it would go, but it has always gone where I needed it to be.  Amazingly,  I have amassed a decent sized audience and have received no death threats or arrest warrants.   And as there is no truism greater than the John Glenn quote above, I will relentlessly keep going where I need to be, as long as I am still breathing.   Below is the first post from one year ago today.  Where has it taken me?  Where has it taken you?

Signature        @MarkSackler

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May 23, 2012:  What is This?

These are my musings, both ridiculous and sublime.  I would have made “Ridiculous and Sublime” the primary title of this blog, but I am vain.  I want some semblance of uniqueness and there are many other bloggers using this theme.   But I will explain both title and subtitle before proceeding.

So what are Millennium Conjectures?  I’ll explain that in a bit as well.  But first, I present a word about the overall content and nature of my posts.  And why I, and my posts, are both ridiculous and sublime.

This is not a personal journal.  Who would be interested in reading my personal journal online?  I wouldn’t even be interested.  No, these are musings, observations and conjectures from a journalistic standpoint, a way of looking at things you might find interesting or funny.  You might also find some silly and trivial.  I do have some past background in both broadcast and print journalism, but that is not my professional livelihood these days; I do this for the satisfaction and outlet.

So—I’ll get back to the subtitle.

Let’s face it: I am both ridiculous and sublime.  To start with, the two most famous people whose birthday I share (October 2) are Mohandas Gandhi and Groucho Marx.

Gandhi

What could be more sublime and ridiculous than those two?  And to boot, the most famous thing, arguably, that happened on the very day of my birth (Oct 2, 1950), was the appearance of the very first syndicated Peanuts cartoon.  Good ‘ol Charlie Brown was born the same day as me.  He is most certainly a perfect blending of the two qualities we are talking about.  Wishy-washy? Maybe. But that is only because he is so torn by these conflicting aspects of the universe that surrounds him.  Yes, the silly and profound seem both to be bound into my DNA.

Content herein will then consist of both the trivial/silly (WheresGeorge.com, history of CT license plates, Pearls Before Swine) and the profound (Quantum Physics, Cosmology, Existentialism, Opera and the philosophy of science).  There will also be topics that engender a bit of both characteristics; baseball, for example, and especially baseball statistics.  Yes, Baseball is a game, but as George Will so astutely observed, “if baseball is just a game, then the Grand Canyon is just a hole in the ground.”   This will happen solely because my cluttered mind embraces all of these endeavors, and for some strange reason, I think that somewhere out there one or two people might be interested in my insights.

So, back to the Millenium Conjectures.  My posts will be marked as either Ridiculous or Sublime or Ridiculous AND Sublime.  The lion’s share of the Sublime category—indeed of all the content– will be a series I call The Millenium Conjectures.  These will deal with my views and speculations on the nature of reality, the universe and  scientific philosophy.  Everything else will be a time-out to blow off steam. But lest my head explode, let alone yours, this is enough for now.

Text in this post ©2012 Mark Sackler

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Photo Op #4: Take Me Out to the Ball Game

“You don’t realize how easy this game is until you get up in that broadcasting booth.” — Mickey Mantle

A view from above.

A view from above.

Date:   May 4, 2013

Place:  Television Broadcast Booth, Minute Maid Park, Houston, Texas.

Occasion:  A visit with longtime Houston Astros TV play-by-play announcer, Bill Brown, on the occasion of the 38th anniversary of Houston Astro Bob Watson scoring Major League Baseball’s 1 millionth run, May 4, 1975.

Explanation:  If you need one, you haven’t been following this blog.   Bill Brown’s memoir, My Baseball Journey, has a chapter on the one millionth run and mentions my roll in its promotion.   Of course, the Astros were playing in the Astrodome in that era, and the millionth run wasn’t even scored there.  They were on the road at the old Candlestick  Park in San Fransisco.   But this is about as close as I will ever come.   Special thanks to Tim Gregg for his role as co-author of the book, and for arranging my visit with Bill.  

Me with Bill Brown.  I'm the funny looking one in the red shirt.

Me with Bill Brown just before game time. I’m the funny looking one in the red shirt.

Enough of this self-serving fluff.  Now on to different self-serving fluff.

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The BLAHS #4–Geek of the Year

“Beware of geeks bearing formulas.”–Warren Buffett

 A view of technology in my youth.

A view of technology in my youth.

I know what you’re thinking.   Why don’t I give the Geek of the Year BLAHS to myself?   Short answer:  I almost won an award like that in my youth, but lost out to the guy in the picture above.   It was no fair really;  I look far cooler in a leopard skin toga than he does.  Anyway, I am only half geek.  In my ancient past I was both a sportscaster and a classical music radio announcer.  How is that for a cognitive dissonance?

Jokes aside, let’s get down to the serious satire.  It’s time to give out another BLAHS (BLog Awards Handed out by Sackler).   A quick review of the rules is in order:

  1. Unlike the various chain-letters going around that masquerade as awards, this one is given out only one at a time–by me.
  2. The only thing the winner has to do to claim the award is endure the embarrassment.  Actually, they don’t even have to do that, as they are getting it either way.
  3. I give these out whenever I want to, to whomever I want to, for whatever reason I feel inclined to give them.  If you don’t like that, I’ll take my football and go home.
  4. The prize is a limited-edition T-shirt and matching refrigerator magnet complete with typographical errors that make them valuable collectors items.  (Don’t worry, when I run out I’ll order more.  As long as the number out there is not infinite it is still technically limited.)
  5. This award is in an appropriate-for-this-blog state of superposition on two counts.  The name BLAHS is both single and plural and the award itself is both serious and satirical at the same time.

You can see a complete history by clicking on “The BLAHS” link under “Categories” in the sidebar to the right.  The short list of previous winners is:

  • The Blog of Funny Names for being my favorite blog (other than mine).  They returned the honor–I am now one of their guest authors. (Is there such a thing as retro-active conflict of interest?)
  • Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub for having the funniest blog name among those I follow.
  • Essa on Everything for winning a reader poll in the category of Lady Blogger with an Attitude.

So, without further ado, let’s go on to the latest and greatest BLAHS–Geek of the Year!  May I have the envelope please?

The envelope?

Where is it?  Oh wait, I forgot. It’s not in an envelope;  it’s in an encrypted email.  Hey, considering that the Associated Press recently had their Twitter account hacked, you can’t be too careful.  Give me a nanosecond to gear up my quantum computer and decode it.  OK, here it is…[drum roll]…and the winner is:

Elke Stangl (a.k.a. Elkement) of Theory and Practice of Trying to Combine Just Anything

Elke

Elke

Congratulations Elke. You have been named to this honor for any number of reasons. You might ask, what are those numbers (other than 42)?

Besides writing a blog that I follow, her fine geeky points are:

  • As mentioned in a previous post, a resume that reads like a character from The Big Bang Theory.
  • She is a founding member of the cult of search term poetry and spam poetry.  My search term haiku feature is a direct result of her challenge to me in this arena.
  • She is one of the most loyal followers of this blog.  Others may hold that habit against her; I applaud it and award it.
  • She appreciates Douglas Adams as much as I do.
  • Her most recent post of existential spam poetry puts her immediately in a class with Woody Allen and Albert Camus.

Let’s hear from Elke herself:

MS:  What are your favorite geeky things to do—other than spam poetry, of course?geek power

ES:  That’s a tough one. I hardly do anything non-geeky. I spend my whole life nearly hard-wired to my computer and hope for better man-machine interfaces (Stephen-Hawking-Borg-Google-Glass stuff). I indulge in putting the geekiness back into so-called business-y or scientific documents (in a very subtle way, so that only other members of the Geek Cult will notice), and I enjoy hunting bugs and evil networking packets (very much in the same way as Sandra Bullock in The Net – including living off pizza). I feel uncomfortable when directly exposed to sun light which resulted in a lack of vitamin D.

MS: So what got you started on search term & spam poetry?   Who or what is your muse?

ES:  I was sick last year, had just started my meteoric rise to fame as a virtual stand-up comedian on Facebook – and was desperately searching for something funny to post. My non-creative brain, impaired by fever, could just come up with recycled content – from WordPress Stats. So it started with search term poetry on my FB timeline – spam poetry was a logical step in my evolution as an artist. If I would be a more down-to-earth artist, I’d create art from pieces from the scrap yard.

My muse is a person called “Irgendwer” – this is German for “somebody”. His job title in one of my geeky universes is: Somebody Doing Anything Nobody Wants to Do. (My job title in that said universe is Subversive Non-Coordinator and Chief Desperate Dreamer, if you really need to know). He might be my significant other in quite a bunch of alternate universes.

MS: Kirk or Picard?  (Damn, it makes me feel uncomfortably geeky just to ask that—I don’t even like Star Trek)

ES: Picard of course, because he is a refined educated French (European) philosopher 🙂

MS: Any advice to aspiring geek bloggers?

ES:  I don’t care about advice on blogging – in particular avoid those Top Ten Most Important But Yet Extremely Trivial Things to Know about Blogging lists.

[That was a close one.  I thought she was going to say “avoid The Millennium Conjectures”]

MS: Who on “The Big Bang Theory” do you think you most take after?  (Assuming you watch if over there in Austria, otherwise you can pass on the question).

ES: I don’t have time to watch TV, I am following too many geeky blogs.

  [That comment alone is worthy of this award.]

MS:  Any other comments you would like to make are welcome.  (Sorry but “42” is taken)

ES: I am exhausted from all that existential stuff posted to my blog in the past days. I leave it at a quote of Douglas Adams and my discerning observation of artists being better than management consultants and sociologists in analyzing corporate culture:

Context: Part 5 of the Trilogy of Five, Ford Prefect enters the building of the publishers of the guide,

He always entered via the ventilation system rather than the main lobby because the main lobby was patrolled by robots whose job it was to quiz incoming employees about their expense accounts.  The company had been taken over by InfiniDim Enterprises…We spent millions on that name, because before it was under-structured, over-resourced, under-managed and over-inebriated.

Congratulations, Elke.  To claim your prize, please send me a self-addressed stamped steamer trunk.  Your award will arrive via return carrier pigeon as soon as I can train one to fly to wherever you are.

Signature@MarkSackler

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Cosmic Quote #22

“I like physics, but I love cartoons.”–Stephen Hawking

Who knew Hawking had such a sense of humor.  No wonder he hasn’t won a Nobel Prize.  Remind me to introduce him to Stephan Pastis; they might like each other, as the strip below suggests.

This one reads like it was written for Hawking!

This one reads like it was written for Hawking! (click for full image)

(Previously published in my review of Pearls Before Swine. Cartoon ©2012 Stephan Pastis)

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Signature

@MarkSackler

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Tales of a Veterinary Spouse #4: No Hablo Inglés

Drawing on my fine command of the English language, I said nothing.”–Robert Benchley

We  have a house full of animals.  At the present we have a very manageable three dogs, two horses and one cat.  OK, the horses are in the back yard, not the house.  You get the picture.  In the past we have had chickens, guinea hens, turkeys (both wild and domestic), rabbits, hedgehogs a rooster and a donkey.   I  had to put my foot down regarding the latter two.  I work from a home office.   The noises coming from our backyard wrecked havoc while I was on the phone making business calls.  It sounded like I was selling farm supplies out of a silo in Iowa.

OK, I knew there would be animals in my household.  I signed on for that.  But Cheryl doesn’t just collect animals.  She collects other veterinarians.  They come here; they live with us.  They stay for a few days, weeks, months, or in a couple of notable cases, years.   They come from all over the world:  from Venezuela…Columbia…Chile…Afghanistan…Turkey…The Philippines…all over.  If there were Martian veterinarians we would have housed one by now.   Just for variety, we also had a law student from Beijing.   Never mind how or why they have landed in our hacienda;   I could write an entire book on the characters that have lived with us.   But today, let’s talk about just one.   Dr. Gibson Fernandez.

mariachi-helps-to-speak-SpanishAh, Gibson.  He hails from Maracaibo, Venezuela where he is a professor of veterinary medicine at the University of Zulia.  He did an internship at my wife’s veterinary hospital back in the late 1990’s and has been spending the month of August with us every year since.  He just happens to be be one of the most personable and likeable people you have ever met.  I swear, he has more friends in Connecticut, just from his one month a year,  than we do living here our whole lives.  The phone starts ringing days before he arrives.  “When is Gibson coming?” “Is Gibson there yet?” “Can Gibson come out and play?”

Gibson is smart, funny, affable and a loyal friend.  Everybody loves Gibson.  It seems he has but one small failing.

His English sucks.   Even after fifteen years of visits and an ESL course,  he still never fails to leave us in hysterics with his lingual gaffs.  You think Desi Arnaz sounded funny?  You ain’t heard nothing yet.  On his most recent visit the three of us were in the car when we crossed over one of Connecticut’s major rivers,  the Housatonic.

“Isn’t that the Titanic?” Gibson queried.

Sen͂or Gibson.

El Doctor Gibson.

We almost drove off the road laughing.   Here are three of his best gems from years gone by.

Scene #1:  A warm summer’s day.  Gibson comes in from the yard and proudly states, “I killed all of the Wops under the deck.”

We are presently paying the Irish mafia to protect him from the Italian mafia

Scene #2:  A balmy summer’s eve.  We are eating dinner out on the now Wop-free deck.  Gibson licks his lips as he devours the barbecue chicken I have just finished grilling and proclaims, “Mark is a good cock!”

NOOOOOOOOOOOO!! Gibson!!  That’s not a complement.  Well at least, not coming from you.

Scene #3: A typical day at my wife’s office.  Or rather, a typical Gibson visit day.   But as he and Cheryl are working up a case, the groomer is having a hard time in the next room with a rather hissy cat.

“Bad pussy! Bad pussy.”  The groomer scolds the feline.   Cheryl and Gibson hear this and Cheryl ignores it.  But Gibson immediately goes next door, picks up the cat, and begins examining its genitals.

“What are you doing?” Cheryl asks.

“Well,” Gibson says quite seriously, “Donna said it has a bad pussy!”

It’s OK.  We still love Gibson.  We love him the way Lucy loved Desi, bad English and all.

Signature@MarkSackler

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Xavier Cugat and Charo

As a fitting follow up to the Funniest Names in the NFL, here is my latest guest post on The Blog of Funny Names.

The Blog of Funny Names

How’s this for a couple: Francesc d’Asis Xavier Cugat Mingall de Bru i Deulofeu (1 January 1900 – 27 October 1990) and Maria Rosario Pilar Martinez Molina Baeza (born January 15, 1945)?

Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up.  As you might surmise, there is a story as to how they became a couple and how they came to be featured on this blog.

Let’s start with the latter (and shorter) story first.  In perusing the NFL draft’s funniest names, I noticed that not only were there two guys named Cornelius up for grabs, there were also two named Xavier.  As Xavier seemed to be nearly as good a candidate for funny names fodder as Cornelius, the search was on for a funny-named Xavier in other walks of life.    Seek and ye shall find.  Buried deep in the archives of my decaying neurons was a blurry vision from an Ed…

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Time Out: The Douglas Adams Award

“Isn’t it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it, too?”–Douglas Adams

Don__t_Panic_Wallpaper_by_rogueXunited

There’s great news for all you blogging enthusiasts just clamoring to be nominated for one of the many chain letters–er, blog awards that are circulating around the net.  It’s the newly minted Douglas Adams Award and all you have to do, if nominated is:

  • Tell what six time seven equals.
  • Tell what the square root of 1764 is.
  • Tell what the cube root of 74,088 is.
  • Tell what the name of the Jackie Robinson biopic is.
  • Tell what number I am thinking of right now.**
  • Nominate 6 other bloggers for the award.
  • Repeat the above six steps seven times without nominating any given blogger more than once.

Got it?  Do all this and you are a winner.  By my calculations, after ten full iterations within the blogosphere, no fewer than 17 quadrillion of these accolades will have been distributed.  Everyone wins more times than they can possibly count; even your pet newt wins.  Who wants to be first?   In the meantime , I am plotting my next old fashioned BLAHS, which is bestowed upon one measly blogger at a time.  How 20th century lame is that?

Cheers,

@MarkSackler

(**Sorry. You’re wrong. I was thinking of 9 3/4)

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Anniversary rerun: The One Millionth Run

“It’s deja vu all over again.”–Yogi Berra

Today is the 38th anniversary of Bob Watson’s scoring baseball’s 1 millionth run,  May 4, 1975.  I expect to meet Bill Brown, author of one of the books mentioned below, tonight at Minute Maid Park in Houston.  My original blog post on this event below.

“In the future, everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.”–Andy Warhol

Bob Watson

The date was May 4th, 1975.  The place was Candlestick Park, San Fransisco.  And the man of the hour was Bob Watson of the Houston Astros,  who scored the 1 millionth run in major league baseball history.  Watson beat Dave Concepcion of the Cincinnati Reds by four seconds in a race around the bases from opposite ends of the country.  It was one of the most exciting early-in-the-season baseball moments ever.

To this day Watson’s name, and to a lesser extent Concepcion’s, is associated with that event in baseball history.  But there was another name in the news that was connected to the story.  He was  a 24-year-old local sportscaster from Westport, CT who used a first generation, eighty dollar electronic calculator to research and originate the millionth run contest, thus scooping all the professional statisticians and baseball journalists.  He went on a media tour to promote a “guess-the-player” contest sponsored by Tootsie Roll.  His picture and name appeared in wire service stories, in Sport Magazine and in the New York Daily News.  He appeared on television and spoke at press conferences alongside the likes of Stan Musial, Ralph Branca, Mel Allen and Bowie Kuhn.  He had 15 minutes of Warholian fame.   Then came oblivion.

The 24-year old whiz kid with the calculator was, of course, me.

I was exhilarated, excited and even euphoric;  then it was over.   And for thirty-something years the memory simply faded, almost to the point that it seemed to have happened to another person in

Millionth run center

The 1,000,000th run countdown center. That’s me talking to the gathered media as Stan Musial naps in the background. Check out my 1975 hair!

another lifetime.  It became just another forgotten footnote in the deep and illustrious history of our national pastime.  After awhile, I didn’t even care, so why should anybody else?

Then something funny happened.  Straight out the blue, nearly four years ago, I received an email from Kansas City Star sportswriter Joe Posnanski.

“Are you the Mark Sackler who originated the millionth run?” he asked.  “I’m writing a book about the 1975 Cincinnati Reds.  I want to include it and the events involving Davey Concepcion as an interesting sidebar to the season’s story.”

The next year, The Machine, Posnanski’s book chronicling a great season by one of the best teams in the game’s history, appeared in bookstores with a chapter on the millionth run.  After 34 years, somebody remembered.   My sister joked that I was getting another 15 minutes of fame.  My retort was that it was more like 30 seconds.

But then it happened again.  A few months ago, a gentleman named Timothy Gregg contacted me on Facebook to make the same inquiry.  Was I the millionth run originator?  Gregg, also a former sportscaster and sports promoter, now a digital media producer, was co-authoring the memoirs of Houston Astros TV commentator Bill Brown.  Of course, there would be a chapter on the millionth run in that book as well.  This time not from the Reds point of view, but the Astros.   This book–My Baseball Journeywas just recently published.  So fifteen minutes of fame is now fifteen minutes and forty-five seconds.   And counting…

If you are a baseball fan, both of these books are worthwhile.  Otherwise, stay tuned for more effluvia from my hopelessly cluttered cranium.

@MarkSackler

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